A girl called Marina and a Christmas lie



Pam St Clement, looking like Marina, c.1951

Christmas has lost a lot of its meaning for me in recent years. It was at Christmas that I found myself out on the streets, so there are some unpleasant memories. I’m an atheist, so I’m not going to celebrate a religious occasion. For most people, Christmas is a time of over-indulgence and consumerism. Everyone’s competing to make it the best ever, wasting money on unwanted gifts and feeling obliged to have a good time. Frankly, I find the whole thing vulgar.

Sure, it’s about family and I buy gifts for my immediate family but that’s it. I don’t send cards (an expensive waste of trees) and don’t expect to receive any. Christmas day is just another day of the year and I can give gifts or write sentimental notes to people on any day. They usually mean more to the recipient because these are not gestures forced by an obligation to an occasion. It would be nice to be with the kids but they want to be at home, where their presents are and where they live. If, like my son, a Christmas gift is a new laptop, you’re going to want to be in your own home, at your own desk or wherever to set the thing up in its surroundings.

I spoke to my kids yesterday, we exchanged pleasantries and had quite a laugh. My children are intelligent, witty, charitable, humanitarian and very progressive. They’re only 12 and nine years old but they’re very mature. As such, they get why I don’t like Christmas because we’ve discussed everything frankly, honestly and openly. They know their dad is an alcoholic. They understand what that means, unlike most people older than them. They understand depression and PTSD. My children know me, because I talk to them and respect them enough to tell them the truth. They know that my breakdown was caused by drinking but they know that I was ill. That goes for my parents as well, because we’ve had the discussions. And my extended family, The Pink Hearts: Mainly young adults, intelligent enough to understand me. It really doesn’t take much but it’s beyond the ever-circling plastic police. All three of my teenage daughter-types texted yesterday to wish me a happy Christmas: Those were valuable gifts.

There were invitations this year, including one to spend the day at my parents’ house. There are still some in my family with whom I’ve not had “the conversation” but Christmas isn’t the time. As such, neither is it the time to be the elephant in the room. The mothership has enough to contend with as the host.

Most of all, I can’t celebrate a farce when there’s so much else going on in the world. It’s only one day? So is every other day. I was homeless and alone at Christmas not long ago and I remember what that’s like. Even though I’m reconciled with most of my family now, they have each other. My parents have one another and that’s the greatest Christmas gift. Others are less fortunate and that’s why I chose to spend yesterday with a lady who would otherwise have been on her own.

So I’d like to tell you a story. Even though I’m a fiction writer, this story is true. Only some of the names have been changed…

Sometimes there’s an argument for lying. Some situations make it the right thing to do:

It was through a network of old contacts that this came to be and my main role yesterday was as support for the lady’s home help, Sarah. Sarah visits Marina daily, cooks meals, does the housework and generally makes sure Marina is doing okay. My offer was to be an extra person on Christmas day, to cook a Christmas dinner for everyone. Sarah was on a schedule, so she’d have time to do everything she normally did but she wouldn’t need to worry about the cooking. The time Sarah would have spent cooking was now time she could spend relaxing a little. It meant that Marina had some company as Sarah had less than usual to do and could spend some time with her. What was I getting out of it? The knowledge that I was helping two deserving people in an immeasurable way. And the prospect of pleasant company over lunch.

Marina is 84. She lives alone in a cottage not far from me. She has dementia. Like depression, dementia is unique to the individual, because there are many mixes which the complex organ in our heads can concoct. With Marina, it’s her short and long-term memory. She’s severely sight and hearing impaired, so she speaks quite loudly. She’s very well spoken, with an accent not unlike Pam St Clement when she wasn’t playing Pat Butcher in Eastenders. But then there were lapses to a kind of Cockney accent. Add a slight Spanish lilt and you’ve got it. Which makes the fact that she’s quite potty-mouthed even more amusing. Like Pat Butcher, Marina is bejewelled and comfortably upholstered.

We had roast beef for lunch because Marina doesn’t like turkey. It’s not that she doesn’t like turkey meat, she doesn’t like turkeys. It’s not a phobia, it’s because they’re “funny-looking clucking things.” Then she adds: “I said clucking, not fucking.” She does this a lot: She’ll use a word which sounds like an expletive, then explain that she used that word and not the rude one, just so that she can say the rude one anyway. As a writer, I find just that way of talking, and the thought process behind it, fascinating. It’s the kind of small detail which makes a character on the page come to life.

I won’t betray much of what we spoke about but a couple of passages are sufficient to convey the type of dialogue that afternoon. The TV was on:

“Is that snooker?”

“No, it’s football. Highlights, I assume.”

“Oh good. I like snooker.”

“But this is football.”

“You can call it what you like. I like snooker.” Then it became apparent that it would just be easier – and actually a lot of fun – to just play along. “Who’s playing?”

“Er, Millwall. And…”

“’e’s that Scottish one ain’t ‘e? I like him. What’s his name?”

“John Higgins?”

“That’s ‘im. ‘Urricane.”

“No, that was Alex.”

“Ooh, is ‘e on as well?”

“No, he’s erm…” Dead? It was easier to say, “Erm, yes.”

“What colour’s ‘e then?” Fuck sake.

“Reds. Alex is playing reds and John’s playing blues.”

John Higgins / Millwall won that one.

“Do you want to watch the Queen?”

“Why would I wanna do that?”

So that killed that one.

And so it went on. It got gradually more surreal. Because her short-term memory is affected the most, she often repeats things. Basic things, like “Who are you?” Now if you think about that, a lady in that position is open to a lot of abuse and subterfuge: An intruder could take advantage of her and her property. And one question became repetitive: “Is that you, John?”

I went to the kitchen to check on the roast and Sarah was emptying the washing machine. I asked her about John. I assumed he was Marina’s husband. Sarah told me that Marina’s husband was called Morris: A small and simple detail which made us both smile when she told me. It’s funny how you connect with a kindred spirit over something so obscure and geeky: The kind of person you’d partner for an appearance on Pointless. Marina liked Pointless as well, because “It’s got that nice big gay man on it: Stephen Fry.” Yes, I know.

Morris had left Marina a widow 15 years ago when he died of cancer aged 79. Marina is now 84. So she was 10 years’ Morris’s junior and they’d celebrated their golden wedding anniversary together. To my mind, they could have been married in 1951, when Marina was 19 and Morris was 29.

There was a black and white photo in the living room of a young lady, looking very much the young Marina I could imagine, with an American sailor: A dashing chap, if ever I’d seen one. I guessed he must be Morris. There were lots of potential scenarios. One of them would have involved Morris being in England at the end of WW2, aged around 23 and Marina being 13 or 14: The dirty old bastard, or the canny young girl? I could be wrong and there was flexibility with the dates but it was a romantic story.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask Marina about it. When I asked her about the photograph, she said, “Morris? Who’s he? That’s me and John, that is.”

Without complicating this story still further, with characters, dates, ages, relationships, it’s simpler if I just reveal that Sarah (the carer) told me that John was Marina’s son.

After Morris died in 2001, John continued to live with Marina. At the time of his father’s death, John was 40 years old. He’d flown the nest many times but he kept coming back to roost. The Morris Marina unit had planned to downsize when John eventually found his place but until he did, they didn’t. It was John who kept them in their old house and when Morris died, Marina had no reason to upset the status quo. So she stayed living, just on the outer reaches of this little village.

John took his own life ten years ago. Aged 45, he just went. No-one knows why, except perhaps Marina. But her memory is shattered. Everything can change, suddenly and forever.

Now it’s as though Marina has lost her long-term memory completely: She doesn’t remember Morris. Her short-term is shot to pieces as well. All she has is the medium term. As far as she’s concerned, John, her son, still visits that house. I suppose if he didn’t, it would be an even lonelier place.

The three of us sat down together for a Christmas lunch. It was more like two people with a third floating in every now and then: Pointless Sarah and me, occasionally with Marina spouting off about anything on her mind at the time: Usually random but sometimes going somewhere:

“D’yah think that Trump is one of Hitler’s?”

What!? Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Arian, right-wing… But then she wandered off: “This is nice, John.” I’d cooked the food but I’m not John.

Further things were thrown from the left field which was Marina’s area of the table:

“Innit funny?”

“What is?”

“I dunno. Just is.”

And off she drifted again, on roast beef and Yorkshire puds. Like a little Spanish / Portugese / English armada, floating on gravy.

With lunch over and the dishes washed, it was time for Sarah to leave. She was my lift and this was Christmas Day, so there were no alternative means of transport. A cab perhaps, if I could find one. But I didn’t really know where I was. Sarah had to leave for her next appointment. And it was then that I decided to tell a lie.

Lying has got me into trouble many times over the years. To the extent that nowadays, I simply don’t. It’s too complicated. Too many lives to manipulate, fool and insult the intelligence of. When you lie, you have to remember which version of the story you’ve told to each of the cast and then maintain many pretences. It’s simply not worth it. So why did I lie?

Why did I lie to an old lady who was one of the greatest characters it has been my pleasure to meet? Someone I’d love to stay in touch with because she’s a kindred spirit. A friend.

Because outside of that Christmas lunch (a few hours), I didn’t exist: Marina’s short-term memory would filter me out. That didn’t matter. For a few hours, I’d added something to someone’s life perhaps. Even if it wasn’t remembered, it would have been a pleasant thing at the time.

Leaving with Sarah was selfish on my part but also not: I had no other means of getting home. Marina wouldn’t remember it. She’d had a good time but now we were in the process of being forgotten. Between us we made sure that all the doors were secured in the right way, with keys left in designated places. There was milk in the fridge. There were Post-it notes on the cupboards and doors. Sarah would go back there today.

While Sarah was loading up the car, I popped in to see Marina: She was asleep in an armchair. I don’t know why but I held her hand: As a one-time opportunistic thief, something just struck me: No-one would ever be able to get Marina’s wedding ring off of her finger. The wrinkles of age had made her knuckles into sandbags. The only way to steal Morris from her would be to chop off her finger. She didn’t remember Morris.

The last thing she said to me was something she’d repeated many times that afternoon: “Is that you, John?”

Here was an old lady, who’d once been a feisty little English girl, somehow marrying an American sailor and the rest is history. Her son is history, but she doesn’t know.

Marina only has so many years. She has an elective memory. Her greatest pleasures seem to be derived from the situations she places herself in, whether consciously or not. For as long as she’s in those situations, she’s happy. She’ll forget them immediately afterwards but while she’s there, she’s where she wants to be.

So, is there such a thing as a good lie? A lie that’s right?

“Is that you, John?”

“Yes. It’s me mum.”

The way I see it (Marina can’t see beyond blurs), it was what she wanted to hear at the time. She may not wake again, or she might well do. In either case, two things are true:

I will never know. This is too much of a responsibility for me to take on. I am derelict from many other losses, without having to learn of another. Wherever Marina may be, we both have the memory. She won’t remember but she was there. If she does pass away tonight, one of her last memories will be of her son.

My own mum had said when I told her this is what I planned to do that she applauded me. I hope that when she reads this, she might see it as another Christmas gift: One which didn’t cost anything but which goes a lot further than consumer goods.

As a writer, I’ve told a story which no-one would have know otherwise. If I hadn’t done what I did yesterday, no-one would know about Marina. Now she’s immortalised. I’m sure she could tell many more stories if her marbles rolled right. For now, those stories are locked up in a brain which doesn’t work properly. The protagonist isn’t able to narrate. Her story is recorded in history and awaits discovery by later explorers.

It’s a personal life philosophy of mine: We should listen to our elders, as they won’t always be here. We should talk to the younger generation, to pass on knowledge and keep conversations going. That’s life.

A marina (from Spanish [maˈɾina], Portuguese [maˈɾinɐ] and Italian [maˈriːna]: marina, “coast” or “shore”) is a dock or basin with moorings and supplies for yachts and small boats. A marina differs from a port in that a marina does not handle large passenger ships or cargo from freighters. [Also, a ship soon to depart.]


Farewell, Catford’s Queenie


Regardless of how pedestrian or otherwise our lives may be, we will always cross paths with many people. Sometimes we only realise the importance of those people once they have passed.

My life is only documented in it’s breakdown and recovery phases on this blog, with a little retrospect thrown in every now and then. Before it all went wrong though, I lived in Catford with my wife and kids.

Catford Cat

There were three families in that particular circumstance: Three sets of parents supporting each other, while their sons became best mates. It’s often said that three is a crowd and those kids proved that to be true fairly often. If we’re honest, we were just as bad as parents.

Who cares?

Because life can change, suddenly and forever.

And then you realise how empty your life is.

My friend suffered from a little-known condition: Sickle Cell Disease. For some cruel reason, it afflicts black people more.

I’m not a poet but…

A wave from a plane

If you’re ever stuck;
If you ever wonder;
It’s the simple things,
that make a life:

Sunday roast: Jerk chicken
Sandy coast: Jamaica
Bonfire nights, Christmas lights
All these things

Birthday gifts, healing rifts
Friendly smile, extra mile
All these things
remind me

City walks; Kids’ school
Family talks; Black and white
London years, happy tears
All these things

Moonlit night; Security lights
Morning haze; Happy days
All these things
remind me

Dogs and rats; Welcome mats
Catford: Life rhymes with that
Dancing queen, evergreen
All these things

All these things are true

50 Cent makes music
while Dana sings:
“All kinds of everything
remind me of you.”


Valdin Millette: 1983 – 2016


Safe journey my friend.

A Christmas horror story



It’s that time of year again, when I have to detach myself from the pains of real life and memories. My dislike of Christmas has nothing to do with my atheism, although I despise the commercialism built around a religious occasion. That’s for another time. For now, I’m a fiction writer.

Another nativity was originally published in Schlock! webzine, where it was billed as “[an] idiosyncratic take on the nativity.” An updated version of it will be in my forthcoming anthology. This is an edited version.

Those of a sensitive, religious or sentimental nature; and those even quite difficult to offend, should stop reading now.

It’s got three wise people and three shepherds. It has an immaculate conception and a virgin birth…


Another nativity

The following is a true story; a Christmas message, adapted from the bible…

It was the old-school cheap props method of a cushion up her jumper which made Marilyn feel so secure on stage. She was pregnant. She couldn’t make out her father in the audience. This was a nativity; nothing else.

The stomach cramps were stage fright: only that. The audience out there really cared. She could get over this and speak her lines, after so many weeks of rehearsal. It was just a nativity. A man spoke:

“Marilyn, we’re here to tell a story and we need your help. You are welcome here. Tell us first, how you came to be here.”

“Joe and me have been walking for three days. We’re homeless because my dad chucked us out. As you can see, I’m pregnant. We came here for the health care and to register the birth.”

“How did you come to be with child?”

“I was raped.”

“By whom, Marilyn?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see him.”

“The child is not your partner’s?”


“No. Thank You Marilyn. To spare you further questions for now, I will refer to the statement which you made previously under oath. You suspected that you were pregnant because you’d missed a period, so you took a test. The test was positive. You thought little of it, hoping that the test was incorrect or that the problem would go away. You met Joe around two weeks after this and a month into the relationship, you had unprotected sexual intercourse for the first time. Your hymen was ruptured and you bled. Confused, you thought that this might be your existing pregnancy miscarrying, so you took another pregnancy test immediately after that first sexual encounter: it too was positive. It was too soon after you’d had intercourse with Joe for his sperm to have penetrated any eggs in your womb, yet he had clearly taken your virginity. Therefore, it would seem that you’d been pregnant and a virgin at the same time. I should like to call on Doctor Bateman. Doctor: you have examined the patient and can confirm the stage of her pregnancy?”

“Indeed I have. Based on the current size and development of the foetus, the patient is 20 weeks pregnant. This would place the date of conception several weeks prior to her first sexual encounter with her current partner. Of course, the hymen can become ruptured in many ways besides intercourse. It is possible to be a virgin whilst not having an intact hymen but it is impossible to become pregnant with the hymen attached. I wish to hand you over to Inspector Aldred.”

“Thank you doctor. Your honour: the doctor is of course correct in his statement. Our priority was to identify the father of the child. The claimant’s partner had volunteered for a DNA swab. Clearly we also needed the DNA of the mother and baby. This was gained with consent. I can confirm that the claimant’s partner is not the father of the unborn child. Furthermore, the unborn child’s DNA is identical to that of the mother.”

“Which suggests a number of things Inspector.”

“Yes your honour. We can discount accidental insemination through heavy petting, simply by virtue of the DNA tests. This leaves two scientific explanations for a baby which carries only the DNA of its mother. I shall return the stage to Doctor Bateman.”

“Thank you Inspector. The first possibility is that the claimant produced a clone of herself. This has been observed in the natural world. However, any parthenogenetic progeny of a mammal would have two X chromosomes and would therefore be female: this child is male. The remaining possibility is that the claimant is carrying a chimera. It is extremely unlikely but nonetheless possible, in theory at least, that an egg could be cloned by the mother, develop through the embryonic stage and only then be fertilised by male sperm to make the embryo viable. There is much academic research on the subject but it is not a phenomenon which has been observed under scientific conditions.”

“It is therefore highly unlikely Doctor?”

“Yes your honour.”

“In summing up so far, it would appear that there are two possibilities: the first is improbable and the second, more so. Either young Marilyn here has self-produced an embryo which her partner has then fertilised, or the alternative is quite fantastical. The only remaining explanation is an immaculate conception. This would be a miracle and therefore, grounded in something other than science. But it goes further than religion and faith as well, because the most important thing of all is how Marilyn feels about all of this.”

It was time for Marilyn’s big speech. Her abdomen felt as though her intestines were knotted and a weight bore down on her bladder. She caressed her cushion-padded belly as the man addressed her again:

“Marilyn: what no-one can deny is that you are pregnant. One of two things has happened: the first is that you are pregnant with your partner’s child but through naivety rather than intention and it is highly unlikely in any case. Equally unlikely however, is that you may have had an immaculate conception and are carrying the child of God. Either way, you are the incubator, the transport and the means of delivery. The foetus is viable but still at a stage where it may be legally aborted. There are other ethical matters to consider however, albeit some theoretical: if you are carrying the son of God, who has the authority to deny that child’s life? If the father were to be your partner, there is no way to prove this, nor indeed is there sufficient proof that that the two of you may have engaged in underage sex. Given this and the expert statements which we have heard, there is only one remaining course which the law may pursue and that is that God had sex with you, without your consent: the conception may be immaculate but the situation which I am faced with is unprecedented. With the eyes of the law, I see before me a 12-year-old girl who is pregnant. That in itself is a difficult legal position because I may be duty-bound to order the termination of this pregnancy. But the cause – however unlikely – could be that this child has been impregnated by God and I could therefore be ordering the destruction of the prophesied saviour. I also face the legal precedent of holding trial with God himself as a defendant. I am bound by the legal system and any religious beliefs I have must not be allowed to become a distraction. The most important person here is Marilyn: it is her body and future which are being deliberated in law: surely this is situation which only the girl should be able to decide upon the outcome of, because she is the one most directly affected? And yet, her age. My legally-imposed agnosticism aside, I only wish God would prove his existence and appear among us now to answer the case. Given the severity of the charges against the accused, the trial would have to be heard in at least a crown court. At that point, the legal case is God Vs The Queen; the head of the Church of England. Only some sort of divine intervention could sort this out. Even if God did appear and my agnosticism was no longer an issue, I would have to question his motives and ask him if perhaps he might have made a mistake.

“Ladies and gentlemen: court is suspended and will resume after the interval.”

Marilyn could smell the smoke from the mid-session interval smokers outside as she sat on the toilet. She’s yet to recite her big part. ‘Fucking hell, I’m 12 years old and I’m pregnant. Does it matter whose child this is when the father of his own child isn’t even here to see his daughter? The sooner I can get this fucking cushion out from under my jumper, the better’. She leant heavily on the cushion as she looked down between her legs at a golden shower: temporary relief. ‘Oh God’: the words were as clear as she thought them but just as accidental as when she’d called Joe “baby”. The word was a solitary one in Marilyn’s mind as she wiped herself and saw blood on the toilet paper.

In the time it took Marilyn to flush the toilet and exit the cubicle, the smokers had come back indoors and now shared the bathroom mirror with her as they sprayed their mouths and adjusted their wigs. She recognised all three of the women, as she’d seen them in the wings during the first half of the performance. She looked at their reflections in the mirror alongside her own: ‘I either have to throw up, go back into that cubicle and shit, or go back with these three’.

Gently guided back onto the stage, Marilyn delivered her act:

 “I didn’t ask for this child, so why should I carry it for you? If this is what God wants, then I fuck him like he did me. Behold, the son of man and your gift from God; my father. I give mankind his saviour just as my father made me. At least my real dad wears a condom when he fucks his little girl.”

Marilyn pushed the cushion beneath her jersey in on either side, as she made her dramatic fall to the floor. Her vagina agape in the spotlight, a small head emerged. The softness of a 20-week-old foetus’ bones, combined with the tightness of a 12-year-old girl’s labia, meant that the baby’s head was both conical and comical, resembling a clown’s hat. The spotlight intensified on the pre-teen open vagina, now stretched further as the baby’s shoulders emerged. Blood spewed over the stage from the girl, as baby Jesus was stillborn on stage. The MC’s voice came back over the PA:

“In his absence, the court finds the defendant guilty of rape and paedophilia. Ladies and gentlemen, court is adjourned: please leave in an orderly manner and have a very merry Christmas.”

© Steve Laker, 2016

Science fiction becomes near-future



Evaluating NASA’s Futuristic EM Drive

I said in my last blog post that we live in exciting times. Ours is the technological age and the technological revolution we’re at the brink of in many areas will be far more reaching than the industrial age which preceded it. This is not science fiction any more. This is a part of the very exciting future: NASA’s Electomagnetic Drive works.

Otherwise known as an RF resonant cavity thruster, those inclined might care to gain a better scientific understanding of the concept through a Wikipedia article. Others less inclined would do well to familiarise themselves with current affairs. Few people have the time or resource. Some at least go so far as to trust others to research and suggest informed opinions. Given all of the rhetoric surrounding reporting sources (I’ve written about false journalism myslef on this blog), it’s important to have a reliable and trusted source. For me, that’s The Guardian, Snopes and all the other freelancer’s resources. To readers, I aim to be as trustworthy as my sources. So even though I’m a science fiction writer, this can be taken on trust and checked as being genuine. It is not virtual reality. It’s almost reality. All we have to do is build it.

It’s a bit Steampunk, isn’t it? A little neo-Victorian? History repeats, as any history scholar will confirm. I’m not a history scholar but I’m a writer and I wrote Master Yehudi’s Flying Circus and A Steam Punk Romance. I also have a history graduate in my inner circle, who would agree that our vocations are conjoining again.

The full article from Sciencealert.com is below. What the EM drive means though, is things like this:

It means that Mars is 70 days away. That means the physiological problems associated with long space missions for humans are reduced. It means that we can establish an outpost on Mars, for further space exploration. We can better explore our solar neighbour for potentially valuable resources, even life. This will happen in my children’s lifetimes.

It means Proxima Centauri – our nearest stellar neighbour – is a matter of months away (4.2 light years). Proxima B, the earth-like planet orbiting that star could be populated by humans of my grand children’s generation. Of course, Proxima B could already be occupied, by a human ancestor, a mother race; Or something completely different; Or nothing at all.

If there’s anyone watching, this could be the quantum leap they were waiting for us to make before they make contact, allow us to make contact with them, or reveal themselves among us.

It’s an antidote to the destruction here on non-fiction earth but the fiction lines are blurring.

This could be a new awakening. But I doubt it. For all the science fiction which may now become fact, there is now much more near-future speculation, about dark scenarios: Who gets to go? Could the last few hundred years on planet earth merely be a prequel to what we might see if we continue to explore? But the desire for discovery cannot be dampened in us. Now it’s down to how we deal with things, more than ever. Co-operative, liberal, democratic thinking might start the ball rolling. It’s the kind of model which led to a new world order, observed in the Star Trek franchise was based upon. And look what Picard and co achieved.

Make it so:

Equally important to the advance itself is that this is just the beginning. This is a new technology. Interstellar travel is now possible. It may not be long before interstellar gives way to inter-galactic.

This is a quantum leap. This is like comparing rocket fuel to steam. This is the start of interstellar travel. This could be the salvation of humanity. This is why we like science. This is why we write.

Parts of science fiction become fact. When they do, we have far more to contemplate.

Arthur, Gene, Douglas and many more dreamed of this day. Bowie provided the music. The thing is, I think they’re all watching, perfectly aware, and waiting. Others will gain Nobel prizes. Science fiction writers are furiously knocking one out.

This is mind-boggling. To sum up, it’s a peer-reviewed, published scientific paper on a new propulsion technology: The EM drive. It broke some of Einstein’s and physics’ rules but the research continued and the anomalies addressed. It fucking works. It’s nothing short of a science fiction writer’s dream come true:


Quite simply, this is a game-changer. This is as significant as our ancestors’ discovery of fire.

This means that myself and my peers are primitively wetting ourselves.

Finding a place called belonging



When I look at the world around me, and when I consider the world in which I live, I realise I am incredibly fortunate. It came at a price and it costs me daily in pain but the spiritual awakening which my breakdown has led to is something which isn’t ceasing to cause me wonder.

The current state of the world is somewhat depressing, the UK in particular. But we might be seeing the start of something new, by sheer virtue of the fuck up we recently made. It was a prediction I made in a recent post, or rather, I laid down a hope. That hope was for warring factions to unite against a common foe. Well, the Richmond Park by-election wasn’t quite so dramatic but it’s a longed-for tremor in British politics. In that other blog post, I said that we needed a new, centrist political movement: A progressive, inclusive coalition. My fellow learned atheist Richard Dawkins wrote eloquently of what’s needed next, in a letter in this Saturday’s Guardian:

Following its victory in the Richmond byelection (Report, theguardian.com), I write to suggest that the Liberal Democratic party should change its name to The European Party. We of the forgotten 48% are surely more numerous today, now that Brexit’s rudderless fiasco is becoming as obvious as the shameless lies earlier told by its advocates. Even the lead rat of the leavers has signalled his inclination to leave the sinking ship and become a migrant to America.

Today, we of the swelling 48% are cheering the Lib Dem victory in the byelection. This was a genuinely democratic, constitutional victory (Britain is a parliamentary democracy not the mob-rule “democracy” conjured up by David Cameron for the purposes of internal Tory politics). And it is widely agreed that the byelection was fought mainly on the issue of Brexit.

The Lib Dems, along with the SNP, are the only major party with the courage to stand, unequivocally, against Brexit. Unfortunately, as anyone in marketing will attest, their brand is tarnished by association with the first Cameron government. The Lib Dems need to change their name. And the obvious name is The European Party. No need to change policies. Just the name. And no long-winded “Liberal Democratic and European Party” stuff. Just “The European Party”, plain and simple.

I venture that huge numbers of the growing 48 percenters would flock to join, in a great revival of party fortunes. Probably some Labour MPs threatened with deselection, too. Maybe even some principled Tories. And I’m sure I’m not the only former supporter of the Liberal Democrats who would gladly make a generous donation to help the newly named European Party on its way.

Richard Dawkins

So, there’s a glimmer of hope. If we get it right, I envy the next generation. With so much technological advancement in my lifetime, my kids could see some really exciting things, in all fields: Science, space exploration, entertainment, gaming and communication. If we get it wrong, there are some truly terrifying scenarios which we can’t begin to imagine. The trouble is, I can. And that’s why it helps to be a writer.

There simply isn’t time in this life to write it all but I’m confident that there’ll be a way of writing from the next life, made possible by some future technology. That world will be one in which one never loses one’s deceased relatives. They continue to send mail. There’s at least a long short story in that idea and possibly a book but I don’t know if I’ll have time to write the latter, with everything else which is bursting to escape me.

Yet I’m creating worlds around me: Declaring an independent state (pending with the UN), just so that I have somewhere I can always call my own and have a place to think. I’ve come to accept that in my position, any home is unlikely to be permanent. The Studio is perfect and I wish it were forever but there are no guarantees. But I also have another world which travels around with me: The typewriter (my pimped laptop), my Filofax and pens. And wherever I am, I’m a citizen of my own non-nation state. Just as I’ve created a private page for my old Pink Hearts family on Facebook, I may create another for my province. It’s another place to belong.

The way I order my brain is really no different to one of my other passions: computer gaming (albeit I’m a retro-gamer). But in the Second Life universe, in online RPGs, in No Man’s Sky and any other game, we are creating a place for ourselves in another universe. My way of living life (of coping) is just an extension of VR into my own world; a kind of imaginary reverse engineering. Somewhere to belong. I write it all around me.

VR is going to be huge. 3D TV was a failed venture but the two will combine soon. As a sci-fi writer and futurologist, I’m really looking forward to AV entertainment five years from now. The great thing about my life is that I can imagine it and create it in the present. Of course, there is a theory that everything we see is merely an illusion and that we’re part of a computer simulation. It’s more fuel for the writer, the fans flamed by the cannabis I smoke to deal with anxiety.

And then there’s the fuel from my Savage Cinema. My slightly idiosyncratic movie collection grows and evolves as I happen upon new titles. I’m approaching 1000 DVDs: A mixture of the extreme, affecting, cult and downright WTF. Feature films, TV series, documentaries…It’s quite a mix. Rarely does an acquisition for the collection call for it’s own announcement, but Sharktopus Vs. Pteracuda is one such title.

My selection criteria when acquiring titles: Roughly speaking, above 7.0 or below 3.0 on IMDB will qualify. There’ll never be time to watch them all, as the collection keeps growing. But there is a place: I wrote about it in The Paradoxicon, when I was recovering from my breakdown and I realised what life is really about.

Not long ago, I found myself in a situation. It was around about then that I realised something: Like most writers, I struggle. Many writers have mental health issues. More people with mental health issues should be writers. It helps.

Right now, I’m a pot-smoking, liberal anarchist who subscribes to democracy as being the best way for now. I’m an atheist, in that I don’t believe in God as a human construct. I believe that the soul continues to exist, long after the human body breaks down. I’ve got a load of holes in my face, including a safety pin through my ear: a symbol of safety, welcome and inclusion, and a nod to punk. I’m a rude boy with ska and reggae in my blood. I’m a spaceman, with David Bowie as the soundtrack to my life. This is me, and I quite like it.

I bucked the system and fucked people up, including myself. I live with regrets like the life sentences they are. I’m alcohol dependent. I have depression, anxiety and PTSD many times over.

And I’ve learned to love that too. It feeds my writing.