Streams of soda consciousness

THE WRITER’S LIFE

If I don’t write this now I’ll be conceding defeat, not to one nemesis or tormentor, but to life. The Tory social cleansing machine nearly got the better of me today, so I have no option but to write about the constant scream of consciousness.

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This blog was once the daily diaries of a homeless drunk, written during an hour of public access time on a library computer. Lately I’ve not been able to find any time to collect my thoughts, let alone convey them. Rather than sit around all day, confused and wondering what to write, I thought I’d spend an hour like I used to in the library, writing, like I haven’t been lately.

Everything whirling in my head has become almost overwhelming, and there’s been plenty of it. Keeping it to myself while I contemplate how to address it meant that I didn’t confront it. Tired of life and the world, I have to write to save my own little place in both.

It’s pretty clear to all but the most ignorant that the world will end, one way or another, during our lifetime. It’s completely obvious to me and thousands of others, that the UK government are a bunch of fascist murderers. And it’s plain in my mind that I’ve not been right lately. Unless I can sort that last one out, I’ve got no chance of playing any part in doing anything about the other two.

The writer’s block is because my mind is so full of all that stuff. There are potential solutions and suggestions in there, but what’s been keeping them at bay is the world of me at the front of my head, the face I haven’t shown.

My ongoing battle with the Department for Work and Pensions is now well into its sixth month, not through inaction on my part so much as incompetence on theirs approaching Vogon levels. More on that another time, in a different post, where I’ll free another hour to write.

For now, the world of me has been laid to waste by the government’s best efforts to kill me by proxy, by denying me (like thousands of others) the so-called benefit (some would say a human right) of personal independence. They’ve taken away the money I’ve been judged entitled to for the last four years, which allowed me to live an independent life, while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) picked up from mental and physical abuse I encountered while living on the streets. But of course, I put myself there by being drunk. As if the daily guilt wasn’t enough. I was ill, and I still am. Always judged.

I’ve been judged as deserving of personal independence by those qualified to do so (tribunal panels) in the past, but the system is designed to make people kill themselves, with out-sourced assessors deliberately ignoring evidence of entitlement to massage the government’s figures and pay their private sector employers’ and shareholders’ bonuses. It’s a murderous apparatus, employed by a morally bankrupt dictatorship. Like the wider world, the UK is a victim of the wealthy minority running government so that fascist capitalism trumps a more socialist approach which might otherwise save our species and our home. That’s another hour of writing a separate post.

When I used to write this blog in the library, it was my way of keeping in touch with my world and the wider one beyond, whether anyone gave a toss or not. It was always therapy. Lately I’ve assumed no-one cares, because I’ve been caring less about myself and most things beyond. I realise that even dealing with myself is not something I can do on my own.

I’d become convinced that if I felt as low and little about myself as I’d been ground down to feel by the social cleansing machinery, then anyone else would give even less of a shit. But every hour that I’ve stared at this blog I spent the last five years building, I can’t help notice that quite a few people follow it, and therefore me.

Most of my followers hitched up when they read one of my short stories, but others have climbed on board the wagon through empathy. I know my watchers here aren’t like those necrophiliac perverts at DWP, and you don’t want to see me fail (as in, die). How does knowing that make me feel? Honestly, I feel better.

I have a better life now, one where I don’t have to commandeer a public access computer to get all my thoughts down in an allotted hour. But actually, setting an hour aside to simply write is the best way to do that. Because the time we have together is allotted by me now, and it makes me feel better just talking to you. And whether I’m heard or not, it helps to talk.

This blog was once the daily diaries of a homeless drunk. Then it became that of a writer with mental health labels, writing about being a writer with mental health labels. I’m sober now, and I have a home. Then lately that stopped, and it was because of the killing machine. It was that which made me write for an hour tonight. I’ll stop now. I could go on, but if I stop then I know I can come back and write for another hour another time.

There’d be no point โ€“ indeed no point in being me โ€“ if I didn’t have readers. Hopefully this brief diary provided some insight (for voyeuristic perverts). I’m stopping now and not re-reading or revising. This was stream of consciousness stuff, like I used to write in the library. Once that meter ran out, I was cut off for another day at least: See you again soon.

There, I said it. I wrote it. I feel like a writer again. Lost and in need of rescue, but you can’t be rescued if you don’t shout. You can’t write if no-one can read. I feel better. Thanks for reading. For everyone who got this far, there are many who didn’t. But they might read this sometime. They wouldn’t if I hadn’t written it.

โ€œRemember the compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.โ€ Baz Luhrmann. Keep moving. Keep living. It’s too late to floss my teeth, but I won’t let fascists dance on my grave.

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I need to pay my annual hosting fees soon, and fascist Tory human rights policies mean I can’t afford to. Donations always help me to keep writing this blog ($1 per follower who could afford it would be massive), and there’s Cyrus Song: a perfectly plausible solution to all our problems, available for less than a decent coffee as an eBook (also available in paperback, like the rest of my books).

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Alien chest (with instructions)

FLASH FICTION

Hellraiser Cube

As an alien visitor to this place, I needed to get rid of an old chest I’d been carrying around for far too long, so I tried giving it away for free. I found talking difficult, and I wasn’t sure anyone understood me.

โ€œSorry, we’re just closing.โ€

โ€œBut I’d like to donate this.โ€

โ€œIs it broken?โ€

โ€œI just can’t get it work. I figure someone else might make better use of it.โ€

โ€œBut it’s yours. Doesn’t it have sentimental value?โ€

โ€œIt’s pretty empty.โ€

โ€œSo why would we want it?โ€

โ€œBecause it’s pretty when it’s empty. You’re a charity, right?โ€

โ€œWe are, but I think you might be better off going to a hospital.โ€

I couldn’t be bothered with the walk, so I lay down outside the British Heart Embassy, hoping they might find the manufacturer and send the antique inside the chest for repair.

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My head felt better.

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Rupert and Theresa’s social recipe

POLITICS

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*The Prime Minister of the former United Kingdom isn’t recorded as saying any of this, but her record of being a racist cunt followed her from the Home Office. Shit sticks, and stinks.

The unfolding art of sleeping

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Living and working in a small studio, I save space and increase the functionality of the room by sleeping on a futon. It’s guest seating when folded by day, and a reminder of nights sleeping wherever one could unfold at night.

It’s like sleeping on packing crates: just enough of a bed to allow the spreading of one’s weight, but not so comfortable that one is ever likely to sleep soundly (which I never can with PTSD from sleeping on the streets, waiting to be set alight and ready to run). It’s sleeping with one eye open, and a restless leg hanging out of the side; then tucking the feet in, even if the head can’t sleep.

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I’m lucky to have a crate to sleep on, which can be folded away as I unfold myself from it. If I didn’t, I’d spend all day on it. I know I’m not alone in there.

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When your best friend is fictional

THE WRITER’S LIFE

While I remain in the government’s social cleansing machine, now in my sixth month of battling to win back my personal independence (a ‘benefit’ which some might call a human right), I’m not normally expecting anyone to visit me unexpectedly, so I was surprised when my doorbell rang earlier. Then I remembered I’d replaced the batteries.

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Whoever was there (it could have been anyone, given I was expecting no-one), I was always going to be surprised when I opened the door, but I hadn’t imagined I’d be as surprised as I was to see who it was, which was surprising in itself, seeing as I’m a writer who’s meant to be able to see these things. But I write best when everyone else is asleep.

It was Doctor Hannah Jones, a character I created originally for Cyrus Song, and who’s appeared in various short stories, where she’s met Simon Fry many times. He’s been over before (first when he suggested we meet, when we had Pi, then when we made flans), but I’d never met her, until now. She was just as I’d imagined (I wrote her): attractive, smart, and disarming.

โ€œHi,โ€ she said. โ€œWhat happened to your face?โ€

โ€œHello Hannah,โ€ I replied, โ€œnice to see you too. What about it?โ€

โ€œWell, I’m used to seeing you in character. Now I can see what’s beneath the words.โ€ Which was odd, as I was at pains to explain.

โ€œThat’s odd,โ€ I replied, โ€œbecause I knew what you looked like before you ever started talking, but when you did, the way you looked changed.โ€

โ€œWell, you wrote me.โ€ Which was true, but Hannah had actually written herself, which I could never really explain. She sat at my desk. โ€œWhy did you ask me round?โ€

She’d brought her own drink, which was handy. And Hannah swigs from the bottle, because she’s a thug. So we drank, with her at the desk and me on the couch, like it was her office and I was her psychiatric patient (she’s a vet).

โ€œTell me about your childhood,โ€ Hannah said. โ€œCould no-one else be bothered to come over?โ€

โ€œPeople visit,โ€ I replied, โ€œbut I can’t really engage with them at any depth.โ€

โ€œAnd you find me deep?โ€

โ€œI thought I might see if I could do what you do, and write myself.โ€

โ€œBut you’re you; why would you need me to do that?โ€

โ€œBecause I don’t feel like I know myself lately, and I need a way to do that.โ€

โ€œAnd that’s me?โ€

โ€œI suppose it is.โ€

โ€œBut who am I? Aren’t I a part of you?โ€

โ€œOnly a small part. Each of us is partly everyone else we know. Not just because we’re all connected to the universe anyway, but none of us is truly ourselves. We’re all a montage of other people and their stories.โ€

โ€œBut we each have our own lives and history, which surely makes us what we are?โ€

โ€œYes, but what if there was no-one else around to know that? See? We’re all made of the people we know, including ourselves. Most of us are afraid of that if we’re honest.โ€

โ€œThat’s deep, Simon.โ€

โ€œSteve.โ€

โ€œOh yeah.โ€

โ€œI don’t get many visitors, and little conversation. I can talk to myself and to my blog, but I find it easier if I’m talking to a person, even if I don’t have anyone to do that with. And I can be more open like this, writing fiction which isn’t really that, but real life told as such.โ€

โ€œIs that you ducking the issues?โ€

โ€œFar from it. I spend too much time wrapped up in myself and getting confused. This is my way of clearing my mind, getting things off my chest, confronting myself.โ€

โ€œSo you don’t really need me.โ€

โ€œI need someone to talk to.โ€

โ€œYou need someone to write for. This is an outlet for you, a means to write.โ€

โ€œIt’s my coping mechanism. Even when I do see real people, I can’t open up. They’d have to have immense patience, I wouldn’t get everything out, I’d feel I’d burdened them, and I’d be in their debt.โ€

โ€œSo you invited me round to be a captive audience.โ€

โ€œI wasn’t even sure you’d turn up.โ€

โ€œIs that why you’ve not cooked tonight?โ€

โ€œYeah, I normally do that when I’m on my own.โ€

โ€œBut you’re not.โ€

โ€œOther than you, I am.โ€

โ€œBut when you’re here talking with me, you feel like a writer?โ€

โ€œYes, because I’m writing this.โ€

โ€œThis is quite surreal.โ€

โ€œI’m a surrealist.โ€

โ€œDo I have free will?โ€

โ€œOf course you do. Even though I wrote you. In fact, I wrote you with more freedom than I’ve ever known.โ€

โ€œI need to eat, so you’d better get some food in. But never forget, I don’t really exist.โ€

Doctor Jones decided to hang around for a while to help me, but she’d sleep on the couch.

Maybe I can keep writing, despite outer influences intent on stopping me. Only if I let them. To be continued (again).

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Doctor Hannah Jones first appeared in Two Little Things, the short story which spawned Cyrus Song. She’s also cropped up in various related prequel (A Story Tied by Strawberry String), sequel (Quantum Entanglement in Hamsters) and sideline stories (The Invention of the Pencil Case).

The origin of unpacked furniture

THE WRITER’S LIFE | FLASH FICTION

A recurring theme in my writing is The Unfinished Literary Agency. It’s a fictional place (and there’s a book), which exists to tell the stories of others who are unable to tell their own.

The agency is also an analogy of the writing world, where writers crave an audience, in a place where people don’t have time to read. It has parallels, to how inner frustration made my own mind up to write down everything in it.

Stories only happen to those who are able to tell them, and sometimes I wonder if we may have a greater purpose, but haven’t worked out what it is yet…

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THE OFFICE OF LOST THINGS

They are afraid of the sun, shrinking away as it climbs in the sky, and they are liveliest at night. They follow us, and we can’t outrun them. They are The Shadows.

I first became aware that I’d picked one up when my own shadow started carrying a guitar.ย No matter where I walked, indoors or outside, my shadow followed me. And regardless of what I myself was carrying (a bag, my jacket, thrown over my shoulder…), my shadow still travelled with its guitar.

This being Bethnal Green, I found an Italian greasy spoon, where the proprietor, a doctor, explained my condition. His Cockney dialogue was easy for the Babel fish in my ear to translate, and when he told me I was Hank Marvin, he offered me a cure, pointing to an item on the menu: โ€œGSEGโ€, which was scrambled eggs, and my hunger was gone.

I was on my way to Islington, delivering a manuscript, to a place I’d heard about from other writers.

Above Hotblack Desiato’s office near Islington Green, is The Unfinished Literary Agency. It’s where all the storytellers send their stories, and sometimes meet to share them, like a secret society, but open to all.

I climbed the stairs to the agency office, a windowless room in the loft. The lights were out and no-one was in. I tried the light switch but it didn’t work. Fumbling around, I found a desk, which I discovered had drawers, and the fourth one yielded a box of candles. I lit a cigarette, then a candle, and looked around the small office, which a broom might call luxurious.

On the desk was a typewriter, and next to it, a stack of papers: hand-written manuscripts. Besides the desk and a chair, there was just a large book cabinet occupying one wall. It held possibly hundreds of unwritten books, all from writers seeking attention, and all in a place where the sun never shines.

I sat at the desk and looked at my flickering shadow, cast by the candle. There was no guitar, just my cigarette dangling from my mouth, like a smoking tulip.

With no-one else around, I decided to stay for a while and started typing.

ยฉ Steve Laker

Dreams play TV

Wherever our lives may lead, we are all but a plot device.

The Unfinished Literary Agency (my second anthology) is available now.ย 

Cat Googles human nature

CATSCANS

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