Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Mystic Detective (26)

Paul had come to hate plane flights. As a kid they were so exciting almost as much as steam engines. The idea of getting somewhere new so quickly and so elegantly had thrilled him. But gradually over the years, all the waiting around, the invasive security checks, the poor quality of the English airplane and airport food, the cramped economy class seating, the boredom he experienced on long flights, all of this soon eclipsed the fear/excitement of take off and pleasure of looking out over the city and countryside and the surprise of passing through clouds and their sublime shapes and architecture.

Paul was so tired that once he crawled into bed he all but passed out, deep into a dreamless sleep. So much had happened that evening so much that had not really made sense to him. True he was jet lagged and drinking on an empty stomach (after refusing to eat most of the airplane food on offer) was probably not a good thing. And being in the company of a mature and attractive Californian was probably not a good thing. And drinking wine spiked with E-happiness was very much not a good thing. And as the dreamless sleep took on a nightmare quality that was not a good thing. And then waling up naked and hand-cuffed to the bed frame well you get the idea. And neither was the incriminating photos spread on the within eye shot on the carpet by his bed.

There was a knock on the door
- Yes?
- Mister-
- Yes!
- Time for your release
- Oh
Paul faced the humiliation of being released from the handcuffs in silence and was relieved when his visitor had left. He cursed himself for being taken in by the Californian ‘beauty’ who had obviously spiked his drink with E-happiness. The effects of the drug were unmistakable. The almost trance like state it had induced in him, the deep sleep that followed and the dryness in his throat. Why had he fallen for this, one of the oldest tricks in the book? What vulnerability in him did it point to? He was not sexually frustrated or in need of kind and loving company but in truth he was flattered by the interest apparently shown in him by Melissa – if that was her true name, his Californian nemesis.

But a more serious question occurred to him: what exactly had he told her last night? Was his cover blown? Was he is danger? Or was this business with the E-happiness, the handcuffs and the photos standard OM practice. Well he would no doubt soon find out.

As Paul dressed and took a slow shower, gradually his memory of his encounter with Melissa returned. After checking in at the OM hotel he had felt stifled by all the earnest spirituality around him and he had gone for a walk in the local town. It was nearly sundown but still rather warm with a nice cool breeze coming of the sea, half a mile away. Feeling hungry but also thirsty Paul went into the first half decent looking bar he could find. It was called Barcode and was fitted out in unpainted Californian wood. A beer seemed a good thing and he settled into a wooden alcove with a sigh of pleasure, relief and satisfaction.

When Melissa approached his table and asked him if she could join him, he found her a bit forward, but decided it might well be typical Californian behaviour and what the heck ‘When in California…’. He nodded and she took the seat opposite him. Melissa looked like she was in her late 30s but who could tell wit Americans? Certainly not Paul on his second beer. She was slim, blond and casually dressed revealing a bit more cleavage than was usual by English standards but rather typical for a certain kind of Californian. She smiled at Paul
- So traveller, what bring you here?
- Traveller? Am I that obvious?
- Well you sure aint no local
- True
- And that T shirt (Pet Shops Boys Yes T-shirt – white with a tick formed from 13 coloured squares) is so English
- Yes?
- Yeah sure, Pet shop Boys are so last Century, they’re almost hip
- Almost?
- Almost but not quite
- OK I am used tot his abuse
- Well if you must wear….
- I must, I must
Melissa took a long sip from her cocktail glass.
- Anyway traveller what brings you here?
- Oh, you know… the spirituality
- Oh yeah?
- Yeah
- You don’t quite look like your average Limey seeker
Paul laughed.
- Well you never know
- So what is it yoga, Buddhism, OM, Shiatsu, Course in Miracles…
- OM
- OK
Paul was feeling curiously light headed, if a little suspicious and also was enjoying the female company Melissa was providing. She gave him a deep look with just a hint of mischief in her eyes and later Paul remembered thinking ‘Oh my God’. One drink of the local wine led to another 3 and a clam chowder to die for featured somewhere and then what seemed like an endless and entertaining and laughing and kissing taxi ride back to the Om hotel. The pleasures of this journey were briefly interrupted by a powerful need to vomit on Paul’s behalf.

And then collapsing into bed in a stupor and there followed a tantalising and teasing entre to a sexual encounter that Paul found decidedly stimulating but which ended up with him being handcuffed to his bed and a strong and disturbing sense that Melissa had milked his mind for every last bit of information he possessed about OM.

There was another knock at the door – it was clearly time for Paul to make his escape.
- Just a minute, he called out and quickly bolted and chained his hotel room door. He crossed the room to the balcony and flung open the windows and scrambled across into the adjacent balcony and knocked on the closed window frame.
- - Yes?
- Hi, I’m on the run from a jealous husband. Please let me through!
- Whaaat?
- Yeah, he’ll kill me, he’s got a gun, said Paul improvising madly.
- OK, Ok said the man with a laugh.

Paul opened his neighbour’s door and looked out. Fortunately his room was around the corner and the fire escape steps were nearby. Paul had had the foresight to grab his passport, wallet and jacket. He had checked out the layout of the OM hotel and his own room when he first arrived and was soon six floors down bursting through the fire doors into the cool breeze from the Californian Sea. He quickly joined the crowds of mid morning holiday sightseers, breathing a sigh of relief. Half a mile later a nondescript cafĂ© with surprisingly good cappuccino provided a place to regroup.

And in your reality?

[This is a piece written at Tony and Steve's creative writing class at Fuel last Saturday somewhat inspired by watching 'A single man' the night before. An ace film.]

I heard you singing 'Somewhere over the rainbow' and I welled up inside. You weren't there of course but I heard your voice, honest. It was so you - right down to how you dropped an octave when you couldn't reach the top notes in the chorus.

Now Jonathon tells me that this is all dosh, that I am making it up or hearing voices, that you are dead, dead, dead and that I should bloody well accept it and move effing on.

I can't ... and I wont.

It's not the end of the story for me, just a new phase, a whole new chapter, a new book - the 4th in the trilogy if you like.

Look we create our own reality right? We each live in our own reality right? And if your reality and mine coincide that could be good, - or not. So in my reality you are singing.

And in your reality?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


The sun shone brightly through the rather thin bedroom curtains. Paul fetched 2 cups of tea form his kitchen for himself and Martha. She asked him why he spent so much time in Fuel and surely the food wasn’t good for him.
- It’s mostly vegan and all veggie
- But-
- But nothing… I…er .. am more truly myself in cafes than almost anywhere else apart from places of worship. And certainly not in my office
- In bed?
- Hmm
Paul cuddled up to her. She playfully pushed him away. And said,
- Are you yourself with me.
- Ish
- Ish?
- Yes, ish. I always shape a bit around people. It’s only with God, whoever she is, and creation as a whole that I am truly who I am.
- Oh
- Well you started it.
- Martha hit him with a pillow. Paul’s response was cut short by the phone ringing. It was App with an update on OM.
Later Paul was at the dentist yet again, for emergency treatment yet again. ‘People are beginning to talk’ he quipped to the blank state of the receptionist – ‘never mind’. His teeth had never been the same since he had been beaten up by the North Enders (see ‘The mystic detective rides again’). He had had two teeth taken out already and lots of courses of antibiotics but eh was still in pain. Pain was like an evil constant companion to him, at least the antibiotics kept him off the booze for a while.
He hated dentists with a vengeance and they were always so upbeat, so cheerful in the face of all the suffering, some of which they inflicted, in the face of all the bad breathe. How on earth did they manage it and why? It wasn’t as if there was any other place to go after all NHS dentists were in such short supply. And why were dentists’ waiting rooms even more gloomy that doctors? It was the pain thought Paul. Then why was it customary tot hank your dentist for inflicting pain on you? Was this some superstitious practice – that if you aren’t sufficiently grateful then the pain will return?

Paul was now at a lose end. It was the day before his flight to California and Martha was at work. He always felt restless before a long trip. So after an uneventful(!) breakfast at Fuel he went for a bike ride in Chorlton Meadows. He began to really push the pace and could really feel the muscles working in his legs as he biked through the remaining morning mist which was damp on his face and obscured the view. He had that familiar feeling on misty days that he might just find himself in another world, another reality.
Next stop time to visit at his favourite hairdressers, the Black Sheep Barbershop, before his flight so that he would look vaguely like his passport photograph. The Black Sheep was seemingly staffed mostly by travellers who had fetch up for a while in Manchester. Paul enjoyed talking with them. There was something absolutely magical about learning about a cheap hotel in Bali or the best veggie restaurant in Bangalore. It was like secondary travelling with some of the fun and none of the hassle. And it was a fitting place to visit just before take off.
- Going anywhere yourself? asked his favourite stylist Sam after Paul had had his hair washed – a surprisingly sensuous experience. Sam was probably the wrong side of 40 with a rather lined face from perhaps too much exposure to equatorial sunshine and life
- Santa Barbara!
- Hey that sounds good. Business or pleasure?
- Business really-
- Business but with a bit of pleasure thrown in
- You go it! (How come, thought Paul, that eh was slipping into travel jargon already? Must be being in the Black Sheep.)
- Well, you need to visit the Shoreline Restaurant for the bestest and freshest fish ever
- You’ve been there too?
- Yep, I’m well travelled me
- Any other recommendations?
- Well if you are there for more than a week, buy a bike and sell it back at the end of your visit. It’s the best and cheapest way to get about. It’s the only way to see Santa Barbara and it fits the slower pace of life there.
- Sounds good
- But get a blooming good lock1
- Will do
- And
- And?
- Catch the Lonesome Cowboys in action if you can. They are a great Country and Western band. And
- And?
- Don’t mess with OM
- OM? Queried Paul feinting surprise.
- OM, it’s why most people visit Santa Barbara. Unless you are celebratory stalking!
- No
- Take care.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Haunted in Africa

I was in Nairobi in Kenya last week and I had great trouble sleeping, dreaming about members of my family now dead and feeling haunted, so I wrote this poem:

Haunted in Africa

There were ghosts in the room
Some were mine
Old lovers
Dead ancestors

But there were others
Broken victims of the Mau Mau uprising
Abandoned babies of men taken into slavery
Tribal victims of post colonial violence

How on earth could I sleep in peace?