The Black Hole on my Bedroom Shelves

Well it’s a bank holiday Monday, I was going to get lots done today but seeing as it’s 11 and I’m still in bed that probably isn’t going to happen. Alarm went off at 9, I woke up, cat sat on my face, I made a cup of tea, went to drink the tea in bed and had an epileptic turn. Saw the universe in the hole in my banking file, which then melted and everything melted into it. Took a while to figure out which universe I’m supposed to be in after that. Once it was over I went back to sleep where a very old man sat next to me in a hospital toilet cubicle and told me he had polio. His friend said he was only joking.

Had a good gig in South London on Saturday, a lovely friendly crowd who were well practiced in shouting “hurrah!” with the required hand signal. Sold some Biro Beast drawings and a couple of Rude Mechanicals Glass Eye albums as well. Glass Eye was the bands first album years ago, it sold out but folks have been asking for copies recently so we had another 100 made. On Saturday someone said we sound like Nick Cave and John Lee Hooker, I think that’s good, anyway it’s all gone a lot darker and swampy than it was and I like that, it suits the universe melting into a black hole in my bedroom files.

Last night I went to see Infernal Contraption play at the 100 club on Oxford street. They were very good with lots of odd noises and well thought out songs with interesting subjects. I also got in for free as Jowe put me on the guest list and then I had a drink brought for me so this felt good given my terrible financial situation currently. I managed to go out for the night in Oxford street for the £3 bus fair there and back. I also drew the a possible perfect child whilst waiting for the bus. Could be a development on the old logo?

32583A3A-FAC3-43E0-BDFD-8B1DF5507283 I’ve taken the teeth from a crocodiles smile I’ve stolen the brains of a rich man I’ve torn the tongue from the snide st witch I’ve threaded my needle and now I must stitch[/caption]

21. A Spletzer-Martin 5 Moment

Spletzer-Martin No.5Sit for a moment, just sit, and do absolutely nothing. Allow your senses to take over and let the talking you fade; if the voice continues to babble on just let it, it’s not the important thing now. Breath deeply: in, out. Feel the air going into your lungs, filling you and going out again. You are not separate from your surroundings, your surroundings are not separate from you.

What can you feel?

What can you hear?

What can you smell?

Think how much stuff there is. How full your senses are. So much. How rich it is, this tiny bit of now, amazingly rich, immense and unfathomable.

This sounds a little like a meditation, but I present it to you now because that intense awareness of the moment is what the Spletzer-Martin 5 can give. All your senses are heightened, everything is at its fullest, most intense, most alive. And not only does the Spletzer-Martin 5 give you this amazing feeling, it gives you it for days with no sleep required and no physical side effects.*

* It has recently been reported that there are some psychological side effects. A deep addiction to the heightened feeling. As one takes more and more of it ones brain may become confused, forget the difference between you and your surroundings, loose the talking you in the many other voices of fans, sirens, dish washers…. Hallucinate creatures in the corners, eyes in the machines. You may be terrified. Out of control. Your brain desperately seeking to rebuild you and the safe reality to exist in, but sometimes the brain may find a different reality, reinterprtations of the previously understood and previously ignored, an interpretation that makes just as much rational sense as the old one. Then, what if you find others with the same alternative interpretation? What if you are living in a tunnel under London where the alternative reality now makes a lot more sense?

20. Red Wine and Revolution 2: The Luxury of Atheism

moon and sunThis is part of a fictional story called The Spletzer-Martin 5 set in London in the not so distant future. It is very much a work in progress.

“Atheism is a luxury of the rich!”

This was Louise saying hello. She flopped into the large expensively embroidered armchair and let out a rather melodramatic sigh. Elsie didn’t bother to ask if she was okay, nothing Louise did was ever so bland as to be okay. All blonde hair  and long disapproving nose, she’d been chatting up the 50 something bar tender who now gave them the benefit of candles and canapes on the house. An office party had been held there earlier and the food would only go to waste.

“its alright for you” she said to Elsie “you can afford to buy food, you don’t need to scavenge like this”

There they were, both in this exclusive London club due to Louise’s abilities to blag. Elsie watched her nibble fussily at the snacks, picking out the bits that weren’t to her taste, and couldn’t help but smile. Louise was perfectly suited to her situation. A Twilighter (1) extraordinaire.

There was something different about her now though, a darkness round the eyes, less playful than before,  hard-edged somehow, with age and fatigue collecting at the corners of her mouth.

” a friend of mine died from the cold six months ago, and now another one has gangrene in her foot and may loose it.” She said this to Elsie in an accusational fashion.

“Is she in hospital?”

“Of course not! She has no money for hospital. There’s a “See-er” in the tunnels taking care of her”

“A See-er? What’s a See-er”

” Like a witchdoctor, shaman healer type, there are quite a few practicing in the tunnels now”

” But surely she could find a charity or something to help her?”

Louise didn’t actually spit at this comment but only because that would mean them being thrown out of the club. Instead she glared a silent glare for a whole 60 seconds. Then finally she hissed:

“She’s ill, she can’t walk, how can she go hunting out charity hospitals! They’re over crowded anyway and she’s likely to be dead before she gets seen! Besides she’s been living in the tunnels for three years now, since she lost her job and couldn’t pay the rent. The Underlondoners (2) don’t trust anything belonging to  above-landers”.

Elsie was silent.

More calmly Louise continued:

” they’re starting their own religion down there, they need it to survive. Money doesn’t rule them down there. What is important is knowing the way round the tunnels. Where to find clean water, where’s best to come to the surface to scavenge for food, what remedies can be obtained from weeds and found remains. They’re returning to old folklores. When I first found out I was thinking they’d be bound to die out then, but no, it’s what is keeping them alive. Belief, psychology. is incredibly powerful”.

She took a sip of red wine, formed a deep frown across her forehead and looked directly into Elsie’s eyes

“Are you an Atheist?”

“Yes, of course” said Elsie “aren’t you?”

“Not anymore – If you are lying on a sodden blanket in pitch darkness, in severe agony, knowing there is no one coming to help you, if you’re convinced you are about to die, slowly, painfully and alone, do you rationalise it? Do you way up the scientific odds? Sing “Always look on the bright side of life”? No, you beg God – and any god will do at this moment, you’re not fussy – to save your life. I know, I’ve been there, and until you can say you’ve been there and didn’t find yourself begging God, you’re Atheism is shallow”.

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1. Twilighters – The term Twilighter started being used in the early 2000′s by the arts council of England to distinguish between respectable people and the type of person who was not worth counting as potential audience. It was later adopted by the government and media to describe a section of the public who were poor,  in temporary accommodation, in unstable employment if any. With the reforms to arts funding and low income self-employment tax it came to include most artists and musicians.

2.  Underlondoners – Those who live in the tunnels under London. Read Water

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19. Red Wine and Revolution – Elsie’s thoughts.

18. The Mutation

Oil on Canvas
Originally an oil painting commission for the Cancer Research Laboratories in South Mimms.

What happens to the Sin Eater once he’s eaten all your sin?

Well he’s cast out of course. Lives as a hermit on the outskirts of the village. Who wants to know him? He’s eaten all that sin!

But I race ahead of myself here, for we haven’t got to the Sin Eater of our story yet.

Douglas was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring. It was in the early stages. The chance of full treatment and recovery was very good, but it terrified Douglas like nothing had ever done before. The word “cancer” rung over and over in his ears. Until that moment of diagnosis Douglas had been immortal, now he was merely human. A damaged human at that. That he, such an important individual, could have the possibility of death hang over him, seemed appalling. Unacceptable.

There must be some meaning to it.

What this meaning could be started to dominate his every thought. Luckily Elsie was there to look after the art business, and counsel him during his darkest moods.

And they were dark, for the ego of a successful man realising he is mortal can have some real hatred in it. How unfair it was. How there were others more deserving of death. He had so much more to give!

There must be a reason.

Elsie tried to cheer him up. Point out that he wasn’t dead yet and the chances of full recovery were great. She was his best friend during this time. She would not sleep with him, the thought repulsed her, but that didn’t stop her caring for him immensely and feeling sorry for him when  he tried to stroke her knee.

So she sat and listened to him. Listened to his rants, his cursing, his bitterness, and when he was finished let him sob into her shoulder. Her grand boss, the charming, influential Douglas, reduced to this.

There was a reason.

So Douglas discovered. The reason was very simple, the reason was that he should realise how wondrous life is and that he should teach people. Teach people that some are worthy of this fantastic life, and some are not.
17. Elsie’s Pragmatism

16. The Sin-Eater

Image - an eater of sin.SIN EATING, described in studies of folk culture as a form of religious magic, has been practiced in many cultures. In rural Wales the ritual was still in practice up until the last century.

A village would often have its own Sin-Eater who would live as a hermit outside the village. Shunned by the villagers for being the associate of evil spirits the Sin-Eater was only sort out when someone in the village was dying. Then he would be brought into the village and taken to the dying person’s bedside. The family would place a loaf of bread on the dying person’s chest. The Sin-Eater would enter and approach the body. Kneeling down at the bed he would give a short speech;

“I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen”.[2]

Then the Sin-Eater would eat the bread from the dying person’s chest and a bowl of ale would be handed to him from across the body. By drinking the ale and eating the bread he was eating that person’s sins. The bowl and platter would then be burnt by the villagers.

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.

“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.