A Not-So-Brief Encounter, part 2 (work in progress version)

[Author’s note: Here is the second part, told from the Michael’s (the male character) perspective. I think it’s a bit longwinded by comparison and if some of the detail should be cut out and left for subsequent part(s) where there will be more dialogue. I also wonder if devoting so much time to the man’s over the woman’s perspective could come across as a bit sexist, but there might be justifications for it. Again, comments, criticisms, praise, hate (well, maybe) are welcome.

Part 2: Michael

Mike Moheden was trying his best to keep the wind from spoiling the sound of his tape of the group New Horizons hed picked up at their gig the previous Saturday night. Hed admired how they were different to the increasingly usual standard for electronic music, actually playing their instruments rather than relying on sequencers and drum machines like so many acts these days. Hed admired (though almost certainly the major labels and less discerning record buyers would not) that they were trying for something beyond the usual norms of popular music; almost shades of progressive rock more than the already-increasingly-outdated synth-pop, but hard to pin down. It might have been of course that he had admired their attractive and very much talented lead singer, Mena Tenazi, whose stage presence would surely carry the performance if she wasnt constantly hidden by a bank of keyboards, and which belied her shyness offstage when he had met the group at the bar post-performance to talk shop”. Theyd even found they had much similar taste in music, such as a shared liking for the Moody Blues whose song the band was named for. But it was not much use taking things beyond a professional level, as the other keyboardist in the band had been Menas boyfriend. Nor was it much use trying to listen to their music in this weather, but it would have to do since his other method of passing time in a deserted station- browsing idly through his favourite weekly news-magazines or monthly music magazines, was even more impossible. He honestly didnt know why he had gone to all the trouble of being here at all- lugging down the few personal belongings he had managed to reduce himself down to all the way to the station on the one day when there were hardly any trains running at all and those what were might never make it- never mind compromising his own ideals or those inherited from his father- a resolute union man- of never crossing a picket line. All this because the man hed bought the house from in Southtown (with most of the share of inheritance his late, rich English uncle had left him) had insisted on handing over the keys tonight shortly before he left permanently for America. If hed had the money left to hire a van he would have. If his fathers temperamental car had not been in for its third service this month hed have been glad of the lift. Even if the buses had been running that might have been something, but their drivers belonged to the same union as their railway counterparts and were striking in solidarity. As it is, all he could do was wait and hope, see what would come along and buy a ticket on board the train (since even the ticket office was closed), hoping to be there sometime before midnight.

It was not as if many other people had bothered to turn up on this particular Friday night, usually busy with the throng of weekenders off to visit their relatives for the weekend, go off walking in the Cytari hills or visit the sights of Tymena or Sorrick, bored and screaming kids in tow nagging and wondering when their train was coming. In the fading half-light of dusk and the howling of the wind, the station had taken on an eerie, foreboding aura, not the sort of place one would expect to find anything but ghosts. Perhaps that was why the sight of the young woman on the opposite side of the tracks, wind in her hair and skirt flapping madly in the breeze, desperately trying to keep the cold and the wind at bay, was so strange. There was something about her Mike felt oddly familiar, but he couldnt quite tell at this distance, the shape of her face, the colour of her hair which kept obscuring her features and preventing him from being sure. He could for a minute almost have been certain it was Laura, his childhood friend turned lover, the one girl hed felt he truly loved and- clichéd though the phrase sounded to him- spend the rest of his life with. Theyd done everything together: been to school together, attended after-school music lessons together, played in bands together, ran screaming through the park together, marched and protested and tried to change the world together, spent nights under the blankets together when her disapproving parents were away for the weekend, and when high school was over and done with, went to college together. But that was when it had all changed, their youthful exuberance turning to adult seriousness about the directions their futures would hold- he had been obsessed with trying to break into the music business and achieve success at any opportunity, whilst increasingly she had been more reluctant to join him instead of finishing her studies and finding steady work and a steady life. After that point things had only become worse; reluctance had led to frustration, frustration bred arguments, and eventually the only thing either felt they could do was to part ways and let one another pursue their separate futures. It had been difficult for him as he was sure as it had been or her, as if two inseparable souls had been torn asunder. Life, however, went on, and the success he had been hoping for had quickly materialized as, first, he and his brother James had been snapped up by Teledai Records as rising starts of the Lyniezian New Wave, playing up and down the country to sold-out venues full of adoring fans; then, after his brother had quit music for teaching and married life, Michael had gone on to pursue his own solo career with variable success, not the least of which when Teledai dropped him due to increasing (mutual!) frustrations with his creative direction and, from their point of view, commercial viability. Since then hed had to sign with an independent local label, getting what gigs he could whilst spending the rest of the time taking what jobs he could, the latest of which was working in the family general store still run by his elderly grandfather. His relationships with women had considerably less success, sometimes hooking up with girls who just wanted the allure of being with a famous rock star, which never lasted; others from female musicians hed met in the studios or on the road, bonding over their common interests; those lasted not much longer. None of them had quite compared to the girl hed bonded so completely with when he was young. None of them were Laura. But it had been ten years since they had last met, almost another life. There was no point in reaching out to this ghost from his past. What good would it do, to resurface all the old difficulties and heartaches of before? Could they even still be friends? For all he knew, she could by now be married, perhaps even a couple of small children, whom she was no doubt spending a short time away from to relieve the stress of bringing them up. If he came into the midst of that, what questions would be asked? Would it ruin everything? He probably had as much chance with Mena Tenazi, whose beautiful alto voice and deft keyboard playing came pouring out of the headphones, singing a mournful ballad here, an upbeat synth-pop type number there, accompanied by the rest of the band and the natural sound effects of a blustering wind. He tried not to notice anything else, besides keeping his guitar intact and watching periodically up the track for the faintest hint of a southbound train.

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A Not-So-Brief Encounter, part 1 (work-in-progress version)

[Author’s note: This is another short story I am currently working on for the creative writing group. No Jenny Everywhere, dystopias or multiverse-spanning empires here, but it does feature the original version of the fictional Lyniezia, and as such, does include the odd made-up Lyniezian words and phrases and cultural quirks pertaining to the setting. Otherwise, it’s just the meeting of two old flames in a deserted railway station.

This is being released in parts for the sake of convenience, as it’s unfinished as yet; feedback and suggestions very, very much welcomed. Like I don’t know exactly what the female protagonist Laura actually does for a living, except she’s a busy professional or business woman whose job involves seeing clients a lot. Another consideration being what precise year it’s set in and if that matters. Whatever version I finish up with will probably look a bit different from this.]

Part 1: Laura

The wind whipped and howled along the station platform. Laura stood patiently while the tannoy announced the 18:45 train to Menaasa was running late. Another twenty minutes, she thought. Damn it all! Did these people even think of the ordinary passenger before they decided to call a strike? Well, of course not, she reminded herself, not when services and moreover their jobs are on the line, but when you’re cold and tired, when your hair has been so messed up by the wind that even your usual industrial strength hairspray couldnt hold it in place, when you’d promised to meet your sister at the other end by eight to have time for a drink and catch-up before the taverns shut for the night, any lingering feelings of solidarity are swept away much like the tattered pages of the Neyoven Dajaren newspaper currently sailing past her. And knowing her luck, if twenty minutes became thirty or forty or an hour, so would the eroding remnants of her patience. She pulled her coat tight around her body in a vain effort to stay warm, trying at the same time to stop her skirt flapping around too much in the wind, wondering if the station teemaanten was still open – if it had been at all today – for a warming mug of tea and maybe something to eat. She hadn’t eaten at all since midday, and had been too busy with clients to have a proper sit-down lunch. But nowhere served food this late, aside maybe from the pancake shops catering to those too busy or lazy to make themselves supper on a Friday night before going out to the disco or whatever they were calling them these days, and there was no way shed miss the train trying to find one. She sighed mournfully. Twenty-nine and she already felt the world was passing her by. Everything was changing, in Lyniezia, in the world. Like never in the past would she have known the trains not to run more than five minutes late, even during the strikes of the ’70s. They might not run at all, but at least if they did they’d be on time. Damn, damn, damn!

So caught up was Laura in the frustration of the moment she might barely have noticed the familiar-faced man, guitar case slung over one shoulder, heavy suitcase in his hands, making his way to sit down on the otherwise-deserted platform opposite. He put the suitcase on the floor, carefully placed the guitar case on the nearby seat trying to make sure it didnt blow over, and pulled on a pair of headphones which he clutched tightly to his ears with one hand as he fumbled for the play button on his fancy Japanese personal stereo. No mistaking him, then it was definitely Michael – but he had barely glanced at her and failed to make the connection. She thought perhaps she should wave across and try to get his attention, but a nagging feeling of uncertainty prevented her. It had been ten years since they were last together, when he’d dropped out of college to focus on his music career whilst she’d wanted to press ahead, hoping for a proper job and kids and a settled life he couldn’t give her. It had been hard for both of them to accept, and it seemed neither of them had quite got over it. Certainly not him, since he’d written the song Laura, filled with much longing and regretfulness, about her as little as five years ago on the fatefully titled album Who Needs Synthesizers? (It had turned out he did, if he wanted a career in popular music these days, and the record company had unceremoniously dropped him- but that was another story in itself.) She still had that record in her collection; she had collected them all. Nevertheless, it was worth a try to get his attention, and she could at least do with a bit of company whilst waiting for the train that might never come. Working up the courage, she waved maniacally at him and shouted his name- but he failed to notice, being too engrossed in his music as always, and trying to keep the sound of the wind from interfering with it, or trying to stop his precious guitar from falling over on the seat. She could barely contain her frustration at this complete lack of interest. Maybe, she reminded herself, he simply doesn’t recognize me after all this time, especially given how her look had changed from that of messy rock chick to the sophisticated, if suitably professional, modista she was trying to be. But that, likewise, seemed hard to believe: they had known each other since middle school, and she had changed far more in that time than in adult life. Or perhaps he was trying to pretend he hadnt noticed her to avoid any complications. Undeterred by any of these thoughts, there was only one thing for it: cross the footbridge to the other side of the tracks and go right up to him. A slightly daunting prospect given the high winds and the fact she still wasnt entirely steady on her feet in high heels, something the kirtle-and-hose brigade in her mothers generation would have said I told you so to, but she would not be deterred. There was no way she was going unnoticed by him, though there be the devil to pay for it.

At that point, the station tannoy piped up to announce that the 18:45 to Menaasa would be delayed indefinitely due to a disturbance on the line, and corresponding services in the opposite direction would be likewise delayed. Damned protestors, no doubt, she thought. There goes the weekend.

 

Coming soon…

As in hopefully by the end of next week or three…

  • Parts of the new story I’m working on. It’s set in the fictional Lyniezia sometime in the 1980s, and some might be alarmed or relieved to know makes no mention of such fantastical stuff as Jenny Everywhere or reality-hopping invasion forces. Simply two old flames happening across each other in a deserted train station, who end up meeting for a cup of tea and hoping to work things out. It’s unfinished, partly because I’m not happy with what I’ve written and have no idea what the woman actually does for a living, apart from apparently being a busy professional or business woman who spends a lot of time seeing clients. (The man is a down-on-his-luck former rock star, so you know.)
  • My thoughts on religious intolerance, particularly of interest in the wake of the Labour “anti-semetism” scandal and Boris Johnson’s controversial news article on the subject of banning the burqua.
  • My thoughts on what’s wrong with our so-called democracy, and why it might not just be about fake news, data manipulation, echo chambers or Russia.

The Maybe Invasion- a short story

This is another short story written for the creative writing group, and is a companion piece to Grangefield Park which will become apparent as you read. Hopefully I’ll have an updated version of that before too long and hopefully something new in the not too distant future. In the meantime read, enjoy, critique, point out stupid mistakes, wonder what a load of crap the author has put together, etc….

Note: The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.

Minor content warning for racial slur and reference to potentially sensitive subject matter.

(Update 12/07/2018: Made a few tweaks to correct mistakes, add in unfinished bits and explanations as per reccomendations.)

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The girl burst through the door of the police station, almost about to trip over the edge of her mud-splattered skirt. Finding her feet and catching her breath, she just managed to notice the stern-faced desk sergeant sitting across the room; nervously, she adjusted her headscarf back into place and tucked in her blouse lest she find herself in trouble for appearing insufficiently presentable. The sergeant looked at her intently with a wry expression on his face, tapping his pen impatiently, and then spoke up in a gruff Yorkshire accent:

“So, when you’ve finished sorting yourself out, Miss, have you actually any business since you’re clearly in such a panic? Eh? Is something wrong?”

“They’re… they’ve taken over the whole place, sir,” she said, exasperated. “Everywhere, sir, it’s like they own the place, I mean I managed to escape as quickly as I could, I had to warn someone…”

“Hang on, hang on, slow down,” interrupted the policeman. “You’re confusing me. Who’s taken over, and where?”

“I… I was up at West Garth Farm, over towards… I forget, I was visiting my Uncle John with my sister, and Jenny- she’s a friend of ours- though my sister’s been taken… we were just about to go out and milk the cows, when these soldiers come out of the woods and rap on the door, and tell us they need to use our place as a ‘base of operations’ or something… they told Uncle John they’re planning an invasion and they’re a scout party… I think…”

“Soldiers? I mean, I presume you mean not any of our security forces? An invasion? Up here? I hope you’re not wasting my time, girl, we don’t have time for silly childish games here! And you don’t look so young that I can’t arrest you for wasting police time.”

“Please, sir, you have to believe me! There really were soldiers! Helmets, camo-whatsit, machine guns… Sounded like foreigners, too, forgot where they said… Lyni… something… please sir, can’t you do anything?”

“So,” inquired the sergeant in disbelieving tone, “what you’re telling me is your uncle’s farm had been taken over by a squad of foreign soldiers who intent to use it as a base of operations for an invasion? An unlikely story if ever I heard one, but you sound as if you mean it. I think we’re going to have to take you through for questioning.”

“Why, am I in trouble sir?”

“Not yet; we just need some details from you, that’s all. If you’ll just take a seat and stay there, I’m going to have a word with my superior.” The sergeant picked up the phone on his desk and dialled. Nervous, the girl did as she was told.

“Hello, Inspector? This is Sergeant Cooper down at the front desk. I have a young lass here with a rather unlikely tale of foreign invaders taking over her uncle’s farm. I’d like to send her through for questioning. Is that alright with you sir… yes… yes I see sir… are you sure sir… yes, I’ll tell her what to expect… no, she’s just sat down sir. Very well-behaved. A little the worse for wear though, got muck all over her skirt and bits of weed on her jacket. Looks like she made a run across the fields… Yes sir, I will. Thank you sir. Be seeing you.” Replacing the handset, he turned to the girl. “Well, miss. The inspector says this might be urgent, so what we’re going to need to do is take you through to the interview room for questioning. Now do bear in mind we may have to search you, but don’t worry, we have some WPCs who will take care of that for us, we men won’t be watching. Now, I’m going to need to see your ID so I can have your details.”

The girl looked somewhat embarrassed.

“Did you forget to take your ID when you were busy escaping, miss?” inquired the sergeant.

“No, it’s just… I had to put it underneath… you know where…”

“Well, the WPCs can see to that,” the sergeant informed her, before pulling out a piece of paper and a pen. “I’ll have to take some details from you before we take you through then. What’s your name?”

“It’s Alice, sir. Alice Louise Whitehead…”

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Alice had barely managed to dress again when there was a bang on the door and an exasperated male voice shouted from behind it, asking if she was done yet as they needed to question her now. Being even more confused and frightened following the ordeal she had just endured (in spite of the friendly and somewhat apologetic reassurances of the policewoman who had conducted the search) she nervously let out a “Yes, sir,” and the keys turned in the lock. In walked two uniformed policemen, one grey-haired and slightly balding, the other a younger man. They were accompanied by the same policewoman who had searched her not long before, carrying a notebook and pencil, and another, stern-faced looking man dressed in an unassumingly drab grey suit. He stood off to one side whilst the uniformed men sat down at the far side of the table and the woman at one end, fiddling with a digital voice recorder whilst the older police officer instructed Alice to sit down, then introduced himself:

“Now, Miss Whitehead, I’m Inspector Blackwood and this,” gesturing to the younger man, “is Constable Jones.” (No mention was made of the man in the grey suit, and Alice did not dare to ask; besides, she was smart enough to realise he was probably one of them, the secret police.) “Now, were just going to ask you a few questions about the soldiers you claim to have seen…” then turning to the plain-clothes man murmured “do we need to bother with the formalities for your recording, ‘F’, or can we just get on with it?”

“By the book, as always, Inspector,” replied the man matter-of-factly, in a somewhat more upper-class, less regional accent than the uniformed officers.

“Make sure you write this all down, Cartwright, every detail,” he instructed the policewoman, before turning back towards Alice’s direction. The man in the suit pressed a button on the device and placed it on the table. “Right, interview commencing at…” (he glanced at his watch) “…nine fifty-two a.m., Inspector Michael J. Blackwood presiding, also present are PC Peter Jones, WPC Mary Cartwright; interviewee is a Miss Alice Louise Whitehead. Now, Miss Whitehead, the sergeant informs me you were staying at your uncle’s farm, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Alice nervously.

“West Garth Farm is its name?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And where is this farm located, miss?”

“Err… I don’t remember, sir,” she replied, earnestly but even more nervous than before. “I… don’t know the area too well sir…”

The Inspector looked at her sternly and told her:

“You’d better not be withholding anything from us, Miss Whitehead, this is a very serious matter and you’ll be in real trouble if you don’t tell us what we need to know. I’m sure the gentleman over there,” motioning to the man in the suit, “has other ways of getting it out of you. Now, where is it? Which direction did you come from? How did you get into town?”

Trying hard to recollect and gather her thoughts whilst holding back the tears, Alice motioned with her hands and said:

“It was… that way… sir… I think…”

Which way?” enquired Constable Jones.

“I think we’ll try this another way, Jones,” his superior intervened. “As you walk out of the door, which way would you go to get back?”

“Err… up to the left… follow the road round, there’s a path off to the right, I think, it goes over the hill, and then… I really can’t remember sir!”

At this point it was too much for Alice and she burst into tears. WPC Cartwright looked up from her notes and lent over to try and comfort her.

“It’s alright, Alice,” she said, “don’t worry, take your time.”

“Cartwright,” interjected the inspector, quietly but firmly, you’re not here to conduct this interview, keep your remarks to yourself! We’ve no time for this!”

“But can’t you see she’s frightened, sir? Wouldn’t it be better if you let us-“

“This is a matter of national security, not a babysitting session; I can’t afford to just turn this over to the women. Now kindly keep your place or I’ll have you done for insubordination, is that clear?”

“Yes sir,” replied the WPC, reluctantly. She bit her lip nervously and returned to her duties. This would never have happened before, she thought. But no-one spoke of ‘before’.

The Inspector waited patiently for a brief moment, glanced nervously at ‘F’ who was still standing stony-faced in his original spot, then decided to pass Alice a handkerchief to dry her eyes, thinking it the least he could do. He muttered something angrily under his breath, waited for Alice to settle down, and then carried on.

“Now, lass, when you’ve quite managed to compose yourself properly, we can carry on. You told us that soldiers came to the farm this morning, is that right?”

“Yes, sir,” murmured the girl at length.

“About what time did this happen?”

“Early, sir, about five. I was about to help Uncle John milk the cows when there was sudden knock on the door, and there were these soldiers.”

“Can you describe these soldiers? What did they look like? What were they wearing? What were they carrying? What did they sound like?”

“Well… like soldiers usually do I guess… helmets, camo-whatsit…”

“Camouflage?”

“That’s it sir, sorry…”

“That’s alright, carry on.”

“Yeah, as I said, the usual kit, machine guns, backpacks, the lot. Mostly men I think, one or two women…”

Women, sir?” interrupted PC Jones.

“Not unknown, Jones, in foreign parts at least,” the Inspector reassured him. “Wasn’t that long ago we had them here, too, though not quite in the front lines. Your memory is short, Jones; get a grip! Now, miss, carry on.”

“What else can I say, sir?”

“Well do you have any idea what else they looked like? White, black, Asian, Chinese? Which country?”

“They looked white sir, not quite like us, mostly at least, I didn’t really see. Can’t remember quite where they said they were from… Lyni… Lynie…zian? That was it, sir, Lyniezian.”

The inspector looked puzzled, and turned to ‘F’. They began talking quietly amongst themselves.

“Have you ever heard of such a place, ‘F’? I mean, your people would know, surely…”

“Never, Inspector, I assure you.”

“I mean…. Are you sure this girl isn’t just leading us on a wild goose chase?”

“In my line of work we discount nothing, Inspector. It’s possible this girl is leading us astray, that she is not quite what she seems, but I don’t think a girl of her age is going to be good at keeping up the pretence forever. Sooner or later she’ll crack. I’ve heard about this West Garth Farm, we’ve been monitoring the place for a while in connection with that ‘Jenny Everywhere’ woman and a teenage girl we suspect is her accomplice. We picked her up last Thursday; we couldn’t get to Jenny Everywhere herself as the Lord Protector himself has granted her immunity from prosecution, and,” the agent noted with more a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “the Lord Protector surely knows what he is doing. But, be that as it may…”

“So what do you suggest we do? Call in the heavies and drag them out kicking and screaming? Or…”

“That would be up to HQ, really, but I don’t see all that as really being necessary. It’s unlikely this Jenny Everywhere is likely to be armed and dangerous, at least in the sense of carrying any sort of firearm; I believe the appropriate authorities have seen to that. You ask me, this girl is a decoy, we’re supposed to believe in this invasion malarkey, sent in the Exts expecting a firefight and discover all is well whilst off goes a bomb somewhere miles off. Or perhaps it’s a booby trap and the farm is where the bomb is. Perfect way of weakening our capacity. Either way, I’ll get on to my people, let them know and get further instructions. You just question the girl a bit further and see whether she starts showing any weaknesses in her story. Be sure you leave the recorder running and don’t start tampering, would you?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. By the way, you know you’ve left it running?”

“That can always be edited out, Inspector. With the right software.”

The agent turned to leave the room whilst the inspector turned back to the girl and continued the interview:

“So, Miss Whitehead, do you know anything about these… Lyniezians? Did they say where they came from? How they got here? Do you hear any planes fly overhead in the past few days that they might have dropped from?”

The girl, barely able to overcome her trepidation, began to murmur:

“I… I think they said they…”

“Spit it out girl, we haven’t got all day!”

“…They came from… another universe, sir… and I didn’t… hear any planes, sir.”

“Not this again,” murmured the Inspector.

“You don’t expect us to believe that Miss Whitehead, surely!” piped up PC Jones. “Just because of all these stories and odd occurrences…”

“I’m not sure what we should believe anymore, Jones, given the circumstances,” interrupted his boss.

Fear turned to frustration with Alice, and she could not help but shout out:

“Why won’t you believe me? Why won’t anyone believe me! I’m just telling you what I saw, I thought I was doing the right thing…”

“That’s enough of that!” Jones shouted at her. “Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“Jones!” the Inspector reprimanded him, sighing in frustration at the calibre of officers he had to work with these days.

“Sorry,” Alice said half-heartedly. “I just… well you have to do something, surely?”

“Calm down, girl,” the Inspector reassured her. “We can’t do anything unless we know what it is we’re dealing with, can we?”

“No sir,” she replied sheepishly.

“And as for you Jones, I think you’d better let me do the talking from now on,” he said quietly but firmly to the junior officer.

“Now, it’s important that you tell me everything you can remember about these soldiers, Miss Whitehead. What they looked like, what they said, what they were carrying, what they were doing, so we can understand what’s going on. Let’s start with how many they were, and what particular people made them up. Was any one the leader?”

The girl sighed, tried her best to wipe the rest of the tears from her face, and began to answer:

“There were maybe twenty… thirty? Most of them were outside, so I didn’t get a look. I didn’t have time to look, but as I said, most of them were white, couple of Chinese, black, maybe, one definitely looked Paki, one of the women…”

“Do you know what the leader looked like?”

“It was a man… they called him the Group Leader, I remember that. White man, not that young, had a strange accent but he knew English pretty well.”

“And this Group Leader, do you remember his name?”

“No sir.”

“Do you remember what he said?”

“He just came in and told my uncle he was taking over the farm and needed the house to set up a…”

“Like a base of operations?”

“Yes sir, I think so.”

“And how did he plan on taking over the country with just twenty or thirty soldiers? Did they even have any vehicles, like trucks?”

“No sir, they were just on foot. I think he said there would be more of the ‘coming through’, but I don’t understand what he meant.”

“I… see. So they were just the advance party, or were they scouting around?”

“Not sure sir, I didn’t hear. Uncle John tried to shout at him, and said he really had to milk the cows and I had to come with him.”

“And they let you?”

“Yes sir. That’s how I got away, sir.”

In the distance a loud noise, not quite like the sound of thunder and a rush of wind, could be heard, but the Inspector ignored it.

“You don’t mean to say they let you?”

“No… the Leader ordered a couple of his soldiers to guard us, but Uncle John had a plan. There’s a side door in the barn, they weren’t watching it, and when one of them decided they had to go to the toilet, Uncle John tried to distract them, startled the cows whilst I snuck through the door and made a run for it.”

“An unlikely escape,” said the Inspector in disbelief. Perhaps this was the first sign of the girl’s story coming apart, as ‘F’ had claimed might happen.

There came from outside another loud sound not quite like thunder and the rushing of wind, but this time much louder and closer. Before the Inspector could return his thoughts, ‘F’ returned from outside.

“That will be all, Inspector,” he said, pointing at the recording device.” The Inspector understood implicitly.”

“Ah, right… interview concluded at… ten fourteen a.m.”

The agent switched off the recorder, returned it to his pocket and beckoned the Inspector closer.

“Pretty brief interview, though I think we got a few details…”

“Well, you won’t be needing to question her anymore. My people have decided to send a recon team up to West Garth, and they’re sending a van over to take the girl into our custody. I trust you can detain her until they arrive?”

The Inspector tried to hide his nervousness, knowing full well the rumours of what happened in ‘our custody’. For all that he did not trust Alice, and for all his initial harshness she was not much younger than his own daughter, and it was no way to treat a girl that age; he would not wish it on his own offspring. But when ‘they’ had made up their mind, that was that. You dared not object.

“Yes, sir,” he replied reluctantly.

Meanwhile, Alice could not help but be confused and afraid as to what was about to happen. Her mind began to race. Would they let her go? Try to keep her safe? Or would they arrest her as a suspect in… she didn’t know what? (The desk sergeant’s threat of arrest was still fresh in her mind, and that was just for wasting their time. She sensed that they trusted her even less now, enough to make her recall the horror stories her elders quietly told about how police arrested anyone for anything “these days”, even kids.) Or worse still, perhaps the man in the suit would take her off to wherever they had taken her older sister Megan, the troublemaker, the subversive. But surely she’d been a good girl, always tried to do the right thing, never tried to tell a lie or act “above her station”, whatever that meant. She’d never been in trouble with the police before; but now, with her trying to tell of the unbelievable events she had just witnessed- events her interrogators had not thought entirely truthful- she wondered if this was the one time. You could never been too careful with the people “in authority over you”.

The Inspector turned to his subordinates.

“Cartwright, you restrain Miss Whitehead; she is to be placed under arrest pending transfer to Int. Sec secure facilities; Jones, you go outside and get WPC Lacey to accompany her.

WPC Cartwright’s expression could barely contain her disgust, but she dared not voice it. She was in enough trouble as it is merely for speaking up. All she had to say was to ask the Inspector:

“Should I take her to the cells, ‘F’, or put her somewhere else? I mean it’s no place to keep a child with Jackson and his gang…”

“The stationary cupboard will do, Cartwright”, instructed the Inspector.

“And if you don’t mind me asking sir, on what charge?”

“This is our jurisdiction now, Miss Cartwright, so you need not concern yourself with such… minor formalities,” interrupted ‘F’. “Kindly do your job and remember your place.” (The policewoman need not guess what that last part meant: know your place, as a woman, and to bodies unaccountable to any ordinary legal redress. Hers not to reason why, as the old poem went.)

Alice started to panic as she heard all this and tried to bolt for the door, but was held back by Cartwright.

“No, please… I thought I wasn’t in trouble… why are you taking me?”

“Just keep still and come with me,” scolded the policewoman as she applied the restraint. “I’m sorry it has to be this way, but I’m just following orders. We all have to do what we’re told.” A note of reluctance could be heard in her voice.

Proceedings were interrupted by a third loud noise, directly overhead and followed by the roar of jet planes flying overhead and trailing off towards the north, startling all in the room.

“Lord, have mercy,” exclaimed the Inspector.

Now do you believe me?” shouted Alice, who had barely been let go of by a shocked Cartwright, and for the first time in her life was sounding defiant.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” explained ‘F’. “The bats really have left the belfry.” (No-one bothered to enquire about the meaning of that last cryptic utterance, even if they had dared.)

As they rushed to leave and find shelter, the Inspector briefly turned heavenwards as if in prayer.

“O Lord, make haste to help us,” he muttered.

The sound of distant explosions could be heard to the north, followed quickly by gunfire over to the west. The invasion had begun.

Grangefield Park- a short story (beta version)

(Author’s Note: This was written for a creative writing group I have recently joined. Like my previous story, it features Jenny Everywhere, possibly the same but a much older Jenny, though she is not its main focus. It’s still unpolished and needs some editing or tweaking but I’ll put it up so you can read, enjoy, critique…)

[Note: The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.]

[Warning: Contains mentions of torture  and attempted rape as part of the backstory. Also the odd four-letter word for those offended by such.]

(Update 12/07/2018: made some tweaks to avoid repetition, cliches and to add further explanation, partly in line with recommendations made by the writing group leader as well as the author’s own considerations.)

Part 1

Grangefield Park, Stockton-on-Tees, Tees Province, Interdimensional Federal Republic of Lyniezia

Saturday 7th October, 2034

Megan looked wistfully over the field at the kids practising football. It brought back memories of a happier time, before the Event, before the hell that the old country had become some twenty years before. No child would dared have played football in the park then- not that many had before, outside of practices; they’d have been sat in on their Xboxes, or hung out on the streets riding their BMXes and causing trouble like she and her friends did, with none of them caring for the fact she was a girl.

No, under the old Commonwealth, they’d have called it a Vain and Idle Pastime, and some stern-faced cop would grab you by the scruff of the neck, whack you across the backside and frog-march you home, where they’d give a stern lecture to your parents on the grave sin of letting your children have fun. But before that, football was still one of the more acceptable pastimes a child might be permitted, nay encouraged, to partake in… even if you were a girl. Of course few of the boys ever let her be in their games, back in primary school, but in secondary at least she got to try out for the girls’ team. Back when her Dad was still alive. He was football mad, a huge Boro fan, and he’d take her to see all the matches. He’d even encouraged her to try out for the team. It was him that the game reminded her of the most. He was one of the first they took. She never forgave them.

Then came the rationing, then came the rules, the ones that forbade you from doing anything even if you weren’t hungry enough to be put off, and being a girl only made things even worse. Why isn’t your head covered? Why are you wearing leggings? Oh, so you’ve been riding a bike, that’s why… so where’s your helmet? Oh, she’d stick to the rules alright… to the letter anyway. Cover your head? No-one said it couldn’t be with a baseball cap… or a bike helmet. Must wear a skirt at least down to your ankles? Well ride a bike and they couldn’t tell you off, that was the law. Couldn’t ride a BMX? Well no-one complained if you borrowed your mother’s old hybrid. But sooner or later they’d get you. They’d catch you for some minor infraction of the “appropriate attire for a female” crap, or you weren’t wearing the correct gear, or you’d strayed too close to Yorkshire and had forgot your internal passport, or that passport didn’t have the right stamp letting you cross the border, and if all that failed, they’d accuse you of being a “subversive”. (Which, when you were a teenage girl, was code for “having too much fun”, rather than doing your chores and preparing to be a good little housewife, and all that entailed.) But, never mind all that, riding a bike was the one freedom she had left. She’d not let them take that away from her.

Of course she hadn’t meant to be back here for very long. Periodically, of course, she’d come back, her, Jenny, and whoever else had been travelling the multiverse with them that time; just to see how her Mam was getting on and so she could refuse to talk to her sister Alice yet again- they never had got on. But things were different this time: Mam was dying. She’d only taken a walk to clear the air, through Grangefield Park, past the football fields which had briefly been allotments she had dug and planted in herself when the beck hadn’t flooded, and had intended to carry on back up through Ropner Park and the old cemetery back home. But she had stopped, briefly, to watch the kids playing their game. It appeared to be all girls too, enjoying the freedom which once she had been denied. The hint of a smile began to form on her face, but it all too quickly faded as she looked beyond the children playing to see who else had been standing and watching.

The old man stood on the opposite side of the pitch, shouting and cheering for what appeared to be the team in the red shirts and one girl in particular (with longish blonde hair tied back in a ponytail), was still clearly recognisable after all this time, in spite of his greying hair and somewhat expanded girth. Megan instinctively reacted with fear and trepidation, her throat tightening and her body beginning to break out in a sweat. It was, or had been, Int. Sec. Captain YT-453, a.k.a. Jack Thompson.

Immediately her mind was cast back to the secret interrogation facility, with its drab off-grey painted walls and bare concrete floor, the constant beatings, the electric shocks, the sleep deprivation driving her to the edge of insanity, the shouting, the constant, incessant questioning trying to get her to confess to something – anything! – that would incriminate both herself and Jenny in some nefarious terrorist plot. And overseeing it all, his face, printed permanently on her mind, buried in the dark recesses until now, a face that when it was all over and the Lyniezians had tried to “liberate” the old Commonwealth, she could not be in the same room as and had had to testify to the courts that tried him for his crimes via video link. The worst part of it all was that, by express orders of the Lord Protector himself, torture of this kind was completely illegal even in the Commonwealth. But Int Sec, short for the notorious if shadowy Internal Security Service, was a law unto itself; if they answered to the Lord Protector it was in name only. If they wanted you, for whatever reason, you’d be bundled into the back of a nondescript white van and never seen again. If they wanted to charge you with anything, they’d beat a confession out of you whether you did it or not, and make you believe you did it if they could. If you were female – and sometimes if not – they would do other things to you, and would have with her if the Sec Mon hadn’t been taking an unusual interest and had the agent in question put in front of a firing squad almost immediately after the attempt; but Thompson, no, he’d got off scot-free, as in no way would he soil himself thus, but he’d look the other way whilst his subordinates had their way with her. Little defence it was before the Lyniezian courts, who had put the old bastard away, she’d hoped, for life. But here was he, stood here in the park, with that little girl running up to him and shouting “Grandad!” innocent and unknowing as to the monster he had once been. Unable to remain in that spot a second longer, she turned her face quickly away and made straight towards the edge of the park, pulling her hood tight over her head as if to disguise herself.

It was only as she was half-way down Hartburn Avenue that she realised that she was being followed. First footsteps, then an unmistakable voice:

“Miss Megan!” it shouted. (The form of address was in the Lyniezian style but the accent still carried the same old Northern English intonation.) “Miss Megan Whitehead!”

Megan picked up the pace, unfastening her jacket and fumbling awkwardly for the concealed-carry pistol she kept for situations like this. The footsteps behind her only got faster, notwithstanding the age of the man to which they belonged. His voice, exasperated and sounding increasingly out of breath, called out again:

“Miss Megan, please, I don’t mean you any harm, I just mean to tell you something!” Megan pretended to ignore him and darted through the nearest park gates. Still the old man followed. She felt a hand touch her shoulder, and as if by instinct, froze, whirled around and awkwardly pulled the gun out of its holster, aiming it at Thompson’s face.

Both stared at each other in equal parts fear and trepidation. After a while, Thompson spoke up:

“Please, Miss Megan, I assure you I am completely unarmed! I simply wish to talk to you!”

“Get the hell away from me, you fucking arsehole!” she shouted back. “Don’t think I won’t use this on you!”

The old man glanced at the gun in her hands.

“I don’t see what you think you are going to do to me with the safety off…”

Undeterred, Megan released the safety catch…

***************************************************************************

Part 2

Later that evening, at Megan‘s family’s home

It had been difficult for Megan to come to terms with the events of that afternoon. Thankfully no-one in the vicinity appeared to have noticed the gun and no police had been called, which was cold comfort to the mental anguish she’d gone through in that moment. Jenny had, as so often been the case over the last twenty years and despite her initial reluctance to take on the role, proven the one shoulder available to cry on, as the saying went. It was no use troubling her Mam, who was facing too many difficulties of her own, and Alice was, well, Alice. Though they’d never been intimate- her Jenny hadn’t been interested in that sort of thing even with men – they’d stuck by each other longer than any of those sort of girlfriends; it was, therefore, to Jenny she related her tale.

“I really was almost about to pull that trigger for a moment,” she’d told her, trying her level best to compose herself. “And then… I just thought about that little girl calling him ‘Grandad’. I mean… that little girl might just for a second might have been me. I mean, what if that bastard had been my dad? Could I have lived with that?”

“I’m not sure I could either,” Jenny had replied, “and I’ve met enough of his sort in my time to line ‘em up in front of a wall and take a machine gun to the lot!” Both laughed somewhat nervously.

“But what gets me is he kept saying ‘I have something to tell you, something you need to hear’- as if he really meant it. I mean, I told him I didn’t want to hear anything he had to say to me, I eventually got him to back down, he still told me that he’d be there next Saturday if I changed my mind, and… just what am I going to do?” Tears began to well up in her eyes.

Jenny had little immediate answer but to offer a comforting hug. After a while, she replied:

“I’m sure we can work something out. We usually do.”

**************************************************************************************

The following Saturday

It had been too difficult for Megan to face Thompson again. She wasn’t sure that if she did see his face one more time, she might be able to overcome her anger this time in spite of all other considerations. So it was, in the end, Jenny who had gone in her stead, up to the football field at Grangefield Park, where the girls were once more playing football. It had not in the end been too hard to recognise the old man, even though Jenny had only seen him at the trial twenty years before. She’d even used her old contacts in Army Intelligence, to which she had let herself be recruited when the Lyniezians moved in and ousted the Commonwealth, to pull a few strings and get her access to his file just in case, and anything else she could find out that might shed light on the mystery. What she managed to dig up unveiled some intriguing possibilities, but due to a mixture of uncertainty and an unwillingness to stretch regulations too far, she had not told Megan.

As easy as it had been for her to spot Thompson, so was it just as easy for him to spot Jenny. Her trademark goggles and scarf combination, which she always wore wherever it was appropriate, probably gave her away.

“Ah, the famous Jenny Everywhere,” he called to her. “Or should I say infamous?”

You needn’t talk in your position, she thought to herself, but for the moment decided to keep things at least civil.

“I’ve been called both too many times to be flattered either way,” she instead replied with more than a hint of snark.

“So, I see Miss Megan has sent you in her stead. Why, is she too afraid of me or just too afraid she might kill me for real?” (Jenny quite frankly wished she could do the latter herself.)

“I think we should just get down to brass tacks, as ’twere, Captain; I don’t have all weekend. So, what is this about? I hope it isn’t just you come to make some half-arsed apology and claim you never meant to do any of what you did, just-following-orders, we-did-what-we-had-to-do-back-then nonsense. Heard far too much of that off you people, and I’ll be really disappointed if that’s all you’ve got.”

Thompson shook his head and let out a cautious laugh.

“No, nothing of the sort, Miss Jenny. I would not seek to waste your or your friend’s time over such mindless trivialities. I know full well I did some things in those days which were… not exactly morally justifiable, and I think I’ve more than done my time.” (Frankly Jenny wished they could have thrown away the key, preferably into a jar of strong acid where it would quickly dissolve, but Lyniezian justice felt twenty years more than enough for anyone to be rehabilitated except in the worst of cases.)

“But one thing I will stand by,” he continued as if all that didn’t matter, “is that what I did I did to defend my country, from the terrorist threat.” (Which meant her, or, more accurately, the other her, her less-than-conscientious alter ego, the subject of which was a story in itself.) “For better or worse, I always put Britain first.”

“Which is why, I suppose, you talk like a Lyniezian now, eh?” Jenny inquired; the irony not lost on her.

“Ah, you mean the names. Well, twenty years in a Lyniezian correctional facility will rub off on you. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, I always say, and sometimes…”

“An-y-way,” Jenny interrupted, “can we please get on with it? I want to know what it is that you so desperately wanted to tell Megan- and so does she.”

Thompson beckoned her closer.

“I don’t exactly want this being made public in front of all these young lasses and their parents here,” he whispered, gesturing towards the field, where the team in red shirts had just scored a goal accompanied by wild shrieks of joy all round. “We’ve both been in similar games; I’m sure you’ll appreciate the need for secrecy in certain matters.” (Of all those matters, Jenny’s spy status was unfortunately one of the more open secrets in the entire Lyniezian ’empire’, being information that the other realities she operated in were not privy to.) “What I had to say was meant for Megan’s ears alone, as a sort of attempt to make amends; that being so, I can tell you this much: it concerns her father. He is not quite as dead as you might suppose. I am not at liberty to say more than that. But, I came prepared.” Pulling two envelopes out of his jacket pocket, he explained: “This first letter is my own; it explains what I meant to tell your friend, since I expected I’d not be so well received somehow. The second is from her father. Please could you ensure that she receives both letters?”

Jenny, visibly somewhat distrustful and puzzled by this latest revelation (and only barely paying attention to the equally puzzling fact that people still wrote actual letters placed in actual envelopes), took both envelopes.

“I’ll make sure she gets them,” she replied, “but you need to know a few things: first, we tend to share most of our secrets, and you can be sure I will be checking up on your rather bold assertions. Second, if I ever, ever hear of you approaching Megan again, well let’s just say I hope your little granddaughter isn’t around to see what my gun will do to your head. In short, I don’t like you, and I don’t trust you. Am I perfectly clear?”

“I had hoped you could have been a little less direct but, yes.”

“Then our business is done. Best of luck to your nintansa and her team”, Jenny concluded, somewhat mockingly of Thompson’s new-found Lyniezian speech patterns. She beat a hasty retreat.[1]

**********************************************************************************

Aftermath

It was hard for Megan to accept the few details Jenny had related to her concerning her father, let alone open either of the letters. Unmistakably, one of the letters was from her father- she could still recognise the handwriting from the old-style postcards he had sent her when he went away from time to time, and she had kept to remember him by, safe along with her other most private possessions from the prying eyes of police (who would inevitably search the house from time to time) in parts only she knew. No need to consult Jenny’s “connections” for that bit. But with one parent on the verge of death, the knowledge that the other whom she long supposed to be dead was, in fact, not – let alone that the news came via the one man she probably hated most in the entire multiverse –  was a little too much to bear at that point in time. It would have to wait.

Mam’s funeral had been a quiet affair, with only Megan, Alice, Jenny and a few of Mam’s old friends attending the service over at the crematorium on Junction Road, along with the local vicar whom the old lady had, being a devout (if liberal) Christian in a country which had long since ceased in the main to have anything to do with religion of any sort, insisted on presiding over the funeral service in her will. Alice still steadfastly refused to talk to Megan even at the wake, not that anybody felt much like talking. It was a habit the younger sister would seem to be continuing for the rest of time, even in spite of any curiosity she might have felt about her father’s apparent return from the dead. But a burning curiosity would, eventually, cause Megan to overcome her anxiety and open the letters that would reveal the truth.

It had turned out that not only had her father not been dead, but that the reason for his disappearance had not even had anything to do with some purported subversive activity the regime had suspected him of. He had been, in fact, recruited into the heart of it all along, as an agent for the Sec Mon, short for ‘Security Monitoring Service’, “the secret police’s secret police” as they had been frequently described. But it had been for him an opportunity to ensure that the worst excesses of the regime’s atrocities, and it was in fact he who had ensured his daughter’s would-be rapists at the Int Sec interrogation facility had faced the rough justice of the Commonwealth and, secretly, had been a witness in getting its overseer put away. Yet, it had transpired, he and Thompson had, for some brief moment, shared a cell together and come to an awkward understanding. Lyniezian justice, though equally as uncompromising as Commonwealth justice, was at least somewhat more fair- indeed, thought Megan, a little too fair on the likes of Thompson. She could still not bring herself to forgive him- the mental scars too great, the atrocities he had partaken in too horrible for that to happen. She was not sure what to think of her father- the shock of his involvement in the regime a little too much to give her a great deal of comfort, but with the consolation that, in whatever way he could, he still loved and cared about her, and tried to do the best he could.

One thing is for sure, though- Megan would never again walk through Grangefield Park to clear her head, nor to see the kids playing football on a Saturday afternoon, enjoying the freedoms she had once been denied. Instead, the multiverse beckoned, with promises of more adventures to come.

[1] “Nintansa” means “little girl” in Lyniezian.

Mucking about with themes… again!

I’m not going to elaborate on which theme I have chosen but suffice to say the blog now has a new look if you are viewing the site directly. Any feedback, suggestions from my fellow bloggers who follow me much appreciated.

And yes, that image is supposed to be the flag of the fictional Lyniezia. I came up with the idea when I was quite young so the green stars on a red stripe is really a poor choice of colour co-ordination. But each element does have a meaning within its fictional context. The fictional Lyniezia has not much to do with the content of the blog outside of its name, aside from being a place to reflect my ideas about the world and how it could be.

And there you have it. Enjoy! (Or not…)

Yet Another Mindless Filler Update

So, it’s been the better part of a year since I posted anything really. Not entirely for want of something to post about. I’ve had several ideas on the back burner for some time, including something on my ideas of religious tolerance, whether or not the idea of things like “democracy” in practice is little more than a myth, those annoying words and phrases which seem to make little sense, or even my frustrations over Remembrance Day and other attempts to commemorate the past, which really I think needs to wait until the Silly Season* rolls around again.

And then there was, of course, this, which is old news by now:

Now, I might almost be forgiven for thinking that I was the only male person who actually thought this was a good idea, given the in fact small but very vocal minority who were opposed to the idea of a time-travelling alien who can regenerate into a completely different form as a way of cheating death, happening to change form into something which wasn’t a white male humanoid with a stereotypically British accent**. Granted, some of these complaints were legitimate, like perhaps the one that there are very few male protagonists of adventure-type stories that aren’t the gun-toting action hero that blows away enemies with a snarky one-liner, and instead uses nothing more than his wits and a highly-evolved space-age DIY tool. And granted, if you’re an older viewer who can’t quite get used to the idea that a hitherto male main character is now suddenly female… well, you don’t have to watch. It’s a free country. Just don’t ruin the show for the rest of us.  I mean, do we really need all of this:

“The Doctor is a MAN and will always be a man! This is political correctness gone mad, shameful pandering to all the feminists and SJWs! I thought this was Doctor Who, not Nurse Who! How will she drive the TARDIS? What next, a female James Bond? A male Wonder Woman? This is the end of the show for me, RIP Doctor Who (1963-2017)!”

There’s war in Syria and Yemen in which innocent civilians are in the line of fire. There’s the Rohingya being ethnically cleansed from Myanmar, whilst the great and wonderful Aung San Suu Kyi plays it down. Multiple terrorist attacks, more people than several terrorist attacks put together dying in the Grenfell Tower fire due simply to gross negligence that was pointed out many times over the years and the concerns of residents ignored. We risk political and economic instability over a bad Brexit deal, and to cap it all, we are slowly killing the planet (so to speak). And yet casting a woman in a TV show is somehow even remotely an issue?

I’ll sum up my feelings on that matter with Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker’s pronouncement, repurposing some old lines:

So there.

Meanwhile… well let’s just say there have been other changes in my life activities and means of support, which will require some re-prioritising with what I will do with my life. Let me just say that has lead me to having more free time and lesser obligations than I might have had before, and makes me wonder yet again just what is wrong with me if I am even that bad. And that includes where I take this blog. Can I somehow use this writing as some kind of purpose, or is it just going to stay the odd long-winded and pointless rant once in a blue moon? Can I make anything of it? Who knows? What do I even do with this blog, and am I capable? Do I use it to offer insights into the news, issues and other sundry things on which I have an opinion? Do I continue writing fiction, particularly the Jenny Everywhere snippet I put out a while back? Do I review more vintage anime? Do I need to focus on one thing or the other to be successful? Do I, in order to promote it, have to join up to that invention of the dark lord that is Satan himself, that is named for bird noises? Time will tell. Watch this space.

* By which, for those who haven’t read the rest of my blog, I mean the period roughly between Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night and Christmas. I guess there will be people who will be offended to see Remembrance Day lumped in with that lot and that description in the way I might do, and whilst that’s not entirely my intention, I sometimes wonder about the attitudes that surround it.

** Instead of… well, a white female humanoid with a slightly less than stereotypical British accents. As one of the Doctor’s previous incarnations noted, lots of planets have a North (and don’t you forget it!) but otherwise, hardly one giant leap for diversity…

Thoughts on the Manchester terror attacks

This will not be much. Thing is I have not really reacted to it up until now, as my mental “wiring” makes it rather difficult for me to form any kind of emotional response to events that aren’t happening right in front of me, and at the same time make it seem dishonest to try and feign one. Of course, I would like to hope that anyone I know in or around that area is safe. I offer my condolences to those who have suffered losing someone close to them in this attack. I can but imagine what it must be like to go out hoping for an enjoyable evening you were looking forward to for some time, only to have to be caught up in such a horrific incident. I might like to point out that, on the plus side from what I have heard, there have been some great positive examples of humanity being shown in people willing to go out of their way to help others. Including, lest anyone be prejudiced, from Muslims. This is certainly heartening

My main concern, as with any such attack, is the fall-out from all this. From the usual responses of hate or fear-mongering from the far right and professional shit-spewers like Katie Hopkins and the “final solution” tweet, and the anti-Muslim backlash that might result (it seems only hours after someone attempted to set fire to a mosque in Oldham, though of course whether it was connected, I dare not speculate). Or of the necessity of having the army drawn in to accompany armed police officers in patrolling key sites (perhaps slippery slope thinking this is one more step down the road to martial law). Or whether, with campaigning for the General Election rightly temporarily suspended, the Tories might try and gain capital from this the way the Thatcher government gained from the Falklands, in being seen to deal with this issue? (Never mind the possibility that cuts to police and security services in the regular sense upped the risk of this in the first place, and thus likely quelling any thoughts of the slippery slope nature). Is my saying this trying to make political capital out of the deaths of people? Perhaps, however at the same time do we pretend the aims of the bombers themselves are not political? That the inevitable fascist and far-right backlash is not political? That there are bound to be some people bringing up past associations with groups branded terrorist (rightly or wrongly is beyond the scope of this article and I dare offer no argument either way besides) to attack Corbyn and McDonnell with? That the nature of the government response is not in some way a political matter, subject to political scrutiny? Yes, there needs to be time to mourn, and time taken for the government to put in place some kind of emergency response, but as some people have said, it is almost like we are letting the terrorists get away with disrupting our democratic processes. 

In conclusion, yes, it is right to mourn. Fear and anger, moreover, are perfectly natural, understandable responses for those affected. But there is no reason to let go of what our true values are supposed to be, let the powers that be trample on our civil rights, or give in to misdirected hate or blame. And it is no reason for the rest of us to live in the abject fear some might suppose we should.

Registering to vote? (UK general elections 2017)

I am wondering, especially at this late stage, if it is worth asking people to register to vote. I always have in the back of my mind, for example, the anarchist types who don’t really agree with the state, think voting is a waste of time, and think direct action will do more good (if at all). I can sympathise with those people. In a way I can sympathise with those people who find the whole thing terribly confusing, or are sick of the whole thing, but…

At the same time, it still seems important to have some influence in the way the government is pushing things. Not just Brexit. Whether we want to see most of our major institutions and public services privatised or shut down. Whether we want a system which is fundamentally set up for rich capitalists, depriving those at the bottom of a decent life (or any life) or everyone. Whether we want a government which, in the nicest possible language, seeks to control the internet and undermine some of our civil liberties… maybe. And so on.

Much is made of the younger generations being the least likely to want to vote and there is a big push by some to get them to do so. This isn’t entirely a bad idea, as it means governments care more about the people whom they can win votes off. So, you get the triple lock on pensions but 18-21 year olds can’t get housing benefit, and tuition fees are sky-high. For example.

So, I’m not going to tell you you must register to vote, but I will say this- take an interest in how things are run, and be willing to make a change if you can. Don’t just fall back on the old excuses of “it’s not worth it, it’s too confusing”- just take some time to research. Read the manifestoes. Go to a local hustings event. Don’t necessarily follow the news, as it can be biased, but it is probably better than watching stupid crap that clogs up the airwaves and bandwidth elsewhere. Or read up on alternative ideas of politics.

And if you are going to register to vote- do it soon, as you only have until midnight. You  can do it here:

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

The Black Dwarf

Trying to mentally search for a suitable derogatory epithet for that disgusting so-called newspaper The Sun, similar to “The Daily Fail” for the Daily Mail, I had to settle on “The Black Dwarf”- being the fizzled-out remnants of a dead sun. Whilst this doesn’t make an awful lot of sense at first, looking at it’s history, it makes perfect sense- it is the fizzled-out remains of a dead newspaper, no longer worthy of the name when it’s primary function seems to be a mix of tits, celebrity gossip and calculated faux-outrage.

(Of course, given that it still continues to output some radiation with unerring regularity perhaps I should call it “The Pulsar”- for reasons which will be familiar to people with a knowledge of astronomy. But that wouldn’t really have the impact I’m looking for.)