Google+ A Tangled Rope: 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Faery Tales


Your pale hands move slowly under your soft summer sheets, tracing the routes your lovers made as they tried to find the route through to the heart of your secret city. That secret city deep in the lands of dreams and half-remembered faery tales where you sat as queen, where every whim of yours was met with alacrity. Where those who failed you were banished from the city, never to return.

A city where you sent so many eager young heroes out on quests to find the treasure that lay hidden deep in the heart of you, deep inside your faery castle that stands above the city, with its secret convoluted corridors and hidden rooms. A time when so many of those heroes fell, lost and defeated somewhere along those routes that your fingers now take, each moving finger understanding the secret routes that only they seem able to discover that leads you, and you alone, through the tangled sheets of this empty bed down to that secret room at the heart of everything that is you.

Eventually your fingers find their way to that distant room, that contains that treasure that so many have longed to find, but for which only your fingers seem capable of turning the key, as you lie there trying to recall all those years of your life you wasted in your lonely tower waiting for those princes who never made you come.

Thursday Poem: Given the Name of Summer


Given the Name of Summer

I walk back through rain falling
and find new days here for me.
I walk on and see how it all turns

in the wind, casting so many
dull tormented shadows
over all this muddy ground.

This was given the name of summer,
but nothing grows out here now
out of this sodden ground.

Only memory crawls out here
over the absence of what
were once such green valleys.

The definitions of land are lost
to us and we do not know
how to name these new places.

All these new islands growing
from water and from mud
and even if we did, we do not know

how to sail to these new lands
and how to take a new world
into our hands and learn to shape it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011



Guy approached dancing in a manner all of his own. Ignoring the rhythm of the music and other irrelevancies, he threw out his arms and legs at seemingly random intervals. He followed this with a rapid jog on the spot, possibly in the attempt to catch up with the music. Then there was the almost graceful pirouette, followed by the slightly less graceful stumble over empty bags and boxes.

I, who only ever resorted to dancing under threat of extreme violence and if the bar was closed, could only sit and admire such ineptitude, Guy must have practised tirelessly to be so impervious to rhythm.

Taken from: Hanging Around Until - a novel by David Hadley

A Street Serenade


Of course, there is many a good tune played on an old fiddle, as they say, but that doesn't mean that everybody wants to watch you rubbing your old bow across the bridge, especially when they are using that bridge as a route to work and are in somewhat of a hurry to get there as they have already been late this week trying to politely decline your offer of letting them retune your instrument so you can perform a duet together.

Furthermore, despite what you said to the arresting officer the last time you attempted to serenade busy commuters with your instrument in this way, it is not an infringement of your artistic freedom, nor is it a further sign of the dumbing down of popular culture.

We all know how frustrating it can be just practising solo on your instrument in your lonely garret, but people going about their busy lives do get weary of buskers playing those same old tunes wherever they go, and – you must admit – that tune you play on your once-proud instrument is one of the oldest. There is also the inconvenience to them of having to put up their umbrellas as they hurry past you when you reach your crescendo, not to mention how difficult it is to get those sort of stains out of some materials, as Monica Lewinsky would no doubt attest.

Wednesday Story: Graveyard


"Look at this one." Simon brushed the long grass away from in front of the gravestone. "1895."

Susan came up behind him and rested her forearms across his shoulders. Her face brushed the top of his head. His hair smelt of apple-scented shampoo. It seemed strange to her, suddenly artificial, as though they had become actors in a television drama, a soap opera.

Susan stepped back away from Simon and strolled off deeper into the churchyard. Here amongst the thick gnarled trunks of the trees there was plenty of shade. The shadows were cool compared to the bright sun of a hot summer afternoon. Her fingers trailed across the mossy surface of a nearby gravestone. It was cool under her fingertips, but rough with age. It seemed so calm, so at ease.

"1883... so long ago." She whispered to the stone. She traced the moss-filled date of birth with her fingers. "Ooh!" She quickly looked around to see if Simon had heard her gasp, but he was too far away, pissing against the base of a tree-trunk. This Doris Mary Fellows had been only fifteen - the same age as Susan was now - when she died. Susan looked down at the overgrown grave. The grass was long and lush. It had not been disturbed for a long time.

"What's the matter?" Simon's arms wrapped around her from behind, under her T-shirt. His palms were rough on her breasts. She squirmed slightly but felt her nipples hardening.

"This one - Doris Mary Fellows. She was the same age as me when she died," Susan said. She leant back against Simon and looked up over her shoulder at his face.

"I wonder how she died?" she said.

"It was probably disease, or an accident," Simon said.

"Have you ever seen a dead body?"

"No, have you?"


He turned her around to face him, pulling her T-shirt up. She hesitated for a moment her hand on his, then looked around. The graveyard was quiet, still, deserted, especially in this old part where the gravestones were almost lost amongst the long grass and thick tree-trunks. Susan shivered, despite the warmth of the day, as the air touched her skin. She squirmed away from Simon and pulled her shirt back down. She walked off, away from him, through the graves. It was so quiet that she could hear a bee buzzing as it fumbled deep in a flower.

The gravestones were old in this part of the churchyard, green with moss and listing, some even fallen over and broken. Of the dates she could see, none were from later than the turn of the century. She sat down under a tree and lit a cigarette, closing her eyes.

It was so quiet, so good to get away from the constant noise of people, of her family. The noise of brothers and sisters, arguing parents, the constant blare of the television or the radio.

She looked away, down the hill to where the estate lay. She could see her own house, recognising it by the garden full of rusting, broken cars. Her father's constantly postponed dream of starting a business - doing up old cars and then selling them - was always being sidetracked. He always seemed to start on each car in a sudden burst of enthusiasm that seemed to wane rapidly as the scale of the job became apparent to him. Susan remembered how - when they were younger - her older brother Paul and she would sit in the broken abandoned cars and pretend to travel to faraway places. Places that were little more than names to them.

Simon would be here any second, she thought, trying to get her knickers off again. She didn't mind that much. She quite liked fucking, and Simon was fairly good at it, and - after all - that was why they had ended up in the churchyard. But now, in this peace and quiet, in the cool of the shadows, she was more than happy just to sit leaning back against the solidity of the tree with her eyes closed.

What would it be like to be dead? There would be no more worries, no more problems with school and whether she would ever get a job after next year. Would she one day find herself pregnant - like her sister, Dawn - and then find her bloke had pissed off with someone else. Leaving her with a handful of kids clutching at her thighs as she stood in the school playground wondering why all her friends suddenly looked so old and tired.

She looked around at the quiet peaceful graveyard. She decided it would be nice to lie there for all eternity. She strolled over to the nearest grave and lay down, her head almost touching the listing headstone. It would be so calm and peaceful lying there forever, with the birds singing and the leaves on the trees flickering in the breeze, watching the clouds floating free.

It would be possible to lie there all year, through summer sun, autumn winds, winter snows and the greening again of springtime and not to have any worries at all. Not to have any fears about what the future would bring, knowing that this was how it would always be - for forever. She crossed her arms over her chest - like she had seen in pictures of some old tomb - and closed her eyes.

"What are you doing?"

She opened her eyes to see Simon staring down at her. "I just wondered what it would be like to be dead. That's all."

"Bloody hell, Sue. You are weird." Simon shook his head, then laughed, dropping to the ground next to her. He kissed her as his hand unfastened her jeans, and slipped down, catching and pulling a couple of hairs on the way. She winced and squirmed.

"You wouldn't get any of this, if you were dead, would you?" Simon's fingers were moving, easing inside.

Susan shook her head. That was just the point. But she had long ago given up trying to explain these things to Simon, to anyone. Even her own family thought there was something 'not quite right' about some of the things she used to do, think or say. She had long since learnt the value of silence. She looked around at the headstones all around her. These too must know the value of silence and the peace she craved.

Her jeans and knickers were down around her knees and her T-shirt was pushed high, up under her chin. The cool, fresh air felt so fine on her naked skin. She had a sudden urge. A sudden desire to want to run naked through long grass and to run, run and dive head-first straight into a slow-moving cold river. She felt the soft bristles on Simon's chin scrape across her skin. She rolled away and stood up, pulling up and fastening her jeans and letting her shirt fall back down.

"What's the matter now," Simon said.

Susan could hear the frustration in his voice. She had heard it in boy's voices many times before. Times when it had been easier to give in.

"I thought… I thought I heard something… someone...." She waved her hand vaguely. "Yes, look!" She tried to keep the relief from her voice. "Look, it's the vicar, priest, or whatever they call them." She pointed down to the wide pathway that led up to the church. A figure in long black billowing robes was striding along.

"He's miles away and, anyway, he isn't coming this way."

"I dunno," Susan said. "There's something I don't like about it. About the way he suddenly just appeared like that." She turned away from Simon's sudden serious look, so that she would not burst out giggling.

"No, it's all right. He's going into the church." Simon turned back to face her. "I thought you said you fancied doing it here? Somewhere cool and quiet where we wouldn't be disturbed."

"I did…. I've changed my mind now. Anyway, I don't think I'm in the mood… not any more."

"In the mood. What the fuck does that mean? Don't you fancy me any more is that it?"

Susan shrugged and looked down at the grass in front of her. There was a ladybird, bright scarlet with glistening black spots, climbing up towards the end of a stalk.

Simon stepped towards her and held onto her upper arms, bending down to look up at her face. "Sue? What's the matter?"

"I don't know." She turned away, pulling her arms free. He let go reluctantly. She walked off across to another grave.

Thomas Henry Barber


She read it automatically, and wondered if he had died in that war. She sat down on the stone edging, running a hand through the weeds that were slowly taking it over. She lit another cigarette and looked over at Simon. He sat under the tree next to the grave pulling grass from the area around him before standing and walking off.

A few moments later his shadow loomed over her. She looked up. He seemed so far away.

"I hate it here. It's too quiet, nothing to do," he said. Suddenly he grabbed her and pulled her to the ground, trying to kiss her as he pulled her T-shirt up and off. She squirmed, throwing her head from side to side to avoid his mouth. She tried to hit him, thump him, push him off. He grabbed her arms and held them down.

"Come on Sue. You said it was what you wanted. You promised me. You owe me.... You led me up here and said we would. He knelt up, one hand still holding her arms. It was awkward, getting her jeans and knickers down with one hand while she struggled, but he managed it.

Susan tired to buck up, push him off. "Fuck off, you bastard! Leave me alone. I said I didn't want to...."

"Ah, but a few minutes ago you said you did," Simon laughed, looking down at her naked body. "My dad used to say you can never really know what women mean, saying one thing when they want the opposite." He undid his own trousers.

"No... don't. Simon.... Please!"

"What difference is it going to make? We've done it loads of times before, just one more won't matter."

Susan spat in his face. Simon slapped her hard on the cheek, she felt it go hot and numb before it began to sting. She closed her eyes and turned her face away, feeling him moving on top and then inside. She tried to free her hands a couple of times, tried - somehow - to squirm out from underneath him, but it was no use. Part of her was just saying: let it be. It will be over soon and he will go away. Another part of her was planning retribution, revenge, the police, her father - but no-one would really believe her, she knew that and knew everyone else would assume that too. This was - after all - why they had come up here. This was why Simon had followed her. She had made a promise and now he was only getting what she had so freely offered an hour or so ago.

She had a sudden vision, behind her tearful closed eyes, of a family holiday they'd had, a long time ago when her father was in work. She could see herself standing up high on some headland staring out at the endless blue of the sea. Wanting to run right off the edge and jump into that endless blue that merged into the sky off in the distance.

Simon was standing over her when she opened her eyes. He looked down at her. Without saying a word he turned and walked away, leaving her half-naked and spread out on the grave.

She lay there unmoving for a long time, watching the clouds floating serene in the sky, feeling the cool breeze on her naked skin and the slow drying of the stickiness Simon had left between her thighs. There really didn't seem to be much point in moving, in putting her clothes back on, in going home, in returning to a life that seemed so thin and pointless.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When the World Grows Heavy


It happens slowly as though time seems reluctant to move, as though the clock has suddenly discovered its hands are to heavy to move, as though gravity has multiplied itself and weighs everything down with itself.

Everything seems to become weighty, portentous, as though even the simplest of things has grown too complicated and all the complex things require a whole universe of explanations for themselves.

You, though, used to think this was a simple world. A world you could dance through on the lightest of feet, a world that made little impression on you; no more than a leaf of reality floating towards the ground. A butterfly world that let only the breeze from its fluttering wings disturb you as you went about your oblivious life.

Things changed though that day you woke up from your fluttering carefree dreams to find the weight of this world bearing down on your chest, so heavy that each breath took all your strength and you found you couldn't struggle out from underneath it all.

You wondered what had changed, what had made the world suddenly fall down on you like that, why something you had dismissed as peripheral to your life dropped all its weight on you all of a sudden. Then you realised that as you struggled to stumble out of your bed that – at long last – you had grown up and now it was your turn to bear the weight of this world.

Alien Invasion Thwarted


Well, anyway. I suppose this is the bit where we have to acknowledge the state of the biscuit tin and admit that yes, we may bear some (but not all) the responsibility for the fact that it was discovered without its lid out on the ring road.

Normally, of course, there would be a straightforward explanation for just how this unfortunate state of affairs came about. An explanation possibly involving a ‘side’ of Morris dancers, an eggcup, several ladies of both a certain age and an easier than average virtue, several bottles of a rather cheeky little red and a common all-consuming interest in the erotic possibilities of the road atlas.

However, in this case no such easy and straightforward explanation is possible. Such is the nature of alien visitations, I’m afraid, especially those where the incumbents of the interplanetary machine find themselves umpteen light-years away from where they call home, and suddenly out of biscuits.

Ask yourself what else could be done. After all no-one wants to go down in history, no matter how short and brutal it subsequently turns out to be, as the one who brought about the extinction of the human race. Especially if it does turn out to be short and brutal by alienating some civilisation from some distant corner of the universe far in advance of our own into some violent over-reaction caused by their desperate need of biscuits in order to continue their vital mission to explore the universe, boldly go and so forth. After all, we’ve all seen the films and we know how easily irritated into planetary destruction and the eradication of the human race these alien beings can be.

All in all, then, the loss of a few biscuits does pale somewhat into insignificance in such cases. So anyone too concerned about the complete planet-wide absence of chocolate digestives, Rich tea and those pink wafer things would be best advised to keep their concerns to themselves, and to bear in mind the propensity of alien beings to seemingly engage in anal probings at the drop of a space helmet.

The complete loss of the biscuit tin lid out on the ring road, however, is a completely different matter and will be taken up by the highest authorities on the planet, once we are sure the aliens have left our solar system.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pointless Bickering


Not only have the very Spangles of all we ever desired disappeared from the sweet shops of all we hold dear, even those selfsame sweetshops are no longer around to fascinate and beguile and to further perpetuate that great eternal mystery of why shops that mainly cater to children are run, or operated by people who seem to hate, loathe and detest kids.

Still, though, you have to laugh, especially when you catch sight of yourself in a mirror residing in those trousers you thought would make you into a sex-god and you realise they make you look not unlike one of those poor unfortunates who has to go into politics to stand even the slightest chance of rubbing up against those of whichever sex they find most stimulating.

Of course, the biggest problem in politics – as within most other similar endeavours of human pointless bickering like religion, bird watching and criticising the taste in home furnishings of friends and neighbours – is those who take themselves seriously, and take their own viewpoints, beliefs, ideologies, philosophies and so forth equally seriously. It is always those that take themselves – and what they think - too seriously who always end up pointing the guns, planting the bombs, making everybody else's life a misery, while those of us that like a laugh and can't be arsed, have never taken a life in the pursuit of some nobler, higher purpose because... well, basically, we can't be arsed.

Monday Poem: Looking Towards Your Window


Looking Towards Your Window

This is the end of the day
as it closes up around me
and the sun sinks defeated.

I walk these darkened paths
towards your lighted window
looking for that somewhere

I can use as a home for a while
while I wait for my day’s return
and you hold me close in the dark

knowing I’ve already begun
to look towards your window
hoping for the dawn to come
giving me the excuse for leaving.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dance on Fire - A novel by David Hadley

What do you do when sex and drugs and rock and roll are no longer enough?

At one time, Transmission were probably the most famous rock band on the planet. Now, even as they approach their twenty-fifth anniversary they are still up there, one of the top ten bands of all time. However, each of the surviving members of the band feels something, somewhere, has gone wrong, and the rock and roll dream they used to believe in so much has become an empty and hollow routine.

Dance On Fire is an exploration of the relationships between the remaining original members of Transmission, and their manager, as the band enters their 25th year together. The novel charts their growing realisation that rock music no longer has any meaning for them, and they are - at best - still going through force of habit - 'We've become our own tribute band.'

Dance On Fire is a novel about the shallowness of everlasting adolescence and the vacuity at the heart of the rock and roll mythology.

A Lamppost


So, anyway, there I was tickling the underside of a combine harvester and with the other hand sending a text message to a lamppost I had been earnestly debating the meaning of Cornish pasties with in the small hours of the morning, much to the seeming annoyance of those in the nearby vicinity who seem to like sleeping during the night-time hours, when suddenly I thought....

I know it is wrong, especially in this day and age when the celebrity lifestyles we so avidly follow and the popular culture we so wantonly consume do so much - as much as they can to prevent us being troubled by thought – but I couldn't help it. I recalled just standing there, watching the lamppost for the first signs of belligerence caused by it so obviously losing the argument, when that thought just crept into my head... virtually unopposed.

I suppose if I hadn't escaped the British educational system at such a young age, tempted to go astray by all those young women and their promises of a more intimate and beguiling form of hands-on geometry, then I would have been insulated against all forms of original thinking, which is any educational system's most proudest boast, and responded to that lamppost’s sneering sense of superiority by mouthing some conventional piety, or uttering some bland conventional wisdom, that is supposed to mollify any attempt by a citizen unit towards actually wanting to do its own thinking.

Anyway, I found myself thinking: why on earth am I standing here debating the meaning of Cornish pasties with a smug bloody lamppost in the early hours of the morning when I could be at home failing to make a bacon sandwich. So I told the bloody smart-arsed lamppost to go screw itself – admittedly somewhat louder than the situation really demanded – and went off home to see if there was any bacon left in the fridge.

A Crucial Battle from the Days of the British Empire


It was, of course, during the first Great Battle of Marzipan that the British army first came under sustained assault by the banjo-wielding nomadic tribes of the Furrytrouser region, back in the heyday of the Victorian Empire of the 1880s. Up until then the fearsome power of the banjo to ‘strike terror into the hearts of men’ as Kipling latter put it, had mostly been confined to the tales of daring and adventure which were common staples of the popular Victorian literature of the time.

After the battle, and the Massacre of the Royal Household Wardrobadiers, by the Furrytrouser tribes, the banjo became almost synonymous with mass slaughter.

Such was the carnage inflicted on the British soldiery on that battlefield, that even the British government machine noticed and plans were made for some sort of anti-banjo weaponry and tactics for use in such wild and lawless frontier areas.

Of course, the British themselves had long used the Highland regiments to deploy the bagpipes against the enemy in such situations, but such was the power of a banjo wielding by experts such as those men of the Furrytrouser hill tribes, that they could down a Highlander before he had even inflated his pipes.

Luckily, however, during the numerous Anglo-French wars of the previous centuries the British had picked up on and developed the French army’s use of the battlefield accordion. The British battlefield accordion, though, had never been previously deployed in the field, with the British High Command feeling that such ultimate weaponry should be kept in reserve in readiness for the next time Britain went to war with the French, which most generals considered to be only a matter of time and/or inclination.

However, such was the outrage in the British press at the way the British army had been massacred by these banjo-wielding tribesmen, that the British government of the day had no choice but to give in to demands that ‘something be done’ and done soon before the Furrytrouser rebellion had the chance to spread to the rest of the Empire. Therefore the Queen’s Royal Accordionists were dispatched to the mountainous regions where the Furrytrouser peoples lived, with instructions to put down the rebellion and either kill or capture as many of the banjo-wielders as possible.

Being as they lived in a remote mountainous region the Furrytrouser people had never experienced the horrifying power of the accordion, especially when wielded by fully trained and disciplined European soldiers, advancing in formation over an open battlefield.

In little under half an hour the entire battlefield was littered with the dead and dying of the Furrytrouser tribe as they beat themselves to death to escape the horrifying wail of the accordions as the British soldiers marched towards them. Later the victorious British rounded up the ringleaders of the rebellion, tied them to stakes in the middle of their villages and played accordions at them until their brains exploded as a warning to anyone else considering rebellion. Despite its seeming barbaric cruelty to those of us of this day and age, this harsh treatment seemed to work as there wasn't another Furrytrouser rebellion in all the subsequent years right until the region was granted independence from the British Empire shortly after World War II.

Thursday, June 23, 2011



Here is the place where we come to find the words waiting, ready for us. Here is where the words grow out of the ground that lies barren all around here, except for this one particular place.

We never expected to find a place like this, out here in this desert of the mundane. We never expected to stumble across this oasis of calm reflecting waters out here where the wind-blown storms rage across these harsh landscapes.

We have stumbled around here, almost blindly at times, as the wind has whipped up sandstorms all around us; turning the world into an almost pitch-black maelstrom of sand and shrieking winds that leave us blinded and lost.

Then stumbling, almost tumbling, along the wind suddenly dropped and we almost fell headlong into this place. A place of green, of growth and of promise. Here the words do not shriek and howl, here the winds of unreason do not storm about our heads, whipping our heads and faces with their anger and impatience. Here is calm. Here is a chance for reflection down by the cool calm waters.

Here we can wait for the words to grow slowly out of the ground and come into bloom in the peace and stillness where only the birdsong intrudes on the silence A place where there is only someone we have waited all our lifetimes to meet sitting down by the water's edge, her head lowered over her book as she reads and begins to understand.

Thursday Poem: Watch it Tumble Down


Watch it Tumble Down

I want to walk those hillsides again.
I want to go back to when I was young
and I want to rip that youthful stupidity
out of my young and foolish mind
and fling it far out over the river valley
as far as my strength can send it.

I want to watch it tumble down, slowly
falling like almost forever until it is lost
deep in those dense trees on the riverbank
where we lay together while you made plans
for our shared lives stretching out forever
and I laid my careful plans of escape.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Elderberry Stains on the Wainscoting


So, anyway, what will happen to all the teacakes now that we no longer have the special attachment for our rotary sanders and the small grommet that attaches to the underside of the mute swan has now been replaced by a snap-on plastic retaining lug that has a tendency to leave elderberry stains all along the wainscoting?

Of course, should the dining room table become a candidate for the forthcoming by-election, it will become incumbent on us all gathered here today to make sure that the candelabra is not caught standing on the dinning room table by any tabloid photographers searching for scandalous tittle-tattle, especially when we know only too well what happened to the jelly babies and that other MP from the neighbouring constituency who was photographed by a tabloid reporter leaving the shop with a bag full of jelly babies, apparently with no thought at all about any of his 'disadvantaged' constituents that could not afford their own bags of jelly babies, especially after having to spend all their benefits on new giant flat-screen TVs and Sky subscriptions. At least, though, they do not have to worry unduly about the elderberry stains on the wainscoting. That is until the EU or some such body decides that the lack of a mute swan is yet another indicator of relative poverty and calls for measure to bring the disadvantaged into line with the rest of the population by getting them all at least one swan each, regardless of the cost to the long-suffering tax payer.

Wednesday Story: Lizard Man


Despite the heat he always wore the same clothes, day in, day out: A long raincoat, a homburg hat, and a pair of dusty torn trousers with ragged turn-ups - which seemed to emphasise those feet of his. The long, arching claws emerging out of his scaly skin like scimitars.

In the heat of mid-day he would clamber up the rickety drainpipe that ran up the side of the Town Hall entrance and climb to the place where the arch of the entranceway almost met the overhang of the roof. He would lie, or sit - I was never entirely sure how to tell which was which with him - up there in the shade as the sun burnt the dust on the ground, that was too hot for anyone to walk on, a hundred feet or so below him.

I lived across the street from the Town Hall at the time, in the ruined cinema. I could look out of the window and see his cold-blooded reptilian eyes, almost on a level with mine, staring down at the street below. Powerful sunlight and deep shadows can cause all sorts of tricks, especially when we look too hard. But I am sure I once saw blood on those huge white teeth of his. It was around the time we found the first bodies. Although, it could have been a trick of the light, or even a trick of the mind, though.

It could have been just wishful thinking, of course. He was the only lizardman in our town. He was one of those who’d had the money - and, yes, the courage - to get the operation done when we all discovered what was going to happen, and that it was far too late for anything to be done to save us.

I suppose we all need something to fear, to hate, especially now. The lizardmen make easy, and obvious, targets for that helpless rage we all feel.

About a month or so after the lizardman arrived in our town, Suze offered to let me watch the next time he came around to her place. She said he was no better, and certainly no worse, than most of her customers. She said he had never, even once, scratched her with his claws, no matter how ungain and dangerous they seem. With the shape of his face, she said, he did not attempt to kiss her. He has no lips, anyway. And, she said, his breath smelt no worse that the water-miners’ breath when they come back to town after months out in the Barrens.

I was tempted, very tempted, to take Suze up on her offer at the time. I wanted to see if he could show emotion, passion. I expected that he would need to show some degree of passion to kill, especially in the way those travellers were killed, with their hearts ripped out. I suppose I wanted to see him in... what...? I don't really know… a more animal state than the urbane way he strolled down the street in his dusty clothes, almost like some American private-eye in those black and white films from early last century. Not long after he, the lizardman, turned up in our town I found some catalogues and magazines down in the basement of the cinema from that time when the whole cinema nostalgia kick was in full swing, showing stills from some of those films. If he was not a lizardman, he could have been the star in any of them.

I found it difficult to reconcile visions of his reptilian skin lying next to Suze's familiar nakedness. I wondered if she ever joked and chatted with him as she did with me? A couple of times I even wondered if she offered to let him watch me with her? Or if he thought perhaps I was the killer and he climbed up to the Town Hall roof to watch me, to get some clues from my haunting of the empty cinema.


It doesn't matter how much time we have left. There is not much that to be said about that. It seems we just carry on living out of… out of habit – I suppose – rather for any purpose, or any reason. The buildings were ruined, and mostly deserted, when I first arrived in this town. The desert had already claimed them, blowing sand into the rooms, taking over all the buildings as it took over everything else that stood in its way. I was just a drifter at the time myself too, blown about the desert by the never-ending winds. I had lost all sense of the concept called home until the moment I saw the abandoned cinema. I came out of the desert and there it was, appearing out of the heat haze like some mirage. A relic of the past, like the bones of the unfortunate people and animals spread all over the Barrens, picked clean, then bleached by the relentless winds, scouring sands and the unforgiving sun.

The buildings in this town looked as though they were reverting to, or already on the way to being claimed back by, the desert - sinking slowly into the sand. One day the Barrens will cover them, either burying them or scouring them down to sand, indistinguishable from everything else. Then the whole town will be gone too, becoming just another range of dunes. Everything will be dust.

Already, by the time I arrived in this nameless town, the scraggly desert plants were laying claim to any crack or niche they could find that gave them some relief from the heavy heat. The rest of the town was slowly being buried under the shifting sands, becoming just a few more featureless dunes where once there had been shops, houses, factories, warehouses and all the other monuments to that fading, lost civilisation. It seemed as though the desert was mocking us, mocking mankind, by showing how effortlessly it could destroy all his works.

There were skeletons in the buildings at first, of course, wearing the tattered rags that once were clothes. Many posed in the positions where they had fallen and died when they gave up their own personal battle against the encroaching desert. Others had crumbled to a pile of bones and rags in corners and other shadowed places.


A few days after I arrived, Geep turned up at the door of the cinema. He stood there, in the doorway, smoking one of his foul home-grown cigars.

“You moving in, here?” he said, wandering into the foyer.

“For a while, maybe. If no-one minds,” I replied. “I don’t want to cause any trouble.” I looked around the abandoned cinema as we strolled together into the cooler darkness of the auditorium. “If anyone has a prior claim, I mean. Or, anything like that?” I shrugged.

“Not as far as I know, son. As far as I’m concerned, it’s yours.” He too looked around as we stopped in front of the low stage that once held the screen. “Hardly the Ritz, is it?”

“The… what?”

He stepped right up to me, narrowing his eyes as he stared into my face in the gloom. The wrinkles and folds in his face were deep, much deeper than any I’d ever seen before. We all had wrinkles and furrows burnt deep into our skin by the sun and wind-blown sand, but these days most people die before they get old.

“Sometimes,” Geep said, after a long pause while he studied my face carefully. “Sometimes, I forget just how old I really am. Sometimes… it feels like I can’t die.” He looked around the cinema. “The Ritz was a hotel. Last century, or even the one before… I forget. Big, posh, swanky.”

I nodded. “Yes. I know about hotels.”

He nodded too. “Good.” He turned to go. “Oh, by the way,” he turned back to look at me. “If you need food: meat, vegetables and so on… then I’m your man. Just ask for my place and someone will point you in the right direction.”

“Right. Thanks. I will,” I said.

He turned to walk off.

“Oh, hang on,” I called after him.

He turned back, head cocked to one side.

“What’s your name?”

“Name?” he said as though unfamiliar with the concept. “I… I don’t remem…. Anyway, everyone here just calls me Geep.”

“Oh, right.” I nodded. “Thanks… Geep. I’ll see you around.”

He nodded, turned and waved without looking back.


I can’t remember exactly when the lizardman first turned up here, emerging out of the desert sand storms like a creature emerging from out of some half-forgotten nightmare. It must have been several weeks after I first arrived, because I remember Jan asking me what I knew about him, and she never talks to strangers.

The lizardman seemed to emerge out of the heat, out of the desert, like another mirage. At first, none of us was entirely sure that he was here, that he did exist. It is easy to have dreams, visions, nightmares and – of course – mirages in a climate like this, and he is - after all – a creature more suited to the realm of the mind than reality. But since our reality has now become this nightmare landscape, perhaps it is we that should haunt his nightmares rather than us having him haunt ours.

At first, he was just a darker part of the shadows deep inside the Town Hall, a soft sibilance on the wind, a stirring of dust. It was almost as if he had grown out of the heaped sand and dust. After all, the lizard is a creature of the desert and now that the desert has taken over this world; I suppose that we should not be surprised that its creatures are taking over what was once ours; our bodies as well as our buildings.


The first time I saw Geep’s garden I just stood and stared. I stood there for what seemed like a life-time. Eventually, I managed to close my open mouth and turn to look at Geep.

“Wha…? How?”

He grinned at me. “Just time, patience and care,” he said.

It had been so long ago, hardly more than a childhood memory. So long ago, that I thought that kind of green, that living green could only exist in fairy tales. That smell too: the smell of moist soil, of growing things. The smell of life.

That afternoon Geep told me how he had spent years of his life travelling, collecting seeds, and – later – animals. How he had found this place, one of the few old towns that had some water, but was still quiet enough for him.

“I had a dream, you see....” He smiled at his own foolishness as he sat there, stroking one of his rabbits and staring off, deep into the past.

“Nothing wrong with dreams,” I said. Although, it had been so long since I’d had anything to dream about I could hardly speak with confidence.

“Maybe….” Geep was silent for a long, long time. I felt he was on the verge of saying something, something beyond what is usually said. But he just sighed. “Maybe not.” He seemed to surface slowly out of his communion with the past. “Anyway….” He dropped the rabbit back in the cage with the others and slowly got to his feet. “Things to do… chores,” he said. He looked around at his few acres of green and the handful of small farmyard animals. I could see the pride in his face. “This all depends on me, y’know?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

He stepped closer to me, still stiff from sitting so long. “That is important, y’know. Something we’ve lost… matters far more than just… just fucking up the climate, killing the planet. A reason to care.” He turned away again. “Maybe it is too late, though.”

“Too late for what?”

He didn’t answer, just waved his hand dismissively as he headed towards a tumbledown old shed, right on the edge of his fields. I saw him fumble in his trouser pocket and pull out the key for the heavy padlock. Before he opened it, he turned and stared at me. He waved, and then watched me closely until I turned to leave.


The next time I saw Geep I was sitting in the shade around the side of Suze’s place, trying to get some sort of life out of one of her solar panels so she could run a fridge and a fan. I’d found the fridge down in the cellar of the cinema and got it to – sort of – chug along without breaking down too often. The solar panel was cracked, but I was able to get it to work eventually.

Geep stared down at me twisting wires together. “What’s the point?” he said.

“I dunno,” I said without looking up at him. “I never really found a point to anything, even in the days before all this.” I stared around at the wind-shifted sands. I looked up at him “Why do you bother… the animals… the vegetables…. You must think there’s a point?”

Geep was silent for a moment, kicking sand into a heap with the toe of his shoe and then obliterating it, flattening it and sweeping it away with the sole. “There’s a point, I think, to the rest of nature, to the rest of life… but not to us, not to humanity, not any more.” He looked up towards the horizon. “We fucked it up… and we deserve to pay, to suffer for it.”

He glanced down at the bag in his hand. I could see the dark shadow of blood pooling at the bottom of the bag. Geep saw me looking.

“It's for Suze... y'know?”

I nodded. My repairing the devices was for Suze too. A form of barter. “She's upstairs” I said quietly without looking up at Geep. “Alone....”

“Right. I...”

Still without looking up I saw him gesture vaguely with the bag and nodded, busying myself with some of the intricacies of wiring on the back of the solar panel. Then he was gone.

I wondered about Geep, everyone else – except the lizardman, of course - talked about the killings, but Geep seemed very reluctant to take any interest in the killings, he blamed the lizardman for them, like everyone else. We had no proof though, and - to be honest - not enough courage to attempt to tackle the lizardman about them. So we just kept on watching him and whispering to each other.

The bodies we'd found had all be young – men and women in their twenties, or so. “They're all about my age,” Suze had said shivering and hugging herself when a water miner came into town carrying the latest body in the back of his solar-powered truck. It was like all the other bodies, mutilated with its heart ripped out, it had been ravaged by predators too - wild dogs probably. There was evidence of injuries which Geep said could have been caused by the lizardman's claws.

I watched Geep examine the body with a sort of resigned professional detachment which made me wonder if the name Geep was some sort of distortion of GP – General Practitioner... a doctor. I was about to ask him when I caught the look in his eye, something odd, strange, as though he was trying to build some sort of barrier between his old professional knowledge and who he was now.


Later that night, I was lying awake in bed thinking about the mutilated bodies and trying to find enough courage to will myself to confront the lizardman when suddenly through the open window the lizardman came into my room.

Naked, weapon-less and vulnerable I crawled back across my bed away from him.

He held out a clawed hand towards me, shaking his head.

“No... no... come with me!” he said in his hissing sibilant voice. “Quickly... It's Suze. He's trying to kill her too. Get dressed.... Hurry!”

As I reached for my clothes, not taking my eyes from the lizardman as he strode impatiently to the window and back, I wondered if it was some sort of ruse, some sort of trap. Perhaps he knew we were on to him and now he was going to start picking us off, one by one.

“Here!” he said suddenly reaching into the deep pocket of his long coat as I finished dressing. He held out his hand... his claw to me. There was a gun, a revolver. “I can't use it.” he said. “My hands....” He shrugged.

I took the gun from him as he assured me that it was loaded and that it worked. I could smell the oil from it and it felt as though it was still a working piece of machinery to me.

“Come on... quickly,” the lizardman said, climbing through the window, not waiting to see if I was following.

In the darkness of the night, it took me a while to realise that we were heading for Geep's garden... his farm.

Then there, in the middle of Geep's fruit orchard stood Geep with some sort of machete in his hand. Suze was on the ground at his feet, naked with her hands and feet tied, tears and pleading in her eyes.

The lizardman growled and Geep turned to face us.

"I spent my whole working life keeping people alive," Geep said. "And for what? Look how we have killed this planet. All I am doing now is getting rid of a few useless drifters, people this planet can no longer afford to keep, to keep our town alive, at least until I die. If it wasn't for what I did, then this town, and probably all of us, would be dead. What's wrong with it anyway? There are no laws left, human society, civilisation is over."

He raised the machete above his head, looking down at Suze. He was about to kill her, but before I could even raise the gun, the lizardman leapt forwards at Geep, snarling and growling, his teeth and claws flashing white in the moonlight.

Geep moved fast for such a seemingly old man, sidestepping the leaping lizardman as the machete arced around in a blur. The lizardman's body fell to the ground, spurting blood as his severed head sprayed more blood over Suze, who screamed and tried to roll away, finding that all she had done was roll closer to Geep. He raised the machete again, the lizardman's blood on the blade dripping blackly in the moonlight.

The shot was loud in the dead of the night, surprising me, even though it was my hand taking careful aim and my finger pulling the trigger. Geep's eyed widened in shock as the bullet hole seemed to suddenly grow out of his forehead between them.

He said something to me before the life went from those eyes. It sounded like “ Thank you.” But that didn't really seem likely to me.

I raced over and untied Suze, checking to make sure Geep was dead. I held Suze in my arms as she cried, feeling the lizardman's blood that still covered her, soaking through my clothes. We sat there together in the dark, holding each other tight and close, waiting for the dawn to come.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tennis-Related Indignities

So this is the home-made scone of all our dreams, and there is strawberry jam and butter too. Not for us the tennis-related indignity of the fresh cream for we have seen how such dalliances with the evils of the dread tennis end in squalid tears. A perversion of all that is natural that has led others down that path where all they ever talk about is racquets and backhands, and a desire to see the glories of the coming summer ruined by hitting a ball backwards and forwards across it.

Summers should be slow, languid and lazy, time taken out of days that once seemed so endless. A time of long grass and nudity and cooling waters flowing over your…


Anyway, anything as long as it is not bloody tennis.

Even cricket is better than tennis, but that too now is trying to hurry summers along. Rather than being something akin to a metaphor for eternity, cricket nowadays is not the long slow days of nothing happening, interspersed with tea and rain that used to be, that it was meant to be.

Cricket, as we know, was created for those infected with the need to be ‘doing something’ to be kept away from the evils of the tennis disease, that would otherwise compel them to don ludicrous shorts in mixed company and start shoving their balls into them while fondling their racquet in an impatient manner.

No, it is far better they don the over-large gloves and pads of a cricketer and end up resembling some keen and over-zealous gardener about to take arms against a particularly vindictive bramble patch, than succumb to the be-shorted horror that is tennis and all its evil works.

Legends of the Mop Bucket

She came out of the mists of the long corridor like some queen of the legends from a myth or tale of heroics told around the campfires of distant histories. The mop and bucket she carried though, were obviously an artefact from this age. She strode into the late night deserted office with the stride of one born to rule and dropped her bucket on the floor, some of its waters splashed over the edge as if they were trying to flee from the power of her mop.

A late night desk worker glanced up fearful as he heard the mop bucket strike the floor. He could see – in her unblinking eyes – that she was here to clean and that nothing and no-one was going to stop her. His hand trembled as he shut down his computer and began to gather his things together: his jacket, mobile, briefcase and sandwich box, all the while his frightened eyes watching in case she made a move for her polish and duster.

He ran for the door, papers tumbling from his open brief case and an empty crisp packet falling from his sandwich box like the solitary tear from the eye of one who knows they are defeated by this unforgiving land. Her scornful laughter echoed in his ears as he made his way desperately towards the lift, hoping he could escape before he heard the dreadful roar of her vacuum cleaner chasing down the corridor after him.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Days of Servitude


When it comes, it comes slow. We see the day emerge out from the mists of the dawn to take shape around us. The shapes of the morning emerge out from the shadows and cold mists around us as the sun colours the horizon and then the sky.

We have been waiting for the morning to come, waiting for the sun to chase the night’s darkness away from us. It seems we have spent too long in darkness and now we yearn for the light.

In the darkness those old creatures crawl, stalking us with the fear and loathing of the old dead religions that still haunt our minds long after they should have been forgotten. We know those old gods were nothing but tales told to frighten and cower. We know there are no creatures beyond the ordinary that stalk us through the darker shadows of the night. Still, though, we want this dawn.

We wait; hand in hand, to see the sun rise up over this land and to banish all those old superstitions. We walk these lands now free of that crushing weight of dread that held us down, that made our days into days of servitude towards those invented gods whose arbitrary rules choked the life out of all, whether they wanted the burden of belief or not.

Now we are here, watching the sun rise over our world, feeling the responsibility of being - at least – free from those mental chains that held us captive and in servitude for far too long.

Monday Poem: Sifting Through


Sifting Through

Can we form new days out of the ghosts
Of memory, or is it all lost, forgotten
Left covered in dust blown in over it
By these cold winds of forgetfulness
That cover everything over, eventually
Leaving no trace to be seen by anyone
Casually passing by this once special place.

Only those that know can discover
What lies buried here, after we walk away,
Through careful digging and sifting through
All we left behind, all that once seemed
As though they would become a monument
To some moments taken beyond time
But only became just another grave site.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Weight of Words


Silence is often really the best thing to say. Sometimes there are times when the words seem unnecessary, as though they will change nothing, or only make things worse. Sometimes there is nothing to be said, the words do not come, or, if they do come they seem useless, worthless, some despoliation of the silence.

Words are heavy sometimes, the delicate situation cannot bear the weight of the words weighing it down, bending and distorting it to the point where it will break and shatter, sending fragments and shrapnel piercing the skins and ripping the bodies around it.

Sometimes the words seem too light, too insubstantial for the job they are needed to do. These times it seems the words are inadequate, hopeless, the words themselves tearing, ripping shredding as the weight of the situation rips them away, to float away like scraps of paper on the air, or floating away on the rapid streaming of the river, delicate, torn words lost on the breeze.

Then there are times when the silence too seems heavy, suffocating like some heavy blanket thrown over in the heat of the summer night that seems thick and choking.

Silence, too, though can be like some bird in the air, floating free, gyring up beyond the clouds, or warm and comforting like the arms of someone who cares wrapping you up tight and safe.

Sometimes, it seems that words and silence are the same thing.

Measuring the Slight Differences


Not everyone it seems has an overwhelming interest in watching various people from many countries around the world each attempting to do something just slightly faster or in some other measurable way slightly better than some other people from other parts of the world, often to little or no purpose other than the act itself.

However, for people who find such slight – if measurable – differences between the varying abilities of people who are often complete and utter strangers to them somehow compelling, there will be a chance to watch such contests soon in London, and elsewhere, during the summer of 2012.

Most people will – it seems – find it enough to watch these contests of minuscule differences on the TV, when those differences will be analysed in great detail by many people who find those differences both significant and of great import, some of whom make quite a good living analysing the slight differences between the various contenders competing for the medal that proves they are slightly better at whatever it is than those who are also quite good at doing it.

However, there will also be a – seemingly now very slim - chance for such ordinary people who find these slight differences compelling to go and witness these momentous slight differences in all their glory live and in person, possibly even feeling that such occasions offer a once in a lifetime chance to be a witness to such slight and marginal differences in measurable abilities.

Of course, to measure these slight differences in these abilities to do something or other slightly better than the rest of the people with similar abilities, a large stadium complex has been constructed. This is apparently necessary so that these differing abilities can be measured to the degree of accuracy necessary to prove that one of the contestants is – indeed – slightly better than the rest at whatever is being measured. While at the same time providing the facilities for those who wish to witness these measuring events to be able to see these momentous events taking place in front of their own eyes.

So, if such marginal differences in abilities between people who are quite good at doing certain things, usually of no real intrinsic import or merit, are the sorts of thing that you find yourself interested in then – no doubt – you will find the whole thing quite interesting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday Poem: Fingers That Grasp Mine


Fingers That Grasp Mine

I stand on the top of this hill and look down
I shall let it all go, and walk away.
Letting these times go, like letting go
Of those warm fingers that rise up
To grasp mine out of a welcoming bed
As I turn away to face the new day
That creeps out of the darkness
We tried to keep at bay under those warm sheets
In the comfort of moments held close
As though we could hold back time
And reverse the tides that flow
All over our lives and out
Into the wide forgetting seas
Washing such precious times away
Never to be found again.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Rather Odd Collection of Aunts


So where do we go once the pilchards are safely secreted amongst the bowler hats, my little fire engine? Oh, do not speak to me of chainsaws now that we no longer have to use the wheelbarrows to make our escape across the beaches of this once-great nation as your rather odd collection of aunts chase us and attempt to sell us double glazing as they race behind us mounted on donkeys and each carrying a small pocket guide to edible mushrooms.

Still, as long as we do not make the mistake of tarrying while we attempt to put all the wide varieties of marmalade into alphabetical order on our shelves, then at least we can be sure of evading capture whilst it is still low tide at Blackpool. Although, the same cannot be said for Whitby, but I'm sure you have been told that many times during your years as an apprentice goat tickler high in the mountains of Snowdonia. Of course, though, back then you didn't even know there was such a thing as the offside rule, let alone that this is a world seemingly o'er-brimmed with tourist coaches, each of which seem to - by statute - contain at least one of your aunts invariably bedecked in some of the most outlandish headgear ever seen in these isles, which – of course – means that the pilchards will be perfectly safe from your aunts and their pernicious machinations hidden amongst such straightforward and routine head-wear as bowler hats.

Wednesday Story: Felt Hat


She arrived in a flurry of snow, hat, coat, umbrella and explanations. As usual she talked too much and I didn't need explanations. I saw what I could see. The weather was obviously bad, so she was late. That was only to be expected. She complained, as usual, that I was too quiet, that I do not say very much. Nevertheless, I could see that she was well and seemed relatively untroubled by the lousy weather, so I didn't see the need to ask about such things. Anyway, I am not that sure if such things are any of my business. I feel that making such remarks would be to step over that barrier that defines our relationship... such that it is.

Privacy is important to me these days. I've always hoped it is important to her, or that she is – at least - discrete. I think it is essential that we keep a certain regard for each other as distinct individuals, especially when paying for - and receiving payment for - sex.

She, Liz, is short - compared to me at well over six feet, anyway - about five feet six inches or so. She always wears a floppy felt hat; one of those that was all the fashion, yet again, fairly recently, I think. Not that I know – or care – anything about fashions or popular culture, not these days, not any more. It looks like a very short top hat, but softer - made of felt with a flower-patterned band. There is probably a proper name - used by the fashion industry - for hats like that, but I don't know it. I've never asked her what type of hat it is, to us it is just her hat – Liz only has the one. She also wears a very long scarf, made of some sort of silky material, which has the same flowery pattern on it as the hat-band. She wears a long thick black coat and black knee-length boots, and - often when she comes to see me - nothing else. She says it saves time, which is true I suppose.


Sometimes I say the wrong thing, even after all these years. It made my career, though. At one time, a long time ago now, I made a hell of a living out of saying the wrong thing.

"I love you," I said.

She let my softening cock fall from her mouth as she looked up at me. She smiled and licked semen from her lips.

“Bollocks,” she said. “You don't love anyone. You don't even like yourself.” She took my cock back into her mouth. She knew how much I liked her to lick it clean before she left.

Briefly, I thought about offering her some more money, a bit extra, to stay the night. But, I knew she has other clients, and usually other appointments, so I would have to pay a great deal for her to even begin to consider letting them down.

Liz is proud of her professionalism. She takes it very seriously. She once said, when we had some time to talk of things in general rather than the specific details of how I wanted her, that while she doesn't exactly enjoy her job, she does like to regard herself as a serious professional. She does, she said - and I will agree - have her standards.

"It does help though," she said. "That I'm lucky enough to be able to pick and choose… mostly. No big sweaty bastards who want to tie me up, hurt me and then piss on me, for instance." She shuddered, and I had the distinct impression it was a memory, and not a random example plucked from the long history of sex for money that seems to be something of a specialist subject of hers.

She gave my cock a quick final kiss and got up from the bed. She headed towards the bathroom, leaving me staring at the ceiling wondering why I'd said I loved her. I don't know why I said it. I assume it is not true. I've said it to plenty of women in the past, nearly all of whom I didn't like as much as I like Liz. Maybe that is love... I don't know.

Like I said, I once made a good living, and was quite famous as a voice on the radio and face on the TV for saying the wrong thing, for being 'outrageous', but in that safe sanitised way suitable for the media, especially towards those who like to think of themselves as being above the rest of us, you know: pop stars, politicians, film actors, writers, footballers and all those others who have more ego than sense, known these days as 'celebrities' even when there is no discernible reason for their apparent fame.

I dunno, I never started out to be outrageous, to be someone people watched or listened to just to hear me savage some luckless sap expecting some easy ride on the PR roundabout as they flogged their latest product. Like everyone else – I presume – I stared out just wanting to be liked, to – even – be loved.

Liz came out of the shower and stood there, naked, glowing with health and life.

“Are you hungry?” I said.


“Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” I said.

“What?” She seemed confused, puzzled. This was not normally in our script. Usually she came, then I came and then she cleaned up and went away, my money in her hand and – usually – my spunk in her belly.

I smiled. “I'm just offering you dinner.”


“Yes, dinner... here, that is. I'll order some sort of take away and we'll eat it over there on the table... with wine... maybe even candles.”

“I'm not exactly dressed for it,” she said, standing there in just the knee-length boots she had slipped back on as we talked.

“I know, that's why I asked. That's how I want you... naked at the table... with the snow falling in the dark night over the city outside the window... it would be so decadent.”

“Decadent?” She pretended to think for a moment. “Is it possible for anyone to actually be decadent these days? It all seems so... quaint... old-fashioned.”

“That's me,” I said. “Just an old-fashioned romantic.”

Liz laughed. “That's your idea of romance, is it? Eating dinner with a naked prostitute?”

“Works for me.” I laughed too. It was just a sudden whim. I mean I've built my life recently around avoiding people. I think I may have sickened myself of them, paddling around thigh-deep in the celebrity media swamp for far too long.

“I l... like you,” I said. “I would like to spend some time... more time with you.... I'll pay.”

Liz stood for a long moment, looking at me. “I like you too,” she said. “...some of the time.... There's no need to pay... y'know, providing there's no more... well, y'know... services rendered.”

“Ah,” I said with mock seriousness, looking her body up and down. “With you naked like that at the dinner table, I don't know if.. later... well...”

Liz smiled as she walked across the floor towards me. She stopped a few inches away from me. I could have sworn that I could feel the heat of her body, even though that distance and my clothes. “We'll see...” she said. “Now, she dropped into the armchair next to her. “Didn't you say something about wine?”

While I was in the kitchen, sorting out the wine, it came to me, what I liked about this arrangement with Liz. I had spent so much of my life with interviewees on my radio shows, telling me all about their mental lives, with the women, mainly, telling all about their feelings, as if they were the first person in the entire universe to have such feelings. It was such a relief that with Liz I could pay to have her body, but her mind was hers, private, I didn't have to burden her with my thoughts and feelings and she was professional enough not to burden me with hers.

Although, as I carried the glasses of wine back to her, I realised I didn't think I could explain to her why her nudity mattered so much to me. So much of my life has been spent wallowing in ugliness, that I needed her nudity to bring back to me the purity of beauty, almost some kind of redemption. I knew, though, if I said that she'd counter with the fact that I was here buying her time and her nudity and there wasn't much purity or beauty in that. But I knew, only too well, I was far too tainted by this ugly world for pure unfettered beauty. The only beauty I deserved was the tainted, the sordid, the decadent, even. Obviously for someone like me, the only way I could get anything close to beauty into my life was to pay for it.

I am not pure enough for true beauty, and too far gone for true beauty to redeem me, the best I could hope for was this simulacrum, this taste of what I'd lost through my cynicism and denial of the possibility of goodness, truth and beauty in that world I'd lived in for far too long.

I had lived too long in a part of society that derided beauty, simplicity, innocence and all those things that used to be searched for, celebrated and admired; a smug incestuous clique that had turned its back on all that, and sneered at anyone wanting such things as some kind of naïve simpleton. I knew that not even Liz, maybe especially not Liz, could disentangle themselves from all that. I know I couldn't. This was the best I could get and I knew I had to accept that, that tiny morsel as the only feast I was going to get.

Neither could I tell Liz that I wanted to take her to bed and just hold her close in the deep heart of the night, whispering to her that it would be all right, not knowing which of us the whispering was meant to reassure. In the world I'd lived in until recently, intimacy such as that was looked upon with suspicion and – worst of all, old-fashioned – we were the media darlings and luvvies taking the world beyond our incestuous and sterile little enclave into a Brave New World, whether it wanted to go there or not.

We settled for Italian form a restaurant not far from my place. Liz stayed in the shadows of the room, looking down over the city below, its bright lights and constant traffic under a moderate sprinkling of snow, as I took the food from the delivery man and paid for it.

The first half an hour of the meal was fine, chatting about this and that as though we were real people, ordinary people. I sat there watching a thin slow drip of red wine slowly snaking down Liz's left breast as she spoke of some holiday she'd spent in Italy when she'd been a student.

Slowly, though, the gaps between the comments widened until we were sitting there in silence, not uncomfortable at first, but then slowly growing awkward until it was uncomfortable.

I'd had this fantasy of sitting and eating with a naked woman and... well... not really thought about it much beyond the image of a man, dressed, and a woman, naked, at the table and thinking about how erotic I found it with its hints of what lay beyond the image. Now, though, reality had taken that fantasy, like it does all our dreams, fantasies, hopes and desires, and pissed all over it.

As the silence between us grew, I could feel myself starting to get that old antagonistic feeling back. I could feel the awkward, nasty, cruel questions beginning to form in my mind. I wanted to ask her about those things she'd hinted at before, those clients she hated, those men who'd been cruel to her, rough with her, degraded her, I wanted to know all about it and I wanted to see her face as I goaded her about it and got her to talk about it as I wallowed in its sordid degradation. Quickly, I took a long drink of wine and looked out of the window at the city busy with all its bright lights below us.

Liz's phone rang, loud in the silence. She picked it up quickly, glad of something to break our awkward silence.

I sighed in relief when she muttered something like 'I don't know' and glanced up at me. I smiled at her and whispered that it was all right, if she needed to go. I was glad when I heard her say that she was on her way... presumably to some other client.

I realised, as she muttered away into her phone, that when some fantasies become real they lose their magic, the situation becomes merely awkward and embarrassing, exactly like this.

As she put her phone away we both looked at each other, both relieved that there was a way out of our awkwardness, Of course, she pretended regret, and so did I, as she shrugged on her coat, wrapped her scarf around her neck and put her hat back on, checked herself in the mirror and then left.

After Liz had gone I sat there, for an hour or so, at the table drinking the last of the wine and watching the snow fall. Then I picked up my phone and quickly erased Liz's number from it before I could change my mind.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

That Distant Horizon


Then there are those times when it seems the world has become a desert we trudge through, day after day, until we know longer know why we are walking, or where we are going. All that we seem to know is the same trudging on day-after-day, never sure of a destination and never sure if we are going around and around in circles.

Each day looks the same and begins with that first slow, unwilling, step and then the next… and soon it feels like we have been walking this way forever. There is no feature, no city, no oasis, no shoreline on the distant horizon for us to walk towards, just this same featureless desert that stretches from horizon to horizon all around us. There is no place of shade or shelter, there are only frequent howling sandstorms that rob us of any sense of direction or progress beyond this seemingly futile trudging onward.

Of course, once upon a time there used to be fairy stories of promised lands, of fates and destinies and purposes. Now though we have walked too far for any of that to be taken seriously. So many such promises have fallen by the wayside as we trudge on; we no longer have the will or the energy to believe in them any more.

Still, though, we trudge on and on, still somehow believing – despite all the evidence – that there must be something we are walking towards, some promise that lies just beyond that distant horizon.

The Complexities of the Political Process


So this is what you get when you have no real understanding of just how the whole political process in this country actually works, and just why so many politicians are necessary to fuck it up in the way that they do.

Of course, the modern world is very complex and deeply intertwined with itself, so much so that these days it is beyond the powers of one single person – even if that person is an experienced politician – to completely fuck it all up by themselves, as even John Prescott eventually discovered.

Back in the mists of history when societies were not quite so complex it was possible for a king, or other leader, to fuck it up in some small state or kingdom, often without any help from his advisors, barons, clan leaders or so on. In fact, the whole process of governmental fuck up was one way of getting rid of the rulers on a regular basis. If any ruler makes a balls of it for long enough, then eventually some process or other, either from the peasantry, or – more usually – from the layer of government just below the ruler will make sure that ruler is removed, often painfully in a process usually involving red-hot pokers.

Any normal person would consider the desire – or even need – to be in charge of things in such a way as far more trouble than it is worth, especially considering the red-hot pokers. However, there is a certain breed of person who seems to think that not only would they be great at this whole being in charge business, they also seem to think they – themselves – somehow have some sort of right to be in charge. Back in the days of religious delusion this was called the Divine Right of Kings, nowadays politicians like to think they have some sort of mandate from the masses. This is probably a bigger delusion than the Divine Right thing, but that’s progress for you, I’m afraid.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Poem: I Go With Regret


I Go With Regret

I go with weary reluctance
And I go slowly – with regret.
I hope not to look back with longing
Leaving all we allowed ourselves behind.

I have good enough reasons to go
And I see how stories can be told
To turn this loss into one more victory.

I shall see the sun rise again over hills
As I go now to a far off distant place
To remember the art of forgetting,

And to look out from a high hill,
Back over this road I take away,
Back to where you will remain
As I set out to walk away
For just one more time of leaving.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Heavy with the Unspoken


When there are no words the silence fills the space and grows heavy with the unspoken. Each gesture, each glance takes on a significance, takes on the weight of those unspoken words. A touch – like that brush of my fingertips against your bare skin - sends a shock, a jolt through you as if the power of words has been changed into touch.

In the silence, time seems to slow, almost halt, only the distant sound of desultory bird song in the hot summer air carries through the silence in this room. It is as though the world outside the window, apart from a half-defeated breeze that twitches the curtains, hardly exists any more.

We don't need it anyway.

We turned against the world when it seemed to turn against us; when it seemed to conspire against us ever finding this space to be alone together. It seemed that world needed too many words, too many justifications, too many explanations, too many excuses, too many expressions of regret and of loss before it would leave us in peace.

Here we can stay alone together, far away from those places where all those words were necessary. Here we can stay inside this silence that says far more than words ever could. Here we do not have to explain or justify; here we need no excuses, not any more.

Supermarkets and String Theory

Now it seems as though the very fridges of all we hold dear are overburdened with the special offers and BOGOF deals of all our most holy of supermarkets and the very Cupboard of Destiny itself cannot bear the weight of any more multi-buy savings. Never before in the field of culinary possibility has there been so much choice in the space of one small kitchen… well, at least a kitchen that exists in the conventional three dimensions of space time as we know it and shop in.
Therefore it does seem to make sense that with such concepts as String Theory positing many more than the conventional 3 dimensions that our supermarkets, fridges and – yes – even our food storage cupboards should adapt to this new reality, and themselves take advantage of the possibilities for storage space of these extra dimensions.
Obviously, however, there will be some initial teething troubles, in – for instance – working out just how many tins of baked beans one has when some of them are kept in parts of the cupboard space dimensions not really accessible to the naked eye, or even conventional Euclidian geometry.
Furthermore, these extra dimensions do raise a number of problems for the supermarkets themselves, such as how can one steer a shopping trolley down a food aisle that only exists in – as yet - theoretical possibility. This is especially problematical when shopping trolleys themselves seem to operate in some sort of self-contained distortion of space-time that prevents them ever going in the direction they are pushed.
Also, think of the problems the supermarket security staff will have in catching shoplifters operating in dimensions not readily accessible to in-store CCTV. Furthermore, there is also the question of how store loyalty points would operate in these other – theoretical – dimensions and just how horrendous would a checkout queue become if it spanned as many as half a dozen or more extra dimensions?
Still, once these few teething problems are resolved it should – quite literally – add completely new dimensions to our retail shopping experience and – in this modern world – there is nothing quite so spiritually-uplifting as a possibility like that.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Follow the Turning World


Sometimes it gets so slow and the world falls into a sluggish turning as though the globe itself has tired of the same old routine. Each day comes and then it passes, leaving no memory of its going. We have been here; it seems, for so long, each of us waiting for some sort of sign that the world knows about us.

We are wrong, though, to expect some kind of acknowledgement of our existence from an indifferent world like this. There are no gods out there taking an interest in us or our lives. There is no destiny or fate shaping our lives. There is just us.

However, a world without gods, without fates, without destiny is far from a world of despondency. It is a world that we can shape, at least our own part of it. With no gods to satisfy, then we can have a world built to human scale, not one that panders to the arbitrary whims of those who would claim to speak for the gods they invent in order to twist us and distort us into shapes they can control.

Those that claim to speak for fate, destiny or political utopias of whatever stripe too, speak only for themselves and the way they would turn and use our lives for their own ends.

We should follow the turning world as it turns to face a new day and turn our backs on all of these false prophets, leaders and speakers for their gods. We should reach out and take the hands of those closest to us, choose the road we want to take and walk off together down it, away from those who would wish to make us, and our lives, in their own image.

Thursday Poem: The Seas Of Life


The Seas Of Life

Do you still go down to that shore these days
To search for something new on the horizon?
Do you still dream, or do you turn to walk
Away slowly, back to that same old house

To sit and fill another dusty glass
With dark red memories of an old life
You used to know well, where the seas were not
These seas of regret or forgetfulness

But rode you across their tumbling white waves
To lands of freedom and of promises
Where young girls would wait on sandy beaches
For the gods of the seas to bring a man
Back home for them, who would take them to places

Only found in so many stories told
Around the fires with the sad distant looks
Of older women who sat staring out
At the horizon, waiting endlessly
For a return that would now never come.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Growing World


I never knew the secrets of planting for the future, preparing to tend for the delicacy of shoots. I was too busy searching for some moment that I could have to hold in my hand and keep as though it was some kind of precious thing that I would not need to let fall from my hand… ever.

I did not think that the growing world needed me to tend for it. I did not belong in its gardens and among the growing things. I was not connected to the world I ran through, searching out all that was new, bright and shiny. I turned my back on simplicity, confusing the simple with the stupid, whereas now I know it is those who turn their backs on the world that are the really stupid ones, the ones who think they are too precious to touch the earth, who keep a distance between themselves and the wind and the rain.

Out here, where the real things grow, far from the streets where I ran my youth down, there is a calmness, a rightness about life I never found amongst the bright young things, among those who believe themselves clever enough to see clearer than the rest. They were just as blind as the fools they despised, and I was just as much a fool for wanting to become one of them.

Wednesday Story: The Mystery of the Lupins


Of course, it goes without saying that the lupins were a bit of a mystery, after all you don’t expect that, do you?

…Or do you?

I must admit I’m not that up-to-date on these things, so perhaps it is perfectly normal for a woman to show up at your door, naked under her coat except for a strategically placed bunch of lupins.

Quite possibly, knowing how these things work, there has been an article in some best-selling women’s mag about ‘how to add spice to your love life’ which featured the aforesaid carefully-positioned lupins as a way to add glamour and excitement to the whole business for those not in the first flush of youth.

However, as I said, our love-life wasn’t jaded, it hadn’t begun. We’d never met, not really. We’d spoke over the phone, over the internet, webcams and so forth without either of us being put off by the other. I was watching for it when we first appeared live on Skype at each other. Her eyes only widened slightly… well, I mean at our ages, neither of us was... shall we say, factory-fresh, but there was no sign of out-and-out revulsion on her part when she first clapped eyes on me. By the way, for the record, I found her more than easy on the eye, perhaps because of an experience or two early in my life I’ve always had a thing for the older, more experienced, woman, and well, now that I’m older too, I still prefer them to the teenage leggy blonde of alleged popular male fantasy.

We seemed to get on all right, chatting away about this and that and so on, without… well, without – or so I thought – any great passion. I mean, neither of us tried to dive through the computer screen, eager to get our hands on the other, but… well, like I say, we got on all right. Well, more than all right. I think we ‘clicked’ as we used to say, back in our day… or did we? It has been that long I can’t remember when 'our day' was.

Both of us, Liz and I… I’m Steve, by the way… were the losers, runners-up in the great divorce roundabout game that everyone seems to be playing these days. Very similar stories, married too young, too soon, to someone who, when the kids grew up and left you alone together, turned out to be a stranger to each of you.

Anyway, there she was Liz, at the door, naked in a long mac, holding the lupins.

'You said you liked flowers,' she said, as though that explained everything. Well, I suppose it did explain the lupins, if nothing else.

I just stood there like… well, like a bloke confronted with a rather lovely naked woman. It is possible that I gawped…. Although, I hope not, standing there looking like a landed fish is not an attractive look. But….


There are times when I, and I presume others too, just seem to stop, something like when a computer gets stuck in a program loop and nothing seems to happen, no matter how many keys you press or how inventively you swear at it, the computer just sits there, staring back at you.

That is the way I stood at that doorway, staring at Liz naked in that coat. I could see the doubt starting to spread across her face, see the urge to turn and run away growing in her, almost sense her turning away and rushing off in tears convinced she’d made the hugest of mistakes and blown it completely.

I wanted to say something like 'No, stop. It is lovely and you are so beautiful. This is one of the greatest moments of my life. I will never, ever, forget this moment and that way you make me feel now.’ All I could do though was stand their and stare, possibly even gawp. I couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t say anything.

Luckily, though my body thought faster than my mind and I found myself holding out my arms towards her. I could feel my face escaping from that programming loop too and changing from gawping imbecile to a normal human smile of welcome.

Immediately, I could see the change in Liz; the relaxation of relief in her body and the way her face lit up as she realised she’d done the right thing after all. That it wasn’t the biggest most embarrassing moment of her life, not something that would make her wake up in the night years hence in a blind sweating panic at her own idiocy. I took the lupins from her and placed them down carefully on the hall table as we clumsily embraced and I brought her into the hall, kicking the door shut behind us.

Alone, together, at last.

'I… I thought…' Liz tried to say, but instead I kissed her, long and deep and with – I hoped – enough passion to make her realise how much her arrival dressed… or rather, not dressed… like that had impressed me.

It must have worked too, because when we broke off and came up for air, she just looked up at me.

'Well…' was all she said, pulling my face down to meet hers for another go as she pressed herself against me.

We left her coat and my clothes spread down the hallway as we made our way to the bedroom, not that we got there the first time... or before the first time, as it were.

In fact, when we did finally get to the bed we lay there, side by side, both breathing heavily and staring up at the ceiling for a minute or two.

We eventually turned to look at each other and grinned. Liz must have seen the question I was trying to frame in my eyes.

‘It was that old joke you told me,’ she said.

‘What old joke?’

‘You know the one,’ she replied, snuggling closer to me. ‘How do you impress a woman…? With flowers, chocolate, understanding and all that… then, how do you impress a man…? Show up naked and bring beer… that one.’

‘Oh right,’ I said. 'That explains the naked, but not the lupins.’

‘I forgot I had no beer in the house and I wasn’t going to the shops dressed just in my coat. It was scary enough just driving here like that, terrified of what would happen if I broke down or something.’

I nodded as she looked up at me. ‘But what about the lupins?’

‘Well,' Liz said, as her finger traced down the centre of my chest and down over my stomach. ‘I think a woman needs a little bit of mystery about her… don’t you agree?’

‘I….’ I noticed her hand had stopped moving down my body as she waited for me reply. ‘Yes… yes, of course, I agree. A woman does need some sense of mystery about her,’ I said quickly hopping the hand would begin moving down again.

It did.