I am listening to my own voice while writing this. My good friend David Mann kindly asked me to do a punk radio show with him, and I’m listening to the final version of it. I thought he might edit it down quite a lot, but we’ve got over 2 hours of music and me talking. Go and have a listen if you’ve never heard me talk about Dead Men before. I never used to like the sound of my own voice, and I still don’t really love it, but I no longer experience that feeling of disgust I used to have when hearing it. The truth is that writers do need to know how to speak in public, not only if they’re performance poets. And I am certainly not a performance poet. And even on this show, my mind runs off in several directions. Mr B on the BBC and his then producer T christened me the King Of Tangents. That’s another book title to note down.
I’m not sure there is any point in me even tackling politics this morning except to say that the British government which has been so so slow to issue visas to mainly white Ukrainians is now proposing to deport any immigrants they deem illegal to Rwanda, currently run by the man who initiated the genocide of the recent past. How can we endure this fascism any longer? As long as people believe the lies the government tells, is the answer, as long as the British remain xenophobes, as long as we have a corrupt and manipulable voting system in place. The attack on living standards, the need to focus on survival, means that most people don’t have the time or energy to think about politics or to rebel openly in the streets. So I talked about politics. Forgive me.
It is Good Friday. Regardless of your faith, this time should be a time of renewal, a time of reflection. If you’re going to make any resolutions, this is really the time to make them, not New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Actually, we need to make resolutions, otherwise known as decisions, every day. M is having to work today (in the office in town!) and on Easter Monday. This is where “progress” has brought us. Yes, it’s not the slavery of the Industrial Revolution, nor the slavery of those dragged off on British ships and put to work in plantations, but it’s modern slavery of a particularly insidious kind. I have railed against this before, and it’s not because the one person I love above all others and want to spend time with has to go to work, it’s because we have made so much technological progress that was meant to bring us more freedom and leisure time and yet people’s time is more enslaved than ever. Progress is not progress unless it makes everyone’s lives better and easier.
It is grey. Another day. We have handed power to those who should not hold it. Perhaps this year we will be able to take it back.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 62
‘Such lofty ambitions,’ Anna says, can’t take her eyes off this man she initially thought was an idiot.
Aggie raises her left eyebrow. Anna was always easily led, she thinks to herself. And she’s surprised neither of them can see what’s happening between them. ‘Bullshit,’ she says. ‘You let yourself be taken in by Valentine when you tried to arrest me in London. You’ve only come to your senses because I made you see it.’
‘Aggie!’ Anna stares at her. ‘Why do you hate him so much?’
‘I don’t,’ Aggie says. ‘I think he’s learning. And he may have had these principles since whenever, but he’s not proven anything with any actions I’ve seen.’
‘I’m here, aren’t I?’ Zav says. ‘And stop talking about me as if I wasn’t.’
‘True,’ Aggie says.
‘You’re weird,’ Anna says. ‘You always were.’
‘That makes two of us then,’ Aggie says.
‘Perhaps you just don’t know what to think,’ Anna says. ‘None of us do. None of us did. We were taught what to think.’
‘Except you never believed any of it.’
‘I was an orphan. I got snatched from the street and taken to God knows where. I was grateful for the food and what I thought was safety, but I wasn’t freer. If anything, I was less free.’
‘We were all damaged goods,’ Aggie says. Drifts off again. That baby she lost, that was ripped from her? Was it love that made it, and hatred that killed it. Did it come from some crazy fumble in some back street somewhere, or had there been someone who really loved her, and whom she had loved back, with whom she’d consciously decided to make a new life? She can’t remember. A blank there, no face, no body, nothing, no matter how hard she tries to visualise it, no matter how much she tries to push her mind back past that day of lying in the snow, her womb ripped open, the wounds all across her chest, the incessant stream of blood until the mentor’s arms had lucked her from certain death and carried her away into what should have been a sanctuary but turned into the worst kind of prison. Perhaps this secret place she has in herself that no-one knows about is the love for the child she should have had, or the love that remains for whoever it was who made that bundle of flesh and bones and blood that was never born.
‘What was this place you keep talking about?’ Zav says. ‘Some sort of finishing school for mad girls?’
Silence. It ticks past. Comfortless.
‘We’re not mad,’ Anna says, almost spitting. ‘We were children. And now we’re grown up children.’
‘Zav,’ Aggie says. ‘Listen to what you say in your head before you say it.’ Her voice is gentle but has an edge to it harder than steel. ‘We thought someone had come to save us from whatever strife we were in. And then they made us into weapons for some sort of crazy revenge they wanted to take on the world.’
Anna looks at Aggie, takes her hand, squeezes it. ‘And for all we know, they might still be controlling us, in some way, somehow.’
‘Then why hasn’t anything happened?’ he says. ‘Why aren’t we surrounded by your mentor’s, as you’ve been calling them, troops, now that you’re doing something you’re not?’
‘Perhaps we are doing what we’re supposed to,’ Anna says. ‘And we just don’t know it.’
‘Double double bluff?’ Zav says.
Aggie shrugs, feels the weight of Anna’s dead battery in her pocket, feels the weight of her guilt and lies.