Þróndheimr

Autumn hisses
Rain kisses mother, sons, Mr and Mrs
'Is there cake?'
-Was it expected?
The prices here, my wallet's tested
                           enough as it is

Instead, I have a gift for you
Presented in thin air (a clue)

And if this works out as I'd hoped
The sky itself shall be enough
And it this goes just as I'd dreamed, the stream
Will colour all that we've seen
                        all that we've known

A gift, presented without wrapping
Thirty odd years in the mapping

And if this works out as I know
The sky itself shall never glow
And if this goes just as I fear, the sheer
Will for it to work will mean it fails
                         it's all that we've known

Twenty other words for Dust, by Charlie Maku

Ashes - Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust.

Cinders - The school hall was burnt to cinders last night.

Dirt - ‘Charlie, I can see dirt under those nails. Get them scrubbed if you want any supper.’

Dust Bunnies - ‘Supper? The only thing to eat around here is dust bunnies.’

Earth - Get me off this earth.

Filth - ‘Come over here right now, Charlie. I’m going to clean out that filt’y mout’ o’ yers.’

Flakes - ‘If you keep scratching yer scalp like that of course its going to come off in flakes.’

Fragments - When Father Pete stepped on that landmine he was blown to fragments.

Gilings - I don’t have the gilingsest idea what that means.

Grime - This orphanage is pretty grimy.

Grit - Grit your teeth, we’re almost old enough to run away.

Ground - ‘Day by day Charlie, you are digging my soul a hole in the ground.’

Lint - There’s nothing in my pocket but dust and lint.

Loess - You win some, you loess some.

Powder - ‘As the Lord is my witness, Charlie Maku, if you don’t fold yer sheets I will crush you into powder.’

Refuse - Refuse to Loess

Sand - Is what you get on holiday. Dust is the same thing but instead you see it every day and you’re starving and you live with psychotic nuns.

Smut - When being sinful my preferred approach is via smut.

Soil - I have never seen such a thing.

Soot - If I lived in Victorian times I would be covered in soot but instead I’m covered in fucking dust.

 

(taken from The Incredible Adventures of Daniel Maku - a novel)

Look at the Secretary of State of you

I was sat in the office the day after, pretending to do some work. One of the matrons sent a whatsapp message via another colleague, cryptically, and asked me to go and speak to her. Pretty sure that I'd done something wrong, I walked down the long back corridor into her office and closed the door behind me.

    'Seeing as you were working yesterday I wondered if you wanted to meet the secretary of state.' She made a face as though she expected me to say no.

    'Who's the secretary of state?'

    Her face didn't change.

    'Am I allowed to talk to him?'

    No change.

    'Am I allowed to call him a useless bellend?'

    'Probably not the best career move.'

    A moment of transparency - as much as I hated to admit it, I was enticed by the opportunity to meet the person who had been so influential in contributing towards general NHS misery for so long. As trivial as it might sound, I also wanted to know things like if he had a firm handshake, how tall he was, whether he would roll his sleeves up, whether he had the moral strength to maintain eye contact with a workforce which stood for everything he stood against.

    I think matron was surprised when I said I'd do it. I was surprised when I said I'd do it.

    'What about the others that were on last night?'

    'Do you think it's a good idea leaving him alone in a room with them?' I went away feeling offended that in some way I might have a reputation as some kind of line-towing brown-noser. I was wearing a floral shirt and loose fitting pants, and was asked to change into a new set of scrubs so it looked like I was actually going to do some work that day.


We were sat in a circle in our 'Hub' - which is a posh word for a seminar room. There were surgical consultants there, anaesthetic consultants, some of the ITU nurses from the night, the medical director and other various management types who rarely came to the department. We made some light humour about how the staff had already segregated themselves into suits and scrubs, doctors and nurses milling about, management in a close huddle. I recognised almost everyone in the room, but had never met the managing director before, so introduced myself.

    'So you were working last night?'

    'Yeah. I only live around the corner, so I just came from home.'

    'Well, thank you for coming in.'

    'It's no problem. It was just like any other saturday night at work really.' It both was and wasn't.

    'Hmmm. It wasn't really like any other night, was it?' Her eyes narrowed and she seemed to have lost interest in the conversation thread.

    'Our response and approach to the patients was exactly the same as it would be on any other occasio- ' she'd already walked off to go and speak to someone she'd have something more in common with, someone else who wasn't there on Saturday night.

    I sat with an anaesthetic consultant and some of the ITU staff. We talked about how the patients from last night were all doing, and began to make jokes about how we might be able to squeeze the term 'strong and stable' into conversation with the secretary of state.

    'London Hospital prides itself on a strong and stable response to major incidents.'

    'The patients have remained strong and stable on intensive care.'

    'We reset his femur and we can categorically say that the femur is now strong and stable.'

    Someone passed around cups of tea and biscuits.

    'Strong tea and stable biscuits.’

    We kept our eyes on each other as the Secretary of State walked in, united by our dislike of the man, but loathe to be the one to draw attention to ourselves by being the first one to say something defamatory. He walked in a circle with a small entourage made up of the Chief Executive (wasn’t there), Director of Ops (wasn’t there), Associate Director (wasn’t there), Director of Nursing (got there later), Matron (the other one was there), Clinical Director (was there) and as he circled the room he shook hands with each of us, saying hello. He was tall, walked with a habitual stoop, as though he were used to banging his head on working-class sized door frames. My palms began to sweat. I wanted to slowly crush his hand inside mine - look at our NHS, look how strong we are, you can cut us as much as you want but we’re still here, malnourished and neglected, but we can still tear off your hand if we wanted to. When he came to me I was disappointed to find that his grip was firm, and my hands were sweating and struggled to find the appropriate angry purchase. I stared at him and he stared back blankly. I muttered my name through my teeth and took my hand back.

    We sat, and he thanked us for our efforts at the weekend. He didn't mention politics at all - I supposed he read the room on his way in. He spoke awkwardly, unsure of himself, as though sincerity did not come easily to him. We listened quietly, then the room spoke back after in polite generalities, knowing that there were enough people in the room to make life difficult for us if we spoke out of turn, or out of line. The intimations were all there, though.

    ‘It was lucky staff checked their WhatsApp messages and came in from home.’

    ‘It was lucky the department was quiet that night.’

    ‘It was lucky there were beds in the hospital.’

    ‘It was lucky we still have members of staff who have had major incident training.’

    ‘It was lucky it was twelve patients and not one hundred and twenty.’

    Ten minutes passed, and we were all done talking. There was no cheque handed over. No promises that the government had learned a valuable lesson from this, that this was a new epoch of world-leading healthcare. There were no guarantees of improving London’s robustness in the light of increased risk. There was nothing being taken back for discussion in parliament. The Secretary of State and his hangers-on left the room first. 

    He visited another hospital that day. A group of patients and relatives harassed him, and he was forced to hide in a toilet for an hour and a half.

    

    

Taking back what they stole

I'm getting all sentimental because I'm bored and lonely, so inevitably I went on a google journey and accidentally found one of my old blogs when trying to find reviews of Deal With It records. I wrote something on there a couple of days after the last tour in 2011 (we broke up the end of that year). I can't believe it's only 6 years ago, it feels like another lifetime now. It's maybe a bit corny to read, but it reminded me why I used to love playing in a hardcore band. I both miss that life, and don't at the same time. I think I miss punching people in the head and getting away with it, more than anything.

We're Taking Back What They Stole - Wednesday 30th March 2011

I've had my second bath in three days today, just to try and wash my cuts out. The dirt is hanging tough though, maybe it wants my fingers to look like seal, kissed from a rose. I look at the newly formed scars and can remember how some of them got there, others not so much. V-shaped scar on my little finger opened up from a beer bottle smashing across my hand. The zipper etchings across my inner index finger as if caused by some miniature wolverine. The bruises and cuts across each knee could have been caused by any number of things. I don't remember splitting my lip open, but it's there all the same, purple and warm to the touch. I'm sitting here now in my kitchen, a world away from the fortnight that was, listening to Gideon Coe playing all my heroes on the DAB. This time last week I would likely have been in some sort of metaphorical bin, head swimming with alcohol and music-induced rage, or happiness for that matter. If I rack my brains hard enough I could probably work out my exact place in the world back then, but that would be missing the point. Tour isn't about the precise details, it isn't about the specific faces or stages or t-shirts or anything like that. It's about the greater whole, the sense of freedom, the feeling of responsibility with a lower case 'R', a sense of a diminished world, living for the van, for the next bed, for the next beer, for the next 30 minute set and whatever chaos that brings. I'm not for the tiniest second believing that I've done anything new or revolutionary, every beer soaked venue plastered with a patchwork quilt of bands that never made it keep my feet firmly on this stale earth. I'm walking the footsteps of countless teenage dreamers and twenty something revolutionaries, who felt they had something to tell the world, through riffs or poetry or whatever. People who for however long stepped off the path chosen for them and tried to choose a direction for themselves - one clubhouse at a time. But just because it's nothing new doesn't mean it's nothing special. These last few weeks are full of memories and experiences that everyone, including myself, will take with them for the rest of our lives. We may end up sat behind a desk making money for people we never meet, or stuck in a domestic existence that saps every rebellious energy argument by argument. But one thing no-one can take from us is our experiences, they will always be ours, embarrassing, exhilarating, painful, or lost in a haze of beer and whiskey. For 10 days, we could be more like the human beings we always dreamed of being and maybe even find some fleeting moments of happiness.

 

 

The Disintegration Loops

I've always needed to listen to music when writing. Either on a stereo at home, or with earphones when I'm out and about. I feel it cuts out distractions: the sound of traffic outdoors, next door having sex or another argument, that accidental peak in volume in a library when two people are trying their best to talk quietly but suddenly get excited. I'm easily distracted so it helps me to concentrate, especially music without a verse/chorus structure, or lyrics. Recently I've developed more interest in electronic music, soundtracks, and ambient music, though I find stuff with a tempo or a droning rhythm works better for me than stuff without. A few months ago I read a review of a re-issue of William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops on Pitchfork and I've listened to it while writing almost every day since.

The Disintegration Loops is a series of four albums by American composer William Basinski released in 2002 and 2003. All tracks have the same form of ambient music fragments played in a tape loop that slowly deteriorates as it passes by the tape head, increasingly producing noises and cracks in the music as the theme progresses. The Disintegration Loops is based on Basinski's attempts to salvage earlier recordings made on magnetic tape, by transferring them into digital format; however, the tape had deteriorated to the point that, as it passed by the tape head, the ferrite detached from the plastic backing and fell off. The loops were allowed to play for extended periods as they deteriorated further, with increasing gaps and pauses in the music. These sounds were treated further with a reverb effect.

The music itself, although physically of a very simple nature, is full of tiny quirks and interactions, all entirely accidental, but beautiful and organic for such a reason. It conjures up images of energy and spirits floating around, interacting with each other, with a central pulse throughout the piece sounding almost like a choir singing in an incomprehensible tongue. In a different sense I'm reminded of My Bloody Valentine's finale during live performances, where they build feedback upon feedback at a deafening volume, to the extent that one's brain begins to invent a musicality that isn't there to help process the violent assault of noise. The Disintegration Loops is by no means an assault on the senses in the same way, but the complexities of the piece are almost entirely the invention of one's own mind, inviting us to pass into the world of the music and meditate. Or write.

Much in the same way that an old, broken watch has more meaning and power to it if you realise said watch belonged to a heroic fighter pilot, or a hawaiian shirt belonged to a disgraced public figure, so The Disintegration Loops hold an incredible amount of energy and power when you consider the backstory. The project was completed the day of 9/11, and Basinski sat in New York with his friends listening to these loops as the smoke from the two fallen towers filled the sky.

From the Top of the Star Apple Tree

Daniel was left alone at the cliff edge. He felt the compote of star apple sitting heavily in his guts. He leaned over again, feeling the unmistakable sense of fear sitting in his feet and ankles, as though the very sole of him was being burned with tiny candles of doubt. He sat down on the edge and attempted to turn, felt his heartbeat jump into his throat and his eyes water, and realised he lacked the willpower to commit to such a manoeuvre. Instead he sat and, not for the first time that day, felt like crying. Charlie was dashing about excitedly below, he lifted up Oscar, kissed him all over his face and threw him into the water with glee. Each child in turn Charlie picked up and extended the same courtesy, his excitement catching on like a fever, soon all the children splashed and screamed and tossed one another about with gusto. Only Alfie remained still, looking calmly up at Daniel, waiting for him to come down.

He took another look at the distant horizon, the glint of the vast lake visible through a break in the trees. Without consciously doing so he began to cry, hot tears rolling down his face. They were a while off yet, but he knew then he had kept his promise to the sisters of the Holy Mother, to the orphans, to himself. If he died falling from that cliff, it would be in the knowledge that he had not left even one of his ten brothers and sisters behind. He cried harder, his breathing came out into deep and interruptive sobs. He tried very hard to slow everything down, but it was all too much for a twelve year old boy to take.

    He felt his heartbeat in his mouth.

    He heard a bird take flight from the top of the star apple tree.

    He wriggled his toes and felt the soft earth dig into the spaces between.

    He smiled at the eruption of pure joy below.

    He kissed Bravo on her lips as she floated in front of him.

    He jumped into the sky with a heart as light as air itself.

Delta Mike

Now, in telling and retelling this story it would be fair, and justifiable, to detail the daily humiliations and tragedies that befell orphans of this particular war, which were innumerable in both the former and latter points. But to acknowledge the extent of suffering and not to mention Daniel’s happy indifference to it all would also be an injustice to him, for Daniel was a truly happy baby, and brought much mirth and satisfaction to the orderlies, nurses and children of the Maku Clinic. Come fever, hunger, thirst or injury, Daniel would find simple contentment in the mere touch of another and help a similar power over others in his reciprocation of tactile gesture. 

At times, Daniel would be encouraged to mingle with the other infants who would not settle, desperate as they were for affection of mother or filling of stomach. Daniel had an unspoken (or, more specifically an ungurgled) power, or quality, which would render the inconsolable consoled. At every opportunity he would stare deep into the eyes of anyone that could bear to gaze upon such handsome features, and he would smile so generously that he would air his pink gums to the world, often releasing monosyllabic vents of happiness; pips of contentment; or belches of gas from his empty stomach, followed always by expressions of relief and gratitude. Even in the utter stupidity that is a necessary adjunct of infancy, Daniel appeared to understand a great deal more that the others, and was apparently endlessly comforted in this confidence, having never made occasion to form any sort of sad outburst whatsoever.

Danmakku

Among the other tents in a certain refugee camp - which, for legal reasons, I must label as a ‘resettlement camp’ - in a region - which, for reasons of international sensitivity, I must refer to as ‘a site of civil unrest’ - which I will deem to assign no fictitious name to, but instead afford a certain mystical quality by invoking its historic name of ‘The Disputed Territories’, within which there is a condition thematically shared by all such camps, certainly those formed as an inevitable side effect of the aforementioned ‘civil unrest’, (to wit, an unrest of laic proportions which would have preceded the requirement of such a ‘resettlement camp’ - perhaps, say, disharmony induced by famine across a land ironically abundant in natural resources, or by a conflict between neighbours previously content to live like sleeping cats amongst pigeons) an energy to continue steadfastly, and live as normal a life as possible, in spite of whatever unrest disturbed the civility in the first place, and consider that it is not entirely uncommon to find amongst such attrition and hunger a healthy birth from time to time; and on these occasions it is not a stretch to imagine that a child of central importance could eventually be born amongst the dirt and puddles, though in this particular case such a birth alas occurred on an imparticular day and a date, now lost to all records - a specificity which I hope will bear no eventual consequence to the reader, given that birthday parties are very rarely celebrated in that part of the world anyway - though I concede the child’s name (who has no birthday to recall or celebrate) is actually of central importance to this narrative, and, fortunately, has been remembered, mentioned at the head of this page, and undoubtedly shall be mentioned again numerous times throughout, therefore, we should not consider it an embellishment at this final stage to mention here once again that its name was Daniel Maku.

Peg

Lawson put his knapsack down on a small tree stump and began to root around for the Kendal Mint Cake, while Bradley checked the Ordnance Survey Map.

'Now Bradley, matters at hand and all that, what was the name of the poor fellow who met misfortune with a cotswold tent pole?'

'I believe it was Lord Ankle-Smiter, sir.'

'That's the bucket. I only have to look at a ridge tent and I get a severe case of the howling fantods. Where was the tragedy based again? Scratchy Bottom or somewhere equally troublesome?'

'I believe it was Wareham, sir.'

'Ah yes. Lord Ankle-Smiter, full of gusto that day, not afraid to get his hands mucky, show the lot of us what a good day's graft looked like. Didn't even wait for the tea and sandwiches to get the old canvas out. Can't exactly place the smell.'

'Like old canvas., sir.'

'Oh, Bradley, you are dry as a Loire Sauvignon today.' Lawson stared wistfully over the treelike. 'Awful shame about that slip though. An inch to the left or right and the old pot would have come out unscathed. As fate would have it that peg went right up the old-'

'Eight hours in surgery, sir.'

'Hmm. Not long for the earth after that, dearest Ankle-Smiter... Golly, even now I only have to think of a campsite and I get a shooting pain right down the old pool-noodle.'

My Heart Opened and Took in Every Black Poison the Morning Could Offer

I turned away from her for a moment and began to breathe in slowly. The diffuse cones of smog from neighbouring chimneys began to divert their journey, gathering forces above my head. My nostrils flared as I began to vacuum that darkness in. Chimney smoke rippled and swirled with industrial vapours, traffic fumes and steam from extractor hoods of all the E14 households gathered at a meeting point, just above our historical kissing landmark, now a maelstrom of dark clouds, chemical hoofbeats, closing in.

I felt no need to stop, no pressure in my chest, so continued to inhale, accepting this pollution into myself. Telephone poles, television aerials, weather stations and other roof peripherals began to rattle in their moorings, invited to what was promising to be a most unforgettable party. Pigeons were becoming ensnared and confused by the thick mass in the sky, the cloud's kinetic force appearing to suffocate the birds' efforts to flap away into the clear morning sky.

I breathed in those pigeons, feeling the sting of their beaks in my nostrils. I inhaled the aerials, cables, anything not cemented in place. Wires whipped the sides of my face as they funnelled their way into my lungs with the grace of an Eastern Dervish. Every speck of blackness, of poison, of thick pollutive smog was now nestled in my chest, comforted by the black diamond of my heart.

The sky was clear and peaceful now. A perfect morning for the sun to wake up to. I touched her shoulder lightly to attract her attention and her face turned to meet mine.

 I pursed my lips and let everything out.

Staring Contest Champion 45 Years Running

John stared at his pint I mean he really stared at it like he was going to ask it a question that it had better answer truthfully else there would be consequences the sort that a pint of bitter was never going to be ready for no matter how strong it was even if it was a fortified stout or something like that I mean John was really giving this pint a good eyeballing like he was daring and egging on this pint to say one more thing just one more thing out of you you thick liquid cunt and I'll blast you over this table edge so fast you would wish you were born a lemonade don't even mug me off again are you registering all this well look now John here is saying all that with one stare at a bloody pint of beer he just has that sort of hold over things inanimate or otherwise I mean he only has to look at a barking dog and it clamps up to a whimper like it just saw its dog lives flash before its eyes I'm telling you pal John is not a man to fuck with and woe betide anyone on god's green earth who ever dares to stare John back

Non-Reactive Pupil

If you look really closely
You can see into the future
Usually that’s considered a very grave sign
If it happens they might decide to cut open the skull

This pupil is a portent
The tea leaves of neuroscience
Its actually pressure on the optic nerve
Caused by severe internal bleeding

Can you hear the bells ring?
Race down that tunnel, don’t fall
They say the eyes are the window to the soul
It’s a long way down

SHADOW REALM - a sonnet

I was obsessed with watching Robbie Lawler fight,

One time he split his top lip in half; it made his words sound like they were leaking air.

They had to wipe the blood off him with towels.

I liked him because he made it look hard.

 

I had the impression he'd woken up in the wrong century

He'd found a home collecting souls in an octagon instead of a muddy battlefield.

I would watch his fights in a dark room, over and over, to try and tap into

That honed sense of determination and willpower

 

He was anaemic and overwhelmed from spilling his own blood every night

Being forced to replay the same wars through the glare of my screen

I selfishly drank in his victories, exalting in blood without spilling any of my own

He seemed almost grateful when Woodley knocked him down with one blow

As though for a while he didn't have to try so hard for everyone

That he could lick his wounds instead, in the peace of the shadow realm

 

David Comes to Life

David drank his rapidly cooling coffee and sneered at the taste. He thought of the word ‘sneer’ as he sneered, and in a sort of out-of-body experience envisioned his sneering like an internally projected film in a weird sort of multimedia sneering experience. Coffee was known at times to elicit different kinds of transcendental experiences in David, though rarely at such low volumes. In the past he had been known to vibrate and perhaps lose the ability to speak, instead communicating by enthusiastic nods of the head and exhaustive foot tapping. If he leaned his wrists, say, on a table edge, another individual could read his pulse at the other side of the table edge, like circulatory driven morse code “../—//…-/../-…/.-.-/.-/-/../-./—.”

David was prone to experiencing many different kinds of transcendental sensation; whether from a brisk walk in the morning, to, most recently, a travel vaccine for yellow fever in his right deltoid. That exact moment in time - so quick - it never ceased to amaze him how difficult it was to stay in any moment. There was that moment just before the needle hit, a distinct process of preparation and trepidation shaped by past and perceived future experience. Then came the exact point the bevelled molecule-wide surface of the needle pierced his epidermis, dermis, sub-dermis, adipose, muscle fibres, a confusion of painful stimuli and attempts at self-distraction from said-stimuli, like two squabbling boys trying to lay the blame on one another. Then, immediately post-wounding, a potentially infinite period of past experience and reflection, an inability even in the immediacy of pain to truly articulate what said stimulus felt like, either overstating or understating the power of that single, miniscule, universally unimportant moment in time, a mere breadcrumb on the infinite loaf of human existence. David thought then of getting another coffee but upon examining his watch decided that he didn’t want to vibrate at his desk for the next four hours. He returned to his crossword.

1 down: “size of knob” (6)

Even though it was a cryptic, David inevitably thought immediately of penises.

He looked across the street and watched a pigeon peck at a piece of sick.

Mulled Cider

Barry - also known as John, Matthew, Dean, Benjamin, Joseph, Abraham, Jesus and Samson - relied on the high turnaround of security and reception staff to enjoy the comforts of the A&E waiting room on an almost nightly basis. Back home in Zimbabwe he was an engineer, though things hadn’t worked out as he’d hoped on moving to the UK. He was well liked by most of the hospital staff - his medical complaints rarely warranted more than a minutes conversation and would often crack self-deprecating jokes and subtle Chaplain-esque performances to overstate his level of intoxication - he drank only to help him sleep a few hours at night and stave off the shakes during the day. Even in the depths of a K-Cider fugue Barry was prone to reciting poetry from memory in gentle baritone.

Barry turned to an Eastern European man he had not met before. He offered him a sip of his pocket-warmed cider, conspiratorially lifting his finger to his lip and darting his eyes round to make sure no-one saw. The possibly Polish man laughed and took a swig before he passed it back to Barry who deftly tucked it back into the outermost of three oversized jackets.

“Where are you from, brother?”

“Gdansk”

“You’re welcome, have another sip.”

“No, I am from Gdansk.”

“Oh, where is such a place?”

“Poland.”

“Wonderful.” Barry nodded sagely. Nothing more was said between the two beyond a periodic hum as the cider was passed between themselves. Sometimes it was enough to just sit with company on a hard plastic chair in the only place in Portsmouth open at four in the morning on Christmas Day.