Watching the world burn: I don't really hate anything apart from the rest of the world. Their shrill voices and their religions, their ideas often hostile to whatever mine might change into. Their clamour for...I'm not sure for what. People always seem to be clamouring. Maybe in the west clamouring is seen as a sin, unless it's a sports event or some celebrity sightings bash. But the western folks play by some kind of space invader rule that doesn't apply elsewhere. There (in the non-west which is a fairly inaccurate means of describing anything) the way is simply full on invasion. Invade your neighbours in the next building, state or continent. Whether it's a funeral, a feast, a political rally or a religious festival then that's grounds for clamour leading to full on invasion. Shouting and screaming and carrying dead bodies or running away from frantic charging bulls also seems to work quite well and certainly adds to the drama - as I look on, bemused and at a safe distance. A few random guns shots (bullets come down once they've gone up), cannon mounted on rusty pickup trucks and posters of bearded men help. Also burn a badly drawn American flag, that really pisses the rest of the world right off. So to all those currently invading I'd say, fuck off and just go and invade yourself. Where did invading anything ever get us? (Apart from the Romans, Normans, Attila the Hun...)
Sunday, 2 March 2014
“The critical reading of texts always resulted in the parts being deleted, so that was what I did, my writing became more and more minimalist. In the end I couldn't write at all. But then I had a revelation, what if I did the opposite? What if, when a sentence or a scene was bad I just expanded it and poured in more and more? After that I became free in my writing. Fuck quality, fuck perfection, fuck minimalism. My world isn't perfect or minimalist so why should my writing be?”
“Concealing what is shameful to you will never lead to anything of value.”
Karl Ove Knausgaard.
Struggle: So it's that awful feeling of being ineffective and insignificant, wanting to perform on some bigger stage and not making it, not having the depth because all the time you measure the value of the day on how well your digestive system worked. Did your bowels move freely, did the discomfort or dull aches and pains come to much, is it over. That was it, there was no intellectual challenge. Of course if one came up you'd stifle it with some pallid and ghostly piece of garbled ignorance and dull expression and hope to God that the would do, to parry the blow away and wish for no more oncoming questions or challenges, but I had some brilliant ideas once, I know I did.
So you know that feeling when the idea does come your way, that bright light, growing into something, forming up, making sense of itself for the first time. Like witnessing a birth that's nothing to do with you but you, as a spectator cane see everything, detached and then from that viewpoint you can own it and adopt it and run with it. That's the best part of surrogate creation. Not doing anything at all but just being there so that the thing lands in your lap, you see it for what it is and go with it. Trouble is once these moments dry up they are harder to recognise it becomes a chore. The effort to pull through new stuff becomes a chore.You go looking in some twilight place, you search but there are no clues, it's a trial and a frustration. Like some fairy tale plot where the quest unfolds becoming steadily harder as each painful task is accomplished. Meanwhile on the sidelines the snipers line up to shoot you, never to kill for that would be too kind. They're just there with their pot shots and dismissive comments and enlightened suggestions to wound, to draw blood. It's always about the repulsive power of some stinking blood from somewhere. Paying a price in blood. Religions and disease and life forces all summed up in your bullet wounds and scar tissues. There they are, taking aim already.
I'm at some strange crossroads but without a credible soul to sell, just a ragged ghost that's played out and weak. No devil in his right mind want's me today, there are younger, fresher models lining up on the barricades and refuge camps, on the campuses and in the gyms and glittering canteens of the third sector. He'll have their throats for sure and ravage them like a wild dog. They don't understand any of that yet, such is the power of their educated positioning. But that wont last. So I'm invincible but ineffective, I'll take no one down, I'll just produce a stream of warm, unhealthy air that’s somehow dodged the purifying effects of the system. People will be put off but nobody will actually be hurt, that's important. An old obsolete weapon pointed at the sky with a marzipan warhead and a faulty guidance system. Start the revolution if you will but my life force wouldn't strike a match on a Molotov Cocktail and I could hardly suck an e-cigarette to get it going. It is irritating to get older and more tired.
Refection is for Narcissus: I was trying to look back on myself. I do it from time to time, to make sense of things like being in a living dream where you can move objects and people, memories and events and get them finally sorted out and in the right place. That's how everybody should approach old age. It might take some strong and as yet undeveloped drugs to achieve this but I'd sign up for the treatment. Ideally it would also tackle all the prostrate and rattle and hum troubles that perplex and annoy. Life's good quality would return, in an unreal way of course but who cares for reality. Reality: a dull series of unending and unedifying debates about things that seldom get progressed generally ending wars of words or as a last resort violence and terrorism. Then some cycle of regret and repair kicks in, there is a short period of enlightenment then the whole stupid process starts again. I cant be bothered with that. You'd think some clever academic would have mapped out a decent diagram by now and would be hawking it around the colleges and so influencing the bright young things just to a) go back to nature or b) just devour all in their path. There probably are too many active voices on the planet right now. A filter must be applied.
Friday, 14 February 2014
TV presenters sitting on couches making faces, talking about award shows, the NHS or celebrities and pretending to have a real relationship with a remote audience busy boiling kettles. I'm resisting the persistent illusion of human warmth that inhabits social television, full of assumptions and friendly banter, talking endlessly in the common parlance to try to fill the universal silence and void of broadcast matter and so pass time. It is vital that we pass the time and they are there to assist. This is the meaning of life. Today it will feel cold. Break to a weather bulletin.
The announcer spoke gently and normally, it was a regular weather forecast, 6PM on all channels. “On Tuesday we'll be hit by a rather well organised weather system coming in from the mid-Atlantic.” I thought little of it at the time, just a turn of phrase, a stock line in the weather script. I didn't realise that there was a basic truth there, one that was leaking out by whatever means and was about to make an enormous impact on our world.
The weather had turned against us; for years we thought that our actions were making the weather more intense and hard to predict, global warming, poor environmental management, the exploitation of resources whatever the cost. None of that was anything to do with anything or so it turned out, it was the weather itself, conscious and organised (as the announcer had let it slip) that was turning against us.
There in the clouds in the atmosphere in the blue yonder charges and particles were forming up, changing, evolving in an atmospheric soup. We all understand the principles of creation theory but we, in our thinking constrained it to animals and plants and organisms. They evolved thanks to natural selection and circumstances, now they were about to be hit by a higher evolutionary example. A thinking, focused and determined weather system, linked up and intelligent, self aware and with a purpose; to wipe the planet clean. Here we go.
At first the weather was just bad, badass even. Stormy, angry and for a few days unrelenting. Spread all across the world's stupid face. Normally calm and serene locations were suddenly struck by crazy, unseasonal and unexpected patterns of destructive rainstorms and cyclones. The seas crashed and swelled, trees uprooted, property destroyed on a huge scale and communications and travel disrupted. Then there would be a few days grace; the shock and the temporary recovery and then it would start up again. This pattern went on for about four weeks all across the globe and then stopped. The clouds disappeared and it was dry and slowly hotter , again everywhere...and it was February. In the north we were shocked, in the south; they just thought that summer had finally arrived a little later than usual.
The floods and the scattered damage caused now died back and dried out and dried out some more , then it baked hard in the heat, then things became desiccated and brittle. The saturated land that had sunk in the rains now cracked and groaned and place by place, bit by bit turned to dust. Whatever disaster recovery plans we'd prepared there was nothing that could deal with heat and drought everywhere all at once. Fires started, systems failed, water became like gold and food stores emptied as the fields and farms baked. Where is social cohesion and harmony when you need it? Not in the USA or the First World, those guys were mad as hell. Then, unexpectedly (and unforeseen) the rains returned. Too much too soon. It was Biblical in it's effect. It (the ongoing chaos) was the only subject the shattered news media covered and then food and fuel ran out big time.
For some people it was all about the wrath of god, others blamed the big companies, other's made the best by exploitation and profiteering. It made no difference, things were breaking up and civilisation was breaking down. Then there were those who understood, who had read and seen the signs and who knew that the “weather” was now a conscious entity; more than just a force. What we couldn't understand were it's processes. How advanced was it? A roaring lion, an angry animal, a vast and calculating human type mind, a god? To some it was a god. “Obvious” the said. When the term “intelligent weather” was first used by the BBC, social media ran riot. Cults and societies formed, conventional religions sought explanation and ownership. If the weather was/is a god it will be our god...or our devil. There were many views and as is the way of things, many divisions, some naturally turned violent and desperate as they twisted their versions of their truth to suit the ever changing actions of a clearly angry weather god.
Standing outside of the panic, up in the blasted Hebridean Islands of Scotland we gathered for an emergency council. (This was hardly anything new, all the big boys, corporations, NATO, UN, Russian, China and the Muslim and Vatican worlds had had their gatherings. Other than apportion blame to traditional enemies and expected protagonists it had all proved fruitless. Size matters but intention and determination are more important. We considered ours to be, for once, “for the best”.) Scientists, weather experts, a theologist and media people. We had to understand and we had to communicate with the weather. We had to learn it's language, hear what it said, negotiate a truce and somehow manage and understand this beast. In an abandoned community centre, warmed by a peat fired stove we drank hot tea and in as measured and civilised a way as we could began the discussion. Outside of the building the west winds hammered on the windows and spat hard rain at us as if it wished to join in and make some forceful points. We all understood. I said all the right things there, notice?
An American phonics specialist unleashed his laptop, a series of weather maps had been poured through some software synthesis mechanics. It was an intelligent piece of analysis and simulation. Every pattern for the last six months graphically displayed and analysed. If the weather was talking to us we had to listen and we had to look for the language hidden in the storms, here was a possible way. He ran the simulator. “You see how the pressures change across the world? It's almost like a human vocal pattern, like your throat and larynx, like your whole mouth moving to form sound and push out words. I first noticed this a few weeks ago and, when you run my software there are patterns, clear patterns that I believe are not only weather but actual expressions. The weather is communicating through the weather not just in angry bursts of natural phenomena but in a unique language and we must understand this. There were two Chinese linguist up at the end, their speciality was tonal language. They were suddenly exited and asked for a slow rerun of the presentation but this time with a sound wave analyser and view graph added in. “That will take me some time but I will work on it.” We broke for more tea and cigarettes while the others got down to work. It was all beyond my skill set, I'm more of a broker, a planner and a finisher. I see opportunities, gaps and requirements and fill them. This job probably being the biggest ever for me, by any definition. These experts, their ideals and their willingness to help coupled with their detailed work is what I need to capture, then I put a strategic plan together...and then I sell it to the highest bidder.
Sunday, 2 February 2014
The gap between my teeth. I hadn't noticed it before, that new gap, a dark and mysterious space now hatching and opening in my mouth, there at the very front. Where on earth had that come from? Why did my dentist not mention it during my last (normal and healthy to all intents and purposes) checkup. My teeth, thinning themselves out, breaking down and changing shape. Well apart from fair wear and tear and ageing that's not really possible is it? Teeth are just teeth. But the gaps grew and their shapes did change. Slowly and determinedly my teeth were becoming sharp, odd, inhuman, misshaped teeth. No longer mine. Animal teeth maybe. I took photographs and measured. I went to the dentist. He just said that they were healthy but “subject to a bit of change”. There were some tests and xrays but nothing could explain. Then the pains really started, in my gums and jawbone. My whole mouth, my face. It was slowly growing and stretching out of shape. I'm surely too old for growing pains but my teeth, gums, jaw and mouth were slowly growing and shape shifting. Weeks and months passed, my world became a strange and dark corner I hid within. I went out less, wrapped myself in scarves, wore a hat but mostly stayed home, stopped shaving. I avoided friends and family and any unnecessary social contact. I wasn't me any more, I'd changed. My whole face and jawline now distorted, stretched and protruding. My nose elongated, my tongue stretched, my teeth spaced out and all sharp and angry, my dentist remained in shock and denial as were any medical experts I'd consulted. Some hinted that my story might well be worth a fortune and that I should cash in, but I was hurt and humiliated. I had the face and mouth of a dog; but I was quite enjoying the taste and texture of red raw meat and the flavour(s) of blood.
Saturday, 18 January 2014
“Turns out that there is an alien base on the moon, it's been there for a few thousand years, on the dark side of course but they still have capability to observe us from there. It's a science they've developed along with many others, they are naturally more advanced and sophisticated than we are. If we developed it we'd call it Octogeographics – it means have the ability to look through and/or around things. Useful if you want to operate undetected whilst observing primitive peoples or sensitive animals over a long period of time which is exactly what they've been doing. If you are an alien being based on the moon is seen as a pretty bum gig, not the best, not the location to which the best operators are sent. It's either young apprentices or the old heads, those who are near the end of their service, on the verge of burn out or retiral. Earth you see isn't really considered to be all that interesting, in fact it's dull. That's partly because the real reason they are they is to monitor the sun, the earth is secondary in the mission and the sun, in the great scheme of things is still low down in terms of universal interest.”
“The aliens are mainly interested in the rather erratic behaviour of the sun, suns (stars) are far more important than planets and our sun is going through a particularly odd period at the moment. The sun's activity is currently slowing, dying back, reaching a low level of activity. All the signs are that solar movements have died back and so who knows where this will take the giant star or what the consequences might be for the solar system? So the aliens are studying this and they've seen a lot of it before as everything runs in the familiar universal cycles, birth, maturity, death. But it's worth recording so that a fuller understanding can be had and critically that any strategic opportunity or tactical gain can be realised. Aliens pretty much want the same things as earth people, they have their schemes. If the sun changes then everything else orbiting around it will also change.”
“You might be wondering quite how I know all this. The answer is simple, I'm one of them, I'm a sleeper, a lizard man, a star man, here hidden in your plain sight. Heading out, heading in, gathering data and doing local and more detailed observation. There is the occasional piece of interaction with the humans, that's unavoidable if meaningful study is to take place, I can deal with that. So far I've been active on earth for about three hundred of your years. I've seen all the wars, minor advances, developments and significant events in that time. You might think it's all been exciting and dramatic, well maybe but we've written a lot of it off as wasted opportunities and the predictable outcome of poor communication skills. All your languages and the diverse cultures that you celebrate don't really help, you need to slim down on these things, focus and pool your strengths together. You get far too hung up diversity and individuality. That mistake has cost you dearly in your progress on the evolutionary path. Basically you're all pretty fucked up, you know it (in a way) but really you don't and sadly (based on what I've seen) you're incapable of stepping out of this (other) cycle.”
“Anyway it's not in my mission to sort you out, that would take a decent sized nuclear war, something you've shrunk back from but frankly you need to take the bad medicine. You wont see it this way but it's your next most logical evolutionary step. Yes it is and that's unpalatable but the whiners and the cowards will never see that. They want the earth to be developed under a glass case full of preserved artefacts, using languages, processes and economic models that are broken. There is no value in preserving lifeless ways of life and inefficient systems. Concentration on these things will not give you the kind of progress you need. You need to learn lessons from the past and wash your planet clean. Every other successful civilisation in the known universe has been through this but you guys are stuck in a rut. Now your sun is slowly switching itself off, you need to think again.”
“So there you have it, that's how it is, you've got some potential but you are all too strung out on the wrong things; religious slavery, political ineptitude, greed and fighting amongst yourselves. The most powerful need to take the initiative, cleanse the planet and move on. Ok that's an alien perspective but hey we've been watching your antics for a while and you're struggling. Anyway I've got to head back soon, I've a few extra shifts to do back on the moon base before I get my next break.”
Friday, 17 January 2014
She had always been partial to the gentle but stylish sounds of singer and songwriter Clifford T Ward. She loved his voice, it's quiet strength and his clever and concise lyrics. She'd been a fan since she'd heard his first album way back in her teenage years; “Singer Songwriter” in 1971, then she'd moved onto “Home Thoughts” (his second and most successful recording) and had followed him via his other recorded output up until he died in 2001. She had never seem him perform live however, he was famously reluctant to tour but she was consoled by the odd video clip that remained and her collection of cuttings and albums. Whatever else even if most of the world had forgotten about Clifford, she would not – she hummed the opening lines of “Gaye” to herself and carefully and slowly played along on an air piano. It was a beautiful song.
Now she was looking out across the kitchen sink, out through the grimy window and net curtains, across the roofs of the council flats and garden sheds, the concrete and cacophony of housing estate life, past the odd struggling tree and orange glowing lampposts and that mysterious cold fog of damp and air pollution that just hung there between heaven and earth. She looked through all this to see the winter sun glow and slowly fade out over the warehouse tiles and the motorway flyover. The day was over nearly but she felt warm inside as the melody trailed away somewhere in the back of her mind, like a ribbon on the end of a drifting balloon. It would have been nice to have been called Gaye (with an e of course). It seemed sad that the word and the name had been hijacked by another meaning altogether, a modern language piece of robbery that she was powerless to stop or change. She just liked that name and liked to imagine Clifford T singing it to her in the song, as if it was her real name and it was all pure and untainted by...everything. The thought brought a tear to the corner of her eye and a sniff and a wipe. She finished the dishes.
Life would've been so different if she could have just met a man like Clifford, a mild, creative, sensitive type, a man who just understood things, a man who listened and smiled. She was still looking out of the window. At times like this her loneliness was like a sharp pain, almost crippling but familiar and comforting in a way she couldn't understand. This was how it had been for years, tight up and private, all there running around inside her head in an unspoken spiral of frustration, rage and then tempered by a silent reflection and a passive acceptance. “This is my life and my pain; I can choose to prod it to understand it or I can choose to deny it and leave it be. I can also choose to ignore it and then just slip away. Slip away into that music, those chords ringing out from the piano, recorded forty years ago but still as fresh as paint. Remarkable and moving, understood by me and me alone as the voice rises and sings and pours out the raw but very English emotions that you won't find anywhere else. You just won't.”
Then, the doorbell rang, you never do expect that to happen. It was a delivery, an Amazon Box, recycled and woven with brown parcel tape and handwritten labels. She signed the electronic device the man handed her, thanked him, took the package inside and closed the door. She stood and admired the box, she like the look and feel of cardboard. This was a fine example. “Don't be in too much of a hurry to open it, savour the moment, don't be in too much of a hurry,” so said a voice from somewhere. Perhaps God, Clifford T, the radio or the delivery man whispering through the letter box.
She put the box on the coffee table and read the label; Ms G Fraser, 121 Mendelssohn Way, Saltley, Wolverhampton. It had come to the correct address. The voice's advice was still resonating so she made a cup of tea and weighed up the box and what It might contain. There were no brand names or logos, it was ex-Amazon but the label was hand written in biro on white paper cello-taped to the lid. It was bigger than shoe box but much smaller than a whale. She was intrigued and she reminded herself that she never bought things on line or from mail order catalogues. Somebody else had sent it out to her. Another singsong voice began in her head:
“I sent a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it,
I sent a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it,
I dree, I dree, I dree, I dropped it.
My lover sent a letter out and on the way he dropped it,
My lover sent a letter out and on the way he dropped it,
He dree, he dree, he dree, he dropped it...”
She jumped up from the couch, plonked down the empty tea mug and sliced open the box with the upturned blade of a pair of scissors. The cardboard flaps yielded and sprang up as the tape was slit up the middle, a delicious moment. There were more packing materials inside, bubble wrap and tape and botched things. It was well wrapped up. She tore through the outer levels. She saw the contents and was shocked, a tiny hiss of a tiny scream escaped and she shut the box quickly and looked around the room, as if a crowd might have gathered to watch and comment upon her response. She gently put the package back on the coffee table like was for all the world an unexploded bomb (it wasn't).
She composed herself, that took time. Hands together then open and apart she lifted the lids and picked out the packing materials, shaking each piece as she drew it from the box. With the packing gone the contents were revealed and her mouth already open fell open wider. Bones. There were bones. Dry, white and grey, flaky, old, dusty, misshapen, strange bones, unholy bones she thought. About a dozen shapes (which she wasn't about to touch or count properly) maybe femurs, ribs, vertebrae; human or animal, ugh! There seemed to be no obvious explanation and her mind was racing around the various macabre possibilities. She looked again at the outer packaging and the post mark. “Birmingham City” was all it said. “Bones from Birmingham, dry bleached bones, blown in to lie and die in the dust in my house, sent from up the motorway in Birmingham.
The neighbours were complaining to the police. Hardly an angry mob but here and there feelings were running high on a mixture of frustration, disturbance and concern. “Bloody woman, bloody music, everyday, all day, that's all she plays and now it's been going on for weeks...well all week. I can't sleep or concentrate, it's like being strangled by treacle, you have to do something.”
The police eventually acted. They had to break down the door. She was there, sitting in the kitchen, slumped but still staring out, dead eyes open, blindly staring over the sink, beyond and past the kitchen window to the wide world beyond. The sun was going down. There was an eerie glow in the room. The bones were laid out on the kitchen table, arranged like letters or symbols. The officers couldn't quite fathom it, then one realised he was seeing the word upside down. He moved across the kitchen floor stepping on some bubble wrap that popped as his black shoes landed on it. The bones spelt out “Gaye”.
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Once there was an apple and in that apple there lived a worm called Bob. Bob was happy in his apple, he had, in worm time lived there for quite a while, he called the apple home. The apple (a slow witted and slightly grumpy apple) called himself Mr Apple but Bob was unaware of this as the two, despite their ongoing close proximity were not on regular speaking terms. This was mostly down to the lack of a common language, there is you may know, no translation available from worm to apple and vice versa. They'd both learned to live with the situation and Bob was really quite happy quietly munching through the dark interior of Mr Apple.
I suppose that it was bit of a non symbiotic, one sided arrangement they had. Bob nibbling away on the apple's flesh and the apple sitting there, somewhere in the apple universe waiting to be picked or eaten or to simply go to seed. Who knew where they were in the universal chain of those clever and complex universal things? There was a pleasant kind of purposelessness about it all though bob never really wondered about the world beyond the apple and the apple (Mr sleepy Apple) didn't really wonder about anything. He was busy just being an apple and he had few if any aspirations of anything beyond being an apple. In one lucid moment he recalled thinking, “I am what I am, I am an apple.” That was that then.
It came about one day that Bob, in his quiet and discrete (and wonderfully painless) tunnelling and munching came across a barrier he had previously not encountered. A thick, tough material that wasn't just apple and through which a bright light (what exactly is light?) was filtering in a red (what exactly is red?) haze. Bob stopped for a while and considered this new and unfamiliar stretched skin that blocked the end of the food tunnel. After lengthy consideration he decided to make a decision. A risky one at that. He was going, using his very best worm dentures and techniques, to bite through the skin and continue his ongoing apple exploration...outside of the apple. He pondered for a while; “had any worm ever done this before?” He called out to Mr Apple, “hello, I'm about to bite through your skin (I think), please contact me if there is any pain. Though Bob meant well with this, Mr Apple only heard “blah, blah, blah” in apple talk. It was of course down to translation. He ignored the irritating blah sound and returned to his apple snooze.
Bob bit. Apple flinched but did not wake. Bob bit more. He bit (and chewed though the taste was not so good as the normal tunnel material) until he'd formed a tiny hole in the apple's skin. Bob pushed up against the hole, blinked and squinted and looked out through. The light made him blink a bit more, he wasn't used to this. There were things out there he could not understand. Great fields of colour, washes of light, odd shapes, shimmering movements and sounds that were both sharp and dull and everywhere. Life outside of the apple seemed quite unusual and exciting. Bob hadn't expected any of this. Bob bit more to increase the hole sized. Mr Apple snored in lazy apple talk.
Bob made the hole big enough to get his head through. He didn't really think but if the hole was bit enough for his head then it was also big enough for the rest of him. Sometimes worms lose their appreciation of their spacial dimensions as they dig and progress. Worms tend not to score highly in self perception and awareness tests, but that's a whole other science. Bob stuck his head out. His first impression was that the world outside of apple was warm and it had a fresh, non-apple kind of aroma. Bob then realised that all he'd ever had to smell was apple and as this was his main smell reference point then a wider world full of thousands of new smells could prove over whelming. That might be dangerous but it was exciting and so he kept his head out and slowing took in the new apple free air. This process went on for a while. I'm not sure how long, worm time is not like other time. Only worms get it or experience it. If that seems strange then I'm sorry but that's how it is.
After all the effort to break out through the skin, Bob was a little tired. He was also struggling for. time reference points in all this light so he retreated into the tunnel a few lengths and popped off for a snooze. The world could wait until he'd rested and digested he decided. A few worm hours later he awoke smothered and dominated by a new desire to explore the world outside of the apple, or at the very least the world beyond the skin. Bob prised himself through the hole and tentatively slid and wriggled out of the confines of the apple tunnel and onto the great and unexplored surface of the skin. “Wow! This is a big place,” thought Bob. “This is the world outside of an apple, whoosh!”
Bob looked all around, 360 degrees, seeing things but not sure what he was seeing. Not many people know that worms have photographic memories, this power enabled bob to record a great deal of useful data as he slowly circumnavigated the great girth of Mr Apple. Mr Apple was bigger than Bob had imagined but no too big to cover in a day's worm time (including photographic processing). Once he'd been right round the apple skin and returned unharmed by the experience Bob retired back deep into the tunnel and fell fast asleep. You may be gathering that worms and apples both spend a lot of time sleeping. Then he dreamt a few heavy dreams, dreams of the outside beyond apple, the great chasm between in and out, safety and danger, the familiar and the unknown. I was a pretty good sleep. Even Mr Apple seemed to be sleeping more soundly than ever.
And so it was that unknown to Bob and Mr Apple the big world calendar was flicking pages and days over and over and as they slept and digested and ripened the time that is known as Christmas Eve came around. There on that winter's night Mr Apple sat on a white china plate, serene and sleeping. Beside him was a clean carrot, a glass of whisky and a mince pie. Some later time in worm time a fat man in red appeared in the room, he guzzled the whisky and swallowed the mince pie and grimaced, it was a tough gig being out all night. Mr Apple and the carrot sensed nothing as the fat man placed them in his deep fur lined pockets and vaporised out of the warm room and up onto the roof the house. Once there, out in the chilly night air he patted his favourite red nosed reindeer, whispered a few magic words and placed the apple and the carrot into the animal's mouth. Crunch. Yum yum.
Monday, 4 November 2013
“A bag of groceries (inc. French stick) is lying abandoned on Pilrig Street. Yours if you hurry!” I'd just got the peculiar text message from a friend and strangely I was just coming around the corner in Pilrig Street and...there was the bag, an orange Sainsbury bag with a French stick jutting out like a broken arm. The bag just lay there lay forlorn against the stone base of the railings. Seeing the text as some open invitation to enquire and as few people were around I looked inside; the bread, four pots of yogurt, a bag of washed salad, what looked like some pinkish cold meat in a packet and a wedge of blue cheese. Hardly the find of the century, just some lost shopping. I looked around, half expecting the owner to be hurrying back to retrieve the forgotten bag. The traffic was passing, no one looked interested, no obvious owner, no activity. I picked up the bag properly and assumed responsibility for it's contents. At that moment I did get a funny feeling of doubt, what if the bag was bait or poisoned or contaminated or just a bit “off”? I looked around some more but tried to look as if I wasn't looking around. You know what I mean.
A few yards on I made another discovery. A pair of hiking boots. There parking in a similar place to the shopping bag, laces loose and neatly set together as if they could be by the front door of a house or at the bottom of a cupboard. They were not new, like the shopping, they were just similar in their abandoned and inappropriate oddness. Lost shoes usually ended up on the top of bus shelter roofs, in the middle of the road, hanging from trees or floating in canals – and not in pairs. These two had been carefully put in the right spot. I was disturbed by this piece of extra finding but I was now, like blood hound on the trail of something mysterious. My senses sharpened and I felt my eyes nervously narrow as I looked further up the street for more unusual items. I quickly discounted two parked bikes, a Buckfast bottle and some polystyrene take away boxes. My quarry was of a far higher calibre based on the other two findings. Then I had another thought.
Why had my friend sent out that text and why had he not picked up the bag or texted about the boots or anything else? I quickly got my phone out and texted; got the bag found boots watz going on and where are u? I resumed my treasure hunt but left the (size 9.5) boots behind, too nasty a thing to carry. About a hundred feet away another discovery caught my eye, there on the step of a building doorway was a brown leather wallet. This was getting interesting and I was so involved I hardly looked around to check my back, I just grabbed it up. I was all excited fingers and thumbs, a wallet was a proper find and regardless of the circumstances some reward or benefit was bound to come of this. I opened it up. Inside it there was cash, blue and pink notes. I felt funny about disturbing them so I just counted their edges, two, three, six, seven...about £150. Then there were cards, I pulled out the obvious bank card; TSB Current Account J W BARNABY. I have a name. OK time to play it straight, I need to report this. I spun around and looked for anyone obviously looking for shopping, boots and wallet. Some student girls sashayed past, hardly them, two neds, an old women. Nobody who looked like J W Barnaby.
It was then something caught my eye from across the street, a bright red wooly looking thing, on a coat hanger and swinging from a littler bin. I crossed over to inspect this latest find. It was a knitted woman's poncho, red and fluffy and almost painful to look at. It was however new (like the shopping), it still had the tags on it, in fact the price tag said £25.99, it was from NEXT. Something about this discovery made me more nervous than the others but I picked the item up. The mental picture I now had of J W Barnaby was not at all clear.
I carried on down the pavement, senses tingling what would be next? It was to be of all things a dog, a clearly lost dog. There he was, tethered to a bollard looking at me with eyes pleading. He was of the Grey Friars Bobby design of dog, whatever that is, excessively hairy paws, big appealing eyes and floppy ears. At least he had a collar on. I patted his head and he licked the back of my hand, not a pleasant feeling but always a good sign when you're dealing with unknown dogs. Better than a growly snap anyway. I put my thumb onto his collar and felt for an ID disk, there it was; J W Barnaby and a phone number. Jackpot! “Well hello J W!” I said to the puzzled little dog as I patted his head and unleashed him from the restraint of the bollard. He didn't show a great deal of emotion at this point but simply peed disrespectfully on his former prison as I pulled him away. He did seem interested in the shopping bag and poncho; he sniffed them both. I shoved the poncho into the bag but the wallet, the real deal as far as I was concerned was safely stuffed into my pocket. I thought I get a little further on before phoning the number on the dog's tag. I made it to the street corner and outside a cafe sat down in one of those awful chrome street chairs they stick out there with the unstable tables for smokers, tourists and faux Parisian types. I tapped the number into my phone and waited.
It seemed to ring for a long time before a distant voice answered, “Hello?” “Is that J W Barnaby?” I asked a little nervously. “Yes it is, how can I help you?” “Well I'm on Pilrig Street and I seem to have found some of your belongings; shopping in a bag, a poncho, a wallet and a small dog ( I omitted the hiking boots you'll notice).” An uncomfortable silence followed. “ I do recall having all those things...” The voice dropped a little more, sounding a bit lost, almost pathetic. “ Yes they may well be mine, may well be, it seems like a long time ago now, I used to live in Edinburgh you know.” I was getting freaked by this. “Look I have your stuff, a dog that needs looking after and wallet with a fair amount of cash, if it's all your stuff what do you want me to do with it? I've not got all evening to wait on you, can just get here and collect it all?” More silence. “ Mmm, I'm afraid that wont be possible, I wont be collecting them tonight, I'm...out of town.” “OK, I'll get the police involved and I'll hand your stuff in, sorry I had to disturb you!” Ungrateful bastard I mouthed under my breath. “Sorry,” said JW, his tone changed a bit. “It's just that I was walking home, with my dog and shopping, I had my girlfriend’s birthday present ( a red poncho), when I felt a little queezy. You may not believe this but I passed out...well I think I did and I seem to have woken up and it turns out I'm in Singapore and it's 1927.” “Yeah, right, you don't want your dog or wallet very much do you?” The line fell silent and then there was a low buzzing. My phone screen just said “Unobtainable”. I knew that well enough.
I walked home, it was raining, I had the dog on a leash, pulling my right arm, as if he knew where we were going. I still had the shopping, the wallet and poncho gathered up like odd trophies. On my left was a corner shop. I tied the dog to a dripping lamp post and went in, I bought a can of dog food, six eggs and a half bottle of Whyte & Mackay. “Dog food omelet tonight?” grinned the shopgirl as I handed her a twenty from the wallet. Once outside the dog led me home, like he knew where I was going or where we were going, round this corner, across the road, up the close, through the door. His tail was wagging, he was sniffing and snuffling and scratching on the mat as I pushed the key in the door. “In you go”, I said.
I spooned the dog food into a bowl and put it down to him, he devoured it, sniffed around a little more and then promptly settled down on the hearth rug and fell asleep, one eye at a time. I sat back in the big chair, the gas fire was warm and glowing and I poured a big glass of the W&M. I wasn't hungry, I'd eat later, I was just puzzled at myself and the adventures of J W Barnaby. Sleep came on me like a drug and then into my wishy washy grey subconscious a phone rang, my phone. “Hello?” “Is that J W Barnaby?” A voice said. My eyes opened. I was sitting on a cane chair, the air was warm and the noise of this Eastern city was growing up and into my ears in a deafening ball of white hot shock and Chinese babble. I could smell strange meat roasting and incense burning. I was seated on a hotel balcony at a table where two empty cocktail glasses were perched at the edge by a stained napkin. A yellow rose stood in a thin glass vase at the middle. I had been asleep and I was now focusing. “Hello?” “Is that J W Barnaby?” the voice said once more. I said yes to that but I don't know why I did. “Good, I'm from the Big King Time Filler's Organisation, we have a little job for you to do now you're in 1927 or thereabouts.” I wanted to ask a few questions but decided not to. Most times when you ask question you don't really get a proper answer, you just get words back, orphan words in a stream, constructed from thin air and tired breath and what good are they really? They just carry more germs around. And that was how it all began.
Friday, 1 November 2013
A grey crazy house filled with monster guitars and Fender Les Pauls, funk machines and Gibson Stratocasters and Henry Ibsens and just general shit like that, it was a total drunken nightmare but I wasn't even drunk at all, young sir. I repeated the phrase several times until it made no sense. A common form of behaviour I cannot quite explain.I found that in moments like this that stretching out my grey matter helped me with my writing and my writhing quite a lot. It was all pretty random stuff (as I reflected upon it all later). Those guitars strung out on the walls or every room were really stringing me along and just plain buggin'. I wanted to pick one up, just to send out a tune, scrape my finger on the strings and turn up the amplisander and loudestspeaker type things but sure enough the cables remained tangled like in a bad dream of entangled situations. Cables and confusion, all those songs in my head and nowhere to put them, can you imagine what it's like? Nothing is ever tidy, it's all very hungry and ragged. It wasn't as if I really liked guitars, it was more about how I'd been brought up by them, raised by them as if they were a family of wolves, howling and snapping in a pack. (A good guitarist would probably tell that's exactly how it is and what they do. Guitars sniffing you out and then ingratiating themselves in weird ways so that you have to have them, trap them and then squeeze the living hell of some kind of sound out of their dumb wooden bodies). But anyway I was comparing them to wolves or wild animals or things that have a bit of a mind of their own – even when, as has happened, they get serious, copied and turn into their own versions of themselves within the establishment. It's the establishment that brings everything down, tumbling onto your head, the crown of creation, glittery things, the snarl of that wolf pack, the howl of some distant discordant guitar playing away in a bedroom or kitchen, closed behind a door, noisy but afraid of it's own voice. That sums it up – afraid of it's own wild voice and there is this huge pile of words and guitar shapes I've go to work my way through.
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Everybody gambles, everybody takes risks, we just don't quite see them, we normalise them, gloss them over, disguise them, hide them in the detail, allow them lifetime anonymity and take a chance. Sure, it'll be fine, it'll work out, things do. But the risks don’t go away, they stay, they grow and every so often they break out and escape and then some kind of unexpected chaos ensues.
Chico liked his muscle cars, he owned a Camero, an 89 5.7, ex Indy pace car. Cool in blue and yellow and proud of it's racing heritage and history. It was hot. Donny had a 85 Mustang, V8 5.0 supercharged and blown, cherry red metal-flake and mean looking. It was no show pony, it was a thoroughbred. Here in the desert they'd find out which one was the fastest.
Today's bet was straight enough, no pink slips, no women, just $3000 each, cash. Jenny held the purse, in her purse. A big stack of hard earned tens and twenties, green and sweat stained. Working men's money, working girl's money. Jenny held the money in her hand deep in the purse. She squeezed the cash. She giggled, it was a sexy feeling, she squeezed some more. Money was dirty and sexy, she felt a tingle, here, there and here again. Money is so sweet, today was a good day, whatever the outcome there would be a celebration, some treats, some fun. In the distance she could hear the guys gunning their engines. That sound did nothing for her. Money did it all.
As far as she was concerned they were just stupid boys with irritating toys - but by the end of the afternoon somebody, one of them would have $6000 in cash. That made it interesting. So here they were, out on the desert road, a little over a mile of clear tarmac. The cars stood together, noses angrily pointed down the race route, their engines now still and their tyres cold. Jenny held the keys, the Camaro in her right hand, the Mustang in her left. She wasn't quite sure how it had come to this, some building, some bragging, some drinking and more bragging. Now they were out here scowling at each other as she held all that money. They discussed how it would be, nodded and shook hands.
She now stood 50 yards back from the cars and the start line. The boys stood by their cars. When she dropped the keys they'd run towards her, pick up the keys, run back to the vehicles and then race to that white junction stop line more than a full racing mile away. The guys leaned back on the rear bumpers of the cars, Jenny held both sets of keys up in the air. She held them for what seemed the longest ten seconds and then dropped them both into the dust. The drivers sprinted over and skidded at her feet grabbing for the precious keys. Donny missed them first time, there was a scramble. Chico was ahead as they turned and raced towards their machines.
Jenny watched as Chico then Donny opened up the doors and screwed themselves into their racing seats, but no belts, no nonsense. The Camero roared into life, a split second later the Mustang followed. The tyres were spinning, struggling for traction as they shot forward. Jenny narrowed her eyes to see through the exhaust fume storm, the cars skidding and moving away, launched like unguided missiles into the blue. For Jenny there was a sudden sense of being sucked into a vacuum, a swirling vortex of uncontrolled panic and excitement as the cars passed from, ten or fifteen seconds were gone in ten or fifteen seconds. Her mouth felt dry, scraped clean with anxiety and anticipation. She thought she'd best now follow on and congratulate the winner and hand over the cash. She picked up the precious purse, sat back in her car and started the Nissan's engine following on into the second hand dust trail.
The dust trail petered out and became suddenly smoky. Jenny prickled at the sight that met her. There was just all new fiery darkness and confusion. Like a lightening bolt. A jarring, unwelcome canvas of bright destruction. Jenny's jaw dropped at the scene of devastation that met her. The Mustang and the Camaro had transformed into balls of red fire, both embedded in the side of a semi-trailer that must have arrived at the junction when they did; the wrong place at the wrong time. She spun the wheel and swerved around this unfolding tragedy, slowing and stopping for a few seconds to stare. She rolled the window down and felt the strange heat of cooking vehicles and the buried drivers. Black smoke was rising and the broken metal seemed to be groaning in some eerie sub-human way. She opened the door and threw up, the shock and panic and futility stung her. She inched her car away, biting on her lip, swallowing, crying and staring more, now straight ahead, straight ahead down some other road away from here. She looked at the steering wheel centre and the time was lost on her. She tightened up and stopped the trembles, swore at the shakes, dipped the rear view mirror and drove on, away from this place. There was a final explosion, backwards and somewhere over her shoulder, she shrugged and accelerated. That sound did nothing for her. Money did it all.
Don’t ever ask me what it is I’m doing, sometimes I even amaze myself. I’m constantly surprised. Why it was just yesterday when I got myself into another one of those peculiar scrapes and muddles that time and time again I get caught up in. I was sitting there, in my lovely new black velvet dress with the tiny white lace collar and cuffs, at a table by a pavement café and I’ll be very honest and say that I was well and truly caught up in an innocent if slightly erotic daydream. A passing cloud of uncontrolled thought that for just a few seconds happened to alight upon my temple and get somehow into my brow and the cavity that‘s set aside for those secret little things. Well of course it was about the marvellous young Ronnie (I’m sure you’ve heard me speak of him from time to time). So there we were and there was I, utterly captivated in the imaginary moment, a moment that did seem very real to such was the stirring inside that it created. He has a wondrous touch, Ronnie. Anyway I was violently rocked from the calm sea of this idyll by the abrupt and quite unwelcome presence of Mr Frank Delaney. A sometimes rough and stupidly unpleasant (but very rich) businessman who I regularly discourage but who none the less seems to have very much of a soft spot for me. I often see him a parties and functions and he hovers, like a single balding, greying hot air balloon on the fringes of our company. He’s bearable in small doses I suppose and I can be pleasant if I want to.
“Sophie?” He began with his stupid question, as if I could ever be anybody else other than myself. I did not bother to answer his ridiculous question, I simple mouthed a “Hello Mr Delaney“. I allowed my tongue to roll a little on the ell of Delaney. I did this as a simple tease, for fun I suppose. He replied with a winning but for me annoying smile then promptly apologising for disturbing me but also asking if he might join me. I was still tasting lipstick from the tongue roll and still warming up from the imaginary presence of young Ronnie but I managed an automatic if stiff nod of approval with the minimum of head movement, I was eager to stay serene and graceful today. Mr Delaney sat down, groaned a little and allowed his legs to spring and splay a little as his posterior moulded into and with the shape of the metal café chair. He could lose a little weight, ten Pounds at least. It looked as if he had something serious to say to me.
At that moment a waiter came out and Mr Delaney nodded politely in my direction. “Champagne!” I trilled without hesitation and wiggled a pinkie. Mr Delaney said nothing but glanced down at his pocket watch. “Indeed!” he said to the waiter and trolled of the name of some famous French brand or other, “and a black coffee for me, thank you.” He was watching me across the menu and I began to play with my hair, curling a strand around my finger, round and round, back and forth as if he bored me. I lit a cigarette purposely not offering him one, which was very much the current fashion. I liked these new selfish and assertive fashions, the kind that it seemed only women of a certain type could get away with in any company.
“Sophie, it is very fortunate (for me) that I’ve happened to meet you today. I was rather thinking about you, in may I say the best of ways and the most favourable of settings and circumstances. You see Sophie I have something of a problem that I believe you may be able to help me with.” I tried to look politely uninterested and blew some smoke as a silent response and possible piece of useful vapid punctuation. “Sophie” (I could see he liked to say my name and obviously thought that the more he said it the more I’d somehow listen to him and possibly even agree or assent to whatever his proposal was), “I am not getting any younger, I’m comfortably well off and I was thinking about the future. They say that there may be war, they say that Europe is unstable, threats here and there, hot spots, disease and Bolsheviks and the markets are very unstable, I’m sure you read the newspapers or hear this from your father .” (Of course I do on both counts, stupid lump!). I was therefore considering taking some action that might as it were, bolster us (?) up in these times, consolidate our (?) positions and protect our (?) assets and those things that we (?) hold near and dear. I’m sure, Sophie, that you understand that, being the modern and experienced woman that you are.”
“As you know I have wide and varied business interests, I’ve always believed in spreading risk and I’m unafraid of change and new and innovative ways of working.” I tried not to yawn, it was an effort. Fortunately the Champagne arrived and I was delivered of a full and bubbling glass of the sweetest, pinkest variety. “Your health”, I offered as I sipped the first delicious mouthful. I caught Delaney’s eyes on my chest, on the gold heart shaped locket that was sitting there, moving and rising on my breathing flesh as my head tilted back slightly to finish the glass. It was a very pleasant drink after all and that one glass had both reminded me of and removed the stains that were my earlier thoughts of Ronnie. Ronnie with the golden Rolls Royce. The sun was in my eyes now, Delaney was talking but I was, in the moment marvellously light headed and vacant. Like a guilty Buddhist stealing nectar from the temple or so I thought, I allowed myself an inner giggle. He was looking at my legs now. The waiter poured another delightful glass and I felt myself smiling a little too broadly. Mother had always said a girl should never show her teeth in such circumstances and with an unattached man, I did miss her influence and advice, just now and then.
Mr Delaney was still talking… “So I have taken delivery of a large airship built by the highly reputable Graf Zeppelin company and I intend to use it to survey this unexplored region. I am therefore putting together a small team of specialists who will accompany me on this venture and I was wondering if you would care to join me acting as a co-host and translator. The team is multi national, to encourage sponsorship and your language skills as well as your bright and brilliant personality will be invaluable.” Having missed the first part of Delaney’s proposal I was, momentarily taken aback. My mother’s words came to me from somewhere inside, as a timely lifeline. “When in doubt, pout.” I pouted. The effect was immediate and instantaneous, like a distress flare or firework had gone off in Delaney‘s trousers. “My dear Sophie,” began Delaney, he was leaning into my personal space now. “ What I meant to say of course was that you would not simply be an employee or associate on this glorious and life changing expedition, you would also be...” He grabbed at my hand across the table and held it too tightly for comfort. I worried that he might crush the white lace cuff with all it’s fine detail but my hand was suddenly warm from being squeezed so painfully and it was all strangely pleasant. “You would, if you would agree, accompany me as my wife!” Immediately I just felt the strongest desire to rip off his white cotton shirt and whip his bare back with my best riding crop until it bled and he cried out for mercy or for more.
Well that was yesterday’s little muddle, now it’s today and I’ve just partaken of fresh marriage vows, more Champagne and signed the register as Mrs Sophie Alice Delaney newly of West Winds, New Hampton, Connecticut. I’m with my Frank right now dutifully standing beside him as the flight arrangements are finalised. It has been such a busy twenty four hours and I’ve hardly had a wink of sleep. The licence was of course rushed through but we had little choice in matters though Frank has quite a lot of influence in this town. Marriage and a long foreign trip with a bunch of delicious and strange people, it might not be such a bad thing. The airship is fully loaded and is now ready to leave at 9PM tonight. We pick up the rest of the team and crew in Zanzibar apparently. What else was a girl supposed to do? Of course it’s not quite the way that I imagined my wedding day but I have been married twice before. You could say that a little of the shine has gone from the ceremonials for me but I do still like to dress up and enjoy a glittering party or a Celtic wake. A good wedding and a good party, it’s all life or it’s all death. I float like a bright butterfly, somewhere in between and across that void. So what if I’ve also partied after funerals, I suppose you knew that? I certainly enjoyed the two that followed both of my late husbands’ funerals. Neither marriage lasted quite long enough but I hate to look back. You have to do something with the money don’t you? You can suppress the memories, bury them with the feelings, I’ve found that anyway, then the cash runs out. Life goes on and I do think it’s so unfair the way they label me and libel me in those gutter-press articles. Black Widow indeed.
Perhaps I should tell you a little more about the wedding. Well I’ll not bother to say much about the ceremony, there hardly was one and I was happy with that. We avoided religious or wormy and flowery words, we touched as little as possible and I managed to pick up a rather adorable solid gold pen that’s now at the bottom of my handbag. Frank actually looked rather smart, clearly he’d done some preparation and I did like his sharp grey suit, gold stick pins, black and white spats the red and white ribbon and the parrot feathers on his top hat. He looked distinguished and for me in that moment it was all almost appropriate. I took that as a compliment and for a few seconds felt warm. We did exchange rings and I lost that feeling, they were slightly disappointing, being forged from some priceless unworldly alloy that had been found in deposits on a Chinese meteorite. The same alloy had been incorporated into elements of the Zeppelin’s engines apparently. I think it tickled Frank, I’m a little harder to please.
The guests were all Frank’s choice, business people and those associated with the expedition. I was pleasant but ignored most of them and of course my family was conveniently out of town. The business people would go back to their atrocious bean counting and those on the expedition would no doubt end up stabbing and eating themselves. I chose my friends very carefully.
My outfit was, what can I say? Conservative and restrained. I knew I’d be in those papers and I knew they’d be some whiff of scandal or historical mish mash. So I dressed as if I was Anne Boleyn headed for the scaffold but in a modern way. I used greys and blues against all the colour chart’s advice and counsel. There were a few flashbulbs but no outbursts. I think Frank was relived when it was all over. We took a long black car to the airport and closed the doors in the airship hanger and enjoyed brightly coloured cocktails and canapés whilst a band played modern jazz (not to my taste) to our guests. It was almost pleasant. Once I’d secured my quarters and pissed all over my newly acquired space I was fine. Not long after that we were relatively silently launched into the night sky. All ballast adjusting waterworks and long issues of gas and vapour. Thankfully there were no fireworks or ostentatious celebrations.
On the ship
Yesterday had passed by too quickly and now I’m lying in bed in the owner’s suite on board the Zeppelin. A rather lavish little nest I’d decided to make my own, well for the duration of the trip anyhow. So of course I’m alone, there was no way that the boorish, pawing Frank was ever going to spend the whole night with me even after all the wining, dining and trip planning and exploration. No, no, just because we’re married I didn’t want him to think he owned me, neither in body or soul plus I was tired and deception, even in it’s simplest forms takes quite a bit of energy. I don’t know where he slept last night but it wasn’t going to be here. Of course he’d tried to get in but I slipped away, a speciality. I’d already had his baggage moved and as if he already fully understood my rules of engagement, he didn’t complain.
Reclining on a feather bed and flying at ten thousand feet is a new experience even for me. There’s a weird sensation of moving, the engines throb and hum of course and outside only dark clouds roll by. On the wall there are three German clocks, I’m unsure which one to believe, New York, Berlin or Tokyo? I decide to ignore them and to live and move in my own time and have a bath, just then the phone chirps. Frank’s at the other end, “Darling, I’m on the bridge, care to join me for morning coffee with the Captain?” I feel a sudden and intense rush of aloofness. “Darling, I look a fright, I’m just not used to this kind of travel. I need a little time to adjust. You do your business and I’ll join you and your good Captain for lunch, maybe.”
I’m sure there’s a maid somewhere I could call upon but I decide to run a bath myself. I deserve some peace and luxury. I’m pleasantly surprised by the bath, the water is piping hot, almost aromatic and even when filled up the bath water remains steady. Perhaps there are elaborate brass springs and mechanisms underneath that keep it stable, all tethered up to the steering gear. Maybe the Captain just happens to know what he’s doing and has a mature and steady hand. Maybe the weather up here is suddenly agreeable. I’ll wait and see. I’m already enjoying what I imagine to be an ocean crossing, I pour a brandy and lie back and think of…jewels. From the odd angle of the bath I regard the room. It’s opulent and overblown, all that’s missing is a monkey in a golden cage whose special talent is catch thrown grapes in his little fists. I’m glad that the designer omitted that piece of detail, perhaps the bath brought it all firmly up to the weight limit.
I imagine that lunch will be a tiresome affair, all introductions and manners. I decide that I’ll float today, I’ll dress to float and float politely through lunch and whatever happens next. I recall the chapter and footnote in my black book that refers to such social encounters. “New People in Confined Spaces”. Floating along and never quite landing is the best strategy and I do like to have a strategy and plan, even if my strategy and plan is to be spontaneous and impulsive (which may have been yesterdays’ taken to the limit).
The airship though large because of gas capacity is quite compact at a human level, all the accommodation gondolas neatly connected by shiny corrugated corridors and walkways. It doesn’t really take much time to get from A to B or from my state room to the dining room or the bridge. I’ve already decided I don’t like the bridge. The crewmen there are all German and though officers they have an aviation fuel smell, thin eyes, straight backs and armoured trousers. Their short hair seems coated in a hydrogen grime, a feature of too much time spent up in the air.
Frank welcomes me as I enter the dining room, “Darling!” The waiter adjusts my seat and I sit between Frank and the Captain. The Captain introduces himself properly (I saw him briefly last night before he disappeared back to the bridge), his name is Johan. Around the table there are a number of nodding and grinning heads, a rough mix of the crew and the exploration team. I make eye contact with each one, deliberately, holding their stare as long as I can, nodding if I approve, staying stock still if I don’t. Apart from two other ladies the party is male. The female combatants being xxxx the Irish governess type, she is in charge of education and development (as the project matures). Thin and severe looking but attractive. There’s not a scrap of slap on her, she’s in a huge brown dress that makes her look like a chestnut mare and she’s sporting a tightly buttoned up collar. Her hair is fancy, too fancy, it must have taken her half an hour this morning, I‘d like to pick each Kirby grip out with my teeth and spit them onto the floor in disdain and then make her pick them all up. Then there’s Ruth the duty Chemist or Pharmacist or something. She’s younger, clever looking and bubbly. Her complexion is fresh, natural but tired a little. Somebody’s been working her too hard. I can imagine myself taking great pleasure in strangling her at some point, she irritates. Luckily she dodges my eye contact quickly so I decide to spare her life for the time being. She may be useful if I need drugs I suppose. She’s close to the Doctor, I see that, he’s an older man with sprouting silver hair and a bad moustache. That ugly hair pours from every other part of his head and shoulders as if his hormones are out of control or his medication has been tampered with. She’s the prime suspect.
The others bore me already, they are just hungry mercenaries eating up our supplies and money. I decide to sit still and keep my thoughts to myself. I sip a little more fine Brandy and act delicate. I eat a little boiled white fish as if I was a mouse and listen to the Captain drone about his faithful engines and the vagaries of the weather at this height. Frank is all ears too, I’m not sure he knows much about anything here other than the basics. This just a Mississippi paddle steamer in the sky, a stereotypical gathering of odd souls and gamblers headed for adventure or disaster or in my case probably both and a little more.
Through the silk on my shoulder I feel a heavy hand, I hear a familiar voice. “Now then, I’m sure a little of that brave lasagna portion won’t hurt you will it?” I quiver a hidden quiver and stare straight ahead, right through the bright young pharmacist, she starts to look uneasy and drops her head noticeably into the doctor‘s lap. I recover my composure, “Ronnie, darling, I had no idea you’d joined our little expedition. Frank hardly said a word to me!” My elbow meets Frank’s ribs in a forceful manner that produces a cough and a spasm. I mouth, “Bastard!” He smiles and winks, his thumb rubbing the intricate silver carved top of his cane as he waves a napkin at nobody. Ronnie circles the room like a buzzard and chooses an empty seat beside the brown mass of the governess. He almost disappears behind the great Houses of Parliament dress. He then grins across at me and clicks his fingers to the waiter who approaches. Meanwhile I turn to my new husband, “Frank?” I lean in and give Frank my best and most manipulative smile. “Ronnie suggests the lasagna, will you try some?” Franks nods and asks the waiter to bring him a portion. “Of course,” I continue as Frank tucks in, “I’ve always considered eating lasagna to be a bit like sucking the spunk from the carpet tiles in an Italian whorehouse.” There will be times when I’ll ask myself where is it that I’m at and why is it that I am this way or that way. I ask honestly and diligently but I never ever give myself a straight answer.
I’ve had a comfortable if peculiar sexual relationship with Ronnie for some time. He knows everything about me. That’s rather awkward, particularly in these rather close and intimate circumstances where much could be gained or lost. Ronnie’s favour and money have of course been very welcome and extremely useful and I do like his strength and sense of criminal mischief. I did decide a while ago however that I could live completely well without him. I could make myself do that if I had to and that I would not require to use a great deal of language to describe that. I find that holding onto that feeling to be very important to me in a motive focusing way. I like to know what I need and what I can use and what, if necessary I could let go of. It was therefore no surprise to me later in the afternoon when after the Captain had called for a siesta time there was a knock upon my bedroom door. “Sophie!” Whispered an agitated Ronnie through the keyhole. “It’s me. Are you decent?”
Of course I’ve no intention whatsoever of being decent now or at anytime but despite that we sat on the bed like two children, our hands in our laps and he confided in me (so he said). His tale was a long one of impending financial ruin, the pressure to get away from heavy friends and the effect of some of my apparent if imagined magnetism. “Delaney has agreed to cut me in on the profits and I know that it may take time but I can wait, so I’m here. I’ve been pulled into your orbit, married lady that you are.” He seemed to find this hysterically funny, so much so I had to slap his face. He slapped me back and this time we both laughed. “Go on and have your siesta Mr Ronnie, I’ve got to fix my face, look at the red mark you’ve left me with! Old habits die hard.”
Pearls without swine
So now that Ronnie has scuttled away I'm free to explore this compact but Bijou stateroom that I find myself married and trapped in, though I admit that his departure and the slap has left me a little flushed and breathless. Sometimes I can be weak. I compose myself and see that nothing was unpacked last night, it's all there, my precious possessions, all erect and hanging like some stupid and faithful dog bound up by the leather and brass fastenings. I can't really be bothered to open in. Looking around I spot an innocuous closet door, a strange mix of aluminium aircraft work, rivets and wood finishes. It opens as if on rails to reveal a deep wardrobe occupied only by a single dark fur coat topped with a fur hat. Nice surprise, a present maybe? I recognise the pelts, Siberian Mink. The labels are faded and unreadable but the coat is fresh and pristine, brown, black and beautiful. Naturally I have to try it on but in this place and at this time it can only be in the St Petersburg style, naked from head to foot.
The coat is a warm dream and I'm enraptured by it's weight, it's feel and it's fit. Here's an outfit worthy of any parade on the deck of any fine ocean liner or coasting airship. I feel my promenade moment coming on. Of course it's a high risk strategy venturing out anywhere without the benefit of underclothes or foundation garments but I feel like living a little more dangerously today that err...even yesterday. Not to would be irritating and cowardly. Inspired I open up my belted belongings and rummage in the jewellery casket of my trunk and choose a pearl necklace and pearl drop earrings, that's the underwear sorted. Then it's the faithful black lace up boots and the fur hat to top off the ensemble. Now I'm ready to meet the world at however many thousand feet or inches we are currently sitting at. In seconds I'm out tottering on the metal walkway, the heels are proving awkward, the waves far below signal back through the weld-mesh. It turns out to be about five thousand feet below, I discover this as I enter the bridge and quiz the Captain. He seems grumpy but manages a smile and gives me the information. Then I swish away and it's out into the sharply cold evening across the walkway to the Saloon Gondola. All the main airship areas are connected by open or covered walkways. In this outfit I choose to navigate by the open areas and so prepare to enjoy the rare air and the reduction in temperature.
The fur coat acts as a marvellous insulation device leaving me only feeling a slight and sensuously delicious chill in a very few nether regions and extremities, I enjoy the warmth of the fur and the bitter and twisted touch of the evening cold as my sharp and illicit contrasts. Like the warmth of alcohol and the chill of opium, like a the touch of a hot hand and the rubbing of a cold foot, like a warm Siamese massage or a dip into an icy lake in Finland. Contrasting sensations and the conflicted feelings they generate are like a charge of white bright electricity to my soul. Out here, leaning on the frozen rail, allowing the coat to open and close slightly, sharing only with myself the sudden exposure to the cold and then the shelter from it is a dream of rare pleasure. At times like this I only need me, myself and no one or nothing else. I look across the grey horizon, I try to mask the drone of the engines, I see seabirds circle below, I watch my breath cloud up and disappear behind me, I pull my hat down a little tighter to cover my ears, I feel the stored up cold of the pearls against my skin and I sense my own eyes to be on fire with something deep and critical fuelling them from within. I feel beautiful.
I'm lost in these moments, looking down at myself and out across the Ocean Atlantico, the deepest and most treacherous of oceans, storms and islands, sandbanks and seaweed choked seas, all clamour below for attention in the greying day as the sun disappears far away across some vague western location. Perhaps this is the peace that passes all understanding. The foul and incendiary mix of the sensuous and the spiritual that would inflame and enrage any priest or man of god and principle were I to share it and he'd provide that unspoken accusation that would have him call me a witch or a whore and want to cast me and my kind out. He would, he could, then I'd unbutton this fine dark coat so slowly, finger by button by finger, flicking it open like the slow curtain of a theatre stage show and then his ideas would change and solidify. So like a serpent I shed my skin, layer by layer and then consume my shallow prey.
So I'm in promenade mode but standing quite still, like a Parisian statue, a figurehead of a great fighting ship from the past, crossing and ocean with my heart of ice and my great soul of burning, stolen gold. I can't help but giggle sometimes, crazy ideas. Here comes a crewman, I meet his eyes. “Ma'am, good evening!” He tips his cap and I watch his eyes drop as for a split second I allow my coat to open and close, as if by some remote control or mind trick. My face stays expressionless like a china doll's in a shop window. He marches past and I sense his discomfort, unease, humiliation and of course his rough arousal. Well that's enough of that. I breathe out and head for the Saloon.
A waiter opens the door before I have the chance to touch the finely crafted knob. My hand brushes his, he's a gay flirt I think. One for later. Frank is there at the teak and ebony bar like some seagoing and overage cowboy. He lights up as he sees me enter and takes a sip of his whisky, raising his glass in my direction. “My darling new wife, what is your pleasure?” Naturally I give him my best smile. “Ma'am, may I take your coat ?” Says the sycophantic waiter. “My good man, I would like nothing better but I'm afraid that in the short time I've worn it I have become very attached to this garment and I am choosing to keep it on as I'm finding it a little chilly in here tonight but thank you for your kind offer.” I sit down at a table, very slowly and carefully. I feel a roomful of eyes on me (not unusual) and Frank crosses and joins me, curiously he doesn't mention the fur coat but as ever his eyes descend to the pearls and beyond. The waiter brings me a whisky in a crystal glass, golden and as warm as the urine of a prize mare. Frank is smiling and I can see by the glint behind his monocle is bursting to tell me something. With a flourish I pull out my right index finger as if it was a fine Italian Stiletto Dagger ready to murder, the sharp red nail tip glinting in the chandelier light and I push it to his lips just as they are about to form a word. “Frank, don't say a thing, don't dare, don't spoil this wonderful moment.” I down the whisky with an inelegant and masculine gulp and place the glass in front of him, a smear of lipstick across the edge. Then I rise, allow a grin to flash across my face and without a further word return to the stillness of the walkway and my own far more important thoughts.
Next morning: I'm woken up at 07:30 sharp by the ship's messaging intercom. There is a speaker set up in each cabin's ceiling. The Captain is barking, “Ladies and Gentlemen, today we will make temporary landfall in order to collect some fresh provisions. We shall alight upon a Sargasso sandbank for approximately two hours and you are very welcome to join us in the experience. We anticipate our arrival there at 10:00.” I'd heard of the sandbanks, how they came and went, appeared and disappeared and hosted peculiar wildlife, fish and birds found nowhere else. Some also said that wild and uncivilised itinerant tribes wandered the sandbanks, hunting and living there, trapped but sustained halfway between land and sea, always moving, hiding and scavenging on the very edge of the world.
I can't be bothered with breakfast and I can't get back to sleep so I laze around and try to collect my thoughts. This expedition isn't something I've taken very seriously so far, I thought it was all a show, a publicity stunt, a way for Frank to increase his profile and way for the airships to promote themselves as safer thanks to the various improvements they've made to them so encouraging tourists and travellers to explore. Perhaps all the experts and scientists aboard are actually here for a real reason, perhaps their mission is to discover new land and riches...maybe even starting here on these sandbanks.
My head is swimming a little with the possibilities and I'm conflicted but I eventually get up and dress. I'm styling myself very practically considering the descent to the sandbanks and whatever unknowns that may follow. An over attentive steward or waiter or whatever you call them on a Zeppelin brings me coffee and I add a tot of whisky as an early morning warmer. He also places a dish of croissants filled with mile-feuille cream on the table. This has the makings of a good start to the day. I also consider the possibility that some mind reading is being carried out from the galley. Then at 09:59 I'm up and out on the gondola walkway looking down at our location, a few hundred feet and descending onto a large patch of brown and yellow stripped sand in the middle of a dark blue body of water. I expect the Captain to provide some kind of running commentary over the speaker system but he remains silent, I guess the manoeuvre over the sandbank may well be quite tricky and his full concentration is required.
Airship design has come on a long way, mainly thanks to wartime development. Now made buoyant by a combination of synthetic hydrogen and extra light helium the gas is a little more safe and less flammable. We are also able to generate gas on board whilst in the air due some secret process that only Zeppelin have. I suspect Frank may have made some investment in this innovation. (Our first safety brief did of course remind all passengers to respect the possibility of these still volatile gases causing unplanned events, we were also assured that the gas compartments were sealed from one another and that fire and safety systems were the best in the business. The airship also carried a six seater aeroplane that could be used as a lifeboat or refuge should a mid-air disaster occur). Of course I prefer not to dwell on these things, I simply want enjoy the view and any pleasant pieces of over indulgence or opportunity that may come my way. Oh, I just remembered I'm married to Frank.
Below on one of the working gondolas the crew are busy with ropes and rope ladders and anchors. I'm surprised by the speed of the descent but it all seems to be controlled even though there is a lot of shouting going on and I hear animated conversations in German taking place across their own radio systems. I estimate we are at about one hundred feet when along comes Frank to join me in leaning out over the rail. “Still keeping yourself to yourself or are you allowing the occasional little piece of penetration to occur?” I laugh at Frank's opener and tease him a little about his drinking and his socialising with his German friends and team members. He laughs also. “Are you going to explore the sandbank?” I'm putting on a glazed and vacant look and dropping my lower lip. “Strange and unique little places, I'll be taking a stroll. You should join me. Make sure you wear sensible footwear.” I'm already well ahead and despite my playful demeanour quite keen to take a walk on these shifting, floating sands. I find them intriguing and even romantic, coming and going amongst the waves, uncharted and lost to the outside world.
The ship settles about twenty feet above the sand. Four anchors are pinned diagonally out from the hull tethering us against the west winds. Now that we are stationary the winds are much more apparent. I see the crew men fighting with their motorised winches to keep the anchor ropes taught. Sometimes just staying still requires and enormous effort. Then the speakers crackle. “We have arrived ladies and gentlemen. The crew will now disembark and collect fresh provisions. Any passengers who wish to alight and walk across the sands should now go to the administration gondola.” Frank and I are walking down the steps and across the aluminium decks. He takes a hold of my hand and I don't resist. We can play whatever game needs to be played.
About ten passengers take up the offer and one by one, quite gingerly, we climb down the rope ladders and stand below the bulk of the airship on the damp sands. Looking up and around is a strange experience. In the blue sky only the great grey hulk complete with it's black Iron Cross on the hull and the tailplane above us. All around a wispy horizon surrounds our sandy island. I can't quite figure the size, it moves and disappears in all directions until it meets the sea at some indistinct point. Soon small pockets of curious people and workers are scattered across the alien surface.
I notice that some crew men are carrying rifles, others carry spades and sacks. “Frank, what are these fresh provisions we're taking on?” Frank laughs and enjoys having the upper hand. “They'll be digging for Landyfish, a rare delicacy. The rifles are there just incase the natives get restless. Don't you wander too far away.” I feel a bit uneasy but stoop to pick up a handful of sand. Below the compacted top crust it's saturated and muddy. “Ugh!” “Perfect for the fish, the Landyfish,” snorts Frank.
Two crewman are digging in the sand, there's a sudden flurry of activity, they shout in excited German, they've caught something. Quite a lot of something. They are shovelling the silver creatures into the sack, all wriggles and flashes. I move closer but I already feel uncomfortable at this spectacle. Then I see one of the Ukrainian crewman grab a fish, put it to his mouth and bite into it's fleshy middle, his face a mess of blood and fish scales. The fish is still alive and pulsating, silver and bright. He laughs a primitive laugh and spits something out , his colleague does the same thing. “For God's sake!” I scream. Frank grabs me. “Don't be surprised, these are Landyfish they are catching and err...consuming. A fish that survives both in the water and on the land, well buried in the wet sand anyway. It's a peculiar and useful animal in many ways. They say it has special properties, particularly if eaten alive. It's rich in unique oils and other mysterious substances. Many believe it can prolong life and prevent or cure illness, cancer even. It is just that fresh provision the Captain mentioned. We'll be dining in a highly healthy if unconventional manner tonight.” I make a face and he just smirks.
I'm not liking the proposition that eating these fish alive and still squirming can somehow be a such good thing and the secret of a healthy life. Then I think of all the no pain no gain propaganda I've suffered. It may take a substantial amount of alcohol to get me to participate in this feast. Over my shoulder I become aware of more of the crew digging up and catching the fish, they are also consuming them on the spot. The boson snaps a few more orders across their bows and they get back to digging. I'm forgetting the tidal nature of our location and that soon this area will again be covered in salt water.
Next thing I hear is the crack of a rifle, the cry goes up, “Pirat! Pirat!” from the crew. I see a small sail boat about five hundred yards away beaching, puffs of gun smoke and flashes are visible. We all rush back to the ship, we quickly pass the crew men carrying the precious fish as they form a circle and fire back at our unwelcome hosts. I climb the ladder clumsily, in panic, it's some time since I had to react under fire and I feel a weakness in my knees. I also have a sense of the airship moving upwards as the Captain takes action to climb. Below the men are starting climb now, the fish bags are hooked onto a winch rope and in a few blurry second we are all back on board.
Then I hear the crisp hammering of a machine gun. I'm surprised to see that the ship has a forward gun turret and it's now spraying the sands and the skiff with hot bullets. Little fountains and explosions of sand spring up across the surface arcing towards the wooden sail boat. The fire is returned for a few seconds and then it all goes quiet. By now we are climbing out of range, the sandbar people seem unhurt and are waving rifles at us. They may well be primitive sea gypsies but somehow they have been armed and obviously hostile towards visitors.
On deck the Captain is grinning broadly, he's happy with the catch and he's happy he's had the opportunity to operate his gun turret even if only in some kind of angry colonial gesture. A tray of brandies arrive for the passengers, I sit still on a wooden bench, knees tight together and in an uncharacteristic manner sip on the calming drink and try to steady my own nerves. Nobody is saying very much except the Captain who is explaining his rate of fire to one of the scientists. Perhaps I'm not as tough as I thought. The shock of those fishing images and the experience of being fired upon have shaken me and I don't like acknowledging that. I begin to wonder what else may be ahead for us.
Below the sandbank now slowly shrinks under passing wisps of cotton cloud as we ascend once more, the pirates appear to be unscathed by our random gunfire and are back on the water. I hear the Captain say we're headed for five thousand feet, at that height it's either the full fur coat experience or the warmth of inside a gondola.
As it's lunchtime the team have gathered in the main saloon for a brief and for a buffet. I've decided to join them for once, if only to check them all out again and to reassure myself that there are a few steady types there that I might befriend and perhaps even have to rely upon should things take an unexpected twist. They are clearly all professional types, scientists, doctors and engineers. The two ladies form the tip of the arrowhead of excellence, they both ignore me as they remain in their apparently animated and over processed conversations. This morning's fishing trip has caught a few imaginations and the fish themselves are the main topic of conversation. I can overhear a lot of evolutionary theory and an obvious desire for some kind of rapid bloody dissection and investigation. It's as if the poor fish had committed some awful crime and now must pay for it with mutilation, dead preservation and minute photographic humiliation pinned to a board or displayed under glass. I think about it a little more, the process could be made to sound attractive, I just can't quite make my mind up as to whether I'd prefer to be the victim or the faceless but worthy professor wielding the surgical instruments. It's odd when science and sexuality come together in this kind of setting, strange bedfellows they are indeed. Perhaps I'd settle for being the professor's wide eyed and adoring muse, that is until I'd murdered him and stolen his patents. Anyway, as I'm not one of the elite on board nobody seems too anxious to make my acquaintance or discuss anything other than the buffet. Bah!
Let me tell you what I'm thinking. I'm the official translator on the team but clearly there's no work for me. My time will come once we're East of Zanzibar and surrounded by the fuzzy wuzzies or Dutch explorers, Christian missionaries or pygmy hippo people. The brief covers this phase in a little more detail. I have time to share the odd tipple, explore the ship a little more plunder some cargo perhaps and lay man traps here and there. We have at least five more days and nights in the air and weather and atmospheric conditions permitting some interesting stops. Certainly one in the Portuguese Azores, then Marrakesh, then across the great plains of Africa and then onwards to Zanzibar. There we'll enhance the team, some new members will join or be refreshed, the it's out across the Indian Ocean and onto our ultimate destination, a place that so far remains a secret known only to Frank, the Doctor and the Captain. I feel this kind of secrecy is a bit like some kind of small boys, boys club trick. They are revelling in their little big plan and their plots and pipe dreams. None of us can be fully trusted with locations or details but we will willingly chase along in support of this dream. Frank still uses the “jewel” word on me from time to time, I let it light my eyes up for him when he mentions it, it's important he knows I'm carrying on with the motivation.
The brief talks a lot about scientific opportunities, unique research, anthropology and ground breaking bits of err...ground breaking. There is a surprising amount of contribution from the floor. Slowly I built up a picture of the players and the protagonists. Let me pick them off for you.
The Doctor is German, Hans Schimmer, he's a medical doctor, maybe in his late fifties with a lot of tropical disease experience, he has a broad remit, he's looking for cures, he's looking for drugs, he's intrigued with all those Landyfish that are currently sloshing in wooden barrels of salt water in the galley. His past is as grey as his mouser and nobody tries to question him. He sports an awful grey and white moustache that I find repulsive, his eyebrows are equally wild, I try not to check his accompanying nasal hair, ugh! He has big stupid hands and a silver pocket watch and chain to match his silver hip flask. He takes occasional sips. I imagine steel syringes in his pockets, phials and specimens in his waste-coat, bitten pencils and dog eared notebooks in his jacket insides. I wonder about his war record and rusty Iron Crosses.
Ruth is British, the chemist, younger and on the cusp of being attractive with a possible glamour puss option – she needs a little help there. She watches Doctor Hans, taking cues, supporting, listening and nodding in the right places, clearing her throat as if about to add to the debate but not quite making it. I like that, I like her eager, slightly witless compliance, I see it more, she's a willing mare and natural assistant, presumably for the right amount of money. I'll milk her pure and sweet urine one of these days, when she least expects. I try to imagine the pitch of her scream, a high soprano or something lower, mixed with sighs and moans. I'll put her to one side for the moment.
Then there's the American engineer, a middle aged tweedy coloured man called John Fordson from Minnesota . He has an engineer's black and oily beard, heavy spectacles and traces of grime in his fingernails and skin. He finds it hard to concentrate on the brief, he's taking the airship in, all of the time, constantly twitching, to the point of exhaustion. His brain has opened up as if a part of the ship's systems, he's tuned in and monitoring sounds, temperatures and vibrations. He's tethered to the whole thing by some invisible umbilical cord; that makes thinking awkward for him. The flying experience is now akin to some huge sensory overload. I see the beads of perspiration form on his forehead, it's as if his willpower is keeping us in the air as by assumed proxy he carries this load of hydrogen, helium and mixed alloys across the sea, his brain is fighting the elements. I think his problem his that he doesn't trust the Germans and he's read a little too much of airship mythology's bad news, he's crunching numbers at far too fast a pace. He needs a proper breakdown to free his talents up and for somebody in an position of authority to tell him that masturbation is actually all right. Maybe that’s my job, just to illustrate some basic things with the use of valves and hot wet engines and the constructive release of steam and pent up energy. He's in a bad way and he will founder sooner or later. I'll put him on my list, for his own good.
John Fordson also has an assistant, Jack Rodgers, a tall red haired hick of a straw haired student who looks to have come from some badly inbred Mid-Western origin, at least by his dental and chin constructions. He stays quiet, he is serious, he is learning, he may come good in a crisis. Anyway he's far too young, clumsy and academic to bother me. I will however befriend him at some point and will lend him some of my life experience. If we're ever stuck in a corner his physical strength will be useful. In the right pair of deep blue and starched dungarees he'd be...interesting.
(to be continued...as are most things in life).