Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Various Train Based Rants.

Once again caught amongst the hassled, the harassed, the homeward bound. 
The air fraught with tension, thick with aggression, and testosterone. Too small a train stuffed to the gunnels with too many people. The more often I travel this way, the more palatable the taste of the stress around me. I feel the stress around me, building in myself incrementally, almost by osmosis. Irregularly see people around me shouting at each other, gesticulating, or just marked deeply, dreadfully, in their faces. The down turned mouths, the deep-set eyes. What gets to me, both on the train and on the tube, is the silence. An almost brooding, loathing, pre-going postal, aggression. An incredible morgue like vow of silence broken only by the occasional conversation carried onto the train, the tube, from outside. Or the incidental loony who insists on expounding their latest theory on where the country has gone wrong this time. Insistent that some one listen to their diatribe, in this case usually me.Just for my friends the spirit of the “Portsmouth Lift Riders” still burns strong in my heart. I find it a terrible trial to NOT engage everyone in conversation. Or to leap from the tube screaming "Banzai!" at the top of my voice. 


It occurs to me that no matter how rich, how famous, or how powerful, in the ultimate reckoning you are in fact completely unimportant. The human race itself can entirely wipe itself out. Destroy the planet, the solar system. It is all eventually unimportant. Environmentalists for ever argue we are causing global warming, total toxicity syndrome, and many other global catastrophes. They omit the fact that the world from it's beginning has passed through many differing climates, changed evolved and survived. The case in fact is the dinosaurs. They “ruled” the earth for far longer than we have been in existence. In radically different (globally warmer) climates. In all likelihood the human race will destroy itself. The earth may be damaged but will re-adjust, re-balance and some other species will quiet happily rise to dominance. In the ultimate reckoning we do not matter. As individuals we fight to attempt to control our little corner of existence. We fight by conforming, or not. We fight by reproducing, or not. We fight by annihilating, or not. Murder, genocide, violence, pacifism, love, hate, everything is insignificant, we just don't matter. From the great Roman leaders through despots, to dictators, humanitarians, and even pacifist like Ghandi, we don't matter. All we are, all we were, all we are destined to be, will wither and fade to dust, everything we represented will cease to be. 
Nothing really matters. 
Your opinion, does not matter. 
Your work, does not matter. 
Your family, your wealth, your status, does not matter. 
You scrimp and save, you graft and toil, and nothing of it matters. You build castles and empires and dynasties, and nothing of it matters. 
So remember that next time your rushing around thinking only about yourself, your own self important little bubble, I must get to work because I am important.  
Remember that as your pushing into me on the tube. Knocking me out of your way. Huffing, tutting, and sighing, because I don't want to walk as fast as you do. Don’t want to crush into the tube just so you can get to your oh so important job or engagement because I am in your way. 
Because I am not as important as you think you are. 
Well I'm not. 
But the news is, neither are you. 
Nothing really matters, all will be reduced to dust eventually. Then what will have been the point of all this? 
So next you’re on the tube, driving your car, on the train, just calm down and be grateful for what little or great measure you've got. Because you don't matter, it doesn't matter, nothing really matters. 

Thursdays Tube.


“This is a district line train to Ealing Broadway”, 
Crowded morning tube, 
Smell of suntan cream, 
Wafts with it, 
Memories of lovers lost and past, 
Reverie only broken by the incessant rustle of the free papers, 
In the tomb like quiet, 
Self conscious laughter, 
As unfamiliar proximity, 
Causes momentary embarrassment. 
“Mind the doors please this train is about to depart!”

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life As A Backwards Train Journey.

"Life is understood backwards but it must be lived forwards" - Soren Kierkegaard
If you sit on the train with your back to the engine you get an entirely different perspective on the journey. You see things only as places you've been as they move away from you into the past. Of course you can see the parallel that I'm thinking of here. Much like experiences in life.

We are only able to see what we have done or where we have been as though it were the train journey, a brief instance parallel, in the moment, then it slips away into the past. Objects near to us seem more immediate, objects further away more distant. The station we pass through like a fleeting acquaintance, the station we stop at a slightly more well know friend. A town we know from the nearness of some buildings and the continuation of the suburbs, someone known well but become familiar and almost viewed with the contempt of over familiarity.

Even the people we travel with are much in parallel to life. Someone can sit right beside you for the entire journey and you don't even talk to them, or a complete stranger can strike up a conversation and for brief moments you have some connection. You can cause discomfort to each other through your disregard of personal space or be as adjusting, making as much allowance for their comfort, and they will still look upon you with scorn as they leave.

Much of the time I find it difficult not to fall in love on the train (all too frequently), but these (much like my life) are only fleeting crushes that never reach any level of requitement. I often wonder how many other lonely people there are travelling back and forth only millimetres from someone who could be their very soul mate.

Even here the better off exclude themselves from the “riff-raff”, cosseting themselves in their elitist first class carriages, economic circumstance standing between us and them. Less people in more space with slightly better furnishings. The rest of us left to be cramped and fight for the poor crumbs and little space that our meagre money buys us to travel with. 

Even the activities we undertake separate us further. The intellectuals reading books (even differentiating amongst themselves by what they read). The workaholic salary men catching up on e-mail, memos, reports they just didn't have the time to cover during the working day (may the gods forbid they “drop out of the loop” by not being up to date). Mothers organise children over the phone. Fathers admonish sons for the weekend misconducts. People like myself with laptops demarking hierarchies again based on size and power. Even I myself tag my position in society by using a cut down laptop running Linux (yes techno-geek as ever). Children text each other with the urgency of people that haven't talked for seconds, therefore could be missing out on the minutiae of each others existence. Or more importantly who “fancies” who this week, and what dreadfully uncool thing their parents insisted they did this weekend.

Every day, every morning and evening these parallel microcosms spew out of the suburbs and co-mingle in any number of London stations. Only to do the same that evening in reverse, exploding from London to seed the suburbs with commuters. Being born from our station of departure to end your brief commuter life at the station of your destination, only to be re-born the next morning to run a similar route through a similar life.

Though I do feel somewhat like Methuselah. Joining the journey at it's beginning and not leaving until almost the end, I see many people begin the trip but very few of us last to the end of the journey.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


The following is (to the best of my ability) a transcript of a performance (in the Florence public house, Portsmouth, during one of their infamous “Tongues and Grooves” sessions) of a certain piece of poetry.

To set the scene:
“Tongues and Grooves” is a, once monthly, night of poetry and music performance, by any number of individuals who turn up on the night with something to perform. Which myself and a couple of friends used to frequent on a fairly regular basis. At which two of us built up what I can only describe as a fairly decent reputation for performing our own poetry.

So there I am, it's my turn at the mike. Picture a small hobbit like man with a hotly clutched wad of paper and a large glass of red wine. This is something I've been plotting for almost a month now.

I had something of a reputation for being a little humorous in my performance and choice of material (please refer to the poetry linked with this site as proof) so when I stood up and said the following it's not surprising it was met with some giggling.

“This evening I am going to do three things!” I said.
Minor giggling from the audience ensues.
“I am going to make a statement, I am going to tell you a story, then I am going to read you a piece of poetry.”
Still some giggling.
I pause for a moment.

“The Statement is this, I Am An Ex-Beaten Husband.”

I don’t say this too loudly so there is a mixture of incredulity and a small ripple of people asking me to say it again.

“Allow me to repeat myself, I Am An Ex-Beaten Husband.”

Silence, and a little embarrassment from some of the gigglers.

Pause for a sip of wine.

“Firstly the Story:

The first time my wife walked into my life I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Malay Chinese, fine skinned and petit. I was working behind the bar at an engagement party for a member of staff, a waitress was getting engaged to one of the regulars. So we had all agreed to do an hour behind the bar each then join the party proper. So I was all dolled up in my best finery, drinking gin and tonic from a pint glass, each new drink was just added to the rest in the pint, pure elegance. The evening had been fairly slow until one of the waitresses walked in with, what she'd told us, was her sister. Every man in that bar turned to look at the pair of them. They were stunning. I believe I knew at that point that I was going to marry this beautiful young lady. They ordered a drink at the bar but quickly went into the party as some of the less pleasant customers were beginning to bother them. I couldn't wait to finish my stint behind the bar now.
The minute my watch was over I wondered round to the restaurant where the party was happening. My good friend Gerry, a diminutive red headed Irishman from Limerick, had been waiting for my arrival, as no-one could drink at quite the pace we kept, so everyone else was boring him.
I looked round the party and there they were, like two exquisite jewels, a clearance of some six foot around them was a ring of hopeful males, all pacing back and forth, trying to get up enough courage to actually approach these two goddesses.
I'm not sure if it was the Gin, or just bravado in the company of Gerry, I marched through this human cordon and sat straight down with the pair of them, Gerry gleefully in tow, not believing that I had the audacity to try what everyone else (male that is) was just thinking of.
Well, to cut a long story short, the evening went very well. What with dancing in the children’s area (outside the party), and everything, after a week she came back to “see her friend at work”. Captain stupid here had to be taken to one side and have it explained (I’m not particularly clever at this understanding women thing) that she had of course returned to see me again. Weeks led to months. I would go and see her in town. We would spend so much time together I was actually falling asleep as I walked home (if you've not done it, it's quiet an experience waking up because your foot has hit the pavement, as you walk along).
Well she asked me to marry her after six months. Phrases like whirlwind, too quick, and stupid, come to mind, but I was head over heels in love. I said I would think about it, and a week or so later I asked her to marry me.
Six months is not a long time. I believed we were highly compatible (and despite what certain members of my family still believe) I thought we were both heavily in love.
Here I did something perhaps I shouldn't have. I am actually sorry that I didn't invite my father and my step mother to the wedding. Probably from the point of view that they would have asked me if I really thought I was doing the right thing, and with twenty twenty retrospect I should have perhaps left things a bit longer. I didn't do it to purposefully exclude him (sorry Dad). I just didn't invite him.
I rang my mother and asked what she was doing the next Monday. She asked me why. I said would she like to go to a wedding. She said who's. I said mine.
The Honeymoon was spent in Croydon Immigration Offices. We went straight from the registry office. It's this point that certain members of my family think is entirely indicative of what she really wanted from me. In fact certain members of my family still make a point of bringing this up every time we meet (family weddings, etc, etc he offers me his “maid” who it appears is looking to get a British visa) even though its some twenty years since I was actually married.
We moved into a two room bed-sit in central Worthing. I say two rooms, a lounge and a very big wardrobe that the previous occupants had been using as a bedroom. She insisted we buy a new bed, it seemed Chinese tradition insisted that you have a new bed for the new relationship.”

(Dramatic) Pause for a sip of wine and to ensure the audience is still attentive.

“It was then that everything went horribly wrong.

Somehow my (now) wife had managed to conceal from me, for the last six months, that she had a premenstrual problem possibly linked to the fact that she was sexually abused as a child.

It seems incongruous to see that written down now. A very small phrase for what was such a devastating problem.

My beautiful, almost child like, bride turned from an absolute angel to a deamon. I have regularly talked with others who have suffered in similar circumstances. I find there is much agreement. It's not the physical violence that is the problem. I'm not the slightest of people but she was trained in Tae Kwon Doe, I had done some very basic karate. She kicked me in the mouth from standing, “roundhouse” style. She threw pieces of my stereo at me. She even attacked me with a serrated edge knife, where the very basic karate I had done years ago allowed me to disarm her.

As I suggested it's not the physical violence that causes the problems though, its the mental abuse. The constant attempts to belittle. The constant fighting. The uncertainty, will it be as bad tonight? The absolute mental, and emotional, exhaustion, having spent the previous night talking her round to a reasonable point of view, only to get home to find she had an answer for all your points from last night so you have to think of a completely new set this evening.

The most devastating aspect was to be able to talk her round to the point where she actually was sorry for what she had done and said. Only to return the next night to face the same again.

I had a reasonable job, I was training as an accountant at the time, I lost that job.

I believe I had a nervous breakdown.

After thirteen months I finally broke, hit her back and walked out on her.

My divorce papers cite me as the violent one. My families solicitor said I had two choices the way the papers had been drawn up, Sign the papers uncontested, this would cost me nothing, not even the half hour I had spent with him. Or I could oppose the whole procedure, which could drag on for months and possibly cost me a vast amount. Much to my friends, and families, disappointment I signed them there and then.”

Finally (the third part ) I would like to present a poem. The original is, for the moment, lost to me. This version is based on what I remember of the original. There were a lot of times in those thirteen months where I found myself unable to go home directly, and found myself wandering the streets of Worthing with no aim, or purpose.
Sunday Evening Worthing.

(In memory of an unfound original) Simon Kennedy 09/02/2004.
Performed 28/03/2004 (Florence).

So here I am again.
Going nowhere,
Been nowhere.
Forcing myself to take a short detour behind the station.
Other people’s conversations,
Drift from open windows.
The drummer practices.
The TV plays.
The noise of other functional lives.
The crossing bleats randomly in the night.
Almost seeming to call me back.
I finished work ages ago.
And still I wonder the streets.
All the time the hope in my heart.
That tonight is the night that it stops.
All the time not wishing to go home,
In case tonight it starts again.

It will get better!
It will work out!
But every time the demon waits.

I watch your face change.
I see the child dissolve,
And there she is!
Someone I never knew.
Some one I never married.
Someone I never loved,
And who never loved me.
The bile and venom spits.
Every action hurts.
The equality of our martial arts,
The only thing keeping me alive.
What can I say to convince you.
Every word a lie.
Round and round,
And round the arguments spin.
Every night a new repost,
For last nights reasoning.
Every night a new tack,
For every new direction.

It will get better!
It will work out!
But every time the demon waits.

The angel returns.
And I can collapse,
Bruised mentally and physically,
To fitful sleep,
If I can.
With remembered words,
“One Night I will kill you in your sleep!”
“One night I will cut it off!”
Ringing in my ears.

So here I am again.
Not wanting to open the front door.
Not wanting to climb the stairs.
Open the bedroom door.
And there you are.
The beautiful child I married.
And all you say is “Sorry!”
And I believe again.

It will get better!
It will work out!
But still the demon waits.

Thank you for your indulgence.

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