Thursday, 16 February 2012

Too Far Down A Dark Tunnel


It’s eight years since I last saw mum. Nothing intentional. Just one of those things that you put off and then forget about until you get a blunt reminder. In this case, a full cycle took eight years and almost two months. But it could easily have been longer and I’m sure she knows that only too well.
          I arrive at Waterloo at 16:37, having travelled in from Woking. Woking: home of Paul Weller and The Jam. It’s only claim to fame. Not a massive fan of that kind of music myself but I do like the one about being beaten up down a tube station. Even though I have lived in the place for a long time now I am not a fan of Woking town. Choking To Death In Woking, would be my book title about the place. It would be a very short book. There’s fuck all to write about Woking. Other than this was the town where all those years ago I chased my only true love. Jane Quin. And that very quickly ended in disaster so you have to ask yourself what am I still doing there?
          We’re late into Waterloo. I’m told by the driver that he’s sorry that we arrived twelve minutes behind schedule. No problem with me mate. I’m in no rush. I’ve enjoyed the ride. Been a while since I’d last been on a train. But some posh types are moaning about it behind me as we queue to get off. How boring they sound. I want to tell them to shut the fuck up. But I’m a fair bit nervous as it goes. I want to be a good boy today.
To make sure I don’t go off the rails, I’ve taken something necessary to help me on my way. I’ve necked a pill to ensure that I’m on my best behaviour and not a moody cunt, what they’re expecting me to be like. Which is fair enough given my past history. But as I stroll purposefully across the station, I’m already noticing that I’m definitely not as chilled out as I thought I’d be. As I go to call mum my poxy pay-as-you-go mobile runs out of credit. I’ve hardly used the piece of shit in the last fortnight and here I am cut off again. Some kind twat points me in the direction of the small Carphone Warehouse store which is tucked over in the far corner of the station.
Two boys are in there serving – name badges moronically announce that they are Tommy Ly and Wayne Delaney – and there are two average mugs in front of me being served. I only want a top up voucher and five long painful minutes later I have not made any advances. After what I thought was me being helpful – I got out a tenner and waved it about trying to get one of these two fools to notice me for fucking once – I then just politely asked if they’d sort me out a voucher as I needed to be out of here and make a call. But this Tommy Ly cunt spoke without looking at my face and basically told me to fuck off next door if I couldn’t handle another a couple of minutes of being patient.
Now I cannot abide rudeness and I should have been raging. Him speaking to me like that. But I remain cool. I’ll wait then. I’ll do whatever you say. Even if you have just gone and humiliated me. No, please continue to educate your customers on how to dismantle their poxy phones like they are an Airfix kit while pouring out your dull poison about sim cards, flash new front and back clip on fascias, whatever…
I want restraint, control and harmony to continue to reign today, so as this whole sorry show dragged on and I continued to be ignored – I was now certain they were stretching this out solely to frustrate me – I surprised the bookies for once and instead did the right thing. I humbly retreated next door to Dixons where I got served instantly. Nice old chap served me with a smile. Now that’s proper customer service. I was going to mention my experience next door. But I had to stay focussed. I called mum and told her I was about to catch the tube and that I’d be there within the next half hour.
          Mum lives on the Holloway Road with my sister, Benice. The last time I saw my little sister, she was lying on her back on the kitchen floor; I was expecting the old man to come through the door, not Benice. Typically for me, no-one was prepared to take that into consideration though, were they. But there you go. Anyway, that was back then. I was actually looking forward to seeing Benice today as it goes. But mum said she’d gone away for the weekend with her new boyfriend. Some geezer called Graham. Real shame that.
          I make my way down onto the Northern Line and I’ll be honest with you, I’m not looking forward to this one fucking bit. The platform is teeming and when the train comes in, I don’t even bother trying to get on. I end up on the platform for about fifteen minutes – waiting for the ‘right’ train to appear. I’m now well and truly fucking mashed. I feel both apprehensive and fucking great. Maybe doing pills is just a lie for me. I mean, I often get this ferocious urge to belong. I feel it right now as I stand here surrounded by strangers.
          Anyway, I’m losing my focus and I need to get going so I get on the next  train in and very fortunately manage to grab a seat. At the next stop, the carriage is crammed and I see to my horror that I’m in a seat that should be giving up to an elderly/disabled person. Fuck it. I don’t want to be seen as the cunt here, so I go to give up my seat. But there are only blokes standing around me: single blokes mainly, although there is a gang of stupid pricks with their lips pierced and exposed necks tattooed.
          Loads get off at the next stop and I jump up three spaces into the safety of a regular seat. Thank fuck for that. I chill and find myself checking out the faces about me. There are a dull looking couple opposite me. Teachers probably. Like me, they’re minding their own business. I chuck an embarrassing smile at them, to let them know I’m not a thug today as I’m on one and I have some important family business to attend to. I close my eyes and drift and relax and glow inwardly. The pill is doing a fucking cool job on me right now and I’m really looking forward to seeing mum again. And then, seconds, minutes later, I get what feels like an umbrella prodded maliciously into my thigh. I bolt upright. What the fuck’s going on? I open my eyes, ready to defend my space. The aggressor retreats in panic and then from a safe distance spouts:
          “Are you going to give up your seat then?”
          The only way to describe her would be to say that she looks like a dwarfish Honor Blackman in The Graduate, only this violent little old tart has piled on the make up to a point that can only be described as one hundred per cent fucking disconcerting. She looks like she’s died and the embalmer really has gone to town minutes before putting her out on show.
          I don’t want to encourage the birth of anger in me. This is not what today is all about. I refuse to bore you with my adolescence, other than to say that communication by dialogue when faced with an uncompromising situation, wasn’t – and still isn’t – one of my most endearing strong points. I want to remain composed. There’s too much at stake today for me to lose it. I’m on show, got a colossal point to prove and all that. I look at this witch and see that it was an umbrella then. I also quickly recognise that the carriage is packed rotten. I’m starting to hyper ventilate and need some water.
          I’m looking at her, the whole carriage is looking at me. I want to speak. But my tongue is glued to the basement of my mouth. This easily allows my newly introduced enemy to take control.
          “This young woman is pregnant,” she spits at me. To my immediate left, standing, holding onto the above rail, is a girl of, I dunno, say twenty five and she is minding her own business while reading a book. I look at the title. ‘Tis. Never heard of it. No-one else on the carriage is making a sound. I can only hear my own oppressed breathing. I look at the girl again to gain some point of contact so that I can settle this between us; as adults. Without any further interference. But I infuriatingly get distracted by the witch. She is trying to drum up some support.
          “Well?” she says. “Are you going to give this lady your seat? She’s pregnant, God damn you!”
          About nine years ago Benice had a miscarriage. She was five months gone. Of course, me decking her that day in the kitchen, the trauma that it caused to all of us, was to blame. I’d lost her the baby. Bad old me had murdered the unprotected unborn. What was worse, was that the cheating opportunist drunken scum that was the old man, came out well on top. He was seen to be the hero in chucking me out the house. He even stayed with mum for a few ‘extended’ months before leaving her for that Spanish slut of his. By the time he did that, I was still and would remain for years to come, the real enemy. But he, the spineless cunt, he just slipped out and into the anonymous sidelines and forgot about all of us. As easy as that. 
          “Some people are so spineless, so rude. I just cannot believe it!”
She’s now right up on her soapbox. I look towards the teachers. I expect them to look away. But they don’t. They telepathically send out their empathy for me. I want to say the right thing here. Be cool. Make sure that I get everyone on my side. Because none of us ever want this sort of pointless attention do we?  I again try to get the attention of this girl reading this book to my left. But she is also suffering from the embarrassment the witch has brought on all of us. The witch is ranting at me. I can’t work out what. But she’s losing it, while fixing that sneer in my direction. The train stops and deck loads of passengers get off freeing up the odd seat.
We’re on our way again and the witch doesn’t waste any time. She has a juicy spare seat to put out on offer to the needy. So she goes and offers it to this girl who only goes and says she’s okay standing. She also remarks on she is definitely not pregnant. I am stunned in delight. What a turnaround. Pure class. For she is wonderful, she, the wonderful human being reading this book called ‘Tis. In my eyes, she is blessed.
          I smile and can see that the girl is smiling and so are people around me. I should have let it go. But an uncompromising anger was now on the march inside me. I should have stayed mellow. But how could I when war had already been declared?
When this witch went to get off at the next stop, I had to go after her. I knew I was really well fucked at this point. Because I couldn’t even digest that good had won a famous victory. There was a problem within me raging for an escape. I had gone too far down a dark tunnel.
I tried to follow her off the train. But in the crowd going up the escalators she’d disappeared. I raced to find her, or at the very least to get out of the station first so that I can wait for her there.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Here’s me now outside in the wild: the place where all confrontations should be addressed and resolved. Not underground. Up on the surface. But there is a real danger here, that I should make every effort to consider. I have now accelerated way out of control. And I know that I am going to punch her so hard in the face when I find her. But that isn’t the real danger. The real danger is that I probably won’t settle for just that.
And so, here I am. I’m out on the street next to some old toothless boy selling papers. A small voice in my head continues to warn me about what this is going to look like to the passer by. I’ll get no favours from anyone once this is done. But there is nothing I can do about it. No-one can stop me. The power within is too strong to break.
After ten minutes, it’s obvious that I’ve somehow missed her. Maybe she got out before me? Can’t see that though. She must have stayed down there and got on another train. I’m now too emotionally fucked up to go and see mum so I head back to Waterloo and when I get there I phone her and tell her I’m sorry and that all being well, that I’ll see her in a couple of weeks and that I love her. I then go over to see to the wankers at the Carphone Warehouse. I had to make sure everything was out of my system before heading for the train home.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Bag


I came across the bag one afternoon on a windswept common. Why I was there in the first place was a mystery in itself. I had left my house to go and get some bacon but had somehow drifted into the wilderness. I am certain I left the house in good spirits. I had been separated from my wife and had not seen her or either of my two sons for nearly a full year now. This was all fine by me. I had no inclination to see any of them again. I was going to continue enjoying my freedom, a man able to drink all hours when I wanted and to watch pornography when I wanted. I have always enjoyed my own company, entertaining myself. But nothing would stay the same for long. The house would soon be gone, my job already gone, those sacred savings that won’t last for much longer. I’m not getting any younger and my heavy indoor drinking must at some point impact my health.
          I was considering how much Bells Scotch Whisky I had back home when I kicked the bag. I say kicked, I nearly tripped over the damned thing; the strap gathered itself around my left ankle. The bag was a hideous green with white trim and the words GOLA written along the side in yellow stencil. It had clearly not been hidden, more like abandoned. It was full but lightweight and without a pause for breath I unzipped it. Like a dream, a frozen moment in time, I pulled out of bundle of neatly stacked notes. Fresh, clean, crisp. Fifties. The Queen on the red notes winking at me with a slim grin. My adrenalin levels immediately began to crawl, my heart thumping, the pressure in my brain warning of seizure. I looked about me, like a panicking rapist murderer, fresh corpse in hand, and then I farted. I was instantly engulfed in my own sickly stench. I removed further bundles from the bag and then satisfied that everything was as I had now anticipated, I stuffed the bundles from my hand back into the bag, the zip done up in a frenzy and I was upright, bag underarm, no, gripped close to chest, me hunched, marching awkwardly, zigzagging through the damp undergrowth, the sun was out but to me all I could appreciate was that the sky was now darkening and hostile, the birds communicating in knowing murmurs. The scent of my shit following me all the way, betraying my anonymity. All I had to do was get the bag home, indoors, nice and safe, where I could drawer the curtains, bolt all doors and peer inside in my own comfort and time.
          But as I exited the common, it struck me. An overwhelming force of paranoia. A stranglehold. That warned me of this: I was being observed. Yes. I was not alone here. And as hard as I tried to find the strength, I could not stop the following from happening. I definitely now had the fear. The sickening dread that I was in severe danger. Because I knew that I was being viewed from afar or maybe closer. Panic, my legs buckling, screamed in my mind about what exactly would they do to me? Those that were the watch-keepers of the bag. What would my excuse be? That I was only watching over the safekeeping of the bag myself, just like them, how I was always going to return it to its rightful owner safe and sound. Rightful owner? What sort of rightful owner owns such a bag?     What had I done? I should have never unzipped it, picked it up, tried to escape with it. Red notes, blood money. What had I done here? I may even have said that out loud as a large shadow of a man appeared ahead of me, shifted from side to side and raised his arms; a warning sign, the confirmation I had been dreading. And I froze, dropped the bag, got a grip, ran back over my tracks, running fast now, blind, for my life, screaming all the way.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

London Wall



I was sat on a bench outside Tower Hill tube station yesterday afternoon admiring the London Wall while sipping out of my flask and trying to get inspired to write something new. Occasionally I looked sideways towards the Tower of London. But it was only occasionally.
          I’m not sure how long I had been sat there – not long enough for me to have written one word: that was a fact – when I was approached by a bearded drunk. He had grabbed my attention by shouting. At me. As he stumbled closer I chanced another look and witnessed a scorched face of pain. He was still growling as he grew ever nearer.
          This person was no bigger in build than me so I felt no immediate threat. All the same, I didn’t know whether to bury my head into my note pad and pretend to be writing something new or to stand and face him with small clenched fists.
          He stopped some ten feet way and surprised me.
          “I thought it was you,” he said. “You’re Joe England.”
          Eventually I nodded.
          “You wrote a poem in your book Millwall Away On Valentine’s Day claiming that the Nine Mile Ride in Berkshire was road-planned and constructed by the Romans.”
          I nodded again and then said this:
          “You must mean my popular poem, Colosseum.”
          The sun must have then shone directly into his eyes: he screwed his face into a ball.
          “Yeah, that’s the one I’m referring to,” he said, still squinting. “Well let me tell you something. You fucked up there son didn’t you. I have family who live out that way. And I have spoken to them and they confirmed this: that that particular road is not Roman but absolutely British. It was built during the time of King George III. And it isn’t as you also stated, nine miles long. It’s a mile or two shorter. So take a small tip so called writer. Check your fucking facts before trying to pass yourself off as an artist.”
          I thought about this for a moment and then responded.         
          “I guess I must have gotten confused with a stretch of Roman Road commonly referred to as The Devil’s Highway that runs from the old Roman town at Silchester all the way east into London and passes on route into the heart of Crowthorne, which is pretty close to the Nine Mile Ride.”
          “You must mean the Roman Road from Calleva to Londinium?”
          Before I could agree we both became aware that the scene had attracted a small crowd of onlookers; no doubt coming out of the tube station and on route to the Tower. Feeling all smug with himself the man bowed to the crowd and then left me. I watched him stagger the few feet towards the London Wall where he soon began urinating up against it.
          I went home while he was mid-piss and when I got in I polished up on some research and revised my poem, Colosseum. The original and new amended fact-checked versions appear here:


Colosseum (original version)

Went to Rome recently
wandered up and down
and wondered about 
the Roman road planners
who wrote the plan
to construct such a
long straight road
in Berkshire

The Nine Mile Ride
is nine miles long
in Rome though
found impatient motorists
in frustrated roadways
hating everything
about being
on the road
so many miles less that nine

At the colosseum
made me think how
I wanted to see them
drive into this arena
in front of us all

Beep yourselves to death
we would cheer
fucking demand
then get the lions
to feed on half-dead motorists
impaled on wiper blades

Colosseum (2012 version)

Went to Rome recently
wandered up and down
and wondered if it
was the Romans
who wrote the plan
to construct such a
long straight road
in Berkshire

The Nine Mile Ride
is not nine miles long
and not to be confused
with The Devils Highway
which is part of
the Roman Road
that runs from Calleva
to Londinium

In Rome though
found impatient motorists
in frustrated roadways
hating everything
about being
on the road
so many miles less that nine

At the colosseum
made me think how
I wanted to see them
drive into this arena
in front of us all
 
Beep yourselves to death
we would cheer
fucking demand
then get the lions
to feed on half-dead motorists
impaled on wiper blades