257. Enduring January

 

I’ve found that it’s worth paying attention to any blog from Mark Bickerton, on his website at https://markbickerton.com.

Mark blogs sparingly, making any new post stand out more clearly. His latest, on the death of his old friend and Coronation Street actor Neville Buswell, argued that if you live in Britain, January is the best month to turn your toes north.

Mark wrote: “It only feels right for death to be announced in January, when everybody already seems miserable. Much better is it not that if we’re to snuff it, we do so this month, when the streets are never quite aired and everything and everybody looks and feels like punctured mistletoe…..get the mourning out of the way and leave the rest of the year for kicks.”

Terrific writing that poetically nails a grim British reality. January is (generally) dull, cold, wet, shite, grey and anti-climactic. To be endured, mostly. If it wasn’t for the cluster of birthdays in the Godier family (11th, 13th, 22nd and 27th), I would willingly hibernate through the whole bleak month.

This time around the new care work has drained me. My back aches, as chunks of the work have involved bending over beds, pulling and pushing elderly bodies that require their continence pads changed. Mentally, it has been a challenge to accept being ‘carried’ by young, female partners that are energetic, can multi-task and have the experience to make quick decisions as I procrastinate.

I mentioned the neglect of one of the clients (I called him Keith) in a previous blog. It breaks me every time we leave him, alone, propped up on a settee, for four hours. It isn’t right. “Please don’t go,” he says, oxygen tube hanging from his nostrils. The girls tell me that you have little choice but to harden against these things, that others are in a worse condition, that our care “makes a difference”. But it doesn’t. Because he lacks company, or hope, and because his COPD and crumbling skeleton are irreversible, because the money for deeper care is unavailable, Keith wants to pass on. Our care keeps him in agony.

For sure is that the novelty has soon worn off. There was initially an adrenaline charge, driving from one client to the next. Now, because a choice had to be made, I’ve chosen to hand in my notice.

Every February/March I work for an insurance company in Belgium. They want me to start next week, and often need stuff at very short notice. Which means it could not be combined with the carefully scheduled care work.

I knew the choice was coming. Wasn’t sure which way I would swing. In the end, it was easy. I expressed my gratitude to the care company for the opportunity to learn and earn. Will look again at care options in April. Maybe personal assistant work.

The feeling of temporary freedom was palpable. I took a stroll late yesterday afternoon around the village. The light is seeping back. Buds are doing their thing. Gardening and cycling will beckon in a month or two. Lots of the darkness has been traversed.

 

20200129_164044

 

 

 

 

 

 

256. The God ingredient

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 32

 

 

We have to put an end to the culture of selfishness and corruption that allows greedy Wall Street banks to rip off working people without any consequences

Tulsi Gabbard

 

 

2013 was finishing with strong winds and heavy rain. The radio predicted new deluges and gales over the holiday, as Sarah Dawson was tidying her house on the morning of 21 December.

Dave was working Saturday overtime. Lauren was practicing steps at Ruth’s weekend dance class.

Looking out across the park, Sarah contemplated her afternoon yoga session for the community’s children. Using breathing and visualisation, they would envisage themselves as utterly loved and blessed by the universe.

Radio 4’s message was grimmer. Streets in Bangladesh, Brazil, Sweden, Turkey, Thailand and Ukraine swarming with citizens protesting government policies; UN troops flooding into lawless South Sudan; and Syria’s civil war looking interminable. At home, a Which? survey found that credit was used for over 40% of Britain’s Christmas spend.

“Merry bloody Christmas,” Sarah grumbled to herself. Tissues from last night’s sleeping rota littered the floor, evidence of heavy colds doing the rounds. The Welsh lad, Howard, had kept her awake with coughing fits. Blondy had ducked out of voluntary collecting for a local hospice that day.

Another volunteer, Claire, sat in the café. “What has this world come to,” she groaned, shaking her rainbow hair. On a laptop, she had just read that Trussell Trust food banks had fed over 350,000 British people, all referred by NHS professionals, from April to September 2013. A growing percentage of UK citizens clearly lacked sufficient food. Claire’s breakfast – prepared from a porridge recipe by Southend’s very own Jack Munroe – was still warming her. It cost around 9p per person, or £38 for the whole park. Shivering and sneezing, Blondy had blagged two portions, before retiring to his tent.

In his caravan, coffee brewing, Dan read his tablet, while Mary slept. Her subdued mood was bugging him. Dan’s brief online scan captured no mention of Fukushima, the nuclear plant on Japan’s coastline which had been leaking radioactive water into the Pacific for 33 months. Despite new secrecy laws passed in Tokyo, it had emerged that homeless individuals were engaged in ‘clean-up’ work at the plant, while thyroid cancers in Fukushima prefecture were spiralling, and miscarriages rising. On alternative news sites, Dan read of sea lions dying in droves along California’s coastline. Juvenile herring were bleeding from eyes and gills off Vancouver Island, and Japanese fish were being born with tail and spine defects.

 

***

The all-powerful healer Jesus wondered whether Fukushima might be a challenge too far. “Human life is a precarious thing,” he told God. He knew his mum was missing her cohorts, Buddha especially.

“They’re about to commemorate your birthday, son. How do you see the season of goodwill?” God asked. “I don’t enjoy this ‘Feed the World’ song,” Jesus finally replied. Listening in, Maggie kept half an eye on the screens, beneath which single malt crates no longer sat. Chewing cannabis seeds, the Creator was sticking to distilled water.

“The care people invest in seasonal giving is wonderful, but the brevity of ‘Christmas spirit’ puzzles me,” Jesus added. “The world needs feeding daily.”

God remembered British and German troops downing arms to play soccer on Christmas day 1914, between trenches around Ypres, before re-engaging in mutual slaughter.

Jesus asked about God’s experiment. Two more moneyless British communities had started, in Coventry and Bristol, augmenting the Southend, Newcastle and Hastings initiatives. “The momentum to by-pass money is gradually accelerating,” said God, allowing herself a smile. “The media slander will step up accordingly.”

She told Jesus how Dave Dawson was setting up an ethernet to weave the five communities together. And that, as winter set in, and work in the Southend park diminished, residents were helping to restore smashed seafront properties.

God was less happy that the state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland would hand out £500 million in bonuses for 2013. Yet it was also expected to post huge losses, due partly to fines for Libor rate fixing and mis-selling payment protection insurance. Leading executives who had organised or approved this criminal behaviour were receiving bonuses that outstripped what many people earned in a lifetime.

“If these trends continue, we may have to intervene harder,” said God. Reluctantly, Jesus had mugged up on banking, as his mother referred to ‘financial terrorism’ with increasing regularity. “Mum, are you intending to ‘take out’ a couple of senior bankers, or something similar?” asked Jesus. He had watched ‘The Sopranos’ box-set, mesmerised at the relentless criminal behaviour.

“What cannot be stressed enough,” said God, “is that the spivs running the banking industry still consider the bonuses as theirs by right and merit.” She passed the cannabis seeds. “That is the mentality I face. A parasite that believes it is entitled to consume its host.”

 

***

Ricky Ravenous-Glutton felt entitled to consume anything that moved. He sat at Roots Hall, watching Southend United play Rochdale. After his eleventh bag of Worcester sauce crisps, he wondered again if his companion’s half time offer might be immoral.

The contact came through the derivatives department of Ricky’s bank in Canary Wharf. Six months in the Marrakesh sunshine, all expenses funded, promised the man, dressed anonymously in the seat to his left. On his return, Ricky’s pay would double, and his mortgage rate descend to 0% for a decade.

The package rested upon Ricky carrying out specific instructions. The front end was sweetened by a brown envelope inside his jacket, containing five thousand pounds. Snorting white powder in the loos, dreaming of a Spurs season ticket and a Porsche 911, Ricky missed Southend’s equaliser.

 ***

In nearby Eastwood, Dawn Landais fretted once more about her daughter. Genevieve texted rarely, saying that opportunities to recharge her phone were few and far between. She had come home the previous weekend, thinner and dirtier. Unable to stop talking about the park’s activities, using phrases like “singing the land” and “mutual flourishing”.

While Dawn wheeled out a succession of casseroles, roasts and other hot meals, Genevieve regaled her parents with tales of all the new characters she had met. “Mum, dad, it’s an insurgent community. Decentralised, patient, adaptable and rhizomatic.”

Steve looked up the last word. It referred to the way plants learned and grew, by sending out roots in multiple directions, laterally and horizontally, with no distinct centre. He remembered when Genevieve’s favourite word was “wankers”. Not so long ago. Now she talked of her lack of faith in the state or in capital.

 

***

Jesus persisted. Leaning forward, he asked again. “Will the five British communities herald a new world, mum?” God hated forecasting. “Difficult to say,” she eventually replied. “We may have to add an ingredient to the mix, because of the passivity and sense of helplessness engrained in humans.” On average, said God, one human killed themselves every 40 seconds. “Buddha’s views on suicide are harsh,” said Jesus. “He warns of highly testing reincarnations, sometimes within animal bodies.”

God looked chilled, despite her challenges. She grabbed more of the seeds, which were crammed with amino acids. Then tossed Jesus the thought that the economic downturn was starting to resemble the 1930s Great Depression.

Jesus recalled recent remarks by Boris Johnson. Delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, in London, Johnson declared that inequality was essential to fostering “the spirit of envy”; and would deepen. “The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top,” he suggested.

“Is he mentally disturbed?” asked Jesus. “He’s a clever operator, who has chosen his side,” said God.

She added that a controversial tax bill in Greece demonstrated what all Europeans could anticipate. Higher property taxes and speedy auctions of property, including farmland, if the owners owed money to banks or state.

One eyebrow raised, God said that all EU banks also had a new way to thieve, through a law passed quietly, which allowed them to steal citizens’ money directly from their accounts through so-called ‘bail-ins’. “They can also restrict access to remaining funds while still charging for ‘looking after’ this money,” God sighed.

“By their fruits, shall you know them,” said Jesus.

 

****

Ricky sat at home. Watching porn prepared him for numerous tasks. Going to work, meeting his mates, buying from his dealer, shopping, visiting his parents in Leigh, ordering takeaway meals, and sleeping. He rationalised it as tension relief. It felt warranted this Saturday morning, given his nervousness. He sank into sleep again, dreaming of open female orifices as fresh, warm semen worked its way into his dressing gown’s crusted crevices.

When he awoke, he grabbed a shower, and put in a pizza to warm, before selecting an outfit. His companion, who had not volunteered his name, suggested dark clothing.

Ricky suddenly remembered he had hidden the brown envelope in the oven last night. Rushing to extract it, he almost burned his fingers.

 

***

“Have you heard of Karen Hudes?” asked God. Jesus had not. “She’s a whistle-blower on the finance world,” God explained. “She insists that a tight core of financial institutions and mega-corporations, pivoting around the US Federal Reserve, are controlling the flow of money for virtually every nation, ensuring a near-global enslavement to debt.”

God filled in the background for her son. A Yale Law School graduate, Karen Hudes had worked in the World Bank’s legal department for over 20 years. By the time she was fired in 2007, after exposing multiple levels of corruption, she had risen to Senior Counsel.

The World Bank was purportedly designed to help end world poverty. However, in interviews with alternative media, Hudes underlined an agenda to persuade poor nations to borrow excessively, so that state assets would eventually need to be sold off to private investors, in order to cover sovereign loan repayments. The bank had also been over-charging borrowers, and funnelling money to unscrupulous individuals, including its own executives, she alleged.

Hudes said most World Bank funding never reached the poorest. She spoke of massive cover-ups, going all the way to Congress, and including 188 global finance ministers, some of whom were lining their pockets.

In the New Testament, Jesus was recorded as saying the words “I tell you truth” 78 times. Never was he cited as compromising or deceiving. He liked the look of Hudes. Akash brought up images across the wall that showed a slightly dishevelled, earnest woman, struggling to fit the ever-slicker corporate moulds.

God was fascinated with her. “Remember, this is a Yale-educated attorney who worked on the inside for over two decades,” she reiterated, masticating seeds. “Not some conspiracy theorist sitting in a bedroom.”

Momentarily, Jesus thought of David Icke, seen by some as the most deluded conspiracy theorist of all. God read these thoughts. “Icke was a seer. He was saying two decades ago that the BBC’s Savile was a rapist and paedophile. He also worked out that Satan and yourself were almost interchangeable in some ancient manuscripts. But he remains an outsider. Hudes, by contrast, trod the corporate finance ladder, smelling its stench up close.”

In an interview with ‘Russia Today’, Hudes said she had been unable to spread her message through mainstream financial and news media, because they were owned by a multi-tentacled conglomerate. Asked for names, she cited Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, among others. As with the World Bank, there was no oversight for most of these institutions, which controlled many world governments, she claimed.

Jesus imagined Hudes walking alongside him along the dusty roads into Jerusalem, as the Roman soldiers awaited.

 

***

Once darkness had fallen, Ravenous-Glutton began his approach, taking a suburban route from central Southend. A heavy purple duffle bag slung across his right shoulder, Ricky wore a dark baseball cap pulled down over his eyes, topping a navy hoodie and black baggy trousers. Unlike Claire, Ruth, Sarah, Sheena, Sally, Genevieve, Alex, Micky, Mike and Dave, no wind of change blew through Ricky in the Big Wave’s wake. No gratitude bubbled up in his soul for the miraculous escape in Old Leigh.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus captured a flavour of Ravenous-Glutton. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you,” were his words, contained in Matthew 7:6.

***

Hudes had reported her corruption findings to the World Bank’s audit committee. Receiving no response, she went to the US Treasury. Ignored again, she tried Congress. Senator Richard Luger sent three letters to the World Bank. Dismissed soon afterwards, she decided to go public.

God was impressed by Hudes’ constant reference to the hard data contained in an extensive 2007 survey by the Zurich-based Federal Institute of Technology (FIT), which examined data from 43,000 multinational companies. Published in 2011, the survey discovered the existence of an “economic super-entity” of 147 very tightly knit mega-corporations, including many banks. “Through complex structures, those 147 corporations own 40% of the assets and 60% of annual earnings of all companies traded on global financial markets, according to FIT,” God told Jesus.

She experienced no surprise to find that half of the 20 largest entities cited by the FIT researchers were banks: Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Natixis, BNY Mellon, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch, UBS and State Street. The peer-reviewed paper described a “giant bow-tie structure” of control.

Jesus liked that analogy. He liked anything that tried to melt or pull apart the oppressiveness of a world where the bottom third of humanity lived on just over a dollar a day, and where 30,000 died of malnutrition and starvation every 24 hours.

Hudes also alleged a situation of global “state capture”, in which private interests were significantly influencing national decision-making processes through illicit and unobvious channels. She told The New American: “This is a story about how the international financial system was secretly gamed, mostly by central banks.” Hudes claimed that the Federal Reserve “secretly dominated the world economy using secret, interlocking corporate directorates, and terrorising anybody who managed to figure out they had any kind of a role.”

 

***

Sid was watching a collection of Arsenal’s premiership goals on YouTube. He reflected on the recent 6-3 defeat at Manchester City, glowing with positivity that the Gunners had scored three times at a ground where even one away goal was an achievement.

That positivity was an instrumental factor in the healing sessions his students now taught around Southend.

Brain imaging research had proven conclusively that the mind cannot differentiate between something that is actually occurring and something imagined. “What you predominantly focus on or experience has an immeasurable level of influence on your body,” Sid told Sally, who always had questions. “If you are consistent, and detach from old emotions, the mind can programme your cells’ functioning in real time. It can activate and deactivate specific segments of your genetic code,” he explained. “Cast away the illusion that negative emotions are ‘happening’ to us. They are created by us. We can choose to change them at will.”

A key visualisation taught at a local hospice was of a gentle but intense beam of healing energy entering the heart. The instruction was to imagine a warm sensation as the beam infiltrated the heart. Then, as the warmth grew stronger, to picture the healing energy in the form of a thick liquid, like warm honey, slowly seeping into the bloodstream, in all directions, through all limbs, and circling back to the heart.

Stan had told Sid that his own blood levels had balanced out fully, as he learned and taught the visualisation. “I saw the imaginary honey healing each blood cell it touched as it travelled through my body, creating the correct sugar and insulin levels,” he said. Sid replied that every single cell in the universe could evolve into a being of light.

***

 

Jesus felt only darkness as God relayed Karen Hudes’ stark description of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), based in Switzerland. The BIS had been set up in the 1920s to collect German reparations for WW1. Its role had morphed into a channel for external investment into Nazi Germany, and then again into a cartel that almost invisibly controlled world money systems. Pulling no punches, Hudes had said the BIS was quite simply “a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations”.

God was reminded of corroborative observations made 47 years earlier by Georgetown University historian Carroll Quigley, one of US President Bill Clinton’s mentors. In 1966, Quigley contended in his book Tragedy and Hope, that financial capitalism aimed to “create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole”.

Quigley had reviewed documents from top global establishments. He specified that “this system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.” The apex of the system would be the BIS, said Quigley, who constantly emphasised that an Anglo-American elite loyal to no country ran much of the world.

 

***

Sid had asked his students to remote view their way into deep BIS data, but their attempts had been blocked. He told Sally that special equipment could be installed to prevent remote sensing. “There may be transmitters within the building that operate on the same electro-magnetic frequency that are used by remote viewers when in scan mode.”

Sally and Stan had run into something similar when trying to hack the operations of the London trillionaires.

***

Driving home from work, Dave Dawson returned to a conversation with Micky Gaze the previous afternoon. Micky admitted that his wife had now left him, to be closer to their money. So he had mucked in harder at the park, bringing a caravan, outside which his two lads enjoyed kicking a football.

The conversation moved to the once-impossible scenario of keeping regular company with Satan and Gandhi. Throw in the Buddha’s availability, over in Leigh, and you had what Dave – a former atheist – called a “dream team of Eternal super-heroes”. But his mouth fell open when he learned that his friend had received text messages from The Place. “Hold your horses Micky. Are you saying you got texts from…..God?”

“Satan would always sign his texts, but there were other messages.”

“Like what?”

“A few ‘thank yous’, a couple of requests.”

“Didn’t you ask who you were talking to?”

“I wasn’t bothered mate. When I followed the instructions good things happened, to myself and others. I didn’t want to spoil a good thing.”

“How cool are you? I’m wondering……..Jeez, I don’t know if I can bring myself to ask you.”

“Pluck it up and try me.”

“Can I have the number? Is it still on your phone?” Micky’s loud guffaws rang around the full cafe. “You daft bugger. Why would you want to text God?”

“I’ve got unanswered questions.” Micky raised his thick, dark eyebrows. “Well, it’s a shame, but I’ve got a new phone and sim card, so no past messages.”

Micky saw his friend’s features drop. “Cheer up pal: I didn’t say I’d forgotten the number.”

***

 

Maggie was still listening in, as God continued to praise Karen Hudes. The lawyer had told The New American of her confidence that the world’s financial network would eventually be exposed and subjected to the rule of law, while the public would demand full transparency, from an impartial, effective press.

God was animated, hopeful. “Karen has shown just how cleverly a seemingly impenetrable oligarchy can keep the majority of humanity under a spell.” Still chewing seeds, her concentration deepened. “Her most incredible claims concern the City of London and the Vatican. It is almost beyond belief, far beyond the scope of the Akashic files.”

Jesus was all ears. “Could things be any more twisted and covert?”

God kept her voice steady. “Things are more bent than a blind man’s car bumper.”

“Mum, do you remember that line in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians?”

“Remember it? I inspired it,” said God. “He who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

***

 

Life’s opportunities were finite. “Six noughts”, Micky Gaze had said. Dave pulled his red Citroen Picasso into a space outside his unlit house. Sarah and Lauren were still in the park. His fingers punched out a question. Is anybody there? He keyed in six zeros. Pressed send.

Nothing came back. People walked past Dave’s car. This is Dave Dawson, was his next send. Rain drenched the massive windscreen.

He changed tack: I would be grateful for feedback. How can we improve the experiment at the park?  

Back it came in under ten seconds. You decide. By the way, gratitude is good.

OMG, he thought. Residents are struggling with winter and boredom. It’s hard to gauge our progress. A confident answer ensued. Take your uncertainty as an opportunity to evolve and grow. And trust in the divine.

Pleased that God didn’t abbreviate, Dave asked for any other advice?

Autonomous groups of a manageable size will allow humanity to emancipate itself, taking rational control of a rational life. Continue to stand your ground in the truth. And enjoy yourself – it’s later than you think.

Hah! Was God a Specials fan? Dave asked.

I loved the whole reggae/ska/punk thing in the late 70s and early 80s.

Me too. What is the purpose of life?

The fullest expression of yourself, whilst allowing others maximum freedom. 

OK, what were my biggest mistakes?

Everyone, at every given moment, makes the best possible choice, using the available information. That’s free will.

God had all the answers.

Can reincarnation happen?

You should have asked Gandhi. That made sense. The little Indian’s reverence for honesty had blazed through after Satan stole the tee-shirts.

Have we ever met?

When you reincarnate enough times, you begin to remember.

Was it offensive to design toilet paper carrying the Queen’s head?

What goes around, comes around. Then another message. No more questions. We will talk again. Everything will be OK.     

***

God became agitated. She brought up the park and its surrounds on four screens. Zoomed in on Kensington Road, where Dave had locked the Picasso and was walking to his door, fixed on his phone. God went in closer; saw Dave hit six zeros again, fumbling for his door key.

Dave put the phone to his ear, wanting to hear God. He felt emboldened. The park was succeeding, but something extra was required. A ‘God ingredient’. The number you have called is not recognised. Please check the number, ordered his phone. He dialled again, turning the key, feeling wind in his ear that faced the park. Then blacking out, as the hammer smashed his skull.

Falling to the floor, where it descended again, with greater force. His soul popped out of his body, looking down as it floated up, catching the dark individual savagely destroying the top of the space suit in which it had once lived.  It rose further, over the park, glimpsing the body being dragged into the dark house. Dave felt time and space warp, felt the long bright tunnel envelop whatever he now was, and understood God’s final words.

***

Satan was still eating humble pie. He loathed his punishment, of sweeping and tidying the converted changing rooms after each day’s shift, to atone for his theft. “Embrace penance,” said Gandhi, whose illiterate mother taught him pantheism in his last life. Take care of your immediate surroundings, and the universe would take care of itself, she had promised.

Tasks complete, Satan walked across the dark park, thinking of how a 100-year old single malt might taste. He saw Alex talking to Sarah in the café. Both were laughing. Lauren was practising cartwheels on the path outside, watched by Sam and Pippa. And Steph.

Instinct kicked in. He accelerated past Lauren, pausing at the park’s west entrance, looking north. A darkly hooded figure turned left, at the T-junction in the distance. Satan sprinted across to Dave’s house. Hurried to the back. Without hesitation, he elbowed through the glass, knowing Sarah and Dave would forgive him. The ground floor was unlit. He paused at the stairs. Light poured from a bedroom. Each stair magnified his dread. At the foot of the bed, crimson shapes painted the floor: a creature with wings, an eye, and a triangle, in which sat Dave’s real flesh and blood heart. A body lay nearby. Chest excavated and head unrecognisable.

“You showed your hand, you depraved bastards,” muttered Satan.

He ran downstairs, across the road, almost knocking over Mike Burper at the entrance. He pleaded that Mike somehow break the news to Sarah, then call the police.

No great riddles were contained in the pyramid, eagle, and all-seeing eye. Each was found on any dollar bill. Satan needed his motorbike.

 

 

 

 

255. Whodunnit?

 

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 31

 

There is no greater power on this earth than story

Libba Bray

 

 

Mary Fawkes winced at the rain knifing the cold caravan. After her husband said goodbye, she donned her long yellow waterproof. Mike Burper gave a muted greeting as she walked past the bright café lights.

Mary had recently quit her job at the psychiatric hospital, after an official reprimand followed her appearance in the BBC documentary about the Southchurch community. She had worked for over 20 years without a blemish.

The £100 in cash from Rose was burning a hole in Mary’s pocket. Giving up new clothes had been her hardest sacrifice in stepping away from money-based consumerism. Mary fancied window shopping, at the very least.

 

***

 

Sitting at his laptop, in a warm bedroom 20 miles away, Ed Fawkes wondered how mass hypnosis worked. Were humans simply conditioned to accept voices of authority? Or were governments and media so skilful in manipulating information that people sleep-walked?

Evening after evening, ignoring his homework, he had been drawn like a moth to a flame – or perhaps a fly to a turd – back to the events of 11 September, 2001. And to what he now saw as the alleged Al-Qaeda conspiracy to attack US buildings with jet planes.

Ed had waded through a rash of Internet hypotheses, written by keyboard warriors attempting to dismiss and disprove the official 9/11 story trotted out by the US government and its allies.

Many were tenuous, or highly speculative, playing into the mainstream notion that anyone who talked about “what really happened” on 9/11 was bat shit insane, to be mocked and ignored.

Ed encountered arguments that the plane crashes in New York were faked with trick photography. That it was all the work of the Israeli government. Or that because the transponders in the four planes involved in the 9/11 attacks had been turned off, they could have been flown by remote control.

Too many ifs, coulds and maybes. Ed had listened to his dad enough to know that solid collaborative evidence was vital to any hypothesis.

One theory that did catch his attention said that strategic steel beams within the Twin Towers in New York were pre-cut and coated with nano-thermite. He read that this released far more energy than any other conventional explosive used in demolition, and would keep burning after exploding.

He noticed that, in the earliest 9/11 reports, police and firefighters described seeing and hearing a series of small explosions that travelled around upper floors of the Twin Towers before their collapses.

As first-hand testimony, this was worth considering. One witness described the soundscape, just before one tower collapsed, as “like the finale of the 4th of July over the East River.” Such descriptions disappeared from later reporting, as did comments from firemen testifying to tremendous explosions heard in the WTC basements.

Ed wondered. Even a schoolboy could see you would need access to stairwells and elevator shafts to plant charges over a period of time, which would mean by-passing security arrangements. The next discovery made him sit up.

According to public records, George W. Bush’s brother Marvin Bush had been on the board of directors of Securacom, a company providing electronic security for the World Trade Center. And also for Dulles International Airport – from where Flight 77 took off – and for United Airlines, two of whose planes were involved in the 9/11 attacks. Wow!

Ed’s dad, Dan, had told him more than once that detectives saw coincidence as a sign they were on track. Working solo, taking several afternoons off school, Ed had no doubt that a huge act of terrorism had occurred. But had the perpetrators been correctly identified?

He texted Dan one evening, asking what to do next. A change of direction was advised.

“You’ve proved to your satisfaction that the 9/11 story is shrouded in doubt, Ed. Above all, two plane hits but three collapsed buildings. Leave it there. Anyone who claims to know what actually happened, with absolute certainty, is full of shit. Instead, know you were lied to. Then see where and what 9/11 led to. Who benefitted? The money trail usually provides excellent clues.”

It was a long text. Ed suddenly realised that car headlights were illuminating the front driveway. Dan had not been home for three weeks.

 

***

 

Olly persuaded Satan and Marie to move on, to a gay pub, The Cliff. The rain had eased off. They passed a house where one front room television looked about six feet long. Marie said Samsung was offering 98 inches for £40,000.

The Cliff’s brightly-lit, multi-coloured exterior suggested Amsterdam. In the warmth, Marie recommended tequila slammers, £3 a time. Satan added straight vodkas to the order. Marie saw his £20 note, and levelled a charge of hypocrisy. “Do your fellow campers know how you operate?”

They licked salt from their wrists, swallowed the tequila and munched fresh lime chunks. Sal knew the pint of no return beckoned; ordered a Guinness to speed its approach. He felt eyes on his leathers. Two men in a corner. Wandering across, holding his vodka and stout, he ransacked his memory. Found an image outside the Crooked Billet. “Marky and …..”

“Frank….surely you remember” chuckled the taller man. “We don’t see Micky anymore. What have you done with Mr Gaze, you rascal?” A stress on ‘have’.

Marie joined them. At the bar, Olly chatted with guys in military uniforms. Soon, he sent across Jägerbombs, then beer chasers. The Devil’s thoughts and memories were fusing, overlaid by nauseous sensations he experienced using the wormhole into Old Leigh. His companions moved down a tunnel, then rushed back, faces millimetres away.

Marie sat beside Sal. Her thigh pressed his. She said a Vietnam banker had been sentenced to death for embezzling $25 million. Sal wanted regular executions, projected on giant screens and replayed for a week. His tongue incapable of movement, he thought fondly of senior financiers’ heads displayed on spikes above their banks, as a precursor to shutting down the bulk of that industry.

Frank cut in. “Why even think about that stuff? You could be run over crossing the road tonight, or one of those poor people whose homes were smashed by typhoon Haiyan. Better to enjoy each day.”

Sal was hallucinating. Dripping from the pub’s speakers was a beautiful song called ‘Buffalo’ by Gaz Coombes. It made him feel less alone. Hair beneath his gloves stood up. Marie was specifying life’s greatest prize. “I’ve been married twice. Now I need the day before me to do as I wish,” she insisted.

Olly introduced himself to Marky and Frank. He told the table he was an undertaker and had 52 grand in personal debt. “I don’t give a fuck about paying back that mafia gang. Any spare money goes on enjoying myself and helping people that are going without,” he said.

Satan felt Marie’s exasperation. “Isn’t it strange how the finance world gets pilloried but we don’t mind the greed of those we happen to like,” she pointed out. “If film stars or footballers were paid less, ticket prices could be lower.”

“Let’s go to Chinnerys,” shouted Marky. On it went.

 

***

 

Christmas without money was testing the Southchurch community. Grumpiness and fragility had grown as darker, colder weather encroached. The more artistic were making their own gifts. Some pledged one-off services to friends. Others vowed to eschew any ceremony, cutting links to the culture they once inhabited.

Hints of an inbound festive comet were liberally sprinkled along Southend High Street. Looking at leather boots in a women’s store window, Mary found herself remembering a shop called Keddies, where she visited Santa’s Grotto as a child. She wanted to buy for Rose and Edward. A part of her could not bear their absence.

 

***

 

Edward was the untidiest individual Rose could imagine. One weekend after Dan and Mary’s departure she found a dozen unwashed plates and some 20 confectionary wrappers and crisp bags among his discarded clothes. She had left him a list.

1.Hoover 2.Dust 3.Clean shower 4.Tidy CDs/DVDs

Ed placed Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’ back in its case. About to throw the list on the floor, he felt the nag of an instinct. He kicked a pair of jeans under the bed and went to the window. The neighbour was rebuilding a garden wall. Dust, said an inner voice. Dust.

Now, sitting with Dan, post-hug, over two hot cups of drinking chocolate, he triumphantly relayed his intuition. “People were covered in dust at the foot of the Twin Towers.” Dan nodded, ecstatic to be in a warm house.

“So I looked again at the videos Dad. With the sound turned off. And I finally got it, got the point where I think everyone was misled.” Dan felt shivers of anticipation. “Those towers didn’t collapse. How many times did the media hammer that word into all of our nuts. But look. They turned into dust!”

Edward pulled up a YouTube clip on his laptop. They watched the shape of explosions mushrooming out, as if steel, aluminium and concrete had puffed out in a thick spray spiralling and exploding sideways and upwards. Edward played it repeatedly. Dan caught a shot where a massive piece of metal seemed to evaporate in mid-air. “This is really interesting Ed. So what did you ask yourself next?”

Edward couldn’t stop grinning.

I googled a few variations of the words ‘Dust’ and ‘Twin Towers’, and found a US scientist called Judy Woods who highlighted something that I missed.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You could spend a lifetime wading through 9/11 details.” Dan had fretted about his son’s introverted nature for years. He would never make his living as a negotiator, but might already have his first book brewing. “So, Judy Woods?”

“She kept it pretty simple, Dad. She said the whe weight of one and a quarter million tonnes of collapsing rubble, from great heights, would have smashed open the structure in which the World Trade Centre was built, on land reclaimed from the Hudson River, some of it 70 feet below sea level. But the levee somehow withstood the pounding, and the amount of rubble and debris left on the ground was relatively minimal. Where did it all go?”

“Great questions. Anything else?”

“Yeah. How come pools of molten granite lingered at the base of the destroyed buildings for weeks.” Ed hesitated slightly. “Judy Woods reckoned the evidence left room for just one explanation. An unknown military technology was used to ‘deconstitute’ the matter of those buildings.”

Dan said nothing. The theory would be seen as ‘crackpot’, but might explain the lightning speed with which all three New York buildings ‘collapsed’. It was difficult to fault his overall argument that planes could not have caused all three WTC dismemberments. No wonder the rubble was quickly disposed of.

“How’s school then?” Dan groaned inside at the sheer bathos of his question. “It’s shit Dad. What am I doing there? I’m not hoping or intending to be somebody’s good little employee.”

Dan told Ed that it was his reading skills, acquired from school, which had taken him down his investigative road. That his mates were a product of the socialisation skills acquired from school. He told him with complete honesty that he was glad to know precisely where Ed was during the day. “And you do have to work. Maybe I’ll end up training you as a journalist, if you’re not there already.”

Ed couldn’t drop 9/11. “Dad, how could the BBC woman have made that mistake on WTC7? Did they know in advance?” Ed had discovered that the reporter Jane Standley had announced WTC 7’s collapse, on live television, a full 20 minutes before it happened.

Dan scrunched his features. “We’ll never know. But the TV stations take feeds from news agencies. I’ve told you before who owns the big ones.” Ed was only half listening, wondering how many times TV audiences had been persuaded to “see” what wasn’t there.

“So what are you telling me Dad? That puppet masters script mainstream news?”

“Get a sniff of the money trail”, said Dan. “You can make yourself just as relevant as the BBC. Distrust in the mass media is already at an all-time high, so all it takes is a little nudge in the right direction. The finance is where you find truth.”

Ed saved his best for last. He told Dan how, in June 2001, Tatyana Koryagina, a female Russian economist stated in a Pravda news report that the US would be subject to a massive terrorist attack in late August 2001. She said a secret group behind the coming attack was the most powerful force in the world, worth over $300 trillion.

Dan thought immediately of Satan, and his view that ten trillionaires ran the world.

 

***

 

Mary gripped the money in her pocket, eyeing another window display. A bright orange cashmere scarf would suit Rose. Edward wanted Xbox games, but needed gloves. A hand landed on her shoulder, startling her. Satan’s reflection dwarfed hers. Booze plagued his breath.

He found his tongue in the fresh air. “Hello handsome,” he opened. “Before you say anything, I know you have money, so let’s even it up, or perhaps out.” Dark swathes of hair fell across his face. A woman was appraising her, standing with three unthreatening men. “I have a problem, the likes of which you may solve.”

“Sal you’re pissed.”

“I’m just starting. Please help my problem, and I’ll be a ship in the night about your money.”

“Are we going to talk here?”

“No, come with us. To an evening establishment. Where we going again Marky?”

“Chinnerys. Down the hill, twist left along the front. Doors gloriously opened again after the Big Wave. Peter Hook played recently, by all accounts a fantastic gig.”

Mary had nothing planned. Like other park residents, she had long normalised the reality that Satan walked among them. She greeted his new gang. As they walked, Marie began chatting to Sal, so Mary asked Frank what there was to do in Southend at night.

“Not much. Back in the days after the pubs closed most of us would set off for London. A favourite haunt was the White Swan, along the Commercial Road.” Mary thought of Dan’s disappointment that his ‘Black Swan’ theory had yet to transpire. He could be difficult company these days, in their cramoed, chilly caravan.

Frank recalled a favourite club in Southend, to be found every month in the basement of The Palace Hotel before it was renovated. “Nice and seedy. Usually after a few bevies I would have murdered for a cup of tea and a French fancy. His name was Maurice!”

Satan walked next to her, swaying. “Gandhi will do his bloody pieces Mary. I’ve filched and thieved 20 of his tee-shirts, and swapped them for money. So that I could imbibe, though necessarily. Will you censure me, Mary Fawkes, or might you dream me an excuse, a fine cover note.” He belched loudly.

Olly, Marky and Frank knew the band playing in Chinnerys. Sal found a corner spot. His female companions ordered a bottle of wine each. Marie bought Sal a treble vodka and orange. Shouting over the noise, Mary offered him some ideas. Perhaps say that a local family was desperately short of clothing, or that he was promoting the park’s creativity, but had somehow lost the merchandise.

The band launched into a cover version of Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’. Shakily, Satan stood and worked his way into the crowd. Hallucinating as he danced, bumping into others, occasionally looking down from above his body as his long limbs flailed. Enjoying this, Mary decided to disclose Sal’s real identity to Marie. What a kick to see the puzzlement on the other woman’s features. Marie wanted more. So Mary added that his hands were hairy. And he had a tail.

Sal was lost in his rhythms. The band loved it. Punters were grinning. He felt time shake itself apart. Faces were hundreds of yards away. Memory was now. He later remembered a female thigh on each side. Mary, Marie. Maggie? Morgana? Where was Mary Magdalene? He recalled a remark from…..Mary? “When I was a child, I knew that God’s angels mated with women. Even now I wonder how much of the God race remains in us.”

Sal could answer that. But didn’t. Mary bought a round of trebles. She told them she had learned a fundamental adult truth. “Honest talk, with an open heart, no judgement, and a cuddle”, she said, was a better recipe for sustained human happiness than any sexual activity.

To Satan, just one thing mattered: escaping duality. Another round would help. His money was gone. A miracle that he produced a lucid sentence. “My problem is non-compliance, always was.” Olly joined them, threw an arm around Sal. With the other he placed a double vodka before him.

Where did the sequence go? A single memory lingered. An erect nipple in Satan’s mouth, flicked and caressed by his tongue. And a hand around the base of his tail, gripping strongly.

254. More questions than answers

images

 

For most blogs, it isn’t too difficult to think of a handful of main themes and points, then sew them together with some carefully chosen words. But it’s proving different with my new, part-time carer’s job. These are early days. I’m swimming in so much uncertainty that no easy structure comes to mind. The idea popped up of asking myself some questions. Seemed as good as anything.

 

What is the point of Keith’s life?

I’ve changed his name. He is one of the clients. Probably in his mid-80s, Keith is terribly afflicted with COPD. Constantly linked to an oxygen pipe. His back gives him chronic pain. His leg is ulcerated. Keith’s sight is blurred, his hearing poor. He lives with his two sons, who have to work five days a week. He is seen 4 times a day by my new company, with 30 minutes officially designated for each slot. We got him out of bed yesterday morning, dragging him from peaceful, warm slumber into a house that was empty by the time we left.

Once washed, dressed and provided with an incontinence pad, Keith is left to sit on a sofa all day, hemmed in by cushions. The radio or TV is switched on to provide background noise. He drifts into reverie, and gradually becomes more uncomfortable, but lacks the strength to stand on his own. He can get too cold or excessively hot, with no recourse except to wait for help. His coughing depletes him. Urination or defecation is a protracted effort. Food sustains, rather than cheers him.

Each care rota checks his pad, adjusts his sitting position, feeds and hydrates him, and makes sure the medication is imbibed.

Keith wants to stay in bed. He asks me why he is left unattended. I have no answer, except that his family makes the decisions. I try to tease out his past. He went to school in Rayleigh, Essex. He likes an antique show on TV. I have no mental comfort for him. His care leads nowhere. It feeds a loop of eternal discomfort. We are shovelling snow in a wilderness.

How can Sheila tolerate her circumstances?

Sheila (name also changed) is a lovely lady, kind and gentle, eager to chat. Lost her husband many years ago. Very happy to detail her life, and to ask about mine. Her dog, Olly, is her best friend.

She lives with her son, who is “a coke-head”, according to fellow carers. They say he steals his mother’s money to feed his habit.

She was sexually abused last year. It is alleged that either her son or his friend were the perpetrators. No definitive proof, and so no charges brought. She sleeps downstairs, while the son sleeps upstairs.

What aspects of the job give pleasure?

When clients show their appreciation. It can be a bright, honest smile, or a genuine ‘thank you’. When I can take the initiative, suggesting something helpful, or can strike up a conversation that takes the client out of their head and their circumstances. When I have learned something of their routines; and can deploy that knowledge without prompting. When I learn stuff that I can use to help my dad, whose dementia is gradually increasing. Getting through a day, thinking ‘I did it’. Getting into bed, deliciously tired.

And to hear a guy who lost much mobility, via a recent stroke, call his far less mobile wife ‘sweetheart’. The love in his voice was inspiring.

Are there other positives?

I’m happier. I notice it at home, when with Maureen, and when I’m out and about. When I go to sleep and wake up. That’s huge. Priceless. There is more purpose to life. It feels like a clear message – that the old, stagnant ways of sitting at home and writing about business and finance have been mood depressants.

Do I gel with fellow carers?

Sometimes. They are mainly young girls in their 20s. All very helpful, given my raw novicehood, but regularly distracted by their phones. I try to pull my weight. But am at the foot of a learning curve in terms of intimate care and the technicalities of the hoists. So I need their teaching. Some of the gap is bridged by my listening skills, and ability to get people to talk. Maybe, in time, a single round would work better. So that I can spend time in quality talk with clients, running the show and giving them undivided attention.

How does it compare with looking after my father?

The key difference is quality time. I get to dad’s, make a cuppa, and sit down for a chat. Then get some shopping, put out his rubbish, sort out his week’s medication, and indulge in more chat. We look up obscure questions on Google; and dredge up his past in as much detail as his Stage 3 Alzheimers allows. We watch football. Chat some more. Maybe I cook something for him. Check his washing and his bedsheets. I try to spend three hours being of service.

The carer job tends to be split into half-hour allocations. There is electronic clocking in and out, with phone locations tracked centrally. If the time is exceeded, the next client can suffer. It can give a ‘factory’ feel to the whole process.

Is it for me?

There are drawbacks. Gaps between jobs, wear and tear on the car. Already, a feeling of over-familiarity with some clients. I’m easily bored, and fear that under-stimulation will kick in as routine surpasses novelty.

For clients like Keith, I leave in despair.

Also, the need to write a log at each visit. The pen on paper method will soon switch over to electronic (mobile) notes, which will add to existing reliance on mobile technology, to clock in and out and record medication given. Clients already watch us tap away at mobiles, while the time that they pay for ebbs away.

On the other hand, it is a welcome learning curve, and will fill the ‘finance gap’ I’ve banged on about since last May. Outside the job, I’m feeling lighter, better, more cheerful.

Long-term? The jury is feeling the breeze, copping a smoke and checking its phone.

index

253. The kindness of strangers

 

images

 

Back in 1989, when our daughter Lauren had still to reach her second birthday, Maureen and I were shown a glimpse of hell. The tiniest sliver.

We lived in an upstairs maisonette next to a busy main road in Chelmsford. It was August, or thereabouts. I did a good chunk of the childcare in those days, facilitated by my early rise and finish as a milkman. Maureen worked at Essex Cricket Club, on the catering side.

She prefaces the incident with the recollection that she brought home a spare punnet of strawberries; and went downstairs to ask whether it was wanted by Doris, our neighbour. “I’ll leave the front door open, Kev, to save taking a key – so keep an eye on Lauren,” she said. “No problem,” I replied.

I don’t recall what I was doing. The memory is that at some stage, I realised Lauren had gone from my sight. She would roam freely around the apartment, exploring and playing, so I checked every room, without panic.

That had changed, as I scrambled downstairs, and outside, to find Maureen chatting just inside Doris’s residence. “Have you got Lauren?” I said, more hopefully than I have ever spoken, before or since.

Maureen’s eyes widened. “No.”

Without stopping to discuss, we ran around to check the small garages and lawn area behind the flats, and then back to the road, scanning the pavements in each direction. Anxiety rocketing, we rushed through to the adjacent car park. Many of the cars had gone home, and I could see across to a quiet road that bordered a row of houses.

A woman stood 60 yards away, holding a child. It looked like our little girl.

We ran over, relief mushrooming as it became clear that Lauren was the child. Free as a bird, she had trotted happily along a route she would have known, towards a house where Maureen held another job, as a child-minder. Luckily for all, Lauren had kept to the pavement, and had encountered a kind human who had waited with her, talking.

Our gratitude could have filled a football ground. There were no recriminations, just joy at the outcome. Few dark thoughts about what could have transpired, as it had not.

Fair to say, though, that the future is never known.

 

index

 

 

 

252. The Railway Hotel

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 30

 

 

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.

 

251. Cats in the library

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 29

 

 

Genevieve: Sex.

Blondy: Lovely.

Genevieve: Is that all you want from me?

Blondy: Right now? Yeah. More than anything.

Genevieve: Howard, you didn’t even zip up the bloody tent. Why are you here?

Blondy: I’ve told you that over and over. I travelled 265 miles so I could stop worrying about money. Stop feeling like there’s a hedgehog in my pocket.

Genevieve: You know what I’d like to hear you say?

Blondy: Welshmen are the best lovers?

Genevieve: That you’re sick of being herded. Sick of being a sheep.

Blondy: Sheep are beloved in Wales. Especially on cold nights.

Genevieve: Sick of the rubbish shoved down our throats by TV and Facebook. That you’re bucking the system. That you want truth.

Blondy: You try living in western Wales. Jobs are as rare as rocking horse crap. That’s the truth.

Genevieve: Jobs! For fuck’s sake. Jobs keep us in somebody else’s prison. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, isn’t it his duty to escape?

Blondy: I’m not a poxy soldier, darling. I mend bikes. Captain Van Hoyte was telling me that there are twice as many bikes as people in The Netherlands.

Genevieve: Jesus, I hate how you change subject. Don’t you ever think about whether there’s a God? Gandhi and Satan are here, a hundred yards away. How? Aren’t you interested?

Blondy: Now you’re being daft. Satan was a fallen angel in the Bible. You seen any wings? Dave and me cleared out his empty bottles this morning. No feathers anywhere. OK? And yeah, the Indian guy calls himself Gandhi, but that’s a common name in West India. I looked it up.

Genevieve: Have you seen how he looks at me?

Blondy: Babe, every man in this park ogles you. Wakey wakey.

Genevieve: Not lust. More like disgust.

Blondy: Funny you should say that. That was the look I see him give Steph over at the café. She keeps talking about this bloke Ravenous-Glutton. Reckons she’s waiting for him to come to the park. Why you packing up your stuff?

Genevieve: You ever come across the word ‘numinous’?

Blondy: Wouldn’t mind coming across you. Where you going?

Genevieve: It means mysterious, awe-inspiring, spiritual. That’s how I feel about this park. It’s shooting for utopia. No more normalcy. I’m going to Diana’s tent. She’s been through the wringer. She needs another human to talk to, to trust.

Blondy: Ah don’t do that. She’s next thing to an ex-junkie. Come on, let’s talk about your parents. About your mum becoming worn down and tired, washing the windscreens, and your dad’s gambling, because he’s isolated, and can’t bond, can’t find anything meaningful. I do listen.

Genevieve: I know. That’s one of the reasons you’ll get by, and other women will happily sleep here. You’re good company. With a kissable face.

Blondy: So stay. Please. You’re the best in bed.

Genevieve: I want to leave you with a different thought. There was a philosopher in America called William James.

Blondy: Come nearer and tell me.

Genevieve: He wondered if our relationship to the otherworld – the spirits and the dead – was like how our pets relate to our world. So, we may be in the universe in the same way that dogs and cats might be in our libraries. Seeing the books. Hearing the conversation. Without any idea of the meaning, or how it works.

Blondy: Be my pussy. One last time.

Genevieve: James said we are embedded in the otherworld. Not the other way around. Bye Howard.