Monday, 28 October 2013

Eminent Domain Extract One

Alec Hargreaves left his office at five on the dot as he had for the last thirty one years and headed for the station. It was a mild Spring evening, filled with warm eddies and crosscurrents, the leaves half returned, and there was a mixedness to things that gladdened his heart further, that made him feel, though he was himself closing in on the end of his days, 79 years old this very September, still as intoxicated by the sense of change and new beginnings, the burgeoning and ripening of the world’s urge to fullness, as he had been as a boy.

How time flies. He took a deep breath on what had once been called Charing Cross road. And yet what monumental things he had lived through, they had all lived through. He was an old man, suddenly, to his own surprise, and still thought in terms of Nations perhaps in a way that younger generations, his grandchildren simply did not. He felt, on that still promissory, intoxicated breeze, all of Europe and beyond, the USSR, the Peoples’ Rebublics of the Far and Middle East, The Great Seventy Percent of the earth’s surface, the billions of people gathered together in Universal Association, breathing freely as one. In this too he had played his own small part.

Now he would retire, spend a relaxing summer with his family watching the Olympics he had been instrumental in organizing, the summit of a career spent in public service and in which he took enormous pride.

To his surprise the Underground station was piping a piece specifically composed for the Olympics by Grisom. Personally he liked it, though it had inevitably been attacked for containing nostalgic and sentimental even kitsch elements by Stainhope, Wilding and others, along with the usual complaints about the Cult of the Individual Composer. It was, admittedly, not as radical as the theme to the Moscow Olympics had been, a colossal, symphonic work generated and modulated through a series of feedback loops controlled and essentially composed by the peoples thronging the stadium themselves, huge, multicolored loops of noise, constantly in flux, a series of eight interlocking and rotating rings of densely polymerized sound, a sonic analogue of the Olympic flag. But then the Russians were still so far ahead of everyone else, had experienced such a radical renaissance over the past twenty five years that they threatened to eclipse not merely their own contemporaries in the Socialist sphere but seemed now to have attained a level of social, aesthetic, technological and political sophistication such that almost all prior cultures were thrown into stark relief. To go to Moscow and attend those extraordinary games and then to know that Britain was next had been truly daunting.

And so here we are, he thought, a small nation but one which has managed finally to propel itself fully into the stream of History. Small, but he believed, content, fully realized, a country in which the long trudge toward a mature, full modernity had been realized. Though not without a cost. Not without dark periods, nor without blood. As he waited for the train to the central interchange he chatted to a young girl who recognized him from the News and struck up conversation, asking about the progress on the games and explaining that she had helped to work on part of the development for the materials used in the moulding of the great resin shell that formed the stadium. He expressed his admiration for her work on the project and wonder at the technology that had allowed them to create so large a building as a single, seamless, biodegradable whole. In his youth such things had seemed impossible dreams. As had many things that had now come to pass. He asked about the music. Did she feel it was too British? She responded that it was perhaps impossible to fully and absolutely purge reactionary historical influences from culture, at least at this stage, a mere thirty years into the British Republic. Then she smiled, a forgiving, affectionate smile, you have your attachments she seemed to say, at your age one becomes nostalgic, we understand. She was young, recently graduated from Glasgow School of Biometallurgy. Hargreaves took immense satisfaction in talking to the young, enjoyed how much more committed and selfless, how much more united and certain they were than his own generation had been.

He was due to have a final inspection of the stadium in Birmingham the next day, more a ceremonial event than anything now the work was completed, which he looked forward to but also regretted having agreed to somewhat, as his grandson was visiting at the moment, back from Scotland for a few weeks and how much more time he might have to spend with him was uncertain. Perhaps he could take Scott with him. He was so like his father, physically, in manner, that it was almost as if he and Mary had had their own, brave, lost son restored to them. Not without blood, indeed. Not without sacrifices.

Alex Hargreaves was a little rueful on the train to Birmingham, which took just under half an hour, though back in the house in Handsworth his spirits immediately lifted.. He enjoyed a good natured debate on the ongoing struggles in the United States with Scott and his friend David, quizzed David, freshly back from a student exchange in California on what they all teasingly referred to as his new American girlfriend, drank a dry sherry, grew sleepy, retired to bed at ten thirty with a slight stomachache and passed away peacefully in his sleep at exactly three fourteen a.m., in his own bed, in his own home, in the country, among the people he had built his life around, his beloved grandson in the spare room next to his, his wife of fifty-seven years, Mary, sleeping softly beside him in a world transformed beyond all recognition from the one he had been born into.

All as he would have wanted.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Resolution Way Lewis Extract three

She is busy, she wants to be busy, nonstop, to go to bed exhausted at ten and wake up angry for the day at six and not waste a second of it in melancholy or dreaminess. She is in love with her own sense of purpose, in love with books, the people she has found online, the people she knows IRL, the accessibility of this hidden and burgeoning world of occupations, protests, demos, strikes and talks, she is in love with her own sense that she incarnates a truth that she can’t yet quite express but that she will grow into that truth and that where once she was a child, a girl, now she will be a weapon.
After she eats her breakfast she heads straight for the gym, she wants her body to be flat and strong, to burn off her boobs, her bum, build muscle in her shoulders arms and thighs, develop stamina, strength, speed.

She's always the first into Wavelengths, the staff still bleary and yawning, settling contentedly into the early morning calm, the wash of chlorine coming in from the empty pool, bleach from the freshly swabbed floors. Lee used to train there, before they modernized it, in the cramped, humid studio above the pool, though he actually worked over at the bigger centre in Lewisham, did extra hours up in Woolwich at Fitness First, Gymbox in Charring Cross,  the Reebok place over in Canary Wharf that he used to run to for his sessions on Thursday evening. Lewis used to go with him sometimes, up Creek Road and past the Cutty Sark, down through the foot tunnel to the other side of the river, threading through the quiet cul-de-sacs of flats and mini-marinas then following the DLR line from Mudchute, watching the HSBC tower and its endlessly flashing light grow incrementally closer with every footfall, every breath.

Here she is then, 7:10, the gym virtually empty. Lewis lays down two of the exercise mats in the area next to the free weights, watching the day reluctantly brighten through the big windows that look out onto the road, the local authority flats opposite that are being gutted and resold as part of Renovate UK's Smarten Up! campaign. The same company that are trying to kick everyone out of her block too. A white canvas banner, “Renovation is Segregation” is slung between two of the flats on the third floor, a riposte to the "Renovation is Innovation" slogan that has been springing up everywhere.

Lewis warms up with stretches both static and dynamic, stretching is important, too many people skip it Lee always insisted to her, then she begins to jump gently, experimentally from one side of the mats to the other, seeing how she feels today, how sluggish her system is, how much she has recovered from her previous workout. She takes her work log and pen out of her pocket and lays it down on the floor in front of her. Keep a record, Lee told her. She is keeping a record, a record of everything. Everything.

She jumps sideways, lands in a crouch, jumps back again and again, begins to pick up the tempo.

She's trying to leap across and land into a controlled, single leg squat, arms out to the side, not too wobbly, good form, form is crucial, but each time she topples over backwards, has to jab a hand round to support herself.

The boys in the evenings, at the weekends, when she can't avoid them, like to look and laugh, make comments, but she has her headphones in anyway listening to Kate Bush or Nina Simone. She refuses to listen to urban, whatever that means, fuck that. That's what she is supposed to listen to, right? Worry about her nails and her hair and how seductive she is and what she is wearing and the size and shape of her arse, the best way to get it looked at, but she just doesn't give a fuck about what the boys think. She is not going to try and dance or sing, though she dances, though she sings or have the kind of attitude they think is all hot and sexy. She will have an attitude alright but a different one altogether, not sassy and competitive and all about getting the attention, getting the juice. She will have a real attitude, cold, clean, sober, sexless.

Probably she gets away with things, gets a certain amount of distance and respect because people down here knew her brother, not because he was a big man or tried to run things or any of that but because he gave his time and he was respectful to everyone, because they know what happened to him and they respect her mum too for what she has been through and done in the community. Because despite all the shit that has happened to her she has kept it together, kept her dignity.
Yuk, she can't believe she used that word. That's another term, another cliché she wants to scorch away. Dignity. Who is ever dignified but the defeated, the weak, the abused, the murdered, raped and marginalized when they are silently bearing their suffering, pleading their little case in quiet certainty that it is hopeless.

Fuck dignity, she wants power. She wants revenge. Strength.

Strength, strength, strength. They want you to fall apart, they want you to give in, to give up, to collapse, to say: I have had enough, I won’t fight anymore, I won’t resist you, even in my mind.

Lewis springs up from the left-hand side of the mat, the leap only takes a second or so, a huge effort, pushing the body up as high as it will go, at the apex of the curve the brain and muscle calculating at tremendous speed, beyond any possible conscious thought, the descent, the impact, how to lean into it, draw yourself down into a crouch, muscles minutely calibrating balance and counterbalance. Down, her body compressed, her mind so finely, mistily infused in all her muscles that she knew the minute she heard about the idea of the mind/body split that that was some bullshit, that the mind, if the body lies untended, unworked will drift and detach and have a seeming remoteness, but there it is: Descartes didn't do enough cardio, as the guys on Left-Wing Workouts, her absolutely favourite YouTube show like to say.

Pause, feel the signal switch, the muscles that have caught and stabilized you reverse over to those that will propel you back. She is swamped by a pair of Lee’s old Adidas tracksuit bottoms which she has rolled up and one of his T-shirts, far too big for her, that she always wears in tribute. As she leaps she sees her reflection in the glass, caught between the grey dawn and the antiseptic gym lights, seeming to ripple and flutter through the air, a series of strips and folds billowing along behind her, undulating up then layering tent-like around her tight, balled-up body.

The body is amazing, you have such abilities, capacities, powers latent within you. So much that goes unexplored that is never dragged up to surface. There is a life within you, your body's life, burgeoning, reticulated, poised and waiting just as your death is waiting, think of yourself not crawling between heaven and earth but caught instead in an uninflected state between the body's life and the body's death.  No matter how much she loves her, Laura doesn't understand it, can't be persuaded of its existence, having never experienced it, the extraordinary, elevated clarity of the body's penned up energy, honed, channeled, doubled and redoubled, mounting, peak upon peak into a rare, pure seam of elated clarity. Not just the runner's high, the post workout buzz but the hormonal balance, the chemical surfeit, the body's extraordinary capacity to generate opiates endorphins, dopamine, to sweat out toxins, oxygenate the blood, heighten all the senses. Lee knew this, loved this, didn't drink, dodged KFC, kept his diet clean and explored his body's capabilities, this was where his interest lay. Lewis understands it too, she picked it up off him she supposes, used to help him with his workout routines, all body weight, pushing the table back and trying press ups and lunges and leaps and he never told her no, you can't do this, you are a girl, quite the opposite, he told her, try, try again, think about it, practice, the first time it is impossible but the  fiftieth time, the hundredth time, your body is not a given any more than your mind is, it can be altered, it can grow, develop, learn.

She hears the same things from her mum about studying, when she can't understand something, her mum says, come at it from a different angle, you explain it to me, and then often she finds that yeah, she does get it, or is closer to grasping it. Now read more, don't worry about getting it all straight away, tackle different books on the same subject and read, read, read, your brain will do all the hard work for you if you just get out of its way,  your brain is  smarter than you are, grant it autonomy. Your body will reward you for letting it live, just as your brain will.  Patience, patience. It happens. She reads up on physiology and diet and the way the body is a whole, interconnected system of tissues and tendons, ligaments, nerves and neurons, constantly converting and breaking down food, manufacturing chemicals in a set of  extravagantly complex interactions and interdependencies. She knows the theory that we have three brains, the ancient brain of the instincts and drives, the affective brain and the cerebral cortex the nexus of imagination and memory, and she feels that perhaps we have three bodies, the inert body, the stagnant body, the sedentary, daily body, the  alienated body cut off from its  purpose, its nature, which we only experience negatively now, a drag on us, a burden, most present to us in illness or pain, then the smothered primal body of constant activity and exhilaration developed over millenia to toil and sweat and be pushed, to operate at a high level of chemical and hormonal production, the affective body, the joyful, sensual body of touching and caressing, of stimulation and sex, the untouched body, dead and dormant ready to spring suddenly to life at the lover's behest.

The body, the body, the body.

Lewis takes a deep breath and leaps. Some day soon she will  perform the impossible and it will seem commonplace and natural, she will look back and wonder why, how come at some point she just couldn't get there. She will land on one leg with the other straight out in front of her and settle into a perfect, stable, solid, squat. One more attempt and her workout will be done.  Then a shower,  back to the flat to eat and help her mum with Lee before she has to leave for work. She goes into the changing room sometimes and and sees girls in there taking photos of their abs or their arses in the mirror, pouting, knowing they're going to put them up on Facebook or Twitter or upload them to Tumblr praying for a like or a retweet or some accolade like  DAT AZZZZZ!!!!  or HNNN!!! and she hates that people do it for the wrong reasons, she wants them to fuck off out of her gym, has to control her anger and just leave, stamp back up Resolution Way and past what she can only think of as the Other Gym, The Fascist Gym that has taken up residence in the arches under the railway bridge.  All  she sees in there is white people. Middle-class white people paying double the rate of Wavelengths, pretending to be soldiers in a separate space filled with barked commands and quasi-military insignia and that worries and disgusts her as much as the girls doing selfies in the mirror or spending all their time chatting shit to the fitness instructors or on their hands-free in full makeup and box-fresh gym gear, walking at 3.4 mph and trying to get eye contact from every boy that goes past. She jumps again, and feels her heart thump hard enough against her ribs to pin her up there in the air at the peak.

Sometimes it almost all comes into focus, she feels on the edge of a system, a holistic system of her own, the body within the body, the mind within the mind, the world within the world, the interrelation and interdependency of these  things and somehow, more and more she  begins to think in terms of blackness. She watched a documentary that she found in a box of old VHS tapes in her mum's room a few weeks ago called Baldwin's Nigger, intrigued by the title, and she was blown away. She has read everything she can get hold of by Baldwin now and is in love with him. There is a line in the film she remembers, that struck at her and stung her into an even greater state of wakefulness, “we are the flesh that they must mortify”.

Love. She thinks of Laura, how she is entranced by her body, loves to see all that voluminous pale flesh gathered up in her small, dark hands. And in truth she even actively encourages her to grow bigger, fatter, imagines her as a yielding, mountainous, rose-pink and white continent over which she joyously scrambles just as Laura sees her perhaps as an adventurous, determined son, powerfully and doggedly, demandingly plucking pleasure from her. The desire within desire. These rings and knots and circuits, feeding back and shifting in an endless, ungraspable exchange. At least, ungraspable for now, for her, but she will read, and listen and watch and study, and then she will strike and turn the world inside out, so that it its buried truths may liberate us all.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Resolution Way Lewis extract 2

Lewis is cycling, head down, fast as she can along the South London Cycle Route, part of the Green London Urban Trail initiative connecting Deptford to Peckham to London Bridge and beyond that cynics say is really just there to compensate for the poor quality train service into the centre and help defray the added weight and inconvenience of all those eager new workers, urban explorers, professional pioneers reclaiming South London's under-appreciated and neglected living-spaces, flooding in from the gentrified concrete council blocks and flimsy steel and glass new builds.

She is going to see Dan, an old friend of Lee’s from when they were kids. Dan has his degree, now and debts he has no hope of paying and, astonishingly, a job.

He works at Heart of Chicken.

It goes by a number of names but Heart of Darkness or Arsehole of Chicken are the most common. Is there a worse place to work? A worse employer? Maybe Amazon now they too have introduced A.M. for all warehouse staff, who aren’t even customer-facing and, just like Heart of Chicken, publish daily Service stats and insist on monthly and weekly unpaid development sessions and reviews on putative days off. Heart of Chicken prides itself on being “a Total Employer” and “an engineer of attitudes and outlooks” helping partners “ make the mindset of intense customer focus a 24/7/365/4Life orientation” using a “holistic affective regimen” developed through “synergizing the groundbreaking techniques of NLP and Total Physical Response.”

Lewis has an interview coming up at Heart of Chicken, mandatory, even though she’s not Claiming because everyone seventeen and over now is obliged to undergo Recruitment Training and attitude and engagement are key factors in the assessment criteria. Though a job itself doesn’t exist and she wouldn’t take one even if it did she has to, for two humiliating hours, undergo a Welcome Session and be assessed on her suitability as a Potential Partner.

Lewis has asked Dan how he can do it, how he can hold the job down, what tips he has for this upcoming interview which she knows she is going to fail anyway and so have a black mark against her, more than that a whole set of data points and scores and ratings mapping her out as a potential employee in a file somewhere. Dan told her his technique for keeping the heart-shaped Affective Monitor he has pinned to his uniform pulsing hard and glowing rosily with love. It’s the standard technique, the one everyone uses as far as he knows.

What you need to do is search through your mind for your happiest memories and keep them in your thoughts at all times, focus only on these, after all the job is mechanical, what matters is that the monitor pumps out genuine pleasure in work, sincerity in service, proof that the smile and that upbeat, customer-oriented attitude are real. Focus on your finest, your best moments, the faces of friends, your first love, your kids, some fantasy you have of yourself, whatever is most precious and vital to you, anything that will flood your system with chemicals, keep the pleasure centres of your brain alight .
Heart of Chickens slogan and poster campaign show a young light-skinned black girl against a black backdrop beaming munificently out and an oversized plastic heart incandescent on her chest, the glow adding a pink sheen of satisfaction to her already enraptured face. Underneath it says “The Heart of the Heart of Chicken”.

 The slogan was created by a 23 year old Yale educated marketing vsionary Brewster Kervorkian, a lift from William H Gass’s collection of short-stories “The Heart of The Heart of the Country” a book his father had introduced him to as a child. “Our house was kind of atypical, “ Kevorkian said in an interview that Lewis read on the Guardian website a year or so ago “I mean, Pynchon, Coover, Saramago, Bloch, those guys were basically bedtime reading for us. Were we kind of bratty and precocious? Well, yeah, I guess.” Kervorkian is also responsible for the resurgent popularity of Huey Lewis and the News after his phenomenally successful viral marketing masterstroke for Heart of Chicken which took the groups 1984 hit “The heart of Rock and Roll is the City”, changing the final word to Chicken and showing the group, all wearing the trademark Affective Monitors bursting into song in a bright mock-50s diner. “It’s the irritation/fascination thing,” Kevorkian explained “plus all the references, to Back to the Future, and the 501 adverts and so on, plus the nonsenses factor, the surreal edge that makes that phrase “ the Heart of Rock and Roll is the Chicken” so hard to shift. It’s a brainworm. Plus Huey gives maximum Charisma, of course”

Even remembering Kevorkian’s tousled hair, John Lennon glasses and tweed suit has got Lewis’s irritation levels cresting and a strap of rage pressing tightly behind her eyes. She breathes out hard as she rounds the corner and the Shard comes into view, this will never do, she has no chance in the interview. Not that she doesn’t have good memories but in reality, even though Dan shrugs it off, isn’t it the saddest thing? He’s told her that he maintains a kind of crop-rotation system, cycling his memories and fantasies around to keep them fresh and productive, to replenish them, leaving some fallow for a while so the don’t get used up too quickly. But inevitably they begin to wear out, deplete, and people of course especially the rush hour crowds at morning and evening, the Friday and Saturday night drunks heading for the last train home, do everything they can through covert or overt means to get his monitor down to orange or, even worse blue, especially now that the burgers come free not only if service takes over two minutes but if the numbers on the LCD display showing Dan’s Authentic Satisfaction Level fall below 80. Everyone wants a free burger so the techniques range from hostility and rudeness, to threats, to delaying techniques to passive-aggressive fumbling with cards and change.

There’s even a pass-time now called ChickenSmashing and a Facebook page and a Twitter feed dedicated to hints and tips on particular techniques, certain members of staff it‘s easy to upset or intimidate and the haul of free burgers and Sticky Thighs and Tinglewings and TenderCrowns that can be claimed. The Facebook page she glanced at once immediately depressed and enraged her and she had to go to the gym to work her anger off.

“Leyton posse smashed the Fairfield Lane Heart of Bullshit last night. Made the shaky, grinning bitch Amanda cry by asking her how the fuck she felt about working in Heart of Chicken for minimum wage at 11:30 on a Saturday night when decent people were drinking good beer and having lives. Heart rate dropped straight to blue, numbers down to 64 (SMASH! I thank you!) Complimentary burgers all round from the cock-kissing manager, Amanda sacked on the spot (double SMASH). What the fuck ARE these people good at?”

For a while Dan could hold it at bay, overlay the angry, insulting faces the delighted demands, the watchful eyes, the gangs of youths relentlessly mocking him, the jaded businessmen fussing and barking orders, by sheer power of projection, screening them out them with some sweet, sylvan scene from his childhood, his first kiss, the day he got his A Level results, that big night out he had , his mates’ faces, jokes and larking and moments of fun and ease and possibility, but slowly they are being worn threadbare, no matter how quickly he recycles them, until eventually they will be used up, affective burn-out, his memories bleached and barely accessible to him, his dreams parched and empty and he will be, what, twenty-one next month and his minimum wage, zero hour contract at Heart of Chicken will regrettably be terminated due to his insufficient commitment to Heart of Chicken’s service-oriented ethos. "At Heart of Chicken, we wear our Heart on our Sleeve, quite literally,” the promotional pack that Lewis flicked through at Dan’s flat one day informed her,” the Heart of Chicken difference is that we take genuine pleasure in serving our customers, that is what has made us the world’s number one crafter and purveyor of a range of creative chicken options. Our Affective Monitoring system WorkingHearts let’s the customer, partners and the point of delivery staff themselves know whether they truly love the product, love to serve and genuinely love to embody outside and in the Heart of Chicken ethos and ethics.”

Jesus. All this talk of love. All this talk of genius. All this talk of ethics. She can barely imagine what it must be like as she stops at the lights and watches silver-grey Summer storm clouds gather over the river. She’s held one of the affective monitors in her hand and shuddered, thin, cheap-looking, made in Cambodia with a short white wire and a little flesh coloured adhesive sensor-pad at the end that reaches back through a gap in the stupid uniform to attach itself to your chest. She knows Heart Of Chicken has the highest staff turnover ratio of any company in the world, six months is a long career with them, and she knows they favour the young due to their “greater natural optimism”, “stronger affective immediacy” and "chemical rich bio-environment."

The Affective Monitoring System has been around for a while but it was Heart of Chicken’s CEO Hugh Barton’s strategic genius and vision that saw its potential in the retail sector. It started off innocently enough, as these things do, a gimmicky pair of electronic cat ears, essentially a toy developed in Japan, that wiggled when the wearer was happy and that soon got used in the Hostess bars and Soaplands so that there was no faking it anymore for the salarymen whose egos needed stroking and the girls who could keep their ears waggling were the ones who became semi-celebrities. At last the question was answerable, the doubt that perhaps she was only pretending, that her pleasure was faked, put to rest. From there of course it went mainstream, this simple little technology, revolutionizing retail and recalibrating customer-focusedness as part of a global mission to make service transparent, authentic and truly satisfying.
As she sets off again she goes past an advert for a high end Casino that says " Surely the whole purpose of life is to enjoy!"



Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Resolution way. Lewis extract one.

Lewis says she would take on the debt. 

What can you do, where can you go without debt.? She wants that University place, she wants to study Political Science, or Law, or both, fuck the cost. She wants revenge for what they did to her brother, for what they have always done, for what they are going to do now to what's left of her family. 

 In the gym every day working out, plenty of protein shakes, no alcohol, no weed, in bed  early every night, hitting the books at home. She keeps quiet, keeps her head down and boils with rage.

Revenge consumes her, in the gym as she strains for the last rep she thinks of her brother. When she wakes up aching and has to plough through The Republic or The Prince or Leviathan she thinks of her brother. When she has to go into work and listen to all that bullshit, she thinks of her brother.

And she thinks of her father, of course.

She has a girlfriend now and they refuse to be cowed. Laura is three years older and the most beautiful, powerful woman she has ever seen. They caught each others eye at a rally in Peckham and immediately she knew. The same evening they began an affair of such intensity that she felt she could crush the world into dust, that was how much strength she gave her.

All the boys down Deptford High Street know she has a girlfriend, the boys in the gym, always coming on to her, trying to turn her. Chatting all that shit about needing a real man and how they will take the pair of them on. Such stupid shit they talk. Her mum tells her just to ignore them. They are just boys, she says. Lee wasn't like that. Neither was dad. I know Paula Adonor says. Well, you’d be amazed by how different people can be. Look at you,she says and strokes Lewis's face. I am so proud of you.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Pride. Fuck you. You can't take that away from me. She is half drunk on her own refusal to play the game. On her own monomaniacal determination to fuck them over, even if it is purely through her refusal to be intimidated, to be broken, to fall apart. A few months ago she shaved her head, a number three cut all over and  Laura says she loves running her hands over it, especially when Lewis' head is down between her legs and she has her beautiful strong feet up on Lewis’ strong back. She loves Laura's flesh, her belly, her big hips. her boobs, her lack of shame about taking up space.  She never tries to disguise her size, spilling out of her clothes, undulating down the high street in a feather boa and high heels, a skin tight second hand business suit and planting a fat warm kiss on Lewis' lips outside PayBank, grabbing her bum as all the market traders pause momentarily in their barking and wheedling, and the old Rasta who has been sitting in his blue  deckchair mid street as long as anyone can remember, shouts encouragement.

Fuck the world. She is 18 years old and she will take on the debt to study even if she has to work for the rest of her life to repay it. The  world is bigger and stranger than you imagine it to be, there are people in this world, she knows, because she is one of them, that you wouldn’t dream existed, that seem fantastical. Sometimes at night she seems fantastical to herself and the prospect of what she might do, how extraordinary she might become intoxicates her further so that sometimes the only release from the waves of excitement that sweep over her is to nudge Laura awake and make love. At other times, true enough, she hears her brother moaning in his room, snorting, making noises, hears his head thrashing and then she is dropped suddenly, violently out of life and bounds back up scalded with rage. Sometimes she goes to him and puts her arms around him to try and soothe his fears, other times she is appalled and the idea that it would be better if he had died, better still if he did die assault her and she rolls over and over in the bed, trying to outmanoeuvre her own thoughts.

What to do about Lee, now? It has been eighteen months since he was injured and the appeal is just due to start and there will be no justice. Everyone knows what happened. They say his brain turned in his skull with the force of the blow and that was it, in an instant he was gone, evacuated, jettisoned, nothing of her brother left at all. Some knotted cord twisted too tight, a few threads snapped and all that he was is lost, unrecoverable. They know the name of the police man that did it, there is phone footage everywhere, She has seen it, once. She won't watch it again. The Officer moving forward with his baton raised, the police horse coming in from behind. Lee trying to back away from one, backing in to the other, the man on the horse flailing his baton around. The blow is deliberate, anyone can see that except the jury, the police complaint's commission, the press. In defending himself against attack the officer accidentally catches Lee on the head with a downstroke. And its true the police officer, the pig, the fucking filth, does get hit with placard, bouncing off his protective visa as he cracks her brother on the head with his truncheon. Distracted, confused, in fear of his life, responding to a volley of abuse.  The  whole  situation "regrettable".

The abuse they have received for campaigning for pushing the trial through the courts, then appealing. All the social media stuff, the sheer, almost fanatical hate and poison. The smears in the press, press run by rich men. Pointing out that Lewis was "typically" raised by his mother alone, no mention that her dad died or acknowledgement of just how fucked that is for her mum, to lose her husband, for the children to lose a father and then to not even lose her son but to have him go out one day to support his friends on their protest, to go out to in protest because he know what it will mean for his sister, who wants to go to Uni in a couple of years' time and be returned to them as a shell, twisted up, eyes blank, rocking back and forth in a wheelchair, can't feed himself or wipe himself, or speak his own name.

Oh Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Christ. And now they smear her and her mum when they can. Some of her relatives have asked her to tone it down, to not be so openly rebellious, even if by that they just mean out and proud and in love. Do it for her own sake, make herself less of a target, make  the family seem more respectable but her mum says no, no way,  you be who you are I am proud  of  you, proud of you. They don't like the fact that her mum is educated, articulate. They want to dismiss the whole thing, they want to make it, make it part of some whole chip on the shoulder thing, a column in The Telegraph referred to the regrettable role model of Doreen Lawrence, a woman simply unable to let go, as though you could  ever let go of the  death of  your  child, the  murder of your child, and counselled acceptance suggesting that her mum's constant demands for justice represented a form of harassment of police officer's already under considerable strain and attempting to do their job under difficult circumstances, what with all the recent  unrest.

 Her mum laughed at that one  a bitter  laugh in the  kitchen and then her eyes filled, for a dazzled second with tears she quickly squeezed away. That's how it  was, she was victimizing them. Her mum has cut the articles out and kept them to remind her just what they are up against. Another columnist had asked just what her child, a personal trainer, "and  clearly not himself academically gifted" had been doing at such a demonstration anyway and whether his presence hadn't perhaps been due to his mother's seemingly radical convictions rather than his own, that perhaps might the root of the this time "highly" regrettable incident not lie there, the blame, the  culpability, the final responsibility, laying with, as  always, as always, the mother. What radical convictions are those? Paula Adonor asked in a letter back, that education should be free for all here as it is in many countries, that  the police should not be able to ruin a young man's life with impunity?

Yes, yes yes. Lewis can not exactly see what she will do, how her revenge will manifest itself, in what ways she will make them pay, cause justice to come to being in the world but that is not as important as her desire and her will. First she must understand the world more fully, the way her mother understands it, the  way Laura and her friends understand it. She sees herself now,even more fully, as part of a struggle. What it is to be seized that way, when you are still young, by a conviction that will shape your life. Certainly she was always interested but everything that has happened in the last two years has strengthened her resolve. Even before, even as a kid she was dipping into the books that filled the house, books which are proving invaluable now as she does all the reading for the degree that maybe, probably she will never be able to afford. Perhaps The Open University, which is itself getting more and more  expensive  every year is her only option now she has to help her mum look after her brother, especially now that they have cut benefits, taking away his help. Perhaps she can do some online courses and build up credits, some MOOCs and UACs and cobble it together that way. If it wasnt for Penny next door they would be in an even worse situation and she might have to move out soon if her  rent goes up again this year. They will all have to move if the place gets sold out from under them. Which  her mum says  is only a matter of time, anyway.
Why does it have to be this hard just to live? How many different battles should a person have to fight just to live? Work all day, look after a disabled child, try and get some justice through the courts for an obvious and grievous wrong that has been committed against you, fight to keep the little  support you are offered while the people you rely on and who rely on you in turn are swept up out of places they have lived all their lives and dumped somewhere miles away like so much rubbish.

I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. Her mother tries to calm her sometimes, nodding along to Lewis's ranting, telling her she knows, she knows, she understands and yes of course she is angry too, but she is also careful and tired and she has to conserve her energy and hate is exhausting when you get older. And when you were my age? Well, of course I wanted change and of course that is what I struggled for in a way, but life was a lot easier fro me, your grandmum didn't have to pay for me to go to University, there were more jobs around, rents were lower. And I hadn't had any tragedies in my life. Yet, Paula Adonor almost says. Yet.

Fuck tragedy, She gets pissed off if her mum uses that word, it is not a word she accepts for herself, for her own experience. Once when her mum said it she spat back, best thing that has ever happened to me. And her mother then flew into a rage, this is not about you, this is not all about you, its about all of us, the three of us. They didn't speak for the rest of the day and Lewis went out, up to New Cross with Laura for a rare day of drinking and almost got into a fight with some boys, some typical, fucking stupid boys halfway down Lewisham high road who started kissing there teeth and cat calling. Moments like that she wishes she was bigger, physically bigger so she could slap them down, humiliate them, five foot four is not much when her mum is five foot nine. How come she didn't grow taller? No one knows. Maybe her dad dying stunted her. The shock, suddenly like that when she was thirteen. Her mum kept telling her she would have a surge but it never came. If she was taller, six foot tall, which was Lee's height, six foot five, six foot eight, she would beat them down, she would make them beg, these stupid fucking stoned, drunk boys never read a book in their lives and think they are masters of the fucking world, think they are running things. Slaves. She remembers a line she liked from a film she watched with her mum when she was a kid, "Once Were Warriors", all about the Maori in New Zealand. She bugged her mum like mad after that to get a tattoo and she dreamed of a a face tattoo, permanent war-paint. That line, she's wanted to us it herself sometime but is just too corny to do it, when the drunk husband has pinned his wife up against the wall and is going to her hit and she says “ Go on Jake, hit me, hit me. You're still a slave. A slave to the bottle. A slave to your fists.”

And then she knew, she got her first taste of how not to be slave. Stay away from the bottle, use your mind not your fists. And yet, she dreams of violence and she asks Laura sometimes, don't you want to kill them, kill them all? All the pigs, all the fascists, Tories, Labour. You cant trust any of them. She doesn't trust anyone except Laura and a few people she knows from demos and occupations, people she follows on Twitter. Her mum, of course. The boys who run the arts centre, her uncle James and her cousins and some of the people down the gym, so, really, she laughs at herself, actually if you spread it out, if you imagine it like water flowing out and around obstacles in rivulets and streams and hooking up, merging and combining with other streams that seem to be seeking hers out then she trusts really a lot of people, but no one higher up, maybe, although her mum's colleagues are decent people too and her teachers and Lee's lawyers and so. And so, really. So many good people all wanting the same thing, the right thing, for the world to be put right, for there to be some justice. So why isn't there, why not? How come? How  come  we  can’t  just shake all the bullshit, all the bullshitters off and  just live together?

She asks her mum and mum says it's a constant fight, sometimes we have the upper hand, sometimes they do but Lewis can't remember a time when she felt like her family had the upper hand, maybe when she was a kid and her dad was still around, and Lee was ok and they weren't fighting this court case and worried about her mum losing her job and money money money all the time being a problem.

Fuck money. She'll take on the debt even if she has to clean toilets to pay it back, even if they put her in jail because she can't repay it. She will still have learned it all, it will still be in her. They can't take that away from me. That's mine for life, that and my friends, that and my mission. That and my demand for justice.

But look at Lee. Maybe even that, your learning, your self, the self you struggle and sweat to build, they can take that away from you too, most valuable thing you have, and no-one has to be held to account. They just laugh in your face. Tell you it is "regrettable"
And she roles over in the bed, worried suddenly that perhaps finally there is nothing that can' be taken away from you.

Perhaps they will never stop until the whole world is used up, until the last tree is felled the last fish left floating, the air unbreathable, all of humanity squatting in the dark in poverty and disease and fear.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

David Gillespie Resolution Way extract 1

David Gillespie sits in his living room. It would be hard to say he was in good mood, hard to say that the future was looking rosy, that the past was something he looked back on with anything but a general remorse.

He was drifting along nicely there wasn’t he, in a way, sitting in the house his grandfather left them, doing a bit of work here and there when it came up, pursuing his interests such as they might be, and now Alex Hargreaves has turned up out of the blue and shaken things up a bit.

He should probably open the curtains. It is two in the afternoon and looks to be a nice day out there. Instead he rolls himself a cigarette. Conflict. IRL. Probably this is good for him, break him out of his inertia. He wonders what Alex Hargreaves thought of him, what he saw when he looked at him.

Now let’s not get into all that. Oh to see yourself as others see you. He doubted Alex Hargreaves was asking himself the same question, what kind of impression he may have made on David Gillespie. Don’t do it to yourself David! Don’t get into all that, you are on a hiding to nothing.

Ash drops onto the carpet as he sits forward scanning the coffee table for the ashtray and he grinds it in with his foot. Well Alex Hargreaves had taken him by surprise. He hadn't meant to be so quite so hostile but it was a bad start, turning up like that, got him jumpy. No one apart from David Gillespie has set foot in the hours for eight years, the entire time, in fact, that he has lived there. To say that the place was a mess would be an understatement. For the first year or so he made an effort but after a while he began to wonder what the point was. Same with going upstairs to go to bed when there was a perfectly comfortable sofa and sleeping bag right there and it only meant heating one room. Fire, tv, laptop, kettle all in one room. The ambit of his world has shrunk, hasn't it, reduced down to lying on the sofa and squinting at screens. He’s not unhappy, he doesn't feel or hasn’t felt in many ways, that he was at a loss, lacking in anything. and then along comes Alex Hargreaves.

Then, on the other hand at least it is just about Vernon. First thing he thought when the door went yesterday was that the debt collectors had come for him, then that it was the police, the Authorities, looking into his Internet habits, his browsing and posting activities. He should be careful. He hasn’t done, looked at anything strictly illegal, but his own fear and guilt then when someone started knocking on his door told him something: be careful. What are you sliding into David? Perhaps you have been alone with your thoughts too long, perhaps you have been alone too long, too few checks on where you can let your mind roam., too much accessible, previously taboo material just sitting there waiting to be discovered.

His internet connection is slow as fuck, the most basic package anyway, but eventually he has his gmail account up and as he waits for the first of the selected emails to open he decides to make a cup of instant coffee, and is greatly displeased to find the kettle empty, meaning he has to go all the way to the fucking kitchen to fill it. Once a week he fills up a five litre plastic bottle of water that he uses to make coffee and tea with, rehydrate the value pot noodles, moisten the bags of value muesli that he more or less subsists on these days, except for the occasional bit of toast. He dragged the fridge into the living room a couple of winters ago too.

It isn’t an especially big room, but even so, some days the distance from the sofa to the fridge seems immense, partly because the pain in his leg has flared up again, partly just because his sense of scale is diminishing. The kitchen is an ordeal away, upstairs an Everest, the front bedroom a distant country and yet the whole of time and the whole of space are within easy reach, all there on the computer screen a foot away.

He goes and fills the kettle, stands with it in one hand, the water running, gazing out of the window at the wildly overgrown garden and the dust and pollen rolling over it in the sunlight. There’s a last teabag in the box, meaning later he will have to go to the shop. He still owes them twenty quid for the tobacco he got on tick a month ago. Ah, now then. You have been asleep, haven’t you? You thought that emailed Fuck Off would be the end of it, but this Alex Hargreaves is a tenacious wee fucker, is he not?

He will have to go upstairs. That upstairs bathroom though, eh? He won’t be able to resist popping his head round the door for a peak at that will he? See how the mould on the shower wall has been coming along.

“I don’t wanna fucking think about the dead”, he says out loud. “Not the fucking dead.”

Those cunts. He sits down on the floor, back against the empty fridge.

Vernon especially. Not that he has ever stopped thinking about him, really, but he doesn’t want him foregrounded again. He doesn’t want that whole period of his life brought back into focus. Not because it was bad but because of the loss, the losses.

He’d get drunk if he had any money. Good job he is skint. Smart move that.

The kettle boils, he pours, he stirs to try to blend the floating granules in, sniffs the milk then pours some, breaks through the light crust and adds two heaped teaspoons of sugar from the sticky bag, sips at it, rinses it round his gums. Perfection. Winces his way back to the living room. The email has finally opened.

He responds to Alex Hargreaves. Should he use his name? Nah. Stay distant, Don’t look desperate.

“I don't know how successful you are going to be in this search around for Vernon’s work. But you're not going to find it without help or information are you? And I have that. So we need to cut some kind of deal.”

Sing off with his name? Nah. He knows who its from.

So, upstairs. He stands up again and his left leg throbs, his knee a bit wobbly a sharp point in his groin like someone trying to poke a crochet hook between the muscles. The front bedroom is an assault course of broken and unwanted furniture, boxes of crap, bags of clothes, his old bike, piles of records, magazines, tapes. He remembers chartering a van and getting it all down from Castleford, all this crap he can’t throw away. He was certainly dissolute enough with his other meagre possessions, his energy, his body, his mind, but things, objects, scraps and tatters, totems and tokens of his life, he has clung onto. He hasn’t taken care of them, or filed them away, merely dumped them in ever increasing mounds from one place to the next. And if he has to leave here? If his sister decides they need to sell the place. Will he take all this with him again to the next place wherever that might be? A bedsit? He’ll be up to his neck in it all, like that old dear in Happy Days.

He should bin it all, burn it all, but in through the doorway and taking in a lungful of damp musty air, out of breath from climbing a single flight of stairs he feels the past overwhelm him, all rich and heady spiced with rot, the damp and dust of ages. He longs for the grave, for old stone and moss, the patient work of water on brick and bone. Don’t get distracted, he tells himself, knowing familiar things will loom out to take hold of him, how easily he could sit going through piles of yellowed clippings or old journals, reading the tracklists on old cassettes as the day disappears.

The box he wants is in the wardrobe and he battles manfully forward through the siren song of the half-forgotten. Here it is, a shoebox. He pulls out carrier bags and assorted flotsam and ephemera and sticks it down on a patch of empty floor space behind him, lifts the lid. pulls out the brown A4 envelope. VC96 1-6 6 written on the front in black felt tip. There's any number of other fascinating, heartbreaking, memory stirring odds and ends in there too, all set to provoke, doubtless, an intense and overwhelming concatenation of atomistically interlinked, sublime, ineffable reverie.

Walk away, David. Walk away son. He does, more or less, half bolting for the bedroom door, turning so quickly he almost stumbles on the bags hes just put down behind him, sending a long, thin filament of pain down the inside of his leg and into his toes, ah fuck, he cries out and hobbles angrily to the landing. The pain peaks and subsides to a dull ache. He should go to the doctor and get some more painkillers, stronger ones. He is officially on them for his back but any problems with that seems to have been supplanted by this leg thing now. He puts pressure on it and feels the ball in his groin balloon and chafe at his hip bone.

It takes him ten minutes to get back to the living room, where he lies back on the sofa, duvet bunched up behind his head, massaging his thigh. His laptop pings. A new message from Alex Hargreaves. Hi. Glad you got back in touch. I certainly could use some help. What kind of deal did you have in mind? Alex.

Very good. Something falls over in the room upstairs with a bang and the vibrations run down the stairs, soak through the floor, make the window glass tremble slightly in the frame, the letterbox creak expectantly. He jumps and then takes a while to settle down. He’s on edge alright. He sits listening for more. Vengeful spirits. Nothing. A car starts up a few streets away.

That reminds him. He should talk to Andy.