Sunday, 18 December 2016


They met in the aisle between the lentils and the tomato puree. It was a chance encounter; nothing had been planned. The look on her face when she saw him, almost shock, before it turned into a smile. They talked about the summer and how she had spent it. He tried not to react when she mentioned her husband, as she always did, as if she could only define herself in terms of her other half. Then she did something very strange indeed. She offered him her hand and asked him to touch the skin, to feel it. He rubbed his thumb along the edge of her index finger, trying to send a signal. Was that what she wanted, a signal, some kind of confirmation? When he looked at her she had turned her head away. She was blushing. He let go and the small talk continued for a minute before they parted. They were shopping for lunch things.

Saturday, 1 October 2016


Staring at the wall. It was so close he could have touched it. Plasterboard painted light orange, brush marks, streaks, although you wouldn’t have noticed if you weren’t looking closely, if you weren’t examining it. Then the angle where it met the other wall, the corner. He could have touched that, too. Was this why he came here, to stare at walls and the corners they form? The sheet of paper on the desk. He had decided to do it the old way, longhand, but all he had managed was half a page. It wasn’t good. He knew the importance of making a start, and the flow of words that would inevitably follow – he wasn’t a beginner – but he couldn’t get his head into it. He couldn’t get his head into it because his head was somewhere else. His head was miles away, hundreds of them, where his body should have been.
It had been fine for the first few days, but the non-existence of a phone signal was getting to him. No internet, either. He was worried. He hadn’t been at first, but he was now. He was thinking about home, about bad things that might happen or might already have happened. Bad things that might be going on at this very moment. The nearest telephone was in the pub at the bottom of the hill. What if they tried to reach him during the night, when the pub was shut? In his absence...
In his absence.
He was absent. He wasn’t where he should have been, although he had an excuse, a poor one: he had asked to be here. The Panel had been suitably impressed by his portfolio and he was now their guest, free board and lodging for a month in the back of beyond so he could concentrate, interruption-free, on his writing. Except he hadn’t done any since he arrived, forget the half page of garbage he had scrawled, it was offensive just to look at the shape of the words, never mind read them.
The other Fellows were in the kitchen, he could hear them through the wall laughing and talking as they prepared breakfast. Gus prised the pencil out of his fingers and went to the toilet.

Duncan Margolyes, celebrated epigrammatist and Writer-in-Residence, was holding forth, yet again, on Circular Narrative. ‘It has to keep coming back to itself,’ he said as he looped salt illustratively onto his porridge. ‘Focus,’ he said. ‘That’s the key word. Focus.’
Gus’s knife clattered as he stabbed his kipper.
‘Although there are other ways of going about it,’ said Duncan. He let the sentence hang. So did everyone else.
Gus chewed his food. When he had worked it enough, he swallowed. ‘This is lovely,’ he said. ‘Is it a kipper?’
‘Oh, good one!’ said Duncan. ‘Humour over breakfast. We’re talking about Circular Narrative, Gus, Circular Narrative!’
‘Indeed you are,’ said Gus. ‘I thought this conversation finished three days ago. I thought the same two days ago, then yesterday. Seems like the talk keeps coming back to itself. To be expected, I suppose.’ He tapped the kipper with the edge of his fork. ‘Sorry for stating the obvious.’
The other Fellows made their excuses and left. Gus looked at their plates. Steam was rising from fish that hadn’t had time to be stripped.
Duncan lifted a spoonful of porridge. He blew on it. He blew on it for a long time. He was in no hurry, a dangerous man to be sure. Perhaps he was in the creative midst of another of those ditties for which he was so roundly feted. ‘I’m glad we’ve got this chance to talk alone, Gus,’ he said.
‘As long as it’s not about you-know-what, I’m up for it,’ said Gus.
‘Oh, god,’ said Duncan. ‘Don’t pay any attention to me, especially at this time of the morning. What would I know about narrative, circular or otherwise, I’m a poet for crying out loud. And not a very good one at that.’
For courtesy’s sake, Gus could have said something. Instead, he teased out another mouthful of food.
‘I’m not being modest, Gus. Whatever we do as writers, it’s never enough, is it? It’s never good enough, that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s a struggle. People come to this retreat for many reasons, not just to write. The Panel like to see a sample of work before they offer a Fellowship, but, as you know, promising to write while you’re here isn’t a condition of acceptance. How’s it going, if you don’t mind me asking?’
Gus buttered a slice of toast, a displacement activity if ever there was one, and he knew all about those. He used two sachets, slowly, trying to enjoy the scrape of metal on charred bread.
Duncan placed his spoon in the bowl. ‘I’m sorry to be so intrusive,’ he said. ‘I’ll let you get on with your breakfast in peace.’
The door clicked shut. Gus looked around the kitchen. The emptiness gave him yet another reason to hate himself. He had managed to alienate everyone in the house just by being there. No, he had managed to alienate himself, that was more precise, wasn’t it, that was more focused. It was a talent, of that there was no doubt.

He lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Walls and ceilings. Christ this was a waste of time. But it was his choice. He’d had to get away, and nobody had tried to talk him out of it. They were glad to see the back of him. He missed them. He doubted they felt the same. His children had started doing vanishing tricks whenever he came home, even the youngest, little Susie, who was just learning to talk, she was picking up the signals from the other three. And their mother – she hadn’t even phoned to see if he arrived safely. She knew the number of the pub, he’d written it down for her, but no messages had been brought to the retreat by bicycle, that was the way he’d been told it worked.
Gus hadn’t phoned, either.
The further away from home the better. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. No one had been there to see him off, certainly not his wife. He remembered the sound as he pulled the front door closed, an empty thud. He should have dumped the keys in the mailbox.
And here he was.
Walls and ceilings.
It was like a prison. He’d put himself in it.
It wasn’t a prison. He could walk out the door any time he wanted. He could take off across the fields and never come back, no one was stopping him.
Solitary confinement.
When he started counting the flowers on the curtains he knew it was time to get out.

The pub was open, a single car in the car park. He could have gone inside, but kept walking. He didn’t know where he was headed. He didn’t even know where he was, not exactly, if you’d given him a map he wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint anything.
The track joined the main road. He crossed over and found a gap in the drystone wall. Rugged moorland as far as the eye could see. Never had he stood in grass so thick. He squatted and put his hands into it – it had the consistency of wire, springy and wet. And the silence, not even the chirp of a bird. Not a tree to be seen. It was the first time he’d been outside since he got here. Perhaps this was all he needed, to be out in the fresh air, to clear his head. He stood tall and filled his lungs, once, twice, three times. It didn’t help. He knew better than to try and kid himself. Clear his head? How could he do that, his head was crammed full of ideas, images, voices, they weren’t going anywhere. And his left shoe had sprung a leak, the sock was mulching against his foot. Luckily, he had another pair of shoes with him. And countless pairs of socks, of course, it wasn’t the first time he’d tried to live out of a suitcase, the trick was to unpack as soon as you arrived. Back in the room, the wardrobe was a sight to behold, shirts and trousers hanging stiffly and the drawers replete with rows of freshly laundered hosiery. And there was an iron in the kitchen if he needed it, maintaining a dapper appearance wasn’t a problem. Okay, he was vain. He acknowledged it. Everything came down to his reflection and how good it looked. How else could he have abandoned his family to concentrate on his inner self, his Art? He knew he was good, he was good at making up little stories, he wasn’t the only one who thought so. But it didn’t pay. In other words he was selfish, irresponsible. A dreamer.
It hurt like hell when his wife reminded him, which she did more often than was necessary.
He reached another wall. The grass was even thicker here, he had to be careful where he was putting his feet, he didn’t want to break an ankle. The stones were sharp against his palms as he climbed over. His intention, if it really was an intention, had been to keep walking away from the retreat, a straight line, but the way forward was blocked by a river. The water was completely still. It was a canal, the towpath looked as if it had been relaid quite recently. Why would they do that? Maybe in the summer months this was a tourist spot full of barges taking holidaymakers from A to B, although where A and B were he had no idea. His eyes were playing tricks. The water seemed to be higher than the towpath. He threw in a handful of cinders. They scattered across the surface sooner than they should have. He found a large stone, almost a boulder, in the shrubbery and hoisted it as far as he could. It splashed was as if the water was at least a foot higher than the path. The laws of physics, he tried to dredge something up from his boyhood, what was it called, optics, refraction? His boyhood was a long time ago. Sometimes it seemed like yesterday. He’d been good at science. Formulas. Formulae. He’d binned it after two years, though, when the arithmetic turned into maths. He was more interested in the concepts than the analysis, although the difference between accuracy and precision was something he would always respect. It was words he’d fallen in love with, not numbers.

*     *     *

The hissing sound was growing louder. A waterfall? What did Newton have to say about man-made rivers and waterfalls? Probably not much. The land on both sides of the canal was falling away, grass and shrubs being replaced by trees. Soon only the tops were showing.
About a hundred yards away the canal swept to the right, crossing a deep gorge over a series of arches.
Gus immediately thought of the pub, and the phone in it. He had said goodbye to no one. He could see the river now, it was in spate, its hiss was insistent. His eyes were on his feet as cinders turned into irregular slabs, crazy paving. Then his hands were clutching the bars, as thick as clothes poles, along the side of the aqueduct. And the slabs, they seemed to be moving, even though he knew they weren’t, it was impossible. He forced himself to let go and fell to his knees, his fingers splayed on the stones.
Fear. Simple and pure, so pure, because of the gap at his shoulder, he could see the angles where something had been used to prise the railings apart. This gap was large. It was more than large enough for a human body. He was being drawn towards it, his knees were inching. He should have been thankful, whoever had done this had saved him the trouble. He gripped metal and felt the wind in his face, he had to close his eyes against it, but he wanted to look, he wanted to see, he needed to. Hundreds of feet below, the river was coursing white over invisible rocks, the roar undulating, an angry siren. How easy would it be? He would leave it all to philosophy of a natural kind. Focus. This was why he had come. No longer an encumbrance. They wouldn’t even have to clean up the mess. Strangers would take care of that downstream.
His left foot moved through the space. The sole of his shoe found the ledge on the other side. The sock inside was slippery, but he was careful. Carefully does it.
Her voice. Behind him. As clear as life.

*     *     *

He had to ring the bell on the counter. He rang it again. Eventually, a man appeared at the side of the gantry.
‘Hello,’ said Gus. He didn’t sound like himself.
‘Hello,’ said the man, all smiles. ‘Don’t tell me. You’re one of the writers up at the retreat...’
‘I need...’
‘...I didn’t hear a car stopping. I was wondering when you’d be putting in an appearance. Not just you, you understand. All of you. What would you like?’
‘I need to use your phone,’ said Gus.
‘Ah,’ said the man. ‘I see. No problem. Just round the corner behind you, next to the Gents.’
‘Thanks,’ said Gus.
It was a payphone.
He rang the bell.
The man appeared.
‘Could I break a tenner?’ said Gus.
The man exhaled, his cheeks puffing. Eventually, he moved to the till. ‘Folk usually ask for change for the phone when they’re paying for their drinks,’ he said.
‘Maybe next time,’ said Gus.
‘You’re welcome,’ said the man, even though he didn’t mean it.
Gus took a moment to remember the country code then hit the buttons. He checked his watch. Everyone would be home.
‘Daddy! Mummy, it’s daddy!’
Muffled voices.
‘Hey, how are you?’
‘Are you for real? I’ve been worried sick. That number you gave me doesn’t work, you idiot.’
It was starting again. In truth, it had never stopped. He scanned the front of the phone, but there was no information on it. ‘That was the number they gave me,’ he said.
‘You should have phoned when you got there. The kids have been up the walls. Nathan...’
‘How is everyone?’
‘How the hell do you think they are?!’
The heap of coins in his hand. He closed his fingers till hardness dug into bone.
‘I had to take Nathan to the clinic this morning, his throat’s getting worse. He’ll be on antibiotics for the next fortnight. If you were here, you’d...’
‘I have to go.’
‘What do you mean you have to go? You’ve just...’
‘Tell the kids I love them.’
‘Daddy!’ It was Susie again. ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’
The receiver was warm against his ear. The tiny voice coming out of it. He watched his fist push down on the cradle.

*     *     *

Leaving. Nothing is easier. All you do is put one foot in front of the other. It sounded like something Margolyes would have written. Then again, who was Gus to know – Gus was no poet. He would phone for a taxi from the pub. The flight was another matter. He’d worry about that when he got to the airport. His good shoes, where were they? And socks, a dry pair, they were in the wardrobe, the bottom drawer. He was trying not to look at the desk. The piece of paper was where he’d left it. So was the packet of A4, the top ripped open.
He dragged himself to the chair. The room was quiet. Silent. Not a sound from the kitchen. His pencil. A clean sheet of paper slid in front of his eyes. He tried to stop himself, but it was beyond his control.

Staring at the wall. It was so close he could have touched it.

It was a start.

The words were soon flowing.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The night Large One, Derrick played The Clatrell Leisure Suite, Falkirk - from a work in progress

By the time Large One, Derrick came on, the place was heaving. It had nothing to do with Large One, Derrick. The word was out that Shug Skinner was back in town.
‘HE-LLO FAW-KURT!’ Mooney bellowed into the microphone.
‘Freak!’ someone shouted.
‘I shagged your maw!’ shouted someone else. It was one of the Drive! fans, even though Drive! had already left the building.
‘I’d drink your pish!’ squeaked a wee lassie down the front. She’d been on the light box earlier.
Grant thumped out the tempo with a pair of brushes. He looked uncomfortable; he was trying to avoid the spray coming at him off the snare. Then Mooney came in on the guitar, and Stark on the fiddle. It sounded like The Dubliners meets Rising Damp. But nobody cared what it sounded like, not even the Posse. It was backing music for Shug. He didn’t, after all, have a clue about the lights, but he was a great dancer. He was swaying alone in the middle of the floor, cradling the syringe like it was his own true love. He danced expressively, almost balletically, pushing the hunk of metal away then drawing it closer, as if he couldn’t bear to let it go. It was quite a performance, Dug had to admit; Shug remained focussed even through Stark’s countless bum notes.
The applause was loud.
‘I! THANK! YOU!’ Mooney boomed. He pretended to tune his guitar till the noise died down. Then he stepped back to the mike. ‘This yin’s for my auld dear!’ he said. ‘It’s called The Slag!’ No one was listening. Shug was getting his photo taken with his fans. He’d be in the Herald next week. Again. Mooney turned to his brother. ‘Can ye no get this baldy fucker to sit down?’ he said.
There was a sudden ruckus at the door. Three men barged in. They looked identical: receding hairlines, bloodstained white T-shirts and arms like thighs. Dug found himself thinking of butchers, which was apt. It was the Bell Brothers. Their wee sister was with them, crying, getting dragged along by the wrist.
‘Where’s this Derrick Mooney cunt?’ shouted the largest brother. The meat cleaver he was wielding had bits of mince hanging off it. Shug shot a glance at Dug, who immediately pointed at the stage.
‘IT’S THE SINGER!’ Shug shouted, and led the charge. Grant scarpered. So did Stark. Mooney tried to vault the drums, but got his feet caught in the snare. He managed to get up before they reached him, though, his guitar banging off the walls as he legged it out the fire escape. The Bell Brothers kicked the drums out of the way, dragging their wee sister behind them.
Clatrell lost no time picking the microphone off the floor. ‘Anybody for a wee bit Rapper’s Delight?’ he said.
The joint was soon pulsating, The Posse, the whole lot of them, keening like a flock of Hasidic pigeons. Dug ordered another beer. He watched the remaining Drive! fans sink their pints and leave. Shug Skinner poked his head through the fire door. He walked straight up to Dug. ‘Nurse Buckle hasnae been in, has she?’ he said.
‘Eh,’ said Dug. ‘Don’t think so. Are you expecting her?’
‘Ye could say that,’ said Shug, and inserted his needle into the leg of his overalls. ‘I’m no really supposed to be out. Keep it to yerself, though!’
‘Got you,’ said Dug, and watched his new friend disappear through the back of the stage.
Half an hour later, Grant sloped in, followed by Stark.
‘Drink?’ said Dug.
‘Give us a hand with the stuff, will you?’ said Stark.
Stark’s car was parked round the back, next to a white Saab with a meat cleaver embedded in the bonnet. They laid the drums carefully in the back; the newspapers were already spread out. They had to leave the tailgate open – Grant’s bass drum was large. Dug was about to climb in when Mooney shoved past him. ‘Come on, youse,’ he said. ‘Handers. I want my money.’
They followed him through the back door of the pub, into the kitchen. It wasn’t long before the argument was in full flow.
‘Aye ye’re fucking right ye’ll be paying me!’ Mooney said. He was hyperventilating. His guitar was hanging off his shoulder, machine gun style. A few of the strings were broken. It was obvious the Bell Brothers hadn’t caught up with him.
Clatrell stuck his ladle into a pot and stirred. The bass line was thudding through the wall. ‘See this soup?’ he said.
Mooney was shaking with anger. ‘What about it?’ he said. There were bits of meat and carrot floating on the surface, just visible through the steam.
‘If ye don’t change yer tune,’ said Clatrell, ‘ye’ll be fucking wearing it.’
‘This is my Friday Night Delight,’ he continued. ‘Fuck the idiots through there in their baseball caps. Mutton broth, the kind of soup that sticks to yer ribs, and other parts of yer body, if ye get my drift. And ye know something else? I don’t need mouthy twats like you spoiling it.’
‘Fuck yer soup,’ said Mooney. ‘You booked us...’
‘You cheeky monkey,’ said Clatrell, and scooped a load into a bowl. ‘You’re asking me for money? Ye owe me five hunner quid for the fire door – mind you, you were too busy legging it down the road to see the Bell Brothers tearing it off its hinges. And ye can’t have missed the hatchet sticking out the bonnet of my new car.’
It was a case of mistaken identity. Stark coughed. ‘There’s a good panel beater in Denny...’ he offered.
‘What?’ said Grant. ‘Dalrymple Bash ’n’ Dash? They’ve been on strike since June.’
‘Eh?’ said Stark. He was blushing. ‘I didn’t know...’

Clatrell parked himself at the table and tore a hunk of bread off a loaf. ‘Stark,’ he said. ‘Get the Mooney contingent out of my sight. I can’t eat when there’s pricks like that watching me. Fancy a plate of soup, Dug? There’s plenty in the pot for folk with jobs.’

Sunday, 14 August 2016


Flat on my back
in a Surrey hayfield.
She's got me
where she wants me
she thinks.

Over her shoulder,
a shooting star
sears the face
of a harvest moon.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Strip The Willow on Ink Sweat and Tears

Strip The Willow

I want to watch. I want to watch you dance with me, and we are the perfect couple. Synchronised. Fiddles and accordions...

Read the rest of the story on Ink Sweat and Tears

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Source Language

It was not a delusion. The fact that he could articulate the thought and stand outside it, appreciating it in all its complexity, was proof. For months he had been picking up signs, which he had come to interpret as signals, as gestures of intent. He was the target. That was his interpretation. All he had to do was reciprocate, but that was the problem, one of the many. Recklessness was not in his nature. It would have been easy to say it had been beaten out of him, stamped on, squashed; we look for people to blame. He had never been a blamer, if it came to looking for culprits he had always come back to himself. But now he was flailing at the bottom of a pit before he had even dug it, as if a censor had requisitioned the best part of his brain and was controlling him, controlling his imagination, the only thing that was keeping him sane.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

They Made The Effort by Andrew McCallum Crawford

He tossed and turned till his wife told him to sleep downstairs. The rest of the night he spent on the couch, the lights switched off, the television tuned to the comedy channel, although he only caught fragments; it was difficult to concentrate on the screen. Too many things were running around in his head, disjointed images jostling for attention before shooting off on absurd tangents. Nothing made sense, after a while the scenes began to overlap, there was so much going on, too much information, all of it punctuated by the incongruous mirth of a laugh track.

His eyelids were closing. He fumbled for the button on the remote. It was time to get ready.

To read the complete story, go to the McStorytellers site.

Friday, 10 April 2015

At The Astoria - from a work in progress

I walked down to the square. Tam was on the corner, leaning against his barrow and affecting the worst Irish accent I had ever heard:
‘Get yer loovely toilet paper here – all de way from ould Doublin!’
‘All right, Tam?’
He ignored me. Someone had just picked up a sample. The transaction was completed, much to Tam’s delight.
‘What’s with the brogue?’ I said.
‘Ever seen green bog roll?’ he said. ‘Course ye have. This lot, however, haven’t. Call it a Celtic sales pitch.’
‘But they can’t speak English,’ I reminded him.
He jingled the coins in his hand. ‘Away wichi!’ he said. ‘Dey loove de ould blarney. Interested?’
We still had half a family pack at the flat. I was about to explain this when my attention was seized by the sight of two men in leather caps pushing a barrow, larger than Tam’s, into the square. They took a furtive look round, parked and carefully removed the tarpaulin that was covering their wares.
‘Now there’s something ye don’t see every day,’ said Tam, and scratched his head through tartan.
A periscope was lying inside an inflatable dinghy.
‘I hope their patter’s good,’ he said, and looked at his own merchandise. ‘My stuff’s more household oriented,’ he added.
I left him to argue the toss with the competition, who were nudging their barrow closer. Tara was sipping a gin tonic outside the Astoria. She wasn’t alone. I sat at the next table and ordered a coffee. Maybe I’d chance a beer later. I’d be staying off the retsina, though.
‘All right there, Tara?’ I said. No reaction. I reached over to the old man who was parked next to her. He was fiddling with the rims on his wheelchair. ‘Pleased to meet you,’ I said. He mumbled something into his toga and looked at Tara, who patted his hand.
‘There, there,’ she said. ‘You don’t need to know who it is.’
‘Hnn?’ he said. The old boy was addled beyond repair. It must have been frustrating for Tara, who, at fifty, had needs that couldn’t be fulfilled by her husband.  She had a fucking big house, though, so maybe it was worth being married to a cripple.
‘How are things, Tara?’ I said.
She was still stroking his hand. ‘Don’t try to ingratiate yourself with me, you cad,’ she said. ‘You can forget about the exams.’
I had to smile. Did she really think I was holding out for employment at her bribefest? And I’d never been called a cad before. It sounded totally ridiculous. ‘I was just being civil,’ I said. At this point, I lied. ‘I usually stay on speaking terms with women I’ve...’
‘Oh don’t say it!’
Her husband raised his hands quickly to his ears. ‘Hnnnnnnn?!’ he went.
‘Does he speak English?’ I said.
‘What’s it to you?’ she said.
‘Thought not,’ I said. ‘He doesn’t like the sound of raised voices, though, does he?’ He reminded me of Priam for some reason. Fair enough, here we were in the land of Homer, and there was, of course, the toga. I felt that he wasn’t as articulate as he could have been, however. We plumb the depths of human degradation...
‘Call yourself a man?’ Tara huffed. She was talking to me, not him.
‘You should be thanking me,’ I said. Priam leaned forwards until his face was hovering above a soup plate of brown liquid. He vacuumed froth through a straw.
‘You don’t know how to satisfy a woman,’ she said, and wiped his chin with a tissue. Again, I assumed the remark was directed at me. Oh, dear, I thought. It was turning into one of those conversations. The ones where no holds are barred.
‘I’ve never had any complaints,’ I said. ‘Lots of moans, though.’
‘I’ve never seen a smaller one in my life,’ she said.
Oh, please, I thought. ‘I almost saw your anus,’ I told her.
Priam, with the straw in his mouth, turned to me and Hnnnnned.
‘Yes,’ I said to him. ‘Her arse is so flabby I wasn’t sure if it was her bumhole or her belly button.’
‘Hah!’ he went; the straw flew out of his mouth and sailed over my shoulder.
This wasn’t me. It was as if someone was making me say these things. But she was asking for it.
‘You’ll never work in TEFL again,’ she said, and wiped her eyes with the tissue. ‘I’ll make sure of that.’
‘Oh, don’t threaten me,’ I said. ‘Who do you think you are?’
‘You’ll find out if you ever apply for a job with the Council,’ she said.
Tam threw his barrow into the bushes. He didn’t bother to chain it up. ‘That’s me fucked,’ he said, and crashed down into a chair. ‘Ever had a pistol pressed to yer ribs? Awright there, Stanley?’
‘Ooh, aow’s it goin’, Tam?’ It was the old man. The accent was more Stoke than Troy. I felt like a complete idiot. He poked me on the forearm. ‘Aow’s it goin’, shaggah?’ he smiled.
‘Get this,’ said Tam. ‘That’s the Commies moved in. Tell me this. How’s me selling toilet paper going to affect sales of Russian Navy knock-off? Eh? Tell me.’
‘Tara,’ I said. ‘I’m sorry if I upset you.’
‘I mean it,’ I said. ‘I didn’t come here to make enemies. I’ll be gone in a matter of days...’ She wailed into her gin tonic. Stanley gripped my forearm. His knuckles looked like polished marbles. ‘You want to stop ’ere, lad,’ he said. ‘She likes a know...’
Tam looked at me and closed an eye, like a camera shutter.
     ‘No, Stanley,’ I said. ‘But I think I know the man to help you out. You’ll be meeting him shortly.’

Monday, 23 February 2015

Costas Lapavitsas - his concerns about the Greek 'extension'.

Costas Lapavitsas, a professor of economics at SOAS, London, and a newly-elected SYRIZA MP, has written a blog post expressing his concerns about the Greek government's handling of negotiations with the Eurogroup. Towards the end of the post, he makes the following points:

'In light of the Eurogroup statement, I ask -

National Reconstruction Plan

How will the National Reconstruction plan be funded when the 3 billion euros from the Financial Stability Fund is now outwith Greek control? That these funds have now been removed puts all the more pressure on recovering large amounts from tax evasion and debt collection in a short period of time. How feasible is this?

Debt Write-off

How will a debt write-off be effected when Greece is committed to fulfill - fully and promptly - all its financial obligations to its partners?

End to Austerity

How will Austerity be ended when Greece is committed to achieve 'appropriate' primary surpluses in order to make the current massive debt 'sustainable'? The 'sustainability' of the debt  - as evaluated by the Troika - was what caused the mad chase after primary surpluses. As the debt will not be significantly reduced, how will we put an end to primary surpluses which are destructive for the Greek economy and which are the very substance of austerity?

Inspection and Fiscal Cost

How will there be any progressive change in the country when the 'Institutions' will implement strict inspections and prohibit unilateral actions [on the part of the Greek government]. Will the 'Institutions' allow the implementation of the 'Thessaloniki' pledges, given that they may have a direct or indirect fiscal cost?

Future Negotiations

What exactly will change in the next four months of the 'extension' that will improve our negotiating position with our partners? What will prevent a worsening of the political, economic and social conditions in the country?

These moments are crucial for society, the nation and, of course, for the Left. The democratic justification of the government is founded on the SYRIZA manifesto. The least that is required is an open discussion amongst party cadres and within the Parliamentary Group. We must give immediate answers to these questions if we are to maintain the huge support and dynamic given to us by the Greek people. The answers we give over the next few days will affect the future of the country and of society.'

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Scotch Family Grillparzer - An Introduction

...find themselves washed up on a desert island. They have no recollection how they got there. Sylvia, the ageing Matriarch, lies on the beach all day stroking a pair of worn tap dancing shoes. The abundance of sand makes tap dancing impossible, which is just as well considering she suffers from advanced osteoporosis in her left leg. Her eldest son, Sigmund, has strung a length of vine, like a washing line, between two trees and spends his time drying out sheets of tracing paper, which he packs neatly in a leather suitcase every evening. Every morning he wakes to find this suitcase bobbing in the surf. Sigmund has delusions of musicianship - his ambition is to play the comb professionally. Unfortunately, he spends so much time drying out tracing paper that he has yet to fashion a comb out of the driftwood which litters the beach. The middle son, Wilbur, wanders the island incessantly while clutching a tubular metal bed-head. More - much more - about him later. Grant, at twenty-five the baby of the family, is the only Grillparzer to realise that their situation is a mere figment of someone's imagination, even though he is aware that they as people are very real. He sits all day at the fire, which he managed to light by rubbing two sticks together, thinking of ways to come into contact with whoever put them in this position.