Saturday 8th Dec 11am till 11pm The Bookcafe Derby
11am Matt McGuinness
11.30 am Neil White
12pm Henry Charles Sharpe
So… it’s been a few weeks since Iast wrote anything on my blog. If you’re watching – I’m still here. But differently I think.
In my last counselling session before disappearing for a few weeks I did the last thing on my immediate list of stuff to be done. Photographs. As a clutter accumulator I am intimately appalled by the idea of destroying things, especially anything I have produced, created or written. It’s not that I consider the stuff to be worth keeping, but it’s part of me. Since I consider my self to be essentially fractured, dissipated and in flux, retaining those concrete shards of self strikes me as important. They are the links to those parts I have forgotten, lost, outgrown or left behind. No one gets left behind! And so I have retained all those diaries and letters full of pain and naivete. They are at once trite, heartfelt, ignorant and delightful. Even the ones describing what I went through, thought or felt in the past.
I also kept photographs; I have a huge shoebox full of randomly categorised (I have a folder labelled “goldfish”), including an hilariously parcelled bundle labelled “Do Not Open”. I knew what was in it – photographs of my abuser, Ric. I’d wrapped them up during my, I don’t know what to call it, memory resurgence(?) in 2004, knowing that I wouldn’t want to stumble across them by accident. Unlike my sealed envelope I’d at least given myself a clue this time. Sigh. Seriously – label stuff properly. It will save you pain and heart ache. It was the last thing I have, related to Ric and being molested that I hadn’t opened and read. It needed to be opened and read, at least so it could be put away again.
I realise that lots of people wouldn’t want to see those faces again. But I’ve grown terribly aware of the fragility of memory. I’ve also spent so much time recently aggressively attacking my beliefs, memories and feelings that it seemed stupid (to me) to leave anything untouched. I’ve been able to refocus much of my hate and anger appropriately to a mental idea, my abuser, Ric. But what if my image of him was incorrect? I’d be misattributing a range of feelings and memories. In my head I have a shadowy image, more a bundle of sensations I suppose than a series of lines. It was important to me that they be accurate. So I opened the sealed envelope/scrap of paper.
Maybe seven pictures, eight perhaps. Seeing him again made me realise how important it was to have a valid image – imagine walking past someone in the street and not realising who they were… That seems so wrong to me, that I could not know this fucker. The pictures are some from a party, others that I had taken of Ric in Amsterdam, another he’d sent me when he moved away. They’re weird. Pictures pull you back in time, make you relive those moments. They also make you want to invent the stories for those which you can’t really, properly remember. As if we ought to recall every thing we’ve ever seen or captured.
I can’t fully describe what I felt on looking through the pictures and dropping them in groups onto the floor. I identified each one, who took the picture and where it was, where I was (partly by the developing company – can’t do that now!). It was like being punched over and over again, in the memory. I could feel all my ideas being augmented, amended, my mental figure of hatred being completed with reality, albeit one about twenty years out of date. He looked, older than I had remembered. Maybe that was fuelled by the remembrance of a friendship and that sense of kinship that removes age as a relevant factor. Even though I knew he had always been older, by maybe seventeen or twenty years, he seemed the same age. Because that’s how he behaved, how he engaged with me – he treated me as if we were the same age. Or at least I thought he did. But between peers there is no calculation, exploitation, destruction. Now I can see that age difference. It’s also something of a cliche and one borne of hindsight, but he just looks like a creepy motherfucker to me now.
The photographs scream warnings at me. The worst is the photograph I took of him in his bedroom in Amsterdam. I can see my knee in the picture (I’m a dreadful photographer) and it feels like it was only hours or minutes before being naked and exposed and humiliated, and so the more awful that the image puts me exactly there- I can smell the room and feel the coarseness of the flannel. The horrible reality of it hardens my memories, encompasses them with truth – and righteousness. I am right to feel hurt, to feel damaged, to feel exploited and abused. My feelings are real, and they are mine. They are also mine of a “me in the past”…
Looking through the pictures was upsetting. I found it hard to pin down exactly why. I think it was a kind of sadness that what I remembered was true. It’s so easy to distrust my memories (compounded by knowing that my precise recall of how I felt and the things that I have done since the primary traumatic event are messy and inaccurate) that having them verified is at once reassuring, and validating, while being a source of dismay. I realised that I have merged my memories of Ric’s face with those of several well known British actors – seeing them is an upsetting trigger in itself. I’m hopeful that having a more truthful picture in my head will mitigate this unintentional effect. Truth is what I’m seeking. I’m well aware that there is a degree of subjectivity and mental drift, but I’d much rather apply my feelings appropriately than not. It does mean of course, that when I do recall those especially hurtful memories that they now have the added “benefit” of being augmented by a more recent image of Ric, and the surroundings take on clarity and detail which had previously been either occluded or blurred. Not sure how I feel about that yet.
Since going through the pictures and identifying the names, places and times as best I can I am very aware that this is it. Short of insanely seeking out the negatives which will be buried in the shoebox somewhere, I have uncovered it all. Everything I have available to me I have laid bare; to myself, if not necessarily in counselling. There are perhaps a handful of things I would still wish to say out loud, to hear them, expel them and dispel them. Or perhaps not. After going through the photographs, which were fewer in number than I’d anticipated, and apart from the knee-shot, there are none of Ric and I together, I had a couple of weeks without counselling (through accident and design). I have lots of other stuff going on: personal, work, improv (stuff!) and they are fairly distracting. Even so, I have experienced more inner peace and calm of late than I have done for years. Ric has not been popping unbidden into my mind. Both he and Miss L have been satisfyingly silent (bound together emotionally as I feel they have been – cause, catalyst, stress, relief, salvation and damnation unfairly and cruelly wrapped up).
Is this what it feels like to be me? For so long I have been haunted internally by the past, that to be suddenly without those ghosts feels… strange. I feel different. I don’t feel afraid. The future is… there? Maybe I can start to interact with it. Maybe I can start to interact with the present. Choices could be mine to make again. Who am I when left to my own devices?
I’ve been away… sorry! The end of the year has somewhat overwhelmed us here on board The Grim Bastard.
Not content with half a dozen shows and events, we’ve arranged myriad social occasions, and topped that off with a truly exhausting work schedule. Oh yes, we’ve also chosen to get the ship’s galley refitted a fortnight before Christmas. What the hell are we thinking? I don’t know that we are.
So that’s totally trashed any hopes of writing for the last few weeks I’m afraid. I’m dead keen to get some fresh tales recorded both for Flash Pulp and the Reverbnation page, and then hopefully get some more scrawling done over Christmas.
Tuesday: Festive Re-Post 1: The Little Christmas Tale. A short pirate story of Santa slaying.
Wednesday: Gig Round Up – November & December 2012 – links and bits of stuff from my last couple of gigs.
Thursday: Festive Re-Post 2: The Accursed Christmas. Tis the season to slay zombies, with a pirate sword, la-la-la-la…
13th November: Shanktasm – The Derivation of Pleasure from Angry Poetry – perfectly healthy vitriol spurts.
14th November: New Willow Film – the new Hobbit poster is out!
15th November: The War Alone – a short, rather bleak story which will be the first in a non-sequential series of shorts.
Exciting stuff I’m doing coming up in Nottingham and thereabouts:
Right now… just waiting for Christmas!
Next year brings more MissImp in Action at The Glee Club on the last Friday of every month. Plus we’re back at Create Theatre in February. What else? Oh, we’ll have a monthly improv jam show on the second Thursday of every month too, starting on 17th January.
Waaay ahead is the Derby Downtown Festival on 29th June 2013 – an acoustic and arts takeover of Derby’s market place with music, comedy and spoken word stuff. I have found my way into the organising committee!
Gaaargh, ’twere the night afore Christmas an’ all were all peaceful, quieter than ye mouse. O’ course ye’ve not seen the size o’ the mice on the Lollipop, gaargh, they be dwarfin’ ye cat. ‘Tis no wonder we eats ’em, else they’d be the death of us. Mind ye, what with their remarkable plague-bearin’ skills ye might consider it a kind o’ cannibalin’ on Monty McBuboe’s part.
Aaarrr, we’d moored off the island o’ Streptococcus for the festive season. ‘Twere an odd sort o’ place, renowned for its twin industries o’ whorin’ and the soothin’ o’ sore neckholes. The lads’d disembarked almost afore we’d ceased our sailin’, so keen were they to whetten their whistlin’ gob-‘oles.
And so it were left t’ me an No Hands Mick to tie off an’ weigh anchor. To that purpose I’d ‘elped Mick strap on ‘is big wooden grippin’ mitts, the ones with the big spikes for grabbin’ fishies and ye enemy. Aaar, t’ celebrate a successul year we turned ye cannons out to sea and blasted away with good cheer. The balls parted ye Christmassy mist with a satisfyin’ bang.
The bang were follered by a wailin’ what grew louder the longer it went on, ’til finally it were punctuated by a thwack an’ the sound o’ wood an’ iron grindin’ o’er me deck. There were some splinterin’ and dust, but through it we saw a most peculiar vision. ‘Twere a heap o’ horses with sticks on their ‘eads surroundin’ a portly feller dressed in red wi’ a fine, if conspicuous furry trim. ‘E were fairly bellowin’ ‘is fury at us.
I be not a fan o’ being shouted at ‘pon me own ship, so I took the lad by the beard and bounced is noggin off the mast ’til ‘e were quietened. Mick meanwhile were inspectin’ the beasts and the cart they’d pulled. ‘E were pleased to report on the high likelihood that they’d be most tasty, prob’ly even finer than giant rat in an ‘Ollandaise sauce. This seemed to upset the tubby chap further, an’ ‘e protested most vigorously ‘gainst both our culinary devisin’s an’ our blastin’ ‘im out of ye sky. We both ‘ad a bit of a chuckle about that – ’twere a grand shot and we’d be needful o’ a trophy to brag about. And then the fat lad sat us down with a finely mulled bottle o’ wine an’ filled us wi’ Christmas cheer. ‘Twere easier then to believe ‘is ravin’ o’ sailin’ through the skies, tethered to flyin’ deer. Aaarr, there were somethin’ of a fly in ‘is ointment though (we’d treated ‘is landin’ wounds mind – this be but a metaphorical describin’ o’ ‘is woes) seein’ as the reindeer’d been slain either by the cannon blast or from the sleigh bein’ slid at some speed through ’em on becomin’ grounded.
In our newly excitable state Mick an’ me were keen t’offer our aid an’ so we set t’work a-fixin’ ye sled. Mr Christmas, for that’s who ‘e’d turned out to be, occupied ‘imself with the gatherin’ o’ the children’s gifts what’d been scattered over the Lollipop. The sleigh were lookin’ finer’n ever, freshly reloaded with presents, with it’s rider slightly bandaged. Mick’d been inspired by the reindeer problem but through ‘is alcoholic haze ‘e’d latched onto the notion that ’twere the antlers what made the beasts able to soar through ye skies. If that be so, then we needed some similarly horned creatures.
Bein’ stuck in port on Christmas Eve be not conducive to the managing o’ livestock, but thankfully on a recent treasure-hunt we’d become lost once more an’ run aground. The rocky little spot were home to a breed o’ giant tortoise what we’d found delicious and versatile. Most o’ ye time they’d spend their time weightin’ down ye ship as ballast in ye hold, but come a mite o’ hunger for a special occasion, we’d hook ’em out and roast ’em in their shells. Gaargh, it just so ‘appened that Mick’d been brewing a new batch of tar for ye hull repairs. So we sawed off ye antlers an’ glued ’em to the reptiles. That warranted a few more drinks on ‘er own, an’ we were a-giggle as we popped the horned tortoises in harness.
Mr Christmas were not so impressed, as the lumpen things simply laid on deck due to the cold and retreated into their shells. ‘Twere a great disappointment to Mick, an’ I ‘ad to stop ‘im from throwin’ ‘imself overboard. It struck me that what were needed were merely a source o’ propellin’ the beasts into the sky, once up they’d prob’ly get the hang o’ it. And so it were that we arranged the cannons on deck, an’ chained each o’ the tortoises to a cannonball. We stood back an’ lit the fuses.
The little buggers flew straight up into the night air, draggin’ the sleigh behind, an’ with a “ho ho oh God we’re going to…” the whole thing exploded high up in the sky. ‘Twere awful pretty. Presents rained down on ye chimney pots far across ye island, bringin’ joy to them as what ‘ad not expected it. ‘Course there were a fair quantity o’ body bits fallin’ too, an’ the odd tortoise, but all in all, ’twere a jolly Christmas for the locals.
It seemed Santa’d been somewhat indiscriminate in ‘is pickin’ up o’ objects left on deck, like the two barrels o’ gunpowder we’d wrapped up for Billy. Gaaargh, we’d ‘ave to go out shoppin’ now, and on Christmas Eve to boot.
Gaaarrgh, have yeself a Merry Christmas!
First up was the Derby Performers for Gaza’s Children. I’m not very political – I tend to feel that anyone who seeks power shouldn’t really be allowed to wield it and that the political disasters domestic and internationally have such a painful sense of stupidity, deja vu and inevitability that I can’t face getting involved. However, it does strike me that kids get the worst of it and I was happy to be invited to perform and mebbe raise ’em a few groats.
It was in a pub I’ve never been to in Derby called the Olde Dolphin Inne – very apt and satisfying name for a dinky little old-style pub. I told a couple of stories, which was remarkable as I’d given myself chemical burns to the throat on the preceding Friday by choking on a tablet and swallowing felt like gargling glass. Not fun. Oh, and on the day before I’d had a crazy allergic reaction to something and gone into shock. I was sort of fine for the gig… and nailed The Selachian Damsel and The Gastronomical Adventure to an appreciative and random crowd.
I also met and was hugely amused by Avital Raz, an Israeli singer and poet who fuses together the weirdest styles of music on guitar with fantastic and insane lyrics and vocal styles. She has a splendid song about being “Fucked in the Ass for Peace”. I can’t find that on online for you, but here’s another great song:
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This was a couple of weeks later, also in Derby where I seem to now be a performer more than in Nottingham. I am not complaining. It is lovely to be asked to compere. The Bookcafe‘s a really nice place – they sell books and random trinkets along with coffee, tasty pannini (dammit how many of I or N is in that word?). I’d never been in the evening before and was pleased to find it warm, welcoming and serving of beer. The festival had begun outside from 11am and I’m glad I missed most of it because it was freezing and I found the daytime compere (my friend Tony Peppiatt) with blue fingers huddled in a gazebo. It was funny, so I laughed.
I took over inside, and eventually wrangled the hour late running order back on time by the end of the night. Splendid performers who were very good natured, and endured by improvised pirate stories, anecdotes and ramblings between sets. I especially enjoyed mocking the “Fags and Maltesers Gang” of teenagers who had turned up to watch their friends Tarna and Daisy with some covers and originals. Great voices. I invented a lovely story about a pirate who lost his groin to a cannonball and had it replaced with an electric eel (thanks to Herr Gunther Garment, ship’s surgeon) and the risks of squirrels at sea.
I’m semi-ashamed to say that I don’t really listen to a lot of folk music, but Matt McGuinness is certainly educating me with these gigs. My line up had Leah Sinead (beautiful voice, and had also come over from Nottingham):
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Followed by the string-breaking Scott Greensmith who did things I didn’t know could be done with a guitar, Delicata and showmen LaF. It was a very fun night and I got to catch up with a few friends I haven’t seen for a while either (hallo Tony!) They were all wonderful singers and songwriters and I urge you to chase down the links above, follow them and buy their albums.
You can listen to it here on Flash Pulp – Guestisode #2:
Gaargh, the first snow flakes were soakin’ into the briny seas by the time I regained me beloved crew, rescuin’ most of ‘em from Kneehorn’s infamous Inhospitable Atoll. Ice caught in me beard and I got me first chillin’ sense o’ the Christmas to come.
The nearest harbour, Isla del Morbida off the coast o’ Spain happened to be Monty McBuboe’s home town. Me foul cook’d been a vagabond for years an’ were dead against a return. Arr, but I be cap’n here and we were in sore need of a port to weather the, well, the weather. The waves be less fun when ‘tis freezin’.
As we drew near the lads were full o’ Christmas cheer, already swingin’ an’ swiggin’ rum in the riggin’. Ye hamlet seemed quiet from the water, in spite o’ the festive buntin’ and lanterns. The dearth o’ folk were a mite worryin’, but the crew vanished nonetheless like rats as soon as the gangplank fell. They were scarce out o’ sight afore there were screams an’ hails o’ abuse – all seemed well.
Minutes later, the Doktor dragged a bloodied Johnny Scuttle aboard. Some dock worker’d lunged out the dark an’ taken a likin’ to Johnny’s noggin, forcin’ Gunther’d to use ‘is surgical skills defensive-like. But Scuttle were drippin’ fearfully so we left ‘em together.
Billy’n meself strolled down the bloody pier an’ found the man Gunther’d so neatly nailed up. We gave ‘im a prod an’ leaped for our hearts as ‘e gnashed ‘is gory teeth at us, in spite o’ the cold steel in ‘is heart. ‘Twere not natural, ‘im growlin’ so we put iron through the rest of ‘im. The bits jiggled still so we booted ‘em into the harbour. Barry announced it a bad omen for the season, an’ in time-honoured fashion sought to o’erturn the ill luck by paradin’ naked about the Grim Bastard. ‘Twere another good reason to see the sights, besides me chewed-up crewman.
The village were possessed of the grisly décor of a Slavic serial killer turned interior designer. The plain stucco clashed with the blood sloshed walls an’ trestle tables strewn with body bits. It seemed Christmas’d gone wrong. The terrified locals, an’ me crew were bein’ menaced in the middle o’ the square by a horde o’ ragin’, champin’ loons. Their eyes were glazed an’ their gobs a-drool, seekin’ to slake their thirst for human blood. Or so we assumed, not knowin’ the exact details, but familiar with the general principles o’ a zombie plague
A noise at me side ‘ad me spinnin’ ‘pon me peg to the sight o’ a pustulent creature lurchin’ from the shadows. ‘Twere but Monty. He dragged us into an alley where a tiny crone burst out from behind him, hissin’ in ‘er toothless way, “the curth, the curth!” Aarr, she fair scared the cockles off the lot of us; Billy pulled some groinal muscle in surprise. By the light o’ a gutterin’ candle she lisped to us their woes.
Some days before, as the town began to gird itself for Christmas a magical man arrived and amazed ‘em with ‘is conjurin’. ‘Twere all most jolly till the magician turned the Mayor’s daughter into a mermaid, who promptly flopped about an’ died from lack o’ water. The townsfolk, bein’ of a provincial nature, knew a witch when they saw one an’ acted accordin’ly. As ‘is toes caught fire the conjuror cursed the town to a terrible death. Naturally they laughed this off an’ toasted marshmallows and the like. The next day were less cheery when some fool, on hearing a a loud bangin’ from within the crypts, opened ‘em an’ so unleashed the undead fiends. By now they were either zombified, hiding or munched upon. There were but little ‘ho ho’ here.
Me instincts were simple: gather what crew remained an’ cast off post-haste. This simple plan gave the crone some form of fit, judgin’ by the spittle an’ gurnin’. Monty on t’other hand looked somewhat sheepish as the crone flung a pendant at ‘im in a beseechin’ manner. I were about to step in, for Monty’s a mite fragile an’ I be not payin’ for more breakages.
Monty sighed an’ took the proffered pendant. As ‘e did so, an unearthly glow enveloped ‘is crumblin’ frame, an’ on ‘is head, a crown shone bright. The crone were supplicatin’ wildly; we settled for some all-purpose genuflectin’ instead. She insisted on shriekin’ “at latht you’ve returned mathter – to thave our thouls” until Billy clipped ‘er with ‘is pistol, for there were wailin’ a-plenty past the wall. Monty’d the decency to look embarrassed an’ confided that Lord Montague del Morbida were ‘is birthright. He’d fled in shame, havin’ fleeced the peasantry with holy tithes to ward off ye evil spirits; the leprosy were a sort of uniform. Arr, the poor lad blamed ‘imself and begged for me aid.
Gaargh, a new plan formed quicker’n a cloud o’ seagulls about a beached whale. We booted the crone out into the street to scream a diversion, while we ran to the cemetery atop the hill. Monty were loathe to leave ‘er, but since he’d left the whole village to the gastronomical mercies o’ the undead, one more ought to be no more gallin’.
Monty’s glow grew brighter, lightin’ up the ancient graves surmountin’ the peak. He strode amongst ‘em, mutterin’ darkly, causin’ a tomb to pop open, revealin’ a cache o’ weaponry. Monty passed to each of us a ghoulish green sword which hummed and buzzed in our ‘ands as we swung ‘em experimental–like. They cut clean through the first zombie to find us, like a spoon through oven-baked jellyfish.
That signalled our charge and we fell upon the hell spawn with our holy weapons. ‘Twere more fun than puffer-fish cricket, though twice as messy. Afore we knew it we was hackin’ into the livin’. It were clear that the village idyll were over an’ I drew Monty aside. I grasped ‘is duties an’ all, but frankly, havin’ doomed ‘is people anyway we might easily turn this tragedy into treasure. Honour and greed swapped slaps behind ‘is eyes till ‘is righteous glow faded an’ he were me larcenous an’ leprous chef once more. I passed ‘im a finger he’d dropped earlier an’ we set about findin’ the remnants o’ the crew.
Much, much later, after we’d drained the seafront of ale we tottered back aboard the Grim Bastard. Frightful bellowin’ issued from belowdecks, accompanied by a grim Germanic giggle. Aarr, we’d forgot about young Johnny Scuttle. Somethin’ hinted at this not bein’ a complete recovery. But, insulated by drink we flung back the bolts.
At first I trusted not me eyes, drunk as they was. A nightmare clambered from the dark, with Johnny’s head if not his body, for it had far too many arms, and seemed part turtle. Loomin’ into the lamplight I espied fine needlepoint what digressed into a charmin’ depiction o’ the village at sunset across the chest. The Doktor chuckled in delight, “ja, ve haf been most busy viz zis plague, es ist most interesting. See, young Johnny – ach his brain ist gone, but he has now ze four arms, just sink of ze scrubbing! Now, votch him scamper.”
Gaargh, me sternness an’ horror lost out to drunken mirth as poor Johnny scuttled about, snappin’ toothlessly like a violently senile crab. I thought it best to chain ‘im but Sharon insisted that Johnny’d be a fine pet and set about knittin’ ‘im a six-limbed romper suit for rovin’ the boat.
‘Twere an odd Christmas, though not without profit. We left the town afire behind us and totted up our gold. We sailed on into a new year o’ bright dreams an’ broken hearts.