Sunday, September 29, 2019

Star Mining Machinery of an Alien Kind?





Saturday, September 21, 2019

Caw of the wild

A review of Scott Andrew Christensen’s word play poetry debut.
 Debut

Review

Thursday, January 17, 2019

East Beat anight?

Does the ghost of Kingsley Hall haunt the east end?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Shakespeare's Ripper: Templar Knights, East End Frights

'You are the first,' a shadowy brother whispers to a terrified actress before grasping his large hands around her neck and throttling her before dissecting the young girls body to mimic the crimes of Jack the Ripper. 

So begins Naomi Asher Wallace's novel blending the unsolved mystery of the East End's most diabolic denizen Jack the Ripper with a modern Shakespearean tale of shadowy Masonic lore. While the novel is admittedly inspired by Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and borrows hypothesis from the Johnny Depp film, From Hell, and offers its own Shakespearean revelations, the delight of this mystery lies in the understated charm of the novel's academic protagonist, brainy but unlucky in love Dr Arden James and her American Theatre student protegé Charlie Leder

Opening up Shakespearean London like an insider tour guide, the novel's stagey protagonists sleuth in London's lower caverns of the Thames and Globe theatre.  The passionate students continue their cat and mouse love interest in an annex of the London School of Economics where, Dr James confesses a little possessívely that Leder is her sole pupil; as bars and bridges are scoured, London is revealed the way a well meaning but mysterious Good Samaritan may take an American student under their wing.
Clearly mortified and distancing herself from loud and brash American student, Mary Jo, Dr James takes her magnifying glass and wide eyed student and sets to track down her unpublished academic essay which as gone missing from the archives of Shakespeare's Globe. The gift in Asher's writing is that you feel Dr Arden's sense of outrage and want the essay back for her.

The side characters of Mary Jo and the undercover clutzy cop Peter feel like real life walk ons from musicals of a bygone era, with undercover lover Peter speaking in a Dick Van Dyke/Sam Wellerian mockney (Blast!) and Mary Jo speaking in a voice which would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The comedy works.
At one point you may be forgiven for hoping Mary Jo is the next victim of the accursed 'brothers'. However the understated and humble tone of Dr Arden and her naive but insightful sidekick charts the story's course and we are coaxed into James and Leder's love story and hidden back alleyways around the Thames as they hunt for that missing thesis.

Although at times heavy in plot which suggests the power of the Templar Knights as Masonic puppet masters from the crusades and Elizabethan era through to now, Shakespeare's Ripper is full of intrigue about potential divisions within the secret society which adds to a palpable narrative: is an extremist religious zealot stalking the back streets casting sinister designs and perverting the cause of sacred Masonic secrets?

Careful not to offend (excusing any possibility of Masonic involvement in the Jack the Ripper murder), the dense plot is given vibrancy and wit by the solidarity of the two relentless students while Mary Jo offers stand alone comic relief and steals many a scene, a la Bronson Pinchot in Beverly Hills Cop.

If people have quibbles about Dan Brown taking poetic license with the facts, it hasn't affected his sales and Shakespeare's Ripper is an entertaining ride through the centuries, a winner featuring enduring wit and a sequel would not be out of place and surely find its own slot in a crowded thriller marketplace.



Sunday, November 18, 2018

An Interview with Naomi Asher Wallace author of: Shakespeare's Ripper. A romantic modern day thriller featuring Shakespearean sights, Templar knights and East End frights.  
New York book launch: November 28th

Naomi, 
Congratulations on your book and what a spine tingling read!
Thank you!

Q: I can see you have studied a wide range of subjects in your time in university in London and the UK. Did you have a plan to write all along and choose your university qualifications as a way to gain experience or did you plan to study theatre etc and then move into a career in music and did the urge to write take over? How do you conjure characters and where does your muse come from?

A: I seem to always have a lot to say! When I find a subject interesting, I need to know everything I possibly can about that subject. When I was growing up, that involved my memorizing large passages from the World Book Encyclopaedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Now, it’s more that I spend ages googling something. My passion for all things ‘English’, especially musical theatre and drama came from a very young age. I grew up watching Joan Hickson as Miss Marple every Sunday on Masterpiece theatre. We would go to afternoon tea (there were places that did ‘English’ afternoon teas in Los Angeles!), and when I was 10, my parents took me to London for the first time. I was completely hooked. We saw three shows when I was 10; Phantom of the Opera (which has literally just opened 32 years ago), Les Miz, and Into the Woods. I had to know everything I could about British Theatre. And the chain reaction from that point on significantly changed the course of my life.  When I was in undergrad in the USA, I did as much theatre as possible and spent a Summer at the Globe doing an education course, which I loved.  It is what made me interested in the Staging Shakespeare Degree program that Exeter offered. I actually was accepted to the Actors Studio in New York for Directing, but I found out about that three months after paying Exeter my deposit so I am probably one of the only people who can say I had to turn the Actors Studio down!
 
My fascination with Jack the Ripper came out of my own interest in Victorian history. I was reading quite a bit about the Freemasons and the Da Vinci code came out, and with the film, From Hell…  I just wanted to know myself what was true. Of course I became obsessed and needed to become an expert.  I was going to pursue a PhD in Cults and Secret Societies in Elizabethan Drama when I initially moved back to London but that didn’t work out. Probably for the best!
 
All my characters come from something around me. I can hear them talking (that sounds a lot weirder than it is) but I sort of make them three dimensional in my head. Often I base them on real people. Both Arden and Charlie are based on real people. Peter is based on a real person, as is Mary Jo.  My ‘Muse’ sort of comes from anything and anywhere!

Q: From the beginning of Shakespeare’s Ripper, you do a great job of showing hidden London to the first time visitor and there are comical moments which accurately describe new visitors to London. The ‘American in London’ subtext haunts the opening of book and you open the secrets of London like a tour guide? How does the London you remember from your time as an American student in 1999 influence your tale? 

A: Even now, every day I’m reminded to some extent that I’m American and this is not America. It’s funny really and I’ve always accepted and loved British culture but I think that one mistake many Americans make when the come here is, because the language is largely the same, they think the culture is the same. If they were in Spain for instance, I think there would be some sort of reckoning with the idea of ‘I’m in Spain- I must speak Spanish- it’s a different country’. However, they get off the plane here and think, ‘ Why can’t the signs say ‘Exit’ instead of ‘Way Out’?’.  I’ve seen it really upset many of my fellow countrymen and when I was a student, there were other students that had a horrible time here because they couldn’t understand why things weren’t working in the American way. It was a bit like – well, we’re not in America, now are we. That being said, I live in London which is a very international city. When you go out of the city, things can be much different. My best friend lives in the lake district and her family could not be more welcoming but I went to a wedding in Stockport and the guests were so rude to my mother and I, didn’t speak to us, and had this – “oh, it’s the ‘AMERICANS’ way about them no matter how friendly we tried to be.  There is a ‘dumb American’ stereotype that is not easy to shake no matter how hard you work or how many degrees and certifications you achieve. But we’re not all Mary Jo (and to be fair, the fact that character has a passport really says something). It would be impossible for me to write anything therefore without coming at it from an ‘American in London’ perspective. Also, being American, I find I don’t dance around subjects. British men in particular can be very polite, but don’t know how to, or have been taught not to, say what they feel. I often can’t stop myself from saying what is on my mind and that can highlight the cultural difference in nearly every aspect of life.


Q: Have works featuring historical figures re-imagined in a murder mystery setting been any sort of inspiration? 

You do mention the Da Vinci Code and The Jack the Ripper film ‘From Hell’ in the book when you tackle conspiracy  theories.  Do you have books which cover this genre which have inspired you? I’m thinking here of Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor. 

A: Absolutely. Dan Brown’s books and the film ‘From Hell’ were both inspirational to some extent. I love Phillipa Greggory and Peter Ackroyd. I’m generally a sucker for historical fiction.  Also, I love Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. I also love how Terry Pratchett’s Ankh Moorpark was a sort of sci-fi version of London. Everything I read and watch influences me to some extent.

Q: I’ve imagined the Porter speech an Macbeth a early take on the Knock knock jokes but had not imagined it may be a Knights of Templar or Masonic Code. How hard is it to weave a tangible and believable narrative when dealing with trying to link up such well trodden historical subject matter ? 

A: When I wrote the first drafts of the book, I was saturated in masonic lore. This was one of the prime ‘examples’ if you will, of the connection to the Knights Templar.  I had spent such a long time, sponging up these sorts of examples, they were going to come out somehow. When I wrote the first draft, I was teaching in Baltimore. It was a crazy winter and we had 9 snow days. I was bored out of my mind so I took my laptop to a café around the corner from my house and basically sat there and wrote for the whole time. It was as if I could just release all of this information that I had ingested and by creating this fictional story, it gave me the freedom to release it in any way I wanted. If I was writing a dissertation, I would have had to prove this example for instance, but because it was something I was weaving into a story, I could let it be another piece of a different puzzle. I love the fact that so many people have spent time working to prove Shakespeare was a freemason and that things like the Porter scene are evidence of that. I don’t want to prove anything- I just want to tell a good story.
Q: You have some great comedic moments with the appearance of the loud American Mary Jo and the cop Peter’s interesting East End mockney accent which sounds to me like a cross between Sam Weller (Pickwick Papers) and Dick Van Dyke. Peter’s regular  use of the use of the cuss ‘blast’ proves a nice comic touch too. 
How hard is it to make the characters come to life and where have you found the inspiration? 
A: Both Mary Jo and Peter are based on real people. It’s funny because being from LA, there really aren’t any people like Mary Jo in my life but when I moved to DC at age 16 and I met the person she is based on, I was shocked that such people exist. As a west end theatre manager, I saw a lot of ‘Mary Jos’. Because I find that type of person so comical, it’s really my writing an exaggerated version of a specific stereotype.  It’s the same with the Peter character. That character is based on someone I met 14 years ago when I was doing some promotional work in Leicester Square. He was a real ‘geezer’ and suddenly I knew what Dick Van Dyke had based his accent on.  In both these cases, when I write them, I sort of hear those specific people talking in my head and write what I hear. That sounds creepy – I’m not hearing voices- but more that I am picturing those people in that situation and remember their sound and their manner and create the words from that. If that makes sense?
(Reading later - Yes, deninitely!)

Q: Any plans on reading London soon or any other readings coming up leading up to the holidays and New Year? If so can you  give details? Where can we get copies of the book? 

A: The book is available on Amazon! We are doing an event in New York at the end of this month. I would love to do more in London but nothing is planned at the moment.


Q:Finally, as you have weaved a compelling and tantalising tale which taps deep into the psyche of Londoner is there a chance of a sequel or are you working on something completely different? 
A: At the moment I have a lot on my plate with work and such, but I would love to write a sequel! Stay tuned!
 
Naomi Claire Wallace Asher Biography
Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Naomi moved to the UK in 1999 after completing her BA in Art History and Theatre at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. After receiving an MFA in Staging Shakespeare from Exeter University in 2000, Naomi spent three years as the head of the Drama Department at Owings Mills High School near Baltimore, Maryland before moving back to the United Kingdom where she has lived ever since. Naomi worked in the West End first as a box office manager and then a theatre manager before joining forces with her cousins and owners of WixenMusic Publishing, Inc., Randall and Sharon Wixen, to open Wixen Music UK LTD of which she is a co-owner and President.  She recently received a PDip with Merit from Kings College in EU, UK and US copyright Law and also recently co-founded the Independent Alliance for Artist Rights for Neighbouring Rights Representatives.
Naomi has been writing her whole life. Her play, Madman William has received critical success internationally in both the US and the UK.  November 2018 sees the release of both Shakespeare’s Ripper as well as the UK edition of Randall Wixen’s The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing, of which she is a co-author.  In addition, her functionalized autobiographical novel, By Page about her year as a United States House of Representatives Page, is self-published on Amazon. She is a loving mother to her two boys and could not follow her every whim the way she has done without the unwavering support of her family.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Philosophy, Trekking and a little tomb robbing, by Zeus!

 When the wine is bitter.
 I really like this writer's ode to thinking, writing and a little rakiya. His name is Ian Smith.
Walking Greek Peaks, Bulgarian Rhodes?

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

How Festive the 'Cultural Acclimation or the #$@&%*! in FU

 If it be the job of the poet to capture the zeitgeist of the moment or reflect the feeling of the times in the same way that Shakespeare captured Jacobean society (or more certainly the language of Elizabethan England) or the way that the Psalms captured Biblical times then a modern poet must capture modern times surely?

In How Festive the Ambulance, an incisive stab at the quest to be heard (on several continents) the ambition of Kim Fu's assured début may put off many veterans of poetry who see poetry as a higher art form. That is not to say that the book falters because it is not finely written but more to say that poetry can be so many things. Alternatively if poetry is 'a trick on the page', or has a foot in both worlds as entertainment and enlightenment then surely somewhere in the arrangement of words the reader must be intrigued to search for deeper meaning. This book achieves this quest in a subtle way by placing the voice deep in the text, like the voice of a plotter heard through a wall who may or not be saying: ' If you haven't caught it yet no one believes what you want them to believe: the message in many cases could be an unequivocal Fuck You!! If protest be the food of modern life, is it fair to ask what the protest is against?  HFTA seduces quietly by starting with offhand remarks.

'Winnipeg has the highest density
of mosquitos per square mile
on earth'

So starts the introduction to the world of FU in 'I READ SOMEWHERE'. 

This Winnipeg trivia, which would equally get a laugh in a pub as elicit a wry smile from a child in a Grade seven class, makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall spying on a group of passive aggressive millenials or singletons.

In the title poem, the poet's ability to arrange the words in a detached cadence is showcased:

How Festive the ambulance looks
studded with jewel coloured lights

ruby and amber on the outer rim of the Ferris wheel

The meaning of the poem is obscured by the slow style until we realise in DEAR RACHEL, I BORROWED YOUR CAR, that Rachel, has been put in 'neutral'  has rolled off the pier in her car and the ambulance may or may not be there for her. Is this the little sense of outrage in these times in which language is forgotten as if the Rosetta stone or translation services to the world have left us reduced to a simple stifled expression that no one can be bothered to respond to?
The delight of FU is that she is able to show this by taking stabs at the meanings of being alive and fighting to say I see you but perhaps you don't see me. Is the neutrality of the world there in the actions of the people, shrinking away from each other left to communicate through digital means, separated by miles and miles of email and data breaching? 

In SMALL ROOMS IN THE LAND OF THE DEAD

'A teacher says I would be punished
for my mediocrity with a tiny apartment
in the land of the dead'

So is there anything here other than a strange arrangement of words? If the poet must commit, then FU does a good job of keeping you ready, like a teacher hearing inane conversations before the class erupts and all the year nines have pen and ink on them. Speaking of teaching, how many high school students would tactfully restrain themselves before they picked up on the #$@&%*! in FU?

FU has a beleagured sense of modern life (and one may imagine the myriad electronic gizmos that accompany it).

'You left Buenos Aires for New York, New York for Bombay, Bombay for Paris. I am trying to find beauty in an overturned bread bowl.'

In COMPLEXITIES OF AN INSULT:

'That he addressed her in English: Don't
though his accent was Francophone...
...

Somewhere through all of this conversation there is a light bulb going off and the readers gets a sense of the silent subversive joker laughing at the world but also looking at the boredom and apathy around us.

In

ANY NUMBER OF REMARKABLE THINGS

I stay up late
because the act of brushing my teeth
and laying my glasses on the bedside table
means there is nothing left to see.

The self awareness is also palpable for someone who may prefer not to be seen as well. 

THE PIG MAN/ I HAVE A FORGETTABLE FACE

I have a forgettable face. It allows me to belch in public, to fart, to wipe snot on my sleeve, because I don't know these people and they won't remember me.


The poems talk about the end of the mind, the end of the reliance of the mind and the simple protests that are there in daily life to shriek out against this, in little stabs and knocks at the great slumbering muse in all of us.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Revenge of the Battery Hen or...If poetry is a magic trick on the page what does poet David Alexander conjure for the mother hen in all of us?


 If you've seen the recent McDonald's commercials (er at least ad vertz in the UK) you'll know that big business will go far to ensure the chicken on your plate is either Kosher, Halal, hand reared or otherwise plucked and de-clucked with kindness. Whether or not you believe this to be true is another thing and David Alexander's book of poetry, After the Hatching Oven, Nightwood Editions (2018) debunks a few of these myths and puts the pathos of henny penny back in favour of the persecuted pullet.

For those working at the Egg Boards of Canada Pluckers, how many may recall a shadowy janitorial figure with a late night case of the munchies, ambling into a 'bright, tiled place, (who) chewed through spicy tendons and veins and dropped bones onto the rain kissed sidewalk'?
How would the tragic end of a cybernetic fowl register with a child who watches with interest a beak peck through a brown egg in a primary school incubator?
 If poetry is a magic trick on the page, what does the poet David Alexander conjure for the Mother Hen in all of us? 

Alexander is philosophical the plight of the innocent fowl and considers a chicken who may have 'rebel'led  and perhaps fomed a 'language for revolution'. That is not to say  this is a glib critique of the consumer society, although it is certainly a celebration of the place in history of the beloved farm yard hen. Many of the poems in the collection pay tribute to pheasant's domesticated cousin, gallus gallus, through literary forbears, or friends:  H.G. Wells, Bp nichol, Ted Hughes, Dani Couture, Elizabeth Bishop, Kate Sutherland; those familiar with allegorical tales may delight in nods to Animal Farm or tales from Brother's Grimm. The art of the poems is to put the lens on the hen from different vantage points: public health advisories, recipes, parables, terrorism acts. Crossing time zones and states of mind each poem is an individuated, self contained-riff on how we got to cram all those birds in small heated spaces and forgot our own modest beginnings in the doing.  From a Review of the London Poultry House, an online course on chicken behaviour and welfare, the recurring theme is our little red hen friend, and their quiet existence in our lives under duress. In Elegy a rooster crows 'who was she, was she yours?'

If you have even lived on a farm you know the cluck of a contented chicken like the purr of a contented cat. You may also know about the weird sense of itchiness that comes when you visit a chicken battery, an "Auschwitz for hens" a Jewish family friend once remarked. Is this the subversive protest of a friend left behind?

The sensitivity for the beloved bird which has been subsumed in Knorr Cubes and deep fried wings is relayed as if slogans or calls to arms, pasted on a Town Hall wall.  It is as if these carefully chosen pastiches of separate comic, existential or biblical poems is addressing a separate audience but asking the same question: would chickens be as kind to us if the roles were switched?  If chickens were as big as a Tyranasaurus Rex, if they could spread an avian flue epidemic, if they could show love to us,  would they? Or is the yolk really on us? Idiomatically, chickens as a subject, can't be topped surely? After all, you don't have to be a good egg, to know this is chicken soup for the soul, no? But is this book of poetry a simple run of cliches on our feathered friend?

No. This is a late night behind the barn with two people who are going to duke it out for the rest of the village because there is no better way to express the rage of oppression. This is the pamphlet that lies in the corner, the newspaper, the spitoon bucket, each sheet of paper a leaf of anti-hen slavery rhetoric.

This is a warning to multinationals and those persons seeking to exist on fast food. What goes around, flies right back in your face and conscience. Is it really better to persecute or beloved bird and claim ignorance and run afowl of our own conscience? After all when we drive through the KFC, isn't it better to ask how we got to this point or, seeking to bury our heads in modern convenience do we even know that if we are not careful about how we look at familiar things – surely for the benefit of our own souls –  our own goose may be cooked, our own chickens may come home to roost as well?







Sunday, September 10, 2017

Love in Aging Minds (from a work in progress)



I did not mention this yet but things happened very quickly in England and my great aunt died of old age. As a family of habit my great aunt never married and was living in an old farmhouse with her cats; she entertained, with a kind of reluctant acceptance, the villagers who came round to call on her. She was my favourite aunt and when we were little she took us down to the orchard where the chickens were and fed them scraps. We would marvel at the eggs we would bring back, amazed that every Sunday one chicken was bound for the pot. The male chickens were the ones that went first  – and as young as we were we could still see that my aunt did it with a gruff sense of purpose; she wasn’t mean, just dogged and practical and on an Edwardian farm, a wartime lady she surely was.
“Never saw much use for men,” she said once when I quizzed her in her back garden and I wondered how much was directed towards me, a wistful eighteen year-old who lodged with her after high school and worked for a next door cousin's marquee business. Many times she was awoken from her slumber on the second floor of that old farm house by the anxious voice of my high school girlfriend whom I'd left back home who had no clue a school night in Nova Scotia was the witching hour in ol Blighty. 
"Silly girl!" My aunty chided but I could tell there was a slight tinge of regret as if she had loved a man as a teenager. She never spoke of this but I could feel it during hot summers when skyward glances during weeding sessions followed war planes in air shows from nearby Brize Norton airport. "Oh what a carry on." She would say gruffly. "Next I suppose it'll be the colonel driving past in his mustard tin car, following the hunt," she stated as if she didn't really want to go and watch the hounds and the men come through on horseback. I found her a bit of an enigma, as if to say that she put many things down, but had no real mean bone in her body. Once I asked her what she thought of Warren Beatty whom was one of the best looking men in Hollywood in his day. “Oh I suppose he’d be all right to sit on a park bench with,” she said.
She was tallish and had swollen legs and big dark severe spectacles that she wore very imposingly but she squeaked with delight at the cats took in strays and loved nature. I always marveled at her sense of purpose, pushing through the old Edwardian farm house with her cane and fielding once a week phone calls from her sister, Saturdays in the stairwell.  The reason I was with her had been set up a year before by my parents. My mother wanted me to get some work experience in the UK after high school and my aunt was my mother's, aunt and godmother. Arrangements were made for me to work the for my cousin's marquee business. This all done after she came to Nova Scotia to visit us when she was seventy three – Seventy Three! She had a cake on the plane, was waited on by all the ladies 'in all their finery', the stewardesses.

When I came back to England from Toronto, in 2003, I went to her 90th birthday party at her old farmhouse. It was a grand affair with some local dignitaries and her favourite, a jockey. My aunt asked me if I was still very vain and had I found a woman who wouldn’t make a fool of me?  She sat in a large marquee at one of the main tables table and held court for as long as she could; all of the elderly relatives and passed around photo albums and told me stories of my grandmother, Judith and my aunty as young ladies during the second world war, letting down their hair at dances, in nearby Carterton, and Eynsham, and Witney. In 2003, even though I had lived most of my life in Canada, we were still connected; no matter my lack of success in any proven field other than being a painful word obsessive we had formed a bond after high school. As I mentioned I had lived with her for a year in her old crumbling farmhouse, working at a factory and as a barman and labourer in rural Oxfordshire before I went back to Nova Scotia and University.

When she died, now a very old lady who had recently celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday party, sitting with blinking eyes on her couch, sitting for pictures with all and sundry out to see her, she was becoming house bound. She was struggling a great deal. Her sister (my grandmother) had recently died and she missed her weekly phone calls to her sister to see how things were. Then as the relatives trickled to a halt and she became more resigned to the infrequent visits, she asked me if my wife, “the little one”, was taking up all my time; when the Polish “ladies in waiting” came round to tidy up she was abrupt with them and if they did get too close to things, (meaning trying to dust or tactfully declutter), my aunt gave them their marching orders, sharpish. She still had the sharp tongue we loved about her but her fire had died. I received calls and letters from “her carer” and her niece saying that they didn’t think I should come out and see her in the ways that she had fallen into around Christmas, forgetting things, falling silent, drinking a little; when she went into the nursing home I knew that she was ready that way but I did not listen to any warning not to go.  I went to say my goodbyes in the Windrush Hospital in Witney; she was propped up in bed, in her gown, sedated, her eyes were closed, slightly reddish, her teeth were out and she was snoring away but when we huddled round and started to talk she stopped snoring and I know that she was listening. Of course her life had been hard but also fair and eventful as well. 
She was a no-nonsense type of person and her sister had been the beauty and my aunt had been the one who had never married and had cared for her parents instead, both of them who had lived well into their eighties, and nineties, too.   
I went to her funeral in the country and read a poem that I had written for her in the country church with all there to listen. It was emotional and I followed the funeral procession out into the grave site and watched the coffin get loaded down into the ground. She was my great friend, the befriender of her nieces' Canadian kids and then offering advice to an eighteen-year-old teenager and I did not want to deny her, her day. I loved her and I would always love her, sitting as she did with her blankets across her, crossword on her lap. She said once that she read The Insolent Boy and “couldn’t make head nor tail of it” but after a while, “the penny dropped.” I had started writing at her farm when I was seventeen, so in a way a filament of that desire to try and make a go of it was kindled in me then; even her sister, my grandmother - a great personality and talker, wit and gossip and beauty as well had never been published as a writer.

And so after her passing I am resigned to the fact that that Idyl is simply that a meory now and I continue to work at whatever jobs I can and make myself a ghoul, haunting my house till late hours creeping from the marriage bed into the study where I pound on the keys till the late hours. My wife say, “come to bed” but I do not she lays there with here hands in her hair pulling at hairs, in her pajamas, waiting for me to come in quietly. I klutz in and cave in eventually, in the darkness of the night whispering to her; “Do you love me? Do you love me? Will you love me forever and so on.”
The replies  – always the same: “Yes, Papi.” Till it all gets louder and more irritated; a grown woman, under siege.

The jobs I work I throw myself all over the city into different situations, predicaments. The other day I was working in a market research job in the East end of London, Enfield, which is up in North East London but because the trains were down I had to take a replacement bus to the main terminus, in Finsbury Park, to get a connector service. The East End is still rough, living in Leytonstone I know why David Beckham runs so hard on the pitch when he plays football ­– he never wants to come back here again. Two stories come to mind; perhaps both caused by  a problem with the transport system. In the first case the replacement bus was stuck in traffic on a Saturday and cramped in the back back, sitting with yobs, pensioners, we were suddenly all told to 'get off the bus' because the quietish but sinister young man with the hood had a dog and the dog had shit right in the middle of the bus without anyone seeing it happen. Someone said “its been sick!” the dog has been sick but  it was shit, everyone could tell by the smell of it and the way it was in three separate pieces. The bus driver said everyone off and the crowds out in Walthamstow were fierce, milling around Black Horse Road and trying to figure out whether to take train bus or tube and wondering at the same time where the boy with the dog was, thinking he must be having a chuckle now ducking down a back alleyway? Later on, I was on a door-to-door market research job, knocking on doors and some old, ancient, man invited me into this place said "sit down" he’d be "happy to answer all the questions I had for him."
“What is this all about then?”
 “It's for the council,” I reassured him as I looked into his living room, all the furniture was covered with plastic, little porcelain figurines, crystal, like a strange abandoned trailer. The first clue was the long bony fingers on my collar, and a puppetish smile. A bit creepy. Problem it stunk in his place like there hadn’t been anyone in there for days; the place was covered in a thin film of dust and inactivity, like it was preserved in time, on the day the President Kennedy was inaugurated or something; he was dressed in his night shirt, stooped, spidery thin, was ninety four and deaf as a post, not to mention smiling like a little George Burns, Jewish, gay as the hills. He said, after we had conducted the interview about the council, “I’m rearry attracted to you.” I said, “What?” and he put his hand on me and shuddered and mustered with all his strength “I quite fancy you…” and he was ninety four years old, cuteish, (this must have been his charm as a young man, as he said that he was a tailor) and gave me a hug, he said “AR quite fancy you.” and I said OK Thank you God bless as if I was honoured in a weird way to be with the chief of a nearly extinct time and place but I was in such a state I left in a hurry without my bag and all he said, “I can be very discreet ­– come any time you like.”

 I looked into the room where I am certain he entertained favourite nephews and sisters who have married and moved on with having good jobs, families and the like, but it was so dark and it was so stale the place, a like he covered it in plastic so when people left he wouldn’t have to clean it. There are things you don’t want to see, things about your aged aunts and uncles and you don’t want them to see them in you either. Does this old gay man, feel this way as well? Was he a teachers pet as a child or a favourite nephew who had to keep mum about his own gay inclinations?
Of course I was in the street, feeling strangely naked and vulnerable like when you have forgotten something you can’t quite remember (a friend from one of those jobs would just as easily say you would lose your nose if it wasn’t attached to your face!) so I went back to get the bag he left in the place I could not get in and he would not answer, which made me think that old people are smarter than they let on. I tried the number he had provided for back checking but he when I tried to call it gave a wrong number. And my interview bag was still in there, Crafty old codger.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

MUDLARKING ON THE THAMES (solace from the city)


Bones of dead Londoners fill the banks of the Thames


A brief reflection on life in London: places of solace you can find where you might not expect them. (from a work in progress)
Under the the gleam of The Shard, lines of chatty, card-qualified Mudlarkers, decked out in their waterproofs, trudge up and down the beach line of the Thames, scraping at the ground for bits of tooth, shell, porcelain plates, clay pipes whatever they can find. I am bunking off some temp job, lowering myself down onto the beach, fixated by buttons which are rusted out and nearly completely disintegrated in my hands. There is a kind of weird solace, as if the place still has a tiny shard of the placidity it once had in Prehistoric times and seems, oddly comic too. Couples peer over the banks of the Thames pathway, some sitting up there sunning themselves; a couple of gay men, immersed in their world, intently lean forwards, balds heads almost touching;  they hardly notice when I climb up the ladder, three rungs at a time, into their conversation, underneath Millennium Bridge. I am burying myself in this ritual the last few days of the summer while looking over nearly every type of drenched and saturated human bone and animal bone that there can be: clavicles, ulnas, spines and so on; hiding under my hood like Obi Wan, it is not long before some spotty kid comes along the beachline
says:
  'Ullo, found anything?'
He must be experienced because – and this happens when you are down there, lost in the forensic examinations – you saw him coming  and you are looking for a reprieve from  the people zooming;  still he managed to get into your space; you think how can you simply smile and ignore him? It is a bit like being a teacher trying to finish up some marking and a kid wants to tell you about their pet scorpion. Sir, Sir, Sir!
You you feel a little glimmer of kinship; he is shuffling along with his glasses and nondescript jacket,
'Anything nice there?'
 You are jack-knifed on the ground, in his eyes you are shielding yourself from intrusion reclining almost on the beach, as if a day out with friends having a picnic. You might even be, as your father says, a lucky sod!
'Well this place has been picked clean,' the young lad says, 'I can tell you now, won’t find much in here, mind, though,' he says, 'I can show you this...' and he pulls out a tiny bit of metal, which looks like a farthing, or ha penny bit.
'What is it?' You ask.
 'It is a fifteen-century counter for counting out weight and measurements. It is not even silver or copper, never mind gold, but brass.' He is keen and he is casting a shadow right over this little washer sized slip of metal.

'Are you a geologist?'  you ask and he says, 'No, but I’m studying to be an archaeologist.'
 You say 'That would be a job for me.' (Lets face it, you’d never find a roman coin on the banks of the rivers back in Nova Scotia, maybe an arrow head or a dinosaur bone but no belt buckle or ornate stuff like that).
You take time to reflect with this keen kid,
'What a great burden on you to see all those bones, just laying there, washed from some grave somewhere, and then all that talk of raw sewage and disease and so on.'
 You ask him if he had a job for the summer and you remember what it was like trying to find one, when you were at school and that having a job meant that you had money for gas and could also afford to take a girl out on a date and feel so much more some kind of useful then, and so you say,
 'I was at University once, myself,' he says 'Oh?'  but then you bury his academic querying by telling him that you used to go around with a rock and roll band quite a bit when younger.
'Which one?' he asks and you say:  'Kings College' because you are not in a great rush, and he says 'Oh? Uh London?' and you say a little briskly, 'No,  one in Canada - they are all over the world.'
How Yah Doon? - Blogged