oh, well, whatever . . .

a glimpse of a runaway horse

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A few days ago I was reading somewhere that modernity is a runaway horse. Democracy was the only rein we ever had on it. Unfortunately a jockey can slow a horse down, and the owners don’t want that. Now there’s a ghost in the saddle.

Last week saw another big nasty nail driven into the coffin of democracy – and the protection of the environment – as Gordon slid the new planning laws past the sleeping electorate. It’s true that most of the time all we can do is slow the bulldozers down rather than stop them. But when they’re destroying irreplaceable and precious things, time matters. It’s some consolation to be able to spend a little while longer with things we love before they’re gone forever. Saying goodbye is so heartbreaking. It’s a bit much to expect people to accept these things being whisked away from them overnight.

Speaking of night and things beyond our control, one day last week they were working on the Citadel site well after midnight. The Citizens were understandably incensed. The Council replied there were no restrictions on working at the site, contrary to the impression that both they and Griff had given previously. Just another glimpse of the horse that has no rein.

And of course the Citadel has continued to grow mercilessly. A vast labyrinth of girders and scaffolding has now consumed the skyline from our conservatory. It looms over our gardens and peers down into our bedrooms and kitchens. Its size is far greater than were ever led to expect. There is no doubt that the Council and their partners in this project – by which I mean the egregious Griff and the parcel of rogues he sups with – seriously and systematically misled the residents about this. The structure is now far closer to us than it was a fortnight ago and its shadow falls across our house even earlier in the evening than I thought it might. We are losing more than an hour’s sun every evening. And because the Citadel has consumed the entire horizon we must now accept that every night the sun will be swallowed by it. This brutal, intrusive monument to ruthless privatisation will look down upon us for as long as we live here. We have lost so much more than we were ever told we would. We have lost peace and quiet, privacy, the sun in the evening, the darkness at night, the sky above the garden fence. I suspect we still don’t know how much we will lose in the end. And just as they never warned us it would be like this, never once have Griff or his partners acknowledged the scale or depth of our loss. They probably never will. It’s a disgrace they might have to pay out for if they did.

One evening this week Hugo in checked shirt and baggy jeans stood up on the boards around his pond, three ducks at his feet, elbows leaning on the top of his fence. He was gazing out at the Citadel. For the first time it seemed to me he was feeling the weight of its inescapable presence. He looked reflective, even despondent. I stood in the conservatory with De Kooning in my arms watching him. Margaret came in and I asked her how the Citizen’s struggle was doing.

She shook her head. ‘It’s like walking through treacle,’ she said. ‘They just take all the fight out of you.’

She looked despondent too.

‘You’re not giving up, are you?’ I said.

She shrugged her shoulders. She said she wasn’t but she was beginning to wonder what the point was now. Hugo was still leaning against his fence, his pond pump gurgling behind him.

‘At least the slippers are selling,’ I said, trying to cheer her up.

She smiled half-heartedly and remembered she needed to ring Brenda about something.

Flinty was released from prison at the beginning of last week and has already wreaked havoc. One of his license conditions was that he must reside in Bedlington and is not allowed to enter the area north of the Wansbeck. However he is dressing up in various disguises and using various borrowed cars to enter the area and settle old scores, make drug deals and worry Mandy. Last Tuesday – the day after his release – he dressed up as Felix the Cat and drove north in a clapped out green Datsun to do a deal on some cowies with Black Peter from Newbiggin. Deal done it seems he made his way to Lynemouth and kicked seven bells out of Dekka Douglas for allegedly grassing him up to the police and getting him sent down. Dekka is undoubtedly a police informant and as a result appears to live a charmed life. It’s said he’s been involved in everything from armed robbery to GBH and money laundering but has never yet been charged with anything more serious than having a broken stop light. Dekka seems untouchable, although Flinty proved that this isn’t literally true. Ironically Dekka seems blameless on this occasion. The grass was Elephant Carmichael, Flinty’s best mate. Flinty is currently staying with Elephant until he can find somewhere else, and the word is that it was Elephant who pointed Flinty in Dekka’s direction.  Dekka isn’t likely to point out Flinty’s mistake, of course: Flinty sees Elephant as his blood brother and besides Elephant is every bit as psychopathic as Flinty only three times his weight and twice as ugly. Dekka probably took the view that a hammering from Flinty was preferable to being mangled by the Elephant.

On Wednesday Flinty came over dressed as Bjorn Borg, wearing a blond wig, headband and tennis gear. He was probably inspired by Wimbledon. His vehicle that day was a red Toyota 4×4 pick-up, courtesy of Elephant’s cousin. At some point during the afternoon he turned up outside Mandy’s door.  Just before tea Mr Zee came out to go to the corner shop to get some milk.  Flinty seeing this jumped out of the Toyota and began to approach him. Mr Zee at first thought he was just any other man dressed for tennis, not a common site on the estate although not entirely implausible. However when this Bjorn Borg lookalike began to call him unsavoury names and to gallop towards him, Mr Zee realised who he was lurking behind the headband. He made off up the street, showing a surprising turn of speed for a man wearing knee length boots and a brown cape. It may be that Flinty is out of condition following his period of incarceration, because despite the obvious advantages of plimsolls and shorts he was unable to keep up with Mr Zee and quickly gave up the chase. He then swaggered back to the red pick-up and stood beside it in his white shorts, one hand resting on the bonnet, getting his breath back and glaring belligerently at Mandy’s door.  For whatever reason he obviously thought that discretion was the better part of valour on this occasion, however, and quickly made his way back south to Elephant’s. That evening Mandy received many strange phone calls, all from number withhelds. Some of these phone calls were completely silent, but on all the others Yvonne Fair’s recording of It Should Have Been Me was playing in the background. It is Flinty’s favourite song.

On Thursday Mandy, Mr Zee and the kids came into the office. They were requesting help with a house move to another area. Debs suggested they needed to inform the police about Flinty’s behaviour as he was in breach of his release conditions.  Mandy had done so, but the police felt that the evidence – Mr Zee being chased by Bjorn Borg, and a dozen dodgy phone calls from an Yvonne Fair fan – wasn’t enough to act on, even though they said they knew ‘with one hundred percent certainty’ that Flinty was responsible. ‘Perhaps this was because Elephant Carmichael has told them so’, Debs suggested.

The weekend was quiet, but on Monday Flinty went up to Amble to do a deal on some crack cocaine. He was dressed as a surfer – wet suit and Oakley’s on his head – and driving an old VW camper van. On his way back he parked up opposite Mandy’s for a couple of hours. Sparky spotted ‘the scary frogman’ from the window.  He went away about teatime, abandoning the camper van on the spine road when it broke down. That night Mandy received five further unsolicited telephone renditions of Yvonne Fair’s brash anthem.

On Tuesday morning Mandy came into the office to talk to Debs. She said she was thinking about going back to Flinty.

‘I thought you loved Mr Zee,’ Debs said.

‘I do,’ Mandy said. ‘But Flinty will murder him if he doesn’t get me back.’

‘But Mandy the kids love Mr Zee, don’t they? And they’re shit scared of Flinty, aren’t they?’

‘Yes, I know, I know.  But he won’t let me go, Debs. He really will kill me too if I don’t go back to him. You don’t know him like I do.’

‘Does Mr Zee want you to go back to Flinty?’

‘No. He says I shouldn’t do that. He says he’ll stay with me no matter what. But he’s scared, Debs, I can tell. He’s terrified in fact, I know he is.’

Debs shook her head. ‘I’ll ring the police again,’ she said. ‘You need to see this through for the sake of kids. But you all need protection. I’ll see what I can do.’

Debs rang the police who accepted that Flinty probably was ‘making a nuisance of himself’, as they put it, but that without clear evidence that it was him and that he’d crossed north of the Wansbeck and that he was actually intimidating Mandy there wasn’t a lot they could do. They said they’d alert the local Bobby and ask the patrol car to be aware of the address. Besides the odd musical phone call in the middle of the night things have been quiet since then. But Flinty won’t go away, we all know that. It’s only a matter of time.

I interviewed Hermann Evans last week. He was a great disappointment. Far from being the unapologetic absurdist anti-hero I was hoping he might be, he quickly turned out to be a blubbering Bavarian baby.  I was looking forward to the delights of a conversation with a Teutonic Dadaist. I got a man on his knees, a man who saw himself as a complete victim, and who, between the sobbing, while never admitting to saying anything whatsoever, said that whatever he did it was just in fun and he had been misunderstood. In short Hermann thought that senior managers must hate him for reasons not known to him or to me, and that my whole investigation was a shabby attempt to bring him down. 

I abandoned the interview because of his distress and suggested he needed to go and see his doctor. He didn’t seem to me a well man. Interestingly enough it seems the distraught Hermann remembers the real names of people much better than his bold unsuspended counterpart. In this too he was an immense disappointment to me. I only hope that when we meet again he shows a little more spirit. I want to hear about Freddie Faust and the mysterious Mr Ferret, Brunhilda and Gay Goldilocks.

It rained again today. I went into the garden this evening with De Kooning while Margaret was cooking some onions and potatoes. A hedgehog wandered around the border for a while. The damp air was heady and thick with the swoony scent of stocks and pinks.  The yellow lily too is beginning to bloom in the grey evening. We went in and left the hedgehog to go about his business while he can.


Written by yammering

July 6, 2008 at 9:19 pm

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