Subject: From Dick Bruna’s “Miffy’s Magic Weblog” (2005)
Time: 2006 Dec 18 14:58:00
"What are you doing, Miffy?" asked Boris Bear.
"I’m putting a comment onto the Magic Weblog," explained Miffy.
"The Magic Weblog? What is that?" Boris took a seat beside her, very curious indeed.
"Well, anything you comment onto the Magic Weblog comes true." Miffy explained.
As an example, Miffy began typing into a new field. "I wish that Boris Bear would take his fucking hand off my knee."
Astonished, Boris reeled backwards. It worked!
Subject: Blogs D’Amour: Transformers
Time: 2006 Dec 18 12:07:00
A weekend serving Christmas succour to lonely transvestites (usually sub, often straight) at my second Munch. Hard enough to find a lover with overlapping desires; hard enough dealing with outsiderly feelings and the butterfly transience of sex scenes. Imagine the difficulty of finding a girl who’ll not only rate your New Look denim mini, but be keen as rum balls to spank you in it. At our table, MissX told the TVs I was ‘more like a lesbian domme’ which, in a quiet way, scanning the pumped up rugby players who prefer the bedroom mega-feisty, felt like the biggest compliment of my life (bought a pro-domme riding crop from Fettered Pleasures, woven leather and worth every penny. It doesn’t bark ‘testosterone’, just a streak of black neurosis, there in my hand.) The room was much livelier and more dressy this time. A trio of arresting dominas in matt rubber circled about, one with a collared boyf. In the corner, a sixty-plus Hell’s Angel held a petite skinhead huddled at his feet, occasionally petting her and feeding her a mince pie. Men in kilts added to the good atmosphere. The TVs asked if I was going to Hades (the club, although why be picky at this stage?), which made me wonder if I prefer these Lynchian pub-meets, and/or what I’d wear to a nightclub. If the purpose is to feel sexy, I’d avoid fetish. Options discussed range from the unnerving (leather burkha, latex Amish), or a bourgeois three piece, spanker-at-heart, Ciccone-of-the-manor. Some concurrences around the table: domination seems easier but is far from it; subs can be devious - topping from the bottom is a developed part of the game. No grand advice for lonely transvestites this Christmas - swim with it rather than against? The less a man has the harder he clings to it, and all. Maybe it’s the cling that hurts. Go hyper-solo, build your inner lover and her warm aurora, as keenly as your outer Simone, your Trinny or Ameesha. Finally, off to commune with the sweet and shy okapis at London Zoo, while the W1GS Christmas chin-chin ended up spinning on Dieter Rams chairs in a Wigmore Street furniture shop.
Time: 2006 Dec 11 21:22:00
I’ve never had anything manufactured before*
, everything has been hand-stitched. Ran up some spearminty Op Art for Vic (as DonTempi). Interesting to discuss bleed margins, Quark templates and dots per inch with the pressing plant. Anyone wishing to chew on bogus nostalgia, ‘songs from adverts that never quite existed’, can visit Don
’s MySpace. He went for vinyl, although I suggested an 8-track cartridge
(ho ho) which a plugger
(hee hee) pays a tasty bag of crank
(har) to a publicist
(arf) to put on a disc jockey
(haha) in order to broadcast
(titter) to the public
(whoo). Squirting from my brain to yours
is soo 2002. The DPS 38 song cycle is now available at the DPS music page, whilst Angela
P is guns blazing, her ‘Piney Gir Country Roadshow’ the Radio Times Album of the Year, no less. A formidable crooner, I remember she walked into the room, belted out two songs for ‘Battle Royale’ in one take, then had to dash. Marvellous. *
Actually that's a lie - the first song I ever wrote was released
Subject: Blogs D'Amour: Intimacy/Aftercare
Time: 2006 Dec 07 11:00:00
A weekend applying a Wartenberg neurowheel, via bondage tape, spat fluids, gags, a leash, a riding crop (fore and aft), and gaining in oral confidence (never insulting, just in terms of asking what I want). Warm Kirschwein and waffles at the German Christmas market, then Birmingham University’s Barber Institute to silently ask the bird in René Magritte’s Flavour of Tears if BDSM is to the benefit or detriment of anyone’s mental health. It expands at both ends, an encompassing ‘dom shame’ when communally in the foetal position, marrowbone wanting to walk out your ears and onto the next train for Penzance, tends to seep into a need for ‘aftercare’ and a sense of responsibility for her emotional wellbeing - more than mere condom-in-wastebasket consequences (although that's an enhanced factor). Here, used beside user, I don’t have time for (or much right to) shame (which is possibly another objective of the thing). Despite ‘That was great’ (in that something felt unleashed, something toppled, I guess) I’m still cautious, at outskirts, as if losing caution means leaving the real world behind. Still can’t ‘Slut!’ or ‘Whore!’ and René Magritte won’t be much help with alternatives (‘On your knees, pipe!’ For spankers-at-heart, pipes are fitting). What is odd is how little aftercare can be required, to be in the kitchen fifteen minutes later, fixing cheese on toast and discussing the weather. Dark parlour games, for many, I’m sure, to transport them to otherworlds, submit to the sea of domestica, where the ultimate clutter-clearer, the de-ego-iser, joins life’s draining board. Won’t see MissX next weekend, but we’ve decided to visit Kraków for New Year.
Subject: From Irvine Welsh’s “Texcoco Nights” (2000)
Time: 2006 Dec 07 11:05:00Rentacatl looked doon, then had tae crawl forward a wee bit tae see further. Begbopoca wis hoppin' mad, very literally. "Ya stupid cunt. Ya stooped wee radge cunt bastar’ fuck-an’-a-half arsehole. Go git it! Go git it!"
Rentacatl edged forward a fraction meer. Tha drop intae tha volcanie lucked terrifying. "A’m no goin’ intae tha volcanie."
"It’s ma fuckin’ peyote. Go git it!" Begbopoca punched him on tha shoulder.
Rentactl didnae know wha’ happened. Yin minute he was sittin’ there, looking at a lovely big leaf wrap ful o’nicely calloused peyote cuttins, an’ tha next it wis oot o’his fingers and doon tha volcanie.
"A cannae. It’s protecteed ba’ Chantico, tha Goddess o’volcanies. She’ll throw a fuckin seizure an’ destroy tha’ village."
"An’ wit’s meer important? A wee village or ma peyote? Cortés is comin’ anywae. We might as weel al’ go as mashed as trumpets."
Begbopoca had a point. Ta be honest, Rentactl wis half past trumpet an’ had been fir days. Somebidy wis supposed tae stay sober durin peyote. A trip sitter, tae make sure his mate came back tae earth in yin piece. Fuckin poor choice Begbopoca wis fir tha’ job. Tha’ mindwarp wis either buttered as three sheets, bashin dafties heeds in, or all three at yince. Six days in tha desert, both o’ them hadnae washed nir eaten. Rentactl suspected tha’ he might a’eaten sim sand an’ wee white flowers, bit it wis possibly a mirage. Eventually, yin o’them had convinced th’other tha tha volcanie wis in fact Tonatiuhichan, tha higher par’dise, an they’d spent tha entire friggin’ mornin’ on thir knees, elbas an’ arses climbin’.
"A seed ‘Go git it!’" Begbopoca gee a proper shove an’ doon his pawl fell.
Rentactl bumped ontae a ledge and grabbed a branch fir safety. His skin wis pishin’ buckets an’ he wis near on hallucinatin’ when he lucked up at his pawl. "Eff ye sideways, AssTech," he moothed. AssTech wis thur wee pet name fir yin another. It wis wit th’ Spanyards called thim but they felt it wis time tae reclaim an’ politically neutralise tha’ term. Still, no waitin’ fir a response, Rentactl decideed tae descend a wee bit further, five meer ledgies max, intae tha damp bowels o’ tha peyote-theevin’ volcanie. Where wis it?
On tha third ledge doon, Rentactl wis disturbed bae a red snake emergin’ frae a crevice in the walls. It didnae luck harmful bit it had a queer wae aboot it, like it wis watchin’ him. Then tha fucker spake. "I never leave a vissitor alone with his thoughtss. Nothing is worse than being alone with one’ss thoughtss." Tha snake’s long tail eventually emerged frae tha crevice an’ lifteed up an’ began tae shake aroon tha lads’ peyote stash. "Don’t you find?"
Rentactl stepped bak a totie wee bit. "Chantico!" On hearin’ her name, tha serpent rose up an’ transformed intae Goddess form, wearin’ her crown o’ poisonous cactus spikes.
"And I am disturbed!" Sh’explained, tremblin’ an’ none too delighteed, luckin’ like a warthog wae a slapp’d bake. "Call Ometeotl and call the skybearers! And stand back, Rentactl." Wae tha’ tha very volcanie starteed tae shake an’ tha dark ruby lavie doon below began tae sway.
Tha lad felt tha need tae step forward. "Ya cannae blow aff an’ destroy tha’ village, wee hen." Rentactl lucked hard a tha peyote in ‘er hands. It al lucked present an’ accounted fir.
The Goddess seemed unused tae any such impertinence, an’ tha volcanie stopped shakin’ a second. "And why ever not? I have looked through fireplaces, looked into the very souls of these villagers. They lack serenity, grace, and ambition. They are as little ants going ‘Eeee’."
Rentactl wis genuwinely affronted. "Ye hae tha wrong fireplaces, hen. Or hae lavie in yer ears, fir ma village is full o’serenity. Begbopoca’s feather’s been lyin’ on a sofie fir twenty years settin’ tha serenity wirld record. He inventeed it. And grace? Hae ye no concept o’ tha graceful arc a tortoise fitba requires tae rebound o’tha roof o’tha mobile avocadie van an’ back intae yer ain garden? Practically a bananie shot - wae a movin’ trajectory? An’ as fir ambition, wull they pray tae tha jaguar god fir rain. They do a wee dance tae ward smallpox an’ typhus. Wit mere evidence do yae need? If prayer isnae motivateed optimism, itsell a desire tae alter tha very future, a dinnae know wit is."
Tha Goddess Chantico turned. "Prayer! How quaint. As for a Promethean future.." She sighed an’ raised her heed tae tha sky. "The future is the same, Rentactl. Grimier but cleaner, rougher but smooth, more distracting and more dreary. Here a little painful, joyful over there. And all for some more than others. The future, I assure you, is the same."
"Well okay, then, big hen. Pardon daftie here. Wipe ‘em oot." Rentactl chanced his mortal arm big time. "If tha future’s six o’yin hawf a dozen o’ th’other dinnae leave a lizard flickerin’. One thing’s fer sure, they hae responsibility. When a wee’un does bawd ‘e gets puneeshed. Who makes sure ye dinnae lavie good folk? Who dae ye answer te? A’ll tell ye somethin’, them folk will die meer self-managed an’ wae meer responsibilitay than any Gods ur Goddesseesees."
Chantico turned an’ looked doon intae ‘er ain lavie. "You offer a compelling argument. I can and will display responsibility. Today I require only one sacrifice. Your friend. Send him down to me, then, in honour of my sparing this.. village."
Rentactl lucked tae his peyote leaf an’ then up at tha sun beyond tha’ volcanie rim. Begbopoca wis a six-two clay shite-hoose but it wouldnae be hard tae take tha fruitloop off-guard. Bit they’d bin wee’uns together. Totie bairns, rining aroon in hare fur an’ batterin’ tortoise fitba’s off yin another’s heeds.
"The choice is yours." Chantico seemed impatient.
Rentactl reached oot fer tha stash. Aw fer wank’s sake. Choose maize porridge an’ avocadies. Choose tamales, sacred coos an’ edible dugs. Choose gourd-shaped rattles an’ clay flutes. Choose loincloths. In truth, Rentactl’d spent es life not choosin’. "A dinnae want nae meer o’this stuff." He chucked tha’ drugs off tha ledge an’ intae th’ lavie. Choose human sacrifice.
Wae tha’, Chantico extendeed her hand under his damp oxter. "It is too late for remorse, Rentactl. Disturbing the mountain, you must decide."
"Where is it?" Begbopoca wis hoppin’ mad agin, by tha time Rentactl reached tha upper rim o’ tha volcanie. "Where is it, ya stooped wee radge cunt bastar’ fuck-an’-a-half arsehole?"
Subject: Blogs D’Amour: Viva Pain Emporia
Time: 2006 Nov 28 11:40:00
A weekend cutting through the Sadomasochist class divide - from Covent Garden’s Coco de Mer (Sienna Miller-favoured Fair Trade restraints), via middle-way Janus (timeless geography teacher caning shop and magazine near Patisserie Valerie) where MissX stock-checked for people she knew. If it’s time to stop porn when you can identify performers by penis alone - this should go double, treble, for spanked ass. To a Munch, a monthly perv network above a Holborn pub, mixed gay/straight and transgender. Between gothic corsets and Matrix frock coats, über-normal IT workers wore conspiratorial black for more straight-talking business types (“I reckon I’ve tied up half this bloody room.”) Made to feel very welcome but something surreal about supping and wondering what deviance was on everyone’s minds. I envisage people using BDSM to turn a pain on its heel - better out than in - so was not surprised by the weighty, the short, the nerdy or full-on ‘physical outsider’. One chap, looking like an X-men meth dealer, flashed me his new cutters, announcing “You guessed, I’m a Sadist”, then a fresh paddle, custom hewn. Resembling a steel palette to pass schnapps on, tea-leafed from Belgo, it also delivers a crafty electric how-do. Belgooo-oo. Wondered if S&M fills a void traditional vows cease to reach - scalpelling ‘Master’s Lovehole’ into someone’s butt speaks commitment in any relationship. One sub lad discussed my boots and foot-crush clubs; then I accidentally tramped on someone’s bag (furry) till she declared “You’re standing on my pussy” via gossip re: alleged-kinky celebrity couples (‘Reaally?’) and guessing the swing of those in the room. The submissives I met all use humour, sometimes but not always self-depreciation, and tend to admire cute/reduced things just as they cute/reduce themselves (that love-our-chosen-reflection thing). The dom/dommes seem more picky, direct or me-centric chat-wise. In general (and certainly in terms of the mysterious ‘switches’) I found it hard to tell. One sub asked her partner’s permission to drink (‘He denies me chocolate too,’ she narrowed her eyes), while I wondered if writing fiction tattle-tells control. Discussion turned back to Coco de Mer et al. “I’m not paying £60 for no velvet rope.” Bondage fans: tight? No surprise. (Finally, class-free post-pain around Damien Hirst’s Murderme collection: chockfull of children being cultured by yummy but patient post-everythings. “And why do you think the severed hand is wanking, Mario?” “Um. Is it challenging Johan Huizinga’s proposal that when medieval sublimity conceived the condition of chivalry, it left a legacy of industrial-capitalist chivalries and a sense of objectified morality?” “Close, son, but no Alphabites.”)
Subject: From Stephen King’s “Zimbo” (1997)
Time: 2006 Nov 28 11:45:00Rusty Fursbe shunned human beings, mainly due to the fact that they were probably the most vain critters on God’s soil. They were forever a-watching themselves, they loved a-hearing about themselves, ran around a-cursing themselves and a-praising themselves to highest heaven. A person, a person like Rusty Fursbe, was better off being as far distanced from them as possible. Generally, they tended to taint a man’s purpose.
Not that Rusty was a man, being just turned fourteen. This he accepted. But he was man enough to go out on his own, and in his own way, and since his pa passed on no-one seemed to notice. Ma had better things to do, what with Bethany being so poorly. He himself had better things to do. His school attendance was not so much falling, not so reduced to an infrequent form of sports, but confidently in the annals of ancient history.
The moon was not as high as he’d like it to be by the time he reached the walls of the Davenport Municipal Zoo. He was blackened up, setting to take Zimbo back. Animals, see, were not shallow and spoilt, and animals did not love a-watching themselves, and a-hearing about themselves and a-moaning their lot. Animals listened. They listened to Rusty Fursbe on the times when he had an issue. When Rusty was hurting from a scrap, or when Rusty had a blackened eye or a broke butt. The animals would hear him out. Zimbo, the big ole ginger giraffe, well he didn’t get no name-calling. He didn’t get no huckle and spit, piss and cuss. He didn’t get his pack thrown up on Old Man Hopkins’s roof. He didn’t get pinned down. No-one would even once dream of pinning Zimbo down. Zimbo was as high as a house, see.
Rusty passed along the wall until he came to where it confronted the old fence at a near right angle. The old fence was a wire mesh they’d fixed into the new concrete wall with eyebolts, but one or two of the eyebolts were as rusty as he was and a claw hammer could unfix them pretty easily. He reckoned he’d be through the fence and under the steel feeding trough right behind the hippo bath area in twenty minutes. He’d have to circumnavigate the mud in total darkness but this was far and away his best access to the giraffe-end of the zoo.
It all went as smooth as rained-on sludge, for in under ten minutes Rusty had tip-toed between a pair of slumbering hippopotami and squeezed himself over the wooden sill on top of their fence, and was wandering along the pathways of a cold and dark zoo, a claw hammer right there in his hand, for he was frightened. Sure he was. He had worn his oldest high-tops to keep the disturbance of his footfalls to the absolute minimum. In the gentle brew of distant night sounds, an owl kept a-twooing and some crickets could be heard a-rubbing their legs, and there had been some fizzy-sounding snoring from one of the hippos, but the zoo, for the most part, was a silent place.
"We’re going miles away, boy. Just you and me, buddy." Rusty muttered to himself as he approached the giraffe enclosure. He wobbled a little on the rungs of the feed-time gate as he scaled it, but landed into scatterings of soft straw with relative calm. It was all so hard to judge in the dark. "You most likely won’t remember it," he continued. "But there’s a place called Africa where you’ve got friends. Real friends, just like you. You won’t have to bend down for nobody. And maybe one day you can kiss a girl giraffe and you can all link necks and just look at a sunset."
Zimbo’s night house was large and lofty and it usually took two handlers to slide the vast front door across. But Rusty had thought of that. He undid his pack as he jogged around the corner to the side door, where brought out a crow bar. "These here locks and chains will be gone, Zimbo. And folks with flashing cameras and stupid kids throwing candy, well, they’ll be a bad dream you once had, buddy." The padlock flew across the external pen. Secured to the door, a blatant warning sign - ‘Danger: animal under surveillance.’ What in heck were those creeps doing to him?
In his pack Rusty had a flat canister of leftover quarry gelignite, the stuff which he had stolen last summer. It was enough to take the front off the night house, but everything had to be perfectly timed. He needed the sliding door flattened and Zimbo ready to leave in thirty to fifty seconds. There’d be a lot of noise and that would rouse the guards, although they were back in their squat little chalet, right beside the main bus and automobile entrance.
"You see, buddy, people need open minds. Otherwise we never get out of anywhere. No matter who we might be." The meager light from the side door couldn’t illuminate the night house, but Rusty could feel Zimbo’s presence, he could smell him and sense his breathing. Being careful not to tread too far inside, the boy then felt round the walls until he reached the heavy bolt and his feet felt the large runners that held the sliding frame in place. He removed his pack and located the old canister. "Some folks are born trapped. Chained in malice and ill will."
Suddenly, there began a slow, centre-less scuffling behind him, all snort and thrown straw, as Zimbo began to rise to his feet. Near his full height, the animal then pressed a little into the wall of the night house, warming and correcting his legs by scraping the ground with a fore hoof, over and over. "Careful there, fella." Rusty chuckled as he unscrewed the lid of the high explosives. "Don’t hurt yourself." With the stuff primed and ready to light, Rusty withdrew a boating flare and a single match. He illuminated his wrist watch in the gloom. The guards would be well into some horror flick or motoring show. To Africa! He lit the flare.
He lit the flare, for sure, but then he looked around at Zimbo. Maybe it was a mistake to do this but he did it anyway. And when he looked, and as his eyes became accustomed to the shifting shadows in the night house, as they would in a rich kid’s parlour on a Christmas morning, they found something else besides the animal, there in the farthest corner. "Oh!" A voice, almost. Startled and hard to distinguish behind the vigorous fizzle of the flare.
The small figure began crawling towards him. At first it seemed like nothing human, for his sister Bethany’s expression was as empty as her dress, which appeared wet down one side, like with spilled coffee. Advancing slowly, standing up from under Zimbo, through all the yellowed and uneven radiance, her eyes upped and searched for her brother’s, while the animal craned his long neck down and around between them both. "I just died, Rusty. Over at the house. I went and died." She sounded kind of exasperated with herself.
Rusty suddenly realized how fast his heart had been beating. The figure could speak, in a voice terribly weak and frightened and childlike. "I guess I joined pa," it continued. Rusty wanted out. He looked for the door. The girl suddenly turned very ashamed, and her mouth began a-curling as if she was set to cry. "Where are you, Rusty?" she implored with a frail hand lifting out towards the flare.
"I’m here." Rusty decided to grab her as soon as it became clear that she could not hear his words. He moved forward a little but the more he advanced the more she backed off, backing under Zimbo, and with each retreating step she appeared an awful lot more shook up and frightened. He stopped. "Come here, Bethany." But she did not, or could not, move. Eventually he took his next decision, to go right forward, to get her, to pull her out of there. Bethany was, he just then realised, more important than any giraffe. But with each step forward he seemed to infuriate the animal, till eventually his sister was huddling down again, right under the hang of a barreled chest.
"Come here, bozo." Just when Rusty Fursbe made a real lunge for his sister’s hand, the beast changed. Instinct seemed to snap from its head to its hooves, and it shot forward, biting down hard on Rusty’s arm until its teeth grated against his bone. It pulled up as high as it could, shaking him forward and back - taking him, eventually, clean off the ground. Then, ruthlessly, it flung him into the wall of the night house.
Rusty looked up, a scream gob-stopped there in his mouth, destined never to emerge. In the burning straw and shadows, as the animal charged and gored him again, through a stew of escaping blood where the cold floor became his ceiling and the walls flipped one eighty and then flipped back, little Bethany looked as if she was falling away forever. He reached out for her, just as she reached for him, but all he gripped were agonizing flames from the rolling flare, fanning out across the straw like toppled dominos destined for a fatalist world record. And, as the first explosion tore across the enclosure, blowing planks and bolts for yards, Zimbo the giraffe remained implacable, savouring the long-awaited taste of human protein.
Subject: Blogs D'Amour: Mummification
Time: 2006 Nov 21 11:00:00
A weekend of MissX calling me ‘mummy’ (different) through the British Museum, Cybercandy, the National Portrait Gallery, Toffs fish bar in Muswell Hill (salmon matzo), stand-up at the Kings Head, Brick Lane, Spitalfields market looking for capes, then Hoxton (where some fashion-knitters made her feel terribly with-it, till she fell for a pink ukulele - possibly to record Sonic Youth songs: Sonic Uke). Then to Sh! off Hoxton Square, perusing sex toys in a women-orientated environment. “What is bondage tape?” “Only sticks to itself. If you wanted to, say, push knickers into someone’s mouth and then wrap their head in tape - it won’t stick to their hair.” This taking control malarkey is fraught, I tell you, fraught. “What’s objectification?” “Where you, say, balance a wine glass on someone’s head. Make them please you under the table at the click of a finger.” Reduction to a live-in love toy. Eesh. MissX gets ‘sub drop’ and sends me parcels of homemade tiffin. Difficult - made my own meals since I was 15, was never ‘take-the-laundry-home’ student, and have watched colleagues scurry back to get a boyfriend’s tea ready and, to be honest, been disturbed. Jittery about D/s outside the bedroom. It’s too much. It’s too much. Like life. Oddly, the more MissX wants D/s, the more I think ‘Hang on, I’m supposed to be calling the shots here.’ Maybe democratic hierarchies are just power’s red herring - the truth sits chuckling on the see-saws of supply-demand (harder to dramatize for one thing). Worried about discovering something horrifying: even self-appointed submissives could make one feel pushed around, which would be funny if it didn’t leave the future looking icy.
Subject: From Michel Houellebecq’s “Speculum” (2002)
Time: 2006 Nov 21 11:40:00Denis lit another cigarette and waited. He was waiting for the next work package from Korea. Recently: ‘The latest triumph in a renaissance of French animation’. Renaissance, my ass. Denis was one of the few French things about it. Ideas were ftp’ed for script approval to New York, animated in Seoul, bit_cometted to him for editing, then cometted back to Stockholm for sound sync. No-one needed offices any more, and no-one met any of the other personnel involved.
Denis drew hard on the latest Gauloise Blonde. And waited. He’d been waiting all morning, meaning he couldn’t leave his apartment. Remote working inevitably led to diversion, especially when the sequence took a dive and the baton didn’t even reach your hand. Someone was trying to rob him of an evening at the bar.
Testing his coffee, he checked his emails and any daily advances on some bookmarked porno sites. He lived alone but didn’t have women problems, because he was usually glad to be rid of them. His life was a series of strenuous sexual frustrations followed by an illuminating struggle against the ropes of a relationship. The struggles felt illuminating but always tended to illuminate the same thing: if he could prolong the honeymoon stage between meeting, fucking and feeling trapped, he would do it. Women annoyed the hell out of him, if he was honest. Chasing them was fine because he was in control. As soon as they started to demand of him he began sensing that they wanted something he couldn’t give. Waiting. A feral mouth poised for some megalithic undeliverable. And he needed out.
Denis drew hard again and waited. He leant over his table to look from his window at the apartment directly opposite his. The girl in the gold room, the gold room with burglar-bars on the windows, today she wasn’t at home. He wasn’t sure if her lighting was especially golden or it was the cumulative effect of the wallpaper and shimmering curtains. In the left window, she sometimes undressed with those curtains untied. She knew exactly what she was doing. You bet she did. Sometimes a man pulled up in a long Citroen. He’d ring her bell and she would descend to open the front door. Those were the only times the curtains were pulled across.
Denis read the headlines and played pinball. It’s true, women talk too much. Especially when a man proved quiet. A ‘good listener’. Denis used to be one such meathead. But as soon as people get wind that you’re a grade one sponge they’ll keep it coming. They talk across you, steer everything through their own tangents. They’ll be rude, quite frankly. Ruder than we’d ever be. You have to hit them hard, up front, metaphorically speaking. Isolate them with bald overstatement, defuse them with dizzying claptrap, and then bag them up and bury them in a trance-inducing series of daft by-the-ways. Just to get them off your case.
Denis unlocked a chatroom for finks and head-boilers. It was on a phantom section of the internet which didn’t use URLs and which even the government didn’t know about, so it was claimed. The wildest stuff tended to be here. Here, terrorists found common gripes with organized and less-organized gangsters, extreme pornographers compared collections, crime-trading took place (for those requiring a cast-iron alibi), whilst opposing hate groups tentatively offered funnies like some kind of cute and amoral ‘Christmas morning outside the trenches’ football match.
Sender: Mike in Florida. Question! How green is my Uzi? Carlos, I use a semi-automatic Uzi Carbine firing 9 mm Parabellum cartridges, but recently I’ve been concerned about its consequences in terms of greenhouse gases. Worst-case: the baby falls mid-chase, without grip-safety, and slam-fires a 50-round magazine in the general direction of the ozone - missing the South Miami Special Needs bus :) What are we talking, cost-wise, in terms of ‘footprint’? Would tracers ‘offset’, or needn’t I lose sleep?
Denis found another cigarette. He couldn’t really formulate a response for what he had just read. His hobbies would include ‘blowing smoke in tourist faces, usually down le Marais’. Hypocrites. Chain-smokers of the world. ‘You ratify Kyoto, buddy, and I’ll put out the Gauloise’. Those fatheads couldn’t see anything until it was right up their pipes.
Once, during a nihilist rant, a waitress had interjected on behalf of one trio. ‘Maybe smoking is making him irritable,’ she barked in English. What did a total stranger know? How could she reduce the inescapable effect of permanent terrorism, economic misanthropy, technological estrangement, a poorly planet, burgeoning trivia, the minorisation of human worth and racist power-mongering by medieval (the media insisted on calling them ‘religious’) groups to the effects of the odd puff and a voiceless man in the mirror. He smoked because he was at home, and he was at home because workplaces were terrifying. He was allergic to them. He was allergic to the outside. The outside murders you.
Not that this 42-year old hominoid meat structure was without direction. Not that he wasn’t an integral part of diverse and enriching social groups. He was a fully registered member of The South-Central Upskirts Crew, for example. Ah, nothing could explain the uncomplicated joy of the Upskirt. Aesthetically perfect, far beyond anything to be found in the Musée D’Orsay. Socially dicey, neigh immoral.
Denis opened his daily feed. ‘Girl In Les Halles Pharmacy’. This cute little brunette had become an eternal fixture for the Upskirts boys. She was always stacking the highest shelves some time between 11.00am and 12.00pm – the better quality shampoo and cleansers, the rarest vitamins and tonics. Her work patterns remained a Mecca for one or more of the crusaders, angling his silent digi-cam beside her footstool whilst pretending to examine the lower shelves. Pow! Did she have any concept what a minor celebrity she had become? Each morning, floating across her suburban flat to pull a fresh pair of knickers from a drawer, did she realize the utter commotion each preference would result in that evening? ‘Not the cotton whites again?’ ‘She’s bought a five pack.’ ‘Beg to differ, J-P, I adore white cottons’ ‘Thong. Thong. I jest not. Thong!!!!’ ‘Didn’t she wear Hello Kitty on Tuesday? Assumption: one wash day and one drying day, there is GENUINE LIKELIHOOD of INSTANT REUSE which is forcing me to change my mind about this person.’
The stills, in differing qualities of pixels-per-inch, would nevertheless be highly comparable: two creamy tubular legs ascend into a skirted shadow; a radical sense of perspective; an hourglass gusset (curvy and b-shape and firmly bulbous at the ass but much flatter, even concave, on the front). Photographic row upon row, longitudes upon latitudes sub-categorized into friendly tiers - ‘latest’, ‘recents’ and ‘best ofs’ - where only the fabric colour and pattern would, eventually, serve to attract the eye.
Denis stared at the laptop clock, a thousand ‘Origine Du Monde’ still ghost-marked on his retina, a thousand burglar bar stripes and hourglass gussets turning his head into a human speculum. Fuck, if the bit_comet parcels didn’t arrive soon he fancied heading down Les Halles, just to see this woman’s face. Just to ask her where the mouthwash was. Les Halles equaled foreigners. Huddled - a proper little clique. Even apart, even dispersed - condensed, ensemble, en masse. Foreigners.
He went to pass water. In the bathroom, he examined the mirror. Too soft, still mousey/just older, requiring definition. Just where, exactly where, lay the atomic root of his life’s desire? When he flamed into being, he was sure he could outshine anyone, down the fruit machines at Pet au Diable. But the spark, the spark. Suddenly, in the living room, a globular, somewhat gloopy, polyphonic tone announced to him that bit_comet parcels were coming through.
"Denis. Change of everything. Can you tighten this children’s educational down to four fifty eight?" He scanned the script. Something for kids with especially low self-esteem. A little brown dog called Mister Me whose pondered catch seemed to be ‘I’m Mister Me and that’s all I can be. I love you, Mister Me.’
Subject: Blogs D'Amour: Breathplay
Time: 2006 Nov 14 11:40:00
A weekend of costume, flagellation and footplay. Discussed breathplay, being suffocation. Many things seem to involve putting ‘play’ onto the end of your endangerment to tip it towards the fun zone. Toasterplay, balconyplay, trafficplay (the last one I made up, as I did the other two). But they also have the effect of rendering the imagination very binary and structural, like Dungeons and Dragons (but where the dungeons aren’t an invention, I suppose) - possibly the goal. It is sheep-penned or it is not, and it probably can be.
Beginning to consider my psychological drive for this. Certain aspects feel like unlocking doors, but is it compulsive? I sometimes imagine kink is just being greedy, sexually speaking, although in other ways I probably need to greed more
just to attain basics many people take for granted. Re: Miss X’s layers. She’s very traditional really. She loves to cook and provide for, and would love to be a conventional mother to children one day. She has a feminist outlook, a multiplicity of talents, and will soon be a Doctor, but something compels her to knit, sew, make tiffin and tend. She has a scenester’s drive, in that part of her doesn’t fit into the long vacant lots of the ‘real world’. Some Amish-Victoriana-Dutch Anabapist costumes in her trunk, to bolster the endorphin rush perhaps. The perverted as über-normal in a wonky world, or symbolic like a milk bottle - pure tradition and the future of recycling. Maybe her ultimate play is a simulacrum of calculated Orthodoxy.
On Sunday I was very kindly invited to a Humanist naming ceremony: a new daughter for an S&M actor and his wife (the adult baby nursery owner). Not everyone in attendance was kinky (although it was, obviously, hard to know). It was a charming and sobering event because the girl had been born very poorly and the musical choice of Athlete’s ‘Wires’ was made to honour the prayers beside her incubator, as she fought for a few more months of life. Moving, considering the delicacy of things, in the context of worldly happenstance at times crueler than BDSM would choose to be. For all our little greeds and grand needs, the fragility of everyday breathplay is worth singing about.
Subject: From Marian Keyes' "Human Traffic Holiday" (2003)
Time: 2006 Nov 14 13:00:00"Do you intend to transport sea coal from or to any point within the European Community?"
"Is your vehicle a special vehicle for medical purposes?"
"Is your vehicle a special vehicle for agricultural or forestry purposes?"
"Is your vehicle a special vehicle for the detection of radio or television transmitters or receivers?"
"Is your vehicle propelled by steam?"
Siobhan tried to see an actual pair of human eyes through the custom official’s sunglasses. Was he for real? All she had in her vigorously diesel-propelled truck were candles. Scented candles. Handmade Ukrainian scented candles. ‘Fair Traded with the Misplaced Settlements on the mid-Carpathian steppes.’ Certified. That’s all. Kinda.
"Do you have a working, connected tacograph inspected within the past two years?"
Mr Super-Officious was welcome to another shufti if he really really wanted. His partner in crime (okay, the polar opposite of crime) had had a quick poke already, and almost collapsed on the quayside at the strength of the aromas rallied against him. Maybe she had overdone it, but it had taken her and Sasha over thirty boxes of germanium and pomegranate floor candles to disguise his entire extended family.
Sasha. She looked around at her amazing new boyf, looking all innocent on the passenger seat. He looked like Josh Hartnett, if Josh Hartnett had been an untamed but eternally appreciative gypsy. Mam, she was dead sure, would adore him just as much as she did. He didn’t speak a lot of English, and even if he did Dubliners would surely blather a mile too fast for him. ‘Too many bones’ were his opening words, poking her up and down in the restaurant. ‘Carpathians big women.’ On their first date he brought her a golden squirrel in a basket. ‘Eat chocolate.’ She was doing her best. Siobhan took his hand and another segment of a humungous Galaxy Hazelnut, and then span back to answer the port official’s question. "I do."
"Are you transporting circus or fun fair equipment?"
Suddenly, from deep in the back of the truck, there came the echo of a resounding sneeze. Baba Ludmilla.
"Arse. I mean No." Baba Ludmilla had been complaining about the net effect of the candles on her hives, all across France it had seemed like (between grumbles about western materialism. 'We were poor but all poor together' she howled. Dada Sergey shook his head and told her that they would find a Cork housing estate to accomodate). Siobhan explained that the self-same scent would get everyone past Dublin, but it didn't seem to appease the grandmother.
Roused, Super-Officious then backed off, shaking his clipboard at his colleague. "What in God’s name was that noise? Is there any drinking and ya-hooing going on?"
"Arse? An arse. Mine. Possibly Sasha’s." Sasha shrugged in agreement.
Suspicious Super-Officious was not convinced. "That was undoubtedly an emission from the sino-nasal tract. I’m trained to discern such things. The cocaine taker’s sneeze, by example. Idiosyncratic, with a certain lament to it. What I just heard came terribly close to one of those." He began to move around to the rear of the truck.
Without warning, the rear doors flew open and Dada Sergey began a concerted hobble across the quay, coughing and spinning around. Oh, friggery.
"Stop or I am authorized to use a gun!" With a shout, the other port official sped off in hot pursuit of the old man. And, suddenly, before Siobhan could register it, Sasha had also jumped from the passenger door to join in with the chase.
"Dada Sergey!" Sasha implored him to return in Ukrainian.
"Now, you, kindly remain seated." Supercillious Post-Suspicious Super-Officious began hopping around and banging on the side of the truck and calling for police back-up on a walkie-talkie jutting around on his shoulder. He readied his revolver and moved cautiously towards the open doors, where Baba Ludmilla was trying to swing her legs out, but scratching furiously under her skirt at the same time.
"My hives!" She pleaded in old Ukrainian.
"Hands away from the hives!" Super-Officious barked in a mix of English and old Ukrainian. "Slow now. No tricks. Hive! Hive!"
Siobhan had emerged to see Sasha, not Dada Sergey (who looked like he was heading back towards the ferry) being wrestled to the concrete. At the sight of a revolver pointing at her amazing boyf she was just about to let out a scream when her mobile began to jingle like crazy.
It was Mam. "Where is he?" She cooed. "Where is my new son-in-law to-be-in-law?"
"Mam, he’s doing grand." Siobhan watched him pressing a foot into the port official’s face, inspiring a quartet of rapid warning shots into the air. Despite them going nowhere near Dada Sergey, the old man stopped to crawl dutifully onto his knees and begin to clasp both hands behind his head, the sight of which caused Baba Ludmilla to begin a series of strident prayers.
"Siobhan, I’m putting the pan on." Oh, friggery. "Pork chops is it?"
Subject: From Richard Allen's "Krautrocker" (1975)
Time: 2006 Nov 08 15:42:00"Hey, Dorle, you’re always looking so sad and bad in black. Come down to Showaddywaddy with us tonight? They’re playing the US military base."
Drawing a kohl pencil along her left eyelid, Dorle fails to see her sister in the mirror. "No can do. I’m off to heckle Tangerine Dream with Harald."
Her sister shivers. "Scheißen. Say it isn’t so. I’ve heard that a blend of progressive electronica and avant garde, when suffused with strong jazz leanings, can send people off the rails. Soon they’re strolling along motorways and doing vice. Anyway, I bet mum doesn’t know you’re courting a.. Krautrocker?"
Sighing, Dorle turns with open dismay to her sister’s pink and incandescent boob tube. "You’re such a disco div, sis. Go.. boogie woogie. Or whatever it is equilaterals do these days."
Unflinchingly, Dorle casts her mind back to the previous evening’s criminality.
Through the bitter gloom of a Baumholder midnight, she drops a spanner she is trying to pass to her boyfriend. It rattles around on the corrugated iron, then Harald shoots her an unforgiving stare that mutters ‘Fuggin sorts. Never bring them on a valve job’.
Both of them look down from the rooftops and along the alley. Just the liquidy shadow of a cat, slipping slowly on a wall like black wax. Retrieving the spanner, Harald undoes the final bolt to the skylight. Below: Dirk’s Electronics Store. What a score! The Krautrocker needed a new modulation wheel real bad - they were as unadulterated spike milk to him.
With a fully subtractive pitch bend on his Mini Moog he could couple it up to a Taurus Bass Pedal and sound as progressive and far-gone as Dieter Schulze from Godiva IX, after they corrected a manifest instability in their oscillators (but before they pooved hard and became grade one sconeheads. Gate-fold sleeves and a recourse to four-four. The revolution would find it very difficult to forgive bapskulls with one eye on Uncle Sam's johnson).
In truth, Dorle was worried about her bit, but as they drop through the open skylight and into the darkened storeroom, she observes an appetite in his eyes as he scours the shelves of modulation wheels, and she tastes his loose rapture by proxy. "Retro valves! These angels make atonal drones unheard since the Zodiak Free Arts Lab." he exclaims excitedly, filling his pockets. He grabs her shoulder. "Think of it!" He spins about, rubbing his beard. "Vintage theremins.. even a first gen Van de Graaff for stagework."
Suddenly, a man’s voice calls out behind a bobbing flashlight. "Who is there, please?"
Both kids dart down behind a tower of boxes but, gradually and with a sinister brand of self-amusement, Harald conquers his fear. Dorle watches on as he scoops out something heavy from inside his bomber jacket. Her boyfriend wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of his objectives: post-capitalist kosmische and avant garde Volksmusik for the people. His people. The kids.
"You want some, rozzer?" Harald stood and began to rock a menacing bike chain, to and fro. Slowly and adjusting his cap, the security guard advanced. Both men squared up like rabid stags needing injections. "..brick you up, you fuggin’ chimney." Harald took a lunge and caught the toe-jam right on the chin. It was a chancer’s swing but it paid dividends.
Looking up from his leaden collapse, the filth checked a river of crimson oozing from his mouth. "Should be tucked up listening to Radio Oom-pah, granddad." Harald nodded, pleased with himself. Then, deafened by seven bells of sheer rage, he burst ahead with a series of ferocious stomps to the guard’s chest and neck area. "..pack you, you.. lunch." Something gave a crunching sound.
Dorle shot up from her own cowering position, spurred and stimulated. "Snuff him, Harald! Plod the fuck-face extra hard." The girl felt picked up and flying, snared by the rousing arms of brutality. "Grease him out for Stockhausen. When the ball-wipe has stopped twitching you can knock me up in a box of Stylophones."
Circuit boards, fast sex and random acts of senseless violence: that night, Harald the Krautrocker needed no more encouragement.
Subject: Blogs D'Amour: Viva BDSM
Time: 2006 Nov 06 17:04:00
Little girls have a rescue thing, she said. They want a Richard Gere to scoop them from the streets like pearls, the knight in roaring finery, or a bullet-proof prince to bestow their true value. Where does any mortal male fit in? The releaser, the beast, or bit-of-everything? Show me what the bad men do to you, petal. Is this
what they do? What about this
? Do they come to places not unlike here to close their eyes, amid the relentless sun-up and sun-down of a two-point-four tedium they never really asked for? Where a crucial, buried element refuses to accept the make up of their lives? Do they do things not unlike this
- just to see the inside on the outside? And, even if detached from their own behaviour, even if the inside remains unhealed, to at least be able to point to where it hurts?
A weekend of kink in *unnamed Midlands conurbation* with *someone simply known as Miss X*. From the outside in, it probably looked very suburban swingers, although the role-play, riding crops and restraints did hit a few select buttons. No ‘edge play’ as such, no blood and tears, flying matters through the safe word and into infinity. No metaphorical flexing of the muscles in the mirror, unable to meet a management consultant’s lizard-gaze. No raising phantom dumbbells avec cock, shooting a spectral machine gun and whispering ‘Bow unto the Lord’. A buzz happened, at certain points, though. And if I'd thought that it wasn’t mutual I would have stepped away.
Between kink, cathedrals, new Indian cuisine and wonderful home cookery, we ended up in bed, coming out with some (I imagine) very British baby talk, all spoons and snuggle monkeys (surely, what harm does that
do?), and the BDSM seemed pretty much a deeper extension of pre-sexual and anti-social otherworldliness. The spanks and pulled pigtails had a schoolishness about them, for definite. I *pale behaviour* and wondered if I was trying to learn to become bombproof. I didn’t cry this time. I didn’t have any anger or anything. It was all very mutual. I try to analyse her but there are way too many layers. She is very crystalline, perfectly lucid, able to see why she is doing things but, like a lot of us, still doing them.
Subject: Blogs D’Amour: Into the Valley of BDSM
Time: 2006 Nov 02 20:32:00
No-one needs convincing that the internet is a Situationist device, it’s primary form of entertainment - talking to and meeting people; changings of minds; flows, discoveries and happenings. Other forms of creativity, arranging words or pictures (the world really
needs more of those), sharing music, even booking holidays, seem to lie secondary to that. Chatroom scare stories can’t disguise the fact, nor can it be really be hid from.
I recently joined a BDSM contacts and scene site. Not that I am particularly into bondage, discipline, domination, submission, Sadism or Masochism, but the thought of asking upfront for a kinky, unshockable relationship had an appeal that I couldn’t avoid. ‘Vanilla’ dating felt dried up. Not to put too fine a stiletto into it, the thought of climbing mountains to Yop-swap with a production line singleton for the sheer joy of faux-procreation didn’t feel that motivational. Something about kink seemed to make sense. Less neurosis and snivelling. All those teenage years dressing ‘alternative’, rejecting the clean-cut, ordinary or dutiful – well, clothes and music, tax paying and law abiding aside - maybe it is because, deep down, you are
a bit different, or at least more unique than the prenuptial frameworks allow. The sexual expression of this seemed like something that has been waiting to happen.
Scanning the BDSM chatrooms (and they are more than that, they cover every shade of kink), there are fascinating hues beneath the primary colours. People who ‘top from the bottom’, a habit for subs to mock ‘dim doms’ (subs tend to see themselves as the smarter of the two – there is a gut instinct that expressions of power are destined for the stupid, or for the stupid elements within us. Yet there is still a compulsion for the two to attract: intrigue number one), and many cries from veterans that subs are never subby enough, or doms lack sophistication. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. Like life.
Intelligent people tend to be drawn to the kinky, they say. They bore easily. Ass men, they’ll put down their pens to explain, are generally brighter than tit men. And so on. Maybe it is socio-psychological, but also I liked the thought of being part of a scene. There is no real straight ‘scene’. Not really. Gay men can hop around on Gaydar. “Hi, Gavin. I was going to hook up with Raymond tonight. Maybe we can threesome?” “Sorry, mate, I’m due round Ricardo’s.” “No sweat. Next week?” “Right you are.” Straight casual sex may have cute (and not so cute) mating dances but the sentimental and semi-divine ‘husband and wife waiting to happen’ methodology can make it feel like a set of faked promises too. Someone gets hurt, someone holds back for fear of hurting, someone doesn’t really want to do things (possibly to keep the peace, but not really), someone is frustrated. You don’t need to be a dildocracy-espousing feminist to see straight straightness as partly a waltz of imbalance and counter-imbalance. You don’t need to be Stephen Hawking to dig a ball gag, and you don’t have to forgo ‘gardens sweet with ripened vines’ either, being romance.
A kinky contact scene exists, for pleasure’s own sake. But it seems so clinical, like ordering a pizza (not if one pizza is simply ordering another pizza, we’re post-feminism after all.) ‘Women are the candle, men are the moth’? Only if your kink is lepidoptery. It’s full of geography teachers and self-harmers? A little, but, like voting beyond Tory-Labour, the thought that nothing can happen is what keeps it from happening. Cool and sane kinky people can and do happen. Anyway, the openness requires a level shagging field and it might even clear the streets of weirdoes. Put their weirdness into a structure - the discipline of discipline. Star-fuckers, stalkers, wife-manglers and rapistes? They’re just playing with the wrong kind of partner, fighting a framework they were not born for. Ladies – no-one look twice in nightclubs? Here you’ll get 30 imploring emails each day. A good thing. Win-win. In terms of ‘kinks’, I ticked every box listed on the site, then removed no go areas. These days, it is easier to find someone to electrocute than to hug. After lots of fun emails with a submissive girl from *unnamed conurbation*, she came down to visit me for the weekend.
I didn’t have the facilities to electrocute, cane or chain, to be honest, but it felt nice to be a novice at something and develop the impending heroin-like sense of ‘once you try this, you realise there is no going back?’ Cheerio vanilla and Yop-swap. “I think I’ll be ‘rubbish top’”, I explained. I don’t have an impenetrable fetish, I went on. I worry that you’ve been hurt in the past. I don’t really know what I want, just to explore. Maybe role-play. Although only losing her virginity three years ago, her experiences have included electrocution, being set on fire, bondage and working in an adult baby nursery (£100 an hour, which makes me wonder why any able-bodied woman picks gooseberries on minimum wage). She seemed shocked that I found it all so offbeat and questionable. Internet oh internet, you birth an altered generation.
We had a normal ‘date’ type day, all South Bank and Wagamama, ginger cheesecake and tea at 'Coffee, Cake and Kink' in Covent Garden. At one point we discussed Black Box Recorder and, if there was a soundtrack to the whole weekend, it would be BBR – an otherwordly mixture of grand themes, the interior and inescapable, the sinister and the overwhelmingly sweet. The Child Psychology of everyday life. The Art of Driving. Although I hadn’t ticked ‘age play’ as one of my things (mom or daddy-diddlings, general incest scenarios) the fact that she was 12 years younger than me inevitably led me to look at her as some kind of kid sister or daughter figure. Same pale skin, blue eyes and dark hair - it was hard not to. She said it was just difficult for her to submit with a gangly teenage ‘twue’ (slang for geek who bullies girls around due to his own awkwardness or ugliness. Small man syndrome on too much beyatch-slap. The deterritorialised trying to reterritorialise).
She was, it turned out, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Understanding, funny, modest, patient and the kind of open-minded only a strong mind can be. She said she loved helping people, had worked in a home for the elderly, and was doing a Sociology PhD. As the date progressed, my head started to spin outside in. Any sexual fantasy that I had, I could indulge without shame. No fear of it turning a relationship wonky, and very relieving to believe it could actually deepen and strengthen it. No bitching, no water-cooler jaw drop, no McCartney vs McCartney exit day backstab, no Dirty Little Secrets. Control and trust, possibly.
Well, what did we do? We spent a long time inventing characters (Roberto Panettone, left) and talking nonsense and laughing. Comes as standard. Interspersed, we had a couple of relaxed ‘toppy’ sex bouts, the details of which I’ll hold back for everyone's sake. I told her that language was important to me – I couldn’t call someone a name I didn’t believe in – and until I work out what I want to say I would be mostly quiet during sex, which is hardly toppy-McTopman. (I imagine the language will be surreal, the one thing porn has lacked is true surrealism, it lives in some slut-busting metaconscious. Maybe it would be too revolutionary if it reached deeper down). She curled on my shoulder and I stroked her hair and got a bit emotional. We slept and, after breakfast, went to Highgate Cemetery and snogged by George Elliot’s grave (it was too cold for anything more), talking about mortality. After the pub and more snoozing, we had dinner, then more ‘toppy’ sex. When we slept again, it was the deepest and happiest sleep I have had in years.
Was it my first BDSM? It felt like it – simply saying I was in charge was enough to give me a thrill, even if I didn’t act on it to any extreme. Knowing that I could
act on it kept something alive. Knowing ‘yes’ would be the default response held the questions back. It was un-boring, although it was wordless, and where I want it to go I still don’t know, but I walked around on a love-like high, full of oxytocin, hooked and repeating Deleuzian-style mantras. ‘Everything is Social. Everything is Social. The world will be a better place when we just admit it, and Everything is Social.’
Subject: Weekend à Belfast
Time: 2006 Sep 26 10:00:00
Or: return of the funny uncle, perhaps with some Get Carter theme helping the plane descend. First night in and around the ‘Cathedral Quarter’ (the cobbled alleys behind St Anne’s where students at the art college used to run around pretending to be Kenneth Anger), with friend Helen, who now does art therapy with abused children (potato prints more than Scorpio Rising, I suspect. Although why not?) Estate agents setting precedence, everywhere in Belfast is a Quarter now. They must have about a dozen Quarters.
We went vegan at the Hill Street Brasserie
, seemingly full of IT consultants (that kind of gap-filled, never-quite-let-the-hair-down chat), then drinks at the Spaniard, a tiny friendly place full of new wave memorabilia, where a barmaid with two-tone Debbie Harry hair reminded me of a girl I used to heart-aflutter fancy, who worked in the anarcho-feminist-political Just Books
, near the wonderful old Smithfield Market (you could write poetry on the walls of the café there). Finally we took in some leather waistcoat folk music at the literary John Hewitt bar, where Undertones-discoverer Terry Hooley was hopping around hammered, and the walls advertised an evening discussing Amanda McKittrick Ros
, an obscure Larne-based novelist who seems to have picked up a fame, Ed Wood-style, for being God-awful in a very compelling way. ("Nick Page, author of In Search of the World's Worst Writers, rated Ros(s) the worst of the worst. He says that "For Amanda, eyes are 'piercing orbs', legs are 'bony supports', people do not blush, they are 'touched by the hot hand of bewilderment.'"
) As a teenager in a Sonic Youth t-shirt, sometimes under the hot hand of bewilderment, my library seemed reluctant to loan me an 'Irene Iddesleigh' second edition but I remember enjoying it. Aldous Huxley was a fan. The revival starts now.
Every Thursday at the Pavilion on the Ormeau Road there is an event called Knights Of The Round Table
. An eclectic lit/song evening, some yet-to-shave Black Metal kids were in full swing when I arrived, followed by rock poets in the Patti Smith mould, or men who look like Roger McGough, all grey locks and Beatles caps. After more stark metal, impromptu Poi
dancing from a lady accompanied by a moustachioed Sterling Morrison on violin. (Belfast being a relatively small scale, I bumped into Sterling again, working at the Film Library). The night ended with some decent and imaginative prog rock, someone called Dynamo, who had one song which seemed to last indefinitely, and were soon joined by the Poi dancer, Sterling and the McGoughs.
The Conflict exhibition at the Ulster Museum could have been more comprehensive. Bullet ridden car parts, riot shields and rubber bullets, ‘P O’Neill’ letters smuggled out of Long Kesh. Surely this is just a primer for a much bigger exhibition we need at some point? Then we had a curtailed trip to the lovely Georgian city of Armagh - where Tayto
Castle was closed (noooo!), as was Navan Fort, and my friend Ian failed to find his ancestors buried in Mullabrack cemetery. However, Armagh schoolgirls are ridiculously pretty and wear unfeasibly short skirts. And the sun came out around the cathedral after a night of heavy storm, wandering peevishly (and pervishly) through the fallen trees seemed to make up for it.
Off the Ormeau Road, where I stayed, seems to have absorbed an overspill of the
traditional student zone, the Holyland
. Eternal students with or without day jobs mix with the real students and the unemployable. Alcohol remains the master key to this subtle eco-system (we had an old-times-sake bottle of the ultra-rotten Buckfast, aka ‘Beat-the-wife’ or ‘Bo’, a kind of midnight-at-the-bandstand genocide of the collective liver). In fact, every night ended up an old-times-sake bladdering. We breakfasted on egg sodas and Bloody Marys, and managed to watch (or talk across) DVDs of Pavement, The Headcoats and Headcoatees, ‘Rock School’, ‘School of Rock’, ‘Zelig’, ‘Mighty Boosh’, ‘Hitchhikers Guide’, and ‘Dig’ (one always watches Anton Newcombe with caution, he is the embodiment of the imp on any creative shoulder). I was introduced to Seamus Heaney’s niece Suzie at one point.
Elsewhere on the streets, 'Spides and Millies' have morphed into suburban-looking Spicers (neo-Casuals, V-shapes at the nape of the neck or tipped mullet, lots of pink, bling and Diesel, some Emporio Armani, vintage Vectra souped-up to Hades, a baby with a place-name and pierced ears. Their delicacy somehow recalled the scary New Romantic hardmen-clowns of the early 80s. You haven’t been humiliated till you’ve been stomped on by the cast of the ‘Ashes To Ashes’ video). There were no real dominant youth cultures that I saw; one seems to be a Spicer or wandering dazed in a black hoodie. Even the estate murals seem to have been a little gentrified (Out: UFF brags in red, white and blue. In: tasteful sepia portraits of Oliver Cromwell, no less). Sure it's grand to move forward. So, after a generation of internal violence, the estate agents might finally be winning over everyone.
Time: 2006 Jun 12 00:16:00
I’m playing live, for the first time in years, in the Netherlands. Dates below, please come along if you are in town. I’m playing bass for a Zorn-ish math rock band called ‘Probably Your Teacher’. Dress code is suitably academic. I’d forgotten how important the bass line, that link between rhythm and melody, feels. It has to have power and balance, it has to connect with the listener’s diaphragm. I never overlooked the DPS bass lines, particularly in middle eight sections, when the bass notes should go somewhere paradoxical. Looking forward to the stage too, the refined and defined act of presentation. In such a blooper-driven age, where any old doodle and reality-television tat is praised for being homespun, real-time and honest, it’ll be nice to be polished, big and precise.
Cafe Pakhuis Wilhelmina, Veemkade 576, Amsterdam (21:00) - 1 Sept 2006
Cafe Swaf, Kerkstraat 3, Hoorn (16:00) - 3 Sept 2006
Time: 2006 Jun 08 15:36:00I have not always been a religious girl. The revolver I can use, but the instructions for the shoulder holster are in German, English and Hebrew. What irony. I know a twenty from a fifty, but cannot read. Reading has never been a problem until this morning, of all mornings!
One Sister folds my robe across the edge of a bath tub and I perch there, beside it. They are not really my Sisters, sometimes I think I just like the word, but today Paris and Valencia are dressing me. "Leila." Valencia says. None of us can read. "We'll have to get Darhem. For the straps. Are you comfortable with that?" I have not always been a religious girl. I smile, and I tell her that I will be fine.
Sister Paris will be cleansing and shaving me. I sit with legs parted. She brings a cupped mitt of keen lather up from a bowl, and works it around between my legs. She rises to warm a new razor under the tap, settles back to draw it evenly down the four day growth. Black specks fold the mousse a metal grey, darker with each measured swipe, leaving the skin electrifyingly bright, reflective. With a knuckle, she indicates that I should widen further. I raise a leg and she takes the razor to the side.
Outside, the cloud cover is due to clear by midday. Sideways, in the mirror, my naked breasts - still young enough, still in fresh preparation for life. A body hurts, I think, at all times, and at a pitch we'll never hear. Pain becomes gratitude. I am grateful for the experience of this body, although I haven't filled it with an ounce of wisdom. At twenty eight, the moments of truth and selflessness I have had could be caught in a single morning. And that morning has come. I feel peaced.
Once Paris has finished, I stand. She showers me down. Both Sisters stand off and we look in the mirror, more directly this time. Bodily, I feel set, settled. Sister Valencia warms a twist of a moisturizing cream and begins to apply it. Dried, I slip into the shoulder holster, and Paris leaves for Darhem.
He enters the bathroom silently, to turning backs. I watch Paris bite a nail. Unfolding the instructions, he fastens one strap into a buckle, and then changes his mind. He flicks at the tightened straps and coughs. I tell him that it is comfortable, and thank him. Paris undoes the explosives belt and passes it around my waist. Darhem kneels to secure it, asking me why I am not wearing underwear. I tell that I thought I would 'go commando' but it is a joke that raises a smile on no-one but Sister Paris, and only for a second. I feel like being comic. I am strong enough to joke. No-one is going to denounce me, not where we are now, not after six months, on this beautiful morning.
Then, with a hand above my hip, he turns to throw instructions at the others, down the hall. He pulls the belt forward, under my belly button, tucks the ends behind the canvas pouches and reaches me some talcum powder. After asking me to dry the small of my back more thoroughly, he leaves.
Sister Valencia hands me my revolver, safety-caught. I check its weight, clip it firmly below my left arm. Darhem returns with a harness for the detonator. The braces go over my shoulders and become a fixture to the belt. He measures a length of emergent wire and tapes the end against the pulse point of my right inner wrist.
I raise a hand for Paris to swipe 'x' marks around my underarm and down the side, using a prescription roll-on. As she does the other side, Sister Valencia unfolds my blue dress, the one we found yesterday, and I carefully pass the arm into it. Paris brings the other side around and closes the lowest buttons. Perching again on the bath's edge to brush my hair, Valencia kneels to cover my feet in white knee socks, then a pair of blue leather boots.
We turn to the mirror and check for outlines, telling shapes in the final arrangement. I try it with a large, rectangular shoulder bag under my left arm. I try it without the belt, try it seated on the toilet. We agree that the neck is high enough but should at least be done up to the second button. (I only need to open the fourth button to produce the revolver. I practice doing this with Sister Valencia’s hands across my eyes.) If the belt of the dress is loosened and the explosives hang closer to my crotch, I look a little bloated. When I pull the shoulder bag forward, everything looks as good as it is going to. I wonder if a pattern would have hidden things better, but they say everything looks fine. I tie back my hair, apply my make-up and, eventually, we are ready to leave the bathroom.
Time: 2006 Jun 05 11:46:00
“Hey UO, what did you make of my place?”
“Salam Walaykoum, Mister Mo the VI. It’s like totally far gone, mon ami. I feel I acquired some valuable life lessonage which I fully expect to co-pilot my mojo. Certainly forever. Maybe longer. A big inflatable of generosity has risen in my head and I don’t ever want it to ker-pop.”
My last day in Morocco is a decision point. The restauranteur has invited me and two others on a fishing trip further south, where he is buying land. (Maybe with so much work exodus, friends here seem to be the people you met yesterday, rather than an inner sanctum privy to the true you). The holiday could go on forever, not that I would be saving any money by being back in London. I plan to return someday, see the north and the coast a bit more. I buy the Gnauoa that Lalia recommended, foodstuffs and spices. I fold in on myself a bit, as if I don’t really want to go, but I eventually do.
“Yeah, king, it’s meant to be Judith Chalmerised, Europified, a step off Southern Spain with extra cumin. I didn’t see none of that. There’s, like, serious illiteracy and everything.” Lining the country roads to the airport, there are even more unfinished houses and apartment blocks, surplus to the 1980s dream to become something akin to a Costa (aimed at the French, who loved their package deals but had yet to embrace the timeshare mentality). Perhaps this confidence and sense of becoming also gave way to the population boom around that time, or perhaps this occurred just after the vision hit the hurdles.
“Glad you enjoyed. Abiding memories?”
“Gotta be the barefoot chick in the middle of an unholy Erewhon. I’ll think of her every time I play ‘Highway Chile’ outside Chalk Farm tube. An’ I’ll dream of returning there one day, most likely on a Harley Super Glide or perhaps a vintage Bonneville. Split across the valley, track her down like a seasonsed huntsman. Scoop her onto the back and show her the good sense and safety of the UK, and a job at TK Maxx, Burgess Hill.”
“Sounds like you’ve become a more political animal.”
“I like to think so, dude. The zing don’t have to swing the bad way.”
I turn the key in the lock. Kate and Sadie pause on the stairs, in a whisper. “Orgy, orgy, orgy. I’m just. plain. sick of it. Why don’t we meet someone kinda different
Sadie sighs. "The pasty blogger type.”
Kate squeezes her knees together. “Oh, stop it."
Subject: 30-05 Fun With Very Bad Girls
Time: 2006 Jun 03 23:47:00
After breakfast, we paddled up the beach to Diabat, which Jimi Hendrix tried to purchase in its entirety. When we return, the beach has filled with Moroccan kids playing football, or going wind or kite surfing.
In the evening we revisit the same restaurant we’d had such a good time in the night before. Tonight, the owner is there. He keeps calling me ‘Doctor’, for some reason, and invites me into the kitchen to show me something interesting. There he offers me other substances that I haven’t had for a long time. Again, it is probably deemed insulting to refuse (advised an internal guidebook).
At two a.m. he shuts shop and says he will take us to a late night drinking establishment. We walk through the deserted Mellah to a seafront hotel. In the dancehall, a band is playing popped up Gnaoua. Odd-looking fishermen are dancing jerkily, grinning mindlessly. They live alone and haven’t bought new clothes since Miami Vice was first dubbed, I conclude. Strangely there are about twenty Moroccan girls here and, even more notably, they are plastered.
“I’m working here.” A girl called Lalia (not actual name) tells me. It’s a small town at 47,000 and the restauranteur seems to be in everyone's pocket. “It’s best to be honest, no?” I cannot envisage what degree of social pariah-ship prostitutes must feel in this country. Most citizens would happily watch them stoned, and not in a good way.
“Of course it is.” I say.
Lalia has very large breasts in a tight black vest, and equally tight camouflaged shorts. A broad line of kohl runs right around her eyes. She keeps touching my hand and leg as we chat. Suddenly, she unties her jet-black hair and starts swinging it around in front of me, in time to the music. As I watch, I ask myself if I will participate (‘What sayest thou, Iago?’) for these girls actually look healthier and less hassled than anyone I’ve seen on the streets over the past week. They’d probably be the people I’d feel I was exploiting the least. But the decision is a false start, for I don’t fancy her, nor the situation. I wonder how not to offend. There’s a coldness here and her temper turns very quickly - she barks in Arabic at another girl who comes near us. (This girl, in turn, punches the back of a third girl, sitting with a customer, as she walks away. A bouncer rushes over and gives her a warning.) Possibly due to the nature of exchange in this country, the integrated begging, the culture of alms, commissions and tips, the whole thing feels less like prostitution than a wayward Spangles Niteclub, full of drama, tiffs and stolen boyfriends. Slowly, I get the impression that these girls see themselves as ‘drinkers’ first (and worst), and into men, but expect to be paid, which is just the nature of, well, everything here.
Lalia recommends some Gnaoua records to me (although she cannot read my guidebook), and shows me her condoms, but it becomes clear that I’m probably a commercial dead end. Nevertheless, she asks me how long I am staying and tells me to change my flight and stay a little longer. She asks me what exactly I am a ‘doctor’ of. As the bar runs dry of whiskey, and the records end, we watch a group of hookers defiantly singing the Gnaoua favourite ‘Aicha’, unaccompanied but for team slaps of the table. The lights gradually go on but, suddenly, one girl begins a kind of gutsy belly dance across the leather seats. Her face is so intense and believing, giving so much to the dance, taking so much from it - it has a real erotic charge.
Subject: 29-05 Desdemona, A Guiltless Death I Die
Time: 2006 Jun 03 23:44:00
Direct from Marrakech to the easy-going seaside resort of Essaouira, and the first proper shower in days, at the ‘Enfant Terribles’ riad. One of our group bought some Rif Mountain hash. I haven’t pandered to it for a long time (skunk has me on my back, and the mellower stuff always got me stupidly horny) but it feels rude not to. The soft, bendable block is really pure. I wonder if it is wise to get horny in an Islamic country. (Kiffed-out chat up. A veil. “I think Allah is great. What about you?” Feeling a little limited already. “Yes.”)
Ahead, ahead, around the battlements to Place Orson Welles (he filmed a choppy, otherworldly version of ‘Othello’ here) and the seafront grills. In the evening, we explore the deserted alleys of the town, searching for nightlife, and possibly a drink. Another hurdle. The few bars that serve alcohol in Morocco are pokey, all-male affairs. Even tourist women get stared at, hissed at and, finally, clapped when they depart. We found a restaurant in the old Jewish Mellah happy to serve our mixed group a stunning bottle of Guerrouane, and also contained a group of Italian tourists (who left soon after we arrived).
Tis here, but yet confus’d. Knavery’s plain face is never seen till us'd. In a kind of horny and hilarious lock-in the chef passed us more kif and then took to the gimbri (a three string instrument that sounds like a double bass), for some impromptu Gnaoua. A lot of African music can sound too chirpy to my ears (a paradox that the more affluent the social body and mind the bleaker the song) but I’m glad I discovered Gnaoua, a sufi religious music handed down from slaves hauled across the Sahara by the Arabs. Essaouira holds a jazzy festival
of this music every year. Ornette Coleman was a fan.
Subject: 28-05 The Mid-Atlas Night Bus Cometh
Time: 2006 Jun 03 11:59:00
The land cruiser sinks on the ridge of a dune and we spend an exposed hour in the morning sun digging, pushing and levering planks of wood under the wheels. Eventually we get going and take the long route over the shallow dunes, arriving at the other side of the lake by lunchtime. The Death Valley zones are pockmarked in smooth grey mounds of mud, quicksand, dirty water. It feels impossible, but we do eventually reach the town of Rissani.
There, we are given conflicting reports. It is impossible to get out. The roads have become rivers. Twenty are dead. You need a monster truck. Someone’s brother-in-law has a hot air balloon. The conflicting news gets frustrating. A ‘grand taxi’ is going to Fez via El Rachidia, and we set off, getting stuck in the mud and doing a hell of a lot of pushing.
We reach the laid-back garrison town of El Rachidia late in the day and book tickets for the night bus to Marrakech. What is a rural Moroccan night bus like? Fantastic, in fact. Chaotic, frenetic - transistor radios play Chaabi (there seems to be a paper trail of musical forms that sound just like Bhangra, a generic Equator Pop where only the language differs). People chat and share food. At the various stops along the mountain roads, beggars or the just plain curious get on, march along the aisles shouting, then get off again.
We try to sleep but end up catching loose half-hours of confusing quasi-dreams, before being woken in another small town bus stop, for national servicemen or Berbers to get on, or off. Eventually we pass unflooded rivers, and feel over the worst.
Subject: 27-05 The Locked Room Drama
Time: 2006 Jun 03 11:58:00
The day is spent getting to know one another in a totally beautiful prison. Like a ‘locked room drama’, an episode of BB, ‘Lost’ or ‘The Prisoner’, we map our boundaries – both physical and as people – for we realise that we might be here for a long time.
Any 4x4 vehicles that could make it over the dunes are, quite rightly, being used to evacuate the village. Even if they got us to the other side of the lake, the mud and collapsing roads ensure it ‘could be days’ before we reach Rissani, before we get anywhere. It is doubly frustrating in that, stuck here, we cannot be useful.
Once the key is turned, and we know we are trapped, personalities change. The chilled-out Aussies blame each other for coming. "I said South America." "No you didn’t." They turn into panicked problem solvers, on the phone for half the day, trying to find a helicopter hire firm. "It'll work out at five hundred dollars each. Who's in? Come on guys. Come on!" The quiet computer programmers from the West Country crack jokes (much to the annoyance of the Aussies) and tan.
We are at the mercy of the clouds. If it rains again tonight, the Ziz could rise again, the remaining auberge could collapse and we will find ourselves bobbing about like drowning palm rats. We spend the day in an unspoken prayer, and a scan of the horizon.
Being marooned is not a bad life, to be honest. There is food and water and even a crate of Sprite. The hostel cook makes us a delicious Berber kalia – the finest meal I eat in Morocco, as finely balanced as a very, very good curry and utterly sumptuous. We play Texas Hold 'Em poker, and climb barefoot on the 100-metre dunes to watch an infinite, jewelled meshwork of stars appear, to assure us that the storm will not be returning. By the evening we hear that the auberge owner is coming in a land cruiser and will try to get us to Rissani tomorrow. Slight disappointment all round, to be honest.
Subject: 26-05 The Inundation
Time: 2006 Jun 03 11:57:00“100 mm in 4 hours. 6 dead. 600 families out in the camps. In the Merzouga region. Errachidia. South east Morocco.
Six people at least died in the flooding . 600 families lost their homes. according to the Moroccan Press agency MAP. 335 building fell down under the heavy rains and more than 114 homes were totally demolished. The village is no-more the village. It is really a serious situation out there. Families that have been there have never seen this before. Even in the floods of 1965.”
So reports a blogspot called Ghasbouba
. If we hadn’t been out in the desert, in the tents, we might have stayed in one of the auberges that collapsed, crushing four Italian tourists.
The desert storm gives little warning: the lightning is constant, like a deep wall of paparazzi surrounding hotel steps. Sub bass thunder toms-toms and crashes in stereo around the sky. Hail like heavy diamonds chase the rain, penetrating the camel hair drapes of the tent. Eventually, we are all saturated and trying to protect our cameras and things. One of the guys has brought a bottle of whiskey and we mix it with coke and begin to laugh about it all. The nomads haven’t seen anything like this since 1990.
Eventually we double up under blankets and pull plastic mats over our heads and try to get some sleep. When I do finally get over, I dream of silent, alien motherships (inspired by the glows outside, no doubt) and of bloggers I have never met. A cup of sweet, hot chocolate. I watch the cream turn slowly on top.
The storm ends by sunrise. The camels are spooked but too proud to show it, but we decide to brave the dunes for our return trip. The Death Valley zone is now a lake. One auberge remains standing, surrounded by a flooded River Ziz on three sides, sand dunes on the other. As a rescue helicopter (one of only two in Morocco) rattles past towards genuine victims in the village, it becomes clear that we will not be leaving any time soon.
Subject: 26-05 Before The Desert Storm (Lol Gets The Hump)
Time: 2006 Jun 02 17:04:00
After thick galettes and honey, we lickety split to the Todra Gorge - sheer, scary and profoundly deep. Mountain climbing is taking place. Some rain has flooded parts of the ravine and local kids charge us to cross the deep puddles by donkey. In the fields, the irrigation channels are also overflowing - we splash deep on the roads towards the Death Valley flatlands, peppered by the occasional fossil seller, which lead to the Sahara.
There are some perfectly definable Holiday Milestones: the culmination of the mighty ‘Man, This is What Life Is About’; flashes of ‘Losing Your Snobbery’ (when the nutty prattle of the driver ceases to be fascinating and just reminds you of the small town you grew up in); the ‘Just Being There’ day, when you want sit and soak the goings on rather than pocket a bunch of culture. Little prepares you for the Geldof Chicane. The van slows for a barefoot girl, wandering alone in Absolute Hell, holding up a little red camel for sale. Probably for the equivalent of 0.01p. You want to reach her all the money you have, for the toy looks finer than any art in any vain metropolis. You want to smuggle her back to London and teach her the guitar and she might grow up to be Carrie Brownstein. You don’t know what the fuck to feel. You feel like a pampered sneak. No matter how tourist trod this trail might be, rattling along in your rickety van, the poverty is real. But you pass her too quickly, with too headstrong a driver, and two hours along your Death Valley.
Eventually, passing some clay and straw auberges, the last watering holes, we get out and board camels for a long walk forward towards a night in the nomad tents. It is getting late; we are looking at sundown, too far from anywhere.
Subject: 25-05 Beyond the Atlas
Time: 2006 Jun 02 17:03:00
Over the mountains by the sheer drop that is the Tizi n’Tichka route, through Berber villages where the women carry grass bales on their backs the size of small Peugeots. Proof that national boundaries are rarely meaningful molar units, everyone looks wizened and kind; the colourful Berbers successfully kept full-blown Islam at the foot of the hills. Forced conversion? Nein danke. One person’s underdog is another one’s jackboot, but the Berbers simply absorbed a few choice elements and got on with their Berbering.
The women wear beautiful tunics, often patterned and ankle length, with matching parasols and laced layers. The jade green and salmon battlements and brightly decorated vans remind you of Mexico. Over half the younger men seek work in the north or abroad, to the point where many villages look composed of old men and womenfolk.
Onward through the palmeries, past the fortified Ksours, along the desert roads to Ouarzazate, a 1920s Foreign Legion garrison. Then to the mud-built Kasbahs of Ait Benhadden, where the sand stretches around like Cinemascope. And it practically is – anything Jesus-related or Gladiatorial finds itself filmed here. They did Laurence Of Arabia, don’t you know? Onwards again, towards a tajine and a sleep in the deep warm ravine called the Dades Gorges, where the rocks curve and fold like monkey paws above a fertile valley, and the kids scrap over any sweets and coins you give them, very much against the advice of the guidebooks.
Subject: 24-05 The Hands Of Moulay Ismail
Time: 2006 Jun 02 17:02:00
Day Three: around Marrakech’s palaces and tombs. Sometimes you might ask yourself “Where did Africa’s cut in the slave trade end up?” If white Europeans basked in an exploitative financial afterglow, why not Africa itself? Well, a lot of the lolly went on the El Badi palace. Built for Ahmed el Mansour, who garnered human stock for the British and Spanish ships (along with sugar and gold), El Badi was, at its height, so luxurious that it took a loose screwball called Moulay Ismail a full ten years to ransack it and strip it of its assets. That’s a considerable house move.
Sunken gardens, a ninety metre pool, harems clad in ornate zelij, everywhere a golden splendour; Moulay Ismail seemed to want to destroy anything that he hadn’t created (not that he had a problem with harems, having 888 children to 500 women and girls). He bricked Christian workers inside the walls they were working on, once they collapsed of exhaustion, and adorned the ramparts with 10,000 severed enemy heads. We all dig a bad boy (they get the attention, which is half of life’s battle), but Moulay Ismail had a need to explore the more psychopathic perimeters. Over 16,000 slaves served in his Black Guard, inflicting endless cruelty on Christian slaves, and he left the unsurpassed El Badi as it sits today, a sad basin for stork droppings.
The Bahia palace was built for Moulay Hussan’s chamberlain in 1866, and contains a mosque, riad, hammam, harem and flower garden, where the smell of lavender is overwhelming. The bedrooms of a sultan’s ‘legitimate wives’ were always discernable by the decoration above the window. Fine zellij and ornate stucco, something in the Moroccan look says the following to me: the Rolling Stones read William Burroughs; they go to Diabat, get wrecked on kif; fans make a pilgrimage, write poems about castles in the sand and return to decorate Bayswater flats in drapes and beanbags; suburban homes follow suit; 1980s wine bars and make-over shows hold the pose. All said, in the cold ceramic flesh, it is all very calming and seductive.
Moulay Ismail, enduringly berserk, also sealed up the Saadian Tombs, the grandiose burial grounds of the Saadian dynasty, which lay unfound until 1917. You can just stick your head into his nemesis el Mansour’s dark, ornate mausoleum before the queue behind you begins to sigh in Russian.
Subject: 23-05 YSL’s Terrapins
Time: 2006 Jun 01 23:05:00
I'm sleeping right beside the Koutoubia minaret and I am woken by four
a.m. prayers hailed across the city. I'm glad that I'm not allowed into the mosque. If you are going to have religion let it live and breathe, let it's assemblies be more than mere architecture for poking Nazarenes. The prayer undulates and pauses, hails the Marrakechi sunrise, a song to bookend the night. You feel brought into the community, even in sleep, like you might be protected by this voice - as a foghorn readies a port, or a pithead whistle divides and defines the day above a colliery.
Mid morning, I get lost in the labyrinth of souks. Although they seem to stretch forever and everywhere, everyone seems to sell the same five or six things – tajines, robes, metalwork, spices, carpets. Chameleons slink around their cages. Mountains of fruit and more dubious herbals (“Famous Berber Viagra” turns out to be ginseng), and rough-house butchers whack the heads off chickens. Middle-aged tourist women in beads and loose linen pass through the devout in veils. The streets are the men’s place. Rough, covered in gristle.
Then around the ramparts and the smaller souks to the Jardin Majorelle, which Yves Saint Laurent acquired after painter Jacques Majorelle's death. Loping palms and white furry cacti, a bamboo forest and a terrapin-filled lotus pond. It's disconcerting, like Jarman's garden in Dungeness, its pots and walls other-worldly in ‘Paris overall’ shades of cobalt 'blue majorelle'.
After exploring Guerliz, the French colonial northern half (really a mock French town centre), I went back to the hotel, where Mustafa will take me, for commission, to a non-tourist Hammam. I strip to the swimming trunks and am guided by an old Marrakechi to a blinding hot steam room. Here I stew, disorientated, for a while. He resurfaces through the murk to wash me with black sabon, gives me the rough mitt all over, pumices me, washes me again with some grey stuff, pulls my back around like a chiropractor and throws buckets of water over me - very hot, through to a cold finish.
Female visitors to Morocco find the Hammam one of the few ways to meet local women. It's daft like water play, and bonding without really being gay (although the men hold hands here, it is pure affection. That said, due to the segregation of the sexes, homosexuality is common, tolerated as it would be in prison, as something men do before marriage). You emerge from a Hammam highly sanitary, springy and energised.
Supper at a seafood table in the Djemma (all locals, a couple of Japanese). Sardines and conger eel. Melting aubergines and peppers. Chips and harissa sauce.
Subject: 22-05 The Child Boxers
Time: 2006 Jun 01 23:01:00
There’s a lot to gob about in Marrakech. The driver huckled up something semi-solid and span it from the window of the 'grand taxi' without much of a head turn. I had just been marvelling at my first camels, paused in the sun-down of their labour, looking primeval and dignified on the hard shoulder. The driver, haggled to half his asking price, only narrowly missed one. The haggling, which starts as fun, is going to get to me.
Nazarene, Nazarene! I feel very pale on the streets (but the blondes get the hard stares, and the ginges get the nudge). I feel very rich. And/but I feel welcome. Night One: some mint tea and a walk around the ‘Assembly Of The Dead’, the Djemma el fna, which lights up at sundown. They've tried to shut this market down, due to its wide-ranging wealth of seed, but it almost makes Marrakech, makes it so medieval – medieval with soccer and cyber - a Mos Eisley for Berbers to trek down the Atlas to trade, amid women with bared shoulders, mobiles and mobylettes. A vaguely modern medieval. And it is good to recall that haggle and trade routes is why such land-locked interzones exist.
Kids scamper everywhere across this expansive assembly of food, entertainment and odd medicines. Begging mums have at-work expressions. “Slow down the Djemma tonight?” Men tootle on their upturned crates. If they are not tootling, they are drumming. And if they are not drumming they are shouting. The odours hit you across flat waves of warm night air and range from a citrus-y kind of cedarwood to a cinnamon-y kind of barbeque. The food stalls give their relentless plea: tajines, pastillas, flash fried guts, cervaux and roast sheeps head (with or without eyeballs. The latter, one assumes, is the vegetarian option). Fresh orange juice, khendenjal (a ginseng aphrodisiac served with a cube of chocolate cake) or almond milk.
No single photo would do the Djemma justice (as with the more dramatic landscape outside Marrakech) because the abiding memory is expression after expression. Advertising, asking, laughing, bullying off mock arguments. You would snap them but they’d ask for money. You would snap them and complain it was too touristy. You put your camera away. You begin to flow with the city. Quickly, you learn it is best to avoid eye contact. Is the haggle crooked? Are the ‘guides’ leading you to price-hiking stores being friendly or after a newbie’s buck? Is it all natural, this integrated begging, and a part of the Muslim culture of alms?
Forty percent of this country is under eighteen, and there is no social security. Pickpockets have a laugh at the Djemma. Almost. The child boxers get more in a bout than their dads see for labouring. The other entertainment curves in a rough circle around the food stalls and ranges from up-and-proud begging, through to snake charmers and some spazzed-looking chimps; a man with a chicken on his hat who crouches up and down telling a story (and if I understood Arabic I'd take the Crouching Man over much of Saturday night telly), to proper japes and yarn spin. Feral cats, alleys full, throw hissing fits if you approach them and rarely have both eyes. And everyone has something to gob about. Especially the child boxers.
Time: 2006 Jun 01 22:52:00
An awesome break in Morocco; very high highs, new friends and near death. Well, nearly. I kept a diary, which I’ll gradually load onto UO. “It’s so. Fucking. Shitty.” Said a tanned returnee, openly angry, gazing from the transit shuttle at Gatwick (although moaning about Britain must be near the tops of its problems). Back to London, where Matt’s chum Russell is dating Kate Moss (‘Kate and the Crackhead II’ announced the Sun, a little unfairly). Ours was a zoom lens free doorstep when I set my bags upon it, I’m happy to say. No Dirty Little Secrets here. Good luck to them. “Easiest place in the world to find sex, and the hardest to find love.” Said a colleague of the big L. Who needs it when the big L is love itself, even if we eventually bite the buckshot and move on. For now, I feel equipped for desert living. Inshallah. Inshallah...
Time: 2006 May 01 22:11:00Boris is being brought here, later tonight. This surprises me, but it was at his father’s insistence. The apartment is very modest, I explained. But he insisted on starting here. It is very possible that I will lose this chance, but I am no position to argue.
I wish to eat something now, in the descending sun. I do not have a television, but I have a long wave radio which can pick up some of the Baltic State radio stations. In order to open a bank account I would have to produce a household utility bill in my name. I would rather not give people my name. It is not my apartment. I am not supposed to be here, and I am in no position to argue.
I will never explain why I came to London. Forgive me. I am keeping this part of my life somewhere it will never me found. You will often think this about people who appear to be telling you everything. What are they building a little wall around? Whatever I have built a wall around – that would be me.
Freedom is good, though, you must admit. I am free to leave the apartment, and free to return. I did not know what to do with this freedom, when it came. I was driven to this block and given keys. Keys! I cannot say that I slept well that night, but I slept better.
The following morning I let myself out, and walked down the six flights of steps to the hall, looking left and right. No one in the streets. Eventually I found someone who looked like a postman. He was loping along, talking to a telephone headset. I asked him where the nearest park was, and he checked me over and made a very serious face, told me that he was off duty and could accompany me. I told him that I merely wanted to know where the park was, thanked him and moved on.
Eventually, I approached an elderly couple, tourists, who traced the way on a pocket map. It had a small lake, I noticed. I had not seen a park, or a bird, for such a long time. Once through an outer ring of trees, I saw a wide roll of grass leading down to the lake. I watched someone cast a ball for his dog.
At the lake, a swan drifted past me, a little proudly. Then he circled for a while and approached. I have nothing for you, I raised my fingers nevertheless. He left the water, swayed towards me along the wall, and I ran a finger down his neck and across his back. Our silence! As if we both knew more than we could begin to say. You need to touch me, he seemed to say.
I wish to eat something now. Every other day the doorbell rings, and I open the door and some groceries are there. Even if I get somewhere with Boris, I will not be given currency. I chop some dill and cucumber, tomatoes and cornichons and squeeze a lemon over it, and take the bowl out to the balcony.
At about six o’clock the front door is opened and two men lift a large clean whiteboard though the apartment. They angle it to rest, it reaches across both arms of the sofa, and they lean it back against the wall. “Half an hour, yes?” They drop marker pens onto the table and leave.
An hour later, the door knocks. I find it difficult to answer.
Mr Konstanz fills the doorframe, as if he has been standing with his nose practically against the wood. He greets me with a little more than his usual dignity but does not kiss me. One of his guys, then a second guy, curls around and into the apartment. The first waits in the hall, a hand poised inside his jacket, as his colleague enters the main room.
Konstanz turns and drags a small boy, wearing a bottle green jacket and cap, under the light of the hall. I follow them, and I feel like apologising.
“Take a splash.” Konstanz barks at his guy, rummaging under the sofa cushions.
“I haven’t done the...”
He thumbs his mobile phone into divert. “Take a fucking splash!”
Immediately, the three of us are alone, under the light, so much brighter as it flashes lines along the whiteboard.
Konstanz is a stout bull of a man. “Sit, please?” As I descend to the sofa, to cross my legs, I feel myself framed in white. He rolls his finger at Boris, who climbs up to sit beside me.
“Son, this lady sitting here is an angel. And one that is going to baptise your head with such knowledge it makes me really very ashamed. Really very ashamed.” He tries to give me a smile.
He turns and walks to the window. “Miss, Boris is an inward boy, far from the full rouble. We try. I believe his tongue itself may be the problem.” I nod. “If he were to find a Crimean ear, the one he inherited seems to stay dormant, things may be very different.”
He returns to crouch at the boy’s feet, to inspect his shoes. “I want you to listen to me, Boris. And I want you to listen very well indeed; for there are not many times when I might speak to you in this manner.” Slowly, he looks to the floor. “You will never be an immigrant, a confessed fake. God willing, you will never offer hard face to your new world, and spend your dreams trying to find a road back to your family.”
He looks up at me. “Boris, every day I wonder if the world is fit for sensitive living. It really is a place for idiots. Idiots. I have met judges no brighter than the squirrels swinging in Belko forest. Your sisters, they are smart girls. You are more absorbent, but nothing returns. It may be me. It may be all of us.” He stands again. “But this angel here will give you back your mother tongue, and it may be your power.”
Mr Konstanz does not know my name. Neither my real name, nor any interpretation. His brow knits and he checks his son’s face, which remains patiently blank and unresponsive.
“I lived in a place with little truth when I was your age.” He holds out a hand. Quickly, as if deciding on something that he has been in several minds about, he returns to kneel in front of his son. “Now I am going to tell you something. A secret. A secret your sisters will never know. The day you tell them, or the day you tell someone who might tell them, you lose everything. It will be your power, Boris.” He takes his son’s hand.
For some reason, the boy turns to me, a little grave. “Boris, your mother is not actually your true mother.” He holds his look at me. His eyes are soft coals that match the fringe appearing under his cap, his cheeks have a milky delicacy centred with a wipe of pink. “Your true mother was very young and very ashamed, and she died.” The child blinks. “Your mother and I pretended. Several months, a trip abroad. The birth. Everything. We so wanted a little boy.”
Boris looks back, as if jump-started by this. He sighs, suddenly tired in the dawn of shame. “Never tell your sisters. And never, ever say your father lived a lie. He opened a wound for you. Now, your studies.”
I watch Konstanz leave, a dam of emotion trained to spill but never break. The boy and I will be together twice a week, for two hours to begin with. We will see some progress, and I am in no position to argue.
Subject: Kings, Queens and Graffiti
Time: 2006 May 01 10:10:00
Every year, on my birthday, after chatting to my mum on the phone (“And how is work?” “Fine.”) (She has stopped sending me religious tracts and quoting “Three score and ten”, but started sending me childhood photographs, with ‘This Is Your Life’ written on the accompanying card) I usually attempt to ‘do London as a tourist’. This year I went to the Tower, then tickled the rays at the Aquarium, then, shunning a fourth viewing of Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Winter Light’, settled in the Islington Vue for anything at all, the next thing scheduled – ‘Ice Age 2: The Meltdown’. (“Script Tip 753b – make the story crackle with Conflict.” Every sloth bickers with every mammoth about every thing going. In fact, no one states, proffers or suggests anything that another character does not misunderstand, take umbrage over or wildly dispute, preferably in a Brooklyn accent. That said, I did sorta laugh out loud, at a rodent chasing a nut. But not as much as with ‘Winter Light’: Ingrid Thulin as a frumpy whipping girl in a one-way love with a God-forsaking priest who tries and fails to counsel the suicidal Max von Sydow – an uproarious and riotous merry-go-round, friends.)
Anyway, the Tower is awash with Plots and Conflict – infanticide, stretched bones, triple diddling, splitting and spitting monarchy, hungering anti-monarchists. They sell Anne Boleyn eggcups, which is a bit much. Anne was beheaded for treason, witchcraft, adultery, incest, having a miscarriage, giving birth to a girl, getting shirty with Thomas Cromwell, getting flirty with religious reform and rubbing Spain’s nose in it. All or any of these, or somewhere thereabouts. (Or none - Henry may have felt that he had irretrievably moved on as person, both emotionally and spiritually. “Don’t hate me, funny fingers.” Chunkk! “Miss Seymour! A dapple of rouge becomes you.”) At the executioner’s block, I cawed for ravens (“Indoors, I’m afraid. Standard precautions. Avian flu.”), wondering if the sheer urgency of the lives then - disease, revolt, unspecified ignorance, entrapment in one’s lot - caused the religiosity, the warped sense of piety (especially the bonds around the Holy Family unit) and/or the extra brutality required for a sense of flight, or if those are just the stories that survive, the hand-holds and strolls of history long having been left out of the annals.
The Crown Jewels are probably more about splendour than any kind of aesthetic; like getting into someone’s underwear, the allegory can be more alluring than the material cache. Symbolic bling, even very much the real thing - I drifted past the Imperial State Crown (“Lift ‘em and split, little man. Go down in history. History!”), sensing dazzle and assurance more in the third person, imagining someone else’s infant wonder more than wowing myself. Sparkle seems doubly camp in a brushed steel and wood-brown modernist world, countering the darkness of history itself, department store function being the nearest we feel we need get to true decadence. Wot’s it all for? You wonder if all the family intrigue is simply history’s way of humanising men born and bred as sons of the great mover, Conflict.
Running around the horses’ codpieces and child tiaras is proof that the Tower was a prison, should history wish to forget - a lot of the prisoner’s graffiti remains chiselled and scraped on the walls. Having been in trouble with the police, only once, for graffiti - (“This is a finger printable offence,” warned PC McKinney, clicking his pen, finding the right form) - it tends to fascinate me in function as well as in form. The graffiti ranges from religious symbolism (mine wasn’t), scratches in Latin (probably ‘2nd Duke of Norfolk - anyone’s for a guinea fowl’), shields and things (perhaps an equivalent of ‘Whitesnake’, or maybe ‘So Solid Cardinals’), a heart with four initials. Sir Walter Raleigh, cooped in the Bloody Tower, started scribbling a ‘History of The World’, getting as far as 130 BC before pleasuring the blade. As such, you walk around his room, or stand over Anne’s bones at the Chapel Royal Peter ad Vincula, wondering if we could claim everything and anything an ornate form of graffiti, poised at the confines of politics, war and desire.
Then you wonder if sparkle, appropriated symbols of religiosity before it feels a need to get moral, is everything seeming to invade or tantalise us from the worlds beyond graffiti. News from the better place, of light and air, if this is your want, or whatever we know we cannot find on the Max von Sydow merry-go-round. Pure sparkle does not actually do us good, it doesn’t inspire or educate, it probably is distinctly wasteful, and only when we consider ‘Who the hell keeps it from us?’ will it rub salt along our limits.
I have no idea if weblogs are cutting down on street graffiti. They should do, really. No one gives a possum’s cuss, because no one has to sandblast it off. But, likewise, no one hoards it. No longer outside naughty, to make life crackle along with Conflict, the temptation tends to a novel form of inside naughty. Naughty of the selves. MySpace/school desk, inside/outside, social desires versus private (scarves on the streets of Marrakesh are surely less about humility and the female than Where It Is), any place worth being in somehow needs to feature both; the walls need to come, somehow, furnished. Only then will we feel bidden, rather than abandoned, insiders.
In ‘Winter Light’, Ingrid Thulin pulls the bandages off the gammy hands she hates and hides and looks up at the stained glass “God, why have you created me so eternally dissatisfied? I’m so very strong, both in body and soul – but you never give me a task worthy of this strength.” Perhaps our daily crackle, from the mortgage to hunger and the Plague, feel twice as lethal shadowed by a better executioner – a potential weightlessness behind it all. Maybe this is what graffiti is saying, to any greater course beyond the glass. Was this it? Was this our test?
Subject: Oh Mother, What'll I Do Now?
Time: 2006 Apr 24 17:57:00“First I stand and then I sit. Then I sit and stand a bit. But I can’t stand much more of it. Oh Mother, What’ll I Do Now?”
George Formby, ‘Mother, What’ll I Do Now?’ (1938)
My First Monday of unemployment. No thumb twiddling, no sir (see below). Grand leaving drinks on Friday. Stratagem: get spannered, then a Ruby Murray. Mr Newman from the Hicks Milligan’s found a flamenco dress left outside the Sue Ryder charity shop off the Euston Road. Hazy memories of him putting it on. Will miss the people – even chatting to Jack about replacing the toner cartridge might leave me with a daft turn of phrase for the notebook. Not sure how writers cope sitting at home - their fiction must be laced with Radio 4. Will not miss - tube carriages full of root-pruned (Radio 4 - arrgh), self-amputating blacks and blues (service, service, service!) of the urban work squad.
So today I visited Jobcentre Plus! Certainly less painful that the last time I registered. It’s the first day of their new system there, and I had twenty minutes of questions on a free-phone number with a nice lad called Des. Very slick. Then - Chased A Job Agency. And applied for something I would like very much, and put a New Wallpaper On My Laptop (below), to help me focus fiction. Although a lack of time hasn’t been the main reason for losing hand-hold, one always hopes to be changed by the positive, like falling in love. At least the landscape is different. The train has pulled out of the station, even if I’m not sure where it is going. All good.
Looked for an Editor. It is very kind of you to read UO. I know this but it’s a humdrum and circular thing to say/read. But, thanks. I’ve been looking for an editor, and I’ll extend the offer here - especially as knowledge of previous fiction might be useful. Moot used to read before I posted it on-line, and I felt better for it. It’s a busman’s hoo-hah for her now as she off-roads around the slush pile for a living, amongst other things. Job involves: me do a chapter, mail it to you, you read it and say “I could kinda see that coming” or “What in God’s name are you going on about?” or “Would a Soviet cosmonaut really
be called Gavin?” and I revise. Anny spillung misteaks or boobs glaring or grammatical in nature. Although feedback is far and away the thing, and loose pointers more than a thesis. Experience far from required. Urbanospreys [at] gmail [dot] com.
Wrote a new CyberDate advert. Going for the traditionalist approach:
“Me: I like men to be men and women.. you’ve guessed. I feel I rise above all this ‘swinging blue jeans’, ‘Adidas on the table’, ‘funky iPod’ culture. No matching tracksuits here. Come back to the traditional way of life, ladies. One that has stood the test of time, and is proven to work for both partners, for the benefit of children and society. You know it makes a tantalising kind of sense. Maybe not now, but when you log off and go about your duties, you’ll slowly begin to think ‘That guy was right. That IS what I want.’
You: You’re not a ‘ladette’ or a ‘handful’. You’re not ‘well mouthy’ or a ‘total character’. Far from ‘hard work’, you are a proper lady, and you sometimes turn to a window and want to shout about being sickened by go-nowhere loons. Why do you end up with dithering, non-committal oafs? You feel you deserve strong, masculine direction to take you in hand. Perhaps you have shunned marriage, or might be in your late twenties and now cursing your off-beat ovaries. You might have a history of sexual freedom, alcohol or recreational soft pot use. You’ve strayed from the path. But, don’t despair – a traditional man is man enough to listen and forgive, and to guide you back where you belong – the only ‘modern lifestyle’ that truly works.” Whaddya reckon?
Researched Marrakech. Finger the savings and take a final trip abroad while I can (Easyjet fly to Marrakech, although I should stop melting the planet and walk). Love the idea. I’ll probably be travelling solo, so I don’t mind hostels. Often a better place for the aforementioned interaction and anecdote - not that there isn’t a universe to be found in business class. Take the slow colonial trains to Casablanca, Fez, Tangier. Bring fezzes back for the gentlemen’s association (below).
Time: 2006 Apr 06 20:43:00
This week I consulted the same solitary toilet cubicle as George Melly, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, John Hurt, Tracey Emin, Gary Hume, Lady Rose McLaren, Marc Quinn, Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons, Dennis Hopper, Tennessee Williams, Brendan Behan, Christopher Isherwood, Dylan Thomas, Patrick Caulfield, Noel Coward, EM Forster, Gavin Turk, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. I got stage fright at a cistern’s lineage.
Although I know the drinking dens of Soho and Fitzrovia fairly well, it was a first for me, the private members’ bar, Dean Street’s Colony Room
. A friend of a friend knew suds czar Dick Bradsell (Moscow Club, Café de Paris, Atlantic Bar & Grill – now a bit of a let down - but still with a handsome Art Deco room called Dick’s - and Pharmacy), so we chanced our arms for the visitor’s book.Who
are you? What
are you?” asked a sweet-looking old lady, seated at the bar, exactly as this image depicts, as if she had been there all along. I noticed she had her eye on our matching ties. I should have whispered in a clipped, Clockwork Orange droog voice, “Don’t worry, Doris. We’re here to keep a lid on any problems. Aren’t we boys? That’s the one. We’re making sure problems don’t jump out. All unawares, like.” Set her mind at ease. (“That was Anne Valery.” Dick explained later. Anne shot a lot of Nazis and wrote the series ‘Tenko’. She also had a bit part in ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’, getting cosy with Alec Guinness in a punt). In a small, forest green room with a golden angel presiding over the far wall, the walls are randomised with Bacon, Lucas, Hirst, Abigail Lane, punked t-shirts, cocks, defaced tenners and a machine gun in a vitrine. In 1948, the day after the Colony Room was pulled together by 'handsome Jewish dyke' Muriel Belcher, Francis Bacon walked in. He was soon allowed free drinks, stimulants and £10 a week to drum up an exclusive clientele which gained the place its reputation. Men were all ‘she’, everything was ‘cunty’, wags ‘held court’ - try to imagine camp vinegar. Membership is elusive (if Belcher called you 'Mary’ you seemed to be accepted), and currently stands around 250.
What does the Colony Room mean? Debauchery, exclusivity, artsiness, lineage. The clients looked fond of a dram - it probably distils to ‘rude and clever’. Clever in the artsy way, clever in the back room, where clever comes in snatches and sees no reason to dress up or explain. No discussing intertextuality in a Mediatheque, ‘round theory but where’s the grab?’ - the artsy here is all grab. ‘From barrowboys to the aristocracy’: British art and rock have been a class system not overly fond of the middle. True, the suburban middle might not get the Colony Room. Nicely trained to do the right thing, the right thing here is the wrong thing. “No bores or ‘observers’.” I thought. “Do something outrageous, UO. DO IT.” This didn’t feel very easy when even the prospect of taking a photograph meant I’d have to ask everyone in the room, individually. Elusive my ass, maybe they just don't do flâneur (“Puffa
jackets? Let’s go
.”) And, despite Dick plying us with Horse’s Necks and Polish bison grass vodka in metal goblets, I felt sober and watchful for camp, which usually makes me feel like a lump of coal surrounded by sparklers. Next time..
In the early nineties, a little overawed by London, I strutted around the bars with my best friend going “London is so provincial. Just so
provincial. It’s all happening in, um, Minsk. Didn’t you know?” Out-do and rise above, like Keith Moon’s faux-aristo skit. Why does upwardly mobile mean being shaky, elitist or rude? Does acceleration bring to the fore a nation’s mixed feelings on personal advancement? Why can’t the top be wider than the bottom? “No country has ever represented social distinction to another country as France has to Britain. To be Francophile, for a long time, meant being part of the elite.” This quote came from a discussion I attended, for a book entitled That Sweet Enemy
. Catch a glimpse of your departed opposite, throw in a little autocritique and everything feels twice as sweet when you are inside, where it's warm. Paranoia, pole axe and pikes out.
Post-war, boom-riding, when people sail on the vinegar-slips from barrowboy to Lord Byron: maybe the Colony Room isn't a part of the neatened New Labour escalator - sustained growth. Maybe it's warmer outside. Or maybe it was mid-week. “Listen here, Doris, we tried to keep the mutineers at bay. You know what them lot are like. Boat rockers. We won’t stand for it. If they come back again - just you whistle. Ta-ra.”
Time: 2006 Apr 03 19:30:00
I cut through the streets near Parliament Hill, heading towards the Heath. It had just gone midnight. I’d had two whiskey macs, just to ease me a bit, and I had prepared a light joint, just to get me horny, which I lit as I circled the borders of the Heath. The hills sat, ink black and silent, but the air didn’t feel too cold tonight. As I turned through the entrance, the only sound was the twisting crunch of my Chelsea boots in the gravel. So I stepped onto the grass, and made my way towards the woods.
I know - how can I do it? How can I trust these people? One thing - swingers usually take much more care of themselves - they have to - it is the more domestic who expect a partner to ‘know and forgive’ flab, flake, odour, chub or stubble. Not just physically but culturally too. You have to perform, give and take, or get the hell out. To be honest, doing it with people I know well makes me a little queasy.
I put out the joint as I enter the trees, and begin to descend towards a glade. I think I hear some rustling, see quick movement in the bushes. “Hi.” Just before crossing the glade, I hear a whisper. I’d prefer to go further into the trees but am horny. In here, things aren’t so different, we don’t suddenly become different people: women want to feel desired, men do too but realise the maths can’t add up if everyone wants to be wanted. It’s very adult.
She walks over. “Come here.” I say. In the dark, verbal demands take the place of body language and eyes, and no-one seems scared to demand.
She pushes me against a tree. Please no, I thought. I’d heard there were some real crazies on the Heath these days. I’d been warned. I try to speak. “Shut it.” She pushes a few fingers into my mouth, moves them in and out and grabs my crotch. “Suck me fingers and shut it.”
I ask her to be nicer and feel her breast. “You’re my bitch, as it happens. I ain’t your bitch.” She says. “I ain’t nobody’s bitch, not since I swung probation.”
She is faking that accent too. “I don’t like you.” I turn away and begin to leave. I come to the Heath to get away from power relationships. To reconnect. Life is too short, and terribly precious.
She reconsiders, realises that she was onto a good thing, but messed it up. “Come back.” She asks, in a much softer voice. Surprisingly well-to-do, possibly a Hampstead local. You have to train them sometimes, it’s a horrible thing to say, but you do. Slowly, I return.
As she leans back against the tree, I raise her skirt. “We’re being sweet with one another, aren’t we?” I move my fingers between the legs. “You’re so hot.” I kiss her. Now it’s her turn to break away. Maybe she can’t do this without an accent.
“This is desperately silly. What am I doing here?”
“You’re not going anywhere.” I grab her shoulder.
She pauses. “No..” From behind, I move my hand under her coat and squeeze her arm a little tighter. “You’re determined, aren’t you?” I wish I could see a smile as she speaks.
“Yes.” Her hand moves to my crotch, then rubs my ass. She turns and presses my shoulders and I descend to my knees, nuzzling her belly and legs as I go, then pull her to the grass. I give a gentle suction to her clitoris as I slalom my tongue left and right, and push two fingers in.
I hear footsteps, coming closer. They seem to know one another. “Found one, Mishka. Not bad, as it happens.” That intonation is back.
“Not anuvver indie honky?” Her friend sucks her teeth. “Should be in is jimjams wiv Rimbaud, innit?”
The first girl is arching her back. “Do us a favour, Mish? Prop im up.” ‘Mish’ unzips my trousers and kneels to begin sucking me.
I wasn’t aroused, but in the still night air, her moist tongue and the soft friction against the cavities of her mouth as so thermal by contrast. “Cheers, m’dear.” With the joint taking full affect, I get very excited, and pull my head out from under of the skirt to try to see this person, Mish.
The first woman stands and turns me onto my back, swings to a crouch over me. As I penetrate it feels lovely but I miss the feeling of skin against skin. I try to pull her forward. “Cheers, Mish.” I’m missing things like kissing, the backs of knees and where the lower belly sinks between the hip bones.
I begin to thrust but she stops me with a hand, and Mish leans in to hold my forehead. “You doesn’t grind Lynne, she grinds you.” She begins to kiss me. “Stick out your tongue.” She whispers. She sucks my tongue, up and down, then I suck hers, then she takes a swig from a beer can. “Ah!” She pulls some tracksuit bottoms down and crouches into my face. “A is doin you a turn. A as no respect for divers. None a’all.” She seems to be presenting her rear to me. “Rim is all you is fit for, Kaiser Chief.” I hear them give one another a hearty high five, ‘Lynne’ grinding with increasing enthusiasm.
“..knows.” I hear whispered, in her real accent. “He. Knows.”
Mish coughs. “Crikey. It’s not the chappie from Café Rouge again?”
“Ooh. I’m going Kerplunk. Pass me the doofer?”
“Franz Ferdinand alright below?” Lynne rolls off, sparks a vibrator, and Mish moves to take her place. “Ah, a right star.”
Through the distant prestissimo
of rattling dildo, I sit up and bring Mish onto the grass, pull down the tracksuit bottoms, push one leg back and push inside. She is filling me with a very male urge, where sex takes aggression and spite firmly by the wrist.
All I can see is void, and all I can recall is an echo of faked accent. I lean down to kiss her, gliding in and out and longing for her to say something else, but she appears to have been silenced. Her breast spills beyond a handful, I feel no sense of trust or mistrust in her, approval or lack - just Lynne’s buzz and groan framing my own pleasure in a warm void. I don’t know why I want to push her to some kind of limit, it’s only fun. She will trust me. She will. Eventually. She might have to.
Lynne curses - we appear to be pressuring twin triggers of orgasm. I utter a warning sound, as if it might encourage something like “Chuck it up me belly. A ain’t droppin an Arctic Monkey.” But, nothing. I tense and release very naturally – inside - for the danger, because it’s old-fashioned and I want all the trimmings, to push society and a thousand duties very far away, and because it feels like a beginning and not an end. You can only kiss someone after doing that, from swan’s neck to long nose, you can only stroke their cheek and want to care for them; you can only grow up a little.
Subject: Blogs D’Amour: On Age
Time: 2006 Mar 30 09:15:00
Comic artist Daniel Clowes once created a strip called the ‘Sensual Santa’. Once read, never forgotten. It’s off-colour and appalling in content, as his best work tends to be. It concerns a goggle-eyed and sandy-bearded man who refuses to give ‘materialist’ gifts for Christmas but instead spreads the joy of physical intimacy like an evangelist. Naked to the waist, he cuddles total strangers, smiling in the face of their distress, and insists on giving children a massage, even through their tears. Kind of the Liberal Parent gone wrong, or Harvey Keitel in a never-released ‘Bad Naturist’, he genuinely believes that he is making the world a better place. There’d be no war and hate if we were all more sensual, he explains, with a wildly innocent smile. And why keep it to Christmas? Be a Sensual Santa.. every day!
There comes a realisation that there are a finite number of years between being ‘awkward’, through ‘holding off for the big one’, to feeling like Sensual Santa. You strut along the high street. “You only live once. I’m older now and, whaddya know, I just don’t give a damn any more. Not. One. Damn. She’s nice. ‘Hey sugar, what ya doin this Saturday? Let’s go jiving.’ This is great
. No-one told me age would be so liberating.” Then you catch a glimpse of a Crimewatch photofit flickering past in the arcade windows, imagine him fashioning pigtails and asking to be called ‘Daddy’ and run to the kerb’s edge to vomit. You turn back, an unholy cusp to beckon you, like the ill-lit birth of disintegration. You clutch someone, ask where the female photofits go jiving. No-one really knows. You’re aging.
In ‘The Information’ Martin Amis described age as being the place of increased sexual anonymity, no-one looks at you. Not even disapprovingly. You don’t register. Invisibility as the cruellest month. Enter Sensual Santa, like a single leap of a double hurdle, to help in your determination not to slip below the radar. “Look at that fool.” The interior whispers. “Yes, look at him, LOOK.” You double it up, bolden yourself to accusations like ‘flagrant’, ‘predator’. Go for it, Jack, whether such behaviour is really you or not. You’re Charles Bukowski. You split.
Succour is to be had in feeling that this might just be your own sense of magnification, where eight years difference arrives like a century, as if you might be the kind of guy who magnifies a wrinkle to a crevice, who can be caught magnifying everything; but eventually you fear that the Sensual Santa could be the only choice you’ve got. Should you secretly tire of the signposts and signals sudoku, the social approval moat-cross of urbane bars and dating - “Yoga
? No, really
? Buy-to-let? Well, who wouldn’t?” – and just pine like a fox for s.e.x, Santa can always pay for it, unless he finds a hetero Hampstead Heath, a girly Gaydar, or a straight and straight-to-the-point sauna. Maybe he’d somehow be less S.S. in the post-romance grottos, a town with no prey.
There comes a triple jump. I once read a biography of a gay porn actor which read, to paraphrase - ‘At thirty, Troy did the decent thing and made the transition from being a ‘hot bottom boy’ to become a ‘scary kinky top man’. Male or female, we eventually say goodbye to ‘hot bottom boy’. We lean on suave, we press a cool authority, we consult a shaky oracle of relationship frameworks (‘The Neg’, ‘The Horse Whisperer’), all to stitch a social burkha, or bomb-proof chat (‘The So-Much-In-Common’, ‘The Killer Boyfriend’), we summons any ghostly soldier just for some control, to steer us around the beltway circling Fullblown Santaville.
Our Sensual friend could have it all wrong, of course. He could be a skit on our confusion of the sensual with the sexual. Creative juice wants to go with the gut, not the head, and the gut could be another word for sensual energy. It is your warmth, it is your humanity, it is the expectancy you wish to share. The one you never really lose, at heart, not really. If you would only let the bugger out.
Date-wise, this year’s sum has been introducing the SAn vegan, Ms W, to Drummond Street
for a serious look at the masala dosa. Fun night - a young un, to be true. She turned me onto Durban, which joins the list of places I need to visit. Private roads and picket fences for a Lynchian Desperate Housewives, and ‘all sorts of goings on’ behind the braai
and bridge evenings. Sounds like a parallel Lapland, for all the Sensual Santas.
Time: 2006 Mar 27 11:38:00
It’s my anniversary tonight. My one hundredth stand-up comedy routine. It might be a swan song. I’m booked into a little bar down the Lower East Side, but I have recently started to get a peculiar feeling that the audience are there before me. Each time I start a joke I feel they know where it’s going, like they’ve read my notes or something.
Not that the material isn’t fresh, or isn’t any good. But I’m thinking that maybe I’ve been too intimate in the past. I’ve opened up about my life quite a bit and they’ve seen inside and now I feel that they can see my mind working. So, once a joke starts, they can picture the end. I imagine. Now I think that I’ve got to close down a little, re-invent myself or get a day job.
I’m sitting at my writing desk, watching the rain, trying to come up with some "closed" material, jokes that don’t really come from me. Super unpredictable.
“This guy goes into a sex shop, and he is browsing the shelves, the DVDs and magazines. He turns to the sales assistant and says ‘Excuse me, this stuff is all very well, but I’m looking for something stronger.’ The sales assistant looks around, touches his nose and says ‘Don’t worry, sir, I know exactly what you mean.’ He goes to the corner of the store and pulls back a curtain. Ushers him through.”
Last night I fell asleep re-watching David Lynch’s ‘Lost Highway’. It’s not my favourite Lynch film, it somehow feels like a dry run for ‘Mulholland Drive’, with a lotta motifs hanging over from ‘Twin Peaks’, but I had my phones on whilst I slept, and the soundtrack must’ve rummaged through my head and given me super odd dreams. This has happened before, usually listening to all-night radio, the chatter paints my dreams for me: I’m an illegal immigrant, a taxi driver, then I’m building a school in Namibia with some aid workers.
“So they’re in the back room of the adult store. And the customer is looking around and he turns to the sales assistant and says ‘Look, I don’t want to seem unappreciative but, to be honest, I’m looking for something much stronger.’ The sales assistant checks him up and down, pauses, checks him again. He winks. ‘Don’t worry, sir, I know exactly what you mean.’ He brings out a key to a locked closet, at the back. He looks around to make sure they aren’t being watched, unlocks it, and ushers the customer quickly inside.”
‘Lost Highway’ tells the story of a couple who are being sent video tapes, long static shots, of the front of their house. It really freaks them out, as you would imagine. Patricia Arquette is super hot, like the kind of mysterious woman you want to drift in through your window in the middle of the night. Although I couldn’t see her as I slept, the dialogue must’ve suggested the story back to me.
“So after a minute standing in this closet, the customer says. ‘Look, I’m not Mr Big Trouble or some kind of freak. But when I said stronger I meant really strong. Really really strong.’ The sales assistant backs away, looks around, checks the guy over once again. He sighs and stoops down, to pull up a floorboard in the floor of the closet.
Hidden under the floorboard is a dark, narrow pipe leading right down. He rolls up his sleeve and reaches down into the pipe and feels around. Soon he brings his hand back up, clutching something wrapped in black plastic, and bound with black tape. He shakes it and wipes it and says ‘Look, this is as strong as it’s humanly possible to get. A place no man returns from. It costs one hundred dollars, and you are not allowed to open it till you get home. And I’ve never seen you in my life. I don’t want to be responsible if your eyeballs pop clean outta your head.’ The customer gets real excited, bites his lip and hands over the hundred, and rushes out of the store.”
Later in ‘Lost Highway’ a video tape arrives which really spooks the couple out. The camera is now drifting around their home, and entering their bedroom. They are watching themselves in bed, asleep, and the camera hovers over them and watches them. I think my dream was a metaphor for what I feel about my audience, like they’ve started to read what I am writing, as I am writing it. Leaning over my shoulder. Things have gotten super intimate. I’m going aloof, getting Oscar Wilde on their ass.
“Anyway the guy gets home, unlocks his apartment door, kicks his way through the pizza boxes and beer cans, sits down on the sofa. He reconsiders, gets up and draws the blinds, and takes the phone off the hook. He’s staring at the black plastic and black tape. He hasn’t felt this kind of nervous excitement since he was a kid. ‘Holy moly’ he keeps muttering. He sits down. ‘Holy Jesus H Moly’. He doesn’t even want to open it. He wants to savour the excitement forever. He gets up to make himself a coffee, shaking.”
The phone rings before I can finish. It’s my sister, Juliette, to know if I want to club together for an anniversary present for mom and dad. Get them something super decent. It’s their silver. “Anniversaries serve to remind us of the things we would wish to forget.” I twang, with what I imagine to be a softly-sour and Wildean lilt. Silence. She suggests cutlery. “‘Your cutlery is exquisite’ I interrupted Lady Pomeroy, ‘Can the maid bring something to help you cut to the chase?’” Then I add that it was a good idea. Eventually I get off the phone and pour myself a coffee, return to my joke.
“The guy begins to peel away the plastic, one corner at a time. It’s a video cassette. And the label on the cassette is written in some mysterious alphabet he’s never seen before. More like symbols, or weird runes. The guy has to regulate his breathing. He’s shaking so much he has trouble putting it into the VCR. ‘Holy Jesus H Moly’. He keeps saying. He presses Play..”
It’s later that evening and I’m driving down the highway towards the show. It took me a while to come up with a punch line, but it’s a super good one.
Time: 2006 Mar 24 12:26:00
Strikes of air and transport, bats of softball and bars of steel, broken glass and fire, the wild-eyed arrest of any beast that blinketh. The French ‘Contrat de Première Embauche’ allows employers to sack you for having a decent head of hair and nice buns, is sold as an inevitable of the new world (nasty, you see - it’s were we have to be), and the student protesters who shift from Place d'Italie to Les Invalides knit into packs of people who have never worked and whose parents have never worked and who will, most likely, never sniff a pay slip in this lifetime. No-one cares what they stick into one another in the burbs, just keep it out of the tourist swells and artholes. Which sarcastic, snide, vindictive bird sliming to and fro on the left-right axis shall we vote for? Why don’t they make that shouty music? Or try sport? You wonder why this didn’t happen long ago, and you wonder why you can’t set a Place Vendôme fob watch to its clockwork.
Denmark does well. Small provides a greater the sense of molarity and consensus, a greater sense of ‘us’ and willingness to take chances. “The larger European nations are slow to reform and too arrogant to learn from their neighbours.” L’empire fumbles on the value ladders and the sheer sense of contribution they make to our ickle bickle little world, spinning in space and crying. Nous avons friends and don’t want to keep moving around and trading up, thank you very much. Community is too heavy - heavy falls hard - here come the cantons. Call the heat a fascist freak but Black Tuesday won’t live on Marxism, or any ism, just human dignitism – a cry for minorisation, and a cry for a smidgen of genuinism.
I sympathise with the Parisian students for three reasons. I don’t see why France can’t forgo the mindset and be a ‘micro’ nation, I don’t see the tipping point, I don’t see why one nation has to have a fractured sense of ‘us’. (Unless it always existed, and is just coming to the fore through the dream architecture of Empire. Most countries have always had multi-culturalism - is it scale again? The more grandiose the identity, the more ‘tacked on' it may have been, the more distant your leaders feel, the more likely they’ll be glad-handed by global interests and multi-region Orcas filled with tiddlers, you suspect: the more you and I simply ‘factor’.) Secondly, I don’t see why companies should be able to employ contractors without paying contractor wages. A role either exists or it doesn’t. A job needs to be done or it doesn’t. The impetus for a business to expand, rather than tend to zero, does not live or die by staffing issues. You either have a growing customer base, confidence and a business plan, or you don’t. If staffing issues dictate your business plan, you don’t have one, mon pote
. You’re a chicken or a service industry, in which case you tend to zero anyway. Hardly ‘My Brilliant Career’. Thirdly, no-one fights in the streets out of the sheer joie de vie
, whether you agree with them or not.
Frustration. “This is not May 68. This a white middle-class moaning. You have to live in the real world.” Said my French contrarian friend, last Sunday, in Spitalfields. We’d had a rare tiff, and I bought her a bar of Ukrainian chocolate from a stall in the market as a peace offering. Although I wondered how much rheumatic commentary comes from the mouths of those ‘fallen out’ with their own sense of empathy, I agreed with her. Like subsidising your companies into the marrowbone and claiming them a national success, the CPE is not a new or guiding light but the blinking indicator in a slow car-crash constantly happening, an insult, and everyone but the planners and modellers can see it. France isn’t making enough money to pay back the interest on its national debt. If it was a company, it would be long gone (let’s take neo-liberal economics to its natural limit - if it can’t profit, let it go. We’ve no room for romance, hand-outs or Hugo Chavez here, we have to live in the real world.) Seemingly more innovative under an administration of the left, the ball has been dropped by self-serving spoons (although they couldn’t split Iraq like an atom of fundamentalism – that takes skill), now shaking a bottle of snake oil and voodoo, and the Bastille should be stormed - inch by motherfuggin inch, brothers and sisters. Brain-cell by brain-cell. It shouldn’t take all day, and back next year.
Time: 2006 Mar 17 12:29:00
Today I took my 'Nick Cave in Broadmoor' moustache and Spiv's camel coat (gotta look the real deal for interviews) to Interval(2)
, an all-dayer of short films by students at the Slade, and the Buffalo University Department of Media, NY. With an intention to look at cinema which helps us 'rethink thought', it was an impressive brief, a break from 're-imagining eSpace', or what have you, but I was not disappointed.
A lot of the work was 2005, but Peter Tscherkassky’s ‘Outer Space’ hails from a few years back. It's footage on 35mm Cinemascope, fracturing and splicing, you wonder why Hollywood leaves out this kind of visual poetry - if Hitchcock where making ‘Psycho’ today, the shower scene would run like this. Eleven minutes of a woman in a house, inside and out, monochrome bleeds and feeds and descends into a battle of black against white over which is most empty, all optical printing and no CGI required. A montage at war or the mind of a neurotic trying to block every hole they find, this felt educational. It did have an Austrian flintiness to it, precise and impressive but, like a Muse song, left you eager for humanity, the clutch and context of a script, less mastery, something.
If the meaning lies not in an evaluation that will be brought in afterwards, but is a part of the making and watching (and you could say it of Jasper Johns' flags - the ‘content’ might as well be a shameless symbol - or you could say it of Fra Angelico or work created in religious dedication or ecstasy) you would suppose that the more successful pieces would leave content out, left us drift. Not so. Ben Callaway’s ‘Down There’ was fairly beautiful - found b-movie footage, marginally slowed, copied and recopied from VHS to digital until it turned to soft water-coloured pixels. The soundtrack was white noise to the point of a digital wind, but you could almost drift too far. For purpose or a friendly face, for more than cinema-about-itself.
London film-maker Emily Richardson’s 16mm ‘Block’ took to Koyanniquatsi territory, but did it with love for Mayhew House in SE16 - from the swift arc of a moonrise over the Gherkin it stares at, like its perfect cousin, to two fluttering England flags (what they are keeping out or holding in?) I vastly preferred this film to Reggio's, for its focus and the fatigued and grimey feel which gave the sense of a living camera, feeling something. Less the anthropologist turning over the rock and pointing at ‘life’, but standing back and abdicating to find truth, where the face-off of emotions become the human minutae it is. The film-maker explained later the importance of the unseen, the missing - especially important in tracked CCTV footage, tracing its fixture through an estate, when blind spots really matter. As blind spots report something important to security (the holes in cinema-time are where the very purpose of ongoing surveillance is revealed), if you need a reminder of your purpose, consider just what it is you feel you’re not seeing, and what you’ll be looking to extract from it when you find it.
Several of the films took a mock science documentary approach. The most successful for me was ‘Relative Time Management’ by Buffalo bigwigs Jamie O’Neil and Kurt Weibers, a kind of Brass Eye special on the endless human desire to save time, through innovation, and the topologies this reveals. This was worryingly accurate in that it made Cartesian common sense and none at all. It took a long time to tell us what every human being knows already, and called it a success. Paul Tarrago went in search of the ‘fat boy of Balham’ and ended up building a rocket and interviewing his mother - not a bad place to go, Scorsese’s ‘Italianamerican’ was one of the best things he has made. Ex-Exploding Cinema, Tarrago said afterwards that his films just grow. The puzzler was something by someone called Doug Fishbone, whose ‘Towards A Common Understanding’ grew - like an inward toenail. Lord knows what he wanted, but a relentless succession of 'that'll do'-looking photos (purgatory as Google Images, from religious war and celebs to stomach staples and scat porn), a chummy voice-over philosophy that amounted to ‘it’s a crazy world, isn’t it?’, this felt like the universe according to a slightly awash Dennis Pennis. Holy God, I thought, if Fishbone can do it, anyone can. Which might be the best lesson for us all.
Subject: NatCal 13/03/2006
Time: 2006 Mar 13 11:41:00
Subject: White Room, Furniture Music
Time: 2006 Mar 09 12:46:00
Some thoughts on attending my annual company roadshow (still on extended notice), as our CEO, Chairmen and Managing Director took us around a kind of music industry State Of The Union, peering into music’s future, the attendant risks and opportunities.
The digital world is flattening and democratising, removing the middle ground monoliths and, one day, music copyright and royalty management will be a large server sitting in White Room somewhere the rent is really cheap.
This much we know. The future business model is happening now and it tends to Zero, and it tends to Outside. Download my song, pop a shilling. It doesn’t get cleaner or easier than the White Room. Ah, if someone whips it onto their advert, you might be miffed, says the sturdy voice of Copyright. Maybe not if thumbs select to ‘Store Theme’, replete with a tip in the hat. Filmic soundtrack may be based on what your supplier knows you fancy. Watermarks in a Batman cartoon score will trigger Batman toys to respond. Synch Right becomes another Digital Right, encoded to the work, getting up and running around the White Room (let’s say Asunción in Paraguay). Singers, set your tariffs, it’ll take you ten minutes. Ears and thumbs, choose a package, if you dare or care.
Technology pops up to cover the ‘A Hole’ (the point where any DRM can be analogued around, like the Shift key disables Autorun and therefore DRM on CDs). If a percent of customers ain’t figured it out yet, a percent of middle guys get cigars. But in a centreless White Room why worry? The penny-fraction falls from a licence fee online, for your metered content, Rights bundled in. From the speaker to the mobile - the Performing Right ear to the Mechanical Right thumb - take it and do what you please.
Production costs a sandwich and talent is pulled in at both ends – lost spoons can muck around with plug-ins and sound pretty darn interesting, Mozart rolls up his sleeves and sounds pretty much the same. People like stars, they probably release an enzyme in the head, so there may be charts and marketing, spread a lot friendlier. Because no-one will really be ‘up there’ ‘keeping it real’ and being ‘street’ will matter less, as everyone realises that that is where we are. People will curse technology and revert to skiffle parties in their aunt’s front room, but then be sorely tempted to podcast it.
Some central creative desires (say, to last the decades and centuries) will scratch heads. Digitally, just ask it to last. Pay for some fixed space in the White Room, where even a busker’s echo need never dampen, nor the Watermark on his cheeks. If memory condenses at the rate it has been these past ten years, all the music recorded by anyone ever will fit onto a gnat’s thimble by the week after next, and we’ll get ‘The Entire World Anthology of Music, Literature, Film and Art’ as a covermount stuck to a bottle of Panda Pops.
Covermounts are up, to the point where more music-by-CD is given away free than paid for. Increasingly ‘something to sell something else’, people are looking at what music brings in itself, the éclat de vie
that we continue to hear in it, and love in it. Value leaves the social arena, crosses a confetti-strewn steps towards the personal.
This much we know. Medium term plans become important – mergers into heavyweight musical blocs, advances into Europe – but it still feels like sanding around the White Door in Paraguay. It took a third party, iTunes, to set a model for online distribution. Established companies, in competition, are unlikely to get off their bloc and get into bed. More importantly, by clinging inwards, in the defence position, they’re unlikely to add anything openly sexy or new, unlikely to have the resources of a software or telecoms Death Star, who blow up remits for breakfast, and take advantage of the fact that legal needles are regarded as unfair if they swing to benefit one segment of the industry at the expense of another. It tends to Zero, and it tends to the Outside.
An anecdote of an ex-colleague, Mr Jones, concerned the time he played drums for a band called The UK Subs. Having been invited for dinner by a scary-looking lad called Wattie, singer with an outfit called The Exploited, he arrived expecting the busted glass of an ominous squat, where the only cooking would be done in a crack pipe, but was shocked when Wattie said “Could ya take yer shoes off please?” and led him across a Feng Shui apartment arranged in understated Habitat. Let it linger like a cool aftertaste of this music business, or draw a finger to where it is now: the explosive Sex Pistols poster, framed in blond wood, tastefully seated at the back of the White Room.
Time: 2006 Mar 05 20:57:00
My first attempt writing fiction down the Tate Modern, south balcony (see below). It’s really just a lot of rooftops there. A few cranes. Distant builders barking to one another. No Gherkins, no Millennium Bridge, no cathedrals. No Amazing View. A few people stick their heads out and look around and go back in.
Having written fiction before, I do worry about repeating myself. It’s kind of inevitable. Characters are, perhaps, male. Or female. They’ll be youngish. Or older. They’ll live somewhere. And they’ll want things, and achieve them, or not. That’s about it. Once you’ve covered all that, you’ll inevitably cover it again, replete with idiosyncrasy, garnish and tweaks. Everything will be more or less a variation - unless you were to, say, scribble out the wave patterns of an inanimate monad, a schism of dark matter and electromagnetic paradox, floating like a philosophical window-frame in space. Unwittingly coerced into double-dealing, um, the Maltese Mafia.
“Louis, dis wise guy won’t squeak.”
“Tie him to da punchbag for Uncle Lou.”
“Dat’s da trouble. He’s keeps .. floatin dere.”
“Why I oudda
“Grab him! Grab him!”
“What’s e sayin? Eesh, my ears
Time: 2006 Mar 05 12:05:00So close. Closer than you must ever know. Come..
Let’s talk about Deus. Lets.
God is the God of Creation. We like the idea, because it gives a name for the unknown, an answer in the unanswerable. We don’t mind so much about the whys or hows, because we have an answer. In former times, God was another name for All Knowledge. In the face of such a prospect we inevitably genuflect. If All Knowledge was a blackboard, our own knowledge would be a chalk point, if we’re lucky.
God is the God of Law. No-one can satisfactorily provide a link, because if the God of Creation needs to lay down a Law, for whatever reason, he must have been a relatively relaxed God of Creation. He gave us Less Knowledge, desires and free will. Then felt the need to shimmy some God’s Law into the gaps. Make your mind up, you want to tell him.
We are where we are. Can I explain where we are, between Catholic Communists and tribalists, some say cannibals, tooled up to the soup ladle in the latest US military hardware. The US is paying the cannibals to eat the Marxists, who may or may not pray for Mary’s guidance. But, while the former sit on a pot of diamonds, Our Lady Comrade swans around in oil. Everyone denies everything and accuses the other of the very things they are doing. People are casualties but may or may not feel they go in the cause of something greater. Who knows.
Matosa takes the stock car along a straight stretch of ocean road. He occasionally removes his hands to play a kind of air drums. “The reverse paradiddle.” I actually catch myself watching imaginary sticks.
“Just keep your hands on the wheel.” I tell him. I indicate. Last time I saw him, I’d just got back from convincing the MPLA not to shoot some pregnant women who had thrown themselves onto the tarmac, to prevent a plane taking off for Lisbon. People lived in a makeshift camp there at the airport, waiting for a vacancy. The MPLA okay me, they say I report the positive. And I do.
When you are permanently on edge and so much is happening around to bring your emotions right out, the comedown is like a full retreat, a cut-off, you wish your eyes and ears were sown up. On the hotel bed, you curl into a pod and disappear. I feel so backed up into my own mind sometimes, like I’m sitting in the furthest row in the classroom of my own thoughts. He arrives like something that will pull me forward again.
Before he saw me, Amantius stormed across the lobby. “No. Get him out. You. You. Not here.” Our nakedness feels less nude, maybe because of the skin difference. Skin feels like something worn, held forth, a factor in the playing fields of meaning, more than naked commonality. As we fucked, the bed sheets kept withdrawing down, exposing the mattress. The cover entangled. I felt drawn to move my hand across the sewn-in mattress label, to scratch some business logo, the Portuguese instructions.
We stood, me lifted, and took matters against the wall. The wall was cold against my back, the position made me feel embarrassed for some reason. His hands on my bum, lifting me, holding me apart. I looked at him like I’d like to reach in and pull some knowledge from his head. That he’ll always have an upper hand with that knowledge, and that our friendship will revolve around power until I can remove it. I looked down and urged him to go faster but imagined a whore saying that, meaning ‘get it done with’, and I was about to I urge him ‘harder’ when I pushed him away and asked him onto the bed.
I sat on top and fed him into me, the light from the street the only thing illuminating us. I like being on top, and looking into someone’s eyes. When you look into someone’s eyes, there comes a point you seem to be looking through them. And when you look through someone’s eyes, you can only see one thing, a kind of mutual admission at the madness of living. ‘There is only going forward’ they seem to say ‘there will never be a going back.’ Pray for it, dream it up, steal things that suggest otherwise – only eyes can calm you - even in the streetlight, blinking, picking around like mutual chalk points, skewered against All Knowledge.
Time: 2006 Feb 27 21:29:00A painted plate in wall grips, a Black Cockerel and a boatless sea.
“Where are we heading?” A single Cuban ship has landed, but not here, not in Luanda, at a fishery and freezing plant.
It was a small shored boat with collapsed sails that seemed to be pointing to us. Look! Look up the cliff. The road twisted to clasp the rock, the sun held heavy shadows over us. I put on sunglasses when we tucked inland. As we drew back to the shore I almost missed it. “Go up there.”
The kitchen door and windows were open, so we call out. “Hello?” Matosa goes in but I turn for a moment, just to take in the Atlantic air, so clear and clean you want to wear it, and the perfect cloudless sky. After a few moments breathing away Luanda I begin to distinguish.. is it prairie grass, mimosa growing behind the house? You can’t really blame them. I turn to lean in through the kitchen window. “Who can blame them?”
“Khaki is better than naked. Believe me.” Matosa is rummaging the cupboards, which appear to have been emptied. He has found two large cans of tuna which he has set upon the table. I quickly check the light, steady myself against the sill and begin to focus. I fear my shadow will inevitably be in the frame but I give it a try.
He quickly disappears into the house, and I follow into the kitchen. A trail of model fishing boats, half hung on the wall, each with delicate paper sails. Beside the Portugal plate, some emptied hooks. Vatican icons, a barometer set in a ship’s wheel? The Algarve, let’s say.
The living room is stripped out; some lace chair doilies must have dragged off the armchairs. Bottles and cigarette ends, cartridge shells. I look around the walls.
“Laughing bastard. Oildrums for eyes. Look at him.” “Would you just put on the radio? Where’s the paracetamol?” “It’s in the second drawer.” “The second drawer is full of dish towels , querido.” “Sickening bastard. The second drawer!” “Dish towels, querido. Dish towels.” “Not the cupboard drawers, the drawers under the sink.” “My dearest Gianni. I troubled you with the forecast you demand not last autumn, and am now faced with crisis. I beseech you to tell me if I have defaulted to you in the past, and fail to see how I am expected to meet the terms of traffic with this preposterous duty on manacles. I’ll take for the Americas myself! Kindly provide the orders accounted for by year end. Send artillery and cavalry, do, but should you fail to forge a little iron for the pagan blood, be sure to accompany each rifleman with his coffin, for I can no more ask the sea to turn its heel. Kindly send me no more syphilitic dogs and robbers.
I greet you most fondly.”
Matosa returns with a lambskin jacket and a portable shortwave radio. He passes the jacket around my shoulders and returns to the foot of the stairs, to begin jemmying the door to the garden. He doesn’t stay out there for long.
“Tell me about boys with guns. For each to a man will tell you that women are liars. This is all we need to know.” He walks past me, back through the kitchen, and back out to the car.
The second band of occupants of the cliff-top rancho are in the garden, having been greeted by a third. I try to get all the limbs into one frame, and have to back myself up the stairs a little to do so.
Time: 2006 Feb 26 09:08:00Next morning, Matosa Smith Narciso pulls up in a red Mazda that looks like it might have once been used for stock car racing. I pass him a carton of milk and a buttered roll with cold sausage and pickles, angle my bag over the top of the passenger seat and onto the back seat. “Where we getting killed today?”
“And a good morning to Lady Rebecca.” He laughs and takes a mouthful. “You seem a little wrong this morning. Empty bed last night?” Ignore the sweet talk, this man’s life runs on a cynical tread.
“Fuck off, Matosa. I have a telex to get.” A Russian lorry filled with weary-looking MPLA pass by, falter, discuss and disappear.
“Even in Luanda, there is always relaxation time, take for a break.. from..” He circles a hand.
“What? From what? War tends to Zero.” I close the door. “Nothing but people telling you to stop. People telling you to start. People questioning who you are. People wondering if you are worth more dead or alive. People aren’t people, people are factors. Factors in Zero. And anyone even thinking about advancing to One is a traitor. Angola’s got bullets and mines and nothing much else for a very, very long time.”
“Whoah. We got Freedom.” He shrugs and checks that the MPLA are gone, and starts the stock car. “Here is something.” I fold down the sun shield.
Fuck freedom, the evidence is right in front of me. As we navigate the streets I load my camera. The Portuguese shops and offices sit emptied and boarded. The locals who tackled the administrative jobs are still finding their feet, but things aren’t hit and miss. Things are miss. Things are miss written big. Want a Portuguese house? Take a Portuguese house. Want to keep it overnight? Get a machine gun. Want to keep it a week? Join the FNLA or MPLA. People clear the bodies away, which is something. Not so long ago, the streets were filled with dogs, the dogs became packs, the packs fought themselves out and limped into the outskirts, looking for whatever dogs look for when they’ve fought themselves out. A reason. No-one knows where the cats or the birds went. Luanda is holes. Holes and more holes. Black holes in white walls. Black holes where windows should reflect the sun. “Where are we getting killed today?”
“It’s a special day today.” He smiles.
“The circus is in town. Hurrah. Can we go?’ Three anti-aircraft carriers are grinding along the arterial road that exits the city. We slow down and wait. “Can we?”
“Not clowns. Cubans.” What the fuck? I’d heard rumours, but no-one thought they were actually here. I wind the camera on, gently fasten it into its case. The Cold War just moved somewhere warmer. Fuck. When?
Matosa doesn’t look at me. As the last of the anti-aircraft guns grind past – police. Two cars, parked at angles on the roadside, directly ahead. Someone signals us with a slow wave.
As we stop, Matosa winds down the window. A second man pushes himself off the fender of his car and saunters across, thumbs in his belt loop. A hand comes through the window and takes a hold of the milk. His voice is soft and light, becoming almost inaudible. “Stealing from cows now, Narciso? I thought they’d sacrificed the last one.”
As he drinks, Matosa leans out and looks up. “How’s the shoe shop, Rui? The last time I checked you were out of fluffy mules. They've all walked back to Lisbon?”
The man spits onto the ground and stoops, shading his eyes to look past Matosa, focussing on me. “I foresaw a limited future in retail, and made the career transition.” His voice trails away completely as he inspects the back seat. “And it’s Captain Agostini.” He sighs. “Can I see the ladies papers?” I get them. “Reporter I assume. I won’t ask for yours. Nothing personal, boy.”
Matosa extends a hand. “You don’t like me? Freedom means we all get along? It’s the revolution.”
Captain Agostini jumps off. “Listen, boy. I don’t care where you’re putting it. You can put it up a fucking goat for all I care.”
Matosa takes my papers and passes them out. He looks like he is on the verge of a retort, but can’t think of one. His face, fixed in a smile, looks trapped in kind of paradox. There is a prolonged silence, as the police check my papers and Visa. I look along the arterial road, and wind down my window.
Matosa leans out a little further. “Do you boys like schnapps? Next week I..” It’s not that crime pays, it’s just that nothing else does.
“Fuck off, Narciso.” Agostini passes back the papers. “Just fuck off and get shot. Bullets cost me a dollar.”
As we advance along the arterial road I look out across the red tiled rooftops of Luanda, the ornate scrolls on the old Portuguese churches reaching for the sun. “So, here is something.” He looks at the ocean with me, rubbing the back of his neck, reawakening the Umpeque oil. But - further silence.
“Who are you, Lady Rebecca?” He turns to ask me the question I was about to ask him.
Time: 2006 Feb 25 16:55:00Come, Fritha. Come, dearest. Don’t let them tell you that the water won’t take advantage of you, darling, for it might. It will flow as it must, and so must you. Just another step. Feel its warmth reaching around your knees. Trust it, learn from it. Eternally free to leave, I hope you never need to. Come, my darling. Come..
Luanda, June 1975. The hotel foyer has modernist octagons of high-rise mirrors, a heavy worn burgundy carpet and many, many plants. And a scratched, matt brass bannister up and along a wheelchair ramp, off which I always get an electric shock. Each and every morning, it seems, the charge snaps its 'z' from my finger to wrist, to my shoulder and hair - I jump and 'fuck off' and squeeze my hand.
*Here to help* says the forward step of the desk clerk, Amantius. "Recommend a hotel. Unbomb the hospital?" I asked him once. He retorted with a forefinger wagging to and fro, narrowed eyes with a wordless, questioning smile. *This Would Be Journalistic Humour, miss. Yes?* I should be grateful, for people are stopping saying polite things here. People are stopping the stop, the give way, the raise of their hats.
I order a drink and sit down. I'm not hungry. I’ve already telexed everything necessary. The foyer is empty, just a group from the Press Agencies at the furthest end. They look like they are smiling but I can't hear them speak at all. Till they crack up - a harmonious, repetitious hurrah. At the last, someone barks 'aww. Aww Jesus. Jesus, Klaus. Klaus. Aww Jesus.' like they've been swapping jokes about cripples or kid abuse or something, and this is a plea to better the tone. Been there, done the Schadenfreude Office: it becomes a part of the daily competition. Let the latest sickness peal a bell down the open plan shock corridor, fold back across our silence, and let us breathe deep and lean hard on an everlasting tree - something dependable, kids are experts – the shock at the voids in our feeling. In Kenya, there is a girl with no legs who - Jesus, Klaus. Klaus, Jeesus. From a ‘Nail The Man’ school of hack - the sly ones looks like they’ve failed to find him; the embittered see him everywhere. Let us pray, pour Scotch and hell up the telex. None of them like me, for I’ve managed to convince them that I’m here looking for something positive.
I am restless but it is dark outside the hotel, and still it is very, very hot. I go to bed alone, just past ten o'clock. Tomorrow I meet Matosa in a Land Cruiser with a ruined clutch, just behind the kitchen. A veritable sherpa - or the native I'm supposed to trust. Hardly. He arranged my weekend, leaking the prospect of bad news up and down the Press Agencies. Sit tight and have a drink, catch the Portuguese ground forces fighting for a flight home. What tales they'll have. He survives by negotiation, theft and selling on (recently: packing crates and trunks, my kingdom for packing) the interim Police keep him as eyes and ears, on the side.
I put a hand into my shorts. I don’t trust Matosa at all, but he seems to want to help me out. No children. No schooling for a start. Theft with caution. Caution and a two figure stinger. Fuck-you fine with fingerprints. Commercial vehicle theft and a kid sister pretending to be pregnant across a box of grenades on the passenger seat. At seventeen, he abandoned any concept of a family life and did a Young Male ‘disappearance’ into the bosom of crime. In the absence of anything else that didn’t stand there and stare, crime adopted him. Sometimes Mendez, sometimes Smith or Narciso, why arrest the same person twice? It keeps a station clerk in work. He wears a green suit and straw Fedora, carries a red rolled parasol balanced on one shoulder, and he wears Umpeque oil, very ladylike. He is a relentless but gentle sex pest, and suspects that I get lonely here. ‘PG-DG’ tattooed on his shoulder. I don’t know what it means but keep imagining it is ‘pig dog’. And makes it appear that he’s doing me the favour. Big change from Malmo, change from Köln, in many ways. Am I screwing my way ahead? Do I really care?
Oxytocin is a nine animo acid peptide released in the hypothalamus and taken down the pituitary gland on carrier proteins. Oxytocin is produced in the ovaries of females and in the testes of males. It instructs the breasts to lactate, and urges the uterine walls into parturition during childbirth, along with a drop in progesterone. There is some evidence with virgin rats that supplemented oxytocin gives rise to a maternal instinct. Oxytocin is also released in both sexes during orgasm and is said to create a sense of bonding and the desire to care for and nurture one another.
I turn onto my side and listen to the rain start. It taps the window like the edges of the airdropped FNLA leaflets. Sit tight. We’ll take the city. Kill any foreigners. Foreigners run MPLA. Little diagrams to illustrate the fact.
Time: 2006 Feb 23 14:16:00I think I miss Saint Petersburg, my dear. Is it wrong?
Today I passed in the corridors of the mortal, The Flesh. How yellow they are! Hiccoughing and fluttering their business, mewling with indefatigable treble. As basket fowl, they keep a beak of hope beyond the wickerwork, ravenous for any different day, when perhaps they will be freed of desire, and left as pastoral and rendered as We. They do amuse me somewhat.
Do you remember? A thundercloud robbed us of a picnic at the Katalnaya pavilion? We fled to an inn, in the sudden storm, beyond the Upper Park, where the very clocks themselves were rattled timeless. Drying, at the fireside, I held your hand. We refused to discuss the front, and I refused to let you and father ride me to the barracks on the following morning. But the dance we had that evening, in the rain, the most exquisite time in all my mortal secondaries. If I had only known that I was but a shrieking cannonball from your embrace, I would have fled the trench a week sooner!
I slipped through twice-Cantilevered carriages today, and cooed against each happy slapper’s brow, ‘How right and joyful are the warm green waters’. Each to a man twitched with reproach. How engrossed they are in their ecclesiastical trials, how buried their faces sit, like a monk behind his sanctuary lamp! Quaking in frockcoats, they cower before an impending Passover like kicked spaniels, as if they had not been summonsed already, to a thousand such banquets. Stricken only by the end of their noses, they muse as hungered orphans; thoughts of violence, of decay, and at their own unknowables. Death, they christen the deep water. Ingrates!
Do you recall the exquisite mother-of-pearl escutcheon your aunt gave us for the kitchen table? And how we chased the Italian children about the dolls museum? How could I fail to miss Saint Petersburg, my eternal дорогой.
Subject: Music Died In 1565
Time: 2006 Feb 22 18:43:00Come with me. Come with me into darkness, Fritha. Let us twist together, through the grey-green waters, curling to the sounds of the violin taksimi; for we have before, and shall do again. Vivid explorers in the heady now; we return as we know we must, to the warm sources of eternity. Come. Come..
Archway Library has a world music section. Today I took home ‘Thai Beat A Go-Go’, ‘History of South African Jazz’ and a collection of Turkish ‘Keman Taksimleri’.
If I were big on gothicism, I’d listen to nothing but the old taksimler
. Gone rock, industry, dance and laptop. Gone CyberGoth and Gothic Lolita. Gone Gorey, Eldridge and graphic LA Noir novellas. Gone earthly powers. I’d recline within a wormwood sarcofagus, where body becomes no body, to gently drape my arms across my chest, to be as perfectly drained. Free of beat, free of hunger. Nothing but Arabesque violin and tootle moving through me, like a scimitar in its deftest motion, to bring a skilful opening of the soul.Careful, my darling. Another step, yes. Endure the ecstacy of giving yourself back to the water; free of God, free of creed, and faction. Free from voice, from the need for voice. Just enfolded, de-throned, at one. You and I - all we ever needed, and all we wish look back upon when heady nows are done.
Subject: Night Of The Unread
Time: 2006 Feb 20 20:07:00
Sometimes I hear them whispering to one another. At night. “I mean it’s just getting rude
isn’t it?” Whispers of descent, mutiny on the bookshelves. “Who does he think he is?” I must read them. I will. Eventually.
It all kicked off earlier this evening, I walked into my bedroom. Heard a little noise. ‘Underworld’ by Don DeLillo, sitting there - squat, sniffing, staring at a mirror. Clawing at his front cover. Muttering. “Oh!” Startled at being caught, he span around, suddenly defensive and, by degrees, aggressive. “So tell me, UO. Just why am I on the shelf?”
He moved closer. “What’s wrong
with me?” I couldn’t speak. This book looked a bit cut up. “Why would a person do that?” He waved around. “He comes in. He picks me up and carries me home. He sits me down and starts me. Starts me and .. then.. just.. pfff
.” He covered his face, sobbing.
“Well..” I thought, sitting him up on my knee. “You see.” Think more. Think quick.
“You begin .. you begin .. with huff and puff. Maybe.. I..” I scratched my head. “J Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra. A baseball final. Scamps eating hotdogs. Set against the crisis of a Soviet atomic test.” He sniffed and watched my face - his open and easily-hurt features taking it all in, like a child. “That is, you'll agree, not unlike a London novel beginning when a young Diana Spencer accidentally rolls from a black cab - going too fast around Eros - down the stairs and into a Clash concert.” His face began to buckle, returning to the brink of tears.
“You’re like a .. an impossible postcard.” I hugged him, beginning to cry myself. “I didn’t know how to take you - how am I supposed to take that? I just stared at your jacket, thinking – are you serious? Then I stared at your page numbering and wondered if I could really go on Not Knowing How To Take It for another 820 pages. Maybe I was young. Your prose is faultless, but that’s partly the problem – it’s like a warm, seductive, intelligent voice announcing that this canvas is going to be very big. ‘No Arguing, buster!’ With both voice and canvas So Important, I as a reader pottered around feeling kinda small. And wondering if you’ll say anything to me. Or just be.. some..” He slipped from my knee and began the long climb back up to the second shelf. “Capital C Classic.”
I threw out a hand. “Maybe I’ve just read the same schmooze manuals you have. You’re good, though. You really are. Just.. I dunno. You need to.. stop being the big guy.. treat a reader.. gently
Suddenly another, taller, book stepped forward, and passed a quick, consoling arm around ‘Underworld’ before he flapped back into his slot, quite easily, for it was like a junior ski-run of tears. Then a pair of accusing eyes met mine. “Goddamn heartless punk.” He spat. “Look what you’ve done. LOOK.”
He dropped to the floor and began approaching. A perennial amigo, I’d had the sense that a serious grudge was brewing between us, and that the emotional break-down of ‘Underworld’ would be the catalyst needed for showdown. Our history? Match-made by a mutual friend. “Right up your street.” She enthused. Not wrong. Too up my street, perhaps. ‘Oh! He’s a neighbour? From the neighbourhood
!’ I’ve heard him cackle inappropriate jokes, late at night, an attempt to chat the white plastic mac off Nell Dunn’s ‘Up The Junction’. Using a skit on ‘Blue Velvet’!? Loser. So.. I seek out books from the bibliography, but have failed and failed to tackle him. Like a little punk who wants my respect, and who is quite prepared to die, ‘Lipstick Traces’ by Greil Marcus shook a little dust off his top, then drew out his gun.
The first bullet split past my ear and banged a sheaf of splinters off the corner of my wardrobe. I dove behind the bed. He was serious. “Goddamn pissing son of a bitch.” He let another round off, below the bed. It ricocheted against the floor and shot up through the mattress, taking out the light. “Where the f.. where the f..” I heard him stomp closer through the darkness. I shimmied under the bed. He stomped around each corner, letting a shot off each time. “NnnNnnn. WHERE..THE..F?” I reached out and grasped him, firmly.
We began to wrestle. I banged him off the floorboards six or seven times but he returned with all the tenacity of a book with absolutely nothing to lose. Burn Oxfam Burn
, he might have muttered. He span me face down and jumped on the back of my head.
Suddenly, disturbingly, both of us were caught in a crimson aura from the higher shelves. Like a supernatural spotlight, spitting fire, but one containing a gentle sigh. “Boys..” A woman’s voice. “Will be.. something
.” We sat up as the glow fell closer, somehow entranced. Well well. ‘Infernal Desire Machines Of Doctor Hoffman’. Angela Carter. “Before you die, and while we’re all coming off the shelf, I thought I’d like to hear some of your..” She laughed, coldly. “Excuses.” She straightened her burlesque dress, looked at me very directly, aiming a rifle. “Well?”
“Sweetheart.” I stroked her spine. “Oh, babe. We were going somewhere. I was yours, I was like putty in your magic. I guess.. I guess I just started looking elsewhere. A fluffy magazine, a TV show would come by. Then.. I just never picked you up.” I felt terrible even saying it. “You’re a subterranean lady. Somewhere else entirely. Rich cocoa solid, and me a mad-eyed kid with his mind on penny candy.” I looked at the floor.
‘Lipstick Traces’ rubbed his folded corner and looked up. “Pains me but.. man’s got a point, ma’am.”
‘Infernal Desire Machines’ registered her disappointment in both of us. “You know, we get back what we..” She refused to laugh. “..put in. No sweat. I should stay away from.. little boys.. with issues. Get their.. minds burned
I looked over at ‘Lipstick’, knowing full well she was right.
Subject: Big Sister, Public Transport
Time: 2006 Feb 19 13:50:00
Sound and Vision I saw a vision of the near future this weekend. It was a night of ideas. Maverick ideas, at a low table just off the dance floor. Mr Twenty’s musical ambitions live on, but he feels his role might be more as the Svengali. We joshed concepts for themed clubs and bands: the ideas moved briskly from the odd “What about.. the ‘black Kraftwerk’” to the utterly meaningless “..what about.. a barber shop quartet.. yeah.. called.. ‘Fucked To Death’.” Alcohol was involved. Mr Twenty is stuck on the idea of a band called ‘One Finger’, a quartet with Yamaha DX7s, with a self-imposed limited palette in that each player uses one finger only. Anyway, the first person tickled by the idea (I suppose a Ramones-like naming convention would christen her ‘Index’) turned out to be a Livejournaliste
and we went on to chat about the benefits of making public personal information, and the purpose of blogs at all.
The Joy Of Schizotypal Desires Anyway, on the journey home after a night of tangential brainstorm, I pictured the near future. A future when desire-to-blog, podcast, identity card culture, iPod, SatMan and WiFi coalesce into a vista of reality radio and social service CCR. You are on the morning train, feeling like Julie Christie in Fahrenheit 451
, and you pop in headphones, as if to listen to song, shows, news or journals. You decide, as is your want, to consult the Pheronet, Paranet or Orthonet: go Bruno Ganz in Wings Of Desire
. A calm voice says “Good morning! Here is your locality pheromation. Did you know - the old man sitting opposite was once madly in love with your great aunt Betty. The woman doing Sudoku works for the organisation you have applied for a position with, and she is categorised as ‘Open to Talk’. Might be worth a chat? Ten people have updated their journals this morning. For listening options, press P3. You have compatible sex profile with *pause*
two people. To hear more, press S2. The convicted criminal ratio of your locality is *pause*
7.4 percent, but falling in your trajectory. Have a good day, Fritha!”
The Mob Rule Of Me Minds like houses with glass walls, this kind of Big Sister could be a civilising force but, in leading us to living a permanent ‘phone voice’ of opinion, we might be suspicious that the ‘real us’ sits elsewhere. We are more than facts, and more than a sum of opinions, and nothing will change through self-interest (although protest doesn't seem to be bringing about new Enlightments as much as boycott). If you’ve ever held a business analysis workshop, you know that people like to talk about themselves and what they do and how and where their problems are, for it can often be a very bottled world doing it. There is a desire to give out personal information: the first-hand can be the best way to describe systems.
Listen To What I'm Not
Saying In a world of BlackBerry, multiplayer gaming and remote working, the idea that a Prime Minister must miss a vote at the Commons because he can’t be in two places at once is antiquated to the point of 'hello?'
. After voting comes out of the gaslight, I'm sure you won't need to be a member of the Rainbow and Unicorn Alliance to wonder why we need such a narrow set of representatives at all. Then you're talking SuperDemocracy (MetaDemocracy, PheroDemocracy?) which is an Oxbridge debate in itself. Likewise writing, de-throned and pod-based or up with the larks and onto the virtual hockey pitch, inevitably seeks worlds you'll never be able to Google. Writing off
the net seems defiantly anti-social, kinda kinky. So what about things that aren’t ‘systems’, what about the places we are free, the ‘private us’? Are they a personal 'mob rule'? We could posit that these places as wellsprings of repression, simply by being bedfellows of baser instincts, and the sooner we recognise that Everything Is Social the better. Barbarism Begins At Home, as it were.
Subject: Martin Kippenberger: "The Happy End Of Franz Kafka’s Amerika" (1994)
Time: 2006 Feb 15 14:00:00
Let Us Explain A Bit About The Role. If Martin Kippenberger’s work is schoolboyish, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a large installation about interviews would represent some sense of next step, his own personal take on the future. HEFKA is a field of tables and chairs, on green Astroturf marked out like a playing field, with tiers of spectator benches at either end. Like much of his work, it makes no claims towards beauty, and like his career, material quality gives way to manic sense of quantity. Being there.
Why Are You Leaving Your Current Position? Each interview table is a place where we must grow up, face judgement of our own schoolboyish or girlish-ness (sad to wave goodbye, we’re often as clever as we get, without the crush of experience), yet no-one is there. Like Heaven's day of judgement, the final irony is that it might not come, and all our piety, minorisation and self-denial might merely have been a method to ‘dominate ourselves’. If this were Kippenberger’s main question the work should have a more sorrowful irony, afterglow or serenity. But the tables are malformed, surreal and unfinished. The entire work is an effort to complete an unfinished novel that the artist admitted he hadn’t even read – and everything speaks more of the unknowables of the subconscious than the calms of the soul.
Are You A Team Player? What then, are the spectators benches for? When the questioning ended, and the spectators left, what did they think? There is more to MK than a joker, and more to this work than even he cared to admit. History will surely look back at his generation, the post war kids who lived a permanent apology for something they didn’t do, in a nation ripped in two, with a deafening pity. Perhaps it is a wish-mirror: begone spectators, for away are the interrogators, and away are their victims. Begone Checkpoint Charlie checkers and begone visa holders. Begone pity, bring us more a happy ending.
What Do You Feel You Can Bring To The Role? Why are there so many tables? If there were only one we might be tempted to find ourselves in the scene, like a pop psychology test. The question might be ‘Do you see yourself as one of life’s interviewers or interviewees?’ If MK is steering us away from structuralist and binary questions and into a kind of omniscience, of seeing the process more than the detail, maybe it is the spot-lit subconscious and the soul; and here is where they must begin or end their mutual interrogation.
What Would Your Friends Say Are Your Worst Qualities? Moot (female friend I confide in – as girls have gay chums their boyfriends get jealous of) convinced me to become a Tate member, and afterwards I went to the Member’s bar. Even if I don’t find a job, she explained, I could come down here when it isn’t busy, sit on the south-facing balcony with a laptop. Money-free, life needn’t be a liberal word for punishment. Cycle. Get a suntan. Take it easy. Have sex with interesting strangers. Why stress out to afford things you still can’t? Get rid of the gas, turn off the lecky, it's all a lot of nonsense. Work money is oft wasted on forgetting about work, anyway. Raw food is very Hollywood.
Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years Time? Of a Friday night, it’s very much the minimalist wine bar there, sharky tasteful city workers in Donna Karan. Being a contrary bugger, I thought about squats in Berlin and then about working class life in Belfast. When I were an art student, Kippenberger and Basquiat were big Pecorino, with a fig salsa. The bars weren’t bars, they were two unlicensed holes in downtown warehouses – the Plaza and the Delta. Veritable Kit-Kat Klubs – knock-the-door joints - goths, trannies, dealers, cross-gender indie kids in retro suits, kiddie fiddlers chasing the same - the common denominator was that you didn’t want your head kicked in on Sandy Row. But needed something loucher than Lavery’s. A far cry from the Tate member’s bar. (“We’re having a good
time, aren’t we?” a middle-aged mother questioned her daughter, who remained silent. I imagined part custody, access to her kid on alternate weekends. She expressed worry at her daughter’s silence, although the latter was having a first-hand education we lacked. She picked over her noodle salad and eventually nodded, uncaringly. The mother looked around, very alone. I almost fell in love with her, across their table’s distance. The desperation of a fucked-up middle-age must trump anything you can imagine - the traumas of youth or old age, so easily explained. The look in her eyes, as if being told the love of her life is leaving because her body doesn’t measure up - “Is that it?” her look said “Is that really how this fucking thing goes?” She looked back at the table, and I looked away.)
Have You Any Questions You’d Like To Ask US? Very alone. Plenty of words, lots of doodles on distant hotel stationary (we tended towards tabloids and the odd architect blueprint), lots of unblended and raw acrylic reds, lots of ‘fuck this’ destruction, I could have wept at the memories. (Less piss or butcher's blood in condoms). In a world where clerics offer 100kg of gold for the head of a cartoonist, you’d forgive anyone for giving up on the adult world altogether and making a wilful attempt to regress into babyhood. Let’s airdrop adult babies onto the Taliban! Surreal them to a higher plain. Nothing adult ever is. Analysis might be giving it more than it deserves.
Thanks! We’ll Be In Touch. Heaven needs bouncers, so judgement is right here, across Earth’s tables: a sort of desperation reaches out in Martin Kippenberger’s work, like a man with enough answers, finding no higher thing to reach for. Why the art world gave up on beauty, I don’t know. Surely more than sorrow speeded up, maybe it became ethics, or something sold to us, like a Nineties cod ontology (‘The Drive Of Your Life’, zoom to empty pupil, cue flashbacks, cue a life’s images in six seconds). Something to make us think (but not much, more a half-hearted think about thinking), ‘high’ art became as soft and predictable as it’s off-kilter cousins. Middlebrow, and the naughtiness implicit, became a battleground, for a while.
Subject: Minor Exhibitions
Time: 2006 Feb 05 16:10:00
Semi-inspired by Amanda Platell on '30 Minutes' (feminism was all very well, her angle turned, but now girls are running around ‘vomiting in the street’ like ‘men’. “Oi, Chloe, me and Baz are heading out for a vomit. Fancy it?” “Wicked. I’ll get me jacket. Can we do Dixons window again?” ), I went down to the What Women Want
exhibition at the Women's Library
in Houndsditch. You can pin your answer on a board there. You can be humorous or devout and serious, and look from Marie Stopes 'Married Love' (1918) to Nigella’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ (2001), via copies of Spare Rib and Shrew, a litany of radical posters and t-shirts. “A woman’s place is in the house.. of Commons.” I really recommend the Reading Room there, not just for feminist history, but women’s writing in general. A good place to research. Thankfully the café was closed, I was nearing the end of a fast, the Burroughs 10 day cleanse, a classic of the diet fads. For the past week I have breakfasted on a large glug of non-iodised, salted water; lunched on Evian with fresh lemon juice, organic maple syrup and cayenne pepper; suppered on senna tea. My skin glows, my head can ache, if I am honest.
So I was dreaming of my mum’s leek and barley soup whilst reading Beatrix Campbell’s “Iron Ladies: Why Do Women Vote Tory” (1987). Amanda Platell reminded me of the Primrose League Ladies Council school of thought, ironstresses who could never bring themselves to support Suffrage but realised the benefits for them and their daughters. Caught within a paradox brilliantly described by Campbell, they lived a curious life of simultaneously speaking out and, essentially, staying schtum.
Campbell considers such moral fasting, and the statistic that, if only women voted, there would have been even more Conservatives in power than there have been. She looks at advances in the sway women have held across the 20th century, from representing nothing much to representing a sense of movement, an eternal transition from private power to public, for the Pall Mall cigars to the wheel-tapper worlds of the left. In each, power becomes flirted down via “signals, signs and tokens” to women “caressed with chaste conceits – all those exquisite courtesies that enfeeble women in a moment of glory.” I have no doubt that power can still be ‘flirted down’, that many of us can be pacified by simply being close to it. And no doubt that a majority can still be minoritised, even by themselves. It’s a brilliant book and Campbell would make a good President. Of Earth.
The Primrose League might be exiled onto the iced nitrogen of Pluto, but the Channel 4 show had one point that stopped me. When she was dating, Amanda had more success by telling men that she worked in a library than telling men her six figure salary. Guilty of providerism on a slight wage, guilty of Mr Fix-It even as we hammer thumbs, fearing partners too ‘above’, hissing and dissing the kid-on-mommy handhold, we minoritise culpability but bask on the sofa anyway.
Headed east to the sofas of the West Indian Front Room
. Straight off the Windrush and into a single room with a paraffin heater in Notting Hill. A spangled map of St Lucia shalt hang in a prime position above a bar stocked with rum and stout; a 'bluespot' with 45s. The carpet shalt be maroon, or maroon and red, or maroon and patterned brown. But maroon. Beyond that, the West Indian Front Room looked sturdily like any British parlour of the period, only more so. When the fashion was to be funky, it was funkier. When the fashion was techno-sporty, it would be, um, techno-sportier.
Having slavered over the typical West Indian Christmas menu, and in preparation to end my fast (“Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Paracelsus, and Hippocrates all believed in fasting therapy.” Ooh. “From Moses to Elijah, from Daniel to Christ, the Bible is filled with fasters.” Ooh, powerful company), I went home via the Hoi Sing Supermarket in Seven Sisters and bought rolled tofu, bok choi, three bags of assorted fungi, Laksa, five spice, rice vermicelli, spring roll pastry, black beans, ginger, peppers, onions, minced chilli, salted radish, sesame seeds and peanut oil. So looking forward to hunger.
Subject: Songs Of The Uninvited
Time: 2006 Jan 30 10:27:00
One of the things I miss about the DPS website is that it was selling something. If ever I thought ‘why do this?’ a righteous desire to attract attention to my songs would arrive and I ploughed further. And, after cohabitation with the guy for several months, I have finally got around to reading my flatmate Doug's novel
. So would wish to attract your attention to that.
It is published by Canongate, often a good start. For some reason, the British cover hints loudly at GAY PORN, to the extent that the sales assistant, checking it over while I looked for a card slot in his gizmo, quickly announced ‘You stick it in the bottom’, then realised the double sense
of what he had said and continued the transaction looking everywhere-but-my-eyes.
Owen Noone is a tale of platonic male bonding, around the totem of Alan Lomax’s Penguin History of American Folk Music
(1961). The Marauder, the ironically-named narrator, is an awkward, life-as-early-Gainsbourg teenage Harry Haller of the Illinois campus scene when he collides with a Withnail for his I, a Sherlock to his Watson, the Performing to his Official Self: Mr Owen Noone, the hushed-up son of a congressman, wastrel and sometime chanteur.
Hitching up to perform thrashy versions of US folk classics (‘John Henry', 'Erie Canal', 'My Government Claim', 'The Wild Mizzourye'), the novel turns from road movie to Rock Follies, as the duo’s rekindling of a childlike America finds a fan base and brings them the skewerings of success. (There might have been an innocent time before the land of cornbread gave itself gun culture, fore to aft. Possibly five minutes
at Plymouth Rock? Pot kettle: I wondered where the British equivalent might be - when was our epoch of innocence? Standing in an air aid shelter? Running around with rickets? Thankfully some of the best documentary-making in the world tend to prevent Brit nostalgia from looking more than personal-woes-paint-the-world).
The story’s inner engine is its innocence and enthusiasm, which is hard to argue with, capturing as it does the sensations of playing your first musical notes and scoring a gig. The bonding between the two outsiders - one rejected, the other rejecting – one forever cap-touching the family unit, the other free from his – is well explored. Anyone recalling the myriad of chemistry between ‘bessie mates’, be they male or female, will recognise the testing of limits in admiration, how sexual partners can turn the friendship into a triangle (and possibly a surrogate family unit) and how, for any imbalance to survive without resentment, the participants can seek pity, and even seek to hurt - to hurt their way out of the shadow. (“I’m always her mate. I’m never
me. Everyone always sees me as x’s mate, and it’s pissing
me off.” A friend once explained. She was actually a hundred times more interesting than her cohort, just less extrovert. What she mistook for public love or fascination was people simply trying to handle
Rock-a-doodle, but whither the sex and drugs? Some reviews have pointed this out, but I’m glad the novel stays beyond that. (Does anyone think you need fame’s licence for sex and drugs? Try Croydon on a Saturday night). The American Dream is the focus, the roots of ambition, its celebration of the here and now. I liked the rednecks reaction to their own songs ‘like the difference between folk and country’: one as the self amidst the rawness of nature; the other, despite the name, more urbanised, more about family problems, more of a tea dance. The former - still the sound of the somehow uninvited.
The prose has all the ease of a Bukowski, who felt effortless and didn’t lay the themes on thick, or the simplicity of Hank Williams when he wasn’t preaching. Americana, and thankfully no scamp getting his baseball cap knocked off running around a hot dog queue. Having the scope of an empire to play with, you feel that US writers could chat about some guy swigging in a bar and it would feel like a fair comment on the western world, whilst someone in an obscure part of Kazakhstan writing fair comments on the western world will just read like the work of a guy sitting in a bar.
Time: 2006 Jan 28 12:29:00
Time: 2006 Jan 26 12:00:00
They’re trying to push the IAMU up the Privy. It’s cockatiels, or gibbons. Something. The IAMU backs onto the municipal zoo and someone slippy on the project board just went knees-to-the-ears for borough council nuptials.
“It’s the Olympics.” He said to me, the usual haunt. Howie’s Doorstops. “Fucking Olympics.” He does have a glaringly rich habit of trying to be on everyone’s side at once. “Marmosets.” He consulted his Gammon and Pineapple Tightener. “We have to shrink. It’d look the business. Hurray For People. The London and South East heats. It’d look a lot more friendly.”
I sipped at my coffee. “On top of that, there’s a pair of captive-breeding marmosets in business class as we speak. Cocking mascots. The new Brazilian ambassador snared them himself. It’s their honeymoon
.” I stared. He looked up and over my shoulder. “No tears. We lose the IAMU.”
The Internal Analysis and Modelling Unit are three analysts and a Senior Administator called Miriam, in a prime spot across the electric fence from the zoo’s old bug house. The new bug house was a legal wrangle in itself, which we eventually won. They joke about the millipedes, and most of them are going to take it personally, several are actually going to fall to pieces. All of them are going to get used to the idea within three days and wonder if it might be the best thing that every happened to them. But they'll turn to shit and piss again when a card with the hairy millipede says ‘Looks Like You're Legging It’.
What a fucking fuckity fuck. I preferred to move fast. The deeper you get into the slog, the less you realise how inert things actually are. The more you’re In Here, in the Business, with its muffin-runs and bug jokes, acronymns and inner language, the less you notice how far Out There has moved on. Your value depletes from day one. While the real world is Out There. Moving.
Miriam. 2:00 pm. I couldn’t tell Miriam about Señor Coconut and the lovebirds. How the hell could I? “Miriam, it’s the Americans. Since Osama they recycle the reciprocals if we even sneeze. I’m in this barrel too.” She scratched her elbow and stared at me. “It’s all fingers on the ball. If we contract out.. the ball is still warm with those guys. They’re so hungry they’ll happily rip a tit off. In here - well you know what this place is like. Hardly the real sticks when it comes to the crunch? The thing is, it’s such a state of flux, no-one can predict the shape or scope. Everyone’s punching their own face off, but the ball park has moved to fucking Bangalore.” She looked at the floor. “It’s multi-dimensional these days. People need it before they got up. Hard is always new. Tighter, and lean as can be. You see?” She looked at a slim wristwatch.
She knew quite well that she was post-lunch prep for the toe-up-ass action to come. She looked at me as if asking ‘done?’ Her sister co-hosted a recruitment centre in Kent. She stayed for the flexitime, because we were four minutes from her kid’s kinder gym, and because we weren’t a whoop of pricks like her last place. She left the Room at 2:10pm, and I went for a regular latte and a cheese twist.
2:30 pm. You’ll reap what is sown, Mr Colin Beeswick. “We’re a victim of our own success, Colin.” Fifty eight years old, Colin turned towards the room’s corner and closed his eyelids very slowly indeed. He approached his work like a proper draughtsman, methodical. Respected.
“This is a bit of a.. fine hello.” He pressed his eyeballs. I think he raised a hand to clutch his throat. I continued.
“We’re number one ducks. From the board’s point of view we’ve got ‘nook’ stamped on one end and ‘cranny’ on the other. Any tighter and the company squeaks blood. The sights inevitably settle back home. It’s such a prize for the old CV, Colin. Finally trimmed ourselves out of the picture.” Silence. Very softly, he uttered a woman’s name. No room to think. “The ultimate analysis, in many ways.” Yes. Yes. Colin’s eldest had a mushroom problem. Was his marriage spannered? One of the two. He opened is eyes, lost, as if consumed by distant waves on an imaginary beach. Raped life. His eyes said. Raped life
. His voice was hard to hear. “Things have been well.. It’s going well
.. the forecast..”
“But for how long, Colin? We have to take a furlong. That’s how the picture stays rosy. There was a report in Madrid last sum..” Mid sentence, he got up very slowly, the rubber tips of his chair legs squealing briefly on the tiles. He left, and I have no doubt that he returned to his desk, found his coat, got cashback at the Regional and boozed till he ruined seats on the last connection to Chertsey.
The bag was already split. The rest was, in many ways, a matter of slowly tidying up the chunks. Or so I believed.
Effie McCartney 3:30 pm. She must have ran into Colin, for she popped her head into the Room with an “It’s me too, then?”.
I mirrored her. Best way. “It’s me too.” I lied, early on in the explanation. “I’m far from exempt.” She refused to concede though. Most people think, fairly quickly, what’s the point in arguing? If I’m not required, do I want to stay somewhere that doesn’t want me? They convince themselves they want to go and do the job for you. Most people have pride. Effie had the resilience of No Pride, and therefore No Shame. “So. Run it past me again?” She kept saying, her head at an angle, to one side, eyes reaching along the floor. I came out with contradictory old toot, whatever I could think of, and she seemed to be buying it. Resilient, but somewhat static in the mind. Little miss fine detail. Problem solver. Squirrel girl. Ultimately muddled when it comes to people. As I rolled around increasingly surreal analogies (“It’s like a cowboy walking into a western town but the buildings are all a façade.. that’s been us.. we’ve been a saloon.. on stilts..”) I watched her. Taking it all in. Like words matter. Look at my face, I kept thinking. Look at me.
“Please remember, this isn't about you as a person.” Of course it fucking was. Roles don't have home repossessions. Eventually this genuinely embittered game wore us both out. Not by anything I was saying, but by its duration and by the tone of my voice and my folded arms. Words really do mean less than nothing. Less than nothing at all. I went for a crap, and stared at a Metropol someone had left in trap three.
When I returned to the Room, I checked the clock and tried Tim’s extension. Tim James was a pushy little kid who still lived with his parents. They'd probably pay off his Citroen Saxo out of sheer pity. I don’t think anyone had ever seen him be anything but a thoroughly decent guy. In many ways I’d kept the total pushover for the end, the one who might actually be happy for the opportunity to spend six months popping his cock through a glory hole in Thailand. His phone went unanswered. I tried a hot desk number at the bug house and decided to stroll across the car park. The sun was up and right in my eyes. It was going to be a nice evening, and it was very nice to get some air out there.
As I walked, I listened to inconclusive rummagings over the buzz of the electric fence. I thought about Colin, pictured him emerging from the bushes with a softball bat. “Coping mechanisms. Everyone understands. Revenge
.” I managed to side-step each swipe. “Homosapien at his finest. To recall, feel, conceive of, organise. Moral balance. It’s all there. Homosapien at his finest
, Colin.” I turned the corner half expecting to find ‘SS Bitch’ hammered into the roof of my car. “Coping mechanisms. Everyone understands these days.”
No-one was inside the bug house. And I tried Tim’s mobile but got put straight to voicemail.
Subject: The JobCentre Plus! Of 1000 Dances
Time: 2006 Jan 22 20:05:00
On Saturday I was up and about at 8:00am to help Mr Mustard move flat. Nothing odd there, but that I got to bed at four the previous night, having danced for three and a half hours without rest. My feet and legs were truly murderous before I even laid a finger on the conjugal bed frame. The culprit behind my sensitive feet was Moot’s birthday and the super-sensitive but remarkably happy club ‘How Does It Feel To Be Loved?’ (inadequacies and being all out-of-place can’t really go out of fashion, I guess), after finally donning ice skates (several kinds of clinging to the barrier, slipping around a chill-out zone with a heavy-looking girl and a lad having an asthma attack).
The Diamond Mine Gumboot Stomp It must be a matter of surface for, in contrast to my skating, dancing is one of the three things I get complimented on (“You’re good!” people say, once I get going, slightly incredulously). No formal discipline, just the sort of freeform wheelding that is both intimate and very public. In fact, it’s the kind of intimacy that can only
be achieved in public, knitting together shared space. Expressiveness shouldn’t be overdone lest you look like someone trying to shake an army of inner demons, but must be enough to encourage fellow dancers to fixate between one other. Through this, self-consciousness holds its paradox: anyone tempted to the cynical will suddenly appreciate how pedestrian their own footwork can be. Rivalry cast asunder, all but the wallflowers refuse to sit as equals in the church of frug. Either way, we lose ourselves: will and function become form. “Who can know the dancer from the dance?” said Yeats.
Toprocking And 6-Step Looking back, another impetus for this marathon might have been grasping the hot end of the highest-rise-in-UK-jobless-for-twelve-years statistic. No shakes, it be God’s will, and I’d kind of reached a point in the company where only middle management lay upstairs. The higher and lower echelons of any organisation seem to contain the happiest people: the latter zone out, do what they have to do, retire for an evening refreshment, the former get a packet for their vision. Ambition is fine, but running around like a smacked Rottweiler on the middle rung is difficult to contemplate. Also, I’m sure any net work will turn interesting if I spend my days talking to a three bar fire, fearing the doorbell and feeling my self-worth as a male plummet through the earth’s core, only to Pas-de-Deux with Satan’s sock monkey. I’m quite sure any artistic ‘bent’ will actually loop the loop as I go, um, decadent
in the head. "The kettle told him to write it, he explained to the arresting officer."
The Highland Fling Previously, I’ve only been unemployed briefly and it actually was
quite sickly and decadent – wake up, eat, buy second-hand designer trousers, have party with art students and Therapy?, go back to sleep for twelve days until next sign-on; a glorious application of youthful vim, you’ll agree, and the energy-saving was my stance for the environment. The only twist being that, upon waking to attend, say, an interview, many vital parts of my mind remained deep inside the windy quadrants of Hypnos, riding bareback on a winged horse, perhaps. But, as well as the maddened need not to live in a typically ‘unemployed’ way, there was more sex (ditch the Kouros and power play, the libido-crushing routine, ditch the agencies - a mid-afternoon doing Alphabites Fandango along aisle five is all you require. ‘Single mum. Mmmm
.’ “Fairest Maiden of the Rusk, have you chanced upon a griffin?”)
Physical Theatre Anyway, HDIFTBL dropped a lot of Sir Wilson Pickett. Then, in a kind of cosy delirium, ‘Still Ill’, a song with anti-work connotations. And, without sounding glib or careless, I recalled how happiness, like space in dancing, tends to be an exploration of balance, wherever circumstances would have you. Libidinal flows crack on in societies where the future is unclear or hardly considered, while urbanites with safety features feel a noose about their necks that isn’t even there, as if evening's long potential reveal the morning’s poverty. Stripped of groat, the inner blagger slips off the mind's Northern Line, armed with swift charm, bare trade and an eBay ticket scam. Will and function become form: maybe it'll help me see if I really have been living a formless stopgap through necessity. Boredom is the only killer, naturally. Reader, that could be where you will bump, by hump, to an UO grind.
Subject: The Holy Bloody Grail
Time: 2006 Jan 15 14:30:00
The Nightingales, The Spitz, 13 Jan 2006 Having emailed 'Big Print' at The Nightingales HQ regarding a distant memory I have, more like a dream, of a live concert the band broadcast from London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, he emailed to offer to give me a CD copy of said recording, a personal Holy Grail, which I duly collected from singer Robert Lloyd, after a reunion concert in Spitalfields.
HGV Drivers in Literature “The best rock’n’roll band in England. And you need know nothing more.” Alan McGee once said of The Nightingales. No surprise that word-slingers recall them fondly - they arrived at a brief crosspoint of ‘literate’ post-punk – the Smiths, the Go-Betweens, Postcard. ‘Crafty Fag’ sounds like fifty chickens strapped to a whirlygig in Satan’s funhouse. “What? You don’t take sugar? Well I’ve put some in already..” A barrage of lyrics refract through oddball domesticity, then spill out and under the nation’s fly-overs, as the better punk did. In retrospect, ‘Which Hi-fi’ sounds like a State Of The Nation song: a relentless and proud other-era Britain, a stolen HGV of verbage ploughing across Thatcher’s changing workscape, a last-ditch head stagger of Midlands heart in the airless neon Harvesters of new town commerce. ‘Hi-fi’ pinned its decade down like a butterfly, as a question of quality - a generation turning to world cuisine, single malt, Yankie cigarettes and coffee homeground - backs against its parent’s Bells or Mellow Birds. No artistic work, before or since, has better explored the paradoxes of a very working class kind of emotional wrench - between the emptiness of betterment and being a deserter. You’ll read it in yer mam’s eyes, but never in books. Straighten your Tie Rack Classic, get in the company car and kid yerself a road movie, our kid. This song is England’s ‘Death Of A Salesman’, and about five people have heard it. Here's Crafty Fag
Never Ever Gonna Let It Rest - That’s How To Age So endeth a Nightingales mid-concert mantra, entitled ‘How To Age’, (I think) an old Prefects song, rekindled a quarter decade later. The irony can’t be lost on the empty pates, carb-friendly bellies and disbanding hips in their old student blacks and polka (interspersed with some of Shoreditch’s hipper kids) but neither was the insight: age’s worst folly might be an attempt to keep pouring a specified shot of vino, often finding a new label for our own emptiest bottle, cheering on youth’s cheer while brain cells dislocate and lower backs begin to twinge. Everyone has a personal concept of the dotage: ‘The day I stop - visiting art galleries/ breaking and entering/ screwing like Viagra’s funkiest lab rabbit/ overspending - is the day I turn into my parents
’. Less ‘accept yourself’ and more ‘the diary entries you flinch to see = where you might find true selves’ – the song inevitably brings the gig’s heart to a stop, an upper turn in the rollercoaster climb. Backed into such reflection, the audience could only come out dancing.
Where Did It All Go Right? ‘Never meet your heroes’ has rarely been a problem - maybe I’ve had good ones. But I bought Robert Lloyd a Guinness in exchange for the ICA Rock Week CD and our chat was mercifully brief. What the heck can conversation add after the musical communion? Thanks for that - now let me bore you till your ears fall off your head, bounce down the street and into a skip. Begone, fanmen and analysis-heads, you come to give but more often take. Throw in the prickly world between praise and patronise, and better stick to dancing. Next day, Moot and I walked to Broadway Market to stare at Hari Kunzru in the Battle Of Tony’s Café
. Moot is one of those people I confess to. “I want to be someone's emotional rock, their anchor in life’s ocean.” Amidst the organic jams and footscrubs, she laughed till she needed physical support.
Subject: Never Had It? So? Good!
Time: 2006 Jan 08 14:00:00
Some People Work Very Hard Hurrah! London transport prices are exploding in 2006! Hurrah! Gas prices are going APESHIT! Britain is now over a trillion pounds in debt, while if France was a business, it’d be bankrupted, stripped down and sold to passing tinkers. My dad wishes he hadn’t contracted out of SERPS, because everything would be free if he hadn’t. Diligence makes no odds: morons who pissed their wage packets through a hedge are laughing. And, while mugs like you and me pull the wagon till our shoulders shatter, little ponces are sitting around, blowing smoke rings and laughing. Laughing.
How to finally hush your parents – run around like a goth cross-dresser looking for a noose or talk about money even more than they do. No-one thinks money is vulgar any more. No-one thinks that if you give everyone a million pounds a piece, they will spend it on goods and services and boost the economy (in the long run they tend not to spend it - over a certain income, most of us join the investment class). No-one thinks money is magic or a politician shouldn’t drink champagne. No-one lives under the crippling proto-Christian “you’ll get pie in the sky when you die” (a puritan aspect that became a featureless religiosity for the left). No-one thinks they are subverting money by living in a teepee, and no-one thinks they have all the woes in the western world when they just need a holiday.
But Still They Never Get It Right Many have lounged on a parental lap and asked “If there are so many poor folk why don’t we just print more?” “Ho ho.” They chuckle and sweep your chaotic locks; then explain that money isn’t cash, and about inflation and post-Neoliberal macroeconomics and Lotka-Volterra cycles causing stockmarket subharmonics. They describe a foot pressing an accelerator pedal to print lots of money sometimes, when needed, and coming off at other times, tightening up. What you possibly (mis)imagine is that money is a liquid flowing through a set of finite pipelines - to build more homes means cycling rough-house over other people’s nest eggs. Even analysis of whether the times are accelerating or decelerating seems complex and contradictory, for there is always more than one chart to cross-analyse – prudent tea-and-Battenburg times might ignore the wailing Godzilla of property inflation, eating take-home just as hungrily. I half realized that money was not the issue but were it sits: the dungeons of comparative cost and value.
People Into The Personal A revolutionary thing I read on the internet was a blog entry wherein a girl complained that she could not afford a holiday. Her friends could, but she was left wondering why she, in her land of plenty, could not. In a light way, she chewed over everything - her daily expenditure, her moral ‘wisdom’ with money, the number of hours a week she spent grafting when she’s rather be having fun, her educational history and social stature, how her family treated her, the state of her nation’s method of setting wages and prices, and so on. She was giving herself a potted example of how the personal, familial, societal and the political intertwine and conspire around human happiness. Nothing new there, but because she was using herself as the example (few professionals writers could be caught moaning
in such a way - although who'd wish for an internet of Blue Peter presenters? - or lance the organ that feeds them by discussing poverty) there was something open and transparent there. Another odd aspect of the piece was that for all the familial hoo-ha, her problem was not Ritalin. To admit that meant taking a leap - for finance, stability and security are about politics, politics is Social, and the Social might seek revolution. It’s possibly easier to live a life on sedatives.
The Pity Bourgeoisie She had no constructed ideology to tender a cure. I was tempted to write posts to her blog – one claiming that production is usurped by the investment class with the same metaphoric levers that a child uses to interpret the previous generation, but telling her to quit thinking, quit analysing and quit writing and join an armed Socialist resistance, to help her reclaim the wealth she is due much more of; and another market-driven tut telling her that choices were hers alone, and if it didn’t pay enough, tough, and if she couldn’t play tough enough, tough to the power of ten. The Social sphere is playing field, birthed in battle and spook stories, Old Boys and Alumna. A nation is at stake, for heaven's sake. Soiled trolley and shivering blouse must slip behind. She was, after all, a child-free, able-bodied English speaker. On your Grifter, missus.
No Marches, Just Mutiny The horror blog of one GI Jane is worth a family bucket of pain-feeling Fondas, and is the very transparency and freedom of speech that freedom seeks. In the absence of ideology (too Social, too battleground, too oratory, and far too rivalry) politics is about successively replacing one contractor touting for the Social Democracy contract with another fresher one. Why box the wind? David Cameron looks ironed of jimmy jam and doesn’t have soldiers dead in his ant farm for freedom (chose a Taliban, any Taliban, look at it, put it behind your yashmak and take away the salary you used to earn as a petro-chemist. ‘Shiiii-nola, sarge, we’re whackin’ her boss-eyed but she keeps votin’ beard’). There was no Trojan nosebag heavy with Derek Hatton when Labour came to power, so why should we assume that Comrade Cameron fashions Pole-bashing wicker men in his dark red boudoir? When passed the Social Democracy baton in trust and good nature, why would he run in the losing direction? We might worry that ears will slam closed and no-one will pity any more. Even more of a reason to keep the macho filth of ideology as far from the polling booth as humanly possible
and even more reason to burrow deeper into consensus. If our minds are not an Oxbridge debate any more, if DNA research doesn’t reveal an Old Labour helix, each contractor must simply be overtaken when they leap the Battenburg barrier and descend over the nettles and rusty pipes at Bush Heights.
“Economics Simply Sells Us Back Childhood” And maturity means having the means and freedom to turn infantilism off and on like a stopcock. Despite our easy attitude no-one can say money is neutral. It may be an exchange of my work for yours, but it inevitably colours the relationship. Distance removes the human face, tenders Anti-Social desires, where immorality is that bit easier. Supply feeds in a nest of fear and demand creates supply. The worrying issue is when money takes a step into NeoLiberalism, where it leaves behind goods and services, where the operation of a market is seen as an ethic in itself, and capable of acting as a director for human actions. And, like middleware subsuming the legacy systems it has been created to connect, slowly substituting previously held ethical beliefs. Supply also creates a demand, the heart that pumps exchange is always born in paradox. Money is not an internal plasma flooding fixed valves, for each ventricle inflates as far as voters bear, through the sedatives they are fed, and around the monstrous corpus of debt. In view of such a fantasy world, you have to believe that we have a duty to feel anything but guilt.
Time: 2006 Jan 08 14:10:00
They say a decade doesn’t find itself until around about its middle, so what exactly are the Zeros (Noughties has never sounded right; Zeros is blank and goading and New York punk)? Time to perform basic UO in/out parameters:
Out: Watching the clock; all seventies retro; all orange; ‘Friends’ apartment kaleidoscopes of colour; all trainers, boot-cuts, bowl haircuts and gormlessness; any post-maturity or inner child; any mix and match genre clash; NeoLiberal economics; all thongs; all beards and dressing like an OU lecturer; post-structuralism and catch-phrases; British men learning how to use an oven; art as legitimacy; TV trying to compete with porn; incalculable distance sold as closeness; urban spaces; going fucking nuts.
In: Eccentricity; home jungles; the return of no-reason ‘what in Christ’s name is going on?’ entertainment; Little Richard; Gertrude's Storm; post-monochrome regal; reverse-colonialism; power as cottage industry; Battenburg cake; global strikes; full underpants; Le Vice Anglais; calculated distance; Dickensian electro-spooks in brogues; 'Battle Royale' as old school Goth-hop; people who say 'human beings cannot come together without religion or a religion substitute' finally deciding to come together.
Subject: 2006: A Fairly Hairy Soireé
Time: 2006 Jan 01 21:03:00
Diarising and fiction seem to be drifting apart. Church, spittoon and, when analysts tell us to stop over-analysing, a place where the right-brain fends a little ground. Imagination open by hook or by Kojo Annan. My hobbies include micropolitics, sub-Saharan building sites and corporate modelling.