Friday, October 14, 2005


And I have to say this. I've just heard another story that various shareholders are taking the government to court over Railtrack going into administration. Whilst I am no lover of the current government, these people need to understand what they were doing - buying into stolen property. If I buy a video on the cheap from some bloke in the pub, and then the police come around and tell me it was stolen from a house down the road, I don't really have a leg to stand on when it's taken back. Similarly, if I buy shares in a company that was previously nationalised, and thus owned by everyone, and then it gets taken back into public ownership, I have no right to complain that my selfish attempting at profiteering was beaten off in the face of the "public good".
We need more, and indeed, genuine, renationalisation. And sod the greedy, money-grabbing bastards who bought the shares in the first place. As the warning says "share prices can go down as well as up"...

A birthday tribute

A friend once told me a story about a musician friend of his (yes, I know, friend of a friend, but he actually gave the names, and I've met said person, so I'm inclined to believe it's true...), going out to a music shop just off Oxford Street. A fairly informal place, the owner was drinking tea with other customers, and suggested to the newcomer that he, too, may like to join them in a cuppa, and that he should go to the kitchen, and sort himself out with one. Whilst in there, he noticed there was a bottle of champagne in the fridge, so asked the owner if he was celebtrating something. "No", he replied, "It's just waiting there until Thatcher dies". Well, I, too have a bottle of champagne in my fridge, waiting for something worth celebrating, and that seems as good as any other excuse. Sadly, however, she's just turned 80 today. And, furthermore, her bastard son seems to have taken over as Prime Minister, revelling in the same Fundamentalist neo-liberal dogmas that she used to espouse. What is it that makes people believe this nonsense. In a science, a hypothesis is rejected when it is falsified. In economics (the dismal science, as someone I can't remember described it), someone can claim that unrestricted "free market" capitalism is good for a country, it can be implemented in full, by Milton Friedman's "Chicago Boys", in Chile, when General Pinochet more or less handed his economic policy over to them in the 1970s, and it can destroy the country, which only recovered thanks to a hefty dose of Keynesian interventionism - surely as effective a refutation as is needed. And yet, it is still espoused by various acolytes and priests, who view it as the only way forward.
Nonetheless, I digress. Thatcher's still alive. And 80. Whilst, if she died, it would change nothing, and her ridiculoud opinions and ideologies are still alive and well with our current corrupt Prime Minister, her death would be, if nothing else, an excuse for a party. And a group trip to piss on her grave...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

People watching - story fragment

Just because someone is not seen, it does not mean that they see nothing.

The man works in a club, part of a chain. Most of his nights follow the same pattern: he is alone, with his dreams. The music is muffled until the door opens. Then it blasts through for a couple of seconds, dragging him back to the world. He is forced to be aware of the man who has walked into the toilets, watch as he approaches the urinal and smile as he turns to wash his hands. He has seen all the reactions; he simply tries to do his job. They walk in and are surprised, annoyed or nonplussed to see him. He smiles at them all, turns on the taps for them, offers them soap and towels. If there is a significant clunk from the coin they drop in his dish, he offers them something from the range of colognes and aftershaves. He may spray them with something. He may not. Either way he will still smile. He smiles as he watches them head out, back into the movement, the chaos outside the door. He smiles as he surveys his once-again quiet domain. He knows it will not remain quiet for long. But for this brief moment, he retreats, out of this white-walled prison, back into his dreams. For another few moments, he is free.
His is the world of dreams: of being himself when alone, of politeness, of quiet observation, of seeing when others are present. Even worlds such as this may be transitory, though. They need to be defended on occasions. Tonight may be just such a time.
People often leave things. He has found much over the years but very few people ask for things back. Who would they ask? Him?! He is an embarrassment at best – nobody wants to talk to him. And yet today’s find is different … more significant, somehow.
He has seen this man before. He always struts arrogantly in a suit and walks through doors marked “Private”. He is clearly a man who warrants respect. Either that, or a man with a small amount of power who expects respect, which in practical terms can amount to the same thing. The man has left a folder behind, though. Very forgetful of him. It contained some contracts, some notes, and a letter. Maybe the letter has an address. Maybe, for once, he can return something to its owner. He reads the letter.
“Dear Tom,
I received your proposals this morning – thank you. As you are aware, the need for savings is even greater than when we last spoke. We will obviously have to halve the bar-staff. The rest will simply work longer. We can also hand many of them cleaning duties, to further reduce our expenditure. I believe more streamlining can be performed on top of this – you have already made some proposals, and I have faith in your ideas in this area. Regards,
Another piece of paper is attached by a clip – the words are scrawled in an impatient hand: “P.S. Off, the record, whilst nobody would ever suggest watering down the drinks, could they not be made to, as it were, last longer? Given the eminent stupidity of most of the punters, combined with the fact that they’re already three-sheets to the wind when they arrive, they would never notice the difference. We can also get rid of our “bathroom hosts”, as they seem to like to be called. To be frank, it’s almost not worth the bother, the amount they’re paid isn’t a huge saving. But that bloke in the men’s freaks me out. Just do it.”

He reads the letter two or three times. Obviously this requires further action. He surveys his room once again - the bottles of coloured liquids, the hand towels. The mysterious cubicles. This cannot be rushed. He must give the matter further thought. Thought is, after all, what he is good at. Thought, along with seeing – and he has seen much over the years. Managers, executives, letter-writers – they all need to use toilets on occasion. Sometimes they spend longer in here than is necessary. Sometimes they leave behind traces of white powder in cubicles, lines that lead to conclusions, lines that could be written about – lines on lines. He has seen important men, men with power, men who strut and deserve respect, men with families, enter cubicles with women, with other men. He does not talk about it. That is not his place. He is simply the silent observer. Smiles and politeness are his means of communication, his profession. Desperate circumstances are the mother of change, however. When a world needs defending, all assets must be employed. There is power in the written word; as a short letter can destroy a world, so a short letter may yet defend it. He finds some blank paper within the forgotten folder, some space in between the crowd of bottles, and begins to write, “Dear Sir…”

My first kitten - an autobiographical fragment

It is, of course, the dream of every young boy to have a kitten of his own, and thus it was with great excitement that we drove to the RSPCA centre in Leeds to pick ours up. My housemate, the bearded and peculiar Dr Harry was driving. I sat next to him, tense, nervous and eager as a new parent waiting for good news.
Technically, it wasn’t a kitten we were picking up, but a young cat. However, such details are trivial. He was ours.

The RSPCA was staffed by severe looking nurses. After viewing us disapprovingly, one such nurse gave us our instructions. The cat was dazed, owing to the “operation” he’d had. We winced. No details necessary. He was drugged up. We could understand that. He’d need feeding scrambled eggs. This was less intelligible. But people wearing white coats said it with authority, and who were we to argue?

We took him home. His name was already decided upon – Glorious Five Year Plan. A fine name for a cat. If a touch long. A shorter nickname would be applied later.

He was released into the living room. Watching it was a truly magical experience. It is not every day that one can say one has seen a stoned cat stretch to his full length and stagger out of a cardboard box, before stumbling around and collapsing. Drugs and no balls. That’s enough to leave anybody in a vulnerable position. I went to cook his eggs.

Perhaps the salt and pepper weren’t necessary. I felt, however, it was important to give our new guest the best. My other housemate, the fallen angel Steve, watched, with some bemusement. It was he who had challenged our requirement for a cat.

“What do you want one for, anyway?” he had asked, weeks ago, non-plussed at the prospect of feline company.

“So we can get stoned, and it can sit on us,” was my response, stating, what I thought, was the obvious.

Later on, Steve and Glorious Five Year Plan failed to see eye-to-eye on many issues…to such an extent that the cat’s nickname became Steve. Dr Harry and myself considered it amusing to refer to Steve as “T’Other Steve”.

“Have you seen Steve? His girlfriend’s on the phone.”

“Yes, he’s sat in front of the telly, licking his arse.”

“Sorry, I mean T’Other Steve.”

Glorious Five Year Plan failed to enjoy his scrambled eggs. He disappeared several months later – on the morning, indeed, of Mr Tony Blair’s first election victory. I like to believe he was carried away by the thought of helping to usher in a glorious new Socialist dawn, and headed to Downing Street, plans for the nationalisation of leading monopolies clutched firmly in his paws. Given later events, I can only surmise he never made it there.

By way of explanation

The next couple of posts are something of a departure from the usual rants about corrupt politicians and religious lies. I have been attempting to keep different strands of writing separate. However, the editor of my other work has threatened to resign unless I put it up here, and since she's dead good, and I couldn't do it without her, here it is. One autobiographical fragment, one fragment of a short story. The story will be expanded upon - whether here or elsewhere is another matter....