Monday, 15 June 2020

Relaxing Lockdown - A Rant

The queue outside Nike's flagship store in London on the day of reopening

Let me tell you why this image fills me with despair. This is a shot of customers queuing outside Nike's flagship store in the West End of London, on its first day of reopening after certain restrictions on lockdown were lifted. They don't seem to be observing social distancing, though I know the store has taken precautions to institute it. The virus that has claimed 40,000+ lives in this country, is seemingly outweighed by the need to purchase a new pair of sneakers. But they're all wearing masks Marc. They are indeed, masks certainly help, but they do not guarantee protection. That means they impart false confidence, people get sloppy in their habits. Besides, I don't get the sense of the folk gathered here having made calculations of their own personal risk. Swishy-swooshy shoes out-trumps that.

Now I get that it could be viewed as an assertion of freedom, that finally we have been released from virtual house arrest. But to me it rather serves as testimony to being enslaved by corporate consumption. What could be more important after 13 weeks than buying the latest Nike models? Did all their shoes fall apart under lockdown? From all that exercising they probably undertook (irony klaxon). Equally, did all the folk waiting for entry into Primark (below) have to replace clothes that had succumbed to being moth fodder in the last 3 months?

How do you best express your recovery of freedom? Apparently you go out and look to buy goods that are not perishable in the short-term as food is and which have been branded as non-essential for a quarter of the year. It demonstrates the stranglehold certain goods and logos have on our imaginations and desires, that they become our first course of action, the number one thing we reach for in the outside world. Consumption is a declaration of who you are, but only after having had your independence of choice utterly manipulated by the marketing of these brands as 'the must own' or 'the latest model'. The same shrivelled imagination that left some people completely unable to make their own entertainment during lockdown, because they've always had somebody else or something else do it for them.

And yes we all want to support our local stores and to help reignite the economy that has slumped since March. But I can't help feeling such altruism is not high on the shopping list of these consumers. They are feeding their own appetites first and foremost, so that any assistance to the country as a whole is somewhat secondary.

Typically it's women who are said to be obsessed with shopping and particularly shopping for clothes. But the majority of those outside Nike are male. I think there is probably something about their identities and how they see themselves, that they have to associate themselves with global sports brands that axiomatically stamps them as athletes and men of prowess, even if they don't chase after balls or hit things with bats. It's that same drive that makes you want to have the latest Apple product that replaces last year's model. A Frankenstein's monster patchwork of globally available, logo-driven identities that supposedly constructs your unique, individual essence. And makes you feel totally invulnerable. Against a virus that takes no notice of brand names.

Friday, 27 March 2020

The Devil's Paintbox - Flash Fiction

The easel’s trinity of legs stood planted in the soil. The artist with scarecrow smock and hayseed hat stood appointed at it, as the farmer approached brandishing his three-pronged pitchfork towards him. “What in Lucifer’s name are you doing on my land?”

“Representing God’s beauteous creation” the artist said, holding his brush up to match the perpendicularity of a tree marking the boundary of the field.

“Thou shalt not make any graven image, or any likeness that in Heaven above, or-“ the bucolic blustered, red fire pointilling his cheeks.

 “In his creation of Nature my good man. There is no depiction of any being here”. The painter with careful deliberation, brought the tip of his brush to kiss the surface of the canvas and held it in place, echoing Michelangelo’s God Created Adam on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, which he had seen and paid sublunary homage to, with secular reverence and human awe. 

“Yet your trestle thing there, has the three appendages of Satan himself, so I say your crafting is for diabolic purposes”. He waved his horned staff in the air as if, in his imagination, he was slashing the canvas perched some yards ahead of him.

“And so does your pitchfork does it not?”

“My pitchfork is aimed at the Heavens, doing godly work tilling the Lord’s soil for the bounty He provides. Your trident is inverted, pointing straight down to Hell’s abyss”. The farmer caught himself from dabbing at the ground and besmirching his trusty implement.

“And yet I stand here in your field, not only for the vista, but for the divine light afforded here. You invoked the curse of Lucifer before, which of course you know means the bringer of light”.  

“Blasphemer!” emphasised and punctuated by two thrusts of the barbs, six bolts of angel lightning, though lacking any illuminating fire. 

“You are a harvester of the soil are you not? Well then we are brothers in arms, though my modest paintbrush be my godly instrument”. He dabbed at the paint on his palette, loading up on pigment before plunging it into another hued gobbet and swirling the bristles in a zealous eddy to blend them.

“How so, when it is doubtless made of the same material as any besom ridden to a witches sabbat?”

The artist ceased his motions and tilted the plane of his palette to demonstrate for his inquisitor. “Because all my tinctures come out of the earth just like your crops. Red cinnabar, yellow orpiment(*), orange ochre, green malachite and brown umber are all drawn from the soil itself, while glorious lapis lazuli, veritably the mirror of the sky, is like a stone sown in the earth. Gypsum white, the very same substance you use to fertilise the fruits of the earth. The stained glass in the cathedral, the altar frescos, each rendered with these outputs yielded beneath your mattock. We should all be giving thanks for such bounteous gifts; you do yours on your knees in church; I stood here at my easel, but we are both making our invocations”. 

* orpiment (arsenic) and cinnabar (mercury) are both sulphide ores, sulphur of course being the constituent of brimstone, the supposed pertinent odour of Hell.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Generation Loss - Short Story

Content warning: This is a story about institutionalised historic child abuse.

Course we didn’t call them predators back in the day. Nor paedophiles neither. As our social betters constantly reminded us back then, we lacked for the benefit of their Classical education. Latin to enter Law or the Church, Greek for medicine. No, in our vulgar vernacular, we would have referred to them as kiddy fiddlers or child molesters. Not like now when people scream and shake their fists at police vans with vertiginous window slits on our collective behalf. Barely able to enunciate a syllable in their fury. Being jostled by the photographers from the gutter press. Predators of a different sort, but drawn from our very same class, albeit with their cloaca intact and as undisturbed as their moral sensibilities. Eleven Plus more than common entrance exam, they could certainly string a sentence together, or a couple of words at least. Banner headlines. Where have they been all this time? Just where were their words until now? No of course playground gossip couldn’t meet your standards of evidence, but we have been proved right haven’t we? In spades. A Scottish stand up comedian also knew just the same as us. But since his schtick was outrage, you all just laughed outrageously and that was the limit of it. Defanged and purged of all rage. Soften the belly rather than sharpen the broadsword. Only the problem with that, is then society merely rolls over to have its tummy tickled. All the while others offstage spurt into our suppurating swollen arses. Reclining there purring, even as we are prostrate mewling. Catamite caterwauling. You lot having a good belly laugh while we are face down in carpet fibres or Egyptian linen, having our sides split by far more heft than a legionnaire’s spear, our tears silently importuning the warp and woof. We are red eyed, flushed rosy cheeked, our slapped buttocks livid crimson and the crowning glory, our rubicund anuses. How we matched one another, burst blood vessel for burst blood vessel. Theirs in ecstatically flaring, burgundy clown noses. What a hoot. 

Historical sex abuse? You got that right. Institutionalised all the way back to Ancient Greece. Amongst the aristocracy. Pedagogic ephebophilia. Underpinning the social and moral values of their society. Specious philosophical and poetic propagations of pederasty (my Classical auto-didactic Education obtained online). Plato’s “Symposium” posited that it strengthened the hand of democracy over tyranny, as a man would fight to defend his love in the face of despotic imperatives. Through Medieval knights with their squires and the rites de seigneur, of course girls could be married off as children back then. Dynastic pederastic. Church and State. Of clergy exorcising their demons by transplanting them into convent girls and choirboys. Repudiating the symbolism of the Eucharist in their hunger for my blood and body, a rectal chalice playing host to their wafer fat crosiers. Teachers with canes, rattans, blackboard pointers, all manner of instructional scourges, whipping across flesh exposed bare by schoolboy shorts. Further glossed with public school fagging. Wellington claimed that victory at Waterloo was brought about on the playing fields of Eton. Not just Eton, but St Pauls, Harrow and Winchester too. Wykehamist and The Guards, a well worn aristocratic career path. Trailing a cold stream of cum in its wake. British society forged in the smithery of porksworded degradation. The Establishment established upon gaping rumps and prematurely penetrated pudenda. A kleptocracy of our youth. Even when not born into silver spoon privilege, you didn’t have to hide your desiderata. You just applied to the Civil Service for a job in the colonies. Out of sight out of mind. Turn a blind eye? The eye didn’t have to be blind. Different rules applied there. Initiation rites and child brides. Colonial female genital mutilation by sarcous lancet. Perfectly natural. Good as law, not that the fuzzy-wuzzies had law until us British brought it to them. Two world wars knocked the stuffing out of the aristocracy. Saw the end of empire and the loss of untrammelled access. The easy pickings. But not the end of our inveterate deflowering. Britain was rebuilt and reconstructed. A country fit for heroes fabricated on the back of six to eight inches of scabby, scaly pneumatic drills, pouring cold concrete and cement to seal up the gapes and breaches in our flesh. With AIDS in the 1980s, suddenly children with their virgin clean blood were even more prized as safe. And today, they perpetually bang on about British values. A Britain built on our backs as we lay on our stomachs. These days everything’s about identity isn’t it? What it means to be British. You never asked for ID proof of age, even as you stripped us of our identities. You rip and tear the tissue of our membrane in order to preserve the fabric of society intact. So you can go on your way and legislate hypocrisy, or perform catharsis rituals for you and your audience both.

Each power shift in political and economic class we anticipated might emancipate us. After the aristocracy, we discovered that the bourgeoisie were no better. That we were Moloch’s children. The offspring of self-made fathers who had nothing to do with parenting as they courted Mammon. All relationships reduced to commodity and exchange. And until we were productive, we were just a drain on the domestic housekeeping. Workhouse rough trade, low rent boys. A perfectly elastic supply of under-age gamins and urchins, with perfectly inelastic sphincters for you to buck the laced up trend. Yet even they were not the true parasites. No, a new post-war class of arrivistes and parvenus fetched/filched/felched up. Deriving from our own class. Social climbers like poison ivy. Cultural capitalists. Pop stars and footballers who could buy your crumbling country pile ten times over. Who gave us all what we craved for. You peddle us these dreams then you infect us through them. Of being dancers, singers, footballers, or just even inhaling the perfumed air of our heroes in the same TV studios. But your upstart stench was corrupt up close. Stardom reeks of fetid half-life decay. Secreting sweat, animal musk and roused pheromones, only we were too callow to arrogate them. But we were savvy enough to make comparisons. We gauged how limited and stunted your imaginations were. For folk supposedly fired by fecund creativity. Since you could only ape your social superiors in how you spray marks of your wealth. How you displayed and conspicuously consumed it. But you had no breadth of experience. It hadn’t, couldn’t, be bred into you. So your champagne, cigars, silks, mood music, were all of inferior quality to those of the blue bloods, because you couldn’t tell the difference. You didn’t know any better. With your palates jaded before their time. We knew, we had a better idea, because of the smack of it on you, just as we could smell it on them. We’d been rogered by a better class of paedophile, with better Class A drugs than you and we detected better vintages, greater purity. Epicures rather than gourmands. Sweeter and less sickly sweat exuded from their stately pores. Their breath marginally more aromatic, their saliva less granular. Their cum tasting of higher quality tinctures than yours could muster. We were less likely to develop cavities and caries noshing on their posh nob knobs than yours, packed full of your sugar-high takeaway and fast food super-vitamins. There was inherent deference cinched into our relationships with them. But with you, it was just degenerate and raven. 

We are the broken generation. Generation loss. So what’s new? What’s changed is that we answered back. We didn’t suffer us little children to come to you. Behind our legal screen of anonymity we couldn’t be seen, but we most definitely and determinedly made ourselves obscenely heard. No longer stiff upper lips, tough to maintain when you have a tumescent tallywhacker thrusting between quivering labia. We don’t care lest you make good on your threat to kill our families if we spill the beans on your spilt seed. For our families are broken asunder and dispersed and neglectful, so we despise them all anyway. Why else would we be rounded up and concentrated in children’s homes and on at risk registers, for you to procure with a big bulls eye target painted on our chests? We were hoist on your petards not by our own. You ran us up the shafts of your flagpoles and then saluted us. The Red, Black and Blue. The involuntary union with Jack the Impaler. Like the Act of Union yoking the Scots into Great Britain. But now the Scots too have found their voice as they looks to tear down the flag and rend it into its separate stripes. It took Scotland over 400 years to make its case, so none to shabby for just fifty or so until we pointed our fingers with nails bitten to the quick in order to accuse our abusers. Mind you, now that we’ve raised our objections, the authorities can’t even sort out a judge to hear our complaints of historical assault. Hardly surprising since the judiciary is riddled with sexual peccadillos, though that’s never stopped them sitting on the Bench weighing up the fates of their malfeasant social inferiors. Funny word peccadillo. Derived from the original Latin for ‘sin’, yet the Romance languages, in this case Spanish, dilute it to an indiscretion; similarly the French, a faux-pas. A wrong step, a mere slip. Where’s the romance in violation? So can I just reappoint us closer to its original moral weight, where ‘discretion’ is the ability to act out of one’s own free judgement? Something we are forever denied by this monstrous phallusy. 

It’s not your fault the therapists counsel. You did nothing wrong. These are bad, wicked people. Exploiting your vulnerability. And thereby ‘therapist’ splits into ‘the’ ‘rapist’, as we are plunged all over again into our emotional turmoil, fraught with all the promises and oaths against divulgence we were made to swear to our transgressors, only now self-imposed. Why were we so vulnerable? Why were we so weak? Why were we the ones picked out, picked on and picked clean? Others ask us why we males didn’t fight back, what bare our milk teeth you mean? No they contend, once we’d reached maturity - overlooking that it is forever suspended and our body fails and quails away from us - why didn’t we strapping lads go seeking after our violators and exact revenge? Else us little girls were teases, who led our vilipenders on and got what we deserved for our provocative ways and raiment. Do I look like a tease, stood here sporting torn hymen, mouth gouged into a permanent rictus with downturned corners? Smile, it will never happen. Oh you can’t, because it already has. Do I seem over-sexualised to you? Rather I’m desexualised. They have de-pithed and decorticated me. Pulled all my petals off. He rapes me, he rapes me not. He rapes me, he rapes me not. No, he definitely is raping me. Before puberty, already there will be no futurity of blooms and blossoms. My genitalia have been deadheaded. Scarred and cicatrised pudenda. I am a cut flower in a vase of stagnancy. Before I had ever bled, they had plugged and blotted me with their gnarled pulpy tampons. They foreshortened and accelerated my pubescence. Blood marked. Difficult for the naked eye to distinguish menstrual blood from the blood of injured tissue. Impossible when both become permanent wounds. You don’t think we already torment ourselves enough with these thoughts? 

Yet now we are emboldened with the aegis of social media. The virtual Gorgon’s head on our breastplate that enables us to stitch back our tongues in place. However, it is a double edged sword. And we cut ourselves. Crowdsourcing shared tales of abuse also invites reproaches to get over it. Get over ourselves. There is not so much abuse for us naming septuagenarian disc jockeys, especially dead ones who have thereby cheated justice and had their Twitter accounts closed down. Those never brought to book now not in a position to update their Facebook. Yet if we dare broach the partisan sacrosanctity of a football club, then we are rounded on with death threats and yes, further promises of adult rape. Why are you only just bringing this up now? Why haven’t you mentioned it before? Well we did and you cocked a deaf’un. In the main we stayed mute because they had a whole network behind them to keep their secrets safe. Chockfull of character witnesses who claim they never witnessed any impropriety. He’s not that kind of guy. He wouldn’t take the chance of ruining his reputation. He’s got a career to think of. Yeah and we were the riders in the green room contractually codicilled in as part of that career. Served up on a silver salver. No play, no play. You move heaven and earth to protect the stellar entertainers, the ones that keep the rest of our kind entranced. To defend the talent, who ironically in turn, call us young things the talent. Less a false modesty, rather a salacious leer. They send their snatch squad of fixers, their unofficial talent spotters, out into the gathering auditorium audience and invite us backstage. What chance of we for revelation, when even the Royal Household is at it? At us. With friends in the highest of possible places. In palaces. 

Cut off the rapists’ hands goes the cry. For this is not so much a crime of sex but one of power. Except those with power have valets, aides-de-camp, batmen, stewards, equerries, man servants, internuncios, factotums, flunkeys and all manner of lackeys to carry out their will. So any of these hired hands could in their stead, throw us up against the wall, kick-splay our legs, spreadeagle our arms and guide their Master’s member into the holes of us junior masters. Or even the bourgeoisie without a household retinue to brace any underhanded unhandedness, would just jab, jab, jab us continually backwards with their engorged middle leg, until they too have us hard up against the wall and unerringly pathfind its one-eyed slither towards the winking anal bull’s eye. There is no escape, how can there be when the commonwealth is constructed upon those yet to reach the age of majority? 

See you in Court. With the peccadildoing judges. Wonder how many of them we will know first hand?

Thursday, 16 January 2020

"Tells" - Flash Fiction

The stakes were modest but the competitiveness was voracious. Four studs soldered around the poker table. Unfurling game face masks, over the socialised visors they already sported. But they were always breached by the show and tells of involuntary tics and pigmentations, that flushed their true subjectivities from beneath. Emotional striations on the scratching post of masculinity.  

First was Donnie, sporting sunglasses indoors to conceal his eye twitch, but who was habitually betrayed by all the other facial muscles which remained unveiled; genuflecting wrinkles; quivering dimples; the inward pursing of lips for a dud hand; and puckered for a half-decent one. Then there was Todd, begloved in order to cloak his excitable eczema, but only providing a secondary membrane for when his fingers drummed on the table at two differing syncopations, congruous to the anticipated satisfaction prompted by the cards. Nor could the gloves save him, from the stress reveal of the increasing tightening of his knuckles, by which he found it increasingly difficult to grip and fan his cards as the night wore on. As for Carlos, his whole body was his tell. Slumping back in his chair with despair; or lurching forward to compulsively stack his chips from ziggurat to minaret and back again. Babel tower invocations to the divine, to send him the succubus-muse of Lady Luck. 

Finally, there was Donnie, whose tells had nothing to do with the cards he held. He sniffed uncontrollably, though unnoticed by him, as the cards were being shuffled and the antes tossed in; while the pockets were being dealt; during the flop and the fold; all the way through to the raking of the pot. But his most blatant tell, was the outsized diameter of his permanently flared nostrils. Scarfskin gouged by corrosive chemical powders, while all manner of impromptu conduits, cannulas and flues further furrowed the flesh. Naturally, each could read the tells of the others arrayed around the table, but kept that knowledge pressed into their chests, no less unflinchingly than their hands of cards.