This week, Monday 3rd September 2012

A Whole Heap of Hooting

Well I’ve still done very little. I blame a very short working week, the burning need to catch up on some sleep (achieved!) and a shocking lack of discipline. The main thing to report of note was a very fine improv show on Friday. I told a story (with words and phrases randomly selected by the audience for “seamless insertion”) about a man irradiated by atomic molybdenum (probably not possible) and his terrible need to find a mate. It seemed to be quite funny. The necessary spontaneity of it reminded me of why I enjoy writing so much, and the need to re-introduce that improvising spirit to my daily scrawl.

A Plan For T’Week

This week I’m catching up on my writing habits! Yes. I’m going to write an Alphabet Story every morning before/after breakfast and post them the day after. I’ve jabbered about improv games in writing before – the Alphabet Game is a simple scene – pick a letter. That’s the letter your first sentence has to start with. Continue in the same way through the rest of the alphabet. On stage we tend to finish on the same letter we started with (so 27 lines) partly because the audience often don’t click we’ve gone through the whole alphabet and partly because it’s aesthetically pleasing. As a device it’s an excellent way to force myself to write and to enable those random jumps and leaps I so enjoy.

Robots in Digitise

Comic books have returned to my reading life this week (they never get very far away), and while I have still never found comics to genuinely be the equal of a novel for story telling (Alan Moore’s as close as they get for me) there are certain stories that I want to see illustrated. Transformers is one of those. I’ve adored the comics from issue 4 (had to get 1-3 later) way back in 1984, and the modern IDW series is even better. It’s all very good and well describing giant robots but you have to see them (which is why I adore the film versions, terrible though they are in story). I’ve also started using the ComiXology app on my tablet and I think comics on that are possibly even better than on paper. Being able to glide through the comic panel by panel is awesome, and I can’t accidentally soak the thing in tea. They’re also vastly cheaper than their paper counterparts, which is fuelling my current mania. Should you have the remotest interest in what I’m reading, feel free to follow me (or whatever it is you do) on Goodreads.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  Story 1. I don’t know what it’s about yet, but it begins with sails dripping with blood.
Wednesday: Story 2. Yup, don’t know what it’s in this one either…
Thursday: Story 3.You get the idea, something will happen.

Round Up of Last Week

29th August: The Blundering Buccaneer – romance tempered with stubbornness on the High Seas.

30th August: The Pirate Coves – a preview and information about the show I’m doing in the Nottingham Comedy Festival on 27th September.

31st August: Eric the Bewildered Weasel 3 – my favourite (maybe) character – Damien, the magpie makes a proper entrance.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff coming up in Nottingham:

MissImp in Action – Friday 21st September at The Glee Club 8.30pm (not free, but cheap!)

Pub Poetry – Monday 24th September at The Canalhouse 8pm FREE

The Pirate Coves – Thursday 27th September at The Golden Fleece 8pm FREE

The Flock of Fear Adventure (Alphabetic 22)


Blood dripped from the sails like magic rain. Captain Fatbeard’s expedition had ended in disaster. Doves, or rather, pieces of doves continued to land on the deck in soft thuds. Everyone, even those pessimistic from the start were surprised by how badly wrong it had gone.

For as long as his crew could remember, Captain Fatbeard had a particular fetish for tiny birds. Granted, it was not the strangest appetite on board for with Leslie and his eel trousers no one could really compete – but this story’s not about his deviant writhings. However, Fatbeard was so named because he greased the twists of his beard with fat and matted seeds into the locks to attract the attentions of the English countryside birds. It was a difficult matter at sea for he was often divebombed by seagulls (whom he despised) and twas two mates’ responsibility to beat ’em off with sticks.

Jealousy between the little birdies who he kept in the onboard aviary was assured and ye could see the hatred for each other that filled their beady black Beelzebub eyes. Keeping the creatures under lock and key, even though they were in a cage somewhat larger than the orlop deck, probably accounted for their ghastly tempers.

Lard dripped from the captain’s chin as he allowed a pair of tits to nestle against his throat and ransack the fatty plunder. Many’s the time I’ve watched this ritual, and their pecks, though fierce seeming are surprisingly gentle; some’d say affectionate, but I consider the two-legged bastards to be Satan’s own arse feathers. Never before though had I seen the sight that followed. Open was the door, with Fatbeard getting his neck groomed in it – out flew a sharp bright little beast which shot into the sky trilling sharply. Prayed for rain we had, for the bulk of our fresh water went to wetting the birdies, and so the sudden darkening of the skies was a thing of hope. Quizzically I stared at the clouds, for they seemed unlike the grey and spitting lumps from which rain falls – they appeared to be flapping.

Rain it was not. Skirling birds of a thousand varieties fell from the sky, wheeling down upon The Golden Shrike. Their beaks were viciously sharp, and though their bones were hollow their flapping was more than just a distraction for jags o’ shattered wing gashed open throats and hands. Under the hail o’ feathery vengeance the aviary was burst open and the domesticated pretties joined their wild kin in battle.

Veins sprayed from man and bird alike, painting the ship in gory hues. Why I meself had a puffin lodged in me eye socket and saw a robin peck its way through a man’s chest. Crossin’ me heart I hauled round a cannon and loaded it with leadshot and birdfeed. Ye’d not comprehend the speed with which the aerial assault was distracted by the flyin’ seeds – they sought ’em ought and received a battery of leadshot in their gullets.

Zoophiles, such as the poor Captain Fatbeard would be distraught at the buchery; fully half the crew’d been pecked to death but that loss was matched with a ship sticky with blood and feathers. Alas, poor Fatbeard had succumbed to the creatures he loved so fondly in captivity. Birds covered the man’s corpse where he’d tried in vain to hug ’em, only to receive the death that always lurked in their evil unblinking gaze.

An Unfamiliar Touch (Alphabetic 23)


He turned his face away, unwilling to look the creature in the eye.
“Good grief, have you no manners man-beast?” it demanded.
“I, I – I’ve just never met anyone like you before.”
Jelly-like tentacles writhed with pleasure, winding around themselves.
“Kiss me, then, again.”
Lawrence gulped, the first kiss had been when they were both very much in the dark, him especially.
“My first kiss was in the pubescent cave, we swapped mucous for hours.”
“Now, maybe we’re getting into this a bit quickly.”
“Oh pshaw,” the creature made a noise like ‘pshaw’ only with more grinding of things like molars, “on our planet it is common to dive into the mating pit and enjoy the juices of countless partners.”
“Perhaps we’re just a little more reserved,” Lawrence countered, his fingers searching for the edge of the door.
“Quelch me.”
Ridges of dust had built up under Lawrence’s nails as he ran his fingers up and down the groove where the door had slid smoothly into the wall. Somehow the door could be opened again, he was sure of it. The tentacled maybe lady alien unspooled herself towards him, her lower appendages coiled over his knees and she repeated herself in a seductive crunching of consonants. Underneath her frilled skirt of translucent flesh mysterious organs pulsed and throbbed. Violet light filled the chamber as she began to sing.
“What a wonderful voice you have,” Lawrence murmured as her skirt brushed against his hips.
“Xenogamy is used by your people to describe the act of love between flowers; I think you are a precious pistil all of your own.”
And with that touching endearment the alien enveloped Lawrence. Breathing was surprisingly easy – she gave off oxygen as a form of musky perfume and he found himself inhaling huge lungfuls. Contrary to his own beliefs about his desires, now that he was wrapped in a highly oxygenated sensual blanket of gelatinous palps he felt rather more agreeable.
“Don’t you need to take these off?” asked the alien, its feelers perplexed by the extraneous epidermises Lawrence wore.
“Everyone wears them where I come from, but they do come off.”
Freed from his supposed propriety Lawrence gave in to her caresses and allowed himself to be undressed by her dextrous claws and tentacles.
“God no!” he cried too late as she stripped him of his skin and rubbed her ovipositor pads into the fibrous muscle beneath.

The Bleeding Rose (Alphabetic 24)


A degree of jiggling was required to pop the window out of its casement. Breaching the castle’s defences had been surprisingly empty and with the window now open nothing stood between the thief and his prize. Calmly he looked back over his shoulder to where the gardens fell away from the castle, ending in the open air that surrounded the grounds. Deviousness had scarcely been required he reflected as he climbed over the window sill. Everything, from hiring the para-bicycle to riding it in through a storm cloud and into the ancient yew where it was now hidden from view, had been remarkably easy.

For a thief of greater skill and and experience this would have sounded warning clarions to deafen his ambitions. Grellian Hewl, however, was not so sage. He shrugged off his success as testament to his future reputation and hopped down inside the castle. In silence, the alarms went off. Jasmine scent filled the rooms and halls and made Grellian feel slightly woozy as he sneaked about. Knowing that the object of his break-in was at the keep’s heart he stole stealthily down a portrait lined corridor, feet padding on luxurious carpet. “Left, right, left again” he muttered the directions he’d made a stab at memorising.

Meanwhile, in the grounds pistons huffed and jets of steam disturbed the leaves of the tree in which Hewl had deposited his para-bicycle. Normally the brass automata would have torn him apart as soon as he landed, but they’d been ordered to stand down so they now took pleasure in shredding the man’s transport into fine flakes of metal. On duty perpetually, the robots (their forms somewhere between man, wolf and washing machine) were uneasy with permitting the intruder to retain his life beyond the gardens. Pendulums ticked and swayed inside the guards as they awaited further instructions.

Quickly Grellian became lost in the endless corridors. Recalling what little of the layout he could had not proved helpful. Surprisingly, through sheer luck he blundered into the magnificent atrium which sat at the heart of the castle. There, before him, surrounded by greenery and sculpture from half the cities of the realm, stood the object of his hunt – the Bleeding Rose. Under the light that danced down from the glass ceiling he seized the lip of its pot and shook out the sack he had tucked in his belt.

Very few mortals survive an encounter with a Bleeding Rose, and Hewl was no exception. When he hefted the pot it reacted poorly to the disturbance. Xiphoid leaves twitched, their transparent facets sparkling, and plunged into the young man’s chest and shoulders. Yelling and screaming, Grellian was lifted into the air and stabbed until his blood drizzled over the plant and into the pot where its roots flushed crimson upwards through the Bleeding Rose. Zealous automata finally granted permission to do their work stomped into the greenhouse and detached the man husk from the freshly watered flower.

This week, Monday 10th September 2012

Waking Up and Scribbling

Hurray – a successful week! Not in the work sense of course, but the far more important arena of doing the writing I wanted to. My plan was to write a story every morning Monday to Friday. I got four done and I’m going to count that as a success.

Not Much Else to Report

Other cultural activities from last week include a couple of trips to the cinema. First we saw the new Total Recall – it’s got all the Bladerunner aesthetic down nicely, but it’s entirely pointless. It does feature some nice action scenes and I was amused by ‘The Fall’ – the train thing that goes through the centre of the earth. At best they just rework some of the original scenes. Sadly they fail to get a decent extra twist out of it. Today we saw Lawless, which was much more fun and had a decent performance for Tom Hardy (most recently wasted as Bane). It’s a surprisingly funny and violent Nick Cave scripted prohibition film.

A Great Book

By far the best thing I’ve consumed this week was The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington. Consistently vile, hilarious and compelling it’s a mediaeval adventure. This is one of the books I have most enjoyed for a long time. The characters are monstrous and bizarrely sympathetic and I cheered on the grave robbing brothers from bloody start to bloody finish. I especially enjoyed the brothers’ frequent theological discussions, which while absurd are precisely as absurd as any other theological debate. Monsters, witches, murders, crusades and quests. Brilliant. If you’re unjustly squeamish about language then you’ll find this a very unpalatable book though, so check your prude level before beginning.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  We All Hate HR. The fourth of last week’s alphabetic tales – this one just briefly helps to explain how much I despise Human Resources departments.

Thursday: Shankalata. Some poetry from the vicious angry world of @shankanalia.

Round Up of Last Week

3rd September: The Flock of Fear Adventure – a pirate tale with a lesson about the dangers of feeding birds at sea

4th September: An Unfamiliar Touch – an alien encounter of the intimate kind.

5th September: The Bleeding Rose– steampunkish break-in to a floating castle of secrets.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff coming up in Nottingham:

MissImp in Action – Friday 21st September at The Glee Club 8.30pm (not free, but cheap!)

Pub Poetry – Monday 24th September at The Canalhouse 8pm FREE

The Pirate Coves – Thursday 27th September at The Golden Fleece 8pm FREE

How We Hate HR (Alphabetic 25)

“Customer feedback is very important to us,” purred the Human Resources manager. Dave was pleased to hear it, but would have been content to read about it in their mission statement. “Email is such a wonderful invention isn’t it? Far better than real human interaction – and so quick!” Gripping the arms of his chair Dave had a good idea about where this was going.

In his inbox that morning had been an invitation to drop in for a chat about the email he’d sent yesterday about the abysmal fuckheads in Human Resources. Just knowing that they were responsible for hiring and then failing to fire the people who daily inflamed his life with idiocy would have been reason enough for complaint but yesterday had been special.

Kuntedge – the HR manager had see fit to send an email out to all staff urging them to enrol for the mandatory diversity training. Like a mug, Dave had, against his better judgement, first opened the email, despaired at the literacy contained within it and compounded it by clicking on the link to the course information. Maybe it was the organisation’s shoddy IT, maybe it was Kuntedge’s inability to use even that nineteenth century version of a computer but it froze and then crashed Dave’s computer, eradicating hours of work. No, autosave had been disabled at the dictate of the HR security twat so there wasn’t even that saving grace. On finally being able to log back in Dave had sent an email suggesting that Kuntedge put himself on a basic word processing course instead of wasting everyone’s time with diversity training.

Perhaps his tone had been a little sharp, his comparison of HR’s general competence to lobotomised squirrels hunting for nuts in a carpark too oblique and the “cheers” sign-off against company policy. Quickly he realised something had soured when no one would meet his eye in the morning. Rallying his jaded tolerance for stupidity he read their response, sighed at the grammar and mounted the stairs.

Rarely were HR visited by choice; their domain was open only to bewildered penitents and managers desperate to get a clear answer. Smiling, like a power-crazed dog too stupid to know how stupid he really is stood Kuntedge, nodding and waving him into his office. The man’s spiel was fluid and worthless, like the excreta of dysentery. Until the final sentence, Dave managed to screen out the jargon and broken logic.

“Verificationism: we’d like to aggressively pursue a policy of accuracy and we feel that you and the IT section might be able to support that. What we need is a system, perhaps a chart on the wall that will help us find mistakes and correct them before they go out into “the population” (as we call them).”

X-rated language flowed through Dave’s mind, boggling at the HR manager’s general ignorance. “You could always use the spellchecker,” he suggested in as calm a voice as he could. Zeal, the kind you only see in the eyes of the incomprehending, lit up Kuntedge’s pupils and he leaned back in his chair, left hand rotating as he summoned words.
“And that’s just what we’d expect from our IT colleagues, but we need something concrete, something visual – not just a computerised replacement for people.”
“Button,” Dave spat out, “it’s a button on your screen – always has been; how can you not know that?”
“Couldn’t have done it without you Dave – I’ll be sending an email round about the new workgroup – we’ll find a solution, don’t you worry.”


Slightly Broken: Putting the Pieces Together

I’ve always hated jigsaws. Except when I enjoy them of course. Contrariness seems to be the way of things this week. The last couple of counselling sessions and a great deal of my mind time has been spent on reconstructing the timeline which I only have a sense of – a sense which rather frustratingly tends towards the imaginary. Or at least the fictionalised.

Why I Hate Jigsaws
Initially there’s that sense of anticipation when you tear off the cellophane (assuming it’s not that awful modern crap that you need an engineering degree to deal with) and there’s the picture it is your task to compile from cunningly shuffled, but integral pieces. Then you tip them all out and realise you hadn’t read the bit where it says that it’s a 1000 piece not just the 500 that you were quite up for. It then dawns on you, as you separate the tesselates into the edges, colours or however you choose to systematise your pre-jigsaw compilation, that there don’t appear to be any fucking edges and the colours are not those glowing tones of memory. Further, the picture on the box is swiftly revealed to be a pre-production lie and you note the asterisked message that “colours and contents may vary from those shown”. What it turns out that you have is a collection of maybe 6 different partially complete jigsaws dumped into a familiar box and cunningly resealed by some bastard who thought they were being helpful.

Why I Hate My Memory
Well, much the same reasons as above for jigsaws obviously, otherwise the metaphor would be kinda pointless. It doesn’t address everything though. It doesn’t quite capture that there are whole chunks of events that I mis-remember, and have no guide, no pieces other than what is clearly a terribly fallible memory to help me fill it. In some respects I have helped myself out by keeping a kind of diary while I was in Sixth Form. Without that I’d be properly doomed. That said, a diary is in itself a sanitised version of our pasts. We write what we want to – we choose to edit, censor and withhold. There is no way to figure out what is missing. Like a fucking genius I’ve avoided writing about some aspects of what happened to me – especially the events that came before Amsterdam. And what I’m craving/fearing is the complete chronology that explains what happened when and gives me the chance to splice my feelings and memories onto. Otherwise it’s just a big bag of shattered memories waiting to cut me at random.
Despite my occasional reticence in the diary, my habits of archiving everything are paying off quite well. I have letters from the motherfucker, scraps of notes and cards; bits and bobs, and a father who’s willing to help identify dates. As a result I’m doing fairly well. I’m tying lots of other events in as well – I guess the ages 15-18 are pretty critical in developmental terms anyway. For me it’s not only when my period of abuse finally ended, but it’s also when I had my first girlfriend, first consensual sexual encounters (with girls and boys), A-Levels and other things.

I’ll let you know how I get on…

Shankalata – Tasting The Hate Verse

I don’t know if it’s a combination of increased work stress and other personal stuff, but I’m enjoying waves of rage, breaking across my heart and mind like a bloody tide. Perhaps it’s just that so few people out there (in my cynical moments) appear to offer any real worth. Not like you beautiful internet people, oh the delights you inflict upon my soul!

Terrifyingly I’m even struggling to find time to record how angry am through the journal of terse verse. That’s not good. It’s probably bottled up inside, ready to detonate and shower my colleagues with spittle shrapnel and pieces of vein. Ho hum.

Do enjoy them with friends or family. You can follow @shankanalia on Twitter too. There’s a bunch of stuff I read for you at:

Tasting the Hate Verse

I Want to Understand You
Don’t do it
That way:
It’s wrong
Why did you do it
That way?
It’s wrong.
Why are you this way?
It’s wrong.
Why do I shout
This way?
You are wrong.

Finding a Purpose
Like a diamond
That’s been ground down:
Still sharp
In tiny ways,
But worthless.
Good for chewing timber,
Pencils or pens.
Just sit there

Whirling Devious
Like an elegant dance
Where you slip and slide
Twisting malice into lies
Making a messy
Alliance of bad ideation
And abortive creation

I Missed You
How quickly the memory fades…
I’d forgotten in your absence
The level of ineptitude
That leaks out of your brain.
Oh, memory
Protects me from you.

Feeling Broody
Nasty little gashlets.
Screaming squalling
Continuous bawling
Rampant noise engine
Powered by uncaring
Ravening horde of future thugs.

There’s Something in Physiognomy
Too fattened with ugly
To think
Excess skull
Shrunken brain
More face than an average human
With a head 1/3 of your creasing brow.
The Road to Hell
Rainbows and unicorns
Acid shower,
Napalm your dreams
Fry your My Little Pony ideals
Burn off your skin
Idealism in ashes
Fuck your happydumb.

Slightly Broken: Putting the Past into the Picture

During the last month of counselling I’ve found myself pretty traumatised and upset by the details which I couldn’t recall, and the things I re-discovered. It ain’t been easy – for me, or anyone unlucky enough to spend much time with me. Compiling a timeline, to give myself reference points and really start to understand what happened has felt very important, although I’ve typically minimised its importance and my desire to compile one. Score one for prevarication. Regardless, some common sense has won out and through my diary entries, some help from Dad and application of some logic it is starting to come together. I have to accept that through my own choices in the past there are areas that will never become clear. There are others where I have chosen to record quite useful information, thoughts and decisions. It’s the danger with diaries – they are self edited, censored and potentially full of lies by omission and intent. We create history as we go along. That’s not awesomely helpful.
Anyway, the work on my timeline was aided by a few hours (with quite a lot of whiskey) going through my diaries from when I was at VI Form. It’s the only period of my life I’ve ever attempted to keep track of – in part it was because I was being hit by bewilderingly vivid dreams which struck me as worthy of record and that eventually became a record of my mental states during those two years (although always primarily a dream diary). I’ve intentionally not returned to them for many years. In fact they’ve been tied up in a bundle inside a locked box for about the last ten years.
I’d started to review them during counselling which had not been pleasant. Some of it is hilarious, in a wistful kind of way – there’s nothing like the pretentious profundity of teenagers (a thing we romanticise endlessly in film and literature), and I discovered that there’s relatively little about Ric in them. It’s apparent that there’s so little because I literally could not express how I felt. As a fairly articulate fellow (even then) my frustration and painful rage are almost tangible when I do manage to write about him. It’s very noticeable in the handwriting, which declines well below more normal poor legibility.
I still haven’t read through them in full – just skimmed with an averted eye – looking for dates and matching facts for the timeline. I have also marked them all up so I can find them easily, and avoid them when I’m looking for something else.
This is the timeline I have:

’88 (10) my parents split up
Sep ’90 (12) I choose to live with my Dad (in a very acrimonious and destructive way)
Late ’90 (12) first meet Ric when he’s a lodger with D (my ex-steps-sisters’ mum)
Early ’91 involved with our family activities, drinks with Dad, theatre etc.
Late ’91/early ’92 (12-13) – moves to Winshill, about half a mile away from home
’92-’93 (13-15) Ric founds BYTE (Burton Youth Theatre Enterprise) and I spend a lot of time with him
Aug ’93 I turn 15
Nov ’93 Ric moves to Amsterdam – we exchange letters for the next year or so
Aug ’94 I turn 16
Sep ’94 start of 1st year Sixth Form
Oct ’94 I have a bad falling out with almost all my close friends
Nov ’94 start of a close friendship/relationship with Miss L
Feb ’95 my beloved cat, Holly, is put to sleep
Feb ’95 I visit Ric in Amsterdam (Spring bank holiday)
Mar ’95 1st reference to self-harm in my diary
May ’95 1st account of what happened in Amsterdam in my diary
May ’95 account of my nosediving sleep habits and history in my diary
Jun ’95 I write to Ric, challenging what he’s done and forbidding him to come to Burton (he’s supposed to be visiting in Jul/Aug)
Jun 95 account of self-harm in diary
Jul ’95 increasingly infatuated with Miss L
Jul/Aug ’95 Ric visits, sees Dad. I see him very briefly but avoid him
Aug ’95 I turn 17
Sep ’95 start of 2nd year Sixth Form
Oct ’95 brief fling with a guy in the year below at school
Oct ’95 lost virginity (Miss L)
Nov ’95 last reference to Ric in my diary
Aug ’96 I turn 18
Sep ’96 start of university
Oct ’96 split up with Miss L

I realise there’s a lot of stuff in there which doesn’t necessarily sound relevant, but I’m increasingly thinking it is. All of life is tied together. When you’re talking about predatory child abusers it’s important to see the bigger picture. How could I possibly be a victim? Well, I can increasingly see that far from my current “go fuck yourself” aura of self-confidence I was a vulnerable and at times very lonely child. And that’s what these fuckers prey upon. I had a genuine need for an interesting friend who would make me feel good about myself and tell me about interesting things. And that’s sort of what I got…
February ’95 is the tipping point. Before then there was a year of peace, except for letters (which we’ll talk about separately later) and before that the two years in which the rest of the molestation took place. I don’t have any diary records for that period, and I don’t see how I can ever piece it together. I may, if I feel tough enough, write down every instance I can recall, though without dates or surety that they are separate or complete.
Although it takes me a while to write about I distinctly recall clawing at my own skin in horror, being unable to sleep and physically wracked with horror. I remember snapping the razor blades out of disposal razors with a penknife and a compass. And of course, I’ve got the scars. Though not too many. I remember cutting and hoping it would bleed through my clothes and someone could stop me and ask me if I was alright, and then I could collapse and break down in tears and let it all come flooding out. That never happened. I eventually had to explain to Miss L because I was just not the same person when I came back from Amsterdam.
I got out of the instant decline awful self-harm and depression by burying myself in a relationship with Miss L. From my diary I can see that was actually an incredibly stressful relationship (as well as being quite marvellous). I’m clearly fighting back – making choices to affirm who I am, at heart, away from what has happened to me. I don’t yet know what choices I made by myself, as opposed to those I felt compelled towards.
Whatever happened worked for a while. I got lost in love and A Levels, and then when I got to university I buried it all in drink and drugs, and love again. But then it came back. That’s one of the things I need to figure out next. Where did it go, why did it come back; did it ever really go away?

This week, Monday 17th September 2012

Muchas Distractiona

I’m most amused to follow a successful writing week with an abject failure of a week. Apologies in advance for the lack of novel scribblage. I’m being somewhat overtaken by work at the moment. I resent it bitterly but they do pay for me to live in a house and such. So I suppose I ought not to be too glum about it all. I shall be redoubling my efforts this week.

Nottingham Comedy Festival

The other distractions have largely been caused by preparations (or lack thereof) for the Nottingham Comedy Festival 2012 – I’ve got three shows, a spoken word night and two three hour workshops to cram in alongside work and life. So that’s going to be awesome – I hope to survive it. There’s also Teen Imps starting up soon (I’m teaching improv to the teenagers of Nottingham). It’s all very exciting and has required design time which has replaced writing time. Pff.

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Holy crap! I nearly forgot about TLAPD! Well gosh, I am missing it this year. Although I’ll be growling down the phone at work, I’ve no specific events lined up in pirates’ honour. I figure I do pirating every day, not just once a year. But I’ll be re-posting a load of stories all day so you’ll get a chance to re-read pirate tales from years ago.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  Twinned With Evil – part 2. The ruined city returns – this time, a look at its past.

Wednesday: a massive link to my pirate stories so you can massively overdose on piracy!

Thursday: Eric The Bewildered Weasel part 4. And why not? Let’s see if it’s starting to become less bewildering for the poor animals yet.

Round Up of Last Week

11th September: How We Hate HR – my 25th alphabetic story. This one’s mainly about HR being dicks. Can you imagine?

13th September: Shankalata – Tasting the Hate Verse – some more lovely bitter poetry.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff I’m doing coming up in Nottingham:

MissImp in Action – Friday 21st September at The Glee Club 8.30pm
Pub Poetry – Monday 24th September at The Canalhouse 8pm FREE
Mission Improbable – Wednesday 26th September at Create Theatre 7.30pm
The Pirate Coves – Thursday 27th September at The Golden Fleece 8pm FREE
Introduction to Improv Comedy – Saturday 29th September at Spanky Van Dykes 1pm

Slightly Broken: Letters From The Past

OK, so I admit I’ve cracked open a bottle of beer in order to start writing this one (also related to eating a massively hot bowl of chillis and olives – this is how I prepare to blog?!) I’m not certain that’s a good start – it may not indicate that I’m ready to talk about this stuff. Ho hum.

So my last post was about me (it’s always about me) figuring out the timeline of stuff that happened to me, and the other events that were going around them. Mostly I’ve done that from odd diary entries, including an abortive diary from way back in 1991. Not all of it though. On Monday, at my counselling session I decided to take another one of my bold leaps forwards. These are not necessarily well-reaoned leaps. I get annoyed with my own reluctance to open up and to talk about things (I need new terms for ‘things’ and ‘stuff) and, especially when I feel I shouldn’t be wasting my counsellor’s time, I am prone to unthinkingly kicking open tins of worms.

I am one of those people who are unable to throw anything away. I think it’s pathological. In addition to my diaries, a million flyers and birthday cards and cinema tickets I’ve kept every letter I’ve ever received (no, not including bank statements or bills). So I’ve got birthday cards and letters from Ric during that year between him moving to Amsterdam and me going to visit (the temptation to add “fateful” or similar is strong, but I don’t want to turn this into a TV melodrama). Like everything else I’ve kept them tightly bundled up and enveloped, not wishing to accidentally expose myself to them. Well, that changed on Monday…

The letters are dated, obviously, so I thougt I might be able to add some bits into my timeline. However, I couldn’t figure out the post mark time stamp so I figured I may as well open them. In retrospect that just shows me how tense I was – never mind that I nearly cracked a tooth during the session, I apparently couldn’t work out the dd – mm (in Roman numerals) – yy system.

Honestly, I found them horrifying. They’re friendly, joking, encouraging – the sort of letter you’d hope to get to cheer you up. Funny, that’s really not how they make me feel now. Just the sight of his handwriting sent blades of pain through me. The typed letters are fractionally better, despite the old bubblejet printer feel, the italic habit is weird. But these are just distractions. Why I found them so hard to read – and I’ll be honest, I grabbed the dates from all of them (which allowed me to instantly not read the last letter – that’s definitely for a much later day) and just read the first two – I don’t know, this is hard to express.

Second try. The letters make me remember Ric as a friend. That’s what I wanted him to be – and found to be worthwhile. We all need friends. But he chose to ruin that (I think he’d always planned to); if it weren’t for whatever the fuck is wrong with these people we could still be friends – I could always have used an extra uncle or mentor. But I know what happened, both before and after these letters. I received them during a year of peace, in which Ric was out of the country and I was untouched.

Re-reading the letters, I’m vividly cast back to the mental states that I experienced as a teenager – torn between admiration and affection for this really interesting man who treated me like an adult (yeah, that ought to be a massive red light right there) and the discomfort, pain and fear for this man who abused me despite that, who dismissed the trust that I placed in him, made me lie for him, trapped me and fucked up my head for 20 years. I suppose it’s a kind of cognitive dissonance or optical illusion – when I read the letters my mind is popping back and forth between affection (and the most fucked up thoughts follow – maybe I was in the wrong, I really blew that out of proportion – this is clearly just a feller who’s gotten confused about the boundaries…) and then immediately to memory of what really happened. It felt fucking awful. That’s when I nearly cracked a tooth clenching my jaw so tight. I need to chew gum in future.

I felt incredibly disoriented, nauseous and angry; that’s a confusing combination I can tell you. But it’s interesting too. Reading them now I can see that the tone of the letters is waaaaaay too familiar – they’re like something I might say to a friend of the same age, maybe. They’re also signed off with “love” which almost made me vomit. I might post one of them up here, just for context. The thing is, and it still gets me now – they’re nice letters. That’s where the dissonance arises. It kicks back in when I realise I’m sitting in a counsellor’s office forcing myself to read through this shit that puts pain in my body and mind; then it flips again.

It is precisely like being groomed to begin with, neatly encapsulated in letter form.

Slightly Broken: Establishing Blame

It’s not my fault you know. I have to keep reminding myself of that. I’m used to taking responsibility for my actions. I believe that I am a (more or less) rational agent. I forget that this wasn’t always the case. As children, and even as teenagers we have virtually no freedom; no ability to choose. We pretend that we did – “oh, I wish I was a child again” “school was the best time of my life”. If those are your genuine thoughts then you’re really not making the most of adulthood.
In addition to lack of genuine choice we’re also (mostly) insulated from both our good and bad intentions and what few independent actions we achieve – our parents, school, society insulate us by and large from their effects. And those choices we thought we made for ourselves – within the tight confines of being a dependant in full time education who has the friends they met and was hated by least on the first day of school in the class we were deposited based on our previous school’s report and assessment of how we behaved in another tightly restricted environment… well, I imagine you can see where I’m going with this. Despite that I persist in extending my current freedoms (which are somewhat illusory, though vastly more genuine than as a teenager) backwards in time – to justify my actions and inactions as if I were who I now am.
It’s absurd. I am no more who I was 20 years ago than you are. I don’t just mean biologically – every single cell in my body is a different cell now of course. Me inside – I can barely scratch at who I was, why I acted as I did (I’m fond of the diagnosis that as an adolescent we are literally insane). Yet my thoughts persist, fractured, distorted, distended through time and change.
It feels, or seems very important to me that I can assert that being abused was in some sense my fault – that I had the freedom to choose – to leave – to say no – to tell my family – to run – that I chose, genuinely chose to stay – to allow – to permit – to condone – to assent – to participate – to want it.
It’s a lie. What my mind is trying to do is rewrite my history – if I can convince myself that I chose to be abused, to enter consensually into a sexual relationship with an adult, then I can take solace in the notion that my intentions were good – to be loved, to have a relationship, and the consequences – well, if they were not as I’d hoped, well… shit happens. We do things with good intentions every day that turn out horribly (and vice versa).
Thing is, that’s like forgiveness (another monstrous, morally reprehensible lie): the easy way out. By blaming myself I focus my pain back onto myself. I’m here, I can be punished. Ric – that fucking child molesting cunt – is not. How much easier to take the blame onto myself where I can do something with it (beat myself up)? Well fuck you pal.
What I am struggling to grasp (and my weak mind is making it slippery, so I can fall into the easy goal of self-blame) is that this was orchestrated. I was groomed. Identified as vulnerable, conditioned, exploited, abused. The choices that I wish I had – at best, at fucking terrifying best – were the least worst choices I could make to survive. Acts of omission, easier, safer to commit. Jesus fuck.
That’s scary – to accept that I was pushed to the point where being fondled by a grown man in his bed when I was 15 was actually balanced out by having had a nice evening watching Silence of the Lambs and drinking cider. Are you fucking kidding me? Does that sound like someone making a valid choice? Does it fuck.
I’ve been agonising over why it was that I actually went to Amsterdam to see the man who had abused me. It seems incomprehensible to me now. Right now, I’d either get on the plane and buy a knife from the first supermarket I found or simply tell him to go fuck himself. As if either of those were options at 16. Amsterdam is possibly the coolest place in the world to go to when you’re 16 with an adult friend who will take you to bars and coffee shops. There’s that, there’s having been friends for years, not having previously disclosed to family what had been happening (“well, why don’t you want to go?)”, and the sheer pitiful desperate hope that maybe, just maybe it will just be fun and we’ll be just friends like I always tried to believe we were. The choice that I keep thinking I made is a myth.
Still more, once we were there: 16 year old kid, in a foreign country, staying in the flat of an adult man who has your passport, pre-mobile phones and internet. Sound planned much? Yeah, and that’s some of what I’m forcing myself to realise and accept. So the choices I made once I was there: already conditioned not to complain, not to run away; trapped; disinhibited (alcohol and weed in the fabulous bars of that glorious city); in a horrible net of trust and fear. You tell me: how many choices were real after that? I realised tonight in counselling, and I don’t think I’ve quite articulated it like this before (though I think that I’ve thought it) – if I had said no; if I hadn’t (as I even now perceive it) given in, there’s a very real chance that I would never have come home.
I did what I had to do to survive – I did all I could do at the time. The conditions were not set by me; they were imposed on me in a clever, manipulative, intentional way. And to think that what has been mind-fucking me recently is that I’m trying to fathom the man, trying to reconcile the good parts that I recall with the monster. What a joke. I’m still being groomed. That’s how effective this behaviour is.
In part I realised tonight that what I’d forgotten was hate. Maybe I’d passed beyond it – the stage where it’s just exhausting to be so angry and full of loathing, and maybe that loathing was too closely associated with myself, so my mind had separated us. The memory of Ric has become detached from the things he did, the things that torment me and crush me inside. Perversely he has attached to the good memories. Hence my confusion about the man or the monster. Even inside my fucking mind he’s attached himself to the good parts.
Well that’s not on. That’s not right. That’s not fair. We’ll not be having that.
To be fair, writing this immediately after counselling has helped. I’m enraged now. Now I’m associating correctly again. Its going to take some work, but I’m going to re-learn why I hate this man.

Twinned With Evil – part 2

This is the second part of a story – read Part 1 first (if you want).

I am relieved to find the old apartment building still standing in the light. The street lights flicker and strobe as I walk towards it and I will them to remain lit. They do. My hand hardly shakes at all as I fit the key into the lock. The shadows rush out past me; I feel their passing against my skin. They flee to join the night and the bleakness that infests it.

The flat is dark and empty. But still mine. Not much more than a round table and a bed. It is clean and the cupboards not as pitifully bare as I left them, so my boss must have had it maintained; he always feared I would need to return. Night falls heavily outside, the darkness reaching up to pull the blanket over itself. I draw the curtains to keep it out.

Dreams torment my sleep. Being here brings all my memories of the last time back in a flood. It is one of those awful dreams where I dream of waking and am still asleep. It takes me back to the last time I was here: before I banished myself my role was to adjudicate in the election. I wake in the narrow wooden bed and the light is plowing through the air above me, painting ghosts and nightmare figures on the scarred wallpaper. Breakfast is a nauseating lurch across the flat and back, puppeteered by the dream. My mind seems intent on replaying the details I have cast aside; the ashen taste of cereal, the sourness of milk. My clothes do not fit properly.

The door slams behind me, beating an echo into the air which travels before me. The distance between the flat and the office goes by in long stutters of treacle slowness and flashing speed. The city had not gone bad then, but it was surely on the way. Even by daylight the streets were subdued, the people reclusive. Just a month earlier the last music hall had burned to the ground and the football stadium had closed. We no longer wanted to associate with others. Quiet bars, and oddly, the libraries had even had a resurgence of interest. The shadow of imminent violence hangs over everything.

I pass the staring faces that watch me as I walk down the roads to the office. They had relocated the government offices underground after the murder sprees started. Bloody, awful affairs that ended hundreds of lives. Shop workers, wives, teachers, electricians. There seemed to be no pattern until we looked at where they lived or worked. “Frequency of contact” was the official conclusion, and it held true for all the later events. It was as if we’d hit the maximum number of people we could see and still care about and yet society just kept pushing more in our faces. There was that, and something more.

I was recruited when I survived the Beynemouth Slaughter. That was when I discovered the kind of threat I, and those like me are. We can talk about good and evil, light and dark and get all philosophical about what makes a woman good or evil, we can euphemise as much as we like. It doesn’t change the facts, only hides that some of us revel in the violence and in the darkness. Our existence made it worse – people already hated being near each other but we thrived on it, instigated it. If we’d known we were doing it, if I’d known that was what I was doing… well. I didn’t, and in our ignorance we hit a critical mass of hate and fear in the City, and made it real.

Evil became a presence, and people succumbed to it. The community purges which followed as religious and political leaders, as well as the damaged people already waiting for an opportunity, incited further fear, spreading the darkness and ensuring that blood was spilled. I could feel it, almost smell the hatred in the air. I’d never really felt alive before. I attended a rally where I found myself shouting and shaking my fists. The darkness moved with me, like streamers from my fingertips and I cast it over the crowd with my words.

The Beynemouth Slaughter that followed tore a hole in our world, a place for the bleak consuming hate to live and fester like a gash in our City. The agency was formed shortly afterward and I was one of its first agents. Cedric knew what I was, had picked me out of the photographs of the riots and turmoil. I was scared and repentant. I’d relished the sensations that surrounded me as men bludgeoned each other to death, loved watching the dark blossoming from the mob. But I saw that it lingered, saw it become part of the city. I watched it grow, felt it grow and stretch, distort and gnaw at everything. Despite my lust for it I realised that it was destructive. I’m not a bad person, just an evil one. That’s what my boss helped me to understand.

Part 3 coming soon…

Eric The Bewildered Weasel 4

This is the fourth part of a story – read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Not all of those who lived outside the forest were so vocal in their disapproval. In fact some had managed to rise above the peer pressure and met with the missionary squirrels. Anthony Cornstook, father to the small family vaguely recalled that his great-great-great-grandfather had dwelled beneath leafy boughs, and well – what a place: word was, the food was good and prospects were bright. When they arrived, they would find a rich social life (including the promise of old friends) and a more secure home. There was a lot of appeal there. Why not shift nest? And that was that.

Harvest mice aren’t particularly materialistic but they had enough to warrant hiring a young hare as guide-cum-porter. Tonight was the night and a nervously excited family finished strapping down everything within their round apartment.

Anthony sat at the door, overlooking the fields from their vantage point up in the wheat. A pair of long ears rose out of the long grass, twitching and turning. Satisfied, Everett hopped over the rise and tapped the wheat stem twice. The high house rattled under the hare’s touch and five mice scurried down the stem leaving Anthony at the door. When they reached the ground and greeted Everett, Anthony climbed on the roof of the apartment and bit through the twine binding it to the stem. Anthony rode their home down like an elevator to the bottom where he hopped off. Everett snapped the wheat stem and placed their home on the ground.

“All set then are we?” asked Everett cheerfully. Anthony took a last look at the old wheatfields, knowing in his little heart that he had made the right decision, for him and his family. Then the hare bounded off for the forest with the nest strapped tightly to his chest, the six harvest mice nestled inside.

It was a hell of a journey, or a journey through hell, depending on which of the mice you asked. Finally, Everett reached a small clearing near a stream. He stooped to crawl into the middle of a dense thorny bush, bumping the mouse house along the ground.

“Right, this is it. Welcome to The Oval!” he declared and released the dizzy harvest mice. “There’s loads of mice round here, I moved the Barleywhites and Cornflowers down here just last new moon,” Anthony knew them well but was trying to find a single point to focus on while the ground stopped lurching around.

“It’s been great actually,” Everett continued, “I’ve lost track of how many folks have come back, not just mice but birds, and frogs of course, so you might want to stay close to home for a bit. Oh – do watch out for owls if you leave the hedgey bits and don’t worry about food – ah I see you’ve brought some anyway. Either way you’re expected, people know you’re arriving this evening, so I’m sure someone will pop in once you’re unpacked. I don’t know whether you’ve thought about going diurnal yet? Well, I’ll leave you to think some more about that – it’s a family decision I’ve always thought,” the hare paused to draw breath so Anthony interrupted him,

“Well, all that sounds splendid. Could you lend us a paw to place the apartment?”

“Naturally, I’d be delighted to help,” They heaved (well, Anthony heaved as Everett easily lifted) the little home high up into the thorny branches where it would be safe from almost anything. Everett left them with only a few more words of advice and then leaped off, satisfied. The family unpacked anything which hadn’t already been unpacked by the journey and settled down for the night.

Two of the mice stayed up for a little while longer peering out through the thorns of their new home. Anthony’s youngest daughter, Lizbeth smiled sleepily at him. He stroked his daughter’s ear fur fondly and sighed with satisfaction. He and his wife had been worried about uprooting the kids. But they seemed happy, if very tired by the move so far. Lizbeth was delighted just by being surrounded by trees: they were high up, but the trees themselves were still higher around them.

How odd, thought Anthony. You go your whole life quite contentedly in a field – regular food, known enemies, then one day you wake up and realise you need something completely different. When that squirrel had bumped into him in the field one day, he found that he didn’t just want to go, he could go. In fact, Anthony had been so impressed that he brought the squirrel straight home to meet his wife. That there was such a nice and polite rodent from the forest quite outweighed her suspicions. The children had been won over especially quickly. It turned out that several of Lizbeth’s creche-mates had already gone.

“The Order of Squirrels has always been interested in providing assistance to our emigrating cousins,” the squirrel had explained, “and in encouraging others to help them. How can I help you?” Anthony had explained how he felt, the Order was sympathetic and it was all arranged there and then. Elated, he explained to the family that “It’s a ‘boom’ time for moving! The thickets have never been thicker!” And so here they were.

Looking out at the night sky, it all looked so different than in the fields. The branches of trees framed the rising moon beautifully. Anthony began to yawn with Lizbeth asleep under his forepaws, snoring gently. He stopped mid-yawn as the moon was blotted out by the silhouettes of a bat and an owl gliding side by side.

“Not in the country anymore,” mumbled Lizbeth in her sleep. He picked her up by the scruff and went to bed.

This week, Monday 24th September 2012

Breaking Time

I’m taking a week off. Yep, it pains me to say it but I’ve been running myself ragged at work, out of work, at fun and at some less fun stuff too. So – no stories planned for this week I’m afraid. There is a enough other stuff going on this week anyway! It’s the Nottingham Comedy Festival, we’ve had one improv show already with more to come…

Monday 24th September: Pub Poetry – Open Mic Spoken Word @ The Canalhouse


This will be loads of fun – I run this as an open mic poetry karaoke night. Anyone is welcome to come along to share and hear delightfully comic verse, stories and any other word-formed humour you can muster.
We’re at the Canalhouse in Nottingham (upstairs) THIS MONDAY (24th Sept) at 8pm – lovely pub, great beer and food and Pub Poetry is entirely free. Bring your poems and stories, books of favourites and your friends. I’ll be reading some short pirate tales, maybe some Shankanalia and I believe we’ll also have some of the other MissImp team reading their work and contributing to the overall fun bag. Event info on the NCF site here.

Thursday 27th September: The Pirate Coves – pirate tales and comedy songs @ The Golden Fleece


Gaargh, this the main event- meself spinning pirate tales and compereing a night of fantastic comic songs from the admirably hillbilly folk strummers of The DH Lawrence & Vaudeville Skiffle Show. They are a wonderfully talented gang of dark Americana songsters with fine soulful voices, knowing winks and instruments ranging from “proper” guitars to washboards, bells and those funny tiny little banjo things. Looks like we’ve got a good mix of their collective in attendance – click on the title link above to get a peek at them in action. To improve it even further, the whole thing is FREE. It starts at 8pm at The Golden Fleece pub on Mansfield Road Event info on the NCF site here.

Saturday 28th September: Introduction to Improv Comedy @ Spanky Van Dykes

This is a bit different – less piracy, but ideal for anyone with a theatre, comedy or creative mind with a sense of fun – this is a full introduction to the wonders of improv, led by meself in me improv performer guise. The only thing I can guarantee is that you’ll have a good time. 1-4pm £10. Get yer tickets now. NCF info.

So that should all keep me busy for the week…

Last Week’s Scribblings

Tuesday 18th September – Twinned With Evil – part 2 the city filled with evil continues to fester and we get a peek at when it all happened.
Wednesday 19th September – Talk Like A Pirate Day – 3 posts with links to all of my pirate tales many thanks to those wonderful friends who shared and retweeted these tales:
Pirate Stories part 1

Pirate Stories part 2

Pirate Stories part 3

Thursday 20th September – Eric the Bewildered Weasel part 4 developing a social picture of this unusual woodland.