Issue #76 April 23rd - May 6th 2004
The beauty in the way that we are living, installment ten
The Long Lost Diary Of Miss S L Gleaden (part 24)
Selective Condolences, Unremarkable Genocides
Sunny Days and Motorbikes
I love sunny days ! When you wake up and the sky is blue and there's not a cloud in it, it makes my old heart glad to be alive. There is so much you can do on them as well.
I love to walk on the beach and watch everybody having fun with big smiles on their faces, or walking out in the countryside listening to the birds singing high up in the trees but most of all I love to be on my motorbike.
There is nothing in the world to beat riding a bike, the freedom, the power and the adrenaline rush is outstanding. From the minute that I pull on my crash helmet and start up my bike I am free from all the worries and troubles in my life. Some people pay a fortune to lie on a leather couch and talk to a shrink, I just step outside, jump on the bike and fly off into a world gone mad and forget about all the crap.
Take last week I was sitting feeling down and not to happy about things, so I decided to go for a run on the bike. I headed along my favorite local road which has loads of bends and a few hump back bridges on it ( always good for lifting the bike off the road ). Then I headed into Glasgow and had a great laugh cutting through the traffic jams on the motorway and laughing at all the people in cars who had to wait in them. I stopped for lunch in Largs and sat on the beach for a while, after lunch I headed home and by the time I got there I had a smile on my face that must have been about ten miles wide.
Bikes are great for meeting new friends as well. When I first got my bike I never really knew anybody with one now I know tons of people from all over the country. I am going to loads of bike meets and ride outs this summer they are brilliant as you get to meet up with friends and make new ones and you can ride and talk about bikes all day.
Bike racing is outstanding as well, I love to go and watch all kinds of bikes racing round the tracks. Whether its 500cc moto GP bikes or smaller speedway bikes I am in heaven and in a trance when they take off from the start line until they cross the finish line. I remember years ago as a child watching Barry Sheene racing and from then onwards I have loved bike racing.
Now a lot of people don't like bikes or bikers, they say bikes are dangerous and noisy and that we are all mad and bad people but in the bike world we are all interested in bikes and we always wave to another biker even if we don't know them we are a kind of big family and any biker I have met has always been friendly and has never done me any harm. There is a saying in the bike world which is " A biker will help you out and stand by you, unless you mess with him or his bike ". People get the wrong idea about us because we are dressed in black leathers and we fly about on what they consider to be death traps but as I always say to them " Well I could walk out tomorrow and get hit by a bus ".
The only thing that I don't like about bikes in this country is that people in cars can be very uncourtius and unobservant when it comes to bikes for example. One day I was riding through a town on my way to work when a car just pulled out in front of me, the person driving the car had not seen me and just about drove over me. If I had not slammed on my brakes and managed to stop in time I would have been knocked off my bike and hurt. So please if you are out in the car keep an eye out for us.
To sum up about bikes you either love them or hate them. If you love them you'll understand the passion that I have for them, if you are a biker then I'll leave you with this quote" Keep the throttle open, and ride safe ". And if you don't like them, I'll leave you with another quote which is" I could tell you why, but you'd never understand".
The beauty in the way that we are living, installment ten
I don't know if I want the people I write about to read this. Sometimes I wish they do, some others the thought scares me. But I know there are a thousand things I'll never find the courage (or the moment or the time or the words for that matter) to say to the right people and that's something I'm not very proud of. You can therefore say this is an exercise in saying them. You could even call it a rehearsal.
What it also is is a reflection of those letters Rachel told me to write you last year when you were feeling down and out and there was nothing I could do. That's another thing I never did.
Anyway, on we go from where we left off the previous time...
30. On the day the clocks went forward rain fell softly on the pavement outside my window. People in raincoats and old-fashioned (or maybe just plain old) umbrellas paraded by, half-hidden by the flowers. It was a rather poetic sight. I got overly nostalgic over everything that has ever happened to me and for a while sitting there looking out of the window and the cloudy but suddenly so bright so late in the day sky seemed enough. It also seemed like spring rains are made of dreams and a rainy Sunday can contain the whole wide world.
31. There's some kind of chemistry between my friends and me. It comes on force on all the unexpected moments to make me smile. For example I might be standing with Nick at the back window of an old trolley bus doing our best to keep standing (these things make you feel you're on a boat rather than a bus), commenting on the traffic behind us seeing as we'll be standing there for the next twenty minutes and we have nothing else to say, and this can be making me feel incredibly happy for no obvious reason whatsoever.
"I like that car."
Happiness is chemistry, say a band called Cats on Fire. I don't think it means anything. I just like the way it sounds.
32. Approximately 550 kilometres north and a little east from there, in a kitchen overlooking my home town from a strange angle underneath perfect grey skies I sit cross-legged on a chair. I'm listening to Slipslide ('The world can wait' - perfect cloudy day music), reading a book (called 'Cloudstreet', and that one wasn't on purpose, honest!) and minding the boiling rice. The moment is so perfect it makes my heart swoon with pride just for being there and then... and want to cry when I spoil it by burning the stupid veggie burgers. Thankfully my mum comes back on time and saves me from myself by turning down the heat a tad.
I ponder how stupid I can be and in how many ways. Still, I smile.
Then we take everything I've prepared along with a table, three chairs, a bottle of not-so-cool-anymore champagne and two cans of coke upstairs on the big balcony and decide to call it a picnic. Of course it starts to rain so we put a lot of clothes on and admire the view of the rain falling on the neighbour's lovely, huge garden and the house that reminds me of books about Frank Lloyd Wright (though probably wrongly so.) Nick and me share the bottle of champagne and become giddy and silly while Mina drinks the two cans of coke and doesn't, and the combined effect is, well, a little strange. I wonder how we can stand each other sometimes. I bet we have a good reason, though.
33. On the first Wednesday after Easter and while everyone's holidays seem to be over but mine, I see a boy on the shiniest three-wheeled red bicycle ever outside a record shop. The record shop owner asks me to go out and ask what he wants and I do - I come back, repeat what he wants, get given the cd and told the price, I go out, hand him the cd and repeat the price, I take his money, go in and give it to the record shop owner, get given the change and go out and hand it to him. Probably bouncing a little in the process too. I can't help it - I'm such a kid sometimes.
"Thank you" he says for the hundredth time. "It's just that I can't walk."
33+1/2. Later on I try to take a nap. Half-asleep in my cousin's bed, which somehow feels empty even though it's smaller than mine, I toss and turn and pictures of that boy come back in my head. That is my way of paying tribute to the things that touch me, I know, but when I get up -shivering a little-, put my jumper on and walk down the street on my way to meet you, listening to Airliner's 'Everything that's you' ("I meant to call you tonight, but I ended up like the people I despise, the people that never make a difference") and a rather lively southerly breeze on my face, I wonder if it is enough and something like sadness grips my heart. And I wish I were more like the girl I want to be.
34. And then I see you for ten strange minutes after two months; and even though it doesn't break my heart I realise that in a way, each and every step I've taken in the last three years was just one more step away from you (as Raining Pleasure put it.)
"When you lose a boyfriend (or a girlfriend for that matter) you get your life back," I tell myself as I walk away. However it's an unspectacular process and one we forget to notice and appreciate. Nights out with friends and ways to make it out of bed in the morning without you to talk to me while making coffee don't matter much when measured up against the loss of a big love. Or a sweet love. Or actually a love of any kind, I think as I climb on the bus.
Yet it's just as precious or maybe even a little more; and all we have left sometimes, anyway.
The Long Lost Diary Of Miss S L Gleaden
The diary of Miss S L Gleaden had peacefully travelled the world with the dippy but loveable adventurer. Its life had been interesting and slightly unpredictable, but no matter where it was S L Gleaden provided a safe corner in her rucksack. Until that is insisted that the pair should part company catapulting the diary into a whirlwind of bizarre and slightly random situations and as a result it found its way into the hands of the Rosemary Hill an English nurse who had emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 1980s. This was shorltly followed by a whirlwind of bizarre and slightly random situations which lead to Rosemary Hill Losing the Diary. Undeterred she travelled to England in search of the Explorer herself.
St Jospeh's seemed to have been forgotten by time. It stood proudly in the middle of nowhere covered by ivy seemingly undaunted by the elements. As rosemary Hill stepped through its doors there were few clues to indicate that she hadn't simply stepped back into the past.
Rosemary was in detective mode and she shrewdly noted that the stone step into the building had been worn away by years of use, and that the secretary at the front desk was busy typing onto a very modern looking computer as she entered. One tell-tail sign, that told Rosemary she was very much in the present, puzzled her greatly. This was the organisation of a set of small lights arranged into the large window frames at different angels.
"Yes they look untidy don't they?" Said the secretary as she noticed Rosemary looking at them. Rosemary recognised her voice instantly as that of the women she had spoken to on the phone.
"But they do they do their job. By wednessday we spend half of our day indarkness because of this infernal 25 hour clock system. The lights are our only saviours. Now what can I help you with"
"I spoke to you on the phone I think. You said it would be possible to talk to the headmaster about one of his ex pupils Miss S …"Rosemary barely had a chance to finish.
"Ahh yes. Go right through the headmaster is waiting for you" The secretary gestured to small door to Rosemary's right.
Unlike Rosemary Hill the headmaster did not seem to have noticed that time had moved on inside the school. He was sat on a rather threadbare chair next to an open fire with his feet up and slippers in drinking tea out of a rather dainty cup.
"Ahh good Miss Hill. You are right on time I see. Jolly good. Please do sit down."
Rosemary got out her notebook and put on her glasses and leant forward in a pose that she thought a journalist might adopt.
"It is very good of you to meet with me Mr err… " Rosemary paused hoping he might tell her his name. He didn't.
"Not at all, So tell my dear what is you want to know?"
"Well Mr Headmaster, could you tell me your first recollection of Miss S L Gleaden"
"The first time I saw Miss S L Gleaden she was 11 and she was sent to my office. She was a scruffy child, the kind of girl who always seemed to have a ladder in her tights and her shoelace undone.
Rosemary Hill smiled politely and scribbled notes. She was itching to ask if the headmaster knew where S L gladden was now, but instead she had to forced herself to ask the next question in her fake interview:
"And this 25 hour timetable business. Can you explain that to me please?"
The headmaster took out a sheet of paper and started to write as he talked
"Its quite simple really. There are 7 days a week and 24 hours a day aren't there?"
Rosemary looked at the bags under the head masters eyes and wondered if Sunday was really such a pointless day.
"the 25 hour clock is just the start though, the new timetabling system is where the time is really saved.Speaking of which I have a lesson to go to in 1 minute 59 seconds" he said
"do you have a contact address for for Miss S L Gleaden so I could ask her a few more questions about the subject?"
"I don't I'm afraid…"
Rosemary's hear sank
"but her aunt is coming around for tea later today. At least I think it is today, could be tommorow"
Rosemary watched the headmaster hurry toward his next class, and then almost skipped B&B. She crossed her fingers and hoped the Gleaden's would ring soon.
to be continued...
Selective Condolences, Unremarkable Genocides
British and American politicians of all parties have been rightly expressing their condolences to the families of 68 Iraqi civilians killed by attacks in Basra - assumed to have been carried out by either Iraqi or foreign Al Qa’ida resistance forces. They are right to condemn these attacks - which also, by accident or design, killed a bus load of school children.
They have though no equivalent condemnation for the continuing killing of Iraqi civilians by coalition forces in Falluja and elsewhere. The total of Iraqi dead in Falluja over the past few weeks was at least 600 by the beginning of the ceasefire there which has now ended. Despite US military assertions of ‘pin-point accuracy’ by their forces with ‘95%’ of the dead being armed attackers hospitals in Falluja report that more than half the dead are women, children or old people. Eye witnesses - both Iraqi and western- report American forces firing on anyone that moves, targeting ambulances (and specifically the driver), and preventing medicines and food supplies getting through to the parts of the besieged town where they are needed. Unarmed civilians are shot in the back in the street. Yet where is the condemnation from British and American politicians? Where are the condolences to the families? There are none because their concern is fake - killing 68 civilians is an outrage when their opponents are responsible, but either understandable or completely denied when their own forces are responsible for killing over 300.
The American army’s view is that the best way to convince Iraqis ‘we’re here to help’ is a “healthy dose of fear and violence” as Lieutenant Colonel Nate Sassaman of the US 4th Infantry Division put it. The 4th Infantry are one of the Divisions deployed in the ‘Sunni triangle’ which includes Falluja. The army considers that beatings and killings of civilians by the unit have ‘mitigating circumstances’ - which are that the unit has taken casualties. So if American soldiers are killed in combat that is held to justify killing civilians. How well would that defence hold up if the accused were Serb or Iraqi forces rather than Americans?
The tactics being employed by American forces in Iraq are the same ones employed routinely in the West Bank and Gaza by Israeli forces. Once again while the Israeli Defence Forces routinely kill civilians condemnation of these killings and condolences to the families of the victims are thin on the ground. President Bush has congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on a supposed step towards peace in pulling Israeli settlements and troops out of the Gaza Strip. Yet Israel had only a handful of settlements in Gaza - whereas Bush has allowed Sharon to keep 120 settlements in the West Bank and effectively annexe most of it. So in return for giving up almost nothing Sharon has been allowed to take-over Palestinian farmland and water supplies he wants on the West Bank for Israel. To show how much the withdrawal from Gaza means in practice Israeli forces invaded it again, bulldozing houses and killing Palestinian boys who were armed only with stones against tanks. This was in retaliation for rocket attacks by Palestinian members Hamas from Gaza which injured Israeli civilians - which were in turn predictable responses to the Israeli policy of assassinating Hamas members rather than accepting offers of negotiations with them.
Of course Blair and Bush claim the invasion of Iraq was ‘humanitarian’ and about preventing human rights abuses, torture and dictatorship and establishing ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. If another genocide like Rwanda were to happen today who can doubt , asks Blair, that Britain and America would intervene to prevent it - just as they did in Kosovo and Iraq? Except that there were no massacres in Iraq after 1991 - unless you count the millions killed by sanctions imposed through the UN by the US. Meanwhile massacres on the same scale as Rwanda continue in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What do Blair and Bush do to prevent them? Nothing - because just as multinationals want control of Iraqi oil they benefit from coltan sold to them cheaply by the warring factions in Congo to buy arms and used to make mobile phones and play stations. The UN asks for military intervention to prevent genocide by the government of Sudan as it massacres thousands. Is Blair rushing to intervene and prevent it ? No - he’s ignoring it the same way his great friend Bill Clinton knew of but ignored the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Bush and Blair rushed to war to supposedly prevent massacres by Saddam which had actually taken place decades ago in the 1980s and 1991 with the British and American governments’ complicity in the first place and disinterest in the latter - but do nothing to prevent massacres now in Sudan. After all the Sudanese government, unlike Saddam’s, has been happy to give contracts to British firms such as Rolls Royce, BP and Weir Pumps and American companies such as Exxon-Mobil as well as the Canadian Talisman oil. BP , Shell and Exxon-Mobil have tried to hide their involvement by investing in Sudan through the Chinese PetroChina firm.
That’s not to mention the torture of Iraqi civilians by coalition troops - or British and American backing for torturing dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan to name two.
The real differences between the British and American governments and militaries on the one hand and Al Qa’ida’s terrorist movement on the other? One justifies massacring civilians with rhetoric about ‘freedom’ , ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ while carrying out acts that make a mockery of all these ideals. The other justifies massacring civilians with rhetoric about ‘Islam’ which is a mockery of most of the ideals of the Koran. Both talk as though the atrocities committed by their opponents justify their own atrocities. Neither recognises that they cannot possibly win their conflict by force. Do Bush or Blair really imagine that killing Bin Laden and other Al Qa’ida leaders could end Islamic fundamentalism rather than gain it new converts any more than Al Qa’ida assassinating one of them would weaken British or American nationalism rather than exacerbate it?
Of course continued conflict is what the leaders of both sides want. Keep up the killing and the mindless fundamentalism which Al Qa’ida’s leaders rely on for support will grow - just like the idiotic nationalism on which Blair and Bush rely. They don’t want to hear about the casualties though - except where mentioning them has propaganda value. Bush has refused to meet even one American soldier wounded in Iraq or one family of an American soldier killed there - and the White House objects to photos of coffins returning to the US in newspapers. Nor do Iraqi civilians killed by coalition forces merit condolences. One of the conditions American negotiators demanded during ceasefire negotiations in Falluja was for Arab TV channels which were broadcasting film of civilians killed by US forces to leave the city. A camera crew from the US funded Al Iraqiya TV station were the latest journalists to be killed by US forces. Blair claims it is ‘barbaric’ to bomb civilians and he’s right - it’s also barbaric though when American troops shoot unarmed civilians in the back or British forces beat them to death. So please save us your selective condolences and your selective outrage about genocide - we know they’re not genuine.
Junior School sucked. I wasn't a geek, nor popular. I was an in between. The worst sort. It always meant I was the Daddy when we played families and would get sent to work as soon as the baby woke up, I'd be leaving in my imaginary Volvo when I'd look back and see the rest of the family taking their medicine from the lid of a panda pop bottle. Cola worked the best. The doctor said so. After she'd dished it all out, she'd come over my way.
When I was at 'Work' and the Doctor was at the 'Clinic' We would hunt round the playground for what seemed like hours 'til we'd found a piece of glass. Not really a hard thing on a Monday morning before the Janny got out. After that however, we were looking at the whole of morning break.. and if we were lucky, maybe we'd find some at lunchtime. 'Eureka!' We'd shout, thinking we were being clever, not to realise until years later we were actually shouting 'Ulreka' the Bitch shagging Hunter off Gladiators.
Once we had the sacred piece of glass we'd go sit in the corner, in a tent made out of our own blue shiny duffle coats and begin to scrape our knees, each scrape brought a gasp of breath, each and every push would break a tiny layer of thin juvenile skin, with every pull across our knee there would be a tiny red line.. most of the time that was it, but if we hit jackpot we got blood, then, we'd put the glass inside the bloody wound, then do one last yank down. This time we'd really be in pain, we wanted drips. None of this graze shit.
'Nurse.. We banged into each other' We'd say.. sobbing
By this point the blood was usually starting to crisp up, so as we walked in behind Nurse, We'd do an almighty squeeze on our wounds.. Sometimes even pulling the swollen edges apart. Ahh.. dripping blood again. Perfect.
Once the nurse cleaned up our wounds we'd be allowed to go back outside, limping of course. Only to be awaited by all our class mates who wanted to see what had happened to us. Once we'd hobbled to the benches, with our entourage, we'd sit down, pull away our plasters and there it was.. what everyone wanted.
Fuck your Magic Medicine we had Special Smelly Cream.