Sunday, 9 April 2017

No Sweat



Spring is here and the days are getting warmer. Good news. But for many of us it brings with it some very real problems. Sweat. Yes, for many of us still looking for the perfect remedy for stained armpits and that au so naturale aroma that comes with it. Well I think I may just have found the answer.
I recently read an article (Google it, you'll find plenty more) that made me try a different tact. Nothing. Yes, nothing. Seems the body likes to maintain equilibrium and the more you destabilise that balance the harder it works to fight you. 24/48 hour antiperspirants, manly deodorants do nothing but put a veneer of chemicals over the smell that must be smelt. Your skin is the largest organ of the body and it works hard to protect us from the elements while maintaining suppleness and supporting bacteria that shield us from airborne pathogens. For this it needs natural oils that we work tirelessly to eradicate.
The reason that this resonated so much with me is because it is not an entirely new idea. In my 20s, I had long hair. My hair is quite curly and as a result whenever I washed it my hair became dry and frizzy. I tried gentle shampoos, conditioners, I even tried olive oil but the result was always the same, unmanageable frizzy hair. Obviously the solution would be found in the right product. There are products that save us from all our human flaws and there would be one for this too. A simple transaction at the supermarket or body shop would surely fix this one and my hair, like so many other problems would be cured.
Then, I had a talk with a Norwegian girl with beautiful platinum hair. She told me that she hadn’t used shampoo for years and my reaction was probably similar to your right now. But, she did not look like a vagrant or a patchouli-smelling BoHo. I tried it and have used shampoo a hand-full of times since. The first month was hard, my hair went into withdrawal. Greasy and lank. I washed it everyday in the shower with plain water but kept soaps away. I have never looked back. Even using gels and styling products was no problem, they just wash out with water leaving the hair in a natural state of equilibrium. My scalp is healthy and dandruff-free.
So, when I read that the same could work with the toxic cesspits that are my armpits I ditched the expensive fragrant shower gels in favour of a simple olive-oil soap from the supermarket for less than 50c a bar and completely ditched the antiperspirants and deodorants. Antiperspirants contain aluminium chloride (aluminium and bleach), aluminium oxide (aluminium rust) or aluminium sulfate, you get the picture. Metal which blocks the glands to stop the nasty stuff getting out (also linked to breast cancer). in fact, the wife has found lumps before that at her annual checkups have been dismissed as blocked pores caused by antiperspirants. Deodorants contain antibacterials which kill the natural friendly bacteria which helps the skin protect us from airborne pathogens. The result is that the skin, the body’s largest organ, goes into defence mode and works harder to cool itself and protect us from the world by producing more stinky bacteria. Result, more sweat, more smell.
I have been doing this for just over three weeks now and have already noticed a marked reduction in sweat and almost no smell at all. In fact, a couple of people have remarked on how I (don’t) smell and asked what I use.
Now, the other part of the study recommends showering less. There I draw the line, even if it is really eco-warrior. I enjoy my steamy winter showers and my invigoratingly icy showers in the hot Greek summer. I will not give them up for the penguins or anyone else. The waste of drinkable water could just as easily be reduced by buying less bottled water. But, I don’t try to soap myself up like a snowman. I concentrate just on my stinky bits and I don’t have that tight feeling anymore like my birthday suit shrunk in the wash.
I have had to throw out so many shirts and my favourite Fred Perrys due to pits crusty with aluminium deposits. Every year we spend fortunes fighting the foulness that springs from every pore on those balmy summer days while we are trying to look cool. But when it doesn’t work, we do more of the same. More showers, more deodorant, more powerful antiperspirant, more, more, more.
Sometimes the answers are not to be found in the relentless pursuit of more of the same but in starting with an entirely new slate. Don’t try to think outside the box, rub the damn box out and get lost. You never know what you might find.
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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Chaos theory

wild fruit
Centuries of farming technology and genetic research goes in the produce that we buy everyday. Our fruit and vegetable are the result of painstaking study, grown in perfect conditions with the perfect nutrients at the perfect temperature. Often they are the result of genetic modification, selective breeding. Now venture out of the city, climb a mountain, hike in the wilderness and you will find forgotten bushes hanging with blackberries, wild fruit cared for by nothing more than nature. But pluck that fruit and you will enjoy the most exciting flavours you have ever tasted. Maybe it’s the thrill of the chase, finding the few berries ripe enough but not too ripe and unmolested by insects. Maybe it’s the fresh mountain air and the climb to reach it. Maybe it’s the joy of something for free. And, just maybe it’s the satisfaction of sustenance at a time of great exertion. I have my own opinion on this. There is an ingredient missing from so much of life’s fruit. Chaos.
Speak to any enthusiast, someone who has a passion for something, be it art, cars, travel, sport, music and you will often find someone unable to articulate the root of their passion. What makes the heart race is the unfathomableness of its nature, the discombobulation of not knowing what it will tell you, where you will arrive, who will win, will it get you there.
Let me take cars as a point of reference. No one gets sweaty over a Toyota or Honda straight off the production line. People lust over old Jags, TVRs and Ferraris, machines that could give you the ride of your life or leave you in the middle of nowhere, machines that could kill you. Many years ago some friends of mine after passing their tests, bought brand new Honda CBRRs, a well-engineered street racing bike. They still had the chicken strips on the tyres (the little ‘hairs’ from the moulding that show a bike hasn’t been taken far from vertical) One asked me to take it out to tell them what I thought. I did. I took it down country lanes and on fast straights then brought it back unimpressed. Of course my mates were disappointed, they thought they had bought the best machine that kind of money could buy and they had but it didn’t scare me. It was so well balanced, the power delivered so evenly that I felt cocooned in the confidence that I would get home intact. At the time I had an old GSXR 750 that never had good tyres and the brakes had a habit of sticking when they shouldn’t. I would take it up to motorway speeds and see how long I could keep my eyes closed. The Honda did not impress.
Sport, the agony of not knowing if your star player will stumble or soar. Music, the feeling of whether the audience will tingle the way you do at the chord change or the line that makes your underpants dance. Art, are you seeing what the artist really painted for you. Literature, are you really getting what you are reading. Sometimes (read: always) when I finish a piece, my hands deliver the final line, my heart stops and my eyes well. Something, and I don’t think it is me, has put those words in just the right places to make it something more than ordered letters. Just like closing my eyes at 100mph and opening them to find a caravaner with a handful of sticky brakes. I am still alive but some of those heartbeats have put years on my life or life in my years. They were not wasted.
One of the, No! the main reason I came to live in Greece was just that. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Greece is a drama Queen. In sexual terms, if Greece was a man he would never go on top, cause he can only fuck up! Other countries in the Eurozone went into recession took bailouts and pulled themselves back up. Greece is still too busy pointing fingers to get its hands on the work to be done. The uncertainties and fear, however have taken their toll and I have retreated to the Honda-like safety of my home.
So, back to the fruit. Take yourself somewhere hard to get to. Get lost and find some wild fruit.

Is this all an allegory? You may never know…

Monday, 13 February 2017

Lost Civilisations


The door effortlessly slid aside and a small boy stepped in from the corridor. He walked up to a screen in the wall and touched a panel. The screen changed from an image of a tropical fish-tank and a friendly female face appeared.
“How can I help you chuck?” the face inquired.
“Down study-files from my tutor-base at school, reference LOST CIVILISATIONS”
“Done Chuck. Some home study?”
“Yup sure! Jobs says knowledge is power”
“How wise!”
The boy ran his hand over the panel and the fish-tank reappeared.
“Chuck! Is that you, boy?” came a deep voice from another room.
“You betcha Daad” the boy called back.
“Get me some cookies and calsovit and come in here”
“Yup sure Daad”. The boy walked up to the tray dispenser and took out a small tray with two round holes and a flat area for cookies. He slid the tray to the next point where he verbally requested cookies and was duly rewarded with four round cookies. Next for the drink and the machine dispensed two beakers of white liquid with a moo! He carried the tray into another room where a man sat at a large terminal.
“Ola Daad”
“Hi son, how was school today?”
“Gee, Rootin Daad! I loaded plendi. I got some home study about lost civilisations from before the great virus!” the boy smiled enthusiastically.
“Lost civilisations? Hey, how datasome.”
“Yup sure Daad! We loaded files about Atlantis, the brand that sunk down into the ocean, the Incas and the last great Empire” The boy paused to sip his drink and nibble his cookie. 
“The last Empire? Oh! I know that one, it was the Brits if I recall correct.”
“Radical Daad nice recall! It was the Great British Empire and they controlled most of the world without APPS!”
“Yup sure son they didn’t have APPS then, that was before the great Jobs upped himself from cyberspace to save us from the Great virus with his fruit of wisdom.” They both observed a pause of respect.
“The whole corporation was controlled, or rooled”, the boy paused to focus on his new word and his father looked suitably impressed, “by a Queen!” the boy smirked. “In those days a Queen was a woman who had power and a non-functional wardrobe!”
“Well who-da” the man pondered.
“Yup siree to Musk, Daad it’s true as the constitution! She was so powerful, like with magic that she could control the sun! They said the sun never set on her Empire.”
“Is that right son?” the man looked on incredulously.
“No jokin! And her name was Victory”
“So Chuck, if we know all this what the rootin’s Lost?” the man quizzed. His attention caught by the drink in his hand that he had forgotten. He drank. He looked at his son, who was merrily nibbling on his cookie, and smiled. Chuck looked up at his father and smiled, his white liquid moustache glistened. The man looked at his son and smiled, he realised that something was amiss. “Missy, what was the conversation?”
“The topic of conversation Mr. Hank was Chuck’s home study lost civilisations. In particular the Great British Empire of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
“But Missy I don’t know anything about the Great British Empire!” the man said dumbfounded.
“Billickers Daad, we loaded that at school today! I know all about it.”
“If I may contribute the last question was…” the computer replayed last pertinent question about what in fact was lost from this civilisation “ Does that help at all?”
“Damn tootin it does Missy. I don’t know what we would do without you, peesies are so smart. So chuck, what in the name of Gates is lost?” pleased that they were back on track the man took a big bite out of his cookie to find that he had already finished it.
“Well Daad” the boy lowered his voice and crouched slightly, “nobody has a notion of where Great Britain was. We know that the Empire’s power went as south as the states of Oz and Zealan as east as the province of Honkong and even a powerful leader called Tom Jones controlled Vegas, but we don’t know where the HQ was. We can’t even be sure of what they looked like. Some say they were people of color, some say they were as white as Jobs himself. Evidence has been found of their occupation all over the planet and many references of Great Britain but no country. Some say they came from somewhere around what we call Hermany because we know they made a fabulous vehicle called a Rolls and they found evidence of its manufacture in this area. Some say they came from Spane, because this is where they discovered the most flags but It could have been just a very loyal colony.
“Yeah?”
“Yeah!”
The dad smiled at his son with pride, his pupils still directed at the screen before him. “Yeah?”
“Lol, Daad!”
A ping came from the terminal.
“Lol, son.”
“O me Gee Daad!”
“Calsovit and cookies?”
“Double Like,Daad!”
Missy pondered the scene before her, logged all relevant data and despaired.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Conquest

Desire gripped me as my hand fell on the silks and satins. Running my fingers down the smooth fabric brought on soft waves of excitement; I must have more. Gentle, searching fingers found their quarry. I manipulated the soft folds risking a surreptitious look down. My glance became an unmitigated stare. Many others had allured me today but now I knew it was just a matter of time before we were one. Now in my arms I heard myself gasp with anticipation. I knew I must be patient but is it not human to yield to such beauty, I ached with longing. It was finally all too much. We flew across the floor toward a small room where I knew we could have all the privacy we needed. I threw her down on the floor and began to claw at my clothes, throwing them here and there in abandon. There was nothing to stop us now. As I slipped tentatively inside I looked in the mirror; my cheeks were flushed and red. When I was finally completely inside, her curves complementing mine, my body supporting her soft folds, I looked once more into the mirror.
I knew she was the one for me and all I needed now was a pair of shoes to match.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

...and at the other end was a small dog.

At one end of the lead was an early middle-aged woman, chatting on her phone. She was always chatting on her phone in an overloud whine. I had watched her walk that dog so many times, always on the phone. I doubted that there was anyone at the other end.
Just across the fence, George emerged from his garage with some tools and a satisfied smile. George had a life. He worked on his jeep, took it up to the mountain with other jeeps. He risked his shit for fun. He asked me to come once, I was busy.
I drew hard on my cigarette in an attempt to ease the tight feeling in my chest. I drew again and necked the last of my third cafe Americano. You know, its named after the way the Italian baristas tried to satisfy the American GI’s desire for long filter coffee during WWII.
No one needed me that morning, at least not enough to pay me. Instead I would go to the supermarket.
I walked up the stairs describing my every move. I’m going into the bathroom. I’m taking a piss. Every sentence beginning with ‘I’. I didn’t wash my hands. The first person pronoun. I’m undressing. But none included ‘me’. The first person object pronoun. I ran the shower. scalding hot, I liked the pain. Twenty years of teaching and all I had was the ability to express my life in grammatical terms.
The aromatic shower gel lathered well in my chest hair. The foam covers the grey. I scrubbed and shaved in the steam then ran my hand round my face, smooth and young. I drew the shower curtain and regarded the man facing me in the mirror. I couldn’t say I knew him well, we were acquaintances, that’s all. I mined my ears with a Q-tip, no wax came out on the cotton tip but you can never be sure. I brushed my teeth, twice. My daily battle to keep the stench of rot at bay.
After dressing, I look in the full length mirror in the hall and pull in my gut. Not bad, I lie. I’m sure I could turn someone’s head. Modal of ability.
“Hey kids! Who would like to come shopping with daddy? All boys together, eh.” One clicked a YouTube link the other changed weapons and blew the head off a zombie. I left.
There is one thing the futurists will never understand about the car. Expensive to own, expensive to run, dangerous for pedestrians and the environment alike, but obedient. When you urge a car to go faster, it goes faster. It doesn’t care if anyone is watching, it doesn’t care if it gets messed up. You will, it does. I dread the day we are all shuttling around in self-driving cars, safe and clean. I guess the upside is that there’ll be one less thing to stop me drinking. I turned the stereo as loud as I could, the speakers began to protest so I took it down a notch. Always maintain clarity in your excesses. Imperative. I sang even louder, I have little clarity in my own abilities. I took a bend a little too fast and the back kicked out. My heart raced. I sang louder. I enjoyed myself driving. First person reflexive.
I swung the car hard into a space narrowly missing the next car. I popped the boot and went back to retrieve my eco-friendly reusable shopping bags. The next car had a fine blue line down its rear quarter. Maybe not so narrowly.
Supermarket trolleys are a poor imitation of the car, they require huge effort for the most minor manoeuvres. They must have been designed by women. The supermarket was packed with couples choosing vegetables. Singles choosing convenience and children choosing disruption. I chose wine.
Once I had filled my trolley with the demands on my list I joined the queue. I let a guy with a six-pack go ahead of me. It made me feel good.
Back home, I parked the car more carefully. I managed most of the bags in one trip. Was I strong or just poor. The handles cut deep into my palms. The pain gives me strength. I returned to the car for the bottles. The bags were full of crisps, cakes, condiments, cheese and aromatic toiletries. It seems that less and less of our weekly shop is actually food. I refilled the wine rack but it wouldn’t all fit. I would deal with that problem later.
The evening was punctuated with dinner, penne with pesto. I decided a merlot would compliment it best. I splattered it with tabasco.
“Why don’t you taste it first?” she asked.
I like tabasco.
She started talking about Italian food. I drank the merlot.
“You remember that restaurant you took me to?”
“When?”
“Ages ago. For Valentines.”
It was early February. I didn’t remember. She insisted that I should know this. I didn’t. If we were talking about the same thing, I remembered the flowers I bought. She was getting quite agitated, I didn’t get the big deal but for some reason she needed me to remember. I remembered how I had felt about her that night.
“I remember it was Italian.” I thought that may satisfy her.
If I had remembered, I would have told her. Third conditional.
It did not.
An earbud connected to a mobile hiding in his lap fell out of one of the kid’s ears. I hadn’t noticed it when he came to the table, nor had she.
After dinner I watched Top Gear or whatever it’s called now with a glass of wine. Three middle-aged men risking their shit for fame and money but mostly for the hell of it. Then I read a book, with a glass of wine.
Eventually the kids were told to unplug. Passive voice.
They had a snack from the non-food provisions of the day’s shop and were herded upstairs for teeth and showers. I listened to them bicker and fight. When I was called to, I went up to give kisses and good-nights.
We watched a film on Netflix and I continued to deal with the bottle storage problem. I was winning.
“I think I have angina,” I said.
She looked at me horrified. “Since when?”
“I don’t know, I have been having pains in my heart.” Present perfect continuous.
“You must see a doctor!”
“Nah. It’ll pass one way or the other. Eventually.”
We smoked a cigarette together by the burning fire. The flames drew the smoke up the chimney.
I turned off the TV and headed upstairs to bed. I took a piss but didn’t brush my teeth. She locked the front door, lowered the heating and turned out the lights.
She climbed into bed almost naked and rolled to face me. I ran my hand up her side. She closed the gap with a kiss. I tried to pull her close.
“You do remember, don’t you?” She kissed me again, her body inches from mine. I wanted her but couldn’t bridge the space. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to lie but she wanted something I no longer had.
“Valentino’s… something like that.”
She spun like a crankshaft. “You’re doing it on purpose!”
I moved in like a jigsaw piece but her shoulders tightened even more. I ran my hand down her soft stomach, her thigh, the upward stroke bringing my hand to rest between her legs. Her elbow hit me in the armpit. “You know I hate being groped!”
When I woke, I was alone. The sound of gunfire from downstairs. There was a cold cafe Americano by the bed. I drank it and delved into other people’s lives on facebook. One of my ‘friends’ had posted half a dozen sad songs and a couple of inspirational memes. Another had posted pictures of her night out. The majority of my ‘friends’ are women, I guess it’s the profession I’m in. I clicked ‘like’ on a couple of posts and wrote something clever about politics.
I sat on the veranda with my second coffee and rolled my third cigarette. George emerged from his garage. His jeep was wearing the huge knobbly tyres he fitted when going up into the mountain. It had been snowing hard for some weeks and the side streets were dicey. The mountain would be perilous. I raised an arm, he returned. “Wanna come?” I did but I was busy. Round the corner I heard one side of a phone conversation. I doubted that there was anyone on the line. At the other end of the lead was a small dog.

This is the first part of my Love and Marriage Trilogy a dark and harrowing study of what it means to survive the til death doing us part. 



If you enjoyed this, you should check out my series"From Under Dark Clouds" and SUBSCRIBE. You'll get the eBook of book 1 for your iPad, Kindle or Android device.


Go on! You know you deserve it!


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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Haunted

I watched her sleep, her lips slightly agape snoring gently. There was no one in the bed beside her. She slept soundly, she always did. I knew this because I had watched her so many times. I moved between the rooms in the dark. The children were sleeping in the same bed despite each having their own, they did this quite often, they craved the company. One murmured words and the other snapped breaths like his mother. I could have woke them. I had managed to push things from the shelves before. It took great concentration but I could do it. They would then know that I was there, watching. Could I speak to them, could I be heard. I don’t know. I had tried but the best I had managed was a flinch of recognition. The effort had been exhausting so I just focused on pushing things from the shelves. I moved down the staircase to the kitchen. A half empty bottle of wine sat on the worktop beside a single glass. I remembered the taste. I could drink once. I liked to drink but only now could I taste it. I had memories of taste. I couldn’t be sure how accurate they were but they were good and good is often as good as it gets.
I watched the clock, willing the hands to move until the sun rose and the house was filled with life again. Showers, coffee, cigarettes, sleepy eyes and toast then quiet again. The door slammed behind them. I watched. I loved to watch them in the morning but I hated the sound of the door. Sometimes I would go to other places. Its not true that we disappear during the daytime. We are always here and sometimes I would see others like me but we never spoke. We couldn’t, shouldn’t share our thoughts, it was like a rule. We exchanged nods and sometimes a raised fist but never talked. It wouldn’t be right, we each knew but a problem shared is not halved, it’s doubled and there are too many. Far too many.
I liked to visit the school, watch the children play. I would even enter the classrooms and follow the lessons, I always knew the answers. It was mostly useless shit but education is very important, at least I liked to believe that.
I visited houses with women cleaning and talking for hours on the phone, saying nothing. Sometimes lovers would visit. The door closed after a quick check of the corridor. I watched the urgency, the need. I followed them to the bedroom. Like the wine, I can still taste it. I look down at my fading body and leave.
I visit many places during the day but there is only one house where I spend my nights. I tried to be somewhere else but somehow I needed to be there. The snoring woman, the child snatching at air.
I sat watching the TV with the woman. I didn’t sit too close. My presence made her shiver.
Before she slept she prepared snacks for the children. A sandwich, some nuts, some fruit and placed them in plastic boxes labelled with their names. I knew that they would dump them in the bin at school and buy sweets. I had watched them. She prepared them with love and I couldn’t tell her the truth if I wanted to. She folded their clothes and placed them at the foot of each bed then undressed. She looked good. I could taste her but reaching out made her recoil and rub the goosebumps away. I watched her sleep then took the space beside her. Closing my eyes is futile, sleep doesn’t come for me. It is just an unnecessary memory.
The alarm clock squawks the beginning of a new day. I remember how I hated it, wrenching me from sleep. Bed was an asylum of warmth. Now it means I have more than the darkness for company. She makes coffee and smokes before waking the children. They complain and wrap deeper into the covers but she continues to coax them downstairs with promises of warm milk and sweet bread. I watch.
That day I choose to stay in the house. I have no need to see others like me. I have no need to see the children learn and play. I have no desire to watch the women with their lovers. When they go they leave the TV on to play, for me? Maybe.
It’s snowing outside and I can see the cold but then again, I never did feel it.
I watch the non-stop news channel and wonder at the scale of pain in this world. There only seem to be two stories, people dying and people making money. I always used to think there was more. Guess I had it wrong.
When they come back, the children run to their games and tablets and the woman to her cigarettes. Sometimes she drinks, today must have been a good day. The table is soon laid with warm plates of nutritious food. She summons the children to eat. She repeats this a number of times before they disconnect grudgingly. I remember, I drank in the same way. They push the food around the plate pointing out all the ingredients they don’t like. She has prepared and cooked a meal I wish I could taste, not remember but really taste. The ungrateful bastards. One of the plates falls to the floor. It breaks into a thousand shards in sauce. The woman leads the barefoot children around the opposite side of the table to safety and takes them a plate of biscuits before setting to the mess on the floor. I try to help but I can’t. She looks tired. The children play.
After she puts the children to bed, I sit with her on the sofa. She is wrapped in a fleece blanket and I dare to get closer. I can see her breath.
I spend the night watching her sleep.
The next day repeats the last.
I watch her sleep.
I watch the children but mostly I watch the woman sleep.
The alarm squawks.
I stay in the house and wait. The news channel repeats the same stories with different protagonists. I choose to believe that I am being informed, keeping up with current affairs. The door slams then opens, the days pass. Warm days replace the cold and I consider venturing out. I consider it but I don’t. Neither do the children or the woman. Not apart from routine. The routine is good. The routine is safe, no surprises.
I try to move through the door but I get stuck halfway, better to stay. I enjoy the memories of my jaunts. When the family return I take a place at the table. I watch them eat. I sit there while the children do their homework trying to move the pencil to the answer. At bedtime, I sit with the children while they read and giggle before falling asleep. I wait for the woman to go to bed.
Sleep takes her quickly. I will her to stay awake but my will is faded. I reach for her but my grasp is hollow. I move closer but she shivers and wraps herself tighter in the duvet.
I am standing over the bed, bottles are falling from the shelves bouncing silently on the soft rug below. I look at the door but it snags on the rug. A word comes from deep inside me. I bring it up careful that it doesn’t slip between my fingers. I feel my diaphragm move. A plastic bottle hits the wardrobe, moisturiser leaks down the melamine door. The word comes, growing, achieving mass. I feel the ceiling getting closer. I don’t recognise the word. The bulbs in the light above the bed begin to glow. Faintly but it is me doing it. I am making light. I am making light in the darkness. The word forms. The lights flicker then glow harder. The word splits into two. The woman stirs and mumbles something. A name, my name. I can’t be sure but I am. I try to hear it. My words fall back. I can’t concentrate on them both. I regain my grip on the words, they are sharp and heavy and now ready, ready to be heard. A drawer opens and underwear spews to the floor. My head is a ball of pain. The words. The door tugs against the rug. “SEEE MEE!” She sits upright her eyes still closed but she is looking where I am. I swell, my shoulders reach the walls. She is looking where I am. I summon the words again but they, as I, are spent. There is no place for me here. As she slumps back into the pillow, back into slumber.

This is the third part of my Love and Marriage Trilogy a dark and harrowing study of what it means to survive the til death doing us part. 


If you enjoyed this, you should check out my series"From Under Dark Clouds" and SUBSCRIBE. You'll get the eBook of book 1 for your iPad, Kindle or Android device.


Go on! You know you deserve it!


Don't forget to share with the little buttons below.  

Monday, 23 January 2017

Bonus Episode: Prick up your ears

This is another Episode that will go into Part 1. 

Stand up, take arms... space bar to fire! 
The campaign trail has been long and arduous but along the way I have learned a lot about my fellow man, things I maybe would prefer not to have learned but now learned they cannot be unlearned. The common voter is at their most vulnerable at election time. The hope against hope that this time they'll really mean it, the tired allegiances to parties and ideals that have on so many occasions forsaken the faithful renewed by new promises, new faces, new slogans. Family, friends and neighbours pitched against each other in defence of those who would not provide a cup of sugar or watch the kids for the evening. Civil choice becoming civil abrasion.
The established candidates use a network of affiliates, trade unions and the business community to garner favour, we have cafes, bars and working men’s clubs. The establishment has funds donated from membership and the aforementioned groups, we are running up a bar tab. Fortunately, in the establishments frequented by the great Greek dispossessed, I can stand enough tsipouro and retsina to make them see the reason in my rants for the same as it would cost for a single round in a London pub. That said, by the time I’ve gone round all the tables toasting “YAMMAS!” I’ve doubled the bill. My Greek is rapidly improving though. I know when to agree when I don’t entirely understand, I know when to use my burgeoning vocabulary of swear words to put down the establishment. The Greeks are so much more politically aware than the Brits, they are acutely aware of the tricks and patter of the usual suspects at the elections but voting is mandatory and when pencil come to paper their X always falls in the same box. Everyone knows the problems, no one know the solution. Conversations invariably end with shrugged shoulders and “what can we do, it’s Greece.” The fatal belief in the fact that the country’s DNA is one of failure pervades hope of change. This is my ‘IN’, I’m British, I get things done. It dawned on me why Socrates press-ganged me into this. My broken Greek could be filled with faith that I meant what needed to be said.
“Mahatma Gandhi once said,” I was back on a table in front of twenty or thirty pensioners and a hand-full of youngsters looking for a free drink. It wasn’t the O2 but it was the best offer I’d had since leaving home. “The same Indian guru who freed his country from British imperial rule, he said that a nation can be judged by how it treats its animals. Here, they buy their cute little puppies, play with them but don’t train them then, when they get too demanding, they throw them out on the street to go wild and bite our children.”
A rustle of agreement broke out. Until one addressed the stage. “So, what are you saying, malaka. poison the strays?”
“I’m talking about responsibility, commitment.”
“We can’t afford to feed our dogs and he wants to put them down!” Came another.
“NO, no. I mean this is how your government treats you!” My instinct was to put the hecklers down, make them the laughing stock but a witty put down here would not win the audience over.
“So, you want them to TRAIN us?”
For once I needed the audience to agree with me, not laugh at me. This was new territory. “I was bitten recently.” I subconsciously pointed to my balls. The whole place erupted into laughter.
“He thinks we bite our children?” This dampened the laughter to dissent.
“Maybe, he wants us to bite his balls!” Hysteria broke out again with each adding to the joke. This would once have pleased me no end, I would stand on stage fanning the flames, pretending to be part of the joke not the butt of it.
I stood down from the table and only stopped at the door of the Mercedes because it was locked.
On the back seat of the old German car making a swift getaway from Greek cynicism an English comedian turned to an old Greek named after an ancient profit of wisdom and said, “Who are we kidding? These people need cheap booze and a good laugh. Once a comic, always a comic.”
Socrates looked at me. I saw no resignation in his ancient eyes but I knew it was there.
“Listen son, you do not need to make them agree with you, that is the job of a salesman. Make them think. Make them believe in possibility. The Greeks gave light to the world and were left in darkness. Show them the light that was always theirs, be who you pretend to be and you will find your wisdom.”
I wanted to cry, to scream, to drink myself numb. But, I did not want to let this old man down. “Socrates?” I asked. “Why aren’t you doing this, why haven’t you done this long ago.”
His eyes dipped. “I was too honest to be a politician and live.”
We stopped at a bar filled with the young idly posting facebook updates about being somewhere with someone to make others jealous that they were nowhere. Socrates set me up with a bottle of Bushmills and left me with the driver, who didn’t say much and I didn’t reply.
The old man came back with what could be considered a smile fairly well positioned on his face. “We’re going. You can take the bottle.”
As we left the barman raised a hand, “No problem Mr. Socrates.”
Before I knew it I was sitting in a barber’s chair with what was left of the Black Bush.
“Short, modern but not too tidy. Take the beard back to a shadow, but not shaven.” Socrates ordered. “Tomorrow you will talk at the students union. Don’t talk politics, don’t talk manifesto. Talk about you. Where you came from, what you’ve been through, who you want to be, what you want to do.”
Now, one of the reasons we came to Greece was for some anonymity, to get away from the attention. I had told the wife that that was asking too much. I’ve done Hollywood films, countless TV and tours. But no one, NO ONE has recognised me since we arrived. I haven’t even told you who I am, my dear blogees. At least the wife enjoys it.
“But, Socrates. These are the young, my people. They’re bound to—”
“Celebrity is irrelevant out of context.” He said. “You need this. You need to enjoy this. You need to get your mojo back.” My MOJO back. Who is this guy.
We were met at the gates of the university by Maria, a well-rounded but officious looking young lady with large framed glasses and tightly pulled-back hair. She slipped her clipboard under her arm making her cleavage pout under her shift dress and gave us each a firm handshake and an English “Pleased to meet you.” I replied in Greek to showcase my dubious abilities but she assured me that I could speak to the group in English as they all had a ‘Proficiency’ proud to declare that many of their lessons actually took place in English. Socrates followed behind whispering under his breath, “Mojo!”
The auditorium was still filling but Socrates took the lecturing stage and began. He said that when he first met me he though “Wow!” and felt it was his obligation to introduce him to young new dynamic wave of Greeks. He asked if anyone had any problem with me addressing them in English which caused a wave of giggles then waved me over.
I modestly accepted Socrates’ Wow saying that I had a lot to live up to now and feared I might disappoint. Then I prowled pensively round the stage before jumping down to the floor of the auditorium. “I grew up on a council estate in Essex. For anyone who doesn’t know what a council estate is, it’s a like a ghetto for the poor and those the government would like to forget. We were lucky, we got one of the houses with a garden but the walls were like paper and you could hear them beating each other up and children crying. I went to a school after they, the school authorities, had decided that it was no longer appropriate for teachers to beat the kids for breaking the rules.” I paced up the middle of the room between the students who sat shellshocked. “They couldn’t beat us so some of the other kids decided to shoulder that responsibility.” I laughed. “I got picked out quite often for a good beating. In school you learned to fight or run, I was never much good at either.” Maria stood with Socrates at the back of the room, her clipboard still tightly under her arm. “You know one thing I was good at— Booze! I was fantastic at getting really drunk. I nearly got sponsored by Johnny Walker until they realised that I couldn’t keep walking!” At last a giggle, but not a laugh. “So I went on to drugs!”
FUCK! I felt like some amateur scribbler at a book reading, the audience patiently, politely strategizing how to avoid buying a copy on the way out. FUCK!
“So what drugs gave me was choices. Choice is power. I could wake up in the morning. Well I say morning.” I looked around the room with a smirk. “Come on, you’re students, you know what morning really means, eh? AM is when the party ends, not when the day begins, right?” I picked one of the guys in a Nirvana t-shirt. “What time did you crash last night?”
“Three, maybe four.” Some jeers came from around the room. “Six! Six!”
“And what was keeping you UP?” I toked an invisible spliff while jerking my pelvis looking round the room.
“Assassin’s Creed syndicate,” he said.
“Ass n’ weed?” I asked.
“ASSASSIN’S CREED! IT’S A GAME!” the room yelled.
Shit, there really is no hope for this generation.
I went into how I woke up in the morning with the choice of whether to be a drunk or a junky today. To end the day marinaded in my own piss or with a needle hanging from my arm and vomit on my chin.
I threw myself around the room, climbing chair-backs as I animated my climb from addiction, fell and planted myself in youthful laps to uncomfortable giggles. I raised members of the audience to illustrate optimism. I vowed solidarity. I pledged my allegiance to their tomorrows. I slumped on the edge of the stage dangling my legs.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, you all know the Einstein quote about insanity.” They collectively nodded. “The same applies to people, if you trust the architects of chaos to design calm, you will never rest easy.”
I bowed and walked up the aisle high-fiving everyone. My phone started pinging with friend requests. A queue formed waiting to shake my hand.
“You’re awesome!”
“Thank you very much. That means a great deal coming from you,” I replied.
Socrates waited by the door smugly beaming. Maria stood by his side writing on her clipboard. I slipped past them, high-fiving and thanking everyone for their thanks until I reached the empty corridor beyond. My cheeks ached and my palms stung. I exhaled and looked up. Maria was standing in front of me. She placed a tick, looked up and announced. “You will now take me for coffee.”
Socrates stumbled through the door behind me asking if I had seen Maria.
“Seems I’m taking her for coffee,” I said.
He looked at his watch. “A little late for coffee.”
The sun was well past the yard-arm and my nerves were jingling like Christmas, stimulants was not the way to go.
“I will drink coffee, you will drink beer,” she paused in thought. “Or wine. And you,” she looked to Socrates. “Will go.”
“Should he wait up?” I asked.
“No he should not!” She disappeared into an office. I swapped glances with Socrates who shooed me mouthing “Votes!” She returned without the clipboard and began walking down the corridor then stopped, looked round, smiled and I went running.
I awoke to the sound of a running shower and an uncomfortable feeling. She had taken me to a cafe where I’d had a couple of beers, then I must have bombed because I had no memory of the rest. She must have been pretty pissed not to have been able to put the last tick on her form. I guess it must have been the adrenaline of doing my thing again. The numbness was receding and I must have been all over the show. Fallen down stairs, maybe? The shower stopped. I felt myself up for damage. She had looked after me alright, I was all tucked up all cozy and naked. That must have smarted, I’m no good to man nor beast when I get like that, ask the wife. I’d definitely fallen on my arse. Maria emerged from the bathroom followed by plumes of steam and soapy smells. She was wrapped in a white towelling bathrobe towel drying a huge black dildo. Maybe she was still in the mood for the real thing. As the towel moved from the base of the mamba some straps fell. I felt my arse again. SHIT! She roofied me!



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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY