Belfast Telegraph

Renaissance man? I'm still a slave to my student days

By Mike Gilson

I'm on my own for the entire weekend. And I don't mind. In fact, I revel in the solitude. There are opportunities, too. The dusty acoustic is coming out. I'm going to get reacquainted with some of the old songs I used to murder.

I'm going to start my novel. The last 10 years of talking about it will be replaced by a sense of purpose, the keyboard hot under the pounding of my creative fingers, the screen an exciting whirl of stunning metaphor and allegory.

I'm going to cook myself that Peruvian dish, ceviche, that I've been threatening to for years. There's loads of preparation, thus opportunities for slurps of wine and loud music, and I'll eat while starting to read Heart Of Darkness, the Conrad classic that's been plaintively staring out from the shelves these past 20 years, urging me to tackle its dense prose.

On Sunday morning I'll dig out my binoculars and walk the estuary, spotting the waders, divers and gulls that haven't seen me since I splurged on the bird watching kit two years ago in yet another doomed I-need-a-pastime-to- help-me-escape-The-Man start-up. This is going to be a weekend when time stands still and a beatific calm descends.

So why on Saturday night do I have a takeaway curry on my lap as the Bad Grandpa movie plays on the TV screen? Why am I laughing like an imbecile at the lowbrow antics on show as I shovel the biryani into my mouth?

And why is this the third consecutive hour I have been welded to the sofa, stale from watching Sky Sports News and Dave?

It hadn't started like this, honest. I'd cycled into town to get the ingredients for my dish. I'd marched with purpose to the supermarket and had even strode past the aisle of shiny packages of salty snacks (usually the first pit stop) on my way to vegetables and fresh fish.

But the damn place didn't have the sea bass needed for the recipe, nor enough limes in which to marinade it. Disaster. But there's still plenty of edifying self-improvement to come.

What made me turn into the HMV shop I don't know. Even then I could have gone to the world cinema section, rather than the new releases.

And even then I could have fought the lure of the dumbass Bad Grandpa DVD cover.

So the blurb says it's a 'snort out loud gross out comedy' involving a guy dressing up as an old man and a kid playing his grandchild playing out shocking stunts on a road trip, to unsuspecting real Americans.

I glance furtively around and grab it, but to lessen the guilt, buy Kurosawa's epic classic Ran from the grown-up section. Course, I'm never going to watch that tonight and I know it.

Sunday morning and there's still time to catch up on the self-discovery stuff.

I grab the binoculars and head out to the waterfront.

Little more than an hour later, I'm on my second pint at the pub overlooking the whipped-up waves, examining a notebook that says things like 'gull-type bird', 'thing with long straight beak' and 'could be sea eagle, but unlikely'.

On the way back, I ask myself: why does feckless-20-year-old-male-student-me always beat wanna-be-renaissance-man-me? Will self-discipline always be a stranger?

But suddenly my mood improves.

I don't dwell. Barcelona versus Real Madrid is on TV tonight and I have some beer and a microwaveable paella ready meal in.

Mike Gilson is Editor of the Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph