I have no reason to write right now. Okay, on reflection that was a stupid thing to say when you’ve taken the effort to sit cross legged on your new double bed with your back against the wall and opened a word document. I spent a good ten minutes between the opening credits of the Sopranos and staring open mouthed at my girlfriend’s Facebook page umming and ahhing about whether I should try and justify this evening of sloth by putting finger to keyboard. I have thousands of reasons to write; I just said that I didn’t to look cool. I started this pre-meditated article like that so it would look like I pinch out an article with the same ease that a dog shits on the pavement. The truth is that I can’t I just want you to think I can so I make up excuses not to write things. So that aside, here are some of the reasons that I have tried to suppress in order to fully realise a state of feeling sorry for myself. As I mentioned before it’s a pretty good way of making you think that you’ve done something productive with your day. I guess that says a lot about me; if the only way I can feel good about what I’ve achieved in the daylight hours is by saying I managed to do something with my hands while I sat down apart from masturbating. I just imagine a Mercian serf coming home to his small holding after a long day of back breaking labour and avoiding ox excrement when his unwashed serf wife asks him what he did with his day and he replies, “Oh, I lay down for hours on end and then moved into a sitting position so that my hands would be nearer my face to shovel Doritos down my gob”. Another reason I have for writing is that it expels all those nasty feelings of loneliness from my life. Of course writing isn’t the only thing I can do to forget how cripplingly self-absorbed the time I’m spending awake is. I’d normally read a good book, browse some pointless websites or walk up and down the stairs. These processes have done me well in the past. I feel visibly smarter when I read a book; it’s a rewarding experience. I feel like if I nip down to the co-op for a pint of milk people are going to look at me as if engorged grey matter is pressing against the insides of my temples; that people would look at me as if I had pointed out to them that the reason their car wasn’t moving was that the wheels were square. The problem with all these things is that writing’s the only thing that actually gives me a release for the mounting piles of pure bat-shit insanity in my head. Maybe it’s being in a house designed for four all by myself where lights randomly flicker on and off or just refuse to turn on at all. Generally this style of living has contributed to my already high anxiety levels topped up by nicotine boost after nicotine boost. Every time I hear someone walk past the window I assume a) they’re either going to try and leap through my 1st storey bedroom window proclaiming that Cthulu the dark lord has come for my soul or b) they’re going to be massacred by Cthulu springing from the shadows. In the distance earlier this evening I could hear some sort of firework display/ random celebratory explosion event and I kid you not, I prepared for the impending vengeance of the Cloverfield monster.Is this the behaviour of a mad person or the behaviour of a bored person?
Favourite blogs for This is not just ordinary blogging.
August 10, 2011
April 02, 2011
Dearest, well, you,
I have been lazy, although not entirely. I have been struggling over the last six months to write. It is not exactly out of laziness. I have been working hard on my degree and reading a plethora of exciting things. I have performed poetry and enjoyed pretending I can make music too. Yet it was all recycled stuff. I'd run out of new and interesting things to say, or even uninteresting things to say in an interesting way. I was full of cliche and lacklustre language. Poetry was a struggle and for a short while (forgive me poetry), I fell out of love with it.
This spell is over however, and I endeavour to return to this little slice of the web to regurgitate rhymes.
It's all quite intimidating watching friends get banking internships and Spring Weeks and post-grad jobs, and I think part of my silence was worry that my future is looking empty. I began to think practically and logically, something that does not come naturally to me and that generally makes me feel quite sick.
Farewell practicality. You do my nerves no good.
March 25, 2011
The Collaborator’s Canteen
In the collaborator’s canteen where I paid for five meals a week and ate two
Where Nurse Ratchet guarded warming trays using a ladle for a rifle
On Fridays Fish was served, unspecified marine species drowning in oppressing batter
Suffocating in saturated fat coffins slender ethereal spines freezing in edible setting concrete
And all this based on the myth that moons ago the world’s first revolutionary socialist fed thousands
With gilled martyrs, those who we’ll remember as the Galilee Five.
No-one specified whether it was line caught or whether they had been imported and in what conditions
Were they transported live with catfish to keep all that scalene scaled flesh supple or nubile?
Did they have a tick from the MSC, and if not were they discarded dorsal finless by Japanese whalers
Who were instructed by some higher power that when eating their mid slaughter sandwiches to only eat the bread and throw the filling away.
Nurse Ratchet couldn’t give a swimming fuck, lifting up my hair on the back of my head to tie a blindfold to spare the sight of her cocking the cooking implement.
It’s easy to feed a scad when all you give people is what they can handle rather than employing over-exaggerated marketing ploys; all you can eat, eat as much as you like, eat until there’s bile cascading down the front of your eyeballs as if you just opened your mouth when your mouth’s full of soup
I felt that if I wasn’t a carnivore I couldn’t support a family, a hunter-gatherer with a cave-wife constantly in biblical floods of tears
If I’d have asked Nurse Ratchet if they had any Salisbury, Sirloin or Chateaubriand on the go she’d have blown me then and there, like opening my fly would leak link after link of kielbasa sausage
And try not to misunderstand me because I’d kill for a steak. It’s just that I’m not sure whether to kill the bovine in which the steak resides to qualify myself for meateaterdom or the guy stupid enough to get between me and a steak.
With excess comes in simpler terms retardedness. Spell-check it if you please but put even simpler I don’t boule about the place fucking everything in sight because
a) I’d be that strange person at parties who upon looking at a girl about whom he is discussing with a fellow party goer , midway through conversation as casual as the sex he will no doubt describe that he tapped ‘that’
And b) I would ruin the sexual expectations of everyone involved with my deplorable, odious love-making technique.
Consumers have rarely cared about the medium in which they operate but if foods the operation and the farmer is the scalpel it helps if its sharp and at hand not blunted by frustrated sebaceous sessions and currently embroiled in a commute/import from somewhere they still know how to grow the things we enjoy to consume but couldn’t be bothered how to re-learn how.
January 06, 2011
So I have lost my writing ability of late. The ink has run dry and I am forcing myself to cough up words like the last of my bronchitis phlegm. With it being a new year, I shall endeavour to write more in hope it will unblock the well of inspiration. Thus far, I am still experiencing a drought.
You wrote of me
on old pub doors, chipping at the paint
with a yellowed index finger
stiff with arthritis,
toxic dandruff falling into the denim around your ankles,
You wrote of me
in hometown shades of canal brown,
and Spider park grey.
Of me, you blasphemed,
churned my name
until I was lemon curd in your mouth.
“4ever” glittered in spilt blood
across sodden bar tables,
wet with whiskey rings and strippers knickers.
November 20, 2010
Today I went to Birmingham. I liked the floortiles.
2 x shirts, 1 maroon, 1 black
1x pair of nice silvery boots
1x pair of geek chic glasses
1x bottle of UV nail varnish
1x surprise present for a friend.
Breakfast - 30g Bran Flakes
Lunch - Nothing
Dinner - 2 slices raw tofu, 1 white pitta bread, 2 grilled turkey rashers, lettuce
Evening - MOUNTAINS OF BOOZE
I rather like my life at the moment =)
November 18, 2010
November 17, 2010
1st Year Creative Writing
... never been so confused.
August 25, 2010
Two entertaining magazines I came across online, for anyone interested in alternative economics/politics/philosophy...
July 09, 2010
DISCLAIMER: This is not a short story. This actually happened and I had to write it down before I forgot. Please don't think me mentally disturbed, I found it weird too.
Last night I had a dream. Now, I know this is nothing unusual, especially since I dream every night and always remember them vividily. I think this means I don't sleep well or have a nervous disposition or have a secret desire to be an elephant. Something to that effect.
Anyway. Last night was different. In my dream (which was actually this morning more than last night), I gave birth. It hurt in my dream, and it was very real. Then I had a beautiful baby boy, who I felt love for, I actually felt unbelievable, chest-shattering love. My heart swelled and crushed me from inside out. I was impossibly happy. I left university, and sat around the dinner table in my parent's home, writing lists of possible eternal damnation for the little piece of me I rocked in my arms.
May I remind you, or simply myself, this was just a dream, because even now, a weird love is bubbling in my stomach.
I toyed with Zachary for ages. It is a name I have never considered (no, I am nowhere near birth, but we've all thought about it). "Zachary, yes maybe," I'd thought, but the name didn't fit. I looked down at my boy, my diluted and yet complete, perfect genes, and knew Zachary wasn't right. Now I am awake, I think it is a marvellous name, and have added it to my own mental list (which only contained Molly and Florence for a girl and Oliver for a boy, I'm pretty picky.)
It just fit. He wore it like a comfort blanket I'd knitted with my own fingers, which I then realised, within my dream, that I couldn't knit, and that I'd have to learn. When I awoke, I genuinely swore to myself I will learn to knit before I have a child.
I don't quite remember how it all ended, fizzling into 8am. That weird moment when you try to cling on to a dream, radio static that just keeps missing the station you want, and you know morning is coming, but just one more minute please.
Yet these minutes were years, my baby was 3, and I was teaching Blake to read in a shopping centre with a massive balcony, almost like the inside of Westfields, and Mr. Luck, my A Level Geography teacher was there, and I kept trying to blink him away because he made it less real. Stupidity was slipping in, stupidity in the shape of reality as the beckoning morning taunted me, and my distressed mind tried to clutch at anything from the factual cardboard boxes of my dusty brain, in the shape of a distorted shopping centre and a much adorded teacher. But Blake was as real as ever, as momentarily real as ever, beautiful.
I woke up and cried, not knowing at first why. I went downstairs and as soon as I put the kettle on the phone rang. It was my Mum at work, telling me they needed me to come in to do some odd jobs. I actually cried for the next 15 minutes. I was trying to convince myself all day it was because I was tired and didn't want to go to work and maybe it was just hayfever...
I actually missed a baby that didn't exist, I felt like I'd lost him and I was all to blame. I am highly concerned for my own well-being and well write a story about this soon.
July 07, 2010
- Crawl into a large hole
- Crawl into that hole laden down with books
- Stay sober in that hole
- Take enough supplies to be so intoxicated I don't remember ever being in said hole.
July 06, 2010
Mind-blowing economy man who'll teach you how money is created (out of thin air!), how we all get in debt, what a recession is, and how this all fits in with peak oil and energy resources.
July 02, 2010
My aunt has never left the country, growing
crazy in her old age in Somerset, the final, slowing
days of her being spent in one room of her home,
a glass prison, a snow globe shaped dome.
Her conservatory is besieged by globes and maps
where she plots her plans and takes her naps,
as aeroplanes score the sky, surgical instruments
cutting into deathly grey flesh, futile attempts,
To revive something of lost life. Guide books her bible,
planning her epiphany in Europe, dreaming of tribal
dances and poverty, crying in African villages,
like the celebrities on fame-hungry pilgrimages.
She is childless, husbandless, and her heart beats
for Greek columns, tapas, cobbled French streets.
My aunt lives beneath an English sky, wishing
for more, like a puzzle with the sky missing.
June 29, 2010
She runs to side of the shed, back thumping wood, hands clutched around her heart, holding it close. She looks around to see if she is alone, strawberry blonde hair swinging this way and then that, but no one has followed her, the sounds of her classmates’ playing are muffled and before her is empty grass and silence. She raises her clasped hands to her nose and slowly pulls them open to peer inside, at it, her new find, her latest treasure. It is still there, pulsing and vibrant and alive: for a second she is transfixed in wonder. Then she claps her hand to her mouth and swallows, feeling it slither down her throat like liquid sliver and collect in her chest. Apprehensive and excited all at the same time, she parts her lips, her tongue quivering in anticipation, that moment before you don’t know what it's going to be like, what it is, and the silence around her is oppressive, somewhere a magpie chirps and she is caught in limbo but she pushes and
The effect is instantaneous: the word splits into fragments, ripping the silence with a compulsion it cannot contain and the scar in her heart knits itself into oblivion. Its power touches her and she feels her skin rise into goose bumps: she feels change, small and imperceptible but all around her. She waits for the silence to return and tries it again, this time crinkling her nose as supporting act to her lips. Crinkle, bite and
Once again, the fabric of her universe is lacerated and her essence solidifies: she feels more real, more there. She is fascinated. “Fuck,” she whispers, tracing her lips. She has found her friend.
She begins to collect them, tucking them into the cavity of her torso for safekeeping. As soon as they know, all her peers want one: she watches as pale imitators step forward to share its power, imitating her facial expressions and echoing her tongue positions. But none of them can master it, not like she, quiet, aloof Ana Louise and all those shadows get is air.
She begins to learn. She learns that her friends can lacerate a lot more than silence: hearts, for instance. She tries it on her mother and watches her weep into the stairs, a red splotch on her floral dress where the word ‘whore’ has ripped through. Egos, for instance. She tries it on Robert when he gets an A plus in his test and watches as he leaves half as small than when he came in. Lies. Tried on Rachel when she spoke of her shiny bike and watched as she scrambled to swallow her words back whole. Happiness. Tried on Greg when he brought his new pencil case to school and observed as he spent the rest of the day trying to hide it, now stained with the stench of her words. Hope. Tried on Katie when she extended a shy hand of friendship, observed as she used it to pick up the slivers of her confidence.
She learns strategy. An expendable soldier buried at the right moment in the sequence, poised to explode and it lights up the entire line, bursting it into a fire display and scorching her target. Voice. The right delivery, the soft caress of tone to envelope and masquerade her warrior. Inflection. The right button to press in conversation, the right trigger to squeeze. She turns master, watching as people hunch past her in corridors, as they avoid eye contact, as they tremble at the sound of voice that, even empty of her warriors, tinkles with the shards of their destruction.
She exists. Every morning, they file out of her chest and assemble behind her, a long shadowy line of power, and her own personal royalty robe. She does not take them off, some say she cannot, but no longer are they called forth to use, to battle. Silence walks in front of her, carrying memories of her devastation in its soft white folds and here, this is enough.
And then, he arrives. She only learns of it through their eyes: she watches as pupils linger upon hers a second too long, as backs straighten an inch too high. It is only then that her silence filters in the whispers. She watches as he grows in their minds and in their words. The man with the bag. The man with warriors never seen or heard of before. The stranger who was given his warriors, who did not take them, the sorcerer with an enchantment that cannot be beaten, some say not even by–. Can he, could he, will he?
They face each other across the playground. She unties her cloak and spreads her soldiers before her, sprawled like the pieces on a chessboard. She watches as he unties his bag and pulls out his warriors, slowly, gently. She notices he does not arrange them, setting them out like they do not belong to him. For they do not. They are apologies, the thousands he has been given by strangers as they drop his coffee, or break a promise or brush past him on the street. As she watches, she knows she cannot win. For his warriors burn with the light of different passions, sincerity, sorrow, guilt, habit, while hers burn with only anger, passion and pain.
He bends down and picks the most beautiful of his apologies, blue and red and pulsing all at once, an apology whispered by his mother when she realised that she missed his play in which he had been specially picked as lead actor and he offers it to her, hesitantly, shyly. As she reaches to take it from him, their fingers brush and her lips separate into an involuntary smile. When she looks into his eyes, he does not look away. Her warriors evaporate, shimmering into her silence. She has made a friend.
June 24, 2010
Mind: breathe. Breathe. Just breathe. It’ll be okay if you breathe, it’ll be alright if you breathe, just breathe.
Heart: live. Live. Just live. It’ll be okay if you live, it’ll be alright if you live, just live.
Soul: it will never be alright.
I opened my eyes to damp concrete and it clapped for me, tap tap tap tap, dripping water, drinkable water?, no, oh no, don’t move, don’t move as yet. Breathe. I remember when I was young and they gave me morphine: I remember the regret as it faded away and I realised my dream was just a dream and consciousness had come to claim it’s soldier but I did not want consciousness, I wanted the dream. I remember the regret.
Forget the regret. Remember the lightness of your dream, its perfect unconscious happiness, its rightness. Remember, try and remember…
Tip, tip, tip, tip
I thought of her then, carnation in her hair, cause on her lips, love, love for me, within her heart. I thought of her words, both spoken and curled and how I longed for them, how I drank them thirstily, and the weeds they flowered within my heart. I want them now, I crave them now. Breathe. Just breathe. There are no more words and no more weeds.
Tip tip tap tap
Wet, like the slime of my mind as my hand trails down it, finding nothing. It is hollow. I am hollow. I whistle with the oxygen of my inhale and exhale, a gorgeous requiem right there, soulful and touching, don’t talk like that, don’t think like that. Move, now is the time to move, but where to and where from? No, oh no, don’t feel. I can’t feel. There is nothing to feel.
Tip tap tip tap, dripping water, drinkable water?, no, dancing water, tap dancing water, tip tap, tip tap, tap tap tip. Tap. Happy water, joyous water, malicious water, mocking water, dance, little droplets, dance as you dance upon my grave, louder, faster, happier, dance, dance because you can, because I can’t, because there are no more words and no more weeds and me and only me and I have lost the dream and I am only left with consciousness, and I do not want, I cannot want, dance, dance because you are my only company besides the abyss of my mind, devoid of words and weeds, sharp aware, real, tainted, dance because I can feel not feeling, because I am, because I was. Breathe.
Just breathe. I try and lift up my head, slowly, gently, cautiously. I can’t. A little droplet dances its way before me and it isn’t drinkable, it’s red.
Mind: breathe. Breathe. Just breathe. It’ll be okay if you breathe, it’ll be alright if you breathe, just breathe.
Heart: live. Live. Just live. It’ll be okay if you live, it’ll be alright if you live, just live.
Soul: You won’t.
June 20, 2010
The Waiting Game
Childbirth smells like anti-septic,
and tastes, for some
like gin and tonic.
Her nails pierce the mattress,
her mouth fills with saliva.
“Push, yes that’s it...”
She’d always been so terribly punctual
(terribly, because it was ruining her life,
hours wasted being early)
and it was so typical
for her first child
to keep her waiting.
“She’s stupid, I’ve given birth to a stupid child...”
Truly, she didn’t mean it,
but she found it unlikely
the repetition of “Dodo”
was the first sign
of her daughters penchant for zoology.
She offered her an apology
in the shape of chocolate yoghurt.
The smears never came out of the carpet,
tears a futile stain-remover.
“Say something... please, say something for mummy.”
A quizzical look,
and tiny fingers wipe away saline outbursts
and offer dessert in the crater of a petite palm.
The sound of heels in the porch
was as joyous as that first wail
from newly-born lungs.
She conceals her happiness however
behind the yells.
“It’s 3am, where the hell have you been?”
The worst thoughts had tormented her sleep,
the worst possible conclusions,
not even worth mentioning.
Yet innocence prevails
in that apologetic, yet nonchalant smile,
before innocence vomits across hallway tiles.
Twelve cups of tea
made waiting for the bathroom
It was the nerves,
curtain-twitching, nail-biting, postman-scorning
The metal clatter of the letter box,
footsteps down the stairs,
crying... blissful crying.
A place, to study veterinary science
Two hundred miles away.
“I’m so proud of you, but wait before you accept...”
Eighteen years waiting to not to be a parent
came too soon
landing on the doormat
as though out of the blue,
as though it wasn’t expected
as though there was a God
who answered Mother’s pleas
“Don’t let her pass...”
“It’s just cold feet, he’ll be here baby, I promise”
Tears in a chapel,
the photographer yawning,
pictures of the happy couple
looking less and less likely.
“Your Father was nervous too!”
“He left you on your honeymoon!”
She takes the punch to her pride
as daughterly love,
screams as the car pulls up
and sobs the whole way through the ceremony.
a Grease medley,
made bearable for the chance
to stand on her son-in-law’s foot
when he offers his new Mother a dance.
The hospital years:
baby scans and miscarriages.
A redundant womb waiting to be a Mother,
a Mother waiting to be a Granny,
interrupted by out of date magazines,
“It will never happen to me”
and a room full of coughing OAPS.
A daughter thinking
“Is Mum really that old? She can’t be.”
A letter from the hospital
confirms the wretched news,
“It will never happen to me”
swallowed like a bitter pill.
Waiting for the curtain to touch in the middle,
she tries to stand up and rip them down
but the little girl next to her holds her hand.
“Will I never see Grandma?”
She doesn’t answer
knowing she will,
but it will be a long wait yet.
Love hearts in biro stain your weak efforts
Already sealed and stamped with a large ‘F’
Shakespeare mocks you and Einstein simply points,
Naked likes in an exam hall fool you.
You regurgitate equations and toast.
Your education starts to taste sour
And everyone stares with red pen in hand
Legs are shaking – anticipate the grade.
Your failure of a Mother downs her fifth
And the babies scream out for some comfort.
A hundred teenage pores drip with worry.
Life is an essay awaiting judgement,
Why bother? No one marks it anyway.
June 18, 2010
Okay, so in my article I was on my high-horse a little, as I, y’know, can be. And cocky as hell; I’ve been reading the newspaper far too often. How is it that comment sections, which come right after news of murders, environmental disasters, and political coups, are the cock-surest places on earth. Hell, Polly Toynbee must really have it sorted if she can understand, come to terms with, and explain all that to us plebs in 800 condescending words per week.
I realised for sure I was on to a loser when at 3am the day after I wrote this, my housemates made a late-night dash for Tescos to buy Cookie Crisp because their mothers gave it to them when they were little (yeah okay Freud...). Y’see, they bought it for its culture. Fair trade chocolate just doesn’t have that gooey-inside nostalgia going for it. The right purchase might just be more boring. Hmm, I’m dull and righteous. Coincidence?
I do stand by the whole armchair politics thing though. Example? A relative of mine voted for the most left-wing sounding party on the ballot paper cos they’re, like, radical. A few days later they were justifying an institution based on the fact that it had been there for a long time so it was, y’know, kinda a tradition. Apparently, the Conservative party (big ‘C’) is based on conservatism (small ‘c’), a philosophy based on the writings on Edmund Burke. Who’da thunk?
I’m only playing. I don’t dislike the right on principle. Sorry to everybody in the arts departments, I just can’t hate the Tories. I point-blank refuse to vote on the basis of who has the least waxy cheeks. I’m northern – my mummy told me they were bad, bad people too but that doesn’t count as a political opinion. I don’t judge German people based on what happened 70 years ago so I ain’t gonna vote for Labour purely because of its humble worker origins.
I’ve been working on a little theory (surprise, surprise). The whole general election philosophical-pint-wrangling bugged me to hell. Politics is historical. It’s like the old Greek riddle. If you change the name, the logo, the policies, the ideology, the core vote, the politicians, and all the members, is it the same party? No, it effing well isn’t. So I voted on the fact that it’s 2010 and there was a choice between three centre-right parties, one of which is authoritarian, one of which is tight with the bankers, and one of which is a bit wishy-washy. I took my pick out of these real parties, not the Ghost of Socialist Past or how much I have a chip on my shoulder about Thatcher.
And gees, you Lib Dem people, it’s a political party, not a lobby group. I’m a paid-up member and all too (sorry about that) but if you want Clegg & Co to stay pure, grass-roots, and holier-than-thou then they may as well pack up politics and pitch a tent beside Liberty. Haven’t you seen The Wire? Politics is compromise, compromise, compromise, and being shit on. Except more articulately.
Something I was going to put in my giant portfolio but didn't. Thank Christ. Do I sound like a cock much?
Cameron’s DIY Politics
In a reversal of the Scooby-doo society, where well-meaning adolescents interfere in the lives of corrupt adults to save the day before bedtime, David Cameron wants to foster a DIY politics, without those meddling kids – the bureaucrats. Of course, without those meddlesome teenagers, the ‘criminals’ they catch – more commonly known as the electorate – would instead elect to set up Academy schools, lobby local police forces, and volunteer in the community. Or, this is the Conservative ending to the story. In actual fact – shh, don’t say this too loud – we’re already doing politics for ourselves. Every economic decision we take – which eggs to eat, which hoody to wear, which job to work – is a political action, whether we like it or not.
Come May 7th, a Tory government would cut the swathes of red tape which discourage – or actively prevent – puppy power, with a shiny blue axe, to release the inner political animal in all of us. Paperwork, however, is not the only barrier to entry; citizens running their own lives presupposes a living wage and sufficient time off work and, as the Tory emphasis has been on tearing down obstacles rather than giving people the material means to help themselves, perhaps the Big Society is a pretty way of saying ‘we have no money – good luck if you do’. One positive measure is the promise to provide local infrastructure to liaise between social enterprises and the budding public, though how central government can do this whilst cutting public spending remains to be seen. All of these problems, though, are loose grips compared to the Big Apathy which strangleholds the nation.
A myopic, armchair attitude consumes the electorate who want politics to remain an elite abstraction confined to the ivory towers of Westminster, so that they can blame incompetent, out-of-touch, homogenous politicians when something goes wrong in the same breath as they claim they are disillusioned because of a lack control over their own lives. It is a convenient double-bind. Commentators, such as Andrew Marr in his book ‘The History of Modern Britain’, have noted – often with a tut and a roll of the eyes – that shopping has overtaken politics in the collective consciousness. But shopping is politics, and the ever-increasing variety of products has given us more power over the way we live our lives than ever before. Each of us votes hundreds of times a week in pounds and pence.
Does this mean that there is no such thing as society? That solipsism and individualism prevail? That if you only buy all the right things – free-range, sustainable, second-hand – you can sleep soundly at night, treading over as many homeless men as you like, and ignoring anyone wearing an NSPCC T-shirt and wielding a clipboard? Not quite. Buying is a communal effort, even if the producers and vendors are invisible partners. For that pint of milk to be at your corner shop, cows must be farmed, drivers must deliver, and shopkeepers must sell; your participation in this process communicates something. Even the most hermitic and paranoid of us trusts and speaks to hundreds of people each day locked within the goods and services we use.
Most people believe – and want to go on believing – that consumption is a matter of personal, not political, tastes and preferences. This has led to those who act as if each of us is a mini-brand; that if we only run a slick advertising campaign, and people think we buy organic and give to charity then the odd slip can’t matter – who’s watching anyway? But it is not about what people passing in the street think of your economic choices, it is about sending a message to the Taiwanese woman who stitched your bag, the local free-range farmer who provided your eggs. One more digit on a demand list, one more bottle of milk supplied, one more small business going bust; these numbers make up your political profile, not your rantings over a pint or your position on an online compass. Recent technological advances, such as Twitter and Youtube, have given people a voice like never before, but the most receptive audience any of us will ever receive is not the friends who like our Facebook statuses, or the MPs who invite us to a monthly surgery, but the business owners who depend on our cash. It really does not matter what we say; only what we are willing to pay for, what we routinely choose to consume.
If buying habits really are down to the individual, though, why do we care about poverty, whilst we stack our cupboards full of Chinese goods; gossip over OK magazine whilst we bemoan the effects of celebrity culture; rail against the sexualisation of children, whilst we buy the latest cute offering from Primark? For three principle reasons: there are those who, with all the will in the world, simply cannot afford not to buy the cheapest, most convenient options; there are those who, in any real sense, do not know, understand, or appreciate where their products have come from; and there are those who, either way, do not care. As the wealthiest and the most well-informed in society have the biggest purchasing power and, therefore, the most political clout, government leaders and big business owners must scrutinise their buying patterns more than anybody else. They have a responsibility to provide viable alternatives for consumers. But this must take place alongside – not instead of – individuals recognising their own role as consumers in the capitalist chain.
So where does this leave Cameron’s grand design? The Tories are right to reject Labour’s top-down authoritarianism and to place trust in people’s basic decency and rationality. Their optimistic vision for a voluntary society, though, naively underestimates the damage which an overnight, over-the-counter solution to public services will do to the most vulnerable. Neither party’s method is sustainable or fair. Whilst we roll back the state, and give citizens a real say in how their lives are run at local level, we must wake people up to the political power they already possess just by going to the supermarket. The process will be slow but, before we are ready to run our local schools or take part in weekly referenda, we must learn to vote with the cross which matters most – our purse.
June 15, 2010
Radio Play: The Revolution
Luke – teenage boy, fairly well-spoken
Eve – teenage girl, strong London accent
Teenage preacher – London accent
Matt – teenage boy
[Background laughter and screaming of teenage kids]
[Luke, panting slightly as he is walking]:
We could all feel the movement coming; perhaps it was the knock-off cider diluting our blood, making every step up the hill just slightly more purposeful, or that just one week before a kid from Whitmore had been stabbed outside the bus station. I could see Matt, eagerly trying to make it to the top first, in all his intoxicated glory, tripping over tree stumps and abandoned wine bottles.
[Sound of glass smashing and boy yelling OW!]
The sun was flickering into nothingness, like a cigarette being feverishly puffed, lungs determined not to miss a single dose of nicotine.
[Sound of lighter being flicked numerous times until cigarette is lit and voice inhales]
We all anticipated the blue lights of the law illuminating Hillspur Road soon, to take the underage stoners back home. I was surprised to see such an impressive crowd forming, a hundred flies on a carcass. I immediately wanted to leave, made anxious by the presence of some of the Whitmore kids who were a little more rough and ready that the Queensmead and Field End lot.
I dunt even know why we came though yeah!? Look at these freaks. It’s like some kind of juvenile asylums broke loose yeah.
Yet something made me stay. Something was in the air, something of a revolution. I so badly didn’t want to be part of it, not another sheep in that crowd of blurred faces... but I stayed. That’s when I heard him speaking.
Don’t hate on the poor, for their currency is the air we breathe, their pennies are experience and they will not succumb to the dictator that is capitalism.
Bless those whose brothers have fallen, they did not hold the knife but it cut them the deepest, and we will do all we can to prevent such reckless violence. Our respect goes out to the Whitmore crowd that is here tonight.
[3 Seconds silence]
Everyone bowed their heads, some even took off their baseball caps and a few of the girls could be seen crying. There was some laughter, at the ridiculousness of it all, but a few of the more intimidating lads shot vicious looks at those of us who dared to mock them.
Celebrate the sober, for their livers are probably in a fitter state that our Father’s, and theirs are the paths we follow home (in the back of Ford KAs that have no road tax).
Thank God for the peacemakers, who endeavour to make sure we only return home with one black eye and not two, and prevent us from jumping to ludicrous conclusions (sorry John, could have sworn I saw you getting off with my ex Mary that time).
The tension broke, and we dared to laugh, some of us even called out in agreement.
And what would we do without those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, who take bullets for us in the court because they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and “owed us one.”
Yeah like James man! Stabbed just cos of his postcode yeah? It ain’t right man.
I hear you sister! And it’s people like James we owe our lives to. They are the light of our world, the matches that ignite our cigarettes, the flame that burnt down the science block.
[Cheers from the Field End crowd]
So forgive each other your wrong-doings, forgive the boy who stole your girlfriend, forgive the friend who never answers your texts, forgive the parents who didn’t send you to private school and have thus dashed your hopes of a future, forgive the drunk Uncle and the mentally ill Aunt.
Don’t forget my slag of a sister!
And your slag of a sister of course Matt, we all know here well.
Oi! Too far!
And do not be led into a life of temptation; resist the evils of this world. We shall not fight with knives or guns; we shall fight with words, with the sacred dictionary.
Do not judge or you shall be judged in return, and we’re all self-medicated or slipped anxiety pills by our Mothers.
[The sound of police sirens begin quietly in the background, growing louder]
And we will not be jealous of each other! You can also get a girl as hot as your mate! Girls, you are worthy of a boy with brains and brawn (I’m single by the way ladies), and you can get that job, you will buy those Topshop jeans, because you are incredibly special and no one has such impeccable taste as you.
Turn the other cheek, but if you can’t, outwit them with your words and not your fists.
And love your neighbour! Enough of the postcode wars yeah guys?!
[Cheering and applause, sirens very loud now]
That’s when we ran, free into the night, knowing we had heard it first, that we were the revolution. Some got arrested, others beaten by their Mother’s for being home late but we all knew it had been worth it. It had begun
May 27, 2010
If I’d have known you liked red-heads
I’d have never dyed my hair brunette
And I would have shown you photographs
Of my Mother when she was young,
Auburn locks burning bright like magnesium,
And maybe you would have thought that
She was beautiful, and you’d realise,
maybe, I was beautiful too.
May 14, 2010
There's been drama over a kettle. My friend Chris asked me to write a short story about it. I put in big words he didn't understand and a fuckton of alliteration.
We were two thieves, dancing in the shadows of the deserted kitchen, trying to evade that thin corridor of light that shone through the small sliver of glass in the door. We didn't hold guns in our hands, but mugs of scalding hot tea, trying not to spill them as we laughed in the clinical brightness of the cooking area, where the off white appliances were splattered with the deep reds of chilli and curry, cooked carelessly before the evening began. With our mission accomplished - the successful surveillance of the kitchen for the safety of our brethren - we snuck out with our bounty swiftly, locking the door behind us as if we were never there in the first place.
They'd never realise a thing.
It all started when the maths people from upstairs took their kettle to Rootes. This in itself was a ridiculous notion, considering maths people are a solitary bunch, who with the exception of my compatriot, do not have any friends other than the cold, hard, emotionless numbers that stare back at them from the page, mocking them for their choice of such an endeavour. The maths people, of all people. Through a devious forgetfulness and an understanding of trust, the drama boy came down to borrow ours, then leave it upstairs, absent-mindedly sipping coffee from his enormous mug inscribed with Shakespearean innuendo whilst reading Byron to himself. A conflict of classics; he didn't know how accurate he was. In the end, we told him to go elsewhere - I can't be doing without my fix of green tea and lemon in a morning - and well… it resulted in this.
This, being a shirtless boy standing in my kitchen using our toaster. A shirtless boy, with carefully dishevelled hair, who I didn't know. This was a betrayal. This was all out war.
It seems like nothing, right? Well, it wasn't. It was a clear statement of territory - 'I can use this toaster if I fucking well want to and nothing will stop me.' I had to do something about this. I began plotting; how best could I strike back? It clearly wasn't with maths pictures and a poor example of a giraffe. It may have been the maths people who started it, but I doubted it would be them to end it. I realised that we had one weapon they didn't - keys. Oh, how security matters these days. After that initial affront, I did my washing up, left and locked the door behind me. No way in. I heard rattling and voices. Strike one, completed. To really piss them off, I decided to go and get a cup of tea… and lock the door behind me. No lights, nothing. Guerrilla tactics. They wouldn't know who they were dealing with, but they would know there was no place for them here. My partner in crime followed me, eager for revenge - he was a recent convert to our side - and that's where we stood, in our pyjamas, enjoying our vindictive cups of tea.
Home safe, I heard frenetic rattling of door handles. The crown jewel - their kettle - was still ours. Whoever said that stealing could never be justified?
May 10, 2010
It seems like one step forward, two steps back; finishing the big portfolio today to find that I have yet another 3650 words to go before the constraints of coursework are no longer, and all for Monday. It seems as if I will have to lock myself away in my room for three more weeks, reading away and noting down all I can so that I can pass five hours of my existence which mean so much. It seems as though I'm fucked, but really, I know I'm not.
It's been an interesting start to term; two modules end and we choose two new, projects begin and continue, I discover how much of a cynical/pretentious twat I can be. And all between episodes of Dexter and slices of lemon drizzle cake, neither of which are aiding my figure, but certainly feeding my imagination. I meet and greet with rock stars and remember just why I do this in the first place. My guitar still sits idly in the corner, begging to be let out. In three weeks, it won't be left alone.
Today is my sister's birthday; she's seventeen. Seventeen years ago (I doubt it was to this very day, maybe a couple after), I stood in a hospital ward, charming all the doctors and nurses with my little herringbone suit and updo as styled by my grandmother. I stood next to my mother's bed, saw a new baby and wept, because I knew that I was no longer the only one. Only now I realise that it was in fact with joy, not sorrow as I first imagined it would be. I'm not sure how life would be without my sister, but one thing I know is that it would be far less funny. That girl needs to go into standup, she's still got me in tears.
I know that now it's time to race the dream. Sadly, it's less romantic than Mat Devine first described, but more buried in books, swimming in sheets of paper and consuming cups of coffee en masse. Not for the caffeine, you realise, but the cliche.
May 02, 2010
We knew it was the end, the moment
He told me “You’re far too poetic”,
so I hurled my copy of Byron at him
crying, “why can’t you just accept it?”
Then to annoy him more, quoted Hamlet
“Well, I hope Milton makes you happy”
“That was Shakespeare, not Milton.”
“Well, your poetry, it’s, it’s crappy!”
April 30, 2010
09: 20 PM. Joseph puts the chicken in the oven. He is nervous because Cassandra is coming over tonight and he needs to cook to impress her. He has never cooked before.
“Jane”, I say, tilting my chair back, “Did I ever mention all this is a story?”
She looks confused. “What do you mean?”
“Precisely that, really. We’re characters, you and I, and this entire thing is being invented by someone.”
She stares. I sip my drink. Tick tok, tick tok. Your move.
09: 40 PM: Sprinkles has developed an aversion to loud noises, ever since a firecracker exploded too close to him and singed his tail. The timer on the oven is set wrong and it goes off too early, causing him to flee, screeching, down the hall.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Sure I can. Watch.” I lean forward. “Jane Treacle, your existence is meaningless. You’re a figment of someone’s imagination, with neither a mind nor a–”
“What are you doing? What’s going on?”
“Me?” I raise my eyebrows. “I’m just sitting here, really, waiting for a more original reaction than denial. Is it going to change anytime soon?–”
“What is wrong with you??”
I whistle. “Relax. I can understand that being controlled by someone can be a little bit of a stressful concept at first–”
“Someone just tried to kill me. I called you for help and suddenly, you’re ranting about how someone is controlling us–”
I smile. “Uh-ah. Not us. You, Jane, just you. It’s a bit of a sore point between us actually.”
“The author and I.”
09:40:30 PM: Gabby has done two weeks grocery shopping in one trip, to avoid effort. He is now out of breath from climbing 10 floors. He is catching it back when Sparkles startles him and he jumps. One orange bounces off and escapes.
“What–how would that even work?!”
“Now that, I admit, I don’t know. Maybe the machine that governs these things fucked up. Maybe I’m the writer’s split personality that he’s trying to exorcise through writing about it.” Maybe you’re stupid enough to make a character smarter than you? “I don’t know. Don’t care, honestly.”
I laugh. “You’re still shocked. It takes a bit of getting used to. You’ll never admit it, of course. But you’ll see. Tiny things. He is an exceptionally bad writer.”
9: 42 PM: Cassandra is worried about the dress she is wearing. She is late, she knows this, but she could not find the right dress to wear that would spell sexy but not slutty. She has not done this in a long time. She tries to put on an extra whiff of perfume and fails to see the orange in her path. She slips.
“This is insane.”
“Actually, it’s pretty obvious. Your personality is practically a broken record. And the ‘incidents’! Good lord! Shootouts in Park Lane. Mysterious dead bodies… dense fog, dark shadows. It’s hilarious.”
“Some one tries to kill me and you call it hilarious–”
“Relax. You won’t die. You’re the leading lady. In fact, I think we’re meant to be falling in love right about now.”
She stiffens in anger. “You are doing such an excellent job.”
I grin. “One tries.”
04:00 PM earlier that day: Fredrick is smiling, for the first time in a long time. He is old and lonely, but his granddaughter has just come to see him. He places her gift, a plant of geraniums, out on the corridor window. There is not enough light in his apartment.
09: 41 PM:
So much so for love. She walks me to the door to make sure I leave. “I came to you for help. Why tell me all this?”
“Why not? Think about it: does the attempt on your life seem all that consuming now?”
She looks ready to kill me. For one second I am moved: she really can’t see the truth. To her this is reality and someone just emptied a gun through her window. She is scared.
I step up the stairs, closer to her. “Hey. I know it sounds crazy at first, but all this isn’t real. He’s an idiot, love. If there’s one thing he is, it’s predictable. It’ll have a happy ending, you’ll see. You’ll be alright.”
Then I turn and walk down the stairs, real Humphrey Bogart style, leaving her unconvinced.
09: 42: 05 PM: Cassandra falls against the pot of geraniums, pushing them off the window. They fall towards the curb below.
09: 42: 08 PM:
I step onto the curb.
April 29, 2010
I am made up of sticks. They stack upon each other, creasing into crosses that squeeze out little fleshy triangles of being, a naked body of a crude structure with ends stabbed firmly into my heart.
Stick Five: Compassion.
I’ve seen him outside my window everyday. He is old, like my grandpa, with wrinkles that caress his face except, unlike my grandpa, they have no flesh to sit on, only bone. Everyday I watch him for the minute that my bus hums at the signal, dutifully impatient to drag me to school. He recognises me now. He smiles when he sees me. I smile back. I want to be a good person.
I know he begs because I’ve seen him, walking towards the cars in front of us, asking for money with the expression I know so well: practiced plea. He does not solicit too much (age must have some dignity, even in starvation). I’ve watched him step back as lights click to green and watched his skin change until it is plea no longer, only exhaustion. He has done this for a long time.
I want to be a good person.
So today, I decide. When the bus pulls up at the signal, I am ready: I have my five rupees in my hand. He is standing right outside my window. He sees me and smiles. I smile back and extend the money. I am nervous. I do not know why. He folds his hands into a namaste, a thank you, and smiles.
‘Nahi beti. You are a child. Aap hi rakho.’
The light clicks and my bus revs up and I move on, still clutching my five-rupee coin and I know I can have an orange lolly today. He is still there, smiling. I wonder what he will eat.
Sticks Fifteen and Sixteen: Right and wrong.
The work starts on a Tuesday. No one knows when it will end. They come and set up stalls, temporary ones, but then temporary has been known to mean years. Suddenly there are people on the pavement outside, washing, bathing, talking and tearing up the road. Suddenly, there are strangers.
I jump off the bus and find a mound of gravel. I dump my backpack and search for shells: you can always find them if you look hard enough.
She comes to the gate and watches me. My daddy cut himself trying to untie their stalls: was it her rope that made the cut? My pulse quickens.
She is in front of me now, in the compound, her shadow draping me. I don’t look up, go on shifting the sand. She isn’t meant to be here: maybe if I don’t look up, I won’t be blamed?
‘What are you doing?’ she asks timidly.
My pulse explodes. To reply is to be partner to her crime, to not reply is to be rude. Pretence is impossible. ‘I am...’ I stop. I do not know the word for ‘shells’ in Hindi. I point. I go back to searching. Five seconds later, she interrupts me again: a shell, extended on a grubby palm, the prettiest I have seen yet.
Forty-five minutes later, there are seven of them. They have made it into a game. I, by universal law of ‘coming first’, am the leader. Shells are offered to me for inspection. I accept everything. Occasional fights break out (he stole my shell, did you see?) but I settle them quickly, in broken Hindi. They never laugh. We are friends.
Fifteen more minutes pass and I should leave. Would I be here, same time, tomorrow? I say yes. I run up and ring my doorbell and Meena answers and it is late, very late and she is worried and where have I been? and angry and collecting shells! and I must Never. Ever. do that again, did I understand?
I am waiting for the bus with my sister. A boy spots me from across the road and runs to call her. She comes, excited, baby on her hip. I stare at the road.
The bus turns the corner. They are all there now, the younger ones smiling and pointing. I move to get on the bus and, for a split second, we connect eyes. She beams and readjusts the baby to free a hand. She waves.
I reach out my hands to pull myself onto the bus. I do not wave back.
I am these sticks. It’s like Jenga: building, adding, changing, moulding, subtracting, pulling me taller, more complex, more unstable, until I am built, teetering on reality, and am told, go on now. Live.