White feminists, now will you listen? (Trigger Warning)

Reblogging this from my mate Sam cos frankly it’s bloody important. TW: Rape

Left at the Lights

The more I think of the way she suffered, the more I feel an anger rising up amongst the bile. My stomach twisted as I heard of the ways in which she’d been savagely assaulted; having been violated with an iron rod, her intestines had to be removed. She was raped for over an hour by a group of men who did this only because she was a woman.

She could be one of my friends. She could be me aged 23. The rapists didn’t think about her family or her career as a paramedic. They weren’t bothered by her male chaperone. She wasn’t a person to them, just a thing to use, an object. While she lay fighting for her life in a hospital bed, another young woman ended hers. Oblivious to India’s extremely negative profile on the world stage, police officers in the Punjabi region of Patiala advised…

View original post 804 more words

RIP Pterry

I think I wrote about this before, but I’m not sure where I stashed it. It was some months ago, & I said something along the lines of, that although we’ve had plenty of warning, that when Sir Terry Pratchett finally shuffles off this mortal coil how bereft I would be. I wrote that this lovely old chap, who as Neil Gaiman says, burns & seethes with barely contained righteous anger & who isn’t really that avuncular old chap many perceived him as, this amazing fellow had been so much a part of my life since as far back as I can reliably remember, that his passing would leave me like the passing of a dear family friend. His books have made me laugh & cry, & above all made me think. And he wrote SO MUCH, and SO WELL. 40 Discworld novels, 70 books all told. I think I probably said that I was glad he was handing off to his daughter Rhianna, that she was a pretty darned excellent writer in her own right, and that anyone whose first & favourite old school game was MAZOGS on the ZX81 couldn’t be bad or wrong.

Well, it’s happened. I expected it, but yeah, that. It’s fucked up that he was ripped away from us at 66, that the disease that took him was one that attacked the very things that his identity was built upon – his imagination & his way with words. This gets me more than losing Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was special of course, but I never met Leonard. I did meet Sir Terry, and he was great – he signed not just my book but also a couple I’d got for friends who couldn’t make it, and he dedicated each one with a personal message to that person. A lot of people would be just *bosh* *scribble* there you go, generic squiggle, that’ll be a tenner, but no Sir Terry asked about my friend’s unusual name & when I told him its meaning nodded approvingly – it was a girl’s name, and it meant “rage”. Being the awkward aspie I am I got nervous & took my books & hastened out but I’m glad he took the time.

I first read “The Colour of Magic” in the early 80s after reading a review by Dave Langford in the old-school White Dwarf magazine before Games Workshop went all “in house games only”, back when they had Thrud the Barbarian & Gobbledigook as their regular comic strips, and published scenarios for all kinds of round the table RPGs like traveller & D&D, Call of Cthulhu and so on. Dave was spot on of course, and so from about 13-14yo I was hooked. My wife will tell you similar, and my brother in law’s shelves are festooned with not only Discworld books but also DW memorabilia – a resin sculpture of The Luggage for example, and Death.

Since his passing earlier today, it seems from Twitter that he was indeed universally loved. It’s not just me & my geeky family. It’s hundreds of thousands of us. We all lost someone significant today. My thoughts in particular are with those who knew him better, and especially his family & close friends. If I, a mere reader & fairly lazy collector of his books, can feel this bad that he’s gone, you guys… We all knew he was going, we knew for ages, but…

So anyway, before I start sobbing, I’ll raise another glass of wine & say “Here’s to you, Pterry!” – if you want to honour his memory, there’s a justgiving page here:

https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett

A Man Walks Into A Bar…

From http://writingexercises.co.uk/quick-plot-generator.php

Your main character is a cruel 36 year-old man. The story begins in a bar. Someone telling the truth isn’t believed. It’s a story about loneliness. Your character offers to lend a helping hand.

I haven’t done any writing of this sort in nearly 20 years, so bear with me if this is a bit rusty. Nothing you see here is likely to be of what I’d call publishable quality for quite some time: Here is where I’m putting my doodles & ideas. We’ll see where this gets us.

The rain lashed down in big wet sploshes, deluging down through the branches of the forest, running in streams down between the trees, bringing twigs and the occasional leaf with it, downhill, washing down into the gutter at the side of the road. The parking lot was a small pond, muddy water inches deep around the tires of the trucks, lapping up over the bottoms of the wheel rims of a row of assorted bikes parked in front of the truck stop. Sodium orange streetlights blurred with white halogen & red neon, looking blearily through the downpour to the bar. The flickering sign above the bar door read “dies”. Welcome to Eddie’s Bar.

A greasy-haired man huddling by the door, cigarette flares as he takes a last drag. He coughs as he flicks it out into the parking lake. It fizzles before it hits the water, extinguished by mid-air raindrops. He’s through the door, out of the constant white-noise din of the rain & into a din of a different sort. Rock music from a rig at one end of an L-shaped bar, dark, warm & cozy enough for those that come here. The room jostles with life, men mostly, standing 2 or 3 deep at the bar, shouting their orders to the bar staff. Beers flow from draught taps into glasses, business is brisk. The clientele are a mix of mesh-back-hatted truckers & guys with lank, greasy hair, ink & tattoos. Each keeps to their own, tough old birds of a feather.

Down the far end away from the PA rig, a game of pool is in full swing.

Round the pool table, there’s a couple of old truckers playing pool against two biker types. One of the bikers is about 6’2″ tall, head shaven, sports a beard & moustache. He wears leather jeans & a Brando style jacket, cruiser style gear like he’s a typical Hell’s Angels kind of guy, but he wears no kutte – no MC insignia on a vest over his leather. His jacket is painted, words of an old, old story on the back panels in small, neat letters. The letters belong to an older time too: they are runes, and it would take a trained eye, or a learned one at least, to tell you what the story is. There’s a bet on: money in a stack on the edge of the table, and they’ve an audience. The other biker is stocky, dark haired, a goatee beard/moustache combination, His ink is conventional & unoriginal to say the least – an old sweetheart’s name later blocked out with the sort of “tribal” swirls that were popular in the 90’s. His jacket hangs on the back of a chair, the chair his current squeeze, a 20-something woman with raven hair, now occupies. The truckers are both overweight but you wouldn’t want to get into a fight with them nonetheless – they might not last 5 minutes in the ring but a bar-fight is usually down to who hits first, and if they can hit hard enough. These guys can. The older of the two lines up his shot, carefully – he’s on spots, 3 left to sink before the black, 3 to the bikers’ 1. There’s a hundred dollars of his money on this, but the beers he’s drunk tonight make his eyes blur just that little bit. He blinks hard & bends himself over the table to get the shot. He pulls back the cue, *smack*, sinks his ball, rebounds off the cushion, and juuuust clips the black, the 8-ball. It would have been perfect. But the 8 was right on the lip of the centre right pocket & hung there for a moment, before going in. “Shit,” he thought, “that’s the game – lost!”

“Bad luck, friend,” says Runes as he puts his hand on the money, & whips it away just as the second trucker smashes a pool cue against the table where the money had just been. Shit just got real. Runes drops into an open fighting stance, hands in a placatory “I don’t want to fight you” gesture, as the cue swings again now at his head. Pivoting on the balls of his feet, Runes turns in towards his opponent, the cue swinging uselessly beyond him, hip driving into the trucker’s mid-section, still turning, bowing downwards as the trucker sails overhead & crashes into the jukebox, the wind knocked out of him. Runes grins at the trucker’s friend, a grin that says “Just give me an excuse”, but the second guy is backing away, “Not my fight, man!” as he hurriedly exits stage left, not pursued by any bears, but happy to face the possibility of a soggy grizzly outside in the flood than risk what might happen if he tangled with Runes.

“Fucker!” the first man yells as he comes back again, renewed energy making him seem fearsome. People step back away from the combatants, instinctively. As the man charges, Runes blocks with an inside block, steps to his off-side & lands jab, jab, right hook, coming in close now, grabbing the man’s head, knee in his face, elbows now against the trucker’s crown, back of head, neck, and back as he starts to crumble. Runes demolishes the guy, blood dripping from the ruin that was a nose. As he goes down, Runes kicks him in the head, and there’s a crunch as he plants his face on the tiled floor near the bar. The fight is over, but Runes is looking happy, grinning a crazy, off-kilter grin. His fellow biker pool buddy grabs him & drags him off the trucker, Runes whirls round, ready to knock this guy out, but he grabs Runes in a clinch, yells in his ear “Hey, it’s *ME* – ROB! IT’S MARK! CALM THE FUCK DOWN, OK!”, and after a couple of seconds the spirit of rage leaves him. He gives  last desultory kick to the mewling, wheezing mess on the floor, spits a chunk of ear at him, and goes back to his seat, the one with its back to the wall, clutching the money in his fist. He grins to the other bikers with his bloody mouth. All the other guy’s blood. He’s a king, still. Nobody, *nobody* beats him, ya hear? The rage is going, and he’s clear again.

A few hours pass. The bar is a bit less busy, and the music is turned down low. Rob is holding court with his biker pals in a booth, when the door opens and in staggers a grizzled old man. He’s soaked through and shivering, dripping water on the floor, tap tap tap tap as he comes up to the bar.

“Evening, stranger,” greets the barman “What’ll it be?”

“I’ve no money, barkeep – but I’m in sore need of shelter & hospitality. Will you help an old man who’s weary of the road and needs to get out of the rain?” the hooded stranger replies.  “I may not have money, but I will pay back anyone who’ll help me.”

“Sorry, old-timer – I’ve a business to run here. I’m not running a flop-house or a food bank, or any kind of charity here. See the sign? Says ‘Don’t ask for credit’. So don’t ask.”

The old guy grunts at this. “Time was, we had a thing called the law of hospitality. When I was young, we never turned anyone away – because you never knew when it’d be you in need, and because it’s the right thing to do.” He turns, addressing the bar collectively: “When I was young, you might be caught out in the wilds, miles from home, needing to get somewhere for help, and the wolves would come after you. I tell you, once a pack gets your scent, and they realise you’re alone, that’s it. We used to make up stories that the trolls had taken them, them that disappeared in the snow. Wolves’ll eat everything and anything in the middle of winter. Nothing to find. Nothing to bury. Nobody wants to go out like that, eh? So. You help each other out, yes?”

“Trolls? Wolves? Are you trying to be funny, mister?” jeers a trucker in a blue puffa jacket, looking up from his plate of king-size burger & fries. “That’s fairy story stuff, or else you’re from Alaska or someplace. There’ve been no wolves round here in centuries.”

“No joke, sir. When I was young, there were wolves so big you could ride them – and winter was the Frost Giants’ time. You’d hear the howling of the wind, and shudder. You’d not know if it were wolves or trolls, or just the icy North wind. Now, would you help an old feller out?” he says, looking longingly at the food.

“Man, I work for a living – you get your own food!” – the trucker takes a bite of his burger & looks to his friends, and they turn away from him. Not welcome here, old man, go away.

“Listen, mister,” says the bartender. “You’re disturbing my customers here. I’m gonna have to ask you to l-”

“Leave him be.”

Rob is standing up again, strides across toward the old man. He looks him hard in the face, though his face is in shadow. One eye hidden by an old piece of rag tied across diagonally, and a long grey beard the colour of steel.

“I… I know you don’t I?” says Rob. “You’re… Look, come & join my guys over here. Bartender, give him whatever he’s after: it’s on me. I won’t have you turned away, no sir.” – and with that he brings the old guy over to his table, gives him his own seat, and sits down beside, a look of wonder and not just a hint of fear on the scarred fighter’s face.

The truckers across the way, the guys who’d been eating burgers & fries before, get up to leave. As they walk out the door, a flurry of snow blows in. Things outside have turned a lot colder. A sound like a rising & falling keening floats in over the snow, and the truckers shiver involuntarily.

The barman brings over a big plate loaded with steak, egg, potato wedges, you name it. Our strange visitor tucks in with a grin, slicing through the meat with gusto. “Who is he?” Mark asks. “Never ask him. You must never ask him. Just treat him right. Seriously, Mark – you fuck this guy over & you’re dead. There’re stories, I know: I’ve read them.”

Old one-eye glances up from his meal & grins at Mark, a wolf grin. He looks at Rob’s rune-painted jacket & nods his approval, as he tears into the meat.

Outside in the parking lot, a mini ice age has taken hold. The water, 6 to 8 inches deep around the trucks’ tyres is now a solid sheet of ice. You would have more chance of skating to the next town than of driving there – and the snow piles up, thicker & deeper all the time. The guy in the blue puffa jacket has just about given up trying to start his Peterbilt Bullnose rig. Frozen solid, inside of 20 minutes. He gets out of the truck again thinking to get back into the bar, slipping and sliding on the car-park ice as his foot hits it, and he sees them in the near white-out. Eyes, pairs of eyes and the puffs of vapour, breath clouds. And then teeth. “Oh God! Oh godohgodohgod!” he whimpers, warm wetness leaking down his pants as he takes off sprinting towards where he knows the bar to be. It’s just a few yards, surely, but he hears their panting & snarling getting closer, slips on the step leading up to the bar entrance, chins himself on the kerb as he falls, and knows no more. They are upon him. It’s a small mercy that he’s knocked out from the fall as the pack tears him apart, strips of flesh & sinew & cloth & bone, until all that’s left is a MASSIVE bloodstain & many, many footprints, like those of giant dogs, in the snow. And still the snow falls. The last signs that he’d been there are covered over, red fading to pink as the snow drifts deeper, to white.

“So, Robert, son of John, son of Harald, son of Joseph, son of Wilhelm, son of Sven, descendent of Sigurd the Berserker of the Geats, I must thank you for your hospitality!” says the old man, to Rob. “I see you know something of the old ways, and you respect the traditions. That’s right – I know more about you than you do yourself. I see more with this missing eye than most do with two. That’s an interesting bit of poetry you have there on your jacket. You know what it says, don’t you?”

Rob smiles, a flicker of nerves passing over him. “Yes, sir. It says:

I know that I hung there
on the windy tree
swung there nights, all of nine
gashed with a blade
bloodied by Odin
myself an offering to myself
knotted to that tree
no man knows whither the root of it runs

None gave me bread
None gave me drink
down to the depths I peered
to snatch up runes
with a roaring screech
and fall in a dizzying faint

Wellspring I won
and wisdom too
and grew and joyed in my growth
from a word to a word
I was led to a word
from a deed to another deed”

The old man grinned his wolf grin & applauds.

“Well said! Remember it, lad. Remember always. I remember it. I remember writing it when I first discovered the runes.”

and with that, he vanishes. Not out the door, no bang or flash, he’s just… GONE. And outside, the snow is already being washed away in a heavy torrent of rain, big drops splatting down through the leaves of the wood, a white noise hiss which almost, but not quite drowns out the faint sound, the faintest hint of a sound…

Howwwwwwwwllll…

Writing Exercise: “Who from your past do you wish were still around?”

(From http://writingexercises.co.uk/subjectgenerator.php)

It’d be easy to pick one person in particular here. The obvious choice is to pick an elderly relative who you miss, who died. And yes, my first impulse would be to pick my Grandma. My mum’s mum. When I was a wee lad she pretty much brought me up. My mum went back to work as a teacher, and my dad was out & about trying to grow a small business, so both myself & my sister were brought up by our Gran, certainly through our pre-school years up until we went to secondary school. When we were little she took us to play group, and used to treat us to fingers of fudge from the local shop, or a bar of Caramac, a light brown caramel fudge concoction. She was there for us until the stress of living with us all under the same roof got to her & she moved 3 miles away to Bentley Heath. Even then, I made a point of cycling the hilly route to her bungalow every weekend, and I’d cut her hedges or mow the lawn as needed throughout the summer. She for her part would push cake & tea on me, and when I smoked would crash her fags with me.

The thing is though, when she moved closer, round the corner to Alston Close, I’d go round, but it became a mercenary thing – I was broke & she’d always crash me some fags or something, but she was all out of stories of the old days – they’d been told to death, and as a teenager I was not a great listener. I’d go out of a sense of duty, more than anything. Sometimes it was fun. I made a point of giving her my old cast-off video recorder & I’d hire Voyager VHSes from the video store on Dovehouse Parade. Gran got me into sci-fi. When my dad was being a pig I’d go & sit with her & we’d watch old Star Trek episodes or Doctor Who, so when Voyager was out on video but hadn’t yet made it to broadcast syndication in the UK, naturally I brought them to show my gran. But really, towards the end, it was kind of tedious. I’m sorry – it sounds awful, but to a 20 year old, 80-somethings are pretty boring, when they’ve told you all their tales a dozen times.

When she was gone, I felt horribly guilty thinking that. She’d given so much for us, and I was grateful, honest, just… how awful her life had become, housebound, stuck in that bungalow with only the TV & me & her one surviving friend who came round. She’d got gradually sick over decades, osteoporosis leading to a curved spine, leading to a hiatus hernia, which in turn squeezed against her heart & gave her angina when she ate anything more than a mouthful. Every so often she’d have a serious angina attack. Not a proper heart attack as such, but she said the pain was excruciating. We’d go & visit her in hospital.

She lived long enough to meet my wife, when we were still just dating. I think she died before we married. It’s a long time ago now & I’m not sure of the timing exactly, but I remember thinking, at last her suffering is over. She’d wished for it so often, when the angina struck. We buried her in Robin Hood cemetery in Shirley, in the plot she’d laid her husband in 3 decades earlier. I do miss her occasionally – it’d be nice to introduce her to the kids.

But still around? No. She’d be 100 years old now. Think how decrepit she’d be! She’d probably hate it for the most part.

No, I reckon my gran earned her rest, & it came at the right time for her. She’d done all she’d wanted to & just wanted to go on to the next thing, whatever it was. Gran was a devout Catholic, and she fervently believed in a heaven & hell set-up, and knew with some certainty she was going upstairs. She’d been a daily communicant as a girl, never missed her confession, always said her rosary.

There is someone I would like to bring back, assuming he came back with his full faculties & wasn’t a brain-crazed zombie. One of my old school chums, who I named my son after. He had a fairly turbulent time of things, in his teenage years. F was half Ghanaian & half English. He was a skinny kid, great at distance running, and also pretty handy at judo as it happens. He spoke with a stutter a lot of the time. The teachers used to say his brain was working 10x as fast as his mouth & his mouth just couldn’t keep up with all he wanted to say.

F was one of my clique at school. We were the nerdy kids. He liked chess, and we all liked computers. We’d go round his, a big gaggle of us, to play games on his ZX Spectrum. His parents’ place was huge, or so it seemed to us. They didn’t heat it much in the winter. I remember seeing a big bluebottle fly on the wall there when I was there to play computer games. It was so cold this poor thing could hardly move, and ended up falling right off the wall, unable to carry on.

When we were at college, F fell out with his dad. I suspect it was probably 20% his dad being concerned that he was going to fulfil his potential, and 80% F being a stroppy teen. He moved out into a homeless hostel where some crazy guy downstairs from him flipped out when F over-filled his bath & flooded the downstairs flat. Well, you would, wouldn’t you, if some skinny dude kept flooding your flat.

Only F had a reason why this happened, and it was the same reason his teeth were all chipped. Throughout school, F had been prone to these absences. Not absence from class, but he’d start doing some rhythmic activity absent-mindedly, such as bouncing a ball, and he’d just not be there. You couldn’t get his attention. Well, it turned out that was petit mal epilepsy & later as a teen & 20-something, it became grand mal. As if nautical nonsense was something he wished, he’d drop to the deck & flop like a fish – a tonic-clonic seizure. One time, crossing the Stratford road, he caught that faint odour that meant it was coming on, and had to fling himself across so he wouldn’t get run over. He dove onto a pile of sand & gravel & smashed his teeth on the stones.

It was actually pretty rare that I’d see these seizures. My sister also has epilepsy & I’ve seen her fit more than F did, which was why it was such a surprise when the big one came.

F had finally managed to turn his life around, in his mid-20s. He’d passed his A-levels & was studying at Surrey University, in Kingston. His sister found him. He’d apparently had a seizure, and for whatever reason, he’d had a brain haemorrhage. He was dead, and that was that.

So that’s why I’d wish him back – if F had all his faculties, there was *so much* he could have done, so much he wanted to do. His stories hadn’t been started, hardly. His life was a first few opening chapters, and then a big stretch of exposed spine where all the pages had been ripped out. My gran, sure, she was a lovely woman, but she wouldn’t want to be back. F had missions he wanted to fulfil, so many things, so much potential.

Statement of intent

I’ve made a break, of sorts. It’s a sort of break that’s happened before, and I daresay it’ll happen again.

I got into the Internet in a big way when I was at university, in around 1993 or so when we had JANET, the Joint Academic Network, and we’d use command line IRC clients & Telnet & the like to get into *nix talkers, MUDs, MOOs and so on.

Then there were web-enabled chatrooms where we’d use graphics as signatures & spam up the whole chat with pictures of Dana Scully in PVC & think we were awfully clever using Japanese pseudonyms.

Then usenet, uk.people.gothic, alt.gothic and so forth. Whole scenes revolving around usenet. And then we all moved en masse from upg and ag to Livejournal. And that was good for a few years. And then they were sold to the Russians, who wanted to monetise us, so we went to Facebook & Myspace, and left Myspace for Facebook.

And for a while, Facebook was The Thing, and Livejournal was uncool & covered in Miss Havisham cobwebs, and she still sits in her Russian wedding feast festooned room, weeping at our loss for all we know. Myspace was barely my anything before we left.

So anyway, lately, Facebook took bad against us, and banned us because our names didn’t meet with their approval. Google Plus had been a thing, briefly, but they burned our trust thinking it was the coal in their boiler room. I’m still kinda half-heartedly there a bit, but that’s in lieu of having anywhere solid for us to coalesce around, we nomadic net.goth ghosts.

Currently the thought is this: distribute. Don’t put too many eggs in one basket. Be everywhere, and yet nowhere. If a site proves untrustworthy, cut it out. Facebook is now in my hosts file. It redirects to “NO”.

Different things for different things: Twitter & to an extent Tumblr for random, often political shit. Here, will be dragons, and pirate ships, tank battalions & aliens. I’ve decided that here will be for creative writing and hopefully mostly positive blogging about writing. G+ will be my pseudo-Facebook for now, though I reserve the right to uproot that yurt & trek off to new steppes with my horde – or my dribs & drabs as they’re becoming. Many remain on Facebook yet, but I feel like being a pioneer.

Anyway, so mote it be. Papa Legba – Ouvri barrière pour nous!