Was this a party?

 Posted by at 3:32 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Feb 252011

Did you say phosphorus? Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, I was distracted by the heat. You must be in love, she says, laughing. I’ve no idea who she is, never seen her before, but I catch a glimpse of teeth and eyes generating more energy than New York City high on the usual mayhem of questionable substances. No, I don’t think so, I say, my guess is that some joker has set fire to my undergarments or I suppose it could be fire ants disturbed by my resting on their nest. Besides, the last time I saw Eros he was stuck in the middle of a roundabout, somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, chained, castrated and blinded – poisoned by pornography – no chance of one of his arrows hitting this human heart anytime soon.

    Now you, I say to her, because my some accident, some random circulation of the packed streets, she is still next to me, or maybe we were separated and have been pushed, by some sort of weird action of what some people call fate, back together – not that I would want that together word to be over-interpreted –  now you, I pushed as much meaning as possible into that you, you surely are in love, you are . . . but she’s whirled away as the beat of the drums and the heat increase. I have to admit to some moments of darkness that intervene at this point and the next thing I know is that I’m sitting on or more like lying on a horse, the wrong way round – what I mean is I’m facing the wrong way, the rear end, of said horse. A brown horse as far as I remember, though I do believe the mane was a paler, straw colour. Anyway, so here I am, my back resting along the neck of the animal and I’m chatting away and as far as I’m concerned he (or she, as the case may be) understands me perfectly but does not respond with any words of its own.

    I don’t know about undercover agents. It all feels too exposed, like there are people here who know way more than I do, though I did manage to borrow a trench coat from this fella who happened to have two, one draped around his shoulders, the other over his arm.

    My brother, he addresses me, you need this more than I do, and grinning reveals his rotten teeth and his breath makes me weak at the knees. The name Cain comes to mind but I push it to one side, reasoning that he is right, I need it more than he does.



 Posted by at 6:49 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Feb 232011

True, but not right: About our exclusion from the settlement, or, for that matter, the non-arrival of our invitations to join the “do” at Westminster Abbey this coming April, those thugs as you call them, the men and women in loose fitting dark suits who keep on raising their hands to press their electronic earpieces deeper into their ears so they can hear their instructions over all the whooping and blaring music coming from the party on the other side of the razor wire barrier, instructions which are coming from above we assume, or, perhaps it is below, because in these confusing times it is hard to know where the headquarters are these days, in their heads or in their balls, either way the security men make it easy for us to understand.

- Move on now, unless you want a good kicking, in the name the Muammar, or something worse.

- You are not on the party list, another one says, Get lost.

So we shuffle on, but Immy, who is a kind of shape-sfifter, has had time to squeeze under the razor wire and fill his pockets with some of the food off the nearest table, not exactly groaning dishes, you know the CUTS and even the caviar is in short supply these days, and later when we inspect the contents of Immy’s pockets, we find ‘cookies’ mostly, all with different icing colours and faces painted on them, Look there is Pinky, and Perky, And there is Ozzy and Olly, but they all taste the same, all equally saccharine.

Judith’s eyes are flashing with a pure rage – My God she looks beautiful! – and Uncle Wally is taking a small box out of his black leather portmanteau which never leaves his side – Crikey ! I think, we shouldn’t be on the streets at this time of night, we shouldn’t be here at all, my failure of nerve, and it is into us that Judith’s coal red eyes are burning rather than into the security guards.

- Here take these, she says grabbing two devices out of Uncle Wally’s box. We disentangle what appear to be two head torches with elastic to fit round the head, Put them on, she says, so we do, and then with a flick of her fingers she switches them both on.

-Wow! We both say, it is strange experience being made to disappear just like that, like a cloak of invisibility descending over us, but we are not Hogwart students and this isn’t the Matrix, only the sensation, decidedly odd, that “I” am not here (and nor are you, only a shape like a thick woollen hat pulled down over your head and hiding your eyes) and a slight nausea.

- I am not here, I say with my non-existent lips, but the words seem to be coming from somewhere, What is happening, You are wearing a Telesphorus, Judith says, What’s that, we both ask together, It is a ‘far-seeing’ device, she says, and we watch in amazement as the inverted commas of her voice spin and hang like fireflies in the air.

- Grovvy! We say in unison.

- Look, I say, and we turn our singular but impersonal selves, or impersonally singular selves depending on the point of view, to look back at the brightly lit settlement. All is as before, the party is in full swing, You can go in, Judith says, How come, I ask, You have agency now, go on, try it.

I slowly walk back up to the group of security guards, I don’t think I want to but like in a bad dream I can’t stop myself, and remarkably their faces break into obsequious smiles, Saudarde! One says to me, Saudarde! I reply my knees knocking, Good evening sir, another one says ticking a name on a clipboard he is holding while his companion lifts the razor wire to one side, and then stands aside to usher me in.

You follow close behind, and I almost scream as you give a cocky wave to one of the thugs. My God, I think, we have become undercover agents!

The Aftermath of Ossie the Floss

 Posted by at 11:26 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Feb 192011

Yes, it is noteworthy that it doesn’t seem to matter as to the where of the landscape: north or south, east or west; which continent; which nation?? Does it matter? The missing details may be those specifics by which we measure our sanity: what is the name of the Prime Minister? Good question! What country are we in? Ummm. Monarch? No idea!

    Of course, we are journeying within the current overdone cliché of the journey. That’s a relief. No need to worry – we are in a cliché. TV celebrities are constantly falling over themselves and each other to stress and under duress to extol the virtues of their journeys. It’s hard to imagine the camera crew keeping a straight face; their mouths must be bound tight with duct tape. But I also imagine the camera crew and technicians to be the invisible sanity of the whole madness of our endless watching of each other. Is there a camera crew on this journey of ours? Not that I can see. But though the media is one prevalent force in this watching of each other, there are other more shadowy forces: so called secret services, the security services, the police in various forms, and the military. And one must mention that, at times forgotten, force without which none of the others could function – the informers. Those unloved go-betweens acting out of what exactly, what is it motivates them? Is it envy? I suppose at times there might be a financial reward?Licking the shoes of the powerful?

    Enough of this digression we must get on.

    What an unexpected pleasure, I thought, when we first caught a glimpse of a settlement on the horizon. The possibility of a change of diet, some fresh fruit and vegetables, perhaps even a bed for the night. There’s bound to be a bar, new faces to get to know over a couple of drinks. Though it has to be said that our group seems to have a variable membership. People come and go I know not how. What I had not thought of, in fact I had forgotten all about it, is THE CUTS. They have arrived before us. Travelling at this old fashioned pace one gradually forgets the sheer speed of electronic communications. The drooling Chancellor, Ossie the Floss, had already holographically swept through, leaving nothing to chance. He has allowed extra money for the bankers to build extra deep bunkers and extra high razor wire enclosures and suggested that taxing them is a thoroughly unfair thing to do. Though we could still hear them laughing as they partied (hard) in perfect privacy except for the security forces hovering overhead in their helicopters.

    Should I have been as surprised, even hurt, as I was when we were informed, non too gently, that our presence was not welcome? And indeed it was suggested that we should continue straight through without stopping. Waved on by thugs in uniform. And I had no idea how to interpret the grinning faces at the windows watching us, though there was a young lad, perhaps ten years old, who gave us a thumbs up before he was dragged inside by a fearful mother.

    Uncle W., Immy and Butler were all for invoking revolutionary passion then and there but there were those amongst us, and I have to admit that I was one of them, who were too tired, too cynical, or too scared. Do we travel to discover where we are or where we are going?


Leicester – ‘East’ – or was it ‘West’!

 Posted by at 12:16 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Feb 162011

Having left the last city so long ago, months if not years as it seems – it is hard to recall – first the flat unrelenting geography along the expressway out to the last exits and then out over the long dusty plains, there are maps for where we have been, and now these first foothills, it is not ‘terra incognita’, but they are not the kind of maps that are much help to us for the regular shifts of scene and site, as we continue to head for those snow capped peaks ahead, which stretch both north and south to the horizons on either side of us.

Andes? Or Himalayas? It matters less to us than you might think.

Crack! Crack! The whip. Yes, Immanuel, it is him who is constantly getting it across his back from her, that Judith lass, and also the quick lashings from her tongue, and fortunately so far not us, we have been lucky perhaps, or more a question of simply keeping our heads down, but frankly we couldn’t have begun to get this far without him, one of the great unsung.

Shout “I” for Immanuel! Hurray!

Admittedly he is not your usual kind of hero, frankly obscenely ugly and a political bore, but a true Trojan nonetheless, the loads he carries are quite astonishing, nearly our entire luggage, and then all of Judith’s books too, and the entire archive of Uncle Walter – Can you imagine the weight? – as well as all the cooking and camping equipment, cookers, tents, and so on, and the whole rest of the paraphernalia required these days for modern Sat-Nav living. While we complain of a sore bum and the occasional blister, I tell you, it is humbling and not a little embarrassing. And there are the scrapes he gets us out of, the wolves he saw off the other night, and remember the bandits that other time.

There is the thought that one day perhaps we will find ourselves sitting in armchairs somewhere reminiscing gently together about all this, but, No, right now we cant – we daren’t – let that idea intrude for a moment. Simply on – and all our attention needed for the path beside the yawning crevasses and shadowy gullies, those terrible gaps with their endless, plunging questions (such as those “Complex Questions from Russia” and so on, and so on). Simply on - Across Patagonia, Or is it across the Hindu Kush, No, we are not lost, and it is worth repeating the actual name of the plateau we crossed last week does not concern us too much here and now. Simply on – And early to bed, because tomorrow promises to be another long hard day in the saddle.

Lost Deadlines

 Posted by at 11:05 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Feb 142011

We’ve been climbing for some time, winding out of the valley by the old, well-trodden tracks, always searching out the right answer to the question: which is the easiest way? All the other normally pressing questions such as, what is the nature of matter? or, is there such a thing as purpose? are left gratefully behind, scattered amongst the scrub and boulder littered terrain. We know we have to climb but let us be granted the wisdom to discern that track that requires least effort. Steady, no wasted effort, no downhill lurch before a steep climb to make up for lost height. By the end of the day we must be a thousand metres above the plateau that we’ve been traversing for several days.

    Immanuel is complaining and Butler is shouting at him, the usual demand that he ‘get over it’. Her voice strident and determined; a carrier of authority – it shuts him up at least for a while. Do I care? Not really. I only care about stopping and sooner rather than later. Horse riding is not for me – I’m convinced of this by the exquisite torture of the coarse sandpaper of the saddle that is flaying my flesh – it must look perfectly tenderised and ready for grilling. No doubt I’m sitting in a puddle of blood and pus and it’s just possible that this day will never end.

    There is the question of who is in charge of this little party. There must be secret discussions going on but I never catch them at it. On the other hand, I seem to believe that none of us know where we are going or why we are doing this and I have no memory of signing up for it. It may be that the internal contradictions of the market economy are to blame; forever impoverishing us at the same time demanding that we buy, buy . . . and, yes, it’s true we like it – it has all the form of a purposeful life but none of the satisfaction. Is that true? Can an addiction be satisfied? Presumably alcohol satisfies an alcoholic or should it only be written, “satisfies”? Meaning we don’t really believe it. By pathologising a particular behaviour we change our view of it. Is consumerism an addiction and hence pathological? It might be. But once we identify some phenomenon we are in danger of seeing it everywhere, which, of course, renders it meaningless.

    How the argument rages around me. Sometimes I try to ignore it and simply pay attention to the wind and whatever part of my anatomy that is causing the most (or the least) pain.

    I realise I’m not going to finish this before we get to the end of the day’s work. There have been so many distractions that I am in danger of losing the plot completely.

    Refocus on the pain.


Who are you?

 Posted by at 9:50 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Feb 032011

These last few days I have been, and for the time being am required to remain, in a condition caught between blindness and seeing, in imitation perhaps of Saramago’s two famous novels which were given those words as titles in their English translations, about which, although over the years these two books have sold many copies and been very highly praised in the Anglophone world, he never gave up his protest against their shortened, and, to him, misleading titles in English; these works, Saramago always insisted, although grounded in the tradition of the novel, were essays – ensiaon – not simply fictions.

Between blindness and seeing, in imitation of the sudden onset of a mysterious trauma and interruption of everyday life, such as was described in those two works by Saramago, when on last Saturday afternoon the main telecom cable which serves the valley in the west country, within which this ‘writing desk’ is located and from where every one of these words is constrained to flow, was violently severed, abruptly cutting off nearly all the telephone, email and internet communications with the outside world of those living in the valley, including myself here.

A sudden blindness descending upon us and continuing, so that I was forced to use whatever remained of my powers of recollection of the world that went before, including for instance the account given by my friend last week below, and then to reach out again and again into this new, unfamiliar and disabling dark in repeated attempts – ensiaon – to make a moment of contact with the outstretched hand of an other. Even her hand, and then asking, Is this still her? Are you that Judith Butler who was described before? Is this her touch, and are these – and, now I remember, must the texture of her clothes still be leather – her self-same words?

Or can I postpone the notion that accompanies, and had for so long become the habit of my seeing mind, Oh, now I know who you are, it spoke, disturbing and doing violence to, and with, the reach of my desires? Then, as I recalled other incidents from the just past, I also remembered that she too, equally not knowing within this darkness, had been feeling towards me, and this is what she had said in what seemed to be an extended continental mode of address, and towards our being “addressed” together in a way that did not result in a violence either of the body or mind, including the risk of falling for the texture of and scent upon her clothes, and the possibility at any moment of reaching too far.

It has proved fruitful enough to attempt to explore – ensiaon – thus far, and now there is the further novelistic task to find a sufficient and imaginative way for these words to reach out themselves in order to be seen and read in the world… Next week I am away, I had planned it some time ago, which is now framed by this recent and unexpected turn of events, and account of blindness and seeing… And when I return, will the people of Egypt and elsewhere also have come through their time of darkness, and will they too have found and collectively reached a way of being “addressed” without violence?