In 1997 I had my left earlobe pierced. It was shortly after I left work for university and people assumed it was because I was going to uni and wanted to blend in. Had that been the case, I'd have been sorely disappointed, because by the time I started there, the fashion had moved on and no one had their earlobe pierced. Top of the ear yes; nose yes; eyebrow yes; tongue yes; body parts I don't want to think about yes; earlobe? No way.
No, my actual reason was symbolic, but with a nod to my curious childhood admiration for the drop pearl ear-ring worn by Errol Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). The Earl of Essex beard arrived the following year, but instead of Errol Flynn, it made me look like Eddie Izzard, and along with many other things, it went in 2002.
The symbolic gesture was rather simple, and as such would qualify for inclusion in many a Conceptual Art exhibition - I had my ear pierced then because I would never have done so while at work because I felt it would have hampered my chances of promotion. Having it done now was a personal sign that I was most certainly never ever going back to work for The Man.
Since then, I've grown used to having the gold stud in my ear. It was the stud they gave me in the jewellers when they did the piercing and it was always comfortable. The only time I took it out was to put something a little fancier in - a ring, or a Murano glass stud, or a key pattern from Crete.
On the way back from Mallorca I realised it was no longer there. I guess it must have been rubbed out when I was sleepily drying off after a shower before catching the pre-dawn bus to Palma. Since then, I've felt strangely ill at ease.
Many of you will be familiar with the shaggy dog story about the boy who was born with a golden screw in his navel. Even Thomas Pynchon includes it in Gravity's Rainbow, I understand. Over countless pub tables I've listened to various accounts of how the boy ventures forth into the world to find out how to remove the screw. To cut a very long story short, he does of course find someone who can provide him with a golden screwdriver with which to unscrew his golden screw. And when he does, his bottom falls off.
OK, it's a silly story and whether the punchline is worth waiting for is dependent on how well the storyteller does his business. But I'm beginning to feel a vague sense of kinship with the boy with the golden screw in his navel in that since I got back from Mallorca, I've been feeling cut loose, disconnected, at a loose end, unsettled.
Finding the Virgin Media set-top box didn't work when I got home didn't help. I admit to watching too much tv, but not being able to watch any at all was a real bummer. But a bummer with it's occasional rewards. For something to watch - I really am a very visual person and need regular visual input - I dug out loads of old videos and caught up with things I'd recorded years ago and never watched. Babette's Feast was well worth catching up with and I found an old BBC programme about drawing in which the excellent David Gentleman does a drawing of the river near the gasometers at King's Cross. Working quickly and intuitively in fountain India ink and washes of watercolour, he made me feel so clumsy. Eventually, I was reduced to watching episodes of Clangers, with Noggin the Nog held in reserve.
The tv is working again, and I see there's the same old rubbish on, so I'm trying to work my way into an investigation of some of the new subjects I discovered on Mallorca, but it seems like heavy going. Nothing I do is working and most of it isn't salvageable. In all probability, I'm simply in a period between the end of all the work for this year's shows and whatever I will be doing next - what Eric Maisel , in his book, The Van Gogh Blues, calls a Meaning Respite.
But were I more superstitious (more? I'm not superstitious at all!) I'd think that removing the golden stud from my ear has caused the bottom to drop out of my world.