from a fiction

Typewriters. There’s a meme. Orchestrated, drumming as would impatient people at bus-stops, fingers against timetables. Maybe the typewriters created the timetables. Smoke in the circles, circles as lines. But the typewriting people – me, as one, there are others – indicated something. There were voices, but I cannot recall them now. There’s a characteristic of dreams; voices and sounds rarely remain. If anyone says different, potentially they’re being untruthful.

So if not only typewriters, what else? A house, a very nice house. Three floors – maybe more? Certainly expensive. Wallpaper, patterned, ever-so-slightly raised, suggestive of a show-room. Carpet, white, I had to take off my shoes as I could see the mud I was bringing with me. There was two showers in the one bathroom….was there? Certainly [X] – who I have not seen for ages – was there, dressed in a manner I have never seen before in real life. So fantasy? No, plain sight, just ordinary. Not that kind of dream.

Something else. Or, “other”, then, but I cannot recall. There was three wake-ups this morning, for house, and for typewriters, and for some other interruption. My stomach currently swims with too many full bowls of Sugar Puffs and milk (my fridge houses only milk and pasta sauce). Was it family, in the third chapter of the dream?

I cannot recall.

Sleeping with John Peel

Bad memory and the passing of years has reduced the number of bands I can claim were introduced to me by listening to John Peel to just one – The Sundays. Over many years, though, I would go through the ritual of taking the kitchen radio from its home on top of the microwave, settling down to sleep with my ear close to the nutmeg-grater style speaker, for a night of tuning into various radio stations at low volume.

“Tuning in the radio” – there’s an anachronism if there ever was one. Moving an aerial across all manner of angles to avoid the bleeding of French or German voices into a favourite song, or finding obscure regional radio stations by accidentally tuning out of something you wanted to keep hearing. I recall an exchange between radio presenter and caller on Manx FM (“I have never liked the English, I’ve got a gun!”, that sort of thing).

But where has all that gone? I own a multi-band radio (including the scanning frequencies for police radio and CB enthusiasts, both gone the way of electronic glitches and whistles. By rights I should by now earn a living as a glitch-core DJ armed with hours of unique samples). By turning the dial only by the most tiny of fractions, multi-language commentary, unusual soundtracks, and regional accents, seep through the crackle and white-noise. The modern digital radio stations have none of this romance of discovery or research; channels are pre-programmed, labelled, categorised. There’s no accidental stumbling over a song or joke or sporting event.

I love iPlayer to bits but even late-night radio is stored so it can be listened again in the morning. Or during lunch. Or never again. I remember during the yesteryear midnight hours Radio Five in its pre-sport days used to have very funny comedy shows. Where is the romance of accidentally tuning into the BBC World Service when it can be found on Sky or Freeview?

Adults of a certain age will recall, too, the yearly or twice-yearly ritual of buying a new television only to spend most of that day shouting “Mum! What’s on three now? Channel 3, channel 3, ITV, is it adverts now?” while using an increasingly bruised thumb to tune-in the channels by hand. The sheer joy of stumbling over HTV Wales or S4C has been replaced by….Well, nothing. There’s not even the accidental channel-hopping of Italian adult movies as used to occur – not frequently enough! yells the 14-year old me – when Cable North West was in its infancy.

Maybe this is all very well and good, but there’s Zane Lowe now (well, okay, he was around in my youth too….) And iTunes coupled with Wikipedia as a kind of new-music “tag-team” means the liklihood of Steve Lamacq launching someone massive as once may have been true (Star 27, oh what could have been….) is diminished. Not killed entirely, but as with most parts of my memory of things the Internet Age as clearly altered entertainment and pastimes for good. Television has changed forever, in both technological terms and content. Radio has a new “sound with pictures” existence on-line, webcams and podcasts more common than “tune in again this time next week”.

I won’t forget those late nights, though. Muffled sound, Shipping Forecast, and the late great John Peel, as signposts to a time which will not return again. Some of the concentric circles of fashion have clearly be severed.

BNP in Preston

Harold Parker, the very well regarded Labour councillor for Fishwick ward, has resigned due to ill health. It is very likely the resulting by-election will be held on October 1st.

Preston LibDems have selected Luke Bosman, who I trust will be a fantastic candidate, especially as the Preston Labour party continue to amaze with their lack of action and plunging support.

However one shadow over this by-election, in a ward where Labour taking voters for granted shows wherever you turn, is the threat of the far-right. The maverick England First Party are one threat, the British National Party another. Sources tell me the BNP have relaunched in Preston only last month pre-empting a new attack on the city. This is a sad development.

Clearly anything which can be done must to ensure the end of the BNP threat in Preston. Fishwick is the kind of ward where their slogans can often seem attractive against the “mainstream”, but any close inspection of their policies soon shows their real colours. The ugly prejudice of the BNP runs against everything which makes Preston the exiting and vibrant place it is. A recent Love Music Hate Racism event attracted hundreds of people to a night of dancing and uniting against the empty ignorance of the British National Party and their tired rhetoric.

Nick Griffin has barely been on the news since his shameful victory in the European Elections. I say “victory”, but it was only with 8% of the vote, a laughable score from a joke party.

For the next month all resources should be spent on showing the best policies for the people in a troubled ward. The BNP can only talk in negatives and attacks. Their presence in Preston is an irritation but can be removed.


London – aim one. Maybe I could find the pub half-way up the Northern Line with the French “mathscore” band upstairs, the place from which I had to belt down towards the Underground station due to complete ignorance about matters relating to Night Buses. Many years ago now, thinking about it. My hotel was way out East, employing only – it seemed at the time – surly Spanish women and clearly bored West African men.

But any future plans could be turned upside down, they often are. Everything slots into place in my brain rather like the placings in school sports day races. Once such a thing and t’other things are done, only then can I do Activity C followed by subsequent pencilled-in ideas. There is a way through, most things are not always as complex as they seem.

Financial matters are quite another matter. Got the dreaded Television License letter through the post – for the first time in….ten years, now….I have to pay the whole thing rather than being one part of a shared household. Oh growing up, you never promised me so many outgoings when I was younger….

But you know things are going alright, really. Routines are easily returned too following holidays, after all. The same people are catching the same bus, just as ever, indeed the 126 retains the peculiar “arbitrary stop” half-way to Brig as though there’s some ritual among bus-drivers. Maybe there’s a reason.

Bury (football, for FC United. T’was good to see Burscough winning last night. It took me two-and-a-half-hours to get to Moorthorpe for Frickley on Saturday. Never thought West Yorkshire was quite so far away until I was in the arms of Northern Rail). Then London? What to do on pay-day weekend, if owt? There’s something that needs slotting in….what is it….Health Insurance, darn it, still not got that sorted. Or the gas meter people.

Right….until the next time….I’ve got more ad hoc diary preparing to sort out….


Positive thinking. Things are good. By the bathroom mirror I notice stronger more defined muscles in the arms, a lesser belly, broader shoulders. All will fade once the effects of yomping up mountains carrying camping equipment wears off (or for that matter eating at the Wellington followed by munching an entire fruit-loaf while watching England) but for now OPTIMISM and FEELING GOOD are orders of the day.

(Inserted thought, though. Did sit in the Wellington next to the jukebox which inevitably means the usual selection of songs. I finished on Have A Nice Day which is not my preferred choice. Drained by pint when the warbling women restarted with the tinny beats and “off” production. I’m sounding like my father moaning about rappers on childrens’ television back many years ago; he said once-upon-a-time the moon landings were carried live, now it’s all….well, there was a term for people it may be best not repeated….If I am sharing the same disquiet over musical tastes it’s not from the same social commentary perspective.)

Specifics, though. Devil in the detail. Damn TV Licencing people sent me a letter during my break (do their “chase up team” not know my budgeting starts and ends with payday weekends? What good is every third-week for me?). Powergen, e-on, buggery sods from the bank (they lured me into complacency, now their letters go almost directly from letterbox to shredder).

Goodness, though. That’s the spirit. Sunshine, more days off work (though, ah yes, must buy breakfast cereal to avoid continuing the microwaved-cheese-on-warm-floppy-bread habit). And this Saturday I am off to watch the mighty Burscough against Frickley (so I replace the West Highland Line with a muddled jaunt across Manchester and Leeds commuter routes). FC United in two weeks time, never before has the promise of a day in Bury seemed so appealing….

Must concentrate, though. Could have taken the leccy reading and done it all here, on-line. CDs to review, I could send them off from the Conty tonight if the laptop is repaired. Now there are things to do, do them.


Camping holidays are great, overall. Escape, adventure, a touch of my father’s character with a helping of Celtic spirit. Responsibility, resourcefulness, recklessness. Romance does unusual things to the soul, not necessarily just “for it”, as does the inability to measure the time and distance from life departed. Nearer to God than thee, all that. Boadicea in my head on the crossing from Arisaig in the Sheerwater, spattering of salt-water over head, the brutal beauty of rocks among the crashing seas. Impossible to separate the hints of Tolkien from even that distance; Rùm has doors hidden in the sheer sides of mountains, takes its language from the calling winds.

Eigg, Rùm, Canna; three sisters scattered across the seas, waiting for their parents to return home. Spellcasting in silence. I sat on the “point of contemplation” on the other side of Eigg’s harbour, watching the breathless subtlety of a new dawn passing over the mainland. Maybe “God’s fingers” are more than the result of a contrived combination of sun and clouds after all? Be not amazed by what you knowst to be nature’s gift, for He provided the air and the water and the light…..

In the sunset of my life, may I be taken to Eigg to watch the sunrise again? Such watercolours in animation, such changing in the silence. Yellow, peach, red, ruby, orange, cyan, silver, iron, blue. It’s impossible to avoid sounding a bit too much like William McGonagall when on Eigg – “out glare the blind stare of Sgurr”, that sort of thing. Hear the call of the Highlands in the sing-song accent. Eigg is the flirty, charming girl at the party, who jokes and laughs but suggests a deeper romance if only the correct amount of attention is received. She will be a dangerous woman to cross, that much is known. It’s the scent on the wind, the knowing hint in the smile.

My hand shows the wound of a dragon’s stone, the momentary loss of concentration at the entrance to the Cathedral Cave; a slice of time, blood across two centimetres, a sign directly related to pressure and prayer and His warnings.

Rùm has a darker, more mature character. She’s the girl who never wears the same dress twice, who tells blue jokes and drinks sweet whisky. Rúm is the island of dowager women draped in silver scarves, of unforgiving waterfalls carving paths through history. Kinloch Castle stole my imagination, its eccentricity instantly magnetic. Our tour-guide knew her audience, sidestepped anything suggested by the heavy doors and high windows. Her South African accent danced and tiptoed through the hour we spent as guests of Sir George Bullough, asking us to admire beautiful “lenscep pentinx” and the “bilyart rum”. We drank bottles of Highland Gold until the dusk turned to a dark purple night, barefoot in the courtyard, lost in heavy dreams.

My sleep could have been eternal, where it not for the cunning design of the servant’s rooms – now dorms – with mirrors positioned to ensure the morning sun always woke servants from sleep at every angle.

Canna is beyond description, although many swearwords could have been offered given the lack of even a tea-room now. She is the smart, sassy girl with golden hair and a love of Rothko. My eyes were filled with beauty from the moment we set foot on the tiny harbour. At night we watched a dinner-plate moon break through napkin-thin clouds, broken by the waves below into countless smiles and frowns. How easy, how brutal, God shows the magnetic pull of honesty and falsehood even in the growing hours of night.

In the early hours of the morning, with Nocturne in the head, I walked to the bridge connecting Sanday with Canna, watching the still full moon, now dusted with chalk and tears, broken only twice by its reflection. A hundred solutions to a thousand thoughts crossed my mind. Peace in prayer, however quiet, however remote. Out across the seas to a lighthouse on the horizon, hundreds of miles again between that outcrop and the Western Isles (across the seas, beyond the waves, ‘ghaoth thig a Canaidh gum fairich mi blàth i…..)

Return would be at the drop of a hat, the instant, the very moment of possibility. Escape is what you make of it. Tourist or traveller, writer or walker. “Enthusiastic amateur” as I may be, who eat a potato cooked within an empty beer can on open flame, still very much alive with the possibilities which flow from such days away. Coming through the days to England’s youngest city, such a sudden shift following 10 hours of travel, retains the warmth of a Highland life which pounds the heart and feeds the mind.

O! To be there again, soon, soon…