I don't intend
this text to contain sex.
no romance, no violence. Well - maybe there'll be just a hint
of these commercial ingredients...I'm not sure. We'll see how
it develops. But there will be no dialogue. I can't do dialogue.
As for love and sex, you can add them to this text by (buying
and) playing a recording of César Franck's Piano Quintet,
the most passion-ately erotic piece of music that I know. Preferably
the recording with Samson François.
Or, of course the Brahms
Double Concerto. Or the Chopin Nocturne op.48 no.1 played
by Pletnev, for this text has no narrative.
This text has no narrative.
Not in the usual sense of the word.
I haven't the faintest idea
what the next paragraph will be - much less the middle or end
of the 'Text' - or half-finished short story, novella or memoir.
Sex is limbic and for juveniles. Violence is for politicians.
Romance is for the disempowered.
So this is the third paragraph.
Here goes: 'all morality is hypocrisy - discuss'. Or close the
book, throw it away. Return it to the library tomorrow or the
day after. Or surf onwards through the Web, because this text
is being written on the www.beyond-the-pale.uk/
website and may never get into print.
The thing is, I have never written
a novel before. I can't do dialogue. I don't under-stand a single
human being. Although I read a huge number of novels (Russian,
Japanese, French, Italian, German, Czech, etcetera, as well
as English, American and Irish, I am always aware that fiction
is lies in the same way that morality is hypocrisy. Fiction
is anecdote - and one of my bugbears is how life is becoming
obsessively anecdotal at the same time that it is becoming more
and more compart-mentalised into discrete sections, each of
which requires a different costume: Work, Leisure, Home, Employment,
Exercise, School, Love, Sex, Hygiene, Nationality, Vacation...
(you can add more, ad nauseam).
I don't do descriptions, either.
I write not for the optic nerve, as Stevenson might have protested.
Technology has increased the
effect of writing and speech ten-thousandfold - and thus words
have been devalued into meaninglessness.
This was started on the backs
of envelopes. [NOTE: Keep the envelopes, some nerd may want
them one day, even though there are only two.] I'd better
come clean. I'm writing this for the money. I have always been
indigent. That is to say: I have never had a job and have no
job-skills and cannot abide Authority or Institutions or Structures.
I want to go and live in France, where the river Viaour meets
the river Aveyron. So I need an income. The only option for
a male hermit-anarch who has successfully resisted employment
for forty years is for him to write a book which will become
a succès d'estime, since there's not chance that
I could write a book that would actually be accepted by a publisher,
even if I ever finish it.
Money is what makes you poor.
This is the sixth paragraph. It is coming along nicely. I am
(Angry to have been born. Angry
not to have had the guts to kill myself. But we won't pursue
that track here: there's enough of it on www.beyond-the-pale.uk/suicide.htm
and subsequent pages of uncompromising poetry.)
In the closing pages of his
Seminal Study of Capitalism, The Protestant Ethic, Max
Weber prophesied chillingly and accurately about the people-products
of the Consumer Society, whose morality is, of course, mere
overwhelming majority manipulated by big corporations and news
media (in turn inspired by Freud's double-nephew, the maleficent
Bernays). Weber foresaw that people would become
mere product-consumers of a financial system, soulless specialists,
heartless hedonists, voids and nullities imagining themselves
to be at the summit of sensibility, cultural development and
The planet is a miracle of pain.
It is time to introduce another character. Her name is Brenda.
She may still be alive. When she and I were four years old we
showed each other our Private Parts and swore secrecy. She straightway
told her mother. I then went home and took a carving knife from
the kitchen drawer, carried it down the street, and attacked
her mean, lying, blabbing mouth. There was blood. There were
screams. She had stitches. I don't remember seeing her again,
though they didn't move away. I guess I kept away from that
end of the street. This is the ninth paragraph and already there
has been (sort of) sex and violence. No more, I promise.
(Dear Reader, I misled you.
I lied. I should pick up a knife and cut off my fingers.)
For years I read that word misled,
did not realise it was the past tense of to mislead
(instead of to misle) - and inwardly pronounced it mild,
because of the isle contained in that word. I have always
thought myself an island. John Donne was kidding himself and
us. Like we all do all the time. We are all icebergs. I feel
like a solitary cold amba floating in an unpleasantly-sugary
liquid. Isle, isola, isolated. Desolate. Anomalous autonomous
anonymous. Anomie. Pessoa's desassossego, dissociated-ness.
The English language is full
of booby-traps. Who would imagine that the Cambridge college
called Caius is pronounced keys or quays
I have a note here (keep it
for the Nerd, who is now another character) which reads: the
totalitarianism of 'Progress'. But I cannot see how I can
develop that theme here, let alone in a poem. So I will pull
out another of my scraps of paper. The Ekpyrotic Universe.
I guess we'll reject that one, too. Third time lucky ?
should have said
there was a wet dog on my bed
when we went upstairs to paw and nuzzle.
Well, a fourth and a fifth character
(both male, one gelded) have already entered this typescript
without me having the guts to exclude them or the literary wherewithal
to explain them. I'm getting out of my depth fast.
I cannot say that I liked
prison. But I did OK in the three months I was there for shoplifting
food. This was some time after I came back from Africa, having
failed to live with the Baka 'pygmies' because I couldn't stand
the heat. I had no problem abandoning European clothes and wearing
the breech-clout - but the heat got to me and I just lay about
panting and thinking about how nice and cold Ireland is.
I almost flourished in prison,
as I did not in the degraded rain forest. I was obviously a
Lesser Bearded Intellectual, and so I was cultivated by those
tough illiterates who wanted someone to write love-letters for
them. Because my doubtful sexuality was picked up by the keen
antennæ of the Warders, I was given a cell to myself,
when others with photos of girlfriends had to exist four to
a cell, with four piss-pots and much snoring. Besides, I was
in for shoplifting groceries, which everyone thought very amusing.
And I didn't smoke.
When I was there I saw a guy
being beaten up by several Warders for doing cart-wheels in
the refectory. He mistook it for a survival technique. He was
a Civil Prisoner - in other words he had been imprisoned for
debt, most likely for defaulting on maintenance/alimony for
his wife. He died a few days later. This was 1974. Belfast.
Ireland. The prisons were crammed with
members of gangs and factions, terrorists and politics-by-other-means
Do you ever ask where all the
paper comes from ? Where all your shit and bleach goes to ?
(I think we're no more than the trash we create - but I guess
I've done that topic to death elsewhere.)
Do you ever wonder on what fame
and influence rest ? Considering the above-mentioned Sigmund
Freud a mischievous dreamer, I have never thought highly of
James Joyce, either. He is more over-rated than Shakespeare
(a writer of much marvellous language but little
depth, whom Dr Johnson also thought to be admired
excessively) - but much less over-rated than the supreme example,
the Stalin of over-ratedness, Picasso,
a fairly talentless painter, decent draughtsman, interesting
minor sculptor and ceramic-decorator, with a genius for self-publicising
even greater than Dalí's. The latter could at least paint
well, even if he frittered away his talent in pseudo-artistic
masturbation. When one compares the mean and violent, mono-dimensional
and colour-poor Picasso with his perceived rival, the glorious,
generous and loving Matisse, one realises why the former was
taken up by the Anglo-Americans with their totalitarian outlooks.
When one compares Joyce with some of his contemporaries in Europe
- one need mention only Kafka and Pessoa
- Joyce seems just cleverly trivial. But on this very day, the
hundredth 'Bloomsday', people are making money hand over fist
in Dublin by indulging another philistine orgy of Irish self-congratulation.
Contrived and overwritten stream-of-consciousness
- so what ? If Leopold Bloom is "Everyman" - count
me out. Being a Marxist of the post-Groucho variety, I define
myself through self-exclusion.
(Mr Pooter merged
with Friedrich Nietzsche, a 'Man without Qualities' ?)
Pity our intelligence!
We have evolved only just enough intelligence to enable us to
wreck the planet, not to nurture it. The nearest that we get
to real intelligence is a sense of loss.
Was I born sad
? Or was it just my adolescent reading of Orwell, Kafka, Zola,
Dostoyevski, etc who made me so ?
Life is such a
(And only the
dead are wise.)
(Marriage is always
with the dying.)
(Most people are
only pretending to be alive.)
I find inexplicably highly-rated, Hispanic like Picasso, are
Neruda and Lorca (who at five in the afternoon glorified testosteronal,
over-rated: Stravinsky, Bob Dylan. Inevitably underrated:
the superb poet Wallace Stevens and his opposite,
the wonderful painter Alice
Neel (both of them American!).
Odysseus was a
trickster, shyster, con-man, wide-boy, testosteronal shit rather
less appealing (and believable) than Brer Rabbit - who, along
with Little Black Sambo and every Ogre in the fairy-tales I
devoured, was my childhood hero. I disliked princes and princesses.
They were pale and 'clean' and - worse - were winners-for-orthodoxy.
He was the first
painter openly to portray contempt for his limited subjects
and for painting, just as he so unpleasantly despised women.
He admired testosteronal shits like Gauguin. But he was not
fit to lick the balls of Cranach, let alone Monet or van Gogh,
or Matisse or Bonnard who painted love, not contempt and hate.
Herein partly lies his status - for just as 'pop-music' appeals
to the anti-musical and pop-lyrics are loved by the anti-poetic.
just as pornography is devoured by the anti-sensual, so the
passionless (and therefore) horribly sentimental Picasso appealed
to the philistine Miss Gertrude Stein, and his dozens of worthless
and dessiccated acolytes (from Auerbach to Warhol) succour the
anti-artists who run art markets for money. For with Picasso
came the realisation that rubbish can make a lot of money if
the Right People call it Art.
Money is what
makes us poor.
Of course there
have been 'concept-artists' who were not entirely worthless
- Dubuffet, Magritte, Duchamp...but I don't want this to be
an art-tirade! This is supposed to be the beginning of an Experimental
Novel by a writer who doesn't do dialogue, doesn't
do sex or violence and can't even write narrative!
(who reputedly said that the most brilliantly and profoundly
drawn character in a novel is but
a bag of bones compared
with the most ordinary living person) stopped writing prose
after Jude the Obscure,
his greatest novel.
He continued to write poetry for another twenty years. When
asked why he had finished with narrative fiction he said he
couldn't understand why he had ever indulged in it. In retrospect
it seemed pointless and silly.
I don't see the
world as stories, as, it seems, most people do. I have never
had sexual fantasies. I guess 'I have no imagination' in that
narrow sense of imagination. But daily I feel a fraction of
the pain of trees cut down and animals abused, tortured, starved.
Is that not imagination ? Or is it just super-sensitivity deriving
from an inability to see the world in terms of cosy stories
rather than Apocalypse.
NOT A NARRATIVE. Just
discrete events. Narratives are lies, attractive because our
brains love patterns and are always creating them. 'Love' is
a concocted narrative, a pretty pattern, so our brains love
But in most
of the world, religion is more important than love. If sex is
limbic and love is sentiment, religion is probably the opposite
of love, fuelled by some limbic drive to hate. Where I come
from, too, religion is important. I am a non-practising cannibal.
Which probably makes me a minority
trees, music, novels, food and, above all Oscar,
are all much more rewarding to me (and much more reliable) than
sex. Masturbation is the Greatly Neglected (because denigrated)
But music at
concerts is neither rewarding nor reliable. Our culture does
not now allow food and wine at performances of Beethoven's Archduke
Trio. This prohibition is as totalitarian as orchestras.
Have you noticed
the puritan and sloppy tendency in the Anglosphere to eliminate
rites, rituals and ceremonies ? These were gone through and
often enjoyed either to attract success (from supernatural agents)
or to assuage guilt. Now people hardly shake hands lest they
catch an idea. But ideas can be transmitted almost as rapidly
(though not as exponentially) as viruses. And ideas can be blocked
as effectively as by a vaccine.
Hundreds of thousands think it is a great and noble thing to
destroy yourself in the process of destroying contemptuous others
and their disempowering artefacts. Millions find it as horrendous
an idea as eating their own shit or declaring that no god exists.
The idea of self-immolation
- if not the practice of blowing passers-by and perhaps dogs
and cats to random smithereens - appeals to me. But the results
of suicide-bombing negate the idea. I (an atheist, non-practising
cannibal, remember) would love to prevent the onward march of
global greed and turbo-capitalism by blowing myself up - perhaps
outside the headquarters of Carrefour, Wal-Mart or
Tesco, organisations which may already have caused more
harm and mayhem than all the Nazi parties put together.
Jan Palach the
desperate student set himself heroically alight when the Russian
tanks rolled into Prague in 1968. Jan Palach's self-immolation
was a gesture which ultimately contributed to global greed and
turbo-capitalism, which through sheer expenditure destroyed
the pseudo-Marxist empire of dirty mirrors and gulags. No matter
what anyone does, global greed and turbo-capitalism will benefit.
Because they are ideas, and - it cuts both ways - bombs do not
The epic destruction
of the ugly towers of uglier world exploitation has only made
militaristic turbo-capitalism more powerful and more ugly.
So I am a non-practising
self-immolator as well as a non-practising cannibal.
This causes a certain
angst beyond the more usual and universal causes for
But this will neither a catalogue nor an analysis of angst.
There is enough of that in Literature already. What this text
will be...will be revealed...or not...
The older I get,
the less able and willing I am to tell lies. As a child I lied
a lot - perhaps because of my situation
as well as wanting to keep out of trouble. But I am quite the
opposite of a trickster. By my mid-twenties I was quite unable
to dissemble. Thus I became unemployable - and my only way of
keeping out of trouble was to become invisible.
Amongst much else
I read Sam Beckett's Malone Dies... An exaltation of
always knows what The Truth is
like it was toilet paper or something
and they got a supply in the closet."
Hoffman as "The Accidental Hero"
Maybe it's now
time to write about Sex, Violence and Property s'il vous
plaît - the intimate ménage à trois
who, inextricable, are always stalking each other. I am a sensualist,
which is why sex has been so disappointing. Sticking appendages
into orifices seems to me unsensual, merely limbic. Perhaps
it is the sheer banality of sex that makes it seem wonderful
to those wedded (through rejection of intelligence) to banality
Violence I indulged
in miserably as a child: I had black rages, tantrums always
brought on by interrogation (at home) or teasing (at school).
Property I feel to be one of the roots of evil. I hate the idea.
So I never lock my (old, dilapidated, rented) house with its
two-foot-thick rubble walls, even when I go a thousand miles
Those who think
of 'honesty' as applying only to property are the most dishonest.
At least as harmful
to the world as the big supermarkets and trans-national greed-factories
is, of course, television.
Because, inevitably, it is part of the transnational entertainment
industry (as almost everything is becoming) it caters to the
highest common denominator that a government or big tv company
is happy with. Which is, inevitably, a pretty low common denominator:
that of the compulsive television-viewer. For television is
a drug as addictive as sugar, or nicotine - or cocaine. Very
few people have a television set which they turn on once or
twice a week. Many people spend hours every day watching what
is served up to them. Watching television is like eating canteen
food. The more you do it, the less discriminating you become.
You are simply a consumer.
But whereas money
spent on sugar, nicotine or cocaine goes to feed the habit,
time spent watching television is used by advertisers to sell
their products to more and more millions of the passive brain-dead
who have already been softened up by the 'education' system.
Television has told us that we are here only to consume, and
that in order to consume we have to work. Not many people have
pleasant work - and the ones that have tend to watch very little
consumers and voters. The decline in interest in politics and
government is a result of trivialisation by television - for
television (like the Hollywood film industry its wicked stepmother)
is triviavision. When it does not trivialise it oversimplifies
to the point of idiocy ('Western Democracies') or propaganda
('Rest of the World'). More malign and a thousand times
more powerful than the Taliban or the Ku-Klux-Klan, television
actually makes us blind. To this extent fortunate these days
are those born without sight.
Television is a
powerful combination of spoken words and moving pictures. What
is considered to be the best of writing is that which produces
vivid and convincing images. Despite our invention of language,
most people seem to think most of the time in images. I do not.
I think in words, in concepts - and my dreams are jumbles of
So how can I write
in such a way that people want to read it, despite the lack
of images, of metaphor and simile ?
regular Albanian visitor to this website has written to say
that this text is a conversation with myself - not with anyone
else. I fear (fear ? 'fear' is Irish for 'man') she is
right. Because I have no imagination, I am not malleable, and
do not have television. Because I have no imagination I have
never had any ambition. Because I have no imagination I have
never had sexual fantasies, nor believed in god or heaven or
hell. I read all the romantic novels of Dumas as a child - from
The Three Musketeers to The Queen's Necklace,
but because I have no imagination I have never been interested
in fashion of any kind - political, social or sartorial. Because
I have no imagination I am fascinated by truth. Because I have
no imagination I cannot write interesting prose. Because I have
no imagination my unceasing urge to write has to be channelled
into poetry of a didactic and apparently unacceptable kind.
O night, nights
of sleep without rest, whose journeyless escape from puzzling,
almost-nullifying reality is just the involuntary and quixotic
observation of inner jumble shared by nobody and unshareable,
whose meaning (if any) is inscrutable. Without imagination,
I'm trapped by an existential net, or miasma...then waking
very slowly, almost-painfully to life - the soiled and spoiled,
unwaiting word-world I cannot understand but try to frame with
words, receiving me but not receiving me.
So how do I continue
? How can I proceed with writing this ? Do I give up ?
I want to live
with pigs - and blow up abattoirs and their human monsters.
(This is a kind of fantasy!)
I saw God the other day behind
the slaughterhouse of right and wrong in an old fur coat, digging
Though Islam is a religion (and
hundreds of millions of stupid people) dedicated to rejecting
and abusing dogs, at least the Islamic world is not torturing
and killing a hundred million pigs a day as do the parts of
the globe controlled by Christians (without whom there would
never have been Islam!), ex-Christians and Chinese. Because
I feel such affinity for pigs and dogs, the humans I feel most
akin to are those with Down's Syndrome. If I had not had a vasectomy
and would ever want to fuck (as I did in my early twenties far
away with rapture and abandon) - I would hope for a child with
Down's Syndrome - perhaps because I feel too challenged by other
people's intelligence, or perhaps because I see in Down's people
the transparency and integrity of dogs, serendipitous creatures
who are masters of creation to be able to live in our world,
ignored, abandoned, beaten, starved - or horribly overfed and
To live alone is not to be disappointed
by people, but to be less disappointed by oneself. I call shit
shit, not excrement.
The paradox of truth is that
the invention of the concept makes false all that is human.
Not many novels change people's
lives. Novels are, because of narrative and character, just
consumables. Some win prizes. Some make millions for their authors.
But few change people's lives - unlike many other products which
can turn you into a zombie.
Emotions leak and leap from
consciousness to consciousness: envy, greed and misery - and
sometimes the illusion of exaltation. This is what novels tap
This, of course, is not a novel.
But I have already covered several
pages - defining myself by excluding myself. I have no family
and no wish to belong to any group or nationality. I am a reluctant
and protesting member of the hideous human race. I always had
"rough edges" and "had difficulty fitting in"
- as if I were just a cog or a spindle. I admire wolves.
Wolves are the victims of human
lies. Just as wheat (in its several varieties) has moved from
being a rare kind to grass to almost the most successful plant
species on the planet - due to us. While sheep and cattle are
- next to ourselves - the most successful mammals, wolves are
hanging on by a thread.
There is a thin dividing-line
between the stupid and the sensitive - the pathetic thread that
wolves are hanging on by. They are threatened by the herd mentality
of humans and their herds. That they have survived thus far
is a miracle of ingenuity.
Quixotically, the only group
I belong to (tokenistically) is The
Wolf Society of Great Britain. Not just
because I live in Ireland, I have never met any of its members.
I no longer meet anyone.
It is six weeks
since I had a bath. I am not in a rush to have one. King John,
incompetent king of England (and Ireland), was thought to be
effeminate for taking a bath every three weeks. The barbarians
at the gate (whom we love to hate) are usually and largely our
Everything I write is my continual
puzzling over my perplexed and grieving relationship with the
world - what is going on ? how am I to deal with it ? Making
friends easily, I hoped that friends and friendship would help
me solve at least some of the puzzle. But this was not so. Friendship
is virtually meaningless except in terms of self-advancement.
Wine and food are more reliable. So now I prefer solitude or
the company of dogs, and have no interest in being with people,
though I am very pleasant and jovial to the charming staff in
the local library.
How would we cope if we were
controlled by creatures up to ten times out size, who shouted,
produced loud noises from boxes, lights on and off, beat us,
ignored us (probably the best moments!) and kept us locked up
and tethered ? We would not have much opportunity to develop
our intelligence (to oppress all other creatures) or create
(self-congratulatory) works of art.
Even so, dogs constantly forgive
us, as we do not forgive them their marvellously minor transgressions.
seem to live at the full extent of their capabilities, whereas
humans (including myself) are constantly retreating from theirs,
into fears and prejudices. Ants and cockroaches and spiders
are not afraid of us - but we (too huge to be important to them)
are frightened of everything we cannot chain or tame or eradicate.
We go out of our way to find - even invent - things to fear.
This is another example of our Flight from Intelligence.
In "The Behaviour of Moths" I read how ants work frantically
to bring pieces of neatly-cut leaf not to their own larvæ
but to a big, bulbous grub which has commandeered the ants'
When it is even bigger it eats the ants' neglected larvæ,
too, then directs the ants to carry it to another nest to continue
Such is our culture.
How good it would be to be sad
and peacefully resigned! But I am sad and soul-eatenly unresigned
and angry. I hate being implicated and complicit in the despol-iation
of the planet (as an AIDS virus is not) - and I can see no way
out of my complicity other than suicide
- which I haven't the guts to commit.
It is this which distances me from other human beings.
I hate my lying, whining, murderously
I hate being human.
I hate being.
Thus I have an increasing reluctance to change my clothes. As
for sheets, sprinkling with fennel- or cedar-oil freshens them
effortlessly. And probably kills a few thousand dust- and skin-mites.
But I love planting and looking
at trees. I love eating and drinking. I love music (especially
when eating and drinking to the sound of romantic chamber music
or Shiv Kumar Sharma with Hariprasad Chaurasiya and Zakir Hussain,
Z.M. Dagar, Steve Gorn or dhrupad) - though I spend much of
my time in rural silence.
I love food (and inventing dishes)
so much that I cannot cope with restaurants and supermarkets.
I do not feel any better for
having had a bath. Perhaps people interpret the shame inside
as dirt outside.
The people who have written
most originally about anomie and alienation were very
social and socialised people - liars of imagination like Sam
Beckett. But the grievousness of grief is that it is unimagined,
unending, paralysing and meaningless. The alienated can't write
narrative because they have lost faith in the magic - the trick
- of narrative. They know that narrative is lies. Grief is true
and nothing like narrative. In any case, writing is no help.
It is one of the lies of narrative that writing is therapeutic.
Grief/anomie is not loss, but
realisation. It is the only path to goodness - which is death,
nor grief is normal. Normality is the suspension of disbelief.
Belief is crass. Religion offers the most banal, contemning
and trivial answers to the profoundest questions. It is because
religions are insults to intelligence that they are so powerful,
for humans hate their intelligence. It is always there pointing
the finger at us. So we insult it through religion. Thus we
successfully limit our capablility (and our humility) through
dogma and prejudice. Other methods include alcohol, education
I have never understood employment
or career or coffee-breaks. The reason why I never had a job
is that I never found anyone fit to employ me. And I could never
have a job because jobs are rôles and rôle-play
- and I can't do rôles or dialogue or narrative, remember.
And I haven't the energy or the guts to sit on a street with
my dog and a begging-bowl, and a sign saying ASHAMED
TO BE HUMAN.
People are so disheartening. Perhaps they go about sucking out
each other's brains.
Oh yes, "I have" a
Dogs are without doubt the most amazing and deeply-instructive
people I have met. One of the most marvellous musics is the
sound of a dog licking a plate or a pan or a salad-bowl.
Perhaps "the worst"
people on the planet are not military or arms-manufacturers
or people-smugglers/enslavers or even mind-destroying teachers
- but doctors. They kill more people than terrorists do. Not
to mention animal-doctors...
My uncle was a doctor. He kept
telling me I was a sissy.
Am I in an 'altered state of
awareness' - or in a recovered state of honesty ?
If I had television I cannot
imagine how I would feel, split into shame and powerlessness.
an imagined reader shouts. But it is immensely hard to 'lighten
up' when Guilt steps in to remind me of the fate of the rain
forests, of dogs in the Muslim world, pigs in the non-Muslim
world, geese in France, children in Moldova and battery-chickens
real!" the imagined reader continues. (Now I'm
getting close to dialogue!)
But I don't like
getting; I am not "the marrying kind"; and I had a
vasectomy in my twenties precisely so as not to be able to visit
more misery upon the world.
Pessoa never allowed
himself to 'lighten up' beyond the delicacy and decencies of
I am like a necessary flaw in
a Qashqei rug.
Reflecting on what I have written
above, it occurs to me that human intercourse is almost entirely
devoted to the justification of the species, to admiring
and praising human achievement no matter how terrible. How rare
it is for humans to glorify nature - which they dismiss as wilderness.
Our attitude to art is another example. What occurs in nature
is far more beautiful, wonderful and immense than art - from
beach-pebbles (of which I have a splendid and fiscally worthless
collection) to trees and clouds in the sky. Dogs - our most
interesting creation - we despise.
But don't be alarmed! I shall
not sicken the reader with yet another sickly attempt to describe
the glory of dogs (especially part-lurcher dogs with greyhound
in them, that don't bark) - who are far more difficult to talk
about than wines. (Not that people make much effort to talk
honestly about wines: those made with Syrah, Garnacha and one
or two other types of grape have heady and richly-sensual undertones
of fresh armpit- or arsecrack-sweat - but you would never expect
it from the literature.) Suffice it to say that the profundity
of dogs is in their transparency. The shame which this induces
in us makes us - characteristically - abuse them, whether by
beating and stoning and nailing to doors, or by constant shampooing
in urban apartments.
The second and principal of
his nine names is Oscar.
Another is Mr Now. The rest are 'silly' and not to be
divulged. A second-generation collier-lurcher, he has most of
the charming feline characteristics of a greyhound (quiet, fastidious,
self-contained, not-barking performer of canine yoga) without
the killer instinct. He has managed to kill one small sick rabbit,
and one young squirrel which had fallen out of a tree. When
the latter died, Oscar put on an expression of self-disgust
and ran some hundreds of metres to the car to be taken away
from the scene of the crime.
Correspondent 'Gerald90' writes:
"This is the best thing you've done so far.....really!
I agree absolutely with your comments on Picasso who stole all
his ideas from African art...
" The filmaker Wim Wenders said "All narrative is
lies." I tend to agree. It is as if we must keep telling
and retelling stories to ourselves to avoid what is really going
Correspondent 'Gerald90' writes:
"Anthony, the most beautiful creatures in the world
are bats. As I write this they are skittering around my garden...just
being themselves...refreshingly alien."
I am an admirer of centipedes
The written truth is almost
There is very little of my life
that I can remember - and almost none of my childhood. So there
is no chance of adding yet another memoir to the pile. (The
line between memory and imagination is horribly thin - and I
have no imagination.)
And I am fairly convinced of
the futility of my self-appointed task of bearing witness.
"I am on the path to goodness" - except that there
is no path, just a black hole, on the other side of which is
Negative Time. Soon I will be there by thinking that only good
and evil are important: a quixotic manichæism. My life
is so examined that it is not worth living - or writing about.
There is no gap between ought and nought.
A wild animal's unexamined life
is well worth living.
Defining myself by excluding
myself - even more - but with considerably less talent - than
Pessoa, I think cities are hells. They not so much 'sinks' as
fountains 'of iniquity', and not so much fountains as choking
miasmas of petty striving. A field or a wood or a river - or
a dead log - is full of striving (just as dogs are as full of
desire and longing as we are) - but it is not petty. The master
species is as defined by pettiness
as by hallucinations of glory.
Freud and Jung produced some
insane theories which millions have subscribed to (the dipus
complex, the Archetypes) - but Jung had one of the most perspicacious
insights ever into the mind of man, his idea of Enantiodromia:
because humans are extreme beings, our attitudes and
behaviours always tend equilibriously towards their opposites.
I see it all the time. The most 'godfearing' are the most arrogant
and harsh. Mass-murderers are sickly-sentimental. The most atheist
are the most humble. The most extravagant hide unbelievable
meannesses. Teachers have closed minds. Computer-programmers
are often 'New Agers'. Fastidious people are into coprophilia
or 'water-sports'. Victims victimise others as soon as they
are able. 'Virgoans' like me seek 'Piscean' release. Dr Jekyll
becomes Mr Hyde, and Mr Hyde turns into Dr Jekyll.
And, of course,
as Theodor Adorno
said, domination is perpetuated by the dominated. Ex-slaves
to (or knowing ?) the term, Aldous Huxley wrote (in The Devils
of Loudun) :
all the levels of our being, from the muscular and sensational
to the moral and intellectual,
every tendency generates its own opposite."
I have a friend
who very obviously has a form of Asperger's Syndrome. He has
been in the local Dickensian asylum for the past 14 years, sometimes
under lock and key and abused by the unpleasant misnamed 'nurses',
having been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. He has suffered
from Electro-Convulsive 'Therapy' and been given strong neuroleptic
drugs (and more drugs to alleviate the 'side-effects' (i.e.
main effects) of the neuroleptics, which have turned him into
a fleshy pudding. Nevertheless, amazingly, he has never lost
his dry sense of humour. He is one of the sanest people I have
ever met. But I can no longer go and visit him: I get far too
upset by the Downpatrick Asylum (now rejoicing under the title
of 'Health Park' !), and I have tired of complaining about his
treatment. His rich father and the usual complaisant psychiatrist
had him committed: a common story in the British Isles where
nurture is considered bothersome.
Between reality and desire stands
There is no god (except property),
no redemption (except suicide)
- and love is a warm honey-bath of hope-based sentiment which
can turn to sticky ice. 'The truth' (wrote George Santayana)
'is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who
have loved it.' Free - and isolated.
I was wrong: this is
(a pale kind of) therapy - which makes it even more likely to
be unreadable. I have never before thought of writing as therapy
- more as exudation.
I am the sum of the books I
have read (which is the sum of other people's products) and
my reactions thereto. (There are so many wonderful novels on
the Planet of the Narrative.) I cannot read people, so I read
books (which do not help me to read people). And because (continually
escaping from - and feeding - my own continuous inner monologue)
I read too many good novels and listen to too many splendid
BBC radio programmes, I find most people limited and limiting.
Dogs, however, offer insights not provided by the written word
or the wireless. They are planets beyond literature.
I am always puzzling over consciousness
and the difference between mine and other people's, the difference
between mine and Oscar's, which may not be very great: the difference
between a cake with icing and a cake without icing. I hate icing.
Oscar's canine complaisance
makes me very solicitous that he should have as full a life
as possible. Other men - and women - use canine complaisance
as an excuse for power-tripping, control-freakery and abuse.
writes to me: "Intriguing. The initial 'disassociated'
text made me wonder if this was the first stage towards repeated
entreaties to locate lost
hot water bottles... ;-)
It would be even more fun if there were loads more links like
the ones from television
Perhaps instead of one linear page you should break it up into
a maze of cross-referencing pages ?"
I am "cheating" with
this text. I go back and correct/improve it, add or subtract
words and links. I move sentences or paragraphs around. And
of course it is a kind a narrative by being linear. Unlike Pessoa's
do Desassossego, which was written on discrete
pieces of paper to be arranged by his posthumous editor.
One reason why life is such
a deadening experience is its sheer surfeit. I seem to lack
some kind of filter that everyone else possesses to desensitise
themselves and make them blind.
rerum! Lachrymæ rerum!
Peace of mind is an oxymoron...
I should get out more and kidnap
This is the Afterlife.
For an ancient Egyptian the
more your name was mentioned after death, the higher your status
in the afterlife. (Similarly Catholics think that the more masses
and intercessions that are said for your soul, the sooner it
will be released from Purgatory.) So Tutankhamun must be the
greatest Egyptian in the Otherworld.
One Egyptian (now property of
the British Museum) was buried with a bowl of embalming resin
stuck to the back of his head. Apparently it had been left by
mistake overnight, and the embalmers had tried to remove it
- but had torn the deceased's skin. So they left it as it was,
confident that nobody would ever know.
Until People of the Afterlife
with CT scans and X-rays discovered their infringement of the
rules of death, and included it in their 3-D film of the ancient
deceased whose sarcophagus and mummy-cloths have never been
I thought this might be a suitable
subject for a poem...I will think about it.
And what would Anubis the jackal-god
of embalming say to this ? Being immortal, he is still with
us - but has lost the old respect, is regarded as vermin, and
is (like almost all creatures) the subject of human viciousness.
People of the Afterlife are
I am very thin.
This is the Afterlife. And after
it - the Afterdeath.
To be human is not to be.
Although dogs are only slightly
dulled by it, routine turns us into zombies. My horror of routine
was the main reason I never had a job. Another reason was that
I did not want to pay tax which would help fund a militaristic
and thoroughly nasty state: better to help drain funds from
There is no moral resolution,
because we are so willingly compromised.
I always thought the only honest
way to live was to treat each day as a tabula rasa (and,
when I remembered to, as if it were my last), making life up
as I went along. This precludes life insurance.
And there was never any possibility
of anyone considering me suitable to marry, especially after
my hopeless love-affair with a Danish
woman who did not make life up as she went along.
After that personal débâcle
I joined the R.A.F. for six weeks (when I was thrown out as
a security risk) and had my first (and of course ultimately-heartbreaking)
relation-ship with a dog. Then I ineptly looked for a buddy.
I was over fifty before I eventually
found a helpmeet - uncohabiting, independent, bearded, hairy,
unsexual - with whom I share every few days music and food and
wine and Oscar, all at the same time. Oscar (author of A
Hundred Tales and a Tail for Bipeds, Memoirs of a Kidnapped
Wag, Celebrate your Inner Dog, and other uplifting works)
divides his time between us.
But this is not a memoir. (Surely
not a memoir ?) It seems, however, to be some sort of sub-Pessoan
One of the most nauseating of
currently-fashionable words is 'spirituality'. To be
spiritual, praise a tree, to talk to God - talk to a dog.
We can't convert,
we can't subvert. We can only invert.
I am like the restaurant that
closed for lunch.
(TV is the trashcan
The "rough edges"
that prevent me from "fitting in". How mechanical
our thinking is !
We (even I) live
in luxury undreamed by Roman emperors:
life is a
limo in limbo.
Zana has sent me an Albanian
proverb: Asht kollaj me ia pre bishtin ujkut të
It is easy to cut the tail off a dead wolf.
Virtue (as unfashionable a word
as wholesomeness) is more than mere performance: it is
Guru is easier to spell
Three thousand were killed in
New York, and we (literally) never stop hearing about it, and
never will as long as the US rules our lives and our economies.
Thirty thousand were killed by an earthquake in Bam (Iran) -
and it was newsworthy only for a week.
'Gerald90' writes in again: 'I
believe that your general premise that human beings are a fuck-up
is correct. This observation is a catalyst to your creativity!
Without original sin you'd have nothing to write about!'
Without 'original sin' I (and all of us) might be blissfully-unable
(Guilt and shame are personal, while 'sin' is universal.)
The Russian sect of Khlysts
believed in salvation (iskupleniyë) through castration
(oskopleniyë). I think that (as Australia turns
to salt and the fished-out oceans to acid) the salvation of
the world would need instant universal human sterilisation,
which (like the other cures, mass suicide and mass cannibalism)
is not going to happen unless unstoppable nuclear war breaks
What is more unpleasant than
cancer ? People. Doctors nearly destroyed my childhood trying
to rub the rough edges off me.
Why is it that there are so
many good novels and so few good poems in English ? It has something
to do with the trick of narrative, which, in turn, is related
to our terrible need to belong (to someone else's narrative)
to be anecdotal. In a sense, though, everything (the whole cosmos)
can be construed as narrative, and it is the sense of the wider
narrative that is closed down by our love-affair with the narrow
narrative of novels and history, newspapers and television,
employment and comfort and funerals. We have made comfort the
criterion of happiness
- thus reducing consciousness to insulation (which in French
is the same word as isolation).
What we call 'reality' is our
love-affair with narrative - and our attachment to the fear
of boredom. Music is also narrative. I longed to live in Brahms'
piano quintet or first piano quartet. Instead I'm trapped in
Strauss' Metamorphosen. 'Reality', like 'objectivity'
is a bit like infinity or absolute zero: a crippling amount
of intellectual honesty is required merely to get near.
Tom (my former ceramics professor
who is now a scavenger in New York city) sent one of his yearly
e-mails to say that you can find anything on the streets of
New York - except peace and quietude and the stars at night.
At last: for the bored, impatient
reader - a few paragraphs of narrative.
The planning was relatively
easy. I cadged money from friends. I got malaria pills. I had
maps sent to me from Stanford's in London which were largely
green, with some ribbons and threads of blue indicating rivers
and streams in the forest. I had a vasectomy. I had read what
literature there was on the subject of Pygmies.
There wasn't much. Few people
had ever taken the Pygmies seriously, relying either on highly-biassed
accounts from non-Pygmy Africans who despised - or affected
to despise - them, or on the romantic imaginings of Europeans
who wrote such books as Dancers of God.
But, in my student days when
books from bookshops, I had pounced on and made off with a book
by Colin Turnbull called Wayward Servants, an analysis
of the relationship between settled Africans and Pygmies. I
then read his earlier book (latterly reprinted in paperback),
Forest People. Of the tens of thousands who had
read it, only I had written to him wanting to go and live with
the Pygmies - permanently.
The first white man actually
to live alone amongst Pygmies, Turnbull had found their way
of life extremely attractive and sane. They were claimed as
subordinates - 'servants' or even 'slaves' - by village Africans,
but it was very difficult to say who was exploiting whom in
an amusing and creative relationship.
From before the beginning of
my adolescence my over-riding concern was with How To Live:
How to live the good, moral life, given that morality is usually
a cover for greed and that Christianity and other major religions
were 90% hypocrisy, silly stories and unnecessary lies. I guess
I was a throwback to Socrates, Plato and Diogenes of Sinope.
I explored Buddhism, even Islam, but came to the conclusion
that religions offer the most trivial answers to the most profound
Then, by chance, I (erstwhile
student of philosophy) learned about the Pygmies who lived in
perfect harmony not only with the forest which succoured them,
but (to a large extent) with neighbouring groups of village-Africans.
They had no religion beyond profound and poetic respect for
the forest. Their groups were fluid, so that quarrels could
easily be solved simply by re-formation and re-location. Children
were parented by all in the group, and no child ever felt rejected
or unloved. The old were respected and cared for. The crippled
could also be integrated - as jester-like truth-tellers in the
manner of mediæval court dwarves. Loners could go off
and be relative loners. The pleasures of hunting and gathering
took up remarkably little of their time, so they lay around
a lot singing and telling stories and sleeping and making little
toys for their children out of twigs and leaves. Their diet
was far better than that of the village Africans, for whom they
provided the meat of forest antelope and bush-pig.
Theirs was The Perfect Society,
Man Before the Fall - which I traced back to religion itself,
property, and writing - and back to language itself: all extremely
weird activities when you come to think of it - especially property.
But the clear description of this near-perfect society in a
popular book (with an anthropological analysis in Wayward Servants
to back it up) has had no effect upon the world. Neither have
all the wise poems and the great novels ever written. We know
pretty well what is right and wrong, and most of us most of
the time choose wrong - to make us feel right, and conform.
The 'Garden of Eden' story is repeated every day, every hour,
and we go forth and multiply, multiply, multiply...
I met Colin Turnbull in London.
We went to steam baths together so I could get a taste of the
humidity and heat of Central Africa. I took his advice and planned
to go not to the Eastern Congo (then called Zaïre) where
Turnbull's Mbuti lived, but to the large Likouala rain forest
divided between Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroun and the Central
African Republic. Turnbull's Mbuti lived in Mobutu's private
fiefdom, the largest in the world. I decided to go to the Baka
through the much-smaller principality of Bokassa's Central African
Republic. At this time - 1972 - he had not declared himself
The big surprise for me in Africa
was how impressive and beautiful are the women. Even Mediterranean
women look awkwardly ghostly by comparison - and Irish women
like bedizened corpses.
The heat enervated me. My legs
have never been strong. I lost my will-power. But eventually
I got to the fringes of the beautiful, cooler forest. Such wonderful
butterflies and trees and creepers! I had always loved woods,
felt them to be airily homely (in the British sense of that
word). The rain forest, with its impressively-buttressed trees,
makes a 'great' cathedral seem mean-spirited - which of course
it really is. Since being in Africa I have seen several cathedrals
and many hugely-impressive Romanesque
churches. They will probably and terribly outlive the rain forests
of the world.
I entered the beautiful world
of trees and splendid sounds, and on the second day of slowly
following a track between the well-spaced trees, met a group
of Baka. Having bought an American (CIA-funded) primer on Lingala,
the trade-language of the Congo (or Zaïre) and Ubangi rivers,
I was able to make basic conversation. I was doing well. I was
even wearing pygmy dress, the practical groin-cloth which is
basically a strip of material passing between the legs and folded
over a string tied round the waist.
Under the forest canopy the
nights were very cold and I could not sleep. Another surprise
was that some of the male Pygmies were as tall as I, although
most were characteristically hairy, square-faced and stocky
with markedly triangular torsos.
But, enervated by the heat,
chilled at night, and attacked by my (innate ?) existential
angst, I felt false and useless. I couldn't go through with
my grand idea. I had no 'grit'. I would only be a tiresome outsider
to these people. Probably a liability. So I left the forest,
and altered the much-creased single air-ticket to Brazzaville
so as to make it a return ticket to Dublin. I then stressed
it further and presented it to the airline office in Bangui.
Amazingly, I was not arrested for fraud, but had it courteously
replaced by a genuine new ticket - with which I fled back to
wintry Ireland in the few thin clothes I had not given away
to beggars in Bangui. This was before world-wide computerisation.
I still have the Lingala language-book. With the beautiful woollen
airline-blanket I took off the plane at Paris to help protect
me from the February chill, my mother eventually turned into
a fine smock-shirt or tabard. (I love wearing home-made clothes,
and I am still wearing her knitted woollen socks five years
after her death.)
My feeling of "What
am I doing here ?" has expanded from the rain forest
to the planet.
But perhaps I always had it.
My desire and my determination
are not commensurate. I am very bad at deceiving myself into
thinking that anything is worth doing. "Failure lives."
And my utterances are even more pathetic than Nietzsche's messages
in bottles upon the terrible flood of 'progress'. With only
small periods of respite for the past twenty years I have felt
the same lassitude and torpor as I felt in Africa. I will die
of this fatigue. But I still love woods and forests, and would
dearly love to live among forests by the French river Aveyron,
where, and amongst whose natives, curiously, I feel truly at
Little by little I discover
in myself just the pain of finding nothing.
We are seduced by narrative,
and this is the basis of politics: to invent something plausible.
Yet plausibility is not a quality of life, but of description.
Even a single word is narrative:
I, ago, why, it.
Writing is termed experimental
when the experiment has failed.
'Solo e pensoso' wrote
Petrarch in the 14th century, the first man in modern European
history voluntarily to move from the city in a cottage in the
country. 'Alone and in the house of thought'. But 'Solo è
pensoso' - to be alone
is to be already in the antechamber of philosophy.
was, of course, quite mad, made so by a psychopathic obsession
with a a beautiful woman which furthered an unhealthy fashion
fostered earlier (in the twelfth century) by the alienated Queen-Duchess
Eleanor's Courts of Love in Poitiers and Angers. This love-for-the-mistress
in turn may have owed something to the same Sufi idea of love-for-the-master
which inspired Jalaluddin Rumi
in the following century. Love merely romantic derived from
Petrarch was so not-of-the-country
that he never succeeded in transplanting laurel trees (called
bay-trees in English): these reminders of his dream-woman
Laura withered and died because he did not think to transplant
them in winter. And he obviously did not have the patience to
grow them from carefully-removed, rooted suckers, or from cuttings
(let alone from seed). Laurus nobilis transplants easily
because it is a very tough tree indeed. Signor Petrarca, however,
was not in tune with the reality of plants or of women.
Laura is thought to be the young
wife of Hugues de Sade, ancestor of an even greater madman perhaps
even more famous than Petrarch.
Whole civilisations can be (and
usually are) mad.
Early in his life (1907), under
the first of many heteronyms, Fernando Pessoa wrote, in English
as 'Alexander Search':
And to the
sin of having lived
He joined the crime of having thought.
Dogs have such simple desires
that we in our arrogance despise them. Arrogance is a function
of narrative, like most of our feelings. We tell ourselves we
are superior, and the telling convinces us. I relate only to
beings I perceive as 'underdogs'. I loathe power and authority
and those people who have it. As a child I wept in zoos and
circuses and I hated the clowns, and begged to be taken home.
Memory is the stories we tell
ourselves to explain how we find ourselves at present. And meaning,
too. Since so much is false or distorted, the truth-obsessed
person (in this case myself) allows himself very little memory.
And I have very little imagination, anyway. So what I write
(poetry or prose) is always a kind of journal - which is a continuing
story of my thoughts.
male stag-beetle doesn't fight even once in his life. He doesn't
even eat. All he does is drag his unwieldy body about, looking
for a mate, which he'll inseminate - and die.
Our narrative is conquest -
but not of ourselves, not of desire which defines us, like other
animals. How sad that black people are insulted if they are
called Monkeys. I would be honoured - but nobody sees monkey-beauty
'Gerald90' writes in again: "...to
rail against the world is to rail against yourself."
True, indeed...but that knowledge doesn't stop us railing against
ourselves/the world... Knowledge is no cure for entropy.
In 2003, long after the Death
of Sardanapalus (so stagily and marvellously portrayed by Delacroix)
the most expensive suicide in history was enacted.
Two Iranian twins, joined at
the head for twenty-nine years, arranged for an expensive and
bloody separation-operation in Singapore which lasted over 50
hours. One died, then the other.
I would have no hope of getting
a leucotomy/lobotomy performed on me; and even if I could persuade
a doctor to help me to die (not that I need to, since the means
are always at hand) he (or she) would be committing a crime.
Yet in most of Europe and America a woman can get an abortion
almost on demand. There is much muddled thinking in 'liberal'
Two American twins, also joined
at the head, continue to live both heroically and mundanely.
One of them fancies herself as a popular singer, and so they
both go on stage to perform. Lori and Reba Schappell have very
different personalities, but of course they have to rub along
They are the best advertisement for the USA that I have ever
In my house of spiders' webs,
earwigs, woodlice flaking paint and silverfish I use strong
adhesive to glue the wallpaper back on to the thick walls. The
window-frames are rotting. The two-hundred year old roof is
sagging under its large, heavy slates. An unrenovated farmhouse,
it is sometimes visited by rats, rarely now by humans. It has
not been painted for 25 years. (There is something inexplicably
French deep inside me.) The creepers and climbers have reached
the roof. A lean-to scullery (without a damp-course) added in
the nineteen-sixties has a corrugated composition roof covered
in pink winterflowering evergreen clematis, a very rare and
beautiful (unidentified) cotoneaster, and valerian. The mould
that forms on the inside walls of this back entrance is the
reason why by law my rent cannot be more than £1 a week
(though I actually pay another £1 for a doorless barn),
for my landlord refuses to do any repairs. He is a devout Christian
who regards me as unspeakable. The county court did not allow
him to evict me for degeneracy.
Because I leave the back door
open most of the time for Oscar, redbreasts fly in and flutter
against the windows, and bees. Today my kitchen is full of honey-bees.
The faerie thicket of climbers,
shrubs, small trees and flowers grows higher year by year. Amongst
the Beschorneria, Pseudopanax, a Chilean myrtle with delicious
berries, Fremontodendron, Abutilons, Choisyas, Indigofera, Piptanthus,
Akebia, Puyas, old roses, Ozothamnus - how I love lists!
- Cytisus canariensis which, like Medicago arborea flowers almost
all year round, winter-flowering Buddleia, Hoheria and hundreds
of other choice shrubs, Oscar and I play tug-of-war with his
yard-brush, and hide-and-seek. Every five years or so I empty
the septic tank and fertilise the little garden in its 'borrowed
landscape' which perches on just 5 cms of soil on porous rock,
and overlooks the Irish Sea. My 'grey' water and piss also go
on the garden, and the ash from my nightly fire on which I boil
water to wash. Fourteen swallows sit on my phone-line as I upload
An American who visited said
that I had "a millionaire's view" from my tiny livingroom
window. (This is how Americans - and soon everyone will - think.)
I love the almost-anarchic rooks in the rookery below. As I
write, my landlord is spreading his tortured fields with slurry
of cow-dung, whose smell I like almost as much as wet dog, which
I like nearly as much as horse-sweat.
15 kms away is my burial-ground,
a thicket of elder and gorse on rich, deep soil, which I call
Brocks' Acre, for it is home to many and mansion-building
badgers. My grave-to-be is already marked by an elegant quince-tree
and a handsome medlar.
There I have planted many native
and some rare and exotic trees (a Podocarpus, a pink Eucryphia,
two kinds of Azara, etc.) and climbers, including a vine whose
grapes will never ripen (even if they ever form) until global
warming really gets going. (Though I heard this week that global
warming by Carbon Dioxide etc. is as nothing compared with the
biospheric disaster caused by big piscibusiness.) In summer
this little sanctuary set among the spoils of agribusiness close
to a long, shallow and now fishless fjord, is impenetrable with
brambles and nettles.
Oscar likes to
threaten the badgers by howling down their setts at no apparent
risk to himself. I hope their sleep is not too annoyingly disturbed.
He is more constructive in the way he treats sheep: he barks
them into a nice, neat bunch in the middle of their field, then
trots off very pleased with a good job well done.
Today we picked wild raspberries
in the woods. Oscar picks the lowest ones most delicately. Later
on, in the same unpeopled woods, we will pick blackberries.
It is wonderful
to wake up in the mornings to the beauty and good-natured expectation
of a dog. (I rise so late! and I go to bed so early!) I struggle
downstairs in a fog which only a bowlful (nearly half a litre)
of strong ?fair trade coffee can lift.
Always the question: what am
I doing here ?
In the Bath of July (after cutting
my hair in front of the fire) I wonder: Does great empathy depend
on small imagination ? The suffering I see around me (from hacked
hedgerows to screaming meat- and fish-counters) blocks out or
shrinks my imagination.
In a perpetual exile, I am a
vegetarian who would like to be a serial cannibal and has not
the guts to kill himself. I am enmeshed in the two greatest
taboos: suicide and cannibalism. Only these, on a global scale,
will save this planet of pain from ever-greater agony.
My exile only seems to be voluntary,
here in a beautiful and mountainy, fjordy corner of this deeply
Beautiful so long as you don't look too closely. What am I doing
here ? My increasing lassitude decreases my desire to travel
- even to the megaliths
which are the chief glory of Ireland. Soon will disappear even
the impetus to go to my beloved, wooded Aveyron and Viaur valleys,
overlooked by the almost-changeless causses
(dry limestone plateaux) and the rolling ségalas
(damp granite plateaux where the only cereal that can be grown
is rye) which are described thus in an encyclopedia:
granitique du Massif central (Aveyron),
entre les vallées du Tarn et de l'Aveyron, dans le Rouergue.
Pénéplaine de 700 à 1 000 m d'altitude,
aux sols humides, anciennement semés de seigle (d'où
son nom) puis chaulés au début du XXe s. (céréales,
fourrages; élevage bovin). Pays bocager à fort
Narrative manipulates consciousness
by engaging it, entertaining it. We love to be engaged, entertained
and manipulated - which is why crass cinema is so universally
popular. Why do we want to be entertained ? Because we are not
happy with our minds. What defines us as human is the drive,
the compulsion, the desperation to escape the natural logic,
even the proper functioning of our minds - into religion or
drugs or sexual hedonism or science...or anything. At the same
time we are disgusted by the reality of our bodies and mysticise
them into temples.
People write lies and fiction
because we think that the truth (like our bodies ? like our
minds ?) is too raw and needs to be made presentable.
The truth is nearly as raw (and
as boring and opaque) as Finnegan's Wake, which is fiction
burnt to a cinder...
I knew I was being crassly manipulated
when I saw my first film, Disney's Bambi. That film showed
to me even as a child the manipulative sentimentality of our
culture and consciousness. That film made me an exile.
Yet now I watch films from Iran,
Argentina, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Holland, Belgium - and, of
course, France. I go to my beautiful hairy friend's house for
dinner twice a week or so, and we share music and wine and Oscar
- and the films which he videotapes from little-watched Irish
THE ANIMALS' SOCIETY
FOR THE PREVENTION OF HUMANS
President: HIS HOLINESS, Dr. OSCAR
HIS BORINGNESS, ANTHONY WEIR
HAIRINESS, MALCOLM WALKER
to read about a wonderful group of
Hello Central! give me Doctor Dawg.
He can clear my existential fog...
Oscar sleeps with one of us,
then the other, padding between the bedrooms through the night.
He, too, likes to be entertained - by games and walks. He has
high expectations, based on experience. Desire in fur. So perhaps
our need to be entertained is not hard-wired but cultural. Certainly
there are some people in some cultures with low entertainment-expectations:
for example, women in Arabia, mere skeuomorphs, vessels for
(Sipping my afternoon Armagnac)
I know this is a generalisation - but we humans love to generalise,
which is why we keep imposing one-size-fits-all rules
on each other - We dislike exceptions. Yet narrative requires
particulars - and exceptions. And we love narrative. And we
love music. Music also is highly narrative. Perhaps even birdsong.
I am a person
for whom the first straw is often also the last.
From as early
as I can remember I had a desire to escape from respectability.
When I first went to primary school I was fascinated by a child
with a shaven head and broken teeth whose family lived in a
Nissen hut. His head had been shaven because of ringworm. I
wanted to have ringworm, too.
I drifted also
towards a boy disapproved-of in the neighbourhood. He bred rabbits
and, at the tender age of six, loved to watch them fucking and
produce babies. He wasn't stuffy and prudish and snobby like
other kids. He was good with his hands (in all sorts of ways)
while I was a confused left-hander forced to use my right and
could never catch a ball. I admired him.
But only fifty
yards away lived an old widow, a friend of my grandmother's,
whom I also loved to visit amongst her Victorian furniture.
She gave me buns to eat and buttermilk to drink. To this day
I find old women unchallenging. Soon they will be the same age
In my 'teens I
opted out of adolescence. I preferred to read voraciously, and
listen to music. I went to a folk-song group and I went camping
with friends from time to time. Unlike my peers, I did not find
women beautiful or even appealing until I went to Denmark, and,
later, Africa and France. My true adolescence occurred my forties
when, after meeting a beautiful man in Paris, I became very
interested in sexual (non-penetrative) relationships with men
- bearded, hairy specimens, who reminded me of dogs or bears.
This was a period when I went to clubs and discos and certain
insalubrious places and met scores of guys of all ages. From
two of these I learned a lot about Indian Classical music.
Where you don't get the marital,
you do not get the martial.
(Blood is thicker than water - shit is thicker than blood...)
Had I lived anywhere but the
British Isles (and especially in Africa), I would have been
interested sensually in women, too. One of the many joys that
I experience in France is appreciating and admiring the poise,
the capability, the presence and charm of so many of its women.
A NOT-VERY-TYPICAL DAY
IN THE LIFE OF MALCOLM & OSCAR
0830 Malcolm joins
Oscar and me in bed, where we all doze for half an hour.
0900 Malcolm struggles
up and makes breakfast by squeezing oranges, mixing a muesli,
and making a litre of strong coffee. Oscar gets some of last
night's dinner sprinkled with a crunchy preparation with the
delightful title of 'Moongold'. He also licks the plates.
I wash up last
night's and this morning's dishes and clean up his kitchen,
then check lettuce seedlings, while Malcolm takes Oscar through
the woods to the ornamental lake where he goes off hoping to
find a rat or a red squirrel to bark at. He does not bark at
1100 I drive Malcolm
and Oscar 10 km to meet a clergyman who gave them a lift in
his car some days previously. Odd that the clergyman does not
have his dog with him. But they go off for a walk in sand-dunes
and woods by the sea. I drive home, stopping by the library
to pick up requested books and CDs.
goes on (by foot) to nearby acquaintance Belinda
1400 He and Oscar
hitch-hike to Downpatrick
(where the library is) and are picked up in heavy rain by a
council Dog Warden, who deposits them at the deliveries entrance
of Safeway so that they are not seen to have been given an uninsured
1430 In Safeway
(outside which Oscar sits and is stroked by entering and departing
children) Malcolm is approached by a stranger who says that
he was behind Malcolm in the same store several months previously
when Malcolm dropped a £5 note near the check-out. The
stranger at the check-out had then been unable to follow Malcolm
- but now handed him the £5, which was rather wonderful.
1500 They go
to the Tools for Solidarity workshop where Oscar makes
yet another friend (an 18-month-old Labrador) and teaches him
to chase and retrieve tennis-balls at the nearby Mound
of Down. TfS is staffed by volunteers,
all deemed unemployable for various reasons: injury, age, physical
or mental disablement. Some have well-developed skills. Old
donated tools - spades, spanners, unpowered sewing-machines
- are refurbished and sent off to Africa so that remote tribal
peoples can better cope with a worsening economic situation.
Malcolm specialises in making lunches for the volunteers, whose
gastronomic horizons are thereby widened. But he is also slowly
learning how to sharpen files and varnish handles and so on.
Oscar is very popular here - as everywhere. Malcolm likes to
be there on his own, for he is something of a loner. And I,
an utter loner, am not a volunteer. Never have been.
was once boarded at a Special School in Lincolnshire. He has
cognitive and organisational problems and needs a certain amount
1630 Oscar and Malcolm hitch-hike
back home (10 kms), and are this time given a lift by a woman
with another calm dog, who takes him to the very (and, like
mine, always unlocked) door of his rented wooden gate-lodge.
He lights a fire - for in Ireland July can be as cold as November.
I did not ask how he spent the rest of the day 'in the privacy
of his home'. Quietly, I guess.
Click the picture to see
Oscar and myself.
Listening this morning to Member
of the European Parliament Emma Nicholson talking about herself
on the radio I start thinking about achievers and non-achievers,
ordinary or passive people and movers-and-shakers, the solipsistic
versus the outgoing and self-confident. (There is a third group,
of course: the victims of cruelty, disaster or genocide.) MEP
Emma Nicholson has, amongst other great efforts and achievements,
fought against the extermination of the Marsh Arabs of Southern
Iraq. How wonderful to be able to find something to feel right
about - and to be able to do something about!
Modern media, in their obsession
with celebrity, constantly point up the difference between consumers
and providers, passive and active, nonentities and achievers.
Non-achievers can only sit and get fat, lose themselves in spectator
sports, celebrities or the National Lottery, take to drink or
drugs, go about feeling impotent and aggrieved, or any combination
of these. Malcolm is happy to have escaped from his toxic family
and the probable fate of most who have been to a school for
'children with special needs', happy to have escaped the clutches
of the various Christians who feed on the vulnerable and keep
them in controllable congregations, happy to have come to Northern
Ireland (of all places) where he feels both free and valued.
I, on the other hand - having
defined myself throughout my life by being genuinely different,
or, having been to a horrible, mean school for achievers, by
excluding myself - am constantly trying to explain to myself
my disgruntled state of impotence, my feeling of never having
found my métier, my feeling of apartness - a kind of
Little Prince in negative. (But Saint-Exupéry committed
I am surprised and gratified
that I have been able to help two unsired beings substantially,
Malcolm whom I feel more tenderly towards when I am alone, and
Oscar whom I feel more tenderly towards when I am with him.
Even when I was very small I
was different. My playmates were, on the one hand, two little
girls with bows in their hair with whom I felt very easy; and,
on the other hand, a disapproved-of urchin-boy with shaven head
who bred rabbits, introduced me excitingly to his cock, and
briefly, uniquely, provided some male input to my life 'in a
non-oppressive situation' - i.e. not at the single-sex school
I was put into at the age of eight which deprived me of all
my natural friends. A little later (but before I was stuffed
into the single-sex school) I had a quite different kind of
male playmate - with whom I played houses and kitchens. He became
a gay theatre designer in London. I became one of the searching,
solipsistic lost, who spend most of their days recovering from
the disappointment at waking up.
How different - and perhaps
wonderful - my life would have been had I had the joy of meeting
a hairy, smelly, cuddly, pædophile tramp!
At the beginning of this non-non-narrative,
I said that there would be neither romance nor sex. But now
I think I will introduce a little of both by way of reminiscence
and meditation upon the curious and incomplete nature of my
My first romantic, erotic, sensual
love was Danish and female - though gamine. Slow-burning (or
should I say limp and outslipping with anxiety, then panic)
to start with (not least because she did not permit 'sexual
congress' for a whole year) it became passionate. I was in ecstasy
when a part of me roamed (as it were) and celebrated in those
deep, moist folds. We made love twice a day - in the tram, in
the central-Copenhagen park - even in the Øresund and
in the snow of a remote island called Christiansø where
I stayed for months - and, of course, in the bedroom - usually
on the floor for more space to cavort.
She connected my limbic system,
my cock to my nipples: my only totally-erogenous zone. (This
connection may be the reason why I have never had any problem
with erection: mechanical action on the touch of a button!)
She introduced me to her own sensual, clitoridal mechanics.
For the only time in my life I floated on an orgasmic cloud.
But perhaps we were "anime affanate quali colombe, dal
disio chamate" as Dante wrote about the adulterous couple
Then she up and married a poetic-looking
guy whom I had brought over from Ireland (because he was jobless
and frustrated) and whom I had adopted as my latest Best Friend
because I thought I could help him, as I later was able to help
Oscar. And I did help him, changed his life completely, though
not in a way I had wit enough to predict.
For eighteen years I loved nobody
sensually-romantically, except German Shepherd bitches - no,
no, nothing erotic or sexual! Then I had - through a series
of accidents involving Romanesque
sculpture - what turned out to be a very brief episode
in Paris. Unfortunately I was a 'bit of a fling' for the Beloved,
who had the most beautiful moustache I have ever seen, and the
most sensual tenderness I had yet encountered. He was also the
most revelatory kisser I had met up to then - my fortieth year.
But I (on the dole and beyond the Pale) was his brief side-salad,
so to speak.
A couple of years later, also
in Paris, I met an accountant (with a night-job two or three
times a week as a singer in a gay piano-bar - the sort of noisy,
smoky place I hate) who was the best lover I have ever met.
He would come to my pied-à-terre off the rue Montorgueil
at five and he would leave when we were both exhausted, around
1 in the morning. Or I would pick him up from his piano bar
and go to his place for an active night. But, although we made
four-dimensional love for six, seven, eight hours at a time
(with pauses for cooking and eating and drinking), he was a
very cold and withdrawn person 'in real life', which was a great
pity. He also was In A Relationship.
It was in Paris that I had created
of symbolic little snakes interlinking and kissing from navel
At about the same time (my memory
is terrible) in London I met another handsome guy (lovely beard,
beautifully hairy) with whom I had two or three similar wall-bouncing
erotic time, aided by Psilocybe mushrooms - but he was In
A Relationship and so our cavortings did not last long.
I painted a beautiful portrait of him, which now hangs on one
of my never-repainted walls, with portraits of some others of
the dozen or so brief lovers: Mark, William, Pierre, John,
Mahmoud, Mekki, Karl-Heinz, David, Carlo, Andrea, Charles, Séamus,
Richard, another Pierre, Bruno, Sebastián, Ezio, George,
Emilio, Reynald, Volker, Richard, Fergus, Séamus, Bruno,
Ludovic, Esteban, Alan, Claude, Claude-Etienne, Claudio, Victor,
Phil, Philip...and others (all of them bearded, some of them
very hairy) lost in the fog of my poor memory.
Cities poison the world. I have
only gone to cities for adventure, cultural or sexual. And quickly
returned to rustic seclusion. I went to Berlin and met delightfully
sensual and caressing lupine lover bought from the East and
living near The Wall. I quickly taught myself German, and received
him later in Ireland...but he was a chain-smoker and it transpired
that he too was already In a Relationship.
Ten years later, after various
misconnections and disconnections, I met (also in a city) Malcolm:
from the start a soul-mate, a kind of younger brother. On our
first night of love I was deeply impressed by how soft and spiritual
his cock remained. Our relationship rather quickly moved beyond
the erotic into the domestic/canine zone, which is no less demanding,
but much less fraught - and much more reliable and rewarding.
Malcolm and I share a quietism of sadness, an undemonstrative
mutual acceptance. He is a very beautiful man with sturdy legs
and a gorgeous neck.
We also share a quaint frugality.
(I have just been darning a woollen sock my mother knitted for
me over 15 years ago.)
A year or two
later both Malcolm and I met a man called Paul
who set my brains and balls on fire (and whom Oscar adores):
another bearer of a beautiful beard (this time very thick and
bushy) and with a beautifully boyish, happy face. He also has
a cute little, perky little pointed mushroom between his legs.
Making (my usual non-penetrative) love with him (after champagne
and something delicious to eat) was like floating with a twin
in an amniotic fluid of bliss and communion, to the sound of
the rudra vina played by Z.M. Dagar. Surrounded by the scent
of home-made incense (including powdered peat from county Mayo)
burned on a little altar of love, I rubbed his feet with oils
of ylang and cedar, or vetiver and argana-tree. I ran my tongue
down the plentiful hairs of his belly and the lush slopes of
his neat buttocks. Our kisses lasted a quarter of an hour. He
rubbed his Jovial beard against my Hermetic balls... I buried
my nose in his armpit...we hugged so hard we seemed to merge
into one big love-mass - for he was big. Having always been
waif-like and underweight, I have had an enantiodromic predilection
for burly, ursine men, as well as for the more lupine like myself.
Great sex has a hallucinatory
quality. Bad sex - that is to say, most sex - is drearily real.
The cannabis helped
hugely - and was a problem, for this guy is a dope-head who
has smoked (but never tobacco) since the age of 14, and simply
never gets it together to travel the 30 miles to see me. He
looks after a disabled and alcoholic uncle, so I cannot visit
him. He must get through enormous quantities of cannabis (and
Speed and E) for he seems to be dependent on them. For me cannabis
is only and absolutely aphrodisiac (or, rather, disinhibiting),
so I can only take it when erotic sensuality is to follow. And,
like Paul, never with tobacco.
I always hoped
to meet a partner older than myself, but all were younger. With
Paul, a man thirty years younger (who, perhaps due to drug intake
and bad diet, doesn't look so much younger than I), my stop-go
sensual non-continuum has ended. He appears perhaps twice a
year, and always swears to return the following week. He does
not have another lover. But if he came one day and asked me
to leave with him for Tibet or Chechnya or Guatemala - I would
seriously consider going with him, leaving Oscar with Malcolm.
Perhaps I say that because I know that won't happen, even though
he lived a lotus-time on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion
with his dopehead mother and one of her abusive lovers.
I will not have many (any ?)
more erotic-sensual moments in my sixties, unless with him.
I have never met anyone I felt so physically-emotionally in
tune with as with the many-half-brothered Paul, whom I just
have to glimpse to get an erection (and vice versa). But what
I feel must be an illusion, despite his declaration of the same
feeling: we (as all evolved beings, including Bodhisattva dogs)
are as separate as icebergs.
I am a Jamesian victim of the
irresistibility of the unsuitable. And with the suitable (Oscar,
Malcolm) the erotic is absent, replaced by respect and fondness:
much better feelings altogether to have for people. But how
rare to have them. There is always something frenetic and desperate
about 'love' (whether of a deity or a child), something of thin
ice about it - but mutual respect is calm, considered and solid.
In the end, it is Malcolm and
Oscar and I - until the end of Oscar, and then it's none of
I don't think I have ever thought
human beings beautiful as a species - compared with cats, greyhounds,
tigers, bears, porcupines, wolves, squirrels, skunks, dolphins,
plaice, bees, herons, etc. etc. My sexual feelings for humans
are limbic - æsthetic only insofar as those to whom I
am attracted have animal qualities.
But sex is a red herring in
a cul-de-sac. "Tout lasse. Tout casse, Tout passe."
Should I delete all this very
moth-eaten autobiographical stuff ? (for more of it click
There is so much missing. Elektra the super-intelligent German
Shepherd dog for whom I burned on a pyre when she died, and
wept for a week. Shep the rather dim German Shepherd who contracted
canine nephritis and whose death just left a chunk of ice in
my heart. For thirty-five years I kept away from dogs, until
Oscar appeared. Jim the shipyard worker who left his wife to
live with me for seven years in a most unsatisfactory, barely-sexual
closet-relationship because neither of us was prepared to take
on board the other's sexual feelings. I first found Jim sexually
attractive at the very end of the relationship, after I had
picked up a sexy, bearded Mexican-American dancer in the men's
room of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and brought him back with
me to Ireland. Jim exploded in rage, jealousy, grief, regret
and for the first time, in panic, grew a beard. But it was too
late. I had been liberated by Gregorio el bailero and
could not fly back into the cage of unknowing.
Why am I attracted to beards
and not, for example, to female film-stars ? I am, in fact,
repelled by the pathetic painting of faces and dyeing of hair.
(But not the wonderful works of body-art once created by the
Nuba or the people of New Ireland.) What grows naturally upon
us we seem to be impelled to remove, enlarge, mutilate or otherwise
alter. (I too have my pubic tattoos.) (Can anything human be
said to be natural ?)
Until I was over twenty I had
a horror of kissing - because I had a dim, early memory of a
leering, painted face bearing down upon me with horrible red
lips. (I also hate cut flowers in vases.) As to why I love beards
(which were very rare during my childhood) I cannot say. I loved
the pictures of ogres and giants in my books of fairy-tales
and quickly passed over the princes and princesses, so it goes
back before that. Perhaps to the portraits of famous men such
as Dickens and Tennyson who adorned the sitting-room walls of
my fatherless home. (Not that I ever consciously felt deprived
by the lack of a father.)
I have already written a draft
of the last paragraph of this text. Should I insert it now and
Professor Lisa Jardine (née
Bronowski) says that the root of all evil (human malignance
is a better word) is religion. But religion comes fairly
late in the procession. Perhaps 'Original Sin' is imagination,
our obsession with images (and what they can symbolise), with
the visual. Or is it our addiction to narrative - which feeds
emotion rather than reason ?
That dependence may make even
turn this into a narrative, since we see[k] narrative in everything
- even in death.
There is no victory, only triumph.
The exile (self-exiled ?) peers
through the windows of the belonging desperate to belong. As
I do by reading the novels I have read since I started reading
Dumas at the age of twelve.
Novelists, said Margaret Atwood, are illusionists.
My interest in our relationship
to narrative in an extension of my interest in the relationship
between language and consciousness expressed in poetry elsewhere
on this website.
'Gerald90' has been writing to me on these subjects. He thinks
that music is the highest form of human expression, language
being 'a very blunt tool': "Wittgenstein had it right that
if you can't say it in more than two words it's not worth saying."
But language is a very subtle
tool when used subtly (e.g. by Rilke - but not by the religiose
confectioner-poet Hopkins). It is perhaps we who are blunt -
or have been blunted by 'education'.
The trashing of the planet by
human greed and turbo-capitalism. I am deep in one of the many
black-hole days in the 'dark night of the soul'. The vulture
of accidie gnaws at my belly, the worms of depression
writhe in my brain.
I feel lost in a lost world in a lost universe.
I just want to close my eyes and die.
Oscar does not
understand how I feel: he just looks at me hopefully, then with
When people idly
asked my mother "How are you ?" "How are you keeping ?" she
used to reply: "Existing". Or: "Surviving". Like her, I hate
being asked how I am. In the unlikely event that I should feel
important or suffering enough to tell people how I am, I'll
let them know.
It was during such a 'low' as
this in winter-grey Paris (a city as depressing as Belfast precisely
because it is a Capital of Culture) that I had my first tattoos
performed - freehand - by an impish, androgynous 'artist' near
the Bastille end of the rue de Lappe (where my most saturnine
- and very gentle, modest - lover died of meningitis). The last
of the Bals-Musette had not yet closed.
About tattoos, Theodore
Dalrymple acerbically wrote "The fate of all
people who imitate others to achieve authenticity is to live a
lie." Getting tattooed, however, is the pettiest kind
of stick-on identity in a world where the only authenticity is
to be mad - or marooned.
Today Zana writes: "I think
we are all lost in this lost world. When people ask me how I
am, I answer rather like your mother: Still breathing.
Most of the time these people are just trading lies with one
another. I want to escape from this world but I don't know how.
I am tired of life."
In fragment 211 of the 1982
edition of his Livro do Desassossego Pessoa wrote of
a terrible and yet absurd weariness that resists all cure, that
wants not just an end to existence but - impossibly - never
to have existed at all!
"Yet I exorcise it
by describing it. Provided that it comes from the mind and is
not mere emotion, there is no truly profound affliction that
fails to give way to the ironic cure of being written about.
For the few, this might be one - or the only one - of literature's
uses." Yet, he points out, the affliction is not 'real
pain' like toothache or childbirth.
"I write as in a sleep. My whole life is just a Delivery
Note forever awaiting someone's signature.
"Inside the hen-house
where his neck will be wrung, the cock crows exultant hymns
to freedom because he has two perches all to himself!"
As I write this Oscar is wrestling
with a very, very old black bone he has dug up from among the
Picking wild raspberries in
the woods today with Oscar I mused that the older I get the
less I like people, and the more I see in their eyes the cold
determination not to see what they don't want to see. Even to
smile at them makes me feel false.
That cold determination is even
more evident in governments who fiddle while The Business
Community feathers its nest by laying the planet waste.
I soaked the raspberries in
rum for my dessert this evening (with sour cream).
The Gobi Desert alone is expanding
at a rate of ten thousand square miles a year.
Another massacre. (This time in Darfur.)
Another vast inundation.
Another species made extinct.
When the Europeans
so aggressively and competitively went out to civilise
the world and grab its riches, they little thought - or cared
- that their galloping, galumphing science, medicine and greed
would lead to overpopulation (now 10 times what the planet can
support), to frozen, false, arbitrary borders, massacres, desertification
and famine - and now the terrible migration to the towns and
supercities which themselves ensure that the Sixth Extinction
is not just the greatest that the planet has experienced, but
the fastest. We are the totalitarian species.
Thus we epitomise
the pointlessness of evolution.
And so I let
the nettles grow beneath Myrtus bullata and among the
of the Warsaw Uprising and the Liberation of Paris in 1944.
Four days from now 90 years ago the First World War started,
Russia having mobilised in response to Austria's impossible
ultimatum to Serbia (whose loose-cannon-citizen-hothead Princip
had assassinated the blue-blooded dough-head Archduke Ferdinand
somewhere not far from Snipers' Alley in Bosnia-Herzegovina),
and France having, under the terms of the Triple Entente, backed
up Russia, and Germany having announced its support for Austria
attacked France through Belgium, whose neutrality was guaranteed
by Britain and France under the Treaty of London...so Britain
declared war on Germany and Austria...)
I am reading
Margaret Atwood's latest novel. I am a fan. Her Cat's Eye,
describing a childhood in Toronto surburbia in the 1940s and
50s so chimed with my own in Belfast at the same time - Toronto
before the VietNam war being a version of Belfast (complete
with Orange parades) transplanted to Canada, where my mother
was so happy, and where possibly my father mobilised from -
perhaps (I fantasise) a Québecois - that I felt she was
some kind of elder sister. But I would never have allowed her
to have that grotesque face-lift -one of the greatest of living
novelists looking like a character out of Angela Carter ?!
yesterday's musings, I quote from Atwood's superb Oryx
and Crake: 'Homo sapiens
doesn't seem to be able to
cut himself off at the supply end...the less we eat, the more
do you account for that?" said Jimmy.
said Crake. "Men can imagine their own deaths...and the
mere thought of impending death acts like an aphrodisiac....human
beings hope they can stick their souls into someone else, some
new version of themselves, and live on forever."
a species we're doomed by hope, then ?"
Not just us,
of course, but the planet, as the novel describes. This is the
best dystopian novel I have read. Far better than her Handmaid's
Tale (also an opera!). Better than Huxley's callow Brave
New World and dull Brave New World Revisited. Better
than Samyatin's We. Better even than one of the novels
that shaped my life, Orwell's 1984, many of whose then-chilling
details are now hardly-remarked parts of our daily lives.
When you don't
know that you've had enough, you are one of the living dead.
The bold text
above was...DIALOGUE !! Probably the only dialogue you'll read
is one of those rare occasions when I am able to eat what I
have grown in this summer-cold (if winter-mild) climate on terrible
waterless soil. I had Malcolm's mange-tout peas sauteed in butter
with a little onion and tomato and tajine spice from Tafraout
with boiled whole courgettes (zucchini in Italianate
USA) accompanied by a couple of glasses of cool Côte
Roannaise, a Gamay-grape wine from Touraine ideal with vegetarian
food. I would dearly have liked to have had this as delicate
accompaniment to a roasted haunch of human baby (even with the
antibiotics and other unnatural toxins), but this is not possible
- so I stay vegetarian, pace the Divine Dean. The onions
and tomatoes came, regrettably, from retailers. My yellow cherry
tomato plants are only now coming into flower - under glass!
This was accompanied by a performance
of Brahms' Piano Quintet in the eternal performance by
Clifford Curzon and the Busch quartet. I very rarely play music
to myself, living in silence apart from the burbling of pigeons
and the squeaks of badgers. A blackbird nests in the Schizophragma
hydrangeoides under my bedroom window.
Dessert was Malcolm's rhubarb
cooked in the Danish way as oldfashioned rabarbegrød
med fløde - a kind of jellified rhubarb cooked with
a little cinnamon and served with sour cream.
On BBC Radio 3 later, a performance
Tan Dun's Water-percussion Concerto performed at an Albert
Hall Promenade Concert by Evelyn Glennie. The BBC is one of
the only links to culture and sanity for a lonewolf in the semi-dystopian
pseudo-statelet, the get-now-pay-never drab-grabland of Northern
Ireland where this Pooterish-Nietzschean writer lives, to the
cooing of pigeons and the banter of rooks in his floriferous
'Gerald90' e-mails me:
"On the above: Firing on all cylinders.....whew! Light
the touchpaper and stand back!"
I am slowly continuing to savour
Atwood's Oryx and Crake. It was strange to visit Toronto
after reading her Cats' Eye, because Toronto changed
utterly after it was viltalised by Vietnam-war draft-dodgers.
Although I am a city-hater, I liked glass-towered Toronto with
its humming arty-alternative quarter. I loathed aggressivel;y-touristic
Florence, with its hideous Duomo and grotesque statues by Michelangelo
- a person nearly as overrated as Picasso. I liked Pisa and
le Havre. I liked Berlin (when it was divided) and really dislike
Amsterdam. Paris is horrendous and fascinating at the same time.
London is just a maw.
Because of the embargo on products
from Iran into the USA, Toronto is a very important place for
Iranian rugs which are smuggled across the border. I chanced
to go into a rug emporium not far from the centre, and saw a
most interesting Gabbeh. Gabbehs (see the Iranian film with
that title, if you can) are long-pile rugs originally made for
domestic use, but now they are made for export. Some modern
ones reflect poor Western taste, but some continue the fine
Iranian tradition of design which I think influenced Spanish
Manuscripts of the Vizigothic period.
Anyway, the man in the Toronto
shop started pulling rugs (small enough to include in transatlantic
aeroplane baggage) off a pile for me to look at. And I saw this
I asked him if
he knew what it represented, and he said No. So I told him:
It shows a Peacock on the Tree of Life. The Peacock is a Christian
and Sufi symbol of immortal-ity and incorruptibility. I don't
think the man believed me. Perhaps he was a non-Iranian front
man. But I bought it on the spot for a mere $200. (There was
a cash point only 200 metres away.) It joined others in my house
- from Morocco (a rare green Berber "exhibition piece"
which I bought in Tafraout), and rugs from Afghanistan and Turkey
which I bought from dealers in the UK, and off e-Bay
on my only fraught forays in that intimidating website.
are not only useful: they are beautiful paintings. And
some Iranian ones are amazing. On the left is a detail
of a Qashqei one, not a Gabbeh, featuring a Babylonian
lion with a pink cock which is being fondled by a cigarette-smoking
tribesman. What this 'means' I should be most interested
to discover. What are the strange black objects with hooks
corner of this rug are coupling lions.
I started buying these rugs (they simply weren't available)
I designed and my mother knotted some of my own, featuring
designs. Oscar likes to lie on one of these. Unlike
the ethnic ones, it can be shaken easily and even washed,
since the not-pure-wool is dyed with modern fast dyes.
into rugs came by way of Margaret Atwood and Toronto. Malcolm
and I made our only visit to North America in order to go a
Camp in a forest of Eastern Ontario. Radical
Faëries are how a certain kind of back-to-nature
and usually bearded gay men describe themselves. Of course most
of them live in cities.
We had a splendid
time in the alternative/arty/marginal milieu of Ontario. Shortly
after we came back to Northern Ireland I kidnapped Oscar from
the horrible farm where he was tied up. In the seven years since
then Malcolm and I have not been abroad together, for we can
practically travel with Oscar only within the BritIsles.
God! this is
getting boring. Reader - I apologise.
picked two calamondins from the tiny calamondin
tree in one of my window embrasures. I made a wooden garden
gate for Malcolm. Since we hate buying things new (even underwear),
I made it from part of an old wooden floor with attached joists
torn up (but not by me) from a nearby derelict house. It is
very solid - but not exactly elegant. Like my prose.
What else is
there to sex and money but complication and misunderstanding
to me yesterday from St Petersburg in ravaged Russia. He and
I have translated some marvellous poems by Henry Sapgir.
I met him through the pictures of my paintings on this website.
Just three months later he took a bus from St Petersburg to
Toulouse to meet me, and we stayed in a rustic gîte close
to Penne (Tarn) in the rural paradise of the Gorges de l'Aveyron
. He is a painter and cut-out artist. He sketched and painted,
and I read, and we visited megaliths.
And we saw a house where I would love to live: utterly sylvan
by the river and yet only a kilometre from a railway, and a
twice-weekly market. But it was too expensive.
Meanwhile, just after he had
(virtually) met me on the Web, he had (physically) met the (bearded,
male) love of his life - also through the Internet. It can happen!
Both of them came to visit us in Ireland - twice.
is the first day I breathed away my troubled mood after the
Together with the hot, humid weather it produced a quite depressive
state of mind
that was rinsed and refreshed by swimming in the lake this evening.
have a secret place in the park not far from the center of the
city where it's possible to swim, especially near sunset
when there are not so many visitors. Medya and I and my younger
sister went quite late and became the last people there in the
end. And it was very rare for Petersburg - a calm hour, nice
and peaceful, no one around - the moment you really experience
the sky, trees and water and begin to absorb their speechless
being - even half a minute of this detoxifies your mind.
started to read your "anti-bestseller". I've
looked just the beginning, but I can say I really like the style
and I'm glad I understand the language.
Looking forward to reading more
and kisses for Irish Dogs, Wolves, Bears!
In Paris, on my way back from
my pathetically-abortive visit to the Pygmies, I tried busking
in the Métro with a tin whistle, clad in my fetching
Air Afrique blanket (which my mother later transformed into
a beautiful tabard). After only ten minutes (and no takings)
I was 'moved on' by the police... This was the first of my three
pathetic attempts to make money. I couldn't even give
my paintings away. But I sell one of my CD-ROMs
every three or four weeks from a single outlet with which I
have only minimal connection.
I admire the bravery
Yesterday a whirlwind
of bliss wrapped in hugs and cuddles and nuzzles and snuggles,
and served up with Champagne (and incense) to the wonderfully-flowy
accompaniment of David
Parsons' Tibetan-inspired Yatra: portly Paul-Lovebeard's
second visit this year. When he appears I (and, apparently,
castrated Oscar too) suddenly feel like a vessel of happiness,
a tumescent centre of volcanic but quiet beauty. He is one of
only two or three people with whom I have enjoyed orgasm as
distinct from mere ejaculation - a distinction strange to many
men. The post-Paul- orgasms last 24 hours or more - due I think
to the mutual intelligence of our sexuality. Fortunately, he
has a penchant for skeletal chaps.
Although we look like a herring
and a whale (an old herring with a baby sperm-whale), our non-penetrative
love-making is like being two halves of the same ferociously
tender (and non-Aristophanic) animal. Facing each other in ritual
and actual equality, in proud and helpless trust, grasping each
other's balls while our beards intertwine in a ten-minute kiss,
my middle finger pressing the perineal root of his cock, massaging
his feet with my hands and then my hard-on, running my tongue
along the undergrowth of his arsecrack which tastes of wine
made from Négrette and Garnacha grapes, kissing the pearly
tip of his cock like a humming-bird, rubbing my soft-on in the
luxuriant growth of his beard, he seemed for the moment my only
reason for existing as the fountain rose from my balls and rushed
up through my electric nipples and up to the top of my head,
flushing my brain, and cascading down again to bathe my balls
in peace and love and lightness and depth and soaringness, both
of us performing the One True Rite while witnessing a wonderful
mystery. Whether I ejaculate or not is irrelevant, because my
whole being is suffused by love. My mind has become one with
my prostate: gland of hope and glory.
Yet a body is only a body, while
the heart yearns for a heart to inhabit.
Post-cuddle dinner included
a pasta invention of mine with Brie and chervil purée.
Chervil, like tarragon, is shamefully little used, and, seeding
itself prolifically, grows even in winter. In the Tantra of
Cooking I composed a new concoction: pear and rhubarb crumble,
with a taste appropriately-reminiscent of passion-fruit. And
suitably accompanied by a fine performance of Sibelius' Violin
Concerto at a BBC Promenade Concert from the Albert Hall in
It may be another six months
before I see him again. If ever. He is a free spirit. We are
latter-day Brethren of the Free Spirit - he, si bien dans
sa peau, much less fraught in his freedom than I. Next week
he starts yet another job (he has had perhaps twenty in the
last three or four years - some of them lasting no more than
a couple of days before he walked out, others which he stuck
for months) as a Warden in a Country Park. Whether this will
be an opportunity to walk with his bouncing dog Streak amongst
the woods and along the shore of Belfast Lough, or servitude
as a toilet-cleaner, he is not sure.
Here is something for me to
ponder: in the early hours of this morning I had an erotic (but
not ejaculatory) dream (I almost never have erotic dreams) involving
my childhood girl-next-door with whom I almost never played.
She was one year older than I, and played tennis as a teenager,
whereas I loathed sport. I think we attended each other's birthday-parties
for a few early years of our lives. I cannot remember even having
a conversation with her, let alone an intimacy. Curious that
I should have a hetero-sexual (non-penetrative) dream after
a homosexual (non-penetrative) love-session. Enantiodromia again,
At night, in bed,
I draw back my foreskin and smell delicately-smoked oysters
from my fingers, and think of Paul.
The 'other side' of hate is
not love, but justice, for those who hate always believe that
they are just, while those who love believe they are walking
on air. But hate may well be the backing-plate of love.
Sometimes I think that Oscar
and I are the same person in two distinct and separate forms.
When I am with Paul, I feel the same. Oh the self-indulgent
illusions of love!
Laurie Anderson said: "We
would never have songs without regrets."
The second morning of wakening
in a genital glow, as if a very delicate feather were vibrating
gently in my prostate gland. While I was receiving Paul, Malcolm
was cheerfully rattling a tin in cheap-drab Belfast, collecting
money for Tools
for Solidarity. One generous donor was a happy
glue-sniffer. Another was a man with a sandwich-board inscribed
with exhortation to Repent before it is too late. The rest were
drearies - but at least they put something in Malcolm's tin.
This afternoon I found a wren's
nest - a mossy pouch - in the young yew-tree (Taxus baccata
var. fastigiata 'Aurea') in my garden.
The problem in writing fiction
is not just a matter of imagination, but, having imagined, then
to choose a story or story-group in a fractal of possibilities.
Sometimes I think I hear - or
feel - the planet screaming.