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Saturday, 10 December 2011
Hawling wi' Chomu
Massive ‘Weirdmonger Wheel’ (inaugurated in 2004) is today re-opened to slow my pace down so that ebooks can keep up with me! It’s still free.

This to celebrate the discovery (by CERN Zoo) of the Higgs Boson next week.


Posted by augusthog at 4:37 PM EST
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Thursday, 9 September 2010
Cones In Art & Literature

Cones In Art & Literature

posted Monday, 18 August 2008




For what they're worth, DFL Stories linked below contain the word 'cone', 'cones' etc:


One Day At A Time:


Almond Cottage:






In the vein of the father;




Knuckledraggers, Inc:


Not Even In Legend:


A Live Show:



The Steering-Hole:


Sun, Sea & Sorrow:


Tale About Thomas:


The Hoop & The Teapot:


This Flight Tonight:


The Tide of Time:


Twice The Man:



FREE AND EASY (an unpublished story I wrote a few years ago and features Cone Zero)


 The cameras rolled, and I was lucky enough to be in the live audience. Lucky, despite the cold opening.  With the prospect, however, of warming up when...

The front man strode to the front.  He was the 77 year old Piero Lopez – a touch of class, free and easy, still swinging it like a 21 year old with the whole of his life in front of him.
 The crowd began eagerly clapping along with the music. Each piece contained the blowing of numbered cones, the flicking of projector propellers, the opening / shutting of lens filters, the slamming of fridge doors, the ratcheting of loft ladders, the clatter of manholes, the clamping of wheels, the wild alarums of fire and the clunking of ice-cold cocktails. The music’s own in-built clapping grew louder then muted then even louder as it merged with the audience’s own applause proper and returned to the instinctive accompaniment of any music allowed to be heard between the slapping of bottoms and the cresting of tone-deaf tops, thirds and piping trebles followed by the lowing of low brass as it burgeoned amid snort and snicker.

Like the words used in description, it was a wild, hip-sweaty scene in a cold cold climate, a whole razzamatazz surrounding the regimented audience that the crowd (mob?) often mimicked in civilised attention to a supposed entertainment.  The audience and entertainment together were a single variety show: a cornucopia of escapist skill rather than a chaotic fandango of lost Hollywood dreams. 
 The absurd abrasions of mind-upon-matter were what all this would soon become when the audience eventually imagined they were watching something on a screen and not a wild indulgence of a live stage-show.

I climbed down from the trip-easies of word and sound. I was a member of those clapping monkeys, or audience as I began to assume it surely always was, gazing at old Piero Lopez's antics on the stage as he directed the jazz rhythms into clearer and clearer contexts of civilisation's near collapse. A catharsis of wanting a catharsis even if that very catharsis was its own destruction. Freak and easy. The words were far too easy. Meaningless and meaningful.

Mean and cruel. Without being as harsh as the winter was quickly becoming outside the concert hall … even as we were shook and shaken to the cavortings of the brass and woodwind and cool percussion. I clapped my own hands more for heat than in appreciation. I'd never liked jazz at the best of times, and this was the worst of times, believe me, despite the enjoyment.
 Jazz was really part and parcel of the dire straits we all found ourselves in. During the past, when I was genuinely happy, even the best Jazz Singer had seemed to deplete such happiness; but today the music actually created happiness from a sadness that had earlier contained no happiness at all - despite the white streets outside and despite the white faces inside (whatever their original colour under the make-up)..

Piero Lopez was the essence of metaphorical warmth as he was seen to change brass for silver, and vice versa, as this his flute-and-trumpet market held snorting sway amid the increasing swathes of misty breath that the concert hall was seen to contain. A trading arena where nobody now understood what was valuable and what was not. Freezer burns at every turn, as that percussive scorching of the music ballooned in frosty frenzy.

I turned to my side to see if Anabel was also smacking her palms together in desperate pleas for heat to materialise from the braying bells and horns of the instrumentalists on the stage. She was sobbing. We knew as a unit of both of us – knew better than what each of us could possibly know without the other – that this was fiddling with friction whilst Rome froze over.

Piero Lopez held up his hand. I remarked it was gloved. This seemed wrong. Only high fashion ladies in the thirties wore gloves in public. Glove-puppets. Mittens maybe. But not gloves. I stifled my own shouts of recrimination with my decorative scarf. More a Dr Who scarf than a means to keep myself warm. Though it now served both purposes. I was in the audience. I was the paying customer. I could wear what I liked. The band in overcoats however seemed to be cheating some unspoken law of entertainment. But Piero's upraised hand – gloved or not – halted the jazz to the mere grumbling stutter of a single randy sax.

"I woke up this morning at four eh em," he announced into the microphone. Even at the age of 77, he could hold an audience – even an unruly one – in the palm of his hand. And this audience was not only unruly with drink and funny fags, it was now in extremis with a cold coming of it like the three Magi at Christmas and another cold coming from their noses like a tuneless brass band of snorts and brays, including Anabel and me: both of us keeping time with countless other couples in permutations of love and lovelessness, same sex and unsame sex, till the whole world audience clapped their cupped hands to their mouths and horned a desperate call to the wild wild.

Free and easy. The music resumed with the swaying rhythms accompanying an elegant Eartha Kitt in high fashion gloves – as we all approached the thankfully hotter climes we could sense awaited us amid the ring of near death. Even Piero looked baked sooty. Only sound and colour were missing in the silence, as filming disinvented itself by piecemeal time-travel. The coated film of silent unsound dreams with Al Jolson as the chief minstrel entering Cone Zero.



Posted by augusthog at 3:49 AM EDT
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Bruised by Boxing

Bruised by Boxing

posted Saturday, 16 August 2008



written today and first published here



He won a medal in the very last Olympic Games that were ever held.  He had gone there to run in the 100 yards sprint but ended up inadvertently competing in the welter-weight division of the boxing.


The world was beyond any organisation at that time.  Mass memory-loss was not exactly the problem but rather a growing inability by the world’s population simply to cope.


He no longer had a name.  He once had a name.  But without any order in things or requirements for reference, names tended to atrophy then drop off, like labels from ancient luggage.


He was a He-man.  He was, after all, too stocky for the sprint.  So, as if automatically, he found himself entered for the welter-weight.  Unsurprisingly, he had been mis-weighed and should have been entered for the heavy-weight.  He had sweated for days to get body-weight off, like old lard, so that even the feather-weight division seemed a possibility.  The tenacity of feathers, he thought, with some anticipatory pride.  Mixed emotions.  He often remembered he was a sprinter, not a boxer. 


As the sweat grew in amounts during the lead-up to the weigh-in process and as it streamed in soupy rivulets down his back, he found himself inevitably weltering in not only the various divisions of one particular sport, but in all sports needing sportsmen like him to fulfil as competition-fodder and thus present a show of brawn and speed for the mass audiences that were expected to attend, if such audiences could organise themselves to come there in the first place.


There was no Olympics sports events for darts-players.  Tradition had it that way. Even the very last Olympics scorned darts and bar-billiards ... even when the world’s standards were slipping, as now, with every missed target of past tradition and simply-what-was-right. But targets prevailed. Mass audiences came to attend events - events that had not been timed to happen in the Olympics programme - through a process of instinctive targetting.  Turning up together as if by chance.


Our he-man however meanwhile enjoyed relaxing as he started winging the tungsten-arrers towards the circular dartboard, clunking treble twenties into the cork almost with every throw.  He eventually gazed pitifully down at his physique.  Not exactly a sprinter’s trimness.  Nor the tightened armour of muscles that a boxer would need.  He wrestled the mixed emotions to the ground in a wriggling clinch-hold that any referee would need to view, cheek upon the mat, pummelling the ground with a fist as he checked the legality of the various moves.  And the mixed emotions sort of squirmed back, attempting wildly to escape from our he-man’s grasp. Punching above their weight.  Bruising his ribs as he tried to burst out of every mis-labelled box that the obstacle race entailed.  The referee gave him the benefit of the doubt.  As we in turn give the referee’s very existence the benefit of the doubt.  A bit like God's.


Our he-man received a medal.  It was just sad that it did not have his name on it. Nor even which sport.  At least it didn’t fall off.


Posted by augusthog at 3:47 AM EDT
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Saturday, 4 September 2010
Two Films and an Interlude

Two Films and an Interlude

posted Monday, 3 September 2007
published 'Overspace' 1992

Upon a hillsideful of sun, most townsfolk were intent on enjoying a Sunday in the fresh air. Nibbling at neatly manicured sandwiches, playing ball with their spirited children, blotting up the surplus shine, listening to loud music on their trannies and simply enjoying themselves.

The green bank rolled down to the beach, where others doused their steaming bodies in the sea. Little Lucy tugged irritatingly at her kite, which flopped beside her at each attempt to launch it. No wind, darling, signalled her mummy. Lucy still tugged as she stared wonderingly into the deep blue well of the sky. If only I could be up there, she thought, her eyes afire with a child's longings. The kite lay limp. Lucy eventually tilted down beside it.

On the beach, one family in particular were erecting sand-castles - the parents supercilious with their smiles; Dick, the teeenage son, sneering; the two kids, Mary and Carl, having great fun as they allowed the fine sand to trickle through their fingers. The spawndrift of the breaking waves and remnant strands of salt-white meeandered playfully amid their castle world. Look a river! pointed Carl. No, the town's flooded by a storm, argued Mary.

Close by, Thomas Michael splashed capriciously in the sea. He had come here on his own, to feel the virgin thrust of the fresh spume, to bask in the comforting warmth - and vicariously to enjoy others enjoying a skinny dip. He waggled his toes in the soft pulp of the sea-bed and continued swimming, going from exactly nowhere back to nowhere.

Abruptly, all was dead quiet. Such silence suffocated the excited cries of the children ... and all faces turned up to the sky. Nobody stirred. Those in the sea stood and shook the wetness from their limbs like unthinking dogs. The children ignored their sand-castles, Lucy her feeble kite. Walkmans were killed. A tableau of subdued expectation - heads bent back and eyes searching the empty sky. Even the waves seemed mute.

Piecemeal, a gentle hum was heard, almost a buzz. Eventually growing louder and louder, it became deafening - rather like the stuttering roar of throbbing engines. The fun-makers still stared while the crescendo unfurled. From over the brow of the hillside came the low-flying form of a jumbo jet-liner, wings huge and unspeakably wide, almost touching the grass with its white underbelly. The hum had become the intensest of whistles, the scream of an imminent bomb, but much louder. The left side was a cat's cradle of flames, as the sheering monster plunged into the sea with a vast fountain of froth.

The metal mammoth disappeared from view, and the crowd merely stared at the place where its nose-cone had first encountered the silent waves. But, now, those waves were a turmoil of wheeling eddies. The crowd continued to gaze dumbly as the low, insistent moaning of humanity hummed in long drawn-out hints of insidious torture from the depths of the quickly quietening sea.


Thomas Michael lived in London in 1974, somewhere near Croydon. In those days, home videos were not available and he travelled daily to the West End (where the entertainments were centred) to work as a projectionist in a large Leicester Square cinema. As a child, he had wanted to be a television news cameraman, his ambition to peer through a viewfinder and "steal" the scene for unseen millions. He wielded no lying medium, such as brush or pen. His art was perfection itself. If he did not manage to become such a cameraman, he would have liked to be a professional photographer. Not quite so satisfactory, but the next best thing.

However, he became a cinema projectionist - the third best thing? Dodging the terrorist bombs that were rife those days in that area, he used to arrive at 11 a.m. and left about Midnight to return south. He projected many films in his time, for example "The Sound of Music", "The Horror of the Furniture Removers", "The House of Whipcord", "The Exorcist", "The Hotel of Free Love", "Blotting Up The Dreams" and so on.

The job was so routine, he yearned for some other excitement. But Thomas Michael had a sense of humour - a veritable asset in that day and age. Not only did he have that quirky aspect, he also posessed what was then known as an "avant garde" taste in art. His hero was Warhol.

He decided to play a prank on one night's audience. So, the weekend before, he went into his living-room with his own home-movie camera. He emerged several hours later with an evil grin butterflying over his naughty face. Several days later, the cinema audience having just seen "Horror From The Skies", ending in a mind-blowing B-feature plane crash scene, were now settling in a good mood for the main sex film. The canned music softly hummed behind their costly chitter-chatter. Soon, the vast auditorium dimmed, the huge neo-Victorian chanderlumes faded, the tireless chatter tired and the incessant mealy-mouthed musak gradually sicked up silence. All stared up expectantly.

In the near dark, the towering pleats of the velvetine curtains hummed open on their electric rollers to reveal the empty, but horrifyingly potential, oblong tunnel-end of the silver screen. The MGM lion roared from its plinth and the film began. The quality of the image abruptly deteriorated and, instead of the sharp bright colours of typical scrolling credits and the tortuous electronics of a trendy theme, there appeared, planted in the middle of the most expensive screen in London, the flickering image of a domestic television set. Through the flishflash of the amateur film-maker's carelessness, the astonished audience glimpsed a strange hand reaching out from the foreground to switch on the set. And then, they could just discern the programme on the TV screen - one of those dreadful "soaps" which inundated the public's consciousness at that time. In black and white.

Thomas Michael, up in his little booth, grinned maliciously. Since the audience had already seen this classic of the small screen in better circumstances (i.e. on a colour TV set in the warm comfort of their living-rooms without the "intervention" of a cheap holiday-movie camera) and since they had not come to see it anyway, they began to boo and hiss violently. He continued to grin maliciously, as he heard the increasing riot below. This escapade would cost him his job, but the excitement was worth it.

Soon, he could hear the "Ee-Aw, Ee-Aw, Ee-Aw" of approaching policecars. Then there erupted the shrill whistles as the force broke into the auditorium with the concomitant chaotic yapping of snarling policedogs. Of course, Thomas Michael was not unoccupied during those interminable moments. He had switched on the houselights and was leaning precariously from his booth, as he filmed the mayhem milling amid the plush seats of the upper circle. He recorded, too, with his cheap movie camera, the torn limbs, the rabid dogs plastering distemper all over the velvet fittings, the helmetless policemen and their bleeding truncheons, the frothing faces and blood-balled eyes and, not without a growing sense of humour, he re-recorded the still flickering cinema screen, the TV upon it and the flesh-coloured hand that reached out like God's to switch it off. In due course, they arrested Thomas Michael and threw his unloaded camera into the red rubble that the auditorium had become.


Lucy, now a parent herself, rose from bed and went down the stairs. She opened the front door of her Croydon semi-detached house, looked to the right up the hill and saw a large furniture removal lorry turn into a side road at the top, about three hundred yards away. Lucy then proceeded back up the stairs, after shutting the front door, settled into bed again and awoke from the dream.

She rubbed her eyes, forgetting all about the furniture lorry and everything else in the dream, and spent that day as she always spent it. But the dream recurred. Every night, Lucy underwent the same experience, or, at least, her mind did, and gradually she became aware of the memory of the dream. She was not disturbed, as the dream was not at all disturbing. Night after night, the large, brown furniture lorry turned into the side road at the top of the hill near her house. Morning after morning, Lucy dismissed the memory from her waking self with an unconcerned shrug.

Then, one day, Lucy saw a replica of the dream lorry turn into the real side road. Inquisitive, but not quite realising why she was, she ran up the hill ... to do she knew not what. As she came to the side road, she saw two overall-clad men lifting items of furniture from the lorry and carrying them into a house. She merely stood and stared, expectantly. That was, until she saw them carry in a large chest of drawers. From one of its half-open drawers was a human arm, dangling as it bled.

"Wait!" she shouted. But they did not hear her or did not want to. Lucy ran up to them, whereupon they hit her on the head and stuffed her unceremoniously into another drawer.

"A lot of bloody dreamers about today, Fred, eh?"

But Lucy was not dreaming this time.


Posted by augusthog at 8:40 AM EDT
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Ritual Killing

Ritual Killing

posted Sunday, 2 September 2007
Peter swallowed his pride, realising, in his heart of hearts, that a chance discovery of his incriminating past, without his prior confession, would be the worst possible scenario in a situation which was already quite bad enough. Yet, the method of his coming clean would not be at all straightforward. So, upon a choppy sea of non-sequiturs, Peter automatically started dwelling upon a certain Claude Etty, emerging in his mind from that dubious past which he had tried to forget. The chances were that Claude Etty had become an old man - but, to Peter, Claude Etty was still a strapping young one who would mug an old lady soon as look at her. He owed Peter a favour and, at such an optimum moment, why not instigate repayment? Despite this being the least likely answer to his problems, by any measure of rationality, Peter's brainstorming had led him to believe wholly in Claude Etty as that very answer...

Claude Etty's brothers and sisters had long since escaped to distant quarters of the world - so when he was arrested for murder, nobody suspected one of his brothers, a brother who had returned surreptitiously to the country and left again in heavy disguise. So, Claude mouldered away in prison, not even astute enough to believe his own innocence, whilst the guilty brother lived the life of Riley in a secret place which boasted a sun-kissed cove largely inhabited by well-knockered bimbos and ill-knickered flaunty floosies.

Claude, despite his flair for crime, had always possessed an almost religious attention to routine, but his whole life had been one long tolerance of unexpected interruptions to such routine - being imprisoned the biggest diversion so far.

Today, he was simply a ghost of himself - because his precious self was indeed elsewhere fulfilling the routine of an erstwhile life that had become little better than imaginary. His mother and father had only recently passed on domestic duties to him when they became double bed-ridden, soon after their other children absconded to warmer climes. Of course, the old dears were currently lying dead (again together) in a king-size grave, quite close to the prison.

The Earth itself was a prison, Claude Etty suddenly thought. So was the past, where he mopped, polished, dusted, scoured, scooped and shovelled. Incontinence was like that. Not that he understood the word. Or any other word for that matter. His brain had assumed the habit of a mental duffle-coat, its duffle-pegs being uncomfortably forgotten thoughts.

His dead parents' escape-tunnel from their grave was getting closer to the prison as they clawed through with fast-decomposing fingers, leaving eel-like body-parts in their wake. Claude smiled, toothless as he was mindless. His elder sister was no doubt coming tomorrow from the back-burner of the Antipodes, disguised as a Shrink. He kicked out at the urchin who cowered in a shift under his prison bed and ordered her to slop out the body-cans. There were indeed scores of these Prison-Maids, with service-tunnels honeycombing below all the prison-cells.

Claude's own body-cells were fast decaying, each silverfish of a membrane dividing out into its constituent weak-ends. Someone had tugged his earth-wire out - and he cried simply because it was the appointed time to cry. He had almost forgotten whom he had murdered and why and when and, even, what. Routines were excuses for not doing the obvious thing. Thankfully, he still had his phantom menstruation to cope with, which gave some sort structure to the endless weeks. Still that didn't make much sense in the context, in spite of it being an all womens' prison. A nick for knockers.

Meanwhile, Peter gave up thinking about Claude Etty, as he looked round the empty doctor's waiting-room. Strange: this particular surgery was customarily the busiest, one where all the mothers and babies turned up in squawking droves. The situation reminded Peter of that country pub in the no man's land between Guildford and Dorking; the large patrons' car park full up - but inside nobody but Peter himself and a surly barman who apparently couldn't draw a frothy pint without dribbling into it.

It was so quiet in the waiting-room, Peter could even hear the comforting smack of ball on willow from the nearby cricket ground. He had seated himself in the wicker-chair nearest to the tightly packed magazine rack, but resisted the temptation to tug one of them out. He'd perused them all on previous visits and he'd only finish up mooning at the fashion advertisements again. Instead, his mind dwelled upon the window factory tour upon which he had been conducted the day before. It was amazing how those house-tall slabs of glass were translated into bespoke apertures. A dangerous occupation. There was one giant triangular shard which could have gone straight through your body, if at the optimum angle. Peter wondered why there weren't more accidents. Most people he knew, including himself, lived a relatively charmed life. This was not altered by the fact that he was now attending the surgery because he had been pierced through the sole of his shoe by one of the many off-cuts littering the factory floor. A minor accident, of course, nothing more than a flea-bite of an injury.

The day before that, Peter had been taken around a printing works, where gargantuan rolls of paper were translated into those very same magazines that sat in the waiting-room which he had just that moment eschewed. It was a real eye-opener to be shown the various processes that constituted the manufacture of what one might otherwise take for granted.

He held his hands up to the light (as a distant cheer betokened a mighty boundary) and whimsically wondered whether, one day, he'd have the opportunity to tour God's factory. He laughed out loud, much to the consternation of the rest of the human Undergrunts who had by now filled the waiting-room. The doctor's voice could be heard shouting "Next!" as the previous patient came out - being a spitting image, Peter thought, of Claude Etty or was it that surly barman in the pub between Dorking and Guildford? Taking a wistful glance at the magazine rack, as if that were his only anchor in reality, Peter limped forlornly towards the doctor's examination room, fully expecting, if not believing, that it would be cram-packed with pink mewling babies from floor to ceiling.

The doctor was himself riffling through a glossy magazine. From Peter's eye-view, it appeared to be a specialist medical publication depicting various gory surgical cuts.

"Oh, hello, you here again?"

"Yes, doctor, one of my feet..."

" in the grave again, I suppose."

The doctor laughed cadaverously at his own joke, while he was still able to laugh, as the window violently exploded over both of them - by aid of a rogue cricket ball. And although time stood still for Peter, his thoughts could now return to Claude Etty...

Claude Etty once found it necessary to disguise himself as a woman, for he didn't want to go the war. He wasn't exactly a coward, but he couldn't bear the idea of rubbing along with the type of men that soldiers always seemed to be. He cringed at their snorting through straggly nasal hair and making wisecracks about all manner of body-parts. He supposed, if truth were told rather than hoarded, his own body was camouflage for an innocent pretty girl, looking through his eyes from inside his head.

The war was between nations that once formed a triple alliance, but they all now fought each other tooth and nail, with no recourse to sub-treaties, mutual espionage agreements, subterfuge nor even mercy. Whatever side was supported, it was obvious that each one had a cause incontravertibly worthy of whole-hearted support. Each permutation of two nations had their famous battles, as many still recall. But the fiercest battle which actually ended the war was when all three armies took to the same field concurrently and knocked the dead nightlights into each other.

Claude was sitting by the fire, listening to tanks crawling over other tanks, grunting beasts so typical of the men inside them. He feared for the thatch roof above him; it might have been caught by the fiery traceries flowing across the sky. The walls shook, as the triangle of conflict tightened.

The girl within him suddenly seemed to have urges he had previously eschewed.

"Sorry, my dear, that's one pleasure we'll both have to forego."

She did not answer. Claude must have known, but not admitted to himself, that she had not been inside him at all. She'd been far too demure to make such suggestions anyway. He sighed with relief, since the sweet creature would remain untarnished, undefiled, unsullied. He also wept openly for he was suffering the deepest bereavement that any human being could feel - the death of self. The imprisonment of the wrong soul in the wrong body.

He heard the rush of crackling above him. And he thanked God that the girl at least had survived ... somewhere ... probably above the burning thatch of the house itself. She'd be flying in across the battlefield, buoyed up by a parachute skirt of flesh, viewing the surviving soldiers of the three nations, as they played skipping games in new found sisterhood. Claude wondered if she shed pretty pearls of sorrow from her eyes upon seeing the extrusion of a blackened corpse from within his body. Such teardrops could not have been sufficient, however, to extinguish the raging flames...

Time leapfrogged. Peter's uncle had secured a position for him. There were not many vacation jobs that summer even at the seaside. He was therefore grateful to be given one which entailed sorting rubbish at Hastings Dump. He supposed, in retrospect, he must have been quite young in those days - not that he would have admitted it at the time. In his own eyes, he was a man of the world. So, the fact that four-letter words were merely kept apart from each other by means of inconsequential grunts in the speech rhythms of his colleagues on the Dump should have come as no surprise - especially as Peter was studying linguistics at University at the time.

There were two men, in particular, whom Peter remembered. One was Fred, the other Tom. Fred was short, had a permanent flat cap and showed a sharp wit for his age and demeanour. Tom was both physically and mentally thick. They and Peter had to pick through the rubbish piles for the purpose of salvaging good paper and cardboard to be stacked by a pressure machine. Even then, there must have been a vogue for recycling.

Peter was amazed one day when Tom began sampling pieces of old ham (or what looked like old ham) from the muck-heaps and even offering what he considered to be choice morsels to him. Fred, on the other hand, laid claim to his place in the indelible part of Peter's memory because, on one occasion, he scuttled like a twitchy mouse behind a yet untrawled section of rubbish and invited Peter to join him there for a glimpse of each other's private areas. Needless to say, Peter declined his invitation. Fred didn't stop being friendly to him after Peter's refusal, so Fred's negative leanings really brought out something positive about his simple-minded character. But life was never simple. Yet such events are the stuff of memory.

The only dream from those heady days of nostalgic hindsight Peter could recall was one about abortion (a subject on every lip following the Pope's Encyclical). A crowd of coffins. Baby-sized ones. Discovered under all the domestic detritus of Hastings town. Each with a fleshy doll inside with its knuckles, knees and elbows ground to the bone. And each sweet dead face with a smile for those who'd killed it before they'd kissed it. They stank to high heaven, like Tom's ham. Peter would have preferred a gay dalliance with Fred rather than allow his own little wriggly headless otherwise harmless generative organ to create such unwanted horrors with its white pus. Of course, Peter had put such dreaming from his mind ... till now. The sudden vantage point of the distant future could heal faster than the speed with which bodies and minds change day by day, cell by cell.

And a coffin is the last cell, beyond which even the escape-tunnel of the future collapses. What's more, there being so many of us dead and yet to die, the crowd of coffins must be even smaller than the pinheads upon which angels dance.

That summer Peter attended a Flower-Power Pop Festival at Hastings football ground and saw the group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich perform live. Mick thought he should have been called Horny ... but that meant the group's name wouldn't flow properly. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Horny and Tich? That was the stuff of alternate worlds and parallel universes. All mostly goobledygook.

Pop stars, these days, seem to perform dead.

Tom and Fred must've died yonks ago. Ungrateful Peter was not there to kiss them farewell - too late to remember them now, a fact which makes Peter want to weep. Perhaps he'll go back to Hastings Dump one day, if it is still there (or even if it isn't), and sniff round for long pig or lost organs....

"There was a wicked warm way to her heart," Claudette said.

"What was that?" the judge asked, knowing all the time that she had a story to tell...

"The stars were far-flung across a colour-drained sky. But black was indeed a colour itself, her favourite one, as she stood with legs spread upon the stone plinth at the wood's edge. This was no coven; for this was an Order of Members of far more probing depth. They starred outwards, fanning their arms, chanting vague prayers to even vaguer gods. The eyes shone like cars. Then came the moment when all settled into rigid silence, watching, waiting. The watching finished before the waiting: the wrinkled egg-shells of their eyelids began to droop, as the aching in their bones grew more painful even than their impatience. They understood that nothing could happen until the extinguishing of the last Member's lights. Eventually, with all possessing inner darkness," and Claudette began to weep in the speaking of it, "the ground began to shudder, the trees to shake their crackling tops and the moon came out."

The story could not outlast its telling, at least for the time being. The judge questioned Claudette with his eyes, but she placed a finger to her own eyes, like the pressing of a schoolteacher's finger upon buttoned lips in reaction to the classroom's noise.

Later in the proceedings, she picked up where she left off. "The wicked warm way to her heart was not through the eyes nor even the ears."

"But through what then?" he asked, knowing all the time that she had a story to finish...

"They carried her upon a makeshift litter from the woodland's random reaches. The moon had by now cast the stars to shame, both in size and brilliance, and then the Members crooned new songs, all with a fresh percipience. Even the moon listened to their threnodies. They traipsed paths that only existed because the weeds cringed from fear of being trampled. A wild beast yowled in the distance, so plaintively soft the moon might have been nearer. The Members forced their warm ways into her own cringing passages... and she died without even a whimper. Hang bang sang gang rang - the Order of Members met at her heart's wicked warmth and felt they were at the beginning of life..."

And at its end.

Claudette sobbed in the way the listener imagined the wild beast in the story to have sounded. Despite this she was determined to have the last word in the sentence: "There can be no pardon, because I was there to see their murder - and to suffer it. Unlike moonshine, starlight glows the whole universe through, if only weakly upon the likes of Earth." She smiled. "And I could see that their eyes were red as they walked away from me."

The judge immediately ordered the defendants to be taken from the court to the cells, only later to hear his last word. He sat back and removed the hot wig, glad that justice was to be carried out.

Notwithstanding the lack of a living victim, its ghost had supplied eye-witness evidence to ritual murder. The Act of Paranormality and Revenance (Legal Procedures and Jurisprudence) 1998 - he always carried this vast tome in his cape pocket. He did not need eyes in the back of his head. There's a wicked warm way ... bang hang gang ... he couldn't remove the rituals from his mind. But that was where they always had been.

Claudette had really deserved all the legal strength any such evidence could give her, but if ghosts could come to be trusted, what was the future of crimes ... indeed, what that of judges?

He would have to ask the moon...

Peter watched from a distance, Claudette's narrow back looking as if it belonged to someone younger than him, much much younger. The warm-winded place was a public park, but evidently not very public at this time of day, as they were the only two figures in anyone else's sight. The sun was so low in the sky, it looked as if the trees had caught fire. The far spikes of park railings made it necessary for Peter to shrug off thoughts of prison. It was only too easy for him to drift back on the tide of the past towards such preoccupations. He had settled his debt to society, had he not? No longer guilty, he had vowed to remain innocent for the rest of his life. So, he approached the solitary shape, trying to make as much noise as possible, scuffing his toe-caps through the brown leaves, coughing, sneezing, blowing his nose, laughing gently. He could now tell Claudette was breathing very heavily, as if she had very recently ceased a strenuous exercise, such as press-ups, limb-scissors or jogging on the spot. If he had not been scrutinising her for at least half an hour, Peter would have sworn she was fighting for her breath. Yet, upon hearing his increasing courtesies of racket, she swivelled. The face was a still life. The china doll skin. The already pursed rosebud of lips. The eyelids thrown back by a piercing stare. No sign of forced breathing. Simply a suspicion of air playing at the delicately chiselled nostrils. "Nice evening for the time of the year," Peter announced as calmly as possible. He wanted to ensure his innocence. He could not afford another slip-up. Past offenders must be beyond reproach. He bowed. He had almost curtsied in his eagerness to appear effete. She returned her back towards him, with renewed panting. He could even believe she was enduring a very difficult confinement - if it had not been for the slim profile of her body. The late shafts of the sun had silhouetted perfect breasts, carved the flattest stomach through the misty lace of her blouse.

"She was beautiful - more beautiful than I can explain," Peter found himself saying. The officer looked him over, as Peter forced out further words: "Her back rose and fell as if she needed help - perhaps she was sobbing - the breaths were broken, unrhythmic - but there had been no wetness under her eyes - was she choking on the wind, then, I asked myself, without understanding my own question." Peter could not bear talking about her, but what else should he have done? The cassette recorder had been switched on. If he did not speak into it, who would? Certainly not the officer. Such people were mean with words. No she was not crying, yet Peter had forgotten that he himself often cried without tears. "I asked her for a name," he continued, "but she remained facing away from me - I dared not cross her sight uninvited - I remained behind, letting her taunt me with no reply." The cassette recorder clicked off. The officer removed the tape, turned it over, replaced it and pressed a key, nodding at Peter in the last moments of the process. Peter thought of it bedded upon the spindles, as if this were its final resting-place, the coffin-lid fascia shut upon it, so that it could actually come alive inside. Such bizarre thoughts diverted him until he was prompted by the officer to speak. "Just before it got dark, she seemed to stop breathing altogether - I was so surprised - no, I was worried for her well-being - I smartly ran round to face her - she smiled at me - not dark enough to prevent me from seeing that - the cheeks were crazed over with hair-line cracks - she had to lean forward to keep the eyelids from closing - an act of gravity I could not entirely fathom - I took her hand and pulled the arm towards me, as it pivotted at the shoulder - the rubbery material of the fingers was almost like flesh to the feel - I believed she was dead and alive simultaneously - that was the only way I could explain it. Yet I can't explain it now - she was quite dead - you see she was dead before I touched her - she must have been."

The officer nodded and stopped a smile at the last moment, then crouched before Peter, staring up into Peter's eyes. Peter knew he was incriminated up to his neck. He looked pleadingly at the cassette recorder, literally begging it to tape someone else's words, someone else's guilt. In his innocence, he had loved Claudette, taken pity on a street whore, a foul dosseress, a female tramp, a female trap. The officer's eyelids drooped, snores blacking from his nostrils. That Peter had bored him stiff was the first daft idea that went through his head. The officer fell to the ground as the sun finally disappeared behind the trees. The cassette turned like twin swirls of dead leaves. Peter's own eyelids shuttered for the last time: a camera whose film would always be locked away inside the head. The wind, now colder, continued to shuttle brown leaves around his feet and to cut right through the thin blouse. He could not, will not cry. Yet he knew that prison was for the innocent - and dolls rarely had physical accoutrements of gender when Peter was a child...

"Ghosts often disguise themselves as ceilings", thought Claudette, while she placed her knife and fork neatly upon the plate. She thought the knife and fork would marry one day and live happily ever after. She had lots of such thoughts, like most people, some more ridiculous than others. But, thoughts of any kind are dangerous: they may lead to thoughts of death, thoughts of dire devils gnawing the soul's bottom bone, thoughts of the sun not rising tomorrow...

"Claudette, clear away the dishes, please." Her mother was lost in her own secret thoughts.

Claudette clattered in the sink for a while, while her mother used the same while to make herself up in the mirror. It was an important task since, without her face on, her mother felt vulnerable and semi-dressed. The powder was not exactly laid on with a trowel, but she was decidedly heavy-handed with the lipstick.

Claudette thought her mother looked like a clown when the face was finished. The daughter lightly pecked her on the rouged cheek, whilst drying her hands on the tea towel. Claudette wondered why they weren't called dinner towels or supper towels or breakfast towels or, even, sanitary towels. But she did not bother her mind with such considerations for long. The lipstick looked overdone, until Claudette realised that her mother had accidentally cut her tongue on her teeth during beakfast.

Mother and daughter used the same bus to get to work and school respectively. Claudette's mother earned her crust peeling potatoes and similar drudgery in a cafe, whilst Claudette was doing her A-levels in Maths, Geography and English.

This morning, the same bus was late, the sky grey. The tutting queue shuffled on its feet, mother and daughter towards the back (since they had been a trifle tardy). They felt they were part of a crocodile whose back itched, with nothing to use as a suitable scratcher. One umbrella was sufficient to cover both their bare heads during the onset of a heavy period of rain. Claudette wondered whether her mother's face would run.

A large car with ribbons splayed across the bonnet drove past. The pale blue bride in the back nodded at the queue, but nobody could see her face because of the frothy veil. The other passenger beside the bride kept a narrow profile, like a blade of darkness.

"Early in the morning for a wedding," thought Claudette aloud, looking at the clearing sky. The passengers had frightened her more than the departing clouds.

"Best to get it over with," said a gent in a bowler towards the front of the queue.

Claudette's mother looked daggers at him. And the bus arrived punctually, seeing it was the next one all the time. The queue quickly coiled on board.

"Weather's picking up for the wedding", said Claudette.

Her mother's smile was a red splodge, as she lowered the umbrella. Must get some towels at the chemist, before I forget, Claudette thought. She took a tiny coffin from her pocket and looked longingly at the thing inside that had once been Claude’s to wield.

The sky was by now a seamless, sunless ceiling of blue. Even free people have been imprisoned within their own bodies...

Peter scanned the telephone directory, debating whether this or that Etty was one of Claude's relatives or even Claude himself. It was sensible, of course, to begin with those with the surname Etty bearing the initial C. He prodded the numbers shown roughly midway down such Ettys and waited for the dialling tone to stop which would indicate, at best, a listening ear or, at worst, a deaf heavy-breather. The odds were that it would not be nobody, because a sane universe, in which Peter, incredibly, believed, prevented nobodies from being capable of picking up the handset of a telephone. As he hung on the line, he continued to brood over the various turnings that his life had recently taken, the strangest of which was the mistaken identity...

His thoughts were forgotten when the phone was at last answered, somewhere in an area of the city which Peter had never visited, but one containing a street where a certain C. Etty was said to reside by the usually dependable records of the directory - unless, of course, he or she had moved out since the directory was published.

"Hello." That was Peter's voice. He heard it echoing back at him.

"Hello, who's that?" This voice was decidedly feminine, belonging to a lady who probably feared that Peter was an anonymous caller about to ask her to describe the underwear which she was currently sporting.

"Excuse me, but I'm after someone called Etty. I don't suppose that he lives where you are."

She said something Peter couldn't decipher. Perhaps she insulted him with a name usually reserved for those of dubious parentage, upon assuming he was indeed a real anonymous caller.

His head rang. It felt as if a hard red leathery cricket-ball was lodged in the brain - and he looked towards the blotched ceiling in despair, fearing that the Holy Ghost only existed to bear witness to the world being crowded out with prisoners in their fleshy coffins and to rituals being inherited routines. Memories did not make a lifetime. He was in love with nobody. The next period of pain ensued. He sobbed liquid pearls at the jagged shards inside. And blood was trying to escape.

So, after all, it had only been an answer-phone, he recalled, with nobody recorded on the tape.


Posted by augusthog at 8:39 AM EDT
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Untethered Night

Untethered Night

posted Saturday, 1 September 2007
Clive was alone in the waiting-room. He conducted a surveying sweep, checking off each item. The china dog on the mantelpiece. The clockcase standing within the curve of a bay window, its pendulum stock still. The tiled coffee table with a full set of crockery ready positioned and a teapot that steamed slightly as it brewed, showimg that someone must have placed it there before Clive arrived. The two easy chairs matching the upholstered couch upon which he sat, all with silky antimacassars prudently laid out for the elbows and the heel of the skull. The oil painting glistening in the late afternoon light, as it hung above the fireplace with a visage which was so nondescriptly portrayed it should have been nobody at all. The old-fashioned radiogram manufactured from heavy-duty bakelite which must have been moulded in the earliest days prior to the eventual mass-marketing of plastic. Each no doubt had its story.

A middle-aged woman entered the waiting-room. She pondered over a magazine rack, the only item which Clive had left unnoticed. She raised her eyebrows to see him but, without saying a word, buried herself in what must have been an enthralling article or piece of fiction. Not that she was unattractive, he mused, but she had a cold look about her. He did not notice the serviceable frock: it was so much part and parcel of her persona, it could not be differentiated from the whole. The next to breach the room's doorway was a boy in short trousers, dragging a kite that was larger than himself. He sat on the couch, leaving a space in the middle between him and Clive. The kite leaned against the radiogram. The tableau was completed by the grand entrance of an old lady with a coarse-grained net, veiling her face as it hung from the hat-pinned fascinater upon the head. Her frock was noticeable, since it revealed rather more of her wrinkled bosom than was seemly.

Clive now knew instinctively that the world was as it should be. The gathering had been pre-ordained; the coming of Netface, as he called the old lady, was the positioning of the last piece of the jigsaw. He did not want to pre-empt fate, so he began to fulfil the role that had been settled for him since time immemorial. He would be mother, he vowed, as he set out the cups upon the bone china saucers, poured the milk in dashes from the jug that had been concealed from view by the teapot, placed the strainer upon the nearest open-mouthed cup and proceeded to pour the golden liquid through the high denier of the shapely curved strainer. The gurgle of sparkling amber, as he filled each cup, delighted the senses: an art form in every respect. Each innuendo of the process was accounted for.

But, of course, nobody had pre-ordained the wasp.

As Clive parted his lips to sample a sip from the fine edge of the smoothly burnished surface of sweetest liquid infusion which he failed to remember sugaring, the wasp flew straight in ... and down. He could sense it darting about his insides like a dollop of fizzing acid. He kept pointing to his mouth in dumbfounded sudden horror - whilst memories half-skirted his mind ... until, with a flourish, they were flung off as if he were a stripper. Except real strippers didn't usually get as far as the bones...

But he wanted the biggest audience. More than himself, at any rate. So he rose from his sick bed with splayed legs, wandered over to the tallboy and pulled out suitable apparel for his grand divestment.

He poised a needle upon the inlet groove of an operatic disc, one he'd liked since childhood. Its heroic tale would weave the bed-sit into something akin to wonder and myth.

Tugging long striped socks until they reached above his grubby knees, he abruptly realised that it would be the devil's own job to accomplish his life's ambition, which was death. He feared he'd be inside his head for ever more. Audience or not. And now he somehow preferred not.

The morning air given off by the frozen butter sun brought him to premature, if bleary-eyed, wakefulness. An early wasp irritated itself, without noticing what effect it had on Clive. The human early-goers were evidently firing on all drives from some internal white heat engendered by the promise of the day. He did not know exactly what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it. Life was one long launching of a makeshift kite. But whatever he did, there would be no going back, he was sure.

To the girl looking at Clive, he did not act confused. He did not see her lurking behind the unemptied dustbins outside the tower flats. God forbid that she would ever need to use that as her reconnaissance spot again because, even in dreams, the smells returned. She lost track of him down by the Fast Canal, where the Bell-House gave her the impression that some architect must once have played a real blinder, since it made the surrounding urban sprawl seem even sprawlier.

He first followed his nose by the Fast Canal's stagnant waters - which at that time in the morning still bore a veneer of scummy ice - and simply gave his amnesia full rein losing himself in the no man's land of the outer inner city. As he would have been the first to admit, he was indeed no man and thus felt at home there, amid the wasps, nettles and coke. The girl? Well, she returned to the bed-sit where ghosts of Clive's aches and agues still lingered. She decided to dedicate the rest of her life to his memory. She followed the aches around hoping that they would attach themselves to her bones.

Even in here you could smell the dustbins outside.

The black disc was still revolving with the needle unable to spool off the wide-placed grooves towards its centre. It had been scratching a living all day - whilst Clive's own bitter-sweet memories of the girl were always woven into his dreams - when she played hopscotch and tugged kites into the orange-rind waspless twilights of that now untenable countryside called the past. Sometimes, during those long far-off days when they would rather kiss than talk, he could well imagine that they were one person. He can barely recall what she looked like. "Looking like" implies that she could be compared with something, but that was arrant nonsense, of course. She was a paragon and Clive her paramour. At least for a time. Too young to have been older than him, he wondered how she had ever been given charge of him.

The girly games she played as a child had left sparkles in her older eyes. Clive often sat into the early mornings, listening to her tell of the various playground activities: skipping under spherical-quick loops in tune to rhymes and unreason; playing mothers and fathers, doctors and nurses, masters and servants; that wondrous hopscotch game again with their frocks tucked into navy-blue knickers for optimum white-thighed freedom; heaving down kites that didn't want to stop flying through the mosquito-lit sky; and watching the boys through the railings that divided the two playgrounds. The games the boys played were even stranger than those of the girls, more arcane, involving glinting marbles, shiny conkers, out-staring eyes, flick ciggie cards and "guess-the-strangest-item-in-my-trouser-pocket". Those boys, well, they did not dare watch the girls through the same railings, except perhaps surreptitiously after their own games had grown sour with the interminable chant of "fight, fight, fight, fight" ending in bloody noses, scraped shins and spider-webbed specs.

But her telling of such matters was so much more vivid than Clive's. He wishes he could recall the actual words she used. There is one occasion he is trying to tease back into existence, the implications of which are still lost on him. It was nearly Christmas Day at his parents' house and they had on a Nat King Cole LP. Probably, "These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You" or "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", but no matter. They sat, gently resting against each other, on the settee. His parents had gone to bed a trifle early, diplomatically leaving them alone. He supposes the Nat King Cole was merely a needle's run-off following their departure up the wooden hills, neither of the youngsters caring to get up and turn it off.

Although most of their peers had TV sets in the family parlours, his parents did not care to own one. Father said it squared the eyes and pulped the brain. Mother agreed with him, not knowing too well what one was in any event. Clive knows now that she must have seen everything through the blur of senility, but she did recall somehow those grey screens flickering the Coronation in Evans' shop window. The reception had been so bad in the area, it was no good trying to discern even the rudiments of a logical image. Father had indeed bought a TV aerial - he said it set off the chimneystack a real treat. (Clive suspects Father did not want others to know he did not own a TV set). The aerial lead dangled into the parlour, unattached.

Suddenly, thoughts of his absent parents were disrupted. She was unrolling her stockings from the legs one by one, a process which had started with high heels being kicked off and a fumbling up her own skirt, followed by the mysterious sound of what Clive later gathered to be the unpopping of suspenders. The seams scribbled the top of each stocking pile as it was carelessly strewn upon the carpet at her feet. He peered quizzically at these hastily thrown together artefacts, as if they were precursors of dog-muck puddles on the floor of the Tate Gallery. And, indeed, a drowsy winter wasp was landing upon one of them...

It is difficult to detach his present self from those events, overlaying them as he does with the false perspective of experience and maturity. It was obviously a mating-dance of some kind, but one that he failed to understand as much as it excited him.

She kissed him lightly on the cheek. Then he kissed her lightly back. This was something he did understand. He had often seen older boys and girls than themselves kissing in the dark cinema. It was the kissing that counted. The harder the better. Only the kissing. What else could there have been?

He was eager to ask more about her childhood, for he had not been one of those boys in the divided playground. Was the hopscotch game one that merely ended with the number ten, or was it one of those rarer versions that snakes around the whole chalk-marked schoolyard, an endless hokey-cokey of occult memories? She shrugged. Took off her blouse, quickly. Not lovingly, nor teasingly. As if she were getting ready for netball. Only enough time to gasp at the sight of her lacy bra. It was cut so that it merely concealed the nipples downwards, leaving a blinding decolletage of cloven downy flesh above.

Abruptly, she burst into tears and disappeared up the stairs in a trice, where Clive's parents had allotted her his single room for the duration of the Christmas period she was to spend with them. That room had been the scene of his boyhood, reaching back forever into the beginnings of time itself. As well as resenting her, he wondered how she could cope with the dreams that inhabited it.

He was to sleep on the softee settee in the parlour ... where he was now feeling so utterly lonely. The muffled movements of her clambering into his bed made it seem even lonelier. He stared at the crumpled stockings she had left on the floor. They were his companions of the night. He held them to himself as he settled into the prodding springs of the settee, under the makeshift covers. Desperately trying to reach into those dreams of hers with which he hoped to share, he felt his own soft flesh shapefully ballooning those gossamer vessels of low denier sheen.

He has not seen her now for twenty odd years. That particular Christmas was effectively their last allegiance. Hastily snatched pecks on the cheek were not Clive's idea of sex acts. And he did not know how heavy the petting was meant to be before it became full penetration. His parents said it was a shame - she was such a nice girl. However, they did not know half of it. Nor will anyone else for that matter.

His mother died when he was still no more than a pucker-arsed, bristly-chinned kid. His father dawdled after. These days, Clive plays Nat King Cole on his audio stack, watching the numbers click by on the counter - after 999 they start again at nought. His TV is switched on without the sound. He owns no aerial, so it is all snowstorm. He can hear kids outside playing amid the chalk marks he has left for them on the pavements. He is as old now as his parents were that Christmas. But the girl ached to wear the vestments of different memories. For her, the trip to the south coast with Clive had all the promise of a honeymoon, with none of the bother of going through a wedding. Equally, the expression "dirty weekend" was only meant for other people. The memories she would lay down in the cellar of her mind to mature like bottles of dark red wine were hopefully to last for the rest of her life. Such words she used spoke volumes for her own maturity at such a tender age.

She knew, soon after meeting Clive, that he was not so much in love with her as a person, but with the idea of the love he thought he experienced. Not that it seemed to matter, for she considered it important to be escorted by a man who was sufficiently self-respecting as to be worthy of her reciprocation. They loved each other for their own selves.

She had always felt at a loose end without a male arm to put her own arm through. So, the idea of a better half being an ill-kempt churl was not even to be contemplated. She wanted no half measures, and Clive seemed squarely to fit the the bill.

She saw straightaway that he was not without his quirks. She had always prided herself on understanding people - this, despite one or two bad experiences with boy friends. However, none of his idiosyncracies (during that now legendary party at Ilona's flat where she first met him) were significant enough to allow her to indulge cold-shouldering his advances. If she made a mistake at all, it was condoning, by her silence, the single-mindedness of one particular facet of his make-up. And that was the apparent need to wear outlandish clothes, such as highly coloured silk scarves, decorative nugget rings, over polished patent leather shoes with high heels, shoulder pads, dress shirts and, on one especially memorable occasion, a wide bright red cummerbund around his waist not much smaller than her own mini skirt. These were affectations, she soon realised, with which she could live, since they seemed to be the bolster of his personality, his raison d'etre almost. In fact, some of his items of jewellery suited her fingers, toes and ear-lobes better than his.

She needed a man with pride and there was no harm (was there?) in Clive deriving his from what he chose to wear. All that she really needed was the end result, and she did indeed feel good in his company; basking in reflected glory, as it were; both of them mutually refined; each for the other a shoulder to cry on and a body to hide behind.

The seaside resort was in two main parts. The old town was full of quaint antique shops and narrow winding streets. And then there was the new town, rather over-stocked with department stores. Between the two, a hill-cliff reared with pleasant views of both towns and the sea, where kids regularly heaved on massive kites. One could reach the top either by climbing the steep, seemingly endless steps or by a "Train" lift pulled on a chain by a stationary steam engine.

Having arrived late on a Saturday afternoon, they decided to take the trip to the top. It seemed the natural thing to do: to take in the whole place in one fresh gulp, as it were, before getting down to the nitty gritty of exploring each nook and cranny of the place. They looked out to sea, as darkness settled upon them from the sky. The lights of the old town were sparkling between the cliff and the empty horizon like the jewels of which they were both so fond. As she put her arm around his shoulder, he said something that she later found very difficult to put out of her mind, although she could not recall his precise words.

"Each one of those lights hides a thousand mysteries, don't you think? Whenever I see windows lit up, I suppose there must be a reason for the curtains to be closed? Why else close them?"

"Everybody likes their privacy, Clive. Most people can't bear being watched. After all, we're always needing to wear our public faces, aren't we? Curtains provide some relief, a chance to recuperate, to reconstitute." She surprised herself at her own wordiness, but Clive made this come out in her. In hindsight, she realised her own makeshift maturity at that time completely concealed an even deeper immaturity.

They sat down, legs hanging over the cliff-edge, like puppets. She brushed away a peculiarly insistent night-wasp and a light sea-breeze riffled her hair. He looked straight at her. She did not question how they could see each other in the darkness but, trying to look back at it all through the random effectiveness of human memory, she supposed the glow from the street-lighting far below was rising like heat ... perhaps leaving the roads darker than ever.

"Clothes are curtains, in a way..."

"Don't be damned silly, Clive, how many people have you seen wearing masks? And, in this country, you've got to wear clothes because it's so bloody cold half the time..."

Another thing he brought out in her was swearing. She supposed it was herself trying to match his egoism, like a reflection in a funfair hall of mirrors.

"So, if all their purpose is utility, as you say, why aren't all clothes just plain sacking and such-like. I think they have to be symbols of the wearer..."

"You're arguing against yourself, Clive. One moment you say clothes are the same as curtains, the next that people reveal their own inner selves through the clothes they wear."

It was no victory to defeat him with words. Words are blunt instruments - so what use subtlety?

Before he could reply, she smothered his mouth with a girlish kiss. She had always seemed to take the initiative in their relationship, and it was only at this point that she questioned the whole affair. The air off the sea had cleared her head.

"Your own clothes are not exactly demure." She spoke to fill the awkward silence, seeing the outline of his face, but not the eyes which had sunk back into the darkness.

She took his hand. It felt cold. Or the relative warmth of hers made his appear cold. She knew she had broached a subject that had previously been out of bounds, ever since first meeting him at Ilona's party.

The moon fleetingly made an appearance, like a stage star taking a curtain call between the shifting clouds. Its light, reflected off the sea, glowed softly upon him, and she saw that he was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. And she realised that she could only ever truly love such a creature.

She burst into tears of anger. "Fuck you!" she screeched, her voice seeming to echo across the distant rooftops of the old town like a witch on a broomstick...

They spent the rest of what the clouds turned into a wet weekend at arm's length. Polite, yes. Even partners in bed, but never unnecessarily intimate.

There was still a residue of yearning inside her, but nothing she could rationalise. She suspected the pall of full-blooded maturity had already settled upon her. She now has a proper boy friend who takes her places, treats her like a real lady. She basks in his handsome sparkling smiles. His sharp-creased suits.

Notwithstanding this, she thinks she will always have a soft spot for that Clive who disappeared for good behind the selective curtains of memory. She heard a vague rumour that he was living with Ilona ... and his name wasn't Clive. Thus, she left him in the waiting-room of memories. His screeches echoed on and on. The little boy hesitated at the door for a last glance but, seeing his own older face for perhaps the first time, forgot to take his kite...

And woke up.

His wife snored beside him, probably embroiled in a dream of her own. Knowing her, she was therein decked with the pretty frock which she wanted for next Christmas. His little son stirred in the next bedroom, impatient for ambitions to form.

But what son? There was no son of course. The silently shuttling kite-winged stork had indeed failed to bless them with the child for whom they had always yearned.

And, indeed, what wife? The snores had, of course, been his.

The shimmering gold of dawn seeped into the bedroom curtains like oriental tea, as he rose to look at himself in the dressing-table mirror. The features were crow-footed over with the cobwebby nets of residue night. He opened the toothless mouth - and used it to scream with.

Out flew the wasp.

(previously published – currently investigating where!)


Posted by augusthog at 8:37 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton

posted Tuesday, 17 November 2009



Enid Blyton was *the* major force in my reading life in the Fifties. And apparently she still sells 8 million books a year. She wrote 750 books.
The excellent TV drama last night on BBC4 with Helena Bonham-Carter was very provocative about her life. A case study in the Intentional Fallacy and Nemonymity, I feel.



“'Secret Way!' said Anne, her eyes shining. ‘Oh, I hope it’s that! Secret Way! How exciting. What sort of secret way would it be, Julian?’
‘How do I know, Anne, silly?’ said Julian. ‘I don’t even know that the words are meant to mean “Secret Way.” It’s really a guess on my part.’”
-- Enid Blyton (Five Go Adventuring Again).



1. Weirdmonger left...
Monday, 23 November 2009 4:39 pm

It seems my long reading life is bracketed by two EB women. Enid Blyton and Elizabeth Bowen. Other than their names, they couldn't be more different.

They were almost exact contemporaries, too. Just realised. Blyton 1897-1968, Bowen 1899 - 1973

Posted by augusthog at 8:11 AM EDT
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Cerne Abbas

Cerne Abbas

posted Tuesday, 17 November 2009



In today’s TIMES newspaper (17 Nov 09) there is an article about the Cerne Abbas chalk giant (liberally featured in the ‘Cern Zoo’ book) and its oft mis-orthographised ‘hadron’.  ‘Hadron’ is Greek for ‘stout or thick’.

The article debates the identity of the original creator of the giant and Lord Holles is proposed: “One resident who may have been responsible ... Denzil Holles, a characterful MP who fought for the Parliamentarians but was a Royalist at heart and who occupied the house from 1642-66.”

The ‘house’ in question is the Abbey of Cernes “transformed into a country mansion in the mid-16th century after the Dissolution of the Monasteries”. 

That Dissolution was possibly history’s first Collider...

A fanblade ferris-wheel laying waste across the land.

Holles held Cromwell in contempt. A joke’s butt of the giant?

The giant was covered up during the war for fear of the Luftwaffe navigating by his bright outline.

The question is how many Holles makes a single Black Holle?


1. Weirdmonger left...
Tuesday, 17 November 2009 1:44 pm

The whole plot of Dr Who 'The Waters of Mars' seemed to fit in with FlashForward, Hadron Collider sabotaging itself from the future ..... Enjoyed it.

2. Weirdmonger left...
Tuesday, 17 November 2009 4:38 pm

The Cerne in Cerne Abbas derives from the Celtic god Cernunnos.

Posted by augusthog at 8:10 AM EDT
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The Fanblade Fables

The Fanblade Fables

posted Monday, 9 November 2009

 Fanblade Fables - and Baffles.

Fanblade reference: an early pre-cursor of the Large Hadron Collider ... and its 'Cern Zoo' accoutrements?

Please see:

Some of those links are now defunct, but most work. 

I'll try to find links to the missing ones in the meantime.


EDIT: Fanblade Five and Fanblade Seven don't work on that link above.  I can't find Fanblade Five anywhere at all and I have discovered Fanblade Seven on my computer (now pasted below).

Fanblade Seven (2006)

Hiver Jawn cherished his father's bee-keeper's veil following the death of the child who was due to grow into Hiver Jawn's father.

A portrait kept by a ghost to commemorate another ghost straddles these potentialities of tangible existence destined to die prematurely before the portrait is painted.  The likenesses were nevertheless perfect.

Parodices - the plural of paradox?

Too many things are singular.

Death, where are thy stings?

Is a fable that ends with a question honed purposively to its sharpest edge of fanblade, positively turned upon the lathe of didactic proverb, indeed finished?




1. Weirdmonger left...
Monday, 9 November 2009 5:05 pm ::

A brand new FANBLADE FABLE at link immediately above.

Posted by augusthog at 8:01 AM EDT
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Sunday, 15 August 2010
Ringing The Chains

Ringing The Chains

posted Thursday, 10 March 2005

Not everybody would I earmark for becoming a ghost one day. Yet when John finally “fell under a bus” one fine Spring morning, I was certainly reminded of why he had always struck me as a strong candidate for any earthbound afterlife going spare. The customary pallor of his almost see-through face had often been noticeable - as if he had just seen a winding sheet. Also, his clothes appeared to hang upon a bodiless shape - which was not surprising in view of what little I saw of him on a topless beach when we shared now a legendary holiday. But, above all, the way he moaned and groaned - and dragged chains by the ankles across the bedroom carpet - was relatively conclusive. I often found it difficult to believe he was not a ghost already. Of course, it was even more difficult to believe he was a ghost. The various rings his ears and nose sported were proof enough, surely, that he had flesh to pierce. And if not, his suffocating embrace was the real clincher. I loved him dearly, you see, but, throughout his carnal existence, it did feel rather like loving a would-be extraterrestrial. At least, after his death, I had an incontrovertible ghost to love - and rings on a revenant were indeed rather fetching.

(published 'Wearwolf' 1993)


1. Paul Dracon left...
Friday, 5 August 2005 3:39 pm

This one made me chuckle. What a compliment: to refer to someone as a fine candidate for ghosthood!

Posted by augusthog at 6:37 AM EDT
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