I met Douglas Coupland once

I met Douglas Coupland once. Well, not really met. I queued up to get a book signed (for a friend’s birthday) in a chain book shop in Leeds around the turn of the millennium. It must’ve been for Miss Wyoming. I was working at a posh shoe shop at the time, just a couple of streets along from the book shop. It was a job I did in-between lectures at university and clubbing (my real occupation). I went along to the book signing one lunchtime and there he was, signing books. When it was my turn he glanced at the name badge I was wearing (why did I have a name badge? That’s not posh) and said, “You won’t always be wearing one of those.” I think he got a kick out of saying things like that to fans. Stuff he knew that would be taken to heart, that might even be motivational. It was too, I felt like I’d seen a psychic or something. I’ve just remembered this because I am three quarters of the way through re-reading Hey Nostradamus! and I am savouring every word. I’d remembered the outline of the story but all the colour, all the sadness and all the beauty, I’d lost. Books, man! Not everything’s on the internet and halle-damn-lujah for that.

Update: I just met up with Alice, the signed book giftee, and it turns out it wasn’t Miss Wyoming but All Families Are Psychotic, which makes it around 2001/02, and I wasn’t working at a shoe shop but in a bank, of all places, doing some temp work on the summer holiday. I had completely buried that experience, no doubt out of shame. Memory is weird.


Cicada invasion

The cicadas are like a car alarm, or an orgy. An orgy of car alarms. They scream-sing in chorus, out of tune but in tune with one another. Literally buzzing off one another. Rubbing their thighs together lustily. All desire and friction. Their call is hot and wet and wild. They don’t stop until they die. Til death do us part. Their parts lie in my path, their bodies broken; strewn. They are beautiful in death, alone. Their colours sharp until, like husks, they grind down to dust.

Keep the faith

I just realised that the concert I can hear from my studio flat in Sofia right now is Bon Jovi. For the last couple of hours I’d thought it was some old country rock band. It wasn’t until “Keep The Faith” that it clicked. The guitar lines are pretty epic. It’s weird, not only because it feels like I’ve slipped back to the 90s, but because today people were protesting over the Bulgarian election results. I could hear them through my window too. Faith is a stretch when it feels like nothing ever changes.


This ridiculously Getty-ish image is the real-life view that greeted me at 6.30am yesterday morning. That’s Batak Lake in the Rhodope Mountains, to the south of Bulgaria. It’s just as pretty in person.

By this lake I finished Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, a wonderfully witty, insightful and moving dissection of Celine Dion’s divisive superstardom and how privilege, prejudice and our own personal stories lurk beneath ideas of taste. Many of Wilson’s lines thrilled me but this one near finished me off: “Just as churches say God saves every miserable sinner, the secular lesson is that time doesn’t leave anybody out either: no matter how stuck you feel, you still get to go to the future.” [Thanks, Caspar.]

I ran from Wilson’s arms right into Janet Frame’s. The third volume of her autobiography, in fact; a going away gift from Zillakiller. Frame strips bare to the bones in the telling of her story, inviting us into a world strung together with taut red ligaments. So much stung but especially this serendipitous line: “a life supervised, blessed and made lonely by the sky”.