A certain cocaine jesus invited me to contribute to his handsome music review site "music to grow old to." Never one to miss a musical opportunity I gladly accepted and began by remembering the classic Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
26 December 2005
24 December 2005
"They're tearing the Buick City Complex down
I think we're the only people left in town.
Where you gonna move, where you gonna move,
Do you wanna mess around?"
16 December 2005
My office has steadily reduced in numbers over the last year yet the martyr remains stubbornly tied to her stake. Once she played to a full house of seventy plus and although that sympathetic audience has dwindled to a small matinee attendance, the quality of her performance has not diminished. Once a mere lieutenant, she has risen by default to dizzy heights and now seeks condolence in the full glare of the spotlight.
Each day brings cause for a new pained expression. Etched on her face is the statement “I really shouldn’t be here, I think I have double pneumonia. But someone needs to make the effort or this office will simply fall apart.” There is a danger that colleagues will forget how gravely ill she is, so regular reinforcement is crucial. Accordingly frenzied bouts of sneezing are interspersed with lung-shredding coughs and laboured breathing.
Sceptical observers of this phenomenon know it will be hard to maintain the illness at “touch and go” status. Sooner or later patience will be rewarded and the mask will slip. The phone rings, trill, trill… our martyr’s plaintive voice greets the caller, cracking and stuttering through strings of phlegm. Sentences are punctuated with exaggerated sniffs, yet as the call proceeds, a curious and remarkable recovery begins. Thirty seconds in, the conversation is running smoothly. Vowels and consonants are pronounced with ease and eloquence and the slow, sorrowful tones replaced with enthusiasm and giggles…
Similar speedy recovery from dental treatment is equally astonishing. Much clattering and banging draws attention to a late arrival. “How did it go?” we inquire politely. The response is barely intelligible, delivered through a mouth evidently still numb from invasive treatment. Speech is managed with almost no discernible jaw movement. There is considerable mumbling and lines of dribble keep mysteriously appearing thereby prompting frequent dabbing of the lips. Clearly there have been multiple extractions and probably root canal fillings. However, within the hour she is heard explaining to a colleague with startling clarity, “yes I was little late, I had a dental check-up...”
On occasions this heroic devotion to work reaches an astounding level of commitment. Movement from desk to photocopier is achieved only with strenuous effort and a good deal of grunting. The left leg proceeds normally but the right is dragged behind limp and lifeless. Incredibly there has been no steady onset of this condition, surely she must have suffered a massive road traffic accident over the weekend. The useless limb is hauled along like a suitcase on wheels as she attempts the return journey to her desk. A subsequent trip to the fax requires the same effort, yet smart onlookers note the tragic injury has now afflicted the left leg while the right is good as new. Later the signs are of only a slight limp and even more perplexing is the mid-morning sight of our martyr positively sprinting to the coffee machine...
The stench of burning martyr hangs heavy in the air…
07 December 2005
“The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paperboy brings more.”Pink Floyd – Brain Damage
04 December 2005
20 November 2005
Creamy moonlight casts soft seductive shadows only I can see. The house is in darkness, its hatches battened down. It hides from the daylight world for there lies trust, love and dependence. It has a history, I know that from the additions and repairs. I have loved it for years and we have always enjoyed our secret connection.
I saw it once in summer sunshine, what a breathtaking sight. A glittering palace of perfect lines. I know I could live here and see out my days in happiness. But not everyone admires it like I do, there are those who walk past without a glance and others who haven’t even noticed.
I have visited often and spent many happy hours here. Yet there is so much more I want to discover behind the solid brickwork. Paths I would like to tread in the tangled overgrowth behind. In broad daylight I have knocked softly on the doors and peered through the blue windows to see only reflected sky. But at night this sleeping fortress mellows just a little.
I stride confidently through the gate and press my nose against a wide bay window. For a brief second an image of domestic bliss flashes into view. It burns into my retina, switches to negative then fades. I hurry to the next bay and peer into the gloom within. Shadows move inside telling me someone is home. My presence has caused a reaction.
This house has a soul, of that I am sure. I am determined to find it, after all there is nothing else left for me to do now. I will talk to the occupier. I mean really talk, not just chat over the fence. Some windows offer tantalising glimpses into a beautiful interior. Rooms and halls, shrouded in mystery, await my footfall.
I know there is soft warmth inside for I have been welcomed before. Tonight the walls are strong and the doors locked fast. “Daybreak,” I murmer. “I will come back and see you at daybreak…” Yes, daybreak seems somehow appropriate.
13 November 2005
An unbelievably young band with the world at their feet. Tonight Portsmouth Pyramids is heaving with eight hundred sweaty youngsters and me as we witnessed a truly electric performance from this fearless new trio.
The act is held together by baby-faced Billy Lunn who plays rock guitar with a punk edge and sings in a raw anxt-ridden yell that belies his young age. Charlotte Cooper's bass is nearly as big as her and a bare-chested drummer goes ape on the skins.
They crash through an extended version of "I Wanna Hear What You've Got to Say" and Billy climbs a PA tower to lead the hand-clapping from a precarious height then slithers down and does the same on the far side of the stage. Cameras pop everywhere and he dashes back centre stage to catch the Gibson SG flung deftly by his guitar tech. Next Is "With You" and hairs stand on the back of my neck to hear the line 'My best days are with you, they are so easy!" (I think I'm sixteen again...)
Keeping up an amazing pace these twenty-year-old rising stars of modern pop-punk run through the whole of their debut album "Young for Eternity" from which several charting singles have been lifted. To close they give us a blistering rendition of "Rock and Roll Queen" during which Billy dives headlong into the crowd and surfs like a rock legend! He emerges minus T-shirt and resumes the stage for the final chorus. No encore, so a frenzied Portsmouth crowd is left breathless and wanting more.
"Another day is here and I am still alive."
The Subways - I Want to Hear what You've Got to Say.
09 November 2005
Okay so you want gadgets? Here is the new setup-
Desktop and Laptop.
Scaleo P desktop
3Ghz Pentium 4
200gb hard drive
DVD-RW dual layer
Samsung 19” TFT
FS Cordless kb/mouse
Freecom 80gb USB hard drive
Creative 4.1 surroundsound
Logitech 4000 pro WebCam
Epson X620 printer/scanner
Canon Ixus 700 camera
Creative Zen Touch 20gb mp3 player
Amilo Pro laptop
Pentium M740 1.7Ghz
60g hard drive
DVD-RW dual layer
Belkin wireless broadband router
I’m already bored and researching a new motorcycle.
04 November 2005
These days I'm not good at concentrating on more than one thing at a time. I have a new PC and laptop and am running them beside my old PC while I transfer files, programmes and settings. I can't do that and write as well. The wires are untangled the systems all run smoothly and I am packing away the boxes. So normal sporadic service will be resumed as soon as can muster the enthusiasm.
23 October 2005
He awoke to pale, mid-afternoon light filtering through a grimy window. Still clothed in a dirty coat and coarse trousers he sat up on the bare mattress. The rotten window frame was soft as cork and the glass rattled as he inched it open. A cold breeze pushed in and stirred the evil stench. Shouts and rumbling cartwheels rose from Dorset Street.
Standing, he stretched his stiff muscles then turned his bloodshot eyes to the table with its plate and the remnants of a stale loaf. Sitting on a hard chair he scraped it closer to the table. His unwashed hands tore off a wad of bread. As he chewed, his fingers trembled. From the street below came the strains of a sweet sung melody. Instinctively he smiled but the smile turned sour as he thought of his singing, whoring mother. Her brown teeth had showed when she sang. The siren voice trailed off having no doubt attracted its prey. He didn’t trouble to get up and look.
His bolthole was quiet. He lay on the musty bed and dozed again...
... it had grown dark. Somewhere distant a woman screamed and a dog began deep incessant barks. He drifted up through layers of sleep. From upstairs came a muffled cough and heavy boots on worn boards. Instinctively his hand dropped to the floor and he felt beneath the bed. He withdrew a long knife. Propping himself up on one elbow, he pulled a stub of candle and a match from his pocket. He positioned the knife deftly and trimmed the wick quickly and neatly. The match hissed and flared as he scraped it against the bedstead and lit the candle.
He snuffed the match with leather-hard fingers and began to whittle it. Drawing the blade away from him in slow, gentle strokes he watched the white strips as they curled and fell. Satisfied with his work he used the pick he had fashioned to remove bread from between his teeth. Then with the same implement he absently prised traces of brown from under his nails.
His ears pricked alert as the familiar Irish voice set up its syrupy sweet singing again. The soft tones lilted in the still air of late evening. Slowly he swung his legs off the bed and stood up, placed the toothpick on the empty plate and slipped the knife in his pocket...
12 October 2005
What a difference a week makes. The latest band occupying the minds of the British music press is The Editors. But this time the hype is entirely justified. Hailing from the unlikely rock ‘n’ roll hotbed of East Anglia, nevertheless these are smart, intelligent and good-looking boys with a distinctly new sound. Think of the chiming angular guitars of Interpol and cross them with the strident baritone vocals of The Killers. Add sharp lyrics and strong melodies and you have The Editors.
I saw them on Tuesday, the final night of a sell-out tour. Three heads from the front, I had a good view of the stage. My favourite Wedgewood Rooms was packed to groaning point with hot sweaty flesh, stirred to fever pitch by New York City bands The Cloud Room and We are Scientists. These are new wave guitar outfits with echoes of The Strokes and The Stills. There was a whiff of money about this debut tour, the light show came from eight of those fancy programmable pods revolving on universal joints. The Editors wore black shirts and trousers and sported matching black Rickenbacker guitars.
New album, The Back Room, provided just enough material to fill a fifty minute set and these infuriatingly young and charming lads engaged in friendly disarming banter with the notoriously demanding Portsmouth crowd. Sweat poured from their heads and their neat black shirts were drenched to the skin. I got the impression ‘this is us and this is what we do’ but not in any arrogant way. Songs of modern life and love delivered with passion and energy.
I headed into the cool night with my T-shirt stuck to me thinking, “yeah that was all right!”
(There's a couple more pics here.)
08 October 2005
“Talk to me of your dread fears
show me inside your head,
through salty wet cheek rivers
where your eyes have bled.
Don’t shout and scream in silence
please tell me aloud instead.
Your torment is real and
angry but I know
behind blue eyes your private thoughts
breathe softly when you say my name.”
"Think of it this way, " I reply
"the price of life is pain."
04 October 2005
03 October 2005
Hype upon hype has raised these twenty-something Hull-based popsters to cult status before anyone in the real world has heard more than a note. I risked a tickets at Southsea’s Wedgewood Rooms for 2nd October and took up position somewhat conspicuously among three hundred college teens.
Support from “Deville” and “Dustin's Bar Mitzvah” set the scene with their untidy, pouting punk. A distinct shortage of finesse was just about balanced by the fake snarling attitude of ‘Jimmy White’s on Crack Again.’ Fashionably late, “The Paddingtons” swaggered on at 10:15pm and ran through a weak set of “Libertines” by numbers rip-offs. Hard to work out why teeny punkers are taken in by these fake rough diamonds, even harder to fathom how adult music journalists are equally hoodwinked. A late replacement guitarist can't have helped but this was poor.
I may be approaching fifty but I know the real deal and this wasn’t it. Eventually the hype-meisters may learn that one catchy single maketh not a classic band. In the meantime guys like these will continue to be pushed forward into an arena they are just not (and perhaps never will be) ready for. Don’t take my word, ask the folk who were sauntering out after half an hour. I lasted forty minutes before joining the stream of early leavers.
Pretend tough boys can’t fool me. Bring back the fucking Libertines and let’s see and hear true passionate Brit Pop, hard and angry.
29 September 2005
Mostly I drive my car like a considerate road user and law-abiding citizen. I observe speed limits and follow the Highway Code. An old car like mine begs to be driven with reverence and sympathy, bearing in mind it has rolled some 90,000 miles. I was educated in the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” school and reckon I could comfortably pass my driving test again, thirty years on. So how does all this mature motoring proficiency benefit me? Well, when the occasion demands, I know how to drive like a maniac!
The problem with cruising sedately and courteously is that it represses our natural instinct to race. That eight year-old Ford usually behaves like an armchair on wheels. You have to wind the motor above 4,000 rpm for it to become an altogether different proposition. From time to time this reckless behaviour bursts through and reasserts itself, transforming the faithful family saloon into a tarmac-burner. So often music is the trigger to this exuberance on an empty and inviting country road. “I been drivin’ all night man, sweat on the wheel…”
… floor the gas pedal and drop the clutch. Rubber screeches for grip on tarmac as old steel is pushed hard through the gears. In fifth at eighty all four wheels leave the road over a crest, hitting ground again just as I stand on the brakes for a sharp right. Throw it into third and scream out of the turn drifting left. Eyes scanning the open horizon, I see the empty roundabout ahead. Hold the needle on sixty and straight-line the junction, hands crossing on the wheel, tyres kissing the curbs left right and left before hurtling on.
A flat-out downhill stretch puts one twenty on the clock. Golden Earring thunders from the stereo, “…we gotta thing, that’s called radar love.” Unblinking I watch a tightening left approach fast and drop through fourth and third, shedding speed and listening as the engine note rises and the exhaust spits. Heavy braking now for a blind crossroads, then hard acceleration in second, gripping the wheel over familiar bumps in the road. Flicking left and right through back streets and slowing all the time as civilisation approaches with its speed cameras and pedestrians.
The old Ford noses gently into my driveway and glides to a halt. The softly purring motor belies its age. Now I think I fancy a lay down.
25 September 2005
crooked smile and lazy wink
broad grin and twinkling eye
boyish charmer slightly shy
blue sky high gear rolling
top down sunshine cruising
huge horizon music pumping
fragile self esteem falling
false laughter seldom smiling
desperate sorrow barely breathing
sinking shoulders and curled lip
ugly glare and furrowed brow
blinking back angry tears
fire deep inside the belly
bitter anger in the heart
but nothing on my mind
all an act a stupid game
life’s a cunt death’s the same
I lost my mask am I to blame?
24 September 2005
a comet spitting orange fire delivers by chance
its elemental payload to some giant lifeless globe.
a chemical sea of sulphurous foetid waves
is warming by degrees as a stellar furnace glows.
vacuum stretching epochs will map the crimson sky
as gravity exerts its pull on time and tide.
orbits dictate climate eclipsing light with shade
while random moving bodies converge and then collide.
precious squirming life crawls from stinking pond to hill
grows beaks and wings and learns to climb the clouds.
seasons produce golden corn; man tames the savage beasts;
order settles cautiously over nature's chaos.
intellect brings culture where art and science flourish
then walking talking rapists murder friend and foe.
technology rampages to final mushroom war,
through cataclysm all is lost, nothing left to show.
20 September 2005
music and love
love and life
life and death
200 feet per second
degrees of life
death by coma
07 September 2005
31 August 2005
"…narrow beam of light which retracted suddenly into the craft. Air Traffic Controllers and Military declined to comment, however local law enforcement say they are keeping an open mind. And in other news…"
Alan propped himself on one elbow and reached out to silence the radio. He fell back and stared at the ceiling. Waves of nausea pulsed in him and he groaned. Fucking flu, he thought, that’s all I need. He nudged his sweat-soaked pillow onto the floor and remembered it was a weekday. I’m getting up to phone in soon, he decided. Mid-morning street sounds came as if squeezed through a tube. Distant traffic and far off shouts lowered to a whisper. Sunlight filtered through the blinds.
Fragments of a dream floated in his mind. Cold hands pressing him flat on a steel table… shrill voices screeching in his head… a ring of grey faces watching him… eyes, black and lifeless... the persistent whine of drilling… an explosion in the nape of his neck.
Hours later the sun had moved and a chill breeze stirred the air.
"Alan, pick up if you’re there… Alan…?" The answer-phone bleeped and fell silent. Sheba appeared at the door, tail aloft. She sprang onto the bed and crept slowly over the crumpled sheets. After sniffing a small bloodstain she turned two circles and settled down to wait.
"I need to explain. You-have-to-lis-ten," he was thumping the desk with his fist to emphasise each syllable. The headache had grown worse after dark and the lump in his neck burned like fire. The police officer didn’t answer but turned and called a colleague, “Jim, here a minute will you?”
Alan fingered his neck and a new image crashed into his head. The greys stretched a thin latex sheet over him and attached the corners beneath the table. A soft vibration and hum began as a suffocating vacuum was introduced. His screams were stifled under hot shrink-wrap.
Jim appeared at the desk and eyed him slowly from head to toe. "First things first sir, where are your clothes?"
Two hundred and fifty miles above in the upper atmosphere hung a vast flying V. Inside six grey beings were seated in a circle studying a 3D holographic presentation which hovered at their centre. DNA analysis, brainwaves and chemical structure were laid out with mathematical clarity for inspection. Each chart and report bore the title "Alan Henderson."
27 August 2005
JJ’s beautiful daughters recently picked me as joint winner of a little guessing game on her blog and I was promised a prize in the mail all the way from Massachusetts. I am not sure I was an entirely worthy winner but JJ is a woman of her word and a parcel duly arrived a mere five days after posting and here is a picture. A Book of Answers, two CDs and an amazing Machine which plays a range of relaxing natural sounds. Thanks for some great prizes JJ.
When I learned that Grace was visiting a friend in a seaside town not too far from where I live we thought, wouldn’t it be fun to meet! You know, put a full character to the name. A few e-mails soon sorted out the arrangements and some text messages on the day ensured we converged on the same spot. Un-seasonal rain failed to dampen conversation over pizza and the obligatory Diet Coke. Thanks for a great afternoon Grace.
20 August 2005
The climb had been daunting, a modern building has such smooth sides. As he cleared each storey office workers had given rapturous silent applause behind toughened glass. Crouched now on a narrow ledge high above the traffic he thought, perhaps my angle of approach is wrong?
‘What do you mean, should you have taken the elevator?’ sneered the sarcastic inner voice which had dogged him all these years.
As usual his reply was earnest, no not the elevator, I was thinking more about why I’m here than how I got here.‘Well fuck you, you’ll just analyse until it’s all too late pal!’
His inner voice always had the last word. Most people seemed to have the last word with him these days. Conversations buzzed around him every day, in the office, at the grocery store and in the street. Individuals with fully formed opinions on trivia, idiots with detailed knowledge of jack shit, chatty, happy and ignorant. That clatter had a way of worming its way into his skull and settling in. It irritated him beyond belief that banality should overwhelm intellectual intensity. Today he had needed to find a place where he could be serious without interruption.
Carefully he rose to his feet, a couple minutes more effort would take him to the flat roof. He pressed his bleeding fingers into joints between the concrete and pulled the weight of his body up. His toes found the same cracks. He hooked an arm over the parapet wall, hung briefly before hoisting himself on his palms then collapsed onto the roof. Crushing winds howled from a terrifyingly high sky and threatened to topple him. He was so nearly part of that clear blue void.
The gale blew him to the services cabin from which an iron ladder, which was bolted to the side, rose vertically to a gantry stacked with satellite dishes. The ladder was cheating really. Above the communications hardware a caged spiral stairway led to a radio mast. Gasping for breath now he clung to the swaying antenna, wrapped his legs around the pole, reached up and pulled. With each pull he drew his legs up and re-established his grip.
So I analyse too much do I? he thought. Well I’m done with thinking now. He looked up and closed his fingers over the tip of the antenna, his muscles burning. The flat roof seemed small one hundred and fifty feet below.
He felt the mast sway heavily and closed his eyes against the biting wind. Each swing carried him way over the edge of the building to present a brief view of his sickening height. He readjusted his precarious grip and clenched tighter with his knees as the mast bent wildly under storm force gusts. This is the place they mean when they say remote. Why had he come to find himself in this lofty and lonely position? He allowed himself to look down at the street and saw miniature cars hurrying to and fro, people with purpose and energy. What happened to my purpose and my energy?
Suddenly a small voice rose from directly beneath him.
“Can I come up and just talk to you? Please?” She asked.
17 August 2005
an emotional sceptic
raised on guilt and shame
he was given nothing
but breath and a name
drinking back the anger
swimming against the tide
to keep alive the notion
of self-taught love and pride
a code of holy pressure
stunted nature’s growth
blind belief in heaven
ignores the hell on earth
life and love forever
he sees between the cracks
as half a century later
he peels the layers back
14 August 2005
Thank you guys! These games are interesting, they always force you to think hard about yourself.
10 Years Ago:I was just two year into sobriety and still angry and bad tempered. I let my irritation show to anyone foolhardy enough to come near. I told my employer to stick the job they wanted me to do and opted instead to slide down the corporate ladder to a tedious administrative role requiring little thought and no concentration. I played mind-numbing games on a Commodore Amiga 1200 and read Stephen King. I fended off all advances for friendship, both female and male. I drove a ten-year-old Ford Sierra and watched a 20 inch TV.
5 Years Ago:I went to the French Alps on holiday. Everyone now knew why I drank Diet Coke. Graduated to a five-year-old Ford Mondeo and a 36 inch widescreen TV. By now I knew my working days were numbered, I just hoped to get as close to fifty as I could before getting paid off.
1 Year Ago:I flew to Florida with my wife and younger son for two lazy weeks in a villa on the Gulf Coast. As soon as we returned I went into hospital for surgery on my right elbow to relieve tendonitis. For the first time in my life I wore a plaster cast. The same month I had two teeth pulled and three more root-canal filled. I shaved my head nearly to the bone.
I booked tickets online to see new punk trio “The Subways” at The old Fire Station in Bournemouth. I visited in-laws out of a sense of duty. As a reward I started researching a new digital Canon with seven mega pixels. I spoke to a stranger I’ve known all my life.
Tomorrow:I will drive to work with the windows rolled down listening to “Can You Touch Me” by The Film. It’s the music from the TV commercial for the Peugeot 406 – I finally tracked down the single. I will browse the new release racks at HMV and sit in my favourite park with sandwiches at lunchtime.
Snacks I enjoy:1. choc chip cookies
3. brazil nuts
4. any and all chocolate
5. extra strong mints
Bands That I Know the Lyrics to Most of Their Songs:
2. Pink Floyd
3. Cheap Trick
Things I Would Do with $100,000,000:1. acquire an Island in the Ocean
2. build a small but perfectly formed home
3. throw a giant party
4. keep back enough to survive
5. give the rest to childrens charities
Locations I Would Like to Run Away to:1. Palmyra Atoll
2. Easter Island
3. Dark Side of the Moon
4. anywhere remote
5. the past
Habits I Have:1. not listening
4. looking back
Things I Like Doing:1. riding my Yamaha
2. driving my Ford
3. swimming in the ocean
4. walking along the seashore
5. walking in the forest
Things I would Never Wear:1. raincoat
4. white trousers
TV Shows I Like(d):1. Edge of Darkness
2. The Singing Detective
3. When the Boat Comes in
4. Cold Case Files (US)
5. Unsolved Mysteries (US)
Movies I Like:1. The Exorcist
4. American Graffiti
5. Donnie Darko
Famous People I would Like to Meet:1. Arthur C Clarke
2. John McEnroe
3. Jonathan Miller
4. Dave Gilmour
5. Patrick Moore
Biggest Joys at the Moment:1. talking and listening
4. diet coke
5. five more pay cheques until redundancy
Favourite toys:1. grey alien
2. voice recognition software
4. dimmer switches
5. volume control
There doesn't seem anyone left to tag... Except Finnegan or Flea what do you say guys?
12 August 2005
Sometimes my mind drifts and I think with piercing clarity
a million people stand in my way
iridium lenses shield against eye contact
a beautiful barrier
minding my own business
incessant conversations in my skull
words I can’t speak
drag a finger along the railings to pick up germs
freezer needs defrosting
i’m not talking to you
reflections in a window resolve into the view beyond
everyone else is needlessly boring
a different journey please on new roads
a woman i could love
treading water not waving but drowning
supposedly intelligent actually retarded
a rice pudding with tender skin
what fucking saviour
do you know that Artesian well
walk the wing of a 747 eight miles high
leap from the 48th
mainline de-sensitising agents
tea and toast
hell of a holiday
is anyone sitting here
dry properly between your toes
rotting red roadkill
angelic choir church and steeple
charisma bypass or character transplant
10 million seconds to live
3 months to die
it is now safe to switch off your computer
3,291 units of length
perfectly precious people prefer private promises
taking the utmost care
barrel pressed to temple
angry happy sad rules for archiving and destruction
report unattended baggage
i so badly want to drink an Ocean
eyes wide ears flat
take me to your dealer
wireless trip wire
portent omen sign harbinger prophecy
alive at least
11 August 2005
06 August 2005
Animal hides pulled high around their necks, they wore their hair long and unkempt. This unwashed huddle hunkered down on haunches. Forming a circle twelve-strong they watched attentively the stranger in their midst. Craning their necks to get a better view, black eyes darting nervously from the stranger’s face to his slim, graceful fingers. A murmur of guttural tones greeted his preparations.
Watery afternoon sun slanted across sinew, tendon and weather-beaten flesh. Their primitive intellects had been promised a gift and they would settle for no less. He knelt at their centre, this tall man of athletic build, this elemental magician, this modern Prometheus, an old man of twenty seven summers, blue-eyed and blonde, brow knitted in concentration.
Bark prised from a dead tree limb lay before him. In it he had gouged a neat hole just big enough to admit a fingertip. Into the hole he inserted one end of a short straight stick. He began rubbing the stick between his flattened palms, spinning it in the hole and the men watched curling wisps of grey smoke. His drilling produced hot, powdery sawdust which glowed cherry red when he blew on it. From a fold in his hide he deftly withdrew a dry cottonseed head. He touched this to the embers and it too glowed brightly.
His pursed, thin lips blew harder. A sudden flare appeared as the cotton ignited. Sounds of astonishment greeted this development but ignoring his audience he dropped the blazing cotton onto a pile of dry leaves. The onlookers flinched and retreated a pace at the first burst of fire. Now he propped twigs around the crackling magic and new flames licked them hungrily. Larger branches were ferried to him and he arranged these tent-fashion around the flickering fingers of orange and yellow.
Thick blue smoke wrapped the heap for a moment but soon red tongues darted through, hissing and snapping, burning and returning plant life to dust. The small crowd gazed in awe and wonder as green timber crackled and spat diamond sparks.
A stranger had entrusted this band with a device of heat and light and destruction. It would shape civilisations as an influence for good and evil, industry and warfare. Drawn to the epic power of the display no one noticed the magician was no longer among them. When at last heads turned and scanned the distance, a plume of dust betrayed his position on the horizon. He walked barefoot, a small hide bag on his shoulder. In it he carried cottonseed and a short straight stick.
High above him a shooting star streaked like fire across the twilight sky.
04 August 2005
28 July 2005
22 July 2005
"They’re tearing the Buick City Complex down,
I think we’re the only people left in town.
Where you gonna move, where you gonna move?
Do you wanna mess around?"
(Short Version: Our livelihood is being demolished and we don’t care where we live. There's nothing left to do but fuck)
No, this is not a notice to quit! The inspiration for my blog name came from the song of the same name by the Old 97s. Inspiration for the song came from the demolition of a GM automobile plant.
Prepare a seven hundred and fifty word piece that will entertain, amaze and delight readers
Respond to comments left on your previous piece
Click through a blogroll of twenty or more
Leave insightful, witty and thought-provoking comments on each new post
Take digital photos, sort and store them for future blog use
Monitor your site traffic
Do all this several times a week
Find time for the real world, family and friends
17 July 2005
The mercury had climbed steadily all day. By mid afternoon the shrunken shadows offered little refuge. Minor effort brought fresh beads to my forehead so I sat out the heat-storm and waited. Wafting a shimmering CD case I shut my eyes and thought of cool deep water.
By 5pm the intensity reached its peak. I peeled off my shorts and tee and wandered onto the patio in briefs. My verdant garden paradise was slumped under desert heat. Leaves hung lifeless, anticipating the sweet relief of evening dew. I should go now. I pad back through the house and step into swimming shorts. “See you, I’m heading for the beach...”
No reply so I kick on sandals and shut the door. My old Ford is an oven inside but I squint against the sensation and gun the motor onto the open road. Oakleys shield my eyes from the savage sky and I settle into the rhythm of the thirty-mile drive. Green Day crashes from the stereo as I roll the windows and feel that blessed blast of fresh air.
“Don’t wanna be an American Idiot...” screams Billie Joe to the pedestrians as I cruise onto the cliff top for an empty bay. I swing into one and kill the engine. Deafening silence descends and I buzz the windows up leaving a cigarette-paper gap. Opening the door I step back out into the furnace of the early evening.
The sea sparkles invitingly as I stroll the beach path, my eye taking in the sandy sweep of the bay and distant, miniature white sails. I chuck my sunglasses, mobile and car keys in the little bag with my shorts and drop it on the sand near a young family. Now I turn and run, splashing and jumping until depth slows me and I drop into the waves. The icy water slams around me and siezes my breath momentarily. I blow out a spout of salt water and start kicking lazily away from the shore, ducking my head through the breakers every few seconds and relishing the delicious cold.
After a couple of minutes I tread water and look back, rising and falling in the swell. The beach is one hundred yards off and the children’s shouts are lost. I swim slowly parallel to the beach. Rolling onto my back I close my eyes and feel the sea breeze across my face. The water is deep here and its solid, flowing mass feels powerful beneath me. Vaguely I consider razor teeth and black, soulless eyes fixed on my paddling feet from the depths... Gently I change heading and backstroke in slow motion towards the beach. I glance between the cobalt sky and the glittering horizon, feeling nature’s heat on my closed eyelids and her chill beneath my back.
My feet touch the seabed and I wade back through the shallows. I unroll a soft, blue and white towel on the burnished sand and pull my Oakleys from the bag. The lowering sun dries me in minutes as I stretch out and feel my tired muscles softening from the exercise. Two hours have slipped comfortably into the past and soon I must guide my old Ford back home.
15 July 2005
I scan the aged canvases, collared gentry staring stiffly from their hangings. I drift off the back of the group. Distantly the guide intones her rehearsed script but a quiet corridor draws my attention. I want to be alone to forget the modern world. I take slow paces into the shadows.
Red carpet gives way to polished boards. A long-case clock from a bygone era is ticking slowly, measuring long seconds in deep metallic clicks. A narrow shaft of pale light spears from a high window illuminating motes of dust to prove their existence. Panelling hangs heavily like mahogany skin, rich and brittle with age.
My feet tread in prints left by ancient men and my weight presses on the floor, squeezing centuries old bees wax deep in the timber. A bend in the corridor brings cool gloom. Behind me was an even halogen wash, now ivory candles hold their yellow puddles close. Creamy wax planted on iron hoops that hang from chains. This is surely light that will last, its anchors driven deep into petrified stone.
In the belly of the fortress now, tapestries of drab brown deck the cold rock buttresses. Squinting reveals meagre detail and rotting threads, the age-old scenes long played-out and nearly invisible.
The past is a benevolent notion luring the unwary into its murk. I visited this place to enjoy a connection with history yet I sense a serpent is stuffed in the dungeons of this castle, its fat coils filling the dank cellars. My breath is puffs of condensation that hang like smoke. I stand motionless in the dread dark. Far off through a labyrinth maze of green-slime granite walls a thousand souls screaming from the bitter stone.
A glimmer of light pulls me moth-like. A heavy black door yawns onto a dazzling inner courtyard of close cut green and brilliant sunlight.
“There you are! We’ve been hunting all over for you.”
Blinking, I find the words, “I think I was lost.”
08 July 2005
I am not aware of any contemporary account of these foul deeds but the sequence of events can be pieced together from police reports, newspaper cuttings, coroners reports and eye-witness testimony. Enough detail has survived 117 years to lift a corner of the veil of mystery.
In flickering amber gaslight she leaned back against the outer wall of Bishopsgate Police Station, feeling the London bricks cold and hard. She was still drunk and tired in her bones despite a long evening in the cells. Fingering her petticoat pocket she remembered the ‘Old Bill’ had at least returned her money. But two small coins wouldn’t stand a drink at the “Three Bells.”
Cheap lodging-house beds had bent Kate’s back and summers spent doubled over in hop fields had creased her face, yet still she turned heads in Whitechapel. Tanned street traders saw a slender frame and soft hazel eyes, and thought of their fat, unwashed wives. They noticed her auburn hair, washed daily in hand soap and spilling from under her faded pink bonnet. In a city of ugliness she stood out.
Black boots clicked on clean cobbles behind her. The cool night breeze revived her senses. Death lurked in these alleys, death by steel. The long shadows of Mitre Square ahead offered an opportunity to hide and draw breath. Five minutes from now her eyes would stare blankly at the night sky. Her soft entrails, warm and pink would glisten on the dirt, giving off tiny tendrils of steam.
Kate hitched her skirt and ran into the dark of the square. She crouched and watched her pursuer. He would hear her stifled panting for sure. She gulped back a sob and pressed her slim frame into the angle of two walls. His heels clicked louder as he headed straight for her hiding place. She threw back her head and screamed in silent terror as the flashing blade sliced through her throat. Virtually decapitated by the single ferocious swing, she sucked and blew though the gaping wound until blood loss brought blessed unconsciousness.
Working swiftly he hoisted her tattered skirts and plunged his blade deep. Intestines slipped out in grey coils, he swept them to one side and slashed open her entire abdomen. Briefly he looked away over his shoulder, retching at the hot stink. He hacked spleen, pancreas and stomach from the poor woman and tossed them behind him. A black pool spread around her in a fearful halo.
Frantically he drove his fists into the cavity and withdrew a plum coloured kidney. He thrust the organ into his pocket and rose to his feet, gasping lungfuls of cold London smog. Laughter echoed from the street beyond and he knew his time was short. Stepping over the lifeless remains he stooped to recover a long pin from her hair. He rammed it through the back of his own left hand and growled in agony. Grimacing in the dark he reminded himself the penalty for delivering pain was to receive it.
By the quiet he judged the hour to be around 1 am. Suspicious eyes glinted from every window so, walking just below a trot he put distance between himself and his savagery. Doubling back towards the East he reached the darkest lanes of all then ran hard and fast. His heart thumped loudly as he dropped to his knees in the blackness. Nausea welled in his throat and he vomitted hot bile into the gutter. With the floodgates opened, he spewed the contents of his guts in short, lurching grunts until his muscles were on fire with pain.
He blew long rattling strands from his dry lips and tasted the bitterness of gin. At midday he had poured half a pint down his neck and more into the Eddowes woman. Next time he would do unspeakable things to her, whoever she may be...
03 July 2005
"My brain hurt like a warehouse it had no room no spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there."
David Bowie – Five Years
30 June 2005
Alan had been irritable again all day. He put it down to the heat. July always made him tired. This afternoon he hadn’t been able to think straight for more than a few seconds. The office was simmering with tension. Behind him Jenny pulled a beaker from the stack and the water dispenser gurgled loudly for the hundredth time. Closing his eyes he pursed his lips and blew.
“That’s a big sigh Alan.” Ignoring her, he rubbed circles on the nape of his neck over a tense muscular ache. Suddenly he flung his pens into the drawer and pushed the lock. As he shut down his PC he called out to anyone listening, “If Gary calls about that contract again, tell him I’ve fucking died...” Alan had been acting strangely for weeks.
Thumbing the car window let in a scorching blast of July. He touched the knot in his neck again as he swung into the early rush-hour. If pressed later, he would have been unable to recall the ten-mile drive.
Someone had painted his garage door dark green. It was a furnace inside. He peeled off his shirt in the kitchen and dropped it. Tugging the refrigerator door brought delicious cool waves over his glistening chest. With deep concentration he chose a Diet Coke. Cold vapour spilled from the open fridge as he snapped the ringpull and drank.
Suffocating air filled the house. Alan climbed the stairs to his bedroom, leaning heavily on the rail. The curtains were closed and the window open yet the bedroom was an oven. Flinging his jeans into a corner he flopped onto the bed panting from the exertion. Eventually he slept.
Tail aloft, a pretty black cat stole silently into her master's bedroom. She crouched briefly then sprang noiselessly onto the bed. It was empty. Sheba smelt his sweat on the crumpled sheet and stretched out to wait.
At 7:00 am the radio came alive: “Eye witnesses report a giant orange V-shape in the night sky...” Alan heard this and snapped awake. Total paralysis gripped him, movement was impossible. “The Military is studying home-video footage of the craft, said to be longer than a football field...”
“...made no noise, while others reported a faint hum and a smell like electrical burning.” White hot pain stabbed through his head. His eyes followed the slow rotation of the ceiling fan. Sheba crept close and sniffed his face.
Blood trickled from his ears. There was something prickling in his neck...
"He buzzes like a fridge
He's like a de-tuned radio."
Radiohead - Karma Police
28 June 2005
This is my favourite dictionary. My infuriating eye for detail compels me to tell you it weighs in at sixteen pounds and has 450,000 definitions. If it isn’t in here, it hasn’t been coined. Sometimes the words tumble over each other in their excitement to get out, at others they must be coaxed gently...
Writing scares me. I fear the blank page and the blinking cursor so I am forever noting interesting potential titles and preparing subject matter. A tall glass of ice-cold Diet Coke, beaded with condensation sits at my side as I trawl my list. Music off to permit total concentration. If the family is in I wear tight elbow/forearm support against my dreaded RSI and type, if they’re out I plug in the mic and speak aloud and freely to the PC.
Ready, steady go...
Once I thought more words made better sense. Now I understand they only confuse. The clever trick is to make your point using the fewest words possible. I can’t banish adjectives and adverbs entirely from my page, so I try to choose them carefully. A noun improves with qualification but becomes muddy with an adjectival clause. A verb is perhaps not the right verb if it requires an adverb.
An image forms in my mind, part of a story I want to tell. I want to describe the view so the reader sees it too. I Imagine videotape rolling, describe exactly what I see, especially the trivial and keep to the plot. Painting a picture with words that approach the subject from an unusual angle can make it spring off the page in colour.
I select a recent photograph (from the five or six I take every day) relevant to my thoughts. Next I define the limits of my subject. Now I plot a beginning, a middle and an end. Finally I am ready to write. The shorter the better, a reader will grow bored after a thousand words. I dream up enough phrases to attract attention but hold some back. Over-egg the cake, and that rich diet makes everyone bilious. The best results come quickly and without effort. No good hurrying the words, the harder you chase them around your head the deeper they hide.
Kill the PC, slip on my trainers and take a walk. I pick up my MP3 player on the way out, press in the ear-buds and scroll through four hundred albums. ‘Kaiser Chiefs’ will do today. Listen hard to the lyrics (don’t forget I need a lyric quote for my blog too.) Today’s words will emerge later, when I have stopped thinking so hard and the coast is clear.
Middle-aged forgetfulness often robs me of my best, most startling thoughts. Now I know I must snatch them from the space between eyes and screen and commit them to Word© before they are lost forever. Spell-check, proof read etc... I want beautiful prose, deep thinking and iron-clad, copper-bottomed accuracy. Mostly I fall short of my aspirations. I pour another impossibly tall glass of ice-cold Diet Coke.
I am a true Virgo, demanding perfection in myself as well as others. I keep writing and refuse to admit I am human...
"I know, I feel it in my bones,
I'm sick, I'm tired of staying in control."
Kaiser Chiefs - Everyday I Love You Less and Less
25 June 2005
I started riding motorcycles in 1979. I rode three hundred and sixty five days a year, rain or shine. My fingers turned yellow with poor circulation. Everywhere I went I arrived cold, wet and asking for somewhere to hang my leathers. We did the weekly shop by bike and rode the bus when we took the kids out. Finally in 1987 I succumbed to the inevitable pull of four wheels and a roof. I sold my last bike, a Yamaha XS750 and bought a Ford Cortina.
Eighteen years later I am hopping nervously from one foot to the other in a Yamaha Dealership. The guy says I can test ride the FZ6 just by showing him my licence! Thank fuck I passed my test in’79. Nowadays it’s all Compulsory Basic Training, Practice and Theory and wiggling between traffic cones. Even if you pass they make you ride a miniature sewing machine for two years!
Slinging my leg over the seat I start to feel apprehensive, Eighteen years off a bike is a long time. These things go like rocket-ships now don’t they? What if I’ve lost my nerve? The guy thumbs the starter for me and the four-stroke burbles.
“It’s running in, keep it below 5,000rpm.” He advises. “See you in an hour!
I peer at the dial, hell this baby sings all the way to 14,000rpm!
With just a touch too much throttle and a precautionary glance over my shoulder I pull out onto the highway. For ten minutes I snake through a deserted industrial estate, familiarising myself with balance, weight and power at low speeds. This is all coming back to me...
Now I take to the main roads again. Two gear changes and its pulling seventy mph. I ease off for a roundabout and take it like a chicane, flick left, right then left and accelerate hard. I feel the old familiar buffeting of the wind and tears streak from the corners of my eyes. God this is fun!
Back to residential streets and I zip around the houses feeling the brakes and suspension working. After half an hour my gear changes are quite smooth and I’m at home again. Yep, I’m sold. This one’s for me.
That was two weeks ago. Right now a spanking new example sits in my garage. Nice new leathers, crash helmet and gloves too.
For the technical this is a 600cc four-cylinder fuel-injected, four stroke. Liquid cooling makes it nice and quiet and its fat 180mm rear tyre sticks to the road like glue. 98bhp and six gears haul it from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds. Disc brakes all round stop it from 130mph on a sixpence (dime.)
I’m gonna be a fair weather weekend rider. Sure I’ll slide a knee on the road for fast, tight corners that’s what you do! But I know I’m mortal and I have no plans to bring forward my departure date! I intend to have some fast(-ish) safe fun. Twenty years ago I had a huge ‘off’ which put me in hospital so I know the limits.
This is an old interest rekindled, a link to some good memories and happy times. I believe this is a good move for me. I have music and now I have a bike. Life is getting richer and fuller. Not a cheap investment at all but add up what a drinker spends. In a future post I’ll explain how I saved a small fortune in the last eleven years by quitting booze.
21 June 2005
Part One: Today I know there is no point to anything. Nothing I have ever done was worthwhile. I am incapable of accomplishing the simplest task to my satisfaction. Future days bring hell. I can never make myself understood. My worth is approaching zero. A glance in the mirror reveals the face of an idiot. I am my own harshest critic. A forty seven year old man speaking like an eight year old child...
Fifteen years ago I admitted defeat. My doctor prescribed Temazepam and Lofepramine. I systematically reject most offers of help and so of course I rejected these. The addictive properties of anti-depressants did not make sense to me. Detect the faint whiff of burning martyr? Yep, right on. I asked for help and when it was offered I turned my back. All I accepted was a sick note for work. I declined to talk to any form of counsel...
I am independent to the point of stupidity. I would perform my own dentistry if I knew where to buy novocaine. I don’t need help. I told the world to fuck off and I shuffled backwards into a shell of denial and misery. I lost friends. Who needs friends when you have misery to enjoy?
Part Two: I’m a lucky guy. The sun is burning my neck from high in the sweetest, bluest sky ever. I have two supportive sons and my wife, enough money and independence to indulge my passions to excess and a lovely house. I have the electronic gadgets I need and some I don’t. I am blessed with a loyal best friend.
I am free of addiction and I have reached middle age without losing any limbs. I have all my own teeth and a few remaining hairs. I have friends in the blog world. My corporate employer has yet again reached the point in the business cycle where they might consider paying off a load of old-timers. Just gimme that cheque...
Part Three: Which one is the real me? You know the answer, both are me yet both are faulty. Monday I am so pissed-off I can barely mutter a greeting to anyone. I want to hurl out all my prized possessions. Tuesday I listen to the best music ever driving with the windows down, write beautiful words and smell the sweet mown grass in my garden.
I am good at swooping from euphoria to misery, often within hours. I like the way I am. I don’t pretend to be anything I am not. Work colleagues think I’m unfathomable, I talk in riddles and appear aloof. Stuff ‘em, I know which people I value, they are right here.
And just when you think you know someone they unload all this... No, now I think about it you guys all read between the lines anyway.
"I’ve got a little black book with my poems in."Pink Floyd – Nobody Home
I scribbled this several months ago and some will already have seen it. I was inspired by the sights and sounds of a recent long day out in London. Always impressive yet still good to get home...
Pitch black lark calls, buttered toast with blackest coffee
Drying roads and pale blue skies call strangers to the smoke
Limo ditched at regal Kew and silver tube to town
Riding grey steel rails we are ticket-holding folk.
Vaulted halls hold timeless works of brush and oil
A nation’s treasures staring back with tired eyes
Guards of ancient age asleep by priceless charge
Room by giant room we mark them off, each prize.
Heavy surge of grey and green slides under famous bridge
Bobbing craft ply upstream against its mighty weight
Then turn and race the homeward leg with ease
Pavements mirror skies as dark as grey wet slate.
A pin-stripe holds his lunch in tiny carrier bags
Power-dressing blonde clicks by in tall black heels
White beard tinged with yellow smoke stares as
Rider swoops through red lights, locks his wheels.
Canary Wharf recalls the days of cutters hauling loads
Of ginger spice from islands never seen
No dockers carry barrels now but still the traders profit
Their wares remain unseen except on screen.
Isle of Dogs now glitters, a city of glass and steel
Half a million souls at work from fifty storeys high
Peering over Limehouse Reach or gazing over Greenwich
So far over London that I think a man could fly.
Eyes smarting from the wind, feet numb tired and sore
So Hampshire seems a better place to spend the evening hours
Say farewell to crowded roads and streets of shabby style
A shire boy has had enough today of spires and towers.
"London calling at the top of the dial,
After all this won't you give me a smile?"
The Clash - London Calling
19 June 2005
17 June 2005
“I once called you my friend, now I'm stumblin' once again
I'm slurrin' words & bustin' bottles over the heads of saints.
I know it's been so long, but I still see you when your gone
I still feel the weight of that look upon your face almost every day.”
Slobberbone – Stumblin’
15 June 2005
Normally I avoid these questionaires but when the sender is none other than Doughgirl how can I possibly refuse? I wouldn't dream of disclosing all this stuff to anyone else you know!
What time did you get up this morning? – 07:02 (approximately!)
Diamonds or pearls? – diamonds to give as a present
What was the last film you saw at the cinema? – Jurassic Park! (watching DVDs on the big TV is better than any cinema)
What is your favourite TV show? – Cracker/1990s (I've now almost stopped watching TV)
What is your middle name? – Francis
What is your favorite cuisine? – anything vegetarian
What foods do you dislike? – but not beetroot or celery
What is your favourite crisp/chip flavour? – salt and vinegar
What is your favourite CD at the moment? – it's still Green Day/American Idiot
What is your favorite song? – of all time its The Libertines/Time for Heroes (2003)
What kind of vehicle do you drive? – Ford Mondeo (old and black/green)
What is your favourite sandwich? – grated cheese and tomato
What characteristics do you despise? – arrogance, selfishness
What is your favourite item of clothing? – my leather jacket
If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go? – Alaska
What colour is your bathroom? – white, black and grey
What colour pants are you wearing? – long grey bermuda shorts
Where would you retire? – Mars (or anywhere with no people - but internet access!)
What is your favourite time of the day? – twilight
Most memorable birthday? – I ignore my birthday
What's the last thing you ate? – cheese omelette
If you were a crayon, what color would you be? – black
What is your favorite cartoon character? – Bart
What is your favorite flower? – tulip
What fabric detergent do you use? – Surf
Coke or Pepsi? – Coke
Do you wish on stars? – no but I do wish
What is your shoe size? – UK12
Do you have any pets? – Smartie the new kitten
Last person you talked to on the phone? – my friend
What did you want to be when you were little? – grown up
What are you meant to be doing now? – nothing at all. I have a free evening
What do you first notice about someone? – eyes, beyond any shadow of doubt
What was your favourite toy as a child? – I had none that I remember
Summer or winter? – winter (colder and darker the better)
Hugs or Kisses? – hugs. Long and tight
Chocolate or vanilla? - chocolate
Living arrangements? – married with 2 grown up sons, 1 still using this hotel
What is under your bed? – a very narrow gap
In how many cities have you lived? – Poole, Bournemouth, Truro, Southampton
Favourite movie of all time? – Memento
Mountains or beach? – mountains
Full names of your potential kids? – grown up and planning their own kids
What is your usual bedtime? – 22:46 (approximately!)
Now you know just a tiny fraction more about me.