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

13.The Altar

Abel could hear the sound of running water. It was coming from the altar. He approached it crawling on all fours, standing had not occurred to him yet. In the centre of the alter the rock wall was exposed and from it there trickled a small but constant flow of clear water. Abel, his mouth still feeling like a chalk mine, flung himself towards it, only to be whacked across the back with a large stick.

The mad harmonica lady stood growling at him like a wild cat, stick clasped in one hand, lantern in the other. Then he heard voices, lots of them coming nearer and nearer. To avoid being hit again he scrambled  into a corner.

Suddenly the room was full of people. Men and women, maybe 60, maybe more. All silent. No one seemed to notice Abel, even the harmonica lady seemed uninterested in him now. She was kneeling down beside the spring.

One by one each person knelt down at the alter. Each took their turn, slowly, rhythmically. They closed their eyes, bent and sipped the water. And each time the harmonica lady dipped her figure in the water and made some kind of symbol on the person’s head.  Then each took out a jug and filled it with spring water before returning to the crowd.

For a minute Abel was convinced he could see Steve in the crowd, but it was too dark to be sure.
After what seemed like years the crowd slowly started to leave the room. Abel, his back still hurting from where the stick had hit, creeped out with the others. They were a scruffy bunch so he blended in.
Tunnel after tunnel they walked, one being no more memorable than the next. It was so dark Abel found he was moving with the pace of the feet of the crowd and could not see where he was going. Still it was somehow restful this steady hippnotic pace leading him along, so much so that on waking up on what appeared to be a shelf at the side of a tunnel, a slightly damp blanket flung over him, he had no idea how he  got there. Beside  him lay a packet of Spletzer-Martins.

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.

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11. Her Pet Project

10. Water

Pisces
6th March

There are several hundred people living under London. No one can say when the first people started living down there, but it has certainly been growing steadily since 2000.  They are a close, strong community due to the harshness of their circumstances. The elder generation are mainly people who lost their homes during the big recession, those who couldn’t get jobs, the sick and the disabled who were abandoned as successive governments privatised the NHS.

The elder generation, although mocking of the above-landers, still hold a buried shame and desire to return to the daylight. The second generation however, now in their late teens and early twenties, don’t have this desire. Born in the tunnels they are proud of what they are, scavenging is their art and the above-landers are cattle to be milked.

The biggest difficulty about living down there is finding clean drinking water. Although Underlondon is partially flooded most of the time, and contains the old buried rivers of London, the water is dirty and the rivers have become sewers. Instead the people of Underlondon have sort out the ancient springs, trickles of fresh water flowing from cracks in the brick work. These springs are precious to the people down there and the holy qualities of the springs, appreciated in the past, are returning.

Where as many an above-lander has come to the rational conclusion that there are no gods, the Underlondoner knows there is nothing more rational than treating what sustains your life as Divine.

Previous:

9. So where were we…

8. Drunken Delirium
7. Hallucinari
6. Dread
5. Slapdash
4. Eyes in the Machines
3. Underlondon
2. Abel
1. What YOU Need!

( I know I should be listening to CD’s instead of writing this, but I really can’t stand those little black speakers I’ve got, and when I do listen to a piece I like on CD I have to listen to it again and again and again.)

Derek – The End

Today has been a bad head day, and my brain is now all over the place making connexions where their are no connexions. The temptation on these days is to talk about it. I try to avoid having  much to do with people on these days, try to stay in and out of trouble, but sometimes the connexions seem so important its difficult. I just must make contact with…

Today I did some gardening and the plants knew me. Their electric greens and blues crawled inside me. They had a beat to them like a heart. They knew I couldn’t separate myself. I was weak and they were everything. My head clings on to hundreds of half remembered stories, something very very important, but what?

So maybe now is a good time to end the Derek Story, for Derek is very real in many ways and he knows me as the plants did today. I dream of sharing that with another human, but so far, although I have imagined friends have understood,  Derek is the only one who I can be sure really knows.

Have you ever been convinced of something even though you know it will sound like madness to others? Have you ever tried to cling on to your sanity whilst doing some serious tango with the alternative? Knowing for certain that there is something there that is vital to you? People ask me about Derek when they hear the song or the poem, they ask me what he symbolizes. He symbolises nothing. He is Derek. And I have a cunning plan for if he should ever venture down from the loft.

I’ll sit him in front of the TV and feed him on oranges and custard creams, on semilena pudding and rice crispies, on cucumbers and baked beans and mashed potatoes and monster munch and ice cream and apple pie and yogurt and more yogurt and more custard and cheese. I’ll feed him up till he is big and fat and huge. I’ll feed him until he is enormous! Then I’ll squeeze him into the tiny gap underneath my bed, so I can hear him SQUEAL whenever I go to bed at night.

THE END.

Cheshire Cat from Alice in WonderlandPostscript…

Derek part 3. Above the Bath

Eye looking through a peek hole
An eye looking through the hole above the bath

After that I noticed lots of tiny little holes in my ceiling. Whoever or whatever was up there was obviously spying on me. Watching me eat, watching me sleep , watching me get dressed, watching me…

One evening I was lying in the bath and noticed a hole in the ceiling directly above me. I was sure I could see an eye staring down. I tried to get out of the bath but couldn’t move. I was paralyzed, naked, lying there in the bath.

For just a moment it was fascinating, everything suddenly made sense. The bath water and I had a deep, intense love for each other as we swapped atoms, and everything was going to be wonderful.

Then snap – the sound of the radio playing in the next room. I didn’t have the radio on. No it wasn’t the radio, it was people in my flat talking about me, I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Suddenly the walls came alive and were walking towards me. The ceiling started collapsing,  crumbling into the bath. Then the part with the eye came to float just above my head. I was staring directly into the eye. It was reading my mind. It knew my  guilt.

The walls were laughing at me now, almost deafening laughs, the people’s voices had turned into a huge black raven, swirling around in the sky above.

“Remember me remember me remember me” came the voices

White white white bathroom walls, holes and cracks and yellow stains, breathing, everything breathing, all seeing, all knowing, remembering everything ever.

Not me, I’m , I am,  I, I, i, i. NO!

Nothing.

“Drown drown drown drown”

To be continued…

Part 4.

“And the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all”

12ft x 8ft Oil Painting 1999
12ft x 8ft oil painting - I was going through a very weird phase! 1999

The other day there was someone banging at my door and ringing the door bell all night long, but the battery in the door bell is dead and when I peered through the blinds there was no one there.

I’ve increased the amount of Lamotrigine I’m taking – the number of hallucinations and seizures was getting ridiculous.

Now my heart keeps having moments of awkwardness where it forgets what its supposed to be doing and then remembers and starts again in a hurry. Are heart jolts a side effect of Lamotrigine? I dare not look at the information leaflet as I’m likely to pass out just from reading it. I feel faint in supermarkets if I read the effects of vitamin tablets!

As well as being an anti-convulsive, Lamotrigine is used as a mood stabiliser. Yet when I was last on a heavy dose I got really aggressive, even started a fight in the street for no reason!

Its curious how ones mood can be controlled by drugs. Even more curious when you require drugs to stay sane. Reality is such an awkward thing, can slip through the fingers. The senses take in so much stuff, so much information, its a constant struggle trying to work it all out, what is relevant and how this should be interpreted. A tablet that makes that easier, slows it all down to a reasonable pace, can only be a good thing, right? So why do I feel uncomfortable when I take lots of them?

Have I seemed different? More aggressive to anyone over the last couple of weeks? Have my blogs been extra violent?

I’ve  felt a compulsive need to watch the comedy Green Wing, and am now seriously worried that I may bare a striking character resemblance to Sue White, the lunatic staff liaison officer.

I’ve failed to panic over the imminent deadline for the Library sculpture, which is worrying.

Didn’t mention the ghost dog to the lady from Battersea Dogs Home. She disapproved of my garden (too overgrown) but warmed to me once she saw the Icon pictures on my wall. She thought this meant I was a Christian, which I imagine she is. I didn’t correct her. Like the ghost dog I don’t think the visions would have gone down well, and everybody feels the need to convert an Agnostic. My dad saw the Icon pictures and was very worried that I might have joined the Church. The very best way to rebel against my parents would be to become a practicing Christian, or even better a Born Again.

Well just so its clear, I’m not a Christian, though fascinated by the subject of faith, and I’m not a lunatic. My brain just has wayward tendencies. It has visions (and since they are more real than anything else I experience they cannot be ignored!) and it likes to make connections that aren’t there. So if there is a fan going it will hear it as voices, if there is a repetitive noise for a while it will keep hearing it even once the noise is silenced, if there are dog bones and doggy people about it will create a dog ghost. So I’m probably saner than the rest of you put together, but reality is an awkward thing.

Funny how blogs lend themselves to mentioning nonsense, “bollocks” as my sisters would say. Most of the time I do everything I can to hide it. I’ve taught classes in colour theory whilst thumb sized beetles roamed across my body. Despite my need to drink endless cups of tea no one noticed anything unusual.