Locked-down And Out In London

 

May 22nd

I sit outside and hear the world shutting up and closing windows after a hot day. It sounds like nightfall in a small Italian town. We had the first hot day this week, no chill in the air or in the shadows. As I sit listening to the world going to bed I think of all the talk about how we never had time for all this thought, focus, presence before. Having previously agreed, in this moment I realise I don’t think that’s true. We’ve always had the time; we just chose not to use it.

The reality is, if you’re not going out there’s only so much TV you can watch, only so much scrolling you can do before you put your phone down, turn off the TV and start to pay attention. I understand why we might want to distract ourselves from life, but distract ourselves from the planet, that I don’t get. Why are we not in a constant state of wonder? I suppose bodily functions have a tendency to bring you back to earth.

On the road where children have been drawing NHS rainbows in chalk, I notice someone has taken a discarded nub and drawn a penis.

I look through a photo album I made last summer, and as I flick through the images I start to cry. What I find upsetting is the innocence of our faces. Smiling, we have no idea what is coming.

Acid lime Brimstone butterflies flash across the deep green vista I run through, like a splash of vinegar.

My mum, in Devon, goes to pick up eggs and veg from the honesty box at one of the farms up near the coast. She gets stuck in hours of tailbacks from day-trippers. Then I see a picture circulating Twitter of the blocked roads all around Woolacombe (just around the bay) and it’s even worse than I imagined. This kind of tourism isn’t contributing to the economy, it’s just making the lives of those who live at these “beauty spots” (typically relatively poor areas) impossible. While potentially putting them at risk.

Mum also questioned where these people were going to the toilet – seems as there are no pubs public toilets open at the moment, it’s a good question.

Earlier, I’d seen pictures of Hampstead Heath the morning after a hot day, covered in bottles, shopping bags, crisp packets and dog shit bags. And, though the hope had been that the virus would result in an evolution of collective consciousness, I can’t help but think we have learned nothing. Parks were elevated to near-sacred spaces during this and yet we still treat them like a tip. Which makes you wonder, what will it take for us—I mean a vast majority of us— to learn to respect the land we live on?

More than a pandemic directly linked to the destruction of the environment, it seems.

We sit in a park, our local beauty spot, after work under a big cedar tree and drink beer. I take off my shoes and feel the sun warm my bare soles. Watch pollen and insects swirling up on a thermal towards the sun.

Up, up, up. Until you can no longer make out the particles from the light.

Watching old documentaries about astronauts I start to question what I’m doing. I’d be there writing about the beauty of the moon rather than going to it. Like that Buddhist aphorism: looking at the finger pointing to the moon, rather than the moon itself.

Surely it’s better to be out doing something, rather than writing about doing something. Is writing even a worthy pursuit anymore? I think it might have been once. It may be again. But I do wonder if it is now. And if it’s not, how can you make so?

But I suppose it’s in our nature to question everything. In Tom Wolfe’s essay, Post Orbital Remorse, the astronauts came to loathe their celebrity – they weren’t individuals, apart from a couple, no one even knew their names, they were just “astronauts”, and then forgotten.

It is regretful that we even managed to politicise outer space. Will no nook of the universe be free from our small-mindedness?

I must be in a funk. I need to get outside more. I look into fruit picking jobs. There’s been a lot of talk about it, most of it I’ve missed, but the general vibe being that it should be the Brexiteers doing the fruit picking now … to me, that just seems like the other side of the same coin: the problem is hardly any UK nationals want to pick fruit. I do, but there’s no farms even remotely near travelling distance to London. And suddenly I remember I looked into this last year as well.

What’s that thing that guy said about doing the same thing and expecting different results?

One day I will work with my hands again. If we all did a bit, it wouldn’t be loaded in unmanageable amounts on other people.

It reminds me of when I had a realisation that for society to function we all have to play our bit in different roles, on different strata of society. If we were all only to stay at the bottom it wouldn’t work, same if we were all only to stay at the top. What works is the flux between the two.

That’s why you shouldn’t ever let the fuckers keep you down.

Not Letting The Fuckers…

Motherisms feat. Corona Virus

I have been paranoid since late January about COVID-19, a virus that sounds like one of the many tediously named planets at the arse-end of the solar system. I remember lying awake at night and saying “this is going to go fucking everywhere.” I was told I was being paranoid. I hoped I was, but I knew I wasn’t. I’d say there’s no consolation in being right all the time, but that just wouldn’t be true.

Time to head down to Devon to see someone else who’s right all the time…

 

It’s a few weeks ago now, and I’m in London on the phone to mum. This is just as the hand-sanitiser mania peaked, a time that we now look back on wistfully.

Me: We’re going to go to Keats’s house today, can’t imagine it will be very busy so a pretty contamination-free zone.

Mum: Let’s hope his bed’s not still infectious!

There was a time when there were other diseases, apparently…

 

I’ve just arrived down in Devon after another glorious 6hr National Distress bus trip, this time trying especially hard not to touch anything. Mum has come to meet me off the bus. She’s wearing a cute little outfit that involves a woolly cropped jumper.

Me: I like your little jumper.

Mum: Little!

Me: Yeah?

Mum: This is my big, cosy jumper! I put it on 60° by accident.

 

Mum wants some of the chocolate cake I’ve saved from the bus journey.

Me: No! We mustn’t co-handle things.

Mum: Co-handle—don’t be so ridiculous.

Me: I’m going to see if it takes off.

 

We’re doing some work that requires us to drink wine; it seems to have gone directly to mum’s voice box …

Me: Shhhh!

Mum (theatrically): I was taught to project.

Me: You don’t need to project, I’m right here.

Mum: I am a trained actress!

 

We’re out driving. While pootling about in our isolation pod we get stuck behind a man in a white car who can’t drive.

Mum: I bet he doesn’t own that.

Me: It’s a Ford Focus, you’d really hope he did.

Mum: They’re so expensive now you wouldn’t believe—sixteen grand for one of those.

Me: God.

Mum: Must be out of their minds. In fact, I think people will soon realise exactly that: they’ve all been out of their minds.

 

I have just tidied mum’s entire flat, including hoovering. I am packing the vacuum cleaner away, like any saint might…

Me: Well, I’d decontaminate the hoover but I don’t think there’s much chance of you touching it.

Mum: Oh, a joke, at last!

 

I’m on my phone, probably looking thick. The opening bars of some classical music come on.

Mum: What’s this, Jade?

Me (without looking up): Vaughn Williams.

There’s silence.

Me (to clarify): ‘Lark Ascending.’

Mum looks both annoyed and impressed.

Me: Can’t fuck with me motherfuckers!

Mum: No, you can’t. I’d jump on you if you weren’t potentially infections.

 

We’re talking about local people.

Me: Is this Dave The Wave?

Mum: No, this is Itinerant Dave.

 

Mum is hip to the groove of technology and is scrolling through the news on her iPad for some goss.

Mum: Madonna’s had to cancel her tour.

Me: Well she is over 70, isn’t she.

Mum: Oh she’d love you! No, she’s 65.

I burst out laughing.

Me: No she’s not! She’s like 50, mum.

Mum: No she’s not.

Me: Yes she is!

 

We’re in the car having marched mother to Currys to get a little freezer, because regardless of what the government is saying at this point, I’m telling her she needs to stay in as much as possible. And I am bossy.

Radio: The prime minister has advised the public against taking a cruise if they have flu-like symptoms.

Me: What?

Mum: Did I just hear that right?

Me: I think it basically just said that you shouldn’t take a cruise if you’ve got corona virus.

Mum: Are they joking? That must be a joke. Surely?

Me: No. I think that was Boris Johnson’s advice to the British public, based on science.

Mum: We’re doomed.

 

Mum’s phone rings. 

Me: Your phone’s ringing.

Mum: Oh, it’s probably a racist trying to sell me something. Ignore it.

 

I look over at mum typing away with her little wand on her iPad. I notice the keyboard has split in two and is now on either side of the screen.

Me: What’s happened to that?

Mum (proudly): I have been operating it like this for some time.

She continues trying to type something while having to move diagonally across the screen to get from one letter to the next.

Mum: It’s just a slight inconvenience.

I watch her in silence and say nothing.

Mum: Oh bugger, I spelled it wrong.

 

Someone else has gone skiing and caught the virus.

Me: Skiing, again! Always with the skiing, these guys.

Mum: It will be the rich that get this!

Me: Yes, but then the poor get it. The poor always get it.

 

We’re having supper. I’ve been busy worrying quietly in my head about my contamination levels and only tune in to the last part of mum’s sentence.

Mum: Andrew, the dirty pervert.

Me: Who’s Andrew?

Mum: Prince Andrew!

 

We’re in the greengrocers. Mum is talking loudly to everyone, as usual. This time about cruise ships.

Mum: Absolutely disgusting things. Destroying the planet almost single handedly.

Greengrocer: They use fifty gallons a mile.

Me: Really?

Mum: Oh it’s appalling. I think if you go on one of those you deserve the virus.

I am concerned for mother’s safety voicing such views in what is most likely cruise ship territory, but a little old lady with raspberries walks out of the shop giggling.

 

Mum goes to pick up a fork from the table.

Me: Oh no, don’t, I touched that!

Mum: Ah!

Mum drops the fork and puts her hands to her face in horror.

Mum: Oh no, I touched my face.

Screaming and waving her hands.

Mum: Oh god we’re all going mad.

 

The news continues its Covid orgy…

Presenter: Britain is the experiencing the worst health crisis in a generation.

Mum: Yeup, and the government are doing fuck nothing.

 

Mother is looking into the dark chasm (the light’s gone) of the fridge.

Mum: I’ve bought some feta, because feta’s the best thing you can eat.

Me (imagining it contains some magical antibody or mineral): Why is that?

Mum: I just wanted to eat it.

 

Typically with this visit, conversation has turned towards pandemics and pandemic-related things.

Mum: Ask your father if he’s seen ‘Survivor’. Fantastic television series from the seventies about a pandemic.

Me: Yes, I know, you got it out from the library and watched it with me when I was about thirteen.

Mum: Did I?

Me: Yes.

Mum (reminiscing): ‘Survivor’, yes… I’ve been preparing ever since.

Me: So have I.

 

I’m back in London now, or in “the firing line” as mum is calling it. I’m on the phone to her and  mum reads me something she has seen…

Mum: Oh, look at this: “Woman discovers she’s been washing hands with block of cheese.”

I spit water everywhere.

Me: Oh shit, I’ve got water all over my computer.

Mum (ignoring me, still deeply involved in the story): In her defence it seems she does keep a bar of yellow unscented soap by the sink.

 

I am complaining that in North London we are suffering from the side-effects of Boujis stockpilers – can’t get any organic porridge or apple cider vinegar for love nor money, and we’ve run out. What, you’re saying I’m supposed to have toast for breakfast? THERE’S NO BREAD. Meanwhile in Devon, mum can’t get even one lowly packet of paracetamol, forget loo roll…

“No paracetamol anywhere. No peas, nada. Shelves stripped. Where are they putting all this shit? This lot wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in “the war” they keep on about.”

 

Later on in the conversation I’m back to worrying about my parents. I mention my father. Mum reassures me…

“His grandmother was a peasant. So was mine, that’s why we’re so tough. Little strips of leather but we’re well put together.”

 

Stay safe out there, compadres. And if you’re not worried about yourself, be concerned for other’s safety and act accordingly. We really are in this together, whether we like it or not. This virus is many things, including a(n unpleasant) reminder that we are each a small part of a whole. What we do and, possibly more importantly, do not do, during this time can save someone’s life.

 

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Alcohol Kills Germs, Pouts Save Face

 

Motherisms Feat. Memory Lane, Poet Laureates, and The Fiery Pits of Hell …

It’s that time of year again (my birthday), and to my mother’s delight (I’m sure), I imposed myself on her in Devon for a whole week. And we’ve actually even been speaking on the phone before then, which has led to many miscommunications …

 

I am in the last phase of my Master’s — it turns out it’s a lot of work, who knew? But now it is dissertation season …

Mum: Have you finished your dissertation?
Me: No, I haven’t even started it.

 

I’m on the phone to mum before her imminent London arrival ..

Me: We bought a nice organic chicken.
Mum: Oh yes, how is she?

(Apparently mum thought I’d said something about one of my friends. I’m not convinced though..)

 

Mum has now graced London with her presence and is tired of the whole thing by day two.

Me: It’s not just you, London is exhausting.
Mum: No but it’s different. For me it’s that your body is exhausted. You think you’re going somewhere and then another part of you drops off.

 

Mum’s been staying at my godfather’s in London, who has a very sophisticated TV set up by the sounds of it.

Mum: I pressed a button and then it started asking me hundreds of questions: how many hertz did I want, which of the 500 channels … I pressed some of the buttons and nothing seemed to happen, but I’ve probably launched a missile.

 

We’re on the leisurely 6 hour bus down from London to Devon together. We’re going through Chelsea, mum is giving me the guided tour of memory lane and is pointing at the roof garden of a flat my godfather rented …

Mum: The summer of Live Aid we were up there, listening to Cheech and Chong.

 

We’re sort of half-watching ‘Green Mile’ and our attention has drifted back to it momentarily ….

Prisoner (inexplicably) testing the electric chair for someone else and reciting his last wishes (?): Fried chicken dinner with gravy on the tatters and a shit in your hat and have Mae West sit on ma face cus I’m a horny mother fucker.
Police man: Hahahahaha
Tom Hanks: Ahahahaha
Other police man: Hahahaha
Mum: What an extraordinary sense of humour.

 

I’ve had a very big job cancel last minute and need to conjure some financial magic. Mum has a suggestion ..

“If you want to raise money just pretend you’re a dog with a problem.”

 

We’ve been out for a charming day at a stately home like normal people, and even had a cream tea like normal people. Unfortunately we arrived when there were still a lot of other, truly normal, people there. However, we got lost on the guided walk and emerged 3hrs later through the undergrowth, having had to walk around a 10ft high ‘ha ha wall’ (not so funny) and my 73 year-old-mother climb over several fences, and by then everyone else had left …

Mum: That’s why it’s nice to come later in the day not all these people in brightly coloured kagools ruining the view.

 

We’re walking around the lovely stately home, it’s not too big, it’s not too small. Got a lovely garden, some fields, a stable, a pond, some chandeliers, a William Blake (on loan)…

Me [wistfully]: Yeah I could actually live somewhere like this I think.
Mum: Well, you’ll have to marry some chinless twat.

 

A Panty liner advert is on TV…

Advert: Women don’t have to be soft and bla bla …
Me: Oh god yes we know, you’re tough and a right old fucking bruiser. Good for you.
Mum: “Even on my period I’ll kill you.”
Advert: ….you can do anything, even if you are woman bla bla bla …
Mum: Oh god who writes this shit!

 

Mum’s friend has helped her locate a new car, a lovely little (10yr old) VW.

“He’s prouder of this than he his that Mossad wagon of his.”

 

Brexit news is on, we were never going to be able to avoid it entirely …

Mum: Ahhhh… Let’s see who killed who tonight.

 

It’s a couple of months ago. Mum has asked to read a poem of mine, I have duly sent it to her and have, after a week, received no feedback. I’m curious …

Me: Did you read my poem?
Mum: No … yes.
Me: Well you can’t have thought much of it if you forgot.
Mum: No, I think I noted its arrival but didn’t read it. I like everything you write.
Me: Ok.
Mum: Carol Anne Duffy’s coming to the end of her term.
Me: Yes, I think unfortunately I’m still a little obscure to become Poet Laureate
Mum: Obscure is so cool.

 

Mum is a firm believer in watching some good old fashioned mindless television, and then talking over all of it. ‘Bake Off’ is on..

Man making bread: I like a pert bun. *wink wink, nudge nudge*
Me: It always amazes me the amount of innuendo people manage to get into any sentence involving food
Mum: Oh yes it’s probably scripted innuendo now, sort of mandatory.

 

Mum hasn’t quite worked out how to work her touch screen phone with complete success.

Mum: When you call it says ‘sweep up’, so I sweep, and nothing happens!
Me: I think that’s swipe up mum, just touch it and move your finger up.
Mum: No, it’s sweep!
Me:….ok…..

 

There is such a thing as ‘Archers Anonymous’, and Mum’s on it …

“Let’s stir the buggers up! My daddy would have loved the internet.”

 

We’re watching a programme about 1992 as it’s the year mum started building our beloved house that is no longer ours. There’s a segment on ‘Wayne’s World’:

Mum: What’s this?
Me: Wayne’s World
Mum: Hmmm…not sure about this.
Me: No, I think this is right up your street — you liked ‘Dude Where’s My Car’.
Mum: … Yes I did.

 

The 1992 programme is now talking about Achy Breaky Heart (a song I’ve decided I very much like).

Someone with an angular haircut who thinks they’re very cool and probably into moaning at parties: Line dancing is the spawn of Satan.
Mum: There’s worse things than line dancing
Me: I’d do it.
Mum: I think I would too.
Someone else with angular haircut: It’s all hideous diamanté and frilled skirts.
Cutaway to exactly that.
Me: Looks great, I’m into it.

I leave the room momentarily, then return.

Mum: Oh no, it’s getting a little hitler youth now.
Me: Oh, shame.

 

All the houses down mum’s road seem to be being re-painted (very slowly)…

Mum: I like the colours they’re painting these.
Me: Yes maybe they’ll eventually reach that penis.
Mum: What penis?
Me: The penis that’s been spray painted on someone’s doorway for about fifteen years.
Mum: Oh that penis! Yes, it’ll take a while to get rid of that.

 

Somehow — how exactly I do not know — mum has signed up to a cat website, she has no particular affection towards cats …

Mum: You’ve got to get me off this cat website.
Me: What cat website?
Mum [genuinely distressed]: I don’t know but they send me hundreds of cats a day, and I don’t know how to stop them!
I’m laughing.
Mum: They keep talking about their “babies”, “this baby”, “my baby”, “your baby” … it’s dangerous: it’s a cat.
Me: Ok. We’ll just unsubscribe you.
Mum, back-tracking: Well, one or two a day, that’s cool, I like animals ..

 

We’re watching the end of ‘Celebrity Masterchef’. I only recognise Zandra Rhodes, mum is helping me identify one of the other contenders …

Mum: He’s Joey Essex.
Me: Is he.
Mum: Yes he seems rather sweet actually, he just needs watering twice a week and that’s it.

 

We’re sitting down and ready to get competitive watching ‘University Challenge’….

Me: Jeremy Paxman hasn’t aged at all.
Mum: I was just thinking how much he had.

 

The students on ‘University Challenge’ are doing their “Hey, I’m James, you might remember me from …” intros and it’s making me cringe.

Mum: I do wish they wouldn’t do this “first name only” thing.
Me: It’s almost like they’re auditioning to be a presenter, it’s horrible.
Mum: It’s because it’s got to be caj. Everything’s got to be caj …. I’m surprised they’re even allowed to compete anymore.

 

A programme about WWII is on as I’m flicking through the channels…

Mum: Oh no! It’s handsome chaps doing serious stuff — amazing guys.

 

We have continued flicking, mum now has the remote and has hovered on the ‘Mash Report’…

Me: No.
Mum: Give it a chance, give it five minutes.
Me: No that’s far too long.

4 seconds later …

Mum: Yeup it is.

 

I’m on the phone to mum with a lovely paper bag full of ingredients for supper …

Me: I’m just walking back through the park from getting mushrooms.
Mum: Be careful foraging.
Me: I haven’t been foraging, I went to the shop!

 

I don’t know what mum is watching in the other room but I have a feeling it’s ‘Beverly Hills Housewives’ or some variation of because I hear her shouting at the television …

“Kick him to the curb honey!”

Two minutes later….

“He’s a twat get rid of him.”

 

I am a blessed angel and have cooked and washed up for the sixth night in row and just want to check it’s been recognised …

Me [impersonating mum]: Oh Jade, thank you so much for washing up again, you are a saint. When is your canonisation, please can I attend?
Mum: Yes I’m sure it will be very soon and I’ll be in the fiery pits of hell.
Me: Probably.
Mum: With all my mates.

 

 

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Michael Goragg

I am forcing myself to write more often; because I am a kind woman, I am not forcing you to read.  But with looming prospects of a proper job and with nothing else to do but worry about all the proper jobs I might actually get, I am squeezing out whatever is at hand, today it’s a short story. Or as much of a short story as I can be bothered to write while feeling like I’ve accomplished something, and knowing it is better than yesterday’s. Tomorrow, tomorrow it will be nothing I’d have thought …

Michael Goragg

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On a small farm in Devon an even smaller herd of sheep lived, and routinely died.
In 209 million bc Devon had “actually been a part of Gondwana” and situated “somewhere around the equator,” so Michael Goragg’s girlfriend at college had told him. She had also told him 9/11 was an “inside job” and that “we all grow gills in the womb so fish-humans living at the bottom of Atlantis was really more likely that not”.
This year of Our Lord, 2013 (Our Lord had been cracking through the years recently) Devon was firmly in place between Cornwall and Dorset, and Michael Goragg had 23 sheep, all of which had lineage on the farm dating back to 1586.
The Goraggs had always prided themselves on the lineage of their sheep and at not having to join the others at the rowdy sheep auctions in town. This pride and respect for the Goraggs was limited to the family, as the rest of the farmers didn’t take the Goraggs seriously, and hadn’t since Giles Goragg – Michael’s father – sold the last of the heifers back in 1983. Since then, the family had lived off the land more than the few remaining animals; they converted the barns and let them out for more than they needed to comfortably survive; slaughtering lambs every autumn to ensure a new car every other year. In 2009 Michael Goragg, still under vague supervision from his father Giles Goragg (who lived like a fat Miss Havisham in the extension off the old manor house), had had a wind turbine installed on his land, and now received an extra £10,000 a year to watch the thing, like a giant rosary cross spin, spin and spin – or, as was often the case, stand petrified in the shallow breeze that slid through the hills.

Still, the energy that it refused to convert was of little concern to Michael, as long as it stayed standing, kept paying; the white façade was more than welcome. They were to build a nuclear power plant about 70 miles east, but Michael had bigger things on his mind. Last week he had paid two young teenage boys from the village of Down Martin – about 2 ¾ miles from the farm – to sheer his sheep for him. Feigning too many responsibilities to do it himself (Michael had shorn sheep as a child and knew that at least 3 sheep per herd would have maggots, which involved a rather gruesome ceremony of scooping and washing and retching) he had told Giles Goragg it was part of a local apprenticeship scheme. Giles didn’t believe him but now drank Fosters out of the can and ate Battenberg for breakfast. He had lost the will to keep his mind in check when Mandy Goragg died and had no intention of finding it again, in case he found all the pain.
So, the two young ‘farmhands’ as Michael bequeathed them, much to their amusement, had set about sheering his sheep. Under his instruction for the first 7, but for the other 16 Michael was in the house under the white strobe lights “making tea”. When they’d finished the two ‘farmhands’ came to Michael’s door saying they were done, the sheep were in the top field and could they have their money. Michael laughed loudly which alarmed them a little, and coaxed them out the door where the notes could exchange hands without Giles Goragg finding out. Deep down Michael knew he was fooling no one, had he accepted this reality life would’ve been easier for him, but he didn’t like who he was in reality, so he kept pretending, only half-fooling himself and weirding out everyone else in the process.
For the next few days Michael carried on as normal, he fed the sheep, then did as little as he could for the rest of the day while pretending to be busy. This would involve being irritable around a computer, which Giles Goragg didn’t quite have the knack of yet, so had no idea the myriad things Michael could be doing while shouting that he was “emailing the council regarding the wind turbine”, always. He was always emailing the council regarding the wind turbine.
This time what Michael had actually been doing on the computer was booking himself on the London Marathon. He had seen pictures of men he’d gone to school with finishing the marathon earlier in the year; they had always had something Michael hadn’t, but Michael could have that – the London Marathon, and then maybe no one would notice Michael didn’t shine like the others.
These images combined with isolation and a feeling of complete insignificance – exacerbated by exploring the expansive universe of the internet from his kitchen table – took Michael down a wormhole self-pity and reproach, at the end of which was a mirage of glory and fulfilment. A vision. He would be fulfilled. He would be released from the fear that pulled away at him in the breaths between the chattering of Jeremy Vine and Simon Mayo. He would start training next week. Tomorrow he would buy new trainers and a lot of whey protein. He would get a personal trainer.
“Oh!” Michael jumped up and clapped his hand over his mouth. There was someone on the radio talking about having run the London Marathon; how strange. Almost like it was meant to be or something. Michael could be as good as someone on the radio now – another accolade to distinguish himself with down the pub. His friends wish he’d just give up and rest in who he was – lazy, self-involved, massively insecure but nice enough, nicer still if he could accept who he was and stop trying to be something more. None of them told him this though of course, so, they were blissfully unaware that while they carried on with their lives until their next pint with Michael Goragg, he would be spending his time conjuring stories of coincidence and significance and why it was so special for him to do the marathon. Aunty June had died of something once, he was sure. He’d find out what that was and say he was running for that. Then it couldn’t be about him, or no one could say it was, to his face anyway and that was all he was interested in. His back was puckered with other people’s words.

On this morning though, when he went to feed the sheep, as he tipped the feed in the trough, dodging the stinging nettles and thistles that jostled for his attention; he noticed one of his sheep hadn’t been sheered. As it trotted closer Michael realised that actually, no, he had been sheered, but only his face. The sheep’s visage was completely bald, grade 0, beyond army cut. Michael was so shocked he laughed, then he noticed there were no nicks on the sheep’s face, and slightly resented the boy’s dexterity. As the sheep timidly drew up to the trough, without the hair covering him up, Michael was sure he could see shame, or embarrassment – it was hard to tell which one, it being a sheep.
Inside the farmhouse he called “the boys”, stripped of their respective title of ‘farmhand’, but neither answered. Michael left what he felt were a couple of stern voicemails and expected a swift response. He imagined he struck quite an intimidating figure to two jobless young teenagers, and in fact everyone he deemed to be lower down the money rung than him. He was wrong.
Michael hadn’t realised until too late in life that one does have something to prove, at least to other people. So now all his last-ditch attempts, though triumphs to him, were just trinkets for his conversations with others, that they would forget and then pretend to remember a few years later when they were drunk. Michael couldn’t quite see who he was.
The next day as he fed the sheep he watched the one with the shaved face, his bare features a mark of disrespect, against him. Him! Michael Sinjon Goragg!
He quickly forgot the cross the sheep had to bare and instead martyred himself – why had they not replied to him? Why were they even daring to disrespect him? Had they no respect? Or just none for him? Which was it for fucks sake?
He could hire a hit man. Check out the deep web …
No, not yet.

Over the next few days Michael drove around Down Martin looking for the boys, not knowing what he would do if he found them but imagining various violent incidents in which he would be the victor. Meanwhile Giles Goragg had been surveying his livestock when he noticed one of his sheep had been left unshorn. He took it upon himself to sheer it and so stored another ounce of resentment for his son in his Adam’s apple, to help him swallow the Fosters that he would drink to forget him. Michael was a wet blanket, the soggy end of the line.

Oblivious, Michael sat in a lay-by and watched the grey submerge the sky. As he watched a flock of crows scatter from one of the wintering trees, he thought of the bird lore someone had taught him long before and wondered what it meant; according to his phone they were flying from the …. East … North. Yeah, the North.
Maybe something horrible, maybe the sheep’s face was just the beginning? All the things he had done. Where would it end? Human sacrifice?
At the end.
As wing mirrors broke, new phones came out and offers for the land came in, Michael forgot about the sheep and his vendetta, the mortal threat he might be in, the curse he might be under. Life moved on. The bridge in his fathers mind eventually collapsed and blended drink and dementia together. Michael put him in a home that he had no plans to visit – “it’s not like he would remember it anyway”.
He had all the sheep slaughtered, ending their line in 2014, the products of 468 years of inbreeding gone in a lorry one October morning. Then he put a games room where his father had lived.

At night Michael would watch the wind turbine and convince himself he was a pioneer of progress. Plans to divvy up all the land would let him live comfortably for the rest of his life and Michael didn’t think past that. He wondered if he had things like arthritis or diabetes, but smothered greater fears, and with them the face of his bald sheep and how it had made him feel.

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Motherisms: Feat. Breaking Bad and Prossies ….

Last week I went down to see mother, it had been a tough fashion week and I needed to feel looked after, cared about; with the perpetual lack of a boyfriend in my life, mum is still as good as it gets.

I’m twenty fucking seven, sorry mum …

 

I have had  a Norse Myths and Legends CD stuck in my computer for quite sometime now, it means it makes a whirring, crunching sound every time I turn it on … Mum looks at me quite alarmed and says ….

“Is it making cheese?!”

 

Mum wants to watch Breaking Bad on my Netflix account, I find it remarkable that she knows what either of these things are, and that she is now light years ahead of me in tv series. I tell her she can use my Netflix account ..

Mum: But hang on ….. won’t they get suspicious?

Me: Who mum? The C.I.A?

Mum: Well, yes, with your track record …

Me: Yeah, I can see the headlines now … ‘DAUGHTER LETS MOTHER USE NETFLIX ACCOUNT.’ It’ll be the ruin of our family name.

Mum: Your family name, maybe …

 

I’m trying to help mum watch bloody Breaking Bad on my Netflix before I go for a swim, after many attempts at trying to mentor her through it, and watching her click on the wrong thing over and over again, she finally bursts out …

“Oh for Gods sake! I wish I was a bloody tree.”

 

Mum is talking about her nightly audiobook routine of listening to Jeremy Irons reading Brideshead Revisited …

“He’s just brilliant, half a page and I’m fast asleep, I do worry though, if I ever met Jeremy irons I would just slip in to a coma.”

 

We are reminiscing about the building of the house we lost, we get on to the subject of ‘Builders Tea’ …

Mum: I remember when I gave Morley Airs his first cup of tea with us, he spat it straight back out and said  “Whats that maid?!”  “It’s Earl grey Morley …” “It may be but I don’t like it.”

Me: Good story.

Mum: Oh Fuck off.

 

Mum has been informed there’s a prostitute in South Molton, she has also been informed you can find her online, mum finds this fascinating …

Mum: Harriet says there’s a prostitute in South Molton, I’m going to google it.

Me: I look forward to you having that on your search history.

I go back to watching University Challenge …. minutes later …

Mum: P. r. o. s … prostitutes South Molton …. google search “south Molton escorts …” obviously they’ve interpreted ‘prostitutes’ in the broadest sense …. ah here we go … South Molton prossies …

Me: You’re going on it?

Mum: Yeah …

She starts reading out the names and descriptions …

Mum: Curvy and sensual … OH MY GOD! Sweet Jesus  …..

I’m now laughing …

Mum: “Fuck my arse” ….. OH charming!! Get it off! Turn it off!

I’m now in hysterics …

Mum: Oh how horrible. South Molton used to have a lovely old prossie next to the chip shop, where if you have thruppence, you could go upstairs.

Me: Ah, the good old days, when you could get a prossie with your potatoes …

 

My old school has decided to put Latin back on the GCSE syllabus, I am jolly pissed off about this as I am currently trying to teach myself …

Mum: Anything sounds clever in Latin

Me: Why do you think I’m learning it.

Mum: Ut  is ‘in order to’  … I’m going to get the car keys “ut” go to Tescos.

Me: Wow mum, that sounded really smart ….

 

A poem I’ve written is doing rather well, mum reads it …

Mum: It really is very good, completely strange, though very, very good … but then you are at a slightly oblique angle to reality all the time ..

Me: I’ll take that as a compliment, I’ve decided to take everything as a compliment. It’s doing wonders for my self esteem.

Mum: Good for you darling.

 

We’re in the car …

Mum: I sent a rather stoned and cheerful email to the battered wives charity shop volunteering my assistance …

Me: That’s nice of you ..

Mum: Yes, well, problem is, they’ve replied ….

 

It’s the Barnstaple fair, we drive through late in the afternoon as they’re finishing setting everything up with lots of barriers and metal fences, though there’s no one there yet ….

“Oh yes, hold back that crowd! It’ll be an evening of riotous activity, they’ll be staggering about without their shoes on before 11pm.”

 

Mum’s trying to lure me in to watching Montalbano …

Me: No mum. No way. It such a waste of my brain.

Mum: But it’s young Montalbano, young Montalbano’s very tasty.

Me: No. Still no. Just because he’s not fat and bald doesn’t mean he wont give me brain rot.

Mum: Quite right, bare that in mind in real life too darling.

 

Mum is making supper …

Mum: Getting very creative here …

Me: Please don’t get too creative.

 

There’s an advert for Viking cruises on television …

Mum: That’s what I should be doing with some grey miserable bastard .Circling the planet catching ecoli.
Me: I think it sounds fantastic.
Mum: It’s a plague ship darling … and probably full of prossies.

 

The fireworks are going off for Barnstaple fair …

“Hezbollah are closing in on North Devon Leisure Centre …”

 

I’m flicking through the tv channels, I get very excited at the amount of history programmes on ….

Me: Fire of London then The Battle of Trafalgar …That’s our saturday night!
Mum: Sounds good, though no Montalbano?
Me: No, not even the young one.

 

It’s Sunday and we’re parking the car, I’m reading whether we have to pay ….

Me: Monday to Sunday … that’s everyday!

Mum: Every minute of your bloody life. Cooking meth is definitely the way forward.

 

It’s a bit later and we’re cooking supper, I am watching an announcement from UN Secretary Genreal Ban ki-Moon to my old school as I hear …

“Oh fuck! It’s the cinnamon not Tumeric!!”

A few minutes later ….

Mum: Here we have vegan cinnamon and mushroom ratatouille …

Me: Mmmm…yum.

 

We are on the subject of life skills, I am trying to persuade mum to do something creative with her life, this was her response …

Mum: One day I see myself becoming a drug dealer  … Working with little kiddies …

Me: Jesus Christ mum, it’s like living with Frankie Boyle.

 

I have to put this in:

This is from a phone call I had with mum a couple of months ago, for the few days prior to it I noticed mum was sending me fewer and fewer kisses in her texts, I had been wracking my brains trying to figure out what I could have done wrong (without actually asking), then ….

Mum: You’ll have to call me back darling I haven’t got much credit … That’s why I haven’t been sending many kisses.

Me: What? Mum, you don’t pay per kiss.

Mum: Oh!

 

Dear Mother, the cinnamon and mushroom ratatouille was delicious, I don’t know how you made it work, but you did. I shall come for a severely extended visit very soon x x x x x

 

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