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.)

9. So, where were we…

 Ah yes, Elsie is worrying, Steve is drunk in stilettos, the mad woman at the station is preaching and blowing down a harmonica, and Abel is slowly creeping down a tunnel looking for the opening Steve told him about. His mouth is like a miniature chalk mine, his brain is set on automatic as he touches his way through the darkness to the tune from the Spletzer Martin advert.

Underlondon is a vast place, a maze created by accident, innovation, experiment and deceit. Ancient rivers merge with sewers, wine cellars link with catacombs. Deathly dark, as you’d expect, and as complicated as the city streets above it. Large parts are permanently flooded ankle deep in water. This does not bother it’s inhabitants, who, aside from the terrapins and crocodiles, have built shelves for their beds above the flood level. All their belongings rest on these shelves, from marmite to stolen diamonds, vast platforms made from found timber and steel, scavenged, as their life is, from the above-landers.

Previously:

8. Drunken Delirium
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!

6. Dread

An artist's impression of Dread.Dread sat in the corner picking his nose. He was naked. A large man, his skin took on the colour of the shadows in which he sat, altering shades of grey throughout the day, a green tint, a blue tint, a touch of magenta. It could be best described as having that quality you get if you’ve been using watercolour paints but never bother changing the water. You dip the brush in, take it out and splodge it onto the thick pimply surface of the watercolour paper, the result you get is like Dread’s skin.

Abel had been seeing him in the corners for sometime now, particularly at work. At first he’d been afraid, a strange naked man appeared to be following him. No one else seemed to notice though.  He didn’t dare ask people outright,  he knew his colleagues thought him odd already.

He panicked, was this proof of his insanity? Then he came to the conclusion that even if he was mad, he couldn’t afford treatment so probably best  just to keep on as normal and ignore Dread, everything would probably be alright.

Once he tried to talk to him, but Dread is a silent creature, the only noise he makes is a munching sound when he eats from his hands. Abel was not sure what he was eating, it appeared to be light.

Attempts at communication were given up. Gradually though, through some kind of thought osmosis, Abel knew that it was Dread, but dread of what exactly he didn’t know. He briefly mentioned it to Elsie once, but the look of terror in her eyes made him shut up. Still it left what felt like a large hole in his gut, and a churning feeling that made him manic when in public. It didn’t help that his diet now mainly consisted on Spletzer-Martins and alcohol.

After six months of Dread hanging around, Abel was getting used to him. At work in the early hours of the morning Dread was somehow a more comfortable companion than those all seeing, all knowing eyes in the machines.

Next – 7. Hallucinari

Previous –

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

4. Eyes in the Machines

Abel held his breath, closed his eyes, and counted backwards from 10. When he opened them the machines were still looking at him. Big, metalic, shinning creatures, he wasn’t sure where their eyes were, but they definitely had eyes.

Was it his boss spying on him? New company policy to monitor staff ? Or the government tracking him? All seemed very possible, yet there was something else, something in the machines themselves, that knew him.

At first he’d thought he was delusional but now he knew it was more real than anything else he’d ever experienced. Not only were they looking at him from the outside, they were inside him as well, they could see his thoughts, they could taste the ingredients of his being.

He was coming to the end of his 40 hour shift. It hadn’t been so bad, though he’d had to take another one of those Spletzer-Martins. They were meant to keep you going for 40 hours no problem, but he always found he was flagging after 35. Not that it was tiring work, just rotating those huge machines, but failing to do it properly could muck up the whole network which would be catastrophic. Yes, better that he sneak an extra bottle of Spletzer-Martins from the office pharmacy now and then, than risk the whole network going down.

Elsie had told me he’d been feeling rough. To be honest I didn’t  care. I didn’t know Abel that well, but I was developing a certain curiosity for the dramas surrounding him.
He is a friend of my friend Elsie. I chatted to him via Facebook and met at gigs occassionally. He’d always seemed quite pleasant and cheerful until that time I saw him in Clapton. It was late at night in a small venue off the main road, he looked so tied and old then, and nervous. He’d seemed a very confident almost arrogant man before, but now he was uncertain, shaky in his speech, and with the guilty look of a man whose just rummaged through your underwear.

Elsie told me he was worried about debt, working long shifts to pay it off. It is a relief that one can do that now, what with these new tablets, just keep working and working till you pay off all your debts, as long as you resist the temptation to get new ones come pay day.

Next – 5. Slapdash

Previous –

3.Underlondon

2. Abel

1. What YOU Need!

 

3. Underlondon

Sketch of a rat on the back of an Individual Learning Plan

Please Note –  I cannot be held responsible for what may happen to you should you follow my instructions.

At Baron’s Court Station, after you’ve been past the barriers, take the left staircase down to the west bound platform. At the bottom of the staircase quickly swing yourself off the platform and on to the track.

You’ll find a small pebbled area running along side the track only just wide enough for you to walk  along. Walk east, the opposite direction to the trains, towards Earls Court. About 50 metres from the station the tracks separate, the District line stays above ground and the Piccadilly  goes underground. Follow the Piccadilly track. You’ll find, once your eyes become accustomed to the dark, that its quite easy to walk along here, sticking closely to the walls of the tunnel for safety.

As you feel your way along you’ll relise that there are lots of openings and gaps in the tunnel wall. About 12 metres into the tunnel you’ll find an opening slighly larger than the others and that if you run your fingers along you won’t come to the wall, but to more and more open space. You can crouch down and squeeze yourself into it, but I wouldn’t advise it yet, not till you know more about its methods and madness.

This is a connecting passage, there are many of them and they connect between the different tunnel networks sprawling under London. So, as a traveller of Underlondon you can go from lost rivers and sewers, to jewel deposit chambers, from nuclear hideouts to the passageway running from the Harrods shop to its warehouse, the old Post Office underground railway to escape passages from the palace. You can in fact get almost anywhere in London via these passages, going unnoticed by the masses above you.

One might think that with todays fear of terrorism and the monitoring of almost everything these passages would be shut off or atleast heavily guarded, but no. Dark, damp and rat ridden they are protected by, as Douglas Adams named it,  an SEP field (somebody else’s problem), making them impossible to detect by anyone who isn’t deliberatly trying to find them.

And who in there right mind would want to find them? For here be monsters!

Next – 4. Eyes in the Machines

Previous –

2. Abel

1. What YOU need!