The things of my head.

Monday 29 May 2017

I wrote a short story. It's published on The Squawk Back. Here's a little excerpt:

To kill a lizard I drive a knife through its back, up near the base of its head, and pin it to the ground. They writhe and thrash even with a blade in them, like they take a moment to realise they’re dead. The lizards come out early to feed so we have to collect worms, turning over muddy ground with digging forks, bringing out squirming wet bodies and grabbing handfuls of them, shoving them deep into our sack until we have a wriggling bagful. 

The whole story is up here

Sunday 5 March 2017

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Baked Crusade


I wrote a short story which takes place in a famous fictional city where a superhero who dresses like a bat lives. But it's not really about that. I obviously don't own the copyright to some of the things I'm talking about here, so I'll take it down if this is illegal in some way.

 Anyhow. Hope you enjoy.

Baked Crusade 

 What most people don’t realise is that since ancient times, Gotham City has been the site of some of the greatest incidents of invention and progress known to civilisation. That almost all of these moments of historical significance are related to bread making or the sacred activity of baking may come as a surprise to some, but for those who understand that the true nature of a people and their legacy is rooted in how they have manipulated wheat, the history of these events is not only a potent reminder of all that our ancestors lived through, but an opportunity to reflect on the journey that humanity has taken, and the honest reverence for baked goods we have gathered along the way. It is within this context that each year, a wide and varied collection of visitors arrive at the door of the Gotham City Museum of Bread and Baking History. 

There is no simple way to define a typical GCBBH visitor, because there is no such thing as a typical GCBBH visitor. Suffice to say, over the sixteen years that I have been the Director and Curator of this museum, we have become a sanctuary for the romantic, the curious, the nostalgic. To my knowledge, there is no other bread or baking relevant site of cultural or historical interest, that offers even close to the comprehensive, enlightening and educational experience that the GCBBH provides, and all for the low admission price of fifteen dollars. Gotham City has always been a place of great darkness, back through the ages, when it was nothing but swampland, the earliest peoples who waded through its dark waters, making homes under its rotting canopy offered first a glow through the gloom, a warm flicker of hope, their fires burning beneath the night’s sky, and then, later, the modest pleasure of freshly baked bread. Of course, initially, the bread of the Gotham Swamp People was very different to that a modern day citizen of this great city would recognise as the staple foodstuff of our morning toast. The first inhabitants of these wetlands gathered a water weed which would be pounded on rocks, wrapped into balls, and left to dry in trees, before being cast into an open fire. Those were extreme times, and called for extreme methods; these little balls of hard fire bread would sustain families through the arduous downpours and freezing nights. We have a couple of extremely rare examples of these fire bread balls at the museum, unearthed in the foundations of the Gotham City Hospital when it was turned to rubble in an explosion a few years ago. The specimens of early Gotham don’t look like much, just two tar black balls, but they are the fundamental sustenance on which the city we all live in was built. 

Obviously, like all those who deal in the culture and incidences of the past, we have to work hard to make the key elements of bread making relevant and inspiring for each new generation of visitors. In this vein, we have recently completed the Gotham City Time Oven, an oversized mock up of an eighteenth century baker’s oven, constructed at considerable time and expense, by myself, allowing up to eight visitors to travel back in time to key moments in Gotham’s baking heritage. As the Time Oven moves on its rails from one end of the exhibit to the other, those inside are treated to vivid illustrations of some of Gotham’s most fascinating baking moments. There is the Battle of Duke’s Hill from the civil war era, where confederate troops, starving, outnumbered and trapped, utilised their discovery of a cartload of stale buns as projectiles to drive back their enemies and escape the city with their lives. There is the cupcake ban from the fifties, where, driven crazed and deviant by sugar during the city’s boom time, inhabitants rampaged through the streets in a decadent orgy of gluttony, lust and wanton destruction. The resulting restriction of the use of any cake or otherwise sweet baked goods sent a whole population into cold, hard withdrawal, and lead to some of the more dramatic tortured sculptures and architecture that can still be seen in the city to this day. It is said that the architect of Arkham was himself suffering deep sugar withdrawal when he drew up the plans. The Time Oven used to be our most popular attraction, even though I accept the criticisms from some of our visitors, and from our janitor Dave, that the illustrations conceived for the Time Oven are not the most accurate rendering of the historical events they portray. I also acknowledge that I’m not very good at faces, and that some of the horses in the pictures bear a closer resemblance to dogs, but I think anyone who looks at them gets the general idea. And I’m delighted with how the bread massacre of 1762 turned out, it really does look horrifying. 

Our visitor numbers have been on the wane recently, and at first I thought that things might turn around when I brought in our ‘Old Bread’ workshops, where along with the normal price of admission you could also spend eight hours with one of our museum staff learning to make traditional breads through the ages. But there were some fairly unpleasant bouts of vomiting followed by brief periods of hospitalisation, which they called food poisoning and I called gluten intolerance, and one child did catch fire, but that aside, I don’t know anywhere else where a visitor could have the chance to create and sample the same bread that the howling rabid plague victims of the past would have gnawed on while crawling through the mud to their doom. Greg, my assistant, suggested that we start giving away free pizza, but Gotham library did that on Tuesdays and all they ended up with was a gang of stoned teens sitting on beanbags flicking through superhero comics and munching down pepperoni feasts. The last thing we need is to be harassed by skateboarding youths with stupid hats and no respect for yeast. 

 The reality is that things have become financially difficult, I've had to let Marie go, she worked on the admission desk, giving out tickets and museum guides and letting people know when the ornamental loaf demonstration would be on. She sat at her desk and blogged life hacks for the newly divorced most of the time and occasionally told people that we weren't the Gotham Museum of Modern Art. My concern is that if things don't improve I’ll have to fire more staff, and we’ve been working together a long time, we're like family. Ruth, who does the baking demonstrations, has a great rapport with the visitors, mainly because she can do a whole load of funny voices, which Greg insists are racist, but no one else has ever mentioned it. Ruth can pretty much rustle up an authentic and accurate bread product from any period of Gotham’s history you can think of. She's a model employee, and intensely loyal. When she incinerated her hand in an oven valve malfunction she never sued me, and when she found out that I paid a girl called Tina to chain me to a radiator and slap me in my underwear she never told the rest of the team. 

 The only potential saving grace we have as a museum is highly contentious, and I’m not ashamed to say that I haven’t been happy about the Batman Waffle since the day Greg brought it to us. Firstly, it is not a historical artefact, it is a classic waffle, with a light coating of maple syrup, that is supposed to have been partially consumed by the celebrity crimefighter Batman, prior to taking on a mob of hoodlums who had been terrorising local businesses with loud jeering and explosives. Greg had managed to negotiate the acquisition of the waffle with the manager of Valentine’s Diner, and I had to put up two hundred bucks for the privilege. Greg convinced me to put it in a case in the centre of the museum, so now there’s a life size model of Batman’s head, next to the waffle with a bite taken out of it. It's by far the most popular thing in the museum, I’ve seen visitors literally run through the museum, take a selfie with Batman and his waffle, and run back out again. But I suppose if they're buying tickets, I shouldn't really complain, it’s just that people used to care about the history, they wanted to understand how we all rose out of this strange collage of the past . Our other more recent exhibit is a giant ceremonial plate donated to us by local billionaire Bruce Wayne. He’s always giving out stuff. I think he gave it to us because we were the only place in Gotham he hadn’t donated something to. He presented it to the museum about six months ago and had a look around, he’s actually a pretty nice guy, clearly and understandably fascinated by the nineteenth century rye loaves as examples of the gradual increase in dough density. The plate he gave us is a silver cornbread platter from the 1790s, regardless of Mr Wayne's erroneous claim that it was from 1750, as though I can’t identify my ceremonial cornbread platters. I still chuckle to myself about that, at night, as the rain comes down. 

 I wish that I knew how to reignite people’s passion for the breads of our forefathers, but if it takes a contemporary half-eaten waffle to keep the museum open, then I suppose that’s a price I’m willing to pay. All in all, Gotham needs its Museum of Bread and Baking History, now more than ever, and if that should have to close its doors, for the city to lose this celebration of its cultural heritage, I don’t think I can imagine a worse fate for Gotham than that.

Monday 16 January 2017

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Everyone has their low moments, the times when it feels as though the walls are bending in on themselves to crush you, when the clouds roll heavy and grey and the world seems some distance away. It's in those times when it helps to marshall all the forces of the universe to cocoon you in an aura of cosmic contentment. This is not an easy thing to immediately achieve, but this track contains within it an exact distillation of that sensation. I therefore prescribe this track as a quick fix for melancholy. I love the original version, it's urgent and accelerated, it grabs you by the lapels and shoves you onto a supersonic travelator, but you have to be ready to go from 0 to 100, you have to have already carved out a piece of yourself to offer up to its raw power. Rustie's edit beckons you to come a little closer before it launches you skywards. The lightness of the opening piano and the deep steady pulse act as instant reassurance, before the music holds you by the hand and starts to take flight. All the rave ingredients from the synths through to the cheerful drum breaks are here laid out like a trail of happiness and painted on the insides on your eyelids in big neon letters, so for days afterwards when you blink there's an echoing burst of glory, turning out a delicate essence of what nostalgia is, re-experiencing the past in order to focus more hopefully on the present. This track lifts you up to watch a chain reaction of familiar euphoria. Each piece of the song erupts with an exhilarating enthusiasm for life, reminding you how thrilling existence can be. The string breaks in the song are sections of pure reflection, for all the times you felt love, and the summer evenings when the sun started to set. When the drop kicks in on this track, it is a perfectly spiked energy rush, and a call to joy, it is like the planets all swooping into alignment just for you, and then all the other melodies cascade over the top of each other and bring a warm, intense celebration of your being, like your own personal choir of synthetic angels are reaching deep inside you and pulling a perfect moment into your throat. This is unshrinking optimism, it is the collection of your past victories, a reminder of all you have accomplished and that even when the day is dark, and cold forces bump you from one wall to the other, that you will come home to yourself in the light and the warmth and taste the breath in your lungs. There are times when I find myself wishing I was somewhere else, and the simple overture from that piano conjures the belief that maybe that's possible, that maybe I'm even already there.


This music is great, you can find the original here and Rustie's version here.

You should also buy Rustie's album here, and check out DJ Gammer's stuff here and here.

Friday 18 March 2016

This track from its first penetration of my ears curled up like a panther in my very core and has been tapping out streams of morse code with a claw on my nervous system ever since. This has tattooed itself on me internally, like the nagging guilt of a lapsed vow, it finds its way to my head with an OCD regularity and there is some moment, most days, when a partial fragment of this tune comes swaying into the tempo of my thinking, it's become the sound of my thoughts taking a breath. In the first pulses of a grey morning I might come around to consciousness with an inner Rihanna tossing out the "Yea-yo, yea-yo" or whatever call to attention she's issuing at the beginning of the song, a casual loop playing over and over. Other times, I get the song's bridge, with all its gun-you-down swagger, and it's there, just waiting, cued up ready. And a lot of the time it's just the chorus rolling on and on in my head, over and over, like bra, bra bra. It's some kind of mental tic I think, it's seeped too far into me, I can't extract it from myself. It has become the musical equivalent of the kind of compulsive persistence in enforcing reparations that Rihanna sings about here. It's a lurking presence, a constant reminder that this song exists, and that I've chosen to fuck with it, and it's left its stain. The song is joyously vicious, it is a cold hard stare, it's a ringmaster of bad days, roping up temper and resentment into a victoriously vindictive chorus of vengeance that can bring everything down like dominoes with one movement. The music has this weird twilight zone, acid trip at the amusement arcade, wonky keyboard in the background, like when you've been drugged and dragged down an abandoned pier in the middle of the night to face your creditors. On top of the tilted keyboard, there's a clicking wrench of drumbeats, like the sleepless grinding teeth of anxiety from mulling over the weight of inescapable debt that's owed, the Rihanna-sized anchor around the neck, and the only dreams that come are you standing naked in a room full of cracking knuckles. 

Rihanna sings this all out like it's standard practice, like of course it was going to turn out this way, you let her down, and this was the only possible response. The tone running through the whole thing seems to be oblivious as to why anyone would be surprised by this retaliatory behaviour. And it's actually easy to take from Rihanna for that reason. It's like being face down on the floor, because that's where you live now that you can't pay your dues, and the skies have all darkened, and the muscles in your neck are starting to atrophy, so you can't lift your head and you have to start marking the shifting time of day through the length of the shadows as they fall on the ground beside you, and you live in the endless hope that at some stage the forces of Rihanna's retribution, having held you to a life of servitude for your insincere approach to debt repayment, might find enough grace on a warm spring afternoon to drop you the half-chewed remains of a lunch burrito, so you can fill your mouth with the taste of what once passed for a sense of dignity. And in the background there's still that "Yea-yo, yea-yo" on a loop and you wish it would stop, and then you don't because it's so brutally catchy that all you can do is tap your foot in concert with each whimpering breath, and still the beat goes on. 


This is a good song, and maybe you already own it, but if you don't, maybe you should own it, from here. Get Rihanna's album if you want, even though this track's not on it for some reason. 

Thursday 10 March 2016

Ok, so I know that this isn’t all that new, but ever since I listened to this for the first time, it bounces around my head with recurring regularity, it creeps into my spine out of nowhere and jitters me, and every time I hear this track, it just slayz, it slayz without exception. The early section lurches in like from distant passageways, full of strange echoes and digital bells tolling. The beat pulses with such heat that it spirals up to the ceiling and unfolds like its own microclimate, like a warm dense mist. This song has everything in its corner, “Stinking of Issey Miyake, dark rum and the marijuana” is an amazing first line to set up an atmosphere of controlled menace perfectly, and the deep vocals pull that vibe further down, bubbling with a kind of hypnotism, as though you’re being beckoned into a trance, disembowelled, and having your future divined from your spilt entrails while you stare off into the middle distance, body swaying uncontrollably with the hard rhythm of boiling, thumping bass. This track is like an incantation, calling the sky down, asking for darkness. This is the throwing down of a gauntlet so heavy that no one could possibly pick it up, it just lies there, sinking further and further into the wet ground. The break in the middle of the song brings the nocturnal essence of the track back into full focus, like the vocals just appear out of a sleep fog, and when the short fast bars come, growls lying behind them with the provocative “and what?” mantra, it’s like a faceless manifestation of your ego bursting from a dream and attacking you with scissors. Like I said, it slayz, all day, every day, it lays waste to dominions and principalities, it reverberates long and loud across scorched earth. This scares my friends. It’s the kind of track I can imagine crawling on my belly in the dirt to, pulling myself prostrate from end to end of a vast subterranean kingdom, vipers snapping at my heels. It’s unapologetic and tough and it’s a steep drop at the end of a long night; as stylish a fall out you could ever hope for.


This music is awesome, you should buy it here and check out their website.
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