Monday, February 07, 2005


Drunk again, night again, alone again, I ambled along the edge of two worlds. Here the dry sand, still hot from the high-summer sun of the long June day, and not far beyond my uncle’s beach-hut and my home for this holiday with its bunk-bed and books. And then the shop where they always asked for proof of my age, the stale shower-block and cheap café, and soon past the other huts, the start of a snaky road that channelled from the cosseted Spit, through sparse woods and semi-cliffs and calm golf-courses, and back into the concrete and careers of the city. And, then, there, only a step away, the sodden sand, recently soaked and sieved by the suck and the stroke of the sea, and then beyond that thin threshold the rhythmic, slow, silvered sea itself, its horizon bleeding into the black of the night imperceptibly, dotted with starlight from distant, perhaps-dead solar-systems, rippling and running to its dark depths with planet-sprawling currents.

Of course, I was thinking of Laura. Not of her long, brick-brown hair, or of her shape in that ivory dress which I never saw her wear – but I stole a photo to show all of my friends back home. Nor of her little lips lifting up out of the darkness of a near-dream in that undergraduate single room to meet mine, sleepily at first, then sudden and hot, me mouthing my limp words of love no longer, silenced by the lick and tingle and touch and –. And, not of how she might be doing now, in her holiday still studying German and dreaming of a job in another country after graduating. And not of the shame of how my excited garble to the regular geezers down the usual boozer about my new, beautiful, brilliant babe (only to be icily dumped a month later forever) exposed my ignorance and optimism, naivety and idiocy, and the sheer embarrassment of being that nineteen-year-old fool of a me amongst them the men – no, I wasn’t thinking of any of that.

It was her voice. Small and sinewy sometimes, then childish and chirrupy, as she whispered to me the anecdotes of her ship-wrecked soul (a year of modelling and its the weirdos who wowed then worried her which bought her the money to study, her poverty-level family who ran a ramshackle farm out in the middle of nowhere, her mother who would tie her to a chair and beat her for no reason, her father who turned both of his blind eyes to television through a blur of cheap spirits, and her older sisters who had escaped long ago, one to make pottery, the other to start a family, and of a school that never once asked whether regular fainting and bruises had something to do with anorexia and assault) that she herself was saving through study; it was her voice.

Once, after an evening of vodka in the student union’s half-priced Russian night, after careering back to her kitchen for coffee, teetering into her tiny room, stripping shamelessly and collapsing under the covers, the ceiling a swirl, she spoke in another voice. As if hypnotized by headlights, staring straight ahead; or like a stutterer, striving to speak the raw sound of a rudimentary sentence, all passion lost to the purpose of proper pronunciation; or like a computer, coldly computing vowels and consonants without connotation – or, or, or…

Back on the beach, I didn’t dress in detailed description the nude facts. The farm wasn’t making enough money. Parents needed help. A local handyman would lumber past each day on his way from odd-job to odd-job, eying little twelve-year-old Laura with a smile and a hello. I have no idea what is name was; Harmer, let’s say Harmer. Harmer got chatting to mother. Harmer could help with the fencing, the draining, the plumbing, although he was a bit pricey – one job at a time, eh?

Harmer didn’t have a family of his own. Was a bit lonely, like. Would he like to have dinner? Very much would Harmer like to have dinner – and Harmer wasn’t worried about the money for fixing the gate after all. And after dinner, would Harmer like to take little Laura for a drive? Harmer would like that very much; and he had a spare hour or two tomorrow, could pop in and help with something or other. And Laura – there’s a good girl, now – little Laura would like another saunter round the local lanes in Harmer’s truck tomorrow night too, wouldn’t she?

And Harmer – it’s so very generous of you, helping us like this! Yes, like you’re one of the family now, after all these weeks. Now, did we ever tell you that, funnily enough, strange to mention it, but here it is, that little Laura’s always wanted to camp out in a field, and with us being so fatigued – you would? O – all this, and the work for free! What a love. And – and really, the electrics wouldn’t be too much to ask – and into her tent that night he went. And into her tiny mouth, through those lovely lips, one hand round her neck, one pulling down his pants, he went.

For months his work was paid by her mouth or hand, but it was her voice, her tiny, tragic, voice, a touch timorous in my memory, that I thought of that night on the soft, hot sand. Her clear voice as she concluded this cold tale: one afternoon she was off school sick, her parents off in their tidiest clothes to the bank in town, and there Harmer suddenly was at the front door, bringing around some parts. In he came. And soon in the kitchen, there he spoke his usual spiel: she really did love him, underneath. She really did want him, secretly, in spite of what she said. Would she not admit it, as he finally made full love to her, pinning her against the wall, tearing down her trousers, thumping apart her thighs, scratching at her sex, would she not tell him, as his cock crammed up against her child’s cunt – say it, as he edged to house himself inside of her –

Say it little Laura, say the word love, he insisted, not noticing that her fist had found a frying pan from somewhere, and was hurtling it down onto his head with all the life-force she could find, not imagining that he would be unconscious in an instant, that she would drag his deadweight frame through the house and shove him outside into the front garden, locking the latch behind him. That barren garden: where, presumably, he soon woke, wounded, worried, gathering himself together, and vowed never to return. Laura’s parents stayed silent, Harmer’s name a taboo, some understanding presumably reached, and on they all struggled on without him, in the pits of their separate ways, for the coming years.

Vivid her voice in my mind that night on the sand, centimetres from the swarming surface and cemetery-cold fathoms of the sea. I had phoned her a few times. She was glad to hear from me – but O, had to pop out in a minute. What’s my number again? She’d phone if she had some news. It was good to remain friends, of course it was! We would never speak again, of course. She spoke on the phone with the same voice she used the next morning, so hot and hungover, when she would not or could not remember, her voice as frail as a weak finger – but strong enough to silence this lip, then rein it in with a cigarette, as if a scarf of silk soothing a burning throat. Frail as a weak finger – but firmly on the lips saying shush now, shush; insistent as an old lady who will not be questioned by a child, shush now shush child.

The sea breathed softly beside me her music of murmurs. I saw in its shifting mosaic Harmer’s face, fantastically large and gnarled features, jeering and ghastly, as he travelled the countryside with eyes rawly peeled for schoolgirls. I saw it as he slouched in the village pub, saliva sated with sex and soothed by beer, the usual again is Harmer me old mucker? I saw it as he charmed a mother here, teased a daughter there. I saw it as I, with singular purpose, tracked him down along country-lanes, spied and made sure, and then unstoppably entered his favourite nook in his cosy local – the log crumbling in the fire, the ruddy landlord all red grins, a young couple in a corner winking over wine, all as sturdy and sane as a stereotype – I saw it as I, knife in hand, or chair held above head, marched over to him; and I saw his face break into a million pieces, the splinters of his skull shed about him, or I saw rampaging fingers ransack his ribs, or his shattered legs a tangle of tendons and the shrapnel of beaten bone and the shedding skin, and, all-in-all, I saw his final breath forced and beaten from his blood-drenched lungs, his crime of rape punished by utter ruin, his body broken the way cities are sacked in a world of war on TV.

It was the last luxurious, workless summer of such thought and sea and sand, the last of whatever confused lust or love or lunacy of mine that was Laura. We were studying at different universities she and I, all those years ago, met on a weekend organized around a pub-crawl by a charity in a city, all hello’s and snogs. That world went that summer. And the season simply passed with its flimsy festival of forgettable novels and fruitless flying of kites. And today for me, a heavy in-tray. And a laddy lunch with a loud buddy. And a jokey email from a chance new chum. And an office typing with the usual hum. And perhaps it’s a madman who is stood brewing up the coffee. Perhaps it is a Saint who struggles with a photocopy.

And a google search says Laura is now a lawyer living in some little English town doing a fine job of untangling red-tape for the construction trade and there’s a photo of her sat on a table of burly men with ties lustfully loosened celebrating some poultry award at a dull yearly ceremony but O, she’ll be married in the new year to Nathan who works in the same office, sat a slick computer no doubt much like mine – where a murder or a marvel is only click away. Where a circle of hell and a hint of a heaven only a touch away. Where an ocean of man-made misery and human hope laps up at our fingertips. A loveless inevitable ocean, an illogical ocean. Perhaps I have banished it, the ocean, as if an all-powerful King, from my orderly life. An orderly life; submerged in a shuffle of paperwork, buoying up the day with electronic messages, sent out to the world like vain love-letters, circulating amongst the confused lonely strangers of a vague little school. Perhaps it cannot be banished, that which pours so much salt into eyes and tongues and ears and pores, perhaps blessed are those blind and deaf to the roaring void of its massive flood.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Sifting amongst the books, I was anguishing over more Austen, balking at the banalities of Banks, calmed by the cool, contemplative Calvino, delightfully detecting the delectable Doyle, estimating Eliot’s eschewing of evangelicalism, frowning at Franzen’s flictions, gaping at the gap of Garland’s gone, hugely hopeful about hundreds of Hemingway’s, inching past the ignoble I’s, jostling with the jinormous jenius of Joyce, kontinually kourting the konvoluted konfusing K’s of Kafka, loving that long-lost loser Larkin, mocking meddling middle-class McEwan, nabbed by Nabakov’s nefarious nymphet, ordering ’opeless Orwell orf, passing over the prick of Palhaniuk, quietly quaffing the quasi-Quixotic Queneau, reading Reading – couldn’t resist that fictional one, btw, scratching the surface of Salinger, tutting at that twit Tolkein’s turgid untailored tales, umming at the utter umbrage of the U’s – worst of letters for an author’s surname it seems, and yes, that includes you, Updike, veering my voyage avay vrom Verne, winking at weird and wonderful West, X-ing X, Yes-ing Yates – actually I can’t stand Richard Yates, however, for the sake of alliteration and expediency, a simple Yes following by a swift move on to the final letter of the alphabet seemed best – I hope you forgive me and agree? probably your impatience proves my point and so, and finally, and after all, and in conclusion, and last but not least, and now ladies and gentleman drum roll please, I zoned in on Zola and his zero-weight, zoom-lens look at Zeds, and wondered about maybe picking up an Auster instead.

It was then that I noticed Thomas: he was crouched down, and peeping at me through the stand of discounted calendars, his eyes amongst those of painted cats, dogs on bikes, dying pop-bands and gooney footballers. I pretended I hadn’t noticed and turned my back, marching off to Auster. I’d been in a bad mood on the rush-hour tube: bookless, and with him blathering on about how wonderful the tube is, but why didn’t the commuters talk to each other? or have a bit of fun even with each other? If my blunt, obvious answers had hurt his feelings, I didn’t want to face that now, meandering in a soothing mind-mist amongst the shelves.

Or perhaps he was upset because he was getting manoeuvred into a job in the post-room? I woke him this morning, lent him a shirt and tie, informally introduced him – and the interview proper is early next week. But spying on me from behind the calendars? Why was I making excuses for his weirdiosity, I thought – turning back to see Thomas jump – literally, jump – behind the shelf of novels running N – Q.

I decided to go and ask him what the matter was – but when I got back to N – Q, I realised he was gone. Not browsing at all. But was that a flash of his yellow jacket over near the magazines? I marched over – thinking I might have a look over the newspapers while I was at it – to see him creep out of the section via the bit with all the stuffy magazines – The Economist, The Ecologist, The Scientific American – that kind of thing – and then zoom through Cookery and up the stairs.

There, I finally caught up with him near the World Cinema DVDs – where he was kneeling in a corner, facing the wall.


“Ahh, you got me. Want to play again? No – enough’s enough.”

“Thomas, what’s going on?”

“Didn't you get my text message?!”

“Your text message?”

“Yes – on your mobile – I said I thought you needed some fun after a stressful commute, so let’s play hide and seek, like we were kids again - you know, the stuff I was going on about on the train. I sent it just after I’d checked to see if any posthumous Milosz was out – you didn’t? You didn’t get it? Then I’ve been – O no, how embarrassing! I feel so stupid!”

“No – you look as happy as Larry.”

“Well... Going to buy anything?”

“I can’t, for the life of me, remember,” I said.

Monday, January 31, 2005


Sometimes someone emails you over something – and then you get chatting.

And sometimes you get to know a bit about her, her life in South Africa, her business and her dogs and her man, and sometimes she gets to know a bit about you, too.

And then you discuss other things, musical tastes say, and end up arranging to send each other tasters.

And then she’ll write – before you’ve sent it – that maybe she’ll learn more about Adam through his choice of music than through all the emails in the world.

And then as you sit burning the CD on Saturday afternoon, you wonder just what can you say about all this music?

1 Cassandra Wilson – Tupelo Honey

Lilting, lovely, relaxed, night-time music. Music To Ignore The Washing-Up With. If only there were more women singing to me such songs.

2 Paul Weller – Broken Stones

From an illegal recording of a live session: our student union markets were full of such pirate music. Mostly, you listened to them and realised the long haired man with the electric guitar really couldn’t sing and was an idiot. Like a monkey at a typewriter who got lucky, and typed out a lost sonnet of Shakespeare’s, this song from that period of my life has endured in my affections. Whereas the music of the big posturing overgrown adolescents, funnily enough, hasn’t. Except:

3 The Stone Roses – Going Down

A mythic band: hurtling from the hard, northern, working-class streets of Manchester into moody or groovy bedrooms everywhere. They were the fountainhead of several strands of new, ‘authentic’, musical subgenres, that became cool in 1990s, and which were a blessing to sincere male students across the land who wanted to belong to something, or feel like they did. This is a b-side and not one of their more famous or ambitious songs, but I’ve always liked it. It’s about oral sex.

4 Aretha Franklin – Call Me

That emphatic, powerful, tender voice making a masterpiece of truly naff lyrics, probably towards the end of the most successful part of her career.

5 Royksopp – Sparks

The football TV programme had this loopy, crazy tune they used in the stylized highlights. And an advert for a phone had this strange, edgy, electronic symphony, which accompanied images of a baby that were scattered throughout a city: on the sides of buses and buildings, in shops, in newspapers. A metaphor for picture messaging. Both were by Royksopp an internet search showed, but this is the song that I have ended up really liking from their otherwise disappointing album that tired quickly, neutered of the momentum that moving images provide. Funny how these things come about.

6 Presence – So Far Far Away From My Heart

I used to read a lot of music magazines, and have a lot of friends who were DJs or aspiring DJs or carried around their university work in record bags, at least. A lot of them liked ‘deep house’. Well, one magazine said Presence’s album was the best deep house album of the year, so back home during my summer holiday, I bought it. I didn’t like it much (it’s grown on me a bit now) but this particular track, a melancholic, late night cry, I do.

Back at university, it turned out Presence isn’t ‘deep house’: it’s tuneful house or garagey house or vocal house some other type of inferior house. What they meant by ‘deep’ was usually either intricate (i.e., some detailed thought went into the percussive arrangements) or better still, intricate with an emotional force (usually some sad instrumentals above the beats or something like that.) Although, probably what they really meant by ‘deep’ was, I’m deep for understanding and liking this stuff.

Where are they all now, the deep DJs? In offices, in banks, in pubs, their bedrooms stuffed with old records, if they haven’t overcome their nostalgia and sold them. Although to be fair, a few of them, fuelled by blind optimism and a sniff of cocaine to see them through the garish night, still make fools of themselves by entertaining at parties. Whatever. I like this tune. It doesn’t mean anything now, just that I like it.

7 Stevie Wonder – All I Do

Ok, I like 70s music. Great stuff. I have no idea if this tune is actually from the 70s (doesn’t Mr Wonder do the same thing in every decade, blissfully blind to the changes which time brings?) but it suits the coherence of my memory to say it’s from the 70s.

8 Daft Punk – One More Time

Probably the best kind of all-round house music: good to dance to, complex and groovy enough to listen to, if you can get into it. I’m really not sure if you’ll like this tune or not – some familiarity with the type of music makes it more accessible. I don’t know what you listen to out there in South Africa, on the other side of the world. Are Daft Punk famous, world-wide? Or just a little European phenomenon? I have no clue. Probably best played loud, on your own, when you can try to bop around a bit. But maybe you’ll hate it. If so, here’s the bad news: the next track is similar…

9 Cassius – Feeling For You

… although a bit more obscure. The type of people who really like this kind of music aren’t my type. It’s Saturday night music for people who’ve been in an office they don’t mind, are doing reasonably well in, but like to on the weekend indulge in something of the drugs and dancing available to them. Contented, normal, mostly-unthinking 20-somethings. They like to wear trendy clothes, have stylish hair, seduce each other randomly and promiscuously, proudly announce the quality of the drugs they’ve got, and then aggressively stride back to work on Monday, admittedly feeling a touch off-colour. But knowing they wear a knowing smile. And email each other accordingly, using code words.

But make no mistake – there’s nothing counterculture here, except the fact of illegality; there’s no spirit of rebellion, no dream of a utopia, no energy for meaningfulness. It’s an instant, intense, speedy, shared fun – with no pretences or desires to be more. (Occasionally the lyrics will suggest a little bit more – but this is an illusion, a mist. A mist suggesting magic. A mist thinly spread amongst the parochial utilitarianism of their particular fair, which is nested in no more than a village market, disguised as a world. Mist.) But some of the music is really good.

10 Nightmares on Wax – A Nights Interlude

Music for short people from the suburbs who want to dress cool, in a hip-hoppy way, and sit around stoned with music that has a bit of emotional content and depth. It says, “I may be a midget, but I have quite a mind, you know.” Handily for such awkward, self-conscious creatures, you can’t really dance to it either. I’m tall and was never really one of them, although some became my friends, and this is the only track from a whole album of this kind of stuff that I can listen to without being bored. Years later, I heard Quincy Jones’s version of ‘Summer In The City’ (?), and realised this whole song is basically an elaborated version of a section of that song, which is a much more interesting song. But I don’t have that tune to hand I’m afraid.

11 Roy Davis Jr with Peven Everett – Gabriel

A beautiful song I think, slow-paced for its genre, a dispersed jazziness interlacing with an ethereal, lamenting voice. I found it on an album of music that blurred the line between jazz and dance music, and which features many excellent, unusual tunes: Gilles Peterson & Norman Jay’s ‘Desert Island Mix’. Gilles Peterson is a famous DJ whom has introduced a lot of interesting, eclectic music to the scene in Britain. Unfortunately, it’s part of a mix, so the beginning is blurted, and has some stupid, ugly voice hectoring you to “Listen, Listen” and some other crap over the top. O well.

12 The O’Jays – Back Stabbers

I like quite a lot of tunes like this – some of which are a lot more disco-y, whereas this really is soul-pop music, I suppose, from the 70s. (Unfortunately, most of it is on tape – copied from a friend years ago – so I can’t record it for you.) The lyrics of love and the streets being tough, with people out for themselves, might sometimes form an evocative cliché. Useful for those who wish to suppose music gives them a connection with distant others, others whom for some reason have come to have a certain cachet. Black, tough, urban, American, but with a 70s strut and stomp – I suppose that is the particular cachet. And perhaps the attraction of this alien world has something to do with a lack of a feeling of authenticity for those growing up comfortably with dull parents, here in little old Britain. Anyway – most of the lyrics from this type of music, especially the more obscure stuff, can be a lot more interesting. My favourite, from an otherwise unremarkable song which isn’t on this CD, features a couple arguing about where to make love: outside or inside? Public or Private? The closet or the park? Duets, especially of this sort, are all too rare.

13 Donald Byrd – Elmina

I have always had an interest in jazz; my Dad liked it, I improvise at the piano, and used to play the trombone in a jazz band. This is a flukey find: an obscure album I picked up in a student union market. Perhaps it’s deservedly obscure, because the improvising isn’t that great. But what I like is the timbre – a fuzzy, lush mix of jazz and electric instruments, a warm but also energetic and perhaps even edgy sound, and also the complicated, fast rhythms that, remarkably, anticipate certain types of sophisticated 1990s electronic music. It’s slightly hard to listen to: going on for a long time and that. But it’s highly representative of a lot that I like. There’s no accounting for taste? Or the music you like says a lot about you? You tell me, my lovely Michelle!

14 Herbie Hancock – Dolphin Dance

I like a lot of the jazz from the 60s which is called, I think, hard-bop, and a lot of jazz tunes and artists from that period are rightly listened to still, it seems to me. The music is accessible and subtle, energetic and emotional, complex and tuneful – tricky binaries to achieve. Herbie Hancock was a master – but this tune is not so famous and somewhat atypical, being slower, odder, more spacious and more reflective. I think it’s a great song – but I know people who find it overlong and dull. I’ve never seen Dolphins; maybe it expresses something of the way they dance, or maybe it doesn’t.

15 Bill Evans – Some Other Time

I, naïve and ignorant, was at a university interview, and announced to my interviewer that I played jazz piano. He told me that I had to get hold of some Bill Evans, whom I confessed to knowing nothing of: in fact, technically the most brilliant and innovative jazz pianist ever. I have several of his albums now, which I like to different extents. This is my favourite song from my favourite album of his (‘Everybody Digs Bill Evans’.) A lilting refrain, reflective, emotionally acute, but very calmed, I think. There’s nothing aggressive at all here; a similar number on the same album is called ‘Peace Piece’. I think it’s also an influence on Miles Davis’s everlasting masterpiece of an album ‘Kind of Blue’ – where Evans was also the pianist. Certainly track 5 of that album – ‘Flamenco Sketches’, I think it is called – is another version of this song. Also very beautiful. I can’t seem to locate it at the moment in my CD collection, but I’m sure it will turn up somewhere.

When I try to play jazz piano, sometimes I try to capture the mood of this track. (The style – slow, spacious and simple – is elementary to emulate, I should say.) Anyway, maybe I have even done that once or twice. When I was 21, at the end of November, my Dad died at the end of a long illness. A week or so later I was booked to go for a weekend away somewhere with some people from a creative writing course I was taking. I made a mistake I suppose, and went. The course was held in this beautiful mansion in the middle of the Welsh countryside – think rolling lawns, covered with snow on the second day, then woods, and a backdrop of mountains. Think dark-panelled rooms, old portraits, high ceilings, old-fashioned sofas, roaring fires. There was a grand piano in one such room, and it was the right kind of piano for me – not too diffuse a sound, quite clear and loud when you struck the keys – so I could use the pedals to hide my lack of a controlled technique, which makes my playing somewhat painful on much better pianos, such as Steinway’s.

One night a few of my friends were sat on the sofas, and I played my version of this song – or something like it, more melancholic maybe. I had a beer on top of the piano and was very drunk, and would swig from it when I wanted to give my right hand a rest and allow the lilting, lonely left to pose centre stage. My friends listened in total silence from over in the lounge area, and somehow I improvised without a single slip.

Afterwards I saw some of the sensitive women were crying a little, probably thinking of my Dad – all thoughts of whom I was desperately trying not to show, to them or myself. Later some of them would ask about him, trying to get me talk about it. I didn’t know them well, and didn’t do so. I’m not in touch with any of them now. At the same time, I had a new girlfriend whom I liked a lot (and still do) and was very attracted to. She had only known me two months I suppose, and our relationship was fresh and raw. She didn’t know how to speak to me about what I was going through, and avoided the subject like it was a tribal taboo. She didn’t even accompany me to his funeral, although perhaps in a sense that was appropriate; she’d never met him, we didn’t know what the future held for us.

Anyway, when she listened to the kind of music that is on the last track of this CD, or me playing the piano and trying to emulate it, which she deigned to do once, she would never say anything – about whether she liked it, or the emotional content, or anything. She’d sit stony faced, avoidant, unable to communicate anything – even indifference or boredom or dislike, which would at least have been an honest response... She liked political rock music, scruffy men shouting about what is wrong with The System. I should like to look back on the changes in me and on those missed opportunities and such differences in people with a sense of wonder – but it is only really in sadness. If this last track on this CD hints at a distant sadness from some other time in its emotional tone, then at least it is a sadness which has been resolved into something for other people to listen to. Sad whispers transformed into a beautiful, wordless thing – clear and pure and good after all.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


“Thomas, look. You’ve been staying at mine since – the 11th? And you haven’t found a job yet. And you don’t seem to have anywhere to move out to. And Dimtrios is back in a week – and he has to have his room back. And also, I don’t mind lending you my laptop while I’m out at work – I know it helps you writing your poetry and stuff – but I checked the websites you’ve been on. Porn? For an hour? So, young man, time to get a job and get a place and generally just get your damned act –”

“Hi Adam!” said Thomas, interrupting the little speech I was constructing in my head as he walked into my office. “I’ve just been having a look around the British Museum – God London is wonderful – and anyway realised you were near by – and just wondered if you’d like to go to lunch with me?”

“Well – I – ” I can’t think of any reason why not. “Sure.”

Soon we were in a Pret, me again trying to work out which soup would have the most soothing affect while Thomas was paying for his vegetarian salad.

“O no,” I heard him suddenly say from the till. “I’m seventy pee – Adam! Hold on – I –” I passed my blushing cousin some extra change and soon he was sat down while I was ordering. Soon he was sat down – next to the beautiful temp, as it turned out. The beautiful temp called … whose name is …

She picked her head out of her book and spotted me just as I was walking over.

“O hi Adam!”

“Hi there,” I said. “I’m just having lunch with my cousin Thomas here.”

“Hello there,” she said, smiling her beautiful smile at him.

“This is,” I said, fumbling my soup with a pause.


“This is – look actually you looked very absorbed in that book. Are we disturbing you?”

“No, no, it’s pretty boring anyway!”

“He usually is,” said Thomas of the author, masterfully.


“Anyway, Thomas. This is – Te – Th – I’m sorry, how do you pronounce your name?”


“Yes – I thought – never mind. Thomas, Teresa.”

And soon he’s recommending some Ian McEwan novel or another instead and telling her about the poets he likes and that he’s a poet and that cuz Adam here (touching me on the shoulder) is putting him for “a while” – a while – and –

“That’s kind of you Adam,” said Theresa, turning back to Thomas. “Very supportive. Just what a young poet needs.”

“Thomas is looking for temp work, actually. Know of anything, Theresa?”

“Well – no – I –”

“Actually Thomas that reminds me. There’s usually some spare work going in the post-room – the people they have down there are pretty unreliable sorts – not that well paid – a bit grotty – but for you –”

“You may as well have a look, Thomas” said Theresa. “Don’t look so doubtful! Heh – I’ll show you where it is on the way back.”

And suddenly I want to say that I wrote a poem once, while I was at university and slowly working out why Marx could be fun but wasn’t for me and I didn’t think he had it all worked out right at all and even why Lukacs was wrong in his famous statement and in a quiet moment in a café on my own how I worked out the little feeling I had about it all and I never even showed anyone it once – and – and – and now I’m back at my desk, having dug the thing out of some old discs I keep locked away in a draw, mementos of distant memory, with nothing better to do than let go of it all. And wondering if I should offer Thomas my bedroom floor for a few weeks more when Dimitrios returns.

The Other

When the curtain of reason finally falls
and the cup of knowledge is full to the top
with God’s secrets and the essence of man,

and from earth’s confused and violent lands
the borders and flags have gone forever,
and ever-ripe gardens hold no trace, no scar

of history and its endless nightmare,
and universal truth is the speech of all –
the universities of false philosophy

as quietly dead as forgotten tongues,
and the things I have wondered upon all my life
are little problems cleared up in Primary School,

if Primary Schools are needed at all –
and when the books I’ve suffered or enjoyed
are unmasked as devils of a wrong belief

whom played upon my eyes to make me blind
to the horror of the world and the truth
of the need for violent change,

then this wandering poem about you,
O complete being of the perfect future,
this uncertain and disorderly thing,

this deceived dream and shallow whim,
this failure of artful knowledge,
will speak silence on that which I wish to say
of me, of this, of that, of the other.