Monthly Archives: September 2013

White girls in burkahs…


Once he has noticed one, it seems as if they are everywhere….white girls in burkahs.
Often they are those fleshy girls,their faces made more moon like by the scarf that wraps around their hair, skin shiny, eyes almost downcast.
They look, to his eyes, almost totally wrong.
Their presence on the pavement derails him, causes him to look, to stare and then to try to look away before they notice his looking, his stare.
He steps to the side, his own eyes looking away, gaze dropping to the pavement and then they are gone, a flurry of fabric and buggies and blue plastic carrier bags from the halal butchers shop on the corner.
I’m not a racist he thinks, knowing, knowing for sure that what comes next should be, must be a comment of mind blowing ignorance.
I’m not a racist, he starts the thought again and then lets it drift.
Thinks back,feet making their automatic journey to the supermarket, a walk he has made day after week after month, the dog, his footwear changing over the years.
This dog, the latest dog, mostly black,mostly staff, mooches along, both of them a little stiffer, a little slower than they used to be.
Back in the day, his then dog would freestyle off lead, but these days, mindful that many of his neighbours children are frightened of dogs, he keeps the current one on a lead, has learnt to pull it back sharply if it shows a friendly interest in the passers by.
He has lived in this neighbourhood a long time, a room in that house,a flat share on this road, girlfriend, ex girlfriend living there and there and there, a meandering path of red dots, a journey to no-where really.
He has finished off almost where he started, but has , he supposes, gone up in the world, now has a housing association terraced house, front door painted a standardised red, windows cheap UPVC double glazing, but home all the same.
He remembers when he first moved here, skinny white boy, looked like a student, but wasn’t. Somehow had forgotten to do the whole college thing, just did the other bits, sans studying.
Late nights and cheap beers and huge pans of lentil stew and potato curry.
Went to student parties, didn’t remember to take a bottle of cheap wine, but drank everything in sight, sat on doorsteps at 4 am, wilted roll up at the corner of his mouth, talking about the novel he was going to write, the film he was going to make.
Sometimes, he convinced even himself, could see the finished manuscript, words uttered as the sun came up, became the reality of a finished project, but mostly he knew the truth, engaging bullshit.
Walking home, to whichever room was home then, 6,7 am, always meeting the big black guy, shiny bouncers suit, sheep on a lead and a nod
“Wha appen?”
Almost a whigger, but not quite, knew enough to keep it in check, knew enough to never try to coax his baby fine, mouse brown hair into inadequate dreadlocks.

The student friends moved on, back to suburbs, off to bigger cities, but he stayed, settled, comfortable.
Would stand some days outside the bookies, one heel just off the ground, resting on the sun warmed bricks, watching the world go by.

He became part of the street furniture, always on a float at carnival, learnt to drop the the, carnival, never the carnival, still danced like a white boy though.

Knew the Delroys and the Leroys and the Devons, peppered his conversation with rich, island language

” Ras Clout”

And 30 came and went and so did Leroy and Delroy, moved to semis with gardens, moved to where the schools were better, moved because that’s what people do.

But he stayed, took stock, hung out with the thin white girls, angry, defiant butts in tight jeans, beige and saffron coloured children running in and out of the under furnished terraced houses.
Different sorts of parties, angry edges, always on the tip of sliding into something nasty, but still he cooked big pans of lentil stew, sat on doorsteps, smoked and walked home, wondering what had happened to the big man and the sheep on a lead.

He fathers a couple of kids, thin white faces reflect their mothers’ anger. He is an absent dad, more absent minded than actually absent. After all he lives too near to really get away, but he forgets them, their names, ages slip away from him.

At first he likes the new changes, the streets are quieter, less boom bastic, the call to prayer reminds him of a short lived interest in meditation. He sits up in bed, skinny shoulders hunched against the cold, first cup of tea, first roll up of the day and rock in rythmn to the Imans’ chant.
It’s a good way as any to start the day.

The shops change, the bookies closes, another halal supermarket opens in it place. He likes to wander around its aisles, buys huge bags of rice, garam masala, fresh coriander.
One day it strikes him, his is the only white face in the store, in fact, given it’s 11am, his is, with the exception of the 2 men hefting cans of cooking oil, the only completely exposed face in the store. All the other customers are women and all cover some or all their face, hair, head.

He wonders, as he ambles home, hands deep in pockets against the November chill, head down, shoulders slumped with the weight of cut price groceries, when all of this happened, when exactly did his neighbourhood change to this extent.

He cannot shake the feeling of not belonging, even at home, feet up on the sofa, fag lit, cuppa brewed and the dog, the current dog, up on its back legs, staring out of the window, watchful for cats and buggies and dogs that don’t belong, even then, the feeling that this is not his place anymore persists.

He starts counting off the houses on his own street, using his fingers to help make the list.
He is the last white man on the street.

The angry, skinny white girls drifted away in twos and threes, with their angry children, railing against something, anything.
Lips like rat traps, defiant butts in too tight jeans, pushing this years’ baby in last years’ buggy to another meeting –
school
welfare
council
and so on and so on.
Their anger especially reserved for the next meeting, the next shrugged shoulders, the next hopeless outspread palms.

He realises he misses them, their untidy houses, their unruly hearts, the likelihood of cheap beer, cheap smokes and the nearest child sent to the chippy on evenings when not much was happening, not much to say.

The Hawkins got rehoused last year and everyone, odd and even numbers drew a collective sigh of relief,
” Good riddance to bad rubbish” said Mr Ashkir and he had nodded, glad to see the back of a family so feral that they gave feral a bad name.
But he hadn’t realised the significance, just him now, in a sea of women who hide their faces, their hair, their bodies in clouds of billowing black.

He rolls another fag, ponders putting on the kettle, but settles for patting the dog, ears soft velvet between his fingers and stares out of the window, watching white girls in burkahs vanish into the house next door.

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The wonderful Joan of Arc – Carl Dryers’ masterpiece


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Because I’m working on a longer piece of fiction at the moment, so have no story to share today and because, finally, I have actually seen this film in the big screen for the first time and what a wonderful way it was to spend a Saturday afternoon,  I thought I’d share some images from the film.

If you have the opportunity, ever, to see the film played at the correct speed, then do so.

I promise that you will be moved and uplifted and nourished.


Hunger 11 – hunger logic – part 1


Sometimes, she wakes convinced that somehow during the night, fast asleep, she has crept downstairs, raided the fridge, the biscuit tin, shoveled handfuls of raisins, dry cereals, lumps of cheese into her mouth.
She can almost feel the ghost of food in her mouth and has to run her tongue over her teeth, the roof of her mouth, not once, but many times to reassure herself that nothing has happened.
But, the feeling of unease remains, the seed of doubt, once planted, cannot be completely removed and so she does a triple set of crunches, sit ups and decides, just to be on the safe side, to skip breakfast anyway.

She worries that the fat from moisturiser, sun block, lip balm will be absorbed into her blood stream, she visualises the little blobs of fat travelling down veins, attaching themselves to organs, dimpling the skin.
She compromises, avoids lip balm, all too easy to lick, to chew, but allows herself a dab of cream on her face every other day.

She weighs herself 5 and 6 and 7 times a day, bows down to the absoloute tyranny of their rule , but chooses to ignore any weight but the heaviest each day. This is the true weight, the weight that must be acted upon, recorded in the notebook that she uses just for this purpose, pages upon pages of numbers, a mapping of desire versus control.

She hears the phrase ” I can put on weight just by looking at food” and despite a good degree, wonders if she should google to check the truth, the likelihood , the outside possibility of this being an actual, verifiable fact.
She knows that late one night,when logic vanishes and the walls crowd in and life comes down to numbers and bones that she will search the internet, just in case.

She loves to bake, loves to watch you eat, takes pleasure from your pleasure, your satedness, the dash of cupcake icing that remains on your chin, long after the cupcake is gone. She urges you to eat more, but when you balk, stomach full, all caked out, she leans forward and runs a finger over the top of the last remaining cake and after
wards, when you, replete, walk home, she carefully carries the cake in to the bin and then, quickly, while she still has control, pours vinegar over it.

She considers cutting off her hair, long, dark curls. The hair she hides behind when her face is simply too ugly to show to the world, the hair that keeps her neck warm, when the cold creeps into her bones and cannot be shifted.
But, the hair has weight, mass, presence. Cutting it off must make a difference, must influence the numbers.
It’s loss will feel like an offering, a sacrifice.
It will be worth it.

She is trying to make herself invisible, trying to become so much less than she used to be. She feels herself diminished.
Dreams of a time when she will be so tiny, so perfect that she will, finally, vanish, become just the ghost of the girl she used to be.

The thinner she becomes, the more people notice her.

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Terrorism in 10 easy steps


She remembers the first scarf, deep red with a thin blue stripe. For days she carried it in her bag, takes it out, wraps it around her neck, runs a nail along the stripes,practise wrapping it around her head, tucking her hair underneath the fabric.
The first scarf is the hardest they say, that first marking of difference, the first tangible proof of a journey started, the first symbol that cannot be ignored by friends and family.

Sitting with her new friends,over coffee, sweet cakes,her blond hair marking her out as different, more so even than her pale skin, she longs to belong, her head neatly swathed in brightly coloured fabric, arms covered, even on the warmest days and so, one day,she leans into her bag and quietly wraps the scarf around her head.
The other girls smile,nod their approval and one, her lipstick and high heels a perfect match for her scarf, leans forward, across the table and ties the loose ends of material into a beautiful,elegant knot.

But, she is cowardly, her collection of scarves grows, all chosen to match outfits, accessorize, but, sometimes, when she sees her parents’ friends, old college mates, she pulls the scarf down, wraps it around her neck, shakes her hair out, makes eye contact and smiles.

She attends a class, reads the Quran in English, is trying to learn Arabic, the words, which flow like quicksilver from the mouth of her teacher, stick, lead like to the roof of her mouth.

She changes her scarf, chooses a dull black fabric, wraps it tight around her face, all hair hidden, face wiped clean of make up.
Sometimes when she hears the call to prayer,she feels,fears that her heart will burst with joy, with certainty of the shape of the day to come.

Her first burka, she remembers jokes from college, does my bum look big in this ? The fabric,black, of course, covers her, removes definition, hidden inside, she moves freely, glides in public places, a hint of red trousers, a whisper of blue shirt. She admires the flashes of colour against the dull of the burka.

She feels both visible and invisible, men’s eyes slide over her, brother from the mosque nod respectfully, the others don’t know how to look, lack signifiers, visual clues, don’t know how to grade her.

She continues to study, sometimes the Prophet seems to speak directly to her. Her life is full, busy, structured, broken up by 5 block of prayer, but it’s not enough. She begins to trawl the Internet, finds other women, stern, committed, their faces hidden, eyes staring into the video camera, hands covered by thin cotton gloves.

The first time she wears nikab, she struggles to recognise herself in the plate-glass windows in the big supermarket. She has vanished, nothing of her left, two blue eyes staring out.

By this time, she has met R, he glows with certainty, introduces her to other men who gather in front rooms of small terraced houses, she sits quietly in kitchens with the other women, takes food, glass cups of black, sweet tea into the men, passes dishes around, keeps her eyes averted and listens carefully.

Rs’ beard is silky, brown against the white of his skin. At night when they lie, chastely, modestly, walls decorated with the blessed words of the Prophet, in the back bedroom of another terraced house, in another northern town, they talk or rather, he talks and she listens, talk of revolution, of taking a stand, of jihad and she feel herself come alive, looks down at her own white skin against the blue of the bed sheets and is almost surprised. Her own skin looks unfamiliar to her now, her body is vanishing as the purity of the teachings flows through her.

They travel abroad, go underground, become part of a network of angry young people. Sometimes when she sits in make shift mosques, hair covered, face veiled, gloved, body wrapped in black, she wonders if the other women even know if she white, wonders if now, it would make any difference.

And then R says that he is ready. Prepares a video, leaves instructions for it to be up-loads, afterwards and heads off to the tube station, rucksack on his back.

She misses him, prays for strength, wants to be as certain as he was and when it comes, the call, she answers with a quiet determination, prepares herself for martyrdom.

She dresses carefully, even though no-one can see what she is wearing and then shrouds herself in black and leaves the cheap backstreet hotel.
She walks towards the shopping centre, catches her reflection in the wall of mirrors, blue eyes shinning out from the veil, she shifts the her shoulder bag, it’s unaccustomed weight and takes a deep and pushes open the glass doors of the mall.

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The eternal, fun loving, always giving clowns hit town …….the whole piece & in the correct order.


The flan hits the face again, perfect shot and then a pause,
Count 1 and 2
Tip of tongue, shocking pink against a moon white face and the clown licks at the custard covering his eyes and mouth and nose.
He begins a toilette, carefully removing the yellow glop.
The children giggle at the hopelessness of the task and then stiffen, cover their mouths with their fists, become quiet, watchful.
The big clown, completely absorbed in his task has completely failed to notice the two lesser clowns, creeping up behind him, their faces overshadowed by an insanely over-sized bucket.
They mime counting
One
Two
Three

And then they hurl the water over the oblivious clown.
He leaps into the air, face contorted with mock shock and then returns to earth, his bottom landing first and into the supposedly forgotten custard pie.

The children’s laughter almost drowns out the crump, crump of falling artillery.

And on the Kindertransport, the child’s mouth is a perfect O as she watches a clown bend and twist balloons to make a small pink and red bear. She clutches a stained and grubby stain ribbon, all that is left of her bear, dropped, left behind somewhere in the dark between trains, when the adults said that there was no time to go back to look.
The balloon bear completed, the clown leans forward and dedicatedly lifts the ribbon from her hand and wraps it around the balloon bear.
The child and clown smile carefully at each other.

The wooden boat clings to the shore and even then the movement is enough to make the children puke.
These Peters and Brigettes, sworn to liberate the Holy Land from the Infidel, wait for the journey to begins and while they wait, cold and wet and hungry, they watch the clowns, sea salt eroding the matt perfection of their clown faces, juggle elegantly with an impossible number of silk scarves.

The shack is dark, lit by one guttering candle, there are children everywhere, some almost old enough to work in the fields, others tiny, still reaching out for the mothers, but all eyes are intent on the 2 clowns performing in the least dusty corner.
It is so dark that the children are almost invisible, reduced to just gleaming teeth and glistening eye whites as they watch the clowns chase each other in tiny ever diminishing circles until they are forced to run amongst the children.
The biggest clown tries to hide, choosing the very smallest children to crouch down behind, so that he is absurdly visible, his tattered red trousers are the only patch of colour in the room.
This hiding and seeking game is unsettling some of the older children, reminding them of more deadly games played out in the cotton fields when one of the bucks, most likely a new African, turns rogue, tries to get away, get home.
The clowns notice, pull back and quickly produce an old favourite, the teeny tiny cycle.
They both clamber on, smallest clown on the shoulders of slightly less small clown and legs move madly, piston like as the bike careers into the crowds of children. The clowns clear a path, scooping up the very smallest children to take a turn at the red bicycle ride.

The room is almost silent, just the beep beep of the machines, the steady thrumm of cables and wires and at its centre, the child, still, almost invisible under the burden of leads and bags and drips.
The smallest clown sits at the foot of the bed, floppy hat flopping with the weight of pink plastic flowers.
This is no place for tomfoolery, for noise, for jolly japes.
Instead, the smallest clown, face in shadow, blowing iridescent soap bubbles.
One by one they float into the air and then, soft as a butterfly, one lands on the child’s wrist.
The clown pauses, but there is no reaction.

The clowns are processing, Russian doll figures made real, biggest, smaller, smallest.
They lope across the playground, clown shoes dip into last nights rain puddles.
They are playing kazoos but the sound is almost drowned by the screams and shouts of children as their skin burns and bubbles.
The clowns, undaunted, try to make more noise, reaching into pockets to pull out impossible instruments that cannot have been hidden in such baggy pants.
Drums, trombones, cymbals appear, the smallest clown tries to execute some business, catch the middle sized clowns’ ears between the two brass discs….but the children are weeping, reaching out for help.
The clown dog, small , brown, a little yellow ruff around his neck, trots from child to child, terrier face wrinkled in distress, a growl just held back.

The clowns regroup.
Take stock and then the biggest clown scoops up the little dog, musical instruments vanish back into hidden pockets and they walk away.

Biggest
Smaller
Smallest.

The child leans forward, her hair a curtain between her and the glowing screen, her lips move, reading the messages that ping and click into her inbox.
Her hand moves automatically to the family sized bag of crisps, nestled, half hidden on her lap.
Hand, mouth, bite, chew, hand…..old familiar pattern.

She stifles a giggle with a hand that is salty, malty with crumbs of crisps. His messages are so funny and then he can be so tender, so loving.

She knows that he is the one for her, it’s all perfect

They will run away together, start a new life, no more name calling, no more teachers staring at her with half disguised disinterest.

She loves him, cannot wait to be with him, has already packed a bag, written, in rough, the note she will leave.
She’s going to do it properly, her neatest handwriting, nice paper and everything.

She doesn’t hear the door open, doesn’t see the smallest clown tiptoe in, skirting the fluffy rug, the bundle of bears huddled at the foot of the bunk beds.

He reaches across her and with a gentle finger pushes the off button on the lap top and then bows to the child with a flourish and pulls the pink paper flower from the brow of his hat.

She can’t help her smile, forgets to cover her mouth and the beam lights up her face.

As the clown leaves, he pulls back the curtains and lets the sun shine stream in.

The boys are sitting, their backs against what remains of the walls of the last house on the dusty Main Street.

Dogz and Little Man have found some battered cassette tapes, they are carefully unwinding the black plastic tape and wrapping the flapping spool around each others arms to make bracelets or armour or just something that looks fine, catches the midday sun, sets them apart.

Spider sits, legs splayed, rubbing the butt of his AK47 with a tiny bottle of palm oil, the metal gleams and he bows his head to concentrate.

The others are watching him carefully, they know he has some Kif in his jacket pocket, maybe even some weed. In the absence of the Sergeant, he is the man, the dan.
They quietly move closer to him, make sure that they are in his sights.
Nobody wants to miss out on anything good.

Newboy and the boy so new he doesn’t even have a nickname, are sitting away from the others.
No name boy has been crying, the tears have left an almost clean path down his dirt encrusted face.
The others can all remember the tears, they make sure that they don’t make eye contact, nobody wants to remember back then, back when they first came.

It is Newboy who sees them first, a dot in the landscape,that becomes distant figures, that slowly resolves into 3 figures, biggest, smaller, smallest.

The clowns are back in town.

The crew stiffen, hands reach out for guns, bats, sticks, they all stand, even New Boy, even no name boy, group together, wait to see what will happen.

The clowns stop at the edge of the deserted town, they eyeball the boys and the boys eyeball them and then with a whoop and a shriek, the clowns launch the selves.

Cartwheels

Summersaults

Forward rolls

Flic Flacs

And the dog runs alongside, tongue flapping, mouth smiling.

The boys turn to Spider, looking for guidance, but he shrugs, trying to be the man, but wanting to see what’s going to happen, feeling a smile tugging at his mouth.

He makes a decision, places his gun on the floor and slowly slides himself to the ground, his jeans are too short now, bony, adolescent ankles stick out, before his boots, the boots, the man boots, 2 sizes too big, but, in them he walks like a man, so he ignores the blisters, has pushed to the back of his mind, the actual getting of the boots.

In them he walks tall.

The other boys, slide cautiously to the ground, form a rough semi circle and become an audience of children, mouths open, weapons forgotten, they lean into each other, a tangle of legs and arms.

The clowns go through the routines, custard pies, the kicks and pratfalls, the teeny tiny cycle and then, the smallest clown begins to march, miming the carrying of a huge military drum, it trips him up, catches his behind, threatens to swallow him and all the time, the other clowns are marching, mad goose step marching, legs so high they almost reach their heads.

With a flourish, the biggest clown produces a giant water pistol and starts to fire jets of water at the others, they fall back, legs kick in the air and the boy soldiers laugh and laugh as the clowns lie twitching in the dust.

The road is full of people, as far as the eye can see, heads down, laden with bags and boxes and prams and trolleys and baskets balanced on heads.
They walk, trudge, one foot, another foot, walking towards the horizon.
There are no young men, just women and children and old men, all becoming more silent as the days go on.
The children have stopped playing, stopped darting ahead, stopped suddenly dropping to the ground to examine a brightly coloured stone, a tiny lizard.
They walk and carry and if they are too small to carry, they are entrusted with even smaller children, one each side, held tight, dragged on legs that have to trot to keep up.

At the very back of the line are the clowns,
Biggest
Smaller
Smallest

And on each of their shoulders is a child, head drooping, face brushing against the soft pompoms on the pointed clown hats.

The clowns walk, slowly, doggedly, behind the lines of all the lost.

Biggest
Smaller
Smallest.

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The child, lopes down the street, easy movement, box fresh trainers eating up the distance, pumped with righteous rage and just a tiny bit of fear.
Proud to be chosen, proud to be trusted, his chance to show that he can do this thing and afterwards, he knows that it will always be with him, his rep will be secure.
In LE2, he will be a legend, a man.
The man, the man who torched the house, sent a message, this is our place, this is our LE2,innit.

He’s carrying a Primark bag, nobody ever notices a Primark bag, just knows that it’s full of cheap shit clothes that will fall apart 2 days after you buy it.
He doesn’t buy his clothes there, got swagger, knows his labels, hangs his shirts, his jeans up carefully in the bedroom he shares with 3 smaller brothers, little dogz.

This bag is heavy with what he needs to do the job, just him on his own, walking past the mosque, behind the park, towards the address he’s stored in his phone.

The street is confusing, the numbers don’t make sense, he checks his phone, face twisted in concentration…
Fuck it, this must be the one.

The street is empty, no lights, he’s glad of the can of Red Bull he swigged down on the way, stoops, places the carrier bag on the floor and reaches in to pull out the little can of petrol, the rags, the lighter.

And at that point, from the alley between the terraced houses that snake down the hill to the park, steps the biggest clown and there is a pause…….

The boy, the man, the man/boy is like
WTF, eyes on stalks and they both stand, in front of the white, UPVC front door, as if, at any second, they will knock the door and somebody will come and let them in and offer over sweet chai and chocolate biscuits and then the clown, slowly, carefully, bends down and picks up the petrol can, unscrews the lid and pours the petrol into the gutter.

The child, all 6’2 of legs and headphones and anger that has no words, just innit and safe and bro and bloodz just stands and stares and then the clown reaches across and wraps his arms around this child and it should feel bare gay, but it doesn’t.

It feels safe, proper safe and the child rests his head on the biggest clowns shoulder and then they turn and walk down the hill, towards the park and from nowhere the clown dog appears, trots at their heels and when, without words, they pass into the park, through the metal gates, he runs ahead, scuffingly in the early autumn leaves as they make their way towards the little kids play area.

They sit, clown and boy on the wooden roundabout, the wood splintered, covered in layer upon layer of tagging.
Somewhere, amongst the layers, the boy knows that his tag is part of this almost art work,from back in the day, when he was 12 or 13, somewhere if you look carefully, you can see his name.

They sit, waiting for the sun to come up, for the night to end.

And then, across the grass, come the other two clowns.
Smaller.
Smallest.
The clown dog sees them, hurls himself towards them and the biggest clown stands,nods and gently, lovingly, gives the roundabout one last push.

The clowns process.
Bigger.
Smaller.
Smallest.
And at their side, the clown dog, mouth opened in a joyous bark to greet the morning.

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Out of sight of the children, away from the crowd, the curious onlookers, the clowns’ shoulders slump, the clown dog paws at the legs of the biggest clown, cocks his head and finally, pulling out the biggest crowd pleaser, sits and begs, waiting to be picked up and carried back to the buff coloured bell tent. The tent is dusty, leaning into another broken wall,another ruined space.

The smallest clown stretches to his full height, his upturned palms almost, but not quite reaching to the biggest clowns shoulders and then drops his arms, lets his palms hit the floor outside the tent.

Today, the ground is dusty, dry, a few yellow rocks, yesterday, they walked, trudged up to their knees in deep clay mud, the day before that, on feet that felt every mile of their journey, the stepped over poppies and the remainder of long ignored wheat fields.

Inside the tent, there are 3 steamer trunks, faded blue leather, scuffed brass clasps,

Biggest
Smaller
Smallest

The 3 clowns move in economic unison, balletic exhaustion and each sits on his steamer trunk, while the clown dog jumps or falls to the ground and lies, belly to the air, panting quietly to himself.

There is nothing to say, just the ritual of putting away, packing the tent and moving on.

The biggest clown opens his trunk, removes a tiny jar of cold cream, the packaging worn, letters faded,
P…..something ….D and begins to rub the white cream into his face.

The smaller clown leans down and pulls at his bright red clown shoes, the feet that come out are small, prehensile toes, suddenly released, scratching into the dust at his feet.
The shoes, abandoned, lie next to him, waiting to jump and swoop and cartwheel again……later.

The smallest clown, the junior clown, bustles around the space, still in his stage persona, a little irritating, a little too busy, a little too much.
He pulls off his clown nose, gives his clown bow tie a gentle spin,checks the bulb of the water spraying rose and then is still, finally quiet.

The biggest clown delves into the trunk and pulls out a once gaudy scrap of fabric, the hint of what is left of an over used silk scarf, demoted from juggling to neckerchief and now finally, a rag to remove cold cream.

As he rubs, his own skin, greying, tired begins to appear from behind the white greasepaint, his less than impressive eyebrows, sandy rather than the definition of those painted on with thick black lines, emerge and his nose, surprisingly retroussé under the bright red bulbous nose, is a daily surprise even to himself.

The smaller clown is more careful, more precise, he uses a small mirror, dabs cream onto his face in neat blobs, blends them together, ghost skin, paler even then the moon white, lead white clown finish.

The smallest clown, spits onto the hem on his shirt, notices a little more fraying, a little more fading and then uses the almost damp shirt to rub, rub hard against his skin,feels the pull of the fabric against his nearly beard and spits on the hem again.

The three clowns group together
Biggest
Smaller
Smallest

And stare into the tiny, chipped mirror, their faces distorted by dust and decades of wear and tear on the glass.

Their reflections stare back at them, faces cleaned, almost cleaned of clown makeup, except of course for the row of tears, roughly drawn in thick black line, tracing a path from eye to chin.

The clowns have long since given up trying to remove these tears, in truth they hardly notice them anymore.

And then, with an economy of movement based on long, long practise, they pack away the tent and walk away, down the ruined road.
Biggest
Smaller
Smallest

And a clown dog snapping at their heels.

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The eternal, ever-giving, fun loving clowns hit town……because we’re worth it


The child, lopes down the street, easy movement, box fresh trainers eating up the distance, pumped with righteous rage and just a tiny bit of fear.
Proud to be chosen, proud to be trusted, his chance to show that he can do this thing and afterwards, he knows that it will always be with him, his rep will be secure.
In LE2, he will be a legend, a man.
The man, the man who torched the house, sent a message, this is our place, this is our LE2,innit.

He’s carrying a Primark bag, nobody ever notices a Primark bag, just knows that it’s full of cheap shit clothes that will fall apart 2 days after you buy it.
He doesn’t buy his clothes there, got swagger, knows his labels, hangs his shirts, his jeans up carefully in the bedroom he shares with 3 smaller brothers, little dogz.

This bag is heavy with what he needs to do the job, just him on his own, walking past the mosque, behind the park, towards the address he’s stored in his phone.

The street is confusing, the numbers don’t make sense, he checks his phone, face twisted in concentration…
Fuck it, this must be the one.

The street is empty, no lights, he’s glad of the can of Red Bull he swigged down on the way, stoops, places the carrier bag on the floor and reaches in to pull out the little can of petrol, the rags, the lighter.

And at that point, from the alley between the terraced houses that snake down the hill to the park, steps the biggest clown and there is a pause…….

The boy, the man, the man/boy is like
WTF, eyes on stalks and they both stand, in front of the white, UPVC front door, as if, at any second, they will knock the door and somebody will come and let them in and offer over sweet chai and chocolate biscuits and then the clown, slowly, carefully, bends down and picks up the petrol can, unscrews the lid and pours the petrol into the gutter.

The child, all 6’2 of legs and headphones and anger that has no words, just innit and safe and bro and bloodz just stands and stares and then the clown reaches across and wraps his arms around this child and it should feel bare gay, but it doesn’t.

It feels safe, proper safe and the child rests his head on the biggest clowns shoulder and then they turn and walk down the hill, towards the park and from nowhere the clown dog appears, trots at their heels and when, without words, they pass into the park, through the metal gates, he runs ahead, scuffingly in the early autumn leaves as they make their way towards the little kids play area.

They sit, clown and boy on the wooden roundabout, the wood splintered, covered in layer upon layer of tagging.
Somewhere, amongst the layers, the boy knows that his tag is part of this almost art work,from back in the day, when he was 12 or 13, somewhere if you look carefully, you can see his name.

They sit, waiting for the sun to come up, for the night to end.

And then, across the grass, come the other two clowns.
Smaller.
Smallest.
The clown dog sees them, hurls himself towards them and the biggest clown stands,nods and gently, lovingly, gives the roundabout one last push.

The clowns process.
Bigger.
Smaller.
Smallest
And at their side, the clown dog, mouth opened in a joyous bark to greet the morning.

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NANOWRIMO 2013


It’s almost that time of year again, when, all over the world, novelists, actual, aspiring, possibility slightly delusional, are starting to plan their 30 day novel for the global NANOWRIMO event.
I’ve done it for the last 2 years and was fairly convinced that there wouldn’t be a third year……I am not a novelist, struggle with “big” stories, plot lines, narratives…..My novel length work ( well, all two of them lol) have tended to be what I would describe as portmanteau writing, so, lots of linked short pieces, or collections on a theme, so not novels in the truest sense.
BUT….there is something a little addictive about the whole write a minimum of 50,000 words in 30 days thing and each time I’ve done it, I have seen improvements in my overall work afterwards, so, I’m signing up again.
The plan and I use the word in its loosest sense is 50,000 words using an imposed subject generator.
Each day of November, I will take a news headline, local, national, international and produce aprox 2,000 words of fiction inspired by the headline alone.
I will be writing it directly onto this blog, under a NANOWRIMO category, lets see what happens.

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