TWO THINGS I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE FILM “INCEPTION”

1) How has such a desperately average product managed to gain itself so much attention and respect? Oooh ambiguous ending! Oooh several things happening at once!

2) There was a scene in a restaurant in Africa, the guy rushes in for a quiet meal and everyone starts screaming at him to get out? Did I miss something there or was that a nice bit of Hollywood-subtle xenophobia?

SPELLING LESSONS

The following was supposed to be printed in LEVEL 5 magazine – which just folded. A shame, because the piece doesn’t quite work outside of a magazine context…

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Thanks to everyone who responded to our request last issue and sent in the following pieces which we’ll be getting to after just one bit of further ado: we’re still looking for more, we’re looking for your own little charms and jewels within your personal landscape, write them up if you want and send them to ((e-mail address)). For now though, here’s:

Alb Finnock, 37, Chalkwell:

Exit Southend Library and turn left and walk: now there’s a fence to your right and the pavement is veering you round past the railway station but don’t go that way. Disregard the stern logic of the fence, get on the other side of it, the road immediately to your right, Victoria Avenue dissolving into a roundabout, looping, perhaps away to the left, under the New! and Very Much Improved! shopping precinct-thing, no don’t go that way. You could follow the roundabout round, past the Deeping, that orangey-dark-haze hole the Ministry of Transport bought back in the Sixties when Surrealist city-planning was the thing; you could turn off to the right instead and A-Unlucky-For-Some yourself away, or else complete the clockwise turn and retreat down Victoria Avenue, office-blocks to the left of you, some are empty and for a while you could break into them easily and get up on the roof and everything, they’ve made that harder now, too fun but no don’t go that way, stay at the roundabout, cross the road and onto it, the roundabout, shrubby bushes covering it: find the little passageway into that clump of green and twig & be invisible in there for as long as you want. Advise your sons, advise your daughters: this is an excellent place to lose your virginity.

[Editor’s note: As part of the “Better Southend” Victoria Gateway Scheme, these bushes have recently been razed.]

Vivian Exester, 50s, Thorpe Bay:

Between Southend High Girls School and the White Horse pub there’s a church, Trinity Church. Do not go in there. However, having entered the church grounds by way of a knickety-knockety gate, follow the path round those 12th Century walls and their more recent and tasteful additions, keep walking, the path: the graveyard.

Linger long enough here and you’ll find two women named Eliza buried next to each other, both with their husbands, George and Joseph. One of these Elizas – the one on your left as you’re reading their stones – died with nothing but regret in her heart.

Not bitterness, nothing jagged or mean; just the soul of a girl who was never allowed to be her own woman, Eliza Williams, d. 27th June 1931 aged 85: all the little self-betrayals we make over the course of a lifetime, to fit in, to get on, to survive, Eliza she never managed to make even one gesture, grand or otherwise, that wasn’t some species of self-betrayal, she had nothing else in her life, in her memories of her life. I don’t know why. Perhaps she was a flamboyant lesbian or a nymphomaniac in a time when such traits were more than discouraged, but there’s no great lust emanating from the grass growing above and out from Eliza. Perhaps her life was all books no-one would allow her to read let alone write, conversations she couldn’t have with the man who married her, conversations she couldn’t have with anyone, all the time she spent laughing when she wasn’t in the least amused, all the amusement she stifled, all of it and no secret gardens for Eliza. Stand over what remains of Mrs. Williams and reflect on loss and all that is lost and shall be lost. Even her frustrations are frustrated: but stand there, St. Nothing of Nowhere, patron spirit of the boring bits, the flatnesses, stand there and let her cry through your eyes, and be blessed.

“Indiana Jones,” 29, Wakering:

The car-park of the Waitrose supermarket on Eastern Avenue, Southend: cut through it; the petrol-station on its edge, cut through that too and here’s a mudtrack way with a slight down slope to it, creepypath tight because on both sides there’re prickly bushes they’re gropey for you, walk two or ten minutes and walk right out of the world: come this way at midnight and there’s nothing, no light save maybe moonlight, there are sounds, there’s you arguing with yourself that you’ve just watched too many bad Horror movies, that’s all; here, at the end of the track, the Bomb Shelter we called it, nights with mates on the Bomb Shelter on drugs talking talking how cool it would be to come here with like pots of pink paint and paint the Bomb Shelter pink! and never actually paint it pink but talk about it, the Bomb Shelter, actually a pill-box, World War II, one of about thirty-thousand that were built anticipating a Nazi land-invasion, a last post for troops to hide in and take pot-shots and die or surrender eventually, hexagonal concrete pill-box. Come here by the creepypath or else go the other way, go right from the petrol-station instead of cutting through it, wide open path along fields, cycle here at five o’clock some Summer morning it’s Teletubby-land, bunnies bouncing, come here some Saturday afternoon and here’re kids racing the biggest little motorbikes they’re allowed to own, horse-riders looking down on the world, dog-walkers whistling, eager lovers masturbating each other under the cover of breezy-golden wheat-fields, come, here, when you’re supposed to be revising for exams come here and sit instead staring at the electricity pylon wondering what you’d say to it if you could say anything to electricity pylons come, here, stand on the Bomb Shelter no-one for a million miles in every direction see shooting stars on Halloween night, here, on your knees crawl inside it, stone cold hard dark hexagon, pillar in the middle, crisp-packets and not the crawling mass of insect eaty-things you’d kinda half-thought maybe, not so cold in there either, warm actually, warmer, the heart of the world, it’s the heart of the world! The Bomb Shelter glows pink and throbs, throbs, throbs in cold hot starry noon yesterday: the Bomb Shelter’s still there but the creepypath and the wide open path aren’t, they’re road now: sit on the Bomb Shelter, there’s wire mesh been tightscrewed across the way in, sit and see cars and see the cars see you, a few shops too and there’ll be more yeah come the economic upturn. The heart of the world is broken.

ARTY PEOPLE

So here I am surrounded by Arty People.
I like Arty People;
I find so often in life, when I meet new people they
Appraise me with a cost/benefit analysis,
Decide that I am of no use to them in
The climb up their career-ladder of choice,
And so decline to add me as a
Node in their social network.

When I meet Arty People,
They too appraise me with a cost/benefit analysis and,
Deciding that I am of no use to them in
E.g. obtaining an Arts Council grant or
Seeing their name in print,
Decline to add me as a
Node in their social network.
However,
Arty People tend to wear cool shoes,
Which I find helps.

Dedicated to certain clucking cunts.

HOW TO HELP THE ECONOMY IN FOUR EASY STEPS

1) Let all fans of marijuana (smokers, non-repentant ex-smokers, non-smokers who nonetheless believe that the matter of altering one’s consciousness should be left to the individual not the State) willing to stand up and be counted set a day on which to stand up and be counted. Saturday, for example.

2) Come the day, we descend on our local police-station with spliffs and pipes (hash cakes and bud-butter biscuits for the health-conscious). Sit-in, spark up, refuse to budge until we are punished under The Full Force Of The Law.

3) Repeat steps 1 and 2 until someone somewhere gets the message.

4) Henceforth consume muchos weed and hash in licensed bars, every toke taxed so maybe they’ll not have to keep closing down libraries and children’s facilities. Righteous high!

– Captain Swing, King of the Crossroads

KINGDOM OF FEAR

1) My friend Sue got a phone-call. From the school. Her son had fallen over, caught his finger on something sharp, was bleeding. The school wanted to know if they had Sue’s permission to use a sticking-plaster.

The mind boggles. The “rationale” is that a child could very possibly have an allergic reaction to erm to the plaster and could DIE!!!! We hear that there is a shortage of competent teachers, particularly male teachers at primary level, but what self-respecting adult would enter an environment where a nose-bleed or a bruised knee is a catastrophe, an accident needing urgently to be reported to parents and headteacher and the Accident Book (unless it’s actually an incident, in which case it needs to be reported to parents and headteacher and the Incident Book; a stern reprimand may be incurred by filling in the wrong form, Sir.) An environment in which violence is always wrong and where, accordingly, two kids fighting will be punished equally regardless of who initiated the fight and who struck back in self-defence. But energy cannot be destroyed: and anger, aggression, is energy, and if it’s denied its course, if it’s stifled, then it stays where it is. The vast majority of fights sort themselves out, end in a handshake or in grudging respect or at least in a mutual awareness to avoid each other thereafter. But where there is no resolution, where there is only repression, more serious problems start. Involved in youth work recently, I noticed a pattern: all the teenagers who spoke of being bullies would admit that they had earlier been bullied. And what everyone knows – but which nonetheless seems never to be a major component of “anti-bullying awareness weeks” – is the fact that one sure way to deal with a bully is to kick the shit out of him or her. To take a few lumps, to give a few lumps; to hurt them at least as much as they hurt you: people who are able to give and receive a certain amount of pain don’t get systematically picked upon. But kids who are cotton-smothered, taught that everything unpleasant is to be avoided, taught to hide from bullies, taught that the proper response to a cut finger is ALARM, will inevitably lack the awareness to deal with negative energy being shoved their way. The soft Stalinism of contemporary England makes us soft. Which makes us hard.

2) Travel, the truism goes, broadens the mind: one way it does this is by providing a vantage-point from which we can observe our own cultural norms to see that perhaps they’re not so normal after all. Something I’ve learned from my time in Thailand is that pretty much ANY TEN-YEAR-OLD CAN RIDE A MOTORBIKE. They can do so without systematic driving instruction, without licences, without helmets even, and this on piss-poor-quality roads. Thailand is a very pro-child culture and if kids were habitually crashing their motorbikes then they certainly wouldn’t be allowed them, but they don’t crash any more regularly than adults with all their driving-lessons over here do: because children are vastly more competent and sensible than we allow them to be.

3) I asked the Turkish woman in the kebab shop if she liked living in England. “Yes!” she said and she screwed up her face in disgust. Ha! – “So, you like it here but not much?” She explained that her family never goes out, they have no social-life, the only thing to do is drink alcohol and they’re not so into that. Again I’m thinking of Thailand: where eating out with family, with friends, is such an important part of everyday life. Thailand and other countries where it costs about as much to get a decent sit-down meal as it does to cook one. Where there are roadside food-stalls everywhere; I think they do need a license but that license is cheap and easy to obtain because the culture wants actively to encourage small business, local pride, social life. In such countries I tend to dine at little shacks on the pavement and I have never had food-poisoning. Compare to England, where the evident assumption is that cynical food-vendors will poison us all given half a chance. The tonnes of legislation, the bureaucratic hurdles needed to be overcome to sell food here, ensure that it becomes ever harder for family businesses, small businesses, to survive. [Midway through writing this I notice that the kebab shop that prompted these reflections has just closed down.] So dining out is increasingly taken care of by larger entities, who, we can be assured by the amount of money they’ve had to spend on themselves, are less likely to poison us than are poorer locals; it becomes prohibitively expensive, a rare treat rather than the everyday fact of life it could be if all the mistrustful anti-human legislation were stripped away.

4) So, as the woman in what was once a kebab shop pointed out, social-life in England basically consists of consuming alcohol or coffee. You’d think the Health & Safety Mafia would want to combat the evil influence of these particular drugs by allowing and encouraging the use of safe, health-giving psychoactive vegetables such as marijuana and psilocybin; but “Health & Safety” is of course a euphemism. (“Mafia,” on the other hand, is clearly the literal truth. Cui bono?)