They say that you’re at least partly a product of your environment. Walthamstow, which marks the transition from East London into Essex, is the place I was born, spent a huge chunk of my most formative years, and made a home with TLC until we moved west in 2004. It’s a place that still fills me with mixed feelings, nostalgia mixed in with a sadness that the place has never really lived up to it’s potential. For a while, it was also the setting for some of my short stories. And Then I Woke Up is a Walthamstow tale, and so is the one below. They’re both pretty unpleasant. I’m not sure you can read anything into that.
The story I’m about to tell you features two of the ‘Stow’s most recognisable features – The High Street, one of the longest in Europe, and the old, grade 2 listed cinema. It’s now referred to as the EMD, but when I went it was called the ABC, and when my mum and dad used to go, it was the Granada. It’s been a fixture of the cultural life of my family for at least two generations then. The way it’s been treated over the past few years simply breaks my heart.
A sense of peace and order descends on Casa Conojito as the Xmas deccoes are packed up and put away, signalling the end of all merriness and joy for the next eleven months. It’s been a straightforward clearup, as we went minimal on the froth, frippery and frou-frou this year.
The exception to that rule is, as ever, the unknotting of the lights from the tree, a process that requires the application of non-Euclidian geometry and much swearing to complete. I was quite proud of the amount of quantum entanglement I achieved this go-round. It was an exercise in four-dimensional shared-plane dynamics that took some thought and a tearful breakdown before I applied good old Gordian theoretics to the problem and took the tree apart with the lights still attached.
Even then, the bastard things were tighter than Kylie’s dress on New Year’s Eve. The final knot-form that the lights evolved to once I had finally freed them from the tree was unsetting, otherworldly. The bundle of green wires seemed to twist serpent-like in my hands as I stuffed them back in the box. ‘Twas if somehow the form had described a pathway, a map to eldritch other dimensions. A beacon that the dwellers of these side-shifted places could follow to find their way here.
I fear for what awaits me when I go back up to the loft next Christmas. I fear that the deity whose arrival we celebrate on December 25th will not be the one we usually greet.
When I was young and foolish, I used to believe it was the height of cool sophistication to start New Year’s Day by putting the U2 song of the same name on at high volume. A totemic beginning to the New Year, I thought.
I know better now, and wouldn’t assume to sully the intelligence or patience of my dear Readership by forcing Bono on them while they’re still in a delicate place.
Instead, please to enjoy Leatherface rocking out to Hüsker Dü’s “New Day Rising.”
This is all Simon Aitken’s fault. He tagged me in a Facebook post, as part of an ongoing meme which seems appropriate for this, The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. In short, he challenged me and his friends to list our top 15 horror films, and give a reason why we like them so much. His list is here, and I can’t argue with any of his choices.
As I started thinking about my list, I realised that some of my favourite horror moments weren’t films at all. So, as it’s me, and I believe in doing things a little differently, what comes next is a countdown of my favourite horror things. I hope you’ll find some surprises. In no particular order, then…