The Nerve to suggest

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Russia stockpiles chemical weapons. Boris Johnson tells us this is true but those of us with the ability to see the micro-muscle movements even in a face as bloated with wealth as his could read the braille. The real essence of the message was not that every major country (and some minor Jungle-based ones too) own at least a phial or two of nerve agent, but that he was caught out for being paid £160,000 by a Russian for a game of tennis. Soak that one in for a moment. That fat oaf received (on behalf of the Conservative party) £160,000 from the wife of one of Putin’s ex-Ministers, ostensibly so she could watch him sweat like a trained dancing hog in an Alabama summer circus spectacular. According to reports, the same woman also paid £30,000 at the same charity event for a ‘Guided Tour by the current UK Defence Secretary around Churchill’s war rooms, followed by a Gala Dinner’ hosted by the same.

Rich pickings for the Charities these days, and the Conservative party. Not every charity worker is raping prostitutes in disaster zones, just like most politicians aren’t lining their own pockets or preparing to when the hammer drops and retirement looms. There is much good work still to do. And if that tennis game provided a key networking environment with a well-connected member of Putin’s inner circle then we were all, as British voters, truly blessed.

Boris levelled his dead black piggy eyes at the interviewer (Andrew Marr) and I leaned forward on the sofa. Was he the best we had to offer – the sum total of all we are worth when our country is dealing with the rest of the World? He spoke again but I couldn’t hear above the rushing noise in my head as if something, some grain of truth and goodness passed down from the cosmos, was trying to escape and laser beam out of my eyes and down the Sky satellite network, right up through the dirty cables laying on the floor in the studio and out of any one of the four or five cameras within striking distance of Boris. I turned off the television. It was safer for all of us. Even the cosmos can get angry, and none of us would refuse a ringside seat in the VIP section when that show comes to town. Be there, or ….err….fry in your own atomic juices.

Porton Down is the UK’s chemical research laboratory facility. They don’t deal in lasers there, or paranoid fantasies about burning the face from politicians, but they love death and the juices it creates all the same. They store death in little glass tubes and research ways to make it more sophisticated and, ultimately, simply better at killing people for less reason than Oppenheimer had when he worked on Fat Boy. I know little more than you do about Porton Down, so here’s what the UK MP, and Chair of the UK Government Defence Committee – Bruce George – said in 1999 about the facility:

“I would not say that the Defence Committee is micro-managing either DERA or Porton Down. We visit it, but, with eleven members of Parliament and five staff covering a labyrinthine department like the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces, it would be quite erroneous of me and misleading for me to say that we know everything that’s going on in Porton Down. It’s too big for us to know, and secondly, there are many things happening there that I’m not even certain Ministers are fully aware of, let alone Parliamentarians.” 

How does that feel? We’re talking about a military complex with the capability to kill anyone, in probably any numbers conceivable, in the World. This could happen by design, or accident. You choose your poison, if you’ll pardon the pun. And nobody who represents ‘The People’ knows really what it does or to what extent. If you told an American hillbilly the above they’d laugh and point you to Area 51 and a scar on their ass. Only, Porton Down and its contents aren’t as funny as being probed up the anus by Mork. As that poor ex-Russian Colonel (sent to the UK as part of a Spy-swap deal with Russia years ago) and his daughter found out last week.

The Russian Ambassador to the UK appeared on the same show as Boris this morning and he reminded us all that the Colonel and his daughter were administered the almost fatal dose of nerve agent – codename: ‘Novichok’, but it might as well have been ‘Rasputin’, or ‘The Russians Done It, Mister’ – barely eight miles from………yep, you guessed it……Porton Down. Why? Who? Add the rest of the four ‘W’s’ yourself. There are no good answers the likes of you or I will ever receive. Not if you don’t want to be choking on the fluid seeping into your heart quietly five minutes after sipping at a cup of coffee you had…..

Love. A little goes a long way. Always. Just like a nerve agent.


Move on

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The garbage men worked slowly in the rain over by the interred ashes of Scunthorpe residents who never expected it to come to this. Industrial waste bins were full of decomposing flowers and water-smudged cards saying things like ‘God Bless,’ and ‘Rest in Peace.’

Nobody was resting here.

The overflow car park filled up while I sat in the car on my own fiddling with a chewing gum wrapper and watching the dirty white bin lorry and the orange men tending it like a fat silk worm. No-one looked happy to be here, not the garbage men, and not the mourners. From morning toast and into the only suit you’d need for years: orange or black. Dusted off and now here in this clinically manicured garden. The mainly elderly people in the other cars looked bored staring out from rainy windows towards where the funeral would take place. Waiting for the unscripted right moment. Short walk over at a respectable pace, men jingling keys and change in suit pockets. Heads slightly bowed as if they were afraid to look up.

At the building the tall brick chimney feathered out white smoke. Some gaps, then big clouds. Someone was being burned down in there somewhere. You hardly ever get to see this and you can’t take your eyes from it easily. Another service had just finished. Rain beat down the cloud until I thought it would cover the latest smear of black-clad mourners waiting under an asphalt roof in a kind of ‘Now what?’ moment outside of the exit. Awkward handshakes, the compulsion to smile and shrug. Grey and white hair and tottering footsteps. The only chance some of them got to see each other until next time, but somebody would be the one in the box with the fake brass plastic handles when this same crowd met next time. Bye. Bye.

The Hearse arrived on time but the flower tribute had fallen against the window and I couldn’t read it until the scruffy funeral guy slammed it back against the coffin. “Nan.” Not my Nan. My friend’s mother. I was there because I owed him. Some kind of tied respect that told me this would be the right thing to do. I felt out of place; detached. Like everyone else I’d seen that day knew a secret I didn’t. The smoke from the last cremation flowed out up into the Scunthorpe air. There were no birds. No weeping either.

The service was fast. Dumb prayers and pauses in the right practised places. The Vicar told us stupid lies about the woman. I stood at the back thinking she must have been worth more than the fact she used a computer and liked The Archers. What a life. What an end. No-one left quickly. We were log-jammed by the fear of appearing to leave too soon. Like the group before us, we lingered under the asphalt roof as the rain came in on the breeze.

Afterwards I hugged my friend. I knew he missed her. She’d gotten him out of more shit than anyone would ever know. Now she was dead I feared for him. The last safety net was gone. ‘Take care of yourself please mate,’ I said.

‘Listen,’ he said. ‘I’ll get some resin and we’ll get blasted, eh.’ He laughed hard, too hard for the rain and the crowd.

As I drove away the white cloud billowed heavily, bulging into the sky. That’s all.

Steady Employment

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I’d been with the Barrister for a little over an hour. I’d like to say the conversation had drifted to its natural end, but I can’t. The coffee shop was full of rich people: footballers, agents, silicone-infused young women with long nails and the mean streak required to fight for a better life, even if it meant sucking off an ugly sportsman on a regular basis. I found the foulness of the little wealthy town provided a grimly perfect backdrop to the horror I was listening to. I kept checking that we couldn’t be heard, but the place was noisy with excited talk about little dogs and earrings and of transfer moves. Big phones were being shouted into, watched, pawed at and poured over. Now, as we were finishing up, he was looking at me for a reaction. I didn’t give him the satisfaction. I guessed he wanted me to be impressed.

There were at least five murders. Someone had been burned to death in a disused quarry. Another, finally gutted with a sword, had begged for his life in the boot of a car while they’d gone through a McDonald’s drive-in. A guy was shot to death in his Mercedes at a traffic intersection. Some poor sap had been thrown out of a helicopter. The last had been put in a bag and then thrown into the sea. Fun times.. And those were the murders I was allowed to know about. There were almost certainly many more.

I was told my phone would be bugged, my email was no longer private, and to check periodically that I wasn’t being followed. And I was not to talk to the press or, in fact, anyone about all this. It was the price you paid for knowing the man we were discussing, a man who counted me now as a ‘good friend’. A friendship I was now, more than ever, intending to keep on an even keel.

The arms shipment had been a surprise. So, too, had been the scale of the organisation – Worldwide. It was hard to comprehend in the same way it’s hard to look up at a clear night sky and think about the size of the galaxy with any real grasp of spatial awareness; just the vague sense that you’re very small in the grand scheme of cosmic truths. Small enough to be stomped on with ease.

The snow is falling outside. I’m sitting at the dining room table in my partner’s house. There’s some good music on. It’s warm. I feel warm inside, too. That conversation, and the accompanying reality, are very far away right now. I like that fact. And, despite what my Therapist says, it’s not always good to talk. I’ll leave this one here. Go and hug my woman.


The Almighty King of the Universe


A kid was crying across from me in the narrow aisle. His sister sat and kicked the seat in front, throwing a plastic bottle repeatedly down onto the dirty plastic table, then looking up towards her mother who was too tired to do anything other than stare grimly at the young girl and nod her head in sleepy post-holiday travel tiredness. Dad still had his holiday clothes on and his fat tanned legs bristled with almost hairless goosebumps in the poorly heated railway carriage. He was dozing, cradling a third child and waking up with every rattle of the train as it slogged across the flat lands towards the coast.

The guy with the tattoo had got on the train in some featureless shit-hole where the houses seemed to barely keep above the water table, low and squat, hugging close like shipwreck victims. It was a place you left. Thankful for every mile of distance. I guessed nobody ever looked over their shoulder back towards the ditches and dykes and loneliness, no matter where they headed or whom they left behind.

He was young – maybe twenty – but his light ginger hair was thinning and he’d started to comb it forward in kiss curls that looked like the frayed edges of a threadbare mop. He’d grown a beard. Straggles of hair hugged over his top lip and into his mouth. He sucked on the mat of it from time to time. Hands flicked and pressed at a large phone. He was occasionally smiling, staring at the screen, fiddling with his Nintendo wallet. Black headphones jammed deep into small ears which seemed to be chiseled close to his head like a sculptor’s afterthought.

I watched him – taking a covert photo of the tattoo – while the train crawled past the rows of windmills, never seeming to make any progress. He adjusted his Tom Clancy “Ghost Recon” grey top, glanced around the carriage, then went back to stabbing and swiping at the phone, still smiling. Content. I wondered where he was going? If he even knew, or if he cared? I suppose it was unimportant. He was exactly where he should be. For that brief moment he was indeed the Almighty King of the Universe.



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Never pry into someone else’s life – especially a stranger on a train. This is a sound doctrine and it has served me well. But something about this young guy made the huge phone shine its messages on the screen like a beacon from the seat in front of me. I couldn’t help myself.

I’d seen him on the platform – red short trousers, heavy make-up, silver high-heeled shoes, the points of his blacked in eyebrows almost impossibly sharp. Like a catwalk model. Hip thrust to one side, the universal uneven stance from every red carpet minor list celeb event you’ve ever seen.

I got on the train first. It was just luck that he ended up in the seat in front. Then he held up the huge phone and that’s when I saw into his young life.

Some guy was messaging him, telling him he was the owner of a ‘multi-million pound company’, and asking if ‘she’ was available next week.

‘Yes, darling.’

‘Will you be wearing an on point outfit?’

‘Of course.’

That was the limit of the thing. Nothing really. Just some young Asian man making ends meet. Turning a trick who was so deep into his fantasy that he was starting to concoct a backstory for himself involving wealth and success, almost like he was trying to justify payment for the services rendered. His money meant more. The kid might even work harder if he bought the millionaire company bullshit. It was worth the risk.

The train stopped again after a few minutes. The young guy got off, clattering down the platform, chin up high, on point.

The next guy in the seat was a businessman. He laid out a laptop and got to it. Very important man. Time too valuable to waste. Life more grey than his hair.

When I left the train at the end of the outbound journey I knew I’d be back on it soon enough, deep into the canned lives of everyone on those tracks. Chugging slowly along. Gambling with the proximity of the next person to take a seat nearby.

The return trip was worse. A football match between two local sides was happening that afternoon and the train was so full that I was left standing up against the luggage rack, listening to heavy talk of fights and fear, beer cans being opened, men trembling with excitement you don’t often see on a train. Everyone pressed up close to each other, laughing, banging on the windows at stations when a pretty girl appeared on the platform. Police officers in front looked bored, constantly on the radio; seen it all before. An hour and a half I stood there staring grimly out of the window, waiting for someone to single me out as not being a member of the same shitty tribe. They didn’t bother. I was thankful for it. As the train rolled into the opposition’s town the mood started to turn ugly. People were pushing, lighting cigarettes, starting the first bent over steps of Liam Gallagher walks. It was a bad scene. They swaggered out of the train like a pack of Lemurs searching for fallen fruit. Good times. Bad postures.

I walked up the hill in the sunshine. Travelling is okay, I thought, as long as the destination is worthwhile.


Rich Indeed

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Jimi Hendrix choked to death on his own vomit. He was wealthy, but all that meant nothing when he was disappearing into some alpha hole he could never trip back from. Sleeping tablets and booze can do that to a guitar hero, or to you.

The wind is cold. My walking boots are failing me and wearing heavily. Prince George (is that his name? I’m not entirely sure I know for certain) has started at his first private school. Money is tight around here. The summer was a washout, tragic, really. The first shitty autumn storm came around two days ago – my birthday. Birthday… I’m forty four years old. I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t a hell of a do. Neither was the storm. I guess naming these things stops us from wondering why we never used to get them back in the days when lead was in petrol. And it is easier to believe an abstract weather entity with a name has some form of sentience than it is to admit to Climate Change. We really are that stupid. It’s been a long time since I’ve touched this keyboard. And if you can’t tell, then I can.

I started out with the intention of writing about the £4,000,000 spent in the past two years on the Duke and Duchessessess’ – whatever fucking antiquated bullshit name they’ve given themselves – home in London. I was going to spit bile about it, get worked up, and throw more tablets down my neck to stop me losing any sense of reality. I still might. I haven’t finished reading up on the renovation properly.

Shit….the place was ‘riddled with asbestos’, and had no running water. What the fuck has all the Royal income been used on over the years if the house where Prince Charles and the people’s Princess lived in wedded bliss had no running water? Where has the cash gone? Words like ‘Sensitive’ and ‘ordinary’ were used to describe the Cambridge’s views on the plush restoration of the massive house in the best part of London. They apparently paid for their own kitchen… William has no official income now he’s stopped his year or so of work – excepting the expenses for merely existing and carrying out his official engagements. Tahiti, or Stevenage? Tough choices. Oh, he receives roughly £350,000 a year from the £10,000,000 trust fund his mother left him and his playboy brother.

I can’t type any more. I can’t write any more. I’m barely managing to stay afloat today. This is a day for medication, music, and for forgetting my lowly birth.

I’m starting a DBT Advanced Group next month. My CPN is due in the morning. I don’t pay for either. I am rich indeed.


The Wedding

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It was dark on the manicured lawn. No lights, other than the shitty disco colours through cracks in the curtains a hundred feet away on the other side of a sand bunker and a small car park. Muffled music ran like thick sludge from the doors to the hole in the grass with a flag in it where I was standing. I was looking up at the stars in my hired three piece suit. The July night was clear and warm but there was an ominous feeling, like I was committing a murder, or had just felt a sudden strong gust of wind on a cliff edge. I didn’t want to go back inside. About a hundred people were sitting looking bored, or had drunk too much and decided to dance. People weren’t talking to each other. Nobody looked interested in anything other than getting the fuck out of there and back home. I was no different. I lay down on the grass, wondering how long it’d take before someone realised the groom had gone. If it mattered?

A friend of mine had driven from Leeds but was sitting in his car smoking weed. I could smell it from the eighteenth green, lush and fragrant, like a last note of many years of fantastic music. There’d be no more of that kind of thing for me. At 27 I was already so deeply into normal life anyhow that whomever I used to be had been kicked to death. And I was having my wedding reception at a Golf Club…..a fucking Golf Club….! The shitty, dull, grind of nothingness was already weighing heavily. What sort of robot had I become? Somehow I’d got with a woman so incompatible that the days lasted forever and the nights couldn’t come soon enough just so I could go to sleep and waste the hours. Inside the Golf Club hall she was sitting talking to her sister, laughing. The wedding dress was cutting into her armpits but she kept it on. It was her day.

I got up and walked slowly back inside. Shitty music now, booming. Alternate blue/green/red light illuminated faces all staring into space or down at the plates of food from the £1,000 evening buffet. I hadn’t eaten any of it. I waited at the bar to be served. Somehow I’d have to get through the honeymoon. How? I couldn’t bear to think about it. I drank the lager quickly and ordered another, which didn’t taste as bad as the first, but couldn’t have lifted the mood even if it had been laudanum.

That night, in the bridal suite, I saw someone had smeared lipstick on the mirror. Some bawdy bullshit about screwing my new bride. There was a penis shaped balloon tied to the bed. We undressed. She folded the wedding dress carefully. I chucked the suit on a chair and climbed into bed. She got in beside me. ‘Did you enjoy the wedding,’ I asked.

‘It was wonderful,’ she replied.

‘I’m very tired.’

‘Shouldn’t we….’

‘Maybe in the morning. That okay with you?’


I slept well. Avoided any physical contact in the morning. Ate breakfast. Drove to the airport. We didn’t even have sex on the honeymoon. I managed to dodge it by saying I felt poorly, hungover, sunburned, headache, stomach ache, tired, and spent the week drinking, walking around in a daze, avoiding thinking about marrying the wrong person. Feeling like a rat trapped in a barrel. No chance of escape.


Staying Alive

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At 3am you get the sense you’ve been here before; light crawling up the hillside, the grey porridge of the end of night, too early to move, too late to go to sleep. Early July, 3am, is a time to sit on the edge of a bed and draw the curtain and create the notion of hope in the forming daylight. You might sit like that for a while, pausing to throw yourself back onto the bed and stare at the ceiling and wonder, and think, and try to let all those thoughts drift up and out of the open window with any prayers you might have silently mouthed. And I did.

Where thoughts like that go is anyone’s guess. I could almost see them reaching out from inside and forming long golden lines like cosmic silk, floating up into the morning. Almost. Perhaps some God somewhere gathers them in and weaves a better future if you can only provide enough? A vast omnipotent being, taking in my hopes and dreams and slowly piecing the threads together until it hands them back to me fully formed into a gold jacket. Maybe that’s what happened to Barry Gibb? He had the right contacts up there, a direct line. Priority customer. Maybe I’m still in the queue, further down the list? Or they boogied all their bonhomie away on that one sacred item of clothing? NO energy left to complete my order.

And that’s it today. The birds need feeding, the grass needs mowing, and I still have to write some more stuff in order to feel alive. Standard day on earth. Basic human events. Totally under control. So why is my heart beating faster than it should? My thoughts aren’t still. They get only so far then return to the same point over and over, like a looping disco track. I just don’t have the right clothes.



Paragon of Animals

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Quiet up on the moor this morning. No sounds of outward bound groups screaming with the delight that trees and air and rocks can zap into an inner city brain if you let it.

As I stood at the viewpoint a guy came past, looked me up and down, smirked. He was fit, sinewy, tanned, hardly out of breath as he ran. I watched him kick up the dust on the old railway line. He was moving. I looked at myself when he’d gone out of sight: old, out of shape, dusty boots, shorts, rucksack. Dressed for suck-sess. He was superior in every way, bouncing along like an impala, too fast to catch or throw a rock at, smug. Men like that always win, always sprint past through life. They are go-getters. The sharks in the sea. Viewing the rest of us as prey. Too full of testosterone to see properly out of their eyes. I thought about turning back, writing the day off in maudlin self-hurt, but ended up on auto-pilot down the incline under the canopy of July, 2017.

The walk was quicker than usual. Maybe a trick of the mind, maybe worm holes, or some psychotic delusion. I kept reciting the Hamlet Soliloquy, famous as the ending of Withnail and I. It seemed to make sense. ‘What a piece of work is a man!’

A pretentious mental tick…… ‘Man delights not me..’ over and over, and the geese on the canal heard some of the words before they could paddle away with their chicks in the early morning sun. The village was empty. I made it back up the hill, locked the garden gate behind me. Got to typing.



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Ant people. As the blind, stumbling, hairless, disorientated, people who survived the closest to the Hiroshima bomb were called. Ant people. Charred skin. Wondering why.

Today on the radio I heard two men arguing about Nuclear weapons. One guy just didn’t want them at all. He figured the World was better off without them and without some city somewhere being one computer glitch away from disappearing in a cloud of unimaginable horror. Ant people.

The other guy talked about protection, as if he was under some constant threat, calling from under his kitchen table. Too much anger in his voice, as there always seems to be in the voices of people wanting more guns, more bombs, more sharpened teeth. More ant people.

The radio moved on. People were going to Mars. Billions of dollars would propel them up into the vacuum and give the poor fools who volunteered the opportunity to drink each others urine for months on end, fighting off cabin fever, psychotic urges, and the type of panic only the really insane feel on any regular basis. Trapped like rats in a chrome watering can. Gnawing frantically at each other out of fear.

But so what, eh? Who cares what I think. It’s raining outside for the first real time for a few weeks. The foxgloves in my garden are shining and their flowers are lifting the dull day. Perfect form and colour.

I have therapy tomorrow, then a visit by my CPN on Thursday. There’s a lot to talk about.