Many things over the years could have got me writing again: gnawing poverty, misshapen emotions, a sense of doing something beyond myself, boredom, envy, borderline homelessness, getting older, getting madder, dressing in rags – the list, unfortunately, goes on.
It was none of those unsavoury things, though. It was a Soreen Cake. For well over a year now, I’ve been wanting to write about one. I saw a Soreen Cake in a cupboard in a house I was living in and it immediately depressed me. An image landed in my head. That of a middle-aged woman, alone, on a Friday night watching television. In front of her sits a slice of Soreen Cake. She eats the Soreen Cake and tries to be buoyant and unalone but the buoyancy of Friday night television only serves to strengthen the cloak of loneliness she wears. Still, she perseveres. She shoves more Soreen Cake down her throat and thinks about that time last year when one of her male colleagues felt her up in a car park after they’d both had too much to drink. He was married and she sometimes thinks…well, I don’t know what she sometimes thinks because I became simultaneously bored and depressed thinking about my imaginary Soreen Cake woman and I stopped thinking about her.
A car park, earlier.
I’m not sure why all of this depressed me so much. Perhaps it was because I too sometimes wear the cloak of loneliness that my imaginary Soreen Cake woman wears. Perhaps it was because I too want to get felt up in a car park after work by a married man. Perhaps (although there is no perhaps about it) I too want to much to drink. But it wasn’t any of those things, not really. It was something else. Something I had seen written on that Soreen Cake wrapper had annoyed and frustrated and depressed me. I went to read it again but suddenly lost all interest in anything other than lying on the floor and moaning and so I lay on the floor and moaned.
A few months later I decided to start writing again. It had been a while. But what to write about? I sat and thought. Nothing came. Find something then, I said to myself. I tried to find something. Nothing could be found. Then, bliss. I know, I thought, I could write about that Soreen Cake and about that woman getting felt up in a car park. That would be something.
So I sped off to the supermarket. In there I felt I should buy other stuff to overshadow the Soreen Cake buying: spinach, any kind of tablets, canned fish – anything, really, to cover up the Soreen Cake horror. Yet I didn’t. Emboldened by my decision to start writing again I just bought the Soreen Cake on its own, didn’t even take a bag, and strode flamboyantly out of the shop.
Outside, I immediately regretted my flamboyancy. Everyone knew. People could see the garish yellow and purple Soreen Cake and knew what I was all about. They could see my cloak of loneliness and could tell I was on my way home to stuff cake down my throat whilst thinking about getting fingered in a car park. “It’s not that,” I wanted to blurt out, “Honestly – it’s for this thing I’m trying to write.” But I didn’t say anything. I tried to shove the bastard thing into my jean pocket but it wouldn’t fit, it only highlighted what I had in my possession and made my cloak billow out behind me so I just ran home in near-tears with the whole town laughing at me.
A bastard-thing, earlier.
At home I was happier. “You may well save my career, dear thing,” I told the Soreen Cake as I cuddled it. “You may well be my muse.”
I read the packaging. “The secret’s in the squidge,” it began. “Give it a squeeze. Come on. Don’t be shy. There. Feel that? That’s delicious chewy fruitiness, that is.”
Fuck, I thought. I thought “fuck” because the writing wasn’t at all bad – was actually pretty good for what it was – leaving me nothing, seriously nothing, to write about. And I also thought “fuck” because I found the writing slightly erotic. If I’m getting turned on by that writing and by squeezing a malt loaf, I thought, then perhaps I need to get out more.
The Soreen Cake went back into the cupboard unopened and I went off to bed in my cloak. A few weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about giving that Soreen Cake a good old squeeze. I opened the cupboard. There it was, all yellow and purple and sexy. I read the packet again. Good stuff, I thought. Then I lifted up a bit of flap – as you can tell, this was all getting a little heated – and there it was. “Slice me, tear me, chop me.” Oh yes, I thought, this is what I wanted, this is what I’d been looking for. “Why not toast me? Grill me, smother me with jam, or just enjoy me as I come…”
A cloak, earlier.
And I remembered. That’s what had annoyed and depressed me all those months before, that infantile series of me’s. And not just on a Soreen Cake, they are everywhere. Buses are people. Boxes of tea bags are people. Towels are people. Car parking spaces are people. All these things are telling you stuff: Please don’t park in me. This is where you open me. Are you sure you want to wash me? I remember seeing all this and the Soreen Cake wrapping and thinking, “That’s why I want to start writing again, to help put an end to all of the cutesy, whimsical bullshit.”
But I’m not sure I do. Having had time to think about it, I could barely give half a fuck about what makers of malt loaf choose to put on their packaging. Do I think “SORRY I’M NOT IN SERVICE,” on the front of a bus is any better or more palatable than the taut and muscular, “NOT IN SERVICE”? Obviously not. Are we being treated like infants? Probably. Do I give many fucks about it, so many fucks about it that I decided to start writing again?
No. But I do care about writing, even though I’m not sure why. And if I can stay in on a Sunday night (on a bank holiday, no less) to write about not writing about what is written on Soreen Cake packaging, then the future could end up not being as disastrous as it once looked.
* Beadier-eyed readers will have noticed that this post is not called “Why Online Poker is Ace.” Nor is it about why online poker is ace. I know I promised that. It’s forthcoming. Thank you.