Typewriters, Paris and Welcome Home
I haven’t written a single word in the last six weeks, apart from throwing bits and pieces onto a song I started writing in June. Terrible business, when I think about it.
I have two vintage typewriters. One just about works and the other hasn’t a hope in hell, bless it. But they’re both beautiful and they’ll stay with me just as long as there’s a roof over my head. Which, let’s face it for most people of my generation in this country of ours, is an uncertainty at the very best of times. The working typewriter has been glaring at me accusingly for the last six weeks. My guitar, on the other hand, has been looking at me in an even more sinister fashion: like a po-faced critic, waiting to be convinced I have genius, but not holding out much hope for it. I don’t know. I choose to live alone but now even the objects around the flat are starting to make me feel guilty. Ah, the guilt. I'm contorted with the stuff. I’m now getting my own back on the typewriter by using my laptop. That’ll teach it.
At this point I hear your desperate voices scream: “But Matty! why do you work on a typewriter in this day and age?” Well, I like the way the keys clunk away when I hit them and I enjoy the sound of them hitting the page through the ribbon. I like the ritual of it and the old-school font. And I especially like the way it’s much harder – and time consuming – to go back and delete stuff. Therefore there’s only one way: forward. And I like that very much. Yet you wouldn’t know it. I’ve produced nothing for the last six weeks. Not a word. And guilt is a heavy burden to carry. This is the flat of a man who has very nearly surrendered.
Seeking inspiration and a change of environment, I took a train to Paris last week where it continued to rain. Not just pissy rain. Proper heavy stuff which rushes along the gutter of the street like a river. I wandered in it for two or three days, getting soaked and feeling strangely contented. But bringing nothing home. Not a single joke. Nor the skeleton of even a song. Bringing nothing back but three bottles of Bordeaux - on special - from Carrefour. Gone is my image of a romantic and/or a bohemian Paris. It’s in the doghouse, as far as I’m concerned. But let me not mislead you by painting such a drab portrait of my continental sabbatical. I did get to warm my toes in the warm waters of old friendship there for nearly a week which is a boon to the human spirit. Yet nothing says “welcome back” like the drunk man vomiting in the lift at Tufnell Park tube station and then getting home to find a council tax demand for £352. My local council remain optimists at least.
Sometimes, you know, I lay awake at night and listen to the couple in the neighbouring flat who like to have blazing arguments at three or four in the morning. You could put money on it, on a Friday or a Saturday night. Spectacular rows about who said what. I might take my revenge next weekend by waiting until it all goes very quiet, then shuffling my old-school typewriter up against the wall and start bashing away at it. That’ll please the typewriter and displease the neighbours. Win win.
At times like this I imagine sometimes what it would be like to be eight years old again. No need for sex, drink, drugs or money. No concerns about the world we live in, or how to manage ones life. To quote the much-missed Lenny Bruce: at eight years old, nothing is your business. Bang on. Ignorance - at eight years old - is truly blissful.
Published in the Huffington Post, 2012