Tuesday, 23 December 2014

No Christmas Markets


What we were met with was not assembly
But aftermath
The carcass spread out, shaking itself
Life the man under the lamp.
People were no longer shaken
By the hand or the offering
Of stall-desperate suffering
No longer fed with formations of colour
It is not snow  that is flaking
But yesterday’s imagery.
A handprint reaches out
From a coffee-cup cast aside
In the morning, the plastic
Strengthens the spine
Of the monstrous
The city is porous
The top-later still  dries
To the feet in the chorus.
What came before us
Was known as culture

-          Why? 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Making a Metaphor: Animals and Understanding


A Preface
This is an article on the language sued to discuss mental illness and its understanding – inshttp://www.elefriends.org.uk/ - organised by the Mental Health Charity Mind. Elefriends not only involves an animal metaphor, the focus of this article, but also emphasizes the importance of a supportive and strong community to discuss mental health. I would certainly recommend a look! I guess I can  look at depression a little like looking at an elephant – it may scare me in its unfamiliarity, but it is not something I would want to harm. What I want to do is understand it.
pired by my visit to the website
And therefore my reflection on:

Making a Metaphor

The simplicity of the phrase ‘making it’ is something I so often strive for, when reflecting upon it.
Depression may leave you feeling that anything you ‘make’, if it all, is a mess. And in turn, to climb out if the clutter can be the easy part – to look at the apparent order and synchrony of people around you, their assumed ever-arranged social events, self-security and smile. It can be a transition from an accumulating chaos to an icy isolation in the space of couple of minutes – to feel the fated futility of your life to then look at the apparent ease of someone else’s.

But not only is this potentially illusory, but not necessarily any closer to ‘making it’.
The process of ‘making’ occurs endlessly, at what could be considered a much more accessible level – nature.

At a most basic level, even on a bad day, the birds still sing. Rain may bead and shine on the branch before it falls to the floor. In the sensations and moments of suspension it offers, nature at this level expects nothing back. Often lost is contemporary culture is the comfort of simply appreciating nature for a  moment. Nature too can terrify, can compress, as can anything; The wind can feel agitated and overbearing, the rain relentless, we may well acknowledge certain creatures with fear and phobias.
But the sun rising still ‘makes’ the morning. Looking out of the window to the trees in the field opposite I know that amidst the branches starlings have ‘made’ nests from mere twigs and moss that has fallen.

Nature makes the day, not depression.

To take a perhaps more domestic example, how many people do I know who confess that their dog or cat has made their day? A great number, especially considering the return from university to home. When we embrace nature and animals, we embrace life.

Of course, not all of life is or feels good –  for example the experiences ,many have to deal with in terms of mental illness. Yet this leads me to my point of ‘making’, metaphors and nature.  Not only can nature ‘make’  different sensations, but also can ‘make’ something of mental illness. Take the metaphor of the ‘black dog’ – often used to discuss depression, as seen in just one example in the form of the website: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/. This website interestingly also advocates the approach to mental illness of ‘doing what comes naturally’ – apparently emphasizing the importance of turning to nature rather than turning away from it even when we may feel like it is human futility which is at fault.

The dog metaphor is furthered in T.H White’s allusion to  mental illness in ‘The Once and Future King’ -  ‘Learn why the world wags and what wags it.’ If we consider the movements of the world like the wag of a dogs tail, it is potentially part of a process of seeing engaging with the world as requiring a relationship of trust and patience in order to be productive. Ultimately, We use animal metaphors for mental illness as they make it accessible; Kate Chopin in her short stories describes the outlook of depression as ‘humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation.’ Yet we know that worms, no matter how much they may repulse on observation,  can be great natural good – tilling the soil, allowing for new growth.

Perhaps that is why animal metaphors can be so useful within mental health, in discussing conditions like depression – it is not desirable to ‘kill’ depression. To approach depression with an attitude of ‘killing it’ or ‘fighting it’ is ultimately inhumane. After all, I am a vegetarian, and the association of mental illness with animal metaphors would seem somewhat bizarre if this was my aim. But on a further note, mental illness is by its nature so very frightening and even alien – like a wild animal – because it affects the mind, leaving the individual in fear of what is themselves, and what is the illness. Thus, it cannot be a case of killing.

I would not want to kill a dog, although it may have the potential to be vicious, because there is also the possibility of interacting with it and learning to love it. Stephen Fry furthers animal analogies and metaphors in a recent Guardian Article in terms of mental illness being the ‘Elephant in the Room’ http://www.theguardian.com/society/christmas-charity-appeal-2014-blog/2014/dec/05/-sp-elefriends-the-social-network-for-the-mental-health-community – in which he highlights how depression can feel like a looming creature, but a creature that we can learn to love and want to be understood, in its own way.

In turn, it is important to approach mental health issues according to their nature – and aim then not to ‘kill’ them, but to understand them. It is ultimately through understanding and interaction that mental illness can be brought under effective control for many. Therefore, I welcome attempts to increase accessibility to mental health services and discussion through new formats – such as animal metaphors, pictures even comic strips. These highlight that mental illness lives just as we live.  But what ‘makes’ us who we are is how we understand and deal with it.


Baiting the bear

It entered the room
Long before I can remember
I knew its muzzle  between my ankles
Begging bits from the table.
I supposed it was sponsored to keep me young


Like the toy of childhood
Grasped in the fixtures of sleep
The glass eyes glazed over
With a rasp of fingernails.
Felt like a braille
Even in dreams
Bear substituted the mind-blindness
Swallowed the screams


As I grew
Bear hollowed
As I learned to speak
Stitched through my voice
Was not the growl
But the teeth
Which clipped short the words
A fur on the cheeks
Others called moisture


She has a wild imagination
You better watch her


But the bear watched me
The draw of translucent claws
On laminate
Agony
A futile domesticity
Like the wildcat kittens
Which still savaged the scientists.
The bear yet
Smiled, learned to listen
An imitator, still vicious.


Its black mass would wait
On the edge of my vision
Its fur asking for embrace
Of those same fingers
Nails different
Bitten down, picked
Bloodied
Too many times. The bear sleeps
In the doorway of the morning
I think of a white spotty rind
Fat festering porous, beneath
A pelt inches thick.
Its stench bitter
Galling
Left in the rain too long


I thought I had grown
But its tongue still sickens me
With its black layer
Lapping up imagery
Frozen-fear in a quick glance.
When I reached for the switch
Its smile dripped on my hands


You are just a child


The bear’s breath encrusted
A silt to each eyelash
Coming closer to the bed
Shaking itself into speech.
I used to ward it off with a laugh
Now it takes all week
For it to return to the doorway.
These are the walls of my nursery
This is the rattle of silence.


I wake to find
The bears jaw in my hands
Like a lifted receiver
I could put to my ear and sob
Into that stinking glut
Of darkness and stomach
Fizzing bloodless my foot
Somewhere under its front.
Unhooked
Its muzzle presses my shoulder
And falls down my spine
Like the hair of the woman
I could have grown into
Given the time


My hands glisten at the keys
The bear bristles
As I write
Its snout lifts from my shoulder
Stares out of the window
A reflection moulded, I share
On screen or in picture
Which asks if it offers

A feasible future. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

I Did Not Succeed in the Semester

Finishing for Christmas is often the long-anticipated reward at the end of the year. As a student, the course from September has often been studded to satiate along the way – the stresses of essays, the ‘yesses’ of social events, an amalgamation of positive and negative people often pile together and summarise as a ‘student experience’. I have certainly sampled it.

There is a difference however, between ‘sampling’ and ‘tasting’. These are definitions I perhaps should have revisited being an English student. But student or not, it is easy to watch. Grazing passively upon the colours and imagery of people filling themselves with the ‘student experience’ ‘life experience’, each, either. The trait returns even now as I sift through Facebook, social media, feeding on the facades of other peoples happiness.

Life lectures us with the ideals of being – full, in abundance, blossoming.  Yet so often in reality, ideals are reduced to a stab in the stomach and a taste bitter with anticipation.

Rather than  feeling satisfied with myself at university,  I became host to a  disturbing hunger – spurned by chocolate-box fineness of glossy prospectuses, the rich, flowing voices promising contact, the layer after layer of leagues and societies.  There was something within that whole richness which terrified me, turned not only my stomach, so to speak, but my thoughts, inwards.

Perhaps it would be the desirable thing to say I have expanded at university. But I haven’t. At university I retreated further and further into routines of my own invention, entertained obsessions,  became preoccupied with a mounts and timings  in attempt not to fuel aspirations but out of fear for the underlying emptiness that was every day affirming itself.

And then emptiness curdled to guilt. A guilt which began, and then grates, and grates, and grates away. At first I watched my skin shine in the mirror, and attempted to convince myself that this was part of the abundance I had been taught to aim for. Only it wasn’t. I became a combination of bonework and sinew, offering myself up to an ever-growing hunger. A consuming circle of self-hatred and yet ambition stirring itself, leading not only to peaks, but also to collapse.

And that, amidst the metaphors of eating and hunger, is what has happened.  I watched myself move from nature to mechanical -  impulses slowly frozen as if hoping to be  preserved for some better picture. I have become selfish, silenced, angry – at the mercy  of a mind which oft feels half-mechanistic, as if something has started to set in there.  For fuel underlies both food and machinery when regarding the ultimate subject of this article – the mind, and ultimately, its afflictions. For this, I guess, is an argument with depression, depression and all its guises – whether in self-discipline or selfishness, stuffing meals and scratches – it always strived to swirl itself into something else.

It is the oft-asked aside – ‘Come on, pull yourself together, what’s eating you?’.

It has been the long, slow, sick realisation that what has been eating me, and eats away at so many others, often unidentified, is depression.

Call it with as many metaphors as you like – a machine, a black dog, a bloody great hole. For so long I have attempted to feed it with academia, obsessions, the scrabbled security of restricted eating. I convinced myself that  this was sufficient.

But depression does not settle for sufficiency. It stares out of your eyes and what is tells you is ‘success’ and questions, scraping its sharp nails down the minds tabula rasa – ‘why can’t you be like that?’ ‘Why can’t you be like that?’.  It is efficient, much more efficient than I ever was –  a tailor, stitching a cold layer of isolation between you and every other person you look upon. If we continue the food metaphor, it is a chef, serving up life like a tar. I retch when I have not eaten anything for hours.

It assumes so many different identities I scrape desperately for some form of escapism – ashamed by the empty hours I spin through other people’s lives, social media, newspaper headlines I look upon but cannot absorb. I look upon the hands which type and wonder what I have become. I feel sorry for the apparent selfishness, the silences, the self-isolation I have presented people with.

I am sorry that I could not write this perhaps more efficiently.

But I am not sorry that it is here to be read. I used to be able to write articles quickly, enthused with an energy. This has taken me days – even stringing sentences together seem flat and formless.  Flat is how I feel when I look upon not only the inflated ambitions I for so long strived for, but when I look around me at the creature which is Christmas – when we are expected to want and to wield. It would be more straight-forward to say I do not want anything, I could roll back into my isolation, close my eyes and attempt to entertain the silence.

But silence never happens. And want never stops, in a way. It is oft the case that ‘want’ is demonised, dished out as a sin  in the moral meals served up by societal doctrine. But everyday too I see people driven by a want to help others, to help themselves – and not necessarily negative.

And I too want. If that is the ‘human’ part of me left, then let it. I want people to know of depression, know that it exists and that that people do not have to feel alone in facing it.

For too long now I have failed to face it – both metaphorically and concerning brutal honesty. I painted a healthy face over my own which showed life in all the right places. I spent the anticipated hours studying, pouring over texts written to reel the mind over. I felt the pressure when the function of the mind, both in discussion, and on paper, becomes the means of evaluation.

And depression smiled as it splintered, spreading through everything.

I didn’t hit the high marks in the essays.  I didn’t volunteer for charity. I didn’t give my time effectively. I didn’t deal with the exams as I should have done. . I didn’t fit the concepts of ‘success’ I had for so long faced myself with.

Instead I became isolated and afraid. I still am afraid.

But they are perhaps two conclusive things of this article – want and fear. They still exist, they still strike up beneath that sour staleness of everything affirming, that ‘I’ can still feel something for myself. A want for people to understand. A fear that people won’t.

And it is my aim, over the Christmas break, and New Year, that others too, should want to understand mental illness, and fear ignorance towards it. For people to understand that they are not alone, and to face the fear of the perceived loneliness of standing up and saying something about it.

Every day I am going to attempt to share something, whether it is something I have seen, or perhaps written, that shows a want to continue. Ultimately, the terms I have long aimed for – happiness, success, achievement – are subjective, slim. But I am attempting to shift weight to a want to show what depression can be, but also what the individual can be.

I want to show that it does not have to consume everything.

I too want to taste something different.

“Depression is boring, I think
and I would do better to make
some soup and light up the cave.”

― Anne Sexton

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

What has happened to the art of wandering?


It is often I see the creative arts as a kind of wandering – wandering outside the margins of  convention, allowing for direction to be formed en-route rather than pre-supposed. To wander, could be seen as, perhaps surprisingly, to claim a kind of freedom. It allows the environment one experiences to be installed with a kind of subjective richness, as in the case of Yeat’s ‘Wandering Aengus’ who reaches  the climax of ‘The Golden apples of the sun’. Here the associations of human and natural richness blend to give language, a process seemingly hinting back to the Romantic tradition – a tradition especially popular in the environs of England such as the Lake district in the 1700 and 1800’s where Wordsworth’s wanderings inspired much of his work. Yet, in another sense. It is ironic that this wandering is often overlooked.  People often allude excitedly to Wordsworth’s poem ‘Daffodils’ which is actually titled according to its first line ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud.’ This line could be seen as immediately more moving and momentous than any daffodil – blending the human with the landscape, offering wandering as an opportunity to feel the sublime.

It could be seen today however, that wandering is a dying art. This is a society terse with time pressure, urbanity and expectation. We allow thus to dictate routine seemingly as strictly as codes of the past, the routine of academic practice, for example – school, then college, then university – has now come to be associated with creativity, is the path for writers, journalists, artists. There is a set path to follow, so to speak, from which people are frightened to diverge.

I can perceive that there is an extent of fear involved, especially within writing as a practice – often accompanied by the notion ‘you are doing it wrong.’ It seems perfectly acceptable for the reader to grace the countryside, book in hand, but the artist is regarded as almost threatening – as if taking the surrounding landscape and manipulating it to point. I believe that writing is: 1) a much more beautiful process than that and 2) not just inspired by clich├ęd walks in the countryside, if creativity is a form of wandering, then the physical wandering can encompass any environment. After all, it was Dickens’ wanderings round London before and after he would visit his father in a Southwark prison which inspired much of his work.

For in wandering, the senses are greeted with a plethora of potential – it is to experience and appreciate the unknown, we see great good in places unexpected, and also the dubious depths of society we would perhaps typically avoid. Wandering even through a city centre can hold much more artistic potential than had one been there simply to fulfil a task – like to buy a certain product. It is the prescription that walking should have use or be avoided which has seemingly bred an unhealthiness in creative culture. Even today, those who wander may be termed ‘delinquent’ or misled’. Rather, perhaps they are searching for the start of a new lead.

To wander is not always aimless either, but part of unfolding ones aims. It transforms the need to ‘get out’ and experience fresh the textures of existence, which is valuable in itself. It sets up its own paradox – a richness from poverty, take the Beat generation of 1960’s America and later  England whose creative output was significantly inspired by their lives as wanderers or ‘bums’. As in the work of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs for example, there is a wonderful freedom, a nervous energy to the prose, striking a key difference from the literary modes of previous. Allen Ginsberg, as evident in his epic poem ‘Howl’ took inspiration from the angry throb of the streets, the accumulative anger of the supermarkets. Appreciating this art of wandering and observing is life-affirming – it turns the failed shopping expedition,  missing the bus, even the mundane experiences like walking to work, into an experience, for example, the taking of detour on the way to work just to see some street you’ve never seen before, is a little like opening another alley in the mind. Potential can be scraped from anywhere, often the most unexpected places.

Therefore, this could be seen as a cry outside the margins – a cry not to reclaim wandering, as that implies limiting it, but to appreciate it. There is nothing wrong with simply observing what it is to live, experience for experiences sake. The holiday could be seen as a product of that psyche – an immersion in a different experience. To wander therefore, is not necessarily to be misled – as Tolkein phrased it – ‘not all those who wander are lost’. To wander is to expose oneself – in a way which can be both positive and negative  to the different textures of existence. It can oft be a simple pleasure.


Purpose is a path we have often come to prescribe, thus perhaps it is a show of artistic impulse not to re-allign it, but to defy it. To wander is to wonder – and surely that is an incredible thing. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Marginalia of the Modern Day


The beautiful filth of writing and why it should be treated with celebration, not snobbery



 The art we unleash from unexpected places

I would like to identify myself as  a writer, I have written after all for much of my albeit short life; although to what authority I appeal asking whether I am worthy of this title, I know not. For does status as ‘writer’ lie in the adverb itself, or in the resultant product, or in publication? There are potentially multiple paths we can take with this definition – paths which offer clean definition amidst an art which I believe is, and should be, dirty.

The word ‘dirty’ may well cause upset in itself – bringing forth connotations of illicit sex and stains and sordidness. In actuality, the adverb ‘dirty’ according the OED is ‘Covered or marked with an unclean substance’ – a statement I believe describes, not defines, the process of writing quite well. This is the liberation modern writing and writers should revel in; taking a pure white page, whether electronic or physical, and filthying the page with ink. Well what makes ink and its product – words - unclean, you may say? It is of my view that any writing is unclean in comparison to that ascetic, blank, expressionless page it is put on. Like the art of a painting lies in dirtying the canvas.

And there is certainly something deliciously indulgent about that.

But why this obsession with the dirt of art in an article concerned with marginalia? The answer  is this, that this is an article inspired by the historical process of writing, as well as its future. I draw personal inspiration from, for example, a coffee stain left within the markings on my first year university essay. It told  me of a life beyond the oft-anticipated impersonality of academia. Writing is often subject to this gaze, I feel - Stereotyped as the work of academics or eccentrics sitting in solitude, in silent rooms. This stereotype can be discouraging – even children with the potential to write grow disillusioned by the craft’s association with the rote of learning and routine. Such a stereotype exists and yet is frustratingly distant from what good writing is.

The ‘goodness’ of writing is indeed subjective, yet so is the wiring itself. Writing captures the particulars of experience and this should be recognised; recognised that what matures writing is life, not its suspension. There is, I feel, a sort of snobbishness which tempts us to reject the association of writing with ourselves, our immediacy; causing us to question who needs poetry at a time of character limits, social networks, Instagram where a photograph can tell a whole story?
Because writing can tell the stories before it, during it, upon it.  Writing shapes and shares geographies, from the graffiti tag on the street corner to a whole novel such as Steinbeck’s ‘grapes of Wrath’; both share the similarity of language and association. The popularity of Humans of New York for example, lies in a combination of the photograph – and then, the text, of course, which pushes the boundaries of it.

Writing after all, is a creative impulse which comes from beyond the margins.

Of course, your writing in its final form may be limited by margins, but there is a poignancy in that the content has the potential to break boundaries. I was inspired to this conclusion by works I have read recently – ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone De Beauvoir and ‘By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept’ by Elizabeth Smart (works which assert both extensive information as well as passionate prose); works which involve female liberation but are not defined by it. And not only does writing produce broken boundaries, but it is a product of such a breakage. The plan for this essay, afterall,  was written on the underside  of  an old sketch, a product of recycling, just as Emily Bronte gathered ideas whilst chanting round a table with her sisters in Haworth. Writers are not polished, preened figures though the final pressing of the book may be – of course, only on the surface. Emily Bronte herself indulged in violence, once hitting her pet dog with such force that it drew blood. And to consider Emily Bronte just for another moment, it is of especial drama that in Wuthering Heights itself, we see one of the protagonists, Cathy, revealed not by her adherence to doctrine – the hymn book she is given to read by the servant Joseph – but by her scribbling on its pages, her marginalia. In their own time, writers are often producing, more marginalia it seems, than anything else. Wuthering Heights was  regarded as ‘abhorrent’, even 20th century works now considered ‘great’ such as Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ were received as ‘dirty’ in the most pejorative sense, seen as works circulating at a dangerous edge of society.

And it is my aim to defend such dirt.

 Dirt is that which is unclean, unordered, unsterilized , even accidental – like the coffee ring on my papers, the expletive. People often refer to the soil of the earth as ‘dirt’; seemingly because of the layers and grains of potential it accumulates. It is easy to believe that creative inspiration lies in sterile, aesthetic environments with books alphabetically ordered and amidst silence. But it is not from that most writers write, for many writers , they are dragging on each experience of marginalia – the unusual at the edge of society, those inexplicable emotions at the edge of our consciousness, and in fiction, alternate realities which supersede the boundaries of what we know.  Such potential awaits the reader, whether as exaggerated as the science fiction of Ursula Le Guin for example or the interpretation of nature given by Ted Hughes in his haunting poems concerning nature, especially ‘Crow’. Some may believe me unjust in placing the persona of these two writers – Le Guin, oft seen as a liberating feminist figure, and Hughes, who is often stigmatised as the opposite – so close in my prose. But this is part of the point – for I want to illustrate the versatility of writing, both for readers and writers, how it projects and perfects personas, and shapes them. I am of the view that we can use writing to shape ourselves, explore our views and opinions, as well as involving ourselves in the medium which can challenge others.

And in the modern day, I believe that there is more and more opportunity to write.

This article is titled as it is in avocation that some of the best writing, I believe, does come from the edges of society  - in looking beyond the print and experiencing the edge. There is a thrill in running ones finger along an edge – whether the edge of a knife, a piece of paper, or an open page – it brings forth a kind of expectation.  If art is to be judged (as it often seems) on its expression of accusative feelings, thoughts, location, then why is there so little focus on the kindling of creative energy? Perhaps it is because there seems a stigma against spontaneous creativity – there seems something ‘wrong’ in writing straight onto the laptop, or keying some quick ideas into a phone on Westminster Bridge (as indeed I have done). They are all perceptions, just as writing arises from. In turn, it is my conviction that the multiplicity of perceptions involved in good writing should be celebrated – people may be amazed  how easily watching people pass by, passing through a different street, closing one’s eyes and listening the wind, the layers which compose our day, can be inspiring.

There is nothing wrong with spontaneous creativity.

In fact, there is all the more reason for writing to flourish as an art in the modern day, considering the extent to which social margins and boundaries are pressured and pushed. An example of writing at and on the margins is encapsulated by the ‘Beat Generation’ of writers in  the 1960’s, both in Britain and America, who celebrated the apparent potentials for non-conformism in the written word – evident in the use of ‘beat’ itself as an adjective, which can be interpreted as negative in terms of to ‘beat’ down (popular usage in American colloquialisms at the time), yet was intended by associated writers such as Kerouac to advocate a new side, celebrating the musical associations and hipness of the word ‘beat’. For me, this is just a brief illustration of one of the great powers of writing – it is room for re-interpretation, remoulding. There is something both satisfying and liberating in taking lived experience and translating it through the pen or the keyboard.

Taking the words of the poet Allen Ginsberg for example: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix – these are the opening lines of his epic poem ‘Howl’ of  composed between 1955 and 1956. It is a poem electrified by  anger, the unpunctuated pouring lines apparently reflecting Ginsberg’s angst at an American society which attempted to place people within its margins.  In the poem there appears much allusion towards the destructive nature of the creative impulse,  an interpretation which can still be explored today – as was the case in a recent programme aired on radio 4 titled ‘Recycled Radio’ and it’s concern, ‘Art’. There was a delicious doubling here – not only was the programme composed of past radio clips thus questioning whether what had been created was a rough collective or actual ‘art’, but also the content itself questioned what ‘art’ was. There was a haunting analysis of art, on one level, as a kind of ‘hunger’ or appetite, which even frightens the artist concerned. This could be seen amidst the academic stereotype, that those who ‘can write’ consume the regurgitations of the past desperately, reading book after book. But artists like Ginsberg advocate beyond that – they fuelled themselves with experience, non-conformism beyond the word, as not only evident in Ginsberg’s own life – drug use and blatant promiscuity – but as seen here in his use of language. For example, here, his use of ‘negro’ to describe the darkness of the streets; typically a word used as a noun to refer, often negatively, to people based upon their ethnicity. Through writing, Ginsberg was not only turning racial discrimination on its head, but showing the potentiality of text to turn heads.

And will heads still turn? People often seem afraid of writing –  and fears to circulate; fears of rejection, of ridicule, the fear of being on or portraying the edge of society. Fear of writing fallen out of favour to be eaten up by computers or television.

Well would I be wrong to say that there is an ever-increasing demand in the modern day for the type of fiction I allude to? A popularity lies in pushing limits and as a student I should know this – considering the events of fresher’s week, the influx of alcohol, popular culture. But this is not just amongst young people; boundaries are breaking all the time, thoughts escaping into new fields – the growing acceptability and popularity of erotic literature, the now apparent normalcy of seeing a person wearing earphones, listening to another reality, whilst out on the street. It is evident that people want to get beyond the mundane, get beyond the routine – people want to look at the narrative of their lives and underline parts for emphasis, score bits out, re-word, re-write.
What we want is an elaborate fiction.

It is fiction like this which comes from lived experience. Fiction, creativity, writing is within walking through the streets and reflecting, being conscious of the complexity of someone else’s expression as they wait for the bus, the roll of mechanical motion beneath the feet. It is a journey to write just as life is a journey through experience, and  is about time we recognise that writing and writers need not be solitary or stigmatized, but should be celebrated. For example, the contemporary writer Will Self, has grown to be recognised not only for his writing, but for his walking habits which seemingly fuel such – in 2006 walking from London to Heathrow, it is this disengagement from the expected and the embrace of the unusual or marginal – like the art of the solitary walk, which feeds a script.  There is a wonderful culture in writing itself to be unwrapped; the concept that some rent rooms to write in, have rented bodies on which to base their descriptions, others write best whilst on the move or in bed, some write notes on the back of their hand, others carried in a notepad or laptop. It is an eclectic mix – morally subjective, ever to be interpreted.

As a writer, whether I have earned myself the title or not, I gain a kind of comfort in even the negative experiences of my past, because when I apply them to writing, they become experience and influence rather than regret. In this way, writing has the potential to heal as well as hurt, and as we have seen, provides escapism, as well an entrapment. It is an ever-continuing paradox.

I want people to explore writing just as writing itself is an exploration which should never be downplayed. It should be recognised that some of the best writing arises from an exploration of the edges  - taking one’s life to new rooms, feeling a different sensation, feeling pain, pleasure, anguish, writing carries beyond the mundane, out of the margins. Now there is all the more opportunity to do that – the opportunity to be able to glimpse in and out of people’s lives on social media, transport which allows us to travel further and faster than ever before –whether down the road or out of the country. The experiences we don’t expect, often push at the margins the most – writers often return to refresh material on illness, on travel, on experience. That is what makes writing brilliant.#

Words and writing are a little like loose change – sometimes we underestimate its value and ignore its contribution to a final captivating product, dirty like lose change – words are the material from writing, often dug from the least expected and often most interesting places.

So this could be seen as an article encouraging an exploration of the edges.  The same could apply to reading, like Nabokov observed that the best reader sat with their book of choice and dictionary – always plumbing the depths. For that is what good writing offers – depth – the depth we can lose ourselves in, and depths which should be valued, wherever from we take inspiration from our writing. This depth may be technology, it may be in films, in talking to new people, or recalling conversations with old friends. Writing is of many guises.  That is what makes it brilliant, dirty, devious and fun, with the power to transform even regret into potential.


Margin
It was the point I had left
On my left
With a kind of rejection
The words weft on the page
And the section
Unmarked, virgin
It confessing a chastity
Regardless of sense and reality
It believed itself precious.
The second sense, jealous
What that which could see
Lusted back for that emptiness
The coffee had ringed
As she sat in her nightdress
Whilst the husband poured tea
Across the public park.
The mistress had shaken her hand
As hers had
Bone-thin
Marking over the paper

Tears in the margin. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Ribs

Her voice floated to him over the line, as if just tangible, it had a softness which rippled across its reception, like touch. It was in this he indulged, before comprehending the content of her words.
“Tom, we’ve found – what we think are – remains – yes…”
Her pauses in speech were throaty and urgent, almost pulsing, reminding Tom of the time he had trapped a wild mouse under his thumb and watched the tiny cell of the heart ricocheting against the papery skin.  He clasped the same thumb beneath his fingers, like a weapon.
“Tom?”
Ah, the cadence of that call on the inversion! He let his tongue brush over his teeth, as if preparing the same subtlety of reply – calculated, necessary. If only, he thought, he was not in the office – the singular cell with the computer chair and name badge on a numbered uniform with read ‘Officer Beet.’ He secretly dreaded the moment where her breath would wane if he did not answer and she would say ‘Officer’ with the singular, stripped-down tone she used for everybody. No, that was not going to happen.
“Eliza.”
Even the trip of the tongue of the stressed syllables of her name thrilled him – a kind of rush, so to speak. Perhaps it was all those components which made up her identity he adored the most, he mused, the scent she carried with her like a layer over her clothes, the peculiar souvenirs of herself she would leave patterned across her desk – rings, tissues crumpled but apparently clean, pens exhausted and bloodless. Perhaps that was how he truly saw her – like a composure, pulling energy from everything into that one precious system.
Or perhaps he was bored, as Angie had said. Yes, ‘Bored’ had been the very word she had used to describe it as she had leant over the struggling fire, attempting to light the gas. Angie was his wife – a pale unsubstantial woman – those very features which once enchanted him, now irritated him. On living with her he realised that her skin’s supple transparency, her vacant stare even at moments of intensity,  had  apparently no shocking or harrowing source.
“Perhaps I’m anaemic.” Is all she had said.
She had started saying it more often now, Tom mused passively. But everyone is inclined to repeat themselves once in a while. She certainly had repeated her accusation of his being ‘bored’ being the reason for his attraction to another woman. He hadn’t even meant to tell Angie about Eliza – it was a presence which seemed to unravel, hot and awful and human, one day as they were eating dinner.
They were eating chicken legs  in a vague kind of sauce Tom could not remember, because  Angie said they looked ‘better like that.’ He remembered saying ‘Thank you’ with that compulsive emptiness of politeness, allowing for customary few minutes of food-scraping silence before telling her about his day. It had been an average day, he told her of a case of a woman biting a man in the hand at the doorway to a pub, he might even had mentioned Eliza… once, perhaps twice. He looked up. Perhaps three times.
His wife’s face had been something striking and set as if transcribed from a mural.
“I knew it.” Was all she said for a long time.
And then an endless reduplication of ‘No, No, No.” Tom tried to ignore it at first, thought she might be having one of her fits again, where if he touched her, she shrunk away from with bared teeth and tousled herself into a feudal position, fingers mulching into the taffeta carpet. He didn’t want that. He stripped the first chicken leg and noticed she had finally quitted. This comforted him, and his voice came easily.
“What was that all about?”
Her lip quivered as she flung watery exclamatives back at him in dashes.
“Eliza! That’s the woman you like, isn’t it?”
Little thought preceded his answer – he was the type only ever to give the minimum amount of dedication to a question. There were much greater things to dedicate oneself to.
“Yes, I like her. And-?”
But even his attempt at a question was broken. Angie’s eyes faltered a little and then her face seemed to dissolve before him, a sudden awful flush of liquid, clawing fingers, the mouth raw red and hanging open. Even her body was animated, giving sporadic little shakes, which even Tom saw as quite remarkable, given that she hardly seemed to move otherwise.
“Angie.”
He watched the sobbing mass assemble itself a little. His fingers were grey and greasy, as if symbolic of the only kind of comfort he could offer in his situation – a detriment of something else eaten long ago, perhaps love –
He continued.
“But I love you.”
 And his sequence was almost perfected. He saluted his presence in the conversation with the prepared expression.  He fell back smiling into the domesticated, droll, shop-bought bliss of modern ‘love’ – handed it to her like something polished and incredibly dense, and watched the colour expand in her cheeks and then settle again.
“But - ?”
“No,” he said, smiling, even adding the complementary gesture of his hand stretching, albeit non-comitally, towards the goose-flesh fingers of front of him “Of course I like many people. But I love you.”
The repetition had a pleasing ring to it, he thought, like the reverberations of a bell which he imagined dancing through Angie’s eardrums in their tiny crisp-thinness.  That had silenced her. She had spoken nothing on the matter since, even if her body resented the fact, sometimes stalling in front of him in a kind of apathy of resentful gestures. Sometimes she would look up from mincing the steak, or unhooking eyes from potatoes, or sewing shirts, and just look at him. Just like that. She stammered like a child over-tired, the putty of love soft and congealed in her lap.
But it was ultimately just a ‘phase’ they were going through. Tom knew that.

The phone filtered it’s version of a ragged intake of breath.
“Would you mind - coming lending a hand - ?”
Eliza entered his mind again, slid into his pulse so it was if he shifted and answered with nothing but the sense of her – his longings upon the complex cordials of her eyes, her hair, the way she laughed as if sweeping together the sounds of travel, knowledge.
“Of course.” The two curt words were enough for the moment.
He slipped from the chain of the receiver and only his long black coat seemed to chide the excitement of his limbs together as he crossed out of the office and towards the car.
*
Eliza walked out from the thicket not like a fawn but like a flickering image of the foliage itself – endless capsulations of life suddenly extended to him. He took a shallow breath as if to avoid her incense.
“Is everything alright?” He managed.
It was Inspector Eliza Smith who replied with a grave kind of sterility.
“Remains. Think they could be human.”
Tom allowed himself the freedom of accepting the flow of her body and following it as she turned, turned with something youthfully bohemian in her small step, a kind of freedom which defied any restraint of uniform or stickered, metal-plated identity. She was beautiful, Tom thought. And she was evidently worried – he watched the sequins of perspiration silt her brow as she swept through the cast-capes of ash and beech, throwing up the leaves with the front of her shoes. She had not been an Inspector long, and Tom found himself almost consciously savouring the complexity she found in everything – her emotions still raw and dripping. Experience, over time, had somewhat closed over his, like a soiled poultice. Numbness had long-replaced the thick shots of fright when contemplating cases of arson, rape, murder.
She was still surprised by the fabric of the world.
And almost unbeknown to himself – he prayed it was human.
Human remains.
Human, he told himself, meant something. Like her voice purred over the receiver, asking for an ‘Officer’ to accompany her – he knew it was him, he could sense it like a wild dog shrieks at the scent of imminent mastery. Ironic, he thought, whetting his dry lips with his tongue as she started to slow in front of him in her pantomime of authority – human remains. One human dead, whilst two remained, together.  He imagined the shock stealing into her face on her realisation, perhaps her dread, and he having to stand and hold her, constitute something in a moment of a profound innocence being taken, taking her to him like a protector. Just the aching necessity of touch – and touching later, in terms of that strained old cog of conversation at dinner – human remains would give him something to talk about. The prospect of even making Angie look up from the porcelain depths of her plate and reply something like “Really?” or “Where?” Perhaps he could even sleep with the pith being slowly unwrapped from his heart –
“Here.”
The words were issued, sharp as the point of her finger.
It was a difficult alcove beneath a shrivelled beech – she had evidently taken much effort to refine her search, and she stood pensively, the very presence of her body seemingly expressing to him her intentions. He noticed that her positioned one knee against the back of the other, an almost statuette gesture, as if anticipating being frozen to stone and daring to retain a fragment of the unique. He liked that, he thought. He almost told her. But his voice vied for something different.
“It’s alright.”
The words bristled with possibility – on the boundary of comment and comfort, confidence and conversation. The tongue trilled over his teeth, not nervous, but somehow eager – the idea that death could allow for their union. It was curiously thrilling, and the wind licked around him, peeling back to the memories of her leaning against the counter in the office kitchen, the weight of her body positioned somehow like an art; fabric moving against her skin as if it had been poured like a liquid, she told of freedom of movement and the country – a chance for change, even as she unhinged the flesh of the apple clean from its core, there was something invested in her movements.
The prospect of human death would obviously upset her – stalling those delicate features, perhaps even her breath. He comforted himself against the cold gnawing curiously at his fingers. He would hold her then.
“Please will you have a look,” She managed, and yet it was a crease of anger which crossed her face rather than shame. “I can’t.”
“Of course.”
He slipped to his knees like a ritual and felt the cold, scared salt of the earth crumbling a little beneath him like a necessary incense. His eye, tempted to slip back to her and all she held, eventually managed to focus itself into the incision – a sort of clawed-out cave between two roots. The space seemed to gloat in its investment of acridity, warmed with age. A single spider-web stretched almost entirely over the entrance at the pure-water thinness of a lens, and yet no spider could be seen, Tom noticed. Strange.
Then his focus froze.
 It was almost immediately in front of him –not invested with mystery or even gore, but a kind of pity, flayed and abandoned and awful. The ground seemed to seep a little beneath the twisted assemblage of bone – it blossomed in places but in a way that marred any possible shards of white with a congealing grey.  Bone seemed to throw up its splinters in a kind of agony, like one shipwreck only united by its dislocation when the beams of wood awn in naked revulsion from the shore. A sensation of soreness ran all over it.
And then, beneath the ragged arches of bent bone, there was movement. Movement like the liquid robes of the clergy through a dripping chapel, dark and heaving with a wordless music. Only this movement was that of a trembling, the lowest form of fear swollen in the form of a septic organ . It mulched like a mouth passively open, grazed by the wind. A sight scarred with decay, yet marked by that certain rural superiority, a permanence – something which would crisp in the air to a relic. The wind, scissoring at the side of his head, made the moisture burn on Tom’s face.  His eyes. A decaying heart  behind a sheep’s ribcage.
There was the sound of metal on foliage, and then the certain pressure of a foot on the back of his knee. He withdrew heavily, as if his body was immersed in some kind of resent.
He spoke with little awareness of his surroundings.
“It is an animal.”
The response was slipped to him like a sterile needle, a scratch at the end.
“And this is a training exercise. You’ve done as required.  Now go.”
He looked up, still on his knees, into Eliza’s face – now closed and cold, as if she was pressed by a layer of plaster, trapping that once free body.
“But - ?”
She bit his protestation clean away by a just the closure of her mouth, lips frozen as if for a sculptor. Shutting out everything with a perfect layer of skin. He was not to be permitted to savour her speech, and his breathing slowed, and he thought of the tongue lying dead in her mouth like a mollusc, like a weeping flesh, like a carcass –
“I-?”
“Officer Beet, you are currently at risk of ruining what has been a very good score so far. So will you please get back to the office? It’s in your best interest…”
Now it was a voice which shifted like the type of honey which strangles the insect. Tom could do nothing but acquiesce, staring up at that perfectly-clothed body, tall and unmoving – and the hollowed-out roots behind her, where a rotting organ teemed with invisible life.
*
The excursion caused him to return for dinner later than usual – the sky even beginning to protest in its thickening bruise.
Angie was waiting for him at the table, waiting with a kind of dependency he had sensed all the way home, pressing on his pulse, his arteries, his very lungs. It still strained the sweat onto his brow as he collapsed into the nearest chair and spoke with a saturated voice.
“I’m sorry I was late. There was a – misunderstanding – “
He felt the customarily pang of guilt that he had not seen Angie before he left for work this morning, that he had instead  slipped onto the street with the liquidity of someone with a secret to hide. Only he had not hidden anything. He had walked to work as the night still condensed at the corners of his vision, and blinds were closed to the streets and all he could see was the occasional dissembled silhouette beginning its routine. His sight had diluted to liquid.
And yet now, her spoken word, sterile, White. Handed to him like dry ice.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine.” It was as if the little studs of her teeth were chipping them to brief bursts of meaning. “Tom.”
She said the single syllable of his name in a way which made him look at her, instinctively.
“Tom, it’s our anniversary.”
She was cautious, limiting her face to tenacious little gestures – encouraging, safe, she recognised he was not in the best of spirits and she stalled into her old paper-thinness, simply cast around, coloured upon. It was no injury to her.
He retorted inside himself with a kind of bitterness – many happy returns. Returning was all he did – to work, to this, his foot moulding to the same shadowed stone in the hallway, the street, the detritus of his being was scattered amongst familiars – routines, meetings. Even Eliza. Even her.
“Tom, look, I’ve made your favourite – “
Her voice flushed through the cold flesh of silence like swollen veins, it agitated him, made him swim up for breath in horrible mouthfuls. He had to look up from his hands, past his watch, past that skeletal ticker and its array of assemblages, past the vaguely occupied ring finger. His eyes met her in a question.
Any kind of response seemed clotted behind the platter which seethed with sauce and meat between them. He reached over customarily, catching his face in the clean metal beneath the bone – a face unhinged and empty, devoid of any concrete association of sense of feeling, pooled and thickened  as if  without substance, nothing. Not even a smile. Not even a heart.
“I-?”
He appealed up to Angie.
Her hands were working over bone, wrists blistering thick with scent, mouth dripping. Lips lost as part of a smear.

“Your favourite.” She said simply. “Ribs.”

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Census Typist

The coffee crackled black across the tongue, provided the lips with the necessary lacquer to expel speech. Faith looked with a mild sense of mirth at the shrinking human being in the corner; the mirror set at an angle so that it  warped all it captured.

It was a cruel judge, she thought – the contours of the room splintered by the single offending eye.  ‘And she had always been so tidy’ – her mother’s voice wavered in her ears like an intoxicated breath, drawing her towards the window as if she could capture something tangible, out onto the balcony. It was only the later of city-ash which shuffled uneasily under her feet, and she watched those flaked remains of imperceptible time – like the rasping perspiration of some Mr Jones running for the train, the piece of hair from the head of a Mrs Bartlett – flicker from the edge. Like ink dropped into water, she thought, watching the larger flakes of ash fall. A sensation she knew only too well.

The way ink shivered from the nib and split its ripe globe to forever taint liquid, provided her with a vague amusement. She went to work, the splintered colour of the computer face mocking her own, and would sit, typing with an automatic hand, whilst the other would occasionally reach for the pen and scatter ink into water. Her hands at these moments held nothing tangible but a sense of reciprocity between them and Faith would feel a sudden consciousness for the rest of her body, a kind of guilt. She pictured the neck contracting into the chest, and so on, to leave only a pair of hands. Like a Testament. Her mother used to say that too, often when they were eating – the white bread bloated on her tongue like a gross communion wafer.

Religion: None.

The couplet mocked her as she typed it through – again and again, each time the bile rising a little in her throat. It was a strange position she thought – the position of ‘none’, of nothing. Could one own nothing? Could one - be nothing?

None. Nothing. The two indulgent adjectives she had applied to herself in the relay she referred to as life. “Nothing’s left” slipped down the phone as she walked home one night where the streetlights injected the puddles with a petroleum streak, “Nothing’s changed” when she watched the silhouette of a young man dressing  flicker like a sketch still underway in front of the curtains. She remembered the press of the lips of his speech, hot and heavy through the muffled darkness.

“You’re right.”

She remembered these bursts of speech with sudden clarity, such individual moments parodied by the opposite office wall – a single piece of sheet glass upon which the residue of the thoroughfare would conglomerate and stare. Insects pulverised to a mere stain, acrid dust, the flailing arms of a long-disembowelled plastic bag. She watched the window occasionally – not  for what was beyond it, but for itself. That was how she would describe herself, she concluded, typing another row, this time ‘Religion: N/A’ – a window. There were the usual idioms for people of course – wallflower, clown, shark – but she deemed ‘window’ as somehow applicable to herself. A window she always sat against as her mother  would face her with the oppressive ‘o’ lips of disappointment, the voice almost empty in its dirge – ‘I wish you would have taken the opportunity and made some friends…’. The window was cold – a clean solid relief from the spattering cliques of the school, the silted conglomerates of the city streets. Instrumental, but somehow lacking intrinsic value. She felt the generative fur of the city dredge her limbs just as much as the glass did.

Another sip of coffee, or splash of ink – alternating the non-typing hand. Her eyes watered, anticipating the security of closed lids and deliciously empty hours. She could be right, Faith thought, she could be right, just as the man who flickered in the stairwell with the percussion of his charity bucket told her. Just as the newspapers told her, just as the distorted faces gaping from billboards with their polished lips told her.
It made a change – masticating the mediocrity. She had never been expected to ‘be anything’ –the phrase so frequently doled like a portion of sedative, yet utterly meaningless. She was installed with no aspiration; a child who wrote little scraps to a waiting horde of ever-imagined readers, drifted through school, snapped into work.  Census offices – census typist. The four words flashed against her chest, mounted on a silver pin.

“One of the family.”

That was what the boss managed to roughly articulate, slapping his hand on her shoulder one afternoon with a focused force which sent waves tingling through her skin.  She disliked him. The methodical roll on the ball of his heels as he orientated his chop-cheeked bulk through the office repulsed her a little. A cigarette protruded like a permanent apparatus for breath between his lips; almost part of the flesh. Flesh – be it greasy, grainy, hairy, old, young, new, alive, dead, male, female. Another category for the Census.
Faith could not fathom how long she had worked as a Census typist – the inexplicable series of repetitions beginning with the rolled stone of the dawn, digging digits into the old mattress of an otherwise empty bed as one dug fingers into a keyboard, the days dilution, the walk ‘home’ to the city apartment which did not deserve the idiom.  The vague smell of alcohol. Food which seemed constituted based on an idea of itself – never quite embodying anything other than the grey of tarmac.

Occupation: -

Grey. It seemed appropriate for her occupation, she mused, pushing the aspirin under her tongue as the clock spliced itself at the meridian – cold and unapologetic, a black clot over cool glass.  Time trickled onwards in that iced liquid, a sensation she felt slowly stirred through her veins, turning the white flesh to an ever-present grey. The computer smiled, draining the whites of her eyes.

She often thought about the composure of words during those long automatic hours – words with their brazen lines, crosses and hatches. Memorials of themselves. Objects – like the ‘whites of the eyes’ being a strange one in itself. For her eyes were rarely white, the quivering mass suffused with the blood-bloat of over-work or  hours of agitation misunderstood as sleep. Sated a little with another aspirin, sometime in the afternoon, she continued.

Her typing fingers  flickering over those vague corrugations like one treats the wounds of the familiar. To her it felt like a kind of  necessary  taxation of the times – she felt she could ‘do’ little else.

The same idiom again – the same idiom she would apply her thoughts to, thinking of what others would ‘do’ in that great assembly of existences. She read her typing of the census like a confession – read of the retired bankers, and rented-house shop workers, an unemployed woman with a degree she did not seem to think appropriate to list. These characters converged in her mind, almost communal – like the night-nurse with four children Faith envisaged feeding the family with bread broken from the loaf and layered under butter and jam. The 28 year old divorcee who perhaps crawled to the second bedroom in his suburban property. The man who rattled the charity bucket and piped above the gravelly growl of insufficient funding – ‘you’re right.’
Yes, she was, she knew them all somehow. She knew everyone.

But it was not enough.

Hours would stall by in the evenings, where the tiling felt suddenly abrasive under the revolted insoles of her feet, and she would lie across the bed – prominent in its slab of the days sacrifice – unable to accustom names to any kind of face, thought of a series of occupations but for bodies without gender, birth year after birth year…

“You were quiet even just from being born.” Her mother’s voice again, aching over the air as she sat for another five hours in the office, or sat up in bed against pillows which protruded markedly against her back as if in defiance of all reassurance. The very words seemed to ring around her, curling concentric in the glass she drank from, spirits as sheer as water which splintered the lingering light of the city dusk. Sometimes she would pull her face from behind her arm and look at the window, rather than through it.

It was more often now, in those hours between work, that her thoughts fell to a certain name – an Adam Hutchinson.  The syllabic structure of the name, the imperceptible piques between the letters, seemed somehow pleasing to her. She had recorded a few before, more than a few in fact, year in, year out. Yet now she thought of an Adam Hutchinson with slicked-back hair and a Soho flat and employment, as was often said, ‘on the horizon’. Such a romantic idiom, she thought.  She gave him a birth date closer to her own, indulged over the particular way of his beliefs – perhaps he was a type to write ‘Christianity’ out of certain kind of fear flexing across the skin when one comes to official documents. Yes, he decided on Christianity. Faith mused that she would most likely do the same – she mused, and mithered, thoughts thickening to words at a spurt of her fingers.

The same - day in, day out. An inevitable conjecture – somehow haunted, if only by itself.

A sameness in solidarity, so to speak. The same experienced  by the cook on the third floor of the office, mechanically doling out her time and effort to the bland mouths of repetitive faces, one grotesque communal crawl of flesh. The same experienced by the taxi driver, threading the same city streets, his crippled spine spared in the couched darkness. The same day in, day out, for the tax officer – the same twisted stares of disapproval, hostility speared through speech, old men approaching the door unassisted, only  to suddenly collapse in on themselves, like soaked board.

It was the same as tax officer William Jones dodged the scuttling black beetles of city cars, the pressure of his shirt collar like a disapproving finger, the thought of another tax evader heavy on his mind. Man who made no known payments – rather scheming business, it was assumed, almost with regret. Confrontations were not a strong point upon such low energy. His briefcase sweated against prickling palms, providing him with some difficulty through the narrow Soho streets.

He arrived at the flat at his intended time of mid-morning. It was a Saturday and he attempted to ring the bell with an optimistic flick of the wrist in the hope the occupant would be in. He could not bear a return journey.
At his ring of the hell, the speaker system in the wall crackled, which the tax collector had no choice  but to assume to be interrogative.

“I’m here on behalf of the tax collection ser-“

His announcement, cupped-palm round the speaker, voice slowly expelled as if to impress, was cut hastily short by the door to the collection of flats clicking open. The tax collector posted himself through the ungenerous amount of door space, flicked his hair back to a somewhat greater height with an accustomed hand and proceeded directly to the specified flat – 31 A. 

The door of the flat itself hung open, emitting a greasy kind of light as if strained through several surfaces, finally to be smeared in a dull blur on the foyer wall, close to where the tax collector stood on the threshold of the room.

“Good day,” he began, deciding an authoritative oratory presence would perhaps rouse the inhabitants enough for co-operation “I’m here on behalf of the Tax Collection Service. It has been brought to our attention that a Mr Adam Hutchison, registered at this here address, has been evading the payment of –“

He stopped short again at what sounded similar to the eruption of birds wings – yet a sound also infused with a plaintive, solitary quality. He was tired and wanted the day to end. He thought little of walking forward, only perhaps a small amount upon the phrase itself – ‘walking forward’ – used as an idiom by insecure parents to encourage his academic advancements in his teenage years.  Just getting it over with.

Years. The indefinable quality of the years.

The room was an explosion of captured light, grounded only by the rough-centrality of an unmade, iron-grey double bed and then an inexpressible quality of the days detritus – clothes, pens, cutlery, stale sheets, food serrated the corners by cautious mouthfuls – scattered as if thrown from a height. A  standing dressing mirror stood impeccably straight against the back wall, almost sentinel,  as if quietly musing upon the chaos. Open and against the exposed sheet was a large notebook, the source of the initial noise – its shattered spine buckling beneath agitated pages which thrashed against cruel fingers of the wind manipulating further the wide-open window. Pages seeped with scribbling, some almost aching with the pressure applied to the page. There was something almost infantile in those inkings, the tax inspector mused, drawing a little closer, as if to shut the book. List after lists of names, varying from the mundane to the ridiculous, rapidly written career prospects, every and any abode, sequence after sequence of salaries…

And then as he was flicking through the book, the tax collector stopped on a roughly central page.

‘Adam Hutcheson.’

A tick was flicked against the name like a sick smile, a tick nearly the same to those which followed – Annie Price, Benjamin Simpson, Aled Peters


Perhaps Faith had done the right thing. She had made friends.