Sunday, 30 June 2013

Resolution Way: Paula Extract 1

She worries about her daughter, why wouldn’t she? She fears, no she knows, somehow she has always known, that she is cursed.

It is nonsense of course, she doesn't believe in curses, but she has had an extraordinary amount of sheer bad luck.

For a few years things were good, once they had recovered from the shock of Harvey’s death. Not recovered exactly, but slowly laughter returned to the flat. That first time when a bird somehow came in through the back window, began flying around in the living room, the three of them trying to chase it out and at the same time stop the bird from hurting itself flying into the windows. Lewis trying to be manly but also freaking out and ducking and scrambling around over the sofa when the bird came straight at his head. Paula Adonor and Laura, who must have been seven or eight at the time, laughing and supertense at the same time until after twenty minutes or so they managed to chase it out of the front door and stood there, the three of them, out of breath and sweaty, arms around each other, watching the bird wing its way across the edge of the estate and disappear behind the flats across the road

Where did it come from, this little bird, shattering the grief they had all been sunk in? When she thinks back she remembers that in her mind over and over as the bird slowly disappeared she was saying gooodbye, goodbye, goodbye and thank you, thank you. That night in bed she wept but the quality of her weeping was different now, if before it had been traumatic, uncontrollable, tearing through her, now it was deep and emollient, a hopeful weeping, tears that watered and restored her rather than emptied her out.

Goodbye, goodbye. Life is all goodbyes, to the moment, the minute, the day before, the years and all the lives that gave them shape. And this moment, this Summer, this year? This year she has found herself nostalgic, perhaps not nostalgic really, but niggled at by the past, by twenty years ago, by her youth. She feels indebted. She has no time to feel that way, another sense of obligation, another duty she could well do without, but the pressure of the unresolved seems to mount in her month by month and a probably futile, probably wasteful demand that she set everything in order, tie up loose ends, honour the past has been needling her. Among all the other things she needs to do, among all the other worries she has, her daughter not least among them, still she seems to have found time to think about Vernon again, almost to brood, to dwell upon him. On her way to work in the morning when she is trying to read or catch up on work-related issues she finds her thoughts are drifting back toward him. A few weeks ago her heart thudded up into her throat glancing up as the train pulled into London Bridge, seeing a boy somewhere in his mid-twenties who looked a lot like Vernon, as though somehow he had never aged and could reappear like this, to sit down beside her and explain it all away. She has found herself now and then gazing at men around her own age and wondering perhaps if they might not in fact be him, trying to imagine precisely what he might look like now.

Of course it is this email, coming in out of the blue from Alex Hargreaves and the reminder of the website she set up, that Lewis helped her set up a few years ago, to put Vernon's stuff online. Perhaps so she could rid herself of it. Not have to take it with them when inevitably, the flat is sold out from under them and they have to move further out, to the coast. Digitize it then throw the actual objects away, if she could bring herself to.

That long week of waiting for Vernon to return and the realisation that somehow, mysteriously he was not coming back. At first she was incredulous that he would just cut her out of his life and then it became clear that he had disappeared somewhere on the road, drifted away into the night. She went over and over it for years of course, trying to trace his moves, understand what had been going on in his mind, the fragile nature of his psyche, back in those days, his natural intensity, the drugs, the obsessive behaviour, the recklessness.

Imagine him, poor Vernon, back in 1996 ,walking on the road somewhere between Castleford Station and Jerry’s rundown farmhouse with his army kit bag slung over his shoulder, his mind on fire, breathing softly in the dark, in the final stage of distributing all his worldly goods and then suddenly, somewhere between the point of departure and his destination, simply stepping out of the world. No body ever found, no contact ever resumed with anyone. When they asked Howard, what was his state of mind, what was he saying? he told them, well, you know, he was being Vernon. Hyped up, talking a lot of complicated things, not always coherent or comprehensible, he seemed to be himself, he looked no worse than usual. They pressed him on it, they wanted there to have been some telltale moment some key to what came later, but Howard had nothing to say. He shrugged. Look, he said, we got wrecked in the bookshop and he set off for Jerry's, I don’t remember that much about it. I didn't know, I wish I had known but I didn’t, couldn’t know it would be....

The last time. Those last times, how can we know, how can we value what we have when the future is so opaque, when all our assumptions turn out to be wrong, when our plans dissolve and we are constantly anchorless, rudderless? How can we grasp any moment and understand, this is the last time we will embrace, or make love, the last time I'll see you, speak to you, hear you say my name,  touch your living flesh. The last chance I have to stop you, call you back, to confess my love, to offer comfort. Let me in.

Let me in. She rolls over in bed and hears, she thinks, her daughter rolling over, restless too in her room, the walls in these old flats so thin, and Lewis moaning in his room, locked away forever now inside himself. Someone goes past drunk and singing at one fifteen on a Tuesday morning, the antisocial, irresponsible bastard. People have work. Let me in, into your thoughts, into your fears, into the ways you’re being driven. Let me in to time, let me see how this goes so that I might avert things, twist you round, hold you away from danger and despair.

But no. Again and again no. You are locked outside any access to that which is most vital to your own life and there is only relishing the moment, here we are, alive still, full of love still, the end has not yet come for us, let us relish this bittersweet evanescence. The moment, the moment. She’s drifting off to sleep and moments return to her, swirling in, mingling and overlapping ,a comforting confusion of place and time and persona, losses restored, the dead sprung to life, the past intensely and vividly present. Then sleep and muffled dreams backed by her son’s soft and continuous moaning.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Resolution Way Johan Extract 2

Johan has been in London for a week and it has been a full week, meeting with the directors of his charitable foundation, interviews, visiting galleries.

Yesterday, David DuHaine an old, good friend from back in the early PayPal days tried to pitch a full drone service to him. Driverless cars and trains, lightweight drone delivery straight to the eighteenth floor widow. A docking bay attached to the outside wall.

He laughed, I have Nastya for that, she would kill me if I replaced her with a machine. Anyway I can print everything I need now, can’t I? You can't print a DRC like this, DuHaine said and raised his glass. Positionality is everythingI Remember? DuHaine quoting one of his own most famous maxims back at him. Johan took a sip. True, but I am not sure I would want a bottle delivered by drone either! You would need a hedge, admittedly, DuHaine replied. They both laughed and DuHaine wagged a finger at him, don’t get too sentimental about Nastya, didn’t Connaught say we are ALL going to be replaced by machines, sooner or later?

Ah yes, Connaught. Connaught was, for all he was ridiculed and derided a perennial topic at dinner, in conferences. It seemed that, dismiss him as you might, still, he was always there waiting: puzzling, insane, conducting who-knew-what kinds of experiments in his research institute in the Freezone that had opened up in the hinterland between Laos and Myanmar, in the jungle.

Even back in the early days when they were all making their fortunes, even among that select and divinely driven crew of innovators Connaught had been a wildly visionary, uniquely brilliant and intense personality. For several years he had managed to hold himself in check, working alongside Kurzweil and Sharpton at The Singularity University before suddenly disappearing into the night with nothing but a series of devastated hotel rooms and bags of exotic pharmacology in his wake, reappearing two years later in the Freezone pushing his thesis on Techstinction, a more radically nihilistic and negatory corrective to what he saw as the latent and crippling Humanism in notions of the Singularity. He rejected both the terms Transhumanism and Extropianism, “we do not aim to improve or transcend the human condition, but to finally destroy humanity itself in the name of the truly radical, alien otherness within us, rationality, science, techne,” he declared in the long, semi-coherent lecture that appeared online two or three years ago. “Our aim is not enhancement, or transcendence, or eternity, but creating a technology which will destroy us”. “Tech Guru Connaught Goes Jim Jones in The Freezone” was the Tech Times headline that greeted his re-emergence. That seemed to sum up the prevailing attitude.

The last time they had shared a stage together, not long after Johan had met Nastya and begun his charitable and curatorial work in earnest, when Connaught was still, as far as anyone could tell, keeping things together was at a TEDX conference. Even then Connaughts incipient madness had begun to disturb those around him, the organisers, the audience, his fellow panelist, and it was felt that perhaps he was not quite, young, brilliant billionaire though he was, the ambassador the Singulairty University had hoped he would be. Johan himself was perplexed by Connaught’s rambling, poetic, aphoristic speech. Shirt untucked and tieless, no power-point slides, no tirelessly reiterated, upbeat, take home message, unless the message was: we are a split and suicidal species, we must drive forward our own extinction, not merely as subjects, but materially, as flesh. The end of the lecture was a long reflection on the term “dull and muddy-mettled rascal” from Hamlet as far as Johan could recall. Mud and mettle, muddy metal, muddled metal, dull mud and metalled rascals, the dull mud and the metal rascal.

That was the first indication that Connaught would go rogue. And yet early on, at Stanford, they had been great friends.

Ah Connaught! Ah Post-Humanity!

Still. He checks his watch, twenty minutes until his session with Calvert, two hours until he goes out to meet his gopher, Graeme Hargreaves. Johan has made a point of remembering the name. These touches, this personal engagement matters even if one is, as the girl from the Guardian suggested yesterday “richer than Croesus”.

That interview had been, perhaps, the only negative so far. He instinctively reaches up to smoothe his jaw-line and is aware suddenly, though he has clearly been doing it for years, of this reflex action, when a negative thought or an ego-compromising reflection assails him, how he sets his own jawline in place, focuses on it, uses it almost as a talisman to ward off bad spirits. How odd. No doubt many people have such small, defensive rituals. He pauses and looks around the room as though there may be some clue to his own behaviour hidden there, though the room is of course minimally, even austerely furnished, a great white space with a black leather sofa, a low, heavily lacquered Japanese horigotatsu table, a huge, ultra-thin, wall mounted flat screen, state-of-the-art black and silver Samsung speaker poles in each corner for deeply immersive surroundsound, and little else.

What other small, supporting tics and twitches of thought, what mechanisms and bits of barely visible maintenance might his whole persona run on? He is watching, through his own reflection, a thousand cars moving through the congested streets, lights coming on in flats and offices, buses and trains delivering the flow of workers and consumers in and out of the centre from the suburbs, the invisible army of small-scale tasks and repeated interventions that sustain the illusion, the fantasy of the City, its magical enormity, its dream-identity.

For a second the room, the city through the windows, seems to shift and tremble, as though some other dimension has momentarily infused itself into this one, set it quivering. Perhaps, he reaches up for his jaw then checks himself, he should discontinue this analysis with Calvert. Connaught perhaps should be a cautionary tale. 

Perhaps it is just that, yes that interview yesterday has disturbed him a little, despite his reputation for hardness of head, nose and at one time, heart. A situation he is trying now, through his curating, his charitable work, his analysis, to remedy.

Yes, the interview yesterday was a little tougher than these things used to be ten years ago, when they were all savants and saviours. The crisis was obviously to blame and he imagined that the piece would carry a fairly negative tone as any such pieces were obliged to these days if they focussed on any one who made money before the crash, or had continued to do so during it. And besides it was for the Guardian. The FT or The Economist would have been more supportive.

And yet, yes, he stretched up on tiptoe and settled back down onto his heels again, he did want to be, not loved, but, seen differently, to be admired at least. To be, he searched for the right word. Understood. Connaught would sneer at him, and it was true they seemed to be on opposite paths, deeply divergent paths, or perhaps simply  expressing two sides of the same, inevitable trajectory.

Yes he was faintly irritated by the interviewer, a very attractive but rather presumptuous looking young girl, fresh out of a Classics degree at Oxford, hence the reference to Croesus no doubt, obsessing over the phrase “Pay-Pal mafia”. He told her he hadn’t been involved in any of that for years, asked her, who did we exploit, helping to set up a payment system online? This is not the mining industry. Yes but the system. In its totality. This had seemed to be her argument. She had that faintly superior but brittle English upper-class appeal, an English Rose. She was probably good on a horse, had impeccable manners, was spending her twenties pretending to be tough-minded and radical. He felt a little throb of melancholy desire. She was nothing compared to Nastya of course. And yet. he would love to somehow win her over.

No doubt this was why he had agreed to the interview in the first place. He did find himself seeking her approval, he did feel a need to persuade her and her readership and the world at large. He stretched up on to tip-toe involuntarily again and again checked himself. Ah now what was this, another tic? Lowered himself down more circumspectly. I am not what you think I am, I am not who I was. I am one of the good guys

She pushed him on his continuing and endlessly augmenting wealth and his maxim, Positionality is everything. Had he not cornered many markets in many types of goods, especially foodstuffs, especially fish? Hadn’t one of his companies for insistence been racing against the major Japanese corporations to buy up stocks of Eel, Fugu fish and Blue Fin Tuna while another was harvesting seeds for particular types of potentially medicinally beneficial plants and stockpiling as much of the world’s declining biodiversity as it could in huge greenhouses out in Chilean Patagonia? Did he not have a vested interest in extinction? In shortages, in scarcity?

His answer, which he had immediately sensed she was not prepared to listen to sympathetically was that both he and his wife thought of themselves as Curators now rather than business people or entrepreneurs, that they were in a sense rescuing and maintaining, while on another level restoring and bringing into life, illuminating great swathes of the past. The past is not dead and gone, any more than the future is inaccessible, both are immanent. All I do, he explained is draw value out of the future and use it to dynamise the past, I rewire it. Create new circuits. Forget the Future’s market, he quipped, I am heavily invested, in both the personal and financial senses of that word, in Pasts.

Take our great OutlierArt initiative, whose mission is to record and collate the entire artistic output of all humanity, not merely the greats, to throw open the past and expose every nook and cranny to appreciation. To rescue the dead. He almost said, that didn’t he? In the interview. Then thought better of it. Yes, perhaps some man of means will pay an extraordinary sum for the particular frisson of sitting in that restaurant in Tokyo or Beijing or Singapore and eating the final piece, that extravagantly expensive piece of Bue Fin Tuna sashimi, knowing no other human being now will ever get to savour its unique delicacy.  But this is how he sees his role, as a simultaneous driver into extinction in some ways and also a redeemer, a bringer into life, rescuing what was lost, granting recognition to the vast shadow-world of human endeavour and liberating it from the hierarchies of taste and judgement, the structures that have suppressed it.

If a man will pay millions for a sliver of flesh melting on his tongue and we can use that money to vitalize the great, unexplored, underexploited past, create more value, reinvest, drive forward more capital into the future! Look, he said. He became almost impassioned, didn’t he? He knows, he knows that he and Connaught are cut from the same cloth. He knows that this is all his mothers and grandfather’s doing, this sense of mission, this religious fervour. He doesn’t need Calvert to tell him that. This is the only hope we have. You said earlier, you used the term “the spatial fix”. Johan waved his hand skyward. There is lot of space out there still and we will reach it. You perhaps don’t know how close we are. But there is also the temporal fix, nor are they so distinct, time and space. The past after all is another country, is it not?

He smoothes his jawline with the back of his hand, the screen up on the far wall is making a soft, insistent buzz and he pivots away from the window, checking the time on his watch. “Activate”, he commands and the screen clicks on. A soft exhalation of static, a faintly clinical glow and there is Calvert waiting to begin their session his smooth face, filling the huge screen, gazing enigmatically out.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Resolution Way extract Johan 1

He loves being up high above the city, especially this city, gazing out through floor to ceiling windows. The air conditioned cool. The subdued lighting. He is looking at his own reflection in the window as night falls. His suit is beautifully cut. He has kept his weight down.

Johan has, he must confess, an embarrassing obsession with Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, and has had ever since he was a boy. Because of his mother, no doubt. He used to imagine the Wanderer turning away from the precipice, seeing his face. Which was of course his own.

Perhaps he should mention this to Calvert. But perhaps that is too obvious. He doesn’t want to bore him. Better that he just free associates rather than try to give him what he thinks Calvert wants. Before he went into analysis, at Nastya’s request, at Nastya’s insistence, he had his people prepare several executive summaries on the history, approaches and latest trends in the field. He knows that one of the biggest problems in analysis these days is the analysand’s over-familiarity with the language and protocols of psychoanalysis itself. He attempts therefore not to provide a running commentary on his own observations, but he thinks that also Calvert is aware of this. Of a certain suppressed element. And that perhaps it would be truer, more genuinely revealing if he were to vocalise those thoughts too. After all, Dr Calvert, the world is irredeemably meta, is it not?

He is sure that Calvert will say something like, why do you feel you have to ask me what you should and shouldn’t say? He feels a sudden burst of irritation and then almost immediately laughs. Perhaps he should just talk into a microphone then play it back and analyse himself. Perhaps there is a programme online that will allow him to run his recording through an algorithm. That will offer him some concrete analysis, a diagnosis. Disintermediation. He smiles when he hears that term. What on earth does that mean? Perhaps he should ask Calvert, who is pre-eminent in his field. If not that, perhaps he should outsource. No doubt he could find an online therapist for a fraction of the price. If money were a consideration. Was it not true that Argentina had the highest number of psychoanalysts per person in the world? He contemplates going to his workstation to check this out. Makes a memo to investigate it more fully but instead merely files the idea away, returns his attention to the view out across the Thames taking in St Pauls, the Gherkin, Zhu-Min Heights, Canary Wharf.

He loves being up high above the city, particularly this city. Night has fallen. He can see his own reflection clearly now. He has kept his weight down. He checks his jawline. He has a famous jawline, famously sharp and he works hard to keep it that way. He never lets his body fat get above twelve percent. He repeatedly checks his jawline in the mirror. Does face tightening exercises every night in the bathroom before bed. Uses a particular and very expensive Japanese collagen-enhanced horse fat face-cream. He knows the fat in the face disappears over time as it accumulates unnecessarily elsewhere. Another of the body’s’ archaic impositions. The body, an atavism.

These days, one’s face is everything, the integrity of one’s image an absolute requirement. Yet here we are, shackled to a primitive, stone-age biology. Yes biology is the battleground. He has already prepared himself for future surgeries, lifts and implants, regularly checking out the literature from the best personal cosmeticists around the world, many of whom are here of course, in London.

Johan believes that the relationship between the image on the screen and the face in real life is essential to trust. He has contemplated having photos digitally manipulated so that he will look a little older than he is, a little more drawn, perhaps slightly fatter so that when he meets associates in real life they will be taken aback by how much better he looks than on screen. He is part owner of a company, that provides brand and image management support to major corporations and high net worth individuals, one aspect of which is correcting and improving any unauthorized photos or videos that appear on the web. He would be asking for the reverse of course and this is the telling difference between Johan and his competitors, his peers. He understands that the really scarce good, the premium good of the future will be the face-to-face, the unpressured moment of intimacy, the rich and puzzling, sublime ambiguity of the other.

Perhaps this is why he has agreed to analysis. Not entirely because he is incapable of refusing Nastya anything, but because it helps him in researching that soon to be most sought after commodity of all, direct contact. He is already toying with a company that will set up face to face encounters between the A-list clientèle on his Social media platform Networth and people from radically different backgrounds and income categories. They have begun trialing it among close associates, placing executives in neutral, wireless-free rooms for an hour or so with single mothers or teachers or Bengali immigrants, forcing them to interact in a radically de-hierarchical and anonymous space, seeing them emerge sometimes several hours later shaken and exhilarated or disturbed, adrenalized. Intense, intense, one of his junior employees repeatedly muttered on emerging from the meeting room and summed up his 83 minute meeting with a 43 year old cleaner from Philadelphia on the feedback sheet as “ a real white-knuckle ride. ”

Head back he smoothes his jaw-line with the back of his hand. The rest of his face is not such a worry to him. His hairline is solid, he has had enough peels and treatments to keep his skin supple and largely wrinkle free. Hydration is fundamental as is the right kind of exercise. His diet is exceptionally nutritionally dense and rigorous, his workout regimen qualitatively intense.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Resolution Way extract Graeme 2

The train that arrives is either 28 minutes late or seven minutes early and Graeme is fairly sure which of those two it is most likely to be, even though the poster on the waiting room wall is telling him that 97.3 percent of all trains have arrived at or in advance of their ETA over the past month.

Such bullshit.

He takes a seat at the back of the carriage, unconsciously always giving himself easy access to an escape route, and immediately plugs in his earphones, starts listening to a mix he’s downloaded, one of the guys who works in the Shepherd’s Bush branch who has a micro label he’s running of what he’s called Post-Intelligent Dance Music, which lead Chris, the Metalhead, to say one night in the Pub, so you mean Stupid Dance Music? There’s already plenty of that around mate. You going to be re-releasing Two Unlimited’s back catalogue? To which Stan, face flushed, said Post doesn’t mean Anti or Non does it? It doesn’t mean the Opposite of, it means After, to which Chris said, what’s after Intelligent then? and Stan who basically went to Goldsmiths, came out with some long, complicated justification for the term and everyone got bored and started joining in the piss-taking saying stuff like, your missus is post-attractive and that band are well post-good, geezaaahhh and this beer is post-tasty and Chris’s mate Noggin started doing his famous spot-on Tick ‘n’ Tock comedy 80s robotic dancing by the pool table and going “this beat is Technotronic!” to general hilarity. Only Graeme didn’t join in, saying yeah mate you do your own thing, you do your own thing. He tries to be supportive of Stan, more maybe because he’s been on the receiving end of the piss-taking too than anything else.

The mix was of a genre that Stan was calling Weird Big Beat.

It is a long mix that doesn’t seem to be either weird or Big Beat and has what he thinks is actually a Tim Hardin track stuck in the middle for some reason that Graeme can’t quite figure out, but is probably a smart part of Stan's overall concept that he just doesn’t get, and he is still half listening to it, staring out of the window, his mind drifting when Joolzy gets on at Dartford and comes striding up the aisle toward him. Graeme pulls his earphones out to greet him.

“Badman!” Joolzy says and slaps his outstretched hand, sits down in the seat across the aisle. hears the mix, super tinny at that tiny volume, leaking from the earphones, pulls a face.

”That that Stan’s Weird Big Beat Mix, blud?”

“Yeah,” Graeme says, “ it’s...”

Joolzy sucks between his teeth and lifts his left eyebrow. 

"Weird Big Beat? The FUCK is Weird Big Beat bruv? That is officially, officially, get me, the Least Weird Music. Ever. You might as well try and sell me, I dunno. Tranquil Gaba! Fucking. Downtempo Happy Hardcore! That. Is. Some. Bullshit that mix, bruv."

Verdict delivered, Joolzy settles back in his seat.

Grame’s spirits lift. He likes Joolzy, a regular from the record shop days and he’s glad he’s up for coming down to Margate. He’s a good laugh, even though, even though he’s had some hard times, Joolzy. He can tell you some stories. More importantly he isn’t on his own any more. Joolzy would have your back, if things got bad. Travelling alone these days he is anxious all the time. Never used to be like that even five years ago, even two years ago. He tells Joolzy about the confrontation in the Post Office the previous day as Joolzy shakes his head and whistles between his teeth.

“No respect, man. No respect. First up against the wall these pussyoles, man. Man say that to me he’d be brown bread bruv, get me?”

Graeme nods, yeah, yeah, Joolzy can look after himself all right, but they both know the truth. If anybody is going up against a wall in the near-to-mid term, chances are it’s them.

For half an hour or so they settle back into their own worlds, half private, half public, their interfaced bubble, fiddling with their phones. checking streams and feeds, messages, making sporadic conversation around clicks and scrolls, screen taps, downloads, games, showing each other photos.

Graeme gets a message from Nick Skilling aka DJ Skillz. Hi. Cheers.I can't get out of work early today, you’ll have to swing by my office. Cheers. Nick. and a link to Google maps. As he’s checking it out another message arrives. Just ask for Nick at reception.

Good, good. I love it when a plan comes together! Everything gonna be all right this morning!

At Ashford International a harassed looking couple in business suits get on and are angrily saying excuse me, excuse me, honestly, before Graeme has even had a chance to swivel back into his seat from showing Joolzy a particularly mentalist clip from the legendary Glasgow Gaba night Plywood back in 95, saying, looks tranquil to me and Joolzy laughing saying, that must be the chillout room bruv. The women muttering something under her breath, could be racial, hard to hear, plausibly deniable, the man behind striding past with what could be interpreted as an aloof, a supercilious, a disapproving air.

“Maybe you two need to chill out a bit. You look like you’re a bit stressed out.” Joolzy shouts over to them as they put their bags and briefcases up in the luggage rack and separate out the all-important laptops, the woman furiously brushing crumbs off the surface of the table they are about to sit at.

“I said you two look a bit stressed out.”

The woman bites first. “Yes well. We have been working, actually. Do you know what that is?”

Joolzy produces a can of Stella from his bag and cracks it. "Only fools and horses work, from what I have heard.” He raises it in a mock salute. “Looking at you love, I am not sure which one you are.” He slurps foam from the rim of the can ostentatiously.

“Well, " she says. She looks to be mid-Thirties and has a mass of damp curly auburn hair. "I am certain that you’re a fool. A non-working fool.”

“I am hung like a horse, though.”

Graeme laughs. Cheeky.

The man in the suit, still rummaging irritably in his travel bag, swivels on his heels. “OK,” he says “that’s enough of that.” He points at the pair of them. “You two need to behave yourselves. You shouldn’t be drinking on public transport.”

Immediately Joolzy stands up and Graeme feels his delight curdle. Joolzy isn’t especially big, five ten, but he seems bigger. Confidence does that. The sense that you have a right to occupy the space around you, the sense that you can expand into it. That sense that Graeme, always shrinking further and further away inside himself, has never really understood.

“I am not one of your employees, bruv. Do you get me? You might tell them what to do, you don’t start giving me orders.”

“Well you never will be one of my employees, will you? Or anybody’s,” Suitman says, and his jaw's tight, his eyes have got a shine to them and Graeme knows, yeah, that’s how it is, you are one step away, one step, one wrong turn, one wrong word from disaster these days.

Joolzy steps out into the aisle and leans confidentially forward, pouting, brow furrowed looking Suitman up and down. “The trains going to pull out of this station in 30 seconds. The next station’s fifteen minutes away. Do you want to be stuck. On this train. With me. For fifteen minutes. Cause you’re” he leans in even further, drops his voice to a near whisper  “all alone, bruv.”

“Well the police will be waiting for you at that station.” Suitman’s voice stays professionally clipped but is thick with rage. He raises his Blackberry. “Shall I phone them now?”

“Phone them, make the call. That gives me 15 long minutes. To fuck you up.” The train has pulled out now with a clank and a soft, accelerating surge. “I don’t think I’m going to need that long.”

The woman, who has been busy opening and powering up her laptop says “Oh you two stop waving your dicks around, this is adolescent.”

“You giving orders too now, is it ?”

“Yes, that’s right “she says, “because someone has to. Someone in this country has to. Are you going to “fuck me up” too?”

Joolzy sticks out his bottom lip and raises his eyebrows. “ Why not? You might as well be hanged for a...... horseface as a ....pussyclaat!”’ Then, he can't help it, he half laughs at his own ingenuity. Where did that come from? 

“Whatever, whatever.” He waves his fingers in Suitman’s face. Begone.

Suitman sits down, shaking his head. Joolzy screwfaces the woman for a few seconds then blows air out between his lips and shrugs.

“Pussyclat!” he announces to the virtually empty carriage.

Graeme’s relieved. Good, it has calmed down. He doesn’t want any run-ins with the police. From what he’s heard prison is even worse than Giveback, or as Hooky, the one friend he made on his Nursing course liked to say, Giveback by other means. It is easier and easier to get locked up these days mostly for resisting arrest when the police have “warranted suspicion”. Whatever that means. Total policing, tough sentencing, hard labour. He imagines he is only ever one step away from some infringement or infraction that will see him up in court. Prison, that’s the nightmare.

“You’ve been inside right Joolzy.”

Joolzy is sitting back down now, sipping at the can. He nods. “Twice bruv.”

“How was it?”

“I am not going to lie to you. Rough. But you know, prison now is not what it was, it’s a work camp. You’re on a twelve, fourteen hour shift, 20 minute breaks for meals, then ten hours locked down. No TV. No weed. No visits, no phone. Zero.”

“What were you in for?” Graeme knows but somehow it is comforting to hear it again, to imagine that it came about through some set of circumstances that could never apply to him, or that now, more clued up about it, he could somehow sidestep.

“Both times mate they fitted me up for civil disorder. That is a heavy charge these days. I am lucky I went away when I did. I know people getting ten years, ten, for that these days. First time was when they had the riots up in Croydon, they just took in anyone and everyone. Fitted them up. Second time I got two years for holding an illegal party out on the Isle of Dogs. Two years.” He shakes his head. “But you know what, if I need to go back again, I will. If that’s how it’s going to go down, fuck it.”

“Fuck it!” he announces to the train, then keeps going, his voice loud, aiming his words at the couple three seats down, heads buried in their laptop screens. “Lot of people in this country got nothing to live for. Lot of people in this country thinking more and more everyday, fuck it. Lot of the youth getting very restless, man. Very restless. What am I supposed to be telling them, you know, in my role as mentor to the troubled youth of London? Keep your nose clean, work hard? For what? It’s a piss-take.”

“It’s a piss-take,” he says again more quietly, and put his knees up on the seat in front. Vexed.

Fucking piss-take. This country.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Resolution Way extract Graeme 1

It’s raining when he sets out to get the train to Margate. A very British rain, cold, relentless, sapping. It seems to have  been raining more or less continuously for the last six months and there has been flooding everywhere, the Thames getting dangerously high. Graeme puts his hood up, hood-rat! pats the pockets of his army coat, checking he has his keys, tobacco tin, the blue plastic oyster card holder he uses as a wallet, his Claimant Card.  

He buys a packet of rizlas in the Off Licence by Woolwich station, uses a tenner and then puts the change in a number of different pockets so when he walks it won’t jangle about and attract attention.  He didn’t use his Claimant Card for two reasons, first he doesn’t want to be building up debt on it. Second, he knows they track every purchase, every movement.

It feels strange to be out and about, going somewhere. He has hardly left the flat at all in the past three weeks, just nipping out to post records off or slogging round to the retail park to get Value pasta and beans from his Designated Retail Point, Charlton Asda. Three whole, glorious weeks with no Giveback that have let him concentrate  on making some money on the side. 

Shop a skiver! the rain stippled  poster on Woolwich station tells him,  a photo of  a swarthy man taking cash from a disembodied hand in the dimly lit kitchen of some local cafe, and he feels a distant jolt of panic. He’s sure he won’t get caught, that he has  covered his tracks but you never know, they are cracking down. Now when he gets emails or texts or letters from the I.W.P. he just ignores them, unless it’s Giveback dates, better not miss that or, he involuntarily draws his thumb across his throat makes a quiet squelching sound out of the corner of  his mouth, staring out of the waiting room window at a pigeon.  The pigeon tilts its head in his direction questioningly. He chuckles. Nah, not you mate. You are all right. Fucking pigeons. That’s the life.

Or foxes. There are a couple of foxes live in the Railway siding round the back of his flat, make a horrible  noise at night sometimes and when he can’t sleep he looks out of the window, sees them standing on the roof of the lock-ups across on the other side of the road, jaws hanging open, tongues lolling out, the noise like a cross between a baby screaming and an android dying. Android. He checks his phone. Nothing. Fiddles with it, power’s all right, I’ve got the power! Serious as Cancer!  He smiles to himself.  

His online piece-work has topped up his housing benefit and his record trading has turned a small profit so he can keep his broadband connection. If that gets cut off he is fucked, as fucked as if they cut off his water. A stab of fear gets in at him, in under his ribs out of nowhere. Dark forces. If he gets cut off now, now that the local library has closed, now the nearest one, down in Greenwich has started charging for internet access and there's like thirty people waiting for their thirty minute  slot by 8:30 in the morning then he‘ll have to start using internet cafes at a quid an hour and almost certainly lose the Cloudsource click-through and O-desk (93 percent positive rating for username GreyHamAdmin) bits of filing and  sorting work that’ve been keeping his head above water for a start.  

It’d knock him out of the loop for his record trading too, which is getting savage these days. In fact, using cafes would leave him out of pocket even just for his mandatory 30 hours of online Jobseek courses, searches and applications. He knows bros who have  found some  way of  free-riding on  other peoples' wireless signals and who are using routers and  mesh systems to pirate bandwidth out of the ether and keep people hooked up for free, and last time he saw Charlie from The Gladstones he promised to let him know the who, how, and when it was going to be accessible round Graeme’s area, but who knew when he was  going to bump into Charlie  again, especially now  he  wasn’t working in the record shop any more.

So, so. If he can just get his hands on something really rare he’ll be able to hold off disaster a little longer. But disaster is coming, isn’t it? Extinction Level Event. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. He can feel it in the  air, everyone  can. Dark forces marshalling, some obscure and final reckoning lurching up over the horizon.

His niche is Drum and Bass, though of course he listens to everything, everything except metal. Can’t stand metal. When he  worked down at the Record and Video exchange in Greenwich he hated working with Chris because all day it was death metal, crust, sludge, doom, hardcore, black metal, technical crust, whatever or maybe Gaba, if they were lucky. Plus he had this kind of attitude that anyone who wasn’t into it somehow didn’t get music and took the piss out of everything else for being too lightweight. Maybe that was one of the reasons he left, he stopped getting on with the  other guys, who had all been to Uni and used to take the piss a bit too much, past the point where it was funny. 

So he left to become a Psychiatric nurse but that meant studying and essay writing and  he wasn’t used to it so he freaked out a bit, jacked it in, couldn’t get his old job back and was embarrassed to keep asking anyway. So for nearly two years now, isn’t it, fucking hell, two  years, where has that gone, he has been Claiming.

Still, it's all probably for the best, he has developed a good relationship with a couple of big collectors in the States and he knows that vinyl, white labels, test pressings, Japanese editions, coloured vinyl, whatever, is played out. The market has shifted, the vinyl side of stuff still goes but it’s finished in terms of  anything new or any chance of prices going up, now the line between music and  memorabilia, even just junk, even just crap, has been blurred, more than blurred. At the moment whenever he looks at the collectors wants’ list on SoundHound he sees that cassettes of music taped directly off the radio are  changing hands for silly money, compilations some sixteen year old kid made in 1985 listening to John Peel on his portable radio with all the interference and the sound fading in and out, sometimes even the sound of the stop and record buttons getting pressed, bits of DJ banter, noises of people chatting in the room where it is being recorded, hand-written tracklists on the insert cards, some with photocopied bits of paper stuck over them. All that stuff.

That is a huge market but difficult to get access to, someone has opened a site, home taping is still killing music, trying to get people to send him cassettes so he can act as  a middleman and  forward them on to collectors he knows, but a lot of the people who have the stuff don't seem to be interested or  don't know about the site. There is an age gap problem, anyone  old  enough to have taped things off the radio is too busy fulfilling their family and work obligations to pay attention to stuff like that on the internet. Sooner or later though the site was going to to get  mentioned in the papers or  a magazine and then the guy who runs it is  going to make plenty of dough, there is  a goldmine  of stuff just sitting out there still waiting to be claimed. Claimant alert! He is  hoping his  brother will give  him his old cassettes he  taped off Klik FM back in the day and on the way  back up from Ramsgate he is going to call in at Maidenhead to see him and Roz, have a cup of tea, try  and get them off him. They’ll split the money of course.

Yeah, this weekend could be the big one in every sense. Shame about the weather, still  it might clear up.  Yeah he owes his brother one  for this, for  putting him in touch with Skillz. His brother knows  everything about the scene, man, everything and everyone. He used to cane it back in the day, going out to dances when he was 16 coming home fucked and their Dad going mental at him. He’s calmed down  though, since he met Roz, since they had Farrah, now he’s got his own business.

That’s what Graeme  needs to do, that’s the way out. He should have  done s something like that Home taping site. He has tried to pick up tips off his  E-ntrpreneur  (pron: eentrepreneur) courses on, like running a just-in-time inventory but this is almost impossible, when he  finds a bargain he has to buy it there and then and so his bedsit is filling up with records he has no chance of selling though he tries to keep a tally of what he's  bought, how much he’s paid,  what has been  sold and  at how much, a running total of profit and loss. Of course he’s  better at sorting all this out when he  isn’t on a Giveback Scheme, twenty five hours a week of painting railings and sweeping up leaves dressed in the regulation Giveback Team blue-grey boilersuit. He has the idea  that if he  could just get his  act together in terms of the  accounting  then he  could  sign off, run himself  as a small company, that way he can get out of all the hassles and running around of being a tier-three job-seeker.