Today, is my birthday. Forty eight years. Free cake from my favourite cafe. Memories of youth. As a child, I had only one birthday party, aged about 9. I invited only the boys from my class, and we ate jelly and played football in our huge garden. Sweaty, exhausted and covered in mud, Darren Dolan told me it was the best party he’d ever been to.
Later, birthdays were not always encompassed by such an aura of celebration. My 18th birthday, I spent penniless, squatting in Hulme, Manchester, an evening stroll with my friend Brains, as he picked up fag ends to feed his addiction. Memories are made of this, I remember thinking, systematically criss crossing the curved concrete fortifications of home.
My 21st was an improvement. I was still broke, but had a council flat, in Wolverhampton. Out walking my now dead dog, my now dead friend, and heroin addict, Steve Page, bought me half a Guinness in the Fox pub byΒ Molineux Stadium.
All he could afford, the rest of his money promised to the opiates that killed him.
When I moved to Exeter, in my 30’s, things greatly improved. Β A birthday walk around Exeter’s Green Circle, 12 miles of walking and talking with friends,no money spent, but none needed. Another birthday in my 30’s, when I felt more socially awkward, I hired the Cavern, asked my friend John to DJ, and put on three bands, all of which I was in. this left just enough time for some catching up and light interaction, before my social anxiety could raise it’s head. It was great to have an escape route. Actually one of the bands was just me, and some vegetables, wired up through Plantchant devices, which is exactly the sort of thing I would take me to see, on my own birthday.
And so back to today. Sunny and bright. a morning organising Direct Debits, practicing bass lines, worrying about a terminally ill friend, then out into the world, chance meetings with old friends, free cake from my favourite cafe.

Monarchism is a Medical ConditionΒ 

Nicholas Cage is a cowboy. Β 

He has a horse, called Project.Β 
As he walks up to their promontory home, Project looks at him, from his tree. The horse lives in the tree by choice. Like a goat. He comes down to Nicks call, plays with a giant ball, he has the grace of a cat, and the mind of a dog.Β 

Now Nick is old and fat. He is an animal psychology professor. He hides in an adult playhouse, where Project the horse launches Pilates balls at him.Β 
A chemistry lab. I’m helping others, students, deal with PTSD, and Β recent traumatic events. We have beer and tea, and I get them to bring things through from one lab to another. I’ll be sticking to tea. The Sound of the Sirens are lagging behind. I gee them along. Bandi Mbubi is there, and Ban Ki Moon. It’s good to see them. They are good men. I apologise to Bandi for stealing the students he was supposed to be talking to.Β 
I am going out somewhere. I’ll be tempted to drink alcohol. I wear a hand knitted pirate hat. I’m tired. I can’t close my door. It’s off its hinges. I can’t even create a barricade from it, it flops over.Β 
I’m explaining trap shooting to an American cousin. You shoot, and move downhill before shooting again. He suffers from a medical condition, monarchism. He has tiny scroll details on his earlobes. He explains his condition to me. He hopes I’m not offended, that it’s not his fault. I explain my colourblindness to him in the same words. He is amazed. No one has ever responded that way before, using his own, carefully chosen words.Β 
He thinks I am the cool uncle.Β 

Sick Journey Into Work

I am going to visit an alternative workplace. It’s farther away than I’m used to. I follow people on bikes, who think runners should give way to their superior machines. I point out that most runners are superior to me and a machine combined.

We fast forward beyond familiar streets. We lose direction, as a colleague asks me what a tool he sees is for. It’s like four giant spades, as a grabber, attached to a crane or lifting arm on a JCB. My guess is hole digging of some kind, but we watch, and it is used to extract old tents clogging up a river.

Ahead the road stops. There’s a vertical drop and it continues, about 3m below. I climb down. An HGV is waiting, a yellow vomit like liquid splashing from its open top as it slowly reverses. I’m covered in it. I’m pissed off that this is the only way to work. My colleague takes a photo. He wants media to work with when we arrive at the new place. We climb aboard the sick truck. We get more sick on us.

Eventually we arrive and dismount. There’s a reception area, and different groups are putting on different radio shows. We’re on first. Al Murray discusses his love of Herodotus over Domitian, and there’s a comedy discussion about it. My contribution is to mispronounce things in a West Country accent. People find it hilarious. I’m aware how loud we are as a group.

We are ushered into a bigger room. In the corridor, I ask where the loo is. I’m directed through a side door. I’m in a film set. I can’t piss here, the toilets probably aren’t plumbed in. I walk around the set. Actors in white suits practice dying scenes from the Tomorrow People. Others, in triple unison, act out physical movements on the grass. I see a lead actor practicing. I tell him how much I admire his work. I appreciate how hard it is to rise and fall again and again, how exhausting is the effort.

We have to use the same set next, so we position props and think about shot angles. We have to keep out of the way of the current group, as they are about to start filming.

There’s a tour of the facility. I see the bus we should’ve arrived on. It is yellow, and sponsored by a company that makes the yellow sick. The logo is a dragon, and underneath a tag line states that it probably contains dead cats and dogs for use in Thai curries.

The tour continues. Books on tractors, tiny buses. I’m told we get these tomorrow, I pick them up now. We pass a book stall. I recognise a comedian on the covers, I recommend him to my colleagues.

I’m helping at a gig. I walk across a beautiful wooden stage, where instruments are being unpacked. The comedian offers me beers. I joke about “what will everyone else drink”. I stay sober. I remember that I have a gig with Dakar Audio Club in about three weeks, I need to learn the bass lines.


Friends in the Corridors of Power

I’m at a gig. Everyone musical that I know is playing. There’s indoor psychedelia, outside markets, acoustic jams, DJs on the quay. Walking around, I realise it’s three different events, with different organisers. I suggest that they organise it together next year, despite some of them having reservations about how they will split the money. I explain how the punters will get to see more of what they like, spread over more days, without clashes. We write down suggestions for next years bookings, grouping complimentary acts by genre, and mind mapping a structure to avoid clashes based on feedback from this years punters. As we work, I think how I can apply this in waking life, to create a live music booking group, who work together for the benefit of each other and the performers.

I head to a friends house. It is large, and has a layout curving through space and time. I remember a previous visit, going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, trying to move quietly, and finding myself in a kitchen, far away, as the house re-shaped around my steps.

Many friends are there, everyone I’ve ever met in Exeter. They greet each other, and me. The hostess lies in a golden bed, head inside a quilted capsule, equipped with devices to aid her sleep. I walk along, in search of old friends. The corridor curves, becomes an outdoor market, vegan cake on a narrow stall, rain dripping from a corrugated iron roof. I talk with a lonely man, who needs to get outside more, about how to play Ingress on his phone. I suggest he joins the side I’m on, slowly turning the planet green.

Around the bend. A work friend paints. She worries that I have her computer. She slaps paint on my face, and I slap her in return, noticing the faint abstract watercolour tattoo of the city that covers her face and body.

Another turn. An old girlfriend in a padded room. She struggles with a stuck zip. We discuss frustration, and the best way to lubricate zips. I promise to return.

Another room. This time an entrance to the house. There are turnstiles. An older woman questions my right to be there.

“Are you a Trooper?” She asks.

Troopers appear to be a bit like Boy Scouts. One is missing inside the ever changing building. I join the search, squeezing into tiny spaces behind toilets, pointing out rooms we have missed. I ask for a description of the missing trooper. It is very vague. Have they called him? No. They have used their phones as torches, and to make noises. I call. From a corridor curving from above, he strolls down, sad looking. I retell my own story of being lost in a kitchen in my underpants, and he laughs.

A yard. Dogs licking my face.

Racing Gregg Wallace down carpeted stairs and along a wooden floored corridor sat upon giant, custard filled pastries, ejaculating their contents as we shift our weight on the bends and damage them. The dogs run to lick at our custard contrails.

Drifting back to the hypnogogic boundary, my room is filled with a 3D grid of lights. I try to find a pattern, like playing Tetris, or Dots in 3D, some disappear, new ones shift into place, I realise I can make the small connections, but the plan of the overarching algorithm is, at this moment, beyond me.




The 70’s.
They used to be quiet, predictable. I’d get up early, and watch grainy Open University programmes, and Indian music on Nai Zindagi, Naya Jeevan. This probably contributed to my love of science, arts, and the sitar in later life. Β Eventually, the rest of the family would arise, and, in the time before he became a regular church goer, my dad might prepare me breakfast including eggs or bacon and fried bread, cooked in lard.
I do sometimes wonder if my parents were trying to give me a heart attack by the age of 14.
There would be some kind of Sunday roast, chicken, beef, or pork. With roast and boiled potatoes, and veg boiled until all resistance had been dissipated. There would be a dessert. Tinned fruit and tinned cream, fat and sugar, or sometimes cakes, fairy cakes, that now are called cupcakes, the cultural invasion of American terminology. A prelude to imported obesity.
Some weekends, my brothers would drag me away from the sofa, and my books, outside, to walk to Hartshead Pike, or catch a bus to Greenfield, near Saddleworth Moor, encouraging me with lies to continue walking, “just round the next corner”, up to Chew Reservoir, from Dovestone Reservoir.
I remember evening autumn sun, flowing across the walls of our living room, Songs of Praise, sitting on the kitchen step with the cat, lying on my bed, sleeping to the surf sounds of the trees in our garden.
And the shops were closed all day. And pubs closed between 3 and 7. And there was no internet, and I lost myself in many books.

Iron, Lion, Zion

I’m in a school. Jockeys race through, running down children. They are shouting something, they are distressed. Behind them, soldiers on foot begin shooting. The jockeys were trying to warn the children. The soldiers look terrified, possessed. They fall to the ground cowering, as fight becomes flight, their bodies unable to deal with the adrenalin over production.

Outside the school, I watch as protestors and police take pot shots at each other. I walk to the fence. A young black guy carries a stained, avocado toilet from the 70s. Others have other bathroom items. We are protesting on an old bathroom theme, it would appear. The black guy stands in a thin wire cage, naked and soiled, we lift the cage above some steps down off the playing field, resting above them. He sings Iron, Lion, Zion, and I wonder what Bob Marley was on about. Late arrivals bring more stuff.
I tell them the guy in the cage has nailed it.
🚽 🚽🚽 🚽🚽 🚽🚽 🚽🚽 🚽🚽 🚽🚽 🚽🚽 🚽🚽 🚽