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The DJ was walking home. He had been walking pretty much the whole day with his earphones in and techno, always techno, was what was in them. Only now that his battery was gettting lower was he walking back up the hill towards his house. Techno. It was always techno for him. Techno, he liked to say, was his connection to the cosmos. If you asked the DJ what he thought about techno he would tell you that the heavens moved at one hundred and twenty five bpm. He would tell you that techno is everything that is potential, everything that is cyclical, everything that is mystical, everything that is ritualistic. Techno is a religion and also an atheism. Techno is a Zen, it is a Tao, it is a mantra, it is a sutra. It's a litany about everything and nothing in the transcendent. Techno tells people about things. It tells people all about themselves, all about their place in nature. Techno shows us that words are less than everything. Techno is what is outside the text. Techno is beyond the end of history. Techno. Techno. Techno. Techno. Techno is as empty as anything else. Techno looks back at the panopticon and gives it the finger. Techno is an incredulity towards meta-musics. Techno. Techno is the cultural logic of late nights. Techno is finding the key to the cage but refusing to break yourself out. Techno is just music. Dare to techno. Techno deals with the two crucial unexplored paradises: space and under the sea. These are just some of the things that the DJ would tell you about techno. For him, for the DJ, techno was a state of being, a methodology of thinking. For him socialism was a kind of techno (the right wing of course lack the rhythmic quality to be regarded as techno), certain kinds of writers were techno - Faulkner was defnitely techno, so was Jonathan Swift. Poor David Foster Wallace was probably some kind of deep house, he was on the spectrum anyway. John Ashbery was techno, as was William Gaddis. Jean Rhys was a kind of proto-techno and Zora Neale Hurston was, for sure, some hard Tresor banging shit. Other guys like Ian McEwen, maybe like Amis or AS Byatt were about as far from techno as black metal is. Although, conversely, in the DJ's conception, actual black metal could be a kind of techno.

The battery was getting lower and the light was fading. With his thick tongue and his dry skin, the DJ ascended. His house was where he lived and he lived with a couple of other guys. He lived with the farmer and with the clown, he lived with the invalid and the philosopher. These were the guys he lived with and, though they did not have too deep an understanding of techno, he still liked to live with them. They were OK.

***

He drew her down under the Morrisons wall and they kissed again. He kissed her and his tongue felt like a hot boiled egg in her mouth. That slick, that hot. She was thinking that she still had that half bottle in the deep pocket of her coat that she had snuck out of the pub and that the garage was probably still open. If they hurried, they could get something there. It was vulgar, what she was thinking.

***

Of that crowd, the philosopher was probably the most interesting. Or was it the clown? Once, he made a finger puppet of Kant and another of Deleuze and he did a little puppet show for the others of what would have happened if they had met in real life. It was funny because when he did it Kant spoke a bit like a surfer, which he probably did not ever do when he was really alive, and Deleuze spoke with this real cut glass accent. That was jokes. What was good about the show was that it illuminated various aspects of the debate between philosophers like Deleuze and neo-Kantian philosophers like finger-puppet Kant. Every time he read an article about the credit crunch, the philosopher would just laugh and laugh. He started calling himself a Marxist and cut out pictures from the newspaper of failing banks and distressed-looking stock brokers. The clown told him that he could understand the schadenfreude, but it would be the poor people that suffered in the end. It will be us poor that end up suffering for this. They began to shout at each other and, because the DJ had turned up the volume on this huge new remix he had just bought, it was really hard to tell, in the final analysis, who was shouting what. Neither of them felt that poor people suffering was a good thing. Because why would they?

***

It was surprisingly crowded in the garage but the magazines were hilarious. Sometime in the queue she said she had to go back to get one of those magazines because there was this story where it was something like you know Jennifer Aniston? It was something like she was probably really angry at Brad Pitt because her friend, one of her best friends had probably told the magazine that Brad was probably at this hotel and a picture of him had been taken and Jennifer had probably seen the picture on the internet and it made her mad because she probably never had a baby with him. Anyway it sounded like a really good story because she was in a film where there was an extra who probably looked like Brad Pitt and in the film she had probably called this guy like a dickhead. Even on film, this was. Anyway she went back to get the magazine and by the time she got back they had missed the start of the queue so had to go back to the back of it and then he said he had to go outside to piss and it took really ages to get served and when she did finally get outside she couldn't see him anywhere.

***

The farmer was in the garage too but he was only buying some biscuits. You can't farm biscuits, so that's why he had to buy them. You can farm some of the ingredients though. He had these biscuits that were cheaply packaged, cheaply made and they tasted cheap too. They were just one plain layer of biscuit - no filling or no chocolate. The farmer could afford more expensive biscuits, he was not a thrifty man by any means. He had even tasted more expensive biscuits. But he liked these cheap biscuits best of all. people mostly looked at the farmer like he was a piece of shit. Like there was somthing grotesque about his wax jacket and wellington boots. He did look out of place in their town, but that was no reason for the looks he got. People would just stare at his sideburns. He got to the till and the girl there scanned his packet of biscuits, trying not to touch the packet where the farmer's hands had been. She looked at him and she looked nauseous. She said an amount of money. The farmer reached into his trousers pockets and pulled out a handful of coins covered in flakes of dry grey tissues and the honest dirt of the earth, the land that he loved to till. He handed over the coins indiscriminately, not even counting them. The girl looked like he had just put muck in her hands. She gave him way too much change, so the biscuits turned out to be even cheaper.

The farmer walked along the road back towards his house, whistling a bright tune. Doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo. He opened the packet and ate a biscuit. The season was getting colder and the earth would be harder in the mornings, it would not yield so easily. Still, still, he liked to go out early and stamp hard on the frosty grass and hear the sound it made and feel the cold in his feet and see his boots damp with dew and watch his breath make curlicues in the air. By now the streetlights were on all the way up his hill and in the distance faintly the farmer could see the blocks of green and red light coming out of the DJ's room. If he removed his hat and strained his ears he could hear, carried on the slight breeze, the faintest propulsion, the tenderest beat.

***

The recruitment consultant struggled up the hill. She was trying to read this story about how Alex Turner who is in this band was struggling with how to follow up his so far seminal edgy career while struggling in the light of newfound media celebrity. He was struggling with how to write a song which is about struggling with the difficulty of fame but what he was struggling with was how to incorporate real gritty streetsmart influences. It was kind of a boring interview so she skipped to an article about what celebrity body language says about their relationships. It says a fucking lot. For example Cameron Diaz had a clearly repulsed look on her face in this one photograph which probably means that her relationship with Noam Chomsky is on the rocks. It makes sense if you are clearly repulsed by who you are in a relationship with that that relationship is probably on the rocks. That just stands to reason. It was getting cold, but she didn't want to go any faster up the hill because that weird guy who looked like a farmer was on the other side of the street and a lot of times he would smile at her in a really creepy way and other times he would even speak to her in this accent that was inexplicably simultaneously Cornish and Welsh. Also she could already hear that fucking guy's trance music. She was going to have to say something to the council about that. It was getting beyond a joke. She took a sip from a can, which probably didn't look too good, but fuck that noise, she didn't have work tomorrow, and as if her neighbours could say anything. As if!

***

The invalid had been stuck in her bed all day, sick. It had been another tough day. She had spent most of the day doing preliminary sketches for a new mural she was planning. The plan so far was for it to be of right wing figures who had come out in support of Barack Obama - the central panel was going to be Tom Metzger and Colin Powell locked in an intense arm wrestle, but with their faces in dead hard smiles. These two figures would be far larger and far more detailed than any of the others in the mural. The question you as a spectator would have to ask would be are they happy or are they compromised? And to what extent am I, the spectator, myself compromised by the very act of representation? The invalid would argue that you are always compromised, you are always implicit in whatever politics you encounter in art. She would sit up in her bed and take down a long clear quartz crystal and say that just as a part of you is lost to the crystal whenever you touch it, so a part of you is lost to any artwork you encounter. The other part of her mural would be portraits of so-called left wing politicians who supported the Iraq war. In the mural they would be dressed in dirty Gulf War soldier uniforms and would have wounds on their faces and black blindfolds over their eyes. Yes, yes, she would say it was a political artwork. But it was one that was ambivalent about the possibility of a real future politics separate from a bland centrist discourse governed principally by secret cabal-nexuses of corporate power. The issue of course was political representation versus artistic representation. When she was planning a mural or a painting, as she frequently was, the others in the house tended to stay away from the invalid. She was very boring on the subject of her art and it was hard to continue to be encouraging when, as they all knew, her paintings always failed. Even looking around at the sketches she had been making, Colin Powell looked like he was cocking a snook at a Tom Metzger who looked like he was flexing one enormous bicep.

At one stage in the day, the clown had brought her a sandwich. She had been working on a sketch of the upper left hand corner, which was to be taken up by the left wing Iraq apologists, and had started to explain in detail the symbolic resonance of some of their gestures: Well... hm. It kind of symbolises a kind of. Well, it's a kind of... hm. It's not really about... Well, hm. It's kind of... not really about politics today. It's more. Well. It's more like it's about politics... I mean, well, it is political but it's like. It's about the politics of, hm... the past but... looking towards the, hm, you know, the near future... but it's that but it's represented by. Well. It's kind of. They are not exactly represented... but you know represented? They are kind of represented by the figures in the painting. All the clown could see in the piece of paper he had been given were some stick men with black lines across their totally round heads. You know, said the clown, gesturing with his piece of paper at the scattered drawings on and around the bed, These people, they all suffered, they struggled. Whatever they did, they did it suffering. None of them escaped that. The invalid looked back at him with her fat face a contorted mask of confusion. She seemed spent. This isn't, she said, looking at her drawings, I mean... it's... I don't think these are that. She said that with a sigh. I don't think, she continued, I mean... it's not. It's not that. I don't think... I don't think it's really, you know... that.

***

Just as she got through her door, the recruitment consultant's phone tinkled. What a pleasing noise! The message said something like Where R U? or at least it had that general gist. She held the phone in front of her for a while, wondering what to do with it. She needed to sit down and so she did. She sat on the sofa in her living room and the phone fell away from her free hand. She put the cans up on the table with the magazine. The idea of drinking them seemed in some ways good and in other ways bad. Likewise, the idea of not drinking them, in some ways it seemed good and in other ways it seemed bad. The best solution seemed to be to start or continue drinking them, whichever, and see how it went.

***

The clown was easily the most interesting of that crowd. Wait. No. It could be the philosopher. The clown was an amusing kind of guy. He was a joker. He was forever telling jokes and playing practical jokes. He would tell endless variations on his favourite joke. The joke had a particular structure, within which infinite deviations were possible. The punchline of the joke was always “You don’t understand, x is the name of my dog!” where x is the main variational phrase in the joke. For example: A man walks into a bar and orders a beer. He looks pensive, so the barman asks him if anything is wrong. Well, replies the man, Last night I got drunk and accidentally had sex with my wife’s sister and her daughter. The barman laughs, Well sport, he says, What your wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her, right? You don’t understand, the man replies, my wife’s sister and her daughter is the name of my dog!

***

She left the bread toasting under the grill and, can in hand, made her way up the stairs. Downstairs her phone was ringing, but she could not longer hear it, was oblivious to it. Her bedroom looked like shit. It had not been tidied for days. She noticed a book on the floor, spine cracked open at the place it had been left, which was overdue at the library. I must phone the library about that! she said out loud, and started to turn back towards the stairs. But then, realising there were more important things, she sipped from her can and, using the door frame for support, turned back into the room. She stepped over clothes and junk until she reached the wardrobe. She opened the wardrobe. Downstairs, the bread was blackening. She pulled out the suit and put it down on the bed. Faintly, she could discern the DJ's music coming from the house across the road, but it no longer bothered her. She removed her clothes. She held the suit up and stepped into it. With some difficulty she zipped it up. She walked to the mirror and looked into it. All around her reflection was the detritus of her regluar existence, the dust and shame of it. The ugly clothes she regularly wore, the tragic imprint of her voice, everything she said which never reflected her real feelings, her bad skin, the terrible catch in her voice when she nervously spoke too quickly. All these things faded from her consciousness now though, as she looked at her reflected self in the bear suit in the mirror. A bear is uncompromisingly strong, silent, stoical. A bear is primal, animalistic, without language. A bear is noble, beyond politics, beyond the petty vagaries of human interaction. A bear.

***

The DJ was pitching this one record up so that the beat would syncopate with this other record he had of Alan Watts talking about Zen. His set had started off with just this like ambient rumble, slowly gaining momentum before he dropped this huge breakdown totally unexpectedly before he dropped the bpm to blend the beat with this dancehall track. Now he mixed in this modern classical record that sounded like thousands of insects all chattering to each other and slowly faded the beat out so that it was just Watts talking over the metallic clang of the insects. He was so busy adding an echo effect to Watts' voice, then a robotic-sounding effect, then another filter so that rather than speech it began to sound like the ghost of speech, just spattering and whirring along, he was so busy cueing up this great motorik beat and fading it in, that he failed to hear the recruitment consultant's cooker explode in the house opposite. It wasn't until the crackle from the fire failed to beatmatch with this great early chicago house track that he'd just downloaded that he looked up from his setup (two turntables, two CDJs, two laptops and a crossfader) and saw that the whole of the downstairs was ablaze. He pressed pause on the laptop and took his headphones off. He took time to note that this would be a good point in the set to drop that 2pac acapella before running downstairs.

***

Lying back on her bed the recruitment consultant thought of forests. She thought of wet grass. With her eyes closed she pictured frothing streams of clear water, running in narrow channels over green rocks, swarming with fish. Rapt, she transformed her shrill voice into a low growl. She growled and growled, as loud as she could muster. Then, swigging again from another can, she thought of bright green leaves, flecked with early autumnal yellow, wavering in the wind. Of fields of flowers and bull rushes along the riverbank. She thought of birds. And she herself, as a bear, out in all that nature. Out with an instinct older than humanity, a knowledge of the world darker and more ancient than can be expressed in any language, but one that starkly animates each life. Though humans have long ago cast this knowledge aside, the recruitment consultant felt it flowing through her, spurring her on to nobler, more profound visions.

***

All of them except the DJ were in their kitchen. The philosopher was telling a little story. I was in a seminar the other day, he said, We were discussing Foucault and the emergence of phallologocentricism in the western conception and the tutor asked me whether it was possible to pinpoint an exact time in history when we could say this conception emerged and I said The western conception of phallologocentricism emerged from behind a tree, cocked his little leg and did a piss. The tutor looked shocked and asked me what the hell I was talking about. You don't understand, I replied, The western conception of phallologocentricism is the name of my dog!

***

As the conflagration downstairs began to spread from the kitchen into the living room, the recruitment consultant thought of fields. The stink of herself is still on the bed, tangible in the slight mattress indentation and crumpled heap of sheets. She paces the room in the muggy light from the window. Outside there is a storm. She looks outside to see the landscape changing. Houses crack and dissolve in front of her, lightning bursts open a dead black tree. The sky shivers and she feels serene, limitless. She begins to remember in glorious detail the weft of her life, memories tinctured and happy, everyone smiling, everything right. In her mind connections form across the span of her recollections, she comes to see the motives of people who have wronged her, comes to understand fully the stresses her parents faced, the cruelty of friends, and she forgives them in a moment of ecstatic benevolence. All around her, thunder claps and funeral music, drenching blissful chords, a glorious elemental drone plays and plays, syncopated by the noise of the thunder and the rain clacking against the house. Inside her arms and legs, in her groin, down her fingers the recruitment consultant feels a surge of clean bliss. Without malice the events of her life stand before her, bathed in colour, like watching the tv with the colour turned up, all the streets she's ever walked down clean and white. The land outside metamorphoses. In the distance mountains rise up, pierce through the clouds with serene trajectories, distant majesty. Far away buildings evaporate and people meld in a fiery coalescence which is beautiful and silent, forest and jungle rises up where once there were cities, the clocks all stop, the glaciers burn up and become steam, the sea swells and runs and runs, engulfing all the land but one small portion. There was nothing ugly or refined about what came. The recruitment consultant's mind swells and she seems to begin to think in a new, unheard-of language. Still the music plays on like a vast edifice of plangent moans. Rain drenches the remaining land and the new plants slurp it up. She remembers books that she has never read and the music sounds like choirs and celestial waves. The room hums and shakes and finally tips, the walls crack and crumble and the recruitment consultant falls without pain and lands asleep on fresh wet grass.

***

The farmer stood with the others out on their lawn, watching the recruitment consultant's house burn down. He leant heavily on his stick, feeling older. A slim rain had begun to fall and a pair of dogs were chasing each other up and down the street, alarmed and aggressive. The fire smacked and howled, scornful and menacing it reared up over them. He turned to the clown and said, Fire is always an anti-catholic symbol. It's a bad omen, this fire. He took the packet of biscuits from his pocket and offered it around. You're right, said the clown. You know, he continued, Just the other day I was speaking to a guy and he told me that he'd accidentally set fire to a catholic church with the whole congregation inside. That's terrible! the farmer exclaimed. It is! replied the clown, But this guy didn't seem to be that upset by it. I asked him why he was grinning at the recollection (which he was) and he said to me, You don't understand, a catholic church with the whole congregation inside is the name of my dog!

***

The dogs had all retreated to their houses. Behind the burning house, the gloaming was visible. The fire engines had arrived and firemen in their flourescent outfits were pointing hoses at the house. In vain. The rain had gotten heavier and the wind had picked up. All the windows in the house had smashed and the fire sought more to consume, more to eat. Before it burned her, the fire burned through the recruitment consultant's bear costume until nothing of it remained. She would have preferred it that way. If you could stand in her room, among the fire, and look out past the smoky shards of broken glass, you would see her neighbours, their faces picked out in flickering orange highlights, buffeted by the wind, wet from the rain, standing on the pavement looking back in at you.

***

The invalid was out with her sketchpad, taking down some ideas. Fire was particularly hard to draw. She hadn't realised that. She went back inside and returned with her camera, but the rain kept getting on her lens, and the blue light from the fire engines was ruining the composition. She turned to the philosopher (or was it the clown? It was hard to tell in this light) and said, I... you know. Hm. This reminds me of... no. It's not that... Well. You know that thing that. Wait, no. O. No, wait. I... yes. That thing that Stockhausen... wait? Was it Stockhausen? The philosopher rubbed his eyes and interjected, You are perhaps referring to Stockhausen's claim that the World Trade Centre attacks were the greatest work of art ever? I... the invalid began to reply, Yes... I. Well, the philosopher interjected once more, it's funny you should mention that because I met with ol' Karlheinz a few weeks before his death and I spoke with him about it. Wasn't that an awful thing to say, I asked. Why, my dear boy, Stockhausen replied, You don't understand, The World Trade Centre attacks is the name of my dog!

***

It was mid-morning by the time the fire was finally out. The firefighters had been able to prevent the blaze from spreading to neighbouring houses (the recruitment consultant's house was semi-detached and the wind was in their favour), but everything she had owned had been destroyed. Walking through the sodden, blackened rooms, everywhere there were skeletons and filthy remnants of things. There were unreadable books with blackened pages, grown fat from all the water, like they had been dropped in the bath. There were photo frames, the pictures burnt up, but the cracked grey opaque glass remaining. When someone dies, the world dies. At the top of the stairs, still lying back on the remains of her bed, was the recruitment consultant's charred body. All the things that had caused her so much bother, so much concern, all those things were now gone.

***

The clown had stayed up all night and through the morning, watching people go in and out of the house over the road. Around midday, he went and stood outside. The rain had cleared up and the sun was now shining blankly, coldly on the street. After a time the DJ came out to join him. The clown said, How do you think it happened? I don't know, the DJ replied, both of them gazing into the black house, through the empty window frames, I heard one of the people last night saying it started in the kitchen. The clown nodded, Did you know her? he asked the DJ, turning to him with a sincere look in his eyes. The DJ met his gaze, Yes, I spoke to her once or twice, she seemed OK. I knew her, the clown said, I knew her well. I used to go to her all the time. I used to talk to her. I knew all her hopes, I knew all her dreams. I was with her when the fire started. I told her to run, I told her to get going, but she wouldn't. The DJ looked incredulous, You mean you could have saved her? he said to the clown, emotion rising in his voice. You don't understand, the clown replied, Her is the name of my dog!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Where is the dog? Richard was standing in the doorway, still with his coat on, still with his gloves and scarf on. I looked up from the television, I hadn’t heard him. I said, You what? And he repeated his question. Out, I said. I was watching television. So I looked back at the television. A wildlife show. Richard went towards the chair, took his coat off and scarf and gloves and put them down on the chair. Folded them down. On the TV thousands of ants were crawling. I changed the channel. A man in a suit was saying. A suit man, I recognised. I think the dog was out. Richard came. To the sofa and sat down. What are you Watching? It’s a wildlife show. No. A quiz show, I think. Richard looked at the television. I think it was a quiz show that we were watching. He picked up the remote and put the ants back on. Except now it was a different type of ant, larger, redder, with bigger blacker eyes. Did you see the dog? He was saying to me. Not today. Not today or yesterday. Shit man. Shit. Where is that dog? In the ridged pane of glass visible under the net curtains I could see the flashes of light in beads of water clinging outside. Did you get wet? I asked. Richard looked at me sourly. He went out in the direction of the kitchen and I heard the sound of running taps.

It was still raining outside. I walked down the hill in the direction of the park. Lit up by the orange lights, the street, too, looked orange. I knew the dog would be there. I had my headphones on.

The physical presence of the trumpet in my ears. Everything looked or became… tribal. In some ways this was a good thing. I pulled my hood over my head, which fuzzed up my field of vision into a blunt oblong. There were no lights in the park and I had no torch. I felt like I had pins and needles in my arms, which were heavy and my hands were cold even in my pockets. Drums. The park was not so big. Over the road I could see a row of dark glass fronts and one open takeaway. The dog was nowhere. I crossed the road and ordered chips. A black kebab spun in front of an orange grid of heat. In the corner a small black TV flicked constantly four different camera angles in black and white. The pavement outside with nobody on it, myself looking away if I looked at the TV which I was, the door with my left leg and shoe visible, the counter with nobody there. Under glass were meats on skewers, bowls full of meat and grated cheese. I had my chips in a bag and then I ate them. I put the polystyrene box in a bin full of other polystyrene boxes and grey paper.

I began to walk, I was heading further out of the city. The rain showed no sign of abating and the roads around me were full of car headlights. Behind me, if I looked, which I didn’t, I would be able to see the city below. The high office blocks and flats furthest away, houses, the park, all smudged into a skein of rainwater and wind. A time passed. The same trumpet, I think the same, played on. My feet felt like woodblocks, hard and clunky to move. The chips had gone down badly, I felt nauseous and walking took up all my concentration.

I came to a yellow supermarket, still open in the night. It was not the kind of place you buy food. There were lots of different aisles, supermarket meat, multipack crisps, lager, knives. It was hard to concentrate on what they sold. I picked up a can of something which seemed suddenly incredibly far away at the end of a telescopic limb but very easy to move and I sloshed it around. Faces around me bunched up and I thought of saying something, but my syllables clipped like the speech of a deaf person. I could sing along to the music ok though. I was in an aisle called tins. I put tins in my basket. I had the notion that my mission was to buy these tins. The roof of the supermarket was very low down and the lights were unbelievably yellow. I needed to get out, but I had no idea of the way to get there. I felt like I was walking on stairs, but somewhere I knew that supermarkets are always flat. And yet I was able to question this truth with the physical experience of my body. I wanted things for doing a painting but there were none in the aisle marked dirt. I put something for the garden in my basket, a glass bottle filled with whisky. I was looking for the fruit and vegetables. I tried to ask a man in a shirt who I supposed worked there but he turned around with a bottlegreen face and angry acne scars and showed me teeth like cheap paperbacks. I didn’t catch his response and my smile came out as a grimace. Does everyone feel like this when they come to a supermarket? I got more crisps, all different flavours in one big bag. They went to mush when I put them in my mouth. A million miles away I found the tills, round a corner that would not stop turning. The conveyor belt was amazing. All the stuff came to about thirty pence, something like that. Outside I thought it had stopped raining, but there was another door to get through and then it was raining again. I thought to myself that I should go home, but I couldn’t remember what direction I had arrived in. I tried to sit and wait and remember, but there was a block because before thinking that I had taken more and when I came back I was walking again. I would find out later that it was in the wrong direction.

I wondered if Charles Saatchi has a myspace. I would like to see what movies he lists, and what music. I guess I was still thinking about doing a painting. There were no more shops on the road I was on, just one long house with no windows that lasted for miles. I fooled myself for a time into thinking that I just couldn’t walk anymore, that I had physically forgotten how to. But I remembered. I occupied myself with thinking about the dog and soon it became my mission again to find him, and I was certain he was at the end of this road, perhaps in the garden of this very long house. I thought about his bark, which did not sound anything like the trumpet that I listened to on my headphones. His eyes, which were nothing like the decrepit oval of the hood that I looked out from. And the wag of his tail, which was nothing like the blocky, two dimensional movement of my legs, a bizarre simulacrum of actual walking which nonetheless propelled me out of the city, away from home.

As I thought about the dog, the image of him became monstrous to me, and I was contained in a black ambivalence of intense desire to find that dog but also a deep fear of what would happen if I were to encounter him. I was no longer walking uphill which, contrary to my usual experience, actually made movement more taxing. Cars had by now thinned out, but there were more vans. I opened my carrier bag and began to sip from the bottle I had bought in the yellow supermarket. I don’t know if it tasted good. I wanted a plate of ox. Shit man, this all started when I had those chips. Who died and made you read your poetry at their funeral? Flying serpents.

I did not, so far, encounter the dog. I began to become more aware of the spatial dimensions of the road. The horizon receded and the moon, a shiny white plastic disc, came closer to me. I would say that it warmed me, that it dried me from the rain which still continued, though finer. But it did not. I merely felt that it did. The one long house began to chop up. There was a man on the other side of the road. A zombi, I decided. I had to stay away from that. About a man and a dog. I did not want the feeling to wear off. Even though my nose was clogged, the tang of metal from the key still got up it. Yet again my general expectation did not match my physical experience which was both exciting and a disappointment. What happened was that I fell down.

When I got up I was in a properly different part of the city. The pavement had given way to a narrow grass verge at the side of the road, which was now deserted. I looked to my left, that is in the opposite direction to the road, and there were big houses there, entirely in darkness. Ahead of me, in the neat gardens, a few security lights shone and up ahead one upstairs window was illuminated. I felt groggy, like there wasn’t too much keeping me awake now. The idea of the dog had completely left my head by this time. The earphones had fallen out, so I replaced them and the trumpet yet again blared, a mutant trumpet blare. I looked up at a lamppost and the spats of light there were actually rain, though at the time I did not realise this. A car that swished past now seemed remarkable.

I thought a lot, at the time, about the ants that I had seen on the TV. I thought about the sections of their bodies, their heads, big and ignorant blown up on the screen. I felt for a time that ants had some sort of control over my body, that they were in each orifice, implacably working my muscles from the inside, forcing me blockily forward, lego man walk. Ants.

I don’t know how the player got those kind of effects on the trumpet. Sounds like a depth charge exploding in the water, or rubble falling from a building, children laughing, a pet shop, glass crunching under feet. Whatever the tune was, they kept on playing and playing. Mostly I did not concentrate on the music, but it helped me to think that it was there, and on occasion a note, a riff, something would bring me back into it and it would be there at the forefront of my mind. As music it was expansive, emancipatory and I don’t know how they did it.

The music I listened to was made by an American group. A trumpeter, he was the main guy. It was made sometime in the last century and it was about freedom. It both gave me thoughts and made me think. I thought about all the points the trumpet line went through in a specific period, how you could draw a picture through those points or listen to them and know where to find something lost or how to fill in something on a crossword. It was music with answers. That's all for now.
 
 
 
 
 
 
i guess the thing with her is that... maybe it's that people feel they have to try harder to appear to be nice to her. with me, i think i project that thing which is that i'm not bothered really. or not that i'm not bothered but more that i can do without the attention, the platitudes. which i can. but i also can't bring myself to make that effort, to fish, put something out in the hope of getting something back.

today, when i visit my friend's myspace, i find that she's put me down two in her ranking, from number eight to number eight to number ten. what am i to make of this change of heart? not only that but i have been usurped by keith, who we've spent hours together bitching about - i really don't understand why she has stayed friends with this loser, this moron. the other person, who has in fact taken my number eight spot, is paula, the girl i'm talking about above. fuck paula. she is one of those people who whenever you talk to anyone about her they never have a good word to say and yet she has more friends than you. you know the sort of person i'm talking about.

dad came in and told me to turn the music down or off. down or off he said. i couldn't explain to him, i just couldn't get across to him that this was the type of music where a certain volume was mandatory. things have not been the same in this family since we moved. i think the moment of finding his record player smashed in the bottom of the cardboard box, the cold air running through all the open doors in the new house, our stuff in piles. i think that was the moment that sealed the change. he spent the rest of the day unpacking just his own things, very slowly, examining each one. two nights later he went out to the pub for the first time in eight years and came home and ripped all the heads off mom's beanie babies.

still, mom got him a new record player, which he hasn't used. the neighbours are nice and my new school is going ok. the hotel on the corner seems to be doing well. i went back on myspace and swapped my friend out of my top eight for 16 bitch pile-up. i think they are ok. when i do things, i don't want to read them. when other people do things, all i want to do is find more stuff out about them - maybe, like me, they don't really have reasons or understand their behaviour or want to.

anyway, the main news is that this guy on the keiji haino message board, who has been being a prick for like a year now, i found his myspace today, which he clearly did not want people to find because it contains some truly, truly terrible poetry. the thing is, this is the kind of guy that has been routinely chastising people for the way they behave, throwing the 'emo' insult around a lot to anyone who shows any vulnerability. the poetry could basically be charged with that to like the power ten. or more. i don't really know if it's right, though, to throw it back in his face that i've found this stuff, especially since he clearly went out of his way to hide it. bullying back, is that alright? i added his myspace, by which he'll know that i found it. perhaps if i don't tell anyone, he'll know that i know but didn't exploit his weakness in the way he's been exploitative in the past. maybe that's something to think about.
 
 
 
 
 
 
when i was a kid and i thought a lot about becoming an artist, i would look at the pictures of succesful people and wonder how they got on stage or how they got in a magazine. who they knew, what they said.

when i got older, i had the chance to mix with these people. go to their shows, be at the clubs they were at, maybe meet them and their friends.

when it comes down to it, the facts are these: my dad doesn't know art gallery owners, my mum isn't on the improv circuit. i don't have a brother who works in the film industry or a university friend with relatives in the publishing business. my friends are not writers, they don't dj and they aren't in bands. nobody i know lives in the countryside in a big house where people go to drop acid or to host all night raves. i've never met anyone that works in the fashion industry.

what it comes down to is that you have to try harder. on drugs, you have to try harder: go up to people, shake their hand and say yes, my mother was a punk, i have a guitarist for a brother. swallow your tongue, smile, be eloquent. mostly, listen to them, don't be a bore, which is hard, which is the hardest thing, but you've got to do it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
when i was very young, my dad told me that colours were a twentieth century invention. using black and white photographs and films as evidence, he built up a whole system of stories about the invention of colour that lulled me throughout my childhood. in the time of my great grandfather, he said, showing me the only picture the family had (a sepia blur man; moustache, uniform), the world had been merely black and white. the sun had been the smudge of a soft pencil in the newsprint sky, the sea a dank gray amalgam. our ancestors strode and fought over monochrome hills, skin and hair were grey and the world outside your window raw like an etching. the black slaves in america were freed for their invention of the first colour, he would tell me, his favourite story. all colours came first from music, and it was the blues that first hued the world. as they sang, played, sea and sky began to reflect the tenor of their voices and the muted grays retreated into a rapture of blues, what must have seemed a whole spectrum, even to the slave owner, even to the politicians. but even this world would seem pale and forlorn given what was to come later. there were other stories too, the theme was always how colour was a reflection of human suffering, how the suffering in the songs became too big for metaphor and leaked out of the music and into the world where it became manifest but beautiful. and the beauty was a way of compensating for the suffering. he was a romantic. he said the sixties was the time when most colours were created and that since the eighties, the decade of my birth, the speed at which new colours were born had dramatically declined, with only a few minor shades being attributed to my lifetime. all we needed, he would tell me, were a few good people who could stand outside of corporate control, forget about money, and they could sing the wastes of antartica into a new burnished elysian. my doubts about the veracity of his stories lumped in on me as i grew, until as a teenager i hated the romantic drivel he had impinged upon me. at his funeral, six months ago, he wanted a version of 'somewhere over the rainbow' sung hoarsely by a decrepit sinatra. we played it and i watched the coffin, thinking of his body turning from neatly pink silently into black
 
 
 
 
 
 
i was at my dentist last week, he says to me "it's a fucking gamble, being a dentist. here," he points to my bag with his scraper, he's pointing at the paper that's half sticking out, "you on the crossword?" i nod and mouth a gummy yes. "here you go, two down, flaubert, easy. want me to stick it in for you?" flaubert was wrong, i helplessly shook my head. he grabbed his pen. "fucking gamble, as i was saying. i had this girl in here a few days ago, i seen her a few times before, she was just in for a checkup. beautiful teeth she had, not a thing wrong with them. anyway i'm poking around and uh," he pulls the scraper out my mouth and cocks it at my eyeballs. i cross my eyes and focus on the point. he looks around shiftily. "see, i have to be careful because," he brings his face closer to mine, he has pork scratching skin and bad breath, "the nurse, you know." he scratches painfully behind an incisor and i wince, which i think he appreciates. "that's right. these sort of situations, you can't just go broadcasting them to anyone. she's lying on the chair there where you are now and i'm having a go in her mouth, y'know, when i notice that her skirt - it was a short skirt, floaty sort of material - has ridden up. this is the gamble, because, she's lying there with her mouth open, eyes closed, but the position of her hands, it almost looks like she'd done it on purpose. you know, pulled the skirt up? here you go." he handed me a plastic cup of pink water which i swilled round my mouth and spat out. "alright?"
"so what did you do then?" i was unable to stop myself asking.
"fuck all, is what i did. that's the gamble. sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. what i generally do, if it happens more than once - that's the clue - i rest a hand gently on their thigh as i'm working, guage the response and go from there. but like i say, it's a fucking lottery. pick the wrong numbers and you could land up in court, in jail, lose your job, lose your wife and kids. you got to play the system."
"right" the nurse came through the door as i pulled my jacket on. "see you next time then, thanks." he winked at me as i slid round the door.
 
 
 
 
 
 
How many keys are on your keychain?

i have nine keys. four of them are silver and five are brass. of the four silver, two are functional and often used, one is functional but obsolete, one is of unknown function and origin. of the brass, four are functional and often used, and one is obsolete. to get into my house by the front door you use one silver key and one brass key. to get into the house by the back door you use one brass key. the remaining silver key opens simon's front door. the three other brass keys open 1. a large suitcase i keep on top of my wardrobe, which contains several items precious to me, 2. the door of my lockup, which contains bad secrets and 3. a window. the remaining silver key, which is bent and scratched and older and heavier than all the other keys has belonged to me since my childhood. on bad days i walk down streets in the city at night, trying it out in arbitrary locks.

What curse word do you use the most?

i actually kept a tally of all the words i used in 1994. of curse words, according to my chart, 'dickhead' was the most common. it was, in fact, the most common word used all year, with over 60% of all words used. the second most common was 'horse'.

Do you own an iPod?

an iDog, which barks out any song i teach it. today it was doing 'straight outta compton'

What time is your alarm clock set for?

i never set it. i don't own one. do i seem like that kind of drone to you. i'll tell you, i only set my alarm clock ever once. i had to buy an alarm clock to set that day. it was my first and only day of work. i got to the office on time. my suit wasn't right, i didn't have the correct haircut. a middle-aged woman sat me at a computer, but my task was really to stuff envelopes. the computer just got in the way. i never went back. i threw the alarm clock away.

How many suitcases do you own?

i own four. three are empty. one, which i have already mentioned is full. mostly, it contains papers - an old school exercise book which my little brother once got hold of and scrawled across with near-dry felt pen. the pen is gone, and him. but the lines that zigzag across it and form crude attempts at faces and hands are tempered by my grubby diagrams of volcanos and river formations.

Do you wear flip-flops even when it's cold outside?

i only wear them when i dress as a priest, cold or not.

Where do you buy your groceries from?

sometimes the street corner, sometimes the balcony in the big room of the club. sometimes by the canal.

Would you rather take the picture or be in the picture?

i would always rather be in the picture. i've never held a camera in my life. i would smash it between my fingers. the last photograph taken of me was taken in 2004. i have it in front of me here. i'm wearing a rubber mask in the shape of the face of a caricature of ronald reagan. that's all. i appear to be in a park.

What was the last movie you watched?

i'm not sure that it had a name. it involved an acquaintance of mine slowly running a rusty chain over what appears to be a girl wearing an inflatable rubber suit. he then slowly pours a dustbin full of pva glue over the suit, and the glue slowly hardens as she writhes and crawls.

Do any of your friends have children?

to have children is to lose my friendship. i am against procreation. if there never is a next generation then we have no legacy to worry about. i certainly have no legacy.

If you won the lottery, what's the first thing you would buy?

a chair and table for the house

Has anyone ever called you lazy?

the man in the dole office. my dad. my art teacher at school. a bus driver. a homeless man. a sleepwalker. an astronaut.

Do you ever take medication to help you fall asleep faster?

i take medication to avoid sleep. sleep to me is death. i truly believe that.

What CD is currently in your CD player?

jazz

Do you prefer regular or chocolate milk?


does this mean what i think it means? if so, chocolate. if not, regular.

Has anyone told you a secret this week?

did i tell you that alvin hall is not really black? he's actually michael jackson, and they black him back up to on tv and give financial advice.

also laurence told me about his affair with the butcher. i felt that... this was too much to hear from the boy. the image of the three of them, hunched over a cold slab of meat. the blood, the semen, the gristle. the texture that the meat takes on after the knife has been through it. i kept waking up in the night to images of swinging carcase and grinding animal stench. laurence squirmed and turned beside me. i thought about hurting him. i guess he shouldn't have told me that.

When was the last time someone hit on you?

the butcher hit me when i accused him of the affair, "as if i would do that to a dog," he said. i insisted. he hit me with his bloody hand. the hand held the cleaver, but he used the fist. the rings did enough damage.

What did you have for dinner?

a pineapple

Do you wear hoodies often?

every morning the butcher puts the waste meat into the bins outside my house. i have taken to kicking the bins over, so that the slurry runs into the drain between our two houses. recently, the filth seems to have seeped into the water, which runs from the taps tinged with pink and tiny scraps of what seems to be skin settle to the bottom of glasses. i can neither shower nor wash my plates in these conditions, yet every morning, yes, with my hoodie on, done up like a proper chav, yeah, i go out into the street and kick over the bin, spilling brains and feet all over my street.

Can you whistle?

here, baby. that's all you need know.

Have you ever participated in a protest?

i go to protests. i've protested for and against fox hunting. i protested against lowering the gay age of consent. i protested against section 28. i campaigned for the release of mandela. i've been on orange marches. i've picketed the imf and the g8. i've done the may day, i've done cnd, i've done the nf and the skinheads. i've done the anti-nazi league and the neo nazis. i've done animal rights and i've thrown rocks from behind the police lines. brixton riots, oldham, burnley. i'm like a character out of ballard. only even that gets tired sometimes. i've done custard pies. i've done molotovs. it's all been done.

Who was the last person to call you?

sarah called me. we haven't spoken in eight years. she got my number out the book. she said she'd been looking for something that she thought i'd taken from here when we were last together, a book. i remember that morning well enough. she was golden in the light of the morning. we bathed in the stream that morning, along with her kid, a boy. but the water was poison, and the kid had died soon after. what she wanted, a book that the kid had drawn in, an old school exercise book of hers. i told her i didn't know what she was talking about.

What is your favourite ride at an amusement park?

the best ride, was the big wheel, 1997, with dale and jeremy. we got stuck at the top for four hours, tripping. all we talked about was how amazing the feeding of the five thousand was, except that, there was this one kid who didn't like either bread or fish and we talked for a long time, hours maybe, about how bad jesus felt about this.

Do you think people talk about you behind your back?

phil once sent me a transcript of everything he said in one whole month. i think it was july 2000. there were 86 references to me, only 11 of which were in conversation with me. he and i have fallen out since, which makes me churn through again and again those reams of dot matrix paper. i guess it was because i knocked his door down at six in the morning last october, screaming something about hmv loyalty cards.

What area code are you in right now?

wait a minute. what is this?

Did you watch cartoons as a child?

my favourite thing to do as a child was put two television sets next to each other and two copies of the same video on, one running slightly behind the other. i explained to the child psychologist that it was a metaphor for my left brain struggling to keep up with my right, but he was having none of it. i didn't want to go to the home.

How big is your local mall?

big.

How many siblings do you have?

around nine.

Are you shy around the opposite sex?

the last time i was at my parents house scouting around the hard drive, i founded a downloaded porno that had to belogn to my dad. it was late at night, my computer started doing the strangest things. every time i moved the mouse it made a strange creaking noise, every click seemed to echo in my ears. as i was masturbating, a fly landed on the keyboard and began to languidly rub its hind legs together and buzz loudly. amongst the noises i picked out the deliberate gruntings of my parents having intercourse. i thought of my dad thinking of the film, and watched as the girls, one black, one white, took turns to suck cock. i felt disgusted. it took me a whole three minutes to come. a new low :(

What movie do you know every line to?

there isn't one, but if i had to say, it would be blue, derek jarman.

Do you own any band t-shirts?

damon albarn

When was your last plane ride?

i took nine return trips between here and ulan bator in january this year, convinced that an air-stewardess that i wanted to fuck was working that flight. i lost all my money and didn't see the girl. i had sex in the plane toilets four times though and each time i thought of her so hard the walls of our tiny jet seemed to quaver. i saw her again a few weeks later and she asked me straight up, "did you get that flight to ulan bator nine times to see me?", "no, of course not." i answered. "that's so romantic!" she squealed, and pushed herself into me. i knocked her down onto the floor and spat in her face.

How many chairs are at your dining room table?

no

Do you read for fun?

i... do

Can you speak any languages other than English?

mongolian

Do you do your own dishes?

i have a... man for that

What colour is your bedroom painted?

a melange of different colours - my failed mural. i had originally planned to paint a series of great british fascists, but i gave up when my oswald mosely bore a striking resemblance to david seaman.

Have you ever cried in public?

the last time i cried was in stockholm. we, that is, myself and simon, had been out drinking in the evening and we arrived back at the hotel. he said he wanted cigarettes, and seemed to expect me to go out and get them. eventually i found a place. when i got back to the hotel, i found our room shut up, and simon checked out. penniless in a city i didn't know, nor speak the language of, i spent a tearful night in a shop doorway, only to be kicked awake by police early next morning.

Do you have a desktop computer or a laptop?

neither

Which do you make, wishes or plans?

every wish you make is another soul that will be your slave in the afterlife

Are you always trying to learn new things?

i'm never trying. and yet, it happens.

Are you currently wanting any piercings or tattoos?

i'm currently half way through getting a giant one on my back of prince in his 'kiss' video, except prince's face is replaced with thom yorke's, and the female dancer's face is replaced with dr david kelly's.

Do you believe that the guy should pay on the first date?

i've only ever been on second dates

Can you skip rocks?

ho ho ho

Have you ever been to Jamaica?

i had a scrap with buju banton

What to snack on at the movie theatre?

cock!

Who was your favorite teacher?

either richard blackwood or peter stringfellow

at school i remember once when someone had copied a whole essay about shakespeare's macbeth out of one of those little guidebooks you get and the teacher, feigning ignorance of this fact, read the entire essay out, pausing only to compliment its style and depth of argument. we all learned something from that bitch.

Have you ever dated someone out of your race?

i only date racists

What is the weather like?

the sky looks like... crayon

Would you ever date someone covered in tattoos?

i have done. i thought they were black, at first. the realisation came when they got eric b and rakim confused.

Do you have an online journal?

currently i have twenty six online journals. in each of them i have posted different and contradictory answers to these questions and every single answer is a lie. this one.

What was your favourite class in high school?

gender

Do you enjoy traveling via airplanes?

the last plane ride i enjoyed was between cardiff and bangkok. an air stewardess slipped a disc while walking down the aisle with a tray of drinks and was paralysed standing there in ugly contortion. all the thai businessmen on the flight ignored her as the whisky from the upturned glasses ran down the tray which had stopped just above her grimacing face, dripped down onto her forhead, and down her cheeks, some into her mouth, some into her blouse. as we landed, the jolt knocked her down and we all had to step over her to get off the plane.

What personality trait is a must-have in your preferred gender?

my preferred gender is mixed.

Have you ever been attracted to someone physically unattractive?

only them.

When was the last time you slept on the floor?

i slept on the floor the last four nights. the bed was colder.

What is your favourite alcoholic drink?

anything in a can.

Does your closest Starbucks have a drive-thru?

no. it does have a helipad though, and a dock.

Do you like your living arrangement?

fucking... i love it

What is your mother's hometown?

pizza hut.

How many hours of sleep do you need to function?

no.

Do you eat breakfast daily?

at least twice a day.

Are your days full and fast-paced?

not since i was a broker, y'know.

Did you ever get in trouble for talking in class?

for other things, more.

What is your favourite fruit?

i only eat pineapple

Do you pay attention to calories on the back of packages?

not on pineapple

How old will you be turning on your next birthday?

six

Are you picky about spelling and grammar?

i stab for comma

Do you believe in life on other planets?

we came from other planets. it's possible that we can go back to them by the propulsion of... beats.

Have you ever been to Six Flags?

have i?!

Who was the last person to piss you off?

i met the farmer in the park two days ago. he was talking about how he'd got this little patch of land just outside the city, a few miles from the motorway with enough space for some livestock, good grazing for cows and sheep and good soil for vegetables. he was going to go all organic, go for the new markets. he asked me if i wanted in on it, half the profits, a place to stay, a share of the produce everything, as long as i helped out. he said there's a time early in the morning, around sunrise at the top of the hill behind his new house, where you can see this whole city stretching out in the valley below. all the buildings hazy, and the view is different every day, it depends on the weather, on the sun and the clouds. i couldn't even think, i just kept shouting "you cunt, you stupid cunt."

Do you believe that God has a gender?

in the same way that dogs have genders.

What was the last thing you ate?

pineapple

Do you get along better with the same or opposite sex?

in this context, i don't know what opposite even means.

What did you dress up as for your first Halloween?

i was four. i dressed up as a pantomime horse. i was the back end and my dad was the front end. he cut the head off the horse so his own head poked through, on it he wore a mask made of the face of a dead pig. the pig was wearing those novelty glasses where the eyes are on springs.

How did your parents pick your name?

it's a funny story really. my mum only let my dad move back in if he agreed to let her call me after the prostitute he had been caught with. my dad contested that he didn't know her name, he only called her bitch. when my mum went down the registry office he ran after her but was too late, he never came back. my mum didn't go through with it though, i'm named after a footballer.

Do you like mustard?

don't

What do you do when things get hard?

depends which things huh? eh? i know a few places, know what i mean? the internet!

Would you ever sky dive?

my friend jacob told me it was shit. a load of blokes jumping out of a plane? whatever.

Do you sleep on your side, tummy, or back?

no.

What character from a movie most reminds you of yourself?

the doctor in red angel or the sculptor in blind beast.

Have you ever bid for something on eBay?

i got a car owned by elvis

What do you think of Angelina Jolie being pregnant?

me and villalobos were on about this the other day. he said he felt sorry for aniston, what with her not being able to have a baby and having the story batted about in all the tabloids and gossip magazines like she was so much meat on the supermarket counter. yeah, but you still would, wouldn't you? i said and we high fived each other. good times.


Do you enjoy giving hugs?

not since i lost an arm

Would you consider yourself to be fashionable?

kenneth anger fashionable or gwyneth paltrow fashionable? either way no.

Do you own a digital camera?

i got this iDog

If someone you had no interest in dating expressed interest in dating you, how would you feel?

i don't have no interest in dating anybody

What celebrities have you been compared to?

peter stringfellow, rod stuart. one thing you can say about those guys, you know they've got taste.

Who is your favourite Star Wars character?

condoleeza rice

Does it annoy you when someone says they'll call but never do?

that's never happened

What books, if any, have made you cry?

gareth gates autobiog

Do you think you're attractive?

do i?!

What are you allergic to?

metal and ham

What's your opinion on sex without emotional commitment?

never been better

Do you ever feel guilty after eating meat?

depends whose

If you were born the opposite sex, what would your name have been?

didn't matter
 
 
 
 
 
 
the character was a farmer. you could tell by his clothes, dark green wax jacket, hat, wellingtons, his sideburns, his stick. you could tell this but, still, he lived in the town and didn't live alone. he lived with the philosopher and he lived with the invalid. he lived with the dj and with the clown. it happened that the town they lived in together was quite small. quite small and quite plain. even so, when they all put their clothes on and walked down the steep hill to the pub and ordered coloured drinks and sat at the big table together, it felt like they could be in LA, or vegas. maybe even paris, or egypt. the farmer liked, on certain days, to walk through the town, into the centre and further on, down to the train station which was at the bottom of a hill. behind the station were big grey blocks of flats. funnily enough, it was the clown that the farmer had known the longest. on those days the farmer would go into the station, fold his big coat over his arm, lean his stick up against the wall and think to himself i could get a train back out to the fields, get it going again.

the dj was another type all together. though, in a different way, he was a similar type. the dj didn't mind being in the small town which had so few clubs for him to dj at. he thought, with the new technology, why should i be limited to playing raves in just one place. i can sit in my bedroom and play out to raves in stockholm and tokyo, london, africa, new zealand. thoughts like these contented the dj.

unsurprisingly, the philosopher and the clown got on well. some times it was hard to tell the two of them apart. they wore each other's clothes, they made the same jokes, but they were different people. the clown was tall and spindly while the philosopher had a beard. no. the other way round.

the attraction of the small town to these characters, and the attraction of each to the others, was not the difficulty of being an individual, they all have names. nor was the small town so small that smaller towns could not easily be thought of. oh, much smaller. the attraction of the small town was that you could tread that line, the line they all trod, between an identity and freedom, between the anonymity of the city and the open secret of the village. the small town was, for them, ideal. does this make them average?

the invalid was another member of the group and, by virtue of being the only woman, was something of a focus point for the group. it was often the invalid who cast the deciding vote over whether to go to the pub that night or stay in with the telly. or whatever else it was that they may have been unable to decide. it was a position of power, it was a position of some loneliness, some despair. but they invalid neither enjoyed nor disliked it. the invalid had a lot of problems. for one, she couldn't work. none of the others worked either, but the subtle difference, as the philosopher once pointed out, to the clown's delight, was that the invalid couldn't work, hence her name, hence her status. was the philosopher right?

their house was always banging. the closer you got to the dj's room, the louder the beats got, but you could always hear them, wherever you were. the light wood was stained darker with ear wax. the group liked nothing better than to take a picnic to the park. the dj would bring his boombox and blast out the tunes. the invalid would sit in the middle, scoffing the foul smelling sandwiches and uttering words like rot, slump, slop. the philosopher would laugh at something in the paper, pass it to the clown, who would laugh too. while the farmer would plant his stick in the soft earth under the rug, look past the nests of houses that made up the small town and over into the always visible hills, think about getting it going again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
weston stepped from the hot of the street into the cool of the cinema foyer. it was a tuesday, but he dropped his eyes as he gave the note to the girl behind the counter. he worried that she was starting to recognise him. he didn't feel well, lately the terrible headaches that began behind his right eyeball had returned, and today bubbles of sick-tasting gas kept rising lumpen in his throat and bursting in his mouth. it tasted of sick, the world, today. he took his change, a few coins that felt heavy in his hand and the smell of old metal was there in his nostrils. he forced his eyes to meet the girl's and gave a weak grin. she smiled back. too trendy, the girls that work here. her spotted blouse open at the throat. she smiled back. he lingered around, minutes before the film started. at the next desk he bought a coke, and as he walked through a set of swiging double doors, the roar of the bubbles in the coke seemed so loud in the sudden silence that it overcame him for a moment. and he stood, even in this moment of anxiety and confusion, making sure he appeared to be looking at a poster of a girl with a headscarf and a title he couldn't read. the gas of sick in his mouth, the bubbles in his ears, he waited it out. it passed. it passed. it passed. too easy. he walked over to the toilets, entered the stall, poured a good third into the bowl, opened his bag and replaced the difference from a bottle of vodka.

the theatre was cooler still, and he took a seat towards the back, in the middle. the place was practically empty. it was the middle of the day. the trailers played and weston payed attention. the gas in the coke rose back up his throat with a new sheen of vomit taste after every sip, but he drank hard, nonetheless, trying to float the taste out of the side of his open mouth, or curl up his tongue as he felt it rise.

the film began with a shot of a room at dusk, crumbling plaster but still a regal air in the faded furniture. a country house. an old record, django rheinhardt weston guessed, played over the still shot. the air was dim outside the window, and orange, and fading, a hint of the sea or the countryside in the dip of the silhouetted land. the music, stiff guitar and trumpet drenched in crackles, seemed to decay further as it played on until the notes were submerged it distortion and the sound became a warped seascape and weston realised slowly that it was a treated record, or a pastiche. and the camera, too, began slowly to pan away from the house, which wasn't a house at all, but the ruined facade of one, with half a faded sofa, a tear right through the middle cushion and nothing beyond, and destroyed walls around the window, which gave onto a cliff and a road and the sea. and on the road was a drab figure, a girl, and that, it was clear, was the start of the film.

it was shot in the 'cold' style of seventies tv series and in mostly natural light, and concerned the intertwined lives of a handful of people in a fairly remote scandinavian village. typical of world, or art cinema of the time, the characters were blankness/sadness/dread/disinterest. typical too, were the langorous shots of people walking around, the muted, brief snippets of dialogue, the emphasis on the symbolism of tiny gestures and looks, closeups of the face and brief hazy scenes of the girl in the bath or fucking or getting changed in front of a mirror. central really were the loving shots of trees in the wind, the rolling sea and hills, and later, the blocky modernity of the city they all moved to, its wide roads in the milky sun, quaint neon and concrete...

none of the characters were given names, to further emphasize the illusion of them, something which weston, only realising as the credits rolled, found another minor irritation in a film that seemed flawed in its blankness. the same guitars looped over and over scenes in a steady undulation of decay and rebirth, crackles and pops the architecture of the slow buildings that the people in their grey and white and navy blue clothes moved through.

the story concerned the girl, visible in the startling opening scene, the only worthy moment of the film, weston thought. she tied everyone together. the first section of the film concerned her breaking away from her taciturn family, and a damaging half-relationship with a sullen, long-haired boy. she falls in love with another boy, smaller and prettier than the first, though prone himself to some of the coarseness and demands the long-haired boy she escaped from made. they run away to the city after several short half-scenes of whispered chatter and sex. months later, they discover that the long haired boy has moved to the city and is staying with his sister. they see him for the first time, shopping in a grocers they favour, and the tang of his presence seems to make the city more tangible to them, the ghost of him begins to structure their walks, how they orient themselves. they seem unhappier, and though the meeting between them and the long-haired boy never occurs, its inevitability and constant deferral, makes them paranoid and uncomfortable around each other. him for what she was, that she was with the long-haired boy and her for his jealousy and unwillingness to accept the differences in her past self.

weston sat and sipped his drink. the people around him: a man with red eyes, who blinked and fidgeted through the nudity, another older man in a suit and a young couple, students probably, who held hands and whispered to each other and occasionally laughed. the bad taste in weston's mouth would not go away and the alcohol did not help him.

about two thirds of the way through, the focus of the story switched abruptly from the young couple to the long-haired boy. finally his character began to be fleshed out, and weston was able to understand the couple's fear of him. in conversation at the glassy university he attended he was slyly revealed to be lacking in empathy, a pseud and a snob. in a long scene, the camera followed him as he walked expressionlessly through the city, only the guitar lines and the swish of traffic audible, no chatter and few people passed him by. he reached the white and wood appartment where he, his sister and her girlfriend lived. it became clear that the long-haired boy and his sister shared a strange relationship immediately. the long-haired boy entered the appartment and walked straight over to his wan and frail looking sister, a dolls head beneath a snag of lank hair, and whispered something in her ear. they both left the room. the girlfriend sat in the lamplight, the camera close in on her pale face, as she listened to the hints of sobs and sharp whispers that came from the adjacent room.

the penultimate scene took place in the bedroom of the appartment, the previously unseen den where the siblings had retreated to to cry with each other. it was dingy compared to the larger living room and the scene took place at dusk, so it was very dark inside, only a single lamp in the corner providing light. the long-haired boy and his sister's girlfriend sat in chairs talking by the bed while the sister lay silently on it. it became clear, from their stillness and their conversation, though it was banal, as all the dialogue in the film was, that the sister was dead. they talked about the boy's parents, what they had been like as children, him and his sister. it was, quietly, a moving scene, and a gentle one.

for the final scene, the focus reverted back to the young couple who, out shopping and in much higher spirits since they had last been seen, finally see the long-haired boy, along with the girlfriend of his sister, walking sombrely in the direction of the hospital. they stand, on some sort of bridge over the road, and watch them walking and as they walk a trumpet dirge begins to play. it's a tune weston recognises, 'st james infirmary', as they enter the hospital the camera rises over the hospital, over the city and into the sky, which is again growing dark and translucent. the mournful vocal is half-spoken, half sung by a man with a deep and coarse voice. tears fill weston's eyes and as the lyrics are completed and the trumpet solo begins, he stands up, impossibly moved by this spectacle. the song finishes and he bursts into applause, the four pairs of eyes train upon him, but he claps away oblivious. only as the credits begin to roll and his irritation that the characters are unnamed piques, does he suddenly become self-conscious. he runs a hand through his hair, looks around him, and swiftly leaves the theatre and then the building. the heat on the pavement blasts him and he feels sick, sick again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
when i took off out the house the backs of my knees underneath my trousers and my armpits were still sweaty from masturbating in the chair in front of the computer. before pulling on my trousers i had rubbed dandruff-like flakes of dried semen from my stomach and pubic hair, but there was still a stickiness which began to irritate and constrain my walking in the heat.

the places i am interested in are 1. the very outskirts of cities, ultra-private suburbs, fields. the roads get bigger, the houses get bigger. there are less people but the cars get bigger. the people get older golf courses give way to countryside, roads give way to motorways. 2. the outskirts of city centres, the places after the shops end and the before the houses start. roads of boarded-up failed shops, old factories of cracked plaster and empty window frames and gauntly ornate buildings with big unused doors, curlicued stone, a ghost on every corner.

the houses where i live, neither edge of city or edge of city centre are bright new brick red. the cul de sacs all have big semi-circles of useless grass around them, the shops live under wood awnings and have doors like house doors, dusty floors and tins of useless meats.

i was walking to the studio where we were making a film which was about solitude. at first there was sound and other characters, but the sound seemed to acknowledge some other presence, and the other characters got in the way. it still wasn't right. we were filming our one remaining actor in the corner of an empty flat, but there was still some unaccountable intrusion into each shot. eventually, the director said, we would have to get rid of the cameras altogether.
 
 
 
 
 
 
discourse is a violence we do to things the wind outside was still strong and coming cold off the sea, but it was thawing all over the valley. on a bridge, not quite east, not quite west, in the cold grey of an august morning. the pressure was on me, night turning into day, work to get to.

we took the jeep out over the dunes. there were snakes and the shadows of snakes all over the rocks, vast, big as houses.

we stopped for doughnuts. i wanted cherry cream, but there were none.

after sunrise, in the woods, where we got up. we packed away the tents. there were spiders and spider webs dotted all over the trees. and the mist. and the mist. just before we got in the car, we heard a beat coming from somewhere far away. we followed the beat through the trees, through the ferns, through the trees. the beat grew steadily louder and more complex, we could perceive secondary beats, a bassline and eventually little whooshing details over the top, little lines of melody that drew in and out of the beat. we followed the beat. we were getting nearer.

we went down the high street to look at the records in the charity shops. it was a weird day, we saw a lot of things, but didn't buy a single record.

we followed the beat into the trees. at one point there was a singer, though buried so heavily into the mix you couldn't make out what she was singing. the beat seemed to shake the leaves on the trees, scare away the spiders and the fog.

the wind was still strong, the bridge seemed to sway. the water was grey, like the fog, and translucent.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I took the bus, on a spring afternoon, between two shopping centres. The day was close, warm and stinking from the recent rain. Trees dripped the tarnished pavement a shade darker. I got on the bus. The stop was outside a newsagent, outside a pub. I had done this route a thousand times, maybe. ahead of us, past all the shops, a poke of sun threatened through the murk, like tasting a crunch of shell in a mouthful of scrambled egg. I walked to the back of the bus and dashed a half eaten chip-packet aside to take my seat. A few chips spilled from the dank paper. The smell of them, chip-greasy, stained the already heavy air. We drove on, down streets lined with trees whose leaves, freshly full of sap, hung dark and green above the road and the windows condensed up. Not one was open to the breeze.

The bus cut through the stagnant clumps of air, wheels through shallow puddles, people on the pavements braced against our progress by the foam that splayed in our wake.

The bus was only half-full, but midday-full. Full with people whose skulls protruded through the skin on their heads, bones that yearned to break through the subtle skin of fingertips and on through fabric, up through the muggy clouds into the clear, to let the pure sunlight parch them, dry them to mere dust.

Unnoticed by me, consumed with fantasies of flight, we hit traffic. Our half of the road was all dug up and temporary lights let the other lane through a hundred yards in front. Already I could hear the equipment, loud enough to amplify the other sounds around it. We pulled in to a stop and a girl got on with headphones so loud that I heard them the moment the pressure doors of the bus swished happily open. She slouched to the back of the bus. The music was bass heavy, sounded collapsed and overamplified from the cheap tiny speakers in her headphones. After several bars I heard an MC struggling to be heard over the beat, his voice cracking with the volume, "Birmingham. You don't know about Birmingham." over and over. She opened a packet of meat flavoured crisps, which smelled strongly, immediately infecting the already crowded air inside the bus. We lurched forward in bursts, stopping for minutes, moving for fractions, approaching the lights. At rest, the bus shuddered, making a noise which eclipsed both the headphones and the machinery up ahead. We reached, eventually, the point where we were stopped directly in front of the red light, we would be the next ones through. The tutting of the elderly passengers, another clipped, clucked sound to add to the tumult, began to die down. The bus, at rest, shuddered, the noise of vibrating metal and plastic, mingled with the cleaner outside sound of pneumatic drills, traffic sounds and, the MC now long gone, replaced with just a battered, wavering bass and the crunch of sampled drums processed and compressed through the overstretched headphone speakers. From my seat at the back of the bus, sitting almost on top of the juddering engine, the pole in front of me punching out clangs that I felt in the soles of my feet and in my armpits. It was, for those few seconds, the greatest and truest music I've heard in my short and happy life. I breathed it in. It ran through me, sonorous textures. I looked up, and even the girl, her meat crisps discarded next to her, crumbs of them on the floor, even she cracked a smile. The other passengers nodded and shimmied in their seats.

The lights then changed, red to green, and we drove on and the music stopped. But I daydreamed for the rest of the journey, short though it was, of clean pavements, dry and flat. And white buildings, almost marble, hundreds of stories high. And a clean suit, and new grey shoes, and lunchtime, waking up late in the city and the perfect can, which I have had, once or twice, of Dr. Pepper.
 
 
 
 
 
 
- why do you hate me? she asked. so i explained it to her,
- it's because you always get everything so wrong

there was a spider on the bathroom wall this morning. so many things we'll never know. at work, following the whole group-email debacle, they've finally taken me off the computers and i am reduced to spending seven and a half hours of my weekdays stuffing envelopes. i'm being payed sixty grand for this. i lost my scarf on the way home, i think it was on the train. i had a panic attack thinking about where it was, who had it etc. i had to wash my hands. at work today, friday, april 18th 2006, i took a shit in the stall of the mens' toilet and looked down into the bowl to see, with some small surprise, movement. this means i have threadworm again. this is dangerous. my childhood coprophilia was based on an early experience involving threadworm. two days ago i went into the stall in the mens' toilet at work and sat down. i sit down to piss in that dump. it takes up more time. my job is putting pieces of paper into envelopes now. in the stall next to me, i could hear slapping sounds, the shifting of skin on sticky plastic and a man's pathetic attempt to hide excited breathing - an action which only made his groans more awkward and unusually pitched. clear indicators of masturbation. i stood up and kicked the side of the cubicle hard three times.
- you dirty bastard, i shouted. i left the toilets. yesterday i went into the stall in the mens' toilet. i sat down and was quietly taking a piss when i noticed the sheen of liquid, a yellow sheen, creeping towards me from the next stall. was the toilet leaking or had someone lost their aim? i knelt down on the floor, the uring soaking into my trousers and looked through the gap in the divide to see a dick in a hand poking out from the grey trousers of a man with a shadow head that i couldn't see.
- get some fucking toilet training, i shouted. i left the toilets and went back into the office, my trousers damp and stinking. i don't think i have long to go. i used to do mergers. i used to sell... insurance.

later, at the club, the gang was all there. tubby duck, runty pig, little 'nana. it's weird to think that, though we don't see each other's faces, or ever exchange conversation, we still regard each other as comrades, as friends, as mates. rolling around on the floor of the club to a dog of a remix of some... yoko ono song, with a man in a horse costume, i fantasised that he was the pissing man and the masturbating man together. i pawed at his fur. on the way home we smashed all the windows of a house on my street and then ran away laughing to ourselves. we laughed again as, on my police radio scanner, it was announced that a horse and a clock radio were on the loose. he turned to me, half embracing me with his awkward hooves and told me his name was clive. as his hands moved towards the catch on his mask, i punched him hard, knocking him down. i then kicked him unconscious, dragged him outside into my garden and tossed his mangled frame over my fence.
 
 
 
 
 
 
on my own, in front of the computer, one of my favourite things to do is sing along to my favourite groups. i sang along to the lighthouse family, my favourite song is 'ocean drive'. in place of a microphone i used a big black marker pen. the sky (the sky), is so blue. the sun's gonna shine on everything you do. from the ventilation holes in the lid of the marker pen came the dizzy fumes, sweet and toxic poison. i sang along (when the clouds arise we'll live on ocean drive) the fumes filled my nose. the more i sang, the woozier i felt, enough that the song bent and became like an extra long remix. i had a headache that began behind the socket of my right eye. the smell of the pen made the room feel close and sweltering. i took my cardigan off and turned down the heating. i opened a window. say it's true, black and blue, i can share your (pause) situation. i was in a quandary whether to sing, which felt good to me, and increase the pain and distortion that accompanied it, or to stop, make the headache go away, and return to the mundanity of afternoon television, unemployment, the clock on the wall. Been holding our emotions back, will only make us cry. If you go, I know, but you know, it ain’t so serious anyway.
 
 
 
 
 
 
on the sofa were three. in her headphones was jazz. in her headphones was rap. the curtains were drawn to stop the glare of the sun on the tv screen, which was showing adverts. in her headphones was a pop song, an old one. they were sat on the sofa reading books. the tv was also on, showing adverts. opposite the window, on a dressing table was a mirror with three panels that reflected nine faces, nine haircuts, nine shoulders, nine books.

in the first book a man said, as she read, ""yes, that all seems in order."" while the third read "In the narrow gully between the backs of houses, permanently damp from the overflowing drains of the houses, the water greasy with yellowing washing up suds. he picked his way among the snaking streams of water brown with the juice of fried meat, or white with the scum of scrubbed-off bath skin." the second read this: "it's good to finally see you."

one got up, leaving only six behind. the tv was showing a rap video. in her headphones was rap, still. the sun had gone in, so she opened the curtains. three children, outside, dropped three icecreams and three red balloons drifted into the sky.
 
 
 
 
 
 
monday

hola bambinos! do you think man will ever be capable of unassisted flight? i think that would be good yo! i was at work - by the way i think for a job in my future i want to be half a UN ambassador and half a ninja marine, that would kick so much ass right now - and i was saying to someone about something, we finished the conversation and i was walking away when i remembered about something she had asked me earlier that morning. so i put my hand up in the air and was like "uh, just one more thing mrs redfern" (haha i usually just call her pam) "about those reports..." which was pretty funny. douglas was in the butchers again, i swear he waits for me in there. he says he's buying sausages. he was at the rock club as well later. i was dancing pretty intensely to jimmy eat world - lets be honest, everyone can appreciate a good rock song, amiriteico? - and he came up to me and was dancing really stupidly, like he didn't even get the power of the song or whatever. i think he's more into that gangsta stuff. got a taxi with vicky and emma and 'bizkit' adam (who still likes limp biscuit!) and we talked pretty intensely about freud and brian molko. omg that radiohead song with the line "the day the banks collapse" came on adam's itunes randomly and we were all like that will be a mucho bienna day - fantastico methinx! terry was randomly at the house with fat 'idlewild' jim from the band the placebos (who are actually an idlewild tribute band) and fat 'idlewild' jim was saying how he wanted to take his band in a new 'more metal' direction because of the fire, rage and intensity of that - bellisimo! at about seven in the morning white supremacy 'sepultra' boy (whose real name is clarence and whose parents are both black - loco) turned up with his friends fat manics caroline (who is really thin from all the smack now - ironico!) kenny 'kenny' dalgleish who is in the 'irish' irish manique street pavements, another idlewild covers band who sometimes play the songs backwards ¡Felíz cumpleaños! No tengo hermano.

we all sat up and got trashed on glow in the dark alcopops and pills cut with so much talcum powder my skin felt softer than i did high compostico! and went on msn to talk to 'skinny' (because actually fat) 'symposium' derrick, who is in richard 'nigel fall out boy boy' hartman's band 'on the pavement', who are a manic street preachers/idlewild tribute band. we talked about turning over the system and starting a hell is for heroes/cosmic rough riders tribute band - current name suggestions include the preachers (on manic st.), a cure, ¡pavementico! (one of mine), pavement is for heroes, the manic pavement preachers and idlewild.

new job going ok je pense, i'll be king one day!
 
 
 
 
 
 
The very first job I had, after dropping out of university for the second time, was working in a post room. I worked for a large company that outsourced work from other companies. They gave me a temporary contract. There were two parts to my job. The first part was to sort mail that was ready to send out into boxes. Each box was marked with a post code and my job was to match the post code on the letter with a box and put it in that box, ready to be sent out. Most of the work we had was done on large machines that stuffed and sealed envelopes as well as putting postage on them, if needed. The second part of my job dealt with pieces of mail that were in quantities too small to justify using the machine (which required a lengthy and elaborate process of setup before a job could commence) or pieces of mail that were of unorthodox sizes and so would not fit through the machine's complex mechanism. In those cases I would fold a pile of letters, stuff them into envelopes and then apply the postage. The job was extremely tedious and almost completely mindless. After the first day, waiting at the bus stop in that unfamiliar, built-up part of my second university town, I was forced to wipe away tears of frustration, anxiety and misery from my eyes. I was disturbed and depressed by the turn of events that had lead me to this point, not least by the colleagues I had met during the day. I worked there with four middle-aged women, one of which was the supervisor, and one older woman who had been at the job the longest but, probably because of her timidness, had obviously been passed-over for even that most minor promotion. When I arrived that morning, the five women greeted me warmly, though I sensed a trace of distaste when I told them about my university background. They teased me gently about my age, which made me uncomfortable, though I knew it was good natured. This older lady, her name was Emma, took part in the teasing, though with less of the affected gusto and over-friendliness of the others. In one of the gaps left by the others, she mentioned that she had started that job (though it had been "quite different" then) in the same year I was born. At the bus stop, I thought about everything I had been through. Time longer than I could recall. I had been through so many changes lately, I began even to regret my decision to leave university again, which, in the light of my day's experiences, seemed naive, arrogant. Every day I had lived she had taken the same bus to the office, sorted letters. As the bus appeared on the lip of the hill, I felt tired from a day that seemed already over. Making food, the effort of getting tomorrow's lunch together, finding entertainment, getting to bed. I was drained already. There wasn't enough of me left to make the evening enjoyable. I would tire easily of books, skip channels on the TV, go to bed early and drift off without thought, only to be wakened the next morning by the itching pulse of the alarm. At the bus stop I thought that I wouldn't go back, that I couldn't face another day, let alone the months that I was contracted for. Which would have been the right choice, to quit or to go back? I did go back, in fact. I worked there through spring, summer and most of Autumn before the lady who I was working in place of (who had had some form of illness that the women there never discussed, at least not in front of me) returned.

At university, the first time, I quit for what were finally deemed 'psychological issues'. I began regularly to have a dream in which my parents were dead and I, standing on the altar in a church I did not recognise (one whose vague frescoes and octagonal architectural design I can still picture. Its white walls, its heavily varnished benches, a lot of white, brick, dark blue and light varnished wood, its refracted, exaggerated, stylised icons), having genuflected towards an abstract Christ, was to give a eulogy. In front of an obscure audience of people from my primary school class, faces I recognised from bus routes, internet profiles and family friends (but no actual family) I stood at the lectern, dressed in a grey suit (which had, in fact, been ruined by having been washed too high), with nothing to say. In the dream I had forgotten my speech or was frozen from anxiety. I could see my hands. I could see their faces: pink, expectant. In my hands there was a book, but the text was either too small to read, or foreign, or merely illegible (this was the one element of the dream which would change). In a paroxysm of anguish I woke, forced back through the fissure of sleep by guilt, alarm, fear, embarrasment.

I began, I suppose as a means of assuaging the guilt I felt, to compile obituaries for people I knew, my parents included. I compulsively searched through the obituary sections of newspapers and on specialist websites for appropriate piecs of phraseology. I scoured anthologies of Elizabethan poetry, read classic rhetoric. I read the puff-pieces that great writers wrote about each other. I pored over gossip magazines. The TV was endlessly on. Everything seemed to be a potential source of material, and the dossiers I compiled contained film clips, music and pictures as well as mere text for me to read. I even did a powerpoint presentation. I would stand in front of the small mirror in my room and recite these obituaries, as though in the imaginary scenario in the dream, even going as far as setting up a lectern with my nightstand. I became obsessive, every turn of phrase, every arrangement of light on my ceiling seemed a potential key to writing a great obituary: strong, moving, profound.

Naturally, my studies suffered dramatically. I stopped attending classes and the few friends I had made stopped calling me. My face had taken on an unhealthy pallor, I was gaunt. I had lost a lot of weight. I was perpetually tired, either from trying to avoid sleep and the dream, or from being woken up by it without having rested. Eventually a meeting was called, which I attended in the hope that the admonishing rhetoric of my personal tutor and the head of department might have some application in my obituary writing. This was not the case however; the two men turned out to be more than pleasant and understanding about my situation, though perplexed by it, so much so, in fact, that I virtually broke down in front of them, my red eyes barely alive enough to cry tears.

The psychologist they referred me to was a simple man, patronising and ugly, but not all bad. We talked a lot but he was frustrated by my guardedness, my reluctance to admit that I had had an unhappy childhood ("Everyone does," had been my rejoinder). After some weeks he gave up. My parents had already, somehow, found out about my treatment, and so in due course the whole story came tumbling out to them. I saw no point in not making them complicit in my shame and told them the whole thing stonily and without emotion. I left university, much to the relief of everyone there and returned home where, somewhat in vindication of the psychologist's (to my mind overly simplistic) notion that my dream was bound up in profound homesickness, the dreams stopped without explanation or bother. I was though, still deeply unhappy.

I still read my obituaries from time to time. Other therapists that I have visited have all said that throwing them away is a necessary step toward recovery but, I don't know, I like to have them around. In writing them I wanted the perfect symbiosis of performance and content, but, despite the research and practise that went into them, they do not read well and are more often than not, indecipherable melanges of mashed-together quotation and multiple voices. In one, for an old school friend, who I, when writing it, imagined had died foolishly through drink or drug abuse, I begin by jumping deftly down from the altar (there are 'stage' directions included in almost all the texts) and, in an approximation of the voice of Chris Rock I say, pointing to the coffin: "You see in this basket here? [pause] This here's my nigga, my homeboy. This is my nigga in here. My nigga. This is my nigga in here." I recall spending several days trying to get that accent right and having particular difficulties with getting the inflection on the last 'here' exactly correct. It had to soften out the choppiness of the preceding 'nigga' without over-emoting, without getting too sentimental too early. I remember saying the phrase over and over again. I went on, in the obituary, to quote, at length, Mallarme, John Donne and Kevin Keegan.

One specialist I saw, having read through a selection of the manuscripts, pointed out that most of the obituaries were about me, not about their supposed subjects. They were a space for my own anxieties about social interaction to be played out with me as the star, unassailable, always with the right thing to say, the right move to make. In another obituary, for a girl I kissed in a nightclub during the first week of university, I began with the following: "Bitch, I wanted to fuck you so bad. [addressing coffin] You know that don't you bitch? You know we would have done it so nasty. [return to face audience] Look, we're here now and... [long pause] You know what? Fuck all this bullshit. I'm serious. [throw down big pile of papers] This ain't what my girl was all about. [light up a joint (note this has to be a real joint)] Yeah! This is the stuff, right?! [pick up boombox, start up tape of pounding drum&bass, commence dancing around the altar whooping and shouting 'Yeah!']..." It continues when the music suddenly changes to a New Orleans dirge and I am suddenly reminded of her more 'contemplative, spiritualistic' side, and the obituary ends with my own acapella rendition of Simply Red's 'Stars'.

I recognise that, for a short period, this obsession took over my life and I was insane. I work now, still, my job is not so bad as the mailroom, though it is not a great deal better. In time, I feel that things will improve. Perhaps I will be able to return to university and finish my studies. At times, mostly when I'm on the bus to work, I think that I would like to leave the country, live somewhere else. The coast maybe. I often think that I would like to live by the seaside. My dad phoned me the other day, he said he'd been thinking about me. We hadn't really talked since my problems, I don't think. He said that when he dies, he wants me to stay away from the funeral, that he'll stipulate in his will that if I interfere in any way, if I'm even in the church car park on the day, then I get nothing from him.
 
 
 
 
 
 
sins of flesh whil>sins of flesh</b> >sins of flesh</b> sat on th>sins of flesh</b> sat on the bench, damp woo>sins of flesh</b> sat on the bench, damp wood eeking into his coat, weetamix, his head down, h>sins of flesh</b> sat on the bench, damp wood eeking into his coat, weetamix, his head down, his legs crossed, the clock on the face struck, th birds sins of flesh damp coat, birds.

beauty and disdain. ze first time i saw you wz. one in the supermarket picking between cuts of meat, your skin pink like the meat out of the blackness birdnoise in th round the clock face striking. no, that can't be right. two buying cigarettes in th newsagent. goodnight. no. three in a book, in a library, or looking up from one. in a taxi, blurring past at the traffic lights.

sins of flesh time dribbled along. somewhere birds sang. weetamix wz on his bench, his back was to the wall. ahead of him was the ornate symmetry of the botanical gardens. earthenware flowerpots with neat crenellations. rows of grey trees in winter leafless, boxed hedges, first rings of daffodils, crocuses. his head wz slumped down. out of the corner of his eyes he kept seeming to see the snow returning, a stray flake that dissipated if he raised his eyes or turned his head. on the cropped grass, stubborn patches of snow and ice still persisted on the blotchy skin of the earth.

one the ache was returning. it began in a spot behind his left eye. he felt its strain and pressed his icy fingers into the socket. no. no more. not again.one the first time i saw you wz... on a pier, as if in th sky. he pulled all his body close in. tight in. he tasted blood in his throat from the cough. bad this time. over on the hills the streetlights were coming off, it wz dawn. birds sang.

in th tunnel again. no, not that.

four behind weetamix's eyes the sky flashed on and off, a broken striplight, twittering in time with the chants of birds, with the clipped exchanges of his twitching feet and the beige gravel beneath them.

the first time i saw you, i came to your door. i was carrying flowers. you let me in. it was easy. i'm trying to remember how it went. you a record on, abba it was. the one thing, you said, that you weren't normally allowed to play - I thought everyone liked abba - you said. serious? yeah serious.

six i told my manager. i asked him about taking some time off.

weetamix's fingers glowed. he blew hard into them and his breath curled around. he had wasted a lot of time. the pain came in waves, newly stronger, richer, purer each time. he pushed his head further into the coat, though it wasn't the cold that was causing the pain. he couldn't sleep. it wouldn't be long before they were opening up now. he tried to stand but, uh, not yet, not yet. his left eye seemed to explode inwards. far off dogs barked. unnanounced, the fountain at the end of the path burst into life, water oozing and then bursting over its delicate cream surfaces. water spilled, water drizzled. each layer of the fountain was disturbed by new water pouring from the top downwards. the deep bowls began to overflow and run into each other. the fountain depicted a minotaur splurping from his maul a constant stream that drooled down into successive curlicued bowls, structured a little like a maze, until the bowl filled and overflowed into the next winding trap. on, on, into the earth.

weetamix had worked. he had. he slumped now, a clump of flesh, chasing a dream of skin. his eyes shut, the ache gone. skin cracked from cold, head like an egg. far off the dogs were barking. the birds twitched in the empty branches. all over the hills the clouds were clearing and the streetlights were switching off. soon the roads would be slammed with cars, so many that the hills seemed to crawl, be infested. the gardens would open and weetamix would be found no longer sleeping, no longer awake.
 
 
 
 
 
 
men and motors phasei put on my men and motors costume. it was. we were going on a night out. i was in my men and motors phase. are you in your men and motors phase. i was in my men and motors phase. hands were out. we were on the floor. or in the pub. on cable tv. i go to a club. i'm in my men and motors phase. a bit of drinking. a bit of dancing. can't remember the music. what channel are you watching. i put my men and motors costume on. for a night out it was. afterwards on the street. mirrors in the toilets. blocks of cartoon flesh. tv cameras, extras. i can't go to a club. sitting down. i was in my men and motors phase. oh god. where has... the radio is broken now. glass and cigarettes. cans. hands were up my top, skirt. i was in my men and motors phase. later it was all on tv for a few seconds, though slowed down, the music just a battered pulse of backed-up howlaround on our cheap set. we taped it but later i thought, my dad watches this channel.
 
 
 
 
 
 
trudge of scurf on his day off, the butcher leaves his house. it is morning but there is no sun, the sky and sea the colour of dry pavement and dusty glass, respectively, the line of the horizon barely, just barely distinguishable. he is wrapped in coats, big and brown. his coat has five pockets, but just one, the secret one hidden inside the coat, under his arm, against his heart is full. he feels the front of the coat, against where the pocket is with a gloved hand and marks out the hard shape, something like a tooth, longer though, perhaps less hard. but it is his song, his music. the sand is pitch and in front of him it stretches, grey, night grey, deep in its desolation. behind him are the marshes, dangerous damplands. he looks ahead, toward the arcs of brown rock, the cliff meets the sea and the beach curls to its own drab end. he walks along the scurf, the sand is heavy beneath him, damp, difficult to penetrate. the tide, coming in, on its way in, the greying water flicks his dark shoes, edges away his footprints, his heelmarks that fill with water, that fill with green water and break up, the outlines softening, turning less hard, filling with grey water and foam, swooshing back, effacing. he looks ahead of him, brown scarf bunched around his chin, moist where he blows out into it. in the sand around him the butcher sees empty beer bottles, the shrivelled remains of crisp packets, chip cartons, cans and cans of coke. to his left are the dunes, shingle escarpments rough with thick waxy grass and arduous pathways stubbed with glass.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I left work. The sky was steel and pearl, steel and pearl. Smoke, rain, hammers, cars. At dinner everyone was talking about new music:
“I just can’t get into that level of atonality. To me it seems perverse.”
“Yeah, he’s taking the rockstar pose to a ridiculous extreme, testing the limits of anti-sociability. To like that music is really very reactionary-bourgeois. Nobody really likes it, they just like what it stands for: an edge, a supposed barrier to taste. It’s juvenile.”
“I don’t see any political element in it, to me it’s a soundscape, music to get lost in.”
“Political?!” they both burst in at the same time. I got up from the table and went into the kitchen. The potatoes were boiling over. Margaret and Claire were aping a supposedly conservative line to test its flexibility. For them it was a an experiment in bending their thinking and an attempt to bring Richard out of his comfortably open tastes. A social experiment. Richard was defending, defending too hard a music he was only lukewarm about because he did like what it stands for more than he liked the music. From the table I overheard someone ask: “Which is the more intellectual word, ‘yes’ or ‘no‘?”
I put my tshirt on.

The trees were studded black against the magenta pavement. Dogs and men filled the streets. I struggled down the escarpment and hopped over the triangular fence. I was going to the chip shop. Behind me, the city stretched beneath. I looked out over the corrugated iron facades of industrial parks, red-brick offices, concrete and tatty, stretches filled with rollcages, piles of palettes or tyres, cockeyed cars parked up. Shreds of plastic noise rose up, like vultures from the city, blunt and anechoic. I turned around and waited to cross the street. In front of me a row of small shops. Chipshop, newsagent. Through the open window of a solicitors office, two women in saris, one a cool black, the other a nauseous lime green, sat opposite each other, silent, staring. The office was small, rectangular and plain, dark wood and magnolia walls.

Fiddling with the dial on the radio I finally found the pirate station. To hear it properly I had to earth it by keeping hold of the fully extended aerial. The DJ was chatting shit about me anyway. I put on my butcher’s costume. It wasn’t real blood on my apron and they weren’t real words I was saying, they were phrases memorised from hours of video footage taken of myself in nightclubs, at parties, while drunk, while high. My flat was full of video tapes at this point. I put the radio on top of them and the phone next to it. Sometimes I’d call up the pirate station and get them to do shout-outs to me or I’d do a shout out to myself (the butcher) and then hold the phone near enough to the radio to start a piercing feedback loop.

I went into the chipshop.

The streets forged sounds all around me. Pure and unabashed. Before I reached the lip of the hill I could feel the music, hear the music. The butcher was out, I held my cleaver before me. The blood on it, some of it was fake some of it was real. Hey, what can I say? Dogs and men lined the streets. They looked at me, the dogs, the men, they looked at me. I ate in the chipshop. The drugs were a decadent pleasure. I came back over the hill. The city was in front of me. The lights in the shops, in the houses, in the factories, the streetlights, even the moon, they were all out.
 
 
 
 
 
 
On Sunday night, in the dark, we took the old computer from the house, down the hill and into a skip. She, Caroline, carried the hard drive and I bore the weighty monitor in my arms with the lead splaying and kicking about my legs. On the hill, the big stone houses bore down on us like chess pieces facing each other down. Prawns, castles, horsies. The houses had no net curtains and so each plush living room, each cherry-red leather sofa, each zigzag CD rack and Jack Vetriano, flat screen TV, anglepoise lamp, blanketed eyes stared us down as we hobbled past with the old and broken computer equipment. In the house, the new computer, flash and black and made of cheap plastic sang on the desk. It played music. It played films. I typed a story on it.

On the street in the night time, the grey sheet drill of alarm clock noise, the sky a black tear or a black tear and raindrops like pickles of orange. Orange pools glugged down the hill and into the drains.

Caroline, I don’t think you’ve quite…
You don’t seem to understand. We lay in the bed and over the other side of the room a CD was skipping. Mother fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…
We were talking about that guy, the singer out of. Or.
“I’ll tell you what it was like. You remember that girl from work? Remember my last day?”
“You were only there a week.”
“I was only there a week but that’s not the story.”
“Why did you leave again?”
“I told you why.”
“Yeah but…”
“But what?”
“Nothing. Just tell the story.”
Mother fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…

The monitor was heavy in the wrong direction and I struggled after Caroline down the hill. She walked ahead, confident and strong. I had to stop, put the monitor down and put my hands on my knees. I struggled down. The rain hit me and hit the monitor. Ahead of me, the rain hit Caroline. I reached the skip where she stood, looking down at the hard drive, which lay on its side on a damp grey mattress. Beads of grey water cling to the plastic and metal. With effort, I flung the monitor onto the mattress, into the skip. Crash. The computer remembered more and more accurately than I ever could. It remembered my stories and my songs. But it had sinned, but it had forgotten. All of its thoughts lay dormant on the grey mattress, wet and broken. Caroline stood for a long time, waiting, looking down at the skip. Which contained a broken up blue chest of drawers, a grey mattress and an old computer. Goodbye old computer.

Caroline was checking the TV listings on ceefax.
“Did I tell you I spoke to Tony on the phone the other day? On Tuesday.”
“You didn’t tell me.”
“Yeah, well, er, he’s going to be on TV, they picked him out for this show.”
“Oh right, what sort of show is it?”
“It’s like a talking heads show with people reminiscing about the Japanese noise scene in the late 80s. Masami Akita is going to be on it too. He’s being interviewed in a lapdancing club. It‘s going to be on channel four later this year.”
“Tony or Akita?”
“What?”
“Who is being interviewed in the lapdancing club, Tony or Masami Akita?”
“Oh, Tony. I think it’s a Spearmint Rhino.”
“Why the fuck would he want to do something like that?”
“Well he told them at the audition that he liked nightlife, so they’re interviewing him there I guess.”
“No. Not that. I mean, why is he doing the show at all? It’s disgusting, it’s fucking degrading man.”

After a time, Caroline looked over at me, sniffed, and started back up the hill. The dim uplighter glow that broke apart the apple-white rooms to our right and left. We climbed. Busy eyes and hands watched from underneath duvets and cotton throws, squidging cushions. On the screen Tony said:
“After ninety-two we were back in the clubs. That was real house music man. They rocked on a beat and we were all like… yeah! Dizzy P was wearing a toga that one time and… nah, nah, nah. That was the real scene. And then a day later we’d be in some warehouse getting stopped by the police for being too fucking loud. Have you heard their sirens of an evening? Criminal man. Anyway I regard house in its purest form as being like noise y’know. Merzbow sometimes, I put that on and, uh, that’s house to me. That’s house music. It’s a feeling.”

Motherfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck…
“No, come on, what do you mean?”
“Nothing, just… please, tell the story that you were going to.”
“Well you obviously have some sort of problem with me leaving there, but I’ve told you why.”
“Ok. Well. I don’t have a problem. You had your reasons.”
“Come on, you can’t just say that and expect me to carry on.”
“Say what?”
“Nothing.”
“What? Come on.”
“Well. You just say ‘You had your reasons’ like that and… well, it’s like, you obviously don’t respect my reasons.”
“I do. Please. Just tell your story.”
“Ok, where did I get up to?”
“You hadn’t started.”
“No?”
“No. You mentioned the girl?”
“Yeah, you know the one I mean?”
“No.”
“You do. I told you about her, the blonde one.”
“Oh, the one with the… she didn’t know who Takeshi Kosugi is?”
“Yeah that’s the one.”
“Come on then, tell me.”
“Alright well anyway on my last day… have I told you about this before?”
“No.”
“Are you sure? I remember telling someone.”
“Well it wasn’t me.”
“This is like, you remember when you watched that show with Tony on it, the talking heads one? And you remember watching it with me, but I definitely wasn’t there, remember? Because I was out with thingy?
“Yeah it is a bit actually. I still can’t believe that actually, I have such a vivid memory of that night because wasn’t it the night when we got rid of the old computer?”
“No no, we didn’t have the new computer then and we didn’t get rid of the old one until the new one came.”
“Oh right. It’s weird.”
“But, er, I haven’t told you then?”
“I don’t think so, I might remember when you start telling me.”
“Stop me if you do because it will be boring otherwise.”
“I will, but don’t worry about it.”
“Ok, er. Yeah so on my last day this girl comes up to me, about ten minutes before I’m about to leave and, like, you remember me saying about how everyone else in the office was quite resentful about me leaving, because they had to get someone else obviously…”
“Yeah”
“Well, this girl comes up to me and starts talking to me. I thought she didn’t like me after the Kosugi thing, because I sort of made her look a bit stupid you know?”
“Right.”
“So anyway she comes up to me and she’s being all nice to me, telling me that she thinks she’s sad that I’m leaving, but that she thinks my reasons are completely valid and that if she had the guts to leave she would as well, for the same reasons in fact.”
“Ok.”
“What do you mean, ‘ok’?”
“What?”
“You just said ok, like, I don’t know.”
“Come on, just tell the story.”
“Well I’m not going to if you’re going to be like that.”
“Please, I didn’t mean anything.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”
“Ok. Anyway. I can’t remember where I was now. She comes up to me and she’s saying all this stuff, being really nice and like, I don’t know what to say back to her because I didn’t really have anything in common, didn’t even like her very much really. But she’s being all nice to me, and I’m getting ready to leave. I’ve got my coat and bag in my hand and she says to me ‘Can I have a hug before you leave?’ and, well, I could hardly refuse could I, in front of everyone?”
“I suppose not.”
“So she leans in and I’m just expecting this short friendly hug, but she pulls me right into her, she’s pressing herself against me. And, I’m not feeling anything, do you know what I mean? Nothing is stirring. We stayed like that for an uncomfortably long time. I don’t know how long it was but it seemed like ages, just there in the middle of the office, her pressing into me. I didn’t know where to put my hands. But, the key point it I felt nothing. Normally when a girl hugs you you sort of like… you know, you feel something.”
“I get what you’re saying. But this time you felt nothing happening?”
“Exactly, and she must have felt it too because eventually she pulled away, stood about a pace in front of me, looked down and then up with the filthiest face, scrunched up with hurt and rage and then she turned around and walked away down the corridor.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
"What haunts are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others."
- Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok
 
 
 
 
 
 
1) Was 2007 a good year for you?

This year we took the wheels off the car and put it up on bricks. This was January, and by the winter grass had grown up around the bricks, tendrils of grass, sticky to the touch. Rats began to live in the car, spiders made their webs among its folds. The rusting of the car, the frost on its windscreen, its increasing decrepitude was 2007. In 2006 we drove it, the four of us, me in the front and Simon and the two kids in the back, two hundred miles to the sea. 2007 was the year the car went nowhere. In April I put a blue tarpaulin over it and secured it with tent pegs. Moisture gathered up underneath the tarpaulin, causing the car to rust ever faster. In January it just needed repairs that we couldn't afford, by December it was beyond repair, unlooked at and useless.

2007 was not a good year for me. In July, following a night of excessive drug consumption where I had mistakenly given a man my parents home address, they received a letter detailing not only my consumption of narcotics and my misanthropy, but also my miserable descent into the murk of s&m, the fetish world. In late August, following an evening where I, dressed as a giant panda, had spent much of the night fondling the masked face of a man dressed as a giant fox, I returned from the club to find several enraged answer phone messages on my machine. My dad was shouting and incoherent and his mood had not changed by the next morning when, on one of the worst comedowns of my life, I had called him up and, unable to maintain the pretense of outrage, unable to keep up the idea that this was a hoax, particularly after it was revealed that there were photographs.
"How do you think it feels," my dad said "to open your post over breakfast and find a picture of your only son, rolling around naked with what looks like a man in a gorilla costume while several people look on? How do you think that's going to make me feel? Do you think that makes my egg and toast any more appetising? How do you think your mother feels? She's beside herself."
Realising this was fight or flight time, I fought.
"Dad, look. This stuff, it's none of your business. What I do, it's harmless. Nobody gets hurt, some of it is illegal, yes, but there's no danger involved. If you're in that kind of club there's no risk, everybody looks out for everybody else. And look Dad, you're hardly one to criticise, I know it was never brought to trial or whatever but everybody knows you beat up that prostitute." There was silence. I had said the magic word. "She was only seventeen dad." The phone went click.

2) What was your least favourite moment of the year?

In a taxi with Simon in mid-October, he casually began talking about the fact that, now that his Mother's cancer was definitely inoperable, he was shortly going to come into a great deal of money. He had been behaving strangely all afternoon after having seen her in hospital. At first I put this down to the heaviness of the emotions involved at the news and actually felt sympathy at the erraticness of his behaviour and the non-sequiturs that seemed to make up most of his conversation. However, as this talk began, in the back of the taxi, I realised that what he was actually feeling was excitement at the prospect of having his mother's money. His obnoxious side, which is characterised by him insulting people but giving the insults the syntax and vocal emphases of a joke, comes out during such moments of excitement and nervousness and I felt it beginning to take a firmer and more permanent hold on his personality that evening. By eleven he was drunk and confessed to me that the plans he had for spending the money did not really include me.

The worst moment of the year came in early December, at his Mother's funeral. It was her wish that she be buried at dawn and so we stood in the freezing cold in a cemetery that overlooked the whole city. White dribbles of aeroplane trails blotted the air and a block mass of grey cloud zimmed the green sky. Simon had been up all night and had taken ketamine a little while before the ceremony. His teeth chattered noisily and his eyes bulged at the coffin being lowered. Later, at the wake he quizzed members of his family in his obnoxious way, goaded them about their jobs, their clothes, their whole outlook. Two days later he left me.

3) Where were you when 2007 began?

The last few hours of 2006 were spent at my parents' house. They had gone to bed early, not being fans of excess at new years and I, unable to sleep, had contented myself with surfing the internet on their pc, downloading music and films with their expensive new broadband package. As the clock approached midnight I was watching Andy Warhol's film 'Trash', which I had downloading, and flicking between various webpages. A little bored, I browsed through the history on the computer and found, somewhat to my distate, that a large number of pages on the theme of giantessophilia had been visited. The only conclusion I could reach from this was that my father must possess this particular fetish and, browsing through one of the sites, I opened a video clip that showed two large women in latex bikinis and stilletto heels, crushing a lego town, picking up the little lego men and sticking them between their breasts. As the clock ticked over and 2007 began I was grimly masturbating as they embarrasedly removed each other's flimsy clothing and performed awkward oral sex among the ruins of the lego city.

4) Who were you with?

Alone with the fake giants and the gentle rumble of my father's snore in the next room.

5) Where will you be when 2007 ends?

I have not been invited home this year, so probably alone. If I can find the energy I will be in a grubby club, dressed in a latex nurses uniform, hopefully so out of it that I am unable to stand.

6) Who will you be with when 2007 ends?

Either alone or among the sweaty denizens of the aformentioned club. A robot, a pirate, a fox, a duck.

7) Did you keep your new years resolution of 2007?

I resolved that I would finish with Simon, which did happen, though by the time it did it had become far more messy and far less liberating than I anticipated at the beginning of the year. Two days after the funeral I awoke to find the bed empty, the front room ransacked, all the mirrors in the house broken and a note written in lipstick glued (yes) to the fridge saying simply 'AYIA NAPA!!!'

8) Do you have a New Years resolution for 2008?

To find Simon. He isn't in Ayia Napa anymore. The butcher who lives round the corner, who is still in communication with him won't tell me where he is, but I have a scheme up my sleeve to get him to tell. Last week I gave him a particularly complicated order which necessitated him going out to his storehouse, which is located behind his shop. I got one of the kids to wait in the alley there while he went in and then to stop the door as he left. The kid then went into the storehouse and planted larvae there. Soon the place will be crawling with maggots and I will threaten to call environmental health if he doesn't tell me where Simon is.

Also to get a mail order bride.

9) Did you break up with anyone in 2007?

With Simon, with my parents, with the car.

10) Did you make any new friends in 2007?

Many, but I saw none of their faces.

11) Who are your favourite new friends?

Gorilla, Giant Panda, Pantomime Horse, Blue Duck

12) What was your favourite month of 2007?

April

13) Did you travel outside of the UK in 2007?

Once. To Ayia Napa.

14) How many different places did you travel to in 2007?

I think it was nine.

15) Did you lose anybody close to you in 2007?

Simon. The kids.

16) Did you miss anybody in the past year?

I missed when doing drugs was still linked with having fun, however tenuously. I missed all the friends who were driven away by Simon, mostly because they were right about him. People had been falling away since 2005, but this was the year when they left in their droves. Our arguments, always a dirty undercurrent in public, blazed this year. We fought about clothes, about our 'open relationship', about drugs, about money, about people. And people left because of embarrasment, because of insults, because of fear. And I miss you all. Oh, guys, come back. Please.

17) What was your favourite movie that you saw in 2007?

Miss Congeniality 2

18) What was your favourite song from 2007?

Black Eyed Peas - My Humps

19) What was your favourite album from 2007?

Get Physical 2nd Anniversary Mix

20) How many concerts did you see in 2007?

A hundred.

21) Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2007?

Bottle after bottle.

22) Did you do a lot of drugs in 2007?

Enough ketamine to wallpaper your house.

23) Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?

Two things. The first was that I killed the butcher's dog. This was in February. I trapped it in the alley behind his shop and shot it. I then roughly cut a chunk of its flesh and kept it in the freezer. The remainder of the carcass I threw into the bin where he throws the meat. In June, he visited our house for a dinner party and I served him the dogmeat that had been in my freezer for four months. He forced it down and even complimented me on it after I slyly insinuated that it was a cut of meat that he himself had recommended. He loved that dog. It was called Gill.

The second was that I fucked the butcher's wife. He loves her, her name is Gill. I know he is impotent and cannot bear it. One day I went round to her house on the pretext of looking for him, though I knew full well he wouldn't be there. I took four pills and put rohypnol in her drink and then fucked her from behind for two straight hours, by the end of which she was beginning to come round.

24) What was the biggest lie you told in 2007?

I told the butcher that it was Simon who dateraped his wife. He did not believe me.

25) What was the worst lie someone told you in 2007?

Simon told me that he dateraped the butcher's wife. I didn't believe him.

26) Did you treat somebody badly in 2007?

Everyone.

27) Did somebody treat you badly in 2007?

No one.

28) Number of people you slept with in 2007?

67

29) How much money did you spend in 2007?

A pound.

30) What was your most embarrassing moment of 2007?

Asking former celebrity Daniela Westbrook if she knew "anywhere good to get gak round here". I seriously had no idea who she was!

31) If you could go back in time to any moment of 2007 and change it,
what would it be?

In May, Kelly and I were sitting in the park, having a few cans. It was a little after dawn and I was starting to come down. We had nothing left on us. The compulsory hangover randiness crept up on me. Kelly was beautiful that morning. There was no sun and the moon was still up. The streetlights had gone out though. She was still pretty high and she said, "Let's run away. This is all bullshit, let's go to America." I wish I hadn't fucking gone to America.
 
 
 
 
 
 
the butcher. he has left the bin they throw meat in outside my door.
blood comes out the bottom even though it is empty.

even thought.

the butcher and i. his fingers swelled up, four greasy gold rings over fattened out skin. he died. yesterday.

he left the bins outside my house everyday. the flies. the sound of dull metal against brick. the butcher was called simon. in his hands was meat.
 
 
 
 
 
 
...gorge themselves on Cioran, Beckett, Artaud and all today's hallowed forms of cynicism and nihilism, the better to evade any analysis of the current forms of despair. They denounce with the greatest moral and political energy every present instance of nihilism, of the nihility of our values, while 'culturally' savouring the heroic but anachronistic forms of nihilism and the inhuman. They glorify the accursed share, but keep the holy water handy.

- Jean Baudrillard, 'Cool Memories 2'
 
 
 
 
 
 
forlorn idea: "The true king only dies a mock death." (thomas pynchon)

famously, the king, who was the queen's brother and oberheim, the queen's partner, did not get on. to begin with, before oberheim was even heard of, it had been scandalous and unorthodox for the queen's brother to assume the role of king, there was simply no precedence for it. the people talked, but they could not challenge this new authority and around the king and queen that debased cabal grew up and entered its desperate state around them. the king, more ill-adjusted, stunted by his too-early entry into the shadow world of the queen's glow, was meticulous about their circle, recording lists of people on scraggy bits of paper, grubbed over with adjustments and readjustments. he kept vast and big diaries detailing the slightest tics of people's behaviour, tightly paranoiac, he drank and drank, becoming callous and aggressive. with the withering pseudo-intellectualism of a dazzling henry darger he would cut people from the circle and never speak of them again. his ideology was one of an ever-rolling year zero but undercut with a bitter, unforgiving remembrance of those ousted and if they were spoken of it was with shot-dead words. meanwhile outside, on the queens land, the rivers sweated tar and were black, the horses had all fled and the blacksmiths were on strike.

what seems strangest of all, the most blank irony, was that the king and queen had no real power at all, no kingdom and no subjects. we all believed it and i only know the truth because i was briefly (so cruelly glimpsed), a part of their circle, even gaining admission to the inner circle while i, perhaps unwillingly (i can at least say ambiguously, though my recollection of the time is marred by my own subsequent feelings, i cannot fully account for my emotions or impulses then) was something of a flavour of the month for the king and queen.

almost nothing is known about the queen's partner, oberheim. she came to the queen while the queen was at the height of her power, the most glowing and the most pyrotechnically deranged. oberheim was called something else then, her real name was tiresias, but she was commonly known as elka. she changed her name shortly after joining the queen and it quickly became clear that their coming together had changed the queen. she became more subdued, drew away a little from public life, her priorities seemed to change, and with them her excesses. it was rumoured that oberheim was something of an ascetic and was focussed on a doctrine of the purity of the body through self-denial. the tabloids speculated that they went for days without eating, holed up in their castle by the sea, admitting nobody, just sitting gazing at each other in bland, profound disquiet.

the king was appalled and, never a tactful man, crassly denounced their relationship whenever asked about it. in public where all three were present he would try to extract the queen from oberheim and, fuelled by vast quantities of spirits, they would have hysterical conversations and weep and wail. the king became even more resentful and difficult than before. wanting to dismiss oberheim from the circle and yet unable to do so he felt the sorry nip of having been ousted from the queen's favour. it doubly upset him to conceive of himself as second best to this flakling thing, this oberheim, who barely sqeaked a word to anyone but the queen and dressed always like a child. the queen, too, felt this nip, her brother was, she knew, almost universally despised by the circle - though they were at great pains not to show it - how could they not be, given his cruelty, his moods? and yet, though she had the power to, she could not drop him because (and this was the greatest nip that any of them felt) by showing him great power too early she had created him as he was.
 
 
 
 
 
 
i got lost in woods
a dog lost in woods
i got picked up in a car and we drove down the motorway
hundreds of endless horses were driving up the other lane in the other direction
their riders were jockeys, bright coloured shards on their clothes and hats
i went to the swimming baths
the action of the water made the lines of the tiles erratic and senseless
i was a waiter and i brought food to each table, some wanted pasta

there was loud music, horses and hundreds of blind dogs
their eyes like marbles or ruddy pearls
and whimpering like the creak of a violin or a stuck wheel or a door or a train

and i wrote something
about a cd i made and masturbating on the bathroom floor and the book i read
music was playing, loud music
there were horses and hundreds of blind dogs
the dogs circled round the horses legs, getting trampled
i took my bag and my books and put my headphones on
i rode my bike out to the woods
i took my book out and read
the rain came and the sky got darker
i got up and couldn't find my way back out

in the car the man talked to me about mariah carey
he had owned all her records and posters and tshirts

his car had a smell like gravy granules or broth
my fingers hurt from typing
he asked me about what i was doing, my future plans, what job i had, about my boyfriend
i told him only lies, but i still felt i had given too much of myself away
he wore a blue denim shirt and jeans
his skin was red and his chest hair was white

part of the reason i have rules is to examine them, ask myself why they are good and why it's good to abide by them
i can't be bothered making it make no sense
the horses were the trunks of trees and the dogs were insects rustling the crumpled brittle leaves
the story i read was about solving a crime, it was all to do with rules
i was almost at the end when rain slopped onto my page
are you sad now?
i got up and didn't know where i was or where i had left my bike

i think of stories when i swim
i do the backstroke and flings of water crescendo off the tips of my fingers
the light goes in lines at the bottom of the pool and the lines of the tiles makes no sense, i can't establish a pattern with it
too many factors
and i think, i'd like to make stories like that, words like water

the images flashed back to me, though creased, like an old video recording
i was reading my book
the sound was wonky and distorted, there was an impairment in the sounds of voices so that they became alien inaudible
it seemed like a truth though, not an impression
i don't know which is better
i lay on the floor, a towel underneath me, the floor still felt hard
i thought dreams and fantasies but mostly my mind wandered until i was distracted by mild orgasm

more stories, hero ones this time
the horses were the man in the car and i was the blind doggs
my eyes had gone hard, cracked and fallen out, they felt cold
the sockets were bare and fluid that was warm and felt grey, though i couldn't tell the colour, ran from them continually
the horses trampled me
there was no car and no motorway
the land was black and flat
we were in a long room with a wooden floor and elegant portraits fell down it
i think it was the same way
i was a waiter, the music was loud
lost in woods
dog lost in woods
 
 
 
 
 
 
It had been a long time, years perhaps, since the queen had been spotted in public. The public, who were also her subjects, longed to be in the sight of her and every picture that was released, snapped by some brave paparazzo at a private function or down a long lens from concealment, was pored over and analysed. Was the queen getting thinner, more drawn? Was she ever leaving the house now? The gossip magazines talked endlessly about her, speculating over her eating habits, her style of dress, who she surrounded herself with. The press surrounded her castle, keeping their cameras focussed on windows whose curtains remained always closed, doors that stayed shut, snapping only the come and go of servants, delivery men, occasionally friends and family. It became the talk of the country - what has happened to our queen?

Things had not always been this way, far from it in fact, there had been a time when the queen was regularly visible and accessible to her subjects. For some years she indulged herself with lavish parties and elaborate adventures for herself and her select circle of friends. She had a string of lovers, often, it was rumoured, more than one at a time and almost all of them considered deeply unsuitable by the senators and senior officials of the nation. Still, the party continued, with people coming and going according to the caprices of the queen. Entry to her circle depended upon a person meeting various criteria decided by the queen at that particular time. Often she would see a person and introduce them to the circle based entirely on their looks, regardless of how they subsequently behaved and they would remain there indefinitely, whereas another, indistinguishable from the first, or perhaps better seeming to a layman, might fight for months for inclusion only to be denied, or ousted after just a few moments for an ill-chosen remark or a poorly worn outfit. The demands of the circle were high and membership was always precarious. Those former members, ousted for whatever vice or transgression, were often reluctant to speak of their experiences, especially to a monstrous tabloid press, but those that did, either through simple need of the money or those that wanted some vengeance, spoke of the things the tabloids desired, yes, the drugs, the booze, the boyfriends, but mostly they spoke of atmospheres and lists and criteria. The queen, it seemed from their accounts, was not so much wild and bohemian as self-destructive. The drugs and drink she used were not catalysts to having a good time, but rather instruments in producing self-effacement. The circle was a similar device. It seemed that what the queen truly was torn up inside by a deep contradiction, namely, between self-loathing and self-loving. She wanted those in her circle to be almost mirrors of her, to seem to fit so perfectly the things that she loved herself that they would almost live for her and speak for her, meet her demands without her having to voice them. This was arrogance indeed, but with that incredible narcissism came the tempering force of self-obliteration. If she was surrounded with people who were like mirrors of herself, then she became less unique, less singular.

Experts speculated that these traits were inextricably linked to her status. Being queen is a uniquely lonely position and the queen sought to assuage her loneliness through these various devices. By surrounding herself with people who met her high and ever-changing standards she not only became part of a group, but she felt the most important and necessary part of it, she was the glue that bound the people together, her tastes were their tastes. But the reality of the situation was far from this idyll of friendship and togetherness, for the circle was fraught with backbiting, awkwardness and fear, staying in it was a constant and dreadful battle for acceptance from a difficult and unpredictable mistress. The sense of unity, if there was one at all, was a charade, a game with impossibly elaborate and mutable rules that they all played. If the queen realised this, and perhaps in some moments of reflection and deep estrangement she did, it was her greatest loneliness, her greatest loss.

Little is known about how the queen came to power, those that remember a time before her sovereignty have either forgotten or are forced to remain silent. There were queens before her, that much is known, but how many, or where they are now - if still living - it is not known. All that is known is that the queen came to power, by whatever means and on whomever’s authority. Who she was or what she did before she was queen is, again, unknown. Part of the reason for the gaps in her history are owing to her great revisionism. The queen swiftly eradicates and discards all aspects of her history that are not pleasing to her. Former members of the circle are stricken from her records and once you have left the circle, re-admittance is extremely rare.

In appearance the queen at first seemed unremarkable, she was not considered especially beautiful, and nor were her features particularly striking. There was, however, with time, a certain attractive quality about her. She lacked style too, but many imitated her way of dressing, her haircuts, even her mannerisms and quirks of speech. This merely propagated her distance from her subjects. Those that played the game best were selected for her circle and, with nothing new to draw from, with everyone constantly narrowing their scope, narrowing their criteria of acceptance, their parties grew flat and destructive. People would drink too much, have screaming fits at each other, roll on the floor, too high, too fucked, the queen among the worst of them.

The queen’s land was flat and black. She herself lived in a castle by the sea along with her six favourites. This was the inner circle, and those admitted to it were both the most secure and the most precarious of all. The house was an invention entirely her own, no queen before her had lived in this way. Only two of the six were beyond the queen’s whims and took permanent place in the house and in the inner circle. They were the king, who was not the queen’s partner but actually her brother and the queen’s partner, who was called Oberheim.
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. tocotronic - pure venuft darf niemals siegen (superpitcher and wasserman single mix)
2. justus kohncke - timecode
3. frank martiniq - adriano (m. mayer mix)
4. farenc - yes sir i can hardcore (m. mayer mix)
5. tiefschwarz - ghostrack (black strobe mix)
6. abysm - future love
7. the mogs - kelly blame (vocal)
8. jaumetic - quien marca se pone
9. senor coconut - smooth operator (agoria mix)
10. jc chasez - all day long i dream about sex
11. john tejada - sweat on the walls
12. fransisco - fregna the age
13. chelonis r. jones - i don't know
 
 
 
 
 
 
the fire started around midday in the house across the street. nobody was home at the time so we speculated that it was started by a badly disposed-of cigarette, since the whole family, two adults and three children were big smokers, barring the youngest child who was only eight or nine years old. the first indication that the house was on fire came when somebody, i don't know who, noticed black smoke coming from the chimney and from the bathroom window, which had been left ajar. this person called the fire brigade who arrived a little after one. we were stood on the grass in front of our house watching the smoke which was gushing out of the house like dozens of black and grey arms reaching out for help, clambering over each other. flames were now visible in the upstairs bedroom and we speculated that the fire must have started in one of the back bedrooms, because the smoke was too heavy for the few flames we could see. rain fell from the grey sky, as it had been doing for the past week and the grass under our feet was sodden, i had mud on my shoes and on the bottom of my trousers. a pair of dogs ran up and down the street, playing in the gardens, chasing each other and barking. i thought they belonged to a couple from further up the hill, but simon said that only one of them did and that the other, which he recognised from the park, must be a stray. the firemen went into the house with their hose and soon smoke was coming from the open front doorway. down the hall of the house, as much as you could see, there were no flames, but the walls were lit up orange from fire which was spreading down the stairs. because of the way the fire was spreading the firemen were having difficulty getting up the stairs to fight it, so it just seemed to get stronger until the whole front bedroom was ablaze. a little after two o'clock there was a tremendous crash from inside the house and moments later all of the firemen, except one, ran out of the house and regrouped, looking very concerned. we speculated that the the floor of one of the bedrooms, probably the one in which the fire had started had collapsed. we also speculated that one of the firemen must have been killed during this incident.

the rain continued to fall. a while later another fire engine arrived and more firemen began to tackle the blaze. their biggest concern now was to prevent the fire from spreading into the neighbouring houses. most of the residents from the street were stood nearby in little huddles. there was a sense that the longer this went on, the more it became an event, the more in fact that it brough the neighbours closer, gave them a new and easy context to converse in. the family that lived in the house, though, could not be contacted. the sky was turning a molten yellow colour, egg-yolky, and the air was muggy and close. the heat from the fire and the humidity of the evening became almost unbearable, but like ghouls everyone stood and watched in the pithy rain. around seven in the evening, just as it was turning darker there was a great snap of thunder like a derek bailey guitar line and the sky lit up and turned the metallic blue of old cars. there was lightning. the rain grew suddenly torrential and everyone rushed inside. from the window we could see the firemen working on the house, a third engine had arrived with a raised platform that had hoisted one man up to spray the roof which was now also on fire. the house was blasted out, all the windows were smashed, nothing inside would survive the fire.

it took them until the next evening to put the fire out completely. the adjacent houses were only superficially damaged, which was surprising and fortunate. it carried on raining for another week after that. the family whose house it was never returned to look at the black wreck that was once their home. we speculated that they had gone to live with relatives or friends elsewhere. we thought that perhaps it was a chance for them to make drastic changes in their lives, that despite the devastation they had suffered, things might eventually turn out improved for them. these events, vast in their implications and however terrible, can cause a mental reshuffling as well as a physical one. suffering change, in all its precariousness, is a path to pure and profound discovery. we saw the stray dog around the park all the time. it got to know us and would run across the waterlogged grass and jump up excitedly whenever we walked there. we considered taking it in and adopting it, we even thought of a name, but decided it would more content in freedom. it took a long time for someone to buy the house, almost a year. it was bought by a rich man who paid to have it renovated completely and then sold it on for a large profit to a young couple. within six months they had put it back on the market themselves.
 
 
 
 
 
 
silhouette dogs ran across the waterlogged land. there were howls in the park that got me out of bed and to the window. the park was shrouded in a weird light and the dogs were like little tufts scattered across a big dark leg. the grass was no colour i'd seen before and i couldn't work it out. i stood and watched it, trying to understand what had changed. the dog noises were louder, like the whole night had moved in closer to the room and there were sirens and the blast of traffic from the road in front of the house, which was behind me. in the air was rain, thin and sharp and miserly and the dogs made splashes that i could hear faintly when the traffic sounds died away. then there was shouting and a crash and simon ran into the room and told me to come look. his room was lit up all orange by the house across the road, which was on fire. sitting on the pavement in front of it was a dog and on the wet lawn in front of the house stood the family, two adults and two children, watching their house burn down.

it was around two in the morning but the fire made the street hotter and brighter than usual so it felt like no time at all because the sky was purple and dark and the wind that fanned the flames and the spits of cold rain reminded you equally of the cold in the air. simon and i had dressed and gone outside to watch the house turn black. the fire had begun in the kitchen, a chip pan fire started by the eldest of the children who was already dead and charred, lying and burning on the lino along with saucepans and cutlery, food, condiments, plates.

the family were huddled on the pavement, pushed back by firemen who had arrived in two big trucks and started to spray the house with their hoses. the fire, meanwhile, danced up the stairs and clicked and spat, cracking the windows, emerging rampant through doorways like pairs of black eyes and sucking everything up. a dog howled distantly, like an afterthought. the police were talking to the family and after a time they put them in the car and took them away, to a friend's house, or a family member's we presumed. there were tears in the little girls eyes and her face was but the man, the dad, his eyes bulged and he glared over at us, his face a flickery orange globe of pain. by now most of the people from the street were outside watching, or at their windows staring out. simon said that the firemen would be worried in case the fire spread to either of the adjacent houses and though their hoses poured an unending torrent of water, and though the rain had become heavier, the blaze just grew fatter. the brutal combination of heat and chill became unbearable for us and we went back inside to watch from the upstairs bedroom. my clothes were sodden but underneath them i was sticky with sweat. i felt drowsy.

i woke up and it was daytime. i was in simon's bed, but he must have undressed me because i had nothing on underneath the covers. i sat up and looked out of the window at the sky which was the colour of old plastic bags and the rain still fell weakly. across the road one listless fireman still stood aiming a hose at the house which was now grey - not black - though with tiny red gleams underneath it like a lava flow. pieces of furniture, electrical equipment and other unidentifiable charred remains were lain out on the wet garden in front of the house and the car was gone from the drive. i returned to my own room and looked out at the park. patches of the grass were covered in puddles, so heavy had the rain been all week. the dogs skirted round these, suspicious or nervous or simply not interested. until one, to the mock-horror of its giggling owners plunged right through the biggest puddle and came out glistening and trembling like the trees that blocked my view of the whole city which fell away behind them.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Weetamix traces the flowered pattern on the wallpaper once more with his eyes, looks at himself in the mirror. The stink of himself is still on the bed, tangible in the slight mattress indentation and crumpled heap of sheets. He paces the room in the muggy light from the window. Outside there is a storm. He looks outside to see the landscape changing. Houses crack and dissolve in front of him, lightning bursts open a dead black tree. The sky shivers and he feels serene, limitless. He begins to remember in glorious detail the weft of his life, memories tinctured and happy, everyone smiling, everything right. In his mind connections form across the span of his recollections, he comes to see the motives of people who have wronged him, comes to understand fully the stresses his parents faced, his brothers cruelty to him and he forgives them in a moment of ecstatic benevolence. All around him thunder claps and funeral music, drenching blissful chords, a glorious elemental drone plays and plays, syncopated by the noise of the thunder and the rain clacking against the house. Inside his arms and legs, in his groin, down his fingers Weetamix feels a surge of clean bliss. Without malice the events of his life stand before him, bathed in colour, like watching the tv with the colour turned up, all the streets he's ever walked down clean and white. The land outside metamorphoses. In the distance mountains rise up, pierce through the clouds with serene trajectories, distant majesty. Far away buildings evaporate and people meld in a fiery coalescence which is beautiful and silent, forest and jungle rises up where once there were cities, the clocks all stop, the glaciers burn up and become steam, the sea swells and runs and runs, engulfing all the land but one small portion. There was nothing ugly or refined about what came. Weetamix's mind swells and he seems to begin to think in a new, unheard-of language. Still the music plays on like a vast edifice. Rain drenches the remaining land and the new plants slurp it up. Weetamix remembers books that he has never read and the music sounds like choirs and celestial waves. The room hums and shakes and finally tips, the walls crack and crumble and Weetamix falls without pain and lands asleep on fresh wet grass.
 
 
 
 
 
 
we started into a tunnel and for a moment i became aware of the yellowness of the electric lights in the carriage. minutes later, the train slowed and stopped. i was standing in a crowded vestibule between carriages, leaning against the door. there were six other people in the carriage. the door had a small lozenge shaped hole in it framed with tatty black rubber. behind me, in the vestibule the six people: five men and one woman, stood uncomfortably close. one man, with pigface hair and a fat and big face made a sarcastic remark about the train stopping. he was on the phone to his friend, talking about the train having stopped and he asked the vestibule if anyone knew how long it should take the train to get to it's next stop. someone replied that it was usually about an hour from here and he quipped to his friend on the phone that he would be at the station in about two hours. there were titters. outside a slim wind rattled the grass on the escarpment. if i stood on tiptoes and looked down i could see the edges of the sleepers that the train was resting on. in front of me was an escarpment strewn with bracken, ferns, coarse grass. panning my eyes across it i could see a crushed tango can nestled half in the soil, a block of concrete in a squat square that seemed useless. i wondered how the tango can got there, whether it belonged to an engineer working on the line or perhaps whether it was thrown from a train and stuck there in the ground.
 
 
 
 
 
 
i took a drive out today

one

libraries are a concept. if everything that a library owned was actually inside the library at the same time, there wouldn't be room for it all on the shelves. it depends upon people taking books out.

"august bank holiday. it's the biggest car booting day of the year."

i've wanted to be here for the longest time. i see among the people various methods of not having got life right. it's worn thickly and desperately into what they sell, which is what i don't want. mostly what i don't want. there's a tricky eloquence to asking about things, to getting too close to a table or picking something up and looking at it in the correct manner. i have not managed to achieve that eloquence yet. every week early in the morning, getting earlier each week in fact, i set out for a car boot sale. they are located usually in the greenbelt lands around big cities, in school playing fields or car parks, on cricket grounds. the cars set up in rows and the people put what they want to sell onto wooden tables, in boxes, on the ground. some people are there selling every week and their stalls are elaborately and professionally set up, each item given adequate space, everything with a fixed price. this is mostly stuff that they have bought in previous weeks and are now attempting to sell at a profit. mostly these people are of little interest to me. similarly, i regard people who are there buying every week as enemies, especially if they generally look for the things that i look for. what characterises the people there? drabness? ignorance? at table i pick objects up and pass them from hand to hand, i glance nervously at the family behind the car, regard their haircuts, what they are wearing and consider how we will be bound together if i want the object that i hold. it's an awkward process; if i want it i ask how much it is and don't haggle, which marks me out from most of the regulars there. cradling it i walk away, or perhaps i put it in a bag. i look at it and wonder what similarities there will be between my relationship with it and the relationship the previous owners had with it. why did they not want it any more? what am i going to do with it?
 
 
 
 
 
 
this is where i tell yous some of the things i think, some of the lies, and some of the hurtful and disgusting truths with, for me anyway, a devastating conclusion

the more you like the more there is to like

i remember when i was ten or eleven and the stuff that was in the charts or on NOW compilations was my world, but now there are probably fifty things i read about every day that i want to hear - some i will, some i won't

well yeah, but don't you think consensus has any value?

the incredible popularity of something never tempts you to try it out?

i think that's an interesting answer - you say you used to try to stay up to date, why did you stop? how did you manage to find your own tastes? did you regard reaching this point as a point of maturation?

well that's partly a very different question

i guess the more marginal you get then in some ways the easier it is to follow but also yeah, the less likely it is to be remembered and the less satisfying it is to listen to maybe because there's only a tiny scene around it, wheras the new outkast album you can go pretty much anywhere on the net or talk to people you know and get opinions on it

it's an interesting process, wanting to preserve music like that. there's loads of stuff i'd really like to see much more popular than it is, but where does that impulse come from in me (in many ways i think it's a kind of anti-indie impulse)? and why am i bothered?

well i don't think you can weight them

not one above another either - obv. they come at us in different ways. it was quite difficult to avoid hearing the spice girls at the height of their fame but really easy to avoid hearing most avant-garde music

i guess, to frame the question more in terms of what i want to find out, i'm asking: how much effort do you expend trying to find out about new music (or film, tv, books whatever) and why do you choose that amount rather than more or less?

yeah of course

but i'm thinking more in terms of personal satisfaction in finding out about this stuff, and not just necessarily popular things, though i suppose you can't separate them from how they benefit you in a community or as part of a scene

uh huh, the internet is great in that respect

solves problems of limited distribution and availibility and can also create communities in a way that wasn't possible before

so if there are only, say, five thousand finnish free folk fans in the world the could all converge on one website to talk about the music, wheras before, like i said, you'd have difficulty finding anyone similarly interested - i think that's one of the net's great strengths

ok, to frame this discussion in a slightly different way

there are people who like to keep up with music (though we could be talking about any other sort of cultural product here), download a lot, read about it a lot, go to lots of gigs and clubs, talk about music a lot, have a lot of records etc etc - can you characterise these people? what are they like? why do they bother?

and on the flipside, why do people who say 'i don't bother keeping up' feel comfortable saying it? what sort of people are they? can you characterise them?

sorry if i seem to keep asking the same questions in very slightly different ways, i'm just trying to tease more out of people

well i mean new as in 'new to me'

rather than just things that have come out this week, though i'm interested in them too

well i don't think our approaches are that different really - obviously you build up a network of people that you take recommendations from, if somebody's recommendations are contrary to my tastes consistently then i'll stop listening to what they have to say, my engagement is not uncritical

i'm also interested in thinking about how the process of needing to stay current can be a damaging thing - a lot of people who do it do find it exhausting and find that they get to a point of burnout where they just don't want to listen to any more music for a while. i suppose the point is that you can never hear everything and that you have to find a level that suits you. i was just thinking about what my own level is and why it's got to be that way, which prompted my questioning

well it depends what culture you're talking about

obviously everyone making and consuming culture has an agenda, some more palatable than others

what culture are you talking about and how do you experience culture outside of that?

where would you draw the line though?

the cliché in music criticism is of the person that only owns 12 cds - but can you put it in such materialist terms or is it to do with an approach or a way of thinking about the world, in which case yours is a political way of considering the question isn't it?

that's a good answer

i think there's truth in that

so do you think that people who consume obsessively are more or less in tune with this process than people who don't - do they understand it better? do film nerds have a greater fear of ageing and death than people who just go see star wars this year?!

what do you mean by 'a notion of genuineness?'

i think this is where we might start to disagree

because i'm interested in, like, y'know, stuff

yes, that's a fair point to make

though i'm not sure you can wholly characterise the project of modernism in that way

i guess it depends what you mean by escaping cultural reification. i think, to use a relevant example, that might be what radiohead were doing when they made kid a/amnesiac, certainly, but is this true of every artist that tries to make something new

i think it's interesting that you're calling this tendency modernist wheras below it's being called warholian and i guess postmodernist by socialist folk hero. i think there are probably elements of the two

you might be right

i don't know if psychology could provide a cogent answer, probably because there isn't really an answer, like you say it's a drive that people experience to a greater or lesser degree

i'm not sure that the only benefits of being obsessive are to the psyche, i mean, i can talk about music with virtually anyone and have something to say about the things they like (i say, somewhat arrogantly). surely that is a useful tool for survival (to use the word vaguely)? also aesthetics build communities. everyone who has ever made a friend on this board has done so because of how they like what they like.

in terms of happiness, i guess it's like any addiction, it only makes you happy in a very problematic and complex way, wheras your friend's interaction with music makes him content in a pretty simple way. i don't know how you'd go about investigating the ways that drive makes people happy or sad really, but it's interesting to think about, for me at least.

don't worry about the length

but hm, i don't really agree - see the thing is for me there is not and cannot ever be a transcendent concept beyond rationality or emotion. all there are are 'texts' and our interactions with them - there can be a concept, of course, there has to be, but it wont be transcendent bcz that's just another notion of god, surely.

i have no problem with avant-jazz dwelling on formal concerns, those concerns are of interest to me. i'm not sure if the music itself presents itself as being more authentic than anything else, perhaps the performers do, but you don't have to agree with them

i don't know if i see the lineage directly from warhol to the spice girls. surely art was a commodity long before warhol? renaissance era poets all had patrons, the cliché abt shakespeare only being interested in profists etc?

yeah, just read it

two small things - one, i wouldn't worry about not getting any concrete answers/looking silly, i think the more people think about this the better understanding they have of the processes involved in their decision making, which is always a good thing

two, what you see as a controlling impulse w/r/t the vast sea of stuff availible, i see the desire to keep searching out new stuff as being more an admission that you cannot control things. i see people who say 'i only like x amount of bands' (one of my friends actually said this, it was 27 or something like that) as being the ones who want control more.

i hate the channel four documentary style

everything about it, the way the voiceovers are written, the way they have to force a narrative onto what's shown, the way they have to make it about a personal history rather than anything wider - i find it all infuriating

it puts me off watching shows on subjects that i might otherwise be interested in - this is one example of that

yeah yeah

i just find it patronising that it *always* has to be about a person with, say, schizophrenia rather than a show about schizophrenia that features a person as an example - if you can see the difference there

i think i'd vastly prefer it, if they want to just focus on someone, to just have shots of that person, no voiceover, no narrative etc - i know they do those things for a reason but they're not reasons that fit in with the way i like to watch/think about tv

well for me i don't need a personal angle

if i'm interested enough in something then a more theoretical look at it is going to be interesting to me

to be a little extreme, the way they present these things, the people end up being sort of fictionalised, they are sort of like an eastenders character to you by the end. i think the personal angle, the way they do it, actually alienates you from the person - not always, but the methodologies behind these documentaries often seem suspect to me.

yeah, the more i hear it the worse/better it gets

ie. the more i am turned off by the mysogynistic/playing up to racial stereotypes bullshit but also the more i enjoy just hearing it

enjoying modern pop is such a tightrope

i've heard one or two disappointing things as well - but also some very positive ones

i guess i'll just download some and see what i think

i think the thing i was saying is that what you saw as an impulse to take control by searching out new things in a near infinite sea of possibility i saw as more of an admission that control isn't possible - thinking about it now our differences are probably just semantic rather than ideological though

well he's not that bad, my friend

he just likes his 27 or whatever indie bands, hates rap, dance, pop, jazz etc - i just don't talk to him about music very much, except occasionally about joy division or the velvet underground or something like that

yeah i thought that

also a lot of times a song will initialize and then all of a sudden decide that, no, it's queued again, and repeat that process a couple of times before either starting or going red

i probably just have more time to notice these little glitches on dialup than when using it w/ broadband

but i do see some logic in the idea that the reaching is an impulse for control, i mean, for me when i try out new genres or artists it's a way of widening a picture of the world that i have, in simple terms, it's also a way of trying to comprehend how music works, how influence works - i realise that i can never have a complete picture but nonetheless i want to have as big a picture as i can. it's a bit like the riddle someone posted earlier where you get halfway to the door each time, with each step i actually travel less distance than the previous one, but i do end up infinitesimally closer to something, even in the knowledge i'm never going to get there. so the idea of being part of that process, that's a kind of having control, i think.

he bought, er, joy division coasters off ebay - spends a pile on like arab strap rare 7" singles and stuff, a lot of the bands that he likes i like as well, but i can't imagine liking them in isolation. i remember playing the magnetic fields for him thinking it'd be right up his street, band number 28 maybe haha, and he just didn't like it at all - though maybe that's because he feared being infected by my outré listening habits or something

there is value in that sort of obsession, completely, but it depends on the politics of it, if he said 'i like these bands but you like whatever you want' then fine, but he's more inclined to look down on me for enjoying rap for example and think that it's some sort of phase that i'll grow out of before i see the light and start listening to half man half biscuit bsides

i like thinking about this because it feeds into lots of the issues surrounding how i interact with music that makes me feel uncomfortable - like with that ying yang twins thing, a great deal of which i find repulsive, from reading about it i think i've become aware again, and in a more profound way, of the discourse of feminist criticism of mysogynistic rap - i think there's a great value in my interrogating why there are parts of the song i find thrilling and how they go up against the parts i find disgusting. i think the impulse for that is borne of the same impulse that makes me really want to download the track because 'everyone' is talking about it

yeah, i mean, he's my girlfriend's brother and a friend to most of my close circle of friends, though most of them are much more like me in their approach to music and a lot of the times when we talk about him we start of joking about the coasters etc and then reach this uncomfortable plateau in the conversation where we're really close to bashing him for just liking less and different music than we do. but having said that, his views on how to listen and what to listen to are pretty repulsive in a way, i mean, he's resistant to talking much about it because i suspect he thinks (or maybe i'm just projecting because this is what i think) that in his views there lurks unspoken class/race/gender prejudice that sits uncomfortably with his otherwise pretty left wing views

it's a bit like old people doing crosswords

that's why i find the people who (actually quite a few hours ago now) said 'oh i don't keep up with that sort of thing really' as though, in a way, it were some sort of badge of honour (or if they weren't saying that then i do know people who would or do) really hard to understand because that kind of thinking, to my mind at least, makes you a better and more intelligent person - not that it's the only way to better yourself, of course - but there's no way of maintaining that thinking without constant new stimulus

a cogent academic explanation would be more than useful

i think it is a universal impulse but i'm not sure how to characterise the factors that slow it down/speed it up, for example you can envision a scenario where someone ended up seeking out a lot more music *because* of racism (ie. they wanted something that reflected their anger or they became part of a community through their views), it's a particularly complex subject

i better get off to bed though, excellent talking to you max

take care
 
 
 
 
 
 
Down on his knees in this dank corridor, Weetamix Collet, shirt still with three racily empty buttonholes, scuffs around the collars, yellowish scuffs, kneeling down on the golden floor, skin bathed in faint yellow. It's actually very warm and Weetamix rolls up the cuffs of his almost white shirt, exposing skinny arms and fey little wrists that he leans on, bringing his face right close to the gold on the floor, examining it with teddy-bear eyes. He notices coming over his anxious breathing, his confusion, the melody of Abba's 'The Winner Takes It All', a muzak version bouncing and distorting off the narrow walls, echoey and confused, note piling up on note. He scratches at the floor and feels something come away under his nails. Examining his hands there are little black shavings under the nails and smudges on his fingertips, hands that smell like pencil lead, shiny like the knees of overworn cheap trousers. The ground beneath him is unblemished however. Behind him, the mattress door won't open either way now, Weetamix just bounces off it, the springy noise melding with the muzak. The song is played on, Weetamix thinks, a couple of synthesizers, or just one double-tracked. There is also a very faint drum machine low in the mix. Uncertain, confused, Weetamix turns and walks off down the corridor, which twists and turns like the road in a car advert, high in the mountains, the crisp air fresh, the sun reflected pure bittersweet on the chrome, back in on itself, perfect undulations, even the treads on the tyres gleaming. Weetamix, nothing in the pockets of his cheap trousers that are shiny at the knee, flakes under his fingernails, Weetamix, ears full of this song, which just seems to repeat endlessly, floats and distorts round the corners, he is yet to spy a speaker, though he is looking out for one. He walks briskly, still sort-of thinking that he is somehow under her house, that this is a kind of cellar? He hasn't been in a cellar before.

Ahead of him, far ahead, maybe a day's walk, the path drops off suddenly, the corridor ends and opens out into an endless field. The gold turns to dirt, the walls to open space.

Walking, with just the same twisting concrete and gold ahead of him, no destination in mind, Weetamix's mind meanders, his main worry being that he's due on another job in about five minutes, but also there's a creeping feeling that he's somehow lost in this corridor, that the joke - he thinks it's a joke of some kind - has gone wrong and he's ended up missing an exit somewhere, that he might be lost in the bowels of some subterranean maze. Light seems to seep from the floor, which is impossible.

At the exit of the corridor, sits a man in cheap jeans, smoking thoughtfully, his fingernails stained the yellow of pestilence and decay and beyond him the field stirs a little. He glances up, but it doesn't quite catch his attention.

Weetamix jams his hands into his pockets, feeling around at his change, the remnant flakes of a tissue, his keys, his identification. He pulls the card out of his pocket and looks it over, his name written in black lettering in a font that he always thought held some nested irony. He runs a finger over the lettering, his legs still pressing on but his attention suddenly fixing upon the card. Every card he has ever seen the name was written in the same plain unserifed typeface and yet the text of his own name here looking back at him plain, it seems so gently to mock him. There's a picture of him that's a few years old now, hair closely cropped, not like now, his expression ambivalent, the picture too small or too poorly printed to properly read the features, his skin looks flawless though. Eyes still on the plastic, Weetamix, not a clever guy, reflects for a moment his relationship with this thing in his hands. It holds a rare power. Without it, what is he? He can't work, can't get into places, can't even prove that he is who he says he is. Well, that's as far as his thought process goes before the chorus of 'The Winner Takes It All' kicks in again and Weetamix starts singing along, tentatively at first but then, liking the acoustics of the corridor, thinking they make his voice sound pretty great he gets more confident and soon he's bawling out the words, syncopating the lines, crap Sinatra. The card is stuffed into his pocket and he skips along, momentarily oblivious to the uncertaintity of his situation.

The field that waits for him, closing steadily, has begun to sprout. Things grow much faster here. Already the soil is clogged with seeds, roots are beginning to form, shoots break the surface here and there. Across the soil crawl thousands upon thousands of tiny spiders, so many that the ground, stretched out as far as the horizon at least, seems to bulge and squirm with the spoil of them, they run everywhere. Where have they come from? Squatting still, a little chilly, the man waiting at the exit watches the mass of them, some of them spill past him, covering over the gold surface with twitches of brownblack legs, pencil lines frenetic on paper, squiggles, doodles. They pour out of the field, there seems to be a limitless supply of them, there's only one direction they can head in.

His song now long since over, Weetamix is beginning to get properly worried. He feels it, in his stomach, his legs feel tired, though he hasn't walked too far, he feels weak all over, his arms are heavier than usual. What's more, he's desperate for the toilet, keeps hoping that he'll come to some sort of convinience, or he'll work out the trick to this endless passage pretty soon, he'll notice a gap that he can squeeze through, Christ knows where he'll end up, and there'll be a bush or a pub that he can go behind or go into. But there's no change, the music is the same, the glow from the gold floor seems brighter, but that's just maybe because his eyes are adjusting to the gloom. Ten minutes later there's still no one around, still no difference, still the black walls, shiny floor. Weetamix, bursting, unzips his trousers and, facing the wall, lets go. His piss streams away from him hitting the wall and making it glisten faintly, dripping down the black. The walls, he thought, were made of concrete or something similar, but they seem to absorb the light and his urine hangs on the blackness in a way that does not seem quite right to Weetamix, though he can't really articulate why in his mind. Suddenly below him there is an acrid hiss and he looks down to see the gold turning putrid dark green where the piss has landed on it, smoke pouring from the wet floor up into his face, smelling like dank rotting meat. Confused and frightened Weetamix zips himself up sharpish and begins to run, pounding the floor, vast strides, he is sweating, his mind is blank, the music seems to have been replaced with the persistent pitch of violent chemical reaction, the smell is all around him, entering every pore, his nose and mouth burn, the noise is loud, loud in his ears, he runs, he hurts. Weetamix falls to the ground, out.

Away, still far, the man rises, hugs himself with his bare arms to stave off the cold. Out in front of him, he faces the field, bright rhododendron bushes have sprung up, bunched together, clogged with spiders. Flowering in rich pulpy blues, magentas. The bushes wriggle and shake with the movements of the spiders all around them, crawling thickly, on top of each other, over branches that are thick and established already, the roots deep in the underground below. The bushes smell of wet. The petals are large, many-hued, the bushes are, in places, as much as six feet tall and growing larger and larger.

Hours later, Weetamix sputters awake, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. There is no sign of the smoke or the damage to the floor. Thankfully, he doesn't need to piss again. Jittery, he stands up and stretches, his joints ache from the running and the hard floor. He can't remember which direction he was facing in before he fell. He can barely remember how he got here, has no idea how long he was passed out for, doesn't know where to go, whether there is any end to the tunnel, whether it's better to carry on forward or to go back and try to find the door again. He has no idea which was is forward and which back. Arbitrarily, he picks a direction and starts off on shaky legs, on eyes that seem misty, his vision hued slightly yellow around the edges, he lurches like a drunk, he clings to the wall. On, on he goes. He swears that he sees, beneath his feet, moving almost imperceptably fast, a tiny spider, running blind in the other direction.
 
 
 
 
 
 
(this entry and the previous one are as yet unfinished. i'm putting them up now because my computer at home is breaking down and i don't want to lose them)

Behind the door, preventing it from fully opening, a row of three squat filing cabinets in grey, yellow and khaki. Paint chipping away, hexagons and streams, inlets, dark isthmuses of tawny rust. Still faintly tacky residues of torn off stickers, purple-grey with trapped dust and grime, slinking stains, non-perpendicular, lost vestiges of functionality. One, the second drawer down on the green cabinet still bearing the faintness of a red marker pen capital ‘D’. And what former worlds once squeaked open, hinges rolling, sounds like car-crashes, what worlds did this ‘D’ once signify? The dry chapped dust, the vestiges of lost peoples, drawers crammed with dog-eared crumpling files: sludgy brown, magenta, pale yellow cardboard. Lives codified, the intimacy of alphabetisation, traces of flux, endless, waterfalls, trickles of information, symbols, letters…

On top of the cabinets were pots and pots of stringy, bored Venus fly traps, harmless cacti, burgeoning ferns that swam down the thin metal sides, yellow and chlorophyll green. All of them ringed in terracotta coloured plastic and black, parched soil. Among them stood large geodes, fine-pointed amethyst, a world of intricate light and shadow, other precious stones, ammonite fossils shiny in black rock, crude, menacing heads in deep ochre sandstone, hollowed out eyes leering and glaring, sad as anything, some of them with tiny hands or paws, sat up begging, coarse and human against the cold, relentlessly cold, unforgiving metal.

Behind it all, staring back at you, cheaply framed in a band of gold plastic, behind glass, was what first appeared to be a photograph, a headshot, blown up to more than twice life-size of Beyoncé Knowles. The picture was signed “To Jerry, all the best…” and a heart was drawn as the dot on the ‘J’. But looking closer, the picture was in fact a painting, though only a print, done in hyperrealist style – the signature too was painted on. Her airbrush smile, imitation of imitation, that effortless airbrush glide, the coming together of an inconsistent nexus of simulacra. The density of its past. Whether subtle artistic tic or genuine copy, there was something vengeful about the smile, banal, knowing, her liquid eyes, wooden skin, something there in the process of codification or the knowledge of it. The glass that covers her lazily streaked with cheap cleaning fluid.

Over the speakers there now comes the swell of a cheap Casio and a voice, disembodied, spectral, ever-waning, that played and darted between the resonances.

Earth Below us
Drifting Weightless

And Weston stands a moment, him and the picture, his faintly-hued reflection in the glass and blocks of light behind that make his mirrored skin look flawless; this pattern criss-crosses and splays over her. Their visages merge into the dream-space, the music intones a countdown

4, 3, 2, 1…

each digit echoing staccato, bouncing around the speakers as the next replaces it, and the chorus repeats again and Weston’s weightless ghost face turns slightly, examining sumptuous curls, the faint blush at the cheek, the high gloss of lips, the fine gold chain that slithers down her throat. She is in constant deferral from him, how many times separated? Her imagine seems to hum, crawl as though seen through heat haze, Weston blinks it out. The music changes to a calamitous ragga dancehall, the bass shreds harsh and lout and exhilarating enough to, in the pauses that come between the end of a verse and beginning of a chorus, hear the faint resonations deep inside the body of a cello that Payne has, somehow, mounted on a wall above one of the remote speakers. The TV, half-reflected over Beyoncé’s face, clearer in the darker regions, now showed a blocky, heavily pixellated computer image of spindly-limbed lime green aliens frolicked on a red and cyan planet against a black sky with tiny white square stars. The aliens carried signs and banners baring slogans that bobbed up and down as they danced: ‘History Inevitably Leads to Us’. ‘A Completely Original Work is One Which Lacks All Technique’, ‘Madness is Whatever Kinds of Thinking There Can Never Be a History of’, ‘A Clear Idea is a Small Idea’, ‘If You Saw the Perfect Flower, Would You Pick it?’ etc. Mirrored in the glass the reflected Weston could not read the writing. The aliens began a shootout/dance-off with a troupe of Nazis, all complete with little Hitler moustaches. The Nazis appeared to be winning until the screen filled up with coloured horizontal lines that flickered like a spectrum game loading. The music was now an early-sounding hip hop track, the rapper amiable over a looped synth sample from ‘Telstar’ by The Tornadoes. Shadows danced and cavorted in the picture’s glass. Weston moved to the window, eight square panes of old thin glass in two rows of four and two more above them curved to form an arch. On the sill were more plants, a winter cherry in a black pot with fat red berries like shiny plastic beads, a drooping spider plant looking unwell in pale green, a couple more cacti. Joining them was an array of small plastic toys, a tranquil brachiosaur and a leering t-rex and some tin robots nestled serenely behind the stay-puft marshmallow man and a Bart Simpson on an orange skateboard. Around them roamed half a dozen GI men, all with the same quizzical face, the same shit-brown moustache, the same stiff hat, the same moulded uniform painted in various camouflage designs, so that the troop looked like some army expo, or the last desolate few from a shattered army of clones, the land so ravaged as to render all camouflage useless. These last warriors, sole protectors of the old order in a land of giants and monsters, seek to assuage, seek to defer, to come to terms with the changes of a new and hostile world. The music was now a sleazy electro beat, the scuzzily tarnished glossolalia of vintage synths screed in and out of the beat as a bratty, camp, genderless American voice intoned a bored monologue about doing coke of his mom, hitting a man in his car, ramraiding Prada and then selling the footage back to them for their next ad-campaign, filthy sex with boys and girls and, at the centre of it, the sticky promised heart an ultra-chic discotheque, the practised boredom of the apotheosis of the very bleeding edge of culture. Outside the smash of constant car-crashes, the falling of bombs and debris, the wail of sirens and horns, alarms and human screeches provide the music, the floor revolves, lit up a million shards of glitterball colour and it’s fantastic for a moment. A huge muscular black transvestite with a giant Supremes hairdo and a grey satin dress offers you a cocktail which is layered three colours that meld and change with the music and the lights. It tastes of aniseed, cheap vodka, pink champagne, lager, red wine. The man smiles, black flesh purple/green, glistening in the light, brilliant red lips, white teeth. He turns away, flicking a purple feather boa over his shoulder. The floor spins. A man moonwalks past, just a silver glove in the red glint and looks over, eyes grey and charged he pulls his hat down, grabs his crotch, spins on the spot. On couches all around sit rockstars, world leaders, activists, film stars, artists, philosophers, all impeccably dressed, impassive, not looking at each other as they speak, hair pristine, sharp clothes, jaws chiselled, teeth like Stanley knives, glitter sharp like the tinkle of smashed glass, syrupy stains that stick your shoes to the floor, your coat missing, sawdust, and outside the taxis all heaped up wreckages slammed together, the drivers hanging out of windscreens, limbs half-severed, blood in their lungs and trickling from already cold lips like a horror movie, the police have arrested the dealer, but he’ll be OK, his coat full of pills still inside, his pink cloakroom ticket number 024 on the wet pavement in front of your feet now slowly bleeding red…

Outside the window the mist was too thick to see the hills, the sky the colour of a fish market, shiny-grey with empty eyes like rows and rows of fish packed in ice. Not much was visible beyond Payne’s garden; choked with the bulbous viral sacs of dormant rhododendrons, dry crisp and brown, petals like cheap crisps. Weston gazed out at them, a new forlorn aspect among the coarse grass. His home, so pink inside. His new home. Weston leant heavily against the sill, almost knocking over a wobbly tiger-striped velociraptor. In the drive Payne’s flat box of a car was up on bricks, all the tyres removed, the paint worn to a matt cyan, spots of rust around the wheel axels, the gate in front padlocked shut, cracks in the window glass, mould and damp creeping round the worn shiny leather seats.

Behind Weston the door opens and Payne returns, ambles to a chair and slouches down into it. Weston turns and greets the old man’s gaze, shuffles across towards him, offering help, but Payne holds up a hand, settling himself. He squints at Weston, gesturing towards a vast armchair covered in papers, books; empty record sleeves and topped with an overflowing ashtray,
“Just move those.” Weston picks the pile up and looks about uncertainly for a clear surface. “Anywhere, on the floor is fine. I need to sort that out anyway,” Payne says. Weston looks down at the pile, the uppermost sheet of paper is a photocopy of an article on recent developments in intelligent robotics, just underneath it an unmarked white label 12”. Weston puts the pile down next to him and is swallowed up by the chair’s sumptuousness. Payne is a white-haired old man in a big maroon dressing gown, his head tilted slightly, fat face jowly and the skin scrubbed to a ruddy shine. He takes a moment to pause, staring out at the window, it occurs to Weston that Payne is looking more at the glass than what is outside. Payne coughs, “Would you like a coke?” he says, voice clogged with phlegm. Weston nods and Payne reaches down to open a small fridge shaped like a coke can and pulls two identical cans from inside and passes one to Weston. The can is machine cold and Weston has to keep swapping the hand holding it for a few moments, steam pouring off it into the air of the muggy room. Payne blinks and sips thinly from his can, “Weston.” He says, simply. His voice still contains the echoey depth of decades ago, but now grown as crackly as worn dusty vinyl and with the same unpredictable screes and guttural scrapes. “How long has it been?” Payne’s face grows suddenly warm as he greets Weston’s eyes for the first time and he smiles, a little sardonically, Weston thinks.
“Oh,” Weston feigns calculation, “years David, years.” He opens his hands, “too long.” This seems satisfactory to Payne who sits back still beaming. A moment passes, Weston remembers these little caesuras in conversation with Payne which he had at first thought were affected, a deliberate ruse to make you feel less comfortable, an opinion he had dropped as his friendship with the man had grown but now, so much later, felt some rekindled affinity for.
“Weston.” There is a little chastisement now in Payne’s voice, the smile gone. He strokes his chin, tugs on his bottom lip with thumb and forefinger. Weston waits. Payne seems to consider starting to say something but checks himself as the first croak of a syllable leaves his mouth. He holds up a finger as if recalling something important. “Weston, have you seen the Luomo article on Bordieu and graffiti?” Weston begins to shake his head but Payne is not looking at him, instead he has folded himself half down the side of the chair and is rooting for something among a pile of papers. “I have it here somewhere, I’m sure, I put it to one side when I heard of your visit.” His muffled voice says. “Ah, David, I don’t really keep up with that sort of thing any more.” At this remark Payne sits back up quicker than Weston would have though possible and cocks his head to the side again. “I’m sort of out of the loop, you know.” Weston grins sheepishly but Payne holds up his hands and sort of pats the air as if to temper Weston’s apologies.
“Yes,” he says, “Of course. But where are my manners?” Payne seems genuinely concerned in the process of locating his manners. “Well, Weston. It’s very good to see you. You look well. I trust life is treating you amicably?” Now it’s Weston’s turn to provide the awkward pause, but Payne is unphased. “And how is your lovely wife, are you still together?”
“Yes, thankyou. We are fine.” Payne narrows his eyes. Over the speakers comes a voice almost lost in digital furze, it sounds like a young David Sylvian.
“Good, excellent.”
“And yourself, David? How are you?”
“Oh, the same, ever the same.”
“And the project? How is that going?” Payne tenses up at this question, winces as though Weston has asked it too early or too simply. Lips pursed he pauses again, looking over at the window.
“Well that’s precisely what I asked you here to discuss.” He says, simply, and pauses again. Weston waits, hands folded in his lap. “You see Weston, I am washed up.” Payne sits back as though this trite little phrase explains everything. He sips at his coke. “You haven’t touched your coke, Weston, would you perhaps like something else?” Weston is genuinely surprised to see the can resting on the arm of his chair. He picks it up and opens it and takes a big swig, regretting it instantly, half-suppressing a burp that blossoms inside his closed mouth. Payne sighs, looking at the window, “My whole paradigm has been shot down. New technologies, new modes of thought. You could achieve in a few weeks what took me twenty years now. And the methods of analysis, so much more sophisticated. Even so, culture, or, to be more precise, access to culture, or the uses of culture have proliferated to such a degree and in such a way that it is beyond all recognition. Everything has changed. What’s going on now, even in the most banal regions of our culture make what we were doing look like nursery rhymes, Weston. Whole vistas of communication, the very fabric which we use to communicate is completely barren of analysis, it’s all untapped. The sociology of humankind in this century is utterly unexamined. We haven’t yet the tools; we haven’t the slightest notion of how we might go about structuring our analysis. Do you feel that Weston?” Weston nods, a little blithely, but Payne continues unabated, “The project, ha,” he waves a hand dismissively, “it’s nothing now. I’ve created an artefact. It’s literature.” Payne practically spits out this last word. “Do you know who’s studying the thing now? All those little box-tickers. Ah Weston, it’s too late for all that now. That thing has been taken from me. But,” Payne’s eyes light up. “I’m taking it back, or, giving it back, to be more precise, that’s why I asked you here. I’m trying to find everyone involved and I’m returning their contribution. Now,” he says, again leaning down beside his chair, “this I do have.” He picks up a couple of faded sheets of paper and hands them to Weston, who takes them uncertainly. “Just as you gave it to me twenty-six years ago.” Payne smiles warmly. Weston looks over the paper, recognising his youthful handwriting. He had worked on the project twice, first as a contributor and then later as Payne’s assistant. His hand looks sleeker, more refined than it does now, the loops more elaborate, the capitals more stylised. Three and a half sides in regular blue biro, he glances over a few phrases: ‘neat like reset bowling-pins’, ’she squealed, either in delight or to conceal her disgust’ and smiled, not remembering them at all.
“Thank you, David, but, why are you giving this to me now?”
“Weston, for years I’ve hoarded all this junk and it’s gotten me nowhere. All people want to talk to me about are my archives. They consider me a crackpot. Well, you know that much yourself. The data. That’s all they’re interested in. I want it gone, before I die. They’re not having it. To those I can find I will return what they gave me. For those I cannot, I will destroy their text.” Suddenly moved by this prospect, suddenly caring again Weston sits up in his chair.
“No, David, you can’t do that!” Payne smiles at him benignly. He looks like a pope. Beneath the dressing gown Weston can discern spindles of white wiry chest-hair. His neck sags. His hands quake a little, his eyes look faraway and blotchy. He is close to death.
“Look. There is no more value in it, the aesthetic system that produced it is dead now, don’t you see that?”
“But David, that’s just your conception, other may differ – obviously do differ if the raw material is still in such great demand.”
“Weston, I began this project as a scientific endeavour, a historical endeavour. I never intended it to be subjected to all this. For others to use the data for their own ends just continues the cycle. I don’t want it to become trash, it’s already trash Weston, I can’t allow things to get any worse. This is my one act of protest.” Weston struggles with Payne’s meaning, wondering what the most liberal view to take is. Payne has a certain stubborn righteousness on his side, but his stubbornness seems to contradict his usual drive for the complete freedom of information and data. “Look at it this way.” Payne says “I am not pulling the lollipops from these peoples’ mouths, I am merely directing them to more gourmet dishes.”
“But how can you allow yourself to become a cultural arbiter like that David? You’ve become a gatekeeper,” Weston is exasperated now, “something I thought you always detested.” Payne raises his eyebrows at Weston’s sudden passion, pausing, hands clasped together, before answering.
“Weston. Look. ‘Gatekeeper’, that’s a straw man, it’s an unavoidable position if you wish to undertake research of the type that I have undertaken and, yes, of course we must remain vigilant, zealously vigilant against becoming censors, but Weston, listen to me now, this is a question of methodology, of the ethics of a methodology, a structure, that people are framing my data with. And it is my data and I care about it very deeply. That’s why I must return it or destroy it.”
“But why?”
“The only people interested in this stuff now are people who want to find what they think is the key to it. They see it as a big jigsaw puzzle that, if you put it together right, will give you an answer. It was never meant like that, you know that, you are as passionate about that as I am. These people, all they want to do is find the original text. They want their book deal, that’s all. They are not thinkers.” Payne looks imploringly at Weston who says nothing. “You know I was never averse to people using the data for projects of value, but this kind of academic posturing, I can’t stand for it. It’s completely outmoded, it’s the cancer that has been dragging the intellectual community back for centuries – it’s critiqued in George Eliot for goodness sake. I cannot condone it. Let them find another corpse to exhume, they are not having mine.” In the heat of the debate, Payne’s impassioned rhetoric has created a more poignant moment than he perhaps intended and the two men sit opposite each other in silence for a few seconds. Payne sighs and is the first to speak, “Of course they are all rubbing their hands together as I get older and weaker. They think it’ll all be theirs when I go. But the last phase of the project is to close the circle. The earliest versions have all already been destroyed, even if I could find their writers they would be too risky to give out. The ‘key’ will go the grave with me. The rest I’m getting rid of.” Weston sits, not knowing how to articulate the vast ambivalence he is feeling. He still senses a great ideological flaw in Payne’s reasoning, but is nervous of trying to put it to the old man since the completion of his project is so obviously bound up in his mortality and, perversely, in his fear of death.
 
 
 
 
 
 
It had now been a year, he thought. A year spent in labyrinthine pursuit, spent sifting though traces and simulacra, ash and shadows, kaleidoscope images refracted through octagonal water glasses. All of it a frayed vestige, a wind-swept crater surrounded by mournful watercolour hills. Help, he needed help. But none, of course none, was forthcoming. Each blind turn had been planned for him in advance. He would grow frail and discover nothing. All this, a fractured monologue of despair, splintered through him as he climbed the stone steps to the house, shadows of plants surrounding him, the dusk coming on fast. But, yes, more than that, there was more – he wondered where the next meal might come from. For it is true, the doctor had not been working for the entirety of the year and his savings were nearly gone. The thought that she has got savings, that they wont go hungry, not for a long while yet, did not seem to comfort him, for were he to ask her then the whole story would have to come out, a year of deceit unfurled. For yes, Doctor Weston Cadaver, formerly respected member of the parish, had duped them all for a whole year. Each day he would wake at the usual time, take breakfast, shower every other day and then, after kissing his wife, who still lay dozing in the bed, chastely goodbye, he would leave the house as if for work. There was, however, no job to go to, and no job that Weston would want to go to – he had, he felt, more important things on his mind. And yet, a little after five each evening he would return, and, a skilled anecdotalist in his youth, would regale her with tales of irritating colleagues, inept clients, would concoct mock disputes, this parry, this cutting rejoinder, that small piece of ground accumulated, this lost. For Weston was not a man who misunderstood the minutiae of the politics of the workplace and he understood the significance, though fictitious, of each story he told her and her level of disinterest, her glazed look, as he, each night, ploughed through these improvisations, told him that she suspected nothing, which, in fact, he was entirely wrong about.

The things he told her were not complete fabrications however. The doctor was a fanciful man at times, and prone, as we have seen, to bouts of extreme paranoiac activity and crippling irrational fears, so the stories he told her often had nested in them subtle references to his real activities during the day, his apprehensions, his petty hopes, his thoughts and his suspicions. There were practical reasons for this too. Put yourself in the doctor’s position and imagine having to go through that rigmarole every night. Though reasonably adept at tale-telling, there is only so much he could completely devise and so, though often a little wary of doing it, he chose to base certain things he explained to her on the things he had really seen and done. He reflected at times upon the question of whether this made him more or less of a fraud, but could never reach a satisfactory conclusion.

By way of example, the doctor constructed an image of his supervisor at the job he purported to go to, which closely resembled the imagined features, corporeal and mental, of the figure he had employed himself to hunt down. At the dinner table, perhaps over a modest roast or a pasta dish, his mouth would crumple, his loaded fork waggling in front of her face, spots of sauce flinging themselves onto the tablecloth, and he would tell her of this bloated moron who lorded it up over him every day, who made his life a practical misery. And all, all Weston would blurt, gathering momentum, all because he had the fortune of having been in the right place at the right time, all because the system was behind him, all because he was a sycophant, a yellow, toadying, conformist who succeeded because he took no risks. Whereas he, Weston, would go against the grain for what he knew was right (Weston would now be reaching the apex of this regular little diatribe, his fork going a mile a minute, stains on his shirt, almost rising from his chair at points, his voice arcing up towards a ridiculous falsetto, spitting each syllable along with clumps of near-chewed cauliflower or carrot. The tablecloth always needed cleaning after such outbursts) and would suffer for it, would never get ahead, might even be fired for his risqué ideas (he often posited the idea that he might soon lose his job, feeling that perhaps it was a way around having to explain everything to her, but he knew that if he told her that, then he would lose all his precious freedom and would have to tell her everywhere he was going, perhaps even take her with him. That would never do).

Now, Weston approaches the house, a little on edge, for he thinks (though he always does), that this might be the lead he is searching for, this grotty, dilapidated place in a nondescript district on the east side of town. Looking at it, the doctor reflects that it might once have been a pleasant house, set a small way back from the road, grey stone walls, grey slate roof. But now, divided up into cramped apartments and bedsits, with mould growing up the walls, cracks and lesions in the cement and the drainpipes dangling loose from their awnings, it is not so inviting. But still, he must go in. Just as he turns the key in the door – no problems with the door he notes – he reflects that it has been some minutes since he has seen any signs of life. No cars passed him on the road leading to the house, no people either, or perhaps he just didn’t notice, apprehensive, yes. Weston knows he is full of such delusions and is sceptical, perhaps on this instance he is correct though. The door is white plastic and gives onto a cramped magenta hallway which is practically black once Weston shuts the door behind him. He has to reopen the door to find a light switch, and not until he does that he notices the smell – the strong smell of minestrone soup that pervades the hall and staircase. On the ground floor are two red doors, flat one and flat two, but it was flat four that the doctor wanted. He could not discern whether there was any activity behind the heavy red doors, though he put a tentative ear to each one and heard nothing, so he climbed the stairs.

He had spent great chunks of his youth in places like this, ah yes. A little like this. But… this was not the time for reminiscences, too often he became distracted in this way. And yet, the faint clinging odour, the noiseless hallways, windowless and badly lit, the mysteries behind each ignorant doorway. Visions of cities older than stone in collapse, the heaviest darkness, colossal waste desert infinite in every direction, cardboard edifices flattened with childish breath. On the stereo faint guitar licks deepened and hollowed out into boundless tremolo, sweet and clear and the rise, oh effortless dynamic rise into the chorus, elegiac, sad disembodied voices. I love you. Oh, I really do. What else? It became sweeter now. A salty, plasticine tang, the macabre of ignorance, watercolour botany, line drawings with no perspective. And, inevitably, less sweet. Sometimes they left me and I had to lock the bedroom door to stop him coming.

Enough now, there is always enough. Here, anyway was the right door. The bolt gave a satisfactorily heavy turn, sliding open; a push, and he was inside. It is evening, though it seems to Weston that the sky has grown several degrees darker during the time he was on the stairs, brief though it was. He gropes for a light switch, only to discover that the electrics have been switched off, or are broken. He finds a chair, a rough tweedy fabric on it, armless and stiff, and sits in the gloom. He considers the cheap veneered furniture, each mismatched piece, the flaking plaster, the ugly carpet two shades of brown. He considers the scattered debris: a few flagging paperbacks - Weston barely reads the titles and recognises none of them, a small plant, long dead, it’s brown leaves slumped and delicate over the pot, the soil parched, a heavy grey typewriter missing the ‘1’ key, a greyish towel gone stiff and creased from drying on the radiator. He wanders about the room, examining drawers and cupboards, finding little – a few nondescript papers, some ugly clothes, a camera with a used roll of film in it, which Weston pockets, nothing of real value. He sits again and thinks that he has wasted his time again, another dead end, another nothing. How many more? The light outside continues to dim, and the room is now black shadows against grey shadows. Why does he never think to bring a torch? Weston muddles his way to the bathroom and pisses into the cracked toilet bowl. He can barely discern the bare ceiling, the paint all flaked away by moisture. How cold, he thinks, the hard tile must be under bare feet. There is nothing here. Whoever left, who knows why? They left quickly. Weston is wary of fantasies like the one that creeps now into his mind though, the grand narrative arcs – What drew them away? Why couldn’t they carry on there? What compelled them to leave? – those are reductive questions, useless. Still, the roll of film might prove worthy of something. Weston usually took some small souvenir, photographs were best, and he could not, even now, deny his prurient excitement at possibly finding something racy. He had, in the past, and it had contributed to vast splenetic masturbation sessions – a sort of perverse Stockholm syndrome, so fascinated was he with those unaware unfortunates who he was clandestinely enslaved by. Ah yes, he still took the pictures out now and again, imagining the happier times when they were taken, the giggling, the mock-seriousness, the shy smile, unsure. And the mimicry! All the moves, all the poses taken from the magazines – there in bargain basement simulacrum; this limb not taut enough, nipples flaccid, eyes afraid. Who knew what went on when they were taken? And who could have cared more than Weston? Who could have pored over those shots, traced each yard of bleached skin more than he? Who could have created such elaborate histories for those vague subjects, pink and nude, so unerotic and crass? It shamed him afterwards to think of what had clattered through his mind at the moment of climax, the brutality of it, the bare mechanics of his sexual system – it was vile. But he returned to it over and over, only such labyrinths of pleasure could outweigh that shame. And once, when in a fruit shop buying pineapples, an odd habit of Weston’s, he thought that the slight young girl at the till was one of them. Oh, the misplaced affection – if only I could save you from this – he felt for a second he wanted her happiness, but then remembered he had named her. She was a black point on paper, the rest he had coloured in with rough felt-pens, scrawled all over it. His hands on the basket felt suddenly slick with jissom and he had to abandon the shop and the purchase. Later that afternoon, nauseous with disgust and desire he had furiously splurted himself across her pictures. Perhaps, of course, perhaps the irony is that it hadn’t been her at all. Perhaps. But then, who cares? Not Weston, sitting in his reverie, thinking that yes, when he gets home he’ll have another look, steal to the bathroom, pockets bulging, yeah. Just then, as if to deliberately break his dream – who knows – there is a flickering of light at the window, half of which up to this point has been hidden by a dark green blind and the room is, for a moment, half-illuminated. Weston goes to the blind and raises it, the light flickers again and now, starting low, starting white, begins to warm up to a bright streetlamp orange which warms and brightens the room significantly. But the first thing Weston sees is the light and then the dry bodies of wasps and flies that have somehow got inside the clear-plastic casing, prone dirty brown silhouettes as the light waxes. And outwards then, to the filthy window, the spots of grease and dust left by evaporated condensation and rain now tinged orange and all across the window, tethered to the security light and the glass, orange strings, the webs of big spiders that carouse across the window as if in some disastrous theatre. The husks of dead or near-dead insects wrapped in silk, some twitching still, their useless wings fringed with orange, litter the webs. The walls of the opposite house are now visible but the windows there remain dark. Weston turns into the room. Now almost fully lit he can better discern the surroundings. It is a plain room, white walls, a faded flowery border skims the ceiling. A slight noise distracts him outside and he turns to see that rain is now falling, the visible drops are the same filthy orange. All over the walls are patches where the plaster has come away, there are still sticky traces of blu-tac and sellotape. The furniture is cheap, veneered, ugly, brown. As he runs through this vague itinerary Weston feels a familiar but unwanted feeling. Oh, oh no, not that. He dashes, yes, to the toilet, pulls down his trousers (Navy blue, turned up at the seams) and releases whatever paltry grip he had gained upon his bowels in those brief seconds – oh, imagine if it had had to be longer! – and feels a flood of liquidy shit empty out of himself. The release is unbearable, almost explosive, it comes and goes in loud effusive bursts. Weston waits, powerless. Whatever was inside him stewed there for hours, waited, conspired… and then, this. Even his constitution is beginning to suffer in this. How many times now? His despair is being wrought on his body, this place, another desolate hovel makes its mark, he feels it, it gushes out of him, streams of fetid yellow-brown. A sickness Weston is unable to articulate, a whole nexus of sicknesses coming at him, drawing him in, more loose threads, a condensation of fecundity all about him, the pallor of his skin, the headaches that start deep behind his eyeballs and stay with him all morning, the sweating, the odour of his clothes, hair that stays matted, aches in his knees – a yawning need for movement – after work or driving. He has become jittery, his clothes hang off him. He finishes, dimly, though he knows it will only be a matter of minutes until he needs to go again. Raises himself, wipes, flushes, washes hands. Weston goes back into the room and begins to search more methodically now, sifts through drawers full of elderly looking clothes, papers, trinkets, nothing of value in the new light. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, it is plainly just an abandoned room, another empty, unoccupied flat in a city full of them.

Hours searching maps of visited locations, drawing concentric circles, maps of the city, peach and mint green. Endless patterns in the data, patterns in patterns. Every way Weston ordered things new models emerged, every arbitrary method tried, chance, magic, it was all endless miasma, no system was adequate to encompass everything. How does it make? For a while he noted meticulously thousands of details about each location: direction facing, number of windows, doors, chairs, number of former residents in the building, number of former occupants of the room, purpose of the room or rooms, size, shape, furnishings, handwriting of former occupants, reading materials, anything that could be ascertained about the personalities of the abandoners, but even those were arbitrarily decided, only a handful in the face of infinites and each infinite possibilities themselves. And yet he felt even so that there were significant coincidences, that some pulls were stronger than others. Despite the evidence, the great limitless walls of possibility stretching off in every conceivable and inconceivable direction, Weston still feels tugged towards something inexorable, inevitable. The darkest cold, the greatest light, either fearsome or benevolent, but profound either way. Despite the calamity of evidence that his good sense cannot order he still feels this, that there is shape to his quest, that he is, though meandering, blundering, moving towards that something, constantly moving.

Motion, he believes in that. the longer you search for the more possibilities you encounter, the more possibilities you eliminate. It’s a simple principle but Weston lives by it now. Keep in motion. Weeks he has spent in listmaking, cross referencing, trying anagrams with street names, putting house numbers into different sets of equations, trying to collate and make sense of the reams of letters and numbers, he is mistaken and cogent of his mistake, but his belief in the inevitability of his destiny keeps him at it: it’s a paradox, but one that he embraces, better this than anything else. If there was nothing at the end, though, then the significance lay in the search.

Moments in the shrill quiet of darkness next to her. She knows, she knows. Things she has said, looks she gave him. Something. The conundrum to Weston is just how much she knows, how much she suspects. He leaves nothing locked up at home – another conundrum he faced – she roams that house all day, what might she get up to? The pictures, the piles of writing, but, she always found his work so dull… Her constant unquestioning nature, it troubles him, she is uncommunicative. Not interested or suspicious? But if suspicious then why no questions, why is everything always in the order he leaves it? Even after the move. Is she happier now? He has no one else. He stands in the orange light now, traverses the room, the kitchen is filthy, the rancid bubbles of unfinished washing up still cling around the rim of the sink, brown and grey residues. Dark so quickly. He looks for something in the place that will give him a sense of who these people were, but in everything he sees there is just himself. Another pang, guilt is his constant companion in his quest, who were they? Cut out eyes, one or more of them? What were they like? Irrelevant questions. He imagines himself in his own house in this capacity. What would he be able to glean in such a short time – ah, yes, he checks his watch, not much more – and the thought is gone.

A few clothes, a chess set, two of them then, maybe. What would she think if she saw me here? How will those pictures come out? What is that box on top of the wardrobe? Weston climbs up onto a chair, unsteady, lifts down the heavy box. It comes again. He runs to the toilet. No more, no more. A great labour is yet still to come. Outside the sky is black, the moon is white and dwarfed by the orange glow, just a few clouds passing in front of it. Weston sits down, a scab on his leg he had not noticed before is picked at, he sighs.
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. "The trend then has always been to characterise
aesthetic experience in terms of beauty, with ugliness only inferred to as that
which lacks beauty or is perhaps its opposite" - thought this was a good bit - it made me think about derrida/saussure/foucault etc's take on the construction of language. there's a good foucault article where he talks about the arbitrariness of how language is constructed (he gives the example of a chinese dictionary in which animals are divided up into classes like 'belonging to the emperor' 'has four legs' etc, not into the common taxonomy of species that we understand), he wants us to think about how the way language is constructed makes us view the world (and also the political etc implications of that). derrida and some feminist theorists (esp. cixous) take this idea further and tell us that a sign is an arbitrary unit, that words as concepts can only be defined against what they are not (viz. we only understand 'dog' because we recognise it as being not a tree, not a house etc). derrida reckons that this has serious implications for our thinking and that it leads to a binary way of dividing up the world and because we see things in relation to what they are not we look at the world in terms of opposites where one half is good and the other is bad - so light/dark is one example, but also male/female is another which a lot of feminists have interrogated. beautiful/ugly is another and you could think about exploding the binary/seeing how it is politically moulded.

2. i think some of the questions you ask in the essay are too immense to be properly given the space, especially stuff like 'what is it to say that an emotion is unpleasant?' i think this question intersects with too many disciplines and it deals with a too tangled subject to properly unpick (i think gaut, actually, might be wrong when he talks about negative evaluative thoughts, this doesn't really tally with how i feel emotions, it's more immediate and instinctive than that, to negatively evaluate something, for me, is more of a process of conscious thought, wheras i'm immediately able to say 'that person's ugly' without any real consideration - another problem i'm remembering that i had with the gaut was the way he isolated the process of enjoying horror into distinct stages, which you do as well - ie. the idea that we have the negative emotion and then have a positive analysis of it - how do we isolate this? how do you prove it? i mean, couldn't i equally argue against that that if i find something appealing then, to me, it can't really be ugly?)

3. use of the 'beauty and the beast' story is problematic for me i think beauty becomes able to 'see past' the ugliness of the beast because of what's inside, i don't know if she evaluates his ugliness any differently. and also don't forget that the beast turns back into the prince in a lot of versions of this story which doesnt' really seem like a validation of ugliness for me. if you're interested in that you might want to have a go at angela carter's 'the bloody chamber' which has a few reworkings of the beauty and the beast story which would fit well with some of the themes here (in one beauty herself turns into a beast so the two of them can be together, in another the beast is just wearing a hideous mask to test her etc)

4. does artistic apprecation force us to suspend our natural emotional response? like i guess kant would say that he wanted it to but does it really ring true? again this is a really big question

5. it's weird how you use 'we' viz. 'this is not what we are arguing' etc - i dunno if it's against philosophy regulations to say 'i think this...' (it's discouraged here) but aren't you just doing that but changing the pronoun?

6. i wonder if an interest question that could be considered here is: is the 'other' of beautiful not 'ugly' but, actually, 'boring'? beautiful/ugly seem like two sides of the same coin to me, just a condition of factors of taste, culture etc - i think that if you create something that people consider ugly then there is a respect awarded for that but the true ciphers of culture are the boring, average things (i dunno if boring and average can be equated like that - john cage said "If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all." which does seem counter-intuitive at first but there's a whole zen theory thing behind it which i find interesting). i guess i'm wondering if you can see beauty as an extreme and ugly as an extreme (however you define them) and boring as a midpoint, so the dialectic would actually be beautiful and/or ugly on one side and boring on another. i think in your essay there is some conflation between ugly and 'not beautiful' which is problematic even though you do address the subject. i'm with cage i think, if you give something enough attention it will no longer seem boring or ugly either. another useful quote from him which might interest you: "The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason."

7. i think an absence can produce emotion, including aesthetic experience. if you are waiting for a bus and there is an absence of that bus then you experience annoyance, boredom, frustration etc - i suppose it has to do with expectation and how that intersects with appreciation. you do address this but i think maybe dwell on it a little too much.

8. another thing i wonder about w/r/t ugliness. how many and what type of artworks actually produce revulsion? i have a naked city record where a couple of the songs have the singer making retching and vomiting and sort of pig noises over the top of the drone, which is quite revolting and you read about performance art featuring animal corpses, an avant-elvis impersonator throwing his shit at the audience, people mashing up dead fish on stage etc. what does that, which i think will produce a physical effect on the audience, have to do with ugliness? are these acts inherently ugly? another thing i read about was a performance by a group of viennese aktionists where the performer turned a shotgun on the audience and started firing (it was only loaded with blanks though), is this act ugly? i think it's a hard question when you consider this extreme art because, for example, i found the last U2 single pretty ugly and pretty boring, but the shotgun guy and the retching songs are on a different scale, they are ugly (to me) but not at all boring, in fact in some ways they are fascinating. could you develop some sort of scale for ugliness and how would it look? also i'm thinking about how american gross-out comedies would work with ugliness, stuff like 'american pie' you might consider ugly but also laugh at (cf. also i guess the league of gentleman and little britain and stuff like that) how do those two intersect? and also to labour the point, is laughing at something always a positive emotion? i think it isn't, there are definite situations where you feel bad for having laughed at something. i think the whole positive/negative thing is difficult to unpack here, definitely not a simple binaristic tool.

9.'piss christ' is interesting for the reasons you mention, i think you're right about them, but just because we know that it involves urine does it automatically mean that we no longer find it beautiful? what if somebody found it more beautiful because of the piss? like i remember reading about this piece and the blasphemy charges etc and some people were saying that it's actually beautiful because it has a redemptive quality - ie. that jesus is so wonderful because, beautiful as he is, he was prepared to immerse himself in the world and put up with all the shit that was thrown at him (represented by the piss and the cross i guess). i don't think we need to know the artist's intention or whatever to make a reading of the piece like that either. but i think by saying what you say about the piece you isolate an idea which it might have been worth expanding on - that you can find something beautiful but dislikable for moral reasons or whatever, so religious art if you are an atheist or nazi iconography if you're not a nazi, mysogynistic or homophobic songs with good beats etc. i think maybe this is one way round the ugliness problem as you posit it as well - maybe you can find something ugly but get a positive feeling from it because of the work you think it is doing ie. i might think that some photos taken of me on a night out are ugly but i like them because they remind me of that night out or they help me remember things i've forgotten or create a narrative for the night etc. or i guess photos of lung cancer victims and stuff to dissuade people from smoking. this might also work in a political context like if i'm a labour supporter i might find their election posters ugly but be happy that they are making people vote labour. i guess 'piss christ' can arouse either of these semi-paradoxical emotions, you can think it's nice to look at but blasphemous or equally think it's ugly but redemptive. so it's a good example.

10. i like the term 'concept rock' but i don't think anybody really uses it (also it's probably an unfair objection for the context of your essay but it's problematic to say that punk was set up against disco or prog (concept rock), it's become clear to the point of almost being cliché that a lot of the people in punk bands were big prog fans and if you look at the post-punk musics then a lot of them have a great deal to do with disco (ie. the 'disco sucks' people were not real punks) i think you're more correct when you say punk is an attitude - there are some excellent essays i can link you to which address the punk/ugly stuff if you want.

11. the idea that appreciation of the ugly is to do with an engagement with human possibility appeals to me a great deal - the idea that the ugliness is 'the price to be paid' seems like a bit of a cop out to me though, on carroll's part

12. to mention cage again '4:33' is about listening, so it does contain aesthetic experience (ie. it's not really conceptual), cage's point was for people to sit and listen to and appreciate the natural sounds around them. he regarded these sounds as music as much as anything else is music. it's also about the impossibility of silence, which is sort of conceptual i suppose (i'm not actually sure i can think of a working definition for 'conceptual', the oed only gives me flaky ones)

13. a lot of punk did have to do with 'the ugly' but for me, equally, and for lots of others i think, a lot of punk is beautiful. i think it's problematic to sketch them in the way you have. punk had/has lots of agendas.

14. when people slow down to look at a car accident does the ugliness of the scene really influence their decision that much? i mean, this is another huge question in to my mind - what are the impulses that make people do that? - perhaps the ugliness is, like you say earlier, 'the price to be paid' for witnessing the spectacle? but does that ring true?
 
 
 
 
 
 
this is a very short story. my girlfriend and i were shopping in a big supermarket. it was pretty crowded because it was a friday evening. we were going round systematically, picking out stuff like pasta sauce, rice, some vegetables. we were just getting to the bread when she remembered that we had forgotten to pick up soy sauce, which we needed. i offered to go back to get it and said that i would meet her back there by the bread while she went to get some crisps. i went back a couple of aisles and picked up a bottle of soy, but when i got back to the bread she wasn't there. i waited a few minutes for her but she didn't show. i went over to the crisps aisle and had a look for her but she wasn't there either. i went back to the bread and waited again. i looked all around the supermarket but there was no sign. i felt a little worried, so i paid for the shopping and walked home with it, thinking that since we were separated she would probably head back there eventually too. when i got in all her stuff was gone along with some of mine. why does stuff like this keep happening to me?
 
 
 
 
 
 
today just reared up and kicked me right in the face
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tue, Nov. 16th, 2004, 06:33 pm
in the mirrors on the dressing table weetamix sees three versions of himself. which will take hold? he considers this. the profile; love was in its eyes, he thought. the image of weetamix, tri-fold in the looking glass was in love. and behind him in reflection so was she, turned away, biting slivers of nail from her left hand. in the pink light of the room he studied her image in the mirror, so wan, almost nothing about it. where did she get these pink shades from and are they? yes, pink lightbulbs too.
"where did you get the pink lightbulbs from?" weetamix's voice sounds glutinous in this room, sticky and non-commital. she didn't seem to notice the question, but he saw her deep in the glass get up and leave the room. ok. the mirror again, he thinks his left side is the best, but then, he's always thought this. outside the house fireworks seem to be going off. he goes to the window to find, to his relief, that it is still daylight. there are no clocks in this house, or none that he has seen anyway. weetamix paces the room, taking in chintzy wallpaper, aggressive pink roses in little swirling patterns, a nightmare of roses that tickles him, draws him into mazy undulations, looking for a source, a centre. but the pattern doesn't appear to repeat itself, there is no device to hold it down. where on earth do you buy this from? weetamix, refusing to believe his eyes, traces again, follows one plump, dewy, pinkish-grey flower down its stem, alights upon another, darker bloom, its stem wound round with pinkblack ribbon and whence from there? to the left an almost yellowish, sickly looking rose, only the barest tint of pink clinging to the edges of its petals, and to the right a mere bud, baby pink, almost daring him to look away so that it might bloom into resplendance. where else? weetamix doesn't dare look away. he notes now, tracking the walls with his fingers, keeping a tally, that no two flowers are identical - not only is there no system regulating the paper, no pattern adhered to, every single plant has its own features. and yet, it feels, to the touch, like cheap shop wallpaper. the first time in this room, blushed and shy with excitement, his erection bracing itself against his trousers, yearning, urging, he had jocularly remarked upon the vileness of the wallpaper, thinking it some cheap thing bought quickly after the move, some stopgap. but then hadn't he been sure there was a pattern there that day? well, no matter. and she, shy too and excited, don't want to paint her as some floozy, all expertise and straight-faced, she laughed at it, said she picked it because he hates pink, that's why the whole room is pink.

back at the mirror even the wood of the dresser seems tinted with it, the little rose filligrees on the drawer-handles, pink on a pink background. it was not, however, as even weetamix himself might have thought, chancing upon this description, an oppressive room. not that. best of all was the deep, near-crimson, blush-pink bed throw, always too hot. still ruffled and unmade now, he goes to it, lies on the bed which swallows him deeply. weetamix gazes up at the ceiling, which is painted a kind of bathroom pink and sinks deeper into the bed. he shuts his eyes. and now, would you believe, the bed has completely devoured him. wouldn't think there'd be hungry beds in this district, but it happens. when his eyes open, weetamix finds himself in a totally new room, one that seems to be walled with mattresses. distressed, he wanders around, banging on the grey, uncovered mattresses, which make hillarious spring noises with each increasinly frustrated thump. though, actually, one of the mattresses is a door, weetamix doesn't discover this for some minutes because it's a pull not a push, but when he does he's out in a corridor with grey walls that snakes away like an elizabethan street into a yellowish gloom. but wait, beneath him, the floor is made of... gold? yes, that's right, every capitalistic fantasy he has, god yes, it's there under his feet. and not a metaphorical road this time, but a real road of gold for weetamix to follow. echoes of the pink room disspiate with a new kind of greed that makes weetamix feel something oddly like hunger pains and, well, he is surprised, especially given the afternoon's activity, to find himself with a mild erection and a desire to just... y'know, lie down there on the gold and whack himself off. perhaps he will later, but for now, if there's gold on the road then what will there be once the road ends? that's the question he's asking himself.

in the kitchen, oolan dallies over whether to bring him beer or just tea. would water be better? oh, well, water will do, he might try asking next time. on the tray she now picks up, steadying it and sliding sideways through the door towards the staircase, are sundry snacks, incongruously featuring a bowl of nuts, a bowl of murray mints, a plate of salmon-paste sandwiches, the two glasses of water and some breadsticks. last time she made him food he forced it down, clearly disgusted by it but refusing to admit that yes, three cloves is too much garlic or whatever complaint he obviously wanted to keep hidden but couldn't. can't complain about this tray though, no way, pretty safe, pretty inoffensive. she taps the door with her foot, encumbered by the tray, but he doesn't let her in. a complex set of motions follows, her legs half in the room, half out of it, keeping the door open, bending down for the tray until finally and triumphantly she is is but... ah yes, weetamix is nowhere to be seen. an uncharacteristic move, running away like that, she thinks. not something she appreciates. still, better that he is. she munches on a sandwich, the paste seemed a little out of date, good he didn't try them then. downstairs in the hall now she hears the characteristic rattling of frustrated keys in the stuck lock. he is back early, good that weetamix got out when he did, however he managed it, though how she never heard him go past the kitchen when... well never mind. the door finally, with bluster, bangs open and she hears weston swearing in the hall, slamming it shut again.
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Thu, Sep. 30th, 2004, 06:38 pm
in his kitchen, doctor weston cadaver concentrated hard on cutting a slice of bread. what is there that could be more troublesome, he mused, than cutting bread? since the move he had begun to dread little instances like this, the tiniest dangers had begun to play upon his mind and become monstrous. his primary fear at this time is that he will come home to find the house burgled. each time he walked down the path to his garden, past the rhododendron plants winter-dormant and towards his front door his eyes would wander in search of left-open upstairs windows, perhaps accessible by scaling a drainpipe or from a ladder. and even then, what about the low back fence or holes in the hedge constantly renewed by a traffic of cats and dogs? what of smashed kitchen windows or criminals with counterfeit identity cards fooling her at the door? the mock policeman who would tie her up in a corner, in the cellar perhaps, take everything, gut the house, put it all in a huge van and drive away? the neighbours? would they see anything? or perhaps they would themselves be complicit - they could be casing the house all the time... where do they get their money? none of them seem to work, they are ciphers. has he seen them leaving their houses after dark? get into their cars, three or four men in big cars with tinted windows? has he, waking in the dread hours of morning, before sunup, pulled aside a snatch the thick cream curtains, to discern the hour or the weather, only to see shady groups huddling behind turned up collars and wide-brimmed hats? is that what he has seen? and do they remove snaky packages from their houses, wrapped in bin-bags and tape, clearly human remains, and place them in the boots of dark cars which are driven away faster than the speed limit? has he seen these things? well, has he? yes. no. so his mind a-wanders, breaks his concentration, so that the key in the lock sticks again, counfounds him again, but at least breaks the spell. but... who are those bodies, if they exist? they are ghosts, summoned by himself, swarming, impalpable. but weston does not know this. he swears the visions are truth. he swears they are not visions. his other fear is cutting off a chunk of finger while slicing bread. while slicing bread he cannot hold his concentration. so far, the worst he has done is a small lesion in the side of his index finger which has since healed, leaving only a flat pink scar in its wake.
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Wed, Sep. 15th, 2004, 02:32 pm
it was a journey that weetamix took often enough. he could not hide his reaction to it, his face drawing pale, sweat inside his clothes as he turned into the severed cul-de-sac, the sun low over the houses now. far off, yesterday's storm clouds still visible, they had moved but a meagre distance in the night. a meagre distance thinks weetamix. but he cannot concentrate on this street, his eyelids slitted to keep out the glare, his chin and cheeks greyed with a slight stubble, his clothes crumpled upon him, his shoes too tight. he thinks of the rhododendron plants that surround him, and the walls of privet hedge, the sinister caravans dotted in driveways, and the faint noises of vacuums and radios thick in the air. and weetamix thought of the spiders, all the spiders in all the houses on this road, nestled in dark holes, up in corners with the dust and the damp. grey dessicated bodies scurrying through the darknesses behind furniture, in cupboards, under the televisions, behind the skirting boards, everywhere. legs like tiny prehensile needles, coiled, grey, brown, black. weetamix imagined them all rising up, leaving their webs and holes one night, sallying forth, climbing bedposts, stuffing themselves into the mouths of the sleeping residents and eating them out from the inside, their bodies little pearls stuffed with flesh and sinew. in the morning a whole street of eyeless humans doesn't wake, the bedsheets still slick with blood that has dried in patches, but mostly still drip-drips onto the lacquered floors, creating strange archipelagos of stains, blood streaming from fingers and out of noses. corpses stiffening next to each other, the ruination of couples, entire families. the tyranny of the spiders. weetamix's mind is going haywire, the blood, the spiders. he fixates on an image of a spider's mandible piercing back out through damp smooth skin, swift arcs of blood followed by tiny splints of legs that push themselves out through the dead flesh, the grey body pearlescent red, and then burrows again.

but no. weetamix slides his hands down his face, wipes away the sweat and grease on his forehead and around his nose. this cannot keep happening. in a nearby privet he sees a web and it floods back, spiders crawling up inside her, skin bulging, blank sockets of her eaten-out eyes unstaring back at him. all the bodies decaying together, spiders eggs hatching inside them, webs across their faces, putrefaction cloaking the air of the whole street, the houses going to ruin with dust and damp. and the uncaring faces of the rhododendron plants, waxing every year, growing to subsume the houses, covering over the debris, feeding off the decay, the remnants of families, of generations, enriching the soil, seeping down into it, the flowers growing richer and more prominent, hiding colonies of spiders, huge variant species holding guard, vicious, endless...

at the end of the road is the doctor's house. he reaches it, shuffling along, wracked with his own malaise, the spiders still at the forefront of his mind, looks up and is surprised to see it in front of him. it is aggressively dark green, the sides seem to blend with the privet hedge so that it is difficult to see where one begins and the other ends. the thick cream curtains in every window are all drawn, as is customary, but behind one, the uppermost window on the right hand side, can be seen the pinkish glow of her lamp. the spiders gone now, weetamix laments that it must be like this always, that it cannot get better than this. he opens the black wrought iron gate, notes yet again the creak in its swing, the patches of rust in the joints, but these will be forgotten as soon as he is inside. rhododendrons line the narrow pathway to the door, closer than he would like, but he is calm now, yes. the door is big, dark brown wood, ominous shapes cut into it, and big brass numbers at an incongruously jaunty angle. he rings the doorbell and knows that she will make him wait a few minutes, but the lamp clicks off upstairs and he is as good as home, or almost.
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Tue, Aug. 17th, 2004, 05:12 pm
the gardens of the street with the dark green houses were full of rhododendrons. pale pearl purple and pink flowers, tiny striations of purple seeping into the green like watercolour paint on damp cream paper, bunches of rhododendrons filling up the narrow escarpments, giant cauliflower blooms, deep magenta, violet and blanded out chlorophyll green. above, the hazy trails of distant planes scudded across the azure, darted out from between big bellied, pregnant empurpled clouds. the air was grey. it was june and the houses on the street were all a dull, weathered, olive green, a colour something like mould. but the rhododendrons, those were the killers. virulent orbs, leathery petals full of sap, an albino nightmare of pollen, stamens erect, striving for the sun, leering from their trim hedge-nests, flanked with satin privet, lots of dark green. and the sky, and the heat, and the chance of a storm just working itself out, clouds turning pinkish with dew, the sun a glum pearl, barely visible. it was weetamix collett, scared of the flowers and the houses, who walked down here now, saw the time-lapse decay of old, imagined the long roots of the rhododendrons drawing all the moisture up from the ground, bloated stems that would drip sickly nectar if snapped, juice that would cling to your hands, with an odour like urine or ammonia, leaving them clammy, and dust from the air would stick to your hands, dirtying them. the rhododendrons, some of them almost blue they are so purple, like dye from shells crushed underfoot, staining the sand. others pearl-white, glassy, ambiguous, they decay and they hide the decay. behind them their roots sneak up between air pockets in crumbling cement, slowly, agonisingly they break through brick and wood. damp begins to soak into the house from the ground and the walls break apart further, cracks and greasy spots of damp appears on the inside walls. and the inhabitants, chalky, elderly, paint over them, ignore the problem. and even when the walls finally do come down, in a heavy winter shower, amidst the mud and destruction, who would think to blame the rhododendrons, now just dormant grey stalks covered in rubble. until the next summer, heads turned away from the unlucky plot, a few meagre blossoms poke their heads up into a tiny sliver of sunlight.

but weetamix, he cannot see into the future. he seems to look a little like a rude word with some of the letters starred out today. from the mirrory windows come strains of ballads, unsuitable voices cracking over toyshop pianos, and what is either the undulations of bass or the creased rumble of minor underground tremors. yes, even here. far off, the merry yammering of an ice-cream van, greensleeves, threatens to order the chaos of this practical silence, but it is short lived. weetamix dabs at the sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand, shields his eyes and looks out down the road, almost into the sun. he sees the rows of indifferent gardens, trees casting trinkets of shadows, loose networks that roll like the tide, wax and wane according to the movements of far off clouds. someone had once told him that he was the only person above them in the hierarchy. who was it? he saw a street of dark green houses and rhododendron gardens, nestled cars bright enough to reflect the sky, which had by now opened out a little, it would not rain today, probably not.
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Wed, Aug. 11th, 2004, 09:27 pm
the backdrop of sky, like blue ink swirling into white wine cast, lumpen, uncouth tinged-black sillhouettes of buildings and trees. against it all, through the mist-drizzle climate of this ghoulish town, all shoulders and beard, brown-black against the sickly sky, walked date rape ben, head hunched into his chest, the thin rags of his clothes stinging him, sticking to him, catching the greenish frost and yes, he was thinking now, yes, a slight perceptible nod shakes the greybrown hair into sharp relief against his distant black frame, it is like, for a moment, like blossom falling from a tree into water, the ripples. yes. the rain was falling on all of them that night, on weston cadaver even, as he ran, running like horses run, thousands of horses, all sinewy, throats out, the undamaged spectacle of the sky blue, blue above them, cerulean blue, an epic, unending, cloudless azure. and he ran from the car with the sky above him the taste and colour of blackberry boiled sweets still in their wrappers. ran flailing, idiotic, nothing like horses, but horses were in his mind that night.

the bar inside was a dismal quiet, the floor tramped wet and sticky mixture of rainwater and beer, a couple of wax jackets hung from the pegs on the wall like pigs in a butchers shop. the tab, oh, no more of that, enough of that. "i know you're good for it". ha. and what had he needed all that meat for? if only he could remember. weston sank his hands into his loose pockets, clamoured in the dust and coins and paper for something. pulled a handful from his pocket, counted out enough for a pint and set it down on the bar, nodding to shenstone, who took it without a word, without counting it even. such trust. but do they... perhaps you get used to doing it without letting people know, takes practice - to avoid offending. good idea. clever. weston dug again to see if there was enough for another perhaps - here is one and... but. the keys! he dove again, a little more frantically, but tempering it, not letting on. shouldn't let even shenstone see, our little agreement, i don't see yours and neither you mine. that's the deal. he sipped at the pint as it was placed before him. to calm him. but no. no. and she never opens the door to me, there have to be rules. no. try another. weston felt about the jacket, peered behind him in case they were there. no. no. nowhere. no.

yes. date rape ben smoothed back the wet locks, his tangerine hand, stubs of fingernails. yes. time now. he reached inside his jacket for the foil. yes. the rain was dripping on his hands. just like. under a doorway he opens it up, milky crystals, yes, don't need to lick fingers in this, damp enough now. dabs generously and runs the finger round grey gums, traces the countours of roots of teeth. like glass. yes. the taste in his saliva reaches his toungue. it is like bitter soap. enough? he wraps the foil back up, enough for weston anyway. ha. yes. rouding the corner, the last of the yellow in the sky giving way now, just a touch of it left in the distant gaps between trees and buildings, chimney stacks and spires, and that is all, it's enough. he reaches shenstone's, already he senses it in his legs, there first, it will work then, that's known, that's enough. yes. he pushes the door which gives way easily, a little more painwork scratches from the frame, flakes, and falls to the wet floor under date rape ben's swollen boots.
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Mon, Aug. 9th, 2004, 11:52 pm
it was late on a tuesday when doctor weston cadaver came home. not content with merely being late, he had, upon noticing that the hour was far beyond that which signalled his usual leaving time, decided upon being spectacularly late. in fact, the sun was far nearer to coming up than going down when he plunged his keys into the lock, felt the blunt resitance of the bolt, the old injury. his head pounded. the constant rain and vast temperature changes had warped and rusted the metal of the lock, one minute the key felt loose enough to wiggle inside the lock, the next the bolt would barely turn, so cold was the metal. damn this town thought weston. he cursed the fates that had banished him here, the unpaid tab at the butcher's shop - that was the least of it, kicking that weekend-crazy, the bruises on him like prunes, and the incident at the pier, the key in the lock always made him return to that. and why must it be so difficult a lock? any other would give straight away, he could barge through in an instant. but not this lock, not this town. he had to stand on the threshold between the pain of remembering and the ignorant prozac malaise of forgetting. always there he stood in front of the door wrenching at the lock, ridiculously jiggling the keys until finally, with a lurch, the thing would open starkly and he would be inside. of course, she never had any problems with the lock, she said it must be psychosomatic, it must all be in weston's head. weston, with force now, with guts, anger, opens the lock, loud enough so that she can hear.
"are you there?"
he shouts, a ludicrous question. a light goes on upstairs but there is no answer. he sighs, his trousers heavy with rainwater. when he reaches the room it is empty, a disgusting lamp with a lurid pink shade colours the room making everything look better than it is, laughably better. he removes his trousers and notices little bits of leaves, tiny pebbles and dirt clinging to the wet backs, coming halfway up his calves. the trousers are limp and cold, a few brown droplets fall onto the cream carpet when he shakes them. she returns from the bathroom, frowning at the trousers and his wet legs and his still wetter socks.
"any good?"
she says indifferently, weston has no idea what she is referring to.
"fine"
he answers and there is a long pause during which she goes to the nightstand and switches off the lamp, leaving him standing in a damp shirt and wet socks. he hears the glisten of her returning to the bed, the noisy crumple of days old sheets, papery, leathery. he removes the wet things and drapes them over the radiator. weston cadaver pulls up the bedsheet and climbs in. he places a hand still snow-cold on her stomach, she moves away, throwing the hand off, saying nothing.
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Weston, hands deep in the pockets of his suit – a deep charcoal grey – new shoes squeaking on the teal floor, briefcase at his side, hair slicked back with wetlook gel, overcoat draped on his arm, he glances from behind his glasses at the nurse, the sister, with something like concern, she is telling him about Jack.
“He’s really very fragile, he needs a lot of rest at the moment. The doctor will be round to check on him at one, and he naps after that, so you can only have till then.” she trills, all efficiency. Weston notes uninterestedly her compact body under her clothes, swishing beneath the stiff fabric. He senses a silence that needs to be filled,
“Till one, right, of course.” More silence. “And, forgive me for asking, but how will I be able to communicate with him, I mean will I..?” Weston trails off.
“Oh. For a moment her composure is disturbed and her face softens as she contemplates how best to deal with Weston’s question. Well the stroke was really quite severe. You see, doctor, he’s no longer able to talk properly.” Weston just smiles back, knowing this all already but savouring her discomfort, savouring the anticipation, traversing this long hallway. They pass through what must be the twentieth set of double doors and the nurse stops.
“Well this is him. If you’d be more comfortable, doctor, I can have a nurse sit in with you, some people find that easier, especially the first time.”
“No, no. Thank you sister but I’ll be fine, honestly, Jack and I have always had a great rapport.” She smiles, giving a half-nod, and opens the door into a small room painted magnolia, a clunky bed in one corner, a grey moulded plastic chair, a television showing an elaborately dressed native American lecturing another man, naked to the hip, bronzed. A table bearing a vase containing slightly limp flowers and a radio and in the middle of the floor, in a wheelchair, facing the TV, was Jack. The first thing that Weston notices is the smell, a magnified version of the smell in the corridors and reception, damp, musty, faintly faecal, he stops himself from wincing a little.
“Well now Jack, how are you this morning?” The sister busies herself around the room, not expecting answers. “Doctor Cadaver is here to see you. You remember your son in law don’t you?”
“Yes, Hello Jack, you’re looking well, very well, good to see you again, it’s been too long, far too long.” Weston grinned. Jack’s face, slack and grey did not move, apart from the eyes which flickered in Weston’s direction, alarmed? uncomfortable?
“Well I’ll leave you to it then.” the sister exclaimed, and Weston beamed back at her, a big shit-eating grin.
“Thank you, sister.”
“Remember, the doctor will be coming round at one.” And she leaves, Weston glares at her meaty calves and solid-shod feet as the door glides shut behind her.
“Well Jack.” Weston turns his grin on the man in the chair and opens his hands as if in a benediction then claps them shut. “Here we are.” Weston strides around the room, goes to the window and away again without really having looked out of it, runs his hand along the bed sheets, and returns to Jack’s side, hovering over him, feeling almost too much to begin, he runs a hand through his stiff hair, turns away again and throws his coat onto the bed, placing the briefcase on top of it. “Now Jack,” Weston says brightly, moving back towards the wheelchair which he half turns. He moves to the TV and switches it off. He pulls out the grey chair and puts it down facing Jack, but doesn’t sit on it, instead as he speaks he wanders round the room, hands in his pockets, face tilted slightly upwards. “Jack, we can’t have you sitting in front of the television all day, watching those old repeats, that Yank trash, now can we?” Weston pauses a second, of course he had not, could not have planned the trajectory of this morning, but now he sees an avenue for it to go down and the thing begins to feel tangible, up till this moment, he is now able to admit to himself, he had been wondering if, or how much, he would be able to go through with it. Now there are no doubts, no grievances – why, he had even worried what his reaction to even seeing Jack, like he is, in the wheelchair, would be. Well there’s nothing, not a thing. “You do look well Jack, of course when I said that you did a moment a go it was just a pleasantry, more for the nurse than you. Odd how we slip into these routines, even if we’ve never done them before isn’t it? How we seek to appease people to avoid… what? Embarrassment? Well, I expect you’re past all of that now aren’t you?” Weston now faced Jack, hands on the back of the plastic chair, leaning into his face. “But looking properly now I have to say that it’s true. You look a little like Auden in his later years. Do you know that portrait of him? It’s quite famous. I expect you don’t know it. Somewhat out of your field of expertise eh Jack?” Weston drums out a sprightly rhythm on the chair and turns away for another circumnavigation of the room, his eyes on Jack all the time, the locus of his movements, his sun. “Now, Jack,” Weston relishes the name in his mouth, pronouncing it sickly, sycophantic, a name he never used, never calling the man anything before now, Weston is just turning the tables on every conversation they’ve ever had, so much to atone for. “You have all this free time, so much time with nothing to tie you down. I envy you Jack, in my way. You know, I never envied you before today, and I thought, coming in here, that I might pity you. But, ah, no, not really. You seem to have it pretty good here Jack. But you shouldn’t waste your time with the TV, I don’t know who has authorised that. I’m sure it’s not what you want. When the nurse told me you spent most of your day watching that rubbish I was disappointed, saddened to hear it Jack, I have to say. Of course, they haven’t the staff to read to you. I had thought about bringing you some books, but I anticipated this. A shame, a real shame, I wish, in a way, that I had more time to spend here, there’s a great deal that you should have read by now Jack. A great deal. And now you have the time but not the capacity. Time has turned against you, it’s the great irony of disease, you used to never have enough, I never have enough, but now, now you have too much, you have all this time but nothing to do with it. Boredom. The doctors tell me boredom is a great killer Jack, and all that TV, it must be boring you to death, if you’ll excuse the pun.” Weston was standing facing away from Jack now, hands folded behind his back, he looks at his watch, there isn’t time to dwell, and he realises a certain irony in this, he must move on, there’s still a lot to get in, the TV stuff was all adlibbed, a little flat perhaps, but the tone was right, it was a stable base to build from. “Well Jack,” he says, turning to face the man in the chair, he looked nothing like Auden, his face was much too thin, where had that come from? The skin grey, bristles crisp against the chin, colourless hair splayed out, slept on awkwardly, striped cotton pyjamas, open enough at the neck to show a glimpse of stiff chest hair. Jack stares back at Weston, jaw slackened, the lips moist, the teeth bitter yellow and Weston stares at him, looking for some sign of recognition, perhaps he’s hearing nothing, taking none of it in, but, Weston considers, how much does that matter? He’ll never know either way, but Weston still scrutinises the face, realising how little he ever looked at it before today. A moment later he feels self-conscious of the attention he’s giving Jack with his eyes – could this be a moment of pity, even the slenderest guilt? Weston does not dwell upon the thought but continues immediately, with renewed enthusiasm for his project, he must get this part right or it won’t all come together. “I didn’t just come here to chat to you, no no no. I came here to give you something Jack, I have a gift for you and it’s somewhat related to the matter of your excessive television watching. You know, when I phoned up to make the appointment to see you and the nurse told me how much time you spend watching TV I was most concerned Jack, most concerned. I even offered to bring in a VCR or a DVD player for you and some films that you could watch. I’ll wager there are a great number of very good films that you’ve never even heard of, let along seen. I was willing to allow you to borrow from my personal collection Jack, but sadly it seems that this is against regulations for one reason or another I wasn’t permitted to do this. But by chance, by happy chance – you might call it serendipity Jack – the nurse informed me that you have a radio in your room, and that it has a cassette player. And here it is.” Weston opened his hands at the old plastic machine like a gameshow assistant and proceeded to press the eject button, the cassette door glided open and Weston slammed it shut again. He paused, grinning over at Jack. “Music is a balm. I think you’ll agree with me on this, though I don’t remember you ever being a great fan. But there has never been a better time to start, am I correct?” Weston strides over to his briefcase and snaps it open; it’s an affectation he is pleased to take on, the suit, the wall street hair, it’s a dated idea, but a look that Jack will identify with, Weston imagined that Jack thought of him, disdainfully, as some sort of intellectual yuppie and here he was playing to the stereotype, however correctly. From the briefcase he takes a cassette tape and holds it up in front of Jack, he puts it into the machine but doesn’t yet press play. “Are you familiar, Jack, with ‘September Song’?” Weston here grins at Jack, as though giving him time to answer, “Perhaps you are. Perhaps. who can say? It’s a famous song, a classic standard, dozens of recorded versions are extant, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a song you are familiar with. But Jack, let me ask you this, is it a song you’ve listened to in much detail, is it a song you’ve thought a great deal about, a song you’ve invested time into?” again Weston pauses, letting the question breathe a little, “Probably not, Jack, I would say probably not. You’re not the type of person, you don’t have the right character to make an investment like that in something as flimsy as a song like this, I think I can safely say that. I wouldn’t be too surprised if you could hum along with the tune, perhaps sing the refrain. Ah, before your illness too, of course.” Weston taps his head as if in forgetfulness, though he’s behind Jack now, on another meandering circumlocution of the room, so the gesture goes unseen. “But if you were to know this song intimately, if you were to know any song intimately, if you could debate its merits and shortcomings at length, then I would be a great deal surprised Jack, a great deal surprised.” Weston sighs, checks his watch again, plenty of time, he pauses at the window, looking out this time at the courtyard below. In the centre is a planted area in the shape of a rectangle, rhododendrons, winter-dormant now, with crisp-brown petals and stalks in the grey soil. Around the plants the remainder of the courtyard is concreted over. Two benches stand facing each other from opposite sides and a faint drizzle falls on them and the concrete and on two nurses huddled in their coats, smoking cigarettes and sharing a packet of smoky bacon crisps. “Of course, there are things in your character that you concealed, things you kept hidden; from me, from Oolan, even from Elaine, from everybody, that’s perfectly natural. Everyone is the same, you can’t even call these things secrets really, that would be inaccurate I think – a person’s private character must remain just that, it takes a great courage to let people know even a fraction of that part of you, it takes a rare kind of temperament. It is crass to say that it is a quality that artists have, it is one of the failures of modernism to suggest such a thing, a great hubris, though art, whatever that may be, can be one such outlet. But such things do not concern you do they Jack? And of course, that part of you will never be known now, Jack, it is as if it has already been eternally forgotten, you never found the correct medium did you? No. As I say, it would surprise me greatly if ‘September Song’ was something you had ever given any thought to – and if it is, well, I’ll never know either way now, will I?” Weston turns to look again at the man in the chair beneath him and grins once more, unable to help himself. “Well Jack, you’ll forgive me I’m sure this little digression. I say all this because ‘September Song’ is a thing that I have, in fact, given a good deal of thought to. You might even say that it was an obsession at one time. Let me relate the story to you Jack, I think it’s one that you’ll enjoy hearing. I first encountered the song when I was very young, my father – I don’t believe the two of you ever met did you? – was something of a collector of jazz records and Artie Shaw was one of his favourites. Do you know Artie Shaw? I expect you don’t, he was a little before your time I think, very popular at one time though, a band leader, a composer and a clarinettist. My apologies if you know all this, this must sound very patronising if you do, but with you unable to help me I feel I owe it to you to fill in all the details. If you will permit me another slight digression here Jack, I’m sure you will – while driving down here I was contemplating your current plight. I think it’s a shame you’ve had so few visitors, a real shame. The nurse told me that only your sister and her children have been so far, myself excepted of course. A great shame. But you see as I was mulling over your current situation I came to the realisation that you are something like a blank space, Jack. Your personality has been eroded, all that exist now are fragments, and without you to tie them together, they no longer contain the same resonances, do you follow me Jack? What I’m saying is that the truth about you has become subjective, open to interpretation, suddenly now, with you in this state, if I say you are something, then you become it, since you are unable to disagree – or agree – with me. So if I tell the nurses that, oh, I don’t know, you were a great fan of the work of Monet, then what reason would they have for disagreeing with me? And if I brought in a Monet print and asked if it would be ok to hang it above your bed – well then, you see, it seems to become the truth that you are a lover of Monet. For why would I lie about something like that? But that’s a very simplistic example Jack, of how you are a blank space. Let me outline it for you in a slightly more complicated way. Lets say I was to visit your house now – oh, by the way, Oolan has given me her key, so I may pay a visit to the place, I understand you’re keeping it till you die, a good decision I think, but that’s by the by – if I visited your house and sifted through your belongings, there would be evidence for a life, things you have owned, treasured, the detritus of existence. Perhaps you see already what I’m getting at Jack. Lets say I’ve never known you, but somehow I gain access to your house now. There is plenty of evidence to suggest the kind of life you lead, the kind of man that you are, but on its own the evidence is difficult to decode, how am I, never having met you, to know which things you thought most important, which most beautiful, which had sentimental value and for what reasons. I could make a judgement, but it would be based as much upon my prejudices, my own likes and dislikes as anything else. And if somebody else came along the next day and went through your house similarly, they might conceive of you as an entirely different person. Do you see what I mean? Now lets imagine an alternative scenario where I, like before, am somebody who has never met you, and for whatever reason, you, by which I mean you before you became ill, decide to give me a tour of your house to show me the sort of man you are. Now, there are things you would show me, things you would be able to tell stories about, some things you would spend a lot of time on, others very little time, indeed there may be things that you would conceal from me, not wanting them to influence the way that I thought about you. After you had finished, well, it would still be up to me to make my judgement, and yes, it would still be based upon my own prejudices, my own idiosyncrasies as before, but the fact of your autonomy over the situation changes everything, the fact that I encountered you among your possessions is crucial to my impression because what I will be judging is less the things themselves and more your reaction to them and your reaction to me. What I would focus on would be the way you told me things, what you chose to elaborate on and what you were reluctant to discuss. I hope my meaning is becoming more clear to you now Jack, because you see, now that you are in this state, the possibility of that autonomy, that control over how people judge you, has disappeared. And, perhaps I am out on a limb a little here Jack, but see what you think; it is that autonomy that makes us human. You’re a little like a book by an unknown author. You are a non-person now Jack, you’re not a man anymore.” Weston pauses for breath here, feeling the excitement rising in him but trying to quash it, not wanting to rush things. “This situation puts me in a unique position, Jack. Unlike all the staff here, I knew you before you were ill, so whatever I say to people here about you, they’re likely to believe me. To them you are just a cipher, just a body.” Weston pauses again, gazing at Jack whose face remains inert, his body limp like papier-mâché stuffed with mincemeat. “I think that they enjoy hearing stories about you, anecdotes, anything, it makes you seem more human – otherwise you might as well have been born like this. Though one might say that anyway, this is all your life has amounted to, this is all you’ll ever become Jack. You are a blank canvas and whatever I throw at you will stick.” Weston rounded the wheelchair again and rubbed his chin thoughtfully, thinking he might be peaking too early, he needed to bring things down again, he was proud of having retained his composure so far. Doubtless this was just a role he was playing and the more he concealed himself within the role the better –and not just for himself – he wanted to desperately for Jack to think that this was Weston’s true self, that the years of politeness and small talk were just a façade, rather than the other way round. “So Jack, that is why I have to explain things to you in this patronising way,” he resumed, “though if somebody, an acquaintance of yours, a relative, happened to tell me that you knew all about Artie Shaw then I’d probably believe it, it’s not particularly a position of power that I hold. You are an impenetrable chasm of ignorance now Jack, and forevermore will be. Anyway, as I was saying, my father was a fan of Artie Shaw, and so it was Shaw’s version of ‘September Song’ that I first heard. Now this version is just an instrumental, and though I admired the tune enough for it to become a childhood favourite of mine, it held no deep significance for me. A few years later I chanced upon the Sinatra version of the song and I was awestruck – here was the familiar melody of my youth coupled with a lyric concerning ageing and death, the contrast was bittersweet for me – it remains, though perhaps only for nostalgic reasons – the definitive version for me. In my teens my affectation for the song only grew and I began to seek out other recordings of the song, I was voracious. In charity shops, at record fairs, I purchased a large number of recordings of the song, most of them rather generic, a lot of middling versions by middling jazz singers, but a few gems emerged, and even those average recordings fleshed out my understanding of the song, you see, you can’t come to understand the true status of a song, a standard, without hearing the various interpretations of it, however banal. Indeed it is often the most generic versions that give us the fullest understanding of the function of a song, for they represent it in its most accepted form and are the furthest from novelty. Thought the novelty versions are not without their value too – I acquired a punk version of the song by a mostly unremembered American band which lambastes the sentiment of the song. You see Jack, ‘September Song’ is, as you would expect, mostly sung by older men, but this band is composed, I think, of people in their early twenties, young men with a grievance against the world, a naïve grievance you might think if so directed, but a genuine one nonetheless. The conceit of their version is a similar one to Sid Vicious singing ‘My Way’, are you familiar with this record Jack? Perhaps you are, though I suspect you’re just a little old for punk, a little too old and a little too culturally conservative. Well, as Vicious does, this band, I believe they are called The Creationists, invests the song with a new youthful energy, strips it of all its doleful swing, all of its pathos and grandeur, turns the singing into bitter yelps of frustration and resentment. It is a curios thing. They seem to be positioning themselves, in terms of their sound and their image at least, as year-zero pioneers, makers of a new and radical cultural age, they want to burn down the old bastions of the past – hence the cover of ‘September Song’ a piece of music that celebrates the old rituals of courting, settling down with a partner and waiting for death, a song about the autumn of our lives. But the irony is, and whether it’s an irony that this band comprehend I cannot be sure, that in disrupting the song in the manner that they do they actually breathe new life in to it and give it a relevance that it perhaps lacked at the time. You see, if you listen to other versions contemporary with The Creationists’, mostly recorded on big band tours by elderly crooners, then the song sounds flat and dated, mostly irrelevant, even to their similarly elderly audiences. So what I’m saying, Jack, is that the novelty version sets the parameters, it shows us how far the song can travel from its original conception. And ‘September Song’ has travelled farther than most. I have heard versions in several languages, versions recorded with orchestras, jazz bands, the punk band I mentioned a moment ago, quite a few country versions, a handful of Hawaiian-style versions, Elvis sang it, most of the rat pack sang it, Louie Armstrong sang it, there is a version by Lou Reed even – you are familiar with Reed I presume? He sang ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, which must be a record you know, - and recently I even succeeded in tracking down, on the internet, a reggae version that had eluded me since my early twenties. Something of a disappointment to hear, but of course at this stage it is the having of the thing rather than the quality of the song. Let me tell you Jack, if the internet would have been around when I began my search, I could probably have achieved in a week what back then took me several years, and for a lot less money too. I think that I have purchased, or downloaded – now Jack, I don’t want you to think of me as one of those musty collectors who has to own the original vinyl of a song, I am quite happy with copies, digital versions, re-pressings, the song itself is the important thing to me, not the object carrying it – virtually every recording of ‘September Song’ that there is. And that’s what I have here for you on the tape. I’ve gone to the trouble of compiling here my very favourite versions of that song, not an easy process, but an enjoyable one, and I did it all for you Jack. Shall I put it on for you now? Very well.” Weston moves back to the radio and pushes down the play button and a mournful voice sings the opening lines of ‘September Song’

As the Autumn weather turns leaf to flame,
I haven’t got time
For the waiting game.

Weston gives a blissful grin, “Ah, yes.” and swishes his hands in time with the music. “Jack, this is Robert Wyatt, a man who spent much of his life in a wheelchair – he sang with The Soft Machine, once had a hit with ‘I’m a Believer’ – can you imagine that? Well, this is actually a fairly recent version; I think you can tell that if you listen closely. Wyatt plays it very straight, he looks for the genuine pathos, the true humanity of the song, you see, what dates many of the older versions is the schmaltziness of them, you don’t get the feeling that the singers really mean or even fully understand what they’re singing, they’re just doing the song because it’s the sort of song that singers like them are expected to do and they embellish it with vocal tricks and oversinging. But not Wyatt, he sings it as plaintive as possible, the arrangement serves a similar purpose, it’s by a man called Pascal Comelade, very downbeat, very evocative. He even cuts out the first section of the song, which you’ll hear in some of the other versions on the tape. He has a wonderful voice, don’t you think? The words sound genuine, fatigued, you really think that the days he sings about are becoming more and more precious and that the ‘you’ he is addressing is Wyatt’s own true life partner. But authenticity, the need for authenticity is the great modern disease Jack; I think you’ll agree with me here. I’ve put the Sinatra version on next, yes, here it is, and we can contrast the two. You see, Wyatt seems to make the song personal; it’s really a song that deals with a stock character – listen to what Sinatra is singing here:

When I was a young man courting the girls,
I’d play me a waiting game
If a maid refused me with tossing curls
I’d let the old earth take a couple of whirls
While I plied her with tears, in lieu of pearls,
And as time came around she came my way
As time came around she came.

Sinatra wants to make us aware that he is playing such a character with the song, he makes it perfectly clear. Listen, he sings ‘One’, where Wyatt sang ‘I’ – and listen to the arrangement, it’s overblown, dramatic and so is the way it’s sung. You might almost say that Sinatra, now that he is an old man is simply using the song as another vehicle for courting, but with a different spin to the songs of his youth – it’s a little like an updated version of Marvell’s poem – do you know the one I’m talking about? – ‘To His Coy Mistress’? Well, I suppose not, but the thrust of it is this, the speaker in the poem tries to woo his reluctant girlfriend into bed by reminding her of the brevity of life, and I think you could make a case for saying that Sinatra is attempting a similar conceit. But who do we feel the more sorry for, which version convinces us more? In the very simplest terms we might say that Wyatt’s is the more poignant as he recognises the heaviness of death, the sanctity of love etc – he sings it like he means it, he’s not disguising anything, he’s not using the song for any ulterior motive. But I think this would be a reductive conclusion, Jack, an overly-simplistic reading. To begin with, we might greater sympathise with the character that Sinatra plays.” The music stops and Weston pauses a second, glancing over at the radio. “Ah yes, now this, Jack, is the Artie Shaw version – actually he recorded the song a number of times over the years – but this I think is the best example. Now, where was I? Yes, now, Sinatra’s character is unaware, or at least only ambiguously aware of his impending ageing and death, we might sympathise with his ignorance. Or, to go further, if we accept that he’s using the fact of his ageing as just another tactic for getting a girl, if the song is just a device to him, then we as listeners have to question his capacity for serious contemplation – his capacity for real long-term happiness even, this could well be a character that ends up alone – and is that not far more tragic, far more deserving of sympathy than somebody who recognises their imminent fate? What do you think Jack?” Weston looks down at Jack whose face is still the same crumpled ball as ever, “it’s not a simple yes or no question, or at least I don’t think so. No. It’s a question that gets to the heart of aesthetic appreciation in this century. For me, at least, the Sinatra version, purely in terms of the song, is the more rewarding, though I like the Wyatt version a great deal too. And of course, the great irony of the situation, the great irony of all this authenticity discourse, which is more often than not just an elevated form of class prejudice or race prejudice or most often of all of homophobia – but I won’t get into that, you’re not interested in all that Jack - the great irony is that Wyatt is playing a role as much as Sinatra is, a very different kind of role, but a role nonetheless. Are you with me Jack? You know, I’ve thought about this a great deal, this song, and I often wonder to what extent my enjoyment of the Sinatra version of ‘September Song’ is bound up in the Sinatra mythos – in short, would I like it as much if it was some unheard of singer doing it? I suspect that I wouldn’t, but it’s not a suspicion that troubles me, no no. Jack, it’s hard to conceive of someone ever being as famous as Sinatra was – it’s the same with Elvis, the world of music was simply smaller then and operated in an entirely different way. But that’s beside the point, the point is that what we hear when we hear Sinatra sing are, for better or worse, some of the building blocks of popular culture as we know it today – the schmaltz, yes, that’s what so many people criticise, and you can see the bastard offspring of that schmaltz running around today, they are everywhere, like tiny rhinestones fallen from Elvis’ suit – the inauthenticity. When Sinatra recorded ‘September Song’, he probably recorded another dozen songs that week, probably sang live a couple of times – when he recorded the song he’d probably already sung it hundreds of times before in concert – how could it be authentic, what would it even mean to question the song’s authenticity? These are not idle ramblings Jack; these are key concerns of mine. If you want to properly understand your conception of something, a song, you must unpack all the details, however trivial, and do you know what I’ve come up with? It took me a long time to reach this conclusion about ‘September Song’, because in some senses it seems to defeat what the song is actually about, it seems paradoxical – are you ready Jack? I reached this conclusion while listening to the Sinatra version; it’s fitting I think, and the Sinatra mythology, the legend, whatever you want to call it, that played a key part. You see Jack, there is a great irony in the song, in the performance of the song, even in the conception of the song; are you familiar with the Latin, ars longa vita brevis: art is long, life is short? It’s a relatively common idea, Shakespeare explored it at length in his sonnets – the idea that one can be immortalised through art. I have problems with the idea that I share with many recent critics, but I won’t go into them now for you, the existence of this notion is key to my understanding of ‘September Song’, and it’s through this idea that I came to understand the song as I do. You see, Jack, when whoever is singing it sings, ostensibly they are telling us about the brevity of life, their own life, and the need to latch onto a kind of stability and happiness that, in the song, is embodied by the ‘you’, the singer addresses, it’s a call for acceptance of your fate, a sad acceptance, a resigned acceptance, but an acceptance nonetheless. I think it is this aspect of the song that has caused it to endure for so long, to be interpreted in so many ways by so many different people. I think it is this aspect of the song that The Creationists are attacking in their version; they will not go gentle, if you will. But Jack, if you recall the maxim I mentioned a moment ago: ars longa, vita brevis, then you will perhaps already have guessed what I am about to say – it is simply this: the very fact of the song being sung and recorded ensures, especially for big stars like Elvis and Sinatra and even Wyatt, a kind of immortality, the kind of immortality that concerned Shakespeare in the sonnets. Every time I put one of these records on, that person sings again, they live again, they are brought back. This, I think, is something Sinatra understood and it allowed him to sing the song with such panache, allowed him to use the song as though it were just another courting song, allowed him to use the fact of his death as a device for wooing the audience, because Jack, when Sinatra sings ‘you’ it is not to some imaginary girl, no, but to the listener, I think you have to understand that to understand the significance of this recording. I dunno if you’ve heard about this, Jack, but people go to stadiums to watch footage of Sinatra singing live, they sit there watching a giant TV screen and they clap and Frank sings ‘New York New York’ and they clap again and he thanks them. He does an encore. This is an age of simulation, Jack, what possible meaning can life and death have to a man like that? You know what Colonel Parker said when heard that Elvis had died? He said: “This changes nothing.” These were mortal men Jack, but they got beyond that, but I don’t want you to misunderstand me here, I’m not saying you have to be on that level of fame to be part of this phenomenon, no, Elvis and Sinatra just happen to be particularly useful examples of it, and Sinatra happens to have recorded my favourite version of ‘September Song’. I’ve often wondered why this song has been the locus of so much of my thought, I seem to have returned to it with renewed vigour recently and the conclusions I reach are sometimes contradictory. You may have noticed this, Jack – earlier on I said that the concern for authenticity is the modern disease, but just moments ago I call this an age of simulation. Do these things contradict each other? I’m not sure that they do. I think the great number of people that attend the Sinatra video concerts see him as being somehow realer than today’s pop stars, they see him as singing proper songs, having good diction, having style, class, the discourse of authenticity operates upon so many complex levels which are taken up or discarded by those using them, at times in contradictory ways. I don’t think many of the people attending those concerts would have much time for the punk version of ‘September Song’, for example. So, Jack, we live in an age of simulation, but people so often choose to ignore it, they do so for a number of reasons; to simplify to the extreme, it makes their lives seem more manageable, more easy to grasp, more meaningful.” Weston pulls his hands from his pockets, wipes his brow with the back of his right hand and then looks at Jack while tapping his bottom lip with the knuckle of his right thumb. “Have looked at the view much, Jack? Shall we take a look at the view?” Weston goes behind the wheelchair, grabs the handles and, tilting it slightly, pushes Jack so that he is right up against the window. As he pushes he looks at his watch and realises that he’s perhaps dwelled too much on the song, too much of it was about his own concerns, perhaps the thrust of his meaning has been diluted. But what does it matter? How does he know if Jack is even hearing a single word he says? Standing next to the wheelchair Weston looks out of the window, the courtyard is now empty. “Well then Jack, there you are. This is it; this is what it amounts to, in the final analysis. This is all you’ll see of the outside world until you die, this concrete box.” Behind him, Weston hears the click of the door and the swish of it being quietly opened. Without looking round, without appearing to notice he continues. “It’s all too brief a time we have, Jack, but you’ve lived well and this is not an ignominious end, not by any means, it is in fact a rather noble finish, a…” Weston hears a polite feminine cough behind him and turns around swiftly on the ball of one foot. In front of the door he sees a young nurse, thin, almost frail looking, white skin, curly black hair, slender arms, tiny wrists. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry, sir, I was just asked to check in to make sure everything’s ok with you two and to remind you that the doctor is coming round at one.” She sounds nervous in front of him. Weston takes a couple of steps towards her.
“Well thank you, er,” he steps forward again and leans down towards her breast to read her name tag, “Claire. We are fine; Jack and I were just admiring the view. I’m sure it’s a wonderful garden in the summer.”
“Yes, the residents enjoy it. Perhaps if you visit again when the weather’s better you could take Jack out there.” She gazes up at Weston’s beaming face, a little apprehensive.
“Yes, yes I’m sure he’d like that, but, “ Weston glances back at the wheelchair, which is still facing in the opposite direction, Jack’s blank eyes gazing out at the opposite wall, which contains a number of windows that show rooms identical to his. Weston leans in towards the nurse, speaking in a whisper, but not so quiet that Jack cannot hear, “I fear he may not make it long enough to see the flowers here bloom.” Claire looks at him quizzically, a little confused by this remark, but Weston keeps smiling at her, his eyes locked on hers while she tries to avoid meeting his, scrutinising various bits of carpet and wall. “Well I appreciate your concern, Claire, I thank you for it. Was there anything else?”
“Yes, actually, Doctor…” Claire trails off, either having forgotten Weston’s name or is reluctant to say it; he lets her dangle for just half a second before coming gallantly to her rescue.
“Please. Weston.”
“Thank you. The sister just wanted to ask whether Jack’s daughter will be visiting at all? It’s in the register that she scheduled a visit but then cancelled, is that right?” Weston sours his grin, but inwardly thanks her for the question.
“Yes, that is correct, Claire, she did schedule an appointment a few weeks ago, but she won’t be visiting Jack, not ever, I’m afraid. I’ve tried to talk to her about it but she’s adamant, there’s no way.” Weston pauses, returning the grin to his face, Claire doesn’t seem to know how to react, just about managing a choked out “Oh” but Weston continues, electric with the sense of the moment. “Yes. You see Claire.” Weston moves his face even further towards her, she seems repulsed, but either too afraid or too intrigued to move she stays stock still, her feet planted together, “Jack,” he pauses again, as if unsure how exactly to word what he has to say, he tilts his face suddenly up to the ceiling and keeps it there as he says: “… did something to her, when she was younger. Long before I ever met her, something terrible. She won’t ever tell me what, not until he’s dead, she’s scared of what I might do to him if I ever found out.” Weston returns his face to hers, which is whiter than ever, his grin has disappeared and his voice drops and becomes gravely. “So you see Claire, I’m visiting in her stead. Jack and I always got on. I consider it an act of goodwill. But I’m afraid you’ll have to tell the sister that his daughter won’t be visiting. Is that what you wanted to know?” Claire snaps back to attention at Weston’s question, flustered,
“Yes. Thankyou, I’ll tell her. Thanks.”
“Oh, Claire, there was something I wanted as well.”
“Oh, yes?” she looks uncertainly at Weston,
“Well it’s like this you see, I come in here today and I see Jack watching the television. The problem is that Jack always hated TV, I think after his wife died he got rid of their set. He could never stand television.”
“Oh?”
“Yes. So I think having to sit here watching it must be torture for him. Claire, are you familiar with this music?” Weston gestures towards the radio, which is now playing a Hawaiian version of the song. Claire looks blank. “It’s ‘September Song’, a classic, a standard. Claire, Jack was always a great fan of music, and this was his favourite song, he was forever playing this tape when I went round, he said he found it very comforting. So I went to the trouble of going round there earlier and picking up the tape to bring here for him. I think it would be in Jack’s best interests if you removed the TV from the room and just played the tape for him, all it would take is for somebody to come in every three-quarters of an hour to turn it over. Would that be ok? I know the song means a great deal to Jack.”
“I don’t think that would be a problem, I’ll go tell sister.”
“Thank you. Goodbye Claire. It was pleasant to have met you.” Weston beams at her again and she manages the trace of a smile as she leaves. Weston watches her go and stands for a moment in contemplation, her bare arms, slinky hips. He affects a cough, clears his throat and turns back to where Jack is still sitting, the same motionless slump. “Well then Jack. Now there’s a girl for you. A lovely figure. I wonder if you still feel desire. Is that something you still feel Jack? Of course there can be no physical manifestation, but the mind does not often recognise our bodily limitations when it comes to matters like that now does it?” Weston, back next to Jack, turns and grins at him, winking like a leery uncle. I don’t suppose it matters. If you feel any desire for her it can only be one frustration among thousands, just one more thing that you’ll never be able to do again. Of course, even before your illness she would never want somebody like you. You always dressed too cheaply Jack, you didn’t talk well enough. A girl like that, you have to take some interest. I scared her then, but she’s nothing to me, you realise that, don’t you Jack? If I wanted to, I know how to talk to a girl like that. I think that’s a crucial difference between the two of us. You could never talk to her. And to her now, what are you? Just a body, just a lump of ugly, diseased flesh. You are just a job to her, she resents you, I’m sure of it. I can usually tell these things.” Weston turns away from Jack and back to the window, the rain is falling a little more heavily now, a few spots have blown onto the windowpane. “Now where were we Jack? We were talking about the view, yes. Look out there. Do you see those windows? Behind each of them is another person like you; another incapacitated man or woman waiting to die. If you wait here till night-time and they switch their lights on and you have your lights on in here – I notice there are no curtains in these rooms – if you wait here then, perhaps, someone else on the other side of the courtyard will be waiting there in front of the window, sitting in their chair just like you. And your eyes might meet. Of course the possibility of all this happening is, as with everything that’s going to happen to you for the rest of your life, completely out of your control, but if it were to happen, Jack, then I think that would be the most potent form of human communication you are ever likely to experience again. Yes.” Weston pauses here, biding his time before embarking upon the most important part of his visit; these are the words that he has rehearsed over and over, weighing them for impact, carefully choosing the avenue of attack. “You know, Jack, what I said to the nurse there was correct. Oolan won’t be visiting you, not ever. The reason she hasn’t visited you since Elaine died is that she can’t stand you. Oh, here’s something Harry, this is something that I have to say, without wanting to appear cruel, amused me greatly. I heard that since Elaine passed away, you’ve become quite the little churchgoer. Been quite the man about the parish. Pals with the priest. I hear they even let you dish out the communion one week. Well, Jack, now there’s a thing, that’s really something. Jesus came into your heart, you were reborn, was it something like that Jack? Do you remember the beautiful reading Oolan gave at Elaine’s funeral? Very moving. From William Blake, not that you’d be interested in knowing that. But there will be nothing like that for you, Jack; neither of us will go to the funeral. And you know what? It’s a cliché, but it is times like these when you realise who your friends really are, it’s true. Has the priest even been to visit? Well, I know he hasn’t. If you didn’t know before now then you must have come to the realisation, Jack, that you were a disliked man, you had no real friends. Well where are they? And there’s no God, Jack, don’t be so fucking stupid.” Weston pauses, pleased with the cadence of that last sentence, steeling himself for what is to come. ”Actually, you know what, I did tell a tiny lie to the nurse a moment ago, Oolan has told me everything you did to her, she hasn’t omitted a thing. And you know, Jack, she has had to physically wrench me from the phone, or hide my car keys to stop me getting to you, that much is true. God knows, Jack, I am a small man, a weak man.” On ‘weak’ Weston eyes brim a little and the word catches in his throat, but he holds it back, keeps going, eyes fixed on the rhododendrons below. “I have held back in front of you, made small talk, pretended things were alright, pretended I relished your company even, and I think you believed me. But Jack, listen to me now Jack, if you’d have seen her on those nights, if you had any idea. But of course you have no idea what you did to her, you haven’t the slightest clue – if you were capable of knowing then you would never have done those things in the first place. It’s fitting you’ve ended up this way Jack, I think it’s very apt.” Weston forced a grin. “I think it’s a fair reflection. But Jack, I am a small man, but not so small as to make all this about me, I’m not here for some ridiculous man to man conflict, I’m not here for revenge. You realise the position of power that I’m in here Jack, don’t you? I could do anything. I could put my dick in your mouth; I could knock you to the fucking floor. But I’m not like that. I am not so small, Jack, to have not questioned the ethics of this situation. I’m talking to a disabled man, someone who can’t reply, can’t refute what I say, can’t interrupt either physically or verbally. You can see how this situation would reflect badly on me if somebody unaware of the context were to be watching. Believe me, Jack, this behaviour is not spontaneous, it took a great deal of contemplation, I struggled with my conscience, you can believe that can’t you? I feel that now I’m only doing what is completely necessary. It’s something you’ve had coming to you for some time. I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time Jack, but the problem is you were never a very good listener were you Jack? But, hey, that’s all changed now, that’s one good thing that’s come out of all this, don’t you think? I like to think so. As I say, I think I think it’s fitting that you’re going to die like this.” Now Weston, turns the chair away from the window and crouches down so that his face is level with Jack’s, eyes locked on each other and Weston thinks that he sees the tiniest flicker in Jack’s ruined face. “Well Jack. Here we are. And would you believe, I told that nurse another little fib? It’s just a small thing Jack, but I think I better tell you. When I said you probably wouldn’t last to see the rhododendrons down there bloom, I wasn’t being entirely truthful – I said that for Claire’s benefit. Jack, believe me, I’m not here to make you think that you don’t have long left, quite the contrary in fact. I got talking to your doctor on the way in, a very nice guy, very genial. Well, when I introduced myself as doctor I guess he thought I was medical, you know. I found it a little ironic, because do you remember those jokes that you made when I finally got my PhD? You found it hilarious to ask me medical questions, to ask me what operations I’d performed – and the funniest of all was ‘But who in their right mind would go to a Doctor Cadaver?’ Well, Jack, that one never got old did it? But the irony is that he told me everything earlier. He said I wasn’t to tell you, but I think it’s best that you know the truth about what’s going to happen to you, about your condition, don’t you Jack?” Weston smiles again, still looking hard into Jack’s eyes. “You see Jack, you will see the flowers outside bloom, and you’ll see winter again in this place. The doctor predicts that you’ll live for several more years like this. But Jack, if you think you’re in pain now then you’re mistaken, he said that your condition can only grow worse, your future is nothing but pain, intense pain. Soon, quite soon really, just a couple of years away, the pain will be so great that, if you could speak, you’d be begging for someone to slip you an overdose, you’ll want so desperately to be able to end it Jack, but no one will help you.” Midway through Weston’s sentence the tape clicks off for the end of the first side. Weston rises and moves over to the machine, slowly and deliberately he turns the tape over and presses play again. The tune starts up, this time a singer with a French accent tackles the opening lines, and Weston goes and crouches down in front of the chair, his face set hard, looking disgusted at what’s in front of him “Nobody cares enough to take that risk for you Jack.” He rises again and puts his hands in his pockets, exhilaration howls through him, he can’t help but smile. “Well then Jack, I think that’s about all, I think I’ve said everything I came here to say. I can’t say you’ve been very good company, but then I don’t think I could ever say that about you.” Weston shuts his briefcase and gathers up his coat from the bed. “I hope you enjoy your tape Jack, you’re going to be hearing a lot of it from now on.” Weston goes to the door and opens it a little way, “Now Jack, perhaps I’ll come again, in a few years time, in the summer, and take you for a turn around the garden. We’ll see. Whatever happens I know I’ll be thinking of you, perhaps you might take a few moments each day to think of me as well, I’d appreciate that. Well, goodbye then Jack.” Weston looks once more at the old man in the chair, had he deserved all that? He shuts the door, suppressing a smile and begins to walk down the white corridor.

Half way along he encounters the nurse and a man who is introduced as Doctor Benson, the man treating Jack. Weston grins deferentially at the man. Benson is a little smaller than him with a chubby face and a pleasant Irish accent, he looks up at Weston with a genuine sympathy.
”How did you find it today? I know it’s difficult for a lot of people, especially the first time, though you stayed for quite a while.”
”Oh, well Jack and I have always got on very well, as I think I said to the sister, we have a rapport, you know. Talking to him today I found myself almost able to fill in what Jack would have said, it wasn’t so different. But tell me doctor, how much of what I’m saying can he understand, I mean, how much has it affected his brain?”
“It’s hard to say, er, Doctor Cadaver, hm. A specialist has been visiting Jack a couple of times a week to work on ways of establishing communication and she says that he is able to respond to her in a very rudimentary way, using very slight movements of the eyes for example, to indicate a yes or a no. So we think that his mental faculties have not been too drastically affected.” Benson looks down seriously at his clipboard, “But I’m sure he took in more than you think he did, doctor.” Weston isn’t sure whether the Benson is just saying this to comfort him.
“And, er, how long would you say he has?” Benson appears surprised by Weston’s candidness, but he retains his composure neatly.
“Well again it’s difficult to say, he’s in a very fragile state at the moment, so he’s particularly susceptible to illnesses, his immune system has been significantly weakened, so any disease would be a big threat to him. That said, he could just as easily last another year, or longer. Cases like Jack’s are very difficult to predict.”
“Well thank you doctor, not exactly reassuring knowledge, but it’s good to know the truth. And it’s pleasing to discover that Jack is in the care of such a genial man. I am pleased to have made your acquaintance.”
“Yes, pleased to meet you too doctor.” Benson seems a little put out by Weston’s gregariousness, but he extends his hand and Weston shakes it firmly.
”Well I won’t keep you any longer, I’m sure you have a great deal to be getting on with. Goodbye doctor. Sister.” Weston nods at them both and walks away towards reception. He sidles along, hands in his pockets, a big grin on his face, he doesn’t care now. On the way out, he notices the nurse, Claire, standing on reception. He slows his walk, looking right at her. She returns his gaze and Weston beams at her, the biggest smile of the day, he almost winks. To his surprise she smiles back at him, big and genuine, her cheeks colouring slightly. He almost goes over, but the moment is so perfect, it couldn’t get better. The door clink open in front of him, he lets an old lady, her hair and coat soaking wet, go past him and steps out into the drizzle, clicking his heels on the wet tarmac. Shielding the match from the wind he lights up a cigarette and takes a couple of joyous drags and looks up at the sky which is the colour of newspaper, and at the people bustling round the carpark like pinballs, slaves to the wind. He half finishes the cigarette before flicking it away, watching the slender arc it describes in the air, going back over the events of the last hour in his mind. It could not have been more perfect. Claire’s smile was like an approval from God himself. Well, how could it be anything else? To his surprise, a faint wisp of sun seems to be struggling through the cloud, and if the sun, though only the winter sun, is going to shine today, then who else could it shine on but Doctor Weston Cadaver, who, too blissful to drive, leaves the carpark and walks out in the direction of those few little shafts of sunlight that however uncertainly over the damp pavement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
"... so i told her, if you pick it, it will leave a mark. she didn't pick it, but it still left a mark."
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In one corner was a dusty TV with wood-panelled sides, clusters of wires teeming out the back. Payne was signed up to an elaborate and expensive satellite package, thousands of channels from across the world. The set flickered, mildewy furze-grained footage, a strange smoky scene. On screen, haze drifted and rippled across a sky the colour of beer. The camera panned over grubby, steamy escarpments, ridges of mud and scuzz. The music grumbled in tiny echoing ruptures, slabs of discordant bass and then a sudden jump into cop-show crime jazz played crisply at breakneck speed, and jump again into spastic grindcore with ugly bleating, retching vocal sounds... barely human. Jump once more to shamanic free folk, a ritualistic dirge chanted in the deep baritone of some eastern-European language. On the screen the camera fixed on several figures in filthy military garb, heavy olive-drab, lumpy, rough fabric. Their faces were covered with baggy white masks, eye and mouth holes roughly cut out. Long red strips of material hung down as sinisterly elongated noses, ending a little past their chins. This frayed band held ramshackle instruments, accordians missing keys, tears in the squeeze boxes, guitars and fiddles with all the varnish rubbed away. One sat at the charred remains of a piano, blackened keys yellow and heavy, mould creeping up the side in slimy chunks. They gazed into the camera with mournful eyes, lips parted slightly, teeth eerily white and chattering in the fug... the smoke of distant fires... scraps of torn material fluttering spastically, caught in dead twigs or patches of scrub... pools of dark mud... the skin of the hands playing pink and white like supermarket meat... the grotesque masks, impassive...

The action on the screen seemed to bear no relation to the music that was still blaring out, skittering now between glistening disco and free-jazz blowout. Payne explained, bluntly, that the TV was always muted, this was an internet radio station he was tuned into. He couldn't concentrate on less than two things at once. The masked soldiers began to fade away, still playing on... on. They were replaced by footage of two drag queens kissing and fondling in an impossibly garish appartment done out in early 90s copies of minimialist futuristic 60s-style furniture, exuberantly shiny plastic, the smooth curves of it round and stark against white white walls. The footage was altered to look Edwardian, sepia-tinted with fake lines and grains and flickers added in. The men were dressed as postcard girl-punks, short tartan skirts billowing at the tops of fishnetted stockinged thighs, leather, chain, studs, slashed fabric. One sported a vast mohawk, near a foot of immaculate narrow spikes, thick eye shadow, rows of silver facial piercings, ornately tatooed designs of fornicating men, greeks with romans, whites with blacks. The other had a shaven head, similarly made up, no tattoos. They began to strip each other slowly, expressionlessly, dark lips glowing. The mohawked man carefully rolled down each stocking with his teeth, biting the flesh, licking it, caressing it, the stays on the garter belt trembling over smeared lipstick scars. Now he tugged roughly at an impossibly tight leopardskin thong, a cock, yearning, tightening beneath the cheap fabric which was wrenched away and the mohawked man took the other's penis in his mouth and rolled it around elaborately inside, crowned by the thin tartan skirt, still-on. The camera flickered upwards to the shaved head of the other man, his sinewy eyes clamped shut, his tongue between his teeth, face tensing and untensing. And then cut back down. The soundtrack was now a relentless hard techno, a sneering beat ecstatic behind it. Suddenly the head pulled away as jizz exploded, hitting the mohawked man in the face, the semen glistening sepia-white.
"They cut it!" Payne whined, standing there with his hands in his pockets. "Did you see that?! It was a cut!"
The camera blipped again and they were both naked, the mohawked man sprawled out on his front. The bald guy began to score the back of the other with the sharp heel of a discarded stilletto, deep deep gashes, the sepia blood streaming down his side and staining the perfect sepia white floor. Weston turned away, bored, disgusted, the music now a creaking music concrete, chattered and scrabbled away... away...
 
 
 
 
 
 
ALL MUSIC ALL OF THE TIME

TAPE ONE

MR REYNOLDS, WHAT EXACTLY IS A RAVE?

SIDE A

1. Nathan Fake - The Sky Was Pink (icelandic version)

2. Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For? (Jacques Lucont Skinny White Duke Remix)

3. Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls (Hell Remix)

4. Felix da Housecat - Silver Screen Shower Scene (Laurent Garnier Mix)

5. Black Strobe - The Abwehr Disco

6. Joakim - Are You Vegetarian?

7. Kelis - Trick Me (Tiefschwarz Mix)

SIDE B

1. Michael Mayer - Love is Strong

2. Freeform Five - Strangest Things (MANDY Remix)

3. Rex the Dog - Prototype

4. Prodigy - Girls (Rex the Dog Remix)

5. Knife - Heartbeats (Rex the Dog Remix)

6. Ada - Maps

7. Covenant - Bullet

8. Ernesto vs. Bastian - The Dark Side of the Moon



TAPE TWO

IT'S A GAME OF GIVE AND TAKE

SIDE A

1. Phil Collins - You Can't Hurry Love

2. Aaliyah - Try Again

3. Afrkia Bambaata and John Lydon - Time Zone: World Destruction

4. Big and Rich - Wild West Show

5. Rachel Stevens - Sweet Dreams My LA Ex

6. Wham! - Wham Rap

7. Snoop Dogg feat. Pharell - Drop it Like it's Hot

8. More Fire Crew - Oi!

9. MIA/Diplo - Galangaton (Diplo Mix_

10. Robert Wyatt - At Last I am Free

SIDE B

1. Diana Ross - You Can't Hurry Love

2. The Scala Choir - I Touch Myself

3. 10cc - I'm Not in Love

4. Simply Red - Stars

5. The Lighthouse Family - Lifted

6. Roxy Music - Virginia Plain

7. Mark Morrison - Return of the Mack

8. Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney - The Girl is Mine

9. Babybird - You're Gorgeous

10. Crowded House - Don't Dream it's Over

11. M People - Search For the Hero

12. Take That - How Deep is Your Love



TAPE THREE

IF YOU HAVE TO ASK YOU'LL NEVER KNOW

SIDE A

1. Jackie Mclean - A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square

2. Anthony Braxton - Round Bout Midnight

3. Charles Mingus - Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

4. Thelonious Monk - April in Paris

5. Sun Ra - Space Jazz Reverie

6. Roland Kirk - If I Loved You

7. Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman

8. Duke Ellington - Ain't Misbehavin'

9. Albert Ayler - Deep River

SIDE B

1. Kraftwerk - Tanzmusik

2. Kunio Miyauchi - Devastated Building

3. Naked City - Victims of Torture

4. Ryoji Ikeda - 0'

5. Otomo Yoshihide - Sheseido

6. Visionaries Theme

7. Anal Cunt - You're Pregnant, So I Kicked You in the Stomach

8. Merzbow and Gore Beyond Necropsy - The Sunlight Path Rectal Anarchy

9. Naked City - Jazz Snob Eat Shit

10. To Live and Shave in LA - From Gloss 'Polytope' Flexi

11. Henry's Cat Theme

12. Masaru Satoh - Visitor(s) From the Sky

13. Boredoms - 5

14. Ebony Rhythm Band - Interlude

15. Boards of Canada - Rodox Video

16. Upsilon Acrux - 45 Seconds

17. Ennio Morricone - Il Gatto a Nove Code

18. Boredoms - Pop Kiss

19. Dymaxion - Gebrauchmusik

20. Slowmotion - Carbon Valence

21. Wild Man Fischer - Go to Rhino Records

22. DJ Spooky - Dance of the Morlocks

23. Delia Derbyshire - Planetarium

24. Gore Beyond Necropsy - Divine's Dead

25. Mr. Chimp - I Like Drugs and Child Abuse

26. Firestorm Viper - Untitled #1

27. Naked City - Pigfucker

28. Poddington Peas Theme

29. Masaru Satoh - The Silhouette on the Tree

30. Naked City - A Shot in the Dark

31. The Locust - Get Off the Cross, the Wood is Needed

32. Keiji Haino and Peter Brotzmann - Recommended

33. Boredoms - 1

34. Alec Empire - Low on Ice

35. Akira Rabelais - Void

36. Frank Thorton - Chris is Gay

37. Noise/Girl - Discopathology

38. Nurse With Wound - Landed at Granma's

39. Otomo Yoshihide - Hardcore Chinese Opera

40. Half Japanese - US Teens are Spoiled Bums

41. Yellow Kitchen - Greeting New Year

42. Bombay the Hard Way - Theme From Twin Sheiks

43. Dymaxion - Use Once and Destroy

44. Whitehouse - Dedicated to Dennis Nilsen

45. No Neck Blues Band - (unitled)

46. Akira Ifukube - Terror of Mechagodzilla Ending

47. Renaldo and The Loaf - A Medical Man

48. John Cage - Living Room Music

49. Stock, Hausen and Walkman - Untitled

50. Sonny Sharrock - Promises Kept

51. Regurgitate - Chronic Lymphatic Leukemie

52. The Caretaker - One Thousand Memories

53. Sun Ra - Space is the Place

54. Mark E. Smith - Reading the Shit on a Hotel Door
 
 
 
 
 
 
this is what i did in school today (with some changes)

simon didn't notice that she had stopped on the bridge. he walked on, eyes forward until she called him back, peering down at the black water. she told him it looked beery, that it looked like beer, the water.
"what do you reckon?"
simon just looked at the water, didn't respond. there were puddles of orange reflection, black and orange drifts of pools of streetlights in the greasy flow of the river. around the water were black reeds, thick and coarse as sandpaper. simon looked back, behind him stretched a mile of brown wasteground, waterlogged now, from rain which returned again and again in thick gusts of wind, making his hands red and chapped, sometimes so strong and full in the face that he could scarcely draw breath. and now she wants to look at the river? he pushed his hands deeper into his pockets, searching for the scant warmth, his vegetable fingers moulding the fabric.
"where does it go?" she asks him, turned to him now, her red nose the only part of her face with colour, wisps of hair scurrying beneath and around her hood with its ridiculous red trim that he hates. simon looks back over the bridge in the direction the water flows in. the last faintness of the day still lingers there in blandly empurpled clouds, the horizon interrupted, first by the square frontages of several pre-fab warehouse buildings and then by a pristine chain link fence topped with barbed wire. between the fence and the warehouses the river flows into a concrete runnel and disappears underground.
"where does it come out you mean?" simon's voice sounds raspy and he half-unclears his throat as he speaks.
"mm."
"on the other side of the warehouse? i don't know."
suddenly she seems bored and starts to move off. simon watches the water for a little longer, just a little. its shallow course. he turns and follows her. the wind is getting up again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
maybe the key "what if" in this alternative history scenario is "what if ecstasy had never been invented?"