You prefer fiction?

The grenades from China are cheaper than Coke. The mourners from Zimbabwe want to attend their five year-old granddaughter’s funeral. She was hit and killed by a car. To reassure the British government, the mourners have offered to be electronically tagged for the duration of their stay. A two-and-a-half year-old plays drums with a national orchestra, performing for thousands, and won’t stop. In a television studio in Australia, a nine year-old rips a T-shirt over his head and throws it to the admiring adult audience before sitting down to beat the shit out of some drums. A middle-aged judge holds her hands to her head and screams, hysterical for her idea of the boy-being-man. A teenage cartoonist in France is arrested on charges of inciting terrorism for an intelligent reworking of a cartoon drawn by an adult who was murdered. Asylum seekers from Syria who have made their way to Germany will be held in Nazi barracks. Real Nazi barracks. Merkel says there is no place for extremism in Germany. In Germany, a few days after a Swastika was drawn on the door of the flat where a group of asylum seekers lived, one of those asylum seekers was stabbed to death. At first, the police said his death was not suspicious. In east London, a local council ruled against selling parking tickets in a car park saying it would discriminate against poorer drivers who were able to afford a car but not a parking ticket. In another part of east London, local home-owners campaigned against bicycles because they are dangerous. Across the land, water is more expensive than milk. In Nairobi, a crowd of children are tear-gassed to stop them protesting the closure of their playground. In London, a man is squeezed to death in the back of a plane, but some of the best paid lawyers in the land can’t work out how he died. A philosopher says there won’t be world war. Another philosopher says there is world war already. Another philosopher moves to the United States. Another philosopher jumps from her balcony. I receive a phone call from a man who says he is Special Branch. Then another. Then another. A popular politician says he wants a US-style health system and his ratings soar. A woman in Australia registers Je Suis Charlie as a fashion trademark. An Oscar-nominated film by one of the world’s greatest directors is banned in a part of Paris because a mayor who hasn’t seen it says it’s an apology for terrorism. He is wrong. In central Europe, homeless dogs are fed in return for plastic bottles while homeless people starve. In southern Africa, employees in the oil industry say their payments have fallen behind because of the drop in oil prices. In England, car owners celebrate because of the drop in oil prices. In private homes across the land, elderly people remember slogans they’ve heard throughout their life-times, like “never again”. But it’s happening again, they mutter. And this time, they’re relieved.


fact fact fact fact fact, fact, fact + fact

Fact fact fact. Fact. Fact: fact fact fact. Factually fact. In fact. The fact is. Fact. “Fact fact fact.” Fact? “Fact fact fact fact fact fact!” Fact fact fact fact. Fact.

Here is Justice Spencer’s ruling on the exclusion of the racist texts found on the telephones of the G4S guards who were in charge of deporting Jimmy Mubenga on 12 October 2010, the day he died on board a plane at Heathrow airport. All three defendants were acquitted.

Full ruling on bad character 25 11 14 _final_

story escapes custody

Dr P had used a felt-tip pen. She had watched him drawing the lines around her face, over her eyes, under her chin, around her nose. She had felt good. Decisive. Like a woman taking control. What did she want? She wanted to be able to look at herself in the mirror at any time of the day, including first thing in the morning, and to feel good about what she saw. She wanted to catch herself in the reflection of shop windows and see the tight, taut, freshness that she had enjoyed well into her late thirties. She was now 53 and she wanted to see her youth again. She wanted other people to see it. She wanted everyone to have that same pleasure of resting their eyes on her smoothness. She lay in the dark, her face towards the ceiling, and she longed to sleep. She longed to close up, even for twenty minutes. But she could not. Why? Because her eyes no longer closed. The full surgery had cost $35,000. And she was left looking. Forever. Forever and ever and ever at her taut, tight, smooth skin. She had dreamed of drowning in her beauty. She loved her blondness, the way that other women told her she was like a china cup. But as the weeks passed, she began to hate her reflection. She began to feel trapped. She could never escape it. There was no going back. Not even the compensation would be able to reverse the damage. Her reflection would always be there. And she would always have to see it. She could never choose to look away. She was held in the grip of her remaining skin. Always seeing, always staring. Another true story that should have stayed inside the author’s imagination but managed to get loose.

so this is January now

A leaf of ivy that is larger than the span of an adult’s hand with all four fingers stretched, ready to claw. Then another, huge and flat and green and waxy. Middle of winter and the ivy is expanding over the wall, larger and heavier than ever before. Ivy to turn east London into a jungle, and that’s not a word I’m comfortable with. Yesterday, a pink rose as tight as a baby’s fist clung to the top of the skeletal remains of a bush in a front garden which you pass if you walk the back route to Blackhorse Road. In Liverpool, on Christmas Eve, women were shopping in flipflops, and the Elvis Presley busker was so hot he removed his quiff-wig and handed it to his wife on drums. The cats are still sitting on top of the neighbour’s shed after breakfast to absorb the heat of the sun. Still, I haven’t worn the leather gloves. Not once. Only woollen mittens that run half way up the fingers. The fingers. With a turquoise ring purchased on Portobello Road from a man who said he was from Afghanistan and was selling jewellery from Tibet. “It’s all from Tibet. Or Afghanistan. He makes it.” And he pointed to another man, who was standing beside a small card table covered in rings and earrings and bangles, blowing on fingers shaped like a small apple in front of his mouth. Like a cox’s orange pippin — and you don’t see many of them any more. Thoughts of a cocktail dress and a lounge suit before bed.

certain start

It wasn’t how either of us expected to end the year, but there we were, two strangers, in a bathroom, one demonstrating to the other the most intimate of necessities. ‘Don’t lose the string, that’s really important.’ Later, we walked up the high street and met M who told us about his Christmas in a hospital bed. ‘Give it a few months and I won’t be able to see any more.’ Still, he laughed and wished me Merry Christmas and ‘a whole lot of luck to hubbie’. His face is as pink as the stain on the bed. That’s what I was thinking as I slipped through the tills at Sainsbury’s. Later still, out running on grass thick with frost and plates of ice, I remembered the photograph of the American soldier who’d had his eyes blown out in Iraq. His prosthetic eye is studded with the six diamonds of his ex-fiancĂ©e’s engagement ring. This filled me with certain joy. So did the demonstration in the bathroom. I even felt a sort of glow during the conversation with M. What is it with me? To gain so much pleasure from the awkward, the tragic, the miserable. Another year begins and I look forward to more twitchiness, to more moments of social unease, and to breaking more taboos.