Mr Taxi Man, I Don’t Know Your Name

Too fast, too fast down this midnight lane.  He’d tell a story staring straight ahead, dashboard blue lights highlighting half of his wicked face.  Eyes dancing, skittering across the road ahead.  A story of shame and abuse and that high laugh piercing my ears at unexpected moments.  Nerves on edge, orange back lit speedometer bar moving moving moving higher higher higher.  Tighter grip and nerves jangling, shrieks and maniacal laughs.  Talks about lost old men on old lost highways and routeways, police capturing and returning them like lost wild animals, misbehaving and barn razing.  Eyes glazed, the midnight road eggs us on to yonder, to our certain doom.

His laugh is the cruelest joke though, coming as it does in random fits and giggles.  Just when I think he is on the verge of admitting shock or horror at inhumane treatment he unleashes it, a cattle prod designed to keep me awake and alert at all times.

His face, tear stained pitted with bitter rain, a figure of discontent, a rum swansong of a love long lost.  My bitter state sealed with an awful fate, mangled car crashed ruined city, last stop a black ambulance, body bag deals a silent fate.

 

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Kneecapped By The Government

The UK government have managed to pass a pretty horrendous bill for the democracy of the country.  It is hoped, or at least I hope, that the bill will be changed again shortly, but I do not hold out much hope.  At times it seems as if this country is sleep walking to a place I dare not think about.  I am intensely aware of the many freedoms we have in the UK, of our beautiful country, but I do fear for the future.  The civilian population must remain vigilant and hold our politicians to account over their links with big business.  It is easy to get carried away with these kind of things, but we must make a stand for moral democracy and the right of the everyman.

Scriptonite Daily has done a particularly effective blog post on the ins and outs of the effects of the bill which is highlighted below.

From the Scriptonite Daily website:

“Last night, the UK government passed the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.  A bill gagging charities, NGO’s, bloggers, community groups and most attempts at organised opposition to the government in the year prior to a general election…and just in time for the General Election next year.

What is the Gagging Law?

 The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, or Gagging Law, was hailed as the UK government’s answer to the issue of commercial lobbying.

But, this bill does not take on the political power of wealthy corporate lobbyists.  Instead, it kneecaps any attempts at organised local and national opposition by civil society, so as not to influence the outcome of general elections.  It is a gagging law.  The law puts in place a range of bureaucratic and financial barriers amounting to a gag on free speech and effective opposition.  These include:

  • The maximum that can be spent before groups have to be registered with the Electoral Commission £20,000 in England and £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • Reduce the overall UK-wide spending limit before elections from £988,500 at present to a new limit of £450,000.  To put this in perspective – campaign group 38Degrees has 1.7m members, this would mean neutering their spending power on posters, staff, adverts and ancillary costs to just 26p per member.
  • Putting in place a spending cap of just £9,750 in a particular constituency, in the year running up to a general election – while the local MP can spend as much as they like until just 4 months from the election.

The new spending limits will come into effect on 19th September this year.”

Read the full post here.

As bloggers we must raise our voices.  To stand idly by is to legitimise the actions of those that lead us.

Beat Pastiche

I hadn’t seen him for nearly 8 years now and here he walked in brazen as daylight, cap in hand and a smile dancing across his face.  We talked like old times, like nothing had happened, like no group had ever existed.  One dead, three missing and the music well and truly broken.  De-tuned instruments smashed across the broken dream of our youth.  Sure we mourned, we laughed and we drank black coffee by the bucket load souped up and ready to roar, but we couldn’t really be the same again, this was just a sad inky impression left on a fading piece of paper in the sun.  It was both a dream and a nightmare wrapped in a false sense of hope.

Heedless we grabbed our instruments and made for the road, chasing the excitement the lust the wonder and the need to just be.  We left so fast the coffee was still cooling on the windowsill, steam rising up against the window where flashes of sun could be perceived against the grey dormant clouds.

He used to have long hair cascading past his eyes and ears, flowing against his neck, but not now, now it was a crew cut, a regimented cut of short stock.  His eyes, still dashingly and dazzlingly blue, were like lights of intensity, propelling out of his sunken face with mirth that belied his sullen demeanor.  Of course he couldn’t play a goddamn tune but he damn well tried, hammering the piece of wood until it damn well near caught fire in his blistering hands.  He gave it his all and when it didn’t respond he gave it some more.  God be damned if he was not a musician and you be would damned if you suggested so yourself.

I admired him, I really did.  We didn’t have a cent between us, neither in our sagging jean pockets or empty close-fisted hands,well money slipped like a wet fish between our fingers, money spent on beer or women who forever slided into the background never to be seen again.  But we didn’t care, how could we, we were about to start the journey out of this two bit town of festering ruins and the dispirited wraiths that populated it.  Of people who walked like they had had their backs broken at their first sight of hope, of a population so befouled of dreaming big that they were broken before they even knew that they could have escaped.

P.S. I have not read Kerouac or Burroughs for a while, I miss them so.

Quickly Pressed On Paint

Below is something that I quickly painted with acrylics onto canvas yesterday.  The canvas had already been home to a few different paintings but each time I wasn’t particularly happy with the outcome and I quickly painted over them.  I think this one will survive, I like how textured the paint looks, helping to give it depth, and how rough the effects of the palate knife have made it look.  Regardless of how much I would love to paint the human figure, I always get a jolt of joy spreading the paint thickly across the canvas in no particular form or direction, to let the colour and shapes come though organically.  It is probably a life lesson for me to form some sort of coherent plan, but, much like my own life, it is a random process, completely at the mercy at the junction of the interactions of the biological and the physical.

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Other Sides

‘…..and I’ve already told you of the experience, how demeaning it was, how I felt like utter shit abandoned at the end of the world- do we really have to go through it again?’

‘Yes I’m afraid so, you know as well as I do that we have to go through each experience of importance and process it so we can begin to understand more fully why you are here today and what we can do tomorrow.’

‘But it just feels like we are revisiting the same instance, the same scene, again and again, I do not feel that this is not the main theme of my life, I’ve gotten over it, why are we doing this?’

‘I think we could be at a turning point in this session if we pursue this particular point, please can you tell me again how you felt at that point in hospital?’

‘Okay fine.  Well, it was maybe the 2nd week after the surgery, and I was managing to get to the toilet with a little help from the nurses to push me over to it on a portable commode (not the most glamorous mode of transportation), and on this occasion the nurse helped me get over to and on the toilet seat, told me push this orange button once I had been and done my business, as usual.

Fine I though, this wouldn’t take that long, heck it was nice to be sat upright, even if it was draining and made me tired and nauseous.  So I was enjoying being out of the lumpy bed, my bowels moved and I cleaned myself up, lent over to the sink and washed my hands.  After that was done I pressed the orange call button firmly and waited…’

‘Please continue..’

‘I was located in a side room, away from the main bays of the ward by myself, and the toilet was also in my room.  Effectively I was two doors away from the main artery of the ward, out on a limb from the nurses station, but I didn’t think this would be a problem.  A few minutes drifted by and I sat and wondered where the nurses were, tried to remember what time it was and if they would all be busy serving drugs or meals.’

‘I could see the orange glow of the button I’d pressed so I knew it’d be making that humming noise every few seconds, with a light above my bedroom door flashing as well.  It was only a matter of time, but the longer I sat the more sore my bum became, my bones ached more and I felt more and more uncomfortable generally.’

‘I began to feel like I’d been abandoned, lost, and I was racked with aches and pains.  I hadn’t moved this much since the surgery, I began to tremble. and I… I…’

‘Go on, you are in a safe room here,’

‘Well I’m not afraid to say a tear fell loose from one of my eyes, I felt like I had been cast away, left to rot on a desert island of clinical smells and frustrated, worn out, bodies.  Surely I must have been in there for more than half an hour?  Maybe more?  The seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes seemed to drag into hours.  This can’t be right I thought, surely someone has seen the orange glow, has heard the hum above the hustle and bustle of the busy ward?  it’s not hard to ignore, but at the same time it signifies that someone needs your attention.’

‘Sure, it hasn’t the red glow and the violent incessant thud of the emergency alarm but it was still a signal saying that someone needed attention, was waiting to be seen, hoping to be heard, right?  I was there and I needed someone.  And I just couldn’t help it or myself, I felt broken by such a small thing, by being left on the toilet atop of my own shit, my own weak body holding me back, and I just couldn’t fathom how… how I could get out, how to do it, I think at one point I shouted a bit, not much, I was meek, weak at the knees at needing attention but never actively seeking it.’

‘hmm right, please go on, how did the situation resolve?’

‘Resolve?  It never resolved, I was found on the toilet half asleep from the weakness of sitting there for so long.  The nurses told me that it had only been 30 minutes but it had felt like a lifetime.’

‘And how did you feel towards the nurses after the incident?…’

‘I viewed them the same as before, how could I not?  I depended on them, I needed them.’

‘Did you think you were consciously abandoned?’

‘No, of course not, I mean why would they when they knew I was out of bed so recently after major surgery, they probably had better things to do right, you know this is a hospital, right? Some people are far sicker than me…’

‘Hmm…’

‘I, I don’t know, I just thought that this is it, this is how my life is going to be, waiting for help, waiting to be moved, waiting to be noticed…’

‘Ah, I’m afraid the session is up for today, please can you come back next week, say Wednesday at 2pm?’

‘Yeah of course, I guess so…I just don’t feel as though we have made any breakthrou…’

‘Goodbye Mr Petersen,’

‘Thanks…’

The day was bitter and the wind whipped at his face as he left the gray tawdy building.  It looked warm in the sunshine, it looked relaxing to be outside in the great bosom of nature, but it was a facade, it was cold and unwelcoming.  Mr Petersen knew this, but he could not comprehend it.

And This Information Will Not Be Accessed

They couldn’t see it but it was just beyond their reach, locked away behind an unassailable wall.  It was a world of information which could improve lives and communication, a veritable utopia of freedom and knowledge, cut off in invisible streams that floated around the heads of the citizens.  They just needed the key to access it but the key didn’t exist, and hadn’t existed, for many years.  The remnants laid strewn in the darkest depths of the seas and oceans, pounded by the salt water pressure and slowly disintegrating into lumps of eroding metal and ever smaller pieces of plastic.

The networked system had long since been re-written and obliterated from the technology reports, the historical books and myriad of novels, the information purged with a righteous anger as the very stomach which it stilted, the public hunger, grew larger and larger for the very details it contained.

No, that world was now locked behind an invisible safe, the combination long un-remembered and the safe blasted into oblivion.

This was a brave new world in which the citizens could make their own choice, influenced not by people on the other side of the world but by their local communities, for their local communities.  The so called shackles that bind the world population together had been severed, and the population set ‘free’ from the thoughts of each other, from one another.

‘We Are Improv’

Humans have expressed themselves for many thousands of years in the form of portable carvings, cave art, open air art and monumental structures, however what cannot be excavated or reconstructed is the pure visceral thrill of the performance, be it on the part of the actor or of the audience.  Whilst we today we have the wide choices of plays, films, games, and television to watch and entertain us, there is nothing quite like watching or partaking in the performance of improvisation, a free form expression in which the subject and responses can be as varied as you can imagine.

I am very happy to introduce my friend Katy Bateson, a Lancaster based performer, who has started her own improvisational group entitled ‘We Are Improv‘.  The group have been together for a number of years now, regularly meeting up to improvise and improve their skills and ideas.  They have attended workshops throughout the country, and very soon they themselves will start playing live in Lancaster and will start putting on shows further afield.  I recently had the chance to ask Katy, the founder of ‘We Are Improv‘, a few questions on the nature of improvisation, her influences and why we should all join in.

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DBA (Don’t Bend, Ascend):  Katy, in your spare time you are a improvisational teacher and performer, but why did you decide on improvisation in the first place?  Who where your influences, and why did you feel like you wanted to set up your own group?

KB (Katy Bateson): Improvisation is acting without a script, where you respond to offers from the audience or your fellow improvisers.  There are a wide range of different styles from short form improvisational comedy like ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway‘ and ‘Paul Merton and Chums‘ to the improvised staging of Jane Austen novels (‘Austentatious‘) and musicals (‘The Maydays‘).

I was given the gift of improvisation when I was 8 years old, and 16 years later improvisation still fills me with the same wonder and joy.  Most children reach an age where they stop playing, their barbies are packed away into the loft, they no longer pretend to be flying ponies or get married to each other in the playground.  In short we begin to grow up and begin to live more in reality and less in our imagination, but I am truly blessed that finding improvisation so young means I have never stopped playing.

Most people think that improvisation is a terrifying concept with people always saying “I couldn’t do that” but everybody improvises every second of the day, you don’t wake up and plan the encounters and conversations you will during the day, we all improvise everyday and it comes very naturally.  The thought of having to learn a script fills me with terror after the freedom improvisation allows, in improvisation there is no wrong because there is no plan!  Improvisation is built on the idea of saying “Yes and…” where you accept the offer of your fellow improviser and add to it, you can’t fail if whatever you say is going to be accepted!

Improvisation is breathtakingly beautiful and exhilarating, every performance or workshop is shared between the actors and the audience only to ever be seen by the people in that room, as soon as the final bow is taken everything exists only as memories.  No film, book or television program has ever made me laugh as loud, smile as wide or cry as hard as improvisation has.

It is safe to say that Improvisation is an addiction, what starts as attending a few classes can quickly become travelling the length and breadth of the country to do courses, and before too long contemplating scaling the globe to attend improvisation festivals.

I decided to start-up my own group whilst on holiday in Turkey, my brain suddenly decided that I needed to start my own group so I did.  Although I loved doing improvisation courses around the country, I wanted to be able to improvise closer to home where I could focus on improvisation that interested me, and that didn’t break my bank balance with trips to London.  I love improvisation with a passion and teaching it and spreading some of my passion and joy seemed like the most natural thing to do.”

DBA:  It is clear to see that you are very passionate about the art form, however what do you personally hope to achieve?

KB:  “I hope to have an improvisation group that is performing regularly in Lancaster, we have currently performed once for friends and family and we’re working towards our second performance in April.

I want to help spread the word about improvisation and bring improvisation to the North as at the moment it is highly concentrated in the South of England, mainly in London and in Brighton, but small groups further North are helping to spread the improv joy.

I also want to encourage more people to get involved with improvisation by running courses.”

DBA:  How do you feel that improvisation has helped you develop as a person, and how have the people you have met and taught helped?

KB:  “Improvisation has helped me become the person I am today, if you can stand up in front of a room full of people with nothing but an audience suggestion and create something beautiful there is nothing that you can’t do.  I have the confidence to speak in public and laugh more in one improvisation class than most people probably do in a week.  I have met some incredible people through improvisation.  My fellow improvisers are the most inspiring, creative, encouraging, intelligent people I have ever met.  I have improv friends that span the globe who I have shared more laughter and honest moments with than most people have with friends they have had a lifetime.  Although the time I get to spend with these people is often brief, it is worth every glorious second.

I’ve also done a lot of improvisation with The Maydays who are an improvisation group from Brighton that specialise in musical improv.  I’ve done some wonderful workshops with them including going to their 5 day improv residential that they hold in Dorset each year.  I’ve also done some amazing workshops with Parallelogramophonograph from Austin Texas and Jason Chin from Chicago.”

DBA:  I think I know the answer, but finally why would you recommend improvisation to other people, especially to people who have never tried it before?

KB:  “Improvisation is life changing, if find the right teacher you can find a place where you are truly accepted for who you are, where you are surrounded by a group of people who are encouraging you and supporting you.  Improvisation will boost your confidence and your happiness.  You will meet wonderful new people and feel exhilarated and free.  With improvisation the possibilities are endless, it is very therapeutic.”

It is clear to see the passion and high esteem that the founder of ‘We Are Improv’, Katy Bateson, has for her art and the hopes that she has for her company.  It is an especially brave act to start your own improv group, at a time when the cultural cuts in the UK are affecting the access and funding of culture throughout the country.  However, where there is a will, there is a way, and Katy has demonstrated her steely determination to help bring laughter and smiles to audiences across the country, wherever her and her improv partners go.

For further information, or to register an interest and book a performance, please email Katy at info@weareimprov.co.uk.  The website, www.weareimprov.co.uk, has recently been upgraded, and visitors can look forward to an introduction to the group, and be kept informed of upcoming shows and blog entries.  Currently ‘We Are Improv’ are based in Lancaster, but hope to provide shows to a wider region.