The Queue For Eternal Awareness

“What was your life like?” I said to the man one ahead of me in the queue of judgement . “I was like a man possessed,” he said as we waited . “How do you mean” said Mr Safe, namely me,  now mourned with clean piety by a wife, relatives and various friends, as we waited; me and this newly met soul, to discover the shape and texture of our individually constructed eternities. Your Heaven or Hell, it transpired, are tailor made to provide either exquisite pleasure or suffering to the individual. Judgement is a bespoke service from which there is no escape.

“I could not stop the words. ” he continued. I had morsels of praise but my diet was mainly indifference, sometimes mixed with embarrassment. I would talk to anyone, long after they wished I was gone, and eat at cafe’s pretending I was welcome and part of the community. Really, I was trying to express an idea: to get a concept on the page,” “What concept” I rashly asked, because even the newly dead, with eternity before them have finite patience, and mine was tested.

“The concept of natural and emotional wilderness” he replied. “That manners are what we wear to make ourselves bearable to each other and ourselves. That iconoclastic indifference lies at the heart of each culture, and the pretence that this isn’t so is the foundation of every building, built to glory the individual.”

I found myself smiling as he said this and said, “And you found you had some difficulty making money from this vision.” He snarled at me, as if he had somewhere left to stalk off to, but now there was nowhere else to go. Right or wrong, wise or foolish, we shuffled forward to learn our fate, and nothing we thought or did would alter that now.

It was a curiosity of the arrangement that we where allowed to chatter idly with others in the queue and even hear what the angels said about their lives, before receiving our own sentence and reward. Those in front would drift slowly towards their designated experience and they too, would learn what would become of you.

At last our bitter author stood before the angels, to hear their observations and they said, “You have been brave and fearless, and not ducked the cost of your observations and for eternity you will be bathed in the recognition and companionship you craved for your entire life. Proceed in peace and Love.”

I was slightly taken aback and still trying to make sense of what I had heard when the voices of angels began speaking in my head. “You have lived a mealy mouth life without engaging in any serious wrong-doing. Hiding behind a  fearful superiority, clinging to accepted opinions and ignoring anything which might disturb your peaceful existence. You lived among those you might have rescued but were not sufficiently moved to help.  You will now experience their life in eternity. You will experience what you chose to ignore.

As I fought to make sense of what I’d heard, and felt the first touches of that isolation which was to mark my designated experience I looked up and saw my colleague in the queue stare back at me. His fading figure seemed lit by hidden sunlight. He had heard the sentence, and I could see compassion flooding from his eyes. He, who had lived with isolation all his life, could not save me from a fate he knew too well.

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Coincidence or Ugly Fate. You decide

Frank Winner was waiting at platform ten, Euston station, for his ‘charge,’ as it were, to arrive from Nottingham. Tomorrow, Mike Bellow was giving a key note speech at the company annual conference on  “Cross-cultural implications . Trading with Eastern Europe and Beyond.”  The “beyond” bit had been chucked into the title to add a bit of spin, but really they were just talking about selling stuff to Hungary. Frank was not looking forward to the speech so its fair to say he was dreading the evening: he would far rather be at home relaxing with his wife. However, career was career,  and the mortgage must be paid, never mind his daughter’s university fees. He knew a ‘”favour,” for his boss  was really a command.

Both he and  ‘Honoured Guest’ were in their mid-fifties and it was important not to embarrass the firm: he was determined to rise to the challenge. At last a surprisingly fit gentleman, with a dash of grey above each ear, strode towards him, attracted by the sign he was holding, and introduced himself. “Where’s the party eh” he said indicating that a night of celebration was required. “There is a nice Greek restaurant near here said the nervous Winner, which has some quite interesting fish based dishes”. “Stuff that,”  said our learned consultant, “Lets go where the music plays. Lets have some fuuun ” . He stretched out the last word to show he was a guy who still liked to walk on the wild side.

Soon our two party-goers entered the vaults of the “Pavilion” nightclub and  seated themselves at a table before ordering some bland meal at prices set without reference to quality. “Tacky” was the word which came to Frank’s mind but Mike Bellow seemed strangely “At home” in these surroundings, and was soon leering at the young waitress who came to take their order.

Luck was on Frank’s side, it seemed, and Bellow, true to his name, appeared  happy to talk all night while Frank listened, which should not be too challanging. “Oh yes,” said Bellow, “I had the night of nights yesterday. I was at some club, trying to look at a girls tits, you know what its like, and she came up to me and said, “You a pervert or something”, and I said, “You bet your life I am. Hows about some champagne?”

I think the girl was already a bit pissed. ‘In your face,’ in the best way possible.  Know what I mean. Anyway she matched me glass for glass. The more pervy I became, the more she laughed. It was brilliant. I love drunk tarts”

Frank had been to Nottingham on more than one occasion, but knew little of the place. “Well, I can tell you this,” continued Bellow, “She was a goer. That girl could ‘ave taught Cleopatra a few tricks,” he said, taking a decent swallow and winking over his glass. “Oh yes sir, she ‘drained the bottle’ and then some if you follow me.”

“Sounds like fun”, said Frank, wishing the clock would get a move on, and allow him to escape this leery company. She had a trick or two, “Carline” her name was, beautiful girl, curvy and with soft brown hair you could stroke all night” A chill went through Frank as he heard the name, and before he could say anything, Bellow handed over his phone to show a photograph of the partly clothed Carline walking out of the bathroom. It was an unusual photograph of his daughter and showed a new side to her character.

“You sick bastard” said Frank, before leaning over and smacking his guest in the eye. The sacking the following morning was not unexpected, but the call from his daughter to her mother three weeks later was. Sitting in a bar near his home Frank reflected that “Life isn’t  always what you make it. Sometimes other people make it for you”



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Getting to the Heart Of A Subject. What Drives Emma Cattell to Paint?

Art has no manners, I always feel, great art that is, and while most creative people paint diffidently and politely to capture the shape and outline of a subject, few have the will or courage of the explorer: of someone who wants to dive in as deep as they can and discover what it is that fuels the question or statement behind a person’s eyes. The Picture below is of Peter O’Toole, and anyone who has seen the actor in in Lawrence of Arabia will recognise that burning fanatical look. It is this characteristic of her painting which draws me to the work of Emma Cattell.

A1 O'Toole


More recently she has started producing paintings of the seven deadly sins, and as an example, here is her picture of Envy. Once again the secret is in the eyes, but look at the angle of the head and the way Emma has captured that discrete deliciously unsettling manner which lies at the heart of a failing we might see in another although seldom in ourselves. The longer you look at the picture, the more disturbing it becomes, because Emma has been brave enough to confront the reality of this profoundly destructive emotion.


The impulse behind the painting was apparently founded in her struggle to ‘capture’ another subject. Failing to do that irritated the hell out of her, to the point where she literally began to beat the canvas with her paintbrush. Under such, circumstances, manners, caution and fear tend to exit the room leaving plenty of space for instinct, insight and aggression. The desire to just get the subject on canvas and to hell with the consequences.

“Manners maketh man” some wise man said but I always believe, in part, that manners protect us from ourselves and keep the raw, selfish destructive, tender lost part of our personality well out of harms way. By becoming annoyed with herself, Emma let some primal aspect of nature, normally hidden by inhibitions, loose on the canvas, and the longer you look at the second painting in particular, the more you will be struck by the talent and insight she has allowed to escape from her ‘inner being.’

Emma Cattell built her name and reputation as a  photographer, and to quote from the website linked below    ” She has shot divas in their dressing rooms, rock stars in their homes, women prisoners in Iraq and nurses in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan; she is still one of the few British female photographers to have visited a war zone. Her long career has seen her travelling from Belgrade to Iraq, from Antigua to Mombassa, from Bangkok to Croatia and many, many places in between. ” Revealing the unique in the individual is her passion, as it is mine. It shows in her impressive photography and now it is clear in her painting.

What that tells you is that Emma Cattell has been to places and in situations most of us can hardly imagine. The artist draws on her experience, and she has had more than most. To meet her in the everyday is to meet an unassuming women who presumes little about herself, but to meet her through her work is to be greeted by a fierce spirit who has survived experiences most of us would find overwhelming.

Go over to her website and learn all about her. She is, I believe, a talent to watch, and one I am proud to know



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Threadbare Jo

“Threadbare” Jo, who, to misquote the Bard, had a “Shirt for All Seasons,” and I don’t mean he had a shirt for every breeze and vista. No I mean he literally had one shirt, and he wore it regardless of the  seasons, also lived in an emotionally impoverished state. You will not be surprised to learn that men did not walk up to him in the street and say, “I wish I was you” or girls murmur “Oh to lie in your stinking and unwashed arms and watch the sun setting in some unblemished refuse tip.”

Things could have been worse, and how often is that true:  his morale was protected by his poor understanding of his situation, but even he knew he lived in an affection free zone. Thus it was that our Jo, more formally known as  Joseph Leek, walked into “The Shop of Love” to see, emotionally at least, if he could re-equip his circumstances and experience a moment of living in the promised land.

This was no sleazy joint where women leaving the gentle slopes of youth might squeeze one last ingénue pose out for the camera, or men with more desire than aura were old enough to cause unsettled comment when they entered a nightclub. No, this was a shop offering the ultimate in  emotional experience, if only for a while or possibly just a moment , captured in a corked bottle which could be opened and enjoyed within the privacy of your own home or space. Every hue and shade of feeling, from joy through to despair, ( a surprisingly good seller),  was on offer.

Samual Sackly, who liked to weep while other smiled,  and could be found walking inconsolably through the gardens of historic homes  crying, as he held a tender flower in his hand saying,  “They will die. You will die. All  of them will die” which was true, but not for several months given that it was early Spring, used to purchase a deliciously soul-bleaching bottle of melacholia to heighten the experience before he set off on his adventure.

The better informed among you might remember the signature tune he penned, the royalties from which still fund his undirected life-style.

“Just One More Kiss

Just One More Cigareeeetteee

Just One more CAsuAAl    SiiiIIIGH

May be the last one you’ll ever GeeEEET”


Just one more DesperAAAte   GLAAAAnce

Before we saaay our last GoodByeeeeee”

Just One more Kisssssss,

To TreAAsuuUUre Tilll the Day YOUUUU    DiiiEEEEE”

( I won’t hound your imaginations by repeating more lines )

Anyway, Joseph Leek just wanted “Love.” The nice old fashioned sort which we enjoyed before sensibility barged into the frame and made strong men weep just by looking at a cloud-tipped view while music soaked them with a sense of loss. “I’m after Love” said “Threadbare” and the attendant nodded sympathetically. He saw every kind of ill-fitting decision, or no decisi0ns at all, walk through the door. Here, as I said, they did not offer the physical experience of being loved, but just the essence of it, in every shade and strength of expression, so you could return home, make an egg sandwich and, quite literally, take the cork out of the bottle.

Now at last, as the yolk spilled down his cheek in the splendid isolation afforded by worn-out curtains and the lack of a phone, his emotion of choice flooded the room, bathing him in sweet recognition until, sated by the brief sense of acceptance and celebration, he  slumped down on his bed and recalled those days when people cared and loved without recourse to manuals or instructions. That lost era  before  works like,  “How To Live The Natural Way,”  were to be found in the homes of aesthetes everywhere.

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A Birth in Gaza

To those unknowing of my childhood my enigmatic and disconnected behaviour must have seemed odd and possibly uncivilised. In youth I could not see beyond getting by and surviving day by day; ‘learning’ was another country where less damaged people lived. I was busy trying to fly that alien craft I was to discover was myself. Sometime after youth I became aware I was a bruise, and every touch hurt me: intimacy, my most desired wish remained my deepest fear. In time, looking around me I saw that everyone has their bruises, and understood like me, that to a greater or lesser extent our limping and imperfect journey to a fog-bound destination was marked by the need for self-protection. Those marks, invisible to the naked eye, were our unspoken history, not recorded in those smiling photographs taken on the beach, sitting beside the man who abused you when the lights went out, or worked his cruelty deep into your soul. The mother who neglected you, so lost was she in her search for “thought perfection.”

When I was young, I grew the emotions which controlled my later life to protect what was left of my capacity to love and wonder; I had no sense of why they ruled me, or the powerful fears which gave them birth. I was secretive, enigmatic and obtuse; politely non-committal and clinging to my secret knowledge that danger has a presence everywhere. I wandered round bewildered and uncomprehending in a private landscape, armed only with a map written in secret code, trying to reach that place I called “The Other Side.” The “Other Side” was nowhere but a dream: a place or person who might offer me sanctuary and the space and peace to discover who I was.

Now in the knowledge of what such childhoods yield in later years, I look in bewildered incomprehension on that landscape of inhumanity which is the modern Gaza and wonder how the children sitting in that place, in bombed out UN shelters, might grow to adulthood and shape their lives. What maps their young minds might be drawing as I write this, to use in later years from which to navigate their future. Horror begets horror, we all know, and hatred breed hatred year on year. We dehumanise our enemies, war after war, until triumphant Hatred rises gloriously from the ruins to shout out his brave re-emergence in this, our modern landscape.

We, with our knowledge of conflict and human history; of the consequences of trauma in our lives, watch these children cry, and wonder how, out of sight of some new skyscraper, now the tallest building in the planet, we manage with every generation, to construct a new hell on earth.


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Old Posts re-aired starting with “The Engagement”

He loved her but it didn’t show. Gave her protection from a distance: understanding without a sense of intimacy. Just some guy in a cubicle crunching numbers through the working day. It wasn’t climbing Everest but it paid the bills.

“Hey Bill” she’d call, asking for advice. Given, always, without a comment. Some years before, and in another place, he had been king of the track and a centre of influence but that was then. Wheel- chair bound after some horrific accident he kept his glories to himself, and ambitions safely packed at home. The evenings were never short. Unfilled hours, stacked upon themselves, bought no relief from his reflective solitude.

Pride is the last refuge of the unfortunate. Spectators of the happy story. A background presence on the road to glory. Inhabitants of your peripheral vision. He loved her but it wouldn’t show.

Now the day had come. Her smiling lit-up face telling all the news. The diamond on her finger. The crowds of workers circling her desk . Asking for the details behind the grin. Without access, his chair was poor in crowds, he worked as if no news could touch him. The numbers queued up on the page, commanding attention. Patient, ordered, logical.

Desire was the door to pain. Wanting left you in a desert. Silence was his dearest friend. Why should he embarrass what he most respected. Some awkward guy, buckled in his chariot, quick of mind but lacking feet. Young but long without his youth.

“Hey Bill” she said. Moving over and standing by his chair, fingers extended in that glowing way. Sadness surfaced briefly in his eyes, saying what she never knew. His heart was like an orphanage for dreams. “I’m very pleased for you Sarah”. He spoke in monotone. Caught off-guard she stared into his depths, but now restored to ordered symmetry. “I wish you joy.”

Not all we feel is for consumption. Not all mountains can be climbed. For some, he thought, love must always be impersonal.

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300 Posts and Counting

Three hundred Blog posts seems an astonishing number would have seemed a fanciful number to me when I began Blogging over three years ago  and in many ways my life, outlook and the readership of my Blog have changed beyond recognition in that time. In short, around 180,000 words have spilled out of my strangely tuned imagination and littered the lives of a number of people, some of whom are lurching dangerously towards that small circle where  my friends are treasured.

One of the things which gives me pause for thought,  as I often write little stories, vignettes or whatever else you might call them is how, like dragon-flies, these whimsical productions buzz around brightly for a short while and then vanish into that un-light world we call ” Forgotten Posts”  along with yesterday’s newspapers, come fish and chip wrappers, fire-work displays and other examples of ephemeral wonder.

To those forgotten tales I say, thank you for being a step in the path which has got me to where I am, and helped me to learn the craft of writing, and in the process meet some fine people.

Let us therefore raise our coffee cups, sandwiches or biscuits and make a toast to forgotten postings. “You help us find out who we are.”

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