Thursday, May 17, 2007

Club Gabby

I had an odd dream last night. I was on my way to see Clive James, who for some inexplicable reason, was living the life of a mysterious recluse in a Kowloon shanty town. I had to go through some strange Daliesque doorways to reach him, which led me to a glass elevator that began to rise diagonally over a landscape of 1930s New York, sepia tinted and wholly photographic. When I reached Clive, I found him to be extremely pleasant and a very gracious host, despite living in squalor with an Argentinean housekeeper and a large Afghan hound with long blond tresses which kept attacking me whenever I clenched my fists.

That’s when I began to hear the sound of clicking.

Try as I might, I couldn’t stop thinking that it was coming from my hips. Clive thought so too. A lifetime spent doing high kicks and hip thrusts can wear a stripper’s hips away in half the time of your average Premiership footballer. It’s why so many of us have so much titanium inside us by the time we’re thirty that we're less human than a Terminator. Clive told me that it was an omen of what’s to come and a reminder to keep myself well oiled and my joints lubricated.

Only then did I wake up and realise that there was nothing wrong with my hips, which were running as silky smooth as ever. Clive had also disappeared, which was the biggest disappointment because I had so many things to ask him.

Then I heard the clicking again and realised that not all my dreams were insubstantial. Some mysterious clicking force had descended on the apartment while Clive James had been explaining the mysteries of literary punditry to me.

I looked at the clock. It was horribly late for a weekday morning, nearly half-past eleven, but then I remembered that last night I’d over indulged myself with the alcohol and a sad French film involving the innocent murder of young rabbits. Pulling on a fresh thong, I walked through the apartment, following the sound which I could now clearly tell was coming from the living room.

‘Whow!’ said a voice as I turned the corner past the bathroom. ‘Check out those buns! Rock solids at twelve o’clock!’

I turned around and found myself face to face with a young woman wearing a long black leather overcoat and a beret perched on the top of her head.

‘Who are you?’ I asked, oblivious to the fact that she was looking at my thong as though she was having a religious experience. It happens to me all the time.

When she straightened herself up she resembled a rather lascivious stick of liquorice.

‘I’m Jonjo,’ she said. ‘Who are you?’

I thought her question defied reason so I chose not to answer it. ‘And what are you doing in my apartment?’ I asked.

‘Hey! Stay cool!,’ she replied, guiltily waving her arms around like Eve juggling invisible apples. ‘Don’t get your thong in a… in a…’

‘Twist?’ I suggested.

‘Hey! Cool. Twist, yes, twist. Don’t get it in a twist.’

‘And I asked what you’re doing in my apartment? And what the hell is that clicking?’

‘We’re here to celebrate words!' she said. 'You know? How great they are… How much we enjoy using them to… you know… to express… you know... stuff…’

‘We?’

She waved her hands ambiguously. ‘Don’t get plural on me. I is we.’

That ‘I is we’ bit was enough for me. I turned my back on Jonjo and walked into the main room.

Sitting on the floor, around the sofa, across the chairs and some sitting on the window seat, were an assortment of the oddest people you’re ever likely to find gathered in a stripper’s apartment on a Thursday morning. They were completely oblivious to my presence as they were too busy clicking their fingers as they gazed at the figure standing at the middle of the room.

It was Gabby, holding my copy of the English Auden in one hand and a large crocus in the other.

‘The crowing of the cock’, she said – or more precisely read – ‘though it may scare the dead, call on the fire to strike, sever the yawning cloud, shall also summon up the pointed crocus top, which smelling of the mould, breathes of the underworld…’

At which point the crowd began another chorus of clicking and Gabby danced around in a circle waving the crocus over their heads as though it were a magic wand.

‘Ahem,’ said the only cock in the room qualified to crow.

Gabby turned to me and smiling hugely waved the crocus at me.

‘Morning Chippy!’ she squealed.

‘What the hell’s going on?’ I asked, in no mood to be won over by a high pitched Romanian with a crocus. My injured foot was beginning to throb and I could still feel the teeth of an imaginary Afghan hound in my arm. Even the memory of Clive’s reassuring words to his dog (‘it’s only rubber, Mildred’) could do nothing to calm my agitation.

‘Hey, is it time to get down to our undies?’ asked a woman sitting on the end of the sofa. ‘That would be so cool. So cool and Frank O'Hara...’

‘Well I’m not joining in,’ replied a gaunt man in black sitting beside her. He was giving me one of those looks as if to suggest he was in awe of the Chipster’s perfectly honed body. ‘There’s always somebody who wants to bring muscle to a gathering of minds…’

‘Who are these people?’ I asked Gabby.

‘My poetry club,’ she said and anointed them all with a wave of her crocus.

‘What?’

‘Oh, you’ll get to know all the names,’ she said. ‘They’re here to read poetry. Aren’t we, everybody?’

The room filled with more of that insufferable clicking.

‘Will you all stop that?’ I snapped. ‘And what’s that you’re reading?’

She held up the book. ‘Oh, I took it from your poetry shelf,’ she replied. ‘We play poem game.’

‘A poem game?’

‘Like drinking game but it involves poems.’ She looked at my face and must have recognised the look of mild curiosity. ‘We take turns,’ she began to explain.’ We each pick a poem at random and then we read it. Then we rip it out and eat it.’

‘You do what?’

‘It’s poetry, Chippy! You wouldn’t understand.’

‘You know,’ said a voice from the crowd. ‘We internalise the mystery… It's ruminatio of the word...’

‘You’ve been eating my English Auden?’ I sobbed, snatching the book from her crocus scented fingers. ‘Do you know how much this cost? It’s a Faber & Faber…’

‘And very tasty it was too,’ said a man sitting on the window seat. He was picking his teeth with his little finger. ‘I’ve just eaten the Night Mail and it went down lovely,’ he said. ‘That passage between Beattock and Glasgow went really smooth.’

‘It was all downhill,’ said some wit from the sofa. I glared at the gaunt man before I flipped through the torn edges of my ruined volume. All the shorter verse were gone and some sections of the longer poems had teeth marks where somebody had nibbled away the page, sometimes almost up to the spine.

‘You’re all heathens,’ I cried as I threw the book to the floor. And then, without another word, I turned my thong on the crowd.

‘Cool cheeks, man!’ said a voice to my rear but I gone past the point where a sane man cares anymore. Soon, my head was buried beneath the cold cotton fabric of my pillow. I was back in bed again, oblivious to the sound of the clicking fingers, which now marked the digesting of another classic of the English canon.

I consoled myself by trying to imagine what Clive James might say about the terrible age we live in.

8 comments:

Paul said...

Clive lives down my street. I could ask him what he thinks about our age...

Chip Dale said...

You are indeed lucky, Paul, to have such a great man living in your neighbourhood. The next time you see him, you must tell him that Wales' top male stripper is a huge fan.

Sue Pollard has a holiday home down the road from me...

Ms Baroque said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms Baroque said...

Chippy - sorry, I deleted the previous comment for egregious typos. I've only skimmed this post quickly, as I'm on my way out - to a poetry book launch, as it happens - and it's Picador, not Faber, but I'm sure there's just as much mystery and so on over at Pan Macmillan. However, please tell Gabby that her poetry club has, through the ether, inspired me with its reminder that we ARE after all trying to internalise the ruminatio, to mysterialise the internal, and to immaterialise the mystery, I mean the mastery of the edible Word. I will endeavour to eat at least one page of the new best thing in poetry tonight. I'll let you know later what condiments worked best.

Paul said...

When I say he lives down my street, what I really mean is that he owns the two houses on either side of the end of the street, one for him and one for his visitors, with idyllic views of the green. That is, at least, according to local legend. His cat, Penny, is the most beautiful black sleek feline I've ever laid eyes upon. She regularly visits, sometimes via the back yard (no mean feat given the obstacle course of houses, a council-ignored jungle and a multi-storey car-park). But I'm left with a problem: you say you're Wales' top male stripper, but according to whose measure? I must have it on good authority if I'm to approach the 'great man'.

Chip Dale said...

(Note to self: buy Ms. Baroque a new keyboard with bigger keys for Christmas.)

Ms. Baroque, having just discovered this strange business of eating poetry, I'm worried about your digestion? Please, for me, keep to the sonnets and well away from those hard to digest Miltonian epics.

Paul: that's just made my day! It really has. I feel like I'm one step away from a hero. But it's hard to prove my own place in the grand scheme of things. There are no official charts for Welsh strippers. We don't measure our success in gasps, oohs, or screams. The next time you see Clive (or his cat), just give him a wave from me. In a small way, this old thongman will know that he's paid his respects.

rilly super said...

chip, darling, love the desktops. Good thing they're not in 3D or my desk would be cast completely into shadow! by the way, why do you keep removing the comments box or is it just me?

love Rilly XX

Chip Dale said...

Rilly, glad to spotted my deliberate mistake. Actually, it seems to be a bug(?) in blogger. It randomly enables or disables comments, and naturally, not commenting myself, I don't notice.

When I noticed there were no comments for my desktops, I thought they'd gone down like week old custard...

(3d desktops? You've given me a very good idea...)