Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Silver Mine

Lady Edgeworth-Box raised the hem of her skirt as she tremblingly took her first step into the mud. Her brother had mentioned the hermit that lived at the bottom of his garden for years but, until now she had never taken much notice but suddenly she realized, their father had been missing for some time now and it was time to sort out the estate and all its secrets once and for all. The first step was the worst, as her boots sank deeper into the black slime, and the darkness quickly stained her silk dress to the waist. Between the wetness, the smell and the sense that the irregularly shaped, gnarled roots she could feel beneath her feet might actually be human bones she felt a rush of scarlet behind her eyes, she held her breath, lowered herself and immersed her head in the mud. Then she stood up, dripping, her face nothing but two whites shining out from cascading layers of slime, she barely even resembled anything that could be considered human.
Modernity has a strange effect when it comes into contact with is essentially a pagan culture, it rationalizes the cruelty at his heart, blood offerings and polytheism, the forest spirits become monstrous technological forces which the hysteria of the population cannot control.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A confederacy of hermits

Palmerston-Napier awoke with a frightful headache, seemingly the price for performing his convivial duties at the Double Cuneiform the previous night.  He soon realised that he was totally mistaken, and in fact, he had been struck down with a premonition rather than a hangover. Before he had time to even boil the kettle, the doorbell had chimed and Palmerston-Napier's estranged sister, Lady Edgeworth-Box, was helping herself to his pantry, gesticulating wildly while scoffing scones with sardines, and eggs that Sir had pre-boiled.

The relationship between the brother and sister was strained. He, always the hard-headed pragmatist, despised her bleeding heart apologetics almost as much as her pointless academic waffling. He had always considered it his good fortune that she had gone abroad to study, and spared all on the island of her zeal for enlightenment. 

"Graham, dear, so marvelous to be reunited again. I cannot believe you are still living holed up on this island, you could never believe the ways it has made you into this grump that you are. Why not try living in the rice fields or the pampas for a change, it would do you the world of good, dear."

A picture of rice fields: evidence of the interaction of culture, economics and the environment 

He grimaced. "You know very well how much I would find those, delightful, but I... simply have to much to do here. What - with managing the estate and the affairs. There is a lot of turbulence as you know, and one really can't take all the economic truths for granted these days. One can't take a breather without some poor chap seeing his opportunity to dig the boot in."

"Oh Graham, you've always used that as an excuse! Oh well, I don't mind a bit! I've missed you terribly. I'll be staying for a while you see, I am writing my new book about a smuggling ring located on the island, "A confederacy of hermits" I think I'll call it. There are all sorts of mysteries to be discovered here that we must investigate. The place is simply a treasure trove."

Palmerston-Napier felt queasy. Somehow he doubted it was due to his third martini at Wellesleys.

Artefacts looted from Syria

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


From the estate, if you rode your bicycle down the row of copses to the ha-ha which divided Wellesley's (pronounced Wall-ee) land from the sheiks you could in theory climb down into the ditch on a series of steps laid out for that very purpose and cross over to the over side where there was a helipad. The helicopter would arrive at 9am Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and bring you to Tresco on the Scilly Archipelago. Once belonging to a confederation of hermits, it was now a rather desolate, windswept place though not without an air of charming parochialism. There was something about the way life was lived on these islands, a way in which daily stories were told which threw into relief the artifice of our more pedestrian narratives.

It was not a matter of content, indeed the dramas of family and claustrophobia, arguments heard from behind closed doors in darkened rooms are somewhat universal. It was more a fact that the architecture of the houses and the landscape, being so dimly lit and crushingly bright with skies so inescapably grey, did not allow for the melodramas of tears rolling down cheeks filmed in closeup.

Instead, crises and daily occurrences were viewed from a fixed vantage point, from a slight distance as figures moved in and out of ones frame of view so that, to a certain extent, the drama of the moment was neither directed or obscene, yet its weight felt all the more keenly as a result.

The characters are not the most important element of the drama, as they were constantly being framed within an unforgiving landscape which belittled them and inserted their foibles into a continuum of hierarchies between nature, culture and man.

There was a remarkable pathos and beauty in observing the everyday, whether the careful preparation of food, running up a hill with your sister, windswept picnics, afternoon drinks, kitchen conversations or riding a bike in the wind.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The remnants

Lord Wellesley, Baron of Windfroth was frightfully cross. He had spent all day waiting dutifully for the carpenter to arrive in order to fix his dining table, and the Mancunian dolt was nowhere to be found. Although the whole house was crumbling before his eyes, repair of the dining table was of great urgency to Wellesley, because that evening he was due to host the monthly meeting of the Double Cuneiform Club (a municipal chapter of the Auxiliary Arcadian League). And he still hadn't a chance to source some dip!

The carpenter was a dollop of a man, unkempt in all ways expect for the exceptionally coiffured and large Mancunian bowl-cut which adorned him like the halo of a Byzantine icon. By the time he entered with a sleepy "Ullo then" all the members of the club, save one, had arrived, and were sitting in a circle of chairs, holding small plates of dip in their lap and crackers in their pockets, that being the only way to drink wine at ease while not putting the Gobelin rug in peril. "Is that a small dog on your head?" asked Sir Palmerston-Napier, "I do say its a feat of balance."

"Excuse me gents, of course the house is a little bit shabby at this moment. But we are in the process of renovating, and you do know how cumbersome all the local council laws can be. Yes actually, Lady Wellesley is all about Feng Shui at the moment and if we do not balance the earth and water elements in the house everything is sure to turn out ghastly."

All in attendance nodded, knowing full well that Wellesley would never have the funds to finish the renovations anytime soon, if ever. Besides, it was quite the Sisyphean task really, with these old estates crumbling quicker than one could build. And it was not as if any of the others were in a different boat, inheriting a whole manner of old keepsakes that were hardly worth their while. And it was hard to keep track of them too, for all Wellesley knew his estate consisted of a Middle-Eastern hydroelectric dam.

Though if you were to listen to conversations they had, you could not really be quite sure. Perhaps it was just an old habit, but they still cared to keep an ear to the ground, or listening for the words of the mountains as you might say. 

"Here, these are sea people - that is what you must know" said Palmerston-Napier, "they know all the soothsayings to conjure spirits from the sea and implore aid from the waters. Its been the same song since the 80s, and even now nothing has changed. " Well, certainly that was the case for Sir Palmerston-Napier.

Despite the lack of surface on which to place their drinks, the evening went off without a hitch.  And as the guests were leaving -  well after midnight - Wellesley made sure to remind them of the next meeting, at which they were due to update the annual ratification of the Club Constitution and Meeting Procedures, to which there were only minor amendments proposed at this stage.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Mountain Speaks

Purple was led to a tent at the edge of the compound, scrapped together from hessian bags, tarpaulin and branches with two female sentries in beret's guarding the entrance. Pulling aside the flap of clothe which stood in for a door, her pupils dilated as she adjusted to the the blue fluorescent light being emanated from a tube, hung by its cord from the axis of the tents frame. Inside she discerned the silhouette of a besuited man, with a narrow face behind oversized glasses which made his small black eyes look like buttons.
'Welcome Purple, I am very pleased to see you. Very pleased. What news do you bring from the mountains?'
'They are against the project sir.'
'How do you know?'
'The mountains themselves told me.'
'Would you be kind enough to tell me exactly what the mountains said.'
'Well sir, that would be difficult. As you know, the mountains mastery of our tongue is not perfect, so sometimes there is a loss of vocabulary and of feminine and masculine so that their version of our language does not operate by categorization, by placing one concept above another within a hierarchy, but by asymmetry. So that when we speak of power, they speak of difference, but then again, difference is still too loaded a term, they would be much more objective and say well, perhaps along that flat expanse of land which we call a desert, they would not call it a desert, which presupposes a difference between an area of dryness and and an area of precipitation, because as they know the desert is also wet and the marsh is also dry, so to listen to the mountains is to listen to an infinite parsing of asymmetrical relations to get to a point very far from the our arrogant designations. As far as I can say sir, the mountains oppose the project in as much as they love it, or in as much as they do not separate themselves from the you, me and the other so that we form an entire ecology of interdependence, but they want to avoid the lazy romanticism of the ecologists in that they see it as a political union rather than a natural one, so that the mountains would say that you and I and the other form a parliament, a coalition, perhaps they might even go so far as to say a federation, so the mountains and the people and the activists, the guerillas and the miners, the stones and the engineers, the machines and the investors are cantons within a free associating federation of actors who must agonize to negotiate an effect which affects us all.'
The man paused for a moment to reflect on what Purple had said.
'So, if I understand what you say correctly, it is not simply a matter of entering supposedly insentient, inanimate objects into political dialogue with humans, it is a re-inscribing of rationality onto nature, or conversely, a de-ordering of rationality and its political purport. Ipso facto, a brain would not oppose the leg if it were to become gangrenous in as much as it would simply sever the connection to protect itself. What you're arguing for is that we do not defend the rights of the mountain, but rather the mountain as an 'earth-being', if you permit me to use such materializing and anthropomorphic language, is defending the rights of us!'
Purple considered for a moment, and replied, 'If you wish to put in such geometric terms, I will not oppose, but I may say that my heart does not agree, but for your contention I think you have clarified by poorly expressed exposition of the mountains conversation well.'

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A relationship between two people can go by so many names

A relationship between two people can go by so many names: you could be friends or enemies; lovers or soul-mates; kin or clansmen; countrymen, comrades, brothers-in-arms, sibling rivals; sisters of mercy, or scissor sisters even; and in many places an older sister was not even the same thing as a younger one. There was no doubt that Purple and these women were sisters, but it remained to be discovered what type of sisters they would come to be to each other. And if the world changed enough, even if it were possible for the women to not change at all, then perhaps the term Sisters would not even describe the relationship that would exist between them.

A plump lady stepped forward and cupped Purple's face with her hands.
"How pleased we are to see your face again Purple! We have so much to talk about"

The small mountain town was situated not far from a hydroelectric dam , which you could see from certain streets on the East side of the hill. The ladies walked in this direction, past the street of culture with its many churches of different stripes, before stopping at a little mud brick house with a flat roof. "The assembly meeting will be here tonight, Sister, but in the meantime we can stay here for tea, and you can tell me of the leanings of your travels. Perhaps in the coming days you can even assist us with our new endevour to build a school... well a kind of school, more or less."

Purple had learned a lot these past weeks. According to the old Kurdish Proverb "The Kurds have no friends but the mountains". And while this might be true, Purple had learnt of late, that the mountains were friends to many others as well.  As they had told her at Broken Head, if history was in fact over, news of this fact had not yet spread as high as the hills. And it was no different in this small mountain town.

Purple dreamt as the Toyota rumbled through the desert

Purple dreamt as the Toyota rumbled through the desert, the stumbling and jostling of the car over the inclines and ditches, of women and men in baggy khakis, beret's and boots with their arms interlinked , moving in time to a throbbing backbeat with crazed keyboard patterns which ascended and descended with pentatonic accuracy. Though the dancers seemed to be celebrating something, perhaps a minor victory or a revolution, they were curiously stony faced as if this were no more than an acting out of ritual than an expression of fervor. 'They made a desert and call it peace.' They danced beneath a red, green and white flag flanked by a yellow sun which was planted on the crest of an overhanging ledge, and the bodies of the dead wrapped in white sheets were arranged in rows. The bodies were headless, or rather, they had heads but they did not belong to the bodies as the enemy, in a final act of spite and indignity had swapped the heads so that the beloved could not be identified.
In her dream, Purple saw these young men and women fighting for their pasts and their futures yet the were not fighting for a state, they were fighting for the idea of a community which was borderless. Where ever the peoples could be found, a new piece of common imagination was staked and declared as ours. In this way, there were 5000km of foreign territories, mountains and lakes separating the capital from its eastern most extent.
These people were fighting a common enemy, yet their allies facilitated the existence of enemy and corridors were left open for them to go as they please.

With a jolt, the Toyota stopped, Purple opened her eyes and as her vision cleared, she did not see the a boat or an ocean. Instead, she was confronted by those same, soft young faces she had seen in her dream, with their hands cupped around their eyes looking through the windows of the car. She smiled as she as she recognized their faces and pushed through to embrace her sisters.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The border is of the strangest metaphysical nature

The border is of the strangest metaphysical nature, thought Purple, as she considered her imminent crossing into that 'other' place. In what substance could it be said to exist?

Certainly, it might be heard in the melodic variations of a familiar song, discerned in the pattern of a girl's skirt, and even in the unfamiliar inflection of an aroma emanating from a village kitchen. But in the man pacing at the invisible threshold? Does it reside in me or is it in you, this thing between us?

Purple knew the crossing wouldn't be easy. Others regularly tried and failed. A week prior, Purple had kneeled at Jing'An Temple. A temple old as the Three Kingdoms, it had suffered relocation and rebuilding, and during the Cultural Revolution became a plastics factory. But the temple stood once again, unsullied, and Purple new that her prayers would be answered.

To Heraclitus, you could not step twice into the same river. And Theseus wondered if his ship, built anew plank by plank, remained truly his? What can be mourned, if everything stands to be regained? 

Time and space, space and time. Purple, laughed. What can a border possibly mean in an eternal kingdom? Westerners mistakenly believe that in the East, time is circular, but in the West, it runs forward. However it is not like this at all. The West and their stupid Occidentalist obsessions. Everyone agrees, time is merely the stuff of water.

Purple crossed over. Stealth was just an old habit by now, but she knew to remember to remain cautious. She could hear the Toyota approaching as the sounds on their radio of Mao Wong, the King Cat, got louder. As she sat down, she barely nodded to her entourage. She was so tired. And by the time she would awake, they would be by the port, and she would be at the ocean.