Friday, 26 August 2016
He knew he would never ski again. Nor ever take a swim in the sea. No more playing football, not even kicking a ball around in the garden with his grandson, doddering versus toddling. And tonight, he gathered, was to be his last occasion of carnality.
As the woman divested herself and confronted him with her nakedness, though hardly a mirror, her quailing, failing flesh reflected his own. She looked no less ravaged than he did, even though he adjudged her considerably less advanced in years. Her rot was presumably more protractedly drawn out, the pain more blunted than his own onrush. Nudity presented her scars, both surgical and unqualified corrective and regardless that he himself currently had no wounds, he knew his senescent body was beyond any ability to heal itself.
Prostitute propriety had proscribed kissing which probably represented a joint reprieve. A mocking respiration as each would be moiling to breathe some life into the other. His mouth usually so dry, was now brimming precipitantly with a necrotic bubbling of mucus and deliquescing squamous epithelial cells. She had her own earthy tang, but he certainly didn’t want to be trajecting his own inhumation reek into her mouth.
Incrementally he winched himself atop his mount like a chainmailed cavalier of old. Immediately his body protested the (im-)posture. Muscle memory evacuated his tissue like vermin from a holed ship. Fluid drained from the interstices around what was left of his sinew definition. Blood fleeing his capillaries going god knows but where. Replaced by rheum and serum. Watering him down. Diluting his puissance. Depleting him. Swelling skin and tumescence everywhere except where it was required. He was drowning from within. Saturated and suffocating. He wheezed an appeal to swap positions, if she might otherwise mount him. Wordlessly she hoisted her dimpled flank and allowed him to burrow beneath.
Perhaps this had all been a fiendish plan by his son. To kill off the old man. An Oedipal closing of the circle, from when he himself had inducted him into the art of lovemaking by taking him to a prostitute on his 18th birthday, as many fathers were charged with back then. Now returning the favour in full knowledge of its likely fatality. If the blue pill accelerant he had slipped into his hand wasn’t fit to burst his heart, then the exertion against the rockface of the woman might see the endeavour through. Dying while on the job, passing over with a smile on your face, wasn’t that supposedly the dream of every male of the species? His facial musculature so atrophied, that a smile was beyond it, rather it being set firm in a permanent rictus. But how could his son possibly possess such precise knowledge of the extent of his physical decay? Could he have precociously gleaned the indignities that come with age? He hoped for his sake he did not.
She was jouncing costively over him, with each crush landing buffeting his legs as though he were on a Medieval torture rack. Her pigmentation atop him never altered a jot, while he felt his own becoming pallid and bloodless. He looked down at himself and saw the spreading bruises. His body was collapsing. Putrefying before he had actually died. He imagined the bones of his skeleton becoming disarticulated, no longer bound together by sinewy ligatures. Her hollowness was so stark, he couldn’t ascribe to her any intentionality, but it was if her movements were trying to shuck him from his body. In a quest to leave what, to distil his soul? He snorted mordantly, or perhaps it was his own inner corrosion that eructed forth the snort.
Tears filled his eyes but were too insipid to break over the levees of his reptilian folds of skin. Tears elsewhere on his rind, stretched taut by desiccation until the rolls and wrinkles of his puckered ancient parchment rent. Where there were lesions he could only picture writhing worms. Where there were blisters he envisioned scurrying flies laying their eggs. He conceived his own stench to be even more flagrantly putrid now, beyond the parochial hook of his own nostrils. None of this exhumed any lust. Liquid discharge from every place on his body except the essential, focal one. His own member was the ultimate recruit to the army of worms, mucilaginous, shrivelled and blind. He closed his eyes.
The best (?) sex was that in which you surrendered awareness of your body. Either your mind was so transported in bliss that it could no longer register its containing husk. Else your whilom wrapping had melded with that of your lover so you could not tell where one ended and the other begun. But here he was utterly conscious of each grievous corporeal symptom. And not because it was borne out of the commercial nature of the congress, nor down to the lack of intimacy through being two complete strangers to the precise nature of each another’s mien. The best (?) sex could either peel you or melt you sweatily clean away. But always at the agency of the other’s body rather than your own. Yet gravity’s grubby force was archly engineering this cast. A geometry of failed configuration and solipsistic arrangement. Two incongruent bodies, blankly bearing neither surfaces nor curves, instead succumbing wholly to the pressures brought from within. Mutual self-absorption without any design on autonomy. Lacking any stout tensility, his vermicular organ kept squirming out from her shaved crevasse. She must have been sensate enough to register this slippage as she bevelled her pelvis to try and handlessly re-inter it into her catacumbal vault. But her stubbled apron only served to triturate and thresh, as if his stub were a cigarette she was grinding extinguished under a booted heel beneath her lamp-post. Sometimes in the past, sexual agonies could be thrilling. Tonight they were just annihilating.
The brain would be the last thing to go. But then it would be forever persecuted by the constant realisation and acknowledgement of each preceding deficient organ and wanting apparatus. Of all the activities its courier was no longer capable of. Lashing it cruelly by constantly revisiting unobtainable memories. His ausgespielt body was too decrepit to sustain his rage against it. It shouldn’t be like this. It was never like this. The act of coition which ceded life and germinated cell reproduction, now disintegrating his cells and culling into death.
Wednesday, 24 August 2016
In the days before their wood was pulped for paper for recording our stories and lore, the trees ranged tall and proud. Their canopied shrouds woven so dense as to shutter the pagan sun and shackle its chains of stippled light like that inside a cathedral. Thus was it hallowed and christened a Black Forest. The heathen wind beat at the foliose awning demanding its own profaning passage, but it too was unable to part the green sea’s verdant vault. Its bellowing huff only gusted voice to the foliage, made the leaves prattle and prate. Suspire and susurrate. Their excited descant the canticles of the forest. Cowled monks up in the gods looking down on the Mystery Plays enacted on the apron of the forest floor. Their incantational exegesis prompting the actors yonder, the same as ants palpated the aphids marching up and down their bark. Those actors, they are the shadowy figures without shadows, moving across the leaf litter in the perpetual crepuscular gloom. Red crosses embroidered the length of their surcoats. Or crudely bodkined into the coarse jerkins of their peasant retinue. Emblazoning the furious stigmata of a turn-the-other-cheek god. Their hearts basted in Christian love and blood. And then this tenebrous cortege is gone like dissipated rime. Without any especial acknowledging comment or commentary from the congregation above. For all the inflorescent chatter, do you notice what is absent from among this verdure? Not a single birdsong to counterpoint the sonorous umbrage. For even a goshawk would be hard pressed to navigate any arrowed path through the copious legion of tree trunks. The aerial choir has been denominated utterly for the arboreal and to stand no avian squatters. Without birds, the forest floor was assigned the unchallenged kingdom of insects. Beetles, spiders, woodlice, weevils, earwigs, ticks, grasshoppers, crickets, centipedes and millipedes, patrolling the fallen leaves of oblation. In light of the lack of wind to disseminate the pollinated spores, and the dearth of birds to have the seeds strewn from their brimming maws, the insects are bringers of life and futurity to the trees. But still they also retained their customary character as equerries of putrefaction. The leaves they worked on the ground were desiccated, shrivelled and withered. Wizened blades curled back over, in contorted supplication for vain grant of continued life. Adrift and cut off from their ligneous lineages. Packed down upon one another. A tumultuous tumulus. A more brittle rustling patter under the tread of unseen trespassers, than that of the crepitation high above. Parched voices. Dried out and arid, their swathed wreaths are not those crowning triumphal evergreen firs and pines, rather those marking death. Preserved, frozen in the convulsive bearing of their deathly descent. A stopped up scream, released and reprised solely under the boot of human tread, or the padding of insect tarsus and palp. But they are not solely respiring about their own demise. They have preserved an echo across their wan brown corpus. Every crispy purl a murmured lamentation to a person slain by those shadowy knights. The hatred locked in their breasts, passing down like sap through their stride and graving its impression into the skein of the leaf litter. Each sepal a memorial flame for those who have no altars or grottos of their own to hold any such candles of commemoration. The Jews’ churches having been razed, their quondam settlements erected in clearings in the forest now themselves cleared and returned to the bosom of the earth, the bones of their people to the soil. Soon there would be no sign that they had ever dared to carve out some land for themselves they had once called home. It was as if the knights had been summoned up by the forest to reclaim its dominion from these trespassers. Their sacred mutual blood bond to extirpate all usurpers both here and in the holy land. Each year retold by the tramp of the local villagers, the woodcutters and charcoal burners, the poachers and smelters who are deaf to the tale drummed up by their own boots. A fresh carpet folio of leaves each year, though gradually more of the forest would be cleared, greedily gobbled up by the town of Mainz, where in time the printing press would arise to preserve a definitive record and the leaves would have to recite their litanies of death no more. But in a deeper time, considerably removed from before trees were culled for printing paper, their ancestors lay pressed and pulped far subterranean and submerged. A fuel source markedly outstripping that of charcoal and timber and one that would power the factories of death that would burn the descendants of the surviving Jews of Mainz, Worms and Trier.
Monday, 22 August 2016
If you're British, you're almost certain to have rapturously enjoyed the Olympic jamboree and Britain's record medal haul. When international tournaments go well for Britain, we bask in success and indulge in flag-waving nationalism. So we crow about how our tiny island race of some 65 million people defeated the 1 billion plus population of China in the medal table. So did the 350 million population of the USA and India, which also has a 1 billion + population, notched no gold medals at all and a paltry 2 in total.
What this chest-thumping whooping fails to reveal is that if you averaged the amount of financial investment in elite sports performance by the government across each head of population, then it should be no surprise that Great Britain out-performed China and that India barely registered at all at the Olympics. GB spends heavily on sports, ever since our humiliation in the 1990s when we secured a solitary single gold and then Prime Minister John Major (a big sports fan himself) committed to a programme of investment, buttressed by National Lottery money, to ensure the country never felt so humiliated again. In 2012 of course we had the extra expense of staging the Olympics and Paralympics in London, whose costs went way over budget because incompetent politicians had missed basic factors like including Value Added Tax and which as a Londoner, I knew we were going to have to end up paying the shortfall out of our pockets. And yes, the shebang was a great success and showed London off to its best side, but still not worth the money in my opinion. If you wanted any evidence, look no further than the white elephant of the Olympic Stadium itself, not offering any imagined heritage to future generations of Olympic sportsmen and women, but sold off for a song on a peppercorn to a professional Premiership football club earning multi-millions in its own right as a member of the most successful sporting franchise outside of the USA and incidentally to a club owned by two ex-pornographers.
As our gold medal success has been plastered across the front page of all our newspapers and dominated television news programmes even though the BBC has been broadcasting the events wall to wall so there is no escaping it as news anyway, the social commentators tell us it isn't just about patriotism. They claim that after the bruising Brexit campaign that has split the country right down the middle, the Olympic success has healed and united the nation and brought us all back together as one as we get behind our athletes. If that was one of the purposes of all that investment, how is it any different to when Iron Curtain countries used to invest heavily in their sport to flim-flam their citizens who were going without and for propaganda purposes? The only difference I can see is that our government aren't pumping our hammer-throwers full of growth hormone and our gymnasts full of growth-retardant hormone as a matter of course. Oh and it's not true by the way, our faultlines and splits are still present as evidenced by the row over where to hold the victory parade with demands for it to be away from London, one of the major pressures in the Brexit campaign, of London being viewed as needing taking down a peg or two and the rest of the country not getting its due.
So to me all this rapture over success misses the point. While there are never any guarantees in the outcome of sporting contests, we pretty much bought our success. While our defeated opponents in the cycling Velodrome carp and whine about it being an unfair playing field in track cycling because of the investment, the technological advantages and the sheer professionalism of GB cycling, they do have a point. Golf and tennis are in the Olympics, possibly the two most well-paid individual sports and a million miles away from the amateur Olympian spirit of yore. Yes the world has moved on, but in the GB hockey team, some of the players are going to return to play professional hockey with their club teams in Holland and Germany, while another is going back to her accountancy studies, so while some of the amateur spirit lives on, it really is professionalism that equates to success. And while we're talking about GB hockey success, I have never seen a British team so white and blonde haired as that. That suggests to me a problem of access and a lack of diversity and critically a lack of heritage as was promised by us hosting the 2012 Games. Maybe their ultimate success this time round will open up their sport to all comers, but I doubt it.
And just to put the tin lid on money's centrality to the modern day Olympics, Brazil was the first country in Latin America to host the event, yet it is so financially straitened, it is now saying that it can't afford to run a full Paralympic Games. Stadiums were half-empty because its citizens couldn't afford the prices and yes while they may have no tradition in Greco-Roman Wrestling, neither does Britain but our greater income levels meant we could still afford to pack out the event in London 2012.
Today as our newspapers go wild with their wraparound photo spreads of our triumphant heroes, on those same front pages they carry stories of our National health Service having to cut back on operations it can offer in the winter through its perennial funding crisis and there is a story about schoolgirls' stress levels being through the roof, so not much evidence there of any heritage from sporting success.
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
He received a smack across his chops. A sonorous slap acutely stinging his kisser. Imprinting a scarlet macula upon his crimson labia. Her immaculate acrimony no longer shellacked behind a pacific patina of civility. An accumulated tumulus of bruisable wisecracks, now she had come back with an unacceptable contusion of her own. His lack of accolades for her literary accomplishments had snapped her self-accord. Acted as an accelerant to her lashing out. Ransacking her own pitch-black love sump, she offered him an ice-pack to which he circumspectly acceded. The hack’s grammatical prose may not have been accurate, but her uppercut was.
Monday, 8 August 2016
At last the pattern analysis had come back from those stoners operating the lighting rig. Under the guise of a strobelight, his little gizmo had captured the brainwaves of the orgiastic on the dancefloor below at their peak euphoria levels. Now the bastard offspring of Paul Morley and Trevor Horn could set to work on creating the irresistible song for the whole Western world to shake its booty to. He would have the whole hemisphere marching to his beat. He fed their results into a copy of Herdware TM (pirated from the military) to filter outliers. He uploaded the brain signals and set the sampler to record their firings and beefed up their amplification. Then he set in motion the software to key for the brain’s receptor chemical bindings. When he had a fistful of these, he fed them into Protean Tools’ tempo translator to turn them into programmed beats and mixed them into the brain firing soundscape. Twin pronged Physical and chemical sonic assault, there could be no immunity against that. He did a sub-bass check, after the last incident when an unforeseen resonance had caused the reverberation of people’s skeletons until they shattered and felled them in droves across dancefloors. Fortunately on that occasion he had released it from the underground so that it could not be tracked back to him. He was tempted to dub a ‘kerching’ FX into the final grooves but desisted. All he needed was a title now. He settled on “Jive Mind”.
Wednesday, 3 August 2016
A few years ago I was invited by the fabulous "Dear Teen Me" website to pen a letter from my contemporary self, addressing the teenage me. Sadly the website no longer functions, but I'm reproducing that letter I Wrote for the site.
Dear Marc from author Marc Nash
Seeing as like the primitive tribesman you have a dislike of having your soul captured by a camera, tracking this shot down from your Gap year back in 1982 was something of a coup. Fortunately even though you have no pictures of your youth, your mother clung on to the few photographic morsels you granted her. This is you sat at the top of a cathedral either in Paris or Italy in the days you used to travel. And yes you are wearing a music T-Shirt, that of Joy Division a band who were to play a very important part in your life, not least because one of your first plays was about them and the fact that their lead singer committed suicide. But here at age eighteen, the sun is shining, you’re underneath the sky on top of the world where anything is possible ... and you’re wearing summery black!
1977 aged thirteen and the year of family parties sitting in marquees in back gardens talking about punk rock. Well Marc, you never did master the paltry four strings of a bass guitar and fulfill your dream of being in a band, but you did make it into the arts. You didn’t write any lyrics, but you did still compose words in the form of stage plays and novels. Even though you have still never read a classic novel other than the handful you studied at school. At the age of fourteen, it was a recommendation from one of your cool older cousins to listen to The Cure’s song “Killing An Arab” and then read Albert Camus’ novel “The Outsider” that kindled your love of modern novels, while still burning the fires for music from which you have never looked back.
Teenage years were when you finally turned your head away from the childish world centred around the home and started to think about the wider world. You discovered politics through a concern with the nuclear arms race and mutually assured destruction. That fusion of the political and the fear of death has never left you and permeates all your writing as you now approach the age of 50. Cleaning the blood up off the floor of a parent after a serious suicide attempt in your last year of teenagehood probably saw to that. Though a terrifying and brutal initiation into other people’s misery, it has set you up for not shying away from tackling dark subjects in your writing and probing the extremes of human behaviour. When you wrote about suicide bombers in “Not In My Name”, you could balance the ‘bomber’ aspect with the ‘suicide’ part like few others possibly could.
There were wars a plenty around the world while you were a teenager. On your doorstep there were the charmingly euphemistically named “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. There was the ongoing conflict in the Middle East which was of grave concern to your family, but which you couldn’t engage with as you held an opposite point of view from them. In your Gap year Britain sailed an army halfway around the world to bafflingly fight over some barely inhabited islands against the Argentinians. That was when you realised you had a love-hate relationship with your own country, another theme you would go on to write about extensively, particularly in your debut novel “A,B&E”. Interestingly you chose to write that from the point of view of exile from Britain, even though after extensive Gap year travel as a teenager, you resolutely decided to stay in London and set your face against further travel. These days you don’t have holidays, you only write in your time off. You travel extensively in your imagination.
Yet it was a another conflict about which little was reported because journalists couldn’t gain access to the closed country, which really caught your attention, perhaps because you could not confront these other wars which were supposed to prompt your allegiances more directly. And that was the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the subsequent horrors of the Killing Fields and the disastrous famine. That warzone resonated more than any other with you, but you could never find the words to express such a scale of depravity and horror. It would take you 30 years until you were finally able to write a story about it. Before then you had written on Northern Ireland and the Middle East, intricate, complex works making no judgements of the various parties involved. But your story on Cambodia pulled no punches in delivering its searing condemnation of the cult of death.
And where did this passion for writing and particular the novel develop from? Well you got into Britain’s supposed best university to further you hunger for knowledge, But your were appalled by the closed and prejudiced minds of many of your fellow students. You were also disillusioned with your History course as you felt the teachers were not really interested in teaching, only in pursuing their own research. You were on the point of walking out, when a new student theatre stage space was opened and you decided to try your hand at writing stage plays. Even then with no experience, instinctively and temperamentally you opted for some radical staging and the whole play was performed behind a wire mesh fence separating the cast from the audience. And because you had difficulty casting it, you decided to back up your words by stepping in and performing yourself. You even learned to smoke for the part and scaled the fence to confront the audience at the play’s ending. From that short 20 minute piece, you then went up to the Edinburgh fringe Festival with two new plays, which in retrospect was complete madness, but you had no fear. You were hooked by creative writing back and you also completed your degree, as playwriting kept you in college.
You knew an office job wasn’t for you, so playwriting seemed like a good way to avoid that, which of course it wasn’t as there was no money to be made. After four years you secured a job in an independent record store to pay the bills, but the number work there left the word side of your brain free to continue writing in the evenings. You kept pushing the boundaries in what you did, moving away from dialogue and more towards movement and dance. The dancers looked at you like you were mad, what need did they have of the written and spoken word? It was only cut short when your beloved twin boys arrived and you became the main carer for them. No more hanging out networking in theatre bars for you, with bottle feeds and dirty diapers to see to at the double.
So you turned to writing novels through the night, interrupted only by feeds and changes. The books you liked to read weren’t really out there in the market, so you set out to write them. Stories that pushed the narrative form into new places, books of ideas and a rigorous pursuit and examination of language. And once self-published, you started giving live readings, the closest to the dream of performing live in a band. And you put on a show live. You inhabited the characters, you dialogued with the audience through the way you staged your readings.
So it wasn’t quite how you imagined it might turn out, but looking back a lot of the seeds were in place in the teen you. Here’s to our salute of the old age us, pen in arthritic hand still writing and challenging the status quo.
Love and respect
Monday, 25 July 2016
He’d been prompted to watch out for a sign. But where? Whither the co-ordinates? Was he supposed to roam outside or to remain embosomed in his room? The exegesis hadn’t been clear. Currently he was stationed in his room, scrutinising the everyday for deviation from the familiar. Was the sign to be something inherently meaningful, or something that only he could ascribe substance to? Would it be a material object, or something based in language. Be it script or runic? Did that perhaps make it more of a symbol than a sign?
He had never noticed that stain on the carpet before, but he couldn’t accept that ancient spilled coffee or the gravy that broiled his pre-cooked dinners, suddenly became presentimental. An accidental Rorschach pattern somehow transmuted into a figuration of his future, no he doubted that was the likely source. Carelessly slopped aliment was no waters of the Nile turning into blood and somewhat lacked the wondrousness of a burning bush.
He glanced up to the wall and the framed print suspended there. It had come with the rental, left by a previous tenant, or more likely to have been furnished by the landlord. An abstract piece of nothing, though right now its contours were welling and pulsing with significance. He had never previously paid it much mind. Of course the swirls themselves were not in motion, but he wondered if the picture itself had perhaps moved ever so slightly off its habitual axis. He approached it and gingerly rubbed his index finger along one plane of the frame. He examined the dust that coated the pad, like a police fingerprint record, a glyph in itself, but decided this was the wrong type of indicia. After all fingerprints themselves never changed over the course of one’s life. He was on the wrong track there, a hallmark was a permanent symbol not a momentously exigent one. He lifted the frame from its hook, examined the cork backing but found no message welted in there. He stared at the burnished rectangle patch of wall where the print had covered and preserved the paintwork. If it was a symbol it remained opaque to him. A blank TV screen with the set switched off.
Maybe that was it, the random permutation of TV programme thrown up at him when he first engaged its ignition. An advert for a product, a TV evangelist, the score of a soccer match or the stock exchange ticker tape scrolling a key coded set of numerals across the bottom of the screen, any one of those could hold the key. Hastily he replaced the picture's string over the hook and bounded over to spark the set into life. But a lame comedy series was what first met his eyes, not even one with a star who had subsequently been prosecuted for crimes enacted on the back of his celebrity. His digits played over the remote control, quickly rifling through the channels’ formulaic liturgical burnt offerings. He slitted his eyes narrower trying to detect any subliminals from the quick change from channel to channel but nothing was delivered up to him for revelation.
A fluttering wrenched his attention upward to the ceiling. A moth was battering at his Chinese lantern shade in its determination to burrow through the red hot light source within. The lantern barely rippled under its bantamweight thrust, but he did notice the shadow of both projected large on the ceiling. Blown up several times their actual size. And yet he himself cast no shadow in the room. Was that the sign? His own lack of a shadow, yet here was an insect larva feasibly from Satan’s own realm cast large in the artificial glow from hell’s fires? He tilted the paper shade to admit access for the moth to the bulb which it obligingly did so and perished with a pleasing sizzle against the scorching glass. He watched its Icarian descent to the floor whereupon it landed right in the middle of the carpet stain, just at the moment when the TV announced a newsflash and the picture on the wall slithered drunkenly to the diagonal on its axis. A multitude of signs, but which one was the true indicator?