Photo by Maria Jefferis
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 41-year-old with sleep apnoea.
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 42 - ORANGE? YEAH! THAT’S RIGHT!
My friends Simon and Nita took their kids to the seaside this Summer. I know because I saw it on Facebook, my window to the world that exists beyond my monitor. At first I thought they must have run their photos through one of those apps that makes everything look like a chillwave album sleeve. You know, one of those albums that men in their mid-thirties who think they've still got it listen to. They stick some Neon Indian on the iPod dock in the bedroom when they get in from training for their next 10k run. Lying on the bed listening to Life Of Leisure by Washed Out, daydreaming about couple blogging with Summer Camp's Elizabeth Sankey while their wife is waiting downstairs to go to a farmer's market. Daydreaming about Sankey while the long-suffering Lottie is waiting downstairs and all she wants is for you to put on a nice shirt and hold her hand while she buys some sourdough artisan bread and a string of organic pork and wild garlic sausages? And you're listening to Toro Y Moi? In a sweaty Unknown Pleasures parody T-shirt?
It's a fucking disgrace! Pull yourself together man! (Give them another six months and they’ll all catch onto PBR’n’B and post-blubstep.)
I look at the photos again. Oh my days… They're real. Their beautiful kids are charging down empty beaches, the horizon a ruler-traced paper cut separating still, blue sea from still, blue sky. They're all flawless, burnished sienna skin, tiny sharp teeth cutting the air into smiles and explosions of curled hair that could uncork wine bottles. These photographs are untouched and perfect. There's even real camera flare on one of them with the sun just out of shot. They’re the sort of photos you could wait a lifetime to take.
Photo by Nita Keeler
These photographs make a mockery of nearly all other snaps I see online these days.
The neurotic desire to make life perfect is driven by a fear of death and decay. Time was when you might go through your entire life and only end up with one good photograph of the love of your life. One snap of them standing on Blackpool beach, eating an ice-cream with the sun illuminating their hair and smile. And that would be the picture that would be in your wallet or purse until the day you died. Now all photographs are manipulated to make every single banal occurrence look like a precious memory worthy of inclusion in a time capsule.
Here’s me outside Abra-kebab-ra in Dalston with a Hipstamatic setting that recreates the atmosphere of a twilit Autumn in 1972 as it filters through the leaves of an oak tree in the New Forest as taken on Jacques Cousteau’s fucking Lomo.
Here’s me buying an Orthodox Russian birthing kimono from I Dream Of Wires near Brick Lane taken with an Instagram app which makes all subjects look like post-coital Donald Sutherland in 1981, and, as a neat trick, makes the sky go the exact blue tone of the Anglia ITV ident.
Here’s me shrilly proclaiming on a social media forum, "I’m young! I’m vital! I’m having the time of my life, now! Right now! It didn’t just end at university! It’s all still in front of me! What a great time to be alive!" With the photo run through an iPhone camera app called Borough Market After The Rain ‘87 or Birmingham Six At Leisure ‘73.
Trouble is, this quest to make every single second perfect means that the times that actually are worth remembering actually end up getting lost in a snowstorm of digitally manipulated jpegs that will never, ever get printed off or even referred back to in the future.
Nita and Simon’s photos make this place look like heaven on Earth. I email Nita to find out where they had been and get the reply: “Tenby. It was a great holiday. It was the first time for me at the seaside since I was about six and first time with the kids for a proper holiday ever. The weather was fantastic, Tenby was amazing… The beach and the sea… we could have been in the Mediterranean. From ten years of not having a proper holiday to now already booking next year's at the same place.”
I have to take the family to Tenby. It sounds amazing. I know I’ve been there. Where is it though? I have dim memories of something happening there. Is it the place where I got lost and strangers tried to get me to go in their car? Is it the place where I fell in the river? Is it the place where my sister got bit by a goose? I email my mum to ask her about Tenby and she sends me the following email:
"Hi John, "Many years ago Aunty Kathleen gave you an Austrian walking stick with loads of badges on, it has been lying around the house for all that time. I would like to get rid of it, but if you still want it we can throw it up in the loft or behind a wardrobe. Could you let me know ASAP if you want us to keep it?
"Aunty Teresa and Collette are coming Wednesday evening to stay over, then on to Aunty Peggy's funeral on Thursday. Dad says thanks for the sympathy card, it was thoughtful of you to send it.
"We have booked a coach holiday for 25 Aug. It is to St Ives, with three excursions included, one is a full day to the Scilly Islands, St Mary's. It’s an eight-day holiday and should do us a lot of good. Dad now has a bad neck, started off in his shoulder, when he was carrying loads of shopping, but now in his neck and he can hardly move his head, going to docs on Wednesday AM.
"Yes, Tenby is lovely, huge expanse of sand and a very pleasant town. Seem to remember lots of nooks and crannies tucked away there. Old stone walls. In Pembrokeshire. On the map it’s the "nose" of Wales. I think we stayed on a small site in Kilgetty (a few miles outside Tenby). Also, I think we visited loads of places in the area (like Bosherston, that has a lake with massive lilly pads). There were Nato exercises on, and you saluted the German soldiers with 'Heil Hitler'. I'll try and find the photos of our visit, though it seems a long time ago now.
"Love to all, from Ma and Pa."
Austrian walking sticks? Heil Hitler? Oh, my giddy aunt…
My mum and dad got all their Super 8 cine film transferred to DVD the other day and sent me a copy. There was one short clip of a family holiday. (It might have been Tenby but it’s hard to say, all Caravan Club sites in the 1970s looked exactly the same – basically a farmer’s field with dry stone walls.)
Me and my sister have matching Brian Jones haircuts and matching two-stripe, bright red tracksuits, my friend Alan is there with an Action Man, meaning it was before my ninth birthday. My mum is wearing flares and has her hair in loose pigtails. The small tourer is hitched to an Austin Allegro. Presumably on the angry encouragement of my dad (“Come on! Don’t just stand there! Do something!”) everyone bursts into movement. My mum dancing from side to side, my sister running around with her hands out like an aeroplane and Alan pretending to machine gun the camera. I walk over to a tree and pretend to hang myself from it and the camera goes dead.
I guess it was inevitable that I’d end up a depressed Joy Division fan. My cards were marked from the start. The next time I get the house to myself I’m going to take some Syndol, crack open the poppers, get this DVD playing at half speed on a loop accompanied by a Godley & Creme album pitched down by 20 percent playing in the background. Because if that’s not chillwave, I don’t know what is.
Previously: Menk, by John Doran - You Know You Make Me Want to Scream
You can read all the previous editions of John's Menk column here.