420 in Manchester

Manchester’s Platt Fields played host to 420 this year amongst thousands of other places around the world. By the time I arrived things were in full swing and it was a chilled out atmosphere all around.

Hundreds of people gathered and shared in some good vibes and peaceful protest. The police presence did not seem to deter the fun as I saw no bother whatsoever, and so I wanted to try and find out more about why people have decided to come down to 420 this year, and what pot use means to them on an individual level.

When I arrived I sat down for a cheeky one and had no problem kicking up a conversation. We sat and looked around us and saw the flags flapping in the wind, the music playing and people chilling. There was something hanging in the atmosphere that was more than weed, it was a sense that everybody felt comfortable with what they are doing and rightfully so.

There is a popular misconception around the main stream media which tars all pot smokers as hopeless layabouts, however, a lot of the people I spoke to hold full-time jobs. Take Anna for instance.

Anna was happy to talk to me and expressed that she had been smoking cannabis since her late teens and so it has been something that has been on and off for half of her life.

‘I don’t do it every single day because I have a full time job now, and it’s quite stressful you know, every so often.’

On the topic of media representation of cannabis, Anna highlighted the types of stories that have become common place, such as those claiming of fatalities that are directly linked to cannabis.

‘There’s so much hypocrisy when we look at things like alcohol and tobacco, and yet I know much more people whose lives have been ruined by those things than those that have done a bit of weed on occasion.’

There were such diverse spreads of opinions as to why people believe that it should be legal, such as those who believe that it is a gift from God, or those that just don’t see an issue with having a smoke like it is a cup of tea. One gentleman, however, was also willing to share that his grandmother

‘Smokes it like it’s a joke and it helps her. She’s moving around, she’s happy. When she doesn’t, she’s in pain.’

The medical benefit of cannabis is quite possibly the strongest argument in favour of its legalisation and I was able to chat to people who have witnessed or experienced first-hand these benefits. Such as Asia, who told us that when she damaged her back, the doctors suggested that it would take around six weeks to heal, however, Asia is convinced that it is the cannabis that cut this recovery time to two weeks.

Asia and several other people were not so quick to suggest that cannabis is the cure to all medical problems but are in favour of more research being undertaken so that we can know for certain what this drug can help us with.

To hear these stories from people showed that cannabis is a much bigger issue than the media likes to portray and that it is a key concern of many people living in the UK today and the turn out certainly reflected this idea.

On the other side of the park there was an ice cream. Next to it, several parked police vans. Was it an elaborate rouse? No, it served bloody good ice cream.

Speaking to two Community Support Officers I found that they had a very similar attitude to Cody who says that ‘It’s a nice social thing to do and it causes no harm at all. Completely safe and it is just something nice that brings people together.’

In fact, the PCSOs said that they had received no trouble and so I drew there attention to the fact that if it is working here in a group of hundreds of people, then people shouldn’t fear arrest for doing it in their own homes, or on a day other than 420.

What 420 seemed to show was that there is no problem with legalisation, and that large gatherings such as these can only further to demonstrate this view point. It was clear to me that a lot of people take issue with how the media treats the subject, and moreover, how the media has made them feel by slapping labels on people that they know nothing about. I got chatting to somebody when I arrived who wishes for his name not to be used. They said that the media seems to confuse what it means to use drugs and what it means to abuse them. It is an issue that is reported on time and time again, and not just for cannabis either but for other substances.

More education is defiantly needed, and the more and more people who express their personal views about it will only help this process along. I genuinely had a beautiful time in Platt Fields and I met some really fantastic people from all walks of life, with their minds and their own reasons for being there and it was wonderful to get their views on an issue which is very much close to my heart.

 

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In Praise of Timothy Spall

As Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner has hit the Cannes Film Festival staring Timothy Spall as the title role as the controversial and hugely influential Romantic artist, it is worth spending a bit of time discussing why Timothy Spall is worthy of a great deal of attention as we take a short trip through his life and his career.

Timothy Spall is working class through and through as he is the son of a hair dresser and a postal worker in London who successfully secured a place within the National Youth Theatre before moving on to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) where he was awarded the Bancroft Gold Medal for showing the most promise out of all of the actors in his year.

This level of classical training prepared Spall for the two years that he spent working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a highly prestigious British Theatre Company which has had the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Sir Ian McKellen within its ranks!

It can be argued that Spall’s time as a stage actor is what really makes him a fantastic screen actor, as many the characters that people have come to love, such as Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet, Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films, and Simon Graham in The Last Samurai, are incredibly theatrical in the sense that they ludicrous caricatures that are played with painful accuracy and humour, despite the fact that some of them are dark and grotesque as Spall really gets hands on with the physical performances, especially as Pettigrew, the rat-like traitor who betrayed Harry’s parents. It moves his acting from superb delivery and diction into a different field entirely as he seems to work each of his characters to their full potential.

Now, this is not Timothy Spall’s first outing with Mike Leigh, and hopefully it will not be the last as the two of them have successfully demonstrated that they gel well together with classics such as Life is Sweet under their belt which has Spall playing the socially awkward and often destructive self-confessed mastermind of cooking, Aubrey back in 1990. His character is well remembered for his unintentional humour and pseudo accent that he has as he decorates his restaurant in bizarre ways to appear up-market. Leigh and Spall manage to evoke humour in tragedy, as poor Aubrey descends into drunkenness because nobody has turned up on opening night due to him forgetting to post the adverts, resulting in some of the best depressing drunkenness that you can ever hope to see captured on film, all with unintentional hilarity.

It would seem as though the Spall family has acting in their blood, as Timothy’s Son, Rafe Spall has become quite a notable actor is his own right as he has appeared in such films as Anonymous as William Shakespeare, and Millburn in Ridley Scott’s stunning Prometheus which is excellent, regardless of what some might say as they complain that it wasn’t the Alien prequel they were waiting for (sigh). Rafe has also appeared in stage productions such as John Gabriel Borkman by Henrik Ibsen, which raises the question as to whether or not preparing on the stage makes you better on screen.

Whether this is true or not, Timothy Spall has won a number of awards for his acting, including Best Actor at the Monaco International Film Festival for his role in My Angel in 2011, and he has been nominated for several more awards such as Best Actor at the BAFTA Awards, The British Independent Film Awards, and the European Film Awards.

It seems that Timothy Spall’s career is on an upward curve, and after his recent performance in Mr Turner, which has been heralded as a ‘career-making performance’, where Spall even took to learning how to pain in order to perfect the role, which may bring a lot of attention in terms of awards towards both Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall this year. Spall’s performance as JMW Turner in the ground breaking biographic has a tremendous amount of promise and you should check it out as soon as you can.

 

 

Walter Hargreaves

Walter Hargreaves had ended his long and overdue conference within the mirror as the voices of his guests signified that the cab had arrived. He told the form in the reflective surface that he would return in a few hours time, and that he had better still be there when he returns.

Stepping out of the taxi, Rebecca nearly twisted and snapped her ankle under her ridiculous heals. Serves her right, the drunken fool, though Hargreaves as he also staggered onto the roadside, led by the fumes of gin.

‘Do we have time for a cigarette before we go in?’ Asked Hargreaves with no reply, so he withdrew his packet and sparked up a cigarette as the others made their way down the steps of the bar.

It was in these times when Hargreaves would really sink into himself, as he stared at a tramp who was edging nearer, he saw this man as a once successful stock broker who had fell on hard times, what with the Situation, or whatever the bloody hell it was. He say this man as one who clawed at the check-books of the unsuspecting.

‘Serves you bloody right!’ Called Hargreaves aloud, his voice clearly heard by the homeless chap who looked upon him with saddened confusion. Hargreaves was having none of it, and his mind was already made up. He threw some coppers onto the ground, and left to the sound of scrabbling.

In the bar he found where his friends were sitting. Rick, Rebecca, Ruth, and Robert. They all began with a H. He didn’t, he thought, and maybe they knew it too. This little club of theirs and the similarities. Look as the smug bastard pours himself a drink, if I wasn’t me, I’d-

‘Walter, do sit down, you’re blocking the lovely boys’ gestured Ruth with her painted nails ‘They’ve gone through all that trouble to get to where they are, so  should at least look at them. Otherwise who knows what would have all been for nothing. Do you not fancy one, Walter?’

‘You know I don’t. They are not my type.’

‘Is it true, Walter, that you don’t actually have a type at all, and that you just portray the illusion that you do?’

‘Illusion? No, he’s never even gone as far as that.’

They all laughed, and I laughed with them as Robert’s eyes began to leak out the secrets of his internal mechanics.

After a while had passed, and the pub was clearing of life, Walter took his jacket, and waved goodbye to the remaining Hs. In the cab again, he avoided the conversations about the weather, and the current immigration statistics that had seemed to anger the driver to such an extent, that his car stalled several times. That is what you get for buying British.

Withdrawing a cigarette he began the conference once more. This time the shaded image took some time to surface as Hargreaves had to replace the bathroom light-bulb. It took three Hargreaves to screw in the light-bulb, because the other two came crashing to the ground as they drunkenly stood on an old stool with pain marks from last October.

He had dropped four of the bulbs which now made a pleasing crunch on the floor that soothed Hargreaves greatly so he made a note of the bathroom wall with some old eye-liner that he had found in the cabinet. God knows how that got there, but they’re dead and was never worth asking when they were alive.

He lit his cigarette and sat on the toilet with mirror in hand.

‘Right, now listen here you little shit, how come those reports where late, hmm? Do you not think that I would like to have them round my ankles sometimes?’

His reflection lay silent with a smirk across his face which almost caused Hargreaves to launch it against the wall with anger. As he held it back, the mirror spoke

‘Well, what are you blaming me for, I wasn’t there.’

‘Yes you were!’ called Hargreaves ‘I saw you in the panelled walls.’

‘And yet, YOU did nothing.’

Hargreaves had to leave at once, the reflection had got him again. He felt as though there were no ways to approach it, it always had the upper hand.

Clearing the table of the Nina Simone CD, with powdered lines cut across her face, Hargreaves sank into his leather arm chair.

He switched on the television.

He switched off the television.

Aggravated, Hargreaves got to his feet and made for the door, grabbing his jacket on the way. He felt a bit hazy, but a few more should do it, he thought, as he swung the door open closely followed by a complaining neighbour. He didn’t seem to mind. That was elsewhere.

Ignoring the old man who was telling Hargreaves of a number of raves he attended some years ago, Hargreaves looked at his watch and noticed that it was still broken.

‘Once that feeling built up inside me, I just had to hug the nearest person.’

‘Excuse me, do you have the time?’ Hargreaves interrupted the stream of memories.

‘Can I have a hug?’

‘No, of course not.’ Hargreaves replied, somewhat uncertain of his intention. This poor man’s eyes turned to a daggered stare.

‘Well you can’t have the fucking time!’ He yelled, before raising to his feet to beat a rhythm as he left.

Wouldn’t give me the time of day, thought Hargreaves as he forced his hands into his pocket. The cold will get him, and it will get me.

He wandered down to the centre of town, to the last of the bars. Dives they were, and full of all things of painful vices. These visits had become a frequent experience for Hargreaves, as he pushed open the door to be hit by the laser-lights cascading from the spinning ball. There he saw the crowds sweat-soaked, fluorescent dancers who had been at it all night, pounding their bodies to fit the walls with movement. They looked wide-eyed and free.

Hargreaves approached the bar to find another man with a glass of wine, and an e-cigarette clutched tightly. The bar was unusually clear, given the dancers.

He stood beside the man, and ordered himself a neat glass of gin, and placed his coins into the hands of the barman who sniffed harshly as he placed it in the register. Hargreaves downed the glass and demanded another glass. He could hardly hear, but he could see his lips say ‘sure’.

A fainted hum was followed by a tug of the jacket. Walter span round to see the man moving a little closer.

‘So, buddy what do you do?’ he asked, and before Hargreaves could answer he followed with ‘I’m a high-school teacher, well, was until today that is. Twenty-three years I spent at that place. English. Like kids want to know about books, no. Some do. But you just can’t inject the enthusiasm. I shouted at this little arsehole, and then they bring me to the office? They accused me of all sorts. Things, with the children. It simply wasn’t true, but that is the power they have these days…’

Hargreaves wanted to crowbar himself from this confrontation, or crowbar the face of this man.

‘… I think Shelia will understand. High School sweetheart, you see. I think I have a picture of her on…’

Walter wasn’t going to hear another word about it, and made for the rest-rooms to was his face. He brushed passed and found himself covered in sweat. Both his and theirs. He saw the faces alive, with lips biting, eyes rolling, head swaying, hips swinging. They held up their hands as if receiving an offering. Hargreaves noticed that he had to dance his way through them, as walking incurred several awkward bumps and shoves. As he glided through, the lights hit his eyes and revealed the path to the rest rooms. Almost there.

He shared something with another patron, and left the cubical and cancelled his discussion with the mirror outside.

(TBC)

 

 

 

A Brief Review of the New ‘Robocop’ Film Now in Cinimas

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I went to see the new Robocop film last night, and I have to admit that given that I was apprehensive at first when I first heard that they were doing this, I was pleasantly surprised. After all, I am such a huge fan of the original, and the very thought of a remake left an awful taste in my mouth. It is important, however, that you view the original 1987 masterpiece and the 2014 remake as two completely separate films with their own points to make.

When it comes to remakes, a lot of people tend to go up in arms because of some impeachment on their generation’s territory. Often than not it is viewed as a great insult, but it is worth mentioning that some remakes are superior to their original counterparts. David Cronenberg’s The Fly, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of The Body Snatchers, are all much better versions, in my opinion, due to the direction in which they took to communicate a number of important issue across to a then modern audience. The 2014 Robocop, does not fit this rule, however there are many point of it that I liked.

Samuel L. Jackson’s O’Reilly-esque performance in the remake is truly amazing and re-affirms an element of satire that funs throughout the original. In particular the influence of a one-sided, agenda-driven media that precipitates a certain type of thinking.

In this case, we want machines to walk amongst us and police our streets. 

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Whereas the original is more concerned with the power and influence of a mass-corporation that privatises the local police department, and whose products seep through to every aspect of that society. There are no bombardment of advertisements running through the remake as there were in the original, which also added to the feel of the world that we were observing where misogynistic television personality are a house hold name with much loved lines as ‘I’d buy that for a dollar.’

The remake is not a piece of satire, or the exploration of the human mind and soul (although these elements exist) but a question of ethics which the original does not seem to pick up. It depicts the developments of these invasive technologies, and explores more the moral concerns that we face in our rapidly developing technological world. We are uncomfortable with self-service checkouts in supermarkets, so the last thing that we want is a robotic police department, and the remake manages to pose these issues clearly and thoughtfully as it demonstrates the lengths that a corporation and its individuals will go to market a product that is morally outrageous, and inhumane.

The effects are also fantastic, however, I found the character of Murphy in the remake to be much more difficult to empathise with than I did Peter Weller’s performance in Verhoeven’s masterpiece, because the original depicts that Murphy has quite literally lost everything in his life which is beautifully represented when he walks through his old home, now abandoned with an electronic estate agent discussing each room as he entered. The crackled static memories begin to seep through to truly heart breaking effects as Murphy begins to remember his past life.

I don’t want to give too many things away and spoil this for anybody so I recommend that you go and see it yourself and judge what you think. If you have yet to see the original then flip that rock off of your back and go and see Verhoeven’s 1987 classic which, in my opinion, is still much superior in terms of storytelling then the 2014 remake.

J.G. Ballard’s ‘Crash’ – Review

I was around fourteen years of age when I first came into contact with J.G. Ballard. My copy of Crash was then fresh and unturned, but now sits appropriately battered beside me. The spine cracked and the pages stained with wine. You could certainly say that it is loved.

The very mention of the title is enough to make complete strangers look upon you as though you had killed their lover in a head on collision but fail to be excited by the prospect that something unusual is happening internally. Ballard himself once had the novel rejected by a publisher who added that the author is beyond any form of psychiatric help and so must, under no circumstances be published. Thank somebody that it did.

Those who have never read Crash, but have heard of it, tend to be the most vocal about what lies within the content. It is a highly sexualised novel with consistently disturbing descriptions throughout which slice open the human condition with a scalpel to glance at the effect that media saturation has on the mind and the body.

We live in a world were violent images are far more easily accessible than they once were, in particular, Ballard wrote the novel when home video entertainment was relatively new and never before were people able to see graphic material from the comfort of their armchairs.  Crash successfully demonstrates how being bombarded with images alters the way in which we view them due to the constant repetition of descriptions of ‘lungs of elderly men punctured by door-handles; the chests of young women impaled on steering-columns; the cheek of handsome youths torn on the chromium latches of quarter-lights.’

These descriptions are disturbing at first, but sooner or later, as you continue to read the novel, you will start to feel something incredibly odd and disturbing happening within you as the reader. You become desensitised in very much the same way the news reels soon lose their effect as members of the public are often heard to show the disinterest in stories that have been running for over a week. Ballard shows our very need for fresh sensations by using the extreme situation of the car crash.

J.G. Ballard’s narrator, also named Ballard is shown to be disconnected, as do all of the characters, from the world around him. He and his wife, Catherine, are only able to achieve orgasm by informing each other about their affairs as their own bodies have already been explored, and thus seize to arouse any interest whatsoever. It is only after a car crash, were Ballard collides head on with the car of Dr Helen Remmington and catapulting the body of her husband through the windscreen and ending his life. These events spark a sensation and trigger a series of events where Remmington and Ballard begin to explore these new drives that they now have, awakened by the contact and near death experience.

They join other alienated car crash victims lead by Robert Vaughn, a former TV science scientist who carries an almanac of wounded individuals whose very lives are now changed forever.

The exploration of the human condition runs throughout this book, and it is incredibly easy to take the content for its literal content, however it is much more than a novel about sex and car crashes, it is a novel of endless possibilities all represented within chaos and alienation.

A truly masterful piece of writing that should defiantly be given a chance before jumping to conclusions.

 

A Wolf in Fool’s Clothing – A careful look into the nation’s favourite buffoon Boris Johnson

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By Anthony Rodden

Blatant buffoonery and Boris Johnson seem to go hand in hand. Mayor Johnson is never one to fail in tickling the ribs of the nation. There is the time when he got caught with his trousers up when he was stuck dangling on a zip wire during the Olympic celebration in London back in 2012.

Whether he’s shouting ‘Wiff-waff’, chasing after a group of attackers calling ‘Oiks’, or slipping in a river during an anti-litter publicity stunt, Boris manages to entertain the nation to no end.

A regular on News Night, Boris Johnson was once asked by Jeremy Paxman, ‘What’s the difference between you and David Cameron?’

To which Johnson replied in his usual mumbled and bumbled style claiming ‘I’m older than him, considerable heavier, erm, what else? I beat him at tennis the other day.’

Boris Johnson has, on repeat occasion, deflected serious discussion by breaking into what can only be regarded as a sheer display of idiocy that has raised him to the illustrious title of a house hold name.

There seems to be no corner of popular culture that Boris has not seeped into to. Russell Howard’s Good News has transformed Boris into a popular sound bite in the form of ‘Very nice!’ and the papers affectionately calling him ‘Bo-Jo’.

It should come of no surprise either that Boris Johnson has appeared frequently on Have I Got News for You, in fact he has appeared a number of seven times in total and even got him nominated for a BAFTA for his performance on the show back in 2003. As Have I Got News for You is a satirical news quiz show it is unsurprising that Boris has made a number of appearances on the show and faced strong criticism from witty satirist, and  editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop.

With all of these moments to cherish it is easy to overlook some of the more unpleasant truths about the Mayer of London.

During his student says at Oxford University, Johnson was a member of the notorious and exclusive, Bullingdon Club.

The Bullingdon Club is no stranger to controversy and on one evening in June 1987, a member of the club, which the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, took part in their annual tradition and threw a plant pot through the window of a restaurant.

The suspect is still unknown; however, it was reported by a witness who saw a man ‘with a shock of white blonde hair’ threw the plant pot.

Boris Johnson also failed to answer questioning from News Night’s Jeremy Paxman regarding David Cameron’s potential involvement in the act of criminal damage.

Johnson was reported to have spent a night in a police cell following the incident after being pursued by police in the botanical gardens and has in fact taken a degree of pride to the incident and recounted the story to others. Friends of Boris Johnson, however, have a different take on the events and claim that Johnson scrambled through hedges on his hands and knees in the manner of a sniffling coward.

London’s mayor shrugs those days off and claims that all university students act in this way. It can be argued that these are all just displays of harmless tomfoolery (despite the damage inflicted to a local business) and that it should be viewed with the old Oxford belief that ‘boys will be boys.’

Boys however, become men and what a rather powerful and influential man Boris has become.

Back in October 2012, Boris Johnson ran a petition in The Independent which was heralded as a tremendous step towards equality in Great Britain when he called for support in the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Johnson opens with

‘I have been asked to say something more in favour of gay marriage – and I do so gladly, because frankly I can’t see what the fuss is about.’ Adding ‘A couple of years ago someone asked whether I supported the idea and I was a bit flummoxed, because I thought it was already legal.’

I am no way disputing that Boris’ petition is in any way the focus of my attention as any act that serves to bring about positive change and equality ought to be respected and supported. I do, however, call into question the sincerity of Johnson’s actions.

It can be argued that looking at the choice of phrasing, namely, ‘I have been asked to say something more in favour of gay marriage’ is reading too much into the matter but you can make up your own minds about the possible meanings of this statement. What can be held to account is Boris’ fictitious ignorance of believing that it was already legal, and the fact that in his view ‘can’t see what the fuss is about.’

I draw your attention to Boris Johnson’s 2001 publication Friends, Voters, Countrymen, in which Johnson comments on gay marriage stating

‘If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.’

These are not the words of a man who sincerely believes that can’t see what the fuss is about. They clearly demonstrate deep-seated views regarding homosexuals and even goes as far to suggest that not only will it result, ‘in principle’, with polygamy and more shocking still, the idea that same-sex couples are on the level of beasts.

Boris has since apologised for these statements and has taken a complete U-turn it seems. Perhaps Boris truly has changed his mind on the whole issue?

The truth is Boris Johnson frequently makes a number of outrageous remarks, such as referring to black people as having ‘Watermelon smiles’, referring to the super-rich as a ‘put upon minority’, or accusing the people of Liverpool of displaying ‘disproportionate’ grief  over the execution of Kenneth Bigley who was be-headed in Iraq back in 2004. Every time he comes out with these sorts of remarks the dwindling apologies follow. Forgive Boris if you wish, but it would be frivolous to forget them.

But that was then, you might argue, and rightly so.

January 9th 2014 saw Boris close down ten of London’s fire stations, meaning that 552 firefighters have lost their job doing a service that they ought to take pride in. Not only will these people be unable to provide for their families, the people of London are quite literally at risk due to these closures that have been put in place to save money.

This has been the whole point of this article. It is all well and good-looking at Boris make a prat of himself and rolling over with laughter, but it clearly detracts from the fact that Johnson is an incredibly dangerous and callous man who is quite literally putting people’s lives at risk. There is often talk of him becoming Prime Minister and figures show that this is a popular view, however, you need not look too far to find that he is not, in his words, ‘very nice.’

 

Neon Cobbles Novel: Chapter 1

I mustn’t have been home long before I heard the banging on my door. There was something on that night which celebrated the seventh anniversary of the end of the European Civil War.

Earlier that night I had finished work at the Orgcyce Factory. Boarded a train and stared at sixteen different pairs of footwear. Got off at Wallgate and scored some Brick Dust from a blackened window. Using a free newspaper for shelter, I ran across the road. Narrowly avoiding a howling car, I made it to the other side and made for the alley in a dimly lit corner. The red rocks flickered in the light as my Clipper reduced it to a manageable dust.

I dabbed my finger in it a laid it on my tongue. It was sharp and felt as though my tongue smack against the back of my eyes.

The brick dust did not kick in until I navigated through the crowd to make for the ASTES Local. There, a speaker let out the noise of an old shop bell. There were four of us in the shop. Two teens deafened to the tedium of rejigged lounge music, and an old woman scanning the spirits as the young shop keeper stared deeply into his glowing palm.

I found myself at the magazine section before I felt a little wobbly. Flicking through a copy of Sweet ‘N’ Sour, I paused at Kimberly, 29 and saw her face beginning to droop. Was she having a fucking stroke, I thought to myself. I covered my mouth and my pupils shot open as wide as they could. Turning for a flash, I caught the glimpse of what was coming.

Kimberly, 29 continued to droop and the magazine fell to the ground with a splash as Kimberly spilled out onto the shop floor. Steadying myself on the wet-floor sign, I dragged it towards the puddle that had formed from the magazine. There was no doubt at all that there was more than just Kimberly, but I couldn’t be certain.

Blinking, I found myself before the shopkeeper. His glowing palm with a soft blue shone a soft blue which hugged his face and tickled his eyes. I asked for Twenty Woodman’s and in a swift flowing motion he stretched out his left arm, trough open the shutter with a flick of the wrist to which he followed its journey upwards before stopping at the exact packet I asked for. In the same fluidity he brought his hand and the cigarettes to the counter. All the while his eyes never budged from his palm. I stood in astonishment for an unknown amount of time. There was no real way of knowing, and have you ever tried looking at a clock when you’re on the stuff?

The crowd of commuters dipped watercolours from their rain splashed faces. Umbrellas whizzing it like a Catherine Wheel into the night sky. There was an opening and I hoped for it.
I tried to grab the shoulders of these slippery bastards, but it was useless and I almost tripped over. That is the last thing that you want, I thought, some people don’t get found for hours. All the calmness that I had felt washed away with the watercolours. There was little doubt that I needed to get out of there, but how? I couldn’t see shit, except for the harrowing figured which pour black smoke through the nostrils. A girl with iron crossed eyes.

After some negotiation I must have made myself safely to my apartment block, owned by a body lotion company which changes its name every two weeks. Makes for a hell of a lot of mail but I’ve managed to put it to some use by stuffing them in the walls and ceiling for insulation. Climbing slowly from my peak I could still feel the brick dust. The steel elevator was not an option. The light was blinking with the overwhelming smell of piss and shit emanating from within. Despite living on the twenty-third floor, I wasn’t going to ride that thing. The crowd I could bear, slightly. This would bring about the worse, and if I got stuck then I would perish in a head of the crud of others.

Vomiting slightly brought on the brick dust as I clutched the handrail. This feels unbelievable, I thought, not looking back at the elevator. If I couldn’t see it, then it couldn’t be part of reality, I told myself with a solipsistic grin on my face.

Each of the floors has a corridor and on them tends to be the young adults and the youths of all ages. Most of the time they are fine and keep it amongst themselves but every now and then somebody would get caught in the crossfire, so I just bury my head. The unpredictability is unsettling. VI News had their own opinions and they’re pretty convincing. However, I can’t say that I am surprised at all. A lot of them must have served in the European Civil War and now they’re all messed up. We needed any able bodied persons, men and women, girls and boys from the age of twelve and above.
Some of them still have their armbands, albeit torn in some cases and pinned to their jackets the world Biel. They had the deep and empty gaze which I assumed accompanied the feeling of enacting death, but at that age? Not our finest hour.

The sensation of crusted hand emerging from the matted carpet forced me to stop on the stairs. It had been a while since I was this up and down and there was no way to tell how I felt about the whole thing. The hand rail has been a long standing friend. Mr Folkner, the old spy from across the way made his way passed me on the stairs and arrested my eyes in his own. Folkner’s moustache was gelled to perfection as always, but on closer inspection I found that he had acquired a couple of slugs and placed them on his lip himself. Where did he get slugs from? Whether he was a spy or not is debatable.

The current theory stand that he deliberately makes himself look so absurdly like a Cold War Agent to throw me off guard, so that I think that his attempt to be over the top is so that he thinks that I believe him to me an everyday person. But, if he was a spy then that is exactly what he would do, and he always left the apartment at the same time as I did. Well, apart from this time. He was going to see the elevator and then all of a sudden it would materialise. Even the thought of it was causing a sort of rift. Was that look of unstill disgust on his sluggish face reserved for me?

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It was a struggle to lift myself from my chair. After finding myself in my apartment I spliced well and truly with comfort as the leather seemed to bond with me on a molecular level. There was not much else I could do other than watch the ceiling recede with each drag of the cigarette that cloaked the air in a thick smog. The sweats had stopped but my hands still felt elsewhere as I tried to play with the cigarette in my fingers.

Amongst the trails of lights a heavy bang moved through my apartment. I sat there, clung to the chair with my head submerged under water and the faint dull bangs continued to ring out. Unsure at first where the noise emitted I tilted my head towards the television screen which displayed a girls who’s face wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to register who it is. It couldn’t have been her because she disappeared into an advertisement for razor blades and the pounds got more erratic.

My mind wandered to darker plains. I felt a familiar sensation that rose me from my chair and backed me into the corner of the room where I slumped and cradled my frightened face in hands that weren’t my own. As I crouched there the door began to spread out with each passing bang which was now being redirected by the wall to the corner where I lay. There was no knowing who it could be and there was no way of knowing what they wanted until I opened the door. I couldn’t just go and do that. There were far too many risks to consider at this time of night and frankly my head wasn’t up to it. Instead it propelled images of droog-ish individuals ready to raid my apartment for the few pleasure that it houses. Perhaps they didn’t want anything at all, perhaps they just wanted a kick about and my head was the only viable option at hand. The red rocks brought the police into view.

‘Hello, hello, hello! What have we here?’

Two heavies cautiously approaching with a black sack and a night stick to hand. I always thought this wall could do with a lick of paint.

The door kept wailing.

I brought myself to my feet and approached the door taking looks back just in case. Pull yourself together, Jack. I pleaded to myself. I had to control this before it got out of hand.

The peep-hole showed nothing.

I returned to my chair to inspect the bag of red sand in the light. It certainly played with my curiosity as I sat back and considered placing some in a folded up rolling paper. Are you crazy, I though as I opened the seal of the bag to allow the synthetic aroma to tickle my nostrils. Sharp. Whatever it was I seemed to enjoy it, and now that I knew what to expect I felt more comfortable about diving in and having some more despite my reason saying otherwise. The glow from the television slid across the glass coffee table and projected the images of frantic state officials who felt that we were all in a morbid state of disrepute. Rebecca Gordon drew on her E-cigarette long enough to provide a suitable response with undertones of wishful thinking and ignorant idealism.

‘Self-improvement, Harvey. That is the answer to their call. They need only look to themselves and all the problems will become abundantly clear.’

‘Don’t you think that is rather simplistic, Rebecca? I mean one only needs to drive though any number of these sectors.’ Harvey Burnham gestured to a map of the former United Kingdom. ‘Particularly in this region where we can see staggering levels of social degradation that has been allowed to grow and take a firm hold of the population. It is clear to me that the CC has failed these communities and in doing so have crowbarred a completely new set of social issues from the wood worm infested pillars of the past.’

‘What do you suggest, Harvey?’

‘Well we can stop referring to them as subs for a start and begin to see these people for who they are and then cater towards a better future. You don’t have to be an economist to figure out if you increase spending and develop these areas then there would not be nearly half as much of the problems that plague our community.

‘Oh Harvey, my dear. That has been tried before and don’t deny it. Now if you wish to input your concerns onto a touch pad and take to the streets with it, then be my guest. But self-improvement is one of the guiding principles of the Corporate Collective and you cannot deny the positive impact that it has had on those who strive to better themselves and their communities. They need not remain subs forever, Harvey.’

As I sat back and watched as the two of them had a verbal jousting on my coffee table I felt a peculiar draft from the door that sent a chill through my thin layers. The rain was beating hard against the windows and I heard more pounds from outside the door. Steadying myself, I lifted myself and reached for the stained brass handle and fiddled with the latch until I heard the snap of the lock opening.

‘You’ve got some nerve!’

The door swung open as soon as the latch was removed and a figure burst through swinging their arms around. Each punch they landed sent a sickening floods to seep through my body. I protected my head as best I could but the shifting floor caused me to stumble and catch it on the corner of the table. The muffling shouts swirled in dizziness as my eyes attempted to focus on my attacker.

‘Well. Answer me!’

‘I don’t know what you want!’

I scrambled about on the floor as my eyes moved about the room. I could feel another rush coming along and my body shook once more.

‘Who are you, and what have you done with Jonathan?’

I turned to face the invader and noticed her mascara stained face. The lines like the stairs and everything else refused to remain still and began to form intricate patterns that collided through the wrinkled cracks on her face. There was a mixture of pain and anger in her brow which came together in a sadness the leaked through her windows.

‘Please, lady just give me a-‘

My head was going at a hundred miles per hour and I vomited onto the floor. The sudden rush of excitement had brought on a sickness in the form of worry and bewildered confusion. One moment I was seated taking in current affairs as best I could and now I’m hunched over emptying the contents of my unsatisfied stomach in view of this hostile stranger. I couldn’t be certain as to whether or not I had taken more of the red stuff, but my arm shifted from left to right in quick, jaded succession and it felt as though the individual atoms were leaving me to enter the mouth of this barking assailant who now stood very still in the centre of my apartment.

‘What are you doing here?’ I asked calmly now that the initial shock waves seized to race through my arteries.

‘You know why I’m here. What have you done to Jonathan?’

‘Jonathan?’ I asked with a puzzled expression.

Do I know this Jonathan? My drug addled mind struggled to thrust out any point of reference and despite being emotionally provoked, this woman seemed more equipped to make this assumption.