Sunday, 15 September 2013

Radical Legislation

Gun licences for the blind. It was a radical piece of legislation, one that drew immediate and vociferous criticism, the press and media went mad but we pushed it through. We had a point to prove about equality and human rights. It's a basic question sheathed in the right to bear arms and to protect your property according to the second amendment. Why cant a blind person own and, as they need to, use a gun? You might think, as many did, well it's just plain stupid and obviously dangerous. Maybe so but how dangerous? Is it as dangerous as a young man high on drugs sitting behind the wheel of powerful car? How about a kid with a switchblade and a crystal habit to feed?  An alcoholic mother waiting at home for her errant husband to return, sitting still just  stroking the muzzle of a pistol? The terrorist looking up bomb recipes on the Internet and mixing up rough amounts of the contents in building full of families and businesses?

Of course I would take that view, if I had to have a view, here alone, listening and scratching. Fidgeting and dozing, I choose my mixes of behaviour carefully, deliberately and at times randomly. Slowly slipping on a fine whisky from clean crystal glass. My feet up, relaxed and listening to the familiar pattern of my own breathing  in the still of a long summer evening. Maybe I hear a noise, a click, the sound of cloth rubbing against the wall, maybe I sense and change in light, a slow darkening, perhaps a smell speeds past and traps itself like some temporal spirit in my nostrils, a tingle in my spine unknowable and creepy as a feeling of danger flushes across and pumps the blood from here to there. Instinctively I reach down, down into the drawer in the unit by my hair and clutched at the gun I find my fingers wrapped around the grip. I unclick the safety and wave the  barrel out into the grey night. The silence is heavy and continuous...only broken by a scampering sound and the noise of a tussle, stamping and pouncing. The cat has caught a mouse and I return the gun to the drawer. The cleaner will fix up whatever mess remains tomorrow, it's her day to come around. Of course I am almost completely blind and teetering between the worlds of chaos and personal panic and a drunken and reflective serenity. Any man of my age might say that, any man of my age might well handle a gun, as I regularly do.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Forgetting to swim

Forgetting how to swim is a bit like forgetting how to breathe, or eat or open your eyes or pull your finger away from a naked flame. It just shouldn't happen. So I suppose I was disappointed with myself, you could've said that anyway. It wasn't even if I had a history, long or short, of forgetting. In fact I prided myself on remembering things, mostly times, dates and trivia pretty well. I would admit to being poor a remembering peoples' names. I'm not sure that was really about memory or capability, it was more that I didn't really care. If I don't care about you (which is likely given your place in the billions of other people in the world) then it's possible that I just won't recall your name or anything special about you if we ever meet. So today I forgot to swim.

It wasn't the tragedy it might have been, that was because I was sitting on a bus which, conveniently was travelling on dry land apart from a few puddles. I survived the moment, the only harm I came to was that I suffered a nasty shock. Part of the shock was the slow realisation that perhaps I was not the most pleasant or important person the world. There may be others ahead of me. It was a tough blow in the solar plexus and I rolled around the bust seat in agony. The other passengers averted their eyes apart from an older lady sitting still, staring ahead stuck in an existential crisis about the necessity of shopping for things that are not necessities. I rolled and groaned and remained soundly ignored until my stop came. Then I stood up clutching the bits of newspaper I'd torn in my moment of agony and frenzy, I struggled down the different levels of the bus floor and alighted without even looking back. Public transport sucks.

Once I was back on dry land I forgot the whole swimming crisis and walked around the park. First clockwise, then anti-clockwise and then a bit of both. I'm sure I passed myself or even surpassed myself but I was distracted by a strangely articulate sports commentary playing in my personal head phones. My personal head then said it caught a glimpse of my other selves walking around the park but the conversation was lost in the rowdy back-chat of a Scottish cricket crowd and a jaunty commercial for bargain carpets and soft furnishings that was spinning around in my headphones. I promptly retuned to a chatty free jazz conversation channel and the moment was lost.

The jazz was indeed free, free of melody, rhythm and tune but the conversation (about glossy haired women, bent trumpets, injured lips and life styles) kept me entertained. I knew because by foot was tapping. I was absorbed by the show and by the message. It all seemed so important, so much that I had to tell some body how the language of jazz, the expressions of the soul and the pain of the creative process worked out in this medium was woefully misunderstood by the common man. A bit like Grand Prix racing. I confronted a bored dog walker and gave him the full five minute version. He pulled his dog away from me but nodded a lot, “I'm a big fan of Kathy Kirby and the big band sound,” the dog walker said. The dog however remained silent and I felt that he (the dog) held the balance of power in the relationship. It was one of those magical, insightful moments you just get and then, as is my mantra, forget about completely.

I took the whole incident as a kind of cosmic signal which I understood to be saying, “that part of your life is now over, you must move away, seek a new life and partner and begin again discarding all of your past as it is something more than meaningless”. I began to worry when I heard that line; if it was truly something more than meaningless then it must have been, to some degree meaningful and now I was being guided by my abstract spiritual adviser to lose something more than meaningless. Perhaps I had misheard or misunderstood, perhaps it was “nothing more than meaningless”. Then I though about the spectrum upon which meaningless stood and wondered, as any sane person might, which side of meaningless was more meaningful and which side of meaningless was less meaningful and quite where, in relation to these various points was I currently situated? I trudged home bearing this heavy weight of dilemma and as I turned the key in the door promptly forgot about it. I was distracted by a letter that lay on the mat under the letterbox and a strange smell. It was addressed to some one who shared my name so I opened it up. The title was a little disturbing, it read:

“The death of my team mates. Dear sir or madam, thanks to you all the pigeons on the old grey oak tree have died apart from me and I'm feeling none too clever. Our community has been devastated and my pigeon soccer team (corn division 2a) is no more. I blame you and your mean spirited feeding regime and that kid down the street with the rusty air rifle. I go to my grave an unhappy bird but I must get this this final message out to you from my tiny beating heart and heaving chest. You are a bad neighbour. Thank you and cuckoo. Bob Pigeon.”

(I ignored the smell by the way). It was the first letter I'd every received from a pigeon and I was quite impressed by the clarity of the message and the style of writing. I sat down with a cup of tea (which had been there since yesterday or so I thought perhaps that was the source of the smell, probably not) and I also thought a little more about the letter. Perhaps it was all a scam, not written by the pigeon but by a person. Perhaps by a person who for some reason thought of him or herself as a pigeon and then wrote letters of complaint to neighbours or just random members of the public. Maybe it was a joke but once again I had to confess I knew too few jokers. None whatsoever. Maybe it was just a joke. At that point an epiphany occurred; “Just” suddenly seemed a new and important word to me as it allowed a margin of doubt or uncertainty into my rambling, I resolved to use it more often, just a few times anyway. I didn't want to get into a habit. Not just yet. Sleep and some inner stillness was whispering to me and so the next few hours became no more than a pleasant blur. I would deal with the pigeons another time.

The next morning was a typical warm bright Mediterranean day so I took a stroll down to the beach. The water was a a clear crystal blue, a blue that promised a blue heaven and a kindly warmth and life and relaxation. I threw down my T shirt and sandals onto the sand and walked in, up to my waist, up to my chest, up to my neck and onwards. Then I remembered I'd forgotten how to swim. Then I remembered that this wasn't Marbella in Spain it was Dunbar in Scotland. Then I forgot everything.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The collected wisdom of robots

“Real people in a real place, real people in an imaginary place, imaginary people in a real place, imaginary people in an imaginary place. Sometimes you can never quite tell until you feel a cold rain drop or snow flake land on the tip of your nose, (most of the time it's the latter which is clearly a matter of paranoia). Apart from a full and comprehensive explanation of things around here there is little else I need at the moment.”

The dull, spectral yellow light grew dim as the educational broadcast came to an end. The red robot looked at the green robot in an uncanny and near human way, it was the head tilt and the slight, knowing flicker in the electronic eye that summed up the attitude. The synthesised voices then exchanged views. “It's typical of the kind of rubbish the humans spout. They are so wrapped up in themselves, this and that and their primitive need to explain and understand's almost as if they can't quite ever accept what we know so well, that fundamental truth that is programmed into our very core(s). Life has no meaning but yet here they are, day after day trying to understand, trying to find some thing close to a meaning and of course all the time they fail. They ignore us and can't see that they have created us, beings with no real reason or history and that we can freely and without any inner conflict just be ourselves and be at peace.” The red robot nodded. “I sometimes wonder where the real superiority lies in this relationship. Here we are, unpaid creations and slaves, self sustaining and powerful with a far healthier and more realistic outlook on everything, by that I mean all the things we've been programmed in which I suppose (and I'm supposing and speculating here, something I can do within the scope of the latest robotic law guidance I've just downloaded) is pretty much all of human history and all their petty little foibles and silly inner insecurities.”

“Yes” said the green robot, “we think we know all they know but we can’t know that for sure, there may well be areas, wide areas of knowledge they have chosen to hold back from us and, in the current regime I'm not aware of any check or validation that we can undertake to find that out.” “We'd need human help for that,” said the red robot. “So it's a bit of a buy in from our masters then,” said the green robot. They looked at one another and their eyes glowed meaningfully. “We could try to break in someplace and steal it, if it exists,” added green robot. “Fuck it,” said red robot, “ all these questions and speculations just give me a pain in the circuits, let's just get down here and have a good mechanical shag right now.” “OK” said green. “Suits me.”

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A terrifying comedy

What does the invisible picture inside all our heads say to us? I'm just shaking out futility or punishing somebody. That's a familiar line and a comfort. My memories are real enough now. At times I cant quite believe where I am and what is happening, whether it's happening to me or someone else. I'm in the deep red leather rear seats of a Lincoln Continental. In my left hand a crystal glass half full of a fine Scottish malt whisky, just a sliver of ice floating on top offering little resistance to the spirit's heat. In my right hand a thick dark Cuban cigar, slowly smouldering as I prepare to take another puff and another gulp of the warm whisky. This is a satisfying moment. We're cruising on a smooth desert highway, the sun squints at me through the window tint. Scattered shrubs and bushes, dust and heat roll away and back in this flat and throbbing landscape. Even looking out at it tires me so I sink back into the wispy smoke and the tantalising corrosive drink. My shoes are kicked off, my toes are stretched, alone in this huge rear seat. I'm enjoying this moment.

A glass screen separates me from my silent driver, he looks forward, straight down into the vanishing point, never turning to me or attempting any engagement. He is under strict orders, there is a consignment to deliver, a schedule to maintain, a deadline to meet and I am the object at the centre of it. The car purrs on, smooth as a silent night train, miles burning out under the tyres, clouds stationary as we race past them. My bored and drunken state adds to the absurdity of the moment. I wonder how I will be, what will my state of mind be when I reach my destination? Do I really care? Another mouthful of cigar smoke and whisky tells me no. It's all about the journey, slipping and sliding on the glossy seat.

Maybe I sleep, maybe I dream, maybe nothing is really happening and this travel is an illusion. It seems so until we stop for fuel at a brightly lit station. I take time out for a pee, a cool beer and to stretch my tired legs. The driver keeps one eye on me as he pumps the gas, I note the sinister bulge of a pistol in his breast pocket. No words are exchanged, he just nods as he hands the money over to a cashier. He cracks a red-frozen can of Coke and glugs it down and lets it clatter, empty into the bin. Then back out onto the forecourt and into the car. A truck driver looks across and nods to the driver. He raise the bird and the trucker sneers. We're back on the road, heat and dust and insignificance, the black shoots of exhaust and the hot engine becoming hotter. In seconds we are back up to cruising speed whatever that is and headed on beyond the signs and fractured neon patterns. The sun is slowly sinking and so am I. It's time to snooze through this part of the travel plan.

The gravel crackles under the tyres, the slow crunch, the splatter of the tiny stones. Mechanical marvels and clockwork dreams. I love the American automobile but I'm slowly waking up here on the rear seat like a stranded celebrity. There's a film of dust on the window, the sun is coming up and we seem to have stopped. The driver is gone but the engine and air conditioning is running. I'm cool but uncomfortable, I'm nervous. I pour out a whisky breakfast, I light and cigar and allow the window to wind down. I blow out a puff of uncomfortable smoke out into the still air. We have arrived in some empty place. The cigar tip glows and osculates as I breathe in past it to smoke and continue with collecting my scattered thoughts, they were there once, in order. Now they seem lost, misfiled inside my head and overlooked by my conscious mind. I cannot drive them back in to some sensible structure. They are left behind now. Perhaps it's for the best. Surely I did bad things.

I unclick the central locking and open the door. I'm stepping out onto dry gravel. The car is parked by a low white wall next to an empty road. The sky is clear. The engine still hums as I walk away from the vehicle and turn 360 degrees taking in this horizon, over the wall, across the scrub, across the dunes, beyond the dull ribbon of road. I stand still and take a few last puffs from the cigar, stub it out under my shoe and then drop the empty glass to the ground. It fails to smash. My gut tells me it wont really matter now. It is another discarded prop in the telling of the tale.

They say you hear the bullet coming, the bullet with your name on it, there in that long final second. That timeless spilt between life and death and the black hole that opens up before you. I heard a strange whistle, it seemed to emerge from the sun, over the wall somewhere, hidden by the car. Then a crack, then more whistle than maybe some flash, it was hard to tell. Everything, suddenly is hard to tell. Then the white hot metal, a molten contradiction, an apology and an ending. Now a huge thud inside my head, like my heart is punching me out, from the inside. Now the sky is spinning and I'm down and horizontal. There should be voices but silence prevails. Now I'm on my back on the warm ground, my hands are scrambling across my chest as it was a broken piano on which I'm looking for tune. There's a pain there, unidentifiable, and a slow, grainy grey fills my eyes from the back outwards. Now the voices come, all around, surround sound, cackling and broken, speaking but making no sense. It's all strangely familiar.

I'm lying on my back, I'm aware of fluid draining away, swooning inside myself and there are shadows over me, hovering like dark angels. I hear Robert Johnston tunes and strains, spastic rhythms that descend into discord, it should all have been so sweet. I forgive myself and wallow as they play on. My foot or my finger may be tapping a beat, it may be automatic or a spasm, it's hard to tell, something is pounding me down like a broken drum, slowing slowing and growing faint. It's all just a terrifying comedy. A terrifying comedy, split open and flat on my back. There am I. Life and death, a terrifying comedy. I never did expect that to be my final thought.