Nights of panic

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The house was on a new development. Mock Tudor. Hideous. I was only looking at it because my partner thought it was the right thing – the upwardly mobile thing – to do. She was bland. I guess that’s why the blandness of the little street appealed. All I knew was that it was bigger than the house we were living in. And I wouldn’t have to hear the neighbours over the road fucking in the summer with their windows open. Screaming up the hot night while I lay in bed not wanting to do the same with the woman laying next to me. Every time I heard them I imagined the kind of love and lust that was driving those screams and moans. It had never been like that in my life. Fuck those hot summer nights. We would breath heavy. Both of us knowing the other wasn’t asleep. Not touching in bed. Me staring into the gloom praying I wouldn’t feel a hand on me under the thin sheets. Having to make up an excuse.

But the new house was going to be away from all that. The neighbours weren’t going to screw all night and shout each others names into the stinking rotten Epworth air. This was a move upwards. Up Up, into the middle class. Two cars on the drive. Waving to grass-cutting middle-aged car salesmen across the way on Saturday afternoons. Pristine house. Glass of wine with Dinner. Better and better cars and sofas and holidays until the rest of my hair fell out and the pension cheques started dropping on the mat. Climbing up into the apex of fat mediocrity. Tense puckered kisses goodbye in the mornings, the limit of sexual contact. Thankful for it.

The house was owned by a single woman in her mid to late forties. I can’t remember her name but it was something like Crapper, or Merde, or some other shit-based reference. I remember laughing when I first heard it. She had curly brown hair and, possibly, an eating disorder. She was very thin, drawn, and her eyes had sunk right down into their sockets. I was shocked when she opened the door to show us around. And she was timid, really scared-looking. Mousy. Like she was about to run to a safe room and bolt the door behind her. She barely whispered when she talked. Something told me she’d seen something awful and couldn’t wash it away. I thought that’s why she kept the house so clean. The hallway and stairs had a brand new carpet, you could smell the newness. The walls had been painted cream and it looked as though the paint layers were thick and expensive. My partner loved the place, so after we looked round we went back to the estate agents and told them we’d offer near the asking price. I wondered about the new carpets in a new house. I asked what it was all about.

‘You didn’t see the news last year?’ she replied.


‘Her husband attacked her one night in the house with an axe. It was pretty bad. She was trying to leave and he was chopping at her as she was coming down the stairs into the hallway to the front door, trying to run. I heard she curled up into ball by the front door and he just kept on hacking. Someone next door heard the noise and called the police. She nearly died.’


‘He got twenty years in prison.’

‘And that’s why the new carpet and the paint job?’

‘Yeah. You do still want to put an offer in?’

The sales pitch wasn’t the best I’d ever heard. But at least it was honest. Mrs Crapper, or whatever she was called, had only just come out of hospital and wanted rid of the place where she’d almost been chopped to pieces by someone she trusted. She wasn’t even living there any more. She’d moved in to her sister’s. She couldn’t face living alone. Being hacked at with an axe tends to change people.

So we bought the house, violent memories and all, and I set about cleaning the car on Saturdays, waving to the guy across the road. Losing more of me by the second. Disappearing into the middle of my life in a beige haze of nothing out of the ordinary. At least in the summer, with the bedroom windows open, the nights were still. Like they were in the marriage bed.




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You can’t believe the sound a pool ball whirled in a sock makes when it connects with a human skull until you hear it in person. A dull thwack, gristly, mixed with the sound of something heavy dropping into hard butter. There’s a sense of give. And then the sound of someone falling – which they almost always do. A face first plant into a floor, broken nose into the bargain. Followed, depending on the drivers of the situation – hatred, payback, random violence, kicks – with the running steps of the attacker, disappearing around a corner or into a cell.

I’ve heard all those sounds. Never caused any of them, but I was there. I saw the blood too, and watched the bodies being carried away.

But that was all a long time ago. The tiny gravity of half-kilo pool balls doesn’t play on my mind unless I let it. I only thought about it today because the Queens Speech is up and running. That, and the bizarre terrorist attacks taking place over and over again with the same kind of common implements: vehicle, bottles of water, kitchen knife, fists, and shouting. As a great man once said ‘Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.’ Death is easy once the cause is established and the medium figured out. We all have access to it. We can all be sucked down by the emotional gravity that’d push even a parish priest into a vicious blood lust.

But that’s not today. Not for me, anyhow. It’s the Summer Solstice. The interplay between vast gravitational celestial bodies, whirling around, too fast to comprehend. Days shortening until the end of December. Passing back round like a huge pool ball in a cosmic sock. Dependable, finite, march of Time. Moving too heavily to stop or change pace, even though sometimes I’d like it to.

What does any of that mean? Not much, I suppose, except I am valuing being alive at the moment. Happy that I dodged the worst orbits life aimed at the weak spots. Feeling re-birth, the circular way of things.

See ya at the Gun Store..

There were times I am retrospectively thankful I didn’t have access to a gun. Lots of times. In fact, those occasions haven’t stopped. I have sat in utter rage, resplendent with tremors, grinding teeth, clenched fists, tense muscles, and wished I had my finger on a trigger and a quick route to someone’s house or place of work. Then there were the other times when I was just so very sad that I wished I had a .45 pointed at my head. Boom. All hurt gone forever. Whichever way you look at it, firearms are something which wouldn’t have enriched my life in a positive manner.

But I heard yesterday that Trump signed a Bill making it easier for people like me (people with mental health problems) to go out and buy a gun in America. Why did he do that?

I thought about the answer to that question this morning but I can’t fathom an answer which isn’t about Satanic Cults or some warped attempt to ethnically cleanse the USA. Nothing made sense. Guns on streets tend to kill folks when wielded by normal people, imagine the scene if a hundred thousand pretty mentally ill people all had an M16. Blat blat blat on every street corner, or lonely bedsit, or simply in a living room while the kids are asleep upstairs; one small sentence hastily scribbled on the back of a shopping list to explain why to the people who would want to know.

Trump has enabled a lot of death with that one signature. I can almost feel the death creeping over the Atlantic and oozing into my pores right now. It’s gun metal gray, and it stinks. The whole thing reeks of Eugenics.

I guess at my worst I’d have been on several killing sprees if I’d have been able to get away with them, and I’m positive my brain would have been blasted onto an off-white ceiling leaving rich hues and dripping bloody stalactites. I’m serious. Big things happen with collapsing mental health and guns. Ask a history teacher. They are one of the worst combinations imaginable. Much worse than macaroni cheese and sausages. They are a recipe for grief and death. Guaranteed instant results every time.

There are few things to thank modern politicians for, but living in a country where guns are hard to come by is one of them. Small mercies and all that… But this is the UK. Today in the US people with mental health problems already have a gun and some of them will die, or kill others, or both. Now the future is much worse for the Nutters, and the innocent bystanders, thanks to Trump. But we’re only the loonies, after all. Heading straight into Hell. See ya’ll at the gun store.


The Loser

The weapon was pulled out of his pocket on purpose. It was some kind of metal stabbing implement. It clanged on the floor when it fell. We were in a chemists waiting for prescriptions. He was shaking and pale but he needed to show me he was tough. He’d pushed into the queue and didn’t like it when I told him he was rude.

“What you gonna do…eh?” He said.


“You should have been quicker bruv. Anyway, don’t look at me like you’re a hard man. Fuck you.”

“I’m not hard, I just don’t think you should have pushed in.”

I went and stood near him to wait, and to show him I wasn’t scared – which, in truth, I wasn’t. He was mid twenties, thin – I guessed it was heroin thin. He was shaking like someone who isn’t used to having natural adrenaline pumping around their system right next to the cause.

He let the metal tool fall to the floor then picked it up and held it in his hand, making little motions, going through some fantasy fight in his brain. I stood motionless, waiting for the next step. The pharmacists eyed us with concern from behind the tall counter.

“Who are you then?” He asked after a few seconds, spitting out the words and barring his teeth.

“Who are you?” I replied.

“I asked you.”

“I’m not single if you’re trying to pick me up. I’ve got a girlfriend.” I looked right into his eyes. There was no fight there, only fear.

“Girlfriend….” he muttered. “I’ll give you ‘girlfriend’.”

“Look mate, just give it a rest.”

“Don’t you try and follow me out of here when I leave and where there’s no cameras because I will fuck you up where there’s no cameras.” His words came out, but he was shaking and his hands were nervous. The metal spike was rolling from one hand to the other. “I will fuck you up.”

“Listen…I’m not following you anywhere, just chill out.” I didn’t want to say those words, but it was the right thing, the DBT thing, the ‘good’ thing.

My prescription was called out. He stayed seated. I collected it from the scared looking member of staff and left slowly. Outside, walking away from the place in the winter sunshine, I felt bad for not waiting and taking him up on his offer; to unlock the anger inside again that has cursed me all these years, unknowing to this shithead, taking me through things he would never know. I walked looking up at the sky, thinking of therapy, the glorious pain of the punch, the pressure on my internal violence, the loss of what I was walking from. And I felt less of a man. A loser.

At home I took some diazepam and sat and thought of what I should have done – what I could have done. Three good weeks felt like they had disappeared down the Borderline Personality Disorder drain in seconds. Inner self-hate, my arm, and a kitchen knife saw to that.

There was never going to be a winner. I had lost without a punch being thrown.


High Plains Drifter

There was no hope in his eyes. Just a far-away gaze that rested on distant shores, unseen by anyone but himself. His straggly beard bushed out over the top of his green knife-proof jacket and almost hid the badge that read “Parking Enforcement”. His cap was ragged, dirty, and his shoes were cheap cracked fake leather. They’d seen a lot of miles.

I’d stopped him to ask about where to park and now, five minutes later, I was in to a conversation I’d tried to leave three times by holding up my hand and wishing him good luck. I’d failed. He began to test me on where I thought it was legal to park, and went into horrific detail in recounting the tale of ‘the time when I was ticketing a pensioner with a blue badge who’d……’. God, it was horrible. Whatever he’d eaten for breakfast was still deeply protruding from the gap between his front teeth. All his teeth looked like they hadn’t been cleaned since he’d bought his shoes, maybe a year or two ago. I wondered at first if he had Aspergers, and if I should give him a break, but I came to the conclusion here was just a guy who loved his job. An all-weather, modern day gunslinger. Six-shooter parking ticket machine. Radio to call a posse up if things got wild out on the plains.

Last night I’d watched High Plains Drifter. A film so good/bad that I almost forgave the fact Clint’s character just seemed to rape his way through the town for no good reason. It was confusing and it reminded me that Religion and Cowboy movies don’t go hand in hand. A bit like Religion and most things, really. Rape, murder, and a quick ride off into the shimmering haze don’t settle me down at night. I had slept poorly as a result. I was too tired for the parking guy and his own brand of high plains madness.

But there was no overt hint of religion on the street today. Even if it was what was really driving the whole thing. I made my peace and left the conversation. He went off into a car park twirling his holster and stroking his beard. Here was how the West was won.


Curse ye no more…

Trump is sworn in tomorrow. It’s one of those moments in time that will be a) important in terms of world history and, b) a pinpoint of cosmic terror that I’m glad I’m not in tear gas range of. Nobody likes to be caught up in a riot, much the same as they don’t enjoy being in the way of a combine harvester. One side always wins. I’ve only ever been in one true riot – prison – and I was on the winning side. Didn’t mean I felt any better about the whole experience. Being a winner in a riot made me feel sick, like the time I watched four Police officers kick the shit out of some poor sap in a Holding Cell. It was all begging and screaming and the dull whacks of polished boots on restrained ribs; an unfair fight completely devoid of righteous motivation, or care of the consequences. I can still hear his sobs right now over the music I’m listening to. I was angry about the truth that day, but there is no truer lesson in winning and losing than losing your house and job on the back of getting sacked for being right…which happened eventually.

Trump is here. He’s in my world, my planet, on the street I live in, and in my home. He pervades the blue sky like a puke-coloured gas. He walks tomorrow into the most important job in the World and he is no more qualified than you to do it. It’s really happening, but some people will try to stop it right to the last. Make no mistake, there will be more people on the streets tomorrow than there were when Bush Jr’s motorcade had to accelerate along Pennsylvania Avenue, for the first time in modern presidential history, to avoid the baying mob waiting for him to step out and try and shake a hand. No, Bush was saved by the fact his Daddy had been President, and a former head of the CIA, and was so deeply connected with the corporate world that Bush Jr would always find powerful friends in any country except North Korea. Bush Jr was plucked away on inauguration day by a completely loyal Secret Service squad who accepted their place in the scheme of things. They understood the power of connections. Trump has connections, but they are transient and not linked to the true cabal of people who really run the show. He doesn’t have friends in the CIA, FBI, or NSA, and the FSB only keep tabs on him out of morbid curiosity rather than protection. He is alone at the head of the table of weirdos he’s assembled around him like he’s casting for a remake of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

The local cops like a good fight no matter who’s giving the orders, but there are so many people wanting blood this time on every side that their focus may well be lost in the melee. Who hits whom, and why, may be a confusing mystery when the smoke goes up. And, in a just world, Trump will be at ground zero, right in the thick of it. But… as always “In the Kingdom of swine, the one-eyed pig is king.” It’s the default life setting. He will escape physical harm to lament on Twitter, drunk in the early hours, sitting on his solid gold toilet and trying to turn the whole shit-fest into something the stupid will swallow no matter what their sense of smell is telling them.

Yes, tomorrow there will be disorder. I am sure of it. His rabid hillbilly supporters, ravaged by cheap whiskey and right wing reports of phony rapes and killings perpetrated by Muslims, Mexicans, non-whites, non-Christians, will have their jaws firmly set against any funny business during the show. They will be on the look out for anyone to grind under their cowboy boots, and there will be plenty. The rest of the USA is unhappy. They can smell the friendly fire and they want to make it all stop before they end up raising kids in a bomb shelter in Nebraska. They are prepared to fight to stop a narcissistic sociopathic, racist, misogynistic, sexual predator from waltzing down that red carpet like Fred Astaire in front of his bizarre Munster family. Make no mistake.

If you are in Washington tomorrow, lock your doors. Lock them for some false sense of protection in the riot but, more importantly, lock them from Trump and all he is yet to do.

There will be many cracked heads, sore throats, burned protest banners, and sprinklings of blood tomorrow, but it is just the start. Of all that has gone wrong in my lifetime, the worst is still down the road, but it’s coming up fast for everyone. A riot can’t stop a crazed pig, it only makes him run for longer, and take greater risks.

Take cover. Dig that bunker while you still have skin on your back.


Never get out of the boat…

The first day at the festival hadn’t been great. I’d had a phonecall as we got near the venue to tell me that my beloved Grandmother had finally died: brain cancer. Then that night I’d attacked some guy at a Steven Malkmus gig who’d been barging into me, dancing too hard I guess. Enjoying himself when I wasn’t. I’d pushed him once and told him to stop it, but he pushed back harder and that’s when it happened. We were right at the front of the gig. Before Malkmus could tell us to ‘Cool it,’ I’d grabbed the guy by the throat and was holding him there. He’d gone all limp in my hand. Fully one hundred percent drained of any fight back. Lame and white with fear. His girlfriend was beating me with her fists but it didn’t register, all I wanted to do was to hurt. Someone screamed, Malkmus looked down from above us like a divine musical conscience judging me from the ether. The girlfriend ran to get security. I came to, let him go, pushed through the crowd, and went and got drunker in a shitty bar.

But that was all history. Tomorrow was a new, and bizarre, day.

We decided to go to the on-site cinema to watch a film none of us had even bothered to read a single word about. It was the middle of the afternoon. We were sober. All we knew was it was being introduced in person by Crispin Hellion Glover (Marty McFly’s dad in the original Back to the Future film). We queued, but there was a mistake – one of the staff thought we were a band playing at the festival – and we ended up going into the cinema first and sitting on the front row about two feet from the tiny stage and screen. The rest of the front row was empty at first. We were laughing about Crispin – his dad had played an assassin in one of the Bond films. I heard a noise beside me. A guy in big platform leather/metal shoes, wearing a ripped t-shirt, old jeans, bald head, six foot five, mean expression, was standing there looking at me with his four long-haired friends. I pushed the seat next to me down and patted it, giving him a little wink and a nod. It was a joke, but he didn’t laugh. He just sat down hard next to me and growled a bit. He stunk of booze.

Crispin appeared. He looked like he’d been dipped in oil. For half an hour he gave a bizarre slide show/performance three feet from my face. He was gurning, slathering, oozing around the tiny stage, simpering into a microphone. He introduced his film by saying he’d financed it himself and filmed it in Bulgaria. He told us the theme was one of disability and boundaries. I was ok with that.

Five minutes in, my friend nudged me saying ‘Ben, we’ve got to get the fuck out of here. Something very wrong is happening and we’re in the middle of it.’ Strong words, but he was right. The film was a B Movie style story of a guy with cerebral palsy who just happened to be a paedophile going around raping children. The lead actor actually had a scene where he got his cock out and genuinely fucked a girl who was wearing calipers. No-one could quite believe what they were watching. All two hundred or so of us sat open-mouthed. Someone behind me left. It was like watching a shark attack.

There was something on my shoulder. And snoring. The big guy next to me had, even in the middle of this horror, fallen asleep on my shoulder. The film climaxed with a final rape and murder. The house lights came up. Crispin bounced onto the stage for a Q&A session. Nobody could think straight, let alone speak. Then a voice – ‘I’ve got a question, Crispin.’


‘Do you wish hoverboards were real?’

Nervous laughter. Crispin, chained to a cult classic seemingly forever, unable to be appreciated for the art he’d always wanted to create, put his head in his hands.

The guy next to me woke up and pushed himself off of my shoulder. I left. It had been an appalling afternoon.

That evening I went to watch Sunn o)) while the others saw another band somewhere else. Sunn o)))… Look them up. It’s indescribable apart from telling you that the lead singer (singer is the wrong word….grunter? priest? Satanist?) wore an outfit that made him look like the statue of liberty after thirty years with a heavy Crack habit. Lasers shot from his fingertips in the smoke. The low frequencies of the music made the hair on the girl next to me move and vibrate. It was the most awe inspiring gig I’d ever seen. As their set finished, they pulled back their monk cowls and the singer took off his mask. It was the guy who’d fallen asleep on me in the cinema that afternoon.

In a haze I went straight out to their merch table and bought a cd. My subconscious was shattered. I probably would have done anything anyone suggested. There’s only so much your spirit can take.

That night I got drunk in a bar with a guy from Cincinnati. He was watching an American Football game dressed as an orange bear. It had been that kind of day.