Sunday, May 27, 2012

More Inverness Than Ipanema

Some things are timeless.

Tall and tanned and young and lovely

The floor is cold beneath my bare feet as I enter the airport, humming. The air conditioning hits me, a merciful icy blast after the midday furnace outside.

A woman in business dress - her long blonde hair in flight - pushes past me, singing a familiar tune.

The girl from Ipanema goes walking

The Girl from Ipanema? How odd; I was just thinking about that song. I turn to watch her retreating, determined gait and wonder if she’s singing along to something? But I see no earphones on her, and there’s no piped music in the air. I guess she must like singing in public?

Something touches my bare leg, and I glance down and find a five-year-old boy tugging at my knee. He looks up at me enquiringly, perhaps lost, his wide blue eyes twinkling under a mop-top haircut.

And unexpectedly, he begins to sing.

And when she passes each man she passes goes A-a-h!

The statement is clear, his young voice steady and in key. And it’s the next line of the song. Weird. His mother bustles over and tugs him away by the hand, throwing me an apologetic glance. She chastises the boy as they hurry away, and her sharp-but-musical words find my ears.

When she moves it's like a samba

They move away and out of earshot. I turn slowly, bewildered, to find a group of nuns in my path. One carries a guitar - this is an airport I suppose - and they all carry a tune. As the penguined choir divides and sweeps past on either side of me, the Ipanema refrain continues in three-part harmony.

That swings so cool and sways so gently
That when she passes
Each man she passes goes A-a-h!

There’s a particular delight in the delivery of that last line. My jaw drops. Cheeky nuns? Well, I’d always suspected, to be honest. Good grief, another sane day in Camp Roth. *

[ * Camp Roth is a location, not a rumour. ]

The air is cold on my shoulders as I start to walk forward again; I really should have brought something warmer for this place. Still, onwards.

Now, where was it I was going? As I ponder this, my mind a blank, an old man in a short-trousered military uniform and beret is wheeled towards me in a bathchair. Medals gleam on his chest, but despite the rakish moustache, his eyes are inert and introspective. Behind him, a helper - perhaps a granddaughter - in sensible sandals and a long flowing summer dress, continues the verse while surveying a shop window.

Oh - but he watches so sadly

As I approach, the head of the old man raises and turns my way. His eyes have found a shine to match the medals. He sweetly croons his life story.

How can he tell her he loves her
He would just give his heart gladly

They pass from view, and again I focus ahead, my feet squeaking on the polished marble. Was it Arrivals I wanted? Departures?

The thought goes from my head as a beautiful redhead in a dark blue dress strolls my way. Her smiling eyes are upward, her face enjoying the play of sun as she passes beneath the indoors palms of the airport. Her voice fills the air, sultry yet elusive.

But each day when she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead not at he

Well, isn’t that the truth.

Still, she looks Scottish and not Brazilian. Yes, definitely more Inverness than Ipanema. Do I recognise her? She looks like someone I saw on TV, maybe? As if she senses my scrutiny, she turns to look me in the eye. There’s a smile on her lips, but it erupts into laughter as she glances down at my attire.

Waitaminute, what is it I'm wearing exactly?

I look down and realise I’m naked. Well, apart from the Union Jack gathered about my shoulders.

Indigo Roth's Naked Flag In An Airport
I bend further down and hope it’s long enough. I sigh. It’s not.

The dreamy lady continues to laugh at me. I think it’s at this moment, with those exact words, that I realise I’m dreaming. Yes, it all makes sense; I’m naked in a public place, wrapped in a flag, and the woman of my dreams is laughing at me.

Not for the first time, I curse my subconscious.

It’s definitely out to get me.

I feel the imposing grasp of security guards on my arms. I don’t resist. I could spread my wings and fly out of this place, or sublime into smoke, or open my eyes and find myself in my bed.

But the lilting tune on the lips of the redhead holds my gaze as they drag me away to the cells. As she waves her delicate fingers and blows kisses to the guards, I feel the flag slip from my shoulders.

The tune may be timeless, but the experience is not.

Tall and tanned and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes he smiles
But she doesn't see
No she doesn't see...


This blog entry (not the YouTube) is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2012. With thanks to Karen Gillan. Not that she knew.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thinking Of Taking It Up

Faith is a wondrful thing, but there's nothing like a big old dollop of proof.

The first light of dawn is arm-wrestling the street lights for control of the sky as we emerge wearily from the tunnel. We've just spent six hours investigating the paranormal in an underground bunker. There may have been caffeine involved.

Well, that was bizarre, I mutter.

No kidding, murmurs arch-genius Dr. Max Tunguska edgily, as he dusts the chalk from his jacket; we're all bearing the marks of the seemingly endless chalk tunnels on our clothing.

Can somebody tell me what just happened? asks Abbey quietly. My fiery-haired neighbour looks gaunt in the twlight, her calcified bare feet only just outshining the paleness of her face.

I think it's safe to say that we were not the only intelligence in that room, rumbles Bear. His fur is spattered with what looks like - for want of a more scientific description - translucent goop.

Half an hour earlier, we prepare for the final phase of the evening. We've already taken some unnerving-if-not-entirely-inexplicable flashgun photographs in the depths of the tunnels, held a near-comical séance with an unconvincing and somewhat-theatrical medium, and scanned the whole complex with paranormal detection gear to no avail. A bit of a mixed bag.

But this is different. A dozen of us are gathered under the high vaulted roof in the deepest reaches of the base, and there is a real sense of anticipation in the air as five of us move nervously forward. We stand in a ring around the focus of the ritual, and stretch our hands forward in preparation for the finale. Our fingers brush together, and after exchanging encouraging glances we slowly let them drop together onto the warm, coarse surface.

Beneath our hands, the pig grunts.

Indigo Roth's swine-o-mancy 101Swine-o-mancy is an all-but-forgotten mystical technique. In Roman times, it was common for simple country folk to divine the future by examining the entrails of sacrificial animals. However, the pork farmers of Roman-occupied Britain - deeply superstitious, but without a chicken to their name - were reluctant. To them, a prematurely-slaughtered pig would always be an omen of a difficult winter. So, in a practice that eventually evolved into Ouija, they would drag a recalcitrant old boar into the centre of a wide circle of flat stones, each of which bore a letter of the alphabet. Then, after placing hands on the animal and summoning the spirits, they encouraged their late ancestors to move the pig and spell out words.

And hoped for the best.

Back in the now, I carry the scent of pig sweat on my damp hands.

I think you did a great job of setting the mood Bear, I say, seeking a positive spin, nice and calm and encouraging. If I were a spirit, I'd like that, I think? I feel almost mean when I add, Though maybe your question was a bit vague?

Not at all, replies my massive companion, somewhat testily; I guess it's been stressful for all of us. I asked them to tell the future of one of the participants. He shrugs. I just didn't pin it down; it never pays to know too much. This is typical wisdom from the seven-foot black bear.

Well, I was pleased about that uncertainty at the time, whispers Abbey. When the pig moved to the letter B, I thought that he was going to spell out B-L-O-O-D! She blows her nose into a hanky. I've no idea why. And, that said, she walks away to a nearby patch of grass and starts wiping the chalk from her feet with the help of the dawn dew.

Max sighs. When it added the letter A, I immediately expected the word B-A-N-J-O. I frown at him, bemused. He cracks a half-hearted smile, Well, I was thinking of taking it up!

I move us along from that unsettling thought. Well, I wasn't at all surprised when it added the letter C. I figured it was spelling out B-A-C-K-P-A-I-N. The others nod, knowing I've had some twinges of late.

Tho of course, grumbles Bear, when the next letter got us as far as B-A-C-O-, the pig panicked and trampled me and made its escape. He flicks angrily at his shoulder with a paw. And got drool all over me!

I hand Bear a tissue. And there was me thinking it was ectoplasm.

In a nearby bush, a blackbird breaks into the first few bars of the dawn chorus; I guess it's a bit early for dogs to be barking in the distance.

Over by the grass, Abbey's stifles a giggle.

Smart creatures, pigs, says Max.

And of that, we no longer need proof.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2012

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Wrong About The Cat Litter

The waking moments of any day are precious. Indigo?

They are a wonderful blend of reverie and reality. Roth? Rise and shine!

It is in them that the shape of the day is revealed.


My lids open to a close inspection from a pair of golden eyes.

Indigo Roth prepares for kitteh maulingI'm sorry, did I wake you? purrs the quiet, feminine voice.

I wonder idly if I'm dreaming; my waking moments are unreliable of late. I start to sit up, but the tabby cat has retreated from my face, and is now manoeuvering herself onto my bare chest. The faintest of needles from her small paws silently encourage me to lie still. She settles, upright and imperious, a pleasantly small feline with unusually symmetrical stripes. And a warm tush. There's the faintest scent of gin.

It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Roth, she lies without a trace of irony, or may I call you Indigo? She seems very familiar, but I can't place her, nor her American accent. Michigan? Cleveland? Tho, to be fair, I don't know any talking cats.

Waitaminute. A talking cat? A talking American cat? Ah. The dime drops, and I realise that it's a Minnesotan accent.

Liza Bean Bitey, I presume? Of the Minneapolis Biteys? My mouth feels dry, like I've been chewing cat litter in my sleep. I hope I sound less apprehensive than I feel. And that I'm wrong about the cat litter.

Mmmm, she purrs noncommittally, Pearl said that you were a smart one. For a male of your species, that is. She is of course referring to the Minneapolis blogging legend Pearl *, a friend of mine. And as far as any cat is owned by anyone, Pearl is the owner and - to her eternal frustration - responsible for Liza Bean. This carries quite a price tag on both her patience and finances. I mean, just the tuna alone...

[ * Click this link. You'll thank me; Pearl is a fabulous writer.]

Hey! Ow! Stop that! The claws are a fraction of an inch deeper, begging for my wandering attention. Liza Bean tilts her head with faux empathy at my discomfort.

Apologies. It's a balance thing. You are rather... round. Good manners and insults; she must have gone to an expensive feline Finishing School. Probably Swiss. But, answering the question forming in my mind, she continues. I thought we might have a chat.

Okay. Sure. I clear my throat. So, you're a long way from home. How's that?

Oh, you know how it is. She sighs, bored. The nomadic life of an international musical artist.

You're kidding?! I sound genuinely excited, despite myself, SQUEAK TOY are touring?! The Minnesotan all-cat jazz/blues fusion quartet are a legend in their home town, but I had no idea they were broadening their horizons; leave it to a cat to try and take over the world.

Yes, and our manager insisted that we take in your quaint little island.

Really? Who's your manager?! I hope it's Pearl, and that's she's with them.

Me. She licks a paw smugly, compensating the shift in balance with a faster and more painful grip on the other. And of course, we had to visit Cambridge.

Well, of course, I wince, the history, the architecture...

She stops in mid groom, her paw hanging in mid air. Architecture is for primates. No, there's a good reason. She sniffs. Part of is that the tour bus broke down. Right outside your house, in fact.

Now, that is a stroke of luck, I say sourly, but wave a vague hand in the direction of the back garden. If you'd like some assistance, we have several badgers on hand who can fix...

Yes, yes, she dismisses gently, I've already had words with them. They were happy to help. It seems there's inexplicable razor thin slashes in some of the engine pipes. Her gaze is momentarily attracted by the wanderings of a fly above my head; her tail flicks playfully, and her voice becomes distant. I have no idea how that could have happened. She turns to face me. Badgers are such competent engineers, don't you think? She phrases this in such a way that the compliment sounds far more like filthy feral creatures. I frown, unhappy with the way this is evolving.

So, did you wake me to ask if you could stay for a few hours?

Again, the tail flicks happily. Not at all, she smiles, your charming lion friend let us in as he was heading out, and your bear has been helping the band set up downstairs. Liza Bean glances at my bedside clock. They should be almost done...

On cue, the amplified sound of a swinging band strikes up, and they launch into a remarkable rendition of Big Noise From Winnetka. Ignatz D. Katz's upright bass work is fast and bright, Hairball's piano is melodic and loose, but Stumpy “Lucky” Strikes on drums is in a world of his own, and plays a striking resemblance to a heyday Gene Krupa.

That's terrific! I gawp, my irritation blown away; I've heard the foursome's breakthrough album, Not A Can Of Worms, but this is something else. You guys are even better live!

And better yet with me on violin. The look is smug. A little too smug, in fact.

Hey Diddle Diddle, The Cat Played A Fiddle...

Ms. Bitey raises an eyebrow, which somehow makes her resemble Death taking a good run up, about to swing his scythe. Excuse me?

So, I say, changing subject, if it's not the tour bus or the rehearsal room, what can you possibly want from me?

The reply is cool, calm, definite.

We're here for the lobster. I frown again, and the commanding cat spells it out in tones I would reserve for a slow child. Your lobster. From Maine. In your fridge.

Lobster? I bluster a little, What makes you think I have lobster?! I'm not sure I'm very convincing. I like lobster. A lot. In fact, to the point that my picture is in circulation on badly-printed cautionary fliers in the crustacean world: pliers, bib, Have You Seen This Man, the works.

Pearl occasionally buys what she laughingly calls "the good shrimp" says Liza Bean, and tells me that one day we'll get "some of the good lobster like Indigo always has". What?! Dammit, that's my dinner; I think fast.

Well, I don't have any right now, so I'm afraid you're out of luck. It's no good, I'm a hopeless liar; she's not buying it. Though obviously, if I did, I'd happily share it with four marvellous musicians. I croak the last of that, feeling myself wilt as the gorgeous golden gaze grows steely.

I assumed that would be your reaction, purrs Liza Bean, so I enlisted some help.

There's a knock at the door, and a moment later it opens to reveal the ever-smiling gaze of Abbey, my next door neighbour. Seeing I'm awake she breezes in barefoot, the smell of sunflowers accompanying her, and tickles an appreciative Liza Bean behind the ears.

Oh, there you are! Are you two making friends?! gushes the lovely blonde. Oh Indy, isn't she a beautiful kitty?! Liza Bean miaows, grinning up at Abbey in a closed-eyed, adorable fashion which is clearly designed to snare unwary owners of albacore tuna.

Lovely?! I rant, exasperated. She's a manipulative little wretch who's only here to steal my food!

My neighbour cooes over Liza Bean, and picks her up. I hiss in pain as the claws come free from my flesh, but the cat yowls louder to cover it. Abbey glances down and scowls at me, as if it's my fault that I'm being assaulted. She kisses the playful moggy's nose as she pops her over her shoulder.

Don't be mean, Indigo. Stroking Ms. Bitey's stripey back, Abbey turns to leave. Now, let's go see if we can find you some cream and some of old Mr. Grumpy's yummy lobster tail from the fridge. Liza Bean does her best Cheshire Cat impression at me from Abbey's shoulder and waves a paw as the pair retreats from my bedroom.

Downstairs, the music is rocking.

Upstairs, I'm bleeding and defeated.

Rolling over, I discover cat litter scattered across my pillow.

Why, I oughta...

I flick it clear, fuming, and try to get back to sleep.


This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2012.
Dedicated to Pearl and Liza Bean Bitey (Of the Minneapolis Biteys).