He said with a sophisticated and knowing smile…

So what is the significance of the title of this blog? I hear you ask, (in the same way that an imaginary friend might) well it’s kind of a long story, and will probably take a year or two to explain, so I will skip the juicy and scandalous bits and cut to the chase.

The  Oxford online dictionary defines parentheses as:

noun (plural parentheses /-siːz/)

  • A word or phrase inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage which is grammatically complete without it, in writing usually marked off by brackets, dashes, or commas.

In the book “The Careful Writer” Bernstein (95) says.

There is some evidence that the use of parentheses has become more common in modern writing, particularly in critical and expository writing. Parentheses seem almost to have become a mark of “sophisticated,” knowing style. They do have their uses in simplifying sentences that otherwise would be encumbered with ponderous subordinate and coordinate clauses and in permitting the use of pointed asides that might otherwise seem over-emphatic  But, like every other stylistic device, they can be overdone.

To be honest I don’t really understand most of the words in that paragraph, apart from the conclusion that parentheses are often overused. But I don’t overuse parentheses as a tool to appear “sophisticated and knowing”, in fact quite the opposite, I use them because that is the way I think (in my own simple way) about the world around me. They are widely regarded in the ‘writing world’ as an example of poor writing, and those that cannot get their message across without their (over)use should be taken outside and shot.

But you see I think a lot, (as most people with brains occasionally do) but I think I tend to think too much, (it appears I even spend too much time thinking about how much time I spend thinking.)  I think about everything I view a tiny bit more and a little bit longer than I assume is natural, or healthy.

For example, on passing a poster on the tube advertising the Lion King stage-show, your average person might pay it no heed, or at the very least think “ooh, Lion King, Hakuna-Matata” and then (with no worries) carry on their merry way. I on the other hand would probably immediately begin to construct an internal picture, “imagine if they used real lions, in a “Siegfried and Roy” way, and then the lions in a fit of emancipated  madness leapt from the stage hunting members of the audience, operating the fire-escapes to exit the theatre roaring and  eating their way through the west end of London, independently finding their way to CATS, and trying to blend in back-stage, whilst whistling “Memory” and then Andrew Lloyd Webber would have to fly in a crack team of Maasai from Tanzania to hunt the big cats out with spears, and then write a play about the catastrophic events of that (up to that point) fairly normal Wednesday in theatre-land called BIG CATS (the musical.)

Then I would realise that this is completely un-realistic as Cats has been shut down in London for 10 years, and begin to create some other elaborate event, before getting distracted by a poster for Billy Elliot and starting all over again, and this is before getting to the end of the escalator. You see what I mean, it’s debilitating sometimes.

In very much the same way that Peter Griffin in Family Guy seems to live half his life in flashbacks and imaginary scenarios (cut-aways), and when he says “This is worse than that time that I…” you know you are in for a few minutes of very strange cartoon, or JD from scrubs has his ‘dream sequences” I seem to predominantly live a large portion of my life in a “cut-away” from the real world.

If I happen to have a conversation with you, I am probably having two conversations, one with you and one in parenthesis in my mind, (in a sort of silent Shakespearean aside way.)  If you ever meet me and I say the words, “I agree”, or “that’s an interesting point”, or “I can honestly say”,  you can guarantee that in my mind an open bracket has formed and some quantifying terms and conditions and words in small print are swiftly being added (or stories involving lions) before a closing bracket that you will never know about.

If we happen to be in a bar and say for example you innocently ask me “do you fancy  another pint?”, I might reply, “oh go on then I’ve got ages before my train” (lets assume I’m waiting for a train) but what I am really saying in my head in parenthesis is (let’s fuck the train, hit the top shelf and go and swear loudly about gender equality in front of those old crusties at the bar, quick bowl of hearty soup and then hit the town, cocktails, a swanky slap-up French meal and then dance with our pants on our heads until we get arrested, beaten into unconscious submission in a cell by corrupt police, then thrown out onto the street in time to wash the blood from our faces in a  fountain before spending the day lounging around drinking frappés  making fun of awkward teenagers, buying sandwiches for homeless people whilst planning a round the world cheese eating adventure on roller-blades.) I’d probably think all that in the time it takes you to get up from your stool, and for want of anything better to say to explain my far-away dreamy look, I might  add, “oh and a packet of salt and vinegar as well Mum”.

So I have this problem with writing, (I may have mentioned it earlier), and I have a problem with parentheses (you may have noticed), and it appears I have a problem with my life. My social (and often unsocial) interactions and my writing depend heavily on those little curves. It is my goal and intention to bring those hidden thoughts, those (sometimes humorous) often bizarre additions out from within my comfort blankets of brackets, out into the open, out into the real-world. And therefore that is why this blog is entitled, ‘a life outside parenthesis’, (which might be perceived as a bit wanky, if I’m honest) not because it makes me look cool, and not because it adds and intelligent (sophisticated and knowing) air to my words, (it might have something to do with a drunken week brainstorming likely blog titles, but I’m not sure, I can’t remember) but simply because I have spent my entire life living secretly within two curved smiles of sadness and happiness and I must escape those restraints or forfeit my sanity.

I must stress again this is not a blog about my inner workings, (trust me you will never discover my inner workings) we hardly know each other, for we (may) have just met. However this is a very public therapy to unleash myself from the brackets that I rely so heavily upon; and strangely, I believe that by removing them from my writing, I may be able to (to a certain degree) remove them from my life. (I’m also crap at grammar, and need to work out my commas, semi- colons and the rest.)

So there we go, phew, another thousand odd (decidedly odd) words, I’ve done my 10 minutes writing for the day and can rest with a well-earned cold Tusker whilst I listen to the beautiful sound of all the different muezzins call to prayer competing with each other for air-space across Dar es Salaam.

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