Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Vyne

In the long, dark, cold winter of 1528, the Lord Sandys's beloved Lady was taken with a fever, and though he knelt a ceaseless vigil at her bedside, her soul slipped from this world after 2 and 10 nights.

The Lord was then engulfed by a torrent of grief, and deaf to the entreaties of kith and kin, he wandered beyond care into the Northern woods. There, in a small moonlit glade, he plunged to his knees amongst the gnarled roots, and wailed inconsolable woe to the mute earth.

Consumed by grief, there the Lord Sandys remains to this day, his mourning figure petrified eternally amongst the Beech and Oak.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Golden Army

The lights rose, and a teenage girl ambled to the front of the auditorium, a tray of assorted Ben and Jerry's suspended from a strap around her neck.

"Would anyone like some ice cream?" she asked.

"I like your arse more than your ice cream," retorted one of the boys behind me.

The girl walked silently back down the aisle. "Thanks for asking, though," said the boy as she passed.

This was The Screen in Winchester, a freezing cold, half-empty shithole of a cinema. It was like a trip back into the 1970s. The fuckwits a few rows behind me literally talked throughout the entire film. So it was just as well that I was watching Hellboy II, and the almost incessant clanging, smashing, bashing and exploding drowned out most of the sound from the fuckwits.

It was a remarkable film though. Guillermo del Toro's gothic and fantasy imagination is quite stupendous, and if he keeps up this type of form, The Hobbit is going to be truly memorable. There was one monster, a type of elemental forest spirit, "the last of its kind", which rose about the cityscape like a ferocious, whirling Tree-Ent; when it died, its remains transformed all it touched to verdant grass, tree and flower. And then there were the Tooth-Fairies: these swarmed like locust, consuming all flesh and bone in their path, but their particular delicacy was, of course, human teeth.

The only criticism I would pitch at the film is that, like Blade II and Hellboy I, there's an awful lot of Monster vs. Monster combat. Stylistically, this type of thing seems to match the action found within many modern computer games, and it doesn't really do much for me. I guess this is Guillermo doing the commercial thing, keeping his Hollywood patrons happy, so that he can also make films like Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone.

Incidentally, the basic plot for Hellboy II involved an ancient, apocalyptic battle between man and elf; it was almost as if Guillermo was visibly limbering up for The Hobbit...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Crashed and Byrned

I was soon living with Angie. She lived in these slum apartments near the garage. Her mother had an apartment downstairs where she lived with Pat. I came to think of her mother as 'Panda' because her face was always black and blue from the beatings Pat gave her when he got a few drinks inside of him. He was a monster. One night Angie and I could hear him knocking seven colours of shite out of her mum, so Angie and I went down to try and stop it. We calmed him down and he sat down with Panda and apologised, and me and Angie went back upstairs. About ten minutes later we heard it all kick off again, so off I went again. This time it ended with him on top of me, choking me and taking a bite out of my cheek. I was begging for my life. He had the strength of ten men and was completely crazy. I came back upstairs. Angie used to rock back and forth when she was distraught. There we both sat rocking on the sofa together as Pat went another couple of rounds with Panda. After about fifteen minutes of this I was starting to get mad about the begging I'd had to do to save my ass and started looking for a weapon. There was a broken table in the flat from another of Pat's temper fits. I picked one of the legs from it and hid the others around the room and told Angie to call him upstairs and that when he came we'd beat the shit out of him. So she calls down the stairs, 'Leave my mum alone you Irish bastard. Come up here and I'll give you what you deserve.' So he comes running up the stairs and the first thing he does is punch Angie in the face, knocking her out cold. I grabbed my weapon and began hitting him across the skull with it. With the help of Panda I got him to the ground and every time he tried to get up I'd whack him again. I was hitting him so hard it was ricocheting up my arm. I actually began to feel sorry for him but I knew if I let him get up I was a dead man. I thought of running but decided to stay because he would have taken it out on the two women. Eventually he started to lick ass, 'Ah, Tommy, Angie. I'm sorry. I was only jokin' with yers. Let me up so I can have a fag.' I wasn't buying it but Panda was and the silly cow had been letting him get away with it for years. Suddenly a growl comes from him and he gathers his strength and goes to get up. I whacked him really hard: BANG, stay the fuck down, BANG, stay down - this time catching Panda's finger and breaking it. Eventually the police arrived and because he was such a mess they wanted to charge me, not him. But that was sorted when he threw another of his crazy fits in front of them. Now they believed me.

Half an hour later I was in the emergency room, lying in a bed getting a tetanus shot in my ass, with Pat in the next bed, getting fifty stiches in his head. He was talking and laughing about it all, friendly, like nothing had happened. The police assured me he would be spending about a week in jail. Angie, Panda and me went back to the flat. About 6am I was woken by the sound of breaking glass. The bastard was trying to get in through the front door. I grabbed a broom handle and began beating him back through the broken door window, shouting for Angie to call the police. He then took off, vowing he was going to get me.

This, I predict, will become the most acclaimed sporting book of the year. It is the story of how Tommy Byrne, a 'culchey' (redneck) from a poor Catholic family near Dundalk, rose to the cusp of a glittering Formula One career, and then lost it all. Byrne's words are conveyed and linked together into a coherent narrative by motorsport's best journalist and writer, Mark Hughes. It's a fabulous book.

Three years after the events above, Byrne is dominating in Formula 3, and meets McLaren's Ron Dennis, with a view to Dennis signing an option on Byrne's future services:

Ron did most of the talking then started asking questions. I'm an open sort of guy and just answered very honestly.

'Where were you born?' Dundalk. 'What was your education?' None. I left school at fifteen and got a job. 'What does your father do?' Works in a factory making shoes. 'How many brothers and sisters do you have?' Four sisters and a brother. 'How good are you as a driver?' The best in the world.

Then I popped in the question of getting money to finish the F3 season. 'All our money is tied up in R&D,' he replied.

'What's R&D?' I asked quizzically.

You could have heard a pin drop. I knew I'd just made a bad mistake. He looked at me like I was The Knacker from Dundalk and in a tone you wouldn't use on a dog, he sneered, 'research and development.'

Twenty-five years later, I still feel that moment. It fucking haunts me.