Tag Archives: London

Feed the Birds

Bastard reached a claw towards the switch, eyes averted from the monstrous creation that lay next to it. It was best not to dwell on that bit really It wasn’t pleasant but it was, in the grand scheme of things, necessary. Next to him Diseased was coo’ing gentley to himself, feathers fluttering a little with excitement but darting eyes not showing a sign of doubt.

“Look” Bastard drew his claw back and took a few quick steps backwards “are we really sure about this? I mean, it can’t really be right can it?”

Diseased fixed him with a beady, judgemental stare.

“Of course it’s right, we all agreed didn’t we? We won’t make a habit of it, we’ll just create enough of them to get things back to how they used to be.”

It was never easy to argue with the scabrous looking grey pigeon, Bastard had tried before although in fairness he’d been in full agreement too when they first came up with the idea. Somehow though the steps between idle, rooftop speculation and grizzly reality had made it all seem a bit wrong.

“I’m not sure just you can just play around with necromancy, can you? Once you start you’re kind of in it for the duration right? And I know you don’t remember the old days, I don’t either, so how do we know they were so good? Maybe they were really crap, and it’s not so bad now is it? I found half a sausage roll yesterday, can’t get much better than that can you?”

“Typical. I knew you were spineless, living on their rubbish like they’re doing you a favour. I don’t need to remember the old days, I know the stories, I know our history. They used to worship us. They used to pay to give us food and I know you’ve seen the temple they built for us. How can that not be better than raking through bins with those manky foxes you’re so fond of?”

Bastard didn’t have an answer for that, or at least the one he did have had been aired before and never gone down well. Yes, there was a temple, anyone could see that, all you had to do was fly over. But why would a temple to pigeon-kind consist of a bloke standing on a big stick and a few excessively hairy cats? Cats hated them didn’t they? Bit of a dodgy choice for reverential worship. The foxes had agreed that it was nonsense too but there was no point bringing them into the discussion, Diseased would never listen to anything that came from creatures with four legs and fur.

“Now, are you going to flick the switch or am I?”

There was no point trying to argue, what was going to happen was going to happen whether he objected or not. It was still a bad idea though, a really bad idea. Pushing his doubts down though Bastard skipped forward again and laid his claw on the switch again, wishing he’d never helped steal it from that human flat in the first place.

It took all of his weight to push it down and even then he had to do a bit of jumping up and down to make it click into place. A sign probably, a warning from the universe not to start dabbling with this sort of madness but when it was done it was done. A buzzing echoed around the ledge, a metallic tang filling the air as the cars passing underneath their bridge drove by blindly indifferent.

For a moment nothing happened, just long enough for Bastard to hope to himself that it wasn’t going to work anyway and that they’d been saved from themselves. Before long though it started to twitch, first just a curling claw, one amongst the fifty or so they’d stitched onto it, but then came a real spasm of movement. One which shook the thing’s entire body and sent both pigeons jumping back, wings half opened to take flight.

Then their creation sat up.

“Fuck” said Bastard.

“Coo” said Diseased.

The creature looked confused, which was understandable. The parts had been eclectically gathered from wherever they could be found. There was a fair bit of pigeon about it, limbs and feathery patches culled from the unfortunate victims of traffic accidents and culinary mishaps with bleach. They’d wanted it to be too big though, too big for the frail bones of one of their own to support so they’d started shopping around. A human leg here, a foxes tail there, the skin of an elephant they’d pecked to death at London Zoo, the liver of a badger. Things had started to get out of control and what they had now was an unrecognisable hybrid the size of a car, barely fitting onto the arch of the bridge and perilously close to collapsing it, or at least falling to land on a passing bus.

“What do we do now then?”

Bastard was speaking from the edge, eager to fly off as soon as it seemed polite.

“Well we… erm… we send it to the temple, that sounds right, yeah. It goes there, reminds them they’re supposed to serve us, we all fly in for some seed and worship, job’s a good’un. Simple.”

“You really think it can get there? I mean, we did give it a lot of wings but they don’t really look like they’re going to work do they?”

The creature, flailing around now making pitiable moaning sounds, tried to pull itself into what might conceivably have passed for a sitting position but for the excess of potential arses.

“It can walk then, even better, it’ll really make an impact. Now, just go over there and tell it what to do. Flying Rat’s brain is in there somewhere, you two were friends.”

Flying Rat’s was one of the brains in there it was true, but it wasn’t exactly alone.

“No, you’re alright, you can do it, you’ve got a way with words. Commanding voice you know.”

“Coward” Diseased mumbled unconvincingly “fine, I’ll do it, we created it after all, I’m sure it looks up to us.”

Of the dozen or so eyes the creature had it was, in fact, simultaniously managing to look up, down and sideways at them but it didn’t seem like the time to get pedantic. True to his word Diseased did edge towards the monstrous creation and with as stern a tone as he could manage through the evident terror began to speak to their new friend.

“Now, we created you, we’re your gods, in a way. Us pigeons and no one else so you’ll do what your told won’t you?”

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghl!”

Taking the scream of anguish from one of the more human looking mouths as a yes he pushed on.

“Good… good… Now, just over there” Diseased gestured with a wing “there’s a, er, holy place. Our holy place. Now you be a good little… creature, make your way there and tell them they need to start worshipping the pigeons again. Use one of your human mouths, they’ll understand that.”

The thing’s eyes showed a glimmer of understanding of the pigeon’s words, at least three or four of them did, the rest seemed to be silently screaming more than anything. Although they weren’t alone for long as, with a sudden blur of movement, it spasmodically and much to it’s own surprise managed to roll sideways sending both birds flying and bringing up a chorus of shouts and terror from a bus passing below as it slammed through the roof.

The last thing Bastard saw of the beast was a crowd of shocked and confused commuters desperately trying to clamber around, through and over it in a rush for the stairs. Doing their best to ignore both the monstrous obstacle in their way and the handful of people it had managed to crush beneath it. On the plus side though the bus was going in the right direction at least.

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London Drawings

Given my recent obsession with drawing – sometimes well and sometimes badly – I thought I’d share my latest effort here. A series of three pictures all inspired by the city. Not, I’m sad to say, in a particularly good way but given the way it’s being forced, and paid, to change it’s hard to find any optimism towards these streets.

Anyway, there was something in there about a feeling of rejection from the city I’ve always called home that I wanted to get out and until I find a way to write about it here’s the outlet I have…

 

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When We Loved

You cornered me with love
a contortion into hate
between what you said
and what you did
who you claimed
and who you were
a chaotic contradiction
out of which I ended up believing
that to control
was to care
and to fear
was to feel

You wielded over me all the power I longed for
through force you shaped my self
while I wished to have a different form
but incapable I gave myself over to you
to make me what I thought was better
but which turned out to be just you,
your image,
your dream
and your ideal
broken imitations
of who I used to be
and corrupted lies
of who I should be

In the end I broke our love
or so you said
yanking at frayed ropes which had bound me
trying to drag me back into your world
as I sought out a new one

I’d like to say the power is mine now,
that my hands took over
but I know that’s not true
over every move I make
lingers your so called love
eager to recount
another cruel fable
of who I used to be
and who I should be

Time stands at my side though
the time I need to forget
and regrow
beyond the chaotic contradiction
of your love

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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.

Update 19/10/2017:

Added without comment…

Twenty Suicide Attempts Since Fire (BBC)

Grenfell Tower Executive Still On Full Pay

Police block key information…

Failed Housing Promises

 

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The Rhythm of Life

“We can’t stop here, this is Cat country!”

It wasn’t the ideal line to hear from a bus driver, especially as he overshot my stop and picked up speed on an increasingly mad dash through Catford. I tightened my grip on the seat in ahead of me, getting a wary look from the man in front as he watched my knuckles turn white. Why he wasn’t panicking I don’t know, especially as a booming ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAW!’ rang out over the speakers on the top deck. Usual behaviour for London bus drivers perhaps? It seemed unlikely, they never did that sort of thing back home, not as far as I can remember. But then back home I never got the bus, so perhaps this was the norm in all big cities and my fear just marked me out as a newcomer.

I ducked down as the bus screamed through traffic lights, not much of a defense against the possibility of a t-boning truck, which we narrowly avoided to the maniacal laughter of the driver downstairs. Still nobody seemed bothered, in fact a mother and daughter were even playing a game of ‘I Spy’ behind me. A routine past time made worse by the little girl’s loud and excited guess for ‘s’ – ‘sudden death’ she shrieked as the truck that had narrowly missed us spun out of control and flipped over in a spray of sparks. We’d missed the two stops after mine too.

“Do you have a valid Oyster card? Well, do you?”

The driver’s voice had suddenly grown sad, a good thing I reckoned as it coincided with the bus slowing down to a more sedate rampage down the road towards Lewisham. It was ok, I figured, I could walk home if I had to, plus my Oyster was valid, which had to be a good sign, right?

It was also irrelevant, apparently, as the now crawling bus continued to avoid every stop it passed. My grip had loosened on the seat in front, the wary looking man visibly relaxing as my minor physical invasion at the periphery of his vision went into retreat. I could, I reckoned, jump off the bus now, hit the emergency button downstairs and make a running landing, or at least a stumbling and non-fatal roll along the pavement. That’d be sensible, that’d be sane, given the circumstances, I should escape before the maniac in charge perked up and decided to start racing with death again. I didn’t move though, in fact if anything I relaxed into my seat, on the edge of a panic attack on the inside but somehow anchored by the gentle swaying of the bus. Besides, everyone else still seemed completely calm, they must have known something I didn’t and it would have been rude to start acting all crazy and jumping out of moving vehicles. I didn’t want to be rude, and the bus had to stop eventually, right?

“This is the 185, terminating at termination. Please remember to take your bags with you and, for the love of God, don’t put your feet on the seats…”

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