Friday, 1 August 2008

The Man, The Lush and The Maestro

I was sitting on a bench in the sun in Soho Square reading a book about cowboys when I hear fucking sit down you old fucking cunt and stop walking off. So I turn around and there's a man about early thirties wearing tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt with a bit of orange Hare Hare cloth wrapped around it and filthy bare feet and he's shoving this bow legged old lush along in front of him. The man must be in his seventies and he's wearing black trousers and a white shirt and a black waistcoat. His hair is grey and curly and a cigarette hangs from his lip. He looks like a french cartoon. He's also barefoot and is stumbling forward as the other man shoves him shouting at him you fucking old cunt sit down on that cloth there and fucking shut up and stop being a cunt you old fucking prick don't knock over the wine. He pushes him down onto a blanket that's laid out on the grass. It has a tub of coleslaw and potato salad on it and some hummus. He puts a cloth over and around him put this on you fucking old cunt and he tweaks the fag end in his fingers and hands him the bottle of wine and says right there's your cigarette there's your wine now fucking sit there and shut up and fucking stop being such a prick you fucking cunt bastard. The old man slurs a mumble and the man shouts just shut the fuck up and gobs of spit rappel from his lips on strings and he says maybe if you sit there and stop acting like such a fucking prick five-year-old fucking cunt things will come to you you fucking wanker. You fucking old fucking child cunt. And he walks off.

I go back to my book. Thirty seconds later there's an almighty sit the fuck down yelled from across the square and as I look the old man has started to stand up. The man comes over and pushes him back down and wraps the cloth back around him and calls him a cunt again and says you fucking sit there you cunt fucking asshole you're supposed to be a fucking holy man so fucking act like it and sit there and give off good vibes and stop acting like a fucking prick and the old man asks for more wine and the man says shut the fuck up and sit there and maybe the fucking things you want will come to you so stop wandering off like some old fucking cunt you're a fucking holy man you're supposed to be attracting people into the square with good vibes and fucking good fucking positive energy you're not supposed to be a fucking repellant disgusting old prick wandering around alright do you fucking understand me do you fucking understand and the old man sort of nods and the man says good now shut the fuck up. Then he stands up and starts doing roundhouse kicks and going hurgh and oosh everytime he does one then he wanders off.

The old man eats a bit of bread dipped in coleslaw and stares into space. Then he starts playing those little Krishna cymbals, tapping them together on their string. Then he lies down for a bit. Then he gets up and immediately there's a fucking sit the fuck down screamed at him and the man comes back over and pushes him down and says stop acting like a fucking queer.

Fucking sit the fuck down you old cunt and stop being a fucking homosexual five-year-old prick you fucking fag. You're a holy man not a fucking queer so stop wandering off like a gay and start giving off good vibes to the people in the park you fucking total cunt. You're a rainbow so be a fucking rainbow you cunt. Prick. He steps away, turns to leave, turns back and says fucking asshole. Then he turns to leave again, turns back and says prick. Then a guy turns up with a guitar and a beard and the man says heyo the maestro is here, yes! And he puts his arm around him to greet him. The maestro and the man both sit down and the old man lies down in a foetal position and closes his eyes and the cigarette falls from his fingers and smoulders on the grass in front of his face.

The maestro can play. He is deftly fingerpicking and strumming some kind of improvised post-punk funk. Riffing. His right hand is funky. The man is watching rocking back and forth and there is something visibly welling up inside him and his face turns red as he watches his maestro play and then he bursts and unleashes a tirade of abuse towards society, towards the old man and - especially - towards homosexuals. His lyrical ability is fantastic. He is always on time, his syntax never breaks, his rhyme structure is solid, unfaltering, offbeat but always on point. His belief in his message is absolute.

You old prick I'm messianic
Fucking godlike don't panic
You sit there drones and clones
I exist a myth like Jesus bones
Don't need to keep up with the Jones
fucking society needs to pull its head out of its arse
You ain't got no wife
You ain't got no life
You homosexual faggots
Are fucked for life

It's breathtaking.

Thursday, 29 May 2008


I think I want to earn a whole tonne of money. Determinedly stated. To his father. He expects some kind of nod, audible over the phone somehow and then to be made privy to some simple secret. Like all you have to do is talk like you mean it. Or all you have to do is say that you have the will and you will.

Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, says father.

That is old.

What’s the inspiration here? Money? No. Wait. Furniture. Yeah furniture.

I was looking at this furniture website with really nice stuff on it. I mean, some of it… a lot of it is rubbish and doesn’t look good but some of it is just incredible you wouldn’t believe and you look at it and you think I want that chair and it’s just a picture of the chair but you imagine this entire world and lifestyle around it and that’s what I want. I was looking at this chair and it had just fucking incredible lines and it had padded leather on it. It was so just so elegant. It was old fashioned antiquated warm homely honesty and straight up sex just sexy fucking curves like a casino with this sheen that is barely there yet manages to evoke a painfully beautiful scene in modern times where people still love to just sit and feel good and I’m there just sat in it reading a book and I have slippers on and my red setter is laying between me on the chair and the fire but it’s not something tacky it’s all incredibly warm and I could even smoke a pipe ‘just so’ and it would still not be tacky. Not tacky at all. And there is a view of a city as if I’m in the penthouse of some NY skyscraper with a giant glass window I mean there isn’t even a wall the entire thing is glass and it’s dusk and the sky is a beautiful orange gradient with these sleek black buildings cutting through it but I’m in this chair which is like Sherlock Holmes if he was a sultry lady chair. It is representing olden modern times Dad. It is just a ridiculous thing for a chair to be able to do. To evoke that I mean. The power of a chair. I never thought of it ever.

But it costs nearly two thousand pounds. I never knew why expensive furniture cost so much but now I know. It is because it nudges you closer to a fantasy. It curves your mind with its angles and lines. And that’s just one item on the website. Another chair gave me an incredible vision of a workshop like the chair could be in a workshop but also as if you would sit and watch tv in it. This world where your living room is carpeted in a deep green and there’s porcelain ornaments on your shelves but also there’s wood shavings strewn around and some kind of Pinocchio workbench, like Geppetto would have if you imagined it if you’d never seen the cartoon and there’s a smell of just this gorgeous deep forest wood smell like you’re rafting in Alaska just smelling the pines and feeling the ebb of the river and your video player is in a little mahogany drawer unit under the television, ‘just so’ and even though all of that sounds like it can’t sit right next to itself it can because of this chair, this chair that makes it all possible. Damn, Dad, I didn’t even mean to tell you about that chair in any kind of detail, you see how powerful this furniture is?

How can a chair evoke a drawer?

I don’t know dad! But it’s doing it!

Since when were you interested in furniture?

I don’t know, I was just looking for a desk, I need a desk by the way, Dad, and I just found some incredible things. Just delightful things.

So you weren’t even looking for a chair?

Well not really but I will need to sit at the desk so it follows that I would have had to look for one eventually. Also lights. I was looking for lights. I was thinking I need a floorstanding lamp, actually. I went on the thing and they are hundreds of pounds. It doesn’t make any sense. They tell you the dimensions of it, they tell you what it’s made of and they show you pictures and you think ‘you know what I could make that for a quarter of the price IF THAT’. But then you click on some of them and they’re just so perfect you think there’s magic involved and you think I couldn’t make that it’d be like trying to make an adult woman’s leg just how do they do it and it’s that bit there that costs six hundred pounds.

They had one lamp which was a sculpture of a horse, full size, with a lamp on its head. Imagine! Put that in your sitting room and the world turns upside down does it not?

Why would you?

Why wouldn’t you? So Dad, listen, to get all of these things I need money for this. I need to get rich. I just need to know how I go about doing that and don’t please say the thing about perspiration and inspiration can’t you lend it to me?

Ha! You'll be lucky.

Yeah well I’m a pretty lucky guy. Remember when I ran across the road when I was a kid because mum was on the other side at the shop and I’d just got out the house and seen her there and run across and ran straight between two cars going the one way and straight between two cars going the other way just missing bumpers and bonnets on both sides just running in a straight line and I got to mum without a scratch? Remember that? That was lucky. Mum fainted it was so lucky.

You know son, I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the luckier I am.

Blah blah... Ok whatever Dad but I didn’t have to work hard to not get hit by those cars. I don’t know, I was just, I wasn’t seeing what the point was in wealth and I was thinking you know if you just have enough for food and shelter and a bit of fun then that’s fine, no? That is enough. But then I saw this furniture and I just thought oh I want this furniture so much, I want to sit on that chair and, and imagine if I went into my bedroom and I could turn on that lamp it would be so nice, not like just turning on a lamp but like a click to signify something. A click that makes you feel special, a click to reassure, a tangible manifestation of happiness. This nice bed with the complementary bedside cabinets. All the value you put on your own personal physical universe is embedded in the quality of those clicks of lamps and the way they react, the sound and weight of crystal glasses clinking together, the way your mattress comforts and supports you. I know what it’s like to have one or two very good quality, very nice items, and how satisfying they feel to use. I want every item in my home to do that, to make me feel excellent and calm just by utilizing and appreciating their function. That would be so sweet. So satisfying.

A man who loves his job will never work a day in his life.

Old old old Dad. It’s not true, everything becomes repetitious and boring. I can hardly think of any careers which might keep interest piqued. Actor. Rock star. Politician. Fine artist. War general. Um, Scuba diver. Maybe.

…I feel sad that I am not rich in the time of full size horse lamps.

Is your heart heavy son?

My heart is so heavy it is in my foot, dad. It is fit to burst. It carries the weight of the world.

Don't be so melodramatic.

I don’t want to be rich. It’s just that the things I want are very expensive.

You are submitting to consumerism, son.

No… no this is different. This isn’t about status, or waste, or… ownership. Showing off. This isn’t about unnecessary excess, this is necessary stuff, this is about a higher level of aesthetic appreciation, about being happy in your environment, feeling peace, achieving a calm satisfaction with the minutiae of everyday living. Imagine if your home felt like a second skin, felt that comfortable. You come home and when you step in the front door every action is as pleasurable and intuitive as scratching your nose. You sit in a chair with the warmth and comfort of a deep yawn. Flicking a light switch is as perfect a motion as tucking your hair behind your ear. The table exists with you.

You sound like an advert.

No. Shhhh. I’m thinking. I’m breaking through.

You hate adverts.

Not by default and no I don’t sound like an advert anyway. What am I selling?

My guess is you're selling furniture.


Son you need to realise what you’re expressing here.

No Dad, you need to realise what I’m expressing here. This is the art of living and I’m a nascent impressionist.

What does that even mean?

It means I’m a phenomenon waiting to happen.



I know a father is supposed to encourage his son to be whatever he wants to be but what is it exactly you want to be now? You’re nearly thirty by the way.

Don’t belittle me dad. Don’t condescend. You should fund me. You’ll see. Method living…

What makes you think I…. What makes you think?

What makes me think? What makes me think? The hell kind of question is that? Trust me dad, I am channeling something extra-dimensional here. I can heal the world through example. People will see, a life in the womb, an endless ecstasy with no need for the flipside, no anchor in horror required. Life as silk.

You want to be an interior designer?

No. God. I will be the… ulterior designer. You will see how the world fits around me. Now help me get started.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

In Case of Emergency: Break Down

John was looking at the reduced section in Tescos, contemplating the sea bass. Then I don't know what happened. There was a sound like what, which John thought was a crate falling off something and landing and an oh my God and a woman a skinny little Chinese woman on the floor. I guess in that order, John can't remember because it was all at once. He guesses the crate sound was actually the woman hitting her head on the edge of the bottom shelf of the metal unit, because it landed very near it. But that's the wrong sound for that.

Then the woman started fitting, he guesses. Well, she was convulsing. Did she fall because she started fitting or did she start fitting because she hit her head? Can hitting your head trigger a fit? He guesses it can. I guess it can. Regardless, she's there and she's writhing around and he is the closest person to her. So he should do something, he thinks. But what? What are you gonna do John? He doesn't know.

Stop looking at the reduced food (later he will remark to himself that it was all overpriced anyway, when wondering what happens if people want reduced food now that the aisle is closed off).

The worst thing would be for people to think that you were just looking at the food and ignoring the woman in serious need of help right next to your foot. Isn't that right? No, dickhead, at this point it really doesn't matter what people think about you, just help the woman, do something to help the woman. Yeah, that's right, stare at the woman instead of the food. Stare at the woman like a gawping fucking idiot.

Do something John.

Help her.

Get someone.


Hold her head. No. Hold her head? Should you do that? I'd say so, but I'm guessing. Maybe just don't touch her. Touching her is inappropriate. You don't know her. No, that's bollocks, you're allowed to touch her because she's in need of help. But maybe just don't touch her. What if she's broken her neck and you touching her causes her to be paralysed for life? That would be bad. Ok don't touch her.

Call an ambulance. Shit. Do something. Do something. This isn't what Tescos is supposed to be like.

Ok, some guy is here and he's crouched down and he's holding her head. Ok, so call an ambulance. Should you call an ambulance? Maybe she's ok. You don't call an ambulance for epileptic fits right? They just last a minute then the person snaps out of it. Right? Maybe she's not having a fit. Maybe she's just convulsing because she's in so much pain from hitting her head. What does a fit look like? Try to remember. Have you seen someone fitting before? He's not sure. There was this one girl at uni but everyone suspected she was putting it on for attention. What was her name? Ellie? El.. something... Elouise. No . Steph. Yeah, Steph. She was weird, kind of elven, elvish? Elven. So anyway, maybe she was faking a fit in which case maybe you've never seen an actual - What the fuck are you doing? Call an ambulance.

Or just gawp some more. Look at her, she's hideous. Horribly emaciated little thing, all twiggy spasms and howl shaped mouth. John's glad he's not the one touching her. Her hands are curled up, her fingers twitching sticks. Look at her feet, her feet are making fists, trying to punch their way out of her little blue pumps. Look up.

That woman is calling an ambulance. Ok, so call an ambulance as well, maybe it'll get here quicker. Well that's obviously not true. Ok, so just stand back.

The guy is kneeling down holding the woman's head, the woman is still jerking around, that other woman is calling the ambulance. That's it right? That's all bases covered. Relax.

Good job John. Now there's nothing to do, ambulance on its way, guy taking care of her in the meantime. Sorted. So just take a step back and relax. A woman collapsed right at your feet, and now it's sorted and you didn't have to do anything. Good stuff. Bet you feel great. So now what? Continue to stare. Walk off? But you can't walk off, maybe you could do something, no, there's nothing else to do. But you were the closest to her when she fell, so there's some responsibility there right? On your part I mean. And you've done nothing. But you can't possibly just walk off. If you walk off now then you really are the lowest of the low. Just walk off and leave a woman to die, maybe. But then, you're not doing anything so what does it matter? Standing and staring sure isn't gonna do anything. Except maybe make you look stupid/sick/perverse.

Maybe you should ask people to give her some air. No, what the fuck? That's so clich├ęd I mean what? Do you get all your medical training from Hollywood? Yes. You do. So shut up. People aren't even crowding her anyway.

Wait the guy holding her is saying stuff, what's he saying? He's saying he's saying 'somebody help her' he's saying 'I don't speak English'. But he's saying it in English. And he's already helping her. Oh God what is this? All bases were covered. What is this now? The guy is looking at you John. He's looking at you and he's saying 'somebody help her'.

Palms turned up, a slight shrug of the shoulders, wonky mouth. That's right. This foreigner can understand that eh?

Someone is saying to get a first aider, ooh that's a good idea, you should have had that one. There's a Tescos employee standing next to you, and this woman, the one on the phone is going 'GET A FIRST AIDER' and he's going 'there's someone on the way' and she's going 'GO AND GET HIM' and he's going 'he's on his way' and it could go on forever and you're just standing next to him and what are you doing? You're looking at him with contempt because he should be doing something. You're not doing anything but he should be doing something because we're in Tescos and he works for Tescos so it's his problem.

What rubbish. You should be ashamed. Who are you to stand next to this guy and criticise his reaction? I'm tutting at you tutting at him.

Now the woman on the phone is saying that somebody should do something and she's talking to the ambulance people or the emergency services operator or whatever, telling them the situation and then using gaps in the conversation to shout 'somebody do something' again. Some Mexican guy goes hey maybe we should loosen her scarf, let her breathe (hey 'give her some air' was your idea, damn) and then proceeds to bend down and do just that only to be interrupted by the woman - 'DON'T TOUCH HER' - and the Mexican backs off like a shit dog.

'DO SOMETHING'. 'DON'T TOUCH HER'. Well what then you stupid bloody woman? What? Make up your fucking mind. Not everyone can be the one calling the ambulance. Not everyone gets to help her without having to touch her. Just 'cause you bagged the easy job in all this doesn't mean you can get all up yourself thinking you're so great. Now what? She's asking where the first aider is. Good job, we've already established he's on his way you stupid, panicking cow, just stand behind your trolley and feel smug and shut up and do your phone thing.

On his way and now he's here. Big black dude, big fucking smile, looks really friendly, he's got the little green plastic box with the little white cross on it, everyone trusts him straightaway, he knows what to do. Everyone except the phone woman who now switches from asking where the first aider is to telling him to not touch her. For God's sake just shut up woman, you're like a stampede of stupid, just shut your fucking mouth. John, maybe your role could be to knock this bitch out.

So the first aider is saying 'it's ok, I know what I'm doing' and he gets down to work and the freaking out phone woman shuts up. He's introducing himself to the woman on the floor. He's all 'my name's Karl, everything's ok, what's your name?' and touching her hand. She's kind of stopped moving now.

Someone points out that she's bleeding.

Have a little look John. See that? It's the other side of her head, yeah that's it, crane your neck, have a look. Ooh nasty, a sizable pool of blood. Wow, just like on the tele. Now you're thinking she could be dead. She's stopped twitching, there's a pool of blood by her head. What's your reaction John? How do you process this? This is new. It's right out of the ordinary. It's outside of the house of ordinary. It's a new place, outside of the town of ordinary, and this is your first visit. Someone has brought you here without your consent and now you have to figure out how to get back.

Or just marvel. Why not? Take the opportunity to look at this. This is changing the way you think. It's a life moment. It's an experience, a proper experience. So what do you think John? What is this saying to you?

John thinks he should go.

He goes. He walks down the aisle and he goes to the pasta sauces and considers the chilli and garlic one before opting for the pescatori, both Lloyd Grossman sauces. Sure they're a bit more expensive than the Tescos own brand ones (quite a lot more actually, like a pound) but there's a new lease of life in John now, he's going to live each day like it's his last, etc.

Walking back through the store to the tills, you might as well have a look what's happening back with the maybe dead woman. See if Karl managed to save her. Well, she's gone. She's gone, Karl is gone, the foreigner, the Mexican and the crazy lady are gone and the entire aisle is closed off, which John thinks is overkill, a bit, as she collapsed right down the end of the aisle and also she was a very small woman. It is now that John wonders what happens if people want goods from the reduced section. Or cheese, for that matter, which is on the same aisle and is a very popular product.

John buys his things. As he leaves the store, two ambulance people come in and he thinks 'too late' despite not knowing if it is or not. John decides to walk home today, rather than take the bus. Life is for living. He also sends a dramatic text message to a friend which manages to emphasise that something terrible has happened to him, when really nothing has. Something terrible happened to a woman he was near. He decides to stop and sit on a bench in the park, to contemplate what happened in Tescos, and because he now feels determined to appreciate life, appreciate every waking second because life is so short and so fragile and sitting on a bench in a nice park is something that someone who appreciates life does. It is an activity for the enlightened. John is thinking about the woman laying there surrounded by strangers in Tescos. He is thinking he doesn't want to die in Tescos, that's not the place for that. There is a woman exercising on the grass a little way off. She has a ponytail and she's doing some stretches. She is wearing a tight fitting tracksuit. She bends over. John is thinking she has a really nice ass.

John is wondering if he can be bothered to cook pasta tonight. He wishes he had a girlfriend.

Saturday, 19 January 2008


I’m already going about 90mph when the road starts to slope. I stop pedalling and lower my head closer to the handlebars. I glance at the road beneath my tyres and a world of tarmac slips past in a fraction of a second. Elbows out on the horizontal, I listen to the glorious ambience of my ears cupping fragments of the wind. I feel safe now, in this instant, but realise that peril lays just a lapse of concentration away, a chink in my focus and I could lose it, wheels spinning into uncertainty and shattering this glorious happening, flipping triumph to tragedy. So I hone on the vanishing point as the terraces flash by. A bin a gate a wall a bin a wall a gate a wall a bin a gate a wall a bin a wall a gate a wall a gate


No room for detail now but I feel safe. Green brown blue brown green black brown blue. Shapes denied the time it takes for them to enter my eyes blur and, relieved of their edges, become a psychedelic light show, an aurora borealis of brick and wood, plastic and plant.


I feel safe. I’m aware that I probably won’t survive this but for now, this instant, I feel safe. The colours are striping. Thin strips of brown and green streak past the sides of my eyes, crowned with a mass of thick blue and white stripes above and at some point meeting with the grey on grey strips of the tarmac below.


I wonder how I reached this speed. I’m on a bicycle. How am I travelling at 120mph on a bicycle? I am not wearing a helmet. My eyes are streaming. I can only just hear the buzz of the hot tyres beneath me, my physical reference points with this world. I know they are there and I feel safe.


The edge of the road begins to curl up. Creamy at first, grey butter curving up a knife, Glorious. But then it becomes harder, grittier, and like a dried and dirty sticker the edges peel away, upwards and inwards from the kerb, and it unsettles me.


I try to focus on something specific in the middle distance and I notice a solitary roofing tile come loose from its housing and fly out into the road. It lands well out of my path but then I see another, and another, and now tiles and bricks from all of the houses are collapsing into the road around and ahead of me.


The concrete and tarmac is rising up in brutal hunks now, forging a treacherous path in front of me. Kerbs like a coastline impose jagged urban cliff replicas on my route. Bricks arc and whirl across my field of vision in deadly red streaks. I hear a thousand windows explode around me and into the horizon. A loaded green bin zips past my head bottom first, trailing its contents in a paper and tin vortex behind it. I head for the eye of the phenomenon, terrified.


All sound stops as my front wheel errs two inches to the left. Impossible to correct, it sweeps further and I watch the whole bike disappear from under me. I remain on course, heading dead straight into the chaotic perspective. I soar through clouds of glass shards, through dust and dirt and brick, through concrete chunks and plastic sides, through a kaleidoscope of the pixels of everyday, torn up and about, made unbearable by my goal.


If I ever told you that I loved you, you wouldn’t believe me. If you knew me then you’d say I don’t believe I can love. If you didn’t know me then you’d ask me what possible reason I could have for loving you. I’d understand. But understanding doesn’t make it easier. I will never really touch you, I will never really talk to you. You are unattainable and that is why I love you. The vortex closes around you, still some way in the distance, and you don’t see me fall to the ground, amongst the slowly settling debris.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Blue Squash

I am with an ex-girlfriend of mine. We are in a squash court. I am wearing all white, shorts and t-shirt, she is wearing the same, or just her knickers, depending on the fancy of my subconscious. No squash takes place.

We stand in the middle of the court and kiss passionately, hands on everything all at once, familiar but with fresh fervour, revived by the long awaited end to abstinence. The strip lights render everything brilliant white, devoid of hard shadow, the scene burning with sublime intensity as parts of our bodies pulsate and drip and beg each other for a taste of the past. I pull her patterned underwear to the side and reacquaint myself, lifting her to the cold wall of the court. Almost immediately she interrupts with 'we shouldn't do this people will see' and I back away, naked now, moments from climax as she shakes the passion from her body.

As I turn to leave I glimpse a tinted glass window running the full length of the court at the top of the opposite wall. There are around twenty men seated there, some looking in, some looking elsewhere, none of them interested in what just happened on court.

She mutters something about how this always happens and then I move onto other, less memorable, inventions.