My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who is angry about literally everything.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/ Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal.”
MENK 21: CRYSTAL WORLD WITH WINTER FLOWERS
Here’s why you should never write about the weather when it changes markedly. Sensitive indie boys with pretensions to being writers have ruined this seemingly benign pleasure for everyone. They spend all day long looking out of the window, week in week out, smoking cigarettes, drinking cups of tea and imagining they’re Charles Bukowski and then – bam – they peer out of their chilly little life grotto one day and everything is covered in snow and it blows their minds.
”It’s like a metaphor for surface versus depth when the snow starts melting and uncovers…” No, it’s like a metaphor for have a shower, put a clean pair of jeans on, get out of the house and do your fucking laundry, Shackleton. Perhaps something might actually happen to you and then you can write a blog post about it. Nothing’s going to happen to you staring out of your window listening to Los Campensinos! you egregious, donut-eating pranny.
”A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again… Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Haggerston. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Shoreditch and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark, mutinous waves of Clapton Pond…” Seriously, look on the internet right now and count the number of gibbous bellends writing about the fucking snow like it’s the first definite sign of the Mayan pan-global cluster fuck.
Repeat after me: “I am going outside and I may be some time because it’s about time I cleaned my duvet cover and it’s my turn to buy the cat litter.”
When I’m depressed I can’t leave the house without running through every eventual possibility of what might befall me outside. This becomes a protracted process when everything’s covered in snow. I’ve been at it for 15 minutes now and I’m building up to some kind of psychotic ephiphany: “So when they throw a snowball at me but it hits little John I’ll say, ‘I’m going to hang you all up by your heels and slit your throats.’ No, but then they may get machetes out and hack me to pieces. Maybe I should take a machete out with me.” In a flash I’m in court and there’s a judge saying to me: “So, they threw some snow at you and your first reaction was to cut all of them to pieces? Having just watched Drive after two litres of coffee is not acceptable mitigation, Mr Doran.” The wee man is in his snow suit and looks comfy in the giant three-wheeled jogger. He looks like a tiny astronaut strapped into the cockpit of a rocket. He is singing away happily.
“They’ll be out there. Packing snow round pebbles and glass; constructing snowballs around nails; packing down frozen water into spherical projectiles of death – each containing a hollow-tipped dum dum bullet…”
Out in Clissold Park there are gangs of marauding, ice-packing, ASBO magnets everywhere – or “young people having fun” as Maria refers to them. Either side of the path, five tween girls are lifting sharp-edged chunks of compacted snow the size of breeze blocks over their heads. I imagine the air thick with pink mist and a pile of twitching limbs on the pathway. As soon as one of the girls sees us she says to her friends: “Careful now! Baby coming through!” They all stand stock still and let us pass before moving a muscle again. It’s only after I pass that I realise they’re building a really cool looking igloo.
What a terrible person I am. Why am I so angry all the time? Why am I constantly imagining killing literally everyone in the most horrible way possible? Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like? (This is a rhetorical question. This is what the next few hours or days are going to be like and then it will ease off and not happen again for a month or so, fingers crossed. And that is what the rest of my life is going to be like.)
Snow shames me. It reveals how ill-equipped I am for the business of day-to-day life outside of my own house. When there is a nuclear war I will be the first one thrown out of the cave because I have no skills transferable to a post-apocalyptic situation. They will be gathered round a dead sheep and the guy who could have told them whether it was safe to eat or not has died of radiation poisoning. Instead, all they have is someone who knows a lot of facts about Heaven 17. “Get out of the cave you useless, full fat, bastard! We don’t care about Marxist funk – we haven’t seen the sun because of nuclear winter for three years!”
I remember once going to see my friend Andy Kirkpatrick – Hull’s second best mountain climber and probably the funniest man I’ve met – giving a lecture on solo winter Alpinism in St Albans. I remember it was snowing and I nearly turned back three times but eventually got there in time to see him doing one of his slide shows. Immediately I felt bad, because he was telling us about getting trapped in a snow hole for nine days.
He said: "If the weather is bad and you are on an ice cap or a glacier, you have to dig yourself into a hole in the ground and then cover yourself up. If there are two of you, you basically end up in a two-man coffin made out of ice and you stay there until the weather improves. It sounds bad, but your body heat warms the small space up quite a lot. It's just very wet, cold and uncomfortable."
He explained how in 1997 he had been climbing in Patagonia with his friend Rich. They were walking toward the spire of Mt Fitzroy framed as far as they could see by an ice sea of glaciers when The Mother hit. “La Mama” was an ugly in-law of “El Nino”, the weather system that had wreaked death and destruction all over the southern hemisphere earlier that year. When the weather turns bad in Patagonia it does so with implacable violence. The temperature can drop within minutes to below minus 30 C and the hundred mile per hour winds can suck climbers straight from the rock face.
Andy, who had suffered another near miss in Patagonia two years previously, agreed immediately when Rich said they should dig into a snow hole and wait for the weather to clear. After all, they had enough food for four days, more provisions stashed nearby and a week and a half left before they had to return to the UK.
Six days later, the weather outside was still bad enough to kill them and they hadn’t moved an inch. They had little in the way of entertainment. Andy had brought a book on Auschwitz and Rich a collection of traditional Yorkshire jokes.
He said: "We spent nine days in that hole – but it was on the first day that I found out that Rich had absolutely no conversational skills whatsoever. After four days I would say something like 'How old do you think chess is?' and he would just go 'How should I fucking know?' I would wait for another day or two and say something like 'Who do you think invented kettles?' and get exactly the same response."
They passed the time drinking tea: "We must have drank about fifty gallons of tea by the sixth day. There was nothing else to do. We'd get the same bleached tea bag out of the rubbish and make more brews. We were quite careful at first. Pissing into a cup and throwing it down the other end of the hole. But after a while you just start slinging it everywhere. After about three days you realise you are going to die in a tomb made from solid, bright yellow urine. But then one day I knocked the gas stove over and it set fire to my sleeping bag and the snow hole started filling up with carbon monoxide. It was like being in Apollo 13. But a new version of the film where the spacecraft was made entirely of frozen piss."
Andy felt like he was approaching death and attempted to lighten the mood with a joke, saying: "You know, in the dark, a man's mouth is very much like a woman's." So they spent the rest of the time in silence.
Back in Hackney, I make the circuit of Clissold Park without anyone so much as exhaling in my general direction. I catch myself singing "Informer" by Snow. I always subconsciously think of this song when it’s snowing. I have a chuckle to myself. What a simpleton. I don’t think decrypting the way I think would pose too much of a problem to Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s not so bad really. The park. The snow. The fresh air. Everyone out enjoying themselves. The igloos. The young men taking exercise with vigorous snowball fights. That’s the thing about snow though, isn’t it? It is ignorant of class, race, gender… it falls down and covers everything like…
“For fuck’s sake!” I yell at the top of my lungs. “Fucking snow? Fucking snow? FUCKING SNOW METAPHORS? Fucking shit house more like!” And then I tramp all the way back home and draw the curtains.