Tuesday, December 11, 2007

for me ? how kind.....

Winter. The Arctic tundra of the outside world, the creeping darkness which awaits you in the morning and tails you home like a lost dog in the evenings, haemorrhaging money on Christmas presents, the limbo of the winter rains, 'variety' festive specials on the television.
Winter is the most dour of the seasons, the unwelcome drunk at a party who is sick with self pity.
I thought all was lost to the frost until I got home from the pub last night and entered the living room, which was cosy and warm, and all my flatmates and comrades were there under duvets, eating a takeaway and watching Watership Down with the fairylights on.
Mitton turned to me and said,
"Lenny popped round earlier and dropped some presents off for you, they're in my room."
"Presents ?" Suddenly, the chill of December melted away, even as I put the kettle on and prepared a brew.
Cartoons and curry and warmth and presents and tea and lowlights and friends*. It suddenly feels like Christmas to me.

*who eat all the chocolates out of your calendar because they don't know the difference between five and nineteen.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

hit me baby, one more time

To say I have an addictive personality would be a trite and reckless statement, borne of one or two examples which amount to little more than a current obsession. However, I am easily sucked in - usually to the most benign and habitual of pastimes - and once I'm there, I'm a bit of a goner.
It started with those ten-pence-pushing-machines - you know the ones, haunted by desperate, sad eyed cadavers with pocketfuls of change and a loose ambition - and perhaps it was the gaudy, flashing lights or slow, sultry way the drawers moved backward and forward over the scattered ocean of silver treasure, but I was hooked. It started when I was seven, and I've never forgotten the chink of coins hitting that small steel tray -which looks almost surgical - when the overspill is knocked forward. I won fifteen pounds in a 'jackpot' in St Ives once and had to carry the lot in the pockets of my coat for the rest of the night because the cashier, sullen in his plexi-glass casing, refused to change it for me. Fifteen ponds in ten pees is heavy, I warn you.
It lost its glitz for me in the arcade at Brighton, after I'd 'found my machine' - one which looked likely to pay something out - and had stood there with Ben for the best of five minutes.
"Oooooh ! Look ! I won !"
"Yeah, seventy pee. Nice one, and you only fed three pounds in. This is a right laugh."

I needed to move onto higher stakes. I'm addicted to smoking, which is something I'm hoping to crush in the new year, and booze, and caffeine, but ultimately, I like to profit, and unless you count heart disease, hangovers and the jitters as a profit, I needed to find something more. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to trivialise addiction, which, in it's worst forms, swallows lives and stability and rationalisation - but I can see it is in me, at least in the smallest dose. The thing is I never see it unless it's pointed out to me.

Two years ago I played poker with my family on Christmas evening. I'm a reckless gambler - anyone who has betted against me in Pontoon knows this; "Hit Me!" - but for me that just adds to the thrill. So it was I found myself low on chips and high of hand at about half past twelve that evening, desperate to win something.
I lent over.
"Mum. Mum, lend me some of your chips."
My mum, who had been WINNING ALL NIGHT refused politely, citing the rules of the game.
"Fuck the rules mum, come on, seriously. I have a definite winning hand here."
"You won't do this for your only daughter ?"
My sister looked flatly across the table at me, saying nothing.
"Alright, look. You lend me the chips, I'll win, I'll pay you back double. Double."
"No, Daise."
"Alright, cash then, I've got the cash right here, it's in my purse. No ? No ? Alright look, these car keys, I have these car keys against this hand, if I lose, you get the car."
"Those are my keys, and that's my car." Steve said, at which point I gave up, protesting, and went outside to worship the god of nicotine.

It's the same with the Playstation - oh Playstation, you beautiful device you - which I played so obsessively and relentlessly that I actually had to ban myself from owning one lest I lose another job because of it, not to mention the boyfriend who left me because I was playing with Leon more than I was him.

A while ago, Lenny and I were in the pub when he mentioned a game they had called Shut the Box. The premise is so simple it's almost insulting - it's a dice game, so no skill is involved, just the subtraction of numbers between one and nine. I'd never heard of it, so was clapping my hands with glee when Lenny brought it over.
"Shall we make this interesting by putting some money on it, say a pound a game ?" he'd asked, and I'd said yes.
Five pounds down and Lenny said he had to stop,
"I don't want to lose any more money," he'd said.
This struck me as odd - not that I was winning, I occasionally get lucky streaks, you should see me play pool - but because he'd stopped, entirely of his own accord, whereas I would have started scribbling IOU's and making empty promise for JUST ONE MORE GAME.

This came to a head last night in the Fortune of War in Brighton, where I was with some friends. There is a quiz machine in the corner, but I never really play those things, and hadn't really noticed it until Billy pointed it out.
"Ah, I really wish you'd been here the other night, Daise. I was playing that and one of the categories was 'Stephen King Books'. I got them all wrong."
I smiled.
"I'd have aced that."
"Yeah." Odge agreed, "You would."
"Might have a go myself." I murmured, and ten minutes later, was being manhandled away by Odge and Billy.
"Billy, give me some change, I need some change." I'd demanded.
"I can't Daisy -"
"Why ? You work here don't you ?"
"Yeah. It's just that you've put quite a lot of money into it already and I think anymore would be a waste."
"Oh come on! No-one knows the capital of Kenya." I implored.
"Nairobi." everyone answered.