Day #11247

I can’t remember if I’ve ever written this out loud before or just included it as a habit of a character in some story, but when I’m out buying groceries and suchlike, I always look to see what the people around me are buying.  Often the items they have picked up make for strange combinations (the other day I queued behind a couple who were buying six litres of vodka to only two packets of wafer-thin ham (one smoked, one not)) (once I myself reached the checkout with milk, a pineapple and some batteries (my own finest shopping moment)).

Even better is when I happen to find a shopping list – usually on the floor or still attached to a trolley.  I’ve started a bit of a collection.  Since not much else is happening right now, I thought I would share it with you.

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a:  I like that the first two things this shopper thought of when they sat down to make their list were Grapes and Dog Poo Bags (I also like the way they have written ‘Dog Poo’ quite small and then ‘Bags’ much bigger, as if they felt they shouldn’t say ‘Dog Poo’ so loud, even on their own shopping list).  This list was found in December and suggests someone who had good intentions to document their 2014, but then as the year drew to a close decided they should at least make some use of their diary.

b:  On this one, I like the confidence with which a type of cake has been decided upon – Battenburg, for sure.  More drink, apart from making me think of Father Ted, is a brilliant instruction and makes me wonder whether the next week’s list included Even more drink?  Then a space, and tacked on the end, as if they are perhaps staple items that the list’s creator(s) stock up on every week – Jam, Bacon, Milk.

c:  This one actually had a list of tasks on the flip side – including getting the shopping.  And, for the most part this is quite a practical, organised list – Cotton Buds, a Card, Spray Oil (or, if not, Oil – let’s make sure we have a contingency).  But as it gets further down the page (well, post-it note), it unravels slightly… Biscuits (any will do), Choc (again, no more detail, not even the full word)… Soda and Whisky.

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d:  This one was a teeny-tiny list, one of those really wee post-its that are about the size of a Creme Egg (just measuring with whatever is handy) (are those post-it notes actually a proper paper size, like A8 or A9 or something?  Answers on a post-it note).  It’s clearly the list of someone very healthy – or at least someone who has intentions of being very healthy. 

e:  And this is another healthy one – more Blueberries (hope the shop is well stocked!).  This list has weirdly been written in the bottom right hand corner of a piece of paper, which suggests that some sort of psychological analysis would turn up something juicy.  I also initially misread the last item as Ears.  I assume it’s actually Pears and not Peas, unless they’ve got confused and started the list again.

f:  This one is quite difficult to read – and huge as well.  This shopper is really hedging their bets –  I mean, how are they going to know what to get from that?  It suggests someone manically scrawling a list as they head out – a last minute mishmash of vague Fruit, barelyconsidered Sausages, eleventh-hour Mouthwash and whatever it is they’ve written under Coffee there.  A shambles.  F-.

g:  From one extreme to another.  Very neat handwriting, seemingly precise, but actually completely illogical.  3 Grapefruit, 3 Bananas (which I’m sure normally come in bunches of >3), but how many Eggs?  Surely eggs are the classic ‘write down a quantity’ item of shopping?!?!  Madness.

h:  And finally… this is probably the most boring list in my collection actually.  I should have kept a more interesting one back so that I could end on a high.  Well… I’d like to think that this shopper actually went completely off script once they were actually there, and came back with all kinds of strange goodies.  There, that’s excitement for you. 

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Essentially, my collection of abandoned shopping lists tell me what people planned but not what actually happened.  Nevertheless, I find the idiosyncracies of strangers’ shopping lists oddly compelling in their structure and content.  But there’s something else I like about my collection…

In the information age, data is valuable – supermarkets use club cards to track our shopping habits, rewarding us with magical points when we agree to provide them with this information.

And if my collection of shopping lists represents anything, it is a gloriously pointless inversion of this practice, a personal, unscientific and completely profitless method of harvesting unreliable data that ultimately has no use.  Except that, in some small way, it makes me happy.

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201. Grey Area

Everything is safe.  Sometimes is all.  No one is sure what x has been doing for the last six weeks.  Yesterday is going better than last month.  X swallows, rolls, tries to think what he is thinking of.  Of which, within which there is more.  Not everything can be accessed currently.  On the floor, strewn said-he’d-does, hasn’t-done-yets.  Please wait.  It starts to feel like ghost time.  Here goes time.  The next hour passes first, the one after next.  X is addicted to not putting any plans in motion.  The day progresses process-less, nothing to help remember it to us.  Happy is action, sad is action.  No one is sure what was expected of x today, or what x expected of x today, or how this could be measured.  When he looks down, lying down, there is nothing below.  Down is no up.  Strategy is everything.  Plans to make plans.  A structure could elevate.  Here there is next to no danger.  Or no danger, is danger.  X feels dangerous.  In danger.  He scrunches his hands, stretches, curls in half.  Nothing touches x, the air’s edges rounded off.  He’s ground down fun, pickled energy.  X floats.  A submarine angel amongst clouds of steam.

Day #11230

December / End of Year

Having successfully documented most of last year, it would only be correct to complete the set and do a little piece about December.  Except, everyone knows that nothing actually happens in December, the whole month is really about going back over what has happened in the past 11 months, and looking forward to what might happen in the next 12 (or 11, since we know that nothing will actually happen in December 2015).

In terms of completed pieces of work, 2014 was probably my least productive since about 2006 (8197 words of one novel, 14,861 of another, plus one completed short story of 6,513 words is about the sum total).  Not that I measure years by word count.  It’s just that it was more of a year for brain input than for brain output – I found myself inspiration-rich but time-poor.  I didn’t finish any novels, I didn’t win any prizes.  I ended the year with lots of notes and ideas but not much that is fully complete and presentable.

It’s always a good year for reading, because unless you’ve got to the end of Books (and if you have – well done, you deserve a rest now), there’s always something interesting to read.  I don’t know what my favourite book published in 2014 was (I’ll probably discover it in 2015, 2016 or sometime in the 2030s), but I can tell you about some of the books I enjoyed reading last year.

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I’ve already written about some of them – like George Saunders’ Tenth Of December and Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen’s The Rabit Back Literature Society in March, Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine and Tibor Fischer’s The Collector Collector in June, Gareth Brookes’ The Black Project and Joff Winterhart’s Days Of The Bagnold Summer in August.

But there were plenty more.  A quick summary, which could act as a list of recommendations could go something like this:

Fflur Dafydd’s The White Trail (modern reimagining of a medieval Welsh myth – check out the Mabinogion Stories seres from Seren Books – that I bought as a souvenir of some time spent looking in a very nice book shop in Crickhowell), Stephen Collins’ The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (fun graphic novel with a pleasing situations-getting-out-of-hand shape), Scott Lynch’s Lies Of Locke Lamora (like China Mieville scripting the BBC’s Hustle) …

… Cory Doctorow’s Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom (fun, pacey futuristic Disney dystopia), Robin Sloan’s Mr Penumbra’s Twenty Four Hour Bookstore (crammed with ideas), Patti Smith’s Just Kids (readable and engaging memoir), Jonathan Wilson’s The Outsider (fascinating history of the most interesting of football players, the goalkeeper) and Nick Harkaway’s The Blind Giant (brilliantly summarised on the cover by William Gibson, “1967 could read it and basically understand 2013”).

I have, of course, got plenty of interesting things to read in 2015.  My TBR pile has grown a little over Christmas, thanks to some very kind presents.  So over the next few months I’m looking forward to having a read of the below:

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Right.  On with 2015.