Friday, 29 April 2011

The Royal Weeding - The Estate Of The Nation

I have no particular relationship to the Royal Wedding one way or another, neither fan nor critic. I did however want to write a live story of the other side of the media-generated fairytale, seeing as we are in the midsts of a deep economic crisis, we are still fighting wars in the Middle East and Asia, Nature has stepped up her reprisals towards mankind for ravaging her (and who can blame her in our arrogance?) This is a fictional tale, written throughout the course of this Wedding day, about the other side of the festivities.

The fairytale wedding of Prince and Princess a sozzled, distant televised memory, the street parties up and down the land too had run their course for the day. Except for one.

Though there was a lack of residents now in attendance, only a knot of uniformed police at either end of the street. Preserving the scene while a couple of white-suited SOCOs went about their business. But this scene had intentionally played host to an enormous crowd a few hours earlier, so that the cast offs and parings were almost unlimited. Empty bottles, half-full glasses, paper plates, remnants of food, crushed cigarette packets. All the standard signifiers of a right royal knees up. Having to dig over the detritus of a shindig. Less searching for a needle in a haystack, than a particular shell casing at the Somme.

No doubt up and down the country, the parties had already been tidied away. Trestle, occasional and card tables had each been restored back to their surface duties in people's homes. Bucket seats, deck chairs, sun loungers had all been repatriated to the gloomy interiors of garden sheds and conservatories, having never seen so much light of day and the commerce of nestling so many different people's posteriors.

The rubble of food and drink, celebratory ribbons, confetti and ticker tape, presumably now swept into tidy little pyramids garlanding the gutters, awaiting the street cleaning leviathans. Some mounds were more prodigious than others, but all would be uniformly triangular. An ancient echo of the warning beacons that used to dot the coast of this island nation. A more modern reverberation of the street refuse lit up in desultory public protests. Guy Fawkes' bonfires were ineffably larger and more imposing.

Only the bunting would still be in place. Billowing the vestige of the good feelings and unity from earlier in the day. Overhead lines of red, white and blue arrowheads, pointing accusatorily as people congregated beneath them. A rainbow array of ethnicities who for one day at least had come together, but were fingered for their skin deep affiliations from above once they retired behind their closed front doors. Files of shark's teeth, demurring from clamping down on some choice victim morsel. The subject of some parochial grudge lodged within the community awaiting a less prestigious red letter day to spill red. Rows of flimsy plastic Union Jacks, that most ugly and cluttered of flags, blowing in the wind. For the Celtic Fringe, many wished to streamline the flag by removing their standards from it, but of course they wouldn't be having Royal Wedding parties anyway.

Pictures of the happy couple, at least where they had been left in place and not snatched away as a going home present, a reminder of the day's communal warmth. Although in this one restant fin de party scene, there is a picture of the newly weds with their eyes punched out. Unnerving, but perhaps indicative of nothing but one individual's inebriated rage uncorked, but lacking for real focus to settle upon. No one wants to start an affray at a street party of all your neighbours do they? The police treat it for trace evidence and bag it anyway.

For the party under consideration, the denizens had blocked off both entrances to their road. Impromptu barricades to keep the cars out and render the road child safe (how ironic). Not exactly the Paris Commune, but tiny evidence of what could be done. Resourcefulness in action. The collective memory in Ulster wouldn't have had to reach back too far to disinter the recipe. But this wasn't Ulster. This was Tamworth and Truro, Colchester and Carlisle.

The blockages had been struck like a theatre set by the Police as they poured in earlier in the evening. Now a less than convincing buffer had been erected by parking a car at either end and sealing both entrances with their own incident bunting. Two-colours instead of the festive three.

For today has all about securing succession. A royal heir to the throne for the generations to come. A fundamental enough instinct, that one way and another drives most parents. But here where the police are securing a crime scene, the lineage for one mother may have been irrevocably snapped. There concern is that this may be one in a succession of crimes perpetrated by the same individual. A succession they must break.

Eight hours is a long stint for any young child to be kept entertained. Even peppered with plentiful intermissions for food and drink. But as the whole street in attendance, parents were relived of superintendence duties through there being sufficient youngsters to keep each other engaged. So parents were able to let their guard down along with their hair.

Yet the evening ineluctably drew on and the crowds started to thin out. That calculation of preserving and experiencing a moment of history, balanced against the need to get children home already way past their customary bedtime. Both weighed and usually leavened by the continued wish to keep drinking and wring every last drop out of a rare bonhomie among the neighbourhood.

One mother turned around while still perched on a fold-up chair, looking to locate her young son. While there were plenty of people still milling about, there were few blindspots for him to remain screened from her eyes. The few gaggles of children certainly didn't include his capering form either. She rose wearily from the seat and began approaching the adult collocations and asking them the question even though she could see he wasn't with them. Then she approached the kids and asked them if they'd seen her son recently. None made for very good witnesses, overdrawn at the end of the day stock full of impressions and bustle, rubbing their eyes and shrugging their ahistorical shoulders.

Even though her son didn't have a key and she hadn't left the front door open, she returned there to search anywhere. She made a special scrutiny of the back garden in case he had simply taken himself off to curl asleep there. But he was nowhere to be found. Her untrusting instinct that had ensured she locked up her property this morning, hadn't translated to monitoring her son. Now she began to fear the worst.

This time when she pulled on the elbows of people wrapped up in talking, there was a panicked urgency to it. several times she spilled the drink that the people were nursing in their hands while they were talking. People shot her daggers, which barely softened when she explained what might have happened. They were drunk and felt she was likely so as well. One or two started to make cursory searches under the tables and behind bushes and shrubs along the street. But there was no coordinated posse, nor did most choose to break off their chit chat.
Some unwittingly mocked her through lifting up empty bottles and glasses in the hunt for replenishing alcohol. Irritated at the edge being taken off their spiffing day. Dragged back into the grimness that the festivities had offered them a respite from.

For the street parties had been extolled and exhorted by the leader of the country himself. A temporary burst of colour from the greyness, a pomp and ceremony in a land blighted by concrete mundanities. Of course no monies were forthcoming from central funds to help the populace celebrate and transmogrify. So everyone had been encouraged to bring a bottle and a dish, confident in the assumption of a return of at least two bottles and a full stomach. The very never-never economics that had placed the country in its state of current asperity in the first place. The world owes me a living, or a plenitude of comestibles at least, sense of entitlement now being demonstrated by the late night dregs drinkers, feeling imposed upon by the desperate mother's importuning. The rapport sealed with royal approval had become unglued and society sagged back into its misanthropic gloom.

Eventually some bright spark had the idea of calling the Police. They were somewhat dilatory, unsurprising seeing as they had a myriad of street parties to deal with. When two officers finally did show, they listened to her version of the narrative of events, which had most of the details missing, since her boy had been excised from the gathering without her or anyone else seeing. They asked her for some photos of the boy, but she only possessed images on her phone. They debated whether to ask her for the phone, but she clung on to it determined it might remain an inlet for redemption. Even though her son was too young to know her number and everyone she knew was either stood around uselessly in the street, or had retired for the night.

The two officers began door-to-door inquiries, but elicited no more information than the mother had by her elbow to elbow cross-examinations. Those who had left the party to return home, were now knocked up and roused from their beds and furious for the intrusion. They blamed the mother for her rank carelessness.

The Constables called for CID and a family liaison officer who whisked the mother away back to the goad of her empty house. The detectives considered the range of possible scenarios. They discounted the boy having just wandered off, since the blockade on the street would have proved insurmountable for his tiny frame. Therefore they could only contemplate a more sinister advent. Be it he was snatched by a sexual predator and salted away to a dungeon somewhere. Or that he was now a commodity in a market for under-age flesh. Whether still as a sexual transaction, or maybe like that couple out in Portugal, to become ensconced in the bosom of a new family, but then they still didn't know that for sure either. It was unlikely that he had been kidnapped for ransom, this simply wasn't the right economic demographic. Of course the kid could already be murdered and disposed of.

What was certain that foul play was involved. Today of all days, under the gaze of the whole country, someone had weeded out a child from a mass gathering. Were they an opportunist, seizing their chance to meet their desires? This was the day for opportunists.

No, more than likely they acted out of cold, deliberate calculation. They reckoned on having the pick of children out unconcerned in the street amid the comfort of strangers and neighbours. Was he a stranger to this community, or a local? it was impossible to deduce from their doorstep interviews. He would have counted on the open camouflage of today's conviviality. Of throwing the doors open to one and all.

Back to his motivation then. His cynical carpe diem. Was he after competing for column inches? He must have known he'd never bump the Royal Couple from the front pages, that it was simply impossible to give them a run for all the money lavished on their event. But maybe he would be content with second billing?


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Cysters - Friday Flash

In the timeless way, a divine coveted what he supposedly could not have. Thus was a beautiful mortal woman ravished by him.

Soon life was growing in her belly. Groping blindly in their watery pellicle, the hands of two girls discovered one another and each fastened a tiny bud to her twin. From that moment, they never sundered the seal .

They started dancing and pirouetting one other, which set off a great delight in their mother. Now all three of them were melded in joy.

Through such a fusion the girls' senses passed and quickened one to another. They shared and swapped thoughts, for they could read each other without barrier nor impediment. Lacking eyes that could yet see, the sisters touched one another in order to report the beauty of the other. Outside the womb, their mother described her own features of pulchritude and the dazzling beauty of their divine father as she bent forward to whisper to her daughters.

Nearing full growth, the two started plotting for their life outside in the world. They had already sworn an oath that they would never be separated. Yet in offering up their perceptions, they descried the first difference between them. One sister knew herself to be immortal. While the other had no such sense radiating throughout her frangible body. When they occasionally collided one into the other in the swing of their convolutions, the immortal felt no pain. Whereas her sister suffered the full sting.

They abandoned sleep as they feverishly pondered this alarming discovery. Their dances too were cut short as they intently tried to resolve the riddle. Their mother fretted at the cessation of activity within. That they may have curled up and died. Her only faith, that her immortal seducer was still pledging his troth to her and his daughters, so that he must divine them to be healthy.

'Clearly the founding fund of fecundity provided by our father didn't stretch to two bodies. I'm so sorry to have claimed all the sap for myself oh sister of mine, inadvertent as it was'.

'No need for apology dearest sister heart'.

'Perhaps if I can make myself bleed some of my own vital essences on to your own flesh-'

'We both know that is not possible. Nor should you even contemplate such an act. You have to preserve yourself intact'.

'So do you sister love. For I can't bear to live without you for even a minute'.

'But you won't have to. Not for many a year yet. We shall live a full and long life together'.

'But you will leave me. In the end. I shall be bereft of your loving company. Though of course it will be infinitely worse for you once life and spirit has departed your handsome frame'.

'I believe it will be worse for you dear sister, for I will not know any different. All the shared beauty I will have, will end for me sharply and forever'.

'But not me. I credit immortality to be a worse disposition. Think of an eternity musing on what I no longer have to cherish. It is a merciless punishment to be sure'.

'You are not to think like that sister heart. Cherish the gifts we are to share while together, for that's all I have to feast on. They will be taken away from me, but you have the opportunity to preserve the memory of what we once had'.

'Day after day after day with no end. No escape from myself. No means of sharing it with you once you are gone No escape from never having you back in my arms, holding my hands as now. I simply cannot live with that knowledge'.

'But you have to. This is our respective fates. Both condemned to solitude'.

'Perhaps not. The immortal can cheat never dying, much as the mortal may cheat death'.

'How so?'

'Even immortals have to go through the process of being born of woman. There is no difference between us there'.

'Yes I suppose so. But I cannot see-'

- 'By never being born. Cling on to me, hold me like we are never going to be prised apart, even by Ajax's spear. Tighter. So much tighter. We must squeeze the breath from one another, for we are never going to leave our mother's cave'.

So the sisters clung to each other for grim non-life. They were guilty at what they might be causing their mother to feel, but their sisterly love was yet stronger. For her part, the mother could not help but notice that this time there was something amiss. Further reinforced when her consort accused her of withholding his offspring, not wanting to release them into the light of the world fearing they might repudiate her as a mere mortal. Her body had grown ugly in his eyes and if she was not going to release her infant hostages, then no part of her was any longer ravishing to him.

Scorned by her lover, rejected by her children who steadfastly refused to emerge and greet her, she began to waste away. She truly did surrender her pulchritude as she railed day and night against her own body that had betrayed her. Her skin washed away by lamentations, her heart fatally wounded by desertion.

There was no one to mourn her. For inside her belly the twins had been delighted by the cessation of nourishment passing along to them from their hostess. As the mother's hungering body turned in on itself, the girls' too started to undergo a metamorphosis. They started calcifying, as the callow membranous skin was reabsorbed into their bones. The capillaries forming the veins of the stone. Soon all movement was stopped up behind a petrous wall and they stood, hand to hand as fully-fledged statues. Once the cowling body of their dead mother fell away, their mineral cast was exposed for all to see.

Never born, yet never dying. As old as the rocks themselves.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Hollywood, Lord Of Gore - friday flash

Thanatos drummed his falanges as he surveyed the sub-committee's sunken faces before him. The darkest lights of their generation, yet none of this skeletal crew could eclipse the abyssal infinity of his own current glower. None would meet his eye, huddling their skulls deep within the shroud of their cowls. Dark, his mood was positively stygian. Or negatively so.

The sub-committee had hit a brick wall. One they were unable to scale, tunnel under or simply detonate and push through. These fine, perverted minds, the brightest dark stars around, and finally they had sunk to their limits of depravity. They had platted so low, there seemed nowhere else left to plumb.

Even an old faithful like Stacy A-Po had seemed to have lost her mojo. She had been charged through the ages with religious slayings. And how she had risen to the challenge, evolving from stonings, crucifixions, witch burnings with faggots, all the way through to her meisterwerk the suicide bomber. But the tour de force of the Twin Towers had left her spent. No place else to soar. Or plummet.

Gill O'Tine's political sump had also apparently dried up. Hanging, drawing and quartering had long had its day in the dust. Heads on poles deftly booted on the other foot by being mirrored in regicide beheadings, but that too had diminished in impact and popularity. Dictators hung on lamp-posts had become debased war crime executions captured on phone cameras. Defenestrations, impalings, relay teams of sniper-assassins, even the extemporised ice pick in the head, had all been defeated at the polls.

Roman Holiday's special portfolio for genocides had lingered on past the Holocaust, through Cambodia and into Rwanda. From high tech to low, railway timetables and gas ovens, to polythene bags placed over the face and machetes, Roman's big eyes had surveyed them all, but scale ultimately steamrolled over him and left him a shadow of his former bureaucratic self. Death had become by numbers rather than by the numbers.

Criminal gain and simple stripped back sociopathy had always been a fecund wellspring. From rape, pillage and slaughter, walking the plank, cut-throats, Thuggees, acid-bath murderers, St Valentine's Day massacres to Colombian neckties, Della N Quincey had surpassed herself in her resourcefulness and enterprise. But like any corrosive talent that yields up all the rewards and riches the world has to offer, Della had become corrupted and in her venality had squandered and pawned her once priceless gifts. She was addicted to several of the illicit drugs she had introduced as a double bubble of culling addicts as well as instigating lethal gang turf wars.

And what precisely was the reason for the current malaise? That they found themselves outstripped and outdone. Every single stroke of artistry they brought to the field of death and decimation, out-trumped by a new player on the scene. A Holly Wood. There were even rumours that Della Quincey's addiction had been initiated by Ms Wood and that to score her drugs she had sold her soul to become a technical adviser to the dread Wood and traded insider knowledge.

Ms Wood however executed all her extinctions and expunctions as counterfeits. With make-up, special effects and pixels. There was not one single method of dispatch dreamed up originally by Thanatos' crew, that Ms Wood hadn't aped and recreated. In loving, voyeuristic detail. Yet the biggest slight, the greatest Indictment, was that each death was part of a narrative. It had some meaning and served to drive the story forward.

If there was one thing Thanatos had lifelong struggled to establish, it was the purposelessness of death.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Figurative Representation of My WIP

The novella is called "Unspeakable" and is about all the things that never get said that maybe ought to within the claustrophobia of a family unit. With tragic consequences.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Politics in 153 words

Conservatives believe in Original Sin, that man is innately flawed and those at the bottom of society's pile can't and shouldn't be helped.

Progressives/ Socialists believe that it is only economic circumstances that prevent all people fulfilling their innate potential and such circumstances have to be ameliorated.

Liberalism originated as a belief in freedom from restrictions such as the free market and free trade. (Classical Liberalism) Then it switched to freedom from oppression, a set of rights underpinning a certain minimum quality of life (Social Liberalism).

The irony is that the Conservatives yearn for the free market and economic unrestrictiveness, but are against the human rights social programme, so they are in part Liberal. The Progressives believe in the need for human rights, but that fundamentally admits to the Original Sin view of humanity, that man acts so perniciously that we need protecting from one another.

There are no new political ideas under the sun.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Kids On Dream School (Are Alright)

I've been following the #dreamschool on twitter in real time and I'm appalled and shocked at the level of abuse and vitriol hurled at the kids on the show. Actually not shocked at all, since this is car crash tv, a bread and circuses from the safety and comfort of people's living rooms.

"Scum", a "tragic waste of body parts", and the 'c-' word are just some of the insults bandied about. Channel 4 must be rubbing their hands in glee. If you don't like it, you can always switch the tv off...

But I think the show for all its failings is doing something terribly useful here. It's opening up the eyes of the myopic, the sheltered, the rose-tinted spectacled, to a mentality and attitude presumably they don't encounter in their everyday lives. Well bully for them, cos you can see kids and attitudes like this on the top deck of virtually any London bus at school home time.

It's aggressive, it's loud, it refuses to show respect for age, it won't back down when challenged. There's no point whingeing about such characteristics, the genie's already out of that particular bottle. I think part of the shock expressed on twitter is that these characteristics are being evidenced in girls as much as boys. Girls standing up for themselves and being confrontational and unbending. Again, this isn't new, but maybe people haven't encountered it.

I'm not going to defend it, but you ought to be aware where it emerges from. It develops from those who rightly or wrongly perceive themselves to be backed into a corner, to have nowhere to turn. usually economically, though interestingly Dream School shows it to be just as likely to be middle class kids. There is a large element of persecution and threat to the ego as part of it, again whether this bears up to the scrutiny of reality is neither here nor there, it's all about how they perceive the threats to themselves. They turn and they rear up and they give not only as good as they get, but a disproportionate reaction. And soon it gets inured as a habit, that level and pitch is constantly wheeled out, a ratchet that cannot be reset. Yes it's mixed in with a sense of entitlement, and when that entitlement isn't there, it's expressed as persecution and injustice.

The reflex to not back down, to not give ground, to preserve your own self-respect, is described with great clarity by Jack Henry Abbott "In The Belly Of The Beast" and George Jackson "Letters From A Soledad Brother". Both are by writers in the US Prison system in the 60's, when they stood up to the brutal prison regimes not only with a don't back down attitude, but also the political philosophies of resistance of Marxism, of the Black Panthers and other credos. It's not exclusively tied to race and ethnicity, since Abbott was white. The attitude soon transferred to the streets of major US cities as jailbirds were released and fed into gang culture, which is a low state of ongoing war between 'armies', with all the accompanying notions of having each other's back and not turning and running. Sleights, disrespect and others symbols all form part of the inviolability that gangs have to appear to be giving off to their enemies.

Like everything post-war, what happens in the US, eventually turns up in the UK. We have our own dreary gang culture and colours, where the knife is the weapon of choice rather than the gun. We had football hooligan firms and crews, who in the main were content to fight their wars with fists and clubs. Jimmy Boyle in Glasgow wrote his own version of resisting a prison system called "A Sense Of Freedom" and although Boyle himself was a political animal, there was no widespread politicisation of prison inmates as there was in America. (This may be changing now with Radical Islam making some headway within UK prisons).

What started as a means of resistance in horrific prison regimes, now exists in a watered down state as a general mentality exemplified in certain tranches of youth. Respect in an environment where there isn't any to be had. You live in a sink estate, reliant on your own powers and the strength of your clique to prevail, with such an attitude being demonstrated constantly as part of that process. When you go to school, even those not on your sink estates are exposed to these same attitudes and they are adapted either in appreciative homage, or because school mirrors the same culture as the estates. The attitude is viral.

So my point is those people who are yelling at the kids on Dreamschool, (what could be more inane than shouting at their own tellies?) need to be aware of such an attitude of mind. It lies behind those teenagers stabbed to death on our city streets at the rate of about 2 a month. It lies behind those unmanageable and unteachable failing schools up and down the country (a story emerged only yesterday of teachers walking out of a school in Lancashire as unworkable because of kids' behaviour). The tv audience can scream all they like about these kids being unemployable, getting nowhere in life with such an attitude and the like. But these type of kids have already been effectively written off as it is, as just that. Unemployable and beyond saving. Their parents were thrown on to the scrapheap in the 1980's and just so you don't imagine this to be Party Political, Brown & Blair did absolutely nothing for them either. Now we are reaping what we sow.

Some of the kids on the show are pulling their lives together and making the most of the opportunity given them. That gives us hope that no one is a total write-off. But the resources you need to throw at them is hugely problematical, since the country right now isn't blessed with wealth and resources. But first you have to be aware of the issues, before trying to weigh up the priorities in what you do and don't try and tackle.

Dream School if it's done anything at all, has hopefully made people more aware of the problem facing us all as a society and those discarded into its margins. Only they're not invisible. Stop treating them as pantomime villains and start considering all our responsibility in helping them and thereby helping ourselves as a society.