252. The Railway Hotel




Alcohol doesn’t console, it doesn’t fill up anyone’s psychological gaps, all it replaces is the lack of God.

Marguerite Duras


Settling comfortably by the screens once more, Maggie watched Satan slip away from the park, carrying a bulging sports bag. Cold November rain sheeted diagonally as he crossed Southend High Street into Clifftown Road. When Sal reached the battered doors of the Railway Hotel, his leathers and hair were soaked. Inside, he shook himself like a dog.

The central Southend pub promoted itself as an open house for music and arts. John Cooper Clarke, Wilko Johnson, and, more recently, Dunstan Bruce of the anarchist band Chumbawumba had visited its Victorian splendour. Heading for the bar, a Portishead tune regaled Satan’s ears. He craved new company and brighter lights less than a drink. A tap touted the award-winning Brewer’s Gold, produced at an Essex micro-brewery. That would require payment, so he unzipped his bag.




20 miles away, in Chelmsford, Edward Fawkes let a black cat through his bedroom window. Ed was home alone: his sister at work, parents at the Southend park. He had just steered Arsenal to an online victory.

“I’m out of here,” he called into the X-Box mike. Maths and German books sat accusingly on his desk. On his computer, a news item showed Afghanistan’s opium production at record levels, mocking a key argument for sending British troops in 2001.

He laughed at another headline, in which Boris Johnson suggested the very richest people should receive “automatic knighthoods”. Ed went on YouTube and found Radiohead’s ‘The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth of All Time’. He had decided to read Orwell’s ‘1984’ once again.

Two months ago, wearied of school routines, the 14-year old had asked his history teacher if the class could engage in a contemporary project. He requested that 25 sets of fresh eyes might analyse the events of September 11, 2001. “Why 9/11?” asked Mr Cooper, intrigued.

Like many kids, Edward sucked up his parents’ opinions. His dad said repeatedly that 9/11 was the 21st century’s defining political event. That, as a result of one diabolical day where almost 3,000 deaths occurred, major wars had been launched, killing over a million Iraqis and Afghans and displacing at least another 5 million. That, over a decade later, babies in Fallujah were still commonly born with massive multiple systemic defects. And that Muslims were more vilified than ever in the West; while ordinary citizens globally were spied on as potential terrorist suspects.

Edward had kept a lazy eye on the story, smelling a rat in May 2011. It made no sense, to the then-12-year old, that Osama Bin Laden was summarily executed upon his discovery in Pakistan, after ten years of searching. Would the supposed criminal mastermind behind 9/11 not have provided critical information? Should he not have been tried? US Navy Seals had swiftly dumped his body at sea. Then perished themselves, in a helicopter crash. How unfortunate.

Hypnotically, Dan and Mary’s lad was drawn back to videos of the collapsing Twin Towers. It felt like his eyes and mind disagreed.

His history classes had touched on 1930s Germany. He had discovered Joseph Goebbels’ claim that, if you tell a lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it, however absurd.

“Somehow it doesn’t stack up, sir. I think it was different from how it was reported.” Mr Cooper humoured Ed. But the head insisted on adherence to the curriculum. Disappointed, Ed decided to do the work himself.




Billy the barman stood around six foot six in purple Doc Marten boots. Satan’s eyes travelled up his tartan bondage trousers, and across his black shirt, with its netting. Past his pierced lip, nose and ears to kind eyes and spiky dark hair. Billy surveyed the 20 tee-shirts Satan held out. He rifled through differing, vivid images of the Guy Fawkes mask popularised by the film V for Vendetta, juxtaposed against a smashed pier and other Southend landmarks. “Some cool stuff here man.”

“£400 worth of gear. Yours for £150.”

Billy calculated. Satan tried to think how he might handle Gandhi’s reaction at what was theft, however you dressed it. That worry was overridden by the exhaustion of his single malt stash. It didn’t help that Micky Gaze was moaning about finances.

“Give you £50. Good kit, but no guarantee I can sell it.”

“£125. You’ll get £20 a top when the punters are pissed. Sell seven and you’re in front.”

“£80. Final offer.”

Satan took Billy’s notes. Ordered the Brewers Gold. Looked at lovingly crafted paintings of Reed, Bowie and Steve Strange. Through the pub speakers, horns sizzled, sounding like The Beat in their heyday. Unrelenting guitars and drums, accompanying an indescribably welcome first sip. Bobby Gillespie was singing with urgency about “21st century slaves, a peasant underclass”. Satan listened, entranced, to the opening 2013 track of Primal Scream’s More Light album.

Subsequent songs covered domestic violence, the aftermath of a riot, and benefit-capped life below the breadline. Silently toasting the Southchurch experiment, Satan hardly noticed the bearded lad next to him.

He mused on how the park now had almost 400 residents; and on the huge potato crop being grown for 2014, surrounded by myriad other vegetables. How techniques lifted from Trussel Trust food banks were improving incoming food consignments. Lists were pinned on the park’s key buildings, listing ‘urgent’ requirements, followed by ‘low stock’ and ‘not required’ categories. With a third moneyless community up and running in Newcastle, joining the Southend and Hastings experiments, more secessionist communities were on the horizon, Satan intuited, already halfway down his pint.

Politicians were inadvertently encouraging the trend. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron had recently explained – standing at a gold lectern in London – that it was now Conservative policy to make the public spending squeeze permanent. Shadow welfare minister Rachel Reeves declared Labour would be even tougher on welfare.

“We need this sort of music,” said the bearded lad. “It’s an alarm call for the comatose. Most musicians ignore what’s going on.”

Running his hands through fuzzy hair, he complained that Rod Stewart and Coldplay were letting their music be used for TV adverts. Satan agreed about Primal Scream’s intentions but said that demonising people as comatose, or asleep, achieved little. “The majority are helpless in a world where a small percentage of psychopaths have created power structures that serve other psychopaths.”




Ed had been encouraged to trust his inner voice. Dan also urged him to log and reference everything when pursuing an idea. As a result, the lad had built meticulous records of a multitude of 9/11 events, and already saw the official narrative in terms of the slogan used in 1984, Orwell’s great book: “Two plus two equals five”. The storyline had more holes than the Swiss cheese his mum loved.

His science marks were average, but Ed knew the laws of physics did not collapse on 9/11. Before this day and since, he discovered, no steel-structured building in the world had collapsed due to fire, despite sustained infernos in several cases. Yet the official narrative said burning airplane fuel fatally weakened the steel structures of WTC 1 and 2, despite these being built to withstand multiple plane impacts.

Most mind-blowing of all was the unimpeded freefall of World Trade Center (WTC) Building 7, despite no plane hitting the building. 12 years later, many people were still unaware of WTC 7, as incessantly repeated shots of the WTC 1 and 2 demises set the perception of events in stone.

The collapse of Building 7 was officially attributed to “office fires”, despite its sprinkler systems. Ed’s notes cited a ‘smoking gun’.

With his parents away, and his sister preoccupied, Ed sifted the details endlessly, unlike the US government, which hastily shipped out the WTC rubble to China, disposing of evidence required for any trial, and had had speedily flown out its Bin Laden family business contacts in 9/11’s immediate aftermath.

After a cat woke him one night, Ed went online. He found that Barry Jennings, New York City’s Deputy Director of Emergency Services, claimed during two recorded interviews about WTC7 that he witnessed “bombs going off all over the building”. Jennings succumbed to an unexplained death two days before the release of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s ‘Final Report’ that cited the “office fires.”

A Dutch explosives expert, Danny Jowenko, claimed Building 7 was “for sure brought down by controlled demolition”. Heading to a television interview on the subject, Jowenko’s car lost its brakes, crashed into a tree and exploded into a fireball, killing him instantly.

On dreary days, looking out at the school’s high metal fence, Ed pondered the arguments presented by a group of over 1,900 architects and engineers, entitled AE911Truth. This was formed to demand a new investigation in the wake of the official 9-11 Commission Report, issued in July 2004, which had avoided mentioning the complete, symmetrical, freefall disintegration of WTC 7 in less than 10 seconds.

Ed was astounded to read the behaviour of key US officials topping the chain of command. Neither President George W Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Myers nor Montague Winfield seemed to assume their duties as decision-makers during a clear domestic attack on the United States. Even more incredible was that none of the four hijacked civilian planes were intercepted in what was touted as the world’s most heavily defended airspace.

So much of the narrative looked flimsy, even to a schoolboy. After the demise of the Twin Towers in Manhattan, Flight 77 attacked the Pentagon. The impact had apparently destroyed key evidence concerning the unaccountable US$2.3 trillion loss announced by Rumsfeld the previous day. Ed was flabbergasted that journalists had brushed this coincidence under the carpet – and had ignored the unbelievable skills demonstrated by Flight 77’s unidentified pilot.

The Boeing 757 had seemed locked into a suicide mission on the White House, before a pivot that reminded observers of a military manoeuvre. The plane circled 270 degrees at 800 kilometres per hour, then fell below radar level, vanishing from radar screens before the impact at its destination.

A group of commercial airline pilots, many of them Vietnam veterans, had stated publicly that planes – but not missiles – would break up if flying that low at that speed.

Ed found himself questioning the lack of wreckage at the Pentagon. Where did the plane wings and engines go? Where were the bodies, or body parts? Why did a 100-foot wide plane leave a 16-foot hole?  Why did the FBI confiscate all video footage of Flight 77?

Under Mr Cooper’s guidance, the class could have put together a brilliant project. When the FBI released a list of 19 suspects in the four plane hijackings, the only name that could possibly have flown Flight 77 was Hani Hanjour, who one month earlier had struggled to control a single-engine Cessna 172 during flying lessons at Freeway Airport in Maryland. Freeway declined to rent Hanjour a plane without more lessons.

Ed dreamed of maverick parents chipping in, creating an exciting, self-steered collaboration. Instead, school continued to serve up a diet of mainly received wisdom. At least school kids could not be sacked, whereas US government officials who questioned the authorised 9/11 story were fired. University professors were dismissed for merely discussing 9/11, while other experts in their fields – scientists, pilots, journalists, architects, engineers and hundreds of firemen – had been ignored or censured as unpatriotic.

When the volume of evidence overwhelmed him, Ed returned to the New York numbers. Two planes. But three buildings.

He dwelled often on O’Brien, created by Orwell as the Inner Party’s interrogator of thought criminals in 1984. Quizzed that 2 plus 2 could equal 5, O’Brien said that control over physical reality was utterly unimportant, as long as one controlled mass perceptions.

Ed wondered: If a vast majority is cajoled to believe something, does that eventually make it true?




Satan was hearing about the skewing of truth in Britain. His new drinking partner was also on Brewer’s Gold. “I’m Olly”, said the male. Long red shorts and an old cycling shirt covered a pear-shaped torso. Olly revealed that the Conservative Party had deleted from its website everything it had said for a decade before the last election, stopping checks on broken promises.

Anything but surprised, Sal introduced himself. He relayed how David Cameron had been a leading member of the Confederation of Conservative Students, which produced a ‘Hang Mandela’ poster in 1985.

The conversation segued into the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, which was being denied access to official records, including notes sent by Blair to Bush. A gust of rain smashing the windows halted all conversation.

Next up for discussion, after Satan bought another round, was a TV interview featuring Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman. Brand, a TV celebrity, was in hot water for arguing that it made no difference which party one voted for, because any vote represented complicity in a system that always protected the rich and powerful.

Olly suggested a box be made available on the voting paper that said: “They are all shit”.

Billy laughed. “Russell’s got a point. Voting for anyone is a request for more of the same.”

A blonde woman nearby spoke. “It really annoys me the way Russell Brand plays to the young, idealistic audience,” she said. “It shows downright sloppy thinking to say that we must destroy the way of things without suggesting what should happen instead.”

She took a slug of gin and tonic. Satan heard the voice of England’s centre ground. Red scarf topped a black drape jacket, embossed dark brushed velvet trousers, elegantly pointed boots. He guessed she ran her own business. ‘This is a democracy – and you should be grateful’, her husky voice implied.

Nobody spoke. So she continued. “We’ve seen that communism doesn’t work without massive oppression of the people he claims to speak for. What would he actually do?”

Olly batted it back. “Russell’s message is that this pretend democracy is fucked up. That none of the parties deserve anyone’s vote, based on recent evidence.”

She didn’t blink. “He said, very clearly, that the political system caters to a rich elite who manipulate the public, mainly through the media.”

She wasn’t buying it. “That may all be true. But carping from the sidelines, and discarding your vote, solves nothing, however poor politicians are. What can change things?”

Sal looked in quietly. Despite its platitudes, the flow of the adversarial conversation stirred him. Another side coldly watched two slaves discuss the neo-feudalism they lived under, during a brief interlude from the plantation.

He hoped someone would buy more drinks. “The game is rigged, more than you will ever know or dream,” he offered. “Even sadder than that, for the whole human race, is how rare it has become to see someone like Russell Brand flying with all synapses blazing, because he is so passionate. Everything starts with a thought, a spark.”

They switched to Brand’s criticisms of banks. “The simple reality is that you pay them for access to money, like the peasants who used to rent land,” Sal stated.

He wished Brand were with them. Olly and the woman, Marie, would have to do.

Sal departed on a question. “Remember this winter will be the first time since World War Two that the Red Cross will hand out food parcels in Britain. Getting on for 50 million people across Continental Europe are not getting enough to eat. Might those two patterns be somehow linked to the continuous extraction of wealth by banks?”

Wandering through the pub, Sal noted that chairs were laid out in a nicely mismatched manner. A piano sat near a door to an upstairs area. The toilets offered condoms, cracked porcelain and no drying facility. Relieving himself, he remembered his theft. Gandhi would be livid.

When he returned Olly was in full swing, at Marie’s table. She had removed her coat, revealing a classic black rollneck jumper.

The kid never let his ideas settle. “Everybody is grabbing what they can before nothing is left. The world’s GDP is $70 trillion, but big banks have reportedly let their traders run up derivatives bets getting on for $1,400 trillion. It don’t take a genius to see the daisy chain will break. So, let’s take our money out of the banks and speed up the process!”

Marie had bought Sal a beer. He raised his glass in gratitude. Olly was getting more technical. “The funniest thing is that all debts involve money that did not, does not, and will never, exist, apart from in binary code. All banks do is change a field in the database of your account, which locks you into a digital cage. Nobody needs to repay this fiction.” Marie told him he would go to prison if he told that to a judge. Olly said he might soon have to.

She fingered her cigarettes. “Grow some balls and get outside for that fag,” teased Olly. “Balls are weak and sensitive”, she snapped back. “Only a vagina can take a real pounding.”

She turned rapidly to Satan, asking him to explain how banks rented out money. He had been through it endlessly at Southchurch Park. Dan Fawkes and a few others got it. Patiently, he explained that nearly all money was debt, so there could never be enough in circulation to make interest repayments, unless more debt was issued, which further compounded the situation. “The price of using their money system is their relentless extraction of borrowers’ wealth. As a generalisation, the cost of each 95 mortgages that are fully repaid is probably five other borrowers that lose their homes,” Satan suggested.

He was almost hissing as he spoke: “Money…debt is a cancer that eats across the whole economy, which is built on the foundation of so-called economic growth, but is really the need to continuously expand in order to service a tsunami of repayments. Which is why – on a planet of finite resources – governments and corporations are stripping the tar from the sand and fracking the earth into oblivion.”

Olly got the next round. Marie moved onto red wine. She was thoughtful. “Nobody is taught or encouraged to see it in those terms. And you should remember that banks pay tax, dividends and wages from some of that interest, which flows back into society,” she said. He liked the way she grasped the practical. The alcohol was amplifying her shape. “Same question as before – what’s the solution,” she asked.

He retorted: “Your government could start solving its financial woes overnight by introducing a debt-free currency, that it prints and controls. Canada did this from 1938, to escape the Great Depression.”

He sipped the Brewer’s Gold, still sober enough to recall God’s briefing that it was not until 1974 that Canada resorted back to borrowing using interest-bearing bonds. By 1977, in just three years, Canada’s national debt had risen from C$18 billion to C$588 billion.

Grinning, Satan revealed his residence at Southchurch Park, at which she also smiled, showing a soft throat. “Should you be here then, in this ‘monied environment’?” She revealed that she owned an estate agency, staying in business via excellent service and innovative marketing.

Olly had a vodka and orange with his beer. He was banging on about a recent TV programme, ‘Britain on the Fiddle’. Marie had watched it, recalling the implication that £20 billion annually was lost to benefit cheats. “It’s more like £1 billion,” countered Olly, emitting alcoholic spray with each sentence. Marie wiped her face and glass. Olly moaned about Vodaphone, Google, Starbucks, Amazon and Apple not paying corporation tax, and the lack of jailed bankers. Marie asked if he was playing devil’s advocate. “That’s not how the system works Olly,” she said.

Sal’s thoughts drifted. The pressure on most humans was unyielding. They were spiritual beings, trapped in a physical body, held tightly in a world where money ground people to dust and history was a narrative for manipulating. He understood intimately why they used alcohol, sex, drugs and gambling, reincarnating into similar situations until their souls mastered desire. He also understood Maggie’s unique path. But he needed more drink.

Head beginning to swirl, far from home, his thirst was hideous, like nothing on earth. Fallen again, he had stolen from his new community. He was bewitched by Marie’s hips. Maybe he needed a psychiatrist.


8 thoughts on “252. The Railway Hotel

  1. As the Iranian missiles fly and 2020 begins in earnest……..at least I have a small reprieve of reading Out of Essex.

    Love Marguerite Duras: did a blog on one of her books once.

    I’m so happy with the way you impart information in your story; I reviewed a book once that needed to reveal a LOT of information, but the way they did it was question and answer. Every few chapters would be someone asking a question, getting an answer, asking another question, getting another answer, and on and on and on. It was SO repetitive and boring. You have solved that issue here well.

    Factoid learned today: Canada’s banking practices. Very unhappy to learn that they went “back” to the old way and immediately racked up billions in debt.

    I enjoy all the writing, as you know, but as per newly created tradition: my favorite lines:

    “The majority are helpless in a world where a small percentage of psychopaths have created power structures that serve other psychopaths.”
    *shudder* (perfectly stated)

    “Another side coldly watched two slaves discuss the neo-feudalism they lived under, during a brief interlude from the plantation.”
    (triple shudder; especially after our conversations here, after which I return to the job, locked away in a building while the sun sets outside, accomplishing next to nothing neither materially or spiritually)

    “They were spiritual beings, trapped in a physical body, held tightly in a world where money ground people to dust and history was a narrative for manipulating.”

    Finishing with laughter. ’cause it’s time to laugh. Then lift my shackles and settle down to do more work; a job that requires a degree, I might add, but starts people off at minimum wage!

    “Balls are weak and sensitive”, she snapped back. “Only a vagina can take a real pounding.”
    Thanks for that.
    🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You put your finger on the biggest issue Stacey: how to blend information dissemination with story-telling. I’ve probably failed at that in multiple places. The rewrites are primarily an attempt to improve the weaving. The other challenge is how to end it. The 2013 version is outdated, overtaken by time and circumstance.
      Writing is a lonely business, and so your comments are like a shot of adrenalin. Thank you for persevering.
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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