Farming the Battleground

Please my feathered friends, take a seat and join me at my table.  I have put out extra plates, cutlery and cups so that we may drink to our health and continued friendship.  It is true that I have partaken in eating your brethren, please let us raise our glasses to your forgone cousins, brothers and sisters, but I shall dare say that if you had the chance to peck at my deceased body you would too, would you not?  Ah ha, a shifting of the eyes and a quick nod of the beak!

But we are not here to debate such a delicate ethical matter are we!  No, no, such matters of the higher order can be cast aside for today, for this is instead a more mundane meeting of the species.  An exchange of information no more and no less.  Please, have another glass of wine, let your fingers wrap around the stem and your nose smell the lush fruit of warmer climes.  Isn’t it funny how our senses can move us so quickly, how our imagination can cast aside reality for the landscapes of our dreams?  Ah good, you are all enjoying the wine!

I am ahead of myself, please forgive me, eat some of the home-baked bread, baked by my wife, no less, just yesterday!  Can you see how moist the crumb is and how it crumbles at the slightest provocation?  It is a most delightful treat when jam has been spread across a thick slice, goes down a cinch with a warm cup of coffee you know!

Yes, yes, we shall have coffees after our main course and after a few more bottles of wine or so.  There is no rush to complete today’s meeting and, as you know, I have already talked to the head raven.  He is fine in realizing the deal that we have, that I shall pass on what I can as and when I come across it.  You know, of course, that this may be some time as the wars of men are fought differently to the battles of survival that we ourselves fight.  Ho!  Those beastly metallic traps clunking across the soil, those wooden fire sticks bursting forth nothing but pain and death . . .  What a world we have inherited, make no mistake!

But still, we can farm our own foods from this mess, we can survive and I believe that we can indeed thrive in this matter.  It will take some tricks, yes it will, but we can do it.

Don’t give me that look old coop master!  I have seen that look before and I have vanquished it too, so be aware of old man Kerensky!  Sure I may lecture you from the pulpit, but I have been on my share of the battlegrounds as and I will again serve my feathered friends whilst the great nations who rule over us become mired in their bog of war!  Now, let me get my maps to show you where I think it is best to hunt for our treasure.

There is life in the old dog yet you know . . .

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Through The Window

The final flight to a familiar destination, my body sighs with relief.  You are my final stranger, the person who sits one empty chair away from me of who I do not know one bit.  I see your passport briefly, possibly from the Emirates judging from the silver cross of swords potent on the cover and the colourful shawl draped across your delicate face.

Your body is tiny in comparison to my towering torso and broad hulking shoulders. You curl up in your seat as soon as the plane starts to taxi, covering your head fully and aiming for a fitful fifty minute sleep.  I am envious of this talent, I can only stare straight ahead, dipping into a satirical magazine to ease my boredom.  This is the shortest flight that I have been on for some time now, but even here my eyes cannot rest.  I reacquaint myself with the politics and humour of this land, smiling to myself as the plane carries on heading to the north.

I look across from time to time, partly to see the green grass of home but also to check that you are still resting.  Your left hand is placed across your stomach, holding steady as your wrapped head lolls from time to time.  The silent movements in sleep stand in great contrast to the roar of the engines situated just a few metres from where we are.

We smile at one another as I let you pass me by to get into the aisle, we have arrived at our destination and I am glad.  I am finally home whilst you, I feel, may be very far from it but I hope you find a home here too and a loving family of friends.

Still Life: Bedroom Scene

The guitar leans silently against the wall.  Both the pint glass and the cup are empty, the plate too is bereft of what was once resting upon it.  He is sated, fed and watered, content to watch videos streaming on the computer laid out in front of him.  There was no conversation taking place here, no exchange of ideas or of intimacies, no special spark between a bond shared.  It was as it was pictured.

That the walls once rang out with the thrill of love and the laughter of friendship was not deniable, that this would occur once again a known truth.  For the moment though this was a simple moment to relax, to enjoy the stillness present at this known time of deep changes.  For the walls did not move but the foundations surely did shake in their silent scream of protest.

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Photograph by the author using a Pentax Super ME camera and lomography colour film (if I remember rightly), please attribute if used elsewhere.

To Pity the Fool in Love

No-one ever expects that they will walk around a corner and find the person that will become their significant other lingering there on the street before them.  How we meet our partners, our lovers and confidantes, becomes a personal legend shared between only ourselves in truth, embellished by time and by the ebb and flow of emotion.  Love can be a hard emotion to describe, to quantify or to qualify, to articulate to each other and to one another.  That drunken and passionate kiss goodbye, the result of a haphazard opportunity presented in all of its glory, sits side by side with the memory of a slow burning romance experienced in our youths when we fumbled anew under covers soaked in teenage sweat.  Experiments of connection and of lust, of two pieces of lego mixing and matching to form one.  As time recedes the flashes of faces become a Rolodex of past conquests and imagined hurt, often sitting uncomfortably close to one another.

Lust, as a rapid fire launchpad to the past, operates on much the same lines as those random encounters experienced during the vicissitudes of youth.  In moments of relaxation you are comfortably entertaining yourself, your thoughts ensconced on a particular moment and how it would play out in your mind, perhaps how you would make the move and seal the return of the love and physical intimacy as given in your affections.

Yet still, how the mind can shock and shake the very foundations of your core!

No longer are you in the throes of doubled or singled passion, your senses are startled and your hands are instead given to fumbling lamely against the body of skin and flesh before you.  No more thought is given to reaching the apex of sexual arousal.

You are instead seeing the failures of your past mount even as you have failed to.  The chances lost of forming romantic entangles in the freshly cut grass, of bridging the gap between brief fumbles on the sofa and maintaining long-term relationships.  The thought is half formed, it ghosts across the mind but briefly as you lie there on your bed, shivering in the warm night air.

To walk around the corner of the street you inhabit, to cross the road at just the right time, to be there to answer that question and to form that connection as the eyes meet, the pupils dilate, and the lips curl into a smile.  The heart that jumps a beat and resets into a rhythm of two.  To miss those opportunities.  To wait upon a table where the food of life will never be placed.  It can be a hard thing to think about in the moment of your greatest conquest, of a solo ascent.

On Health and Safety: Part 2

Q.2. A fire has broken out in the building that you currently work in, endangering the staff present and the building itself.  What should your first course of action be?

Please select one of the answers below

a. The fire has broken out just at the right time as it is currently your break period.  Cracking open your little used locker you locate the marshmallows that have sat in the locker for the past 8 months and, using a fork no-one has cleaned within the past month, you head over to where the fire is and toast the marshmallows.  You laugh hysterically as your colleagues vacate the building whilst you sate your belly.

b. The fire is close to your desk, however you notice that Gill, on secondment from the Lancaster office, is trying to leave before you do so you accidentally trip her up and run over the top of her to get out of the office.  The cause of the fire, it is later ascertained, was your specially ordered fan from HR, even though you ordered it in November and the office air conditioning was to blame for the high temperature.   

c. Fire excites you!  It strengthens you!  You have become disillusioned with office life and believe that, just like the dragon queen from telly, you too can become tougher and more leader-like if you throw yourself into a fire and survive its red hot embers.  Your remains are later found cramped into a fetal position.  Nobody mentions the embarrassing porn magazine found in your smoldering locker to your mother at the work service. 

d. You locate the nearest fire alarm and push the trigger, indicate the nearest fire escape and help colleagues through before closing each set of doors as you exit the building and wait for the fire brigade to turn up.

NYC

The city was huge, dauntingly huge.  Densely packed, the people but ants compared to the towering skyscrapers above and the labyrinthine subway below.  It was exhilarating, confusing, suffocating.  It was beautiful.  It was freedom in anonymity, in wave after wave of people crossing block after block: all with a story to tell, all with their own individual lives.  I heard every language in the world, I saw every skin tone a human can have.  I lived a thousand lives.  I lived my own life, with tensions brought bubbling to the surface and safety sought in solitude.  Love resided, not passionate romantic love but familial bonds broken by petty remarks and re-made by breaking bread and sharing food.  A mother’s tears in the taxi rank.  Discussions never had were evaporated at the thought stage, vibrated free by the hum of the stop-start vehicles choking the roads.  Directions not sought were instead shouted at by uniformed staff, hushed into lines, finger printed and bags searched.  Made to feel guilt by association.  You are an individual, you are the American dream.  You are the foundations turned into a crystalline memorial.  You are the kind individual who helped me to the front of the queue.  You are the tramp dying of heart failure, the homeless that hang around the port authority building looking for a break.  You are the actor on Broadway who signs autographs on the sidewalk after the show and then anonymously melts into the night.  You are in the queue at Shake Shack, awaiting your turn, your accent rebounding into the heat of the September sun.  You are the man who stands and pounds the tarmac, shouting ‘Jesus saves!’ whilst waving your homemade sign aloft in a salute to the holy.  You are the cab driver who never talked, the policeman who joked on the corner.  You are the band leader who was nervous to speak on the Radio City stage but held the audience in the palm of your hand.  You are the deli counter assistant who cannot understand my British accent.  You are the ant that makes this city run.  You are the love that lingers in my heart.

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Photograph by the author using a cheap digital camera, if re-used please credit as appropriate.

Journal 10/09/15

Every night the front cover of my diary asks me ‘Who are you?’ and every night I struggle to articulate myself, to justify myself to myself.  Lyric after devastating lyric falls from the speaker and I want to share this moment with you, I want to bask in the radiance of your love for this artist.  I find myself driving along at night knowing that if I don’t take the turn off for home, I will not ever stop this journey north. The trumpets herald, but I am not sure what they signify.  I miss you.  Will this job ever end, will I ever escape this office?  How do I break free of my own body.  What are those birds thinking, soaring so high in the sky, eyeing each other, safety in numbers perhaps?  The land meets the sea, the sea meets the sky, the sky holds the stars.  Everything that has ever lived, nearly everything that has ever lived, is here on this planet, on this pinprick in the sky.  Where have you gone though, when will I cross that eternal divide?

I miss you.

This is the thought that is at the forefront of my thoughts, that one that pervades the bitterness of being here, of comforting your family when all I want is to say how much I loved you to you directly.

I miss you.

Did I ever mourn my lost family members enough?  Should I feel guilt now, why has this struck me so hard?  Why does this artist so move me to tears nearly every day.  Their music touches me like nothing else, a lightening bolt connecting the living and the dead.  I hate and I love.  I just want to say to my father, to my mother, hold me.  Hold me.  I miss you.  My elbow is dirty again, how can I scrub so hard yet it not get any cleaner?  I can feel the metal attached, drilled deep into my bones.  I can feel the plates and the rods pressing against my skin, the metalwork that keeps me standing and grounds me, that completes my alien body amongst this landscape of beauty, this hidden careworn ugliness.  I am jealous of your walk in the woods, your walk up the hills, your walk down the concrete slabbed route to town.

I miss you.

What is death when life is complicated enough.  What is life when death is eternal.  The great divide, never knowing just what it is that separates this from that.

Moving On

“Just put the spade down please and come back inside, we can sort out the hole tomorrow.”

Her voice sounded tired, jaded even, as though she had seen this behaviour a thousand times before and just wanted this particular charade to be over with.  Which, in truth, she did.  She had her boyfriend to meet, holidays to ponder over.

“No, you know I want to do this, I want to bury myself, just for a bit!  I have to know what physical death feels like, where we lie in the ground for eternity.  Besides mam said you can’t interfere with me anymore ’cause of Dr Johnson’s orders!”

There was a faint hint of glee in the upswing of that last word.

It was true, the quack had said that James must ride out his emotions that, given the situation wasn’t life threatening, he should be able to act out what he said he wanted to do.

At this point I had given up and I could hear their continuing conversation drifting up from the back garden through the open window.  I’d retired to my room to drink in the solace of it, the place where I had lived for nearly 25 years before finally moving myself on.

I had known for a while that I needed to leave, that James’s dramas could take care of themselves and that he was as alright as he was ever was going to be.  It had struck mam and dad particularly hard that one, knowing that he’d need care, not constant but enough to keep them on their toes.  I’d done my part of course, I’d helped around the house, kept him company as I searched for a job, but we had agreed that I needed to move cities to find chance of work in my area.  This city wasn’t dying but it wasn’t exactly going through a boom cycle either.  There was a comfortable constant turn over of both jobs and people, so that the faces and policies in the local administration changed enough but not too fast to upset the local citizens.

“I’m doing it! I’m pouring the soil over myself!”

I peeped over to the edge of the open window and saw that James was indeed lying supine in his homemade burial, carefully pushing the clumps of soil over his lower half.  He seemed content, happy even.  His body was slowly being reclaimed by the cold earth of home.

He wasn’t overly fond of the insects and arachnids that made the soils and grasses their homes, but he’d put up with them if they wriggled and scuttled away from his thrashing actions.  Worms in particular fascinated him though, the flesh coloured tube of life dancing on his palm before he chucked them clean away, free to carry on their tunneling lifestyle.

It wouldn’t last long of course, he’d come to his senses and wriggle himself free of the pitifully small amount of soil that he’d managed to cover himself in and come screaming back into the house, tearing his body this way and that.