In this morning’s broadcast from the unconscious I was in London with a friend from Sheffield, we were trying to get to the Barbican for an exhibition, and we found ourselves on a tube line that had been built since I’ve been away from the city; all of the station names were in classical Greek. This was the most straightforward aspect of this new line, because instead of sitting inside the carriages, passengers had to hang onto the outside using purpose-built hand-grips. But of course, this being London, you couldn’t just hang on, you had to keep moving along the carriage even as the train hurtled down the tunnels.

When I woke up I exchanged a flurry of messages with the friend who had made a cameo appearance. In the dream he seemed to be enjoying the process of climbing along the outside of the carriage. He is a comic artist, amongst other things, and inevitably the Empire of Termight in Nemesis the Warlock came up. From the earliest incarnations of this story as Terror Tube/Killer Watt, there is a fantastical extrapolation of the British elation and fear of the London Underground system. Interestingly, the original Terror Tube specifically references Going Underground by The Jam on its first page.

Londoners are highly adaptive creatures. They will live in the smallest shoeboxes with a shower and an electric hob arranged Tetris-like alongside the bed sofa. Every impossible challenge that is thrown at them is normalised within a week. Sure, there will be some who wouldn’t want to climb along the meat-grinder trains of a line that is labelled in classical Greek, but they’d be considered a bit snobbish, a bit up themselves. Given a bit of practice, commuters will fairly swing along on those hand-grips while practicing classical Greek on the Duolingo app. After a while, the main complaint would be about trains delayed in the tunnel for extended periods and how tiring hanging around gets.

Commuting to my early jobs in central London, the easiest journey was a Routemaster bus. Unlike the current iteration, the older Routemaster had an open back with a hand-rail. You’d see kids on skateboards gripping the hand-rail so that it could pull them along. If you arrived at the stop just as the bus was pulling away, you’d jump onto the back, matching yr leap to the acceleration of the bus; and then you’d ask yrself why you did anything so stupid and dangerous rather than just wait for the next bus, and then you’d leap off the bus before it had stopped, because who wants to wait around in traffic? Of course the new Routemaster has a closed back, but I suspect that that is less to do with safety than maximising LRT profits.

Returning to the dream it is tempting to draw simple symbolic interpretations: the hurtling tube train that is contemporary life! The constant struggle to understand the sign jungle as we race forwards, mindless of the dangers all around! There is drama, both comic and tragic, that can be drawn out of this image, but in the end it’s all Greek to me.

Report from the Exploration Team

To the west of the cooling towers there is a freight train that is so long that it might be considered as a solid wall. In front of the train line there is a partial wall. A passage of concrete, broken by wild grasses and littered with bleached wrappers and crushed aluminium cans from consumer goods, runs its length, and voices can be heard over the endless rattle of the train. The exact origin of the voices is indeterminate, but it is clear that they are to be avoided.

The empty lot between the moving wall and the cooling towers is host to all kinds of aggregates; grit and half-bricks, broken glass, mosses and more of the wild grasses. It is a complex eco-system in itself, and demarcated rectangular patterns indicate where older structures once stood. From the viewpoint of beetles and long-legged flies this continent reveals a complex topology for hunting and foraging.

The ground floor of the cooling towers is accessible from two places on the perimeter of the northern tower, and one place on the tower to the south. As with the practically solid wall of the freight train, the basement level might also be considered impassable; it is flooded. The perimeter corridor of the southern tower, tiled on walls and floors like a hospital, offers access to the administration offices. Desks have been over-turned or daubed with paint; long splatter patterns across telephones, keyboards and fans of forms and publicity materials. Deeper inside, between walls of bookcases and filing cabinets, tiled steps rise and fall a half-meter here and there making a complex maze of the space. Sofas and easy chairs covered with found patterned material, are inclined around surfaces piled with paperbacks, CDs and DVDs. Electricity and hot water still function in these strongholds of the exploration team; instant coffee and garibaldi biscuits are available from a central kitchen.

Reports have come in from the tower to the north that chambers full of rusting machinery have been discovered, overseen by graffiti murals that reach high into the darkness of the structure. It is also reported that a window from a third floor platform in one of these chambers provides a view into a state of the world in which the freight train has passed.

Contesting Attentions

A hard, gritty adventure story full of tough, competent, gritty characters, mostly male, who are engaged in some tough, dangerous expedition. Their leader, a man of undeniable experience, becomes increasingly terse and short with his team as the expedition proceeds, but not because the terrain has become more challenging than imagined, or through unforeseen assaults from unimagined foes, but because he keeps getting distracted by thoughts that have nothing to do with the rest of the story.

“Twenty metres to the right,” said Gnoll. “You see it? We won’t be able to take the ATVs through that ridge.”

Harshmann grunted. The second verse of the Flakey Bar advertisment, that he had seen when he was a child, wouldn’t come to him. It would need to end with a word that rhymed with luscious, and he wished to God that he’d packed a Thesaurus before he’d left Halifax Landing.

“We’re going to have to come up with something before nightfall.” said Gnoll. “We’ve got less than two hours.”

Harshmann nodded. He was having difficulty focussing on anything that Gnoll was saying. He shaded his eyes and gazed towards the gap in the ridge. Maybe he’d misremembered luscious. “Did you part your hair differently this morning?” he said.

Dak Harshmann’s inability to focus on the gritty, harsh realities of the expeditions must not be rationalised by some factor of local conditions or by a knowable personal flaw; it isn’t anything to do with the oxygen content of the territory or strange gravitational anomalies. Unusual phenomena may affect other members of the team, and flaws in their characters from predictable aspects of their past may lead the expedition into danger, but as far as Harshmann is concerned it’s simply that there is always something far more important for him to consider.

Raoul levelled his revolver at Harshmann. “Not even you are fast enough to reach your bootknife before I shoot you down. So don’t try it! I guess you probably knew all along that I’d killed Krueger back at the depot and swapped ID cards before you arrived. You didn’t say nothing but I could see that you knew something was wrong. It was just a matter of time, Dak, but now your time has run out!”

Harshmann’s face took on a sudden clarity. “She had a cilantro allergy! That was why she only picked at the food!”

“The hell?” said Raoul. It was all that he managed before Gnoll cracked his skull from behind with a monkey wrench.

Harshmann’s disconnection from his surroundings is a function of the shallowness of the world around him, but also that he is unwittingly a carrier of material that isn’t directly-related to the action at hand. If there is anything unusual about Harshmann’s plight, it is that he has found himself adrift in a trope that is impossible to take seriously, and that there is too little of him, other than a heroic-sounding name, to actively contest the masculine fictions that have somehow manifested around him.

His heroism lies in a form of right-attention to the manifold unrelated materials that drift through the space in the story that is named Dak Harshmann.

Heroic Phase

I think that the heroic phase of narrative peaks at about thirteen years old and is in decline after that.

This came to mind while wandering through shops with toy departments, observing the objects there and the reactions they provoked in parents and children. If I had been presented with two action figures at ages up to that theoretical peak age, I would have thrown the two of them into conflict. They would have zoomed and kapowed and generally had a Mahābhārata of a time around the kitchen table.

Somewhere I grew out of that phase.

Given those action figures now, I would probably examine how they were constructed, what sort of articulated joints they had been given, and how well they stood up on different surfaces. I might spend some time online looking up different iterations of these figures; how they looked in the 80s and 90s. After I had extracted all possible interesting information from them, I would probably leave them in a compromising sexual pose in the fruit bowl.

Which, oddly enough, is almost exact how I am now inclined to treat narrative.

Sunday Drivers

If I was to take an interest in computer game design, which I can’t really imagine because I never play them, it would be a matter of perfectly simulating the manoeuvering strategies of drivers in Walthamstow on a Saturday morning.

I don’t hate computer games. Don’t be like that about it! I played them when I needed another career, but I don’t really need one right now. I like a lot of things about how they look and their interfaces and what they represent, but I really couldn’t imagine playing one.

Anyway, forget that self-justifying diversion: we were talking about drivers in Walthamstow on a Saturday morning. They manifest in awkward corners of the district, pulling slow deliberate three-point turns (or are they five-point turns? I’ve never driven!) while you try to understand their motivation and rationale.

Pointless. They have neither. They manifested at that moment. They don’t know where they are coming from or where they are going. They find themselves in the view of the player characters, and on this basis they need to act as if they are real people. They execute a reverse to the right, and then brake, open a door a little, and light a cigarette.

If they are very lucky the players will leave this corner of reality in the next few moments, otherwise they will need to find something else to do, to give the impression that they are real.

Oh God! They’re pulling their trousers down. Oh God!


Does anyone make their passwords entirely out of zeroes, upper and lower case letter o, and degree symbols? Not to make it unhackable, just to drive anyone who sees it written down to the very edge of sanity.

Network Security Guy: Don’t ever give out yr password over the phone!

Me: 00oOo00o0°oO0O°°0oO0o°°°oo0

*scammer falls to the floor twitching convulsively*

Me: 00oOo00o0°oO0O°°0oO0o°°°oo0

*holes and bubbles appear on walls and surfaces*

Me: 00oOo00o0°oO0O°°0oO0o°°°oo0

*my God! the stars are full of absences*

Me: 00oOo00o0°oO0O°°0oO0o°°°oo0

*̷̡͇̥̱͗̑̈́̆̑̉̊̓̈̃ṫ̶̻͉̹͐̒̾̈́̈́̅̍̿͘͝h̴̻̙̪̉̀̈͋̀̌͝͠͠e̶̡̠̮̦̤̩̻̫͑̂̍̈́͑̒̆͒̕͠͝ ̷̹̖̫̥̠̺̦͈̣̓͂̓͂̑̇̈́̾̚s̴̡͇̭̻̑͆͜c̸̙̣͚̣̐̊̀̅̾̏̽̈́͊̃͆̑̿̚ͅr̸̛̠̻̘̘͈̹̰͒͒̃́̾͛̾̅͌͘͜͠e̶̺͓̫̣̮͔̱̱̟͇̻̤̹̭͕̾͑͊̔̋̂͗͐̕͠ą̸̙͍̘̼̼̓̆̌͒̃̓̑̓̕̚͜͝m̶̢͕̣̭̖̹̙̝̥̗̖̅̍͒̆̀̄̊̅͜͠i̸̡̧̩̙̪͉̭̝̠̣̟͒͋̈͛̽̎͗̆͘͝n̶̨̧̡̛͔̜̞͚̜͓͕̬͉̰̲̭͛͑̇̃̂̾̇̓͊̈́̆̚͝ĝ̷̯̼̻̻͋́͗̎̓͒͂ ̴̧̞͕̰͙̝̭͓̠̹͉͗̇̒̽̈́͂͜͝͝͝v̸̛͔̬̯̔̽̀̽̍̃̐̐̚̚͠͝ö̴̡͎͎͚̻͚̖͔̜̮̩́̈́̒̋͘ĩ̸̧̧̖̫̮̫̬̗̓͌͐̀d̶̡̨̧̛̯̗̣̐̂͊̇̌̇̏ ̷̢͎̖̟̼̫͓̘̻̥̰̠͖̘́̄̍͜ô̴̜̱͙̏͒f̵̢̞͉̰͙̜̩̯̠̪̠̭̃̓̈́̐̿͆̏̈̂̒̕̚ͅ ̵̨̤̺̟̪̗̹̍̉̏͗́͌̏̈̃̈́́̽̏̚͜͠ͅT̸̢̤̖̝̤̞̼̠͑̿̏̔̆a̸͔͚̓͒̅͜o̶̱̊͋̉͋̚ ̷͓̿͑́͋̒̉̋̀̀͂̚͘i̴̠͐̿̌̌̒͌̑͛̚s̶̨̖̜̰̝̞͉̰̭̲͇͔̫͈͆̉͒̈́͝ ̸̉ͅa̴̛̦̟͚̩͎̙̯͇̞̭̒̋̔̾̂̒̊̎͗͗͝l̷̢̼̰̠͖̖͇̮̭̫̙̭̋̀̃͝l̵̢̡̡̨̛͉̫̪̠̍́̇̓̈́̃̐̈́͗͋̚͘͠ ̸͙̹̟̜̞͓̰̏̊̈́͌̓̎͐̔͂̑͑͆ͅị̵̮̬̘͔̰͎̃̈́̽̎́̐̄̉̎ͅͅn̴̲̹̙̟̠̤̥̺̭̟͚͂̓̋̚ ̷̨̞̯̠̜͙̯̟̩͂a̷̟̻͎̼̼͙̯̫͌̃̋͊͆́̄̒̂̆͘͘l̵̨͚̦̻̰̖̦̭͚͇̖͉̳̎͆̽̀̈́́̌͒̕͜͜l̵̢̥̗͓͍̝̯̲͍̞̺̫̻̙̣͐̉̋̂̌̀́͑͘͝͝*

Me: 00oOo00o0°oO0O°°0oO0o°°°oo0

Pine Cone

On my way back this afternoon from the magnificent basilica at Mariatrost, I found myself composing a scene for a Wagnerian opera concerning how pine cones occasionally resemble dog turds.

The scene: a spring morning, fresh woodland on the upper slopes. The cold thin air is filled with song as a young man, Siegleid, strides manfully along the path.

The music is in a brisk major key, fluttering with the occasional chromatics of good humour and insufficient oxygen. Perhaps a hint of singing birds or bright eyed small animals that are never seen by the audience, but are nonetheless implied in the high canopies and low shrubbery.

“Ha HA!” Siegleid laughs. “Ha ha-ha ha-ha HA!” he continues. This motif goes on for 32 bars until he finally announces: “you will not believe what I saw. What a thing it was, the THING that I saw. But I saw it not, for it was only in jest that I saw it, and…” he goes on in this vein for another 48 bars before he begins addressing the animals.

“The squirrel may not have seen it, and the songBIRDS! Even if they saw, may have felt that it was not worthy of comment…” there is a tedious ongoing imagined conversation with the animals which is finally capped 120 bars later when he reveals that, “I saw a pine cone, a very normal pine cone on the path of these woods, these GLORIOUS wood, where the air is clear and a man can be strong and brave…” (64 bars of waffle excised) “And ha ha HA! I thought for a moment that it was the turd of a dog! Ha HA! Is that not absurd? That a pine cone might be momentarily mistaken for a dog turd.”

And he can’t just say it the once, and another half hour passes before the lunkhead comes across a ripe hanging corpse that totally ruins his mood, but he still can’t help returning to how amused he was by the pine cone.

If my German was a little better it’d be totally worth writing.

Frozen Food Aisles of Dune

If I had written Dune, most of it would have concerned Paul Atreides haunting the frozen food sections of the supermarkets of Arakeen. Handling bags of peas and tubs of ice cream; anything that would give him a feeling of blessed cold.

Due to a natural reticence, he would try not to spend too much time in any one supermarket, and he is in the course of mapping the quickest routes between frozen food cabinets. He is a furtive moth that flutters from cold to cold.

Frank Herbert’s books as they exist are overly concerned with the big picture of interplanetary intrigue and conflict. My take would concentrate upon the minutiae of the pizza packaging of Arrakis, the different designs of cold cabinet: do they have sliding doors or perhaps iris portals?

Under the flickering light panels of a shabby mini-mart, he would encounter the Fremen girl with her strange blue-in-blue eyes: “what are the ready meals like on the world you come from?”

Fish Keeps!

Most of yesterday afternoon I was composing an 80s hard rock ballad about frozen fish in my head.


It’d resemble Love Bites by Def Leppard to some extent. There might be a young lady with big hair draping herself over a particularly expensive-looking fridge-freezer in the video. The fridge door opens briefly to gush out dry ice.

Superimposed over this, an expert from the fishing industry raps a list of all of the available types of fish, while the mulletted (sic) lead singer wails IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY, BABY! and similar contentless emotives.

After the guitar solo, the singer holds the word FISH for a really long time, perhaps concluded by a drum fill in the style of In The Air Tonight, before he adds KEEPS to emphasise that frozen fish can be kept for a really long time if you have a decent freezer, and not just overnight or whatever.

Oh yeah, and during the fade out there’s a whole verse with all of the lyrics replaced with WOAH OH!


Anyway, this is how far I am going in avoiding doing more cheap political updates today.

Nom de Guerre

Sometimes I say to myself: “hey Zali!” Which is pretty unnecessary because there’s not actually anyone else inside my head who I need to address.

Sure, I try to mix it up a bit. Occasionally, I go with “KRISHNAAAAAA!” if I’m about to suggest something *really kerazay* or I might even use the formal “Zali Jean” if I am about to issue a reprimand.

And yes, then there’s The Other Name that occasionally needs to be evoked, but I can’t tell you about that one because the power that it would allow you to wield could destroy all of us. Seriously, you use that one casually and you can fling around out of town branches of Sports Direct like they were golf balls. I know you’ll tell me that you’d only use that power for good but what if it got into the wrong hands, eh?

Tectonic plates flapping around like slices of ham.

Anyway, sometimes I say to myself, “hey Zali, are we going to get to the point of this update any time soon?”

I don’t bother to answer because obvi.


When you’re taking a knife from the knife block to cut some cheese, do you give it a little spin around your finger?

Do you scan the kitchen from left to right; the spice rack, the fridge, the steamer, the kettle – the whole gang is here – before smiling as you note their positions and calculate the somersault that you will have to perform to take all of them out? The steamer is the fastest, but the fridge has so much bulk and strong metal sides; if it rushes you it can let momentum do the rest of the work while the spice rack and steamer attack yr blindside.

Do you always make those estimates in yr head before grinning like the well-oiled machine that will cut them down like just so much ripe wheat?

They don’t call you The Reaper for nothing, you know?

Of course it never comes to that. The gang and you laugh it off, but there’s a coldness behind their eyes, and all of their banter can never entirely mask the ballet of kitchen violence that could explode at a moments notice.

The cheese whimpers on the chopping board.


Solstice is barely discernible in the mall. The fountains in the central atrium drip with unheard music, and the idful echoes of children’s demands are refracted around the high domed ceiling. The special offers celebrate themselves as a succession of window dressings encoding a complex manifold to rival the market day calendars of the Balinese. Reflections in glass and chrome advertising hoardings expand out towards a mirror maze of infinite space.

And do not say that there is nothing of the primal self here: wellness spa accessories and tribal trinkets are available from their allotted outlets along the plaza. The wisdom of the ancients is preserved within this closed self-sufficiency as the mall tumbles from its native spiral arm and out into the deep space between galaxies.

At any time the eateries on the umpteenth floor are fruitful with brunch and mid-afternoon eats; all-day breakfast is sempiternal while the long arm of the clock rotates from zero to zero to zero. The holiday season that never ends.


I’d like to see someone do a blog of depressing recording studios. Mancaves with too much equipment that just look claustrophobic. Expensively upholstered chambers with no natural light, an aura of dull guys with ponytails, a catastrophe of bad feng shui draining all inspiration from the space.

I’d like to see someone do a blog of recording environments that you’d want to be out of the moment that you arrive. Places that rain down the fight or flight response in spite of whatever desirable vintage gear might be crammed into there. Obnoxious angles that will crank up conflict between engineers and musicians as the cabin fever sets in and the schedule weighs down with a sense of impending failure.

I want to see the single, dying, unwatered plant by the toilets lovingly photographed with expired Kodak film.

Beyond Pluto

Out beyond Pluto astronomers have detected what might be the largest ominous metaphor discovered so far. It may change our loose, inflated journalistic language for all time.

There are already a dozen poets, who have skimmed headlines and squinted at the vague indecipherable images on their feed, ready to namecheck the object after their second glass of wine. “It’s tremendously exciting!” they will enthuse, before becoming vague and gesturing in a manner that gives the impression that they are holding something that they are not quite comfortable with, a large crustacean or someone else’s newborn, and then reaching out for a refill.

Meanwhile the world’s leading cosmologist turns in her bed and farts.


I had a dream or a series of dreams about a series of films. The dream involved watching the films but also researching them using IMBD and other online sources to try to understand the digressive style by which they were held together.

The first of these films seems to present the common situation: a top floor flat that was co-owned by a cooperative, whose usage of the place is based upon segueing in and out of the single bedroom flat. Their use of the space is like Tetris blocks, their lives interlocked with the space without being part of each others story.

Initially there was a gay man using the space while he was waiting for his partner, and then there were three women, a single mother with a child, and so on. The co-ownership wasn’t economic in any way: it didn’t seem to require shares or rents, merely a request to use the space. And no-one is ever turned down.

There is a full meeting of the cooperative, which is vast, and questions are raised about the suitability of the flat: would it have been better if it wasn’t on the top floor, since the throughput of residents might disturb the residents of the lower floors? Nothing conclusive comes out of the meeting. On a bus heading to the station, the current character passes by a large warehouse, commenting to camera that perhaps this would be a better location for the cooperative.

Later films are less directly concerned with the co-owned flat. The connexion would only be established briefly within the film, through a character staying in the bedroom overnight, or perhaps merely stopping by to use the kettle or to hoover the living room carpet. It’s possible that I was watching the films and researching them online while I was staying at the flat.

The last film was a cold war drama, although it wasn’t actually dramatic; all of the films are characterised by a gentle, humorous and matter of fact tone. The protagonist was decommissioning nuclear weapon systems, slowly and without any apparent conflict. He stays at the flat one night while he’s in town. Whether we can conclude that there is some larger social and utopian project behind the cooperative flat in these films is left open for the dreamer’s interpretation.

In Heaven

So you might ask: what is heaven? You need to separate it from paradise to start with. Sure, we all like a beautiful garden but that’s not the full extent. Heaven is a freedom from narrative. That’s why boring people will tell you that dystopia is exciting but utopia is boring, and unrealistic and besides wouldn’t you rather buy our new TV series?

Heaven is willing to imagine that all of yr convenient objections will be solved by miracles: better than that, they don’t need to be solved because they were imagined problems, often not imagined by you but imagined at you by people who can profit from those problems. Considering the lillies is a useful starting point but not enough. Passivity is not the way in.

To consider that you are nothing more than a moveable feast, drifting through an ocean of other amused concerns, happy to accomodate and communicate, but on the other hand determined to stand up to hate and intolerance. Without that you can kiss the golden age goodbye.

The devil has all the best tunes, but only if you grew up listening to his dodgy mixtape, man.

Strong and Stable

Theresa awakes with a start from deep dreams of Little England. Coming up too fast on the bends, she is surprised by the butler, already attentive, delivering her customary tepid Twining’s Lady Grey served with a generous slug of Beefeater gin from a maiden white shoe.

“Strong and stable!” she shrieks at him, “Strong and stable!”

He cannot find it in himself to meet her eye. “Indeed, madam,” he intones and inclines his head to ask whether there will be anything else.

The drawing room is full of stern-faced Ulstermen, they have been there all night. The red-faced one on the sofa, who shouted “DEFEND OUR NATIVE LAND!” half-hourly in his sleep, he had covered with a union flag to protect him from the ghostly draughts that appeared to emanate from somewhere behind a dark oil canvas of Winston Churchill.

The ashes in the fireplace reveal little of yesterday’s headlines from the newsrags of Theresa’s former friends who had turned on her and shown themselves to be disloyal. The chamber is still fusty from the smoke from the pyre that had leaped high and threatened to singe the portrait of Queenie on the mantle.

The butler is unperturbed as Theresa hops past him with considerable agility, and down the stairs on a single leg, the other caught up in her Tory blue knickers. And then she is out and into the conservatory. Her parrot greets her: “Strong and stable!”

Theresa squawks back, “Strong and stable!”

“Strong and stable!”

Friends are people who understand you whatever the weather.