The Behemoths of the Boulevard

It was in the summer of 1934 that my fever returned, the drama and stress of city life was not proving conducive to my health and I was plagued with bizarre dreams and night sweats, awaking paler and weaker every morning; my body unable to heal itself and my spirit growing tired from the nightly torments. 

It was in the spirit of love and hopefulness that my beloved Cecily booked us a suite of adjoining rooms in the resort town of Innsmouth by the Sea and that we arrived there on that fateful July afternoon to take part in what the Innsmouth Herald called ‘a localised disturbance’, in reality – an event of such horror that I can scarce bring pen to paper now. 

But my time runs short and if future generations are to be spared such abominations; the truth must be told. 

Here then is the unadulterated account of what occurred in Innsmouth that summer  – May merciful God please take my soul tonight; so that I do not have to relive another day. 

The train journey down had been uneventful, our first class carriage was protected from the smoke and soot from the engine and although we travelled for a little over nine hours, the food and wine were outstanding and we arrived refreshed and hopeful of the sea air working its primordial magic upon my system. 

A carriage was awaiting at the station and the porters loaded our cases onto the back with alacrity, hoping for and receiving a sizeable tip that occasioned both of the otherwise grim-countenanced men to smile broadly. 

Innsmouth had been substantially rebuilt following the fire that devastated the town in 1922, although the shiny-cobbled streets looked unchanged in the older part of the town with some houses leaning into each other at perilous and strange angles. 

The coast runs close to the town and a sparkling new boulevard had been laid that stretched for over two miles – a substantial piece of investment for a small town and dozens of new businesses, including our hotel were built alongside, with a view of both boulevard and beach. 

The Innsmouth Grand Hotel lived up to its name – a four story columned building finished in pearlescent white and built in the grand Gothic style with towers, turrets and cleverly designed doors and windows that reminded one of multi-faceted jewels. 

The concierge swooped out to our carriage and with a whirlwind of activity, Cecily and I were shown to our adjoining ocean-facing suites and it was from our adjacent balconies that we clasped hands and looked at the beauty of the sea and shoreline together. 

It had always been a mystery to me as to why Innsmouth was not as popular as Long Island or some of the California resorts, the coastline is magnificent, white sands, azure sea and stunning rock formations a few hundred yards out to sea that seemed to change shape as the reflected light from the sea bounced from their faces. 

The mystery that surrounded the events that led up to the fire of 1922 cannot have helped the town rebuild itself as a vacation and relaxation resort, for no satisfactory explanation of that day ever made it to press. A fire occurred and some of the population were found to be missing afterwards. The assumption put forward by the press was that they had relocated. 

Still; rumours and whispers lingered, of strange practices, of lights in the sky and of half-glimpsed figures that appeared in the flames but of which there were no signs once the fire was contained. 

I mentioned nothing of this to my sweet Cecily; the town seemed to be absolutely charming and completely dedicated to the new industry of leisure – service at all points so far had been immaculate and I looked forward to our dinner in the new hotel’s ocean-facing restaurant. 

I dressed carefully for dinner, my best suit had been unpacked and pressed, my diamond cufflinks gleamed and my tie reflected the green of Cecily’s eyes. 

Did I mention that my fiancée was a beautiful woman? Small and elfin-featured with heartbreaking green eyes and a way of seeing into your very soul. Her blonde hair gleamed in any light but seemed made for the moonlight where it seemed to reflect more light than received; she shone like a beacon. 

It was with a sense of deep pride that I escorted her to our table, a bottle of champagne already open and glistening in a silver ice-bucket and our waiter attentiveness itself. 

I shall not dwell upon our meal, save to note that no food has ever tasted as fine, no wine, spirit or champagne since has  filled my soul with the glow that comes from eating well and basking in love. 

Following our meal; much of which I confess was spent in contemplation of Cecily’s beauty, the glow from her eyes, her flawless pale skin, the music of her voice – we gathered our coats and joined the happy throng of people upon the boulevard. 

Innsmouth had eschewed electric lighting at that point, electing instead to light the boardwalk with regularly spaced flaming torches, giving a party-like atmosphere to the boulevard, which was enhanced by the soft music that rang out from the bars and restaurants, the end of prohibition giving businesses a new life and spirit of hopefulness. 

I clasped Cecily’s hand lightly as we walked, our steps light and in time with the music that flowed around us. Our matching smiles seemed to grow as the evening wore on and I knew that I would spend the rest of my life with this wonderful woman.  

The boulevard was full of like-minded couples and our steps gave a strange rhythmic counterpoint to the music, heightened by the flames and the unusually bright moon that gave Cecily’s hair an eldritch glow and was reflected in her shining eyes. 

I leaned in close, so as to drink in her beauty and so did not see the attacker until it was much too late. Not that I really saw anything at all. There was just an impression of darkness and fangs and then Cecily’s throat was laid open and I was frantically trying to staunch the flow of blood. But the dark thing did not stop there and another five young women were similarly attacked, all within seconds and before any defence could be mounted by the men of the boulevard. 

Cecily had fainted outright and it was with uncertain steps that I carried her back to the safety of the Innsmouth Grand Hotel and to the tender ministrations of the doctor. 

Grim countenanced and with an air of utmost concentration, the doctor began the task of irrigating the wound which I was pleased to note was less severe than I originally thought – a slashing wound rather than a deep puncture. He then cleansed the area with surgical alcohol before closing with small sutures. Cecily was mercifully asleep during this operation and he then woke her with smelling salts to ensure that her mental faculties were not impaired following the attack. 

The five other young ladies were similarly treated by the doctor and his assistant and I was left trying to explain to the town constable what had occurred. 

My tale was viewed  with deep suspicion and I was left feeling strangely, guiltily glad that there had been multiple attacks as I was sure that my next view would be of Innsmouth Gaol if this had been a singular occurrence. 

A militia was raised and the boulevard rang with voices and shouts throughout the night. I confess that I did not join the hunt as I stood watch over my darling Cecily as she fitfully slept through the hue and cry of the men and dogs on the boardwalk and the clattering of hooves upon the cobbles. 

Dawn arose with a pink blush over the sea and my heart was gladdened to see that the colour had begun to return to Cecily’s cheeks as she slept. 

And then..

Her beautiful green eyes opened and she spoke. 

Dear reader, I am not a vulgar man by nature nor is it my wish to overdramatise my account. However, if I do not report things accurately, how will you future generations know how to diagnose the evil in the early stages of its appearance?

And Cecily Spoke. 

‘WHADAFUQAREYOULOOKINATYOUPUNKASSBITCH’?

Her voice was utterly changed, deeper and more booming and the look of horror on her face as the words emerged broke my heart asunder. She ran from the room, weeping and mortified and it was over an hour later that she appeared, normal in countenance and voice and we wondered if the strange words were just a reaction to the shock. 

I cancelled our plans for a boat trip out to the rocks and convinced Cecily that a picnic upon the boulevard would help to mend our shattered nerves. 

The hotel prepared a grand repast and two porters carried table, chairs, awning, a picnic hamper, beautifully prepared food and an ice bucket with a fine meursault to the beach where we whiled away the afternoon with soft talk and murmurings, wine and food, linked hands and shared gaze. 

And then another young couple walked past on the boulevard and I could see that the woman had been similarly attacked the previous night, a small wound on her neck marked her as another victim and the couple paused as if to share sympathies, a look of deep solicitation on their faces. 

Until the two women locked gazes. 

Something occurred in that second, depths swam behind their eyes and a bone chilling cackle emerged from their mouths simultaneously as they communicated. 

‘SUPBITCH?’

‘SHEETNOTHINGOINONHEYARWITDISPUNKYO’

The other woman’s beau looked at me aghast and I knew that this was not the first outburst of the day for this couple, both women had been infected by something. 

I resolved in that moment to return Cecily to the doctor, something was badly wrong with her and it was now clear that this was not isolated to her alone.

Cecily once again looked to be in shock at her outburst, but I was concerned as I could now see something other swimming behind her eyes, which now seemed to cut and mock me with every glance. 

And then a further surprise, Cecily; as was the fashion of young women who had suffered a shock to their nervous disposition, took to her room and announced that she would sleep until the next day at least. 

And the door was resolutely closed in my face and stayed that way until noon the next day. 

Despite my knocking and imprecations, Cecily would not budge from her quarters until, in despair and I managed to convince a maid with pleading and no small sum of cash to open the door so that I could check on her health . 

What we found caused the maid to swoon, I was just able to prevent her from falling to the floor, but how I achieved this I do not know. For Cecily was changed.  

Her hair was both darker and thinner, closer to black than blonde, her eyes were open but unseeing and were now a muddy shade of brown and her limbs had swollen to twice their original size, the pale skin stretched over porcine flesh that seemed to writhe and ooze under the thin covering. 

I confess that I screamed aloud at that point and did not cease until the hotel manager arrived with a complement of porters, all of whom blanched at the repulsive sight before them. 

Coverings were found and the beleaguered physician called, although it was at least an hour before the poor man arrived, haggard and drained-looking. 

He engaged the hotel manager in private conversation before consulting with me and it was at that point I learned that all of the young women that had been attacked by the dark shape on the boulevard were exhibiting identical symptoms. 

The county sheriff had been called and was due to arrive the next day, but it was clear that there were no theories that would lead to a perpetrator, nor a medical reason that the physician’s research for the condition of the young women had yet discovered. 

All we could do was wait. 

I sat vigil over Cecily that day and night and watched her young slim body metamorphosise into a bloated thing that reminded me of the walruses that I had once watched in San Francisco Bay. Her arms and legs were huge blubbery things that had now changed colour to that of a dark aubergine, her features were coarser a and spread across a face that now had a ring of a fat -like substance around the outside, over which multiple chins flowed. Her once pert and pretty breasts were now massive and flowing across her upper body. 

I could see no sign of the woman that I loved within this monstrous being and yet I hoped that when she regained consciousness, that her sweet and loving nature would reassert itself and that we could begin looking for a cure to this madness. 

And then. 

At dusk on the third day, she awoke, looked groggily around the suite and heaved her huge bulk from the bed. 

I stood to take her hand and was struck to the ground by a giant paw. 

‘DAFUQ’

And with that strange imprecation ringing in my ears, a thin trickle of blood clouding my vision, she was gone. 

All of the affected women disappeared that evening and despite the best efforts of the townspeople and the County Sheriff’s men who conducted a wide ranging search, they were not seen again for another week.

I had set myself up in the hotel , searching the area daily, including hiring a boat to take me out to the rocks, where I searched the strange caves and shouted myself hoarse in the search for my beloved. I spent the nights under the influence of a mix of champagne and absinthe and my dreams were haunted by dark shapes and the smell of blood. 

At dusk on the last Saturday in July, the boulevard began to vibrate and THUD as if an army had been set to marching, sand danced in the last rays of the sun as the vibrations sent it high into the air. 

Restaurants and hotels emptied as people rushed outside to see what strange events were about to unfold. 

And we saw. 

Six hugely bloated things now clad in material that fluoresced and glowed, whether from some chemical reaction to the crteatures’ skin or by some other means – I do not know. Their huge limbs oozed as they walked and their bodies were so massive that if I had not known that they were once human, I confess that I would have thought them another, alien,  species. 

Their voices boomed and the boulevard rattled to their steps and war cries. 

‘WASSUPMUTHAFUQA’ 

‘YOMANIGAWASSUPWITCHOO’

They were terrifying. 

And hungry. 

A young waitress wandered too close to their orbit, terrified but curious, her eyes wide open with fear and awe. A huge meaty paw closed around her wrist and before anybody could react, the creature took a huge gory bite from her forearm, leaving the poor girl screaming and spurting blood in its wake. 

The six behemoths continued on their way as if the incident had never occurred, thundering their awful way towards the town. I confess that I now had no inkling as to which of these creatures had previously been my sweet Cecily, so changed were they all and so alike to each other as to be almost indistinguishable. 

I did not believe at that point that things could possibly get worse. 

And then. 

And then…. Oh dear God, I wish it were not so, but with a bellow of ‘FUQYOOYOUFILTHYFUQINHOE!’ The waitress began to mutate into one of these foul creatures, changing before our horrified eyes into another huge monster, her uniform now in tatters around her pulchritudinous flesh, drool escaping from her huge open maw. 

The crowd ran and I confess that I ran with them, lungs heaving and in terror for my immortal soul. 

We ran as a single entity and made for the the safety of the Innsmouth Grand Hotel and my heart was gladdened to see that the County Sheriff and the Town Constable were stood there, tall and strong, with cocked rifles and a complement of armed men equipped with flaming torches. 

As I reached safety, a rifle was thrust into my hand and I knew that no matter what the outcome of this night was to be, my soul would be damned for all eternity.

The foul beasts that our women  had become did not seem dissuaded by this show of force and stood in the middle of the boulevard, moving lewdly and bellowing strange taunts. 

‘TOOMUCHJELLYFORYOOWHITECRACKAMUDAFUQAS’

‘COMEGETSOMEYOULILBITCHES’

And other imprecations the seemed to be in no known language. 

Then a shot rang out and a lump of blubber peeled from the upper arm of one of the monsters and a gout of blood sprayed the boardwalk as if ejected from a firehose. 

Emboldened by this, the throng of men opened fire, although I confess that I aimed skywards as I no longer knew which of these things had been my own dear Cecily. 

And the behemoths, sorely wounded in the first few seconds of the exchange turned and ran. If ran was the correct term. 

Boards splintered under the assault of this migration of massive creatures ; blood stained the boulevard and sand to both sides, making crazy patterns that haunt my dreams to this day. 

Then the monsters stopped and began to walk into the sea opposite the rock formations, red waves billowing behind them. 

And they seemed to be praying to gods or goddesses from another time and place, causing me to wonder anew at the identity of the strange dark catalyst for these events. 

‘LaShaquanishia’

‘LaToya’

‘Kalisha’

‘Beyoncé’ 

‘Shabooboo’ 

It may be that if they had begun swimming, they could have escaped, but they stood in the waves, making mournful sounds as the assembled men on the beach gunned them down and turned the beach into a charnel house remisniscent of Inuit hunts. 

When it was clear that none of the stranded hulks would move again, ropes were attached  to the six corpses and they were heaved ashore and their corpses burnt on the beach. 

This is where my story ends, I have been back to Innsmouth every summer since, partly in search of answers, partly in search of the seventh leviathan. 

For in all of the exultation and terror of that night, nobody but me ever thought to count the bodies – there were five of the original behemoths and the poor afflicted waitress. 

One of the monsters was missing and remains so to this day….

I am old now and near death, but I implore you all – ALL who read this to watch the beaches and resorts for the survivor, if survivor there was. Just one of these things will infect your shorelines and towns with massive crude beasts in female form, I just pray that this never comes to pass. 

God bless you all. 

Togetherness

*Video System initiates, connection made*

*SYSTEM MESSAGE – YOUR ONE HOUR VIDEO CALL BEGINS NOW*

‘You’ve changed your hair’

‘Yes, I did it last week, what do you think?’

‘It’s lovely, it shows your eyes more somehow. They’re more intense than they were, greener… – Hang on, they’re adjusting me at this end’

*background noises* 

‘That’s better, I can see you properly now……It’s like you’re lying next to me, let me just look at you for a second, I want to bask in the glow from your eyes if that’s OK……I’ve missed you so much and this feels like I’ve been granted a moment of grace and peace. I just want to take it all in.’

‘Take your time, I’ll watch your eyes while you do, I’m not going anywhere.’

*sighing noises*

‘So, tell me about your day. You know how mine has been. It’s always pretty much the same, except today the call got scheduled. Tell me everything. All the little details.’

‘Well, I woke up early again, I don’t really sleep through the night at the moment, but it gave me the chance to choose clothes for the call and to take the dog out for a nice long walk. He’s so funny these days. It’s like he’s trying to make up for you not being here. He goes and finds his own sticks and brings them to me. This morning he tried to drag a whole fucking branch out of a ditch. I was in hysterics, It was five times his size, like a man trying to drag a tree..’

*laughter*

‘Then the little shit decided that we were going the wrong way for the walk and just kept going til we reached the fountain. He wouldn’t come back no matter what. Just sat there and I think…. I think he posed for a picture. Look!’

‘That’s beautiful and.. random. Maybe he’s psychic, I was only thinking about him and the fountain this morning and looking through old photos. But… God  – that’s a beautiful picture. Thank you… Then what?

‘I took him to the cafe for breakfast and we shared a sausage sandwich. Well, you know. He ate most of it and then started looking for people to beg food from.’

‘I bet at least one person fed him. AND gave you a dirty look for starving the little bastard.’

*laughter*

‘Yep, some old boy gave me a few treats for him, just in case he was hungry later.’

‘Evil genius… I always knew it.’

‘Very evil. Then we walked home, I took my time because I wanted to be relaxed for the call and to be here for you properly. Can they bring you a cup of tea? I’m going to make one and it’d be nice to share one together even though we’re so far apart’

*mumbles and background noise*

‘Yes, they’ll bring one. Let me watch you make a cup of tea…’

‘OK, let’s just wander into the kitchen.. It hasn’t changed really – see?’ 

*background noises*

‘Ok, that’s the kettle on, I’ll just sit here for a minute, tell me what you’re thinking.’

‘I’m just so happy that we got the chance to do this, it feels… normal, like I’m there in the room with you. You have no idea how much I’ve missed that. Whenever we’ve talked on the phone, theres been distractions and I haven’t been able to picture you properly. This is like.. like coming home. ‘

‘I know, I can’t believe it.. My tea is nearly ready, is yours coming?’

*mumbles, noises* 

‘Yes it’s here, I’m going to drink my tea and just look at you if that’s OK. I want this normal thing to carry on and never end..’

‘Of course, let me just take the tea back to the bed so I can lie and watch you drink too.’

*background noises*

‘I’m back…let’s do this tea thing.’

*background noises*

‘Ahhhhh, that’s lovely. I’ve missed all these little things, I don’t think I realised how much until this was scheduled and then it hit me. All the things that I took for granted, they were so important and I never knew. Like I said, it feels like I’ve been granted some grace. And I’m making the most of it’

‘Good. I know what you mean, life just gets in the way of life somehow and we miss the things that matter. Let’s enjoy this moment and store it away – it feels like some sort of magic anyway, so let’s use it.’

‘Magic is a good word. It’s so lovely lying here and looking at your beautiful face. Thousands of miles and five timezones apart and I’m in the room with you, those eyes shining at me.. Hang on is that…..?’

‘Yep, he’s woken up and wants to join in. “come here, say hello” .. here he is..’

‘Hello you little pisswizard, where’s my stick?’

*Barking and yelping noises*

‘Be good, bite every fucker that even looks dodgy.. good boy.’

‘Oi.. are you trying to corrupt my dog again?’

‘Yep.. he needs reminding that he has a worlwide reputation to live up to.. the god of small dogs and idiots.’

*laughter*

*SYSTEM MESSAGE* *15 MINUTES REMAINING*

‘Shit this is going quickly, I could do this all night – as a matter of fact, I can’t imagine anything more lovely than watching you drift off to sleep and listening to your breathing.’

‘Me too. do you want me to stay to watch YOU sleep at the end of the call?’

‘I don’t know, do you want to?’

‘Yes and no, but I think so.. I want this to be as complete as possible. I’ve missed you so much and I don’t want to miss anything now.’

‘OK’

*sighs*

‘So…. what else happened?’

‘Well, I had lunch, cleared up, did a bit of work and then put the dress on that I chose for the call. Then changed it. Then changed it again. Then tried jeans and a t shirt. Then another dress. Then started it all again.’

*laughter*

‘Which one did you choose? Wait.. it was the third one… No the original..’

*laughter*

‘Yes.. do you like it?’

‘Beautiful. Perfect. Like a dream come true. I mean that. This whole thing is like a dream right now… God… your EYES…’

*SYSTEM MESSAGE* *5 MINUTES REMAINING*

‘Shit.. where’s the time going.. hang on. they’re adjusting me at this end again.. sorry…’

*background noises* 

‘OK – I’m back, is there anything you want to know from me?’

‘Just to look at you, does it hurt at all?’

‘It did at times and I’m told that it will in a few days as things get closer. That’s why today is happening, I want some beauty and there you are..’

‘I never understood why you went all the way there for treatment, but I think I do now.. you always had a plan B’

‘Yes. this is it. If things had worked, it would have just been expensive, but this is the other doorway and I’m choosing when to walk through it.’

*indeterminate noises*

*SYSTEM MESSAGE* *1 MINUTE REMAINING*

‘Thank you for doing this. I’ve got your beautiful face locked into my brain now and  I know now that your eyes are the stars that will guide me home.. You know I….’

‘Yes. me too. Always. Him too’

‘Good.. look after each other.. Can you hear me Pisswizard?’ 

*background noises*

It’s time.. I’m told that I’ll jus.. drif… sleep… your eyes…. lov… Oh GOD.. so beautif……….
*VIDEO ENDS*

A balloon for Alison

Part two  – following on from The Ghosts of Rubies

So.

It was in a strange frame of mind that I sat and watched the motley group of people that had gathered, walk up the small hill to the memorial garden and open it with the key that is left inside the castle offices.

They were a wide range of ages, from people in their thirties to old men on sticks and frames, struggling up to the garden at a sedate pace while chatting to their friends.

To a man, the old men had red berets and chestfuls of medals.

It was strange, I was sat in a picture window table and I’m pretty sure that the only person watching them form a semicircle around the memorial and airborne flag was me.

I was fascinated and ate my chilli while I watched them take turns in giving a short speech and googled airborne battle dates and planned memorials.

To fast forward a bit, I rejoined the world of Twitter on Monday this week in a slightly better frame of mind and even a real near-miss in the car on Monday hasn’t returned me back to the role of soothsayer of my own death.

I’m slightly more sanguine about things and I’ve accepted that I need to change a few things about me if I’m not to keep repeating the past.

I know that I can’t return things back to the way that they were, I only hope that in time; the people I’ve hurt can look at me with some balance and judge the positive things that I brought into their lives against the hurt I’ve caused.

Hopefully, the scales will swing slightly in my favour.

Then.

On Tuesday, David Sinfield’s wife Alison died.

She’d been ill for a long while with breast cancer and had successfully done a number of fundraising events in aid of cancer research.

I never met Alison (nor have I met David, but in the weird world of Twitter, I know him quite well) but was impressed by the determination that she showed and amused by the odd anecdote that David posted from time to time.

And it took me back to Saturday.

I couldn’t find any details of a memorial on the general internet, nor on social media, nor in the local press for the town, nor in announcements.

Not anywhere.

This was a private memorial set up by friends and family.

Old friends who’d been to war together, had known each other for over over sixty years, fought side by side, drifted in and out of the orbits of their lives and come together for a private recollection of one of their own.

I wondered if they’d ever fallen out? fought? let each other down? laughed at stupid things and got so drunk that even as a group, they couldn’t piece together a whole recollection.

I hoped that whatever was being said healed any wounds that might linger and that all that would be left after the memorial would be smiles.

Then..

They released a bunch of helium balloons into the sky.

I was still the only person looking and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a little to see that.

It was a beautiful morning and the balloons flew up into a clear sky.

When they finally vanished into the blue, the little crowd disappeared as if in a dream, they were all gone within minutes and I was looking at an empty memorial.

the scene stayed with me for days after though, the solemn walk up, the unheard speeches and the unexpected beauty of the balloons was a privilege to watch.

Here’s your balloon Alison, whatever the journey is now;  we all wish you well.

 

IMG_1426

 

 

(I asked David for permission to write this blog)

 

The Ghosts of Rubies

Part one of two 

I started writing this post in my head a while ago – it was darker at that time, full of omens, portents and presentiments of my own death.

I’d started to feel the brush of Death in almost every hour of every day, there was no rational reason for it, but I saw signs everywhere.

Ravens in trees, people that looked like ghosts from my past, random news feeds and twitter updates, you name it, I could see it there.

It didn’t help that I’d managed to hurt somebody that I love and then handled that hurt and the situation around it very badly.

I did.

It’s too late and I don’t think I can fix it. But that’s my loss and regret, I’ll have to live with it.

Add a crappy experience at work in the past few months, living alone in a strange place and a sense of quiet isolation and it all added up to a pretty bad mindset.

And so I took myself off Twitter for a week so that I could just sit and read books, watch TV, listen to music (and go to work for 12 hours a day, obviously).

Then, last Saturday, I took a long drive out for the day to visit a town that had been recommended to me, a place with a castle and a cathedral, quirky little shops and a number of bars and restaurants.

I did the obligatory tourist things and found myself fascinated by the castle, in excellent condition, with outstanding views, a massive wall to walk around and a number of excellent exhibits.

IMG_1424

I was early enough that there weren’t too many fucking tourists around to spoil the photos  and it was by  morbid coincidence that reflected my mindset that I found that there’d been a number of public executions in the 1800s on the spot that I took the photo from..

Still, it was diverting enough and I was glad that I’d made the trip rather than hide in Preston.

After a number of hours, I went for lunch and sat in a bar that overlooked the castle, the cathedral and a small Airborne Memorial Garden attached to the castle. As I had no intention of driving for a while, I had a glass of wine with a very hot chilli for lunch, opened my kindle and read/ people watched.

The light was shining through my wine glass onto the table and making a pretty little display – when these words appeared on the page of the book I was reading. (The Lovers, John Connolly)

“He put the glass down and let the candlelight play upon the wine, spreading red fractals upon the tabletop like the ghosts of rubies”

I smiled to see the words and the image played out in real life, and I settled into the people- watching, becoming more relaxed as I did.

Then I noticed the group of people moving towards the memorial.

end

 

 

Paper Prayers

 

It’s mid-July 1969, a young man sits in a 3rd story window of a flat in an East London sink estate. There is no view from the window that doesn’t include more flats and blocks, as far as the eye can see.

That’s if you look straight ahead of course.

If you look down, there’s a crowd of noisy kids calling up for “more”, “another” “please!”.

The young man smiles fondly, three of his four sons are in the pack, smiles on their faces, eyes alight as their dad gets ready to launch another.

He takes his time on this one, having been taught to make it by his own father during the war. Neither man has heard of origami, but the level of effort and detail needed is much more than a few paper folds.

He holds it up to the light to admire the simple clean lines and knows that this one will loop and soar far above the kids below, they’ll have to run for it, laughing and shouting as they do.

45-swallow-paper-airplane

He hears his youngest son stir in the cot behind him and knows that this game can only last a while longer. His wife is at work in the factory that makes the model cars that the three other boys play with to the point of destruction – and beyond. He’ll have to cook dinner soon and get the three other boys washed and ready for bed at some point.

He smiles, silently conceding that maybe his own dad had done well to cope with even more and launches the plane high into the air from the window as he remembers…

The first sight and roar of a spitfire overhead as it flew back from a mission to protect London’s sky, the feel of his father’s strong hand holding his as the plane vanished into the distance.

His dad was so tired all the time, but still made sure to take him, his sister and brother out on his days off. To walk over to the fields and see the wildlife; to watch the small fish in the river and sit still while the rabbits lost their fear and eventually played in the sun.

These days were few and far between, his dad was a blacksmith and worked all the waking hours, taking time for dinner and then manning anti-aircraft guns at night. On his nights off, they prayed that they wouldn’t have to hide in the tin shelter at the end of the garden.

Too often they did.

Still  – there were good times.

Once they even got on a train, noisy and exciting and went all the way to Kent for a few days, they went hop picking and the boy was given his first ever real pay for a job.

The paper plane, once launched picks up a gust of wind and soars higher, performing a small roll in midair before settling into a glide that means that the laughing kids below will have to run to collect it.

Tomorrow, if there’s enough money left in his pay packet, he’ll buy the crowd an ice-cream from the Rossi van that haunts the area, draining the money from parents as the heatwave continues.

As the plane starts the glide down, he starts on another. This one more modern, streamlined and efficient looking. A plane called Concorde had been all over the papers earlier in the year a beautiful dart of a thing that flew faster than sound.

It takes just a few seconds to make the paper dart and the origami glider is still flying as he attaches a paperclip to the front to give it some direction and launches it into the air, remembering..

The sputter of the V1s as they flew overhead, their engines always on the verge of cutting out. Flying bombs that were launched with enough fuel to reach London and then fall onto civilians. If the engine was sputtering, you were safe. When it died…

He once watched a brave hurricane pilot put the wing of his plane under a V1 and gently turn and bank, guiding the bomb to a safer destination. He marvels that the pilot was likely much younger than he is now and silently hopes that he made it through the war.

The paper dart, efficient and weighted soars at the children below, giving them a new target to scream and run towards, their laughter echoing from the walls of the flats…

The V2s changed everything, weapons of destruction using the same technology as the new Concorde; they flew faster than sound and landed without warning. A whole street was taken in that way, just a few hundred yards from his house. for a while it seemed as if the world would end in blood and flame.

Then, when he was just a small child, the war ended and the grey years of rebuild and rationing began.

That’s over these days, but he still knows how to make food for a hungry family from meagre ingredients and he glances at the kitchen shelves to see what he’ll make today.

Mashed potato and corned beef with tinned vegetables seems to be the likely course for his little omnivores, with tomato ketchup and Tizer as the accompaniments. Literally for his oldest boy, he’ll pour both on the meal.

He saw a lot of planes in the army during his national service, but has never been on one, being stationed in the UK and rising to the giddy heights of company clerk.

His youngest son is just getting to that stage of wakefulness that might indicate a little cry when he wakes up, so he takes four sheets of paper, one for each of his sons and makes four planes as fast as his fingers will allow.

Walking to the window, he waves down and launches all four simultaneously.

A cry goes up from the pack of kids below, smiling faces looking up at the sky.

In the pack, a six year old boy runs for his plane, thats his dad up there..

A rush of love fills his chest as he runs.

And it’s still there forty seven years later.

Paper Plane

 

 

North by Northwest

It’s just gone 6am and as I start writing this,  I’m sitting on a train that will leave Preston –  to take me to the fabled land of Bur Mee NG Ham, land of curry, home grown jihad and mangled vowels. 

It’s an ironic sort of visit today, I’ve called a meeting of Commercial, Finance and Bid people to look into whether I can change our delivery model for this new account. 

And.. 

 Here’s the best bit. 

If I fail, people will hate ME as the public face of my company in this thing. 

If I succeeed , other people will be looking to take me down as it’ll expose some wooly thinking internally – so I’ll make an enemy or two.  

More of this joy later. 

So. 

I’m now settled into my new house for the next year or so, it’s a nice place on the oustkirts of Preston, a town that isn’t quite as horrible as I feared; and in truth is quite pretty is some areas. 

People are friendlier than down South and I haven’t been punched for being a foreigner yet. 

I’ve managed to fuck things up quite beautifully (and finally) in my private life, so I have lots of time to devote to my new job and it IS taking around 12 hours a day for me just to maintain any sort of momentum in taking a brand new service on. 

We’re taking close to 100 people and they’re understandably nervous about what the future holds. 

They mostly seem like a nice, professional bunch  – there’s at least one person who is actively working to fuck us all over, but we know what he’s doing and he’s too clever to even consider that we know, so all’s OK there really. 

The new house comes with a staggering set of restrictions in the lease – no loud music after 1030 pm is one example (it’s a detached house :/ ) – and I can’t run a brothel.

Which is a shame, because I have spare rooms and NO PETS EVER are allowed. 

I’ve done a bit of snagging for the owner, the boiler has never worked properly as it was on full blast all the time with no way to contol it from the thermostat. 

The upstairs toilet cistern was leaking (an easy spot as it came through the ceiling in the kitchen)

Blocked gutters, fucked hoses on the washing machine, overgrown trees on the roof, a badly fitted vent. The list goes on. 

At least I haven’t bought it. 

I’ve brought my bicycle up with me and if the weather ever clears up from the permarain that seems to be a climate ‘feature’; I can cycle to the coast -it’s only 10 miles away and the beaches actually look quite nice, or would do if you could actually see them through the rain. 

There’s even a marina (see header) although I suspect that the photographer waited a long fucking time to get a photo that wasn’t grey. 

I stil need to join a gym but will likely do that nearer the office in Manchester as I leave too early for most gyms in the area to open and just don’t feel like it after 12 hours. I’ve narrowed it down to a list of one and will likely join tomorrow and start whinging about aches and pains next week. 

All in all, it’s better than being in India. It feels as far away in some ways (a round trip back ‘home’ will take around 10 hours travel) and it’s meant that I don’t get to see my Dad as often as I used to – I’m trying to get him to schedule a visit but.. comfort zones, long travel etc. 

I’ve been to a few  ‘local’ bars, some quite awful, one or two that are actually OK and there’s a weekly ‘team beer’ (group cry) in Manchester that’s found us a few places close to the office that are OK. 

And yesterday we booked one of those places for a ‘meet the new company’ drink next Tuesday. 

We’ve invited close to a hundred people to come and drink with us a month or so before they transfer – and this is where I started this little post. 

Our financial model for the account  offshores some roles quite early on and I’m both uncomfortable at the timing & approach and unconvinced of the benefits, financial or otherwise. 

SO.

It’s now 7.15, I’m still on the first train of the day.  

I’m off to try to save the jobs of people I haven’t met apart from a ‘hello’ in the corridor. 

If I succeed, they’ll never know. 

I I fail, they’ll hate me..

Welcome to the real world. 

Maybe I should have taken the blue pill. 

Foreman Funderdog

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything, I’ve been busy and life has been; erm, normal. 

Or what passes for normal these days anyway. 

I had a brief commute to India that lasted for just two days and then came back with a stomach bug that kept me occupied for just over a week… 

The India trip was in support of a sales bid and I had a bizarre coincidence while I was there that left me genuinely surprised. 

I was sitting with the prospective client’s CIO at the bar in a hotel in Delhi and was explaining that I wouldnt be able to make the UK visits scheduled for 1st week in September as I was on jury service. 

Then my personal phone rang with a +36 country code. 

Unusually for me, I answered it (it costs money to even receive a call in India thanks to o2) and found that it was the Jury service asking if I could bring my jury service forward.  

I agreed and things start from here.. 

Even though a few months have passed since all this happened, it’s still subjudice and so all names and locations are untrue. 

Lenny and Dawn had a chequered history, Lenny was raised offshore in one of those caribbean places and took to drugs early in his life. He’s genuinely thick and was too stupid to get above a one star job in McDonalds. 

Dawn had been married, but took up with Lenny a number of years ago, they had some issues and Lenny went to prison for offences against her. For some reason, he pleaded guilty to crimes that had no witnesses and was sentenced to a lengthy prison term. 

When he came out of prison, Dawn contacted him again. 

Yes I know.

They took up again together, and despite him being a jobless addict with mental health issues, Dawn allowed him to replace her as the main tenant on her accommodation. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why -the taxpayer now funded their joint lifestyle, even though Dawn supposedly had a high flying job. 

While Lenny was away on another short stint in prison a few years ago, Dawn went back to ‘her’ carribean island and made a few friends. 

For reasons that escape everybody, she kept the pictures of her male friends on her camera for a few years despite Lenny being paranoid due to the crack and meth he was smoking. 

Lenny caught her in a lie and they had a row, there were no witnesses at all. 

Dawn called the police and Lenny being a black drug addict with a record; was arrested and banned as part of the bail arrangements from the house that his benefits were paying for. 

Dawn  – for reasons unknown and in terror for her life don’t forget; went to the police station and left cash and clothes for Lenny. 

When bailed, he was shipped to another force who wanted to talk to him. He spent a day in their cells but was not charged. 

This all occurred on a cold and wet few days in January. 

Lenny, being a moron, went back to their house and broke in through the back door. Things went wrong and Dawn and her friend Sharon were stabbed. 

The stabbing was a fact and Lenny was eventually arrested and charged with GBH and Attempted Murder.

And so the trial began. 

For two counts of Attempted Murder. 

Only.  

CPS began the case by presenting a lurid set of facts that showed Lenny to be a cold and calculating criminal mastermind who planned and executed a chilling plot to murder Dawn in their home in Glasgow after travelling from Durham with murder in mind. 

The carefully selected weapon of choice was shown to the Jury and a breadknife that looked too cheap for a poundshop was shown in all its bent and pathetic glory. 

Dawn and Sharon’s wounds were shown to us on a completely useless rendered graphic and Sharon’s wounds were shown to be non-penetrating. 

A second weapon of opportunity was used on Dawn and she suffered one deep, potentially life threatening wound. 

This all took a few hours to present and things initially looked like it’d be a short trial. 

We were then treated to two hours of video testimony from Dawn. 

The first was from her hospital bed, the second a few weeks later. 

There were some big discrepancies in the two stories, with the second version being more dramatic than the first and some key facts changed. 

Dawn was then put on the stand. 

Despite the fact that she’d just watched her own videos, the story grew even more dramatic and lurid, punctuated by tears and sobbing. To be fair, she had been stabbed and a trial is an ordeal no matter what side you’re on. 

CPS gently questioned her. 

Did she know that Lenny was on drugs ? Yes, but he didn’t do it at home. She would NEVER let him do drugs in front of her. 

Did she ever give Lenny money for drugs? No. She was a GOOD woman 

Did she ever take drugs herself? NO. She was a GOOD hard working woman with a high flying career. 

Did she recognise the knife? She had no recollection of it. Where are you going with all these questions sir? Am I on trial here?

And so it went. 

Defence was very gentle with questioning, but. 

Did she ever leave Lenny Money for drugs in a jar. No, that money was for food if he needed it. 

Did she ever go with Lenny to buy drugs? No. Never. 

Why did you lose your job a few weeks before the incident? Was it drug related? NO. I started my own business via Facebook 

Where were you the day before the initial assault? Erm, I don’t remember?

Were you with Lenny buying drugs in Newcastle? NO, but I don’t know where I was. 

Have  you ever bought and smoked skunk? Er. Yes. On occasion. 

So you have seen Lenny do drugs in your house? Just Skunk. 

And so on. 

Sharon’s video testimony was shown and in a bizarre mixup the camera ran a bit too early and showed her sitting on the floor at ease before hurriedly refitting a soft neck brace and hunching over before she spoke. 

She then took the stand. 

Despite some random statements early on about how Lenny had kicked Dawn in the initial assault (something that Dawn didn’t allege), she admitted that she’d seen nothing and only heard the tail end of the row when Dawn left the house. 

She stated that Lenny was normally a lovely man and that on the night of the assault, he was “a crazed animal” and that she didn’t think that he consciously knew what he was doing. 

She was a balanced and fairly believable witness, although her evidence at times contadicted Dawn’s.

Let’s talk about the jury for a second. 

A couple of retired women who were initially terrified that the scary black man would somehow ‘get them’ afterwards. 

Three older blokes who saw exactly what they wanted to see and may as well have written ‘guilty’ down on day one and then pissed off home. 

One silly old git who brought the fucking newspaper coverage of the trial in. 

A couple of people who didn’t use their notebooks at all.. 

A pain in the arse bloke who went to court every day in a suit, just because. And who kept asking questions via the usher, at one point causing a half day delay. (me)

The questions came about because Lenny took the stand. He didn’t need to. Whatever he said could only back up the facts, he DID stab both women. 

We’d already had testimony from two cops who somehow wrote the same words that Lenny spoke at certain times in their notebooks, despite them admitting that they weren’t always together and that Cop 2 wrote his notes six hours later. 

However. 

What they agreed on was that Lenny tried to kill himself four times after the event that night (the fucking idiot) 

1 – hanging – the branch broke

2 – Cutting his own throat, too blunt an edge

3 – setting fire to the car, in pouring rain

4- overdose, this one nearly worked, his heart stopped and he was hospitalised when cops 1 and 2 wrote their uncannily similar statements. 

And so my question. Lenny had stated that while he was in the  neigbouring force’s custody, he begged to be sectioned and said that he was suicidal. 

I asked that we see the interview notes. 

Four hours later we listened to excerpts from the custody notes. 

Yes he said it.

And was seen by a mental health professional who recommended that he see a doctor ASAP. 

 BUT. 

Notes after he was released said that he’d been reinterviewed and was OK. 

Despite Lenny being a fucking idiot with a drug addled brain, the CPS prosecutor couldn’t break him at all and a few people (me included) were trying not to laugh. 

Lenny admitted to the assaults and knew that whatever happened he was in deep trouble. 

He did say that the knife was his / Dawn’s and that he must have picked it up in the house. The CPS tried hard to prove that he’d carried it there, but if there was CCTV, etc. they didn’t want to reference it. 

I wrote in my notes something like this:

“don’t understand why GBH was dropped, no problem with that, but The Crown can’t prove intent here at all” 

Lenny’s defence was of drug-comedown paranoia, I looked up the symptoms, it was a reasonable thing to be looking at – he had a history of mental health issues, 20 years of hard drug use and previous suicide attempts. 

The next day, we were adjourned for four hours again and four new charges were introduced. 

Two of GBH with intent

Two of GBH

Lenny duly pleaded guilty to two counts of GBH and I hoped that we could all go home. 

Nope. 

We now had to deliberate on the four higher charges. 

The judge spent an hour in summing up and may as well have shown us a picture of Lenny in a noose while mouthing the words ‘guilty, guilty, guilty’. 

For some reason, I was made foreman.. 

We spent four hours in complete deadlock  and I wrote to the Judge asking clarification (as some of my fellow jurors had evidently been in another court)  – was it the Crown’s case that Lenny went to Glasgow with the intention to commit murder?

‘Yes’ – said the Judge, ‘however, don’t forget my guidance that ‘intent’ can last a millisecond and if you believe that for even a split second that Mr Rastus intended to commit murder then you must find him guilty.’ 

An hour later I wrote to the judge saying that we were never even going to get to a majority verdict and a mistrial was declared. 

It turned out that the case in the court next door was also attempted murder and also a mistrial . 

I spoke to a juror on that jury, she said that it was ‘a fucking fiasco’ and that the jury was 10 / 2 not guilty but the judge wouldn’t accept a 10/2 majority. 

This all sounds really negative and in some ways it is. 

The CPS in Lenny’s case was (in my view) vindictive and lazy. They saw a thick, black drug addict with a record and thought it was a slam dunk. 

It wasn’t

The jury system – though flawed and inevitably made up of a proportion of dimwits and loons, is the best we have and it’s given me a bit of hope that even when a judge is nakedly biased, people will do the right thing according to the facts and their conscience. (mostly)

I hope that Lenny is allowed to do whatever prison time the GBH charges would give him (up to 20 years I think) and that the CPS save us all the money and hassle of another botched trial. 

I know this though. 

NEVER EVER PLEAD GUILTY. EVER.