oh, well, whatever . . .

Archive for June 2008

an infantile disorder

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The trespass went badly to all reports. Afterwards Margaret was particularly taciturn and disgruntled. ‘Just don’t ask,’ she replied when I asked her about how it had gone. It was obvious that the red girders of the Winter Palace had probably not been stormed.

As the week went on I gleaned a little more about the event. It seems there were probably a number of factors that contributed to its failure. Some were presumably more important than others, although the Citizens have not yet formally met to analyse it. Provisionally, the following elements appear to have been played some part:

Only seven people turned up for the mass trespass;

Geraldine ‘took over again’ and dominated the confrontation with the site manager;

The site manager, Bob, was a nice guy and sympathised with them. Bob said he had a family to feed, he was only doing his job, and in any case there wasn’t anything he personally could do to change things even if he wanted to;

The site workers either lined up along the girders ‘like bloody canaries’ and waved at the trespassers, or they ignored them and got on with their work, thereby making a great deal of noise. Either way they distracted the Citizens and made rational argument difficult.

Geraldine was overdressed. She wore a long black coat, a black silk headscarf, and high heeled black boots. ‘All she lacked was a troika,’ Margaret let slip at one point. Unfortunately Geraldine also broke a heel. This forced her to remove the broken boot and carry it around with her. She had to lean on Big Trevor’s arm as they left the site;

Big Trevor ‘lacked discipline’ and kept interrupting the exchanges, which consequently began to revolve around the issues of his glass chandelier and the poor television reception some people have been experiencing.

Vanguard putschism has apparently failed again. There appears to have been a clear failure to mobilise the masses to the extent originally hoped for and there are some signs of leadership issues.  The outcome of the formal post-mortem will be interesting. In the meantime I think we can anticipate little change of strategy from Czar Griffiths. The same water-off-a-duck’s-back-ist approach as before will continue, marked by acts of mollification so insignificant and trivial that they will only further humiliate the Citizens and underline their impotence. Having your face rubbed in defeat is not a good place for any serious group of activists to be. No doubt strategy and leadership are issues that will vex them greatly in the coming weeks as they dissect the event forensically over many a pot of Earl Grey and many a fresh Jaffa cake.

Yesterday my dad asked me about the building of the Citadel. He’d heard it was massive and people were having problems with all the lorries coming and going. I confirmed that it wasn’t a project that many people in its immediate vicinity regarded positively in any way. I told him about the attempted mass trespass and how it had turned out to be a somewhat ineffectual gesture. He shook his head and said this was always the way. ‘They just do what they want,’ he said. ‘They always have as long as I can remember.’

We then got into a conversation about the failure of the Left to effectively empower people and achieve social justice. He repeated the tale I’ve heard many times about the General Strike in 1926 and my grandad being blacklisted because of his role in it. Heroic failure is a sustaining myth for the Left. Sometimes it seems to be the only thing that keeps us on our feet. My dad’s conversation veered efortlessly from politics into ballroom dancing. He’s always loved dancing. Before long he was telling me how many dance halls there were in the town from the nineteen thirties onwards. The Roxy was the main one, he  said, and The Tudor – where he’d seen Seaman Watson refereeing boxing matches – was just along from it, but there were dances in various church halls and other places on various nights of the week. ‘Everyone went’, according to my dad, because it was the main source of entertainment in those days.  It was before the days of television and there were almost no cars around. Everyone walked everywhere, he said. That world is almost gone now, of course.

It rained quite heavily last night. By this morning it was drier but it had become very windy. The Slipper Shop Launch was scheduled to begin shortly after lunchtime and I spent the morning tidying away my books and paints in accordance with Margaret’s order that the house must not look like a pig’s sty when we have guests.  Margaret was laying out the slippers in their various places according to a vision that escaped me but appeared to perhaps be governed by the principal of diversity. She washed and dried the wine glasses and bottles of Sainsbury’s Organic wines duly emerged. Pino Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon, I suppose.

At about twelve thirty my rucksack was packed and I had my boots on. I was about to go when Brenda arrived. She’d been driven over by Tristan, who she brought in to meet me.  He obviously didn’t always plumb on the Sabbath. Brenda gave me a kiss on the cheek, a new addition to her social repertoire, I guessed. Otherwise she hadn’t changed much. Her hair is still as black as a guillemot, shiny and straight. Around her neck she wore a chunky black crucifix on a leather lanyard. A golden moon and silver stars hung from each of her ears. Her shirt was washed-out cotton, wrinkly and vaguely Indian. Brenda thinks of herself as eclectic, and would say this hotch-potch of pagan, Christian and exotic elements is evidence of this open-mindedness.

Tristan turns out to be a thick-set man of maybe forty five or so. He’s not very tall, but has a boyish wide-eyed appeal about him. He has dark curly hair and a fashionably unshaven face. He reminded me of Diego Rivera, strangely enough, although not of Trotsky himself.

‘Nice to meet you, Tristan,’ I said. ‘I’ve heard a lot about you.’

‘I’ve heard a lot about you too,’ he replied. ‘From Bwenda and Margawet.’

Tristan, I now discovered, has a speech impediment. He cannot pronounce his r’s. We had a brief chat during which I discovered that he does indeed see himself as a Marxist and has in fact been one for all of his adult life. His father was Rupert McLoud, who he told me was a notable left wing activist in the Manchester area thirty years ago. I smiled when Tristan told me this, not because I’d ever heard of his father but because calling a Marxist activist “Wupert” seemed so cute. I can see what Brenda sees in him, I thought. He’s a likeable and accidentally quite amusing man.

Brenda interrupted our conversation by saying she’d brought some nibbles and they’d have to get everything ready. I put my rucksack on and went off on my walk. As I walked I passed the time in conversation with Mr Twistan Twotsky, my new imaginary walking companion.

‘Is the game finally up for the Left, Twistan?’ I asked.

‘No, my fwiend, it is not. Histowical matewialism is alive and well. This is not the end of the woad. No, this is only the beginning’

‘But the world is in terminal crisis, is it not?’

‘The cwisis facing mankind, is a cwisis of leadership, my fwiend.’

‘But does not Gordon nurse a ticking bomb as if it were a baby?  Time is against us, Twistan.  Barbarism is the best we can hope for, I fear.’

‘The woad is long. We must make our own histowy. Think positively, comwade, and tell me, come the wevolution who will be first against the wall?’ he said.

For a moment I hesitated. But an answer was waiting for us both.

‘Gwiff!’ we cried together. ‘Gwiff! Gwiff! Gwiff!’

And we walked on together, whistling The Wed Flag as we went.

My route today took me north through Bebside and down the hairpin bends into the Ha’penny Woods at the Furnace Bridge. I followed the river up to Attlee Park and then on to Humford Mill. I sat for a while at the weir listening to the wind rushing through the trees, watching the river and wondering if it was going to rain. I turned back soon after that because the path was increasingly muddy. Back at Humford I crossed the stepping stones and made my way up to the Horton Road. Out of the trees the wind was gusty and boisterous. I went back down to Bebside and then through Cowpen down to the river, before returning home at about six thirty.

When I got back the party was over but a few stragglers were still there – Geraldine, Brenda and Brenda’s friend Jennifer, the one in financial services.

‘Hi, Geraldine,’ I said. ‘How’s the boots?!’

She laughed. ‘Well, the boots might be gone but we certainly showed them we meant business, didn’t we, Margaret?’ she replied. 

Margaret laughed. ‘You remember Jennifer, don’t you?’ she said to me.  I didn’t, but nodded as if I did. Jennifer was indeed a willowy blond, about fifty, tall with a long thin nose.

‘I love your paintings,’ Jennifer said to me. ‘Your work reminds me of Kandinsky.’

‘Kandinsky?’ I said. ‘Really. That’s interesting.’ I looked at the painting above the Napoleon clock. It was as much like Kandinsky as it was like El Greco. Jennifer proceeded to waffle on about a diverse and disparate assortment of painters as if she was a female Matthew Collings. And all the while she flirted with me blatantly, laughing merrily and repeatedly laying her hand on mine. She was tedious to talk to but I’ll admit she did smell beautiful.

Later when everyone had left I asked Margaret how it had gone. It turns out that it was a tremendous success. No less than thirty three of the thirty five people invited had turned up, including fourteen Citizens – twice as many as turned up for the trespass – a local councillor and Mrs Fletcher, who ordered a pair of blue mules for herself and a traditional brown leather slipper for her husband. All in all orders for thirty seven pairs of slippers were taken.  Margaret was thrilled. Maybe Brenda was right after all and there is a right time for everything (in the case of a slipper shop launch party that time being quarter to three, of course).

‘So what did you think of Tristan?’ she asked me later.

‘I liked him,’ I replied. ‘He seems like a really nice guy.’

‘Really?’ Margaret said. ‘You really like him?’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Yes, I think he and I could become very good friends. Brenda’s done well for herself for once.’

I tidied away the wine glasses and bottles from the conservatory and cooked myself a pizza. I sat for a while and read the Sunday papers. De Kooning came in and jumped up beside me. I stroked him and he began to purr.

‘So what do you think, Twistan?’ I said. ‘If they can give you thirty three good comrades can you give them the Citadel?’

‘It’s a mistake to believe in miwacles,’ Twistan replied. ‘But when the time is wight tywants will twemble, walls will tumble, and the future will belong to an army of women in wed slippers!’

I nodded sagely. You can’t say fairer than that, I thought.

Written by yammering

June 22, 2008 at 10:28 pm

lathering a dusty moose

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Some time today three part-worn car tyres on grubby black steel rims took up residence on the gravel beneath Hugo’s railings. They do not look to me like Mercedes wheels, and I therefore assume they are not for the Alligator. I suspect it may be a long time before Hugo discovers their true purpose.

I rang Hermann Evans today and made an appointment to see him at his home next week. He was very upbeat and positive, I thought, and there were no signs at all that he is contrite or feels he has an apology to make. I am therefore anticipating that he will be thinking in German for most of our interview.

When I got home I had a pizza for tea and sat for a while in the conservatory watching De Kooning sitting on the hut roof surveying the Citadel site. I had a cappuccino and listened to the news on Radio 4. Gordon has been entertaining George today, although in reality the reverse process seems more likely to have occurred. Gordon is not a great entertainer. George on the other hand is little more than that, although he is of course famously self-deluding and dangerous, the kind of chump who makes anyone who stands next to him look just as big a chump. Today it was Gordon’s turn, although like Tony this is not an area with which he has ever needed very much help.

There was some paw print evidence along the conservatory windowsill that it has been another dusty day.  I went out into the garden to see how the flowers were doing. Hugo was out. He had a bucket of steaming soap suds and a pale blue white-bristled brush in his hand. He was washing his moose. After he’d thoroughly lathered it down he took each of the three mallards and dipped them into the bucket too, giving them a quick once over with the pale blue brush too. He put them in a row at the moose’s feet and then took the heron and dipped it head first into the foam and gave its flanks a brisk brush. He stood the heron on the lawn next to the ducks. Splodges of white foam slid off the whole menagerie and melted into the grass. Hugo emptied the bucket and then turned on his hose and rinsed them all. He put the wildfowl back in their places beside the pond, ensuring the heron struck almost exactly the same truculent attitude as before. He then took a chamois leather and wiped down the moose from antler to hoof, wringing out the leather from time to time to ensure the huge plastic ungulate was thoroughly dried and had no discernible streaks. I wondered if he would now wax and polish the creature. He didn’t. He just stood back for a moment or two to check that it was once again free from all grime and pristine and then he went to find his hammer. A few minutes later I heard the thuds as he began to give the Alligator its usual evening pounding.

De Kooning had watched Hugo lathering his flock from his high perch on the hut roof. Once Hugo had finished he jumped down and ran across to me, tail in the air. He looked up at me and chirruped. He was hungry and had seen enough for one night.  I picked him up and took him in for a plate of fresh prawns. Later I had another cappuccino and read some chapters from a history of Scottish art. I’ve become quite an admirer of Henry Raeburn of late, for some odd reason. Earlier this year I was in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh and looking at his portraits again I was suddenly caught by their subtle magic for the very first time. It’s strange isn’t it how art, like many other things in life, can sometimes go straight over your head and you somehow just don’t get it, but once you do it casts a spell on you that can never be broken.

Margaret’s teeth are a little better today. She’s taking tomorrow morning off work to join the Citizens on the mass trespass. Her Timberland boots have reappeared in the hall, I noticed, and wait dutifully between two pairs of Turkish mules, each made of iridescent silk, one pair green like the Mediterranean Sea, the other a shimmering fiery pink. I’m assuming that for the trespass it’s the Timberlands she’ll be wearing, although I’ll be more than happy if I’m proven wrong.


Written by yammering

June 17, 2008 at 4:04 pm

under the volcano

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It’s been a curious week.

Hugo has installed an elaborate Heath Robinson device above his pond, which presumably functions to keep the water pure. It is an arrangement of square black plastic tanks and gnarly white plastic pipes with a bewildering number of ninety degree bends in them. Any noise it makes is masked by the gurgle of the waterfall, but it does seem to be pump operated and has one particular pipe which drips perpetually into a reservoir of sorts. The installation was completed by Wednesday but the restocking of the pond was delayed because of a severe Citadel Dust Storm later that day.

Margaret, who has been having a few days off work in preparation for the Great Slipper Shop Launch, says that on Wednesday afternoon our street was like the dust bowl as a great swirling cloud of pale Citadel Dust descended among the houses. The effect was to make the whole neighbourhood a suburban mini-Pompeii: cars and lampposts, the leaves of hosta and fatsia japonica, chimneys and rooftops, conservatories, huts and gazebos, lawnmowers and wheely bins, sundials on plinths and bird tables, barbecues and reconstituted stone angels, gnomes, resin hedgehogs and wooden toadstools, green plastic chairs from Asda and Tesco’s floral pattern loungers . . . . The foxgloves would have been choked. The birds would have fallen silent. De Kooning must have sat at the window in quiet stoical astonishment. Nothing was spared, Margaret says, everything was enveloped and disappeared beneath an eerie grey dust. Had lovers been lying kissing behind a wall they too would have been buried, suffocated in their last embrace.

Castle Hugo too must have been overlaid with a thick blanket of the noxious dirt that descended. The Alligator and the dwarf conifers. The henge, the platform, the shelters, the station clock. The moose must have worn a thick coat of the stuff and, I imagine, an undignified bird’s nest-like wad must have accumulated on his brow between his suddenly somehow impotent antlers. The junkyard incongruities of Hugo’s estate would probably for a while have been ironically unified by this catastrophe, in much the same way as a fall of snow can bring a miraculous harmony to absolute dereliction.

As it turned out, however, and as if by some strange act of grace, the catastrophe was short-lived and overturned by an apparently random act of nature: the wind got up. When I arrived home from work there was no more than a dusty grey film on the bonnet of Margaret’s car to testify to the Vesuvian inundation that occurred earlier that afternoon.

As a result of her days off Margaret now has more direct knowledge of the consequences of the Citadel’s construction. The noise is constant and cacophonous. Geraldine described it as like living next to the M1 motorway; Big Trevor says it’s like living next to an iron foundry. And there is no escape from it from eight in the morning until teatime each day. Even if the dust clouds didn’t occur and even if there wasn’t a daily audience of workmen in yellow hard hats staring down into the gardens from the red girders above us, sitting out in the sun would no longer be a pleasure in any case because of the unbearable intrusion of the noise. The joy and relaxation of summer in the garden has been taken from us, certainly for this year and probably forever, since even when the construction is completed next year the school will open and all day children and teachers will come and go and peer down at us from the vast windows of the Citadel. And every evening the shadow of the Citadel will bring an early end to our day and cast us into a cold, inescapable gloom. This is the reality of the Citadel.  Griff and Gordon are taking from us the peace and privacy of our gardens, just as they are taking from us the pleasure and warmth of the evening sun.

And there are other consequences that have become apparent, such as the flooding of the gardens at the top of the street because the ground level has been raised in the Citadel field and in heavy rain the water pours into some residents’ garages. And in some other streets the roads are permanently stained and greasy with mud, and on some corners the kerbs are crushed and crumpled and hazardous and unsightly. It also seems that many people are now experiencing difficulties with their television reception, presumably because the girders are interfering with their signal. Most astonishingly perhaps is the structural damage that has been caused to some houses by the quaking that has sometimes emanated from the activities on the site. Plaster has fallen of walls and coving has cracked. Big Trevor’s bungalow has suffered particularly badly. A shelf fell off the wall in his utility room, scattering pegs and screws across the floor. But most alarming of all, a glass chandelier fell from his bedroom ceiling and shattered. Griff has offered generous compensation, of course, although, as most of us know, all the chandeliers in China can never replace the sun.

The Citizens are becoming more disgruntled by the day and have organised a mass trespass on the site next week to make the manager aware of their complaints. They are telephoning Griff and council officials relentlessly. They are writing letters to the press and to elected representatives at all levels. Their cause is a good one. But it is lost. Yes, it is a disgrace that we are all so powerless, but the duck’s back of economic transformation demands our impotence. Democracy, like the environment or the truth or human and civil rights, must always play second fiddle to Gordon’s toxic little time bomb, the economy.

This week our hapless leader. the Kirkcaldy Robot, his mechanical political virility wrapped in the usual shameless lies and clichés, rummaged deep into the pork barrel in his quest to forge yet more shackles for the population. I wonder what our MP was offered for his vote. Probably the name of the winner of the three thirty at Epsom, I imagine, some shares in Scottish & Newcastle, and the guarantee that the details of his expenses will never be made public.  And since this brave socialist certainly gave them his vote perhaps he got the price he demanded. They’re not the things he should have asked for, of course, but then those things would have been paradoxical: freedom, honesty and a meaningful democracy. The Gulag and Gauntanamo Bay, the boot camp and privatised public services, the enterprise economy, the balance sheet and the like are all orderly little places and perfectly fine for robots, automatons and clockwork consumers. They have a narrow, seductive pseudo-rationality, and offer a reassuring Panglossian illusion of making sense of a confusing and arbitrary world. But humanity will always require a bigger, wilder space. 

Brick by brick, bar by bar, law by law, amendment by amendment, Tony and Gordon and those before them have built an invisible prison cell around each and every one of us. They watch us and they control us. They have insidiously but systematically disempowered us. They make laws on false pretences and then misuse them to curtail our every day liberties. They tell us it’s to keep us safe from the bad guys, the guys we can’t see but who they’re sure are lurking around every CCTVed corner. But it’s us they’re watching. We are the suspects – you, me, Margaret, Brenda, Hugo, Mr Zee, possibly De Kooning too – each and every one of us.

On Friday I spoke to Hugo over the garden fence. He was wearing a soft black and white checked shirt and had the look of a lumberjack about him.

‘I see Gordon’s got his forty two days,’ I said.

‘Bloody good thing too,’ Hugo said. ‘He could have a hundred and forty two days for me. They should lock the bastards up forever.’ 

‘But these are people they haven’t charged with anything. It could be you, Fletch. It could be me. Six weeks in the slammer for no reason?’

‘It couldn’t be me, mate,’ Hugo protested. ‘I haven’t done anything wrong. These people are bloody criminals and terrorists!’

‘If the police had much evidence that they were surely they’d charge them with something, wouldn’t they?’

‘Not necessarily,’ Hugo replied. ‘Things aren’t always as simple as that, you know.’

‘Aye, maybe you’re right, Fletch,’ I said. ‘Maybe the police should be allowed to hold any one of us they like for as long as it takes for them to know if we’re dodgy. Let’s just hope they never have to release anyone without charge. It’d be sad to think they could have enough evidence to hold someone for six weeks in a cell without ever having enough evidence to charge them, wouldn’t it?’

‘I don’t care how long they hold the scum, mate,’ Hugo reiterated. ‘It would be a good thing if they never let them out. If they do let them out they should send them back to their own countries. Bloody Moslems have no reason being in Britain, that’s what I think.’

I looked up into Hugo’s little cameras, glanced at his new shiny railings. He obviously doesn’t imagine Gordon’s iron shackles could ever fit him. He doesn’t feel the weight of them on his ankles. I wondered if he thought bored Moslem kids had stolen his broken blue swing. I wondered if he thought the conditions for organised resistance have been taken from us, and I was about to ask him but didn’t. I suspected I knew the answer already, and that in any case he wasn’t a man who wanted to listen to me yammering on all day about politics.  He wouldn’t want me to tell him that we might almost think that Gordon and his globalised gang already know hard times are coming, or that Parliament is even now fitting the deadlocks to each and every one of our cells. Or that democracy has an auto-immune disease and is progressively devouring the body of the electorate. A man like Hugo thinks he knows the nature of the world we live in and doesn’t want to hear otherwise.

‘I was sorry to hear about your fish,’ I said.

‘Yeah, it was a shame that. I’m not sure what happened to them’

‘Oh, I’d heard it was the dust from the Citadel site,’ I said, a little confused.

‘Oh well, who knows,’ Hugo replied. ‘Fish are temperamental things sometimes. The truth is it could have been anything, we’ll never know.’

‘But the dust is a problem, isn’t it? I mean, it could have been that. Maybe you should do a Big Trevor and get some compensation.’

‘Nah,’ Hugo replied, almost scornful. ‘Hey, listen, I’ve worked on the buildings and you’ve got to expect some dust and noise otherwise nothing’d ever get built. Those lads are just doing their jobs, that’s all. They’re not committing any crime, they’re just trying to earn an honest crust. They could do without any earache from us.’

‘But what if they’re killing your fish?’

‘That’ll not be what’s killed them. Nah, it’s probably algae or mites or something like that. You can’t go accusing those lads of things like that when there’s no proof that they did it. Hey, I’m surprised to hear you saying such things after the way you just went on about the Moslems!’

Hugo and I really do live in rather different worlds. I laughed and went in, telling him I could eat a horse.

All week boxes of slippers have been arriving and all around the house various constellations of the critters have taken their places, some lurid, some twee, some silly, some garish, some drab, some meretricious, some cloyingly sentimental. But it’s an ill wind that blows no-one any good, and yesterday Margaret told me she’d persuaded Brenda that the launch party should be postponed for a week because our conservatory was a disgrace as it was still covered in an unsightly film of Citadel Dust following Wednesday’s eruption. Furthermore De Kooning’s comings and goings had left footprints of the toxic dirt in and out of the kitchen and along various windowsills and the last thing they wanted was a health and safety issue spoiling the day. They have agreed to hold the party a week today.

‘But what about my walk?’ I asked.

‘Well you can still go and do it, can’t you?’ Margaret replied.

It has been quite cold today and threatening to rain between the sunny spells. I walked over to Lysdon Farm and down the Gloucester Lodge on the bridleway. From there I made my way back along to South Harbour, and thereafter to Bath Terrace and into the town centre. I went along Regent Street and Hodgsons Road and all the way up the Kitty Brewster. I made my way back across the fields, following the railway line to Newsham and out on to Pheonix Street.

When I got back Margaret told me her grumpy teeth were playing up again. She’s back at work tomorrow and while it may be just a coincidence it does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

‘Do you think I look like a Moslem?’ I asked her.

‘I don’t know,’ she replied, looking me up and down. ‘I mean, what does a Moslem look like?’

‘Yes, that’s what I thought,’ I said.

I went out into the back garden with De Kooning. Hugo was at his pond. He’d bought some new fish and was slipping them from their plastic transportation bags into the newly purified water. I also noticed he’s bought two more plastic mallards to go with the original. They are both drakes and both identical in every way to the other one. I noticed too that the sun was gleaming on the moose’s back and head. It is obvious that whatever Hugo thinks of the dust he will always make sure his moose is kept looking spick and span.

The flag irises are past their best now and collapsing under their own weight. Their blue petals are turning thin, brown and papery. However, the lilies are growing well now, the honeysuckle will be in bloom very soon, I think, and the blue cornflowers are making a good show already. I ran my finger through the dust on the top of one of the solar lights, went to fill the watering can and told De Kooning I thought we could probably do with a bit rain.


Written by yammering

June 15, 2008 at 3:46 pm

the dark dust of summer

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Galloway was grand.

Things change so quickly at this time of the year. While I was away the climbing rose has become an unruly in your face splatter of ragged golden blossoms. The foxgloves are at least six inches taller than they were when I left, their spires all beginning to unbutton now in whites and pinky-purples with lovely speckled gapes. The catmint is a higgledy-piggledy drunken sprawl of blue stalks. And the flag irises have all flowered, a cluster of sirens in diaphanous hoods of watery blue, each one as pale as a jackdaw’s eye. They remind me somehow of the Breton women in Gauguin’s paintings. They have that same shy allure but without the blackness.

Hugo has painted silver the spear-like tip of each black railing along his garden wall. I couldn’t see any new flotsam in his front garden. His security cameras stare resolutely at the street. The Alligator still lies where it has lain since time immemorial, and looks no different than it ever did. This is not to say no change has occurred, of course. Some changes are subtle and almost imperceptible in the absence of a running record to document the process, be it transformation or decay.

The Citadel is truly massive now, and is extending not only vertically but horizontally too. It must now be more than two hundred metres from one end to the other, expanding like a giant red crab in a series of huge extensions, each one mitred into the preceding one in an obtuse articulation, as if this monster will soon enclose us all in its dark embrace. It looks down on us anonymously, like the stadium at a race course, or perhaps like the vacant tiers of an amphitheatre. It dominates us already and already it is clear that it will literally blot out the sun for much of our street. The roofline of the Citadel will be our new horizon. Although our house will be less affected than some, I estimate that for the greater part of the year the sun will now set at least several minutes earlier than it did before because of the irresistible shadow falling across us. And in the summer months I estimate we will lose the sun from our conservatory perhaps forty-five minutes or an hour earlier than we have done in previous years. The Citadel will make our days shorter and take away our evening sunshine.  Griff obviously doesn’t much care that we will now end our days in the dark shadow of this grotesque monument to his self-importance. And nor does Gordon. The so called modernisers care little for the sun, except as something else they can steal from us with one hand and sell back to us with the other.

I picked up De Kooning and together we surveyed the new landscape. Hugo was in his garden doing something to his pond.

‘What’s Hugo doing to his pond?’ I said to Margaret.

‘Who’s Hugo?’ she replied.

‘It’s Fletch,’ I replied.

‘Why did you call him Hugo,’ Margaret said. ‘It’s not his name.’

‘Yes, I know that,’ I explained. ‘But from the way he looks I thought it ought to be.’

Margaret rolled her eyes.  She told me that the man known to some of us as Hugo but more correctly referred to as Fletch was cleaning his pond. While I was away it seems all his carp have died. He doesn’t know why, but Margaret is fairly sure it’s because of contamination of the pond water with dust from the Citadel.  She may well be right, of course, although Griff said the hypothesis was simply ridiculous when Geraldine rang him. The Citizens have a sample of the polluted pond, however, and are determined to get it analysed by an expert to prove that Citadel Dust is to blame. And as Margaret says, if Citadel Dust can kill perfectly healthy fish just imagine what it might do to us. The same thing, of course.  Obviously a brand new slogan is ready to be born: Citadel Dust Kills.

As the pond cleaning machine whirred away Hugo sat on an old kitchen chair, the moose standing at his right side. A scene from Ragnarok crossed my mind.

‘How was Galloway?’ Margaret asked.

‘Oh,’  I replied. ‘ Galloway was grand.’

‘That’s good,’ she said. ‘By the way, we’ll be having the Slipper Shop launch party next Sunday. People will be arriving at about two and we’re expecting it to go on till about six or so. Perhaps you can arrange to go walking during those hours.’

‘I’m sure I can, yes,’ I replied.

‘Oh, and before you say anything, yes, I’ve changed the clocks. It’s on Brenda’s advice, in the light of the coming launch party. She feels that we need maximum equilibrium and has suggested the new time on the basis of Feng Shui principles. She feels that this will be the most propitious time we could possibly have.’

‘That’s fine with me,’ I said. ‘No problem.’

I hadn’t actually noticed that the clocks had been changed. I glanced at the Cuckoo in the kitchen. We now have twenty three clocks all saying quarter to three. It will take me a little while to see if I prefer propitious equilibrium to the spiritual optimism of the previous time. But if it sells slippers I guess it would be churlish of me to care much either way.

It was a sunny afternoon, but Margaret told me that generally the week had been rather cool and that there’d been rain at times. I told her that the weather in Galloway had really been much better than that.


Written by yammering

June 7, 2008 at 11:02 pm