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Saturday, 10 December 2011
Hawling wi' Chomu
Massive ‘Weirdmonger Wheel’ (inaugurated in 2004) is today re-opened to slow my pace down so that ebooks can keep up with me! It’s still free.

This to celebrate the discovery (by CERN Zoo) of the Higgs Boson next week.


Posted by wordonymous at 4:35 PM EST
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Sunday, 12 September 2010
The Fanblade Fables

The Fanblade Fables

posted Monday, 9 November 2009

 Fanblade Fables - and Baffles.

Fanblade reference: an early pre-cursor of the Large Hadron Collider ... and its 'Cern Zoo' accoutrements?

Please see: http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/archive/189.html

Some of those links are now defunct, but most work. 

I'll try to find links to the missing ones in the meantime.


EDIT: Fanblade Five and Fanblade Seven don't work on that link above.  I can't find Fanblade Five anywhere at all and I have discovered Fanblade Seven on my computer (now pasted below).

Fanblade Seven (2006)

Hiver Jawn cherished his father's bee-keeper's veil following the death of the child who was due to grow into Hiver Jawn's father.

A portrait kept by a ghost to commemorate another ghost straddles these potentialities of tangible existence destined to die prematurely before the portrait is painted.  The likenesses were nevertheless perfect.

Parodices - the plural of paradox?

Too many things are singular.

Death, where are thy stings?

Is a fable that ends with a question honed purposively to its sharpest edge of fanblade, positively turned upon the lathe of didactic proverb, indeed finished?




1. Weirdmonger left...
Monday, 9 November 2009 5:05 pm :: http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/a_new_f

A brand new FANBLADE FABLE at link immediately above.

 New Fanblade Fable
posted Monday, 9 November 2009

In the land there were many large domestic cooler-fans - their fanblades spinning so frantically that nobody could see them as fanblades.

Within each fan's hub where the motor resided, there was also space enough for a new-born baby to be kept and only rarely taken out to be breast-fed, if at all. Close proximity with spinning fanblades would make the babies become more intelligent, more able to deal with the world.  The belief was so strong that many babies were forced to spend as much time as possible within the purpose-built body of the fan's motor. Sometimes forever.

Necessary nursing or, as they called it, 'servicing' of the baby's body was managed, for some superstitious reason, between the spinning fanblades rather than via the housing at the back.  Skilful avoidance of laceration worked in parallel with intravenous mock-fanblade vanes (known as 'veins') precisely timed with the fast-shuttering/shuttling configuration of the fanblades proper.

In the most extreme cases of this infantile care-policy, the fanblades were never switched off and the baby itself grew up within the wiggle-room of the slightly elasticated housing of the hub as well as being simultaneously weaned off an unfortunately hit-and-miss targetting of inward and outward bodily metabolisms.

The 'veins' - spinning in tune with the fanblades - had special 'baffles' inserted along the length of their inner 'rifled' circuits both to facilitate and resist, at the optimum moments, various flows of sustenance and slurry.  Scientifically-contrived particles were triggered to collide at various crucial flashpoints - a 'process music' that the inhabitants of that land took for granted as the barely heard/whirred substructure of Beethoven's Ninth.  A delightful resonance with the fanblades.

Until something went wrong, which it often did.  For example, today, a piece of bread was dropped on a fan by a passing bird escaped from the aviary in Cern Zoo.

You see, the people often put the fans outside in the garden on extension-leads, because it got too cold and draughty to have them in the house.

So ends the Swiftian Fable with a moral regarding the Large Hadron Collider



1. Weirdmonger left...
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 2:53 pm :: http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/new_fan

NEW FANBLADE FABLE (2) at link immediately above.


New Fanblade Fable (2)

posted Tuesday, 10 November 2009


In those far-off-the-wall days, resistant baffles were built within the inner-tubes of the tyres on bicycle wheels. And the spinning spokes were fantail-flanged to mimic fanblades. 

Brian loved pedalling around, thus fanning the otherwise stagnant air in his wake. Summers, in those ancient boyish days, were not only quite endless but also steeped in what sensitive souls like Brian called 'atmospheric doldrums'. Indeed, the sky formed its own version of the Sargasso Sea, reflecting* the sun-scorched countryside through which Brian's bike travelled in a circle to and from his family home. 

*Reflections that the sky's intrinsic blueness turned from bleached-yellow into weedy green.


The world then needed more fanblades at every turn, so Hadron Colliders of various sizes were built all over the land in the same way as wind farms were once built at sea. For many years, there has been one such wind farm opposite where I live. Now derelict as its fanblades no longer turn. Tangled-up as they are in the sky.

Today, at Summer's end, the pedalling silhouettes of various increasingly breathless Brians on bikes gently pedal along the aging horizon of my hopes and dreams.

Not off-the-wall so much, as off-the-earth.





1. Weirdmonger left...
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 1:17 pm :: http://weirdmonger.livejournal.com/2009/

NEW FANBLADE FABLE (3) at link immediately above.


New Fanblade Fable (3)

posted Wednesday, 11 November 2009


The jaundiced ceiling bore the steady spinning of giant mosquito-wing fanblades that were synchronised-swimming in the smoky air of Gordon Desmond’s office in what he laughably called film-noir land.

GD was a grizzled curmudgeon who had grown into a singularity from two separate men at different ends of the age spectrum - perhaps father and son, one of whom had died, but he was never sure which one he truly was. He made a living from coining new words and absurd truths and other angles upon dubious existence – not only to discover ‘whodunnit?’ in this self-fabricated black-and-white film within which his slowly shuttling visions had made him live but also to summon human characters to his office that he could later write about as if they had never existed other than in the fiction he subsequently wrote.

“Hi, GD,” said a man-too-mean-to-be-me called Mack Hadrian. He had sailed into GD’s office as if he owned it.  A deeply furrowed face with a line in lying that laid his soul open to the truth.

 He continued, without waiting for GD even to acknowledge his presence: “You know they’ve started building the first collider for our city...”

GD now looked up at Mack Hadrian. He knew that the world had built a number of what were called colliders to stir the air from its endemic stagnancy.  The only way to disperse the global climactic slow-down.  Effectively, they were spinning fans that whirlpooled the air in a crop of tornado funnels, hoping at least to trigger further such spirals of storm elsewhere ... thus igniting a new-born airiness that everyone could breathe in perpetuo. Not that breathing was yet as difficult as it was feared to become if such measures were not taken. Called colliders in sarcastic reference to the very thing their fanblades mustn’t manage to do!  A superstitious ‘baffle’ that had worked in many fields of human endeavour throughout history.   If not obviously so.

“We need to discover,” said Hadrian, lighting a cigar, “who or what has been sabotaging many other colliders so at least this one where we live can work properly.”

GD knew there had been rumours of an underground movement called Cern Zoo that had sent ‘animals’ or ‘birds’ to drop foreign bodies into the colliders’ fan-systems elsewhere.  A sort of wish-fulfilment of matter-over-mind in collision with mind-over-matter.  Nobody really knew Cern Zoo’s motives, and how many levels of bluff at which it worked.

The ‘animals’ or ‘birds’ had resorted recently to dropping themselves suicidally into the fan-systems.  But that was yet only hearsay.

GD looked quizzically at Hadrian. “Hmmm, you want me to investigate?”

“I’ll make it worth your while.”

At that moment GD’s office fan suddenly discombulated upon something extraneous - one blade's chance ricochet off the wall sending it into Hadrian’s head.

GD shrugged as he suddenly realised what was what regarding the contents of Hadrian’s head. Not a brain. But a tiny fan, itself now spluttering to a halt upon bone and bloody gristle.

GD’s job had apparently been done even before he started it. Pity nobody would now pay him. And he looked at the ceiling, sighing.  “It’s gonna get real hot in here”, he thought, with the onset of a psychologically self-induced breathlessness.


New Fanblade Fable (4)

posted Wednesday, 11 November 2009
As the bird left the vicinity of the Hadron Collider, the beget bread it had dropped in a cooling-unit had created all manner of concertina results – a domino-rally of fanblades toppling upon each other round and round, flashing forward and back in the Swiss sunlight....

Meanwhile, the bird returned to the aviary at Cern Zoo to the sound of resounding cheeps.

And roars and lowings and squeaks and brays ... and silence from the snakes and insects.

Amazingly, one Zoo feature that was assumed to be ever silent broke into what could only be described as the screeching of chalk (or nails?) on an old-fashioned school blackboard. It was the crudely ‘drawn’ giant carved into the side of the limestone hill overlooking the zoo - a priapic landmark that the visitors took for granted as it had been positioned there for years on the upslope of the extraneous glance.

Loaves and fishes went missing, too, as the sound of hollow feet vanished in the opposite direction by which it was thought the bird had flown back. The pity was a drawing couldn’t fly. Even by the skin of its fingernails.

New Fanblade Fable (5)

posted Friday, 13 November 2009

The country pub had regulars ...that pub, you know, in the shadow of the chalk-giant who ever wielded his mighty 'hadron'. 

One such regular was Susan. Not a bag-lady, but one that would have been a bag-lady without her spot here or without her inexplicable availability of wherewithal to cadge drinks, even to buy them for others on occasion.   She not only sat in her inglenook-seat enshrined for so many years as her spot – she not only drank the drink, talked the talk, but also she wrote things out in long-hand. Some assumed them mindless doodlings, some others reportage of quaint character, others mere fictions.


Today, with few visitors, and even fewer regulars like Susan, she examined her prized ancient fountain pen. Filling and re-filling it from the black ink-pot that kept company with today’s tipple.  It was a weighty-barrelled instrument that was heavenly-crafted to her bespoke handling and primed with fanblade fables just aching to be written out. Slightly whirring inside ... or was that her imagination?


She began to write...


“With the unspoken complicity of their keepers, the Cern Zoo animals left two by two, crossing the pebbly land towards the Collider that they knew as Nemo’s Ark...”


When writing, Susan lost all track of time. Regulars came, regulars went, but this regular that was herself remained, it seemed, a force forever.  The spirit of ‘pub talk’ ... but in writing.


Self-devoured by inky ghosts in advance of splaying themselves in cantilevered articulations of blot or that were simply minced by spinning thought-processes before they even reached the paper...


...until forever stalled ... or she felt her own God’s loving arms around her, whispering sweetly in her ear: “Zoocern, Zoocern.”  Her name she’d always spelt like that. Or was that imagination?


Her God, the ultimate devourer.  The last five words unwritten.



1. Weirdmonger left...
Friday, 13 November 2009 8:02 pm :: http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/a_fanbl

A Fanblade Fable - by Bob Lock. At link immediately above.

2. Weirdmonger left...
Friday, 13 November 2009 11:05 pm :: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2009/11/

Links for all the Fanblade Fables shown at link immediately above.

3. Weirdmonger left...
Sunday, 15 November 2009 2:26 pm :: http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/new_fan

NEW FANBLADE FABLE (6) at link immediately above.

Posted by wordonymous at 8:36 AM EDT
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Nightmare's Moat

Nightmare's Moat

posted Saturday, 7 November 2009

There’s not so much difference between beginnings and ends as between sections in the middle.  Difference in both time and substance. 


I first entered the graveyard that Blessed Brian once described in an email sent at least twenty years after he told me about visiting it for the last time.  In deepest England, but, of course, no part of England could have secrets amid a modern world of communication.  Prying eyes were not Brian’s alone. Even so, I did expect, in some strange way, that I would be one of very few people to have seen virgin stone crosses and pillows and angels and shield-shaped memorials, all entirely unweathered and a joy from which to take rubbings... in an otherwise very weathered churchyard.


I was staying with a fellow student, one doing a PhD in the use of dreams in literature.  He told me that a nightmare was not the dream-in-itself-that-one-imagined-seeing-while-asleep but the area that surrounded it, a sort of moat of wordless thought.


I told him that I didn’t think in words, in any event. He was surprised.


“Doesn’t everyone think in words?” he had asked, just that very morning.


“I assumed everyone thought as I think I do.  In images, visions ... that, by listening to you just now, I am now forced to turn into words.”


There was now shock on his face.


“Well, let’s try an experiment,” he said.  “Think of an illness that’s been in the news lately.  How do you think of it if not in words?”


“Swine flu?”


“Yes, there you are.  How else would you think of it unless it is in words?”


I shrugged. “I only put my thought into words as a matter of communication with you.”


Thus, ‘nightmare’s moat’ meant nothing to me as an expression of words, but I eventually saw the swirling thoughts that circled the ‘eye’ of the dream-storm or nightmare, saw it when I tried to think back to a particular nightmare and to put it into words for his benefit.


“The graveyard was a perfect vision and matched exactly what Brian had told me in his email.”


I hesitated.


“Go on.”


“Well, the headstones were perfect, as if freshly embedded that very day. The numbers and letters etched cleanly with the chisels I could actually see glinting as the workmen or gravediggers carrying them walked across a nearby bridge on their way home for supper.  Some stone construction of memorial and effigy was cantilevered as if providing a balcony where the dead could stand.  There was a stone candle with a stone flame upon its salustrade.”


“Don’t you mean balustrade? A balcony has a balustrade.”


“No, what I saw was a salustrade.  The shape of a devilish imp sculpted as bent over acrobatically to form the front of the balcony.  Somehow, I knew in the nightmare that imp’s own name had been given to the construction he now formed.”


My fellow student’s face was now itself frozen as if in a state of being sculpted even as I continued to look at it. My mention of the stone candle and its flame must have caused this phenomenon. Words were more powerful than real thoughts.  And we stared at each other as if involved in an out-blinking game that boys used to play in the schoolyard.  Joined by slowly solidifying gazes between our eyes.  A sort of retro-causality of inverse melting.  Thoughts that cannot be put into proper words.


And something clambered upon us so as to stand on our backs, till we eventually couldn’t feel it standing up there at all.


The last sense to vanish was hearing. A rubbing noise.



    Written today and first published above


1. Weirdmonger left...
Saturday, 7 November 2009 8:07 pm :: http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/the_pil

Other stories in this series linked from link immediately above.

Posted by wordonymous at 8:31 AM EDT
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Saturday, 4 September 2010
No Time For Tick

No Time For Tick

posted Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Published 'Saccade' 1995

I didn't dare open them, did I? I truly believed that by opening them, I would be struck down by God. The whole classroom of us had them squeezed tight, while the schoolteacher, whose eyes would also be folded over, conducted a gloomy intonation of a communal prayer to that same God. A formful of infants, all with lidded peeps, hands pressed palm to palm before the nose, some actually touching the hooded nostrils with the side edge of thinly cushioned thumb knuckles.

How did I know all this, if my own eyeballs had eye-lashed wings of flesh covering them? The simple answer was that all the other pupils would be struck down by God, if they weren't doing what I said they were doing, wouldn't they? Teacher informed us that prayers needed to be said with the soul's well-heads overgrown with the controllable excess face flesh which God had seen fit to grant us—to allow us to dam out the conflicting light, so that we could 'see' His unique light. But not daring to open my eyes didn't imply that it was a physical impossibility to open them at the deepest moment of worshipful prayer.

One day, the temptation became greater than the instilled fear. I could not resist experimentation—even if damnation was a side effect. Death was almost preferable to not knowing. And so, that sunny day, as lessons drew to an untidy close, with clouds of chalkdust choking off our childish pleas for yet more plasticene, I vowed to release my eyesight at the optimum point of prayer—and this vow, in my book, was even more sacrosanct than my faith in God, holier than our holy prayer to Himself.

Usually, we ended the school day by lifting our chairs on to the desktops, after we'd said our prayers. The consequent wooden clatter was a sharp dispersal of the prayer's calm contemplation. Yet, sunny day or not, the prayer never seemed to reach the anxious Amen. Teacher's face droned on about Goodness and Sacrifice and Creatures Great and Small and a Crossened Christ—as if Teacher knew I was watching and couldn't finish the prayer until I stopped watching or died or both.

I opened my eyes.

My now ever-wingless sockets eternally watch along the spiders' choking cobwebs in chalk-clung beams of sight—a stony gaze, from an increasingly knurled face, squinting from either side of the moth-eaten moth's wings pressed together like praying hands—until my eyes mis-soar like docked angels within a cat's cradle called Hell, a Hell that is a single moment of unending prayer and uncontrollable excess flesh. Meanwhile someone else went on with life as me or instead of me.

All I know, his name was Huw.

Mr Rampives asked Huw to mend his car. Well, have you ever been asked to do something which you know full well you can't possibly do? Huw didn't know why but he became flustered as if the man’s eyes told Huw more than words could ever do.

"Yes, of course, Mr Rampives," Huw said.

Mr Rampives pointed with his head at the old black jalopy parked alongside his terraced house. Huw only knew him from having been his paper boy for the last few months, so why he should expect Huw to be able to mend his car was a mystery. Huw looked down at the man’s brown boots with the laces still untied from the night. The rumour was Mr Rampives never went to bed, but merely loosened his clothes. Huw’s mother had not even one kind word for him. "Full of fleas, I wouldn't wonder," was her common expression when referring to Mr Rampives and his ilk.

Anyway, Huw queried the nature of his car's malfunction, saying that would help mend it. Huw lied, of course, because no amount of background information would be sufficiently enlightening for him even to hope to plumb the car's mechanical workings. As with Huw’s own body: he got up in the morning, did things all day and went back to bed: all without knowing the least smidgeon of a human being's physical make-up. Of course, Huw was aware of the various functions of each piece of his equipment, but he never knew why or how. Only clever kids did biology at school.

"It won't start." With that, Mr Rampives disappeared further into his front porch and, no doubt, into the rest of his two-storey house. Huw had often scrutinised the back of this terraced row, but never really gauged which was which. It was as if backs blended together more easily. None of the curtains matched, of course.

Well, the first hurdle to jump was opening the bonnet. Most modern cars, according to Huw’s Dad, were pretty foolproof. However, Huw was more intelligent than others of his pedigree and, so, after a short while, he cracked the combination, which ended with a nifty turn of a catch just below the heavy-duty steering-wheel. The bonnet sprung up like a lazy monster's yawn. A monster who then died.

All the while, Mr Rampives kept peering through the net curtains, to see what Huw was up to. He didn't know Huw spotted him thus eyeing out, but the man’s face was very wan (despite his ethnic origin) and it stood out against the background of penny-pinching darkness. His eyes looked redder, now; no doubt reflecting the one electric bar Huw’s Mother said Mr Rampives kept burning day and night, whatever the weather. Or perhaps the redness was the outcome of chronic sleeplessness. Huw’s friends from the biology class said you had to sleep to live. Huw reckoned instinctively, however, that you had to sleep to dream. But never mind.

Huw gazed in bewilderment at the array of engine parts presented to him, all in arcane liaisons. He fiddled with the plugs. He knew they were called plugs. Spark plugs. He had a magazine at home which, inter alia, had an illustration of spark plugs: one that he had thought then would never be of any use to him. Yet, in hindsight, knowing their name was pretty pointless. But at the time, it increased his confidence by an unwarranted geometric progression. He unscrewed one plug with a laissez-faire that he tried to conceal from any of Fate's spies that might have been lurking nearby. You see, Huw had a paranoia that usually only people who know that word can truly suffer. He was being followed, stalked, tested, assessed, at every corner of life he turned. In fact, Mr Rampives was probably the arch persecutor—the one who was now laying the final trap. If Huw did not mend his car, what the repercussions? If he did mend his car, what the repercussions then? Huw couldn't win. Nor lose.

He went to turn the ignition to see if his fiddling had done any good. The engine gave one sick crank and joined the erstwhile monster.

Inevitably, he returned his gaze to Mr Rampives' house. Yes, there it was: the wan wide-eyed face, mouth downturned, nose squashed in pain, teeth redder now than his eyes, for his eyes were dull, almost sad, no longer piercing. Huw smiled, acknowledging an awareness of Mr Rampives. It was a haphazard thing to do, Huw knows, but desperate measures were called for. Smiling was a reflex action, yet one based no doubt on instinct.

Mr Rampives smiled back. Merely that.

And with one further turn of the ignition the engine burst into sluggish life: fitful, yet positive, turnings-over of whatever inner force made engines work. It then choked, and died with the faintest whimper. And, instinctively, Huw ran.

The car's back-reflectors sparkled in the new-unclouded sun, as he turned round, against his better judgement, for one last gaze at the recalcitrant beast. At least he knew he would be safe from Mr Rampives and his ilk until darkfall, but then Huw'd be fast asleep in his back bedroom at his mother's house, hopefully.

Fast asleep, though, often meant dreaming.

The man walked into the pub to get legless.

"How are you, Mister?" queried the landlord, almost too politely since, not waiting to hear the answer, he scooted off to sell one of his blood-red cocktails to a sophisticated lady who sat on a bar-stool nearby.

"Middling," the man replied to himself, suddenly realising he had spoken to himself. It was a pity that the landlord was now busy chatting to an apparently more attractive customer.

He used to be a soldier in an army fighting in a war few understood. Some may not even have realised which side they were on (and there had been three). Many officers had been retired from the ranks early for surrendering to their own troops. But why give a present the past?

He glanced along the bar and surveyed the lady in the tight red skirt that accentuated the prime cut of her thighs, and the buttonless blouse which, despite its loose fit, did little to hide the weight of her bosom and its deep valley (and the graspable plummy nipples). Before her on the bar was the most strangely constructed cocktail that the man had ever seen. Fizzing liquids of varying degrees of redness had been mixed but in such a carefully arranged column of specific gravities each shade remained unblemished by the other. Thrust through these undulating subtle stripes was a large colourful brolly that protected the drinker from the upward erupting bubbles.

"I'll have one of those," he suddenly decided, pointing at the drink in front of the striking lady.

The landlord, abandoning one of his knowing looks for the lady to ponder, sidled back to the bar in front of the man and, staring him straight in the eyes, said sarcastically:

"Hast thou the readies, eh? Hast thou a brass farthing? It'll cost thee at least an arm and a leg. Or, at least, a frozen chicken."

"Put it on tick."

Saying this, the man shuddered as if he sensed the landlord had really wanted a frozen child.

"Time's gone for tick, Mister. Even your pub-talk has more credit than your purse!"

And the man talked to the pub—in preference to himself. The way he used different voices gave a certain provenance to the conversation...

"It's real strange with all those funny people in our sitting-room."

"Well, we couldn't refuse them, could we, with all the casualties from the war being at Mayday Hospital. Distant relatives do need somewhere to stay outside visiting hours, don't they?"

The last speaker was a red-eyed bar-propper called Rampives: evidently the spouse of the first one.

"One of them has even brought his banjo!"

"Life must go on."

Silence prevailed as they scratched their heads over a saucepan.

"Excuse me ... do you happen to know when the bus is coming to take us to the hospital?" asked one of the visitors who had popped his head around the sitting-room door.

"Be lucky if it comes at all, with all this weather outside," said Rampives, pointing at the window as alibi.

“Oh ... I see. Can we use your car?”

“It’s on the blink, my car.”

"Oh. By the way, I hope you don't mind me asking, but we are all very hungry..."

"We've got very little for ourselves let alone visitors," said Rampives, "but the stewpot's on and we'll tell you when it's ready."

"Thank you."

The sitting-room door slammed and the undergrunts continued behind it, with a strident strum or two. Rampives shrugged, remembering someone else’s dream he had infiltrated the previous night when he was the bus driver coming to fetch these funny people in his sitting-room. Dreams were merely one more layer of tick.

The bus driver was finding it very difficult to drive up the snowy hill. The young lady with the neat bum who had recently accompanied him on these trips was standing on the platform next to him, chatting over her flirtations with various young men who had now been conscripted to the war:

"There was one I liked a lot, with ear-rings and oodles of blood. There were so many designer gashes in his jeans, I could actually see more of him than he imagined."

The girl smiled, but the driver couldn't look round at her, since the road conditions were worsening by the minute. He was getting a little long in the tooth, so he found it enormously encouraging to be chatted up like this. There were some good things coming from the war, even if it did mean negotiating the wintry roads to reach godforsaken outposts of Coulsdon to take complete strangers to visit incomplete strangers in hospitals.

Only last week, there were some foreigners billetted the other side of Croydon who moaned and groaned on the upper deck for most of the journey ... crooning and wailing, stamping and shouting. Something to do with their outlandish Eastern religion, he had thought.

He had taken them to a private prisoner-of-war camp in Crystal Palace where they were to stay all day visiting their relatives. When they eventually returned to his bus, they were even more noisy than before, but this time more angry than evangelical.

Today, he was due to transport the members of a country-rock group to visit their wounded fans. What was the group's name ... The Cryogenics of Prayer? The nice young lady on the platform might know...

The bus had never arrived before Rampives stopped dreaming he was driving it.

His sitting-room shook to the sound of tuneless screeching, squawking and high-pitched whining. Eventually, he and his wife shared the stew between countless plates and, as in the Bible, were encouraged to see how far it could go. Not everyone was to be dished out with a suet dumpling, true, but most would have hot blood for gravy and battle-used flesh to mop it up with. But the thousands of songs and party pieces compensated for all the gloom.

The landlord chortled and returned to the red-skirted lady who was now inserting a hinged straw into the curdled top of her drink. And the undertones of their imprecise conversation continued between the noises. The man wondered why females had been given the sexy privilege of owning breasts. Daydreams were often more believable than silly pub-talk tales...

Rampives took one longing look at the house he intended to buy ... and cringed at the dust on the back windows (assuming the back was the correct one vis à vis its front). Despite being one and half miles from the coast, he imagined he could catch the sound of waves. The screech of gulls assisted in this fabrication of a past that, in many ways, was someone else's future ... if he'd only hit upon the key to the mystery.

Without knowing, his existence had a knock-on effect ... both ways. Two years ago (almost to the day) he'd sat on the beach at Dunwich, trying to discover the secret of his father's death. The story (as told by a mother too old to remember anything at all) was that his father couldn’t die properly so he had walked out into those innocent Suffolk seas to catch the sound of cathedral bells, as if they were no more than tiny silver fish one often finds in the cleanest parts of one's house. And his mother had indeed kept her family home pristine. Only to die. Unworried, even, that none would follow in her footsteps, hoovering those secret places which none knew about—least of all the dirt. Listening to clock's lengthening frozen tick.

The Suffolk seas were doubtless innocent—hiding a multitude of sins and untidinesses. It had never been the same since. All beaches, now, even that personally sacrosanct one at Dunwich, were full of tourists mindful of nothing but their dogs called Who and Kay Nine. Why did some of these horrid holidaymakers dress their toddlers in nothing but bare skin? It didn't seem right. And those distant cranes further along the coast at Sizewell were paradoxically tiny giant fishing-rods.

"Come on, Who. Come on, Kay Nine. Put your paws up when I take the photo," called a paunchy man, who squeezed his butcher's joints into a foul crouch. Sitting on the Dunwich beach, that day, Rampives was beset by wasps (that someone should have told him could not have been wasps at all, but hover-flies): they were like dry raindrops on his sunhat. He was also annoyed by black creepy things that massed on carrier bags.

In his mind's eye or, rather, two eyes for two minds, he strode nearer to the inland house. He caught sight of a familiar face at one of the windows. He examined the "For Sale" sign for dubious messages. "I was here." "I wasn't here." "You'd do better not living here." The small print was always more important than the stuff one could easily read.

He had decided to jump in his car and rediscover that Dunwich beach. But his car was even now, whilst out of sight, slowly breaking down.

At this very moment, his ancient incriminatory father might be wading back from that city under the sea, signalling violently towards the sand-holes of the short-arse cliffs -

"There you must rest, my son, with those other winged cheese-parers and mindless creatures of the coast."

And Rampives felt himself levitate (all God-fearing Suffolk folk believing in such parahuman feats): he fleeted towards the yellow sheer sides with the tousled green tops and the pebbly scrunch undertoe. He was not a simple soaring bird, though, but one among many dull waspish touches on a sunhat. Not even that, perhaps—more the deadened nonsense of nothing, settling with a dusting of midges, which the wind failed to hoover. So nice to be coming home, instead. If it was indeed his home, that inland house for sale. A house of many backs. Surely, his mother would not want to be seen dead in such a place, with all that dust on the windows.

How he got there without a car, only people who are dead in far-sighted Heaven could tell.

The handle of the front door was stiff—but no matter—he slipped through without it opening.

"Come on, Who. Come on, Kay Nine." There was literally nobody to see on the beach whatsoever—except, of course, those full-bellied, big-breasted, ill-tattooed tourists and yappy dogs.

In disgust, someone’s undead father returned his head below the waspish waves.

The man swallowed a sob and looked at his flat chest and rocked back and forth on the bar-stool, as if gently shaking a bodily cocktail. He imagined the red-skirted lady taking part in the Yoga course he had been attending for some weeks now. He pictured her doing some of the positions in her tight skirt—allowing his gaze to travel right up to the smooth round arch of her silken crotch. He found himself being sucked into the frozen darkness there—and his deep breathing exercises (rippling from chest-cage to belly-sump and back again) were now merely camouflage for a completely different activity that his own thighs engendered upon himself.

He recalled a previous time when a woman had reciprocated his advances. But it all ended with pretend ghosts.

It began with a proposition—to a lady friend to have a short holiday with him. He called her Kay. But why did he need such a reference point? Kay was probably the correct name, in any event. The face was more beautiful than he deserved, with a body to match. He suspected she loved him even more than she hated him, most ladies having generous dollops of each to share out. But, as was customary, he became confused not only about the past itself but subsequent interpretation of it, like his habit of going off on tangents and, even tangents of tangents. And thinking about the future when he'd be a mere barfly with no time to buy.

He had decided to hire an old building in deepest Herefordshire for a long dirty weekend. Down a barely beaten track, his cronk of a car had followed the abstruse directions posted to them by the building's owner, to find quite an idyllic setting for their illicit honeymoon. The entrance (where the key was hidden) was similar to that of an ancient castle or Knights Templar chapel, but the living quarters were relatively civilised. The black beams in the ceiling were real and the oil paintings maintained a heady ambiance. One painting was particularly striking. It depicted the head and shoulders of a grim-visaged individual of the male persuasion, cast in sombre glistening colours. Hands together in prayer. Its eyes faithfully, if tritely, followed their movements about the room, yet occasionally faltering as they glanced piecemeal at the artfully positioned knickknacks the unknown owner had left peppered about. Its gold frame hung over a large disused fireplace which, for some unaccountable reason, housed a safe.

Kay hated the place. Rampives loved it. He even loved the loud clock that irritated even its own workings with rogue clicks. The place had been his choice—or so he believed. Therefore, the dichotomy was, if nothing else, predictable. It was indeed nothing else. It was a non-starter of a romance. He had tried to crank her erogenous ignition, but the engine had only stuttered once. And there in that Herefordshire barn, with the choke fully out, not a murmur, not a shudder. The sound of well-oiled machine parts turning over in a delightful hum was left to the abode's water pump which, far from giving them trouble, was the only ingredient of the weekend to give them grit.

Kay pretended she hated him. He imagined that she did indeed care for him; and the "castle" was, despite everything, an ideal love nest. But love was effectively intangible, a series of showy tangents. One could only check the brimfulness of love's sump by subjective means. Any objective observation was simply a visual version of hearsay. But he did find himself loving her. Whether she really hated him, he somehow doubted, but she said she did. So who was Rampives to argue? At least, he should have grown in mental stature, if not physical, as a result of her brushing up the nap of his life's tapestry and granting him more grit for the pass-over. People needed the grit to strengthen the shells. Like yolks, souls needed shells, in preparation for Death's rite of passage. Life itself provided such grit. Hardship. Sorrow. Pain. Sex. Hate. Especially hate.

Yet Kay ended up loving Rampives. She said something about wanting to be his bus-driver groupie for an eternity of request stops.

But he had only wanted her for the friction, the piston, the funnel and the steam—and the blood yolk that was thicker than motor oil. But there was nothing he could do to prevent love intervening. Perhaps they were two ghosts or mutual catalysts at most. Their souls felt as if they had not formed shells. If only Kay could have used Rampives as her saviour, appreciated him as a target for her hate rather than her love, they would both perhaps be in Heaven now. Instead, she cursed him for making her love him. But it was too late, the damage was done. She could not bear defeat nor the feeling of being deeply in love. It was so intangible. Nothing she could put her finger on. However, neither would admit to being a ghost. She told him a few truths that would have been better left as lies. He felt his very soul craze over with strange maps that were neither Herefordshire nor Suffolk nor Heaven—nor even Hell. He was both nothing and nothing else. Against all the odds, the car's unsparking engine coughed into life with one mere stirring of the liquid muscle which its ignition had become in the Herefordshire damp. He desperately tried to weep blood from the pump of his heart's turbo as he heard Kay negotiate the barely beaten track, leaving him hanging above the fireplace, eyes darting from niche to alcove in search of things he could neither unlock nor untie—nor even give the kiss of life to.

"OK, Mister, if you're not going to buy a drink, I'll have to ask you to leave." The landlord preened his quiff. "This isn't a Free House, you know—yes, I know you're an old war hero—yes, yes, you saved the world from alien invasion, too—and (what was it?) you were once the Holy Pope—but I've got a living to make—and, furthermore, this lady here has told me she don't like your graveyard smell."

He had turned up on time.

But the bus shelter was deserted. No sign of the fine-bummed bus-driver groupie.

Most of the promenade lights were off: the council had not mended them after the big storm. Or perhaps Dunwich had never had lights like Blackpool had.

He sat on the damp wooden bench, only partially protected from the elements by the cracked glass partitions of the circular shelter. The roof was not much better, with a good many slats missing: employed, no doubt, as surfboards by hunks of men in once Summerier days.

He could hardly make out the waves through the gloom, but he could hear them churning across the pebbly beach. The sound made him shiver: he had always thought life comes nearest to death when on a lonely stint by the night sea.

But tonight was not meant to be lonely. He had actually agreed to meet others like himself: drifters, sand-sifters, beach-combers, prom-bums, jacks-of-the-pier, pebble-pushers, bingo-callboys, dodgem speedsters, sad joyriders... bus driver groupies ... blood merchants ... tickertape touts.

There were thousands such who mooned round off-season resorts, buoyed by the wild-salt airs and graces. And tonight was to be their convention, their first meeting and reunion all rolled into one. The message had moved along the coasts for several years, like Chinese whisper chain-letters, none of them daring to halt the passing of the hot breath torch.

So, why was he at the bus shelter on a loner as big as the sea inside the shell of his head? He had got the message straight, hadn't he? That night of the big storm, as he huddled on the prom away from wave's clawback and pebble-slide, he had felt another body nestle close up behind him, winding along spine, buttocks and thighs. And the whisper shot clear through his head, coming out louder than it went in.

"Put it in writing!" he said out loud, not daring to whisper. You could not be too careful.

Then an arm curled round and, amid the scuttlings of wind, he could discern the scrap of sweet paper being proffered by a hand with long slender fingers (like a guitarist's) embossed with spinning rings of light.

He snatched the paper from this bony fan of a hand, but before he could read all the words, the seamuck's vigour screwed him up. He had no option but to turn round towards his deliverer. But the other had gone, leaving a cold emptiness and only his own skin bundle of bones to fill it.

He cursed. He had got it all wrong. This was not the TIME nor the PLACE. Time was ticking on a tangent. One without the other would have been worse, considering the length of Britain's coastline from Suffolk back to Suffolk and the endless tracery of time itself. You needed bi-sections, the crossing of two axes, before any arrangement could be pinpointed. He tugged his stale overcoat closer, dreaming of the years he had worn it, since a small child in fact, his constant companion which, despite its current threadbareness, was the best friend his body was ever likely to have.

Then he heard them—he had turned up on time! The thump of toe-capped feet along the prom, the rising hubbub of voices. He rose from the bench, peered through the gloom's scudding flotsam and could just discern the dark shapeless hunks of men-like creatures, arm in arm, with separate faces skimming about like intersections of the full moon and its seaweedy reflections.

He dashed forward to shake their hands. But they didn't have any.

The force of the windmurk gave him no option but to revolve on the balls of his feet, stretching out his own lengthening ring-bone fingers to return the sodden scrap of sweet paper to the deliverer at the apex of the fanning figures. He failed to see it had been signed ... by Kay. But which one? The red-eyed one with nine lives?

Then there was dead silence, except for the blunt clunk of planks upon the swelling sea's meniscus.

He had indeed turned belly-up on time, toes peeping from the split tail-ends of his soaking overcoat. But death was hopeless for those who couldn’t die.


The man turned a squint upon the red-skirted dame who was now closing the umbrella upon the quenched cocktail. He shrugged and made to leave, but then changed his mind and addressed the lady with these parting words: "I may have a smell you don't like—it's my mind—it's gone off. But I'm a meantime more while-worth than the likes of you—I didn't know this pub was a knocking-shop, anyway."

She smiled as if he were her childhood Teddy she'd once thrown to her younger sister.

His childhood Teddy was frayed at the ear-ends, threadbare in the belly, loose by the limb and more than a trifle doleful at the wobbly eyes. A sorry sight, but one he loved.

It was said Teddy might be valuable, such ancient toys now being part and parcel of the great revolution of memorabilia. In fact, Rampives had thought such matters were going too far, since nostalgia even seemed to be catching up with the present day. He cringed at the idea of teddy bears, such as his, passing through the sparkle-nuggetted hands of dealers in the past. Rampives stared at Teddy, its eyes brighter today. Tears made eyes brighter. Rotted the stitches.

Then, one day, he had a girl called Kay. She reminded him of another one of several other girls called Kay, parading their identities like swells. A strange creature, if ever there was one. She often pointed at jet-liners skimming as close to the top of the blue as possible, with strung-out streamers of cotton-wool clouds—and said they looked like Christian crosses to remind us that God was everywhere. Pantheism symbolised.

This particular Kay was beyond charisma. She was evangelism incarnate, whose cause was self-evident. Her eyes literally beamed both faith and, faith’s inverse, prayer. Why she plucked Rampives from the bunch was a mystery, but that did not matter: mystery was the bedrock she built herself upon. His time with the mercenaries in Iraq had probably swung it.

But she wanted nothing from him, other than the sounding-board of his wide-eyed face. He shambled around, tending to her needs, requiring only recognition and acceptance. In the first blush of womanhood, she was far prettier than was good for her. She did not harness her ripening breasts, simply expected everyone to ignore them, as they prodded the loose silk of her blouse. They looked as if they needed milking—of their blood.

Her open leg stance was one more of innocence than flaunting. The short leather skirts were simply artefacts of convenience. She just had to wear something, didn't she? The high heels were a trifle superfluous, but she preferred teetering to padding: made her feel more human and less like an animal. Also something to do with hair-shirts, not being able to balance properly, toes so compressed they became raging wicks of fire.

She hated his Teddy, loathed the furry little bundle, she said. Claimed it was worse than a false idol. If God had meant men to have comforters, He would have made soft cushiony Christs on crucifixes.

No doubt, Teddy returned the hate.

But that was then. She eloped with Teddy. Her parting words were that it was the supremest hate-love-indifference relationship she could possibly hope to have.

As the jumbo jets left a droning loneliness in their night's wake, Rampives slipped a glance downward and sees that the raggish filling escapes the loose belly-button. Blunted hands cannot even attempt to stuff it all back in. Nor can his eyes look back up. Hanging by the thread. Solid stained tears. Bitter gems plucked from a pursuing past. Hot blood gravy Nostalgia Disincarnate.

The man turned to the landlord and, as a final gesture, took a deep Yogic breath that seemed to fill his whole body, even his veins, with air bubbles—and he proudly handed over to the landlord one arm and one leg in a momemt of acu-rupture and concentrated ecstasy. And from one stump-end gash there slowly squeezed out a frozen moth-palmed foetus that screeched “Abort thee!” at the top of its lungs, before it was dunked in someone-called-Kay’s cocktail.

It was ever a walkover.

I called it a foregone conclusion. Whatever the correct term for the arrival of Mr Rampives at parties, he was sure to be hours ahead of the rest of the guests. Kay and I were already there, of course—being the hosts. We were busily spreading nibbles over the various empty surfaces of the house. And uncorking the wines for breath. And plugging spirit spouts into their optics. And beating eggs. And roasting drumsticks. And—I forget what else. We shooed Who from the kitchen back to its bloodbone in the kennel.

Most of the booze we expected to be brought by guests in their own bottles. It was a house-warming. .

For Mr Rampives, being notorious for his early arrivals, we had set aside some chores. Softening the light in the bulbs. Smoochifying the Reggae music from the Stack. Dumping old clothes that Oxfam had spurned upon all the beds. Renewing the lock on the loo. Propping up the bar. And—I forget what else.

But, on this occasion, he was late. Or, at best, less early. One small nondescript guest had already turned up. Not exactly a gate-crasher, more someone making an educated guess at the correct numbers of a combination lock. He didn't look too familiar to either myself or Kay. An incomplete stranger. One wearing winklepickers and blatant sideburns. He said he was early as the person he had been visiting in hospital had died. And the bus hadn't been late.

He wasn't a patch on Mr Rampives, of course, but he did have a bright idea. He suggested we had the TV going all evening with Star Trek and Twin Peaks videos playing as moving wallpaper. Visual music more subtle and meaningful than disco-lights. Apparently, parties worth their pezazz had such a gimmick going for them these days. Fantasia or Citizen Kane or Casablanca or Apocalypse Now all commonly used. Plenty of vampire films often the life and soul.

Videos helped with the ambience, the tiny guest maintained. Softly flickering, volume low (only audible during breaks in the Reggae), faces toppling over each other (ugly and pretty alike), strange events evolving, murderers undergrunting, sub-plots tumbling, owl-wings widening, and—I forget what else.

We couldn't help wondering about the non-arrival of Mr Rampives. Perhaps his car had croaked.

When none of the other guests made an appearance, either, we assumed there was a hold-up on the roads leading to the city centre. Kay danced with the titchy guest, most of the night. I changed the videos between catering and disc-jockey duties. I also undid knots that developed in the curtains. And found the clock under the old overcoats on the bed.

A very hot night altogether—and the hum of traffic outside was louder than anything that could be produced inside. When we were winding-down and balloon-mending in the small hours, the three of us heard a slight sound, surprisingly at the back of the house, followed by gentle clicking and interminable lock-tumblers falling—and the soft hoot hoot that told us that probably Mr Rampives had at last arrived. The low babble of voices indicated he had rounded up the other missing guests.

The eeny-weeny guest increased the volume on the Reggae as loud as loud could be, whilst Kay and I quickly gobbled up all the spiked titbits that remained. The Lilliputian guest jigged frantically to the music, loose furry ears flying.

It was peculiar how it all turned out, because nobody seemed to have brought any bottles. But I reminded Kay later that she had a diary to enter, so she is busy tonight jotting it all out, telling of all the gaps between the memories. The spaces between the clockbeats. The fare stage where Death takes blood on board. Who knows, she may stumble upon her own murderer in the diary—and I forget what else.

Having wagged a completely imaginary cocktail at the red-skirted lady and the landlord, Rampives managed to catch the last bus by the skin of his teeth. A lady driver. He had the same name ready to call all women. Christian names, when peppered amid the small talk, often could oil the engine of pleasantry. It didn’t really matter which name. Or whether it was correct.

He used to have a single name for every man he met, too. But no need, these days. All other men must be at a war somewhere. He asked Kay for a half fare to any part of the coast. He shrugged as he was put off somewhere in the middle of inland Croydon. He wondered why he was drunk with no drink in his veins. The vessels in his eye-whites were no doubt black now, not red. Blood and time shaken not stirred: the yogic sea of existence. The oil of life. Sold in dimpled jugs. He shrugged again. At least, he wasn't a ghost. Nor a dead teddy. Nor a tired undead. Nor dead tired. He heard a night-lonely dog barking out his name, like a broken engine reluctantly turning over. But who was Huw?


Posted by wordonymous at 8:44 AM EDT
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posted Tuesday, 4 September 2007
"You've only had a wicked dream," she said, with a kiss upon wide-eyed Simpson's shivering brow.

Simpson looked up at his kind-hearted mother, wondering if, one day, she'd be proved wrong—but, now, tonight, then, forever, he was happy enough to trust her ... otherwise he would have died of fright without first having the grounds to grow old enough, old enough to understand. Meanwhile, or much earlier, or never at all, in a London office, a cleaning-lady said: "I had a good go at the thing last Monday." And whatever the 'thing' happened to be, she was just leaving as I arrived for work at the office. I acknowledged her—in my usual flick-tail fashion—and busied myself with the day's dockets. They had piled up since the evening before. No rest for the wicked, I thought—an expression I never fully understood, one which ancient housewives used on washdays. I always remember my father, too, as he painstakingly painted ‘best-by’ dates on our own pet hens’ eggs. Whilst, soon, my colleagues would be arriving brimful with horrific stories of British Rail, London Transport and the M25 ring road. I always tried to arrive before the office was strictly open. That obliged the likes of Beryl and Jeremy and Claudette (and Simpson, of course) to say a good morning to me first, since I had already become master of my own castle when the others had not even lowered their own draw-bridges to get in. It took the embarrassing edge off the day.

That silly biddy of an office cleaner (or batting-lady as they used to be called in my younger days), what on earth had she meant by a "good go at the thing" last Monday? She was all mouth and padding. I surveyed my desk. The blotter was spotless and the squat jars of creamy correcting-fluid lined up like soldiers on parade. I lifted the telephone handset—yes, it faintly smelled of that hygienic spray which the batting-lady applied to it during her regular Monday morning shiftwork. The dockets themselves were paper-clipped and neatly splayed in a semicircle as if a conjuror had made one sweep of a deck of trick cards. What she must have meant, then, was that she had bottomed-out the drinks vending-machine. It had stunk to high heaven the day before yesterday. Nobody had dared use it. Except Simpson, of course: the office idiot. Simpson would say anything for a laugh: like there were "black thingies doing the breast-stroke" in the lemon tea. Then, jump-start Jeremy had perked up at the expression breast-stroke and obtained a drink for himself, which he gulped with one inverted hiccup. "Life itself is a risk," wide-boy Jeremy had said to silly-arse Simpson. "You could get killed crossing the road soon as miss a blink."

I laughed at the double-barrelled nicknames which I meaningfully threw around about my office colleagues like invisible gravestones. But, whatever the case, I usually preferred the vending-machine's hot chocolate but lately most of its ingredients were revealed as congealed at the bottom of the plastic beaker. And, amid these dregs, I had re-lived events from the night before, events which had involved drain-pipe Simpson (he was a drip) and a beat-nick girl who was a stranger. "What shall I choose for horse's dovers?" she had asked pointblank. Her escort, cock-eye Simpson, looked askance for a fleeting moment, then, with the irritant of light dawning, suggested the prawn cocktail. "I dunno, I feel like something garlicky and, yes, cheesy, with a touch of tomato." The strange-look girl giggled as she brushed a sprig of hair from in front of her heavily made up eyes, as if that helped concentration. Simpson peered quizzically at the menu. He'd seen menu cards before, but these were tantamount to body-size! It did serve as a blind. He could kill shock-jock Jeremy for landing this female stranger on him tonight of all nights. Hallowe'en was a night Simpson usually spent at home with his mother and, instead, here he had to conduct a form of baby-sitting. Or should he call it baby-eating? (Looking after her whilst he ate, you see.) He laughed at his own silent joke.

"Did you say something, Simpson?" asked the girl stranger.

"Oh, no, I was simply rehearsing the order."

Simpson's lame reply passed muster okay, but he blushed to the roots of his hair—and beyond. Her voice piped up again: "What are you having for horse's dovers?" He winced at the repetition of the clumsy childish joke expression for hors d’oeuvres. He winced even deeper upon noticing that she had tucked her linen serviette into the top of her dress, hanging over her small bosom, hemmed corners in her lap. It already bore a noticeable stain. "Oh, I think I'll go for the seafood tureen," he answered, in a humouring tone. Outside could be heard the shouts of trick-or-treaters echoing down the street. A train trundled underneath the restaurant—a regular sound in this part of London. Despite its position, however, the restaurant was posher than the usual ones Simpson patronised. The waiters were polite, if officious, and one particular handsome fellow had passed a tiny crumb-hoover over the tablecloth as if it were some ritual to rid the settings of previous eaters. Such devices irritated Simpson, as did those scalding flannels ridiculously packaged in cling-film which Indian Restaurants handed out following their curry and tandoori concoctions, as if the finger-bowls were not enough. Yet, no such exoticisms in this place. This was a meat and two vedge joint, if an up market one. Here, apron-string Simpson could have brought his mother—someone who ever moaned about bean shoots and other such "foreign muck". Surreptitiously looking around the side of what seemed to be an ever-growing fold-over stand-up menu card, Simpson indeed decided there was not much to choose between the girl and his mother. What was age between people like that?

"Oh, I don't think I can eat much tonight."

Now she says! Why ever suggest coming to a restaurant, in that case? Loud-mouthed Jeremy had a lot to answer for. Simpson, even Simpson, had taken out more companionable Great Aunts than this slice of female near-humanity was proving to be! He laughed again. Absurdity was sometimes preferable to common sense. Indeed, some events were more memorable because of their negative points. And what was existence without the stickability of memories? Bad memories were preferable to none. Black letter days, if not so good as red ones, stood out—became landmarks in an otherwise waste-ground of amnesic blandness. Or had he got his red and black confused? Death was the ultimate amnesia, of course, without which there could have been no life in the first place. And as I continued to re-live that dream-restaurant scene by scrying the office beaker's dregs, I was wondering why beakers were called beakers, but then buxom Beryl bustled in, wielding heavily cosmeticked cheeks.

"The buses were at a standstill right across London Bridge—and I could have walked quicker," she said with a toss of her aspirin-crushed-upon face. Beryl was younger than her plumpness portended. She often referred to her husband as if she were about to change him for a newer model. Characteristics piled up in no logical order. Beryl all over. Stork-leg Claudette was said to have a man at home, too. As far as looks were concerned, Claudette was a different bar-room talking-point altogether. Thus, she easily managed to provoke jump-start Jeremy. A case of mutual sexual harrassment: a self-perpetuating series of back-biting and back-scratching. And, believe it or not, wide-boy Jeremy actually thought himself to be sexy with that cheap medallion dangling upon a blatantly hairy chest. All mouth and trousers was Jeremy. A man's man. Or various words to that order.

The first phone to ring was always on my desk, a phone sleeping, as it were, with one ear cocked. Then, if it wasn't placated, it hunted round the other phones in a strict order, an order set quite arbitrarily by the original engineers whose blueprints turned out to be little better than pink blancmange. I failed to understand why everybody else was so damn inefficient. I picked up the beast with one fell swoop of my arm in a well-rehearsed arc. "Yes?" I had had never been taught telephone etiquette. It was jump-start Jeremy reporting in sick—as he had done, it seemed, every Monday morning since Kingdom come. In the meantime, chirp-cheap Claudette had arrived late, shaking out her frilly umbrella from a sudden shower, as if the umbrella were a large vampire-bat fresh from skinny-dipping. She looked round to see if she was the last to have arrived.

"How was it this morning, dear?" Buxom Beryl didn't even look up from her under-sized newspaper, as she offered small talk to stork-leg Claudette. "We got stuck in a tunnel for half an hour," Claudette replied, her pretty face seeming smudged with smuts of soot. Beryl tutted so loudly, I thought it was someone breaking combs under the desk. That village idiot is late again, I said to myself, in reference to Simpson. He was beyond a joke. I would have to report him upwards, before long. Claudette was combing out her long locks, with swishing sighs. She evidently wanted to look as nice as possible before venturing into the ladies' rest room to put the finishing touches to her demeanour with the help of a full-blown mirror and buxom Beryl's loan of cosmetic. Meanwhile, I returned to the beaker's dregs and the strange girl in the restaurant also blamed loud-faced Jeremy for this evening. Simpson was fast becoming a dead bore—always dithering with pointless thought. There had never been any question of horse's dovers, of course. Prawns were never red enough. Pinkness was worse than no colour at all, to her mind. Why couldn't he have a sense of humour? Still, she had a lot to learn from others, even from daft cases like Simpson and she abruptly brought him back into the land of the living with her considered choice for her main (and only) course (or entrée as they called it here). The better class of waiter whom the restaurant employed had made the decision from among all their life-size menu photographs far more difficult. The waiters were indeed all relatively young and good-looking. The one picked was eventually escorted into the kitchen by the leathery head chef, for his neck to be tapped with one of those new-fangled gold-plated spigots restaurants seemed to provide these days. But then, a solitary trick-or-treater made a raucous sally into the body of the restaurant, in search of donations for his bonfire. He sported a Dracula mask, a mask looking remarkably like Jeremy's face. The girl shrugged and looked to simple-sample Simpson for even simpler enlightenment. She was bereft of the hidebound niceties that longevity instilled. Consequently, Simpson threw off his "village idiot" soul and thought thoughts with a sudden dawning of dark pleasure, thoughts that the girl probably was a real tasty starter of a once dead girl. He signalled to a disused waiter who was a bit too long in the tooth to be toothsome and asked for the A La Carte menu. Meanwhile, back in the land of the wicked, my office phone, having broken into a feat of renewed trilling, I pretended to have heard the fax machine by the window break into life and wandered over to it, evidently to see what was written on the slippery paper which would have slid from between the rollers. In this way, the phone ceased on my desk and started ringing on wide-boy Jeremy's.

Big-bosomed Beryl raised her head lackadaisically and began to stare at the shrill creature with a look sufficiently old-fashioned to make a prize-fighter curl up in his corner. There was very little point to her consternation since the blower's pesky pinecat screeching, if unanswered, would soon renew its petulance elsewhere. So, she picked up the nearest phone extension by its wildly whipping tail at the first suspicion of the tongue-click which prefigured the full-blown spat of stinging sound hunting over to her desk. And, finding the fax machine had not given birth, I wondered why people called phones blowers. There was no accounting for words. A close squeak. Beakers. No rest for the wicked.

Beryl's face was ashes. Claudette's a picture of cosmosis interruptus. Evidently shocking news had been imparted via the phone. They were pointing madly at Simpson's empty desk and then at the offending drinks vending-machine. I creased up. The machine had been gargling for days, as if whatever creature lived inside it had drunk all the variously flavoured fluids for itself and was about to explode through the narrow dispenser. I abruptly had a very strange imagining—by means of an instinct drawn from word association rather than from a grasp of reality—an imagining that jump-start Jeremy moonlighted in drag, masquerading as the office cleaning lady each Monday morning with a disguise more impenetrable even than buxom Beryl's cosmetic face-mask. Better than that vampire mask I had seen him wearing in the dregs. But what about poor simple-sample Simpson? Bottomed out beyond even a joke's joke, now. No rest for his wicked belly. There was the sad sound in the office of comb-teeth snapping one by one. And, months later, Simpson entered in clothes that reminded me of those I had worn only the day before. "Surprise! Surprise!" he said. "Hi, Simpson, sit yourself down and have a nice cup of tea," I said, in turn offering him a seat beside the framed picture of his dead mother, the latter being a present he had given me. Simpson and I had become fast friends, ever since the office redundancies. In fact, we had previously been rather kept apart by the job ... both of us preferring to be homebirds, watching TV or doing odd jobs. Better than negotiating the realms of commuting any day.

"Thanks for the Birthday present," he said, stirring the tea I had soon prepared.

"It's nothing. Don't think any more about it."

I noticed he was sporting all the items of clothing I had only wrapped yesterday ... before leaving the parcel on his doorstep. He replaced the cup on the saucer, stood up, preened himself and strutted his outfit with a quick flourish.

"I thought you'd like them," I said.

"Yes," he said, "but I'm afraid they must have been frightfully expensive."

"Well, to be absolutely honest, Simpson—they're slightly body-soiled and I managed to haggle the price."

"Oh, they seem OK." He gave his own length the once over, as if expecting to see stains he'd previously missed.

"They look much better in a mirror," I suddenly said for no accountable reason, staring at the black wallpaper. He smiled, recognising something his mother always used to say, no doubt. It was as if his mother made me say things from the grave ... despite her having been cremated. Later, I switched on the TV—not for Simpson and I to watch it as such but for it to act as a sponge for our otherwise awkward silences. There was a film on but neither of us followed it. Well, strange to look back on it now, but the film almost followed us. Two characters, with a few seconds delay, mimicking our strained faces and clumsy gestures ... and Pinteresque exchanges. Then the weather forecast came on and I decided to speak my mind for the first time that evening: "It's getting a bit hard on my pocket, you know, Simpson." He nodded. He seemed as if he knew exactly what I meant—but, for the sake of something other than completeness, I elaborated: "All these clothes I keep buying you as presents ... the cost is leaving me well—how shall I put it?—embarrassed." He nodded, this time with a gaze of mystification. I continued: "Buying necessaries for two is stretching my resources to their limit. It's not my fault that your mother only left you a small annuity." He looked away and pretended an interest in tomorrow's coastal temperatures. A cold snap coming, apparently. But the map on the TV screen was of no country I could recognise.

Knocking Church Street was usually a quiet place, although it slightly cheated by having sleeping policemen humps to deprive the rat runners and back doublers of their self-indulgent conduits of least resistance. Office commuters were evil people at the best of time. Luckily there were fewer and fewer offices these days to draw them into the city. Simpson remembers his mother saying (when they lived on Knocking Church Street): "A good marriage is one where each of you have clothes that can only be worn if you have to have help in dressing, for example, a top where the buttons are at the back..." As a child, he would nod. As a grown-up, he would repeat his mother's sayings. I would react with wide eyes and cooing noises. Bearing in mind its name, it was inevitable, I suppose, that Knocking Church Street ended up completely demolished ... towards the end of Simpson's childhood, a period when puberty was a burden rather than an awakening. He still possesses an old map with Knocking Church Street shown. It was an oval street. Never ever been anything like it, since or before. An endless street of terraced housing, two crescents in one, with odd numbering...

I was interrupted from my revery by my stomach bubbling. I hadn't eaten for ages. But I decided to ignore it. Simpson was fiddling with the TV trying to find something else not to watch. He never seemed to return to his own home. He used my place as if it were his. "Pardon me," I said. The noise in my stomach was getting worse, almost flatulent, starting to interrupt my speech as I tried to pursue our earlier conversation with words which I meant to be as cruel as they sounded: "You'd take the clothes off my own back rather than open your wallet..." I dared not look down, since my stomach noises were fast resembling that of a pet dog or, even, a wild beast. Indeed, I felt such a creature gnawing my toes. "...and I now find ,” I continued, “that you can afford to go to the pictures every afternoon—and seeing all those horror films can't be good for you..." Cinemas seemed a waste of time to me. The films they showed always became old ones that TV later showed when nobody was watching. Meanwhile, the noises were attached to me in some way as if the stomach itself was an autonomous animal. I wriggled in my seat. I could only see two bloated noses. Cold as ice. Death was such whatever the heat. Even eggshells melted on the last sell-by day of them all. Cremated dreams.

Simple Simpson switched off the TV and put on my fur coat. It was time for him to go to the pictures. I hoped the cinema screen would also be black and the films projected on it even blacker. That would serve him right. I expect he meets buxom Beryl on these trips to the pictures. I wonder what happened to that eyelid-batting Claudette. She must still be young enough to be office-bound. Each sleep's clumsy commuting back into consciouness remained a rancid starter, a beakerful of curdled black blood prefiguring the day's tasteless banquet. Or, worse still, she might be married, despite his death, to that jump-start Jeremy, and caring for his creature comforts. Combing that wide-boy’s broken locks. Filing his wayward teeth. Grooming his goatee. Waxing and oiling his scrawny chest. Pampering his bready thighs. Blowing gently upon his belly-button. Preening his prawn starter. But I no longer possessed a mind where to wield such surreptitious surrealism, indeed no thoughts at all with which to fill out the necessary forms and dockets for the well-ordering of my soul. Indeed, my last thought was being thankful that, despite being female, I never became a mother myself —with nobody thus burdened with carrying the relay baton of my existence by means of the resurrection of my mind's meanderings amid the cold dregs of an uncertain future. Or, perhaps, my very last thought was thinking of that strange, if now very familiar, girl in the restaurant with train trundling below—a girl not so strange as to be a complete stranger to me of all people.

I sobbed and placed my hungry lips, in turn, to each fleshy spigot that I had raised from my fresh-opened wrists. Blood, they say, is God’s own correcting-fluid.


Posted by wordonymous at 8:43 AM EDT
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When Housewives Had No Choice

When Housewives Had No Choice

posted Tuesday, 4 September 2007
Published 'Dementia 13' 1992

The lounge bore the headiness of stale perfume.

Wyvern knew she should not be there: with the frazzled filament in the bulb, it was too dark even to think. In a slight temper, she vigorously switched up and down the off-on china tab set into the boss of brass on the wall. Calming herself, she viewed the grain of late dusk through the low denier veil she had been wearing for days.

Her elderly mother still inhabited this room, despite absence in death. Not that Wyvern believed in ghosts for real, only the shed skin, as it were, of atomised existence that sat stock still in the deceased’s once favourite wing armchair by the ever darkening window. The glinting cat’s eyes of a car crawling in reverse up the drive opposite made her think twice as to whether her mother’s spectacle lenses were indeed floaters in the air above the lacy antimacassar. The third time, she was convinced...

“Mother, I know I was a bitch,” she thought. “It’s just that I can never forgive you for telling me that life outside this house was as dangerous as the telly made me think it was.” Her mother’s voice sounded inside Wyvern’s head, the grey mulch of her brain forming a gristly mouth with tiny tumorous tongue.

The culprit television crouched in the chimney corner beneath the leaning of the bulbless standard-lamp with its own vaguely luminous screen seemingly sucking light from the darkness.

“You could have gone out. I never stopped you.” Wyvern’s voice cut the lounge’s silence into two.

She left the room, wondering whether tomorrow she would be able to restart the carriage clock on the mantelpiece. Its ponderous tick once punctuated the unshared thoughts of mother and daughter; but it was never necessary since the video recorder under the television ever showed duration in its green-eyed digits fixed for a minute at a time ... even when its on button was off. Wyvern had to unplug it when her mother died because only then the numbers ceased to shine out from the plastic fascia.

In the dining-room, where she now spent most of her time, Wyvern turned the knob on the gas fire, sending orange-blue plumes to soak up the previously white as bone grid of nipples. She offered her muslin-mittened hands to the rising heat, nearly splintering her teeth in the effort to suffocate her own cries of pain, the closer she managed to lean forward. The tongue clove to the roof of her mouth, almost breaking its way through the thin shellac to the brain.

It was then she heard movement approaching from the lounge, down the empty hallway.

But her mother had not been able to walk unassisted for yonks.

Wyvern almost wished she was outside in the Street, braving all the muggers, perverts, cripples and drunken drivers that there abounded. The dining-room behind her opened of its own accord, without a sound. She did dare look for herself.

The cold sucking feel of moulded glass upon the back of the neck awoke her to her fright.


Posted by wordonymous at 8:42 AM EDT
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Monday, 30 August 2010
A Future Fair For All

A Future Fair For All

posted Saturday, 20 February 2010

"A future fair for all" is the Labour Party's catchphrase in the forthcoming UK General Election.

Does this mean we're going to be treated with dodgems, carousels, helter-skelters, sideshows, Punch and Judy puppet shows...?
If so, my vote is theirs! Smile

Freak shows?
"Cold chips, Missus?"


1. Nicholas Royle left...
Saturday, 20 February 2010 7:37 pm

I suspect it means futuristic dodgems; carousels loaded with Toyota Priuses; helter-skelters that go up, not down; robotic Punch & Judy shows. I'll still vote for them, if only to keep the other lot out.

2. Weirdmonger left...
Sunday, 21 February 2010 9:54 am

Thanks, Nicholas. :)

Further thoughts... A hung parliament - seems apt regarding the fair's puppet shows.

Seriously, this ambiguity of a 'future fair for all' would be avoided if they had used 'a future fair to all'?

Meanwhile, many envision loud slowly spinning merry-gordons ... and strung or stilted clowns stalking our nightmares.

3. Weirdmonger left...
Sunday, 21 February 2010 5:41 pm

I think the slogan-makers made a big mistake - in their own terms.

Just as a narrow point (unaffecting the bigger points of politics raised elsewhere with which I have much sympathy) - does anyone agree with me that 'a future fair to all' makes more unambiguous sense (just as a piece of English) than 'a future fair for all'?

I've also noticed that 'a future fair for all' has a resonance, when said quickly, with 'a future free for all'!

4. L.P. left...
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 3:36 am :: http://lpvanness.blogspot.com/

As usual, I enjoyed much your recent audio recording at TLO. des, what does 'cold chips, Missus' mean?

5. Weirdmonger left...
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 9:17 am

hi, LP - it's some old nonesense about cold cafes on wet winter afternoons and the plucky British spirit of making the best of it with a joke. :)

6. a future fair for all left...
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 6:10 pm :: http://futurefairforall.org

Given what happened the last time the Prime Minister promised “A future fair for all” - this isn’t a slogan; it’s a warning.

Posted by wordonymous at 4:12 AM EDT
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Saturday, 28 August 2010
Recent DFL snippets from forums

Recent DFL snippets from forums

posted Saturday, 30 January 2010

Theme and variations on the word 'Overrated':




 Theme and variations on 'The Other Elizabeth Taylor' (Persephone Books 2009)

and the nature of fiction: et




 http://www.knibbworld.com/campbelldiscuss/messages/1/3156.html?1264871556 :-

Time for Des's world....

I don't wish that on anyone!

My world is one where human beings - fundamentally selfish - will be part of systemic problems of reality that can be governed for a while in cycles of historical challenge-and-response, challenge-and-response again, and again.

Meanwhile, thankfully, selfishness is sometimes geared to a selflessness (altruism) that, in turn, selfishness enjoys as its sense of self-satisfaction.



Posted by wordonymous at 6:15 AM EDT
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Now Playing: Pretentiousness


posted Thursday, 28 January 2010

Someone elsewhere today kindly quoted the following words from Brian Eno:


<< Pretension is the dismissive name given to people's attempts to be something other than what they 'really are'. It is vilified in England in particular because we are so suspicious of people trying to 'rise above their station'.

In the arts, the word 'pretentious' has a special meaning: the attempt at something that the critic thinks you have no right even to try. I'm very happy to have added my little offering to the glowing mountain of things described as 'pretentious' - I'm happy to have made claims on things that I didn't have any 'right' to, and I'm happy to have tried being someone else to see what it felt like.

I decided to turn the word 'pretentious' into a compliment. The common assumption is that there are 'real' people and there are others who are pretending to be something they're not. There is also an assumption that there's something morally wrong with pretending. My assumptions about culture as a place where you can take psychological risks without incurring physical penalties make me think that pretending is the most important thing we do. It's the way we make our thought experiments, find out what it would be like to be otherwise.

Robert Wyatt once said that we were always in the condition of children - faced with things we couldn't understand and thus with the need to guess and improvise. Pretending is what kids do all the time. It's how they learn. What makes anyone think that you should sometime give it up?

End of quote.

I am pretentious for drawing philosophical meaning from TV shows such as Big Brother and Deal or No Deal.

I am pretentious for publishing 'Nemonymous' with its experimental ethos.

I am pretentious for wallowing in neologisms over the years.

I am pretentious for making real-time reviews of books.

I am pretentious for blogging my previously published (as well as new) fictions: i.e. those textured exercises in something I pretentiously define as indefinable.

I am even pretentious enough to believe that I would have had many more books published if I had gone out of my way actually to make fiction submissions to publishers and I would now be more famous than the most famous writers of all and that, when I am dead, people will value my work far more than while I remain alive.

I am pretentious enough to write all the above without truly believing any of it.


1. Weirdmonger left...
Thursday, 28 January 2010 8:26 pm

What is a short story?

This is what Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist) wrote in the early Nineteen Forties:

"I don't like ones that are compressed novels (or rattling good yarns). It's a new & exciting form of literature. It is something done quickly, all in one atmosphere & mood like a Van Gogh painting. And is very much akin to poetry (well, lyric poetry) for that reason. And is an expression of urgent inspiration."

Posted by wordonymous at 6:13 AM EDT
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Monday, 16 August 2010


posted Saturday, 28 May 2005
The Winter wind’s no more.

How could the seasons have changed so rapidly?

I looked at the lady who had been sitting by herself until I came into the room. Would she know the answer? Likely she would not even understand the question.

The sense of territory was hers, although I probably knew the room better. It had once been a tea room for tourists, now a simple gathering-place that the owner offered as part of an open house policy.

As you well know, people have been more and more flinging their front doors wide, in an unstoppable movement of actually trusting each other. It all stemmed from the earlier years when there was that upsurge of geopolitical changes. With the frontiers being uprooted by the onrush of currency unions, mutual democracies and mass nirvanas, so, too, had individuals opened their arms to each other, not in an attempt to retrieve some remnant of sexuality that had been eschewed and rightfully forgotten, but more to prove to Reality that people were generally together - and that at the end of the day it was not going to get its own cruel way.

There was no need for cafes or shops with such a philosophy. In fact, the lady, sitting at the next table had just been handed a good old-fashioned dinner of braising steak and three vedge, to be followed by treacle sponge and custard.

I smiled.

February was a warm month.

She smiled back.

The golden shimmering girders of the sun shafted through the Rose Window between us, making it difficult to discern fully her face in the shifting patterns and colours of light. The shadow speckles of snow flickering across her made me wonder how I could ever forget such a vision of impending nostalgia.

A woman and a boy came into the room. He was evidently not at school because a visit to the dentist had been promised ... and, by the look of it, fulfilled. He took much delight in tentatively chewing an Eccles cake which he had taken from under the dust cover on the owner’s sideboard. The woman said she had not eaten an Eccles cake since she was a child herself and had forgotten how nice they were.

Finishing my stay, I wished all of them a good day and a better one tomorrow. There was no bill to pay, but I left my ghostly presence as a kind of gratuity.

I wondered how many second childhoods I would undergo before reaching the optimum.

(published 'Opossum Holler Tarot' 1990)


1. Paul Dracon left...
Friday, 5 August 2005 5:08 pm

I'm rarely genuinely touched by what I read-- well, when I'm reading most writers, anyway!

But this touches me:

"I wondered how many second childhoods I would undergo before reaching the optimum."

Once again, I'm getting that "cozy" feeling; the feeling of being wrapped up in blankets. That's a strange feeling to associate with death, but I'm often left with that after reading a DFL piece.

Posted by wordonymous at 8:13 AM EDT
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