Monday, July 25, 2005

Am I Done Blogging?

No. But, the every day story is having a week off in order to regenerate, Dr Who style. Meanwhile:

Using the wonderful, never-fail Blogger system, please continue to leave your many encouraging and fabulously loving comments, ribald remarks, accusations of evil, gifts of cash, and offers of sexual intimacy.

Browse the many wonderful links you can find down the right-hand column and (here's a tip!) at the bottom of the page.

Read the voluminous Blog of Funk archive and suggest next month's theme.



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Saturday, July 23, 2005

When Are You Going To Come Down?

(This is the fifth and final part of a series. Please read "Do You Mind If I Smoke?" followed by "Would You Like To Go For A Drink?" followed by "Why On Earth Did I Do That?" followed by "Where Is She Now?" before this one.)

Taking a mood-altering drug - any drug - is just like taking out a loan. You purchase life like a big spender, but the spree cannot continue, and after a very short time, wallet empty, you have to pay back what you have spent, with interest. The more dramatic the expenditure, the bigger the comedown.

Lying on my back, in my underwear on a warm night, next to a half-naked woman I barely knew, was an intimacy that would normally provide at least a frisson of expectation; but drugs, cocaine especially, continually make promises they cannot keep. I was a sane, well-educated, savvy member of this corrupt, selfish, morally defunct world I was inhabiting, and yet none of my mental strength, education, or life experience was going to help me right now.

My mind was throwing up a series of bizarre scenarios and flights of fancy I would normally have enjoyed, but the normal enjoyment was entirely absent. Instead I watched an unfolding tragedy without tears, a blank comedy devoid of jokes, a history with no plot, outcome or social relevance. I could have solved the secret of the universe and I would experience the same emotionally thin response.

I was only able to judge anything on the basis of fact.

Yes. That is correct. No. That is incorrect.

I am a fuckwit. That is correct.

I was in the waiting room of Hell, and Devil's pitchfork was jammed into my sinus, which hurt like hell now that the anaesthetising effect of the drug was wearing off. I kept rising every 40 minutes or so to drink water and piss. I took a couple of aspirin and tried to cast something positive upon my experiences. There was nothing.

I have been very stupid. That is correct. I was only doing what anyone would do. That is incorrect. I am going to have to wait until my body has done its work removing this substance before I will be able to operate normally or even sleep. That is correct. I have taken far too much of this stimulant and I am seriously risking my health bang-bang-bang-bang. That is correct. I will be OK tomorrow. That is incorrect - you might have damaged your heart, your septum, your sinus. Hey, aren't you supposed to be saying, That is correct, That is incorrect? That is incorrect.

I am a twat. That is correct.

I could feel my heart bang-bang-banging against my ribs, and my tired, emotionally drained flatline brain seemed to have a demented life of its own, thoughts rattling around and around in a cage of awakening, a rat pressing the same reward button over and over and over again. So, who was the scientist? There is no scientist. I was the rat that put itself up for scientific experimentation. Like King Rat, I was in league with the perpetrators.

I am a failure. That is correct.

Someone once asked me what I thought was the worst effect of cocaine, to which I replied, the loss of honesty. But the loan shark will always come for what is his, and when the realisations start to hit, the shame and self-recrimination that accompanies cocaine is writ large. Watching car lights throw shapes across the ceiling, waiting to come down was the most lonely place in the world.

You are a sad, sad little man. That is correct.

Wired, I thought, was a good word for it. I was wired, strung out, taut, like a metal line across a road waiting for a courier's decapitation.

Eventually, the chemical load lifted and around 4.30am I drifted into semi-sleep, within which dreams. Haunted, I returned straight away the the Hope and Anchor, where in re-run after re-run I found the gorgeous indian girl and we left, holding hands, smiling, pleased. I said better things, did better things, everything was alright. I had found someone really special. We were going to be together and have marvellous sex all the time, and we were in love.

I awoke three hours later with a cracked tongue and a mouth so dry I didn't even try to move it before I had filled it with cold water and restored the membranes. I pissed long long long long into the bowl, feeling minor backache as I did so. First paranoid thought of the day: kidney damage. At least my heart rate was normal. In the bathroom I peered into the mirror which had served me up my last night's jollies. I looked utterly shit, alarmingly so. The skin under my eyes was black. Around my right nostril the skin was red. A blood vessel had broken just inside. My top lip harboured a thick, yellow crust which I removed carefully. As I cleaned up the surface, I thought morbidly about my insides, which wouldn't be reached by soap and water. Three little words. Fucking stupid cunt.

I showered, long and hot.

M was still asleep when I returned, looking pale and thin on the bed. Her half-naked body was so vulnerable, I thought, she is so underfed. She still smelled strongly of the night before, stale beer, cigarettes, sweat and vomit. Her rust-coloured hair and ivory complexion looked beautiful, though, on the blue-green pillow. I vaguely realised that I must be recovering, if I was conscious of beauty. Although I was completely still, looking down upon her, she stirred and reached a hand out to where I had been, slowly examining the hollow in the bed next to her. Touched, I quietly positioned myself back on the bed, and waited while she very slowly came round, her thin fingers occasionally reaching out for comfort, her black-painted nails gently connecting with my skin. After ten minutes she rolled over and I almost choked at the smell that came from her mouth.

"Good morning," she croaked, "I feel terrible."

"You were pretty sick last night," I said.

"Ohh, I am sorry," she said, "I should have eaten something.."

Guiltily I remembered how I had failed to provide her with even the option.

"How do you feel now?" I asked.

"I need a piss but I am scared to get up," she said.

"There's a clean towel in the bathroom and the shower works," I hinted.

"OK, OK," she groaned. I passed her a glass of water and watched her spill most of it down her front whilst she drank in a couple of gulps. "I think I can do that. I'm going to try."

She rolled over and off the low bed, onto all fours, and crawled like a child out of the room, her white knickers revealing a rust-coloured patch of pubic hair as her arse wiggled through the door. To my surprise, I felt a flicker of interest in my boxer shorts. No, surely not. I think not. I do not think so.

"Love," wrote John Lennon, "is the answer" - but he was wrong. Tea is the answer, and so whilst M cleaned herself up, which took twenty minutes, I made two cups, took them back to the bedroom, and sipped from one of them. Tea felt like a restorative, a trusted friend, that sense of warmth in the belly taking me back to the baby's stomach full of warm milk. My mouth felt a lot better.

I stared out of the window at the morning, glad that the awful blues had passed, wondering what I was going to do next, whether M had really not sussed out the goings on of last night and deciding that, no, she probably hadn't. She came back, clean, wrapped in the towel. Her face had a funny look on it, and it took a moment for me to realise that stripped of her costume, she was feeling shy.

She came and sat next to me on the bed, and leaned her head on my shoulder.

"Sorry about last night," she said bashfully.

"Could happen to anyone," I said magnanamously. "How much do you remember?"

"I can remember leaving the pub." She screwed up her face in concentration. "I can remember dancing."

She looked at me.

"You don't remember coming back here?"


"Or what we did?"

She winced, and blushed, and I then understood that she assumed we had had sex, and felt bad because she couldn't remember it.

"Well, you were great," I said, "Especially on the toilet."

"What?" she retorted, then holding her head, said faintly, "Do you have any painkillers?"

I went and got a couple more aspirin, and a fresh glass of water. When I came back, M was sitting up in bed naked. I passed her the two white pills and she took them, letting slip the sheet. I could see her torso and the two tiny twin buds of her chest in all its androgenous glory. Minus makeup, sober and clean, she was a far more attractive woman.

She noticed me looking at her and to my surprise, she peeled back the sheet, and made a space for me to occupy. I moved next to her, and she put the glass down, and slid horizontal, pulling at my arms so that I would follow her. I was suddenly confused. Did I want this? Did she really want this? Guilt about the past evening, shame about my stupidity, fears about my physical performance in my shattered state and the possibility of being sexually infected all reared like great apocalyptic horsemen. M started to wriggle childishly, put her arms around me and kissed my chest and my neck. I felt the answer beginning in my groin. My animal nature was intact.

"Do you have a condom?" she asked. Thank god for middle-class girls. I reached under the bed and retrieved the wrapped rubber, looking in its purple shiny vest just like a Quality Street chocolate confection. M had started to rub me quite hard and rather fast, and I felt my arousal inexorably take over. With one hand, I unwrapped, with the other, I explored her, at last touching the nipples, reaching down for juices, which I lifted on fingertips to my mouth, tasting her. That sharpness, that musty smell now smeared across my face as M began to move her mouth across mine, her tongue making little darting movements in and out, like an animal scared to enter a trap.

A "double-edged sword" sounds masculine, poetic, dramatic, literary at 10.30pm, deadly at 4am as it chops you up like liver. Cocaine's exaggerated sexual impetus removes inhibition and liberates the user from the need to share; self-seeking animality replaces kindness, intimacy and love. Now, I was being offered what I had tried to take, and I found I could not. My body worked by itself, and the glorious sensual celebration of two people physically expressing themselves in joy and passion was reduced to rubbing, grazing, running through tested techniques in the hope that the end point would soon be reached without embarassment or the need to apologise. What a dizzy height I had reached.

We finished. I instantly felt like sleeping but forced myself to stay awake and say a few non-committal words. M left the bedroom, dressed, and left, saying little. A week later, she returned drunk, and told me that the sex we had that morning was very bad. I agreed, but waited for her explanation. Good sex, she said, was warm, not HOT. I recalled her feverish rubbing, which had left marks on my skin which had still not healed, compared it the smooth erotic naturalness of the indian woman who I still had not found, and who I deeply missed, and I sensed yet another partial blindness. Good sex was cool, it was warm, it was hot, it was boiling like a pot, it was nourishing. It was everything. It was elusive. I had found it and lost it within the space of twelve mad hours.

She pulled a strange power trip later that evening, sitting semi-naked across me, when she began to invoke the magik powers of Chi Gung instructor, whose psychic perceptions would alert her to all danger, and who she was still shagging, two timing with a woman, whilst intending to three-time them both with me. I calmly pointed out that she really hadn't a clue who I was, she had known me briefly several years ago, for only a couple of weeks contemporaneously, and yet she was prepared to make herself vulnerable to the extent that she had passed out in my bed. This unnerved her so much, that she left in a huff, stealing a book from me, and I never saw her again.

I never saw the indian girl again, either. When I went back to the Hope and Anchor, the entire staff had been sacked and replaced because of a money scandal. It was in all the local papers.


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Friday, July 22, 2005

Where Is She Now?

(This is the fourth part of a series. Please read "Do You Mind If I Smoke?" followed by "Would You Like To Go For A Drink?" followed by "Why On Earth Did I Do That?" before this one.)

I stood in the grubby men's lavatory in the Hope and Anchor, staring into a mirror barely worthy of the name, picking bits of toilet paper off my face which had stuck when I wiped off the sweat. My heart had not stopped pumping inside my ribcage like a bassdrum since I had found my way out of the back of the bar and into this place of repair. A useless dribble of over-chlorinated water formed in my hand and I attempted to use this to restore order to my straining features.

The fact that I had left M waiting for a beer while I shagged a woman I had never met was something that required a little adjustment. I was in a mild panic in case I didn't re-connect with the fabulous indian girl, whose name I did not know, who presumably was now back working in the downstairs bar. I was in an elevated state because of the incredible excellence of the sex I had just experienced. I was soberly considering the folly of being unprotected, and hoping I had not exposed myself to disease or death.

Fifteen minutes, I was thinking, how am I going to explain fifteen minutes? My mind raced... I got talking to an old friend who was just leaving... yes, that's it... I went to the bar and the beer was off... could happen... um... I decided to play it by ear.

I went to the top bar which was an easier place to get served, bought two pints of chemical-yellow lager, and slightly unsteadily wobbled back down to the gig, splashing beer on the stairs, showing my rubber-stamped hand to the girl on the door, who smiled at me knowingly. Suspicion flashed through my mind: Did she know what just happened? Was she in on it? I had a real moment of paranoia as I considered the possibility that I had fallen into some bizarre rock-siren's trap.

Entering the basement I was hit by a wall of noise to my left, as a spindly four-piece band were over-loud to compensate for their lack of playing ability, singing a song about being two-timed. "Sheeeeeeee's a two-timin' two-timer, sheeeeeeeeee's a two-timin' two-timer" wailed the hopeless singer, eyes screwed shut, face red with effort and spots. I winced at the volume and the reference, and walking through the carefully posed couldn't-care-less audience, found M sitting at the table where I had left her 20 minutes previously. In front of her was a pint of lager, and she was shouting loudly over the music, deep in conversation with a chubby young goth to her left.

Looking up at me as I put the two pints down on the table and opened my mouth to start explaining, she pointed energetically at the young guy who was visibly disappointed at my appearance. "THIS IS MICHAEL" she shouted shrilly, her small face beaming "HE'S A FRIEND OF SAMBUCA AND HE WANT'S TO MINGE MY WALLABEE" or at least, that's what it sounded like. I forced a smile and yelled, "HELLO MICHAEL" and extended my hand. He shook it, and I had a shock at the feel of this hand, so different from the warm erotic strength of my new indian friend: it was cold, clammy and limp.

M seemed not to notice that I had been away for so long. Amazing, she was so self-engrossed that she really had not registered the delay. No excuses necessary! I waited 10 minutes until the band finished their set to a smattering of polite applause more suitable for a lazy cricket single, and resumed conversation at normal level. Michael although younger was clearly no fool and had already twigged M as insecure and potentially shaggable, and was busy pushing her buttons, getting some right. M seemed to enjoy the attention of two men, or rather, a man and a chubby gimp, out of all proportion to the flattery that was accorded her, and encouraged us both, but every so often, put Michael down scornfully in my favour. I felt uncomfortable with this game, but they both seemed to enjoy it. I was not where I wanted to be.

I gulped my lager down as quickly as possible, thinking that it would give me the excuse to go back to the bar, and get the number of my new flame. "Pint, Michael?" I generously offered, sensing a miser. "Ooh, Guinness, thanks," he replied, and I thought, that's right, go for the pricey one. M having drunk the pint Michael had bought her as well as mine, asked for tequila. I wondered whether she was going to leave the bar vertical.

This time the bar was crowded, and I spent ten minutes looking over heads, trying to find my dark and gorgeous new lover. A fluffy leather blonde in front of me exited sideways with two G&Ts, and I was suddenly pressed against the wood. Only 30 minutes previously, this had been the start of a marvellous adventure. Now I felt rather desperate.

In front of me a short, white-faced weasel of a man turned from the till and asked, "Can I help you?"

"Um, sure, pint of Guinness, a tequila, and, um..." I scanned the small bar area left and right. No sign of her. I must play for time. Weasel was back, raising his eyebrows for me to complete my order. "Another Guinness." This would take longer. I paid and waited for the drinks to settle, looking piercingly around the basement. Nothing, but I could see M enjoying the attentions of Michael, and someone new had joined them, whether female or male undeterminable, but tall and dripping with chains and black lace.

Where was she? My heart plummeted as I picked up the drinks and moved crab-like across the floor back to the table. Putting the drinks down, I signalled to M that I needed a piss.

It was about 10.30pm and the place was going to close in the next hour. I decided to re-charge my flagging spirits by visiting the other men's bog. The coke was lumpy, and small rocks pinged onto the cubicle floor, white on shiny black. I somehow managed to crush enough to assemble a dodgy line on the back of my wallet, and with fear of discovery no longer an issue, loudly sniffed it up through a grubby banknote, already stained red at one end from someone else's nose bleed.

The coke cut through the alcohol and feeling grimly determined, I set off to find the indian girl before it was too late. At the main bar upstairs, I caught the attention of a pleasant bottle-blonde.

"Excuse me, I am looking for the indian girl who was working behind the bar earlier?" Bottle-blonde looked confused. "She was working downstairs."

Recognition dawned, "Oh, Sarah's friend, yes, she was just filling in for Sarah for a couple of hours, she had to go home because someone was locked out."

"Where is she now?" I asked, aware that the dramatic phrase carried too much intensity.

"I don't know. They've both gone, I think." She looked at me curiously. "Do you want to leave a message?"

I considered leaving my number, thought better of it. Bottle-blonde read my disappointment and said, "Sarah is working on Sunday..."

Confused, buzzing, I mumbled, "That's OK. Thanks. Can I have a tequila and a pint of Guinness, please."

Leaving the upstairs bar, I returned to the gig downstairs with more drinks. The headline band were playing some utter crap, and a line of drunk people were dancing at the front within ear-damage range of the band's amplifiers. In the middle of them was M, wheeling around like a dervish. I put the Guinness down, and caught her around the waist, and she feigned surprise and then lost her footing, so that for a moment, I was balancing a woman on one arm and tequila on the other. In a single fluid movement of Ballet Rambert standard, I swept her up onto her feet and put the tequila in her hand. Delighted with this, M threw back the tequila with massive bravado, and then threw both bony arms around me and squeezed her torso against mine from pubic bone to collar, putting her head on my shoulder, and rocked me as if I was a nursery toy.

It was a bizarre moment; in full view of the band and the assembled room of sixty-odd people, M seemed to be reverting to childhood, experiencing some kind of rebirth. I realised that she was extremely drunk, and that home was a good place to head, so without peeling her off, I collected up her bag and coat, and we moved together very slowly towards the exit and out. The girl on the door gave me the same knowing grin as I left, and in my mind I cursed her for being so fucking clever and so fucking self-satisfied and so fucking attractive but not as so fucking attractive as my gorgeous indian fuck who by now I was sure I would never fucking see again, fuck it.

The four blocks from the Hope and Anchor to my flat were an effort. M seemed to have reached a place where with all higher mental functions shut down, she was taking advantage of her animal nature. She clung to me like a limpet, managing to massage the front of my trousers several times, and burbling as she half-staggered about having to stay the night and she hoped I didn't mind and would it be ok to borrow a t-shirt and did I think she was a bad girl. As I fumbled for my keys, I caught the beginnings of M's body starting to purge itself of the toxins. She really did smell strong now, not attractive, just rank, and as we entered the hallway she nearly collapsed. I led her into the toilet, and opened the lid. On cue, she leant forward, fell to her knees and vomited, choking it through her long nose. The smell of beer, bile and tequila arose about her like a swamp.

I went and got a clean towel, some disinfectant and a cloth to wipe down the toilet which had been liberally sprayed. M was huddled around the bowl, arms now clinging to the porcelain as she had been squeezing me earlier. I fetched a red plastic bucket, picked her up, led her to the bedroom, laid her down, took off her shoes and her belt. M began to moan.

"I am sorry, I am sorry, I am so sorry..."
"Don't worry," I said, "There's a bucket there in case you need to be sick again."

The word "sick" sent a convulsion through her slender body, and I grabbed the bucket in time for her to aim. Shit. When she had finished, I wiped her face with the clean towel. She was incredibly light to begin with, now she seemed hardly to be there. She was pretty much gone, but sensing my arms around her, she misread this as sexual activity, and she began to squirm. I thought she was going to be sick again, and tried to sit her up, but, damn it, she was trying to respond. She smelled of vomit and alcohol as she reached up with eyes closed and waited to be kissed. It was repulsive. I put her down slowly, and she seemed not to notice.

I left her lying comatose on the bed, took the bucket and emptied it. I cleaned the toilet, then washed myself. I was bewildered. The coke was keeping me from feeling tired, but I was exhausted, demoralised, lonely. More than anything I wanted to be spending the night with my new indian friend, but the further away from that amazing moment that time took me, I felt that the episode was destined to be a single, isolated incident, and that the chances of us meeting again were diminishing.

I stripped down to my underwear and went into the bedroom where M had not moved since her last expulsion. Carefully leaving a gap between us, I lay on the bed, nowhere near sleep, and feeling empty. How could the evening have turned out this way? I felt that in achieving my ends, I had squandered a huge opportunity. I kept running events over and over in my mind, replaying them, seeking some solace, finding none. Until 4am I lay there sleepless, staring up at the ceiling, trying not to breathe in through my congested nose because the smell was so bad, waiting for the dawn.

(End part four)

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why On Earth Did I Do That?

(This is the third part of a series. Please read "Do You Mind If I Smoke?" followed by "Would You Like To Go For A Drink?" before this one.)

M, it became clear to me over the period of a week, was in major denial about several aspects of her contradictory behaviour. She was obviously enjoying the crazy art squat girly chick trip, yet she was a sensible middle-class Sanderstead woman. She drank and smoked whilst extolling the healthy virtues of Chi Gung. She flirted unblushingly whilst maintaining a fix on esoteric or intellectual matters beyond the scope of normal conversation. She wore revealing, provocative clothes whilst maintaining a Catholic girls school prudishness, her legs always crossed correctly even while she showed her nipples. Somehow, this thin, red, flickering flame attracted me like a night moth, her strong pheremonal broadcast tickled my insect antennae, and all this push-pull became translated into intense sexual expectation.

We disembarked from the commuter train and cut back to my flat, where under the pretext of having to wash and change, I located the stash, and carefully arranged twin lines upon a small bathroom mirror. I waited until she was in the toilet before doing the first in case she heard, with a user's anticipation of being discovered.

One of the things I was beginning to learn about M was her tendency to carry on way past the point of no return, until a sudden dearth of fuel (food, alcohol, music, reassurance) would cause her to crash to earth. She spun several yarns which illustrated this pattern, seemingly unaware that each story was underpinned by this lack of attention to her own needs. She really didn't stop talking, which I took to be a good sign, at least of her trust that I was interested in hearing it all, which gave my seduction plans confidence.

In the bathroom, I wetted my face, took a single-blade razor, started shaving as the coke began to irritate its way through my mucus membrane into my bloodstream. I felt my scalp tingle and a sudden increase in heart rate, and I slowed down so that I didn't emerge looking like I was in need of a transfusion. It was good, I realised, one line and I was really feeling it. The opposite of a night of snot waiting for a high. I carefully wiped my face, stopped the bleeding from a small cut under my chin, patted my torso dry, applied deodorant. I thought about using cologne, but I knew that M had an aversion to it, so I left the expensive bottle on the shelf and without a second thought, ran the water loudly, did the second line, checked the mirror for telltale crumbs around the sink or on the nose, and breezed into the hall naked from the waist up. Give her a look at the goods, my boosted ego told me, let her see you in your toned, swim-honed athletic glory.

I stood casually in the living room doorway, looking down at M who had arranged herself diagonally across the floor, in a star shape, chin pointing up, head back. She was wearing mint green baggy slacks and a thin black cotton tank top and stood out vividly on the red carpet. She looked like she had been frozen mid-orgasm. One thousand witty comments rushed to my tongue and stayed there. I really didn't know what to do or say. I could taste the coke sliding down the back of my throat. I wondered if she expected me to lie down upon her, but I decided that this was probably an esoteric pre-drink meditation, and probably it was best to leave her to it for a while. I went next door, found my condoms, put on a shirt.

Since M had apparently found her little piece of heaven, I decided that a small top up before drinks would assure me mine, so I chopped another line out, about half the size of the first two. It was a warm summer's evening and I could feel perspiration drops accumulating on my forehead as I lent once again over the mirror. I was more concerned about drips messing up crystals than my increased blood pressure.

"Nice and tidy, tidy and nice!" I sang, re-entering the living room full of the joys of an illegal and dangerous substance. M was now sitting up and smiling. "Ready?" I asked. She jumped up.

On the way to the Hope and Anchor, I realised several things. 1. The coke was very strong. 2. I had already consumed so much that I had no appetite at all. 3. I could murder a beer 4. I no longer knew how I was going to maintain an evening's conversation with this strange woman and ensure that my carnal ends were met. My cock felt cold, disinterested and miniscule, despite the fact my imagination was continually conjuring up scenarios of future debauchery.

We got in. There was the usual pub rock line up, gangs of black-dressing friends hanging around in the basement, waiting for their mate's band and suffering the other four. Having had my confidence shaken by one drug, I decided to put my faith in another - alcohol. We found a seat at the back, good view, an intimate space meaning we had to squash up. M requested a pint of lager, and I went to the bar.

My eyes beheld the most beautiful indian barmaid I had ever seen in my life, and I just stared at her. She looked at me and caught my blatant admiration. She was curvy, dark, with a warm sexy face, gorgeous lips, fabulous hands and cropped, thick hair.

"Hello," she said.

I was lost. She was gorgeous.

"You are gorgeous," I stated, matter of fact.

"Thank you," she smiled, "You are not so bad yourself!"

Wow, I thought. She really likes me. Then I thought, bollocks. M was waiting for her beer.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"You can," I replied, "but maybe not at the bar."

"Then come through here," she purred, indicating the hinged entrance. Without taking our eyes from one another, we moved in sync to the end of the bar, and she lifted the flap, reached for my hand. I felt her sensitive brown fingers close gently but firmly, and she murmured, "Perhaps we can discuss your needs?"

Pulling me steadily she moved me into the back of the bar, where I caught a smell of her skin, which was faintly cinammon.

"Thursdays can be quiet, thankfully," she said, indicating the back exit. I passed through into an unlit space where coats were hanging, a broom was standing. A couple of empty plastic beer crates were hidden and my shins crashed into them.

"Mind them," she said. Her voice was smooth and full of promise, and she turned to me with the sweetest smile, took my head in her hands, pulled me down to her mouth, and kissed me. Her kiss took everything about me and changed it. Everything we did was understood, as if pre-ordained. She lifted her top and mine and pushed her breasts against me. I lifted her cotton dress. She was soaking wet. She put her mouth on my left ear and reaching down, unzipped me, undid my belt, took out my cock, by now so hard I could have hung several wet towels upon it.

"Can I help you?" she asked, and she pulled me into her.

We began to make love standing up, her back against an old grey janitor's coat, uncaring of interruption, in perfect harmony. I thrust slowly, without pressure, and she held my shoulders and lifted her legs around my hips until our bodies were totally fused. We found the spot and held each other there expertly as if we had been practising this for years. Kissing her head, feeling her short thick hair against my lips, I found her pleasure zones with my fingers, and she gasped, licked my neck, bit my nipples. We moved gracefully in ellipses and circles. She began to come after about two minutes, and I held on for one minute longer, listening to her low animal moans which she was kindly uttering to a rapt audience of one. Finally, spent, we slowly disengaged. It was the most erotic, spontaneous five-minute fuck I had ever known.

I was dripping with sweat, I realised, when we stopped, and needed to clean up.

"You are gorgeous," I said again.

"And you are really fucking gorgeous," she said, gently mocking my sincerety. "I have to go back to the bar..." Holding my eyes, she moved her skirt back down, adjusted her top, pointed out that my clothing also needed some attention, and flashing me a face-splitting smile, said, "There's a loo down there..."

"Uh, OK.." She was gone. I breathed. How long had I been gone? Shit, what about M?

(End part three)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Would You Like To Go For A Drink?

(please read "Do You Mind If I Smoke?" first)

I had been in one relationship after another throughout my twenties, and here I was approaching the end of them, finally single, and I was trying hard to enjoy the experience. M showed up in my life during my most debauched time. I wouldn't say I was immoral, or amoral, in fact I was one of the few in my scene with any kind of moral compass, thanks to the far-flung efforts of parents and a large amount of hippy influence, but at that time, the majority of the men and women I knew were exercising variants on the "do unto others before they do unto you" philosophy. It was all smiles and conceits, flattery and back-stabbing, the backdrop was sex and drugs and rock and roll, and after 18 months it was starting to convert me to the Church of Selfish.

So I flattered M and I took the song that was her least worst and improved it without really listening to it that hard. It was a strange session, full of simple advice like, sing into the microphone, and tune the guitar, and we made a simple four track recording with which she was delighted. A few days later, I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers, and I took her into the studio and introduced her to JW one of the two owners. He had a few kind words for her, and sensing that my interest was not entirely musical, sniffed around her slender ankles like a lazy dog considering a leg-shag, glinting his old eye at me under a raised eyebrow on her blind side. She cooed and purred enjoying the attention. JW enjoyed her enjoyment, and fuelled it adroitly. I admired his expertise, but felt slightly nauseated.

This small success boosted her ego hugely, and as we travelled back by train from west to north London, she became surprisingly lary, boasting of her two lovers, one male, one female, and her superb martial arts prowess. Looking at her bone-thin arms and waxy face, I could see that she was not merely attempting to live up to a conception of herself as an artistic super-woman, but also that she was labouring under the illusion that she was in total control of the situation, and that I was like everyone around her in awe of her beauty and power. Shortly, my role in her inexorable climb to the top would be done, and I would be kindly thanking her for being allowed to assist. She seemed from what she was saying rather earthily to believe in the very special power of her own pussy, and that this gave her psychic protection.

This observation made, something very determined consolidated inside my cold heart. I decided that since she was clearly without major talent, I would get her into bed before that fact was widely known, immerse myself in the acrid liquid flavour of the woman, dine upon those tiny breasts as if they were larks tongues in aspic, and satisfy my lust.

"Would you like to go for a drink?" I asked in a rare pause in the endless chatter, not even looking directly at her.

"OK! Where shall we go?"

"Let's nip back to mine first, and we'll go to the Hope and Anchor," I replied.

At the name of this pub, one of London's most famous music venues, M's eyes lit up. Good God, she really was naive. It was just a drinking hole with guitars and young people dressed badly, for fuck's sake, no big deal, but she was acting as if we were off to Buckingham Palace. I wanted to go home first because that was where I had stashed my coke, and I knew I would need it if I was going to fuck her.

Gentle reader, please do not assume that a. this was my normal sexual modus operandi or b. by recounting this episode that I am condoning the use of illegal drugs. Neither is true. I never needed any drug to enable or enhance sex. As we all know, drugs are bad for you, especially cocaine. It is expensive both financially and physically. Do not take it. Stick to tea. Now on with the tale.

Of all mood altering substances which human beings ingest, cocaine is the double-edged sword. You chop it, then it chops you. At that time, before it was chopped out in every Friday night pub in Britain, before 99% of London banknotes tested positive for traces, Coke was currency. I would sometimes be paid in it, at the end of a session. Mostly I would exchange it for cash which was more useful. There was never any shortage of takers. I did not want to develop a taste for it - I had seen it make very nice people psychotic, and I knew I could not work on it, it completely froze the back of my throat and removed my capacity to pitch. But my own ego was telling me, just like M that I was in control, and there is no better drug to foster that illusion whilst removing inhibition, so for this purpose, I told myself, it would be a Good Idea.

I had no intention of sharing any of my stash with M who blathered on oblivious to my carnal intention, swigging a warm can of Special Brew which had appeared from her bag. She offered me the can, I accepted. Even the can smelled of her, or maybe, she smelled like the beer, I couldn't tell. The warm overproof beer tasted like alcoholic treacle and did nothing to slake my thirst, it just promised headache.

I handed the can back, planning the evening.

(End part two)

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Do You Mind If I Smoke?

She asked this in a matter of fact way whilst rummaging in a large bag, making clear that she was going to smoke anyway whether I minded or not, so I mumbled, "No, go right ahead," and left the room to fetch the large glass ashtray.

M this thin, reddish, crazy woman had just turned up on my doorstep unexpectedly one summer's afternoon. I had not seen her for five years. I had met her at my first art school on my foundation course. After bumping into her randomly at some party years later, details swapped, one phone call made, and there she was, rolling up a meagrely thin combination of Golden Virginia and some crumbs of ropey-smelling hashish in my living room.

M was unselfconscious about her looks, it seemed, unaware or maybe simply unashamed of her sexuality; like many middle-class girls, it was no big deal. She was stick-thin, wearing voluminous 80s mannish trousers with some punk / goth additions to the hair and ears. Her breasts were tiny, mostly nipple, and her loose, unfilled tops frequently peeled away from her chest bone, showing what she didn't have whenever the angle was right. She had a strong physical smell, on the edge of unpleasant, sharp, foxy, catty. She had a long, aquiline nose, a heavy-lidded smile which split her impish face, and a rather spectacularly filthy laugh.

She was anxious in a nice way, a pleasantly passionate Cancerian, and I fancied her. She seemed to be making herself at home, and since I was single and constantly horny, I decided that this was no bad idea.

I was working in a pretty good music studio at the time, and I knew that M was interested in me for that reason, but, fair enough, I thought. She got high, and two spots of red either side of the magnificent nose flushed her ivory complexion.

"Can I play you my tape?" she asked, offering me the spliff, indicating the cassette on top of her bag.

"Sure," I said, "Thanks but I don't smoke government drugs."

"Government drugs?" she was visibly confused. I was being clever, this was my moment to preach about deaths from tobacco smoking and government revenues from tax. Instead, I took the tape, wacked it in the player, and turned up the volume on the amp.

It had been years since I had suffered anything so appalling and it was all I could do to maintain the volume for the five and a half minutes of the first song on the tape, which had been recorded on a portastudio in a bedroom with an electric guitar, a chorus pedal, a very bad microphone, and the most clanging, dissonant reverb unit I had ever heard. I didn't mind dissonance, being a fan of Stockhausen, NON and sundry industrial-type art bands; but this was inadvertant. Stuck at the back of the train tunnel, she wailed through dirgy chords stolen from Siouxsie and the Banshees circa 1981. It was angst, but somehow kitch. It was painful, both sonically and emotionally. I fought to keep the displeasure from my face and my hand from the off switch as she beamed at me throughout, glowing with pleasure. I turned the second song down slightly, and asked her about the genesis of the work, in order to distract myself from the music, which was actually getting worse.

M started to explain in great detail the thinking behind the song, and as she did so, leaning forward, I stared down her cotton top at her bright pink nipples. The more animatedly she spoke, the more they hardened, and I found this so arousing and disturbing that I interrupted her flow as track three kicked in. It was slower, less like a nail down a blackboard, more like pulling a tooth.

"Do you play live?" I asked, trying to reconcile my semi-erection with my loathing of this woman's art.

"Yes, but I need some help with engineering, it never sounds as good as this!" she gushed. I realised that her gloriously uncritical nature extended to her music making, and she really did believe that she was blessed with genius. "Will you help?" she asked coquettishly.

Shit, I thought, how can I shag this woman without embarassing myself in the studio? If I take her tape in they will just laugh, perhaps nakedly, cruelly, and despite the bravado I could sense that M's self-esteem perhaps was not on the firmest ground. The wailing in the songs sounded suicidal. I spoke non-committally about seeing whether I could get her some demo time. As I said this, I realised that she was within six inches of me and looking at me with a combination of pleading and ferocity, and the hairs began to rise on my neck.

End part one

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Monday, July 18, 2005

How Can I Receive A Congratulatory Message From The Queen?

Ha !! I decided to ask Google a question... about freqently asked questions... wondering what question was most frequently asked! I was thinking it would be, "How much?" "Did you come?" "Why don't I look like Daddy?" - that kind of thing.

Of course, Google being a chippy megalith, it produced me a nice list of FAQs. I clicked and browsed and I found my way to the website of the British Embassy in Washington DC FAQ. They list their 10 most frequently asked q's as:

1. Can I work in Britain?
2. Where can I get official advice from British and U.S. governments on travel abroad?
3. Where can I find information on relocating or moving to the United Kingdom?
4. Is my US drivers licence valid in the UK?
5. What is Britain's most popular meal?
6. How can I receive a congratulatory message from The Queen?
7. What is Burns Night?
8. How can I buy or rent real estate in Britain?
9. Can I get married in Britain?
10. How can I purchase British products?

You don't need to know the answers to these questions, with one exception - how to get the congratulatory message from The Queen. This, you do need to know, on a need-to-know basis.

And the answer is that Congratulatory messages from The Queen to citizens of the United Kingdom (including those living abroad) can be requested for the following occasions:

100th Birthday
105th Birthday
every year after the 105th Birthday
60th Wedding Anniversary
65th Wedding Anniversary
70th Wedding Anniversary
every year after the 70th Wedding Anniversary

And so with this in mind, I composed the following letter:

Assistant Private Secretary
Buckingham Palace

Dear Queen Elizabeth,

I know I am quite old, because I can remember trams, penny-farthing bicycles, gas lamps, and that nasty war against the Germans. Come to think of it, didn't we fight them twice? Or was that the football? Anyway, it's about time I had a congratulatory message from you as I know I am quite old. Except I cannot remember how old I am as all my documents were lost in the war. Or was it the football? I was looking for my passport earlier. Is it blue? I used to have a blue one, it was quite hard. Or was it German?

Yours Sincerely,

Deek Deekster, aged 105 or thereabouts

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Up For The Challenge?

(Or, How Difficult Do You Want To Make This?)

There is a difference between setting yourself a challenge to which you can rise, and making your life difficult. I am rarely sure which is which in my life. I set challenges for myself, I strive to meet them, and I frequently wonder why I bother.

Striving is in itself a strange verb [Middle English striven, from Old French estriver, from estrit, estrif, quarrel. See strife.] which doesn't find its way into every day conversation.

"Oowite mate?" "How you doing?" "Still striving?" "Yes but the pay is shit" - you don't hear that very often.

Life, it may be observed, is for most people at least a struggle, if not a painful process of serial disappointment, without the added pressure of striving. I have adopted an entire methodology, no, perhaps a better, simpler word would be attitude, of insouciance, which I wear like a comfortable linen suit in need of laundering, not because I am naturally slack, but rather to counter-balance my own talent for over-achievement.

I am aware that this will appear to be insufferable vanity to some modest types. All I can say is, vanity is something to which I aspire, and if I keep going on boosting the old self-esteem, there is a slim chance that by the time I leave you this evening, I may have developed just the tiniest shred.

I noticed after a while (I must have been about 30) that a lot of people seemed to have a very different strategy to mine when it came to self-advancement. Their aim was entirely based on becoming Comfortable. They were looking for their Niche. They wanted a Career Path, with Good Holidays and regular Salary Reviews. After a period of Youthful Discovery they intended to find their Ideal Partner, Settle Down in a Nice Place and Breed. During their long, fruitful lives, they might Scuba or perhaps, Trek in some exotic location, South East Asia or South America, perhaps. They would develop a taste for Wine and join a Wine Club. When bored in later life, before settling down to Golf and/or the odd game of Scrabble, they might risk an illicit Affair, and depending on how it went, another, or even perhaps, Divorce and Re-Marriage, all of it safely within the predictable lines drawn out by RoSPA.

By the time I was 40 I had worked out that I had this apparently irremovable habit of making my life difficult for myself, and that I was spending a lot of time recovering from hitting the high-jump bars I was attempting to leap over. "Set realistic goals" became my mantra.

"Oowite mate?" "How you doing?" "Still striving?" "Yes, but now I set realistic goals, the pay has improved" - I don't say that very often.

The things is, comfort for me is not based on any of those things. I wouldn't mind the trek or the scuba, but remaining in one well-paid place doing one kind of thing for 44 weeks a year in order to get those brief moments of release is on the one hand, too comfortable, and on the other, ridiculously demanding.

I used to work at the Tate Gallery and a more enlightened employer it would be difficult to find anywhere in the world, but one hot summer's day, I upped and left, in order to go and find a woman I was infatuated with at the time. It needn't have been a woman, it could have been a song I needed to write, or a picture I needed to make, or a tree I needed to climb. I shall always remember Ian McN's raised eyebrows as I walked out, clearly unable to take the cool corridors full of tourists and guards for a moment longer. Conversely, put me in a club so hot that the walls are constantly wet with human moisture, controlling a sound desk with a PA so loud that it exceeds the legal noise level of a jet aircraft at take-off, struggling to satisfy the band, the band's manager and the club owner who are all making different demands upon me at five minute intervals, and I will thrive.

Someone once said to me that they thought it was important to me that I was first, but it's really not about that at all. It's about being in a different game altogether, one which doesn't seek comfort as a reward, or even, reward as a reward. It is about being there in that moment when after a week or a month or a year of struggle, without a worry or care of consequences, I realise that I have come into that place where all disappointment falls away, all pain is nullified, and the simple process of following the path I have created is enough.

If other people are with me, joy, but I no longer demand or expect their presence.

I am rewarded by that in a way I cannot explain.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Who's On The Bench?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Don't You Think Its About Time You Dropped A Few Lbs?

The Fairy Elephant was the nickname that they gave my mother as a child, as she dragged her heavy limbs around as per ballet class instructions. It was a double cruelty, to enforce the rigours of classical dance upon a teenage body recovering from war-rationing, round with adolescent puppy fat, and then to mock its failures. Mother's undiagnosed astigmatism didn't help, meaning she was unable to see the right spot, let alone land upon it any part of her body as directed. Catching and throwing balls was a regular embarassment ending in pain as the other girls hurled missiles to land with extra force in her face, or to hit her handsomely burgeoning chest with a nasty smack.

The only race she ever won, she proudly told us as children, was the slow bicycle race.

When to everyone's surprise this awkward, shy girl blossomed into a darkly beautiful woman, her adult shape shed pounds and revealed a curvaceous, attractive figure, suiting her so much better than the previous versions of herself, she was pleasantly aware of the changes in others' reactions. She learned to jive and bop. She got a life. She smoked. She married her teenage sweetheart. Five children and fifteen years later, she was back to being overweight, and depressed about it.

We were in the throes of the 70s diet industry, wafer-thin zero-cal Nimble bread was being advertised on TV and suddenly low-fat options were available. Ryvita crispbread replaced thick slabs of gluey white, skimmed milk like watery paint replaced full-fat thick with yellow cream, and as she became more obsessive, the fridge began to fill with rather faddy, mostly inedible diet food, the shelves with meal-replacement nutritious milkshake sachets.

We the children detested this cardboard-tasting muck, needing all the calories we could get to fend off the yawning empty pit of hunger.

Mother was determined not to lose the last of her youth to being unfit and overweight and demanded our sympathy as she launched herself upon her campaign. We endured it with long-suffering patience as we knew it meant such a lot to her. Once Weight Watchers worked, she gave up smoking. Then she took up teaching, which we found more demanding, although it seemed to give her some satisfaction, and transformed the finances and thus the prospects of the entire family.

Having a mother who struggled with such negative physical self-image shaped me quite a lot, I came to realise.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How Many Times Have I Been Lost For Words?

It doesn't happen often, but I just have not been able to hit "publish post" since Saturday. I have re-written and deleted and edited posts and words have been frail, pretentious, partial and pointless, and I just switched off the computer and walked away. I have been very busy. That is no excuse actually, since I often write when busy. Even on the mornings when I have no time, give me 10 minutes, and something will generally arrive, sometimes a fleeting comet indicating a possible trajectory, sometimes as I sit and wait by the verbal roadside for a bus, laden with sweaty London thoughts on their way to work.

There has been such a lot written since last Thursday about the bombs, by eye-witnesses, by the bereaved, by people in authority, by people in my local cafe, and by every journalist under the sun, that although I felt the need to put down my experience, I was disinclined to do so.

My pause was amplified by the need to move apartments for the second time in six months. I came back home. Bizarrely, I am now sitting in what was my bedroom and is now my study. I prefer it this way. I was never coming back here. Here I am. Why did I come back? Because it made sense to do so. There is more room here. I am no longer living on my own.

My gorgeous girlfriend takes the tube to work Monday to Friday, and she just called me to say that she can't get on this morning because of a "security alert" at Euston, two stops down the Victoria line.

Now we will be suffering the indignities of "security alerts" on a regular basis.

How much of a sense of tragedy and shock is there here? Not much. Not round here anyway. Just the odd, "Isn't it awful?" We hear of the odd outburst of xenophobia, anti-Islam vandalism, out in the sticks, but in these great sprawling streets the same old values apply, which is basically, "do as you would be done by". London exists for commerce, we urbanites are here for the money, for the chance to lift ourselves and our families out of the mire.

What of our famously tolerant inhabitants? My neighbours are muslims who enjoy cognac, hindus who eat beef sandwiches, jews who love bacon-flavour crisps, non-smoking Rastafarians, and pagans who attend Sunday church, and the great unwashed chavtastic ungodly mongrel mess of the rest of us, who try not to shit on our own doorsteps, complain about everything, and do little to change anything. I don't know if it is tolerance, or just the acceptance that the struggle to survive this place is more important than the tribalism, which certainly exists.

Those of us who were thinking that bombs were something happening far away on the other side of the television, perhaps they will be scared now. But did we really believe that we would remain unscathed, with politicians regularly telling us to expect the worst, after 9-11 and Madrid? Those of us who believe the bombs are connected with Iraq, well, 2 million of us marched against the war in the greatest peacetime demonstration ever seen. What more can pacifists do?

What of this "indomitable London spirit" we are all supposed to have and for which we are now praised far and wide? Giuliani talked of us surviving the blitz in 1941, how this inspired him, but this is irrelevant to modern Londoners. Far more present in living memory is the IRA, who bombed many civilian targets over 25 years, killing and maiming innocents just the same. Most of their funding came from Irish-American sources. For years, British diplomats asked successive US administrations to stop the funding, but not until Clinton was anything done. Following current American logic, we should have invaded New York after the Brighton bomb. Now all UK-based US military have been banned from entering London while everyone else says "business as usual". So much for shoulder to shoulder. Thanks for all the kind comments, dear american friends, but this has to be said.

I just got a text from GGF: "I got on a 30" - she means a number 30 bus, like the one pictured above, plus roof, minus human mincemeat. She'll get to work eventually.

It's too easy to convince yourself that you are safe here, even without the bombs. This entire elegant stinking urban edifice is here to support only itself, and don't be fooled, you are welcome only so long as you prop it up. The complex horrors and hangovers of the 20th century will be with us for the rest of our lives, and London, like any city, can expect to see its share of those as the traumas work their way through the system.

I started writing a song last week and the chorus goes: "I am on the wrong bus, but I'm enjoying the ride." Now I need to finish it, I've a gig on Sunday.

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Can You Discover the Truth on Your Own?

I didn't think of this question. I was not alone. I don't often experience myself as being truly alone, although I am aware that in some way, I am always alone.

When I was at college I went through a phase of examining language for meaning in a pseudo-deconstructivist fashion. I thought about the phrase, "Always alone." All ways, all one, I realised, with a delicious shiver. It kind of summed up the feeling of being here, central and present, and yet at the same time, being everywhere, which is a sensation I associated with states of mind including the creative, the meditative, and the stoned.

Isolation is not a happy place for most human beings. We require social reinforcement and comfort. We can remove humanity by solitary confinement or imprisonment. Yet, without solitude, we become lost, uncentred, devoid of ourselves, empty vessels needing to be filled.

This is one reason I like the internet community of which I am part. I sit alone, on a cold grey London morning, drinking tea, sensing the wakening world around me, and my real contact is not with my fellow urban passengers, but with you. So I have a supplementary question.

What truth are you seeking?

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Is It The Wind?

... that is preventing me from hitting my neighbour's car with a cherry stone when spat from a fourth storey window...

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

May I Thank You Very Much?

Thanks a lot everyone for the enquiries about health.

37 dead, 700 injured, BBC news at 6pm. Thankfully, me and mine safe.

The streets are full of people walking home.

This amazing image is of people walking to safety along the underground tunnel near Kings Cross, where 21 died.

Photo: Alexander Chadwick

Here's the wizzy BBC graphic about the day, and here are some more photos from people on the ground.

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Am I Still Alive?

All around me, explosions are rocking London, at least 6 since 8.45am, the nearest of which at Kings Cross happened a little over a mile from here. I can hear helicopters overhead and sirens from ambulances and police cars. The top deck of a bus was blown off in Tavistock Square. There are at least 2 dead, people have lost limbs, probably more than 100 injured. The capital's transport system, buses, underground, trains, has been totally stopped.

The London police chief Sir Ian Blair (everyone in charge here is called Blair) just asked everyone here to stay where they are and not to call the emergency services unless life is threatened. Breaking news via the BBC is that Al Qaeda are claiming responsibility, 200 words on a European website laying claim to this death and destruction.

Time for some food stockpiling, I feel. Actually the atmosphere is so far calm, Londoners responding with customary stoicism. There is plenty of time to panic. It has not really sunk in yet. The phone networks are saturated.

People are still trapped at Kings Cross station, apparently. That is very near here.

What a twist in this nation's history - one moment proud and happy hosts of the G8, celebrating for having won the Olympic bid, our leaders on a moral mission to make poverty history and save the planet, the next thing, solemn and tragic.

Look at today's front pages.

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Darts: New Olympic Sport?

Wading through the blackslapping self-congratulatory aftermath of Olympic bid success, with the entire nation seeming to gloat and sneer at the miserable French, I came across this:

"As the newest recognised sport, darts, under the guidance of the British Darts Organisation, pledges its wholehearted support for the Olympic Games in London and would be proud to be considered as the host nation's 'invitation sport' in 2012." - British Darts Organisation chief Olly Croft.

What a fabulous model for fit young people to adopt, a game played by drunk obese people in an atmosphere of tobacco smoke. Imagine the stadium crowd crying, "One Hundred And Eighty!" - or perhaps the game should be played in its native habitat, one of those really dodgy, small, damp, dirty pubs a spit away from Stratford High Street, where you take your life in your hands entering the place and the toilet is just for show.

I think we could encourage some more "sports" along the same lines, like ploughman's lunch, bar billiards, or perhaps poker. Olympic poker would give the organised criminal underworld a perfect entrance into the mainstream sporting arena. Oh how the crowds will ooh and ahh as the dealer decides the players' fates. Gushing commentators will dwell thoughtfully on previous tribulations along the sporting poker career path - "I expect when the entire table was shot dead in the Seattle qualifiers three years ago, he didn't expect to be in the Olympic final today..."

Or how about Olympic comedy? Now that would be a sport worth practising.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Celebrating UK Olympic Success?

Londoners cavorted today in fountains of champagne, and house prices in Stratford went up ten grand.

London got the 2012 Olympics. This is a big deal. Our city is going to change.

I have watched that large modern addition to Holloway Road, the "Arsenal Emirates Stadium" growing in front of my eyes over the past 9 months.

Now I realise I have witnessed the rising of a precursor of structures that will reshape the north east London skyline.

Do we really need all these enormous new buildings? Well, we are about to pay for them. Some more facilities wouldn't go amiss, these are deprived boroughs, but this is out of all proportion. Whatever happened to human-sized buildings? We need more of those now, not grand landscaping and a 7 year building site. Much stands to be lost in careless regeneration.

The glorious concept of using culture to drum up business in a poor urban area is one thing, but the enormous international hooplah and shenanigans of the Olympic Committee fascinates and appalls me. What will the Olympics mean in the sporting land of Cockney?

Why not bring international chess to the East End, or a global music festival, or some internet tv studios?

It's a nasty, dirty business that is coming to my town, rotten to the core with sponsorship deals, drugs, cheating, coercion, bribery and blackmail.

Just right for certain Stratford geezers. They should be able to sort the Olympics RIGHT OUT.

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Why Did We Have To Win?

We won the bid.


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What Is The Point?

Or, more emphatically, what is the fucking point? This question I infrequently ask. I don't know whether that's a reflection of my lack of concern or my generally high level of optimism or my distractedness.

The answer is of course, the sharp bit at the end. I worked this out - like the constipated mathematician - with a pencil.

I generally ask this question when I am tired and frustrated, or failing to communicate, or when I feel I have made some effort which is not being appreciated. Today I am asking it of the entire Olympic bid nonsense. Whether my home city of London gets the Olympics or not, I say: Fuck the Bid.

What is the point of moving from a drought of sporting facilities to a glut? It's not like the sports that will be featured are going to be played by anyone in Hackney, not unless they include Squatting or Drinking Diamond White or Begging. Olympic structures and buildings will be like the Millenium Dome, costly, over-sized, bombastic, but instead of isolated neatly by the Thames and ignorable, spread over the entire East End like an outbreak of huge ugly techno-warts. Much as I like cycling, I don't want to see London Fields eaten by a monster velodrome.

I'm one of the lucky millions who will see their local taxes rise to pay for these great big white elephant sporting facilities, which we won't ever get to enjoy anyway, because, as we all know, the world ENDS in 2012. I am planning to be a long way away from London by then, and especially from Hackney, which after all, lends its name to the word, "Hackneyed" meaning over-used, or jaded.

What is the fucking point of instilling this overweight, heavy-handed optimism, when all it does is lead to a greater degree of disappointment than you had when you were simply resigned to your fate? And what is the point of all these "Backing the Bid" stickers and posters when very shortly, they will be a ubiquitous, embarassing, visual reminder of another national failure?

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What Time Do You Call This?

It was about 9.30pm, which was fine by me. The only problem was my irate parents who had expected me back home an hour and a half previously. I was 9 years old, going on 90, my total self-assurance being held to ransom by the expectation of punishment from this female adult, who seemed to think she knew best.

"What time do you call this?" came the terse demand.

"I thought it was half-past eight."

"Are you stupid? Can you not read a watch? I have been worried sick!" Mother laid on the drama with every place setting perfect, knives, forks and spoons upon a frowning white tablecloth of disapproval.

"My watch doesn't work."

"What do you mean it doesn't work?"

"It starts and stops."

"Couldn't you ask somebody for the time? It is getting dark - surely you know that means it is late? Do you think I am stupid?" Mother was now in full flounce, doing her best to impart guilt. Practised at avoiding the worst of it, I stared blankly ahead of me and tried to look tired, which meant not letting her see what great fun I had just been having in the long-shadowed dusk with various miscreants on bikes, who I doubted very much were getting this kind of reaction on their return home. In my mind's eye, as Mother's rant picked up energy and played itself out, her worries and fears now finding voice, focussed on her "difficult" middle child, I imagined being one of those fortunate boys with easy-going parents. They would be splatted in front of the TV now, eating jam sandwiches. I was waiting for some note of concern to appear, at which point I would cease my passivity.

"Have you eaten?" There it was.

"I have eaten some food... but I am rather hungry..." I tried to look faint, slightly leaned on the door frame to accentuate my waif-like malnourished state.

"Show me your watch." This was unexpected. I walked forward, weakly holding out my left arm.

"Don't be silly, take it off." I did so, handed it over. My watch was a black-faced Timex with luminous hands. It was not the most reliable time keeper. That also had something to do with the fact that in today's game, it had been central to the main method of communications between myself and the Underground, which involved a lot of intense pseudo-scientific muttering into the device, and randomly twirling the dial.

The watch now said 8.45pm and Mother cast a baleful eye towards me as she checked it out.

"Right, go and get washed. I will see if this works or not." To my surprise, she didn't give it back, but strapped it to her arm next to her own watch. I exited minus watch, slightly concerned that she would now judge the entirety of my story by my Timex, but relieved to be out of the glare of publicity.

I didn't get it back for a week. Mother was experimenting. She kept wearing it alongside her large, practical, slightly mannish teacher's watch. People noticed and asked, and she replied to every question. "Why are you wearing two watches?" with a different answer.

"I use this second watch to tell me when to look at the first."

"I need to know what the time isn't."

"My right arm is slightly heavier than my left and I need to counter-balance it."

"I am a football referee."


"I am studying Einstein."

I found this last reply very embarassing and since Mother knew less about Einstein than I did, frankly ludicrous. But she wouldn't give it back.

After a week or so, Mother called me. She was in the kitchen and she asked me to dry up. Being a great deal more concerned about hygene than she was, I spent some time finding the cleanest cloth, and then set to this blandest of tasks like all prison labourers, with just enough effort to avoid taking the piss.

"I have concluded my study of your watch," she announced, with a smile.

"Oh," I replied, not wishing to encourage her ridiculous behaviour further. "And?"

"It varies by about 20 minutes over 36 hours, running both slow and fast."

I stopped drying up. "How can you tell?" I asked.

"I made notes!" she said gleefully, suddenly a child, and she pulled out a small pocket-sized vocabulary book, where, lo and behold, a series of mathematical jottings were laid out in columns, with check boxes and ticks beside.

Wow, she had worked it out. I looked at her with a combination of admiration and serious fear for her sanity. "OK" I said, "Can I have one that works please?"

"Yes, but we can't afford one now. So for the mean time, use this, and check it twice every day for accuracy."

Disappointed that I now had a proven bona-fide crap watch to wear and that I hadn't won special dispensation to come home after dark, I took the watch, and returned it to my slender wrist.

She then said, as we finished the washing and drying, "Watches don't work on some people. I have only found one that does for me, and that's this man's watch. It's our personal magnetism. Your Grandad was the same. Got into terrible trouble for being late, but could never wear a watch. Best one he had was a pocket watch, which he used to forget. So that was no good."

I replaced that Timex (which I sill have) with a digital watch, which was the envy of my school friends, but that stopped working about a month after I put it on. I have tried several since, both good and bad quality, been given watches and bought them, but I have never found any watch which lasted on me. I worked in Switzerland, land of watches, for several years, and many times I stood looking into shop windows at their fine-tooled, jeweled shining faces, and those elegant dress watches were more attractive to me than sweets, than pearls, than precious gems, all the more appealing for their uselessness.

I still don't wear a watch.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

What On Earth Possessed Me?

... to decide to blog about questions? I began by making everything a question. <--That felt good.

Now, here's the question that I am currently exercised upon:

Is DVD-Video a worldwide standard? Does it work with NTSC, PAL, and SECAM?

Answer: The MPEG video on a DVD is stored in digital format, but it's formatted for one of two mutually incompatible television systems: 525/60 (NTSC) or 625/50 (PAL/SECAM). Therefore, there are two kinds of DVDs: "NTSC DVDs" and "PAL DVDs." Some players only play NTSC discs, others play PAL and NTSC discs. Discs are also coded for different regions of the world (see 1.10). NTSC is the TV format used in Canada, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Taiwan, United States, and other countries. PAL is the TV format used in most of Europe, most of Africa, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, North Korea, and other countries. (See the chart at for a complete list.)

Thanks, Lagowski.

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Haven't I Heard That Somewhere Before?

June has left us, and as July is ushered in with its promise of slowly shortening days, resplendent summer heat, and scanty, flesh-revealing costume, despite my biting off a whole feast more than I could chew re: Death, I have no fear of moving on. Mrs Whitfield's passing means that it is almost time for another theme, the choice of which has been exercising me over the past few days.

On the subject of subjects, I.G. helpfully wrote:

Re: your writing, if I may be so bold as to offer a critique. Your image of a drunk in a hospice I love; I feel that you should hold onto that image, which is not simply a self-deprecating one of yourself, but can also apply to us all.  Death is very difficult to write about, and I felt that the "drunk in a hospice" piece were you go back over the difficulty of this writing succeeds.

Important not to "use up" subjects but to cross over and over the same points. This anyway is my approach. Your dissatisfaction with some of your "death" stuff is a positive thing, and means you will go back to it, re-cross it.

Death is very difficult to write about directly, though arguably this is because it is always about, because it is so close, part of our life's economy, part of language, always being written about indirectly.

Sorry if you feel that my concerns derailed your writing on this subject a bit. But I would say that such derailment is also inherent in such a subject.

This process of derailment in the face of death is writing.

Thanks very much for that.

In a graveyard, I once attempted to use a tomb to crack open a bottle of beer. Instead of coming off neatly, the bottle-top scraped down the old grey stone, leaving a white mark. Slightly ashamed to have abused the sanctity of the place, noticing that I was somehow vulnerable now for having cared, I wandered disconsolately elsewhere. I still wanted the beer so I found a nice, sharp-edged metal fence that would do as an opener, and smartly smacked the top of the bottle down with the flat of my hand in time-honoured fashion. The bottle neck abruptly sheared, and I faced the prospect of risking shredded lips if I wanted that cold beer. I drank, cautiously, avoiding the sharp edges, feeling foolish, fearing I was ingesting glass.

It was just like that with the writing about Death. Death, basically, told me where to get off.

On the rebound, unused to rejection, I was tempted to employ for my next theme a subject with which I feel very comfortable, but realised that it would be not challenging enough to satisfy me. My life is in flux, thought I, and my writing would be perhaps better carried with the natural ebb and flow of the tide, and relate in some direct way. The whole point of this after all is to help me navigate, to provide structure around which to examine, investigate, improvise, and extend my deeper concerns, and for that process to provide some insight, and, I hope, entertainment.

When I found myself asking myself, "Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?" and beginning to answer that question in terms of lost desire and/or food hygene, the metaphor began suddenly to resonate out of nowhere, and the smile returned to my frowning features.

So, the answer is that this month, I shall be writing about: QUESTIONS.

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Luther Vandross, R.I.P.

Aged 54, US soul legend Luther Vandross has died two years after suffering a stroke in April 2003 from which he never fully recovered.

Luther will be smoothly missed.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Day Off From Death

Imagine if you could have a day off from Death. Not in a tricky, King Midas kind of way - just a day when you knew, no matter what, you weren't going to die that day, or later on, from the consequences of anything you did that day. Maybe we could have one such day each in our adult lives - is that too much to ask, a single day in a lifetime? What would you do with your 24 hours? Stay up later than you would otherwise, indulging in that extra-chocolate cream and whiskey confection? Risk that tempting leap across the balcony, and the ensuing wrath of the neighbour? Deliberately not brush your teeth?

This occurred to me this morning as I was cooking a recovery breakfast - grilled halloumi cheese, mushrooms and tomatoes cooked gently in olive oil with a clove of garlic, three slices of brown toast, cup of tea, milk no sugar. I was recovering from the 18th birthday party of a colleague. I started to muse that I was nearly up with my month of Death, and of all the subjects I have this year lured into the torrid den of Blog of Funk, it is the subject to which I feel I have done the least justice.

Always full of invention, I started at one point to list the dead people I knew, and to write a line or two about each one - but, a line or two?? I am all for stretching and developing the form (of anything, blogging included) but I cannot in conscience reduce these departed souls, some of whom are still present to me in my everyday life, to a glib string of syllables. Then I thought, how about writing extra short obituaries for famous people who are not dead yet? Like:

Nelson Mandela: Successful Insurgent

Two people connected with me have real life-or-death battles on their hands, and my daily muse is affected by this and by the fear and grief and suffering of the people close to them. I sometimes feel like a drunk who has wandered into a hospice, with sick and dying people all around, clinging to their lives as best they can for as long as possible, as their end draws visibly toward them, savouring each last drop, each breath more precious than the last, while I cavort like a joker at the end of the bed, spill wine on the bedsheets, and fondle the nurses.

But if that is to be my role, then I accept it, although I am wondering who will play that part for me, when this day is over.

Gallows humour aside, I am unsatisfied with my writing on Death. If I was working less hard, I might find the space to deepen my thought. It is just too big a subject for one month of blogging.

Maybe I will come back to it.

Meanwhile, I found this on Ananova:

Serbian who faked his own funeral now selling his grave

A Serbian pensioner who faked his own funeral while he was still alive to see who'd turn up is now selling his grave.

Vuk Peric from the village of Gornji Stupanj near Arandjelovac, organised his funeral five years ago to see who would pay their respects.

He sent out the funeral invitations himself, put a fake death notice in the paper and then watched the service from a distance.

Eventually, he revealed himself, thanked everyone for attending and then invited them to come to his wake.

"I wanted to see people smiling at my funeral and was curious who would come for the last seeing off," he told Serbian daily newspaper 'Vernje Novosti'.

Peric, who has been described as gambler, is in his late 60s but refuses to reveal his real age. The grave and its tombstone are the only property he has left.

"I was running an exciting life even the last few years after my death and the beginning of my new life," he said.

However, while the price of the used grave and tombstone is negotiable, no offers have been made yet.

Deek Deekster: Not Dead.

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