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!


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

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!



If you enjoyed this episode, you should 
SUBSCRIBE and get the whole 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.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Mushrooms


I want you to imagine that you are in a dark room, maybe the size of your living room with four others. You all have a pretty good knowledge of the layout of the room and quite soon somebody would stumble upon the door and you would be back in the light. Now imagine you are in a huge stadium-sized room with thousands of people and no knowledge of its layout. Now, being intelligent and communicative human beings, you would form groups who would collectively decide on the best plan to get out. Democratic groups that would devise and agree on the best course of action, this is exactly what you would do, right?

Twitshot

But, this would be a course of action that would be based on darkness. After some time and failure to find a way out, disagreement would begin and the groups would fight and fracture. New smaller groups would form under new leaders. Now you have two problems, finding the door and arguing with the other groups. At this point the disagreements could easily become a priority. Yes, of course some would argue that you should get back to the task of getting out but these pleas would get drowned out by the anger and frustration between the groups. “Why will they not listen?” the leaders would have the conviction that their way of reaching the light was the only logical conclusion. The group members would be more and more prepared to defend their way. These new groups and their leaders would gain more and more influence and despite not successfully finding a door, you would become more and more reliant on your group and leader for guidance and support. Pretty soon the only people looking for the door would be anyone who had not joined a group and working alone would have minimal chance of discovery, in fact they may even become fixated by their own approach, I mean, what type of person would they be anyway if they didn’t want to join a group.
We live in a world where most of us have been enjoying a well-established path to a truth, a truth that was authored by others over thousands of years. A truth that adapts periodically to serve the contemporary context. Simple instructions and protocols that enable us to concentrate on higher tasks instead of trying to work out how to survive each day. These instructions may be difficult to follow and feel restrictive but they shape our lives in ways we no longer register. These protocols exist for the good of the whole while masquerading as self-improvement. Learn what you need to know to contribute to the whole by means of some challenging and worthwhile task that sustains the cycle. If you you execute these duties well, you will have value and be rewarded, with these rewards you can acquire the tools of happiness and satisfaction, tools that were created by more people like you who have laboured under the understanding that they are contributing to something of value. But, in this darkness we only see those who are very close and usually only by how they touch us. We are the mushrooms in the dark cultivated of a nutritious bed of bullshit.
Now, back to the room. Imagine that someone found the door after generations of living in a safe, secure darkness, would you believe them? Would you understand what the door was? Would the light of the outside world not offend your eyes and strike a fear into your heart that would steer you back into the comfort and familiarity of the darkness. And, if one of the leaders found the door, would he tell you?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Bonus Episode: A Dog Day Afternoon

This is an episode from my From Under Dark Clouds story. It comes sometime before the unnamed protagonist, who is a disgraced British media celebrity, stands for public office. 

enjoy...
Someone once said that you can judge a nation by how they treat their animals. I used to have a cat. Woke up after a party one afternoon and some bastard had left me with a pair of kittens. What kind of person carries kittens around in their handbag. Well, we became good friends. She would sidle up to me when I was chilling out and we started to regularly share a spliff together. She would love to just sit on my lap and purr until she fell off and found a corner to pass out, like cats do. By the time I was chasing brown, we had a good thing going, but even she snubbed me the first few times. Cats have an inner wisdom. Brown has patience and it wasn’t long before she would bug the hell out of me until I cooked up. I think it could have been the reason I went from being a social user to a full blown addict. I said there were two kittens, didn’t I. I’m pretty sure the other one escaped down the rubbish chute disguised as a Vesta beef curry.
Here, they hate cats but they do love puppies. Cats are left to fend for themselves on the streets while Puppies are bought for vast sums of money and played with for hours. They are taken out to show friends and cosseted, but never trained. Then, they get bigger and more demanding. They need walks and cleaning up after so they get chained to a stake in the garden or left on the balcony to keep the neighbours awake at night. All too often they are taken to the village. ‘Taken to the village’ sounds kinda warm and rustic, doesn't it. What it actually means is taking it to the nearest rural area where the animal can be pushed out the car and the owners can drive away, safe in the knowledge that it had been safely returned to its natural habitat and back in the warm embrace of mother nature. Trouble is, I live in the village and it is now filled with packs of feral dogs.
So, I was riding me Vespa through the village when one of these packs ambushes me, nipping at the wheels and barking. I slowed down to a walking pace, there seems to be an optimum velocity at which their hunting instinct is piqued. If you drop below this, they will usually lose interest. This time was different. I stopped completely but instead of leaving to sniff each others butts until the next passerby, they encircled me with the alpha-male looking very business-like, hunched low, and snarling. I had the evolutionary advantage, only man with his immense intelligence will start a fight he can’t win. I alighted and stood defiantly staring down the drooling creature, the rest of the pack were awaiting instructions. I only needed to face off the boss and the others would follow suit. The Vespa was still popping away behind me and I kept it close, it was covering my south. I looked deep into the eyes of the beast and snarled, a deep bark brewed in my chest. I would exert my superiority in its own language, “WOOF!” the creature retreated in line with my stare. Its teeth still bared and lips quivering but a step back, I advanced aware that I needed to keep the putt-putting of the Vespa close, not to open a space for the rest of the pack to close the pincer behind me. My step was small but I leaned in. The sun was almost behind me so I aimed to caste my shadow over the mutt. “WOOF!” I took another small step.
“Vlaka!” I heard a woman’s voice from one of the houses. Who was she to call me an idiot? I was exerting my— .
“OW!” I swear my balls leaped two inches to the left. The dog had made its move. I stomped my foot in riposte to try to regain lost ground but it was leaning in. It had missed this time but its aim would improve.
I jumped back to the Vespa. The circle closed.
“Vlaka!” I heard the bitch again. I’m getting my balls gnarled by rabid dogs and I’m the wanker, really? Clunk. The Vespa in gear I raced away, 200cc of 1950s Italian engineering versus four legs.
My neighbour was coming out as I returned home. He asked me how I was doing, I asked him for the number of the council.
He laughed. “It’s Sunday you’ll be lucky to get anyone today. Why?”
My voice skipped an octave as I told him, “I just got bitten by a bloody dog!”
“Where?”
I pointed to my balls. He didn’t even try to hide his amusement. “Do you have the number of our councillor?” I was sure he had it. He’s the type who always has a direct line to best people to harass when he needed a favour doing. He said he didn’t.
I stormed up to my door where the wife was sitting on the veranda seeking asylum from the kids. I told her my story and told her to get the phone. She did so promptly but I didn’t know who to call. I called the police.
After I had given up all hope they arrived in a used car lot trade-in roughly livered in police stripes. They sympathised wholeheartedly but couldn’t do anything except waste my time telling me at length how they couldn’t do anything.
The next day I took my miserable story to the council who had much more power to do nothing due to the pressure of the animal lovers who would sue if they tried to. I told them that next time it could be a kid or an old lady. I figured protection of the weak and infirm would give the situation more gravitas but it seemed the dogs could not be trumped.
“What can we do. Put them down?” Came the incredulous reply.
“If it was a gun laying around on the street, would you pick it up?” I got no reply. “Don’t be fooled by the tail and floppy ears, this is a dangerous weapon that someone has left on the streets of my village.”
I called an animal sanctuary. They were very concerned about the situation. “Is the animal neutered?”
“How would I know, I was too busy trying to stop it neutering me!” Just the words made my voice leap an octave.
After a dead silence, “Do you have a paper from the hospital?”
“No, I have teeth marks!” Fuck, what is this with stamped sheets of paper. “I have photos, I can send them to you.”
“That won’t be necessary. We cannot collect the dog without a confirmation from a doctor.” She continued.
I called the councillor. I went to the council. I called the mayor. He was ever so sympathetic. He said I was one-hundred-percent right and he couldn’t agree more but his hands were tied by the zoophilic organisations who had issued no less than six pending writs for collecting strays without the proper paperwork. And all this with an election year coming. He assured me that if I were to vote for him he would definitely explore the possibility of the matter being considered for a reasonably high priority in his next term.
The wife had done some calling round and hit the same brick walls. I decided to get the press involved. I called a local TV station and explained the plight of our village to one of the dogged reporters who would be sure to use some pounding power chords in post production. Packs of wild dogs terrorise sleepy mountain village. Da da daa!
“Did you go to the hospital?”
Truth was it hadn’t really broken the skin, just a bit of a pinch mark. “No. I was waiting for the police to arrive and do jack shit.”
“Who do the dogs belong to?”
“I don’t know, they weren’t carrying their paperwork.”
“Hmm.. No… paperwo—” she noted.
“Listen, sweetheart. They should be chipped, eh?” All dogs must, by law, must have an identity chip. That much I had learned. “Wouldn’t be difficult to get some vet to scan the chip and take it to the people who dumped the dogs here in my village.”
She paused. “Have they attacked any children? Disfigured anyone. Facially, a pretty girl perhaps.”
“No, I don’t know. Would you like me to arrange it?”
“No, sir. That won’t be necessary.”
The wife was watching me, poised. I had one more card to play. I could trump these mutts. I could get a media circus down here with two words. “Listen, my girl. Do you know who I am? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”
The wife was only wearing slippers but the kick left a bruise I could show you today.
“He’s English,” she had the phone now. “He’s not used to these things.” She punched me with her free hand in the arm. “Yes, of course we’ll let you know of any developments. Thanks for your concern. Goodbye.”
FUCK! If I’d had half the support that these rabid animals were getting, I wouldn’t have given the better half of my money to a bunch of lawyers in London. I wouldn’t have the other half tied up to pay off the catholic church. I wouldn’t be in this Duelling-banjos of a country.
The wife didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day.
I googled it and found out who said that thing about the judging a nation by its animals. It was Mahatma Gandhi, some Indian guru in a nappy who took India away from the British. They worship cows and let them stray around the place. At least they get free-range burger and shake. Maybe I should think about opening a Chinese take-away.


If you subscribe to the mailing list you get an ebook (android, kindle, iBooks) review copy of part 1, 14 episodes no longer available on the blog. click on the book cover to subscribe



Go on! You know you deserve it.






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

Saturday, 7 January 2017

I have discovered the meaning of life and you won't like it!



The beginning of a new year is always a good time to stop and take stock of the past twelve months and by any comparison 2016 was a doozer. You begin to dream about the next year with expectation and new hope but then at a particular age all the data from all of the years starts to make sense and conclusions can be drawn. I’ve reached that point and I know. What I now know is mostly that I know nothing. But, that “nothing” has more clarity and pertinence than ever before. What I have discovered is the meaning of life.
Douglas Adams dealt with the greatest question in his book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and it’s so easy to overlook the wisdom in the mirth. According to Adams, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42 (sorry for the spoiler) and it takes a super computer, the size of a city seven and a half million years to arrive at this. Many of you are aware of this, Adams’ risible conclusion is often quoted, but it’s the next step of the story that should receive much more attention. Another organic super computer is built to work out the QUESTION. They call this computer “Earth”.
Plato and Socrates (I always put these two as a double act as it was Plato who documented his mentor’s teachings and I’m sure the younger lost his objectivity from time to time) pondered the purpose more than the meaning of life. They came up with The Principle of Specialisation. What they meant is that in order to be moral and true to one’s self, one should not venture far from their preordained purpose. Merchants should trade, builders build and sailors sail with philosopher kings at the top ruling with reluctance and wisdom in equal measure. Aldous Huxley studied this idea some two and a half thousand years later in Brave New World with much less optimistic denouement.
There has never been a shortage of people telling us the way to righteousness. These sages will, once they have established their moral superiority, franchise their own answers until they are the only reasonable conclusions and followers will defend this safety of knowledge against any and all who disagree. History shows us that this defence of faith becomes more and more vehement until the keepers of opposing answers will wage spiteful and bloody wars on each other just to prove that their answers are good and moral. The irony is that the profits of these answers invariable begin by teaching acceptance and love for all.
We, as a species, need purpose and tend to fall into two distinct groups. Those who seek meaning and enlightenment through institutionalised faith or philosophy and those who get on with wrighting ships, building buildings and making trades so they can buy stuff that will give their lives some meaning. And, while they would appear to be fitting nicely with Plato’s Principle of Specialisation, they are deeply frowned upon by the prior. This could be seen as simply religious and secular but they are merely two sides of the same coin.
You see, the biggest poverty in both these approaches is that they keep any truth at arm’s length. The closer you get to the answers the more you need either faith in an external omnipotence or an update.
I recently visited Holy Mount Athos, Greece’s monastic state, I watched the faithful yearn for reason and enlightenment. The monks devote their lives to it scouring the scriptures for answers and guidance. But, in order to find pertinent answers, you must first craft apposite questions and to do that you must look inward and not to others. Questions are deeply personal and you must understand yourself to ask them well. We live in a society that pretends to encourage self-awareness but needs you to follow the herd and need what is on offer. You should consume the mass market solutions to questions you never asked
So to the meaning of life I promised. Well, it’s simple really. The meaning of life is proliferation, that’s it, the great existential answer is to service the species and make babies who will continue this. I invoke Kafka’s assessment that the meaning of life is that “it ends” and while it seems too nihilistic to stomach, it is true. I’d like to bring you back to Adams because I’m not an intellectual snob, I believe that it is just as likely that wisdom can be found in a 20th century Essex boy as much as a couple of beardy Greeks or tortured Austro-Hungarian. The meaning and the purpose of life can easily be confused, the purpose of life is propagation of the species but the meaning is just what you put in it. We are too answer-obsessed to stop and reassess our questioning skills. And, while information and data satisfies our need to know, the ability to craft purposeful questions requires a level of self-awareness that can be unsettling and is discouraged by society. While we continue to look for reason and meaning in the wrong places, there is no chance of us ever looking behind the curtain. But, if you learn to ask the right questions, you will find the answers that will help you live a better, more satisfying life. Not by looking to others but by knowing yourself.
So, would you like me to put you on the right track to finding the right questions. If you do then you have not understood a word.

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY