Issue #29 May 9th - 15th 2003


Sister Janice leaves the planet
I didn't spend all those years married to Jesus to drop my habit for the first spotty youth that came along. Admittedly, I don't know why I DID spend all those years married to Jesus, but that is a different matter.
By Sister Janice Slejj

Clerkenwell, love stories and an interview with Stephen Coates
- The book and the soundtrack share the same themes... It is the autobiography of devil and his love story with an angel... A love story that went wrong.
- Don't they all?
By Dimitra Daisy

The Long Lost Diary of Miss S L Gleaden (part 5)
It was his beloved S L Gleaden who had caused all this trouble in the first place. The poor diary knew that he was not safe with this kind, head- in-the-air, dreamy boy.
By Rachel Queen

The Years
But we can't stay kids forever. One by one begins the exodus from the home; some, fuelled by love, to make homes of their own; others, fuelled by inherent possibilities of prose, of sound and vision, to view the whole world as their home and to duly wander all four corners of it.
By Paul Williamson

The adventures of wak, as told by Robert the Useless
‹‹ It is good that you have a job›› said wak. ‹‹Because you will need a job if you are going to buy food for me››.
By Sonia Luthold

 

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Sister Janice leaves the planet

Sister Janice is the Friends Of The Heroes agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career.


These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed. Or she would, if it wasn't currently crash landed outside the drive-through window of a restaurant belonging to a well-known burger chain. Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer...


Hello again my galactic groovers,


What a week.


Tonight.... Tonight.... I can hardly bring myself to say it.

Tonight, we go back into space.


Yes, my little nebulae of naughtiness, you read that right..we. Myself - Cosmic Adventurer; Retrospective Dance Specialist and Problem-Solving Executive... and Roger. Roger from the burger bar.

No, it isn't what you're thinking. I didn't spend all those years married to Jesus to drop my habit for the first spotty youth that came along. Admittedly, I don't know why I DID spend all those years married to Jesus, but that is a different matter.


He wanted to get away from the world. He managed to mend the engine of The Space Shed. He's installed a Cosmic Continuum Console in the shed wall that can take us anywhere we want to go. So he says. It looks suspiciously like a vibrator to me.


But, for once, I'm not complaining.


This was not part of the plan. I'm a cosmic adventurer. I travel the galaxy, spreading the Message, and helping those in need. I don't need someone traipsing around behind me, quoting bad poetry.

I don't need that. But, now that someone is here, I'd miss them if they weren't. Being a galactic voyager is all very well but it could get very lonely. I wanted to be self-sufficient. I didn't need anyone.


I don't need anyone.


I don't need anyone.


I need a friend.



I'm sorry about that, my little moonbeams of magnificence. I don't know what came over me. Enough with the sentimental claptrap, here's this week's letter:


'Dear Sister Janice,


I'm worried that my husband is being unfaithful.

Well, he isn't actually my husband. More my boyfriend.

I mean, we aren't going out. But we're very close.

Although we haven't met. But he loves me.

Or he would, if it wasn't for that Jennifer Lopez bitch.


What can I do? Its been like this ever since he went to live in Hollywood. Keeping a long distance relationship is hard. He hardly ever comes to Wolverhampton these days. Sometimes I feel as if he's forgotten I exist. I've tried calling, writing and even sending him plaster-casts of my bodily parts in the post. The only response I've had is a visit from the FBI. In the mean time, he flaunts his new relationship in my face. I can only observe from a distance, and ponder where it might have gone wrong.

Yours

D.Smith-Affleck'


'Dear D....'


No...not now.

It will have to wait. The lurid fluorescent lights of the restaurant are switched off, and the only light in the car park is the flame of the rocket. We climb into our vehicle. I allow myself a glance at the sky and contemplate becoming a dim speck within it once again.


Just for a moment, just for a short time. I will leave the world behind. I'll go into the darkness. And I won't be alone. There is comfort, and terror, in all of these thoughts, and they make me feel alive again.


Until next week, my funkadelic friends, remember...

Get down on it.

If you really want it.


Don't ask me what that means. I didn't write it.

With love

Sister Janice

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Clerkenwell, Love Stories and an interview with Stephen Coates
[also known as (the real) Tuesday Weld]


How can a book have a soundtrack? What is the obsession with Lucifer all about? What about the one with love and death? Does being cool make you cynical? What's the point of living in style? What is it like to be 'too sweet to be Momus, too sour to be Paddy McAloan'? Can you have pop, witty lyrics with a jazzy, cabaret sound? Why on earth would you ever do that? Is all romanticism condemned to be hopeless? Is having fun the antidote to the world's ugliness? Is love meant to console or heal you? What remains when love is gone? And who is that Clerkenwell kid?! Does he really dream in black and white, like people say? Does he really talk about the weather and the price of London rent?

So what do you think of Greece so far?

Oh it's great to be here, we met a lot of nice people and everyone is taking care of us...

Is it nice even in that heat?

Yeah it's nice, when we left London it was grey and cold, even though we've had a month of lovely weather...

So do you live in London?

Yeah - do you know London? I live in a place east of Soho called Clerkenwell. It's an old part of the town that used to be poor and rather infamous in Victorian times, then, at the beginning of the twentieth century it was an industrial area... It has a tradition for political radicalism. Now it has sort of been revived...

Is it very expensive then?

Not very... it's not posh, it's not like, say, Kensington - but it's groovy, it's a neighbourhood of artists... It has a lot of jewel shops.

I'm very interested in London but I'll get told off if I do an interview about it. So... When did you first dream of being in a band?

When I was studying I had this dream...

Where were you studying?

The Royal College of Arts in London

Do you come from London?

No, no, I come from the north, somewhere near Manchester.

I like British accents that's why I ask... So what about the dream? Was it a proper dream?

Yeah - I was asleep. I a dream with Al Bowlly. He's a 30s - 40s jazz singer... He was Greek by the way. I took the dream as a message that I should start playing music in that style. I had a dream with the singer Tuesday Weld the next night.

Didn't people think you were mad to start playing music because of a dream?

I kept the dream secret until the first record came out so then it was too late for that.

Ánd don't they think it's crazy to play that sort of music nowadays?

They do I think... but it's a good thing. Being different makes it interesting... Then again, it doesn't fit in the music business which is bad cause I want to live off the music business.

Do you make a living of music?

Yeah! Sometimes I do. Some others I work as a freelance designer.

Do you ever feel like giving up?

Music? No. I don't think I will feel like giving up until I run out of ideas. I don't think that will happen just yet. At least I hope it won't.

Don't worry. When you run out of ideas for one thing, you start having ideas for another.

Yeah, I think I'll start painting then... Or I might write a book.

You want to do everything! That song of yours, At The house Of The Clerkenwell Kid, sounds very much like a greek composer, Hadjidakis...

I know, everyone keeps telling me that today! I've never heard of him before. I believe it's the collective unconscious that makes people have similar ideas.

You sound like you like films a lot. Do you?

Yes I do!

And what's the best film ever?

Hmm... Brazil I think.

I've never watched that... This happens with me and most films though. What is it about?

It is... about imagination. And the way we use it. You should watch it!

I think I should. What's your favourite scene from any film?

You should really watch Brazil...

I'll try... What's the best book ever?

Oh.. I don't know. The best story is the story of Psyche and Cupid. It's not really a book though is it? The best book... Maybe Bulgakov's the Master and Margarita.

...You talk about love a lot. Do you believe in love?

What else is there to believe in?

So can love make you happy?

That's a good question... I think it can make you happy and unhappy. I mean romantic love will probably always make you both happy and unhappy. But other kinds of love... those can make you happy. The problem with love... the secret of love, you know, is to give it, not take it.

How did you come up with the idea of writing the soundtrack to a book?

The book was written by a friend of mine and at the time we lived together... so we decided to do this thing together too. The book and the soundtrack share the same themes... It is the autobiography of devil and his love story with an angel... A love story that went wrong.

Don't they all?

Yeah... they do.

Do they?

Yeah... But sometimes they do in a good way.

How can something go wrong in a good way?

Well love always changes, but that's not always wrong. The romantic part of love is impermanent and the problem starts when you want it to be permanent.

Finally, is style important?

Style? Yes, it is. It's not as important as meaning... but it is important.

Why?

Meaning has to do with something universal...but style has to do with the place and time.

Do you think it says something about the place and time?

Yeah... you're right. It does that.

 

 

Dimitra Daisy

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The Long Lost Diary Of Miss S L Gleaden


PART 5

Ralph, having claimed his lottery winnings, had bought one ticket to Nepal, one new tube of toothpaste, (and toothbrush), one natty straw hat, and one very sophisticated suitcase. The suitcase had come with a guarantee that once locked properly it was impossible to come undone. Having packed the suitcase with some amount of care he placed the now treasured diary on top of his belongings and headed of to the airport.

The diary felt relaxed. Being with Ralph was almost like being with his beloved S L Gleaden. Together they would travel the world, have new experiences and, more importantly, be able to say “been there” more times than anyone else in their family. The diary sighed contently as the lid was shut firmly on the case. Shutting the lid brought darkness and the darkness brought panic.

What on earth was it thinking?

It was his beloved S L Gleaden who had caused all this trouble in the first place. The poor diary knew that he was not safe with this kind, head- in-the-air, dreamy boy. Before long he would be swirling in a relentless ocean or dropping from the mouth of a hungry sea gull. And how right he was.

Minutes before arriving at Nepal international airport the catch on the suitcase, which Ralph had absent mindly forgotten to close properly, leapt open. The release of the tightly packed clothes had the same effect as a the release of a tightly coiled spring and the poor diary was catapulted into the air where it landed upon a pale green holdall belonging to a bored house wife doing a “Shirley Valentine”. At that very moment the wheels of the plane hit the tarmac with a bang causing the suitcase lid to slam shut once more.

Whilst off loading the baggage, luggage inspectors had locked Ralph's suitcase, mumbling to themselves that they could not understand why so many people buy such an expensive suitcase but neglect to read the instruction of the proper closure technique.

Later in his deluxe Hotel room Ralph was puzzled by the disappearance of the diary and shed a few tears for the poor book. Ralph pondered long and hard over the disappearance of this book and concluded that it was mistakenly stolen by drug smuggling villains.

The diary was not stolen by drug smuggling villains but instead remained in the hold of the plane which was now headed for Fiji. If it had known that it would eventually make it back to S L Gleaden it may have been comforted somewhat. But at that time it did not know that it would wash up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Nor did it know that locals would be impressed by the story contained within, not to mention it's ability to wash up on a landlocked town. Nor did it know that after many hours the Cumbrian locals were able to track down the explorer, S L Gleaden, herself and made sure that it was returned to her. But not before they had read it from cover to cover of course…

Night 4

The Cumbrian locals were anxious to know more about the mysterious I and E. and, after rescuing their washing from a sudden downpour, returned to the diary to learn of the fate of S L Gleaden…

I and E, as I've taken to calling him in the absence of knowing a full name, has been very kind. He and his wife returned to the house and cooked me a well appreciated meal. Having not eaten since the grasshopper incident (where I realised that wings did indeed taste bad) I was very grateful to them for this. We sat around for many hours eating curried meat and bowels of noodles and talking about the weather. I must admit that the weather was not the first I would have thought to have talked about with two people who had virtually kidnapped me, but it was very nice nonetheless.

I learnt that the monsoon was coming but that Mandalay had been experiencing exceptionally low amounts of humidity.

“low humidity? You must be kidding! I've feel as though I'm breathing in soup since I've arrived!” I had exclaimed with a slight amount of surprise.

“this is a mere broth my dear” said I and E “soup is where the air is so thick you can stand a spoon up in it. Mind you even that is not as bad as McDonald milkshake weather!”

We sat in silence for a while contemplating the full horror of McDonalds milkshake weather while admiring the beautiful pink setting sun falling like a brick below the horizon.

When the sun had set, a small lamp was lit and placed in the centre of the small round house with a bamboo roof i and e clapped his hands:

“down to business” he said

“tell us what you know about the small rare flower growing in the south west mountainess regions of this country”

I looked at him blankly. Rusty cogs whirred in my head. Oil was added, my mind drifted jerkily back in time. Random images came into view. Busy airport. Clean white lab coat. Small white lie. Oh. Oh dear. Cogs creaked and groaned as my mind reached top speed.

I and E was an immigration officer, he was going to have me deported. Sent back to England in shame. I would become an outcast only able to leave my house at night when nobody would see me. Or worse still I would go to prison in Burma. My mum would appear on TV back home sobbing and saying:

“the last thing I ever said to her was 'oh. Well you be careful' but she hung up. I just wish she would have listened. It might have saved her from this predicament”

I and E spoke again breaking my distressed train of thought:

“I am not an immigration officer and you are not going to go to prison, and your mum will not appear on television sobbing and asking for your release.”

I looked at him with a mixture of suspicion and awe. This man had an uncanny knack of reading my thoughts.

He continued.

“but may I advise you that when you are panicking about being in the presence of an immigration officer after illegally entering a country in the future you don't start thinking out loud?”

I nodded, blushed and bowed my head. Then proceeded to explain the series of accidents and misunderstandings which had lead me to be in his house.

I and E frowned earnestly and leaned forwarded. In a low voice he explained that, according to local legend, a small mythical white plant grew in crevices of the southwest regions of the country. The plant itself was not spectacular to look at but contained a magical anti-aging compound much sought-after by face cream manufacturers and Hollywood superstars alike. I and E had spent the best part of his youth searching for this plant. Ironically the harsh weather conditions of the southwest mountains had aged his skin dramatically.

When I and E's brother, who was returning from a business trip, overheard my explanation of why I had travelled to Burma he had telephoned a jubilant I and E who as luck would have was in the capital to meet his brother. The pair had followed my progression with care as they tried to establish whether or not I was a government spy.

“it was the grasshopper wings that convinced us. No spy would go that far to maintain their cover”

His frown grew ever deeper.
“such a shame that you don't know the whereabouts of this small white flower. People laughed at me when I returned home at the age of 25 looking like an old man of 60.
'there goes the fool who looked for youth' they would say behind my back…”

I and E's sorry monologue continued for some time. His face looked downcast and his voice got slower and slower.

“I do have a white coat. Complete with 4 pencils” I cut in.

His face brightened.

“And I do have a world-wide atlas. Not to mention an uncanny ability to stumble upon the unexpected…”

I stopped. I and E had disappeared. He returned seconds later with a hastily packed suitcase…

“and a very good feeling that if we set out first thing tomorrow morning we will find this plant.”

As I said that, his face dropped slightly and he ushered me quickly to my bed where he left me with the ominous words:

“we'll meet at first light in the kitchen”

Well what a turn of events. Between you and me dear diary I'm not quite as confident that I and E and myself will find this flower as I lead him to believe but I'll keep my fingers crossed. You never know what will happen in this crazy life…

to be continued...





Rachel Queen

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The Years

When he had me, perched high on his shoulders, grabbing at stars through breaks in brittle branches, I felt safe. Nothing could touch me. Then he'd hold onto my legs and begin to run, slow at first, then he'd build up to a canter, and then a full throttled bolt, and I would be bobbing and laughing hysterically, and I would grab at his head, his hair, and then pretend to cover his eyes, except I would leave a gap between my forefinger and my index finger so that he could see ahead, but it didn't stop him zig-zagging and hollering “I'm blind! I'm blind! Dear God!”, which would make me laugh even more, on a pseudo-precipice between comfort and danger, because, in reality, I knew that I was safe and sound on those giant shoulders of his. It's a perfect way to end it all. Before things become too complicated, before he gets ground down and worn out and lost in the tumult of depression and addiction.

I remember as a kid, in piques of boredom, raking through my parents bedside draws and finding a cluster of pink betting slips, in that meticulous yet untidy handwriting, as much a product of my father's lack of formal education as anything else. I never questioned what they were doing there, these dreams crumpled and crushed to dust, but I've lost count of the times, the days I wished that, during my half-hearted fumbles, I had found a vibrator instead.

Instead of that.

There were years, ten of them in all, when he didn't gamble at all. He was too pre-occupied with providing for his family, keeping wolves and banks at bay, drilling the importance of an education into his kids, driving his eldest son to trials for professional football teams, and punishing his youngest when he dared to smoke a cigarette. He simply didn't have the time to dissolve.

But we can't stay kids forever. One by one begins the exodus from the home; some, fuelled by love, to make homes of their own; others, fuelled by inherent possibilities of prose, of sound and vision, to view the whole world as their home and to duly wander all four corners of it.

Suddenly he has time on his hands. And time becomes his, and our, enemy.

His job as a long distance lorry driver sees him park up at service stations. This was how it would all begin again. First, just the odd pound coin in the bandits, then a bit more. His job entailed a lot of early starts. He'd drive through the four am half-light, and be finished for one or two pm. Then, in the afternoons, whilst she was still at work, he would head off to the bookies, or the bingo. Just passing time, that's all.

The enemy.

I was living on the other side of the country when he went missing. The place that I lived didn't have a phone line installed, so I was reliant on an unreliable mobile phone that, after a day of charging its battery, would give you about ten minutes of spectacularly poor talk time before it needed recharging again. When they finally got in touch with me he had been missing for three days. No phone call, nothing. They clung to the hope that he might be with me, that I was somehow, out of a bamboozling sense of logic and loyalty, shielding him from the surrounding storm.

I wasn't. Looking back, I wasn't sure what I felt. Numbness perhaps. It didn't stop me searching every single road, every single shop, every bookies and every bar looking for him, but the search was always punctured with a sense of forlornness, of utter helplessness. I didn't find him.

But my brother did…

(to be continued)

Paul Williamson

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The Adventures of wak

An Introduction to wak

wak is a small smooth yellowish thing slightly resembling pac-man on caffeine.
He has nine full brothers and two half-brothers and an aunt named Scooter. They do not live in this universe.

wak likes diesel engines, night baseball, and fried eggs.
wak does not like beer, stock market quotes, or the home shopping channel.

I was boiling water for my last breakfast ever when I met wak.

He hopped up on my windowsill and said hello. I thought I heard a slight squeaking. I stirred my oatmeal faster.

Then I saw him. He was boinging up and down. ‹‹hello!!!››, said wak, louder. I looked at him, hard. The bottle of my grandmother's heart medicine was still in its wrapper on the table. I shouldn't be hallucinating yet.

I rubbed my eyes very hard. “Get back in the box!” I said loudly. Nothing happened.

‹‹welcome. I am wak. what are you doing?›› he said.

“I am fixing hot oatmeal and then I'm going to bed.” I said. I couldn't believe I was TALKING to this thing. “Now go away!”

He tilted what would have been a head, if he had had a head. ‹‹you are not going to bed.›› he said.

“Riiight. Now go away.”

‹‹in that bottle is 8.734 milligrams of digoxin, a potent cardiac inotrope. You are fixing oatmeal, and then you are going to take it all, and it will stop your heart››

I felt something like cold fire flip through my stomach. It was fear, I think, but I don't remember so well.

“How do you know this?” I said, startled. He ignored me.

‹‹why?››

“Why what?!?” I snapped, flustered and annoyed.

‹‹why stop your heart?››

I turned on him, my mouth dry, towering over him, a six-foot wiry frame of solid matter facing what looked like a small, quarter-sized disc of sunlight.

“Why fricking stop my heart? Because my life is CRAP! Because Cindy left again and it's OVER and I'm too far in debt and I've maxed out my cards and my parents hate me and my best friend is GAY and I don't have clean underwear and my computer crashed and they can't up the Paxil any more and my life is CRAP, it's ALL FRICKING CRAP are you SATISFIED NOW?”

He didn't seem impressed.

‹‹are you going to leave a note?›› wak inquired.

“NO!”

‹‹why not? They do it in all the movies.››

“This isn't a movie! Besides, no one would read it.”

‹‹I would››.

“I am NOT going to give in to psychocultural sociological stereotypes by behaving as society in general dictates I should behave in this situation! Get that? I am fricking going to leave this world, NO EXPLANATIONS. Let them figure it out. Let. Professor Kingson give a fricking LECTURE on it in psych class on Monday. Chapter 7, “Death and Dying”. How appropriate!”

I glanced at wak. He was eating the digoxin. He had semi-dissolved himself into the side of the bottle, somehow, and the pills were melting into him.

“HEY!! STOP THAT!”

It was too late. My quick ticket to hell was gone.

“SCREW YOU!” I screamed.

‹‹I can see you are a college student. Do you have a job?››

“Darn RIGHT I have a job. Who CARES? Now I have to get this refilled you little . . . .THING! Just go AWAY!”

‹‹ It is good that you have a job›› said wak. ‹‹Because you will need a job if you are going to buy food for me››.

I was too startled to reply at first.

“You EAT?” I said eventually.

‹‹I like fried eggs›› said wak.

Sonia Luthold

 

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