Category Archives: Mostly True

New Bike Mini Adventure

This post is mostly for Andy in Germany.

For my birthday this year, one of my good friends, M., bought me half (well, eight fifteenths of) a bike and I made up the difference.

Today, I took it for its first outing – to my local Edinburgh Cycles to acquire the things needful for attempting to ride it to work and home again without dying.

It soon became clear to me that this cycling malarkey was less simple than I remember it being as a child (or indeed, before my previous bike was pinched). For starters, I needed to find keys in the flat for the:

  • back door
  • bike shed
  • back gate
  • bike lock

It seems that I’ll be needing reinforced pockets:

Once these were found, I had to go down the stairs to lock the front door. Then it was off into the wild blue back yard. The bike survived the ride to the shop admirably. I, however, did not. Icy air, a hacking cough and levels of fitness lower than a snake’s limbo-dancing efforts combined with a reasonable slope to render me somewhat struggling to continue.

Following discussion with one of the guys in the shop, I purchased a mud guard, lights and fresh bar grips. The ride home was somewhat simpler, although when I stopped to pick up food for dinner, I realised that the removable front wheel wasn’t entirely simple to remove on account of the brakes and then fought to get my unwieldy D-lock through the wheel, the bike frame and the railings I was attaching it to.

Returning home I encountered the gate:

Thankfully, it was relatively easy to grab and open the lock and then to work the latch allowing access to the yard. Pausing only to take some pictures, I moved some junk from the bike shed to the mini shed and stowed my newly-mud-guarded prize away for safe keeping, went upstairs and unpacked all my shiny bike-related bits and pieces:

And, as requested, here are the pictures of the trip,featuring the bike as it was put away – the bar grips will be added at some point this week – and the contents of the bike shed:

Old Music with Just a Little Bit of History Repeating

As I was driving to work today, I was listening to New Model Army’s Thunder and Consolation album. Two songs, one after the other on the album jumped out at me and got me thinking about possible contributory factors towards the recent activity across some of our larger cities.

Archway Towers
(audio clip)

Rolling up tab ends that the baby’s collected
Waiting for the number that clicks on the wall.
It’s open season on the weak and the feeble
Their meagre ambitions, their impotent fury
There’s bullet proof glass in case there is trouble
No doors in the building between this side and that side.

I’ve tried to wrestle some unbalanced nightmare
Tell myself over that I don’t really live here
But the boys run away leaving blood on the pavement
And a little crowd gathered to watch you pick yourself up
Joining the queue at the video library
To watch ninety five minutes of simulated torture

The conference hall rings to the standing ovation
The people in blue ties rise from the podium
Crazy with power, blinded by vision
The mass-chosen leaders for a brutalised nation

and

The Charge
(audio clip with lyrics on Youtube)

Our history speaks in thunder from a thousand village halls
In blood and sweat and sacrifice, in honouring every call
So the forces gathered against the thorn a-piercing in their side
A brave new world is beckoning so the olden world must die.
In the offices of the city, at all the tables of oak and power
The snares are laid and baited for the approaching of the hour
A hundred justifications and the presses are ready to roll
The gateways to the nation they are firmly under control

Chorus:
On, on, on, cried the leaders at the back
We went galloping down the blackened hills
And into the gaping trap
The bridges are burnt behind us and there’s waiting guns ahead
Into the valley of death rode the brave hundreds

We called for some assistance from the friends that we had known
But this is the 1980s and we were on our own
We never felt like heroes or martyrs to a cause
Just battle-weary soldiers in a bloody civil war
The massacre now is over and the order new enshrined
While a quarter of the nation are abandoned far behind
Their leaders offer the cliché words, so righteous in defeat
But no one needs morality when there isn’t enough to eat
The unity bond is broken and the loyalty songs are fake
I’ll screw my only brother for even a glimpse at a piece of the cake
We only cry in private here behind the shuttered glass
When we think of the charge of this brigade, the severing of the past

Chorus:
On, on, on, cried the leaders at the back
We went galloping down the blackened hills
And into the gaping trap
The bridges are burnt behind us and there’s waiting guns ahead
Into the valley of death rode the brave hundreds

For a less sing-song analysis of events, the following two articles come highly recommended (I liked them, anyway):
PennyRed
New Economics

And, finally:

When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty & shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up & express their anger & frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard.

~ Martin Luther King, dangerous subversive

And, really finally this time:

If the young men aren’t initiated into the village, they will burn the village down just to feel its warmth.

~ African proverb

The Party III – In the End, In the Beginning

 
This is how it ends:

At some point, after the real rain has come, all the lamp posts will be fixed, people will once again walk in the street without fear of the dark and the urge to party will become less insistent.

Shortly after this, all the lamp posts will be turned off and the music of the party silenced: the sun rising and the birdsong replacing the noise of desperate revelry. The party-goers will return to the street, awestruck at the thing of beauty it has become and, even so, walk on – leaving it behind with its lamp posts and biscuits and cups of tea and all the other reminders of the dark and the need for comfort: walk on towards, and past, a hope-filled horizon hidden from us by this new and glorious light.
 


 
There is a man. He is sitting in a kitchen. The only light in the kitchen comes from the tiny red bulbs above the high voltage sockets and the cold blue glow of the cooker clock – four zeroes: an incessant reminder of a power cut long since ended. The only sounds from the kitchen are the humming of the fridge, the ticking of the needlessly loud kitchen clock, and the scratching of the man’s chair legs on the cheap and tattered lino.

He stands up and, in the dark, fills the kettle and switches it on. He opens the fridge door and checks the milk – it seems fresh enough. As if reminded by the light inside the fridge, he turns on the kitchen light. Finally, taking a mental inventory of tea-bags and biscuits: enough for now, he steps out into the the street.

All along the street, as far as he can see (and far beyond that, he knows) there are people at the feet of broken lamp posts – some collapsed in heaps, some clutching at the posts in a vain quest for support, others standing with their heads almost bowed to their chests. And the noise! The noise is terrible. People are crying, screaming, cursing and vomiting in their distress, some are, even now, dry retching over desiccated piles of discarded stomach contents. But it is not the noisy ones who worry him.

He approaches an old lady: she is kneeling in an almost-dignified position at the foot of her lamp post, silently staring up at the broken glass, her body fused to the pavement by a matting of cobwebs, dust and dead spiders – she looks almost less solid than these whispery vestments and it is with great care that the man kneels beside her and ever so gently that he reaches over and places a hand on each shoulder. He too, stares upwards – first at the broken lamp and then far, far beyond it.

It takes such a long time – gradually the woman becomes less ghostly and, as she fades back towards a proper existence, the man begins to cry: the quiet tears of desperation, the tears of one who, once these tears have been cried, has no more to give. Time passes and he feels the woman’s body begin to move as her own tears start: at first, the quiet controlled sobs mirroring his own; the dust and cobwebs gently uprooted from the street. His own sorrow builds up – feeling every unanswered prayer and each misplaced hope from over the years – an observer would be hard pressed to tell him from any of the others lining the street and wailing. The woman’s weeping continues to follow his and the cobwebs and dust shaken to the ground, forming grey trickles of mud where they meet the tears.

After some time, she no longer needs to be led, and the man’s tears die down. He continues to hold her, soothingly whispering to her as she cries and cries and cries. And, just like that! She’s done. Wiping a dusty sleeve across her snot-covered face, she beams at him and says, “I’m ready. Now, how about that cup of tea?”

Holding each other, they walk back along the street to the kitchen where, strangely, the kettle is just starting to boil.

This is how it begins…

I Present…

…(in all seriousness) The cover of my next book:
 
The Unexploded Shed - Book Cover

I’m not entirely sure what it’ll be about, but I’m fairly certain there might be innocents being menaced by wooden outbuildings, or innocent wooden outbuildings being menaced, or innocent wooden menaces being outbuildings, or something. Maybe. Perhaps.

Opalescence – Book Launch

The bath was full of ice and booze…

The launch-warming party went by in a whirl: I sold, signed and numbered books, saw more people in my flat than I thought would fit, did a reading, was toasted, set absinthe on fire, and generally enjoyed myself immensely.

The big clear up will happen at some point this afternoon.

Here, have a picture of the front cover:
Opalescence - book cover
(Not shown actual colour (the printers bodged things spectacularly, but I tried not to think about that all night).)

The 31 Deaths of Evelyn JohnsonNumber 21: The Happiest Day of My LifePart 1: Wedded Bliss

Evelyn Johnson walked down the aisle with her (only slightly) arthritic father doing his best to both keep up and slow her down. “It’s meant to be a dignified procession from the doors to the altar” the vicar had said, and Evelyn had agreed. That had been at the rehearsal the night before and a million years ago. Now, she couldn’t wait to get to the front and look into her husband, sorry, soon-to-be-husband’s eyes and for him to see how beautiful she was today.

“Even more beautiful than the last time I saw you.” he’d tell her. She never tired of hearing him say that, and he said it a lot – even when her hair was still plastered to her face from the night before and the face in question still had crinkled pillow marks etched into it. The thing was, he meant it.

“Maybe, in the morning, just this once, he’ll not be able to say it, after today.” She slipped her arm out from her father’s and skipped the last few yards, grabbed her soon-to-be-husband’s hand, flipped her veil over the back of her head and beamed full force at him.

The service went beautifully, the best man performed his duties manfully, the maid of honour, hers honourably (going on to catch the bouquet as the bride and groom left the church grounds), and none of the numerous children made too much of a nuisance of themselves. She even forgave the vicar for calling her ‘John Evelynson’ and making everybody laugh as he hastily backtracked one vow too many.

The sun shone, but not too brightly, the photographer was quick and courteous, everybody did as they were asked without grumbling and the confetti didn’t get stuck in any awkward places.

The food at the reception was beautifully presented, the service magnificent but unobtrusive, and her now-husband’s mini-speech was ever-so-well received. She’d never felt more proud than the moment he broke with tradition, walked around the table and pouring extra glasses for the staff said, “But first, a toast to my lovely wife, who looks even more beautiful today than I’ve *ever* seen her look before, let alone the last time I saw her – in a face pack with cucumber eyes. To Evelyn!”

As one, the other adults in the room stood and raised their glasses high. “To Evelyn!”

As one, the other adults in the room drank deeply from their fluted glasses, for there were bottles in ice buckets aplenty to keep them topped up.

As one, the other adults in the room stopped breathing and dropped to the floor – leaving a stunned Evelyn surrounded by corpses and suddenly quietened children.

An (almost) entirely true story

I dough-nutted out last night.

Saw a box of mini chocolate dough-nuts just sitting on that supermarket shelf.
They looked at me pleadingly:
“Rescue us from this dread place!”
I carried them away, away in a bag
– Past the checkout
(there was a worrying moment when the assistant pointed an infra-red gun at the box, but it passed).
Past the security guy
(security guys are just one step away from police-men and you know how they treat dough-nuts).
And past the giant double doors.
“Freedom!” I could hear them cheering,

To their horror,
I didn’t release them into the vast wild plains where other doughnuts dwell,
But ate them all up!
Gobble, gobble, gobble!
________________________________________________________
This (almost) entirely true story has been brought to you from the archives of Tim’s old LiveJournal which he was unsuccessfully trying to export and import into this blog when he gave up and started reading it again.

Identity Theft (A Confession)

This isn’t really being written by Tim.

I know his log on details and passwords.
I know his bank details, where he works,
His car registration, birthday and mother’s maiden name.

I know an awful lot about him:
The places he goes, the people he sees.
Those he loves and hasn’t told.
Those he’d like to but won’t tell.

I know what he did last summer.

But this isn’t about Tim, it’s about me:
The monster that lives in his head.

On a good day,
I confusticate, vex and confuddle him,
I could also m*ddle him
But the rhymes are saved for the last verse.

On a good day,
I help him forget,
I help him wish upon vain fancies,
And idly while-away the hours he could better spend.

On a good day,
I paint it black
In wondrous shades that hide the light:
A stormcloud in front of stars.

On a good day,
I don’t have to do all that much
– The merest of whispers
and

He
almost
believes
he
is

me.
 
 
There’s no room for a monster under his bed;
Tim’s personal monster lives in his head.
I am Tim’s monster and I want him dead.
But not yet(d).
I’m having far too much fun at the moment.

Tell your monster I said, “Hello.”

The 31 Deaths of Evelyn Johnson

Number 7: Deus ex Machina

On the day Evelyn Johnson decided to kill herself (June 5th), the sun was shining, the birds were whistling (needless to say, in the trees), and, all around her, the world radiated a sense of all being well. Four weeks later, on the day she went through with her plan, the conditions remained pretty much as they had all summer.

She’d spent the month putting her affairs in order and had even changed her will to better represent her current relationships and favourites amongst them. All her belongings were packed up and ready for distribution to various worthy causes and named individuals. Her fridge was empty, turned off at the wall and its door was open so that the world (with which all was well) could see the freshly-cleaned sparkle. Evelyn had paid her utilities bills until the end of the month, and informed her landlord that she would moving out and that somebody would along to pick up her stuff by the end of August. She’d even sent out a letter to all her friends, which explained, clearly and succinctly what she would be doing and what the practical consequences were likely to be.

Evelyn walked calmly out of her flat, locked the door behind her and sealed the keys in an envelope which she posted to her solicitor at the first post box she passed as she went her not-so-merry way. After about a mile, she came to the highest bridge in the area, walked half way across, climbed over the side, and after a brief pause, leaned outwards and let go of the structure. Whereupon she began to fall.

And falling is where we must briefly leave her.

Somewhere in the Amazon, God commanded an unseasonal butterfly to flap its wings twice as fast as it usually did for a moment or two. Chaos theory was kind-of validated, and we now return to Evelyn.

A very strong wind blew the falling would-be-suicide into the branches of a nearby tree, the branches broke her fall, gradually slowing her down until she tumbled gently from the lowest branches onto the ground below. Besides a slightly twisted ankle and the bruising sustained in the first impact with the tree, she was completely unharmed.

A voice rang out from the heavens, “Evelyn Johnson. Know that it is for God, not you to choose the moment of your passing.”

As Evelyn repented, vowing to make amends, God commanded a bolt of lightning…

Later that afternoon, council workers, investigating the unusal weather discovered Evelyn’s body. The lightning hadn’t even touched her, having naturally struck the tallest object nearby – the tree. The tree had been split from top-most-tip to root, and then fallen both due east and due west. It was the half pointing towards Jerusalem that had fallen on Evelyn and squashed her flat.