glenda calls time

Glenda watches as I unpack my kit.
‘Why is everyone so obsessed with my blood?’ she says.
‘The doctors want another sample. I think they’re mostly interested in how your liver’s doing.’
‘I think you’ll find it’s not doing all that well, Jim. It’s ninety-five, like the rest of me.’
Glenda has a steady, sad demeanour, like an ancient donkey peering through a gate.
‘You know – it’s perfectly alright to say no to any of this stuff,’ I tell her. ‘So long as you understand what it is you’re refusing.’
‘I don’t mind if you take some more blood,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to be difficult. Anyway, it passes the time.’
‘I don’t think you’re difficult,’ I tell her, setting out my things. ‘In fact I think you’re a model patient.’
‘Now – you’re either very kind or a good liar. Which is it?’
‘Honest answer?’
‘Only a liar would say that.’
‘Well there you are, then.’
‘Yes. Here I am, then. More’s the pity.’
I fetch over a pillow for her arm.
‘Why are they so exercised about the state of my liver?’ she says.
‘It mentions a paracetamol overdose on the blood form.’
‘Ah,’ says Glenda. ‘That.’
‘So – was it accidental, or….’
‘Absolutely not! Accidental! I knew perfectly well I wanted to kill myself.’
‘Oh! I’m sorry.’
‘What? That I failed?’
‘No! That you felt so bad you wanted to kill yourself.’
She shakes her head and gestures to the room.
‘It’s not exactly the Ritz, is it?’
‘It’s not bad. You’ve got a view of the garden. Those trees are lovely.’
‘It’ll take more than a couple of Japanese maples to convince me life is worth living. I mean – come on! I’m ninety-five! Look at me! I’m worn out! I’ve had my time and very nice it was too. But longevity is no fun, let me tell you.’
‘I can see that.’
‘Stuck in the chair for hours on end until someone decides to put you back to bed.’
‘Have you spoken to anyone about how you feel?’
‘You mean a psychiatrist?’
‘We’ve got some mental health nurses on the team. They’re really nice.’
‘I would hope they are. But I’d be wasting their time. You see – this isn’t a mental health problem. I belong to something called Dignity in Dying. Have you heard of it?’
‘Vaguely. I think so.’
‘You wouldn’t be so vague if you were ninety-five, I can assure you.’
‘Maybe not.’
‘Definitely not.’
‘The thing is, Glenda. There’s so much going on in the world. Brexit. Climate Change. The rise of populism. Nationalism. Trump, for God’s sake! These are scary times. Interesting times. And we need you to stick around and tell us what you think. You’ve lived through a war. People forget. They start to feel invulnerable – you know? – like they can go on as they like forever, and nothing really matters.’
Glenda laughs.
‘Just get on and bleed me,’ she says, pushing up her sleeve. ‘You’re absolutely priceless! You want me to carry on living so I can see how Brexit turns out? My God – if the nurses hadn’t locked my tablets away I’d be throwing them back by the handful.’

the nightmare continues


Sounds like an energy biscuit. Except this one’s the opposite, the kind you’d eat to bring you back down. Frosted with Diazepam.

As I write, the government have voted to extend Article 50, and ask the EU if we can delay our exit. Which is like being on the rack and asking the guy in the leather apron for a few more turns of the wheel, because – you know – it really is helping with our joint problems…)

For the record, I’m a Remainer. Or Remoaner as we were rebranded. Presumably on the basis that we had the absolute GALL and plain BAD SPORTSMANSHIP to complain about the amount of misinformation that was put out at the time of the referendum, and to point out that maybe such a complex and important move should be worthy of a little more balanced thinking. I mean, you wouldn’t put in an offer to buy a house that was advertised as charming, plucky, full of character, great views – only to read the survey and find out it’s built of Play-Doh, on a fault line, near a reactor, overlooking some abandoned docks – and NOT feel a little scratchy.

Still – a vote is a vote.mrsmay

‘Let’s get this done’ croaks Mrs May, leaning in, reassuring as a fancy dress nurse with an ID badge drawn in crayon.

Part of me wishes it would just go ahead. Maybe it’ll be okay. Maybe we can trust the ERG, the DUP and any of the other reactionary crazies who would love nothing more than to make this country a Land of Hope and Glory theme park, where the log flume is actually a giant Churchillian cigar rushing headlong down a cataract of laundered money, and the golden horses of the carousel are restricted to the kids from public schools; where the canteens are filled with cheap chlorinated chicken and beef burgers oozing with Five Mile Island dressing; where the Queen lives in a glittering tent waiting to tell the fortune of anyone the park inspectors happen to push through her flaps, and the Hall of Mirrors is a miniature Houses of Parliament, where everyone constantly changes shape.

The only hope is that some ragged revolutionary force will storm the gates, push over the Monopoly banker character that says: You Have To Be THIS Wealthy To Enjoy our Rides! , overpower the Facebook sponsored security guards, and then run around unzipping all the minimum wagers trapped in the character costumes, the Frowning Shakespeares, the Laughing Policemen, the Private Doctors, The Trumps.

Then what?

Dissolve cut from the fires of the burning fairground to the not-so-distant future…

Climate change will be the one, unavoidable subject of public discourse. It’ll either be raining too heavily or blowing too violently or blazing too intensely for anyone to think about anything else. There’ll be factions calling for greater cooperation between people and states, factions insisting on a tighter, more protectionist approach, and then another, mysterious, more watchful faction – the one with the money, hubris, tech and military backing – who’ll have thought for a long time that the best thing to do is to pull out completely, in something big and splashy, called The Ark©, and they’ll be quietly studying star maps spread out on brushed steel tables, circling in red some other poor planets we can screw up.

Spacexit. (What a ride).


full catastrophe writing

okay /

so here I am, taking the dog out / wandering along, wondering what the hell to write about /

maybe I could vent / about the rise of the establishment / how it’s always the workers who end up getting canned / when there’s a market crash and fall in demand / and meanwhile the bosses / that engineered the catastrophic losses / get endless juicy bonuses / and other contractual phonus balonuses / january thru’ december / one long golden shower for the private members /

hmm…so I could write about that /

or maybe disasters of an environmental nature / focusing on some poor unfortunate creature / floating by the camera / with its head wedged in a bottle / or a porpoise, throttled / by a discarded net / or a million tonnes of plastic crap / from avocado cartons to bubble wrap / spreading round the world in a mantle of waste / until we’re forced to evacuate headlong into space / planet to planet, ad nauseam / the continuing adventures of homopollutiens / until a higher being unexpectedly descends / in a whirl of stars, saying fuck it / cleans us all up with a cosmic mop & bucket

so I could write about that /

or Brexit Britannia, up on a plinth / of takeaway cartons and 5% mince / in her left hand, a trident of tourist tack / in her right a riot shield union jack / and curled at her feet a monstrous dog / the head of Boris Johnson, the arse of Jacob Rees-Mogg

but I don’t know

maybe I’ll just settle for the usual guff / about the end of time and all that stuff / sinkholes, tsunamis, day after tomorrow shit / the sun disappearing, and me along with it / sucker-punched to eternity / (which of course passes instantly / because if I’m dead how on earth could I tell ya’ / if I’ve been dead five minutes or five millennia?) / anyway / fast forward to judgement day / the celestial finger beckoning / for the dead to come forward for the final reckoning / the graves of the world gaping wide / slowly revealing what’s buried inside / iphones numberless lighting up as one / catching up on updates a’trillion / and god stamps, and swears, and tugs his beard / and shouts Goddammit! this is so fucking weird / you know – I thought it’d be more spiritual than this / not just phone zombies taking the piss / so he slams the lid shut on the apocalypse / and settles back down to watch kitten clips /

or something

falling to earth

There’s a great, puckered scar running up the centre of Eamon’s chest, the kind of crimped-up seam that holds in the meat on a Cornish pastie.

‘I thought I was a dead man,’ he says, scratching his belly, good eye half-closed, false eye glaring. ‘I seen that big ol’ light descending from the heaven. But I tell you what, Jimmy. Them surgeons up the hospital, they know a thing or two about pumps, that much I can tell you.’

Despite all his problems, Eamon’s still as ruggedly optimistic as the man who used to sit all day in a mechanical digger, all weathers, gouging out pipe trenches.

‘They used the veins out me leg, there – look!’ he says, hitching up his trousers, showing me the scar. ‘It’s a miracle what they can do nowadays.’ He finishes his sentences with a sharp little intake of breath, something like a yes, but only half-made, like he’s tasting the air for agreement.
‘Now – be honest wi’ me. Wha’d’ya make of this whole Brexit business?’
‘I think it’s a mess, Eamon. I think it was badly run. People didn’t really know what they were voting for. It was all based on emotions rather than facts. It certainly didn’t help they had buses driving around with lies about the millions extra we’d have to spend on the NHS.’
‘That’s true. I seen that bus. In the papers. Not the street.’
‘They should have a second referendum. You wouldn’t decide to buy a house, find out it’s got subsidence, and carry on and buy it anyway just because you said you would. And this is way more important than buying a house.’
‘You might have to if you signed a contract, though.’
‘But if you hadn’t.’
‘No. I suppose not. Not if you hadn’t. You’d be crazy to buy a house like that.’
‘At least with the General Election you get another go in four years. This is so final, I don’t think it would hurt to run it again.’
‘Yes, but – Jimmy. Imagine if you had another referendum, and the answer come out as Stay. What would all the Leave people do about it? They’d straight away be wanting another vote. And then another vote. And there’d be no end to it. We’d get nothing done, ‘cos we’d be spending all our time voting.’
‘Maybe. It’s a mess, that’s all I know. Just hold still for a minute whilst I take this ECG…’
Eamon holds his position, glaring at me with his glass eye whilst dozing off with the other.
‘Okay. That’s it. Done,’ I tell him, and start packing up.
‘It’s all that there David Cameron’s fault,’ he says, tentatively peeling off the dots. ‘He only done it to clear out all them right wingers. Didn’t work so well for him, though, did it, eh? It’s like a beater going in to beat out the pheasants, and then getting torn to pieces by a tiger. A big blue one, wi’ stars on its tail.’
He sticks the dots together in one sticky mess, and hands them to me.
‘What makes it worse – they don’t seem to care what happens to Ireland,’ he says. ‘Mind you. Did they ever? It’s al’ays been the same, now. From that bastard Cromwell to the DUP. But that’s the British for you. They talk the talk and they throw their weight around like the bullies they are. It was the same with America. The same with India. Bullies, the lot of ‘em. All you can do is stand up for what you believe – that’s it! That’s all there is!’
His glass eye shines. ‘Present company excepted,’ he says.
‘Thank you. So how are you feeling now, Eamon?’
‘Never better!’ he says. ‘Tip top! Ignore the needlework.’

I chat to him whilst I fill out some forms.
‘I bet you found a few things when you were out digging trenches,’ I say.
‘Oh plenty!’ he says. ‘Bottles. Pottery. Bones. You name it. Not much in the way of gold coins, but plenty other stuff.’
‘What was the oddest thing you found?’
‘Well now – I suppose – that’d be a meteorite.’
‘Really? How d’you know it was a meteorite?’
‘It was all glittery inside. And anyway, the man said so.’
‘What man? An alien?’
‘No, I don’t think he was an alien. I think he was the man jes’ owned that there particular stretch of land. I’ll show you it, if you’d like?’
‘I would! I’ve never seen a meteorite.’
‘Well you’re in for a treat’
He pulls on his shirt, then shuffles out to the kitchen. In the cupboards under the sink are rows and rows of neatly stacked Tupperware boxes, each one filled with an assortment of things. I stand next to him as he pokes through one: a pink yo-yo, a plastic soldier, a nodule of flint with a perfect hole through the middle, a conch shell, the side of a Victorian marmalade jar.
‘Nah. I thought the meteorite was in this one,’ he says, clipping the lid back on. ‘Most o’ this stuff is Gloria’s. She passed when she was sixty, some year ago now. You know what she used to do? She used to tuck the legs of her trousers into her socks and then drop what she found inside.’
‘That’s quite a technique.’
‘It was! You should’ve seen her fill up when she hit pay dirt. That was something to see, alright.’
‘I bet it was.’
‘It was. It was something to see.’
He puts the box back with the others, as carefully and precisely as if he were re-interring a saintly artefact.
‘Now then. What the hell’ve I done with that meteorite?’