The Tusky Adventure

The Grim Bastard, our noble ship, seemed bound for a sad landing. We saw the murderous water from way off, but like a grotesque and many breasted tramp it was unavoidable. We stared, gape-wise at the mouth until The Grim Bastard ground into the vicious lumps of ice that littered the sea like buboes on a whore-master’s buttocks. Reluctantly we debarked from the wreckage of our vessel, and shambled onto the shifting sheets of ice that made up our makeshift landfall.

Me eye was captivated once again, for across the grimy whiteness appeared a man. He strode across the ice towards us in slight sliding hops. As he slid down the nearest ‘berg I noted that his feet were… oddly shaped. Twas as he picked himself up that I realised his feet were shod in a pair of baby harp seals. They blinked at me. I felt I ought to offer a wink in return. The man, girt in the slippery mammal slippers grinned of a sudden and let loose with a flurry o’ Frenchish hooting. I’ve a smattering of Grenouille and I discerned from his barbarous exposition that he hailed from the Canadish lands, though sadly from the wrong colony.

The fellow had apparently been enagin’ in the habitual slaughter of innocent and cute creatures to which his people are predisposed and had grown stranded when he mistook a pygmy walrus for a baby seal. The beast had reared and shown its frightful tusks, then with speed and alcacrity, plunged ’em into the surprised Canadian’s thigh. He kicked the brute to a still silence and bled his way across the packed ice and weed to our stranded ship.

His tale of woe twanged an harmonious chord in me black heart – many’s the time I’ve been bested by a seemingly vulnerable creature. I strive to overcome me innate sensitivity and bludgeon the thing without thinking. I hauled him aboard our forlorn ship. Gunther slathered some offensive unguent on his stab wounds and deposited him in me cabin.

Vincent de Vache-Gauche was the fellow’s name and we caroused into the night, our drinking punctuated by the curses of a thousand tongues and cries of “huzzah”. We attained five bells in the morning through continuous imbation of rum and the coffee brewed (in an increasingly incompetent manner) by Monty McBuboe. Twas fortuitous that we’d intoxicated ourselves in such a manner, for it meant that we were awake to hear the watch be slaughtered at their posts. That in itself was not the luckish part – twas in truth an upset to witness their bubbled shrieks and gasps of horror, never mind the thumps and dragging of their bodies about the deck.

Twas only when we burst from the cabin, swords bared and leanin’ on one another for balance, that we discovered the cause of the awful sounds (which troubled me for some days and ruined quite a number of naps) – the corpses of me men were being raced back and forth across the deck by a pair of bull walruses like a pair of tug-along toy ships, their tusks firmly stuck in the ribs of those poor men.

At our approach the beasts attempted still further exertions to free their penetrative teeth, but to no avail. For though they raised themselves onto their muscular hindquarters and shook their heads to cast off their burdens, it seemed more some morbid puppet show, to which their roaring chorus added but an element of greater grotesquerie. We spared little time, beyond that of considering the artistic merit of their marionetted massacre. Vache-Gauche and I plunged our sabres into their thick neck fat and gently persuaded the swimmish man-beasts to release me mates.

Normally I’d have laid the blame at our visitor’s feet but we’d spent the night a-frenzied in caffeinated liquor. Instead I railed at the stars, who were most certainly culpable of being there and failing to intervene. Damn them pointy pricks o’ light what puncture that veil of night with their promise o’ foreign dawn that never comes to brighten our fates. By that disingenous starlight I spotted a lumbering presence without the vessel. We rushed to the rail and saw, in the astral gloom a thousand shapes, humping their graceless way across the ice. When the walruses realised they were spotted they let loose with a deep hoon of rage, reminiscent of one o’ Hamish McMuffin’s intestinal exploits.

Twas to be a hideous battle of blades and blubber. I lost count of the tubby legless manimals I ran through, the tusks I turned away and rammed into the wood of me deck, before decapitating the beast with me shiny blade. Wave after wave they came at us, their flesh rippling with the effort. If it were not for their numbers their very ineptitude at attack would have doomed them all. They ran as if humping jelly, truly they are better in the water. Twas almost cruel to run ’em through. Vincent and I pierced, poked and prodded back to back with a fury born o’ inebriation. And yet they mobbed us. In truth, twas in fact the violence o’ their onslaught that ensured our victory. For the constant pounding of their flubber against The Grim Bastard’s waist eventually shunted her from the frosty clutches of the iceberg.

The few monstrous mercows that remained on board we slew; the rest flounced at us in their watery way, too far below the rail to threaten us. We left a wake of obese corpses behind us into which killer whales plunged like babes drowning for apple bobbing. The action ceased and we found ourselves giggling hysterically. Twas clearly time for another coffee, and perhaps a dance with these curiously lady-like sea beasts, well, if ye squint and drink a great deal they’re not at unappealing. Twas an unusual voyage and one I must confess is a haze of regret and hangover. Vincent de Vache-Gauche seemed a promising crew member and we allocated him the task of identifying prospective wenchery. He’s proven partially successful.

Slightly Broken: Tension, Always in the Stomach

I assume other people get this, a twisting heaviness in the pit of my stomach. (Or rather, where I imagine my stomach to be – it’s actually somewhat lower in my abdomen. Pah, details.) I’ve been getting it a lot lately. I associate it with stress and worry about things. Anything really – a sense of dread that I apply to everything in the future, even those things I think I’m looking forwards to. I’m getting it a lot before going to bed. Do I fear my dreams? They’ve certainly been quite strange of late, though not especially awful. Normally I try to soak it in alcohol because that’s an effective distraction, but tonight (apart from the drinks I’ve already had) I’m going to attempt a cup of soup. It really doesn’t have the same ring to it as a glass of whiskey.
I know there are a group of issues related to counselling that have me worrying: I’ve written a letter to my Mum, explaining what happened and why I’m in counselling at the moment. I haven’t posted it yet. I should. I want to. I know there is no good time for her, that there has only been now for me. I’m also kind of afraid of coming to the end of counselling – which is what I think I’m running up towards. I haven’t ever perceived the future as a thing I can be involved with. I tend to let it happen. It’s definitely worrying me, though i find it hard to narrow down why. I’ve had a couple of weeks now where I’ve been rebounding sharply between feeling free and empty and feeling empty and dark. I don’t  understand what the triggers are that get me running up and down that ladder. I don’t like it though.
I find this internal tension very difficult to regulate. I try the deep breathing and holding and releasing my breath. It doesn’t seem to do anything. Eventually I’ll fall asleep, although the period between lying down in bed and going to sleep can be filled with this internal grinding. Maybe it’s the conflict between my mental processes and my emotional ones. I can figure stuff out and be clear in my head without having grasped it at a deeper level. Maybe I’m just catching up.
I have counselling again tomorrow, and I’m nervous about that too. I think, perhaps because I’ve gone through all my diaries and letters, that I feel there should be nothing left. I’m a literal, evidence based sort of person and I’m aware that I assume that having decided a thing, then it ought to be so. We deceive ourselves well. The fact is that I haven’t yet sent this letter to my Mum, which means I can’t open up about all this crap. And today I was stabbed in the mind by memories once more – something that I don’t think has happened for a few weeks. It’s somewhat upsetting.
Maybe I’m just confused. I’ve already admitted that this is a fragile vulnerable time. Pressures at work and in some subsets of my real life have seemed far more significant and stressful than they really ought to be. It’s possible that this is all just being inflated. And I’m more aware at the moment, since I’m getting more sleep. Perversely that does appear to make things worse! I’m slower, duller – ah now I’m exaggerating too. I never climb as well when I’ve slept well. Essentially, something’s bothering me and I can’t really figure out what. Maybe that’s what tomorrow will bring.

This week, Monday 5th November 2012

The Little Grey Cells

I’ve seen more Poirot this week than ever before. My other half adores Agatha Christie adaptations so if they’re on, we watch them. Or at least absorb them while doing something else. Plus I have always admired Poirot’s magnificent (and lamentably glued on) moustache. He waxes and cares for them so well.

I don’t know if it’s that which has sped on my own reading, but something has. It’s been an odd week otherwise too that has featured an awful premonition of the next 6 months at work. It’s going to be very busy and rather wearing, but will at least be different. That’s potentially good. Hopefully it won’t screw up my writing time too much.

This week’s media consumption:

Blood Rites (Dresden Files #6) – Jim Butcher
Twinkle Little Star – Jennifer Kirk
Divine Misfortune – A. Lee Martinez
Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7) – Jim Butcher
Darkly Dreaming Dexter – Jeff Lindsay
Hellboy Volume 4 The Right Hand of Doom – Mike Mignola

I’ve enjoyed them all and will hopefully get round to posting up some super-short reviews of each/most/some of them. Dresden’s still keeping me chipper!

Oh, we also got to see Skyfall at the cinema. Bond is definitely back and better than ever. He’s quite recovered from the shambles that was Quantum of Solace and I’d really like to watch Skyfall again. It seemed to have the best of the old Bond films while still finding scenes and set pieces we’ve never seen before. Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig and Judi Dench make for a splendid 143 minutes. Oh – great credit sequence and ace Bond song too courtesy of Adele. And Komodo Dragons. Yay.

We finally finished season 2 of Fringe. Yes, season 2. I know we’re four years behind. I think it’s wonderful.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  Just One Cup of Coffee -a very short short story to make you drink slower.

Wednesday: Pulp Pirate 13: Flash Cast 72– better late than never…

Thursday: The Welcome Rescue Adventure. Another super short story. More piratical fun.

Round Up of Last Week

30th October: Derby Speaker’s Corner – video and photos of some daft piratical escapades.

31st October: Terrifying Stories – Hallowe’en Repost – a quartet of chilling pirate tales.

1st November: The Tusky Adventure – Captain Pigheart takes on Canadians and walruses in this icy tale.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff I’m doing coming up in Nottingham and thereabouts:

Little Wolf Parade – Saturday 10th November – I’m compereing and performing in this deviant debacle:

10th November @ MOBIUS – The amazing new venue (and I’m Not From London HQ) opposite The Old Angel

“Lets explore the ugly, beautiful, the sublime and create a new adventure. Lick the glitter from your wounds baby & come join in the parade!”
I’m Not From London events have teamed up with a group of artists and curators to develop “Little Wolf Parade” – an experimental subversive art adventure in a reclaimed building in Nottingham.
Little Wolf Parade will create a space where the boundaries of Art/Music/Sound & audience blur. Where radical, experimental, provocative, beautiful, ugly, sublime, political and humorous art can exist, explore and evolve…
Led down the dark and mysterious path by Pigheart from MissImp comedy
Tickets £5 advanced – £6 on the door (collection of paper tickets from The City Art Gallery – down the alley next to The Works Book shop in the city center / opposite the tourist info). Tickets can be purchased from The City Gallery or in person from Rachel Parry or Will Robinson – Email : or for details.

Slightly Broken: Making Decisions

I’m not a very decisive person. That might not sound very honest to anyone who knows me. I can make decisions for others – about work, about improv, but for myself? It’s hard.
It’s like this – it’s related to the awful tension I feel inside. When I winnow it down to the causes, it always leaves the decision itself lying in wait under all the prevaricatory chaff I try to drown it in. I’ve muttered about this before, in relation to accepting what is offered to me and taking always the easiest choice, or the one with least prospect for conflict. In part it’s just easier – folk offer you stuff and you say yes. The onus is on them. All you’ve done is try to please them, done the thing that they wanted. Wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings or cause a scene. It’s when I chase down the reasoning that it all starts to feel horribly familiar.
I find this difficult to break down meaningfully – there are lots of decisions I have cause to make, both professionally and personally. The work-related ones I find quite painless – occasionally I’ll later worry about a decision I’ve made, some selection or other, but generally I don’t. I think it’s because I don’t really care – it’s only work after all. It’s not me, it’s not (usually) about people I care about. They are also decisions that I’m forced to make – I have deadlines and other work and people to fit in and it’s just easier to make a decision, quickly and get it done. It’s still the easiest path. It avoids the conflict of failing to do something, and frankly it’s such a backward organisation that even making a wrong choice is virtually undetectable and probably still a better call than what the directors would come up with. Sigh. Basically: work-related decisions are zero-consequence and easier than not to make.
So – what else is left? I have a genuine horror of planning for the future. I don’t know quite when it came to feel so overwhelming. And I’m not talking about career path or family planning (Cthulu forbid the thought!) I mean the simple things – plan for Christmas, plan to see a friend, think about a booking a day off, decide what to have for tea. It sounds absurd when I bring it down to that level, but they all generate the same sensations inside me – a void of fear opens in me. I’m struggling to understand why. There have been events which sounded really cool that I so feared a confrontation about whether to go to it or not that I just let the date slide, unspoken until it was past and there was no decision to make: I relaxed again. I don’t think it’s fearing that I’ll make the wrong decision – some of these actually don’t have a wrong decision component. If we eat sausages instead of burgers, who gives a toss right? Well, I think I imagine that someone else does. I think I imagine, and anticipate conflict – whether or not a conflict is inevitable, or even likely.
I’m also aware that I feel much better and happier when a decision has been made – when a thing is fixed and true; agreed and approved. I can then just get tense about getting there on time and with whatever we need… it takes a long time for an event to become routine enough that I don’t have to worry about it, or to worry about what I need to take with me. Improv shows are a great example of this. I happen to keep all of the mics, camera, whose lines and flyers and countless objects of improv ephemera – therefore it is my responsibility to bring it. For a long time I’d worry about that, about forgetting things. I had lists for a while. Eventually it became so routine for me that I no longer give it a third thought (yeah, I know).
For those events and choices which are not routine I believe I’m caught between two opposing and potentially quite daft concerns. On the one hand I do appreciate that sense of the future as being ripe with possibility – once I’ve made a decision that possibility is gone. Sure, whatever I’ve managed to plan might be great, might be awful, but it’s determined (more or less). If I don’t make a decision that wondrous sense of potential just keeps carrying forward while I do nothing when it finally rolls around. The best thing about this is that the potential keeps pushing on. Until age, or the awareness of ageing catches up to me, compounding the fear of planning with the fear of not planning anything. What an incredibly stupid clusterfuck of a Catch-22.
The other concern that grabs me (with those things I do give a toss about because they concern others I care about) is that of imposing my will on others. I don’t have any desire to make you do something that you don’t want to. The very thought guts me. I don’t want to make a choice that fails to meet the needs or expectations of someone else – from what to eat for dinner to choosing to see some friends three weeks from now. I’m acutely conscious when faced with a decision that it impacts on someone else. And it physically pains me. I imagine the face of disappointment (or worse), the pained resignation to the consequences of that decision, the argument that must surely follow revelation the decision itself that needs to be made.
Sounds like a mess, huh? Well, it is. And it really does hurt me. I’ve become much more proficient of late at accepting the gifts of others, making a decision at someone else’s behest (of things that I do want to do). That’s a good start – it’s sort of easier than saying no and risking their disappointment, but it’s also skipping a step in my head – the agony of discussing a decision: it’s made, deal with it (in a nice way). That’s progress, but I need to stop imagining the suffering of others, maximise my own desires in decision making (without transgressing genuine barriers), and reap the satisfaction of having a future which I have control of.
That’s important – I don’t have control. Ever since making the false decisions of my teenage years to not speak out, to not refuse – decisions made in fear of the consequences, both real and imagined – I had to deal with the consequences. I made a choice to say “yes”, a decision that nauseates me now, and did then. It was the only choice I had, and I made it because I was alone, in the flat of an adult in a foreign country, with family or anyone I knew hundreds of miles away. But I made that decision, limited as it was – to say “yes”, to let it all happen. Then I made a further choice, to stay silent, to not speak out in fear of the controversy, the trouble it would cause – a fear of not being believed, the conflicts that might arise I stayed silent. I made the easy choices (even though I acknowledge, and know for the first time that these were not real choices), and suffered for them. But survived. And this is how I make all decisions – I prevaricate until events overtake me and nullify my sense of agency, or agree to the easiest way despite it not being what I want, content in the knowledge that I have at least not forced my will upon another.
Now though, I have a glimpse of the future. It’s never felt real before. It’s fucking scary, I can tell you. That future can only be defined by the making of decisions. I’m bound by my past, by a past forced upon me by someone who would never make the decisions he inflicted upon me. I’m trapped, lying under the weight of those ideas that have sunk into my unconsciousness – never force someone against their wishes, never take responsibility for something I don’t want. It’s backward and fucked up. These are things to reject.

Third, by Portishead – particularly the tracks Magic Doors and Small – background to tonight’s considerations.

Just One Cup of Coffee

Percy choked on his coffee, snorting some of the scalding liquid up his nose and filling his eyes with tears. He issued a horrible bubbling cough and spat black coffee onto the table cloth. With rasping breath he calmed down and mopped at his nose and brow with a handkerchief. Then he dabbed at the spattered table apologetically. His hand shook with a fain tremor as he replaced the handkerchief and took a cautious sip of the offending drink. And promptly repeated the scene.

His companion looked on from across the table, regarding Percy’s drinking incompetence with no more passion than a raised eyebrow as the man turned red and gargled.

“For Christ’s sake Percy, what the hell’s wrong with you?”

“Went. Down. Wrong. Way.”

“Mmm. Third time lucky,” he sipped at his own double espresso.

A fresh spasm of wheezing gasps wracked Percy, “Can I have. Some of your water?” he croaked. The other man nudged the bottle towards him. Those trembling hands barely got the screw cap off.

He was holding it to his lips when he choked for a third time.

“What? What the hell are you choking on now? What could possibly be the problem?” the other man demanded, snatching back his water.

Poor Percy spluttered and coughed, having in mere anticipation of liquid, sucked his own saliva into his windpipe. One long harrowing breath turned his ears pink and his eyes red. His feet tapped on the floor. His face positively glowed and the tears dripped onto the table. One fist beat slowly on the tabletop, slowing until it stopped. Percy’s head lolled backwards and his arms fell slack to his sides.

His companion rolled his eyes in frustration. “Really?” he tapped his fingers on the table, glancing around the empty coffee house. The barrista had left them alone, and it was after closing time. Their table was in one of just a few patches of light in the place; the rest dwelt in black coffee shades. Resentfully he got out of his seat, leaned over and punched Percy in the sternum as hard as he could, and then sat back.

Percy’s eyes whipped open and he ejected a wad of some vile lung gunk into the dark. He wiped his eyes and breathed deeply until the rattle went away. “Wow, thanks,” he managed. His companion said nothing until Percy once more reached for his coffee. The other man ripped it out of his grasp and tossed it into the shadows.

“I don’t ever want to see you drink again.”

Pulp Pirate 13

Flash Cast 72 – FUNeral

After a terrible delay I finally got round to contributing to the wondrous Flash Pulp magazine podcast again. I decided to send ’em another Franklyn de Gashe adventure – this time The Simian Entertainment; it’s a lovely tale of winged monkeys and gentlemen’s clubs. I can only implore you to listen to their podcast on a regular basis for doses of pulpy goodness and entertaining chat about pulp fiction related news and well, stuff. Now featuring game reviews and other marvels!

Listen to it now:

Slightly Broken: Future Horror

I’ve been terribly afraid of what lies beyond my self-described milestones in counselling. So afraid that it’s holding  me back. You see, I’m scared of the future – I can’t imagine a future where I’m not pulled back by this crap in my head; one where I’m free. I don’t know who I am without being bothered by the memories and ideas that surface to sabotage and infiltrate my life.
I’m equally fearful of relapse. I don’t want to be the me of five years ago, or even two, or one. I want to rise above, to soar away with the baggage of the past lost where it belongs – somewhere in Heathrow. This is where it gets giddily hilarious for me: if I don’t pass my milestones, if I don’t post the letter to my Mum explaining everything (I’ve held it for a week so far – for review, spelling and grammar check, and now – sheeit there’s no paper at home for printing. Sound much like prevarication?) if I don’t talk to my best friends who surely deserve to understand why I’ve put them obliquely through the wringer for years, if I don’t decide to move on to whatever looms next (or more positively, beckons), then I can’t relapse can I? I’d have to finish this race to move on to the next…
I’m genuinely afraid of having to do this again. I’ve read things I couldn’t imagine reading a few months ago, said and written words that have been utterly verboten in my heart. I’m come so far, but if I finish then I run the risk of having to repeat it all. It’s silly  – this is exactly why I’ve forced myself to go through it all and document it once more. So that the next time I forget and plunge back into the penumbral recesses of my past I’ll have a candle to light my way. A big fuck-off brazier full of my rationale and wit to punch the shadows in the nuts and tell them to fuck off.
Sometimes I wish that I could cry. It’s been a long time. I worry sometimes that I’ve graduated to some level of sociopathy. I do recall choking up in frustrated tears of anger and misery some time before commencing counselling. I am occasionally pushed by some internal struggle to hot angry tears. Usually when thinking of a lost pet. It seems odd, I care much more for the fate of our pets than the family I have lost. I suppose I ascribe far more agency to the humans – they did their stuff, and now they’re gone. Sure, I can regret not knowing them for longer – but that’s what they had. I, and they, made the decisions, passively or otherwise about how well we would know each other – and then they died. That’s it – that’s what life is. We can either regret our failings and choices or relish the fragmentary touch of humanity we had.
I’ve drifted from milestones. I’ve created milestones: reading my diaries, reading my letters, writing to Mum, telling my friends… and then what? I drift in the void? I need, I think, and my counsellor has been helpful in thinking of this, to know what comes next. It’s not a hungry vacuum – it’s life. I can have agency in my life, I can choose what happens, I can influence myself as I would do others. I need to make some plans. I need some future milestones. I can work to a schedule – it works well for guiding me now in terms of when I should think about this stuff (Monday nights, after counselling with a pint and Portishead). I can extend that. I can plan for Christmas, I can plan to be happy.
I’m thinking about meditation – something without the religious and spiritual content: we’re just meat, complicated meat made of the same stuff as the rest of the universe. I’d like to learn how to calm my mind, to be content in quiet for moments. After that… well I guess I’ll have to make more plans.

Slightly Broken: Post Haste

I should have written this hours ago – this morning would have been good. Today has been one of those amazingly loaded days, where something of seemingly vast enormity occurs early on and fails to find resolution ina day of turmoil and increasing pressure. This morning I finally posted the letter to my Mum. I wrote it a week last Monday after my counselling session and I’ve hung onto it for a week – ostensibly to be sure it says what it ought to. It probably does.
Really though the week has been an outstanding demonstration of how to prevaricate. I mean a professional level of delay. First you see Mondays are my days for getting embroiled in this stuff – I have counselling and then go to the pub or home and spend a few hours writing to sort myself out. It’s quite hard to make myself do this sort of thing on other days. So that was a good delaying tactic. Then, fair enough, I’ll be wanting to review its contents; ensure I’ve said the right/wrong things. Then there’s grammar and spellchecking. Then of course I’ve got to print it… I type because my handwriting is horrible and the last thing you want someone to be squinting over and attempting to decipher is “Mum, I was molested as a teenager”. Then there’s no paper at home. Just scrap paper. So I’ll need to print it at work – transfer to a memory stick and so on. Never happened. I finally re-read it properly on Monday before counselling. I’m not a great believer in endless re-writes; I write what I mean to write. I made a couple of tiny changes.
I went over why I wanted / needed to send it in counselling. Concretised it again if you will. Tuesday morning – printed the fucking thing. At home – found some nice good weight paper. For some reason that felt important. Enveloped it. Wrote a covering letter to wrap the envelope in. Went and found Mum’s address right away and wrote it on the envelope. All good progress. Taped it shut (we’re using ancient stationary from my Nanna). No stamps. Arse. Well, I can get some on my way to work… Somehow I ran out of time before work. Too busy to go at lunchtime. Accidentally left work too late to drop by the supermarket on the way to climbing. Didn’t feel like going to Asda after climbing. Tomorrow, y’know.
Wednesday morning: got tired with my prevarication – and also needed stamps so I could post my sister’s birthday card. Declined The Lady M’s offer to post them for me. Left for work early (having eaten nothing as I felt awesomely tense) and went to the supermarket before work. Bought croissants. And asked for stamps… they actually said they didn’t have any large letter first class stamps. My heart leapt/sank/fell out. Then they looked again. I bought stamps. Letters and stamps in my hands: 9.10am. I stamped and posted the letter. Noted that the post would be collected at 5pm. Went to work.
I’m not sure what sensation I expected on posting the letter – a rise of elation or sudden terror. I don’t know. I got numb, hummingly numb. Oh, and immediately afterwards almost got hit by three cars in a row. I may have been distracted. It hasn’t been a good day – I’ve been completely distracted and withdrawn. Not actually thinking about the fact that I’ve just sent my Mum a long letter explaining a whole load of shit that she doesn’t know and the possible consequences of that – just… numb. And increasingly tense. Right now I feel like I’m made of sticks. Not straw – I’m tougher than that, but not bricks either. I can’t sleep – which is why I’m doing this.
It’s a hell of a burden to drop on someone and maybe that’s why I’m uptight. On the other hand it could just be that I’ve got no idea when she’ll actually get and read the damned thing. When I wrote to Dad seven years ago I stuck a first class stamp on it and had every expectation that it would arrive the next morning. Royal Mail is not what it once was and she could get it anytime between tomorrow and next Tuesday. So until then I’m in limbo. I’m worried about consequences, and I realised that there aren’t any for me – not really, not unless I take on Mum’s emotions and responses as something I can feel responsible for, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’ve already been living with this for years, so it’s no change for me; it’s one less person to hide things from. That’s a good thing. I’ll be here for Mum, because this is probably going to be difficult for her, and I’m sorry for that.
So where does that leave me? Quarter to two in the morning, stroking a cat I guess.

The Welcome Rescue Adventure

Gaargh, I was woken by the taste of salt water on me parched lips. Twas followed by the familiar pressure of a pair of puckered lips. Aye, now this is the way to survive a ship wreck!

I took a moment to savour the sweetly soft taste of me rescuer. I ignored the faintly fishy tang and rubber texture till she nipped me lip. Ahar, a cheeky wench. I squinted me eye open to the sun’s glare.

Gaargh, twas not the sweet-cheeked wench I expected but the rude explorings of an octopus’ tentacle. Twas a shock to find it gripping both me face and private place, but its unbidden embrace had brought me to land.

Despite me natural misgivings I’d unquestionably have drowned elsewise – well, I’ll not deny her affections. And later, I’ll break me fast on her tasty beak.

Slightly Broken: I owe Royal Mail an apology…

Well sort of – not really. Fuck ’em, they’re usually terrible.
On this occasion they’ve actually delivered a first class letter the day after I posted it. Colour me stunned, in many ways.
As I said yesterday I finally got up the nerve to post the letter to my Mum that explains well, everything. I didn’t get much sleep, and figured I’d be much the same way till I hear from her. I heard from Mum today. She sent me a text message, which is by far my favourite mode of communication – it allows the recipient to read the message when they want, and respond in their own time, re-read the message and so on. Those are all things I needed to do.
I was at work and spotted the message and the first line and realised immediately I wasn’t ready to read it. So I left it for half an hour, till I found a convenient slice of time. It’s exactly the message I hoped to get. I can’t repeat it entirely here because it’s private, but there were a whole bunch of key words that felt right: “thank you for trusting me”. I feel accepted and loved. I also feel really weird, totally numb and brain fried. I haven’t had time to deal with knowing that the people who I wanted to know, do know. If that makes sense then you’re a step ahead of me.
Much to do right now, but I have people to go and see before I have time to figure out what I now want to say back to Mum. Hopefully I’ll get to crash properly tonight and get my head together. Thanks Mum, I love you too.

Little Wolf Parade – Sat 10th November 2012

Art, Wolves and Piracy

Ahoy shipmates!
Tomorrow night I’ll be yer guide through the weird and wonderful performance artists, musicians, folk literally spewing creativity from every orifice for ye enjoyment, bewilderment and edification.
The list of performers is frankly dizzying and I’ve just been wandering around the space today (tis a place we hope to have improv shows in the future). Wolves, music, comedy, spectacles of the weird (not for the artistically myopic). I’m looking forwards to it. You can read more about the artists on the Little Wolf Parade website.


On a personal note I’m thrilled to have been invited to compere (and headline on ye damn poster!) by the lovely folk from I’m Not From London – massive music promoters in the Nottingham area and Rachel Parry, the artistic director and curator of this live art show event. Tis also pleasin’ to hit the stage with me frequent collaborator The Misk Hills Mountain Rambler in Spontaneous Skiffle mode.

Little Wolf Parade

Check out the event details on Facebook.
Have a read about the event on LeftLion.
Me little biography on the Little Wolf Parade website.

Saturday 10th November 20:30 until 23:45

8 Stoney Street, The Lace Market, Nottingham. (Opposite The Old Angel Pub)
To quote from the wolf’s mouth:

Lets explore the ugly, beautiful, the sublime and create a new adventure. Lick the glitter from your wounds baby & come join in the parade!”’ I’m Not From London events have teamed up with a group of artists and curators to develop “Little Wolf Parade” – an experimental subversive art adventure in a reclaimed building in Nottingham. Little Wolf Parade will create a space where the boundaries of Art/Music/Sound & audience blur. Where radical, experimental, provocative, beautiful, ugly, sublime, political and humorous art can exist, explore and evolve…

This week, Monday 12th November 2012


This week’s totally wiped me out. I’ve had some fine emotional highs and lows which have made it all… interesting. Tonnes of work, as I said last week, but I’m determined that it won’t screw up all the other cool stuff I do. To help with that I’ve bought rather a lot of Lego, not least the very cool Uruk-Hai figures given away free in the newspaper. I plan to make a lovely display case for our Lego mini figures inside a bookshelf.

Magnificent Fun

Chief amongst them last week: compering the magnificently insane Little Wolf Parade. Organised by I’m Not From London and filling two stories of an old Post Office building, this was a tour de force of artistic intrigue, fantabulous music (oh my god the DJ wonders of Stiff Kittens) – I’ll do a full update later on when I can nick photos of the event. Suffice to say I had a very good time cajoling the crowd and feeling a tiny bit like an artist.

The Dead

My reading is still going well – see below. I’d give special mention to Charlie Higson’s The Dead. If you think The Walking Dead is quite dark or consider The Hunger Games to be hard Young Adult reading, well – give this, or The Enemy a shot. Higson’s incredibly harsh and threatening tale of young teenagers and children surviving in a world where everyone over the age of 14 has become a diseased zombie intent on their young flesh is compelling, uncompromising, terrifying and poweful. I loved the first in the series (The Enemy) and am looking forwards to getting a copy of The Fear.

This video “Scared Kid” was part of the advertising for the book and is referred to by its characters:


Higson’s the guy who wrote the equally great Young James Bond series. If you like Fleming or Gardner’s Bond you should get into these too.

This week’s media consumption:

Crossing Over – Anna Kendall – YA fiction in a fantasy world in which a young man has the ability to travel to the land of the dead
The Fall of Cthulu, Vol. 1: The Fugue – Michael Alan Nelson – comic book series following Lovecraftian plots and madness
The Dead – Charlie Higson – genius YA fiction
The Walking Dead – season 2 – losing a bit of the tedious soap opera finally, in favour of some zombie action
ArgoBen Affleck’s third directed film, and he nails it. This is by turns funny, painfully tense and beautifully paced. The clothes, hair and glasses are properly ’70s awful. Also, the story (based on true events in Iran 1979/80) is very good.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  Shanktasm – The Derivation of Pleasure from Angry Poetry – some more vitriolic super-short poems.


Thursday: The War Alone. A short slice from a possible series or maybe a longer work – surviving a war.

Round Up of Last Week

6th November: Just One Cup of Coffee – a bit of flash fiction for those who struggle to drink.
7th November: Pulp Pirate 13 – The Simian Entertainment on the Flash Pulp podcast.
8th November: The Welcome Rescue Adventure – a teen tiny tale of being rescued from the sea by a… well, read the story.
9th November: Little Wolf Parade – local arts and music event.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff I’m doing coming up in Nottingham and thereabouts:

MissImp in Action: Improv Comedy Show – Fri 30th November at The Glee Club Nottingham
Fuktotage: Anyone Can Play – Thu 6th December at The City Gallery in Nottingham
The Bookcafe Winter Acoustic Festival – Sat 8th December at The Bookcafe in Derby
Pub Poetry – Fri 14th December at The Cottage Tavern in Burton on Trent

Shanktasm – The Derivation of Pleasure from Angry Poetry

I’ve been trying to figure out why I write poetry at all. I rarely write anything positive or life-affirming. It’s almost all aimed at wreaking havoc. Very sad. If I didn’t write it, I suspect I’d have to find creative uses for stationery.

Life can be stressful and is jam packed with stupidity and insistently, repetitively idiotic behaviour. Most of it can’t be challenged directly. Not without being fired. I strongly suggest you join in. If you feel like playing, tweet me @shankanalia and we’ll play hate tag.

Top tip: if you feel really angry in a meeting and don’t feel that you can safely or sensibly express that verbally, why not figure out how many of the items in the room can be used to kill the offending individual. It’s surprisingly calming.

You can follow @shankanalia on Twitter for live outbursts, and you can listen to some of the poems on

The Derivation of Pleasure from Angry Poetry

Burn At Both Ends
Burning with rage,
Fear-filled cunting candle of hate
Vaporising reason,
Vanishing wax of loathing
Fuelling a pain-streaky wick.
Irreducible Stupidity
Elegant convoluted obscurity
Confers no greater accuracy
Truth or wisdom
The truth is complex
But that’s not why it’s true.
You are simple.
Really, still talking?
The raving banality
Saps my will
Runs dry of tolerance
Leaves the rasping
Bark of rage.
Say something useful
Be silent.
House Styles
Why do you think
It’s more of a question
When you exaggerate
The punctuation??
It adds no more meaning than your
Whining inclining pronunciation.
You Got Skillz
Fuckadaisical lazy parasite twat
Failing even in failure
An immense burden of incompetence
You can’t even shoulder.
Overflow and drown us all.
Cancerous Words
Sinking dread
At the sound of your face
That retching gasp of imbecile drool
Unique wisdom caught and hacked up
With lungbuttery prophecy.
A Rare Talent
Painful awareness
Of your incompetence.
How simple
Can a thing be
To still elude you?
I know you’re unlettered,
But also stupid.

The War Alone

We were never meant for this. Bleeding, dying. There’s no art or grace in being smashed apart. We’re too fragile. Each strike breaks a bone. Each blow splits the skin. Blood puddles and splashes. Are we alive or dead? There’s more meat here than man. The roars went on forever and the world collapsed around us in screams and fire. Finally the afternoon faded away, and smoke was replaced by a bitter mist that ran down the walls and mixed our blood into the sodden carpet.

Evening brought quiet and stillness for a time, we could breathe again. I say we. Fourteen of us had sought shelter together in the hollow ruin of the end terrace house. Old number 54. When we ran in through the garden – a series of craters and blown mud – there was no trace of the elderly couple who used to live there. We stumbled into the back of their house, through the hole that joined windows and door into a wide grin. We heaped their furniture up to the wall and crawled between the gaps.

We held hands, closed our eyes and waited for the end. Fingers clenched tighter with the heavy blows, as our barricade shifted, as the screams drew nearer, as the explosions rattled our teeth. And then my friends’ grip weakened. The world became nothing but a constant sound that filled my body and all of my thoughts.

My mind came back to me, filled with pain. Everything was calm again, except for the constant drip and drip of the rain. I let go of Alice’s hand, and Ryan’s. Their fingers fell away from mine like twigs from a tree. The others were just a bloody pulp, ground down under wood and brick. I had more of them in my hair and clothes than they did on themselves. It was just me now, but I couldn’t yet say so. I pretended to myself that they were still alive. We talked about autumn, and nonsense and inconsequential things: our favourite books, possible uses for the tiny pocket on the right calf of my trouser leg, lasagna… I realised I didn’t know anything about Ryan, so we didn’t have much to talk about. Soon I had to stop talking because my chest hurt where something heavy had fallen on me. It was getting dark, and it wasn’t so reassuring to pretend my friends were still alive when they were just dripping shadows in the night.
When I was quiet, apart from the catch in my breath I realised I wasn’t completely alone. Improbable as it seemed, Buttons the kitten who Alice had found in a shed yesterday, was still with me. She mewled softly in the metal box Alice had stuffed her into. Bent and warped, and now smelling of upset cat, Alice had protected it. I pulled the box out of her shredded limbs. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to bend the lid enough to pull her out, the poor shaking thing. She was wet with blood and her own fear.

I stroked her ears and cuddled her tightly. I felt a wash of pity and sympathy for the tiny creature. She had even less idea what was happening than I did. It was ridiculous; surrounded by death she gave me hope where I ought to have had none. There was nowhere to wash her, except in our friends blood so I unzippped my jacket and gently pushed her inside. Cat memories are so short. In a few minutes she stopped shaking and started to purr. I fell asleep too.

Derby Performers for Gaza’s Children, Sunday 25th November 2012

A concert to raise money for the Save The Children Emergency Appeal for Gaza.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

15:00 until 21:00

Ye Olde Dolphin Inne

Queen Street
Derby DE1 3DL

Artists confirmed so far include Paul Miro (Apes, Pigs + Spacemen, Simon Friend’s Seismic Survey), Bob Kettle (Merry Hell), Gaz Thatcher (The Beekeepers), Karl & The Marx Brothers, from Jerusalem Avital Raz, Harriet McDonnell, Delicata Rachel, poetry from Laura Taylor (Wigan Diggers Festival) and Captain Pigheart (that’s me!), comedy from Tony Peppiatt + more.

No admission charge, but please give generously.

Fundraising food and raffle.

This event is to help the children suffering as a result of the Gaza conflict. It is not pro-Hamas or anti-Israel and we respect the right of individuals to hold personal opinions.

Save The ChildrenChildren paying highest price in Gaza Israel conflict

Facebook event

Running Order (so far!)


3-330      Delicata Rachel
335-405  Bob Kettle
410-420  Bessie Smith Poetry
425-500  Karl & The Marx Brothers
               Lisa Higginbotham – mayor’s speech + intro Avital
510-540  Avital Raz
               Tony Peppiatt
550-625  Gaz Thatcher
               Captain Pigheart
635-720  Paul Miro
               Tony Peppiatt
730-800  Harriet McDonnell
               Captain Pigheart
810-845  TBC
9PM        QUIZ!