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.

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