Tuesday, 29 December 2015


Lips. Lips are wonderful things: useful, decorative, sensitive, erogenous. Many of the best things that life has to offer are experienced through the lips: fine wine, fancy cakes, a consensual kiss, crack cocaine. They are marvellous, fabulous devices, like sculpted scar tissue, like little chipolatas, like a soft seagull of sensual promise. Parts of the lips have evocative names like the vermilion border, and the cupid's bow. They are also full of nerves and blood vessels and muscles, and the skin there is thinner, making these perfect, pink protuberances extremely vulnerable to twisting, pulling, scratching, pinching and tearing. They don't like being bitten either.

In body part terms, they are weak, effete, as if their epicurean life has made them weak and decadent, like swooning dandies. Punish them, test them - they will not stand up to any great scrutiny. Oh, and sometimes lips have hair attached to them, in the form of a moustache or goatee / standard beard. This hair can be pulled, causing eye watering discomfort. A most effective technique.   

Friday, 18 December 2015


ARTS-GOV North has released this charming prototype verse from one of their Poem-Plex 2000s. As you will recall, all Northern machines are set to write poems about old things that remind you of other things. This particular verse is from unit TED26 although, to be honest, it’s all the same, really, they’re just machines.


Held in the hand

An unearthed oval of ancient gold

A strong head, recalling my own

What thoughts there? What complications?

It does not matter, what cannot be known

A millennia and a half of dirt wears such cares smooth

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Thursday, 10 December 2015


I have a friend. There is more to that statement, but I thought I’d just let that basic fact hang there for a while as I’m rather proud of it. My friend, who I have known for almost forty years, is a man who, within my hearing at least, has never ever referred to a qualified medical professional as anything other than a ‘quack’.

To him, quacks aren’t just general practitioners, the phrase encompasses the entire sphere of medicine, including all of the NHS and, latterly, the elements of private health care he has engaged with. Whether free at the point of contact or paid for in advance, they are all quacks: back quacks, foot quacks, tooth quacks, blood quacks, gut quacks and, in the late eighties, clap quacks. In summary, he has no respect for any kind of nurse, doctor, medic, surgeon, dentist or healer whatsoever, despite his frequent utilisation of their skills and expertise, particularly the antibiotics.

It’s an inherited condition. His father, Geoff, now sadly deceased, was a man in the classic mould of the English naysayer, the sort of timeless moaner and iconoclast who would have stood behind the catapult at Agincourt moaning about the higher wages the Longbow blokes were on, or critiquing Henry V’s speech. Two hundred odd years later he would have been chafing the collar of his New Model Army uniform, complaining about Cromwell cancelling Christmas.

As a man mainly of the 20th century, he spent an inordinate amount of time cupping a crafty roll up and detailing what he would do if he were to ever assume his rightful mantel as the ruler of everything. His manifesto was, of course, the absolute opposite of what those who actually wielded the power were doing. He was a tremendous character, and he is greatly missed for his wit and wisdom, as well as his ingrained, endless chippiness. He was often spectacularly incorrect: politically; factually. He called a spade a fucking shovel and to him, all solicitors were crooks, all policemen pigs, all male dancers poofs, all footballers pansies, and all doctors quacks.
Geoff’s distaste for professional people was, again, a family heirloom, a legacy of a working class background that stretched all the way back to serfdom. His race memory clearly included bitterness carried over from when sawing peoples legs off and causing them to die, not of gangrene, but of trauma and infection, became the preserve of specially trained people, putting the ordinary bloke who had simply invested in a saw out of business. His distrust of these interlopers was lifelong, and he spent his final hours mocking them for trying to save that long life. According to Geoff, his doctors were quacks: amateurish, ridiculous, dangerous. They did everything they could to keep him alive; he did everything he could to die – just to spite them. Just to prove his point. He most likely died without knowing that he was both part of a long and honourable continuum of working class subversion, and ahead of his time. Geoff, and his son, my friend, and the generations of English men and women like them, will be ultimately proven right as, in the unpleasant aftermath of The Crisis, the quacks will reign supreme.
Seven years of training and countless hours of experience will be of little value in a world without medicine, a world without equipment, a world where surgery is a lottery, and therapy an impossible luxury. Professional medicine will become like visiting a fairground gypsy: a crossing of silver, a crossing of fingers, guess work. It won’t be their fault. Even if their diagnoses are as sharp as ever all that will be left in terms of treatment is stuff that they definitely did not train for: homeopathy and butchery - in short, quackery. In a generation’s time, those that retain any vestigial training and knowledge will most likely be burned at the stake for witchcraft, and the avaricious, ham-fisted artisans that take their place, with their clumsily adapted and rarely cleaned instruments, smelly poultices, reliance on superstition and almost total lack of accountability, will be quacks in the purest possible sense: pretenders, charlatans, bunglers, frauds, killers.
Geoff would have loved The Crisis, fucking loved it, even as he went unanaesthetised before some gap toothed yokel with a talent for divination and a large, dirty knife, giving the thumbs up to oblivion in a world that was finally working on his terms. 

Saturday, 5 December 2015


Sign language is a hugely important communication tool, yet there are currently only around 25,000 users in the UK. This will change post-Crisis, when everyone still alive will be able to quickly learn the only four words that will still have any meaning. Which is a sort of good thing when you think about it, just don't think about it too much, because it becomes an awful, terrible thing.

Thursday, 3 December 2015


I used to work for a large city council, one of the largest in the UK. I did various project related things and, as is my modus operandi, I also interfered in areas I had no right or reason to be involved with. One evening, I was poking around in the central CCTV room, the ten floors up eye in the sky where a kaleidoscopic monochrome summary of the daily drama of the city was played out on fifty flickering screens. All human life down there was up there, constantly monitored for flash points and flare ups, traffic accidents and human collisions. Mostly, people drifted silently around, floating past the various cameras like flotsam, the unintentionally discarded rather than deliberately jettisoned. 

After about twenty minutes, I turned to the silent operator and, half-invigorated by our God like view of the world and half-appalled at the pathetic diorama, decided to ask a question:

'Where is it?' I said.  

'Where's what?'

'The vaporise button', I smiled.

I expected him to either laugh or to look at me as if I were an idiot. He did neither, instead, his mouth an unrelenting line, his eyes never moving from the screens, he put his fingers to his lips and said ‘sssshhhhhhh’.