She had horses

She had horses who loved her.

And horses who didn’t but tried.

Horses who didn’t know and never would. 

My reading of ‘She had horses’

She had horses who shivered in snow. 

She had horses who shivered anyway, any day. 

She had horses who were wise.

She had horses who thought they were wise. 

She had horses who couldn’t be trusted ever. 

She had horses who could be trusted always. 

She had horses no one was sure about.

She had horses who loved her.

And horses who didn’t but tried.

Horses who didn’t know and never would. 

She had horses who thought she was a horse.

She had horses who presumed everyone was an enemy. 

She had horses who never thought about it.

Horses who just were, or at least gave that impression. 

She had horses who talked and horses who never did. 

She had horses who liked to be the center of it all and horses who were always hiding. 

She had horses who were blind but always knew where she was and how she felt. 

She had horses who could see but always had their eyes closed. 

Horses who stood out in the rain with her and horses who said they would but never did. 

She had horses who died and were never missed and horses who will always be with her, even when no one else remembers them. 

She had horses who were ugly but in a way that just made her love them more.

She had beautiful horses she thought she loved but didn’t when it mattered. 

She had one horse who she can’t talk about because certain things would amount to self-harm and she must avoid that. That horse had suggested a river of hope but then the river ran dry.

Be vast

Maybe we all need to stop and think. To look at the world and our place in it. To stop obsessing over stupid and meaningless matters. To be vast.
My reading of ‘Be vast’

“Things ain’t what they used to be” – where does that line come from? Must be a musical from my childhood – ‘Oliver,’ maybe. If so, we are going back over 40-odd years to a line that is perfect for today in September 2020, when the first TV debate will air between Biden and Trump. But let’s not talk of that now.

 

Everything has changed, but it seems most people do not understand what that means. University students in the UK are protesting now about getting plunged into debt, paying for courses that have gone online, if they’ve gone anywhere. Some of them may also be aware that in the Brexit environment, it doesn’t matter much if they go to University, anyway.

 

University for me was about many things, and education and a career were among them, but not even close to the top of the list.

 

Nowadays, life is more competitive. Kids have to think carefully about their careers and how much money they could make because even the humbler lifestyles are almost out of reach to so many people.

 

The consequences are there to be seen. The winners and the losers are out in the open, and there’s nowhere to hide.

 

The other day, I had to do a tiny translation for PepsiCo, about something so unimportant I’ve forgotten what it was. To cut a long story short, the person who requested it expressed her irritation that it was maybe 15 minutes late. My plans changed without warning, and I had to pick up Artur from English school I explained this to the irritated client, and she said she wasn’t interested – I had to respect the deadline.

 

This is what she has been reduced to. A tiny-minded robot who has lost the ability to see what matters and what doesn’t.

 

Maybe we all need to stop and think. To look at the world and our place in it. To stop obsessing over stupid and meaningless matters. To be vast.

You bet your life

Unscripted, free-flowing monologue recorded in one take and then transcribed, just to try something different.

Thought process

Some years ago – well, eight years ago – I had an experience. I saw, for the first time in my life, a dead body. It wasn’t a war experience, or anything like that. It was my brother-in-law. It was just before April 1st.  It was the end of March 2012. The reason I remember that date when I don’t normally remember dates is because one of my first thoughts after he died was, “Well, at least it wasn’t April Fools’ Day.”

That’s not supposed to be funny. It’s not funny. It’s just what I thought.

When I stood in front of his newly dead, vacated body, that’s when I saw for the first time what an absence of life really is. In films and so on they do a good job. But when life has evaporated, a corpse is something completely other than the person it was just moments before.

I am not going to go down any kind of rabbit hole now to discuss what that means. I’m just telling you what I witnessed. A person who had been sick for only a few weeks, really – I was going to say months – but it was three months at most.  Less than three months from diagnosis to death. Pancreatic cancer, if you’re interested. And I’d been visiting him in the hospital, and he wasn’t well, but in death he just wasn’t there.

This sounds absurd, I know, but it’s my telling of the experience. It’s the way it is.

Now, this year – 2020 – has been like some kind of insane TV, media event to get everybody’s attention. To freak us out. People are doing different things in the pandemic, in self isolation – staying at home either because it’s the smart thing to do or because there’s no reason to go out because they’ve lost their jobs. People are doing stuff like this, that I’m doing. People are writing, crocheting, doodling, painting, sculpturing – learning languages, drinking really heavily. And in my case quite a lot of that, plus gambling.

I discovered the thrill of a bet. So many people I know took this really seriously. They decided that this was the time I had to be spoken to. All the other stuff I’ve done in my life – no, that was OK. But betting – gambling – no, this requires some kind of counseling.

Well, maybe, but what I can tell you is this: you win some, you lose some. You win, you feel great; you lose, you feel shit. Whatever it is you feel right now, you’ll feel the exact opposite in a couple of days’ time.

Gambling is probably best metaphor for life and death that exists.

Things change

My reading of ‘Things change’

Dust settles; perspective shifts.

The more things change, the more things get weird. I was going to say that we know change happens. The seasons do their thing, as do tides and the second hands of clocks and watches. Bank accounts run down; gas tanks empty. Fridges, in our house, get fuller. Dust settles, perspective shifts. We age, while doctors get younger. The sun rises and sets. TV series have finales.

None of it makes any difference because we always think things will be the same until they really are not.

Democracy collapses. Common good evaporates and some kind of hell descends on us.

Meanwhile, a pandemic confuses everyone but leaves no doubt that things will never be the same again, with or without vaccines or herd immunity. What happened to the property markets in the UK and Brazil? They boomed. Of course they did! The denial of evident fact is the new religion. Ignore death. That’s for the faithless. Buy a house at a time when work itself is under threat. Things change but not the simple matter of human nature. Something will come along and we will all live forever.

Until we start losing people. Suicide rates among young people are increasing at incomprehensible speed, and this is in the world’s biggest economy where everyone is a winner. Until they are not. They appear not to be sick of winning in the way it had been sold. Winning is the new losing. Losing is the new death. Death itself is the new lifestyle change.

The more things change, the more stupid I feel for not being able to enjoy the old times. Things change while human stupidity and arrogance stay the same.

The ocean remains blue and peaceful

Then I remember that I tried.
My reading of “The ocean remains blue and peaceful”

My friends are a mixed bunch. I’m lucky in a big way – I don’t choose friends with any idea of what they can do for me professionally. This is one of the benefits of working for myself. It’s also one of the major disadvantages. There’s never anyone to help me. When you’re alone, you’re alone.

I often wish I had gone another way and been as corporate as possible. Then I remember that I tried. I put myself out there and was roundly told to fuck off. So, doing what I do is not brave or different – its survival.

I do okay. I’ll pay for my own funeral. But I worry sometimes that I just failed. I’m not recognised as anything. No one knows what I do. Which is strange when I get data reports telling me that in the last five weeks, I translated the equivalent of War and Peace. That’s almost 600,000 words. And it’s not even exceptional. I do this all the time. I’ve done it for 18 years.

And what bothers me is that I have lost so many people. And it occurs to me they too had lost so many people. And that all of this is a shit-show. It’s a waste of time. I was childless for years and now have a son I love more than anything but still sometimes all this feels stupid and useless.

And then I think again. I think about all the others who confessed to such strange feelings in wild writing and I feel better.

Never mind the stupidity we have to face day after day created by men who stink of hate.

The ocean remains blue and peaceful.

Blinding

My reading of ‘Blinding.’

I’m not the kind of person who goes to a doctor for a check-up. This isn’t a brave boast, it’s a confession of stupidity and I need to change my ways. Thing is, I worry that if I go, something will show up.

I know. I know.

Back in January of this year – before the wildfires in Australia and the pandemic and the latest hell from far-right politicians – I had to go to the optician. I’d driven from the south of Brazil to home in the southeast and it had taken about half a lifetime. I wear- or wore – contact lenses and in the air conditioning for endless hours I suffered some kind of drying of the eye and it was all very uncomfortable.

This week I went back for a check-up and did a battery of tests on comically sophisticated equipment. If there’s anything – even the suggestion of a potential problem – they will find it. Anyway, all clear. But I still have to use drops and cannot yet wear lenses. I have to go back in December. I really liked the doctor, Juliana. Very friendly and attentive. No rushing. But for a minute, I confess, I considered I was revenue stream. I could go back every three months for the rest of my life. OK, no. But medicine in Brazil has more to do with business than health. Maybe it’s like that everywhere.

Juliana and I talked about the reasons I should not use lenses yet. First, because of the pandemic. I hadn’t thought about that. She explained that if I had to fix a lens while I was out, it could represent a risk, what with sticking my virus-bathed fingers in my eyes. I was convinced. But then she added that my left eye is still a little dry and I would also be risking a return to the secretion and scratching I suffered back in January in the half a lifetime I spent in the car. I was doubly convinced. We then talked about the pandemic ending soon. I said I doubted the likelihood. Juliana said we have to pray.

I looked behind her, up on the wall near the ceiling. There was a crucifix with Christ nailed to it. I had to admire Juliana’s faith.

It was blinding.

Living it up in the apocalypse

The world has become like this big old mansion you can walk or run through, opening doors into rooms without knowing what to find when you go in. 

My reading ‘Living it up in the apocalypse’

Having been banned from Twitter for seven days, I find myself looking at the news from a slightly different standpoint. The Twitter ban means I can look, but I can’t touch. I can read tweets, but I can’t like or comment or interact in any way other than to talk to myself. This ban pushed me just a little bit away from all news, and I’m starting to think maybe it’s all been for the best.

The world has become like this big old mansion you can walk or run through, opening doors into rooms without knowing what to find when you go in. Open this door and everyone is nicely dressed, sitting in a large lounge, talking discreetly amongst themselves, some smoking, some drinking, but everyone basically acting like decent human beings.

Then you open another door and the noise and stink hit you like you’ve walked into a warm, steamy cattle shed filled with maniacs tearing chunks out of each other and gobbling human flesh that is still body temperature, all while recording it on their phones, or live streaming it, pushing for that pot of gold at the end of the bullshit rainbow: influencer status.

You get the idea. Of course you do. You’re in the same mansion, you’ve opened the same doors and been welcomed and horrified the same way, sometimes on the same day.

Increasingly I am eschewing the mansion for the cramped but loving confines of our apartment, with its two adults, one little boy, two dogs, and a fish that somehow survives living in a clearly toxic tank. I sit down and look around, and I’m learning just before I turn 53 next month to love what I have.

I’m living it up in the apocalypse.

All of this is being recorded

First and foremost, I was inciting nothing. Then, let’s consider the demonstrable fact that “eat shit and die” is an established phrase in the English language.
My reading of All of this is being recorded

I got banned from Twitter yesterday for seven days. I had broken a rule they have. This was an experience I am familiar with, this thing whereby a clearly idiotic institution gets high-minded and puts me in my place. I am, let’s not forget, a product of the British Public School system – and I was invited to leave the school because I smoked cigarettes at the age of 18 in a in a local town and the Headmaster’s wife saw me.  The Headmaster was a raging alcoholic but he and his wife dressed well we went to church and rules are rules.

 

Twitter took issue with my suggestion to the vile monster Donald Trump that he “eat shit and die.” It was a suggestion but Twitter, if I understand this correctly, said I was inciting hate and harm. It makes you think. Well, it makes me think.

 

First and foremost, I was inciting nothing. Then let’s consider the demonstrable fact that “east shit and die” is an established phrase in the English language. I wasn’t saying I was going to force Trump to swallow feces before I killed him.

 

Anyway, Trump can stay on Twitter and foment hate and division, threaten democracy itself, and stoke racial division. But this is the way the world works. Twitter, which is a platform that has no problem with hosting the profiles of sex workers, racists, nationalists, fascists and so on, judged me and said I had broken its rules.

 

Good. It is my duty to break Twitter’s rules. I would be ashamed not to have at least tried.

 

All of this is being recorded. And I am recording the recorders.

Recipro City

My reading of Repro City

Recipro City

 

Awake at 3:00 AM, I feel a pain that immediately convinces me I’m about to die. It’s a stabbing pain I am familiar with, but familiarity helps not when it comes to stabbing pains, in my experience. I make sounds that I am immediately aware might sound sexual, if in fact I were in an act of sex. This would make me laugh, if not for the stabbing pains that caused it. I know the drill: bathroom, wait, make claim to understanding 24 hours of labor pain.

I’ll fast forward to 4:00 AM. I’m wide awake and pain free. I look at the uncurtained window with the shutters we rarely close. The sky is not dark but it’s not light. I wonder at the human eye. I decide to go for a 10k run. The cycle lane is free at this time. It’s mine.

I get ready in the light-dark-light and again wonder at the capacity of the human eye. The dogs are asleep. It’s pre-dawn. I’m going for a run.

I hit the street at 4:17 AM. There’s a man on the corner and not a soul other than him. I wonder what the fuck he’s doing and then realize he’s looking at me asking the same thing. Or could well be.

I set off, running in the middle of the road, down the dotted line. I note it’s the first time I have run that line.

I reach the traffic lights that cross to the beach and they are off. I’ve never seen that before, but it makes sense. I run across the road and jag sharp left onto the cycle lane. It is flat and empty, and I am relaxed.

It’s a near perfect run, like a track but no bends to run. I feel the power in my backside but then remember 70% of it comes from the heel. I read that somewhere. My backside doesn’t know it’s done a deal with my heels. My heart is unburdened. My lungs think it’s just another day. Every single part of me is working.

I finish the run and walk awhile. The stabbing pain comes back and I am reminded that nothing is ever simple. I find a clean toilet and feel like a King on his throne.

Off script

I had rented a Ford Fiesta. A small car but this one had perhaps the best engine Ford made that year. It was the year my mother died.

Cynthia Quinton – my mother – loved cars. She didn’t understand much about the engineering of cars, but she had a rare understanding of gear changing and clutch control. She drove fast.

I parked the Ford Fiesta in the hospital car park and took the ticket. I was concerned it might be difficult to pay for – what with change and so on.

Mum was dying. I knew that. And I…

I stood next to her and hugged her. I told her about the car. She liked that. I saw her in extremis, and I felt I was invading.

The last time I kissed her, I knew. I left the hospital alone and devastated.

No one shared my pain and to this day I am in agony.