kate tempest, let them eat chaos

let them not eat these words,

or chaos indeed. Everyone has herds

of things which tides against them, and have no time for this little

book of pretentious spittle

to contend with their sanity,

the banal profanity

of constant rhymes

about the faults of our times.

 

What can we learn from:

All that is meaningless rules
And we have learned nothing from history.

 

To blame the culture around social media

and the swamping, endless wikipedia

with words that are short

and make my face contort:

behold a lack of art

and  heart.

A stereotype is not fun

Before I was an adult, I was a
little wreck,
pedding whatever I could get
my grubby mitts on.

Ketamine for breakfast,
bad girls for drinking with

“This poem was written to be read aloud”

Is she aware that this is not allowed

on public transport, or in coffee shop

that a-one-eye-look from a cyclops

will come my way if I do?

She knew, she knew, she knew

and made this is little caveat

for the well-wishing diplomat

to lean on,  when faced with her endless

repetition, which makes surely her friendless.

 

A stereotype is not fun

I hate to think I’ll make it to seventy,
potentially
seventy-five,
And realize I’ve never been alive,
and spend the rest of my days
regretting,
wishing I could be
forgetting.

Fight Club had done this already, a cinematic vision

with artistic precision,

to discuss what is now a mere cliché

and very passé

especially the sickening form

words stuck all over the page, forlorn,

seemingly irrelevant for the spoken word,

something which should not to be read

or evidently, heard.

 

We die.
So others can be born.

We age
so others can be young.

The point of life is live.
Love if you can. Then pass it on. 

How refreshing, how new

no, how I wish I knew,

all these things

before reading a book which used old ideas

and stereotypes for its wings.

 

 

 

 

to the lighthouse// january

He smiled the most exquisite smile, veiled by memory, tinged by dreams.

                  It hard to grapple with something that does not exist: nothing, no bones, to tie the language together

And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees
and changing leaves

                 In our world full of pictures and pages, each curated to our little personal dreams, it is hard to be beautiful, and but it is even harder to make sense, and have authenticity tumble through your work.

 Bitter and black, halfway down, in the darkness, in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths, perhaps a tear formed; a tear fell; the waves swayed this way and that, received it, and were at rest.

             Where is it, where is it? Are we built from a lust for life, or from a fear of death: is that your dusky illumination.

Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life?–startling, unexpected, unknown?

            What shines through the ink, is an enthusiasm for language and the twisting of words, so devoid from the other works which pseudo-intellectuals have branded their favourite, champagne literates, illerates.

The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare

           Were you a millennial, pre-emptive? Indeed, bubbling with ideas and hopes and knowledge and just wanting to be understood, the ideas larger than people’s capacity for understanding. Or was your ego larger than the need for the words to be pared down to be understood.

So that is marriage, Lily thought, a man and a woman looking at a girl throwing a ball

            If I craved a string of quotes, with no meaning in context to each other except for the overwhelming existential sadness they all made me feel, I would go somewhere else: literature was not borne for this.

Or maybe it was.

Well, we must wait for the future to show.

Did a genocide almost happen in England? (And other gems from Anglo-Saxon History)

Haters will say that Anglo-Saxons are dull because they were simply bearded men, with nothing but pillaging and unaesthetic mud huts to their name. Haters would therefore be wrong. Here are some of the most interesting things I’ve learnt from my reading of The Anglo-Saxon Age by John Blair, The Anglo-Saxons by James Campbell and Anglo-Saxon England by David Brown.

  1. The mains gods in Anglo-Saxon society were Tiw, Woden and Thor. Tiw was the god of war, swordplay and the sky, whilst Woden was the chief of all the Anglo-Saxon gods and Thor was the god of sky and thunder. (Marvel, anyone?) These gods were honoured especially in place names- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as a few places like Tuesley in Surrey, Wednesbury in Staffs and Thursley in Surrey.
  2. The word Welshman has a root in slavery, becomes it comes from “wealh” which means slave. So the place “Walton” could either mean the place of the Welsh/Britons, or the place of slaves.
  3. Kings never stayed in power for too long. It is crucial to remember that at that time there were many simultaneously ruling kings in England, because England as a unified place did not exist and was more like a mixture of different smaller kingdoms. Anyway, even kings of smaller areas were not in power for very long. and this was because soldiers were attracted to kings by gifts: but gifts depended on the wealth of the kings which in turn relies upon power and conquest. If a battle is lost, then all the soldiers could switch sides so that they could receive gifts from another king. So power and authority was very fluid in the seventh century.
  4. In the eighth and ninth century, wealthy landowners would build monasteries on their estates to enjoy the tax advantages. Essentially, taxes would have to be paid to a church in order to maintain them, but if you already had a monastery on your land then these could be evaded. This evasion was so prolific that a famous monk, Bede, complained about these “fronts” in his book.
  5. King Alfred devoted the last ten years of life to reviving literacy and learning in his society. He was the only English king, even before Henry VIII, who wrote books. That is impressive. Good old Alfred even learnt Latin, and being the kindly man he was, translated texts into English for his subjects’ benefit alone. He also organised the first compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is basically the main source we have for nearly all events in that era, from early Anglo-Saxon life to the Norman Conquest.
  6. One could see how strong royal power was by their coinage. There were decrees issued by Aethelstan between 924 and 939 which ordered that throughout the land there should be a single type of coin, with the same sort of weight and consistency. This is key because it illustrates the consistency of their rule -if they were overthrown then something new would have been introduced- in a time where the turn-over of kings was high!
  7. In 1002, Æthelred and his council ordered a massacre of all Danes living in England. These Danes were living happily in the Danelaw, but of course their presence was unwanted by an English ruler because of the threat of a revolution they posed. However, the law ordering a genocide could not have been enforced, as it is thought that up to a 1/3 of all people in the time were Danish. It does however suggest that there were anti-Danish sentiments at the time, and it is clear that this suggestion of a massacre, whatever came of it irrelevant, did prompt King Swein to invade England (and promptly rule it) a year later.
  8. Churches in the eleventh century are vastly different to today. Back then, they were owned by the lords who built them, whose purpose was determined by a tenurial rather than pastoral manner. The church’s main function was not exactly religion, but to serve “the needs of the lord, his household, and tenants” (Blair).
  9. Anglo-Saxons did not learn to read and write until after the spread of Christianity, when Augustine came to England in AD 597.
  10. Most people were buried with their spear and shield. Swords were found for one in ten graves, and many had no weapons at all. Weapons were found however, were appropriate to their class, and were therefore symbols of wealth, not constant warfare.
  11. Anglo-Saxon houses had hollows in them for storage. 
  12. In the seventh century there was a mass conversion to christianity- first observed with royal families. Christian kings were buried in churches: the first one was Aethelbert of Kent in 616 in St Martin’s Chapel at St Peter. Lesser folk, however, were buried outside churches.
  13. People buried coins when they feared they would lose them. Therefore when lots of coins were buried at a particular time (because nothing like safes existed back then), it signalled that a raid was going on. However sometimes these people died during such attacks, and therefore their coins remain buried, as they are found today.
  14. -by is the danish word for village, i.e Grimsby is Grimr’s village. Hybrid names like Grmis-ton is Grimr’s village, with a Danish personal name (Grmis) and an English word (-ton, for village).
  15. Edward the Elder tried to stop the black market! He wanted all exchanges to be carried out in a port in the witness of a reeve (royal official) so that the sale of stolen property could be hindered, stolen property being mainly cattle.

hello, hello, hello

A foreign number in the corner of magazines and computer screens: 2019. In many ways, it simply marks the cumulation of days. On the other hand, the dawning of a new year symbolises the attempts that many now make to become a better person. The metric for self-improvement is, of course, individual, and in many cases the decision to abandon resolutions can be as difficult to embrace as elaborately planned (if unsuccessful) workout regimes. This is due to societal pressure to find faults within oneself, and hurriedly erase them before anyone notices, even when you have no current qualms with your lifestyle.

But what lies ahead for this little blog? What about this little world we live in, indeed, with such a great capacity for harbouring both incredible acts of kindness, and evil? The answer to the former, and almost certainly the latter, is that although we all have some idea -hopes even- nobody really knows. We have managed to survive another year without nuclear war, but with the threat always looming somewhere in the ink of newspages, it serves as a sobering reminder that life should be not taken too seriously. I could make various promises about how often I will post, or how many books I will read this year, but instead an organic approach to posting seems more appropriate. Book review blogs do not make for internet sensations, anyway, and as much of my reading is leaning towards those necessitated by academic commitments, rather than by personal preference, this blog may become a spot for the chronicling these various textbook activities more than anything else. Whilst this will be undoubtedly useful to me, the interest in this for others remains to be seen. However I will also continue with my Winter Challenge, and embark upon various discursive essays, as well as the slaughtering of various classics (To the Lighthouse, you are next) but the general tone may become more… dusty.

So: hello, hello, hello 2019. I hope you feel welcome, and will forgive me if at times I seem distant, or boring, if ineffectual. Then again, politicians act this way, and they seem to be ruling to the country. Maybe this isn’t such a bad approach, then.

“You exposed your penis on national television, Max”

“You exposed your penis on national television, Max.” is a phrase we are all used to hearing during the festive period. Or maybe not. Maybe if your name is Thomas the sentence will end slightly differently. But yes, we have been there, having all done regretful things in the Christmas period, perchance slightly intoxicated. But luckily, it’s coming up to a new year and we all know what that means. A NEW YOU! Or does it?

The premise of coming into a new calendar year -2019- is always attractive. It’s nearly Christmas and with great Christmas celebrations comes a great number of chocolate and mince pies. Also known as weight gain… and whatever emotions accompany that.

Having said that, maybe some people have self restraint! Do not worry, there is something else to bring you too- the general moodiness that winter can bring to those in the gloomier countries, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in its most extreme cases. It doesn’t help when everyone, be it in the family or at work, is crammed into a room together and everyone is tired. So arguments or sly comments can ensue: resulting in a generally negative atmosphere. Therefore by the time Christmas itself comes around, you are probably regretting buying a present for Brenda after she told Kathy last week that you are always late handing in news reports, even though that’s not true. And now, you are wondering if it’s too late to stay with your sister, because you accidentally told your boyfriend that his parents were the worst at Christmas, except you haven’t bought her anything yet. Or spoken to her in half a year. You see how it goes. By  New Year’s, some relationships can become patchier than the elbows of your favourite jumper. Have you even seen When Harry Met Sally?

So there will be some regret by the time the 1st of January comes around, and the subsequent resolutions can be split into 2 main categories:

Self-improvement and relationships

In the self-improvement area, it will most likely be joining a new gym, or becoming a bikram yoga instructor after that semi-delirious chat the night before (I was joking about the first one, no one ever seriously commits to joining a new gym.)

In terms of relationships, it could be anything from: I will call my family once a week, to meeting up with old friends more frequently.

You get the gist. There are however issues arising with New Year’s Resolutions. The first one in the lack of realism. Most people do not suddenly lose all their fitness in the 14 day festive period. The mince pies did not magically eat your six pack and leave behind many evenings of mulled wine regret. Oh no. Many of the problems that people have been facing, like estrangement from family, or an unhealthy regime, have existed long before December (and eventually themselves) rolls around. So there a magical idea called

PRE YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS!

This means writing all your New Year’s Resolutions now. Right now. Why are you still reading this- you are meant to be writing! Yes, you write them now, and then you start doing them straight away. Want to go for a run everyday- there is some daylight left, so get going. All the things you want your future self to do should simply be enacted today, before the Christmas/ New Year lethargy gets into full force. This way, even if you slip up once or twice, not only will you be generally making a step in the right direction (i.e if you only eat one mince pie at every party, instead of the usual three, plus brandy, plus eggnog, candy canes, christmas pudding and the sad crusty gingerbread of regret at 1 AM when only your boss is left, swaying in the corner). Another benefit is that many people have a “do or fail” mentality, like: “I will not eat chocolate this entire year”. And then on the fourth day they accidentally eat some, and that is it for them, because the streak of 365 without chocolate is now ruined so they might as well go back to their old habits. No, Pre-Year’s Resolutions allows you not only to ease into your habits, so that you don’t go cold turkey (as it does on by roughly 5:53pm on Christmas day), but so that you can spot flaws in your plan so that when the New Year does come around you have a plan which you can feasibly stick to.

Then again, vive la gluttony! What is not love about the self-loathing that inevitably comes with the cold, harsh light of January anyway…

We Just Did What Needed To Be Done

Since it’s Sunday and it’s stopped raining, I think I’ll take a bouquet of roses to my grave. It’s been a while, and that mound of earth, crowned with a slate of grey and my name, is looking a little drab without them. Why pick roses themselves? They are a tradition. And traditions must be kept, at all costs. Even if the others, mourning, see that spill of white on my grave and disapprove. We all know that somebody will disapprove, at whatever you do; it is just who is doing the disapproving, you see, which is the crucial part.

As for me: I died 2 years ago. Some people disapproved of my existence far too much, I am afraid to say. It was better to be dead, though. For myself, for my family -for everybody. It gave the newspapers something to chew on for a while, something for people to riot about, and then they all spat me out and I was happily forgotten. When I had just been killed, I was worried about the amount of time I would have to stay in my flat. How pale I would become. Everyone knows my face and I face charges for violations of international human rights, and somehow I still managed to be vain. Worrying about being pale, when lifetime imprisonment could lay before! I made sure to sit near the kitchen window everyday, though. The blinds were closed, obviously, but sunlight would  still seep through the corners and douse my skin. Because although venturing outside would be an unnecessary risk, I would rather not look like corpse if I could help it. Even though I was to meant be one; my funeral was on national television, after all. Out of spite, not because they wanted to commemorate me, but let’s not dwell on that. Little old me on the BBC; my mum would not have believed it. She would not believe that I was not really in that casket, either, but that it was actually waxy version of myself. Nobody checks corpses anyway. And it helps to still have political supporters on the inside, to orchestrate the fake funeral. They were hoping, I am sure, that by helping me I would come back and revive the Revolution again. I am not so sure.

Now that I was dead, I could do what I wanted, as long as it was inside my flat, and I did not use the internet or the phone. I found letters to be best, actually, to communicate with my family. Whilst the time passed, I read all the books that were in my living room. Until the day of my death, it had been at least two years since I had any free time. So I departed, intellectually ravenous, for those bookshelves. I found my old medical notes, from University, and looked over them. Rubbed my chin. It was coming, like a winter storm. Like a flurry of snowflakes, soft white hair was erupting onto my skin. Soon, I would be safe. Soon. But whilst that beard came, I memorised everything I had forgotten between going to University, becoming a failed medic, then a failure of a son and soon after a failed businessman. And then, as you all know, a failed revolutionist. In all honesty, I think my last career did not end abominably. I was martyr, after all, and that is better than dying slowly into oblivion. If celebrities die young, then everyone weeps for the talent that is now decaying in a box under the ground, and they are forever remembered as being “stolen by time”. But when artists grow old in the public eye, and cannot maintain that talent, that vigour, that beauty- that is when people mock them.

It is a funny world.

Which is why I grew a beard and watched films with northern characters. That accent needed to envelope me and become me, for the simple reason that it opposes my natural one entirely. Born in Brighton to poor parents, pretending that I am from Newcastle would be exactly what I needed to stay disguised. My daughter and wife still live there, today. In Brighton, I mean. It would be painfully obvious to stay with them, and I would be sent to the Hague immediately. No, whilst the old adage of hiding things in plain sight may ring true, unfortunately this would be fatal for me. Not too much in plain sight, at least. I was not going to stay in my flat forever. No, that would be a bore. Instead, with a thick white beard, a crown of long hair and a northern accent, I would look entirely different and be able to walk freely in public. I would start a new life, as a doctor. And speaking with hindsight, I can say that the northern accent and large, billowing beard truly did work. They work well enough so that I can put roses on my grave today, at any rate.

Looking back on those days, I am surprised that I even survived. Putting myself under house arrest was more excruciating than deciding the logistics of destroying the House of Commons. However, I did garner much satisfaction from watching the news unfurl on the BBC, months after I had died. The news reporters and their horror, the documentaries about that sacred building being nothing more than ashes and the arguments which ensued about what to do next. In all these things, my face was plastered onto the screen. It was my fault, they would cry. Which is all very ironic, I will have you know, because it was not even my idea. No, after Brexit actually happened in 2021, (pushed back due to negotiation issues), there was civil unrest. Meanwhile I joined the Lazarus Political Party. They believed in radical change; overturning the existing government and creating a fairer society. Not equal, though. This was far from Communism, before you get any ideas. We learnt from Brexit that if you give people a voting slip, all they will do is set it on fire. So the Lazarus meetings started, quietly, in friends’ houses and then town halls as we grew. We decided we needed to remove the current government, because whilst Lazarus expanded, there were no longer bananas in our shops. Or coffee, or chocolate, or oranges or anything else that you could possibly need. Walking into a supermarket was like walking into a joke. You do not understand where you are going, and then when you realise the destination, it is almost laughable. They used have every shelf overflowing, these places. I would think that was impossible until I remembered that it used to be like that all the time when I was a child. It made me realise that Lazarus wanted something genuinely beneficial for the British people. So I joined them. I spoke to their members, and after talking at meeting a few times about the state of affairs, it turned out that I was a great orator. There’s no other way to put it. It became my everything, those weekly party meetings. You must have watched the documentaries about me by now, so you would know that I was failing at my job at this point, too. It was soulless, a simple check-in and check-out every day for six years of my life before I found this party. Lazarus was the spice to the stew of my life. So what else did you expect me to do, other than dedicate my life to it?

Yes, it became a passion of mine. An obsession, even. As the anger of the nation grew greater, as bricks were thrown into buildings because food was running out, nothing brought me more pleasure than being elected party leader. It had been my goal for the past six months since I had joined. And all the senior members agreed that Lazarus should be in power. We all had different ideas how to go from there, though. I had suggested we wait until the next General Election, which was now every 12 years instead of 4, because the Tories realised that they would never be voted into office again and wanted to maintain their current power as long as possible. But every senior member thought, surprisingly unanimously, that this was far too distant a prospect. That action needed to happen. That it needed to happen now, more than anything else. Weeks of debate, arguments, papers scattered onto the floor. We voted as a party. I made them vote twice, actually. Just to be certain that was what they wanted. They decided, and I quit my day job. This was it. I was going all in, because on May 7th the Lazarus party voted to destroy the Houses of Parliament. But not Westminster Abbey, they said. That was too beautiful, even for them. But Parliament would be fine to burn to nothing but a memory.

So during a sudden snowstorm in November, November 23rd, 3pm to be precise, five bombs exploded. My insides flinched slightly, as I looked at my watch and saw a plume of smoke outside my window, several miles away. Our party had gained momentum now: over 1.2 million members. Obviously not that many people knew about this operation, or we would have been arrested. But the devices had our party logo on it, so the police would know who to credit. Such a pity, really, that old architecture crumbling into flames, but I suppose it had to be done. For the good of the people. To make a statement. At the same time, all ordinary members of Lazarus destroyed statues of any person with any political affiliation. At all. If they had gone to a single Labour meeting, then the hammers came out. Or Lib-dem, or anything else. If a marble statue was linked to a political opinion, it had to go. And at 3pm on that same day, a pre-recorded video of myself was released. Pre-recorded and sent from a computer in a derelict building, so we couldn’t be traced. We decided that it would be a neat ribbon to wrap up the day’s momentous events. It was simple; I introduced myself, the party and then my authority over everybody in England. For their own good. It made a lot of sense, actually, because public opinion is a dangerous thing. See the damage and destruction it has caused in the past. Slavery. The oppression of women. Brexit. Without public approval, these things would not have occurred, despite the few enlightened speaking out. Lazarus, the public were informed, is a party of those enlightened and who speak out against the wrong. Suffragettes were not well received at first, but they turned out to be the few right-minded people amongst the nation. That is what Lazarus is. We  can make the right decisions for England, and take the power away from those who can not.

My rule had started so well. I did it for 4 months. More buildings were blown up,  laws passed that were stifled by bureaucracy before, and some people were killed. We just did what needed to be done. Some people hold back society, and they just had to go.

Then they found me, hiding in the countryside at my base. Not everyone was so accepting of my authority, unfortunately. So I faked my own death, and now I walk among you. As a doctor; somebody you trust. It is surprising what a new accent and a full beard can do. Now I walk among you.

Why You Should Fall Asleep Reading American History

It happens to the best of us. Dear Americans, do not take this as a personal assault on your nation’s history- this is far from it. Instead, this is… well, just read the article.

Only yesterday I was reading “American History” by Paul S. Boyer when, at only page 6, I succumbed to irresistible slumber. And I am glad I did, because I truly could not bear it any longer. When you are reading a text that is drier than an apple ring in a toddler’s lunch, (sorry Boyer) it is easily done. Take the phrase: “Underlying the creativity and ferment of antebellum America lay the inescapable reality of slavery”. The present (the content, here) is engaging, but the wrapping (pompous language) is so uninteresting that it is almost too depressing to tear it off.

So, deprived of dreams and bored, the book slipped from my hands as I slipped into sleep. And then, a solid 40 minutes later, I woke up, and I still had 124 pages to go! But now, I felt refreshed like I had imbibed an elixir of concentration. I proceeded with my task and I managed to absorb some fascinating things about American History, like:

  • The theory New England Puritans had in the 18th Century that “God had chosen the Puritans to create in America a New Zion”, which clearly did not fade away after they had founded Massachusetts. This sense of narcissism, that America had such a unique role in history which was beyond that of simply capitalism and greed, is truly engrossing. Also, it does tonally remind one of:

maga

  • The 17th Century concept of indentured servants: these are like slaves (but with a couple more laws on their side) who have to work only for a certain period of time under their masters before they are free. They worked in exchange for a paid passage to the Colonies. As I study American History (you should be so proud of me for doing this external reading), I found it surprising that my course completely overlooks indentured servants, when  “one-half to two-thirds of the immigrants who came to the American colonies arrived as indentured servants”. Does nobody else think that is astounding? They typically spent four to seven years working before they could be free. Now there you were thinking that flights for the Christmas break were expensive. It is generally accepted though that Africans  initially “blended into a larger population of unfree labourers” before they alone eventually became enslaved. That is the truly horrific note, because it illustrates how at this point slavery was not societal (although obviously that was awful as well); it was consciously introduced. Many may imagine slavery was imported from the mother country into America, but evidently in the beginning this was not the case and instead was consciously integrated into a culture which had existed primarily without it.

 

  • Fake news existed in 1776. Who knew? Or, to be more accurate, people had their own special version of Twitter and Facebook back then, only showing them what they wanted to see. A specific example was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which published in January, sold nearly 120,000 by April. It is almost the contemporary equivalent of a vegan cookbook! Oh how times have changed. We really have become unintellectual. But many have cited Common Sense as the trigger to the Revolution, and how it determined the tone of the Second Continental Congress in May (where the Declaration of Independence was written).  To think that in the 18th Century a mere pamphlet could have such a monumental impact on the course of world history is astounding, is it not? One might think that Paine was a real pain, because he had just moved to America when he released Common Sense and called King George III a “royal brute” and therefore was incredibly disloyal. But actually, some of what he said did make a lot of sense, and are harmonious with the ideals of this blog:

61700-Thomas-Paine-Quote-He-who-dares-not-offend-cannot-be-honest

 

Anyway, I decided that even if I was reading A Very Short Introduction, it turned out not to be that short, so after my delicious nap I decided only to read the parts of the book relevant to my course. You can tell I consolidated and learnt some great facts along the way, but most of all, this moral:

DO NOT READ AMERICAN HISTORY IF YOU ARE TIRED. THE WORDS WILL SLIP THROUGH YOUR EYEBALLS AND THEN EVAPORATE AS LITTLE CURLS OF THOUGHT STEAM ABOVE YOUR HEAD SO THAT YOU’VE WASTED YOUR TIME AND WON’T BE ABLE TO REMEMBER ANYTHING LATER.

Instead, sleep, and then return to your work, refreshed, with a more receptive mind to even the driest of texts.

good point.gif

*Yes, sorry, this only works if you are on holiday and can just snooze around whenever. Apologies if that is disappointing news.

Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs.

Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs. Do not blame their little pink selves. Do not look at them in my pocket and then tell me that this did not happen. You know it did, and that they’re irrelevant to the voices. And, I hate writing. I wouldn’t do this for some fake kid’s story. So there.

It was yesterday. I am at home, not alone, not really (because I know Bobby is coming back soon, and the thought of someone going to enter your life is almost as comforting as them being there already). I shouldn’t be- alone that is, because isn’t it illegal to leave a 13 year old alone in the middle of New York City? Isn’t that the case? It’s a stupid case, as I’m fine. But still alone, and this evening I had some work to do. Bobby had told me to write down everyone who had bought from him so far, so I had all these scraps of paper in a neat mess and a notepad to write down my findings. Ollie O. has appeared no less than four times, that cheeky guy, and I’ve only just started! Well, if he and his insides can afford that many orders, then it’s not our problem. It’s what keeps this dingy apartment going, right? We have a TV, obviously (we ran away from home, but we’re not animals, okay) and a sink where we sometimes wash things up. No, that’s not true. That’s where Bobby sometimes washes things up, after the tabletop overflows and one of the shiny take-away cans finally crashes onto the floor. That’s when he knows it’s time to take out The Soap. Eugh. I don’t watch him do it; it makes me sick.

You know that feeling, right? When you’re watching something simple, and it takes you back way back when, to place for hell you’re not ever going back to. You claw at the present, your nails catching on the furniture around you to keep you grounded alright, but no. That sight, or smell, or even someone’s voice sends you whirling right back. Well that is the case with me and dishes. You see, I am not a dirty person; I sometimes wash my own clothes in the sink with The Soap, and the shower and I are familiar enough. I’ve got to look respectable, don’t I, because if I’m too grimy or dirty then Those People will sniff me out good. They’re like high-schoolers, who can smell your weakness from afar and know just how to bully you. Except these guys kidnap you and take you back to where they think you belong instead. The house of your bio-logic-cal parents. Hell, do you think I snuck out of that lousy Pennsylvanian town 6 months ago for nothing? Christ (how I don’t miss those daily services), I left for a reason, and helped you cops do your job so that you didn’t have to investigate our house! No, the mere whiff of that squeaky green soap makes me think of the days where all I’d do for hours was wash up in the kitchen and make food. Oh, that’s so not bad, buck up you’d say; but you weren’t there. Bobby knows. I’d finish school and come home, happy as anyone, when Mom would turn on me, snapping her jaws like a dog at a fly, and send me straight there, to the kitchen. Or to the living room with a mop. Or the attic with a duster. She’d say, do it in your uniform, so if you make a mess you will have to deal with it tomorrow in front of everyone else in the classroom. So I didn’t make a mess. I don’t know why she made me stay inside all those long afternoons after school, whilst the others played outside. For years. My childhood is just a picture of the inside of that goddamn awful house. And I mean it! I learned quickly that there was no point signing up for after-school classes, either. I tried everything. After-school assignments (she even called the teacher and made me come back early so I didn’t miss my chores) and friends’ houses (a plain no) were no excuse. I tried to sneak home late once through the window, about three years ago. To avoid having to sit and stare out at my neighbour’s playing ball whilst I chopped some vegetable. But when I came back, she was waiting for me. She made me eat dog-food. Slowly. Eyes gleaming with the sort of delight which seemed – which seemed damn cruel, okay. I don’t like talking about it. I left there for a reason.

Bobby understands.

So now I’m sitting here in the apartment, happy as can be, with two simple instructions: don’t open the door, and don’t answer the phone. Not while Bobby is out tonight on business. So I don’t. I do get bored though, damn it. I watch a whole episode of something stupid, some girl trying to flirt with a guy but god it’s trash. So… I go and find The Stash somewhere in Bobby’s mattress. The first time he got those little pills and puffs of powder, he slit that mattress sharp with a knife. Somehow he got it just above the springs, and so he slid them into that little bit of foam there. The cupboard, he said, if the cops ever looked, was too obvious, as was under the mattress. No, he said, with that little bit of a smile, they’ll look under the mattress and think they’ve checked. And that’s when you win, because it’s inside it.

I picked my way over the pile of clothes and magazines and old food tins. I can’t believe we don’t have rats yet, but I guess we’ve already had the alloted run of bad luck in our lives, and the rats know that. It’s weird, I never go into Bobby’s room and I don’t really like that sneaky feeling. Like I’m a robber. But boredom is worse, so I peel back the sheet and feel along the mattress’ side. There! I take out one plastic packet. No label, nothing. There are sweet little pink things in there; I think I’ve seen the guys take them before, so I know they’re fine. Right? There are, what, fifty of them- Bobby will never know if I take only one or two. I take five, just… just to be on the safe side, then stuff the packet back inside the mattress, and redo the sheet. Run and jump onto the sofa. I would be screamed at like nothing before if he knew I was taking this stuff. But I’m doing the list of names, so there. Water, or no water? I put one in water; I think that’s what the others did. But there are so many pills, in so many shiny colours, that it is hard to keep track. A commercial for detergent comes on. I sip, excited like at the start of a movie when you know it’s going to be good. Another show starts, one about a little girl who can’t tell the time and goes to all the wrong places, and her parents follow after her, half-laughing, half-fake serious. Nothing yet. I’m going to need to take more to make this fun. Refill glass at the tap. Three, two, one- there. Two down. I should probably stop, yes, pick up the pencil, look at sheet. Have I read this one already? Well I don’t know, all this handwriting looks the same to me.

I throw my notepad across the room. I’m his sister for Christ’s sake. He can run his own cartel. I want none of it! If he has to make me do it, then he can’t be very good at this business. When is he coming home tonight? With another black eye, like last time? I used to stay up, my arms wrapped around my knees like I was trying to keep myself from exploding. I learned quickly there was no point in waiting for him. Sometimes it would be days and I would have to go to the cafe underneath us and try to steal something to eat. Something small; I would pay them back when Bobby gave me money again, leaving enough of a tip to cover what I owe. That’s fine, right? It’s just that I get hungry and when Bobby just leaves sometimes he doesn’t leave me cash, and what am I going to do, huh? There isn’t even a fridge here. I take off my jumper, because suddenly it’s really hot. How I did not notice this before? I don’t know, but sweat is like a fat blanket across my face now. Too much. I drink more water. Did I accidentally take two more pills in that second round? They’re so small… I walk back to the pile on the countertop, then-

What. A knock at the door. Hell, it’s 12am. I may be living out of whack, waking at 2pm and going to sleep at 4am, but other folks sure don’t. Why are they making such a racket? They don’t stop. Bobby said don’t open the door. I freeze, my foot still midair, my mouth a little bit open like a fish. There’s a few people outside, that I’m sure of. A guy, and maybe a girl. No, maybe two adults. Bobby said don’t open the door. My face is pure heat. They’re saying something, telling me that if the door doesn’t open, then they’ll have to take action. Oh Lord above. Little blue dots bounce in front of me. I don’t know what to do. I know what to do. Hide the evidence. I grab the pills from the countertop, shoving them in my pocket. The balls are getting larger, blocking my view, but I can’t bat them away. I can’t feel them. I can’t see because of them. I run over to the scraps of paper and throw a couple jackets over them and a pillow. It’s a rushed job, but the floor is such a mess this won’t look too odd. They’re growing louder. I run over to the door, undo the double lock (Bobby added another one after we moved in). Bobby said don’t open the door. I’m sure that Bobby will kill me when he hears of this, but he will kill me even more if the door gets kicked in. I open the door.

I am wrong.

Breathless. There is a small little nothing before me. Nothing. Nothing in the large space that is floating before me, outside my door. Nobody, that is. My heart catches in my chest: it would with some horror like that. Where did those people go? They were my parents’ voices I heard. I know it. And worst of all, I wanted them to be there when the door swung open. I shouldn’t have wanted it, because they would’ve taken me away, and there is a darkness now, so thick I can barely see. I had just wanted to see the effects of Bobby’s matches on them. Well, the effect of Bobby’s matches on the living room curtains in my childhood house. I wanted to see if they were goddamn sorry now. My skin has a bubbles of rashes now ,too, screaming for something. I don’t know what. Yes, Bobby had set fire to the curtains in my home, just before we left. That is what happened. Burning in my cheeks and the back of my neck. It seemed like it would be a good idea at the time. Of course, the fire would distract them whilst he escaped. I was already waiting at the train station. We both knew it would maybe destroy the house, maybe not. We did not know if it would destroy our parents, though. We hated them: true. We didn’t wake them before we left: true. Bobby still had the bruises on arms and back when he struck that red little soldier: true. But we did not want to see them die. A cover and distraction was all we wanted.

Later, I did not really search on the news for a burnt down house in a lousy town in Philadelphia. We were being smart, by not asking. They were probably looking for us, for arson, Bobby said. So we could have no connection with that event, not even with questions to strangers were allowed, to see if they’d heard anything. They could be secret cops, he said. They had them here apparently. But the fire did not make any New York newspapers. I know because I sneakily looked at the headlines in the stands as we walked by them. I tried to be sneaky, that is. So either they were fine, or that goddamn terrifying house is nothing more than a pile of ashes and there is no one left to speak about it. Or no one left who cares; the town certainly hated my family.

I lean over the stairwell, quickly, just to check. Maybe I would see them running away, suddenly shy. Unlikely. But I do check, and I do it quickly because the stairwell ain’t a place where folks want to hang about in. Just to see if they were there. There are only rings and rings of steps though. I twist my neck up: the same. Then my face flushes, hard, the dizziness setting in like a glazing on a cake, and I can’t- I try-

I crumple onto the floor.

The perfect book to read on Halloween

Happy Halloween to you all!

Some people may want to be out and about dancing tonight:

dance

This can be fully recommended, because who doesn’t like wandering around at night and taking sweets from strangers? Right? But if you do prefer a quieter night in, away from all the ghouls and glamorous costumes, then you should definitely read The Monster We Deserve by Marcus Sedgewick.

Here is why:

  • It is set in an atmospheric and chilling cabin in the middle of the woods. There can hardly be anything more tonally appropriate for Halloween than that, as that is a classic settings for all horror stories ever. It almost seems like this book is and isn’t a parody of all horror stories. It contains all the classic features: ghosts, cabin in the woods, a victim and a monster, but there is a twist which is…
  • Frankenstein (and his monster)! This isn’t clear on the blurb, at least for the copy I bought, but the content of the book is about the protagonist’s encounter with Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein (read my review of that here). So there is a double blow of an amazing story (Frankenstein), within a ghost story (the actual text). This  may be a parody of Frankenstein too, as the fictional author complains about how many stories within stories there are within Shelley’s work!
  • The title is just so compelling. I mean- ‘The Monsters We Deserve“. I did not even look inside the book before I had decided to read it. This is the power of marketing, people. But it worked, so I guess it was fine to succumb to it in this instance. Yet actually think about that phrase. Do we deserve the monsters we get in life? Do we? DO WE?!
  • It is short so that you can read it in one sitting. Like on Halloween. 263 pages may sound like it is too weighty a tomb to tackle in one go, but actually the margins are very wide and many pages have artwork on them, so it is surprisingly fast to go through. This makes it perfect to read tonight, on the spookiest of nights.
  • The message of the book. Yes, it is about monsters and so links in with the witches/ mummy/ zombie/ creepy theme, but it is actually much more philosophical than that, because the “moral” of this book is that our actions define us. That “we are responsible for our creations“, and if we do not manage these creations or our actions carefully, they will grow out of our control and take on their own life, which in turn affects us. In an everyday situation, it may be that something you say will be taken wildly out of context; if you do not manage that carefully then people could end up accusing you of horrendous things based off rumours drawn from something which isn’t true to start off with. Just look at celebrities. It really is a powerful message worth noting.
  • The Front cover and the artwork inside the book is exquisite. Really. There are some forest drawings in the book which truly complement the content, whilst the cover is aesthetically pleasing. It is a book you do not want to hide away in your shelf, with only the spine facing the world. No!

the monsters we deseve

 

  • It is so quotable:

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not himself become a monster” (This is actually Nietzsche, but is featured in the book anyway)

“we are responsible for our creations”

“That is what Victor’s true crime is; not that he creates a man, but that, having created one, he does not care for what he has created”

“Monster means to think. A monster means to think. So all our thoughts are monsters?”

“Our creations end up creating us, in return. Create a lie, and you become one.”

 

So there you have it. Have a wonderful Halloween you spooky creatures and I hope that you have as much fun as these guys seem to be having!

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Am I a Bad Person because I judge a book by its cover?

We have all been children before. Even the really old, nasty neighbour you had when you were 5, who would shout at you for playing football against their wall. Even them. So growing up we all heard the phrase

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”

Welp, that is a nice metaphor. But it exists for a reason: judging things quickly is easy and, unfortunately, can be very informative. You can determine if someone is rich or physically fit by their appearance. Stop- stop the barrage of abuse coming my way!

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Footage of me diving into arguments in the comments section

This is a generalisation, but it works for the extremes. If someone is wearing Gucci (which, by the way, someone once told me “was chavvy”. I wonder which group they could be lumped into), then they are definitely not poor. Equally, if someone is living on the street, then they are decidedly not wealthy. (The fault with this is in the gray areas: if someone is moderately wealthy then it can be hard to see where precisely they lie. They do not wear designer, but it is not rags either (then again Silicon Valley guys do dress like a homeless people) .) Ahh double brackets; never a good sign!! Anyway, the same applies to books: is it easy to judge them in the most extreme cases, because books which are of a high quality will be signed onto major publishing houses, and therefore will have beautiful covers, so that they sell better. Books which are self-published will usually have very plain or self-drawn (!) covers. No  one aspires to be self-published. The reason why decent ones makes headlines, like Eragon, is because how rare high quality is in that sector. So generalisations can be made: is it worth reading 99 awful-looking books just to find one good one, or should we just read 99 great-looking books, and risk finding one terrible one?

Take Refuge:refuge.jpeg

There is something so captivating about that cover; something so thoughtful. I have never read it before, but the quote “Rich and colourful” from The New York Times matches the painting precisely, no? So clearly this image has been chosen carefully, and if the publishing house has spent all that money on the design, then they are backing that book to be successful. These people edit books for a living, so they will know a crowd-pleaser when they see one. Now, sometimes I do question how a book has gone past so many people and yet still has glaring spelling mistakes and inconsistencies (ahem “What Milo Saw” by Virginia MacGregor), but this is a rare phenomenon. When I do dislike something in a book, I do appreciate that it is not the publisher’s fault necessarily but merely a matter of my own (never quite humble enough) opinion.

Even a book like-spurious.jpeg

-has such an intriguing cover that you cannot help but buy it. Because riddle me this: have you ever, in a shop, tasted the cake before you bought it? Or eaten their pizza before ordering it? No? Well then you judged their food by the restaurant’s cover: their staff and interior design. You have no idea, really, how well the food will be cooked on that particular night. It is just like, how, even if you have read some of their books before, you never know quite how good their next one be. J.K.Rowling found this out the hard way… if she did not want to hear the honest truth, she should not have written under a pseudonym!

On the other end of the scale, there are books with the shoddy covers. I am not going to put some of the worst images on here, because I started researching books with terrible covers and I ended up with some shockers. There are some so bad that my eyes started bleeding. Also, I do not want to pollute this website. All I am saying is, the title of one the books was “Now That I’m A Ghost I’m Gay”. If that does not have you running for the hills, then I do not know how to help you. There are some very funny ones out there, too, particularly here on Bored Panda, but the top two were:

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I think I will pass

and

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I do not think this is in international dialogue, actually, since it this published in 2007

These are examples of either unfortunate titles or simply- well, I am not sure how to excuse that last one. “Fine!” You say. “But these really are not that bad. That international dialogue part sounds interesting, so why judge? You cannot say that these do not have the potential to contain something interesting?” Well, Imaginary Dialogue Friend, what I can say, is that there are certain covers which would have me scrambling for anything, even Hello Magazine, just to escape looking at them a second more. Like these:

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I want someone to look me in the eye, right now, and tell me that they would want to read them. And no, Shawn James, you do not count. Maybe even you do not even want to read these. Oh, and it does not count if you tell me this out of spite. I know you shady people out there.

So yes, you definitely can judge a book by its cover (and if you still disagree, please do read the two books above and leave a review in the comments below Xx ). Secondly, no I am not a bad person for doing this because it simply makes common sense: I can read a beautiful book which is more likely than not a stimulating Pulitzer Prize winner, or a grimy looking one, written in a garden shed, which is so awful that they had to self-publish.

We all have limited time in this world, so go ahead, make that judgement and do not give the side eye to those admit to doing the same.

There are a few occasions where snobbishness is acceptable, and this is it.

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You have full permission to fling that waste of paper