Issue #45 August 29th - September 4th, 2003
Something to look forward to
Cool Hand Janice
War on terror, war for profits or World War Three?
The Long Lost Diary of Miss S L Gleaden (Part 11)
Tonight we become/It's the only way to be played/1970
Something to look forward to
Iíve been contributing to the Friends of the Heroes for a couple of months now, though Iíd been reading since the beginning. I used to look forward to the new issue at the end of the week, filled with articles and stories that would get stuck in my head. I would save the archives on my computer and read them when I was supposed to be working.
Now, Friends of the Heroes has become a little like a job - but a job that I love, with fun co-workers, a sense of responsibility and a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the week.
I started off just writing a couple of articles, which was harder than I expected. For a start, I never knew what to write about. Then, when I had settled on a topic, it would take me forever to actually write it. I would have a Word file open for days, and it would slowly get longer and longer, then Iíd have to cut most of it until I ended up with something that I liked.
The first time, I remember being very nervous about sending it off to become part of the webzine. I also remember the rush of pride I felt seeing my little piece of writing made into an article with pictures and borders and everything. And it was just a small part of an issue, and I felt part of something, and I liked that.
And that feeling just grew and grew. I loved being part of something that I had admired and enjoyed. I wrote a couple more articles, we had a meeting, and last month I started helping with the web-pages. I like being involved in this. Itís fun.
Sometimes itís hard work. It still takes me at least three days to write anything. Putting the web-pages together always seems to take longer than I expect it to. But itís good because itís a worthwhile way to spend my time - Iím creating something new, something that wasnít there before and something that Iím proud of.
Sometimes I think I would be happy to just keep doing that - keep creating something that Iím proud of every week. And sometimes I want to do more. I think we will do more. Things are happening; we all have big plans and hopes for the future. Things are going to happen and Iím looking forward to being involved. With a long, dark winter ahead of us, itís nice to have something to look forward to.
Cool Hand Janice
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. 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...
Breakin' up BIG ROCKS on the chain gang
Breakin' rocks and servin' my time
Breakin' up BIG ROCKS on the chain gang
Cos I've been CONVICTED of crime
Hold it steady, right there, while I hit it
Well, I reckon -
Hello there my little flowers of freedom,
It has been some time. It has been some time since I have been able to write uncensored mail. I have a new abode. It doesn't suit, quite frankly. They don't like loud retrospective dance music, the food is crap and they make me wear this god-awful stupid uniform. Its nearly as bad as that bloody convent, except with more rugmunching and less praying. And better tobacco, if you catch my drift.
screws hate me. The lags hate me. They hate the sound of Pat Lundy echoing down the corridors. That was Pat Lundy I was playing when you found me. A disco version of an old chain-gang song. It sounds silly, perhaps, until you realise why - Disco is all about being free - free from your life, from your physical being..
Free from whatever constraints the world has placed upon you. Such as being in jail, for example..
It feels like my old life, in that hell-hole convent. I'm back to those old nights, staring out through the bars, and willing my spirit to fly into the clouds, buoyed by a coursing melody and a drum-beat in time. I'm back with the bassline of 'Listen To The Music' as the Isley Brothers take me away from all this.
I suppose I could find peace here, of a sort. In the simplicity, in the darkness.
But this is no place for peace, and I don't belong here. Perhaps you're wondering how I got here.
Readers, I shall gladly tell you. It is all down to those bloody nuns.
I don't understand people who bear grudges. I mean, sure, if I found the guy who slipped hallucinogenic martian mushrooms into my drink in that bar on the rings of Saturn I'd.....
well, actually, I'd shake him by the hand, that was a great night
err...where was I? Oh yeah, I don't understand people that bear grudges. After all, it was a MISTAKE. Anyone could have done it, they just didn't like me.
One little slip. With a bottle of 'citrus fresh'. I didn't MEAN to poison the mother superior. And the visiting cardinals. And the convent dog, little Julia Andrea. Especially not the dog. Next thing you know, there's ambulances, and policemen and questions... so I left them behind. I figured they'd get over it, and I went into space and found something else, something new inside me. And I came back to tell them I'd forgiven them for misunderstanding me so.
What do the bastards do? They LOCK ME UP, that's what they do!
It'll be a while, I think, before I'm back in space - but we're working on a plan. They let Roger out of the men's jail just yesterday. Very harsh of them, I thought. I mean, his poetry really is bad, but a month in jail? Not even Rudyard bloody Kipling deserved THAT. Robbie Burns, maybe..
But what do I know about poetry? It was never words that took me somewhere else - not on their own. It was the way Sylvester's voice soared into 'Yoo-oo-oo-ou MA-AKE me feel'; it was the chimes that pull you into 'Can You Feel It'; it was the sheer goddam funk of Edwin Starr singing '25 miles'. Words have shown me other places, but its only combined with the music that they take me there.
Anyway, he tells me he's got a plan. My plan is to sit here and wait for something good to happen. Sometimes, if you wait long enough, and you're ready, good things happen. And, for what its worth, I'm going to do my best to enjoy the wait. Though the screws hate me, and the lags hate me, and the food is crap and they make me wear this god-awful uniform. They can't take away my music.
Well, they can, but I'll fight them to the end if they try.
This week's letter:
'Dear Nutter In The Next Cell
I've been in here a while, and I have lots of dangerous friends. Let me give you a piece of advice. People in here value their sleep - its the only escape from their lives that they get. And they get pretty ugly when that sleep is interrupted. So, playing that seventies crap at four in the morning is unwise. Very unwise.
Consider yourself warned.
Bert? I thought this was a women's prison?
Oh, hang on...
I suppose you COULD compare her to a woman.
I have to get out of here.
And 'that seventies crap' was Earth Wind And Fire! The cheek of it. Some people have no taste.
Until next week, my little lasers of love, be happy.
And, if you can't be happy, be forgiving. There isn't all that much difference, really. Even if it is a nun you're forgiving. Even if it IS someone who isn't willing to forgive you in return.
And if you DO know a good lawyer, I'd be very grateful
War on Terror, War for Profits or World War Three?
'In the early autumn of 1942 I was among the troops of General Paulus's 6th Army at the approach to Stalingrad. Our political officer.. told us that once we had destroyed the Red Army.. we would be moved south through the Caucasian oil fields for about 700 miles to arrive at the Iraqi ones. A friend sitting next to me whispered under his breath "So that's what we are to die for - oil in Iraq". And, in fact, he did. I would have thought that the world might have learned from that disaster , but obviously it has not.'
The situation today is very different from that in 1939 - but similarities remain. One of Germany's prime war aims in 1939 was to capture the Caspian and Middle Eastern oilfields. The, ahem, ongoing 'war on terrorism' may have more to do with securing those same oil and gas supplies for the developed world, which in turn brings profits for those wonderfully humane oil and arms companies, than with preventing further terrorist attacks. Bush and Blair are looking increasingly like global village idiots, akin to Chevvy Chase in ĎNational Lampoons Summer Vacationí. You know what happens to old Chevvy (head of the dysfunctional Griswald family) in that film, right? Well, on a trip to a glorious American amusement Park, he finds himself, amongst other things, marooned in the desert when he tries to take a short cut. He trawls the desert in search of help, some form of assistance, and begins to see mirages- water where there is none, people where they arenít, that kind of thing. Thatís Bush and Blair, our modern day Griswalds, lost in the desert of Iraq, seeing Ďweapons of mass destructioní where there are none, and linking the former Iraqi government to September 11th and anthrax attacks despite the FBI's (yes, that FBI) insistence that no evidence of such a link exists...
Talking of Links...
In 1998 Dick Cheney expressed the common thought of most governments and oil companies - "I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian." The feeding frenzy for Caspian oil was and is intense. In 1993 Kazakhstan negotiated Caspian drilling rights with the oil magnate, Chevron. Chevron later donated $200,000 to Bush's Presidential campaign. Condoleeza Rice, now Bush's National Security Adviser, was on Chevron's board of directors. In 1997 Halliburton oil signed a $30mn deal on drilling rights with the Kazakh government. Halliburton's chief executive was Dick Cheney - now Bush's Vice President. He still owns $45mn of stock options in Halliburton. Halliburton donated $1m to Bush's campaign. Cheney sat on the Kazakhstan Oil Advisory Board established by Chevron and Texaco. The two companies merged just before the Afghanistan war in 2001 began. The merger gave Chevron-Texaco a 45% share of the Tengiz oilfield in the Caspian. Yet viable exports require pipelines...
As war raged in Afghanistan, another war between Abkhazian separatists and the Georgian government re-ignited. Georgia is on the route of one of two main pipeline projects supported by the US government - a western route from Baku in Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. This route would avoid Iran and the Russian Federation, fulfilling US strategic aims to break Russia's monopoly control over the transportation of oil from that region. In 1994 the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium (AIOC) - a consortium led by British Petroleum and including Chevron-Texaco - signed an $8bn oil deal with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan , who came to power in a coup in 1993. The Russians were, to put it mildly, rather cross with this outcome. To pressurise President Aliyev, Russia stoked the conflict between Azerbaijan and nieghbouring Armenia over the Ngorno-Karabak area by arming Armenia and Ngorno-Karabak separatists. This forced Aliyev and the AIOC to agree to a 'dual pipeline' solution: half the output would go via the Russian Federation, with the rest exported on the Baku-Ceyhan route. AIOC also proposes a Baku-Vlore route. The Baku-Vlore route has to cross Macedonia. The US state department has employed private companies as fronts to finance, train and arm both sides in the conflict between the Macedonian government and the National Liberation Army. One such company is Military Personnel and Resources Incorporated. Military Personnel and Resources Incorporated has links to the Pentagon and to a certain Colin Powell. Another company, Brown and Root Services, is a subsidiary of... Halliburton Oil. Yes, friends, that Halliburton Oil whose former CEO is, as we have seen, that Dick Cheny. Oh, one more thing: The NLA are aided by the Kosovo Liberation Army - who have been trained and armed by those gentle souls at the CIA.
US intervention in Afghanistan had similar motives and methods to that in Macedonia. An Afghan pipeline route is again a solution which avoids Russia and Iran. The oil companiesí motive? Easy:
'The route through Afghanistan is the one that would bring Central Asian oil closest to Asian markets and thus would be the cheapest in terms of transporting the oil.' (John J Maresca of Unocal, Congressional testimony, 12th February 1998)(23).
The Afghan civil war though, and the brutal Mujahedin factions, were obstacles. Many factions shared the Iranian government's Shi'a muslim religion, or had Russian and Iranian support. Luckily, the US eventually found a relatively minor group bereft of Russian and Iranian influence. That small faction was called the Taliban. In 1994 they were unknowns - from 1995 they became a military force. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) armed, trained and financed them. Pakistani army units openly fought beside them , often becoming POWs of the mujahedin. Our good friends Unocal and the US State Department welcomed the Taliban's capture of Kabul in 1996. I have a small question though: Where the hell was Pakistan - refused arms and military aid by the US since 1990 - getting the funding and equipment to train the Taliban? This manís description of his Afghan operations in the 80s holds the answer:
'I settled in Pakistan in the Afghan border region. There I received volunteers [from Arab and Muslim countries]... these volunteers were trained by Pakistani and American officers. The weapons were supplied by the Americans, the money by the Saudis.' Who said this? Why, Osama Bin Laden of course!
(Next Week in Part Two: Sex, lies, and deceit; How it all turned sour for the Taliban, the great big American lie, and the potential for full throttle, four pronged nuclear warfare...)
The Long Lost Diary of Miss S L Gleaden
Rosemary Hill, an English nurse who emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 80's, was walking along the shoreline of Tom Bowling Bay when she happened upon the diary of Miss S L Gleaden, the worlds best travelled book.
As she sat down to read the book she was completely unaware of the chain of events which lead the diary to be lying in this most unusual of locations so far from its beloved owner, and quite understandably became engrossed in the events recorded by Miss S L Gleaden.
When she returned home to her small flat on the east side of the town she put the diary to one side and began to write an email to a friend back in the UK:
I thought I'd write and tell you about the most unusual discovery I made today. I was just out walking along the beach when I happened upon a battered red book, with the words: "the diary of miss s l gleaden" written neatly in gold pen on the front. Now I know what you are thinking, never a good idea to read someone else's diary, but all I wanted to do was to find the owner of the book and then I couldn't put it down. (Except I did to come and write to you. )
This girl is so dippy! Ten times worse than you I'm telling you! She's already got on the wrong plane and ended up in Burma of all places. Now she's hooked up with an odd pair, and they are on a mission to smuggle a small white flower with anti-ageing properties out of the country. They are about to cross the border into Bangladesh. Its nerve wracking stuff I can tell you!
Well must dash. The dishes need doing, and I have to iron my uniform before I go to bed. I'll keep you informed of how it ends!
Bye for now,
Rosemary, switched off the computer and then sighed to herself. The time when starting a new life in New Zealand seemed like an adventure all felt so long ago. She plunged her hands into the dirty dish water and idly wondered what would happen next in the adventures of Miss S L Gleaden, not knowing at that moment that she never would read the end never get a chance to read end of the book. You see, whilst her hands were submerged in grey greasy water an opportunistic petty thief, was stealing her brown handbag, fake gold watch and the diary of Miss S L Gleaden.
Although this might have been a bit of a disapointment for Rosemary Hill, it did bring the diary one step closer to being reunited with Miss S L Gleaden. And as you probably know, many weeks later it 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...
Unlike Rosemary Hill the Cumbrian locals did not to lose the diary to a petty criminal, and with eager anticipation read the story of miss sl gleaden's hair raising trip across the Burmese boarderÖ
That was without a doubt the most nerve wracking night of my life dear diary. The sun is about to come up and I really need to get some rest but before I do I shall tell you what happened after I last wrote.
I and E switched off the headlights just as I put the full-stop on my last diary entry and we were plunged into complete and utter darkness. The loss of my sense of vision made me acutely aware of the smallest of sounds. The small blue mini's engine seemed to slightly asthmatic as it wheezed slowly forward, the creak of my seatbelt was almost deafening, and I noticed for the first time how molly and I and E seemed to breathe in complete harmony. The observation came as a surprise and I felt as if I had discovered a deeply intimate secret that the man and wife shared. My eyes began to adapt to the darkness jolting my memory back to my journey on the night train from Rangoon to Mandalay. Then the objects appeared as exciting mysteries. Now they seemed like menacing monsters waiting to pounce.
In the car window I could see the white's of I and E's eyes darting backwards then forwards, scanning the road ahead with intense concentration and excitement as we approached the boarder.
Just as molly's brother had predicted, two drunken guards were present at the inspection point on the border. When we were within hearing distance of the two guards I and E turned off the engine and we sat weighing up our situation whilst watching the drunken men.
We seemed to have arrived at a crucial point in what must have been the funniest joke in the history of mankind. The two men were laughing uncontrollably, clutching their sides and if we had been close enough to see them I'm sure that tears would have been rolling down their faces. One of them eventually caught his breath long enough to speak:
"you're as much use as an apricot baby?" he asked quizzically.
This seemed to set the off again.
Molly, I and E, and myself exchanged puzzled looks.
"an apricot baby?" I and E mouthed.
Molly and myself looked at each other then shrugged. It didn't make any sense. Evidently the man who just spoken thought so too.
"what on earth is an apricot baby?. That doesn't make any sense" he said
"8 MONTH OLD BABY!" shouted the other drunk thorough tears of laughter.
Then suddenly, without warning the first man slowly fell off his chair and began snoring loudly. The apricot baby crouched down beside him and starting slurring loudly:
"what er yer doing down there?" he stopped to giggle a little bit more, wobbled slightly, then fell ungraciously into a sitting position and fell soundly asleep.
We sat in the mini not daring to move. Not even daring to look at each other. The mutual knowledge that we were about to take the biggest risk of our lives hung in the air. I and E reached for the ignition and turned the key. The mini growled and we sat rigidly upright warily examining the sleeping guards but other than a dodgy minute when apricot baby rolled onto his side and started to suck his thumb we were able to relax in the knowledge that we were going to make it past the boarder.
My heart lifted as we crossed the boarder. My muscles started to unknot themselves and I even managed to look over at molly and I and E, who seemed to be looking equally relieved. I and E kept his head forward and his eyes on the road for another hour until we spotted a secluded spot just off the dirt track.
"we'll stay here tonight" said I and E pulling the car to a rather sudden halt.
I and E and molly have been asleep for the last 30minutes. And now its time for me t sleep too. Goodnight my dear diary. Sleep well.
to be continued
The bed that we made out of other furniture was the best bed that I have ever slept in. I would lie awake at night and listen to the pull of the ocean, and sometimes I would turn to her and make to speak but she would be sleeping and there was nothing nearer to heaven than the sight of her sleeping, so I would smile and leave her to it.
She would fart on my leg, take a piss whilst I shaved, then shave her legs whilst I took a dump. She was beautiful, the one thing that I had ever got right in my life.
Then I got married.
And we got a new bed as a wedding gift, and I tried to persuade her to trade it in because we needed the money at the time, or at least to put it in the spare room because our bed, the bed we made out of jumble and chaos, was fine.
Say hello, wave goodbye.
We got rid of our bed made out of jumble and chaos, and replaced it with a bed made of solid pine and a duck-feathered mattress. On the first night in the new bed, I felt the chill of the present. I couldn't get comfortable. My feet stuck out of the end, and when I turned towards her, she had already turned the other way.
Still, I had the sea.
And it was to the sea that I increasingly turned. It would begin about two or three minutes after the evening meal, a meal punctuated by the shabby morsel of the mundane. She would ask me how my day was, and I would utter some well-rehearsed, mechanised reply, and vice-versa. It was the type of conversation that most couples have at the end of every day, over a cup of tea, or a glass of Merlot when they really pushed the boat out. The trouble was, I always thought that we were not most couples, and it had been that way ever since I saw her, all those tangled years ago, through the quadruple vodka specials and the girl with red hair, and the shuffling of feet in semi-darkness, and the intimidation and the loss and the confusion, and my stumbling down stairs, and my falling into people and onto cloakroom walls: I saw her. As clear and as lucid as the brightest fucking daylight. Above everything, anything else. I saw her and I had no chance, I knew I had no chance. That was me, my life, lived not only with her, but also through her. That was all that I could envisage, more than that, it was all I ever wanted to envisage. With her, suddenly everything had fallen into place. I felt, for the first time in my life, at one, right, as if my grubby and calamitous past was a kind of apprenticeship in life, a test, something that had to be endured and dealt with, a necessary evil leading up to that confluence by the cloakroom.
That first night, we walked a while along the harbour, not daring enough yet to even hold hands, and we babbled furiously about Sandy Denny because we had never met anyone else of our own generation who had even heard of her, let alone actually like her, and I'm sure that she tried to explain to me even then, in very simple terms, just what it was that a botanist did, and I think I tried to explain to her just what it was that I did, but I do know that it felt the most natural thing on earth to go back to her attic apartment during the dregs of the heavy night and to share a glass of fresh fruit juice with her before crawling into bed beside her.
And the next morning, I held her hand and never let goÖ.
Is this how it always happens? The squalid silence resonating against the four walls of our home as we shift food around our plates and struggle for something, for something, to say. How can someone who knows everything about you, who has seen you drunk and flopped in every gutter, who has held you tight in sheets when the darkness became too much, who has seen you take a dump, for Christ sake, how can someone you love suddenly seem so far away as opposed to the shabby arms length that separated us at the dinner table?
With dinner out of the way, I would make up some excuse (usually involving libraries, literature, culture- that kind of thing) to get out of the house, and trudge along the back road, stopping on the way for some wine or a six-pack, then down cordoned-off steps we weren't supposed to use, and finally to the sea. I would sit for hours, charting our relationship like driftwood, blistered and wounded. We still had something, I told myself, but 'something' wasn't enough. Everyone has something, but we weren't 'everyone'. When you've touched on stars and More's Utopia, then it's hard to accept silence and suburbia.
At night, when I returned, she would be sleeping, or she would be in another room with a group of her new friends. I was grateful either way, because it meant that I didn't have to talk, I didn't have to explain what I had been doing, and most importantly of all, it meant that we didn't have to confront all of our problems and our loss.
Then, one night, I took that back road to the sea and I never returned. And that's where you'll find me now. If she's bothered, she will send out search parties, and life guards and all of that pretence, but if she is really bothered, if even the shards of what we once were still abide in her soul, then she will leave me here drinking wine and reading the grains of sand, picking at our half-life with my mistress the sea.
TO NIGHT WE BECOME
ITíS THE ONLY WAY TO BE PLAYED