A performancedepends on the means, not the endsnor what does go on in strange places.It’s a crowd wanting to feel something move something change, like soil
needing to be completely turned over. So we come up here and pull down our pants, to show that all are human truly; that skyclad or clothed all genitals are weird and nobody gets away with nothing: not really.
“What’s the matter Nana?” Patience had said, leaning against my
open back doorway
smoking an electronic
Muttering to myself about
the events my day it took me a while to work out that this leggy girl, with the
shiny fake hair, was in fact my granddaughter.
But as soon as I did up I
jumped, arms out and face stretched into a wide grin. It had been so long since
I’d seen her that I’m afraid I hugged until she squealed in a voice I hadn’t
heard since we buried her mother. Of course I was crying and laughing at the
same time as I sat her down with a cup of tea and told her my news about the
big win I’d had on the lottery. How it had all arrived that morning by armoured
courier from the bank.
For some reason though I
just couldn’t seem to summon up the right kind of enthusiasm. “Just all seems
too much,” I had commented that morning to the cat as I stacked the bundles of
notes into the dresser. What could one person honestly do with that much money
apart from waste it and it would make getting the good china plates out really
These endless notes made me
feel a bit queasy; “If you had fifty thousand pounds what would you do with
it?” I asked her as I was pouring more tea. Patience had always had money on
account of that ne’er do well of a Father whose bubble I had tried to burst a
long time ago. So far she had spent her life hoping around the planet with
nothing much to do but put together ever more flamboyant outfits for the next
“Hide it.” Patience had
narrowed her eyes.
“Whatever for?” the speed of
her reaction set me on edge.
Standing up she elegantly
tossed her cigarette battery through my open back door. That will take a
million lifetimes to biodegrade I thought ,but didn’t like to say, after all I
didn’t want to fall out again.
“People are thieves Nana.
Wake up to my world.” She seemed so tall I didn’t like to contradict.
I’m the kind of person who was
always fond of making do, I enjoyed winter evenings darning socks and the springtime’s
reusing of old plastic cartons to grow seedlings. It gave me a kind of inner
satisfaction making spills from newspaper to save on firelighters and clipping
out tokens. In fact I considered myself an extremely wealthy woman even before
these piles of cash arrived. After all thanks to my garden, I had enough fruit
and vegetables to get me through even the worst of winters. The only thing I
hadn’t been able to afford all these years was a little almond tree and the
cost of that wouldn’t even put a proper dent in this lot.
As Patience flicked through a
lurid magazine her conversation solely seemed to be the latest celebrity
scandal and what party she was going to next. I wondered out loud if she didn’t
put a little too much “grand’ into granddaughter”. She gave me such a look.
“I wish I had five thousand
pounds to get my breasts made bigger.”
What could I say apart from “bloody nonsense?” I blamed
Barbie but I knew in my aching heart that motherless girls were always insecure.
In an effort to distract her
I showed her the contents of the dresser and explained, I’d like to “give it
all away to people who really need it.”
Patience sighed, impatient with my parochial attitude explaining that even in
feeding centres they did not pick the most starving babies to feed but the ones
most likely to survive.
What a horrible choice.Well now I knew where to donate the
money, Patience had come up trumps; pushing the cat off from his energetic
kneading of my fleecy trousers I fetched an armour plated Jiffy bag and wrote
The Feeding Centre on it. Now that felt organised. But then I paused, how could
I find the right address?
Patience had a phone that knew
the answer to everything so she offered to find it for me but while she was
swiping the screen she started to question me.
“Try to imagine Nana what will happen if someone in the post
room finds an envelope with fifty grand in it.” Patience was obviously not as
impressed as I had hoped she would be.
How had she got such a
patronising tendency?But I had to
admit she was right about sending money through the post. Perhaps I should
deliver it myself.
Now, that seemed a good idea
right there. I pictured myself handing a suitcase of money to a proud-faced
tribal elder and of course I wouldn’t be able to resist indulging herself in a
bit of their grateful hospitality. Then when I’d had enough I could jump on a
plane and get back to the cat. In the face of their unrestrained thanks, “Dim
problem” I would say, ‘no worries’.
Patience could see potential
problems with this idea.
“Wouldn’t the next door
village want to know why you didn’t give them the money?”Patience simultaneously arched both
I asked if she couldn’t find
somewhere on her smarty phone, an isolated tribe with no neighbours at all?”
not realistic Nana. The world is small, all of the good places are
populated.”Such an air of
authority I found myself nodding along.
“What about if I divided the
money so that everyone in a whole region could benefit?”
“But…” Didn’t my Patience
seem to know all the buts?
“However big you make the
area, someone will always be the next door neighbour watching: and that’s got
to hurt.” Patience looked intensely into my eyes daring me to contradict.
I could see some wisdom in
this, so I scrapped the ‘random village idea’ even though I had liked the bit
about how grateful they might be.The more I thought about it, the more difficult it seemed to become.
Patience professed herself,
‘bored’ by the exercise of what to do with the money, declaring herself‘exhausted’ she went to lay down in my
bedroom moaning about the rain.
Filled with missionary zeal,
I spent the next hour tapping her phone looking for people who feed starving
children. All of the main charities seemed to spend a fortune on
‘administration’ costs, perhaps Patience was right if I gave money to one
person, would someone else always lose out? Not to mention the problem of
unintended consequences, there seemed no easy way to change the world. I
marched into the bedroom protesting, “What if my investment was responsible for
a violent robbery or even a war?”
Patience feigned sleep but I
kept on; “I don’t have enough to fund them all, how can I choose?”
“Stop worrying about it Nana
nothing can be a hundred percent good” Patience said without opening her eyes.
“Perhaps you should just give fifty thousand people a pound each.”
be silly dear, what use would that be?” I could hear the pitch in my voice
going up with irritation at this spoiled rich girl. Not for the first time that
day I wondered if it was a good thing that Patience hadn’t a grasp of the
nightmare of poverty.
“If I were you, first thing
I would do is get buying myself a little almond tree.” Patience sat up suddenly
alert. “That way you will leave someone a legacy whatever happens”
Delighted to find common
ground at last and that the girl shared my love of nature if not grammar, I
patted her shiny head.
“Ahh, the acorn never falls
far from the tree”.I didn’t want
to be a martyr; perhaps planting nut and fruit trees was the only sure way of
feeding the people of the future.
I followed Patience into the
kitchen to find that she had brought me an enormous chocolate cake.
“Ooh mhmm ” I could hear
myself moaning, as the creamy sweet chocolaty flavour drenched my mouth.
That’s when I felt my first
gush of warm love for my dear Patience. All that drifting around the world like
a leaf in the wind, never staying more than a few months in any one place, always
too busy to come home to visit. Maybe this was her way of making it up to me. Obviously
she didn’t think herself too grand to get a train two hundred miles to bring a
smile to an old woman’s face, or too busy to forget her Nana’s love of cake. Surely
I had judged the child too harshly?
“Look” Patience cried out
with the excitement of a three year old, “the sun’s coming out”
Miraculously, the wet day
was transforming itself into a glorious late summer afternoon. We moved the table
and chairs outside to admire the late bloomers. And after another slice of cake, we took off for a little
promenade around the flowerbeds giving me a chance to recount the tales of my
rare “varieties.” With a glass of elderflower champagne held close to her face,
Patience listened smiling at my anecdotes. But then she started to look like a
girl again as together we picked a whole colander of wild strawberries. Popping
as many of the tiny jewels as we could into our mouths, the juice literally ran
down our chins until we were shrieking laughing. We even picked out a place for
the imaginary almond tree.
Six o’clock seemed to come
in the blink of an eye. Suddenly I was squeezing my darling Patience as tight
as I could, and pecking at her downy cheek, before she had to leave. Secretly I
squeezed a fistful of notes into the girl’s lavishly impractical coat pocket,
not that she needed them but to thank her for my wonderful birthday. Tears
prickled my eyes as I stood at the little wooden gate watching her go. How had
I become so tight hearted? How could I think all those bad thoughts about my
child’s only child?
As the whole garden was
bathed gold by the dying sunlight, I saw myself planting the almond tree I’d
always wanted and burying the banknotes beside it.I would leave a treasure map for Patience in my will, it was
what people had always done; let the young people decide for themselves what to
do with it, perhaps it was just the natural thing to do. My death was still
twenty years or more away, Patience for all her conceited bravado would be
elderly herself one day and hopefully grown up enough to see this coming and
not fritter the money on superficial stupidities. Happy to have the issue once,
and for all resolved I went indoors and offered the cat an early night. As soon
as the cool cotton sheets stroked my sun kissed skin I was snoring like a lion.
four hours later, a fly landed on my face.
it was only there for a moment, it was long enough to bring me immediately
awake. Eyes wide open in the pitch black room I swiped the air fruitlessly.
“Very bright my Patience,” I found myself saying, as
if the cat had questioned the fact. “Very bright girl, indeed.”
Perhaps, Patience was even
canny enough not to react excessively to the idea of Nana donating her wealth
to charity.Not react that is,
except to suggest a place to hide it.
Then I remembered her
terrible dream. Patience dressed in rhinestone-studded overalls hacking away at
the base of my almond tree. Again and again I could hear the spade chopping
down into the roots of that dainty little tree without a thought except getting
her manicured hands on that boob-enhancing, tummy tucking money.
Rubbing the sweat from my
palms onto the coverlet, I pushed off my damp bedcovers to sit up properly. Oh
my good goodness how had I got so naive to think that she wouldn’t be back as
soon as my back was turned?The
little minx, pretending she was helping her Nan, when all along she was making
sure she knew where to find the booty. I had to stop that wicked girl from
stealing from her, for both our sakes.
Clambering out of bed trying
not to disturb my apparently boneless cat I padded through the quiet house into
the kitchen. Then, pulling my coat
on over my pyjamas I opened the kitchen door.A colossal, cool silver moon hung low over the far end of
the garden where the compost was kept. At that very moment I knew for absolute
sure, what use I could find for that nasty trouble creating money.
Paper, being an excellent
source of carbon and my wild strawberries always ravenous for nutrients, all I
had to do now was shred it. Now where are my scissors?
young woman strokes the scalpel blade against her skin. She has carefully
folded back the sterile foil wrapping to make a handle, and holds it firmly
between her forefinger and thumb.
up at herself in the full length mirror of the hallway Alice finds her face
frowning, the extreme edges of her mouth tugging down, in a clownish vex which
she tries to correct.
had selected her favourite light cotton dress.With her hair washed and brushed, it falls straight down over
her shoulders but still she is not pretty.
might not be pretty but tonight she was going to be something to look at.
the pain, Alice tentatively tests the scalpel, back and forth gently along her
forearm preparing. Then, taking a deep breath, she cuts a short shallow line;
lets out her breath, and stares at it intently.It takes so long for blood to come that she wonders if she
has got through the skin at all. When the dark line, thin as a hair, appears,
she allows herself a smile and calmly begins work on the next cut.
research had uncovered that taking aspirin would make her blood thin and more
fluid.So, she has taken a
couple over the maximum dose for several weeks now. Methodically now she cuts
four lines of equal length into her arm, each time patiently waiting for the
blood to come.
back to the picture of her in the mirror, she sees what looks like a cat
scratch on her forearm.Frowning
harder, she raises her cutting hand higher and more triumphantly clutching at
the blade. Pulling up the skirt of her dress, she began to cut slices into the
flesh of her thighs.Now the blood
comes in plentiful oozes but still too neat, too obviously intentional.
doesn’t even hurt.’ Giggling she sets to work on both her shins and feet.A coolness rinses her whole body;
to the mirror she looks. Light from the late afternoon diffuses through frosted
glass, but still the hallway is dingy.Brown banister beside her as functional as it is filthy, dark walls and
smooth worn carpet, dimming her background to generalised dirt, a nondescript
cave, save for the bright red colour blooming from her body.She cuts again deeper, more viciously,
across her belly through the cotton of her dress. Now she feels stinging, not
pain exactly but rousing enough to make her inhale deep.
cuts had gone deep in the middle, two or three centimetres maybe, as she gazes
hypnotically at the colour she begins to recognise the rusty stink of her
blood.Alice loses control, cutting
longer and longer gashes some even slashing through existing cuts, but always
making sure; “not too deep.”
plays a game of not letting herself look at the mirror, “not till you are
finished,” she tells herself sternly like she is playing with dolls. Over an
hour later finds her folding back her blade into its foil sheath.Blood has flooded the tucks and folds
of her dress and seeped strange patterns on the remaining complete cloth.She has cut her face too, a grisly
crisscross map of dribbling red lines.
she squeezes the foil parcel into a crack between the stairs she is still not
peeking. Not till she has arranged herself lying back against the wall so that
through half closed eyes she can take in her full-length reflection.
Alice knows she looks amazing bloody cuts feeding one another, exaggerating the
damage, would anything so awful be aloud on news at six?
the phone to her face, Alice watches herself dial, without looking down her
fingers finding the nine as she flicks it down.When a concerned operator asks her “what service” she
requires she says simply, “help me I’m going to die” and then lets the phone
fall to the floor.Lying back,
legs outstretched, arms loosely by her sides. Alice concentrates on keeping her
palms upwards in her surrender, coaching herself to stay “relaxed and ready,
relaxed and ready”
fifteen minutes later feeling stiff and thirsty, Alice wonders if perhaps she
should have given them her address rather than make them trace the call to find
her. Shifting position slightly to avoid a cramp, she tries to look at the
phone. Her tension relieves to see it is still connected.Then she hears the clarion bell calling
to her.The dimming hallway
becomes saturated with a pulsing blue which banishes the brown and turns her
blood vibrant purple. Her moment has arrived and she is so excited she has to
remember not to grin, although it is the blood seeping into her mouth from her
face cuts that first reminds her.
footsteps at her door, then a large fist is pounding on her glass.A pause, then a man’s deep voice is
calling her name. Then more, not to be ignored knocking.Each time the hand lands, Alice feels the
call of sex swim through her deep tissue.
the letterbox is lifted open, and fingers framing blue eyes meet hers.She watches the world’s most beautiful
pupils dilate as they strive to see her. The skin around his eyes puckers in surprise
as they make sense of what they see. Alice closes her eyes floating in the
ecstasy of the scene, a hero had come to her rescue, she loves him
policeman must of shouted to someone else to “call an ambulance, and now”
before he begins putting his shoulder into the door frame.Frightening gnashes of metal make her
jump back a few stairs, fearing injury, as her door is ripped open.Disappointed that she can no longer see
herself in the mirror she reminds herself that she must not smile.
three big men in uniforms crowd around her.One splutters, incoherent with shock, gagging on the blood,
but the youngest one is coming towards her on bended knee, taking her hand
gently.“Can you hear me” he
whispers seductively. The owner of the blue eyes is just stood starring at
Alice, his face bloodless with shock, as if he had never seen anything like
this in his life.“Am I worse for
them than a car crash” she wonders.
whining trumpet of an ambulance announces the arrival of more burly men, this
time in greens, they seem to get to work with her right away.“Alice, can you hear me Alice?”This man is not attractive, he has bad
skin and terrible bad breath, he checks her mechanically ruling out injuries
from a list irrelevant to her.
Alice thinks as he pushes her hand holding young policeman out of the way.His tone insistent, bordering on
annoyed, over and over. “Come on Alice you can confirm for us that you are
Alice Mottle can’t you?”Alice
nods to keep him from repeating the question one more time but she keeps her
body limp as her pulse is taken by a gloved rubber hand.The medic’s questions continue, intent upon
reply. Alice decided weeks ago that she would not speak, she could not be
expected to, in view of the obvious trauma she must have suffered. Then she had
toyed with not granting them the relief of knowing she was even alive.
here at all, all superficial cuts, probably self inflicted” the medic dictated
for his colleague to write down as he snapped off his gloves and started to
pack his kit away.
a moment, everything else is suspended still, in the once bustling
hallway.None of the policemen
move and Alice holds her breath.
do you mean?” The young officer beside her asks, rising to his feet “I don’t
think I understand, do you mean… ?”
it to herself,” he paused looking at her then adding. “Probably for the
attention.” He spoke as if Alice wasn’t in the room, as if she was a case in
which only they were involved. Alice heard her heart start to bang with fear.
focus locks onto the blue-eyed man who has held her in his gaze for so long,
his eyebrows raised, all concern. She saw the glorious pity drain away. His
face contorting into an angry snarl as two deep lines solidify between his
eyes, and she recognises the hooded glare of repulsion. As his emotions
communicate with his brain; disgust.
lets her eyes rave wildly around the other men, searching for a smile, or
understanding solace.Only the
medic seemed unperturbed.Dabbing
at the wounds, which seem to disappear invisible as he just drones on about the
plasters she needs to buy herself and how she might not want to bathe “for at
least two days.” He explains that they will send a psych team round as soon as
one is available in the next few hours but that they could not afford to take
her in themselves.
knows enough that there is nothing she can say, or do, to stop them leaving now.No stretcher, no saline solution drip
to help her make up lost fluid, no siren sounding through streets of bright
lights, just her, sat on her drab stairs, skin tingling from the antiseptic
wipes and a couple of tummy strips.She hates psych teams, always full of women who can’t wait to get
practical about strategies for how she could cope better with what was “after
all a pretty good standard of living compared to a lot of people”
her front door is pulled as shut as it can go, Alice is returned back to the
hallway of her life, but something seems so much further away.
Once upon a time
there was no more cod and chips. No more cod, because like the dodo we hunted them
to extinction. No more chips because oil was so expensive it couldn’t be wasted
on mere food. So there was no more cod and chips; but nobody really noticed,
because petrol was so expensive that nobody could afford to drive to the
chippie to buy any.No more cod
and chips and no more popping in the car to the shops to buy stuff and no more
ignoring the weather.
There was, millions
of channels of telly and shoot ‘em up games. If you wanted to you could watch a
screen from morning till night. Many of the programmes were repeats though and
once you had seen a series through a couple of times even millions of channels
was not enough. Some people went a bit stir crazy watching the people on the
telly doing things that they could no longer even dream of doing themselves and
they took to drinking and drugging, fighting and stealing; but this story is
not about those people.This story
is about the people who trudged through mud to meet up in village halls and
talk about how to survive and how to find solutions.
Can you see them?
Through the orange lit windows of the village hall on this rainy Autumn
evening?Their coats dripping in
the porch as they gather in a semi circle around a big log fire? Watch how they
make sure the old people take the chairs nearest the heat and the children have
blankets to sit on the floor in front of the fire. These are people who have
learned the lessons of sharing fire so that everyone has what they need.
A tiny woman in the
crowd has stood up indicating she wishes to speak. For a long while nobody
notices, she patiently waits as neighbours chat away about the state of their
day until gradually elbows are dug into ribs and finally someone yells out “shut
up will you”.
So why is the crowd
so eager to hear this short woman speak? As the warmth of the fire dries the
curls back into her hair we can see that she is one of the gypsy people that
has been staying nearby all year. She and her tribe have taught the villagers
much about how to feed themselves and their animals from the hedgerows. They
have shown them how to find dry kindling in a wet wood and how to strip down
the old petrol machines to find the useful parts.Her tribe were rich in the knowledge of how to survive
without money and generous enough to share it.
Into the crackling
fire silence the woman places a question for the crowd, “for so long tried you’ve
to change everything to fit your desires are you now prepared to make the
changes that will more food to go round?” they look at her with skin stretched
tight over their hungry faces and nod, “are you really prepared,” again they
called out “yes”, and so the woman continues; “do you recognise that you have forced huge beasts to come
into your barns so you can steal their body fluids. “Yes” they murmur, shamed
with the memories. “Do you acknowledge that you have interfered with the nature
of plants so that they could no longer make viable seeds and emptied your
wastes and pollutants into the water supplies like fools.” Again, a barely
audible, “Yes”. “Are you now ready to put right your relationship to the finite
resources of the planet you call home? “Yes” they call out, and then like with
a the pantomime, “yes, yes, yes”
The petite woman
holds up her hand to indicate she is serious, “if you think you are ready to
live in harmony with the planet i have a big solution for you right here” and
from her bag she takes a bottle of capsules and the little woman tells them her
big idea right to their shocked and confused faces.
A big red faced man
at the back is scoffing. “that is ridiculous and impossible” he yells out, his
words slurring from the effects of home made alcohol.
A young woman
holding hopeful hands with her partner asks “can i get this right please, are
you saying that these pills will make our children grow to half size”
The woman nods, “if
you take these. Your children and their children in perpetuity will be, like me,
three foot tall at full grown height.”
“But the animals
how will we manage our cattle and our crops, if we become reduced to the size
The small woman
smiles at them a smile of infinite kindness, her voice soft now and low, “just
think how many more of you could get around this fire if you were half the
size. Being small changes everything, i can live in smaller places and keep
warm with half the fuel, i eat half as much and i can even get a lift from my dog
when she’s in the mood to give one. Doesn’t reducing your consumption mean
changing yourselves fundamentally?”
Don't let me go For love is a wraith Holding out bony fingers Fools try to fill I don't want to hold my head up high, for love is a cauldron Melting down mind and flesh For cannibal soup. I won't keep my moral dignity intact For love is a myth Perpetrated by capitalists Interested in cuts. Say you will Puppet me still For this love has fabulous strings And I live when I tow on your line.