Archive for July, 2011
News just in: an impoverished writer, Jake Wallis Simons (32), has finally found a way out of the poverty trap. “In my own head I have always been quite successful,” he said, “but my bank balance has not always reflected this.” He added portentously, “not for long,” and rubbed his hands together.
It all started earlier this evening when, on seeing a mosquito resting on the wall, Simons instinctively squashed it with his iPhone. “It just seemed natural,” he explained. “Whenever I need to do something, I go straight to my phone. So when I saw the mosquito, I grabbed the handset. It was a matter of instinct.”
Thankfully, the impact of the blow, although sufficient to draw the mosquito’s life to an untimely end, did not damage the device. “The phone did go dead for a while,” said Simons, “but after about twenty minutes it recovered. Apart from a green, vertical line across the screen, it’s functioning as normal. But I couldn’t help but think there must be an easier way.”
The idea that emerged – the “Zapp App ©” – is an iPhone app that will, at the tap of a screen, instantly kill any mosquito within a two-metre radius. “This concept is a real winner,” said Simons. “And being an app inventor really suits me. It will bring in lots of money while leaving me time to write. I’ve already put a downpayment on a Ford Focus.”
Simons immediately patented the idea and is now actively seeking an investor. “It’s only a matter of time,” he said. “The idea is obviously so strong that people will be queueing up to invest. It’s just bizarre – and lucky – that someone hasn’t thought of it already.”
His family and friends, he said, are all behind him. “After years of struggling as a wordsmith,” he explained, “I am finally on the cusp of coming good. They are all very proud indeed.” His family and friends themselves declined to comment.
When Jake Wallis Simons (32), a wild-eyed writer, arrived at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire this morning, he expected nothing more than a simple day out with his children. “All was going swimmingly at first,” he said. “Everything was delightful, from the mangy penguins to the mangy ostriches. The kids were having a blast.”
Then, however, disaster struck. “I steered my brood towards the Into Africa area,” Simons recalled (he was looking after all three of his toddlers while his wife was holidaying in Edinburgh), “and we came upon an enclosure of giraffes. A tingle went up my spine. It was then that I lost all sense of perspective.”
Sources close to the writer blame the lapse of aesthetic judgment that ensued to the combination of PATES and the after-effects of last week’s subtextual argument. “We are starting to worry about him,” said the source. “He’s always been a bit of a prima donna, but these days he’s taking things to new heights. We’re thinking of consulting a neurologist. You’re not recording this, are you?”
According to Simons, it wasn’t long before he was “inspired to write a novel from that elevated perspective.” The idea, he said, quickly took on a life of its own. “I had begun to see the novel ranking alongside Animal Farm and other great works of animal anthropomorphic literature,” he said. When pressed, however, he was unable to think of another example of that genre.
“The thing was,” he added, “as with all bad ideas, it was almost good. The giraffe, with its inherent mixture of majesty and ridiculousness, would have provided a fascinating prism through which to critique the follies of post-political British society.” But, he admitted, he had failed to appreciate that the idea was “just plain silly.”
Apart from the waste of energy that the pursuit of this idea entailed – Simons let his children run riot all afternoon while he made copious notes (which now have been shredded) – the worst aspect of the debacle, he said, was that he had actually come up with a “shit hot title.”
“Great titles are hard to come by,” he explained. “I believe that each writer has only a limited supply, and when that runs out it’s curtains. Wasting a good title on a naff idea has brought me one step closer to the grave.”
This evening, Simons was refusing point blank to reveal the title that had so excited him. A zookeeper called Steve, however, swears that at around 4:43pm the writer leaped into the air, pumped his fist and yelled, “eureka! Great Elevations!” This, however, is contradicted by an anonymous tabloid journalist, who happened to be hacking the writer’s phone today. He claims that the mysterious title is, in fact, “Shit My Giraffe Says.”
At the launch of Joe Dunthorne‘s second novel, Wild Abandon, in Brick Lane last night, Jake Wallis Simons (32) had an argument with a man called Steve which was entirely based on subtext. “He implied that one of my ideas wasn’t very good,” said Simons, “so I implied that he was a wanker. He then suggested that I was incorrect in that assessment, and I retaliated by inferring that I stood by my implied statement. It was widely construed as ugly.”
In a development that infuriated the event organisers, partygoers formed an implicit circle around the feuding men and made comments which, had they been explicit, would not have been out of place in the gladiatorial arenas of Rome. “One man kept asking where the loo was,” Simons recalled, “in a clear attempt to link me to excrement. In retaliation, one of my supporters cleared her throat in a manner that could have been reasonably interpreted as aggressive.”
Simons, who was already suffering from Stage One PATES as a result of an encounter with the horrifically ugly Olympic Clock earlier in the day, was deeply hurt. “The metaphorical damage was immense,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “In terms of subtext, I suffered the equivalent of a ruptured spleen.”
He bridled at the suggestion that the skirmish may have been all in his head. “What are you trying to say?” he muttered. And stalked off.
#JWSNEWSFLASH: On Seeing London’s New Olympic Clock, Writer Wonders If He Has Taken Leave Of His Senses
Jake Wallis Simons (32), an impoverished writer, came face-to-face the new Olympic Clock for the first time yesterday. Afterwards, clearly traumatised, he said “it looked like a Robocop version of Spongebob Squarepants. It was monstrous.” According to some reports, Simons gazed open-mouthed at the installation before closing his eyes, shaking his head, and opening them again. Then he stumbled off to get the Tube, muttering “I think I’ve taken leave of my senses.” There are now real fears for his wellbeing.
Today, Simons is resting at home with friends and family, having been diagnosed with Post Aesthetic Travesty Exposure Shock (PATES), a condition which in a worst case scenario can result in permanent scarring. “The Olympic Clock is a public health hazard,” said a source close to the writer. “Simons was very, very lucky. It could quite easily have been the death of him.”
Since its erection on Wednesday, the new Olympic Clock has caused an estimated 236 people to become afflicted with PATES. “It’s reaching epidemic proportions,” said a doctor called Steve from St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster. “The casualties are flooding into A&E. It’s like a zombie movie. We don’t have the resources to cope.”
Natali, a media type who has seen and done it all and often passes Trafalgar Square, was incensed. “It is so wrong to put something as grotesque as this in the heart of the capital without any consideration for public health,” she said, “It’s an outrage.” She added that in her opinion, it wasn’t Simons who had taken leave of his senses. It was Boris Johnson.
The Mayor’s Office was unavailable for comment.
Reports are starting to come in that Jake Wallis Simons, a 32-year-old writer from the UK, spent the afternoon in the library wishing he was “in Miami, or anywhere really.” Simons, author of The English German Girl, started his flight of fancy when surfing the Internet in a bid to avoid the business of writing.
“A popup appeared in my browser advertising an online casino,” he explained. “It featured pictures of skimpily-dressed women, palm trees and what Americans affectionately call ‘the ocean.’ It was all downhill from there.”
Recently, the weather in the UK has resembled the arse-end of September. Simons admitted that this may have been a factor. “To be honest, it was a mixture of carrot and stick,” he said. “Britain being the stick, and Miami being the carrot.”
Although, when pressed, the writer admitted that it didn’t necessarily have to be Miami. “Anywhere would do, really,” he said. “So long as it isn’t grey and nasty. And so long as there are lifeguards and a beach and things.”
While the Man Booker Longlist 2011 was being announced in London today, Jake Wallis Simons, author of The English German Girl, was making the headlines in Winchester. In a hastily arranged press conference, he delivered a statement which suggested that it was “actually a good thing” that he hadn’t been selected.
“I have spoken with a lot of other writers about this,” he said from outside a café in which he had allegedly been writing, “and we are all in agreement. We are actually pleased we were not longlisted. Very pleased indeed.” When pressed, he declined to name the other writers with whom he has been holding talks.
According to Simons, the latest thinking is that not to win prizes is actually cooler – “way cooler” – than winning them, “which only defines you as a member of the establishment,” he said. ”Did Jane Austen win the Booker?” he added. “Did Jack Kerouac? Did Ernesto Sábato? I think no more needs to be said.”
In response to Simons’ statement, Dame Stella Rimington, Chair of the Booker Judges, did not say anything. “We were actually about to select Simons’ book,” she did not say. “But because we were aware of his maverick views, we decided to leave him out.” This, she did not add, was a “very great shame indeed,” and “a great loss to the literary establishment.”
Simons was relaxing at home with his family this evening, basking in the glory of not having been selected. However, sources close to the writer reported hearing stifled cries of self-pity from behind his bedroom door.
#JWSNEWSFLASH: Stressed Writer With 3 Kids Is Beaten At Squash By Tanned Landscape Gardener With “One On Way”
Details are emerging of a game of squash between Jake Wallis Simons (32) – a stressed, impoverished writer – and a chap called Steve (30), a tanned landscape gardener from Hampshire, at the Winchester Tennis And Squash Club on Monday evening.
The first four games were evenly matched, with both men emerging victorious twice. In the deciding game, however, Simons suffered a minor lower back strain and was beaten 9-4.
“It all boils down to children,” commented Simons as he left the court. “I have three toddlers. As a result of having to change nappies and scrape muck off floors all the time, I have developed a weak lower back. Moreover, sleep deprivation has permanently damaged my energy levels. My opponent, on the other hand, is childless.”
The chap called Steve confirmed that this is in fact the case. “But there is more to it than meets the eye,” he said. “Although I am childless at present, I do have one on the way. This, I am sure you’ll agree, brings its own stresses.” Independent sources confirmed that Steve’s partner is, in fact, expecting a baby, though it is not due for several months.
The two men agreed to a re-match at an unspecified date and location, and shook hands conspicuously as they parted. A source close to the writer, however, was adamant that the game was “a friendly in name alone,” and commented that while landscape gardeners are known for their laid-back squash style, writers “tend to be overly pugilistic.” Neither of the competitors were available for comment on this point.
Listen to the audio (6 mins 3 secs)
“Britain is often described as a nation of animal-lovers, usually cats and dogs. Australians, however, can have wilder tastes. Jake Wallis Simons met one who feels much more at home in the jungle than he does in the big city.” NOTE: this recording includes JWS impersonating a post-coital baboon. The full story
Listen to the audio (16 secs)
On Saturday 23rd July, at 11:30am, Jake will be appearing on Radio 4′s From Our Own Correspondent. The story he will be telling is an unusual one, involving parrot worrying, puma taming, and . . . the call of a post-coital baboon. In this short clip, released by Radio 4 on Twitter as a teaser, Jake can be heard making like a baboon and generally being a bit of a pillock. At only 16 seconds in length, that’s got to be worth a listen.
Hear more (you mean you haven’t heard enough?)
Pawel Bromson was a neo-Nazi skinhead who attacked ethnic miorities and vandalised Auschwitz. Then one day he discovered the secret that his family had buried – he was Jewish. On the eve of the anniversary of the Jedwabne massacre, he tells his story
The skinhead thug who became an Orthodox Jew
Ten years ago, when the President of Poland apologised for the 1941 massacre of the Jews of Jedwabne by their Polish neighbours, a controversy flared up. Much Polish public opinion supported the views of controversial Polish MEP Michał Kamiński, who opposed the apology, stating that “all of Jedwabne is being spat on and the entire country is being put on trial.” Most of the citizens of Jedwabne boycotted the memorial service, and the local Catholic church even rang its bells in attempt to drown out the prayers.
Now, however, as the seventieth anniversary of the massacre approaches, it is clear that Poland has changed. A memorial service is being planned at the site of the killings, led by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, the former Polish Foreign Minister and former Auschwitz prison inmate Władysław Bartoszewski, and a senior Catholic figure, Bishop Mieczyslaw Cislo. This is an unequivocal demonstration of Polish sympathy for the Jews.
“Ten years ago, Poland was still in shock,” says Robert Szaniawski, spokesman for the Polish Embassy in London. “Especially the people of Jedwabne. They couldn’t believe that their parents or grandparents had carried out this massacre. But now everyone accepts the facts. As a nation, we are coming to terms with it.”
In 1938, three million Jews lived in Poland. By 1945 ninety per cent had perished, and more were butchered in the communist pogroms that followed. But since the collapse of the Communist regime, attitudes in Poland have been changing. A quiet Jewish revival is taking root. In Warsaw, for example, the number of Jewish families has increased by over 150% in the last six years.
Poland’s difficult journey is, perhaps, embodied in a man called Pawel Bromson, one of a tiny handful of ultra-Orthodox Jews now living in Warsaw. Bromson has not always been an Orthodox Jew. For many years, he was a nationalist skinhead.
I meet Bromson in Oxford, at the David Slager Jewish Community Centre. This is his first interview outside Poland. With his beard and black hat, he could undoubtedly blend in anywhere from Jerusalem to Brooklyn. Yet it is surprisingly easy to imagine him as a thug. He is unusually boisterous, almost laddish; he gets me to buy him cigarettes, talks enthusiastically about drinking, and claps me too hard on the back.
He is thirty-four years old, he tells me. He grew up in the bleak tower blocks of Warsaw during the final decade of the communist regime. So far as he knew, his was a Catholic household; he had no idea that his parents were really Jewish. This was not by any means unusual. Like many others, his parents had kept their Jewishness a secret from their children for their own protection.
During Bromson’s teenage years, the Polish skinhead movement was in full swing, gaining popularity partly as a reaction against the repression of communism. “Life in Poland was stifling for young people at that time,” he tells me. “Becoming a skinhead gave us back our pride. The sense of power was intoxicating.”
Bromson and his friends would roam the streets with baseball bats, attacking people from ethnic minorities and setting fire to foreign-owned schools and shops. He was arrested many times for violent offences. Once he and his gang travelled by train to Auschwitz where they intimidated the staff, shouted that the genocide “should have been bigger,” and carried out some acts of vandalism. As he speaks, Bromson has been looking increasingly uncomfortable. “These are things I would like to forget,” he says. “I apologise if I can’t look you in the eye.” Read more on the Times website (subject to paywall restrictions)