The incontinence pad has twisted between my thighs, catching the skin of my testicles. My mother had a pad too, I remember now. Although in those days, her last days, those old times, then, they were substantially thicker. And I wonder now, each day, each hour, feeling the pad right there, whether the thickness would have made them more uncomfortable. A wodge of white absorbent towelling wedged up against her sagging vulva, stuffed between her slackening buttocks like an old cork rammed in to a bottle of rancid port. That must have hurt her, my poor mother. It’s the lack of muscle that makes it hard, the towelling pushing up to the bone, and they don’t mind a few bruises the nurses nowadays. But at least I am dying now, when they have developed the technology to produce incontinence pads as slim and absorbent as a slice of Mother’s Pride. The consolations of modern incontinence. Could they though, I wonder, put a slice of Mother’s Pride between my thighs to absorb the shit I produce? The constellations of modern bread. Not that there can be much shit, or much hard shit. I don’t even eat. How can you claim to be eating if you are being injected with liquidised food? I do not even have to swallow or chew or lick. I cannot even see it. I cannot turn my neck to look up at the plastic container hanging above me, that feeds me, that keeps me alive. What I see are the faces of the visitors who come in and who stare at it with some dose of disgust. It is injected into me, their dose of disgust, into my neck now because I pulled it from my arm several times because it was itching and because I don’t want to live any longer. If this is living. Did you hear that mother? I don’t want to live any longer. I’ve never understood what all the fuss is about anyway. I’ve been alone all for the most of it, and I only ever put bricks on top of the other and the other and the other, and I was not even very good at that. They say it is unskilled but my walls were unskilled unskilled. You know, I guarded the last inmate of Spandau Prison. Hess. Rudolf Hess. This old body stood guard over Hess. Where did I shit then? It’s funny isn’t it that we cannot remember where we have shat at important times in our lives even though it is a life-saving act: to open the bowel. Later, I was invited to be a mercenary in the Angolan war. They used to invite people like me, unschooled brickies, before we had wet wodges stuffed up our arses. A hundred and fifty quid to kill a few coloureds. I would have shat myself in the war. I would have shat myself properly. Not any of this processed food shit. It would have been proper shit. So anyway, so they put the tube in to my neck, at such a position that I cannot reach it because my arms and wrists are too stiff to twist the necessary amount to pull it out. I don’t have the strength at that angle. Yet I can raise my hand to my head. I raise it to my head and slap it down hard and heavy onto the small thinning pad of silver hair there. I feel that slap. And I can rub the hand to the back of the head and to the front. Aches. But that arm was always the best and it still moves and responds and is what makes me keep going in this life. Perhaps it is what makes them think that I must go on being injected with liquidised food through my neck that squirts out between the flaps of skin and onto the pad. My last Christmas.
“How are all your whatsits behaving?”
“Watch it. Here comes her who must be obeyed.”
“Well I got slippers anyway. Fluffy penguins from the kids.”
“Damn expensive. And the kids said they had to be Clarks did they?”
“Their mum.” She pours a glass of water.
“They still making a lot of noise at night I tell you.”
“And the frame? They use that to keep you in do they?”
“Put the sides up, that’s all. Support.”
“We all drank too much anyway.”
“Weren’t allowed anything in here.”
“Course. I don’t know how we got Lynne in though. She wanted to be in your bed.”
“You went round Linda’s for dinner then?”
“I slept on the armchair in the sitting room.”
“You never went to bed?”
“Watched TV through the night. It was Christmas wasn’t it.”
A large pile of emails have landed in my inbox during the overfed, overdrunk, overexcited Christmas break, most probably because I don’t have a comments facility here, and many of them in response to this post about the BBC Africa service’s Africa Have Your Say. Among many interesting bits of information, these two stuck out the furthest. First, that the Ugandan Parliament was in recess at the time that the offensively titled/headlined programme was transmitted and would therefore not be debating homosexuality on the Friday as stated in the show after all. This just goes to show how little importance is given to attention to detail and fact-checking in certain parts of Bush House these days, and also contradicts the argument by some of the senior Beeb eds that the show had to run the week it did because it was to be debated that Friday. Secondly, a note from a former BBC stringer from the continent (I won’t mention the region or the stringer’s name for privacy reasons), who wrote to say how accurate she/he thought the post was and also to remind me about one Mr Chiam, a former stringer for the BBC Africa Service in The Gambia, who was arrested in 2006 during the aftermath of an alleged coup against President Jammeh. Chiam was severely tortured. And yet an internal BBC memo stated that Chiam’s arrest and torture had nothing to do with the Beeb, despite the fact the reporter was reporting for the BBC World Service. They’re an awfully supportive bunch at Bush, as you can see.
‘But who cares….these Beebs as you call them are a bunch of time wasters.’
The picture has nothing to do with the post, apart from the fact that it’s Christmas and I was once given a SuperWoman mug in my stocking (not that long ago in fact).
So, to the post.
Nice Natalie Hanman has linked here with this piece that is really inspired by Nice Nina’s naughty book. Anyway, I’m very happy to enjoy the tailwind of free promotion: dear Guardian readers, you are most welcome here. And now I feel bad for being so nasty about Barbara Ellen’s Cif on the Africa Service. (But it was a little bit slap-dash wasn’t it?)
I wasn’t thinking about this at the time, but I am grateful to Stewart Home for the reminder.
Since I’ve lived in Walthamstow I’ve made lots of rather banal jokes about boy bands and E17. No more. This video makes me wanna take off my hat to the young lads (who are about the same age as me). There’s something about Brian Harvey’s lip curl (he was born in ’74) when he’s telling you everything’s gonna be alright and rocking his elbows as though humming a lullaby. Apparently he’s since been on I’m a celebrity with Janet Street-Porter with whom he argued and subsequently left the show. From Walthamstow to . . . to crap like that. But the man has had a tough time. He was attacked by another man who hit him in the head with a machete and has suffered serious depression. Gone are the days when I chuckle about the boy band land where I live. From now on: Respeck.
But actually, I wasn’t thinking about East 17 when I began this blog. I was thinking about this, the work of Martin Creed.
In 2001, I saw this (below) out of the back window of a flat in Hackney and made up my mind that it was where I wanted to live. And so I did. For the next eight years. Every day I looked out of my window and gazed into Creed’s work and muttered merry messages to myself. A little later I discovered I knew the woman who had ensured that Creed’s work came to Clapton: that’d be the impressive Ingrid Swenson of the equally impressive Peer gallery in Shoreditch. And then one day, I woke up and opened my curtains and the message had gone. Just Like That. My head hung low for many weeks and I moaned to the neighbours and the shopkeepers and anyone unfortunate enough to bump into me. Things were cheered up a wee bit when the portico was turned into a school and one of my favourite teenage friends went to it. Every day she hangs out under the arches where those wonderful words had shone. I wished for her they were still there, and all her mates at school, with all the difficulties teenage girls have when they are, kind of, ya know, teenagers.
Work No 203, Everything is Going to be Alright, 1999 Lower Clapton, London
And then a couple of weeks ago, when I was doing the shouting and bellowing and growling and all that stuff with Phil Minton’s Feral Choir – that’s me about half way along the back row behind the man with the specs who’s snarling – I discovered where Clapton’s Creed had ended up.
Yes. It was right there under my nose, decorating Tate Britain’s main entrance. And I muttered to myself: Who round here needs to know everything’s going to be alright? Bring it back to Lower Clapton. Or what about Walthamstow? Brian Harvey could do with that and so could the rest of us E seventeeners. Martin: help us! Do something! This work is not for big centre of town galleries: it’s for the outer edges of town, the bits that noone goes to unless they live there, the bits where feral might be a final way of being, not a pursuit.
More puppy pix from Alex.