Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Mystic detective (15)

[With thanks to Patrick and Josie]

Paul was having a bad night. He couldn’t sleep. He was worried about his friend Frankie, Claudia’s heroin addiction and what the hell to do about OM? To cap it all, his daughter Catherine was staying with him overnight and needed to be up in good time fro a school trip early the next morning. Paul heard his daughter get up and enter the bathroom woke up as usual by her travelling alarm clock. He stared myopically at his beside digital radio alarm which was a blur of numbers to him. He got up and met coming out of the bathroom which shocked her and caused her to flinch away from his gaze,
- It’s Ok sweetheart
She smiled in reply and went back into her bedroom and firmly closed the door. Paul made his way downstairs dog (or was it cat?) tired. His kitchen clock read ten past six, so just the right time for a brew and to pout an orange juice for Catherine and to prepare her fruity breakfast of diced pear and Greek yoghurt.
He sat down and yawned and glanced again at the kitchen clock. Oh hell, it was not morning at all but twenty to two - the middle of the bloody night, not ten past six but half past one. Back to bed lying flat out unable to sleep, not worth trying, too tired to do anything but to let his mind wander, maybe musing on Van Morrison’s Hymns to the silence which starts out about a relationship that’s being missed but ends up like a mystical love song to the divine, a vocal version of Rumi’s poetry.
Questions came to Paul unbidden. How did Claudia first become an addict? Who first turned her on? Who supplies her and how does she pay for it or rather in what currency? What was OM’s role if any in her addiction? And as sure as hell it was playing a part.
And Frankie? His old mate, well out of his depth and heading for a breakdown. (‘I can’t bear Frankie to lose it like Marie did. Who can help Frankie? I can’t. Let me talk to Keith the gay vicar about him.’) Keith – the Reverend Keith Poulson, was a one-ff. he was a passionately committed Church of England Christian, inspired by the life of Christ and the life of the Early Christian church, with a wicked sense of humour and delightfully camp manner which only barely masked a truly compassionate and loving soul. Keith’s church was in a poor beat up part of South Manchester. Somehow Keith’s own very brokenness/not fitting in made him a magnet for worried souls who needed to talk and listen to one another without judgement – ‘let he who is without sin let him cast the first stone’ was a popular line of Christ’s never very far from Keith’s lips. And it worked, it wasn’t orthodox and it regular almost gave the Bishop a heart attack on hearing even a watered down version of Keith’s ministry. Needless to say Keith’s congregation loved him to bits. Yes Keith might well work wonders if anyone could with Frankie.
[And where did Paul meet Keith? Well it was a strange book launch at Manchester Cathedral but that’s another story – Murder at the cathedral?]
Meanwhile Paul had fallen asleep again just before dawn and his radio alarm clock was sounding and the curiously grating voice of John Humphreys was speak from the Radio and invading his dreams. His bedside clock radio was saying ten past six for real this time as Paul checked it out with his glasses on.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Reading the reports of the inquest into the 7/7 bombings moves me to tears today, yet again. The ordinary heroism of ordinary people. It's beautiful. I am deeply touched by people doing their very best. Like my student Valda who has just passed her doctorate after some struggle and much persistence and yes some skilled back up by me and Clare, and her colleagues and mates.

These days I cry really easily, more so than ever. I think it stems from the death of my dad so soon after the death of my sister back in 2001 and 2002. I am not the same. And it is curious that the death of my mum was easy in comparison back in 1992. So I have never got over these more recent deaths and it keeps me in touch with the preciousness of life and how my own days on this planet in this body are time limited and almost certainly more than half over.

Between the ages of 13 and 18 I was on antibiotics every day - penicillin. I hardly ever cried in that time and I put it down then to the medication drying em up as it where. I don't know if that is the Truth. I remember when I was 22 in my flat in Clapton in London one Saturday morning listening to John and Yoko singing 'War is over if you want it'. I wept for the first time in a while. Touched and moved. Well from then on weeping came naturally to me again. That was pre therapy days when I was a computer programmer in the Royal London Hospital bless its cotton socks.

I suspect some of my readiness to tears is age related. John Braine in his final 2 novels wrote in a very mellow way and talked about weeping more easily. But it feels good to me, I am a better man for it and I am aware that it can have a powerful impact on people. So be it.

Good well good people

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


I did some singing with my piano teacher Rebecca last night to help prepare me for the Rush Hour choir end of term concert on Monday 13th December. Although I am in the bass section of the choir we have to sing some notes at middle C and even above which is a challenge for me.

Rebecca complemented me on my singing vocie. I went silent and welled up. I trust her judgement as she is very willing to tell me where I am going wrong in singing or piano playing. So a trained musician tells me I have a good singing voice. I am crying as I write this.

I have always loved music, it has meant much to me but ever since my primary school music teacher told me to mime rather than sing I have thought a) I can't sing in tune, which is true sometimes but with Rebecca's help it is getting a whole lot better b) my singing voice was crap.

So maybe, just maybe, I do belong in the Rush Hour Choir and maybe they are not scretly wishing I would leave.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Mystic Detective (14)

[Creative writing. Magic visit to the Paperplanes creative writing class last Saturday at Fuel Cafe where to my surprise the Mystic, Frankie and Claudia all turned up. I feel a bit cruel how the plot around Claudia has developed,. This was an unexpected twist for me!]

As he turned the corner Paul felt uneasy. Was he being followed or not? It was twilight time, sundown, that time of day when solids turned into shadows and shadows melted away. There definitely was somebody behind him. Paul suddenly swung round to face him. Before he could grab hold of and grapple with him he realised it was Frankie.
- Fuck it Frankie what are you doing following me? you gave me such a fright. And I very nearly slugged you!
- Sorry mystic … but I just needed to see you.
- Let’s find a bar
The Blue Lagoon was nearby. It tried too hard to be hip as did most of its clientele who seemed to be living in some kind of retro 30s time warp. The dim lighting hid the rather shabby quality of the decor and the piano. But there was a singer worth listening to doing a slow version of Summertime in a more than half decent way which unfortunately did not apply to her clothing which needed at least another half yard of fabric. The pianist like the piano had seen better times and probably remembered some of them but Summertime at a slow pace was not beyond his wit to play.
- OK Frankie what gives? said Paul as they nursed bottles of Corona with their obligatory slices of limes stuffed in the bottle necks. Frankie was silent as he took a big swallow of his beer and looked downwards not able to met Paul’s eye. Paul waited for something was clearly bothering Frankie
- - I… er… fuck it Claudia’s driving me mental
- Hm
- Mental!.... She wants me to adopt her!
- Wow… why?
- Why?
- Yes why?
- Fuck knows.
Frankie began weeping. ‘Oh Fuck’ said Paul under his breathe. In a rather angry gesture Frankie rubbed a hand across his eyes to wipe away his tears. Paul waited, quiet and still.
- Ah, silly bitch, said Frankie shaking his head,
- Why doesn’t she leave me alone?
Some money had disappeared from Frankie’s wallet. Forty pounds, not a huge sum, but Frankie, whilst being natural generous with his money, always knew how much money he was carrying on him, how much money was left in his current account. Since he noticed the money had disappeared following his last meeting with Claudia then he had to challenge her despite his reluctance. Then met once more in Christie’s Bistro at the university since Frankie hoped that this rather neutral and semi public arena would keep a lid on Claudia rather volatile nature of late. Claudia looked rather tired and worn and for her rather surprisingly grubby.
- Claudia?
- Hi Frankie, (a soft and thin voice lacking what was it, lacking confidence, unsure of itself.)
- Claudia? Why?
- I had to, (she didn’t even try to deny it)
- Why didn’t you ask me first?
- Because, (pause)
- Because what? (Frankie was getting angry)
- Because I was desperate (Oh Fuck she about to cry, I don’t buy it, I wont!)
- That’s not enough! Why! (really angry now)
- Because… because…
She swallowed hard and rolled up her sleeve and showed him the marks in her arm left by the needles.
- Oh, he gasped.
He was horrified but he drew her close and she clung to him briefly weeping but then pulled away from him. Frankie took a deep breath and asked
- How long has this been going on?
- Since… since last summer.
- Why… I want the truth this time
- Ahm… I can’t tell you (said in a rush as she gathered her things together and fled the bistro.
- Claudia, Claudia, called Frankie as he stood up but made no attempt to follow her. There was no reply, no reaction - apart from some curious glances from people sitting at nearby tables with not enough to do but to take a ghoulish interest in other people’s lives. Or so Frankie thought as he too gathered up his things and left.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Response to Josey

I can only build on what I know to be true and I may be mistaken and people I love and trust can help me understand my truth. I can only build my own personal 'theology' on what I experience as true. I'm not always right but other people's answers are no substitute for finding my own. I find my own truth a bit flimsly at times as it does not always immediately answer some of the big questions. It is more that my truth operates outside of them in the eternal now if you like. I hope this makes sense! The word mystic sits with me here.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Do not adjust your mind - reality is at fault

Do Not Adjust your mind –reality is at fault

Paul remembered the time he had visited Marie in hospital
Hospitals scared him,
psychiatric wards even more so.
But he had to visit her
- she was in there because of him or so he thought.
It was a modern hospital
just outside the city centre
and opposite the university.

It was clearly not a quiet place
or refuge
or asylum
but then neither were the old Victorian ones
out of town, out of mind asylums.
There was a distinct smell of cheap disinfectant in the air
masking another familiar hospital smell
- disease, fear and sweat - all three blended together.

The staff in the unit wore everyday clothes
This was a bit confusing at first for Paul
until he saw the state of the patients.
They each in their own way had a lost air about them –
if not why would they be there after all?

Marie was no exception,
in a tiny room,
(but at least she had a room of her own)
with just a hospital bed
and a small cupboard and not much else.
She was lying facing the wall,
dressed in old faded hospital pyjamas.

- Hi
She grunted in acknowledgement
- How are you? (Stupid question!)
- Ok (but the shrug of her shoulders told a different story)
- Er....do you need anything?
- No.... well some clothes... I guess
- Sure

There was a silence.
- Dywant to get a drink somewhere?
She shrugged.
- OK, OK
Paul offered her the flowers he had brought.
She looked at them
but didn't take them off him or say anything.
A tear slowly trickled down her face.
- Oh Fuck!

Paul went off
in search of a member of staff,
at least to do something.
He found one
who was very kind
and rather young
but of no real use to him.
Yes she was going to get better.
Yes she was on medication, anti depressants.
Yes she would eventually see a psychiatrist - probably next month.
No ECT was not being considered.

Well no she didn't get better
and yes eventually ECT was used
and it did succeed in pulling her back into a kind of reality.
But her lost look remained.
And there was no way back for Paul and her.