Sunday, August 30, 2009

The revolution will not be televised

I have never bought a television. Really. Never. Every television I've ever owned has previously belonged to someone else and been passed on to me free of charge. In 33 years of life, I have purchased just about everything else -- but television sets and sex have always been free. And recently I have decided that I don't really need one of those things.

The television, obviously.

Tomorrow, or the next day (or the next day; whenever I can be arsed), I am going to take the cumbersome Panasonic monstrosity that has sat in the living room these past three years and drive it down to the local household waste recycling centre. There, I will heave it into a skip (ftypah: "dumpster") with as much force as possible, hoping to see its lifeless grey screen smash into a jagged, dusty mess. Then I will begin a new life as the sort of Radio 4-listening type that you invite to parties because of all the interesting things I have to contribute to conversation -- thanks to my hours of taking in Desert Island Discs and the Shipping Forecast.

I will become a kind of one-man version of Chris and Jenny, without the charm, the wit, the loving interplay banter, or the Scottishness. Which kind of takes away most of the reason you would invite the Phins to a party, save Chris' extensive and unmatched knowledge of sport.

Nonetheless, I'm getting rid of my television. Admittedly, part of the reason is financial. For those of you playing along at home, owning (a) a television in the United Kingdom requires a license. If you want to watch rich cunny bastards destroying the community fabric of Britain (b), you must pay £142 a year for the privilege. For roughly the same amount of cash, you can get an hour and a half with Viki. Sadly, I just don't have the money for either.

In fairness, the license fee isn't unreasonable. Again, for those of you playing along at home and scoffing at the idea of a TV license, I would ask whether you or anyone you know watches only the television that can be received via signal. I'll bet you don't. Basic cable from a gang of cocksucking thieves Comcast will run you $8.59 a month in St. Paul, Minn. That's $103 a year. And when I lived in the U.S., I was the only person I knew slumming it with basic cable. Odds are you pay a hell of a lot to watch television; and you don't even get the pleasure of being able to complain to the government about the poor quality of what you're watching.

Still, reasonable or otherwise, I don't really have the money. So, the television goes.

I'm not too upset. As I get older I find myself watching less and less TV. And that in which I do partake is available on the internets. So, I won't miss a moment of Strictly Come Dancing when it starts up 18 September (Joe fucking Calzaghe! Yes!); episodes of NCIS will be available via Demand Five; and I was already using YouTube to watch wrestling.

But, also, as my viewing habits would suggest, television does nothing other than melt my brain. And I have come to realise that I give it far too much reign over my life. For reasons that I can't quite figure out, I am not able to not pay attention to a television. It demands that I stare, open-mouthed and idiot-eyed, at whatever flashy kabuki dance of useless information it parades before me. I must obey. I must listen. I must watch. I'm not one of those people who can block it out. No matter how incredible/amazing/wonderful the real world is, if there's a television on in the room some small part of my brain is sitting there saying: "Hey, wait, what's Paula Deen cooking? Shouldn't I be paying attention to this?"

No. No, I should not. I am less than a month away from starting in on my masters degree and I don't need the temptation of forgoing studying for the sake of watching Top Gear or Top Gear.

So, farewell, television. It was nice while it lasted.

(a) Perhaps it's misleading to say that you need a license to own a television in the UK. You can have a TV without a license but if you plug it in or even have it placed in such a way that it looks as if it could be viewed easily, a license inspector will assume it is in use and issue a hefty fine.

(b) I once watched an episode in which a couple from Devon moved to Carmarthenshire and giggled idiotically at the fact that they couldn't pronounce the name of the house they were thinking of buying.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where I've been, where I am

The thing is, I haven't really felt like blogging. My blog has become something that is read by everyone in my little world -- my parents, my friends, my university lecturers -- and it is difficult to come up with things that I feel like broadcasting across that entire audience. Especially recently, when I have been dealing with stuff I don't really feel like sharing with, well, everyone. Sometimes there are things you don't feel like sharing with your grandmother.

Actually, I'm sure my grandmother could offer me some sage and valuable advice in all that's been swirling in my head and heart this past long while, but I don't really feel like sharing it with her. I want to be able to hear my own thoughts, to think in my own way, and that can be difficult amid a chorus of other voices. If you have a bunch of people commenting on what you think and feel, especially when those things are raw and powerful, some part of you can lose grasp of what is your own -- what is real and true for you.

That's pretty nebulous, isn't it? I'm clearly referencing something specific but in a super-vague way. Only three days I spent with Sarah Jane back in May, but somehow I managed to pick up her ability to speak in riddles. Of course, it's a trait that works better for her because she's really attractive. When I do it, I just seem like a moping teenager.

So what if I am. Shut up. You're not the boss of me.

And I'm afraid that unless you already know what I'm talking about you'll have to remain in the dark about it. For the timebeing, at least. I'm sure that in typical Chris Cope fashion, I'll keep all this inside until I choose to incorporate it into a book -- similar to what I did in Chapter 15 of Cwrw Am Ddim.

How's that for a self-promoting segue? Go me.

But actually, promoting the book has also been partially responsible for my absence from the webisphere. Last week was especially busy. I was interviewed by newspapers, I was part of a half-hour television programme (in which I oddly chose to channel the spirit of Ric Flair by saying "Woo!" several times), and then up in Bala doing a reading, a signing and a launch at Eisteddfod. This week I will be on radio twice. One of those appearances will be on Roy Noble.

Roy Noble, bitches. I feel the need to make excessive use of the Tim Westwood soundboard when saying the man's name. Roy Noble. Booooooom! I'm not yet entirely sure when that interview will air, though. I'll try to remember to make note of it here as soon as I know.

Also this week, I will be live on air with Nia Medi Thursday evening at around 23:30 on C2. I'm really looking forward to it, even though I have a history of sounding like a damned fool on live programmes. That's due partly to the fact that the majority of my opportunities to speak Welsh come when I am on live programmes, or in front of a crowd, or in some sense performing. Actual everyday conversations that are not really worth recording for posterity but are so incredibly important to life remain few and far between -- especially outside the Eisteddfod bubble.

I still don't fit in the Welsh world. At least now I can write books about it and make money off of it.

So, I definitely plan to stay on for a little while. Back in June, when I was in Austin, Texas, I had a moment -- a few days, actually -- in which I was telling myself that I would not go back to Wales. I had clothes and a laptop; I felt I needed nothing else to cut my losses and start anew in the city of my birth. But I didn't do that. Because, as Papa once said, there is a little chickenshit in all of us. But also Wales has something for me. I don't know what. But my gut says I am not yet done here. Yet. I am coming to you, Austin. One day.

In the meantime I am getting geared up to start on my masters degree course in a little more than a month. For those of you arriving late to the party, I will be doing a masters in Welsh with an emphasis on creative writing. I defy you to name an actual degree (a) that is more useless than Welsh-language creative writing.

The nature of British life is that shit always falls together at the last minute, especially at universities. And that's really been the case in terms of the masters. Only this afternoon did I finally receive official confirmation of my being on the course. I had received a conditional offer months ago, but the official confirmation is needed for both my student loan and visa applications. Those two things have been held up while I waited for some administrator to come back from their summer holidays.

No hurry, love. It's just my life.

Now I get to rush to try to sort the loans before 22 September. The visa application, meanwhile, can't go through until I have that proof of ability to pay my fees. And, of course, if I don't have a visa, I get to go back to the United States (b). In which case, Dani, I will move into that empty shed in your back yard.

So this is what's been keeping me from blogging.

Well, that and the guitar. Oh, yes. The guitar. After the trip to Dolwyddelan in February, I started to develop an obsession with playing guitar. Because it's way sexier than being an author. Writing impresses no one. In fact, I find it tends to make people look at me as if I am about to give them a pop quiz -- a mixture of fear and disdain. But if I could bust out a guitar and play a few Jason Mraz tunes I'd be the hit of any party. Because everyone loves Jason Mraz. If you don't, you are lying to yourself. Don't try to respond with some witty comeback, it will only make the rest of us look down on you for denying that you actually love Jason Mraz.

Shut up. You do. You say you don't but actually, you do.

So, anyway, when I was in the U.S. I picked up a guitar that had been collecting dust for a decade, brought it back to Cardiff and promptly went to the task of making my fingers hurt like hell and swearing through clenched teeth at the fucking piece of wood that is supposed to make music but really just plinks and twangs and taunts me with its total non-music-producing self. It has been a long time since I hated something as much as I hate that damned guitar sitting in my bedroom.

Still, I pick it up every day because just once in a while it will produce a single beautiful chord and suddenly I can see in my mind a sexy woman, her face lighting up because I'm playing a song for her. And that's always better than blogging.

(a) Not something made up like Underwater Kabuki Performance.

(b) Or live off the British welfare state, like all the other illegal immigrants. At least, that's what Conservatives and BNP types would have you believe.