Many years ago when the earth was new and my belly was flat (like I said, many years ago), I was visiting London on a job. In those days I was a little better known than I am now and bars all around the country would contract me for different jobs, usually only one or two nights and usually for a lot more money than they would pay regular staff. What these bars didn’t seem to get at the time is that I was a specialised worker and most of the ones that hired me were outside of my specific skillset, meaning that they could just have paid one of their regular workers to do as good a job. London was different though as it was one of the jobs that suited my skillset down to the ground and I had a whale of a time working while more than earning my money.
At the end of the third night I found myself walking back to my bed and breakfast as I simply couldn’t get a cab at that time of morning on the numbers I knew. The way was still unfamiliar so I found myself referring to my map a lot (no GPS on phones back then so a map of the city from a petrol station was normally my first purchase for a job) and going along a lot of back streets and car parks that weren’t marked. It was during this time that someone decided that I was prime mugging material. I suppose a young lad out on the streets at five in the morning and consulting a map just screams lost tourist so I was prime pickings for this guy. Unfortunately for him I was on my way from work and had my steel toe-capped boots on. Also I could probably kick you in the face quite fast now, but then I was at my physical prime and trained regularly. So yeah, mugged by someone who soon found out what rhymes with “Joken Braw” but this isn’t the focus of this post; rather I’m writing about why I was in a position that got me mugged in the first place.
It was my own fault I suppose. Overcome by the feeling of immortality that all youth carries within its inexperienced and often quite foolish hearts, I walked the streets of London while everyone was still drunk and lary and with nothing to really protect myself. A boost to that feeling of immortality came when I emerged unscathed but things could easily have gone the other way, and who would make inappropriate jokes at just the wrong moment then? Anyway, let me tell you about the revelation that I had which had me stopped in an alleyway staring at a wall long enough for an oik to try his luck with me.
The wall was nothing special. It seemed to be the back of a theatre though I didn’t really walk around the block to check so it could have been anything really. What I found special were the posters. There must have been hundreds of them on the wall, perhaps even thousands throughout the years, and every single one was still there in some form or other. Movie posters from before my time had been pasted up there, and these were partly covered by band posters, concerts, shows, readings, pub nights; you name it and there was a poster on the wall for it (yes, even that you filthy minded flibbityjibbets) at some point in time. What struck me was just how weathered the posters had become over time. Wind, rain, alcohol-filled urine, and even snow had mulched them and torn at them, leaving only rags on the wall. And still people pasted new things on that wall without ever scraping off what was there already.
It was an incredible effect, with the latest movie poster torn in such a place as to show the heroines face as a giant eye from another poster, and that eye torn in such a place as the iris was the word “blind” from yet another poster. That was what caught my attention as I was passing by and I took the time to take in the whole effect. Words from as many as ten posters spread over three decades made up odd little sentences sprinkled about the wall. New pictures were made up from parts of old ones, mixed together in a form that no-one could have planned. To my sleep deprived, soon-to-be-mugged brain the whole wall was a masterpiece, a mess that defied characterisation, both beautiful and ugly, chaotic and yet also orderly in a fashion. I was struck with the revelation that this wall was an almost perfect allegory of the human mind. Everything we ever experience is still there in bits and pieces. Some information may get overwritten in time, but there will always be bits of it available to access. Whenever we try to come up with a new idea we use the building blocks that are available to us within our own minds, and they work in the same way as that wall. And then I got mugged.
Years later I find myself thinking about that wall again as I take up a pen (my thumb) and paper (my phone) and set to writing a novel. For my birthday this year I received a gift of the complete DVD boxset of a show I watched in my childhood (back when I was seven years old). I find that this show has provided some of the imagery that I’ve been aiming for in my writing as well as a lot of the feel that I’m trying to capture. Alongside that is a hell of a lot of Norse myth, old English legends, comic book pacing, and so many other things that I couldn’t even begin to list them (as I already have begun to list them, in this context I mean I’m too lazy to finish identifying and listing them). Is there anything original there? Yes and no, to be honest. I don’t think any writer has original content, just a unique way of putting their experiences and memories together.
The wall of my particular mind is the same as so many out there, holding the same posters as the rest of my generation and the same specialist events as those who share my interests. Where things get interesting is that the things that have held on to my wall are different from other peoples as are the things that shine through. Even someone with the exact same experiences and memories as me will hold different things in higher regard and therefore have different sized, if similar in content, blocks from which to build in the imagination. I believe that this will allow me to put together a pretty good story in a unique way.
Now I’d love to chat about this some more but there’s a strange man beckoning me into that darkened alleyway over there. I suppose he wants the time or something. I’ll be back once I’ve helped him out.