Issue #31 May 23rd - 19th, 2003
Sister Janice Please Come Home!
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (Part 6)
Dutch Courage: On the Trail of 'At The Close Of Every Day'
When you are a kid...
When you are a kid life is full of mysteries waiting to be solved. You question everything.
Life is exciting and unpredictable but sometimes in your search for unsolved mysteries you find you know the answer to your questions before you ask them.
When you are a kid anything is possible.
Running as fast as we could. Plastic bags above our head's we charged across the school field. If we could just run fast enough we would fly. As we hit wire fence at the opposite side of the field our hopes, unlike our knees, remained unbrusied.
The next day a bright orange advertising balloon appeared floating above the big horse chestnut at the end of the field.
When you are a kid you get excited about small things.
When you are a kid who has grown up but who still believes that the world is mysterious, and when you still get excited about small things, and you still believe that anything is possible, you know that you living in the land of the friends of the heroes.
Perhaps we aren't quite there yet. It's a start though.
Sister Janice Please Come Home!
Sister Janice the space travelling ex-nun is unavailable. She is on holiday. She calls it a holiday. I'm not so sure because instead of going to the beach like sensible people she is has jetted off into the cold black unknown of space with a poet she picked up during her last stay on earth.
When she has finished travelling through the galaxies in a converted garden shed she’ll be back to answer your problems. You can continue to write to her care of the friends of the heroes and she is sure to offer you some sort of advice.
Readers and fellow brethren,
You have had a raw deal of it lately. First there was that space travelling ex-communicant who, let's face it, was about as much use as a pair of raybans in Rhyl. Then, if that wasn't enough, as if your sensitivities (not to mention your shrewd intellect) hadn't been insulted enough, the editorial board of this half-baked rag try to convince you all that they had somehow concocted to not only make a dog talk but to have it solving problems too. Well I'm not having it. And neither, dear readers, are you. It's time to take action. It's time to inject a healthy dose of reality into an otherwise staid and, let's face it, fetishistic, agony column.
This is where I come in. I am reality personified. My name is Aristotle and I am the domestic cleaner up at 'Heroes Hights' (that rather large, grotesque, and bemusingly shaped mansion that is home to the editors of this filth). It was 10am and, as is usual at this particular time of the day, I was just about to butter my tongue in preparation for the editor's daily toe-licking ritual when he suddenly shot out of his seat, put his socks back on and told me in no uncertain terms that the toe-licking would have to wait because he was late for “urgent business”. “You'll be late for your own funeral” I jokingly remarked. It turns out he was actually late for his mothers funeral, but how was I to know? He left with a hastily scribbled directive to clean the study and the stairwell and that he “shouldn't be long.” That was yesterday. Not that I'm worried, he always does things like this. He'll turn up eventually. And his absence, of course, gives me a chance to hack into his computer (I actually have a degree in computer science but, don't ask me why, cleaning toilets seems somehow infinitely more useful) and put to rights some of the wrongs his filthy magazine perpetuates week in, week out. So I'm starting with the agony column and working my way up, if such a thing is possible within the realms of such a snide and mediocre publication. So let us begin...
My problem involves some unwelcome visitors that appear in my kitchen on a regular basis. After each meal I have a variety of pots and plates that must be cleaned. Now I wouldn't mind this if it was a one off occurrence but the problem is that these dirty dishes appear very frequently.
I am totally puzzled by what causes these monstrosities from appearing and have found that the only solution to my problem is to roll up my sleeves, fill a bowl with hot soapy water and wash up these horrible items. I can't live my life like this. Surely there must be a better way to control these menaces?
See what I mean? This has to be one of the most ridiculously contrived and ineffectual agony columns in the chequered history of agony columns.
Are you mad? Is it not coincidence that, after each meal you have a “variety of pots and plates that must be cleaned”? This is because you cook your food in the pots then proceed to serve, and eat, your no doubt delectably prepared meal off the plates. Consequently, the dishes get (you've guessed it) DIRTY. Now, get a grip, boy. You say that you “can't live my life like this.” You could do us all a favour and kill yourself. Alternatively, you could order takeaway meals from now on, preferably fish and chips, thus negating the need for any pots or plates.
A poem about the alphabet and all the things that make you feel and care
A is for airplanes that take you fast to faraway places, suddenly dividing your life in two (here, there)
Love and all the things that make you feel and care,
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden
The heroic diary of Miss S L Gleaden arrived at the international airport of Nadi on Viti Levu (one of the larger of the 333 islands of Fiji) at approximately 18.36 local time.
The battered diary lay in the silent darkness of the still plane. If it had not been a book it would have jumped with surprise as its silence was broken by Vera- a well meaning cleaning lady with an industrial powered vacuum cleaner. But the diary was a book and so lay perfectly motionless and seemingly emotionless whilst this happened. Vera happened to be a very thorough cleaner and, whilst removing the thick coating of dust from the black carpet of the plane, inadvertently sucked up the poor diary in a most undignified fashion. The vacuum cleaner spluttered, choked, and decided that despite the manufacturers claim that it could cope with anything, it could not cope with swallowing long lost diaries. Vera got out her pocket torch and stared inside the vacuum to determine the cause of the blockage. Unable to see the diary (which was now lodged between half a packet of malteasers and a rather smelly old sock) she decided that there was nothing for it but to operate.
The vacuum cleaner, had it not been a vacuum cleaner, would have gasped in horror and screamed in pain as Vera unattached its hose. However as it was a vacuum cleaner it remained perfectly motionless and seemingly emotionless whilst the operation was performed.
“well this looks like a most interesting book” thought Vera as she placed the diary in the pocket of her apron.
“if I had a pound for every time a person thought I was a very interesting book before they carelessly lose me I would be the richest book on the planet” thought the grumpy diary.
But who can blame the diary for being grumpy? Unlike the many tourists who arrive in Fiji to enjoy a cooling trade wind blowing from the east southeast most of the year and an average summer temperature of 23-30oc, the diary's trip had taken it even further from its it's beloved S L Gleaden.
“will I ever make it home it thought?”
And as we all know by now... the answer to that question is “yes!”
To cut a long story short the diary washed up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on the shores of a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her but not before they had read it from cover to cover of course...
The Cumbrian locals, having enjoyed a fitful sleep, dreaming of small white flowers and thick strawberry milkshakes, awake at first light to continue reading the diary...
I was awoken this morning at 4.30 am by some rather noisy suspiciously deliberate sounding banging in the kitchen. It seems that by “first light” I and E meant the first lamp lit of the day rather than the light from the rising of the sun.
“good morning. I'm preparing you some noodles. Glad to see you got up so promptly.” I and E said innocently.
His voice trailed off slightly as he turned towards me. As you very well know dear diary I'm not always at my very best first thing in the morning and the site of my bird's nest hair and creased right cheek seemed to shock the poor man.
“What you need is a nice bowl of noodles; they'll perk you right up”
I and E's voice was quieter and more cautious but I noticed as he went back to the kitchen he was skipping slightly. His reappearance with a large bowl of noodles trying to suppress a grin that engulfed his whole face was more than enough to perk me up.
Minutes later we stepped out into the frail morning light and said good morning to the poor beast whose task it was to carry us into the mountains. The weary horse looked suspiciously at my well-packed rucksack and I and E's bulging suitcase and seemed to sigh.
The journey was unlike any that I have ever had before. The old cart rocked from side to side and spent almost as much time mid air catapulted by stones and potholes in the light yellow dusty road. By eleven the sun was high in the sky and the humidity too was starting to become intolerable. The poor horse ran slower and slower in the heat plagued by flies until he could take no more and stopped dead in the middle of the tracks.
I and E got out of the cart to see what was going on. After a few exaggerated gestures from I and E met with disdainful glares from the horse he returned to the cart:
“I think it is time for a break”
“good thinking I and E” I said encouragingly, while offering the poor horse a sympathetic pat on the back.
We found some patchy shade under a Tamarind tree. I and E un- strapped the cart and let the poor horse stretch its tired limbs whilst I unpacked a large red and blue tartan rug from my rucksack and spread it on the ground.
“the last time I was up here trees like this were ten a penny” said I and E with a hint of regret in his voice.
“But lately they seem to all be disappearing” he shook his head sadly.
“well if we hurry we can make it back to Mandalay before it gets dark” I said.
Despite the hope I felt as I said that, I knew deep down that this was not one of these sometimes that I and E had talked about. He had had a determined look in his eyes ever since we had set off. I didn't think it would be possible for anyone or anything would stop him and his quest now. I sometimes find it hard to believe that I and E is the same man who advised me so wisely about grasshoppers. Its strange what dreams can do to a person. They are powerful enough to make a person lose their inhibitions, to gain a certain determination verging on insanity. They are powerful enough to drive a person, an innocent horse and a girl with a white coat into a the mountains of an incredibly humid country.
I and E went to give the poor horse a pep talk before handing him a yellow bunch of grass and strapping him into the cart once more.
I'm writing this from the rickety old cart which is now heading north. Mandalay seems to have become an unreachable dream but unlike I and E's flower there is no doubt in my mind that I hope to one day see it again...
To Be Continued...
Dutch Courage: On the Trail of 'At The Close Of Every Day'
I like my job. One minute I'm extolling the virtues of Axel and Minco (the Dutch duo that make up 'At The Close Of Every Day') and, before you know it, I'm interviewing the blighters! Note to self: Say good things about people and they will flock to you. Say bad things and... they won't. Now why didn't anyone tell me this before? Over to you boys…
Given that the webzine is called 'Friends of the Heroes', perhaps the first question I'd better (and always!) ask is: who are your heroes and (perhaps this bit is more difficult) why?
M: I don't have actual heroes, though there are many people I admire and respect.
A: My heroes at this very moment are the Scottish guys of 'Aereogramme', which I saw yesterday evening at the local club here in Rotterdam. The impression they made is still in my nerves and veins. But next week it can be a completely different person or band.
How, when, and why did you both meet?
M: We met when I went to a concert of Axel's other band 'This Beautiful Mess'. He played drums and I was scouting them for signing them to Sally Forth records.
If any of our readers haven't heard of you, what's the first thing that they should know about you?
M: That we are worth checking out, haha. Not much they will find out when they do.
A: I love Italian food, served with a good French red wine. Er, I hate kidney beans.
Is there a pattern in your way of working that you adhere to, or is it just sometimes a case of drawing the shade, grabbing a pen and your guitar, and seeing what happens?
M: Sometimes, when if feel down I grab my guitar and express my feelings, it's almost like therapy sometimes. It feels very good after I have written another song about what happens in my life. But there are times when I'm just picking some chords as I watch tv. Very inspiring! I can write and play anytime but it's always that special mood that's there when the best songs come up.
A: I have not discovered a pattern yet, but I'd love to have one. It's mostly just sitting on the couch or outside on the balcony with my acoustic guitar and picking/strumming it. A glass of wine seems to amplify the quiet ideas that are somewhere in my head.
Like a lot of people in the UK, I'm not particularly knowledgable about the Dutch music scene. What's the current state of play over in the Netherlands? Is it any better or worse than it used to be?
M: There's not much stuff going on here that I like. It's mostly commercial shit, most of the stuff I listen to comes from far, far from here.
A: There ARE some nice bands here! not many but there are some. A band called 'Brown Feather Sparrow' for example. But the commercial middle-of-the-road-crap seems to have the power.
Any plans to tour the UK?
Yes, the cd is released there and we've had a good response to it. We're hoping to make it across this or next year. We'd love to support a band in the UK on a good tour.
There's two songs on your debut CD that are sung in Dutch. Was it important for you to express your mothertongue on this record and, for the ignorant English speakers among us, what are those songs about?!
M: The first one is an instrumental, so there's not much to tell. The other one (zalig zijn de armen van geest = blessed are the poor in spirit) is based on a part of the bible, which is very basic and uplifting. You might want to read it yourself- it's in matthew 5.
A: Yes, it's based on some words of Jesus when he stood on a hill to speak to the people…
There's an ominous, fragile beauty about your songs, as if everything is about to fall apart but is somehow held together. It reminds me very much of the Red House Painters. Do you think such comparisons help or hinder you?
M: I like the Red House Painters, so it's a compliment, though we did not listen to them while making this music. In fact I've only known of them since last year or so.
A: It neither helps nor hinders us, I don't think. Please go ahead if it helps you though. But I like the Red House Painters so I consider it a compliment.
What's the worse job you have ever had?
M: Cleaning toilets.
A: Working in a cookie factory. I could hold it out for two days, then I just had to quit the job. I couldn't eat any cookies for weeks.
How's the new record progressing?
Very well. We will mix it in June and master it in July. It will be released in early 2004.
Ever laughed out loud when you shouldn't have?
M: Probably too many times...though I like a good laugh!
A: Of course! one time at a choir concert in a church I sat on a front seat just in front of one of the soloists. The trouble is, they were just horrible singers. I just had to burst out laughing...which caused the soloist to sing even more horribly.
What's the best and worse thing about being in 'At the Close of Every Day'?
M: The best thing is that it's exactly how I love my music and everything. I would not want to be in any band than this! Worse thing? That probably still has to come.
A: The best: live, there's three of us, so setting up and soundchecking can be done sooo incredibly fast. The worse: That we still have to set up and soundcheck.
Are there any songs that you wish you had written? Are there any that you wish you hadn't?!
M: The ones I wish I hadn't are saved on a tape in a box somewhere, to be found only when I'm dead :-). The ones I wish I'd written? Probably the whole catalogue of the 'Innocence Mission'. They are amazing!
A: Which song I wish I had written? You can see it in two ways, the financial and the artistic way. Financially, it would be 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' by Simon and Garfunkel. Really, I would be filthy rich. Artistically, it would be 'Like A Rolling Stone' by Bob Dylan, there's no financial reason.
And finally, are there any questions that you want the answer which I haven't asked?
M: Not really, you did a good job.
A: Question: would you like to get 12465 English pounds from me? Answer: Hmm yes that's ok.
And with that, I check my pockets and make a hasty exit. Another note to self: Don't be too good to people, they may try to take advantage...
We gathered in black, as risers of the morning. Paul's shrine was candle-lit. Lumina had set a roll of tissue paper on the coffee table to be the honored captor of women's tears.
We witnessed the purest hour of Lumina's heart.
We embraced the human need for ceremony. It is only right that Lumina should mourn the death of her soul-kissed lover. He is, in reality, alive and well and is living down the street at this very moment in perfectly good health. But for her, Paul... the man who taught her to love, the one with whom she felt the arms of eternity, the reverenced refiner of her heart...this Paul was dead. We gathered silently as sisters for this ceremony to help Lumina give Paul a sacred farewell.
Lumina read a eulogy and let tears unabashedly streak her skin. Her eyes were clenched shut and her words rose from her mouth like summer steam. She plucked memories from her garden and blew each delicate petal on the wind. "Other boyfriends would ask me what they could do for me, and I would always say, 'Roses! I want to be surrounded by beautiful red roses!' But they wouldn't listen. They would give me a book. I love books too, but Paul listened to what I truly desired. He gave me so many roses. He was saying that he truly loved me." With this last thought, Lumina collapsed from her standing position to the hard wood floor. Her feet were pressed to the ground, and her knees were locked to her chest inside her arms. Her face was tight and visciously pained. After a few moments, her bodily form disappeared, and we saw before our eyes only a mass of flaming, burning soul. To truly love... to slowly transform into Love itself...to make love pulse enough to alter the shape of the heart... will summon even the strongest of men to crumble powerlessly to the understanding earth.
We are so seldom allowed to show the richness of our emotion. How often have we politely excused ourselves to go to a secluded place to put our head desperately in our hands, or shed a necessary tear. After just a three minute interlude into the swirling depth of our emotion, we feel the pressure to come out, dry our face, and join the rest of the world once more, hair in place and smile fastened on tightly. "That inconvenient red has not left your eyes fast enough," I say to you when you come back. "Oh," you reply, "I just have an allergy that's bothering me."
Paul's funeral was a grove for deep cleansing. The breaths of four beautiful women collected in the room. We held hands, crossed our legs and created a circle of strength together, each of us a vessel where through pure emotion flowed like desert rain. The funeral was a catalyst to open any emotion we had stuffed in boxes and stored in our dusty attics. We wept for past lovers. We wept for crushed dreams. We wept for boxes that are still too hard to open. We wept with empathy in its most wet and natural form.