Shout a Bit

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Of course Johnny appreciated the blistering array of starlit expanse and the possibilities it seemed to offer, but he declined to mention this to Kathryn. It would be too much of a hassle to tell her that she was in a part of Scotland where sharing dreams was a bit like sharing needles; it seemed like a good idea at the time but it only served to fuck you up. – Glue, Irvine Welsh

When you’re looking for some modern Scottish wisdom there’s are few better places to look than the denouement of an Irvine Welsh novel. He captures so much of what it means to be Scottish, to have an uneasiness with the world. As a people, we’re actually pretty closed off most of the time. To my friends this would probably seem impossible, I talk quite a lot given the smallest provocation, but the truth is that, as with I hope everyone, there’s a lot more ticking away behind the eyes.

I shout from time to time to get things heard.

This is why I was so pleased when my old family friend Becca wrote a post on here. I can remember her talking about writing when we were younger, she was thinking of journalism at that point, but life gets in the way. It has this horrible habit of providing different ideas and inspirations, but then also dropping some immediate rent pavement or credit card bill through the post. Just when you want to do something great, an election or a family issue happens. Sometimes it’s your responsibility to do something else. It’s always gratifying to see people press on regardless. To shout in a world or a culture which suggests silence more often than speaking.

Maybe it’s a hangover from that whole Victorian idea of kids being “seen but not heard”. For women, it might be because they are told they are chatty and some of them don’t want to be stereotypical. For me, I probably keep some things to myself because that’s what being a man is, as I was taught. Guys are more often taught to be angry than say they are sad. If you’re sad, then you’re Some Crybaby or something, but if you’re angry, but the right kind of angry, not the silly sort of whinging angry, then you are being assertive and reasonable. Think Tony Soprano struggling with his anxiety attacks and turning it into anger because misery isn’t the sort of thing you express if you’re a boss.

It’s the same with dreams. They aren’t considered the right things to talk about in some parts of Scotland. In certain culture there’s a silence about that whole part of a person. It doesn’t feel like we talk about our wants and desires nearly enough. And so my reaction to this is that we all need to shout a bit more.

We need to do something.

There’s something about seeing others doing stuff that is inspirational. It’s the feeling that you aren’t alone, that whatever question you’re asking is also troubling someone else. It’s not schadenfreud, a love of another’s misery, but more of a kind of understanding, a spiritual connection with people searching for meaning. That’s  why people read. People absolutely should read, as well as possibly creating work for people like me, it also gives you so much more than it takes. And if people should read, then it also follows that they should also write. People should shout a bit.

Fortunately, we live in an age of mass production as well as mass consumption. Mass distribution is at our fingertips. For sure there are some people who create a lot more than others and some people who consume a lot without feeding back in, but we’re essentially now all at the level where we can easily use loudspeakers that connect us to a hundred plus people. We can share what we like and build each other up. We can shout together. This is the good side of social media. It’s now easier than ever to get your message, your world view, out there. It’s thrilling. The rush of shouting for the plain fun of it.

There are some massive downsides to it, of course. Things said on the internet don’t often go away, unless the company hosting that information goes bust and nobody saved a copy. But really this is a bigger problem for those who are viciously mean online than for others. If you’re not some dick you should shout!

Use these lungs that the internet gifted you and cry out!

Of course it’s terrifying at first to put anything out there. The fear of criticism is real. Worry less about other people. The biggest problem is usually the fear itself.  And conquering that fear is the prize.

The writer of this piece likes writing things telling people to write things but tries to only do it once a month.

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A Spooky Story

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The sun sank, the clock struck 6, and Francis Blythe rose from his coffin.
“Feeding time, at last!” He whispered into the night.
He stood up, dusting off the English soil that lined the inside of his coffin. It was an additional security measure. Should his ancestral land ever stop existing, at least there would be a small corner of a foreign field that would be forever England.

He strolled through his ancestral manor, towards the den, towards the night. The furnishings could do with some replacement, he thought, but he considered modern styles too gauche. Better to wait another few decades for the antique market to improve. That was one of the key benefits of immortality: long-term style decisions could be made with confidence.

Blythe settled in an armchair, snapping his fingers to ignite the fireplace. It was necessary to wait some time before leaving. So he read, largely works of Victorian fiction and histories of old Kings. Blythe had noticed a change in the local population. A couple of centuries before, they had woken with the sunrise and gone to bed soon after the day’s end. Gradually this had been replaced with alarms that woke them unnaturally at 7 every morning, the people worked till 6 or later, then they fell asleep beyond the witching hour. Their days had grown harder, their leisure time had shrunk. If he could’ve converted more to his way of living he might’ve considered it, but he had to consider the strength of his family.

Many of his previous converts had flown from him. They were making their own lives, their own lines. They were in the New World, and the antipodes. Some of them had made good during the Empire and were living on the subcontinent. But Francis stayed where he was. There were risks away from home.

In England, he was just viewed as a bit of an eccentric. He was rarely seen. He left his house only to find books to occupy his waiting hours. Fortunately, the style in suits had not changed substantially in almost a hundred years so he could still get by without shopping. His voice sounded a bit dated but not enough to cause concern. Most importantly, he knew the customs well enough to avoid detection. He had to occasionally feast, but Francis covered his tracks. He picked on people who wouldn’t be missed.

Francis Blythe glided into the streets, the twelfth bell having been met. Tonight he had his eye on a small blocks of flats on the periphery of the town. The area had been dubbed Little Warsaw due to the Polish population there. Francis’ feeding times were rarer now, blood these days often richer in nutrients, but when he needed sustinence he used his other abilities.
“43, London road.” The postman had told him under hypnosis, “A single one, was living with a bunch of ‘em but he’s earning good money now. Ball, or something.”
That would suffice, and so he released the postman back into the neighbourhood.

He found the block of flats without a problem, one of those run down post-War concrete nightmares in a horrible state of disrepair. Francis scoffed, he wouldn’t keep his animals in such a place. This would be a mercy killing. He found the name ‘Balan’ on the intercom and reasoned it was correct.

Every now and then he’d found it necessary to lie. Though vampires traditionally like to be invited in, and he would be touched by the trust, these days everyone was much more closed off. So he roughed himself up a little before using the intercom.
“Hej,” came Balan’s voice, “Who is it ringing?”
“‘scuse me, mate,” Francis started, “eh’ve left me keys insoide, goin let us in?”
It was a mishmash of accents, but over the intercom it sounded more approachable and friendly.
“Ne problem, pal,” and the buzzer rang. In the grand court of vampiric rules and regulations, this would constitute an invitation.

Francis became mist and flew up the stairs. When he had first changed that was always one of his favourite powers to use. The misty flight. He had to stop on each floor and see if he could find the right flat. At the third level he saw it. Balan. He was getting hungry now. He was going to devour this man as soon as he saw him. Francis knocked politely, three times, with the knuckles.

Balan opened the door and found himself thrust backwards immediately. This thing had a hold on him and was pushing him backwards into the wall. The flag of his home country, a blue, yellow, and red tricolour, fell down as the beast stabbed his throat with its teeth. He died and it continued sucking his life force to the last drop.

Francis felt incredible! This was some of the finest blood he’d ever sampled and it coursed through his veins as a sprinting horse over an open field. The familiar rush and pleasure was unreserved. It sated him as nothing else could. With a kick of spice too.

But the spice was too much. What had moments ago thrilled him suddenly turned hot and bitter. It hurt his exhalations. He could feel his inner self twisting. He threw up. But it did no good. Francis tore the fallen flag off his head, stood up with himself last ounce of strength and looked around the room. He saw bread, next to a bowl containing a white spread. And the room smelt of garlic. His blood was now garlic.

Several weeks later police would be confused to find a Romanian man drained of blood and a weird, dead, ulcerated mess of a man in an Edwardian suit.

The writer of this piece has a sore neck. Not from a vampire, but sleeping on too many pillows. Happy Halloween!

Some Mornings

It’s hard to love someone
at 6:30 when their every move
serves to prove we don’t inhabit
a just world.

It’s troubling sometimes
at 6:20 when you realise still
that you’ll chill with this person
forever.

It’s harder to take it
that 6:10 will conquer your bones
as you groan at the clink
of a spoon.

But some mornings you’ll sleep
till 10 and miss
the interruption.

Some Limericks

I’m fucking exhausted after a long day of travelling and walking and bus rides to Germany and back. As a result, please find today’s entry to be a little short, sweet, and funny.

It keeps my daily writing target up to date and should hopefully provide balm for all my poor dedicated readers who have tirelessly read all that I’ve done.

Limericks to me are a gift I give to some of my favourite people when I’m in a pinch for birthday presents. They are quick, funny, a bit sexy, a bit dangerous, and the type of thing you can only do with people you are very comfortable with offending. That’s a great barometer of friendship, how much can you offend someone before they leave? It’s a very risky move, but worth a lot of points.

And as the great and now sadly dead Bruce Forsyth said, points win prizes.

Limerick 39

Prague, as a city, is hilly,
The beer, rich and golden, is chilly
But look out in the dark
As in every park
You might see a pissing man’s willy!

Ha! Wrote that one on a beer mat in a pub in a touristy bit of Prague with my parents and fiancée. We noticed you could slide beer mats under he glass coating of the table so I did one of my best. My mum drew a picture on it. My handwriting is chimplike.

Limerick 43

Teaching is a noble profession
But I must make a tearful confession
I don’t know what I do
But neither do you
So shut up and learn from my lesson!

It’s okay, but suffers as it doesn’t have a specific enough target, I suppose it’s kind of self-deprecating though which fits the pattern.

Limerick 44

If you can’t see, consult an optician.
To disappear, see a magician.
But if you make children cry
And you make flowers die
You may want to see a beautician!

It’s pretty grand.

They are a great piece of fun and that’s why I brought them to you today. I thought who talking about Dresden, but it’s a little heavy for this time of night.

I hope you enjoyed them and if you need any rhymed withering barbs you know the guy to ask.

Tired enough to be dropping off, the writer of this piece is very much looking forward to bed.

Like Pulling Teeth

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“Good morning, campers!”

Grunt. That guy in the corner fucking grunted. His mate sniggered after it too. Okay, so it’s gonna be one of those fucking days.

Keep it together, it’s only an hour long class. Still, with cunts like this 5 minutes can feel like a week. My normally placid and cool nature, my inner still reflecting pool, suddenly becomes a volcanic mouth of fury, and I bubble over – but only a little bit. It’s all about that customer service angle, these days.

I’ve got my materials. An article, 4 activities, a target for what they’re getting taught this week. I could’ve been put off by this whole not-giving-two-shits attitude that they showed in their first two weeks but here we are. Roll on week three! (Consider shifting to start, maybe not exciting enough?)

I was feeling in a properly good mood before I came in and all. Breakfast was decent, ham and eggs, and I got a seat on both the tram and the metro. The continent is great for having all this public transport but it’s a shame there’s hardly ever enough seats. There’s always loads of seats on the buses back home. Probably because everybody drives.

Time to stop fantasising and get into the moment. I try and break their impassive stony faces with a bit of high energy joking around. Got to be part kids’ entertainer these days to really break through.

“C’mon, c’mon!” I cajole, clapping twice like some mad clown cunt, “Wakey, wakey!”

Still nothing. Maybe the faintest glimmer of a smile in the corner of one eye. That one glimmer is my only fucking hope in this room and I hope I say the right things to nurture it. If at least somebody leaves the room cheery then it’s job well done. Cheery people tend to learn a bit more. They also, most importantly, give the least negative feedback to HQ. It’d be fine if I’d done something wrong or if they just said we didn’t fit as people, but I can tell these guys aren’t like that. These are the types of contemptible fuckers who would find some small chink in my armour, some time I wasn’t the most happy, smiley, cheery, japing motherfucker on the planet, or some time I was two minutes late, or some time I said I had to look something up because I’m not omnipotent. They expect an awful lot from us. And sometimes give nothing back.

I begin, as you’re always told to, at the start. I lead in with something basic to butter them up, get their verbal centres working, in tune, alive, here. An open question.

I get stares. The type of taxidermist animal stares like you’d get from some stupid cunting weasel who stood in the road a bit too long before getting obliterated by a lorry. Miraculously, its eyes and vacant look survived, multiplied, and are now populating the faces and expressions of everyone in the room. That glimmer from the corner of one eye is gone. I repeat myself a couple times – nice and slowly like, really gentle in case maybe their ears were too plugged up or it was too early. The silence continues. It is brutal.

A girl whispers to her neighbour, who giggles. Some cunt looks at his phone. Another guy is sleeping in the corner. It’s not even mid-afternoon but all these guys look like they’re half dead. It feels like I’m about to join them.

It’s as though I’ve been impaled, some swift, sharp, shard, right up the jacksy. Or maybe rather stunned with some sort of dart, then pickled in spite and misery, and hung on the wall, with some Latin inscription that says “Incompetent Teacher” underneath, still breathing, mouth wired shut to quieten my complaints.

We get through the first part of the lesson, an activity designed to take two minutes, in about 20 minutes. The next part is supposed to take 20 and could well take 200 if it scales up at the same rate. What a horrible day, it starts to rain outside and I hear the crack of a distant thunderstorm. The wind rises.

Moving swiftly on to the next part, I start explaining the rules of the next exercise. They aren’t interested. Two of them are picking at each other’s fingernails, one is doodling in a jotter, one guy is making an attempt at looking interested. So shines a good deed in a weary world. Shame this world is intractable, unchangeable. There’s nothing else that can be done at this stage. This is a fixed point in time and space. Even if there’s a maelstrom of indignity flying around it in my head. I turn towards the culprits.

It’d be too easy to just blame myself. After all, I’m supposed to be Mr Teacher, Mr In-Charge. It’d be far easier to blame the students for their laziness and their self-affected “too cool to try” attitude. It’s a shame mediocrity is looked at as cool. Nah, I put the blame where it belongs, with whoever decided that I and them should be in the same room, staring at some activity which is too hard for half of them, too easy for the other half, and with no personal input permitted from me. It is a riddle who thought this would work, but it’s just a game of extraction from some HR department or some marketer somewhere who saw the chance for a quick buck selling an education and duping some people who aren’t allowed to choose but are just told it’s important that they do it. Add paperwork on top of that and it’s no wonder educators are running for the hills and starting resistance movements.

After the interminably paced class winds down to its final death throes, I extract signatures after some pointed pointing and diagrams, then I jog on to a new adventure. A train ride takes me away from the smog and the din and the indecipherable wailing of the man on the street – I hope he gets help, whatever the matter is – and into the countryside.

It’s opener there
In the wide, open air.

Out there, I find my guys. The watermen. They’ve known each other for years and are actually at the same skill level. For these guys, I can put my skills to use. Anger subsides and abates. It is peaceful. The storm cloud broke over another part of the city. And we clink glass.

Brexit Poem

The consequence clear, I’ve called and I’ve checked it,

The people have gone out their way and they’ve wrecked it!

And no one is quite sure just how far to test it –

The English went out and the voted for Brexit.

Now Sterling has fallen, straight down to the floor,

It may yet fall further, it hasn’t yet landed;

It fell, and it dropped, and it’s falling some more.

It’s unprecedented, no one understands it.

In a final retread

Some have tried to fix it

But they’ve shit the bed!

They’ve gone and they’ve bricked it.

So, the old all went out, and they voted for Brexit.

Now Scotland wants free – a sexy ass Sexit.

Is Czexit or even Hungrexit to follow?

Drink up, for now there will be no tomorrow!


+1 for Humanity

The numbers on the left hand side of his vision ticked up, repeatedly. Each number was a sign of some Good Deed – from smaller things like a door being held on a subway to the greater like saving a life with a transplant or by somebody putting themselves in danger to save another. On the right hand side was another number, ticking up slower but more grimly – the Dick Moves. These troubled Stanley, but it was an unavoidable curse to know bad things were happening. Some kind of sense was made by the system, where it balanced the knowledge of good things with the knowledge of the bad. It was heartening to see that on most days the good won, but he had no part in the numbers.

It was a day in October when he realised the affliction. It started with some eye trouble, a blurriness in his peripheral vision. Some black flakes glanced before his eyes. He chased them from left to right and he started to notice a pattern. He noticed the flakes would multiply and become like tally marks, before they faded and were replaced by traffic lights. Green on the left, red on the right, flickers of amber in the centre. Claire, his optician, informed him there was nothing wrong on the surface with his eyes. There was also no fault in his optic nerve, and nothing could be detected by retinal photography. His eyesight was no worse than ever. Stanley could not believe this. The evidence was before his eyes, why was it not within them? Claire recommended a psychologist but Stanley had no interest in knowing what was wrong with his mind. Some things are best kept private.

His eyes cleared after a week. He figured it was just a spell from his job as an office drone. Screen blindness. Old screens. Flickering halogen lights. But then he saw them, he heard them, the ticks and crosses of human endeavour. The numbers.

It was on the 24th of October. He had just gotten off a metro and saw a couple run down the escalators. They were too far to make it. It was a foregone conclusion. Poor suckers. But somebody held the door open for a second and they made it in.

+1 for humanity blazed across his vision.

This new understanding brought a change in outlook – life became about maximising good. Stanley opened every vein, he donated money to every charity he could, he reduced his own expenses to subsistence level to keep it up. He cut his own office hours to offer his time as a fundraiser for a children’s hospital, he had to bake a lot of cakes for their events. At every available opportunity he donated his own precious O+ blood that he may help somebody, anybody, who needed it. But he saw no benefit from his actions.

He felt appreciation in handshakes or in slaps to the back, he heard it in the kind words in his ear, but it made no impact to the scores. Nothing in the left hand or right hand column attested to his efforts. All he got were pins from the different organisations, and letters putatively written by orphans which he doubted as they all told the same story in the same language. These awards would have been sufficient if it hadn’t been for the fact that he could see the numbers, numbers which said he was adding nothing. They did not relate to his activities.

Stan was divorced from humanity.

Something had unstuck him from the general human experience. His actions were worthless in the overall picture. They were null, and so he became despondent. He maintained his course in the hope that something would change, maybe the numbers measure intention and because his intentions were to see them go up they stayed the same to spite him for dogooding as a kind of game. If he powered through, though, he knew the numbers may reflect his impact. How could he stop what he’d started when, regardless of the numbers, he knew he was doing something that must be a help?

Oh well, he thought as he woke every morning in the year since his awakening, back to the coal face of sympathy. Doing the right thing was not an easy job. It left him bereft of energy. He was low in money and in the physical things through which people judge their own progress. He had learned to live more simply and to find pleasure somewhere other than the acquisition of stuff. The people he worked with to try and do some good were a constant source of happiness. They all had their reasons for wanting to help, some had children who had recovered due to medical treatment and some had lost loved ones.

As he was putting away a cake stand at an event was approached by an elderly woman named Lynne, who was one of the organisers. They had not talked often as she was often busy with preparations but Stanley did not mind. The story he had heard was too awful. She had lost a child in very painful circumstances from an early onset degenerative condition.

“Hey Stanley.”
“Hi there Lynne, anything I can help you with?”

The question was not as helpful as it sounded in his head and he noticed it the second after it escaped his mouth.

“That’s alright, I just want to thank you for all you’ve done here. Your cakes are a real treat for the kids and have been a great funding boost.” She was becoming more sorrowful as she talked, “I’m glad we’ve still got young lads like you coming in to make a change.”
“Well,” Stanley paused, “It does feel good to do it. I wonder if I’m helping for the wrong reason.”
“And what are the right reasons?” Asked Lynne, “Do you think I just do this because I’m good? It’s a kind of therapy.”

Lynne began to tear up, “My poor girl, falling to pieces like that. This works helps me do something right, sure, it also takes me away from it for a minute.”

Lynne sobbed. Despite hardly knowing her, Stanley wrapped his arms around her.

“There, there.”

It was the best he could do in the situation. Somehow it was enough.

+1 for humanity.

 


So I mean the to do NaNoWriMo this year as I always forget, but I forgot to get started yesterday so I’m playing catchup already. This may have been a neater concept in my head and had a funnier ending, but perhaps I’all save that for another day. Watch this space!

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