Punch Drunk

He could feel his fists clenching automatically. The first sign of the desire that was swelling up within him, a physical reaction accompanied by vivid memories of his own time in the ring. Flashes of a long surpressed satisfaction found in the first flurry of thudding punches – a distillation and simplification of everything he was into one pure and comprehendible moment of action.

It had been a bad idea to come along tonight. Already he was feeling oppressed by the triggered ressurgance of everything he’d spent so long training himself to manage without giving in to the impulses which used to dictate his entire life.

He should have guesssed what his reaction would be. No, he’d known what his reaction would be, he should have accepted the truth rather than ignoring it for the sake of self-indulgence. For six years he’d lived out everything he was as a fighter, touring pubs, barns and carparks to serve an audience of barrel shaped drunks who barked at the entertainments of bare knuckle boxers. A form of sanity, he’d always told himself, a release for that large part of himself that he couldn’t manage internally as a violent expression to an approving crowd.

He remembered the force of that life with crystal clarity – how could he have fooled himself, even for a second, into believing that he’d conquered that drive for release in and from himself? No amount of therapy, self help books, meditation and positive thinking could drown out his nature. He could only even restrain it with almost obsessive focus.

Within the improvised ring of hay bales the night’s first fighters were enthusiastically dancing around each other. Neither of them yet rattled into punch drunkenness. It was a poor bout though. They were big men, solidly capable of doing real harm, but they were both playing roles. Neither of them willing to stop looking like a fighter for long enough to lose themselves in the glorious release of the moment, if they even knew what that would feel like. The crowd could see it, see the restraint and paranoid control. No one was here to see a parade of controlled skill or style. They came to see what they wanted for themselves, an absence of control, an unthinking release of all there was to give. They wanted someone like him, someone who wanted to be as consumed by the violence as they did themselves in their unmentioned fantasies.

A few token cheers went up as one of the fighters gained the upper hand, a chain of punches to the head sending his opponent staggering away in confusion. Drunken expression more than anything, even with the blows this was still a bout managed by fear and self image. Steve realised he was on the boundary, leaning forwards into the ring, muscles tensed. One step more, one punch and he would be free again. Liberated form all the bullshit ideas about control he’d covered himself in so he could walk down the street without guessing at who was judging him. They’d applaud him for it too. They’d welcome him back to the violence, not caring how or why he’d returned but eager to sink themselves into the chaos of it.

He held himself back, forcing his fists to unball with more strength than he’d ever put into using them.

He had to leave. He had to gulp down fresh air and let his head bathe in silence. He had quit. He had spent years trying to find control for a reason. If he could get far enough away from there then he’d remember what it was, sweep away the heavy fug of almost drunken addiction. For now though he just needed to run, to sprint away from the beautiful promise of stepping back into that ring.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.

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Nothing

Nothing became the action
Nothing became the word
Exhausted of all content
Nothing was all they heard

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.

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Artistic Endeavours

During my time in Nepal (and more on that later, perhaps) I found myself in a writing slump. Not a bad one, I’ve finished a new novel which I’m currently editing to the point of literary perfection, but the sort of lull that comes when you’ve spent a while living in your own world. Coming back to reality is always a slightly off putting experience after that, partially frustrating, sometimes isolating but always a noticeable shift from the steady (and sometimes glorious) immersion of a big project. So in an attempt to hold myself back from habitual drinking and the talking of nonsense with passersby I picked up a pen and paper and drew some stuff. After that (and during it, for that matter) I got on with the habitual drinking and of talking nonsense too and regarding that – a special thanks to Sam’s Bar of Kathmandu (and V, owner/barmaid extraordinaire) for putting up with me occupying a quiet corner for my arting.

Anyway, I’m no artist, I claim no talent and have no skills but I did enjoy taking the time to play with a form that I could give in to without getting caught up in the need to be good at it. It was a nice way to lean back from words but still create something, no matter how minor, that I could look at with at least a little pride. I recommend it, create something or, if you already create stuff as a passion/job/vocation, create something unrelated, enjoy a little freedom with your thoughts.

Now I’m back I’d like to do more drawing (and a couple of these have been done in London) but just as a hobby, a way to claim some space away from more involved work.  For now though here are the fruits of my limited labours…

 

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Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Tower

On Grenfell Tower – Don’t think there’s much to be said about the fire, not by me anyway. My thoughts are with those who’ve lost their homes, friends and families and I hope that more have survived than are expected to, bad as it looks now.

As for what’s to come I hope that they get some real justice. Not just as far as the causes of the fire go but in getting their homes back too. I don’t think it takes too much experience of London housing, or cynicism, to suspect what’s going to happen. The immediate temporary accommodation they’ll be offered won’t be good, because with most councils it isn’t and there’s always the chance that they’ll have to fight to get it and even when they’re in it might end up being isolated from work/friends/family and all the other necessities and supports that you’d imagine people need even more in the wake of something like this. Doubtful that they’ll get the psychological support they need in the wake of this either, unless it comes from the/a community which organises to provide it. The resources for the state to do it haven’t been there in a long time, even without horrific shit like this happening.

Longer term they’ll be shifted around London (and hopefully just London) to make use of inadequate council housing stock which even the boroughs which will take them in won’t really be able to spare. With luck it’ll be appropriate at least, but I wouldn’t say that’s guaranteed either, families might end up in places which are too small, the elderly, people with disabilities, parents worried about getting their kids to school might all find themselves cut off from established support or workable ways to keep life as normal as it can be.

The rebuilding work, when it starts, will almost certainly take place once the media glare has faded a bit. It’ll probably take place with either a private or ‘partner’ developer who’ll spend more on PR than on consultation with residents. The new build will focus on profit and telling the right lies about ‘social’ or ‘affordable’ housing – both of which are generally a bad joke in this city.

Going on the usual routine and unless something drastic changes the people who have to argue for their right to move back, for their community to exist and for decent housing will be the people who’ve suffered the most. Hopefully with support from the rest of us, but probably not with much, if any, from central government or the media. Maybe a few paragraphs in three years time about long term campaigners amongst the residents wondering where all the promises went.

Anyway, I hope I’m wrong about some/all of that but, as things stand, I’m not optimistic unless some radical change comes. The only way that’ll happen is if the concern and anger a lot of people are showing now lasts. As the story fades there’ll be plenty of people happy to let it go, relying on the fact that everyone else will forget enough for nothing to be done. Things’ll be buried in long investigations and reports which don’t lead to any action and which, if they do, won’t do enough, soon enough to help those who’ve lost.

Anyway, hopefully I’m just being a miserable bastard, watching the coverage and residents on TV hasn’t helped. Hopefully serious steps will be taken immediately. Central funding for decent temporary accommodation, active use of all the empty housing stock in the borough (1,000+ places, apparently) and a proper new build with absolutely guaranteed right to return for Grenfell residents and real consultation.

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Shattered Idols

As the room filled up they could feel the chasm of their loneliness expanding. Words were spoken, seemingly endlessly but none really seemed to be directed at either of the parents. Not personally at least, but perhaps meant for them, as mantras and prayers of condolence. Voiced with grimacing faith towards two figures frozen in grief to the point where they appeared more carved idols than humans.

She thought back to the point four months ago where a similar ceremony had been played out. More words, more mantras, only then they’d been joyful ones, paeans sung to life and creation. Ready congratulations to what they had brought into the world together, received with burning, living pleasure. They’d been as united then, with the newborn held close, as they were divided now without it.

He broke first. An idol crumbling before a pitying congregation he turned and fled. Escaping the sterile, beige hued temple of their decline. She felt nothing, their duality already shattered she could only wonder if it was her weakness or strength to have stayed fixed in place as another wave of mournful and sympathetic laments were delivered by the faithful.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

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