14. Betwixt and Between

Walking through a woodWednesday 29th August 2020. Just back from Wales.

It is the woods you know, the woods and the ferns and the river that feel most like home, not the house. The way the trees cling to the hillside, their roots grabbing at the toppling rocks, the lichen coating their arms with a silver skin. They shout so deeply it can’t be heard but it turns my insides. They talk and talk, muttering secrets. The first fit I can remember having was in a woods in Wales like this, maybe that is why its ghosts are so powerful.

I crouch in the mud and hang on to the trees trying to stop myself from falling completely, the dogs hover round me nervously. A rush of adrenalin, I breath in as deeply as I can as if to breath in the wood. Vast moments containing too much of everything enclose me, un-managable stuff, colour, sound, light, texture, smell, too much to cope with. My face hangs just above the mud, reflections in the water dazzle my eyes, memories surround me, mismatched, not making sense, I taste the air, I would not miss this experience for all the money in the world!

Of course I gave up believing in witches, fairies and trolls in the woods years ago, as one is supposed to, but i know here there is something big, something powerful, something that breaths and contains all breath.

When I can stand again we follow the river through the woods to the beach. And then there is the sea. I cry when we reach the sea, as i always do, something in me is not strong enough.

I want to make things that are like the woods, things/situations that are magic. A threshold, betwixt and between, somewhere where the self is lost into the moment.

So here I am now, back in London, trying to straighten out crimped thoughts, drowning in cheap wine, watching strange insects crawl across my keyboard. I am homesick for the trees and keeping myself busy.

Busy doing what exactly?

Explaining that I am a Twilighter, as is Steve. ‘Twilighter’ is the official tittle given to us, first by the arts council, then by everyone as we started to become invisible.

I live in a basement flat on Talgarth Road. It was once a council property back when there were council properties. Officially now I am a squatter, but no one will go to the effort of trying to get me out. There are a lot of us here on Talgarth road. The properties are in bad condition, the road is slowly collapsing into the cellars beneath it, there is no money in buying them up and developing, best just to pretend they are not here. So the buildings became invisible and gathered invisible people, Twilighters, those with problems, illnesses, things that can’t be cured easily, those society would rather not have around.

Now Elsie is definitely not a Twilighter, a very respectable lady indeed these days. She lives in a very respectible flat off the main road, just round the corner from Barons Court. We used to be good friends,  but it seems that has changed.

It was when she realised she couldn’t find Abel that I first noticed the change in her. She searched down the tunnels for him, she was determined, I got worried about her wondering along the tracks of the Piccadilly line in the dark. Then one day I saw her and she looked an absolute state, ill and dirty, coughing and wretching. I asked her what had happened but she wouldn’t tell me. After that she seemed to get very career minded, stopped mentioning Abel so much, stopped talking to me much at all, I started becoming as invisible to her as I am to most respectable citizens.

Or perhaps it was my talking to shouting trees that has freaked her out. Still being invisible has its advantages.

Previous:

13. The Alter

12. Malformed and Obscene

11. Her Pet Project

12. Malformed and Obscene

Abel passed out in the tunnels under LondonAbel stumbles and falls into the ankle deep drain water. He’s been in the tunnels for 5 hours and found nothing but sewage and rats. He’s only managed to keep going through fear of what he’ll become if he stops. Dread is tap dancing heavily in his head, and something seems to be following him. He is lost. Actually he is in the storm drain that carries the Westbourne river to the Thames, but he doesn’t know that.

He tries to get up again but only manages to slide the upper part of his body against the tunnel wall. Then he passes out. If Elsie saw him now she wouldn’t recognise him, he looks so old and ill.

It is the mad harmonica lady that finds him, turns out she knows her way round the the underground rivers very well. She dances along the tunnel, her ripped skirts trailing through the water, singing to herself :

In the blood
in the gene
Malformed and obscene
Its a crack in the glass
And a whisker in the cream

A snake in the garden
He goes unseen
Theres an apple in the tree
And a devil in a dream

There’s bones in these tunnels
Your hands won’t wash clean
There’ll be meat in the belly
Where the carnival has been

————————————

She grabs his arm and drags his now corpse-like body over her shoulder. She is surprisingly strong for an old lady.

When Abel wakes he finds himself in a small cave-like room lit only by candles. There is what looks like an alter on the far wall, and straight in front of him is a roughly carved wooden Jesus on a cross with a hand painted sun as his halo.

Previous:

11. Her Pet Project

8. Drunken Delirium

Steve

Elsie paid the bill for Abel’s hospital stay, of course. Once he was out he took up residence in her flat. He had no job now so couldn’t pay any rent. Elsie lived round the corner from me, I saw Abel hanging about Barons Court and West Kensington, there was something lost about him. He made friends with my neighbour Steve, the transvestite I told you about, I think it was their shared love of alcohol. Abel started to spend his nights and days round Steve’s flat in drunken delirium. Occasionally they ventured out to the Coop, Steve dressed in high heels and furs. They made a strange couple, brought alcohol and intimidated customers.

One day, after Elsie hadn’t seen Abel for five nights running she went round there at 2pm and knocked on the door. She waited, she knocked again. A howl came from within, then the sound of locks being unfastened, eventually she was confronted by a man in a stained white lace blouse, and a pair of grey pants one size too big, which he was partially hanging out of. He had long greasy hair hanging down in rats tails, he was so thin and so waisted one touch and he’d have fallen like a leaf. It was Steve. He’d obviously been asleep and she’d woken him.

“Where is Abel?” she asked

“Wha?”

“Abel”

“Da?”

He beckoned her in. She was reluctant, the place stank of rot and seemed covered with newspaper, but she was worried about Abel. She stepped through the doorway and into the house.

“Tea!” cried Steve, who seemed to be coming round a bit

“Er, no thanks”

Steve put the kettle on, swigged from a bottle of gin and placed two teabags in two dirty mugs.

“Where is Abel?” She tried again.

“Who?…Oa…”

Then slowly “I’ve seen im, I’ve ad im round here.”

The kettle boiled, he tried to pour it but missed. Tried again with more success and handed Elsie half a cup of black tea with teabag still in it and a spiders web decorating the rim.

“Is he here now?”

“Na, gone, gone”

“Gone where?”

There. Needed his tablets”

“What tablets?”

“His tablets, yer can get em there, they can get anyfing for yer there. it’s the tunnels see. But they’ll charge, not money, other stuff”

Elsie had two contradicting thoughts simultaneously:

1. “Oh no, what’s happened to him? I must find him!”

2. “Bloody idiot, why am I running after him? I’m not his mother!”

She stood there in the slime covered kitchen, her dark blonde hair covering half her face, a frown appearing over the top of her large brown eyes.

” I’m a lesbian you know” said Steve

Elsie took this as a sign to leave.

7. Hallucinari

6. Dread

5. Slapdash

4.Eyes in the Machines

3. Underlondon

2. Abel

1. What YOU Need!

7. Hallucinari

A sick dog and a doctor  oil painting
The Patient, 12ft x 8ft Oil Painting

Sometimes to pretend that everything is alright when it quite obviously isn’t is the most logical thing to do. Sometimes it is the only thing to do. When the carpet has turned into snakes that are curling round your legs, when the patterns on the wallpaper are growing wings and flying off, when there’s a goat in your bath and David Cameron’s head is emerging from your toilet, it is often best just to take a deep breath and carry on. In fact to the experienced hallucinator this becomes the habitual practice, life would not seem quite right if one wasn’t continually ignoring things and pretending. Life has its rules, if you experience something that logically can’t be there then pretending it is not there is the logical thing to do. Of course this can get tricky, especially to the new comer, I have read many an account of  an acid victim whose mind gets lost  in the “what to ignore and what to take note of” reality whirlpool. Yet riding the whirlpool can be so addictive!

Abel, despite being a newcomer, was a talented pretender. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for his slide downwards, he was too good too quickly. Where as an experienced hallucinator has often learnt to ride through the descending waters out of sheer necessity, over the years, sink or swim, Abel had an option, he could have turned back.

He could have asked Elsie for help. She would have helped him, she could have guessed what was about to happen. But Elsie loved him just a bit too much for him to ever love her back. He kept his distance, he could see  every problem he ever told her instantly become her personal problem. This closeness made a bubble of nauseau pink enclose him and steal his breath.

So it was that at 2am on February 8th 2020, Abel was  found unconscious on the floor of the factory. Stuffed in his pockets they found 18 bottles of Spletzer-Martin 5, and one empty. The hospital pumped his stomach. The company, who had noticed increasing amounts of  Spletzer-Martin tablets going missing from their pharmacy, made no statement  but deleted him from the payroll instantly.

6. Dread

5. Slapdash

4. Eyes in the Machines

3. Underlondon

2. Abel

1. What YOU need!

5. Slapdash

Old woman, theatre performer.
Harmonica player outside Baron's Court Station

There’s a woman standing outside Baron’s Court tube station playing, or rather attempting to play, a harmonica. I’ve seen her here before, she hangs out at Baron’s Court Housing project where they do free meals. She wears a wig and theatrical makeup. I thought at first she was a transvestite, like my neighbour Steve who goes to the Coop in stilettos and a mini skirt, but apparently not.

My other slightly more sober neighbour tells me she is an old theatre performer, been out of work for years though, a drinker with mental health issues. “A right care in the community that one” say’s my neighbour “a real special“.

The story goes that she was having medical treatment for a congenital brain disease during the privatisation of the NHS. She could’t afford to continue the treatment with the specialist hospital so ended up going through the Charity Care system. The hack-up job the church hospital did was well meaning but naive and slapdash, her memory was blown to pieces.

This is all just rumours you understand, but she is quite mad!

Still, she stands there at Barons Court station feather bower and all, screaching out lunacy and blowing down that poor old harmonica. The Station manager occasionally moves her along but she’s back the next day. On Sundays she is particularly enthusiastic, her words seem to take on a hell fearing vigor as she denounes the Sunday shopping  public.

Next – 6. Dread

Previous –

1. What YOU need!

2. Abel

3. Underlondon

4. Eyes in the Machines

“Where your eyes don’t go a part of you is hovering”

Watercolour sketch by Jo Fisher Roberts
Where is my mind?

I know you mock me and my slime molds, my quest for some kind of unplanned synchronisation, but there is two of me in this head, and the silent one seems to be seeking other silent ones. Don’t you find theres two of you in that head of yours?

One going rabbity rabbity rabbity, and another silent one that’s controlling you from behind the scenes?

In these words is the rabbitty rabbity one of me, but I know the other is there, slowly guiding what I do with its own secret agenda. Don’t take anything i say very seriously because the other part of me has other thoughts.

Its that part of the brain that deals with this syncing business, it wants it, desires it, gets me to come up with vaguely rational arguments for why I should devote large amounts of time in the pursuit of this ill defined activity.

I think maybe the other part of you is similar, but perhaps you have more say than I do. You are an individual and assert your individuality, so you don’t allow the other you to get in the way?

But sometimes, just sometimes, don’t you get the urge to shut up in your head and find out what the other you gets up to?

It’s dangerous though, where will it lead you?

I know I can’t shut up for long, even in the most religious of auras theres a little voice going “come on Roberts, pull yourself together girl, you’ve still got to take the dog for a walk and hang out the laundry”.

It’s there though, the other me, always there. Watching, waiting, but for what I don’t know.

Brain Porn 2 -The Grand Plan

Miss Roberts in a wedding dress and crownSo finally, after tearing my hair out over it for a whole year, I was brave and said yes to the operations to have the Alien removed from my brain (Brain Porn- Notes to Self) I was terribly pleased with myself for getting up the courage to do that. Then the hospital tell me if they start the operations but find they can only make the Alien smaller, not get rid of it all, then it may be more dangerous than if they’d just left it alone. Oh.

So I may just be left to rot.

Good news is it is unlikely to be causing dementia, bad news is it is likely to be cutting the link between my brain and my words.

But brains can adapt can’t they? I’m sure someone told me that black cab drivers brains actually physically enlarge when they do the knowledge (though that could have been my uncle John boasting). A doctor once told me that I was probably meant to be right handed but because the left side of the brain was damaged it decided to swap over and use the other side. So if I can do that with my dexterity I’m sure I could do it with words. If I just write and write and write, and read and read, and perform, and just keep going it’ll find a way to adapt, surely.  (It is compulsory that you agree with me here, the alternative is me screaming AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  which may never end )

So there is a plan. There must always be a plan. It doesn’t matter how ludicrous having a plan is to my circumstances, no matter what the chances of completing it, it has to be there and it has to be grand. And capable of being rehashed and re-presented as and when required.

The plan is to produce an album/Sci-fi detective novel. I had previously been planning to do a solo album on RIM Records, and a musical with the Rude Mechanicals. Then when I thought I was going in for the operations it was an album come novel in 8 parts linked to the operations. Now it is floating. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m going to start it. Had a chat with the mysterious Erreth Sondabeng, borrowed some equipment and am going round recording sounds. I need sounds from underground, tunnels, underground water.

I think I want a rhythm tapped out on a table, that gets repeated at various points, on various different objects. Altered, distorted, transformed, lost, and brought back again. And the sounds of those objects should be tasted. In any single note there seems to be many many sounds so I ‘d like to explore the different sounds without worrying so much about key. Though I imagine its like colour and the possibilities are endless so you have to pin it down to a readymade system in the end, but I’m going to start with found noises and the tapping of objects and see where it takes me.

And it is still vaguely based on The Time Machine.

Note To the gentleman who read the  first Brain Porn blog and accused me of washing my undies in public:
Too right I am! Waving them in your face I am! Dirty no good private brain porn. Why? Why not? Because it doesn’t fit well into polite conversation, and if I write it here you don’t have to read it.