Monday, 5 December 2011

Mostly the Numbers

Gracie found love, Lizzie had a baby, Sally bought a house and Chloe found a fiver. The numbers were good and the streets were foam, all angles removed, all edge consigned to memory.

There were others, of course, students awaiting a moment and then another, padding along the cushioned tarmac, oblivious to what had gone before. “Are those questions no longer there?” thought Sef from the vantage point of a coffee shop, a skinny cappuccino vapouring before her. A final piece of pain au chocolat, light on pastry, awaited the end of patience. It was a week since she’d killed. Auditions were not yet open though the students outside milled in expectation of a queue.

Her morning was consumed by Gracie’s joy, not shared exactly, more displayed. Sef knew her place. That was fine. She feigned comprehension. The boy was perfect apparently. The details were sketchy but Sef suspected that her initial inference, that he was without cock, was incorrect.

 The coffee shop was itself foam, with transparent foam for windows and foam seats into which she sank to her waist. Momentarily she panicked but rescued her handbag from between foam cushions. She checked inside for the sidearm and found first a photograph of a generic baby staring up at the camera like a stoned dog. She’d have to ask Sally again what its name and gender were to avoid awkwardness when Lizzie next appeared unannounced.

Sally’s new house was admittedly rather nice; a large unused cellar that would have been ideal and a garden of plots, rockeries and flowerbeds which appeared to have been designed by a class of ‘problem’ children. Not that Sally would get the most out of it. Its best features would be given over to their two cats whilst she and Steve sat too close to a television wall.

She realised that she’d caught the attention of one particular student who was now hanging around outside the window, throwing glances in her direction. He leant nonchalantly against the pane but the foam had more give than expected and he was almost horizontal before he pulled himself up. He made to rescue the situation by lighting a roll up but his Zippo was out of fuel. Perhaps auditions wouldn’t be required. No time unfortunately, she had to meet Chloe soon for a bottle of wine, something light and soft, and a goss.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Approaching Entry Level.

"I checked my stats and found that I'd plateaued. Is there anything else to say? That's what my friend asked: Is there anything else to say? I'd synched my units, pain in the arse that is, but yeah, I'd plateaued. My other friend said: "Yes, of course there is. Dumbass."

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Penultimate Celebrated

"The important thing to remember is that none of this happened. It never did. Remember that.

I talk about Boris this and Jerome that and neighbourhood watches on village greens and cars smashing through pubs and a song, oh a song, of an alien in town and streets that shift at her very feet and shared spaces and artifacts out of place and young Sally and that man Whittaker, a piece of work, and Glen hiding, Whittaker and Glen, boy, and all those dinner plans we never completed because of, mainly, Jimmy the Speak. Yeah, Jimmy the Speak. I talk about Joanne and silence and missing years and century dates and gigs with friends and unvaried variables and people gone and people fake.

Maybe I'm wrong. I'm sure I am. None of this happened, that's not the point. I wasn't there and yet and yet times and places weren't there to forget that none of this happened, and yet it happened for me, for us. To that I cling." Abigail Aitrum, 1667, London.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Charlie's Balloon

Well my prince you have your ghosts
I know they circle in the night
And they taunt you with their history
And that history is your right
Yes, they whisper their achievements
in your ear while you sleep
you're still dreaming of that greatness
pray the lord your rule decrees
But it doesn't seem he's listening
or at least they drown you out to you their
voices they are growing.
They grow ruthless as they howl.
But one day he's sure to grant you
What is rightfully yours and then you'll
Have your chance to show them all
their weaknesses and flaws.
But here the doubt it creeps in
those times they might have passed
You want a shot at greatness but
You might not get a chance.
You want a shot at greatness but
You might not get a chance.
You want a shot at greatness but
You might not get a chance.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Taken for Famous

"Each nostril a waterfall, each ear bubblewrapped
I sit in the square, a feature, a novelty, a fountain collapsed.
Well what was commissioned may not have been this.
They wanted a totem of a town in bliss.

The people they mutter, they point and stare,
An occasional photograph, I feign 'unaware'.
I wish that the artist would turn off the hose
And let me return to the steps for my clothes."

'Municipal Fountain' by Stuart Bat (1977)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dynamite. Mine.

The man left as dusk settled. It was the fifth evening of the juvenile Petro's vigil and he was satisfied that the time had come. He hopped over the railing and, hanging by one arm, edged the kitchen window open. Two days earlier the man had opened it to release some smoke from a burnt pie and Petro had taken the opportunity to lay a pencil along the base so that when it was closed again a gap remained.

Inside he stopped and listened though he knew the place to be desserted. In the distance he could make out the sound of traffic and somewhere in the house a fan struggled. The kitchen became a dining room and through french windows at the back he could see the silhouette of a treeline. The stairs made no sound to mark his ascent. At the top was a bathroom. He turned on the light and took a seat on the toilet. He pelleted into the bowl causing plops to bounce around the room and out into the darkness. By his side was a pile of computer magazines, the topmost being the very issue to that he'd picked up in the cornershop.

In a study he found a locked wardrobe which he forced open, the wordwork around the keyhole tearing apart. He recognised some of the uniforms on the rail, all military, all nineteenth and twentieth century and apparently without idological bias: fascists, stalinists, marxist revolutionaries, colonialists, neo-colonialists. All the prime movers from a narrative that confused Petro profoundly. He pulled on a balaclava, a red-starred beret and a brown shirt which sat surprisingly tight on his skinny frame. The figure staring back at him from the mirror suggested aggression. Of Petro only hands and anarchic eyes remained. He took on a karate stance, threw a few punches.

On the the writing desk was an illegible diary. The scrawls were like no letters he'd seen, all curves and angles in tight units. He took up a pen and fashioned his own after the slash at the end of a line. He swiped downwards into a little circle and then a horizontal dash. After a moment's thought he added a little dash at the end. Satisfied he swivelled on the chair and took in the rest of the room. There was only one picture: A black and white photograph showing soldiers picking through rubble. The scene was, silent, lost, dead, as was this house until the sound of breaking glass downstairs snatched him from his revery.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Was it gunpowder?

The man cast him a suspicious glance. No matter, he was used to that. It meant nothing, just that he wasn't welcome not with his hair in that state and eyes like his; the movement of each independent of the other. His mother had been told that the infant Petro could be fixed, and there followed two years of optical conditioning. But the only apparent outcome of the treatment was a resentment, grown seemingly of nothing, within the formerly kind hearted woman. Petro had tried, he really had, but he just couldn't progress. He pitied her even come the day when she lifted a rucksack onto his back and, in tears, pushed him onto a train. In his had: A ticket and a scribbled address.

He had followed the man from Bow to Knightsbridge and only been spotted when the man turned around suddenly after leaving his money in a cash machine. Petro had let himself get too close. He looked the man square on with his left eye, and down at the pavement with the right, as he walked past, then he ducked into a cornershop and pretended to browse computer magazines. Petro had never used a computer as far as he knew.

The address to which his mother had sent him all those years ago didn't exist. It had once, judging by the mismatched brickwork which echoed a doorway. The whole building had now been knocked through to form a sparse, desolate library within which slept an ancient librarian. Evidence of life came in the form of a sneeze and a billowing cloud of powder from her doughy cheeks. As his face emerged through the mist she looked from eye to eye and nodded in approval. Without a word she handed him a list and waved him away.

Through the window of the cornershop he watched the man pass. There was a tinge to his skin which suggested that in his hairier days he had been ginger. This made sense. Yes, this figured. He was quite tall though. Petro pocketed a magazine and set off once again. The man's back was slightly hunched and one arm swung free while the other locked a newspaper to his side. He mounted the steps of a palacious terrace and passed inside. Petro approached the door and put his ear to it. A radio was already on, bouncing the news off gleaming walls and high ceilings. Through a window to the side Petro could make out a large kitchen, the walls of which were lined with from which hung hardware of all shapes and sizes, a culinary armoury. Petro's tummy rumbled and he sat back against a railing. From his pocket he produced the computing magazine, which he cast aside, and the list, faded and fingered. He opened it up delicately so as not to tear it at the folds and raised the names to the sunlight which reflected off the sparkling kitchen wall behind him.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Arc of least persistence

"I became a god for the modest sum of £299 (inc VAT). I opted for a wi-fi only model but a god's a god right?

Gosh it's liberating! At my fingerprints; anything I desire. Will I be a vengeful god? I guess it's my perogative. I'll have to think on that. First let's get organised. A desk, I need a good desk. Something simple, let's, that's, well, ugly. Dampen the colour, remove whatever organic er..thing that is. Pretty good. End procrastination. That'll do. No, shit, pens, paper, wait no I don't need that. Okay; I'm a god. I'm, a, god.

It's been ten minutes now. I have creation at my feet and a gun in my hand. Lose the gun; silly idea, don't want to wake people. And a glass of wine, but I bought that from the yellow shop. I have creation at my feet and Prince on my iTunes. Where to go?

Okay, this is silly. I have a baseball bat, a complete Subbuteo set of the 1992 Spurs team, Prince's cloud guitar, a tub of green jelly babies, a boob and a dildo, self modelled, just because. I have the Bible! I'm pretty sure I could've got one for free anyway. I have seven Zippos, I just couldn't get it right, and 200 straights, because I figured that out at least. I have a watch which is giving me a rash and is not helping my early start tomorrow.

Focus. What would Orwell do? What would Hume do? What would Prince do? Wait, I could ask them; I could print them! No! I can't do that. It's Orwell. How about, I don't know, Berkeley? Hmm...pretty confusing. Pretty...fucking...confusing. Schopenhauer? Fuck no. Wittgenstein? Wrong tack. Kant? Erm..Serpico? De Tocqueville. De Tocqueville.

He seems confused. Understandable I suppose. I told him I was a god. He didn't seem impressed. I showed him the printer. More so. I feel kind of guilty. When he looked out the window and spotted a couple of kids smoking weed in the tennis courts he got rather excited. I told him this was London but he wasn't impressed. Don't really think I can let him out. He just wants to walk. He doesn't like Prince. Fair enough. A glass of wine and some Mogwai placated him a bit until it kicked in. Sigur Rós may be better. He's spotted the dildo. I should have thought of that.

Bit of a tantrum. Can't let him out. Not until he's trained. Fortunately he's found the book shelf. Semi-illiterate but he's content. Cormac McCarthy seems to work, and The Pretenders on iTunes. Not a big fan myself but nevermind, my own fault.

He's asking more questions and I'm printing more guns. "Is that a good idea?" in his strange voice. He likes being called Alex. He tolerates a cheese sandwich. I wonder if he's tired. He says no but he looks tired. But I'm not sure. He keeps walking around and mumbling to himself. Reminds me of a film.

If I open the door will anybody know? I don't know if there's any trail? Probably. Of course there is. But what harm can he do? I'm pretty tired. I'll give him a key. And a piece of paper. No, no piece of paper.

He promised to return. Not sure why. Maybe he will. Would be nice. I miss the little fellow. For me, though, sleep."

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Something evidently isn't

The obelisk erupted from the riverbank uncontested.

“Come to me, come to me” it sang for our eager ears.

“What can you possibly have to offer?” we demanded by way of reply.

“Come to me, come to me” it persevered.

“Tell us why” please

“Come to me, come to me” was all it would say on the matter.

Somewhere near the summit were diners whom we knew. I say ‘knew’ for the sake of conversation. I ‘know’ thousands upon thousands, I know dozens, I know none, probably.

We made our way there as the sun sank, taking turns to navigate and to row, but by the time we arrived it was too dark to find a mooring. Pulling against the current we mulled the problem over but no solution presented itself and no sun rose. We held our position until we could no longer do so and then hauled in the oars and laid back to let the water take us.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Flight Ready

"Today I'd like to talk about headroom. The space, previously exclusive, that I now share with selected users on a temporary basis to a greater or lesser extent. The procedure which began with our hitching rides on the minds of celebrities, once we realised that the celebrity we might ourselves attain was no more real, has broken from that petty desire. I suprised myself in embracing the idea.

As Einstein once said when confronted by a bemused sports journalist: "The measure of my mind is mine alone, unfortunately I lack the tools. Were I to find them, I would find myself irresolvably displaced". I paraphrase of course.

When I set off on this journey I mused on how I would continue my life in the presence of these freeloaders. They have paid, of course, yet they freeload on my actions. As has been oft remarked, the issue has never materialized. Self conscious initially, I act and reason as I ever did. I'm saddened to learn that so do they. The me and my actions transpire to have an utterly different relationship than I'd thought. It hurts, strangely enough.

Perhaps the only change is in the process of rationalizing what I've done. Whenever I think "I can't believe I'm doing this", I allow myself an 'out'. Of my achievements, of course, I deny myself this 'out'.

When the moment came to test my fledgling position it passed, or failed. You decide. The test was simple; do the unthinkable. I shot a man in Reno. Yes, a cheap laugh. You laugh now, a knowing laugh, but it's true. By the time this laugh fades and the truth dawns on you I will be gone. This ship which has sailed towards such a terrible task is abandoned by its captain/first mate/chef, whatever. I'll have stowed away on a new vessel, probably oblivious to these facts, oblivious to what I committed, oblivious to what we have lost.

Thank you for listening." A smattering of applause

Friday, 25 November 2011

Another Space

From out of nowhere these offices sprang. They confuse me every day. I've been looking for a place where strangers lived, where children used to play. I was looking for something different to this but it seems it's all the same, every change identical, distinct only in name. Wherever I tread is overtrod, a moment mine to catch but I'm thinking things that you've all thought and I hoped for more than that.

I was hoping osmosis would be my friend but I think I put her off by hanging around, outstayed my welcome. She doesn't like me very much. Everyone else is indifferent, they just go about their jobs and charge from corner to crossroads, a suspicion their time was robbed. When I hunt for culture or character, I find I peer to close. I'm staring at trees and wondering why, a narrow view at most.

I read that Dickens once walked this street or was it maybe Holmes? Was it neither? I couldn't be sure when or whether each once roamed. I read that we will walk this street just until the plans are passed. Then the street will be slightly brighter, that year than the last.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Notional Salute

Wave to me! Wave to me god damn it. Yeah, that's it. Why so confused? Okay, so you don't know me but I've been jogging this park for a couple of years now and I know you. You're that dj off of the seventies; proper punk man, proper punk. You were mates with one of my favourite bands. Love that film you did. Shame about Joe. Tragic. Don't worry, I'm no stalker, just out for a run.

Mm, she was pretty. Wonder if she'll do another lap or if that's... Fucking hell, is it...yes it is. I follow you on Twitter. Hey, no need to be nervous. We're neighbours, you and me. Love your writing, The thing with the priests is drop dead classic. Shame about Dermot. Tragic. But yeah, love your writing give us a smile. No, not going to look up? Those dogs aren't doing anything. No? Fair enough. I'm just a bloke running, you know?

Might get a steak. Haven't had a steak for weeks. Maybe some boiled spuds and peas. Pretty sure I've earnt it. Not far to g... Hey, that's that singer guy; piano, jazz, pretty girlfriend. What's her name? Cooking and all that. Famous name, shit what is it? What's his for that matter? He's looking at me, knows I recognise him. Yeah, you're on that advert. Shame about the music. Tragic.

I love Kensal. Might get some red wine for the steak. Mmmm....

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A bedrock of passion

The city is a patchwork of life at this time of night. You can roll down a street stopping every few metres for drunken, screeching weekenders waving shoes or slopping plastic glasses at the windscreen in appreciation. Always in pairs; by this time of night, no longer constrained by the walls of a bar, communication with more than one other person is available only to the gifted.

That's just one patch though. Hang a left and you will find a tight street glazed with the breathe of Moriarty. Under inspection there is light behind the curtains but a light in denial of the street, not as reaction to it. Hang a right and you hit a slab of traffic moving as one.

He wondered why he liked to drive at night. He spent some time slapping the wheel in frustration but most lost in boredom. He got pulled over every couple of months. It's hard to explain to a police officer that you're just driving, no more, no less. He'd try asking them what their hobbies were but the attempt at conversation would usually be rebuffed. Occasionally one would find a flash of 'wit'.

"Drug dealing. And you?"

"Driving. I'm quite conservative."

"Alright smart arse, out of the car."

How would driving the city be in fifty years? Would he still be finding new roads? Would he find one that led somewhere? For that matter, where could it lead?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Suppose It Wasn't

As a child Sally was an irrepressible rock turner. The view from every window presented a world of opportunity. She would explore gardens and, much to the annoyance of her parents, dustbins for whole afternoons. What she would find was mess, an infinitely varied and unexpected and beautiful mess. The wonder at studying a disgarded shoe, inhabited by industrious insects and caked in traces of life old beyond imagining, never faded. That what she found was an experience of hers alone, never to repeated and never shared, was not lost on her.

Through teenhood the world grew faster than she. Though others stepped into view as never before, they could not mask the secrets that remained. There were boys, occasionally, but she tired of them even as she confused them. The initial nuances in their behaviour and character quickly revealed themselves as habits at best and calculated affectations at worst. Where they craved sense in their adolescence, she longed for surprise.

In class she was drawn to the sciences but all she found was the encroachment of order. Maths made her physically sick, not that the teachers believed her. She was incapable of playing team games, despite a naturally athletic constitution. Free jazz exploded into her life, for a weekend.

The worry her parents suffered ended with their lives on a country road in the north of Wales. Lightning felled a roadside tree, startling an errant fox into bolting in front of their car which swerved in reaction and flipped as it hit the ditch so that it landed skewered from passenger window to driver's window on a 19th century gate post. Sally accepted the news.

Now independently wealthy she abandoned plans for university and set sail for Borneo. In the jungle she immersed herself in the minutaie of life and matter, holding out as long as her luck held.

Monday, 21 November 2011


Rapid advances in neuroscience led to an unpredicted sales phenomenon in the run up to Christmas 2012. The Vazon Procedure (VP) outsold even the Harry Potter prequel. The book, a project forced on its author by a record breaking fine from HMRC, had a mammoth first weekend but tailed off by the end of November. The VP on the other hand gained momentum as a result of word of mouth, or tweet. This despite its not inconsiderable price tag, even after offsetting available corporate sponsorship.

It was signed off remarkably quickly by the BMC. Few doubt that its progress was oiled by certain parties because the technology was manufactured in the north of England, injecting much need investment in that part of the country. Robert Scose, creator of the procedure, had refused to sign any contract allowing the possibility that operations could be relocated more than 50 miles from his home town of Sunderland.

The procedure could be performed under local anaesthetic and involved a simple bit of rewiring. Its procedure led to a sea change in the Philosophy of Mind. Through just four adapted connections our senses could be realigned; non-redundant synesthesia. Sounds now appeared to us visually, and sights manifested as sounds. Smell and taste became similar to, if not quite identical with, our previous experience of touch, and vice versa.

The vast majority of sales were of the basic version (VP1.2) reversing just sight and sound. This was for one simple reason; most of the things we touch, it turns out, stink (or at least they appear to us as unpleasant smells). VP1.2 though was found to be exceedingly pleasurable. The street value of drugs dropped by 50% or more as demand waned. Arrest rates in the capital reached an all time low since records began.

Though certain religious leaders have condemned VP as unnatural, secular scholars have pointed to it as another error in god's handiwork, another eye wired backwards. Other critics point to the Huxleyesque gulf that this simple utopia opens up with the developing world. The procedure may be simple but the patent is ferociously protected by the parent company.

Futurology is a notoriously error prone discipline and there is little agreement on what happens next. It remains to be heard whether VP is any more than a fad, a disposable craze like the Christmas number one of last year: 'Never Heard Eyes Like Yours (I just want to see your voice and touch your lips, hear you sigh and taste your hips)'

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Central Innovation Department

Well, I must say I never expected that. When the walls started climbing this time there was minimal distress. I've become so used to the treacle and toffee and bile and dances. Show me the way, he said.

"Before anything can begin you have to prepare. Oh my god yes. Sweet jesus. Hah. Outside this room ain't nothing real. You can talk about your Westminster and your Corporation of London but right now fuck you. Fuck you and your gifts."

What would Poppins say? There's a question. We are all stuck to the wall; pale, pasted, intensified, pastoral. When this window sinks behind the clothesline there's nowhere further to go. May this side ever be marked. A strategy presents itself: Sleep. Oh yes: sleep.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Entry Point, Easy

"No one has ever met me.
I'm a voice, unique in the chatter.
To some I'm a father or a brother.
To others I'm feet up, ashtray, slippers, cup of tea.
I'm the highlight, I'm life or death.
I'm nostalgia, I'm paramount. I'm incidental.
I'm not that guy, I'm the other guy.
I'm neutral, the smell of one's own body.

Occasionally I'm the voice to which one oughtn't listen,
The voice which says do things that oughtn't be done.
Of course I'm not. I'm a disguise.
Still, some of these things are done.
I take no responsibility, not for that.

I'm the voice that has never been whole,
Devoid of opinion, a flat report, a level plain.
Free from passion I remained.
I'm the voice now abandoned, left to posterity
Framing this life that never was mine."

Friday, 18 November 2011

Holy Ransom

It was bright in there, fucking bright. The strip lighting and recently installed wall tiles conjured the sterile future of early 70s science fiction. This was that future and it was cold, fucking cold.

He studied the contrast of his tobacco stained fingers against the white. The room glowed like teeth between them. He shifted his weight and changed hands. He considered whether he really needed to be leaning like this. Possibly. He wasn't sure. He was unsteady. He considered whether it was wise to be putting his hand on the wall anyway. He couldn't remember doing so before. Other people did, he'd noticed that, but not him normally. The tiles were new but probably not clean. What really was? She'd asked him that years ago, seeing him wash them after any minor manual activity. She was right of course. The tiles looked pretty clean.

He considered the condition of his internal monologue. He'd been listening intently for several minutes now. He considered why it was so centred on the wall tiles and his hands and realised it was only continuing the conversation from which he'd just broken; a conversation founded on what shouldn't be said. Only a couple of them knew what shouldn't be said, or couldn't. The others prodded away, bemused and lughing nervously, unaware of the net that had fallen but aware they couldn't move.

He considered his analysing his internal monologue and found himself spiralling. He shook off and fasten his jeans, exiting without washing his hands.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sparkles by Day

There was silence in the gardens behind the tennis courts, well, relative silence to its one occupant of note. He slunk between the bushes, pausing here and there to cock an ear to better pick out any movement in the vicinity above the city's remaining hum. Going was slow. In years past the area had provided opportunities to feast on eggs and birds but now pickings were slim and he hadn't fed for several days.

It was many nightfalls since a flash and a bang in the distance had knocked him off his feet. All around muted screams had filled the night as he struggled to reorientate. The expanse down the hill had been altered beyond all recognition so he headed into these very gardens to crouch in their familiarity as the rush of activity grew. By the following nightfall all was still save the odd cat darting back and forth, trembling and erect. The humans had all taken flight.

His hearing had recovered in time but even while food remained abundant he grew weak and now every hour was a struggle. He longed to eat. The bags in driveways had all been ripped apart and the air hung rancid with anything remaining. The birds had long since left, not that he would have been capable of catching one anyway. The cats he wouldn't even attempt.

When he next awoke there was a commotion on the other side of the square. He had slept where he fell and the strain in rising almost defeated him. Through the bushes and fencing he could see a large green vehicle from which emerged several figures in bulbous white suits covering every inch of their bodies. They passed from house to house kicking doors down. Spotting an opportunity he circled around and entered one of the buildings through which they'd already passed. The smell was sickening as he padded up the path but he entered nontheless. The house itself was the source of the stench. Every inch of the inside reeked.

In a room at the rear he found a cage and inside it a pile of fur. The wire gate swung loose and he nosed inside to grip the dead rabbit and drag it out. It too stank but there was no alternative. With a rip and a grind he tore at its soft underbelly, taking his first mouthful of flesh for weeks. The blood tasted strange and crawled with maggots that he shook away until the effort was too great. A second mouthful churned his stomach even as it went down and he rested his head on the cold floor, just for a minute.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Dance of Legends

Staring into the pinstriped arse of an overweight city worker, two young professionals yell above the noise of the Bakerloo Line.

"He's just really lovely. He's like my gay best friend. We always say that. People always say we look like a lovely couple but we're just holding hands and stuff and we just look at each other and laugh and I'd say, you're like my gay best friend, and he'd say, yeah I should be gay. When we do our sleepovers his house mates are always like, aye aye, but we just laugh and stuff. I mean he's really cute and everything but nothing could ever happen because he's like my gbf and all. Is this our stop?"

"No next one. So is he seeing anyo...oww that's my toe! Oi, yeah, that's my toe. You will be, fat bast...So is he seeing anyone?"

"No, he doesn't really date much which is crazy 'cause he is hot and sweet like that song: Oh, oh, oh! You is hot and you sweet! Oh, oh yeah! We're always singing that when we're ou... shit here we go."

As the train judders to a halt, the 100% cotton arse shifts to re-adjust itself before the lights die. There is a period of silence before a general shuffling preceeds the emergence of iPhone screens dancing like fireflies.

"So he's single then?"

"Yeah but I know what you're thinking and it would be weird. He's my gbf. Besides I thought you were seei.."

"Ladies and gentlemen this the driver speaking. Apologies for the inconvenience but we stopped for a red signal and we it now appear to have lost power. I'm sure we'll be up and running again shortly."

"Nah it wasn't working out. I mean he was hot and all, and we got on really well, like really well, but it turned out he was a bit of prick. You know we were going to that thing on the weekend? Well at the end of the night he started saying all this crazy stuff about when he was younger and, you know, trying to justify himself and that but I wasn't sure why he was telling me all that stuff and I was like, I don't give a shit, and he was like, but I've got to tell you and I thought he was going to cry or something and I was like, jesus will someone get me out of this..."

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the driver speaking. Apologies once again for the inconvenience. I've just heard from the control room on the backup radio and I'm afraid that the problem is worse than I hoped. I've been advised that the Underground is over. The tube will no longer be running. TFL is aware that this will be frustrating for most of its valued customers but we suggest that some comfort might be taken from the fact that you have participated in what will be seen as an historic event: the final journey. No doubt the history books, read by our friends and relatives, will remember us proudly. Thank you for travelling with us on the Bakerloo line. We hope you have enjoyed your journey with us today."

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Centenary Auction

The decision was unilateral and made without protest from his various advisors, already departed, or even Chief Aid Sir Rathbone-Dan. In the aftermath of the infamous family party of New Year's Eve 2012 there were whisperings in newsrooms around the country that Charles, Prince of Wales was having personal problems and it is a testament to the abilities of Rathbone-Dan that whisperings was all it was.

Since that day the banquet hall had been occupied by Charles, Prince of Wales alone. All attempts at negotiation had failed. Servants were chased off with a swing of a sixteenth century broadsword and an expletive. The rest of the family had gone their seperate ways for another year. Rathbone-Dan was left to look on as the Prince danced up and down the long table playing keepy uppies with the one balloon to have survived the festivities. Day after day Rathbone-Dan stood in the doorway watch the shrivelling red vessel propelled into the air by a knee, a bare foot or a head. The Prince delivered a mumbled running commentary as he played, but he was no match for physics.

When the morning came that Rathbone-Dan found his master slumped in the corner of the room with the deflated ballon flat on his knee, he approached at last.

"We are leaving London Dan, as of right now."

"Where shall we go sir?"

"We have left already Dan. We are no longer in London."

"Yes sir."

"Within these walls we are no longer in London. There are boundaries and I have moved them. This room is outside London. Oh, I know, I know: They will complain. They always complain. They will say the space is theirs. They are wrong but nontheless we will humour them, if they value it so highly. Instruct them to raise the city."

"To do what sir?"

"To raise the city Dan. To raise the city."

"To the ground sir?"

"Of course not Dan! How would that help? No, raise it upwards! This hall is 40 feet by 40 feet by 20 feet. That's 32,000 cubic feet. London is 600 square miles, give or take. That's 16,727,040,000 square feet. So, to recover their precious space they can raise the height of the city by 0.00000191 feet. Call it 0.000002 feet to be sure."

"Yes sir."

"Now, Dan, be a good fellow and pop across the border for some balloons. Get me proper round ones mind, none of those sausage types."

Monday, 14 November 2011

Far From the Zombing Masses

"I want to go back down the ravine
Where there are meaning and answers,
Where the breeze plays and dances
And the vicious barbs are devoid of hate
But go about their business in their natural state.

I want to go back down the ravine
Far from the relentless noise,
Where the roar of nature proceeds
At geological speeds,
Slowed to a silence,
A creeping amoral violence.

I want to go back down the ravine
Where these footsteps are mine
And life sprouts in flashes.
I want to go back down the ravine,
Far from the zombing masses."

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Whittaker was a serious man. In his time he had sat across from the most serious. World leaders and serial killers alike had answered his questions. Tales of electric cars were his bread and butter. More world wars had been averted than he would care to mention. Science had advanced in giant leaps. Religions had died. Religions had been born.

Whittaker listened and prompted, and kept his counsel to himself. Shielded from the world, he operated behind an unintrusive door next to bathroom. To the casual passer by it could front no more than a closet but on the other side a staircase dropped steeply into a perfect cuboid, empty save for an unremarkable writing desk.

Whittaker was a professional. Whittaker disliked the interviewees, on the whole, but integrity was paramount. With a leaden face he recorded what was said, no more, no less. Politics, culture and science flowed past in the scratch of a pen. Whittaker recorded serious things.

Whittaker respected time. Time was all he had. Time allowed Whittaker to keep his shit together. Whittaker would never write the word 'shit'. Whittaker would maintain the spirit of seriousness. This is a weighty world.

Whittaker had an astounding memory. Some interviewees were repeat bookings whom he would register without acknowledgement. One such was a young girl. This in itself was unusual. Most of the serious things with which he was presented came from older males; a fact which had troubled him, but not to the extent that he might question it.

"It ain't finished."

"Please, continue."

"There ain't nothing else to say."

Whittaker laid down his pen: "You came to me to say this, why?"

"Because you forgot."

Whittaker watched the girl leaving and looked to the manuscript and then to the steps.

Whittaker rose from his seat.

Saturday, 12 November 2011


In the stands the crowd were restless and on the pitch the players were absent. Songs were repeated until the repertoire was exhausted many times over. Even the most fierce and most drunk of fans went quiet. Tattooed skinheads mumbled to their neighbours, uncomfortable about breaking the peace. Fathers put a hand on sons' shoulders to quiet their 'whys'. Unnoticed to all, the orange-coated stewards had slunk away and the huge screens above each goal showed a dos screen with a flickering cursor. The pitch glowed proud, until the floodlights dimmed and the vast bowl sat silent in the dusk.

Friday, 11 November 2011

News and All

Sometimes I look down the street and feel absolutely nothing. Sometimes though, I'll take a drink. I think most people in this game feel that way. There's no sign of movement and the uniform grey of the sky doesn't so much suggest a universe enshrouded as it does a universe expired. Or a universe that was never out there to begin with.

There is no order to Willesden Junction. There is a brotherhood but there is no order. Exactly when the group first moved in is unclear. The warren of warehouses and workshops must have suited. The tracks provided easy access to the city or to the wilderness but after a while trackblocks were erected; huge heaps of scrap iron piled high to form industrial gatekeepers.

The expansive compound was the first to be granted official independence by the national authority, already long in retreat, though the brotherhood never made any such claim. Their internal structure was hidden from those on the outside but it appeared not to be formed on the basis of religion or race or discernable culture even. Not that those on the outside showed much interest; anthropology was dead, had died with the future.

I maintain a precarious grip through a forced, obsessive curiosity. It didn’t come naturally. I drifted through my youth in search of whatever highs were available. Most of those are gone, only the occasional stash of alcohol provides any relief, so I nurture my curiosity, build myself a need beyond mere sustenance.

Willesden is the greatest prize for us wanderers. The holy grail, I once heard it called. Of course it’s contentious what the nature of this prize really is, or indeed whether it’s just an illusion. No one ever leaves to tell. It’s a black hole in a heat dead city. Some say there’s a huge stockpile of food, drink and drugs there. Some say there are women there, and even that they outnumber the men. I can’t let myself believe that, or even consider it. I just need to know.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Safest Improbably

The Thames was moving fast that day and the band made scant progress, nonetheless they swam on. Guitar heads and drumsticks protruded from the surface as and when the beat required. Oakey Steph led the convoy in a graceful butterfly, lyrics snatched even as she gasped for air. Each time her toned arms came around her face launched above the water cutting a figure fit for Greek sculpture.

Her voice was no less commanding and drew tourists to the rails of the Southbank and the bridges under which the band passed. She sung of the city even as they battled the tide, for battle it clearly was. Any doubt would be put to bed by the rhythm pounded out by Love Joyce and Arthur. It was a rhythm without waver. Arthur held a steady backstroke motored by flippered size elevens and plucked at the bass as if born with it in his grip. Joyce, on the other hand, incorporated the buoyant drumkit into a controlled doggy paddle. Neither looked to the other.

As they neared Westminster a police patrol boat took interest but, getting no reaction to their hails, soon joined the growing trail of vessels which chugged along behind, at a safe distance. They rose and fell on both the waves of the river itself and the textures of guitar which Sal projected at the rear of the group. He twisted and turned, alternating between front crawl and a mockery of breaststroke. The water's surface was his amplifier and the results were devoid of reason but made utter sense.

Dawn broke in Kew to the song of birds and fire.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Stack, stack, stack

As far as he could tell, no one had actually explained what a bakril was, and Henry had spent so long plucking up the courage to raise a hand that the moment passed. Now he stood sweating under half a tonne of NASA-made fibres, looking down a line of, on the whole, equally confused faces. He gripped the alien object with a gloved hand.

Somebody unexpectedly spoke directly to him. It was a skinny boy with acne and a minor rash of face. The boy was saying something about the government. Henry had never been good at this sort of thing. He looked about for someone more senior but they were all otherwise engaged with cbs and horses and dogs and lines and the like. At the briefing the whiteboards had reminded him of playing John Madden on the Mega Drive when he was a kid, a game which had never made much sense to him either.

The boy was still talking at him; such conviction, such knowledge. He adjusted his grip. There was a shout from further down the line, a call he repeated without thinking. It seemed they were to advance. There were people in the way though. They moved forward as one. Henry shut his eyes but found the situation more disturbing that way. The boy was still talking at him, louder now. Someone to his left swung a shield and the boy was distracted. The line stopped and after a brief scuffle some kind of equilibrium was found.

The guy to his left had lost his shield and drawn the bakril in its stead. He rotated it in his hand, like a cheerleader's baton, until he found a stance that worked for him. It looked odd to Henry, like a spotty teenager missing the experience of his first kiss because he can't work out the correct arrangement of hands. Henry was glad he could at least follow his colleague's example and wouldn't have to go through that himself. He figured that as long as everyone did likewise they'd do okay.

The bakril was even heavier unclasped from his belt. He was glad the skinny boy was gone. There were plenty of others though, all wanting to talk to him.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Deaf Gunmaker

The battery for Glen's phone ran out in 1997 and he never recharged it. No matter, it continued to serve its purpose.

The phone was a psychological marvel, if a technological waste. It was a defence, a force field, an emotional moat. Not once did he leave the house without it jammed against his ear. He considered rigging up a hook like those seen on some earpieces but decided there was too great a risk that it would be noticed and dispell the illusion.

He'd never realised that he needed such a buffer until he had it, and then being without it became unthinkable. With it meaningful communication could be prevented, and meaningless communication likewise.

In the fourteen years they'd been together he'd developed callouses on both hands. In fact after the first eight months his left hand became so blistered that he'd had to ask his doctor for some ointment. That was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Since then he'd employed a strict rotation policy.

The technique was an unqualified success nontheless. Had he been of that disposition he would have marketed the idea. Of course, clearly he wasn't.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sage and Ventilate

I originally devised the experiment at college back in the sixties, in hindsight a golden age for this line of study. Unfortunately it took half a century for advances in medical science to make it possible. Well, the science took forty years and a further ten was spent struggling through an absurd jungle of red tape. For months at a time we inched forward, machetes swinging back and forth.

It has been claimed by the liberal press that the experiment was only allowed to go ahead due to a series of misunderstandings about what I had coined the 'Zombie Dilemna'. It's claimed that my representations to the various committees were misleading, implying that the term was some kind of metaphor. I can assure readers that I was always clear that it was to be taken literally.

For 25 volunteering couples a scenario was engineered whereby one or the other was bitten by a carrier of the ATNL virus (the 'zombie'). Participants were aware that any bitten would inevitably contract the virus (become a 'zombie'). This creates the Zombie Dilemna for the unbitten: Should they allow the partner to become a zombie or use the single bullet provided to prevent this from happening?

As has been widely publicized, results remain inconclusive. Of the first five subjects, three chose to allow their partner to contract the virus. Number six was disrupted when a junior technician ignored protocol and re-entered the test area.

It is now believed that the situation has been brought under the control of the authorities and we hope to continue with the study in the new year.

Dr. Daniel Zredren
New Scientist
April 2012

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Punkt Now

"What will tear us apart again?" West London's premier faux activist, Macy Broun, asked of her small but inebriated audience, huddled under the beer garden's solitary heater. "I tell you now: The love of love is the route to all evil. You may well scoff, sat there in the collective warmth. What's that? A little spark as your thighs touch? A little frission? That's fine. You, Bryan, you got a little late night hard-on despite the cold? That's lovely comrade. No really, that's no problem. A little wood ain't the problem. That's not the tyranny that drags mankind through millennia of suffering. It's love that's put us on the road, it's love that's behind the wheel and it's love that's jammed the accelerator down with half a brick."

"Hey nutjobs, we're calling last orders."

"Fuck off." then after a pause "Bryan, be a honey will you and get more sambuccas."

Macy climbs down from the table and weaves her way off to find the toilets. The small but inebriated audience eye each other nervously until one pipes up.

"We can't go through this every time."

"She'll be okay."

"Yeah but will it be before or after she has us firebombing Paperchase? I mean seriously, I had an unmarked police car across the street again the other day. I'm sure we're on some watchlist. Some dedicated unit is trying to work out why the Westbourne Grove 'cell' becomes active only every six months. Fucking clockwork."

"I'm scared."

"We're all scared. But we're in too deep."

"What the hell are you all talking bout? We can just walk away now, before it goes too far."

"It's too late man. She won't let us. She's a monster. We've got to see this through, whatever the consequences."

From inside "Hey nutjobs. Will one of you please come in here and peel your leader off the floor."

The small but inebriated audience eye each other nervously.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cheaper that way.

When Chapman pulled the trigger it's entirely possible he was in the middle of contemplating what to have for dinner that evening. He was, after all, on one of London's premier thoroughfares for haute cuisine. It would have been only natural.

When Lennon went down screaming and clutching his left knee I'd imagine that a nice leg of lamb might have come to mind. Seasoned with rosemary and anchovies embedded in slits in the skin, it would mark the perfect end to a cold January evening such as this. On a Sunday too; perfect for a roast.

The second bullet though, ripping the unfortunate singer's stomach open, would undoubtedly conjure the spectre of offal. Certainly there was ample opportunity on Charlotte Street for a foie gras starter but I tend to think he would have gone for something more substantial. I have in mind duck livers, yes, but curried, heavy on the cumin, in a thick sauce, whole green chilis bobbing to the surface.

When the third and final bullet exploded through the barest beginnings of a bald patch the Italian implication must have been undeniable. It's known that Chapman was partial to a pasta dish and a conventional bolognese may have been all that was required to round off what was certainly an unconventional day.

It is, of course, entirely possible that he already had in mind what he would be eating in advance of these events. He was, after all, a meticulous planner, every detail packed with metaphor and innuendo. A head waiter of a nearby establishment may have finally lost patience an hour or so after the arrival of the police and opened up the small corner table to walk ins. These are things we may never know.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Er, we've, ah...

Somewhere, a kookaburra. They say this place is haunted. I don't know about that but this little bird sounds pretty freaked. It's gone midnight and I'm not sure what I'm doing here. Charlie disappeared half an hour ago, said he was going to check on the sub. Even if he had a sub I'm not sure it could get up the canal. If it can get up the canal, why then did we pay to get in? In fact the canal is technically outside the zoo so Charlie will have had to climb through the hunting dog enclosure and over the fence to check on it, then back in the same way. I guess it doesn't make sense.

Before he went off he told me I was too placid. I said yeah, like one of those tigers. He said no, like a sloth. Then he ran off. Hope he's alright.

When I said earlier that they say this place is haunted, I should have said Charlie says that they say that this place is haunted. Does that make sense? He wasn't clear by whom it's haunted. At one point he seemed to be saying that because there is no animal heaven or hell, and because they live their lives in captivity, all the animals that die here can never leave. I pointed out that at least they'd only be haunting their own cages. Charlie said no, the ghost animals escape when the handlers enter. I'm not sure why they can't escape the zoo entirely. Something about the turnstiles.

Not seen any ghost animals yet. Lots of funny noises but I put that down to it being a zoo. Hope Charlie's okay. It's been a few hours now. Getting light soon. Bit of a dilemna: Either I find somewhere to hide to wait until the zoo opens to the public, or I head for the sub. Charlie would be angry if I don't go find him. I'd better go find him.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Enact the Dragon

"Sometimes I forget, you know, like Melissa. I forget what else there is. She's a gerbil on a wheel that one, and it's her wheel, no one else's. She doesn't even know there are other wheels. Well, maybe she does. What, wait, there are no wheels! Or is there just one? Might be; there might be loads. But it's not a wheel.

What the hell am I talking about? Enough Melissa. She's not important. Let's get back to me. What was the question? Ah yes: Why did I shoot?

I suppose the first thing to say is that he deserved it. Can we take that as a given? The second thing is that I don't know for sure. I mean, I was angry and not a little flustered. I get like that sometimes. There was a moment where it could have gone either way. As it happened it went this way. This way, this time, here, there.

He went down clutching his knee, screaming a bit, screaming a lot. Your guys turned up pretty soon after. I guess the whole block heard him. And the shot too I suppose.

It might not have happened. As I said, there was a moment when it could have gone either way. Maybe it did. Maybe...hell, whatever. That's what happened. I pulled the trigger. I was turning the wheel if you like. This wheel anyway. Hell, let's not get into this again. Let's just say this: My little furry body on little, stumpy legs pegging it for all I was worth. Driven by fear maybe, wild terror in my little red eyes, heart rate of 150 or something. What was I thinking? Run, I guess. Could I have stopped? And then what?"

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

On the Downside

Spencer was a hunter. "A god damned urban hunter!" he imagined his non-existent Chief Super shouting. He had been on the trail for years, playing the long game. The god damned long game. The scent he'd picked up in his university days and never let go. He was a terrier, a god damned urban long game terrier.

It was just a detail. It's all about the detail. A wink. Yes, a wink. People actually wink, at least this man in handcuff's did. With a police hand guiding his head into the car he turned slightly to face the local councilman whose house he'd just failed to burgle and winked. Councilman Roger Trout turned away but not before a heavy flush burst across his cheek.

In spite of the fact that they later found a loaded gun, hastily discarded in a herb garden, all charges were dropped. The press reported it as a process cock up by the police but Spencer knew better. Until he was found out and formally cautioned, he posed as a journalist and questioned police and witnesses alike. No two could tell a matching story. Even the burglar's name was in question: Barney Fullwell, Barney Fallow, Barry Fillowy, Bardem Fillway, Bellow Fisley. One neighbour insisted on Billy the Fish: "Nah mate, 'round 'ear 'e's always been Billy the Fish". Whoever he was, he disappeared immediately upon release.

Councilman Roger Trout, on the other hand, became Roger Trout, Member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark. When Spencer raised the subject of the botched burglary at the MP's weekly surgery an assistant appeared from nowhere and shepherded him away. Spencer came to in a gutter, bruises all down one side of his body. He'd been following Trout home when they jumped him.

This was when Spencer, the god damned urban wolf was born. He was a god damned wolf. A burglary, a wink, a gun and a beating. That's the recipe. That's the recipe for wolf. Wolf eats trout. Yeah, wolf eats Trout. This god damned urban long game wolf operates alone, prowls south of the river. No, this god damned urban long game wolf operates under the river to catch the trout, Billy the Fish, catch the trout. This submarinatic, no, this subaquatic god damned urban long game wolf is on the prowl, is on the scent. Burglary wink gun beating trout fish trout subaquatic god damned urban long game wolf.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Suspension Rock

Mr Attlee's classes were unpredictable. Some days we would spend the whole hour dissecting a single line of Heller, reading and rereading until the words lost all mystery, and also all meaning. He would have us rewrite it in our own terms within strict parameters: For example every noun must be a colour, or every third word must rhyme, or each last letter must pair with each first (It took kind deities sometimes, so others sought trivial lives).

Occasionally he would walk silently between the desks handing out the day's text, only to sit back down and immediately instruct one of us to collect in the books. Then we would analyse the weekend's post match interviews from Match of the Day. He had transcribed them himself and handed out scripts for us to perform. I was renowned for my Garth Crooks.

Sir was a heavy smoker and often would walk out half way through to conduct the lesson through an open window from the street. Rolling and smoking, rolling and smoking. On those days he encouraged ruthlessness. "Benefit of the doubt" he said, "is for children. Writers deserve no leeway. You think they're talking shit, you say so, but always explain why." Another stock phrase was: "You could write fucking anything and you choose that?"

When they went to clear out his house they found that he'd put all his writing to the bonfire in the back garden and sent all his books, movies and cds to charity shops. He'd even peeled all the labels off food packaging, appliances and plugs and cut the tags off his clothes. Where text had been imprinted on surfaces it was now scratched off. It must have been a mammoth task. The only words to be found in the house were crocheted into the back rest of his armchair:

"You know, like, it's disappointing like. We were all over them first half, you know, but just couldn't sustain it, like. Fair play though, we did ourselves proud, like, but at the end of the day it just wasn't enough."

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Dew

In the stories he filed he saw himself, when he interviewed the subjects he saw himself and when he turned on the television or read Dostoevsky he saw himself. When he brushed and barged his way down Oxford Street he saw himself but when he did his sums he was noticably absent. Every night he opened up the books, and in later years the laptop, and knuckled down but something didn't add up. It was awfully confusing.
His wife mocked him mercilessly, if affectionately. They harmonized. Some nights she sat in the corner reading to the soundtrack of his mumbled frustration, others she left him to it and went out with friends to sit in bars unravelling living soap operas or laughing at minor idiocies. By day she dealt in gluons and leptons.

The night that he leapt from his seat and punched the air he found her absent. He called her name and met with silence. The only alcohol he knew of in the house was a bottle of Pernod, a relic from a boating holiday long passed. He topped up a glass with an equal measure of tap water, retook his seat, rubbed his eyes and stared through the screen. Half an hour later he repeated this sequence.

She found him shortly after midnight, dribbling onto the desk with the tumbler at his feet. She closed the curtains and switched off his laptop, sure to save any open documents, before she lifted him carefully, arms under his shoulders, and dragged him over to the bed. She took off his shoes as some form of growl emerged from the stupor. She lay him sideways and drew up the duvet. His hair had flopped over his eyes and with two delicate fingers she brushed it back.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Orthodox Waistcoat

"We gathered for the funeral, every one of us. All in one room, it was the first time for perhaps fifteen years. No one spoke. Every eye held only bewilderment.

Luke himself I hadn't seen since the summer of 2001. At six in the morning we'd sat on a sofa, surrounded by sleeping forms covered in blankets, or not, drinking port on the rocks out of coffee mugs; Creme Egg and Twix. That detail I remember because when we finally conceded defeat we lobbed them over the garden wall into the school playground next door. There is no 'why' when you're that mashed.

We listened to Bowie, the Berlin stuff. I remember being surprised that Luke liked that shit. I always thought of him as being harder edged; aggression over introspection, class battlefields over distopian cityscapes, humour over intellect. Unfair I know. Aren't we always?

"Always crashing in the same car" he said, "That's me."

He told me how he tried but something always dragged him back, how he was a good person who made mistakes, wittingly. That's what he said: Wittingly. I'm not even sure if that's a word. Doesn't sound right. Is it a mistake if you know you're doing it? I suppose it is but it sounds wrong. A mistake is what you make when you forget to carry a 7 in a maths test. The stuff he was talking about was different.

The drugs were incidental, he told me. I believed him. Still do. Incidental to his mistakes I mean. Obviously for us that night they were instrumental.

He had more going on his head than he let on though. Two weeks later she left him. He must have known it was coming. In fact I think he'd already accepted it. He skipped town, never returned. I honestly believe he did it for her sake.

So here we all were, a decade on, milling around in ill fitting suits and single use dresses, wondering what had just happened."

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Prototype Unit Trace

"There is an astronaut walking the Earth.
With heavy feet and heavy heart
There is a soul a world apart.
There is an astronaut walking the Earth.

There is a signal beamed from Earth.
A simple message of minimum words,
A lesson taught will never be learnt.
There is a signal beamed from Earth.

There is an astronaut walking the Earth.
Oh send me down your favourite star.
I'll keep it here, safe from harm.
There is an astronaut walking the Earth."

These were the words Franklin crooned on the top deck of a busy 253. The other passengers assumed a melancholic piano backing existing, audible only to him through headphones obscured by his woolly hat. There was no such thing. Franklin sang from memory. He'd learnt the words from Plato, some of them, and the tune from a winged lady on a park bench in Minneapolis. The lady had been sitting only a summer dress patterned with flames, the snow melting on contact with her bare shoulders. Franklin joined her and harmonized for a while. She wasn't singing about spacemen.

On the bus Franklin sat bolt upright to open his diaphragm as far as possible. His eyes were closed and the only harmony was the drone of the engine.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Sanitize Me

He spotted it in a pile of rubbish behind a burnt out telephone box; a length of steel pipe sticking out of a brown paper back of the kind you get given to help carry prepackaged soundwiches. He tossed down the stubby roll up cigarette and peered around. The street was deserted and there was no movement behind the windows opposite.

The gun was hefty and old, a revolver straight out of a western. He released and flipped open the cylinder, surprised that he knew how, and found four bullets nestling there. The grip was worn but sat comfortably in his hand. He inspected it for several minutes before remembering how exposed he was. Instinctively he wedged it down the back of his trousers under his coat, before thinking better of it. As he started walking it ocurred to him that he probably ought to report it or hand it in or something. He wouldn't. This was an opportunity, a rare thing.

Queensway was different today, absent was its menace. Young men, blinded by their own voices yelling into mobile phones got out of his path. Young women with tight jeans and visible bra straps hid, successfully, their disdain. Pram partnerships opened up their roadblocks that he might pass. In Macdonalds the smile behind the counter was genuine.

Later, in the pub, he mulled over what he should do with the thing. He'd daydreamed of having one before of course, but that plan no longer held any sense.

He could turn vigilante, a masked hero, fight crime. What crime? The only criminals he knew were the guys he bought weed and the odd couple of pills from. Not only would that be small fry but also counter productive.

He could turn to crime? He supposed he already had, but holding up a gas station or a bank held no appeal. An art gallery? And then what? Besides, most of the art he loved could hardly be rolled up and smuggled away in a guitar case. The art he loved was the grand gesture or the sisyphean endeavor.

It was a week later when he strode into the national gallery, grabbing the first security guard and pressing a muzzle to his temple. He marched the man up the steps silently while the building exploded into a panicked stampede about him. At the manager's office he yelled down the lady behind the desk until she led him to the deepest vault.

He was only in there with his two hostages for a few minutes but by the time he walked them back the way they had come the place was empty and when they emerged onto the front steps, watched by thousands from Trafalgar Square, the police were ready. The hostages he released immediately and then he followed the police's instructions to the letter, lying face down, spread eagled on the warm stone. The first officer landed a heavy knee to his back and the second kicked away the little plastic cap gun. He watched the officer pick the thing up with a pencil through the trigger guard, like Columbo he thought, and turn to him grinning. Ah, a sense of humour, he thought.

After the police had checked the building for accomplices or explosives the manager led a pair of detectives down to the vault. She shook as she keyed in the code. In the centre of the room sat an old, rusty birdcage locked with a heavy duty padlock and inside, sat on the perch was a hefty old revolver, straight out of a western.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Essential Nano Oils

For all the time and effort that the council had put into the project, there wasn't much to show for it. Boris stood at the base of the front steps looking up. The image was that of a newborn galaxy, the canvas was a medievel church to a god unrecognisable in today's world. How the thing had got through the various committee stages relatively uncontested was anybody's guess. At the opening tomorrow he would have to find something to say, anything, any scrap to toss to the press vultures.

Okay, he had to concede that the use of texture and contour was impressive. The building bloomed as your eyes were drawn in through the arched doorway. He was up the steps before he realised it. Unusually there was a long corridor before the nave was reached. The suggestion of colour could be found on the unadorned walls. He held out both arms to run his fingers along them but felt nothing. Now he felt nothing. He kept walking.

He'd forgotten the artist's name, some guy with teeth like Stonehenge and a voice like tyres. He hadn't done most of the talking of course. He had a guy for that, or a gal. Boris couldn't remember.

Between pillars at the end the colours accelerated and the galaxy's was born. Yeah, okay, this was quite impressive too. In fact fuck that; it was phenomenal. The sky mushroomed around him, a shifting mass of colour and heat. Boris put an arm out again, this time in search of support. His hand found a space on a table covered with candles.

"It ain't finished mister." The voice belonged to a little girl, maybe eight or nine, sat on the mosaic floor. "You shouldn't be in here."

"I'm Boris."

"Yes I know. Run along now."

"It looks finished."

"It ain't."

"Where's er, thingy, the artist."


"You know; gentleman with a smile like a broken fence."

"There ain't no one. Just me."

"And who are you?"

"I'm watching."

"For what?"

"For it to finish. Now push off old man."

Boris took one last look up and then turned back down the tunnel, his mind ablaze with images and ideas which he struggled to batter into shape to deal with the big question: What would he tell the press?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Always scratching at the plain

"How do I want to be remembered after I die? I don't want to be remembered. I want to be curried." William S. Simpson on the eve of his ninth marriage.

"I'm not going to leave a will. I'm going to leave a recipe."

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Words of ruthless encouragement

"Are you running from something?"

"I'm always running from something. Sometimes I slow down. I ever stop; then you gotta be worried."

She wondered why she was talking to him. It certainly wasn't doing anything to pick up her mood. He slouched in the chair opposite, grinding the bottom of his coffee cup with a teaspoon. That certainly wasn't doing anything to relieve her nausea.

"You ever listened to my records?"

"Yes of course."

"They sound like running?"

They sounded like whining.

"Some of them do. Some of them sound like fighting."

He seemed to like this. He put the spoon down and looked at her.

"Who do you think I'm fighting?"

"Right now? Me"

He laughed.

"Why am I asking all the questions?"

"Because you have something to hide?"

"So you are a journalist. Haven't we all got something to hide? Why would you care what mine is?"

"To be honest I don't," her patience was wearing thin, "but for some reason a lot of people do."

"Why do you think that is?"

"Because you've spent thirty years telling them you've got something to hide."

He picked up the spoon and then put it down again. He picked up the cup to find it empty. He checked his phone. He looked out of the window. She was no longer amusing him. He got to his feet and grabbed his jacket.

"Tell them that again."

Monday, 24 October 2011

Overture Seven

Roger prodded the shape with a piece of scaffolding. It took both hands and most of the muscles in his back to wield the hunk of steel, his young frame rigid. After a couple of attempts the form on the ground flopped over, revealing a belly alive with maggots. Margo dry wretched, Roger not so dry.

He took up the tool again and moved the head to face them. The layer of fur was matted with blood and an eye had already been purloined by some scavenger. Its teeth it bore, at once threatening and impotent.

"What do you think it was called?" Roger asked after holding back another urge with his hand.

"I don't think it was a pet."

"I never said it was."

"Well then it doesn't have a name."

"Everything has a name."


"I think it's name was Errol. It looks young don't you think? I reckon it didn't mean to die like that, however that was. It probably lost its family. I reckon it knew it was going to die though. See those teeth? Defiance. Know what that means? It means 'ain't going to go easy'. That's what my Dad says: "We ain't going to go easy". Sometimes I think he's angry with me when he says it. He's angry with something but I don't think he's angry with me. He says: "We ain't going to go easy. You and me boy. We ain't going to go easy. Not you, not me". Sometimes when he says it I make sure to give him extra ice cream when I get the dessert and sometimes it works. He ain't cross no more."

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A False Compromise

Twice that day Emma had seen movement, or rather felt it. Mid conversation she jumped at a shape flying from the side, of which there was otherwise no trace. The other party showed no sign of noticing. Later she ducked suddenly walking down the street but looking back there was nothing.

She sat in the window of a coffee chain, warming her hands on a skinny cappuccino and watching the pigeons outside attacking a fallen croissant amidst a stampede of suited commuters. There was a presence behind her and this time she found a woman squeezing past, balancing a tray and an assortment of shopping bags.

"Do you mind..." delivered as a statement as she took the next stool. Emma moved her own handbag to accomodate the woman's haul. She was surprised to see that most of the bags contained books and the woman caught her tilting her head to read the spines. "You read much?"

"I, erm, no. I should. I write." She caught something emerging through the window and span her head.

"It's okay." The woman put a hand on Emma's. The hand was warm and Emma looked down at it; she'd forgotten. She looked back at the window, which was intact, and out at the street where the stampede had thinned.

"I thought I saw..."

"There's nothing there." Fingers curled around Emma's hand. Again the wndow bulged but the hand squeezed and retained her attention. "There's nothing out there."

"There's something.."

"There's just you."

"And you I guess." She let out a nervous chuckle. The window strained and the hand squeezed to repel it. Emma looked the woman in the eye. She wore heavy eyeliner, giving a false impression of youth. "And you?" Steadier this time.

The woman said nothing but leant in, placing the other hand on Emma's shoulder. This time Emma recoiled and contact was lost. The window bellowed like a sheet on a line and then shattered onto the pavement. Passers by leapt out of the way and Emma rose involuntarily. She stared out and they stared in, the spell broken only when the woman passed between them without acknowledgement. Emma leant forward placing her hand on the window frame, cutting it on a protruding shard. Behind her, movement, but nothing.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Grit you say?

What he lacked in looks, he made up for in sarcasm and bitch. He scrapped and scratched his way through school and lied his way through college. Twenty three lies he told in all. At least that's what he wrote in the three volume autobiography he lowered from the top of Nelson's Column on a rope fashioned from a half a battalion's bootlaces. It dangled fifteen feet from the ground and was retrieved by a human pyramid of Dutch tourists.

For three days he sat at Horatio's feet; a faithful hound unaware his master is dead, and elsewhere. He refused to speak and it was taken that all he had to say was set out in the hefty tome. A special unit was hastily established by the Met: Six officers, armed with six dictionaries tasked with deciphering his words and sifting for clues. It was later admitted that this was an error and that the job should have been passed to the professionals and in hindsight it was clear that the lying had continued long after college.

The narrative was jumbled and paid no heed to traditional structure or chronology. He had dined with prophets and fought in every recorded conflict in western Europe. He had fourteen England caps to his name and one goal, though his claim on this was disputed by a player from a rival club. He had created and destroyed in equal measure, his balance at zero. He had loved and lost both men and women and yet still never recovered from the first, of which he listed several, or the last, by whom his heart was finally defeated. This, though, was not what put him at the admiral's feet.

When he impacted the square and officials plucked up the courage to examine his remains they found his foot attached to Nelsons by the other half of the battalion's bootlaces. Had the chain been just fifteen feet shorter it would have snapped when he was within a couple of feet of the unforgiving surface.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Oh, ooh, Satisfaction

The first time I saw that face it was smiling but yesterday it was altogether different. He wouldn't say what happened in between. No, scratch that, he couldn't say.

All the time he was away there were rumours of course: A sighting in the Gulf of Mexico, a dubious photo of an imminent bungee jump, a drunken answering phone message and a laughably spurious assault charge. He was a lot of things but never that.

I suppose there were clues when I knew him. You could never quite pin down where he was from or how old he was. "We're all both young and old." he would say "Ain't hardly no difference between."

Asked about his parents he would reply "I guess we've got a load in common. Not that you'd know it."

"My childhood was unremarkable."

"Oh, come on. Everyone's childhood is remarkable to them"

It would go on like this.

Certainly there were events in between which were regrettable but I couldn't honestly say how they played out.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Sensational and Red

"Nobody would have noticed the work that was going on beneath their feet even had they been alert, and they weren't. The music pounded devoid of life and the strobe reduced reality to an analogue simplicity, digestible for the modern mind.

I was one of them of course and I would be nowhere else. When I'm told that modern physics implies previously unknown dimensions, seven or eight by all accounts, I listen in wonder. Then I thank someone else's god I can't see them. I mean thank fuck for that. Most days I struggle to tie my laces. Can you imagine how complicated that would be, viewed in twelve dimensions. Fuck.

Set yourself parameters to live by; that's freedom. Without setting limits you're just going to dilute, get so thin you're invisible. You might get so thin that you forget these four dimensions and find yourself lost in those other eight. Then what? Who's going going to lead you back then? Might be you're all alone.

Well, I've been alone, and I've been led back. To Genevieve!"

Groom's speech by William S. Simpson on the occasion of his eighth marriage.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

And all Watched the Scarecrows

"...and I'll tell you one thing for cheap: I never expected this. Shit, who would? At the time Jimmy told me the state had a monopoly on the use of force. I said: Who are they? Jimmy said: Me. I laughed at that. Jimmy was always saying this shit. While we're at it, look where he is now.

I marched on the cathedral. I don't know why. It just sprang to mind. I guess I'm stuck in centuries past. Jimmy told me that too. They were awfully nice at the cathedral. I needed no force there. I visited the museums; all peaceful at the V&A. At the Natural History lot's of folk were getting into photography, clutching the past, and the present, to their face. I wondered what this record would tell my grand children. Would they need archeologists and biologists sifting photographs?

I'd heard talk of scuffles on wasteland and motorway madness but this was the stuff of fiction. Not that all was peaceful of course. I don't know. I went to the seats of power, before heading to parliament. That could wait. Peopled by gaian cyborgs, operated with ruthless efficiency, of sorts, I had no in. None of us did. Well, you could resign yourself I guess, and then what?

I wanted to think subterranean but I saw nowhere to go. I wanted to put myself in the centre but I never believed it. I couldn't bring myself to. I wanted something captured in print but that was just the past once again. The past once again. I saw people though. People in love and people in struggle, people shouting and people debating, people singing clutching shotguns. How could you look at that and feel otherwise? I'll never get that. But I never expected this. Shit, who would?"

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On Behalf Of

Hip hop bleached by a gang of LA producers tip toed through the speakers in the corner of the bar. Kev slouched on a stool next to the register surfing Spotify, powerless. The teenagers playing pool upstairs had been feeding the jukebox for hours and were now repeating tracks. Kev trawled through the history of guitar music, pausing only to pour a new Guinness for one of the wizened gentlemen who were a feature of the pub at midday.

I sat largely unnoticed, my pockets hanging low with my burden. I say largely unnoticed; Kev knew I was there and had tired of my company. The other patrons were suspicious of my youth. They needn't be. My age was deceptive and time was surely on their side, not mine.

I was under instruction to wait here each day for a week and it would come. I was now into my third week; sat in the same seat from eleven in the morning until one in the morning, only now I began the day with a beer rather than waiting until seven, or six or four.

Sometimes I forgot for hours what I was doing there. Kev had given up asking, figuring my story would follow the usual pattern. It didn't. I thought it didn't. I just had to wait and when the time came I would have to play it by ear.

In the evenings the place got busier. I would drink with some people I knew, declining the occasional game of pool. I suppose they were friends and I hoped they wouldn't be here when the time came.

They weren't. It was just gone eleven and Kev was downstairs sorting out the barrels. The other day drinkers weren't in yet. I never expected it to happen like it did. I don't know what I expected. In truth I don't know what really happened. The stool sank back into the floor and the walls warped around me. Dragged by my pockets deeper through wood and stone I must have imagined Kev's voice as I passed through the cellar. The heat of the earth comforted me even as its weight destroyed me. At that moment, and only at that moment, I would never have made the deal but it passed and resignation returned. The temperature soared and no more could be said.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Each and Every Angel

"The jam was getting exciting. For five days they had been parked on the ring road about a mile from the arch of Wembley. Initially there was anger but when realisation dawned that this was finally it, the road began to take on a life of its own.

Perhaps the first sign came about seven hours in, when Jerry the Hatch stuffed his rucksack full with the festival supplies from his boot and wove his way between the cars on his little scooter selling beer window to window. He was surprised how quickly they went, it still being the afternoon. In half an hour the bag was empty and he pushed back into Neasden, his leg swinging freely, to find an off licence. By nightfall he was exhausted and with a four pack remaining he returned to his vehicle.

Lubricated by alcohol, conversations were struck up through open windows, Facebook friends were made, hashtags formed constellations in the Twittersphere.

Jerry awoke early the next day to get to work, only to find other vendors already going, most on scooters but others jogging. Some tried bicycles but there wasn't really room to pedal around. Business was just as quick though and by midday the party was in full swing. People tuned their radios to the same stations so that the road echoed to the BBC's own holy choir, voices fractionally out of synch.

This unity was temporary though and as the afternoon wore on it fractured. Channels were changed and new hashtags were born, nastier now. There were scuffles. The third day continued in this vein, with added car horns. Jerry restricted his sales to the mornings and locked himself in by dark. Sleep became harder to come  by. He caught snatches but the noise never died. Sometimes too near.

When rumour spread that something was coming he made one last trip to the off licence, for himself alone this time, and returned to wait."

"And then?"

"You know what happened then."

"I don't. I thought you were going to tell me."

"It was horrific."

"So you say."

"It was inevitable."

"So you say. So it's been said around here since the sixteenth century, or earlier, but you can't tell me what happened."

"I wasn't there."

"Yet you seem so sure."

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Strange That Was

"If every single one had turned and run simultaneously perhaps I would have taken notice but as it was I just ploughed straight on. It took ten minutes or so to realise that the crowd was thinning and a further ten to grow concerned. Still I put it down to strength of rumour.

I'd first got whiff around lunchtime but I was slow; my connectivity rating in the low twenties. Old fashioned I guess. I like my own company. I laughed it off of course. Conflicting messages. The city had its own life these days, literally some said, but not like this.

I tended to restrict my movements to south of the river. Somehow Clapham Common had survived as an the what? I'd read somewhere this thing by a scientist who said that the problem with creating greater comms capability and IT was that in doing so more information was created. You can never catch up. On top of that, the information becomes more important. Ain't one of us could survive more than a couple of days of disconnect. Even me.

So I kept my head down and zigzagged through the Kensington sprawl. Not a person to be seen by the time I got to Gloucester Road and approaching the museums I realised my mistake. A wall of flame leapt from Exhibition Road, tearing between the two giants. They had grown beyond all recognition warped into strange diagonals so that they leant across the road, each taunting the other. The fire licked at them and together they roared. Nuhm swung with ancient fists and Var gestured back in its own, furious language but the heat ripped the both equally.

I felt the heat of the melting pavement beneath my feet and realised I would not get away. As I sunk the behemoths thrashed away regardless."

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Cry, the imprint was ashen

Under a sycamore tree in Kensal Green Cemetery sat George, waiting to be discovered. He'd arrived by way of G.K. Chesterton and he was a gem.

He cradled a flask of strong coffee, his back to the cold, stone memory of one William S. Simpson 1927-2011. He could feel the imprints of those dates against his back; 1927 meant nothing to him but 2011 meant everything. For this was the year. This was George's year. He had no plan, someone else could cover that bit, but he had the potential.

There were many possibilities, many ways the universe could utilize an asset such as he. As some people put it: God's will could send him anywhere. He didn't know about God, hell, he didn't know about the universe but he knew about himself. He knew about George. A prophet maybe, or a politician. A commander on the battlefield or a muse to world. An interpreter of truth, a philosopher or an artist.

He opened the flask to refill his cup and more steam escaped, sweeping up his breathe in the cold air. He lit a cigarette and let the smoke seep from his lips. He waited and cooled, lending his body heat to the silent graveyard for just the briefest of times.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Strange Attempt

We had all forgotten. It was something important, we were sure of that. Regular meetings were convened in proud red brick buildings where pale rectangles patterned the walls, speaking of furnishings recently removed. Our voices echoed around us, though we had litttle to say.

Our infants ran riot. By that I mean they had fun. Hundreds of little soldiers with their own little battlefield in their back room. We sat in rows in the main room wondering when their game would end.

Memories are tricky things. We had our phones of course, thank god, but there just seemed to be so many gaps. I mean vast swathes. Some of them we filled through discussion but others, well.

After a while we started to forget what the meetings themselves were for, all except me. I thought ahead. I'd typed into my phone: MEETING TO REMEMBER. MEETING TO REMEMBER.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

City Defined

Jimmy the Think was a left-field mind. That's why they elected him.

"London" he said in his inaugural address "is sinking. We no longer think big. To paraphrase Wilde: We're all pieces of shit, and we don't even dream anymore."

His inappropriate language was part of the package. His literary pedigree went unchallenged.

"I pledge that by the end of this decade we will dream again. We will awake. I pledge that by the end of this decade London will put a man on the moon."

He was good, even his most fierce of rivals would concede, but how Jimmy's pledge should be taken was far from clear. The Metro took him at face value: 'London Enters the Space Race' with a subheading 'China Take Note!'. The Standard took a more cautious approach for their front page with 'Think Big! London to be Great' but then ran a spread on pages 2 and 3 strongly implying that Jimmy intended to create a second British Empire, the capital to once again rule the world. The nationals, on the whole, limited their coverage to bylines, mocking in tone, and comment pieces, mocking in content.

In later years we learnt that Jimmy had been entirely serious. In fact, under advice from a staffer, he had tempered his speech. "Every Londoner who contributes to society will walk on the moon" had read the original. The plan he defended to his death bed and in his posthumous autobiography, Double Think, he laid the blame for its failure squarely at the door of the prime minister 'the shithead'.