I’m traveling. I stop by a school. A pipe band is playing, visiting from Scotland or France. Small kids in green jumpers sit at a fence and wait. I join them. I talk to the teachers and make jokey innuendos about sporrans and woggles.
The pipers arrive. A wall means that we cannot see them as they disembark the ferry. They are French, but wear black watch tartan.
I’m inside a stone, circular building. There is stepped stone seating around the walls. The teacher leading the pipers stands in the middle addressing us and the pipers. One of the pipers makes a quip about how we think they drink a purple cognac. The teacher slaps him hard. A disciplinarian. He calls my name, and asks how their baggage will arrive. I explain that there may be a delay, but that I’m ready to help if he needs it. He seems happy with this. I wonder why he chose me, I’m not a teacher at this school, after all.
The room empties. I’m left alone with a talented young man, who shows me a gold embossed rice paper scroll that he has illustrated with biblical stories. It’s a beautiful piece of work. We go next door, into an open space with stepped wooden seating. The pipers are chopping wood and demonstrating practical skills. I find a seat, a space where someone else should be. The pipers begin piping.
I’m taking virtual reality photos. Selfies. The shadows aren’t quite right. I look around and see that I’m in a game, being chased by a robot and a mad scientist. I have the ability to fly, so I rise above them. There’s a glass roof, limiting my freedom. I fly through it. Outside my pursuers follow me. I give them a bag of stuff to recycle. I rise into the sky and head for China and Japan, in the early dawn.
Red Brick Inheritance
I was born in a red brick slum, taught at a red brick school, walked most days past the red brick remnants of the Brickworks ruins. Red brick and grey skies, the base colour and texture of my life. Victorian walls, mills in the Bristol Byzantine style. White letters spelled out on red brick.
When my parents died, I didn’t inherit much. £60 and a chip on my shoulder, that never went away. No land, no trust fund, no relatives taking me in. I slept rough, on sofas and floors of friends, in derelict buildings and parks, in hostels where hipster tramps had beards and bad clothing before it was cool, mumbling to themselves the incomprehensible mantras of the Brahmins of the bottle.
I squatted for a while in grey brutalist concrete crescents, cold asbestos air matching societal indifference. Escaping sometimes into an inner world of colour, psychoactive psychedelic stimulation, a simulation of a better world.
In time, I went to a red brick university, a former polytechnic. I moved to different places, until I found myself here. A job, in a glass and metal box, a home, a cell in an old church. Encased in red brick. Out of the window, red brick views beneath slate grey skies.
A scrapyard. I’m with Mark E Smith and other musicians, as I unlock the gate, I tell them his the lead singer of Big Country, Stuart Adamson, guffed on my mars bar, or was it a twix? The lock writhes in my hand like an acid hallucination. We enter the yard and jam together.
I’m watching a young girl in a laboratory get tased. She grabs the weapon and uses it against the guard attacking her. He falls to the floor, and she runs. What looks like medical equipment transforms into insect-like robot guards. They tase her, and trap her body between them, rendering her motionless.
Two people I know try to trap me in a wire cage. I’m next to be tased. They call it a joke. I disagree. I grab the cage, and beat them severely with it.
Proportionate violence, given the circumstances.
I am a foreign student in Japan. I’ve had to be exceptional to get here. Where a simple essay would do, I would produce the essay, and a video documentary with graphics and music.
I walk down a windy street with friends, and go into my tiny flat.
Inside, I select a flouncy white shirt, and multi coloured trilby as my look for the day. Here, I can wear whatever I like. I’m invited to a friends house. I make my way there through an enclave of little Britishness. Shops sell marmite and twixes. Everyone speaks English.
At my friends place, there’s a children’s party on a covered balcony. The wind lifts the floor slightly as it gusts, and rattles the plants offering us some protection from the weather. I think how much bigger this space is than my apartment. My friend invites me to visit her at work the next day. I agree.
I pop into my friends office. They are a design and IT consultants. We chat, and she asks me to help a customer by changing the o and e in oesophagus into œ. This will take me a few minutes, so I agree. She says she can pay me £300 for doing it. I’m surprised that such knowledge is so valuable.
I sit with the customer, an old man and his older mother, and make the corrections. I offer to show them how to do it. They don’t want to know. They have seemingly endless questions about their document. It contains a logo, a 3D model of a pair of binoculars. They want to edit it, so it looks more like a sextant. I suggest replacing it, but they insist on editing what’s there. I use their computer to edit the object. It is made of thin, white, plastic. The kind you get in packaging. The keys are embossed on this bending, flimsy surface. I try to find my way around unfamiliar keys and terminology. Instead of ‘select all’ there’s a key labelled “term” that requires you to select the beginning and end points of whatever you wish to edit, and then select other modifier keys to complete the action. I’m confused. A passing office boy stops. He shows me how it works. He chats to the old people, telling them it’d be easier to use a new 3D model. He inserts one into the document and they are overjoyed. This is exactly what I suggested. I’m quite pissed off.
My friend tells me the office boy now gets my money, as he made the customers happy. I point out that I did what I was requested to do before his intervention. She asks me to come back tomorrow.
I do come back. The old people are in a meeting with the office boy and my friend. On a white board I can see a flow chart, hand drawn, for a product development and marketing plan. Where I saw only the need to explain a detail of how to modify a character, my friend saw the opportunity to sell their services to wealthy and disorganised customers, who weren’t really sure what they wanted.
The office has outdoor showers, with beautiful views of the sky and a roof garden. I decide to take a shower. I talk to the conservative, old man customer as I shower. He’s embarrassed by nudity. Another worker showers next to me. We talk about living in Japan, and thinking big.
I leave the office. With friends, I try to skateboard up a steep hill. At the top, a gorgeous flower meadow. We walk across and jump down the short cliff on the other side. My boss talks about amplification.
I get in my car. A policeman stops me. Parts have fallen off behind it. I apologise. He says I should take the boat, pointing to a moss covered, semi sunken cabin cruiser in a shallow pond. We lift the boat out, and into another shallow roadside pool. I can’t see how we’ll ever get anywhere in this.
I remind myself that I live in Japan, and that everything is an adventure.
I’m with Dr R. We loiter on a street near the airport with our luggage. We have time to kill. I ask him what he wants to do. He says he’s going to hang around and wait for the local robot he’s heard so much about. He sits on a concrete chair. I ask him about the robot, and turn around to look for it. “Mr Blue Chair” he says, and I turn back to listen, but he’s gone. I sit down in the concrete chair, and think. I say the same words, and the chair rapidly lowers itself into a hole beneath. The chair slides back and forth, in a confined, narrow space. Like a printer calibrating itself. Then I see, projected on the walls, images of the sewer beneath the streets. The chair rocks and slides as we navigate this virtual world.
I’m on a film set. A man is carefully cleaning old paint brushes. Not to use them, but to make them look used. Everything here is a prop. It’s like being in the Ionesco play, o
The Shepherds Chameleon. We discuss the preservation of museum pieces, and how their degradation over time is part of the natural order of things.
I’m with friends. They are taking me to a glass walled bar by the sea. I carry a paintbrush with me, and talk to it, about the psychosomatic cancers in my head. The bar is wonderful, set into an old, imposing, mill building. I try to take a photo, but can only fit in the details, the picture is too big to be captured.
My friend tells me there’s a communist booth with a great view. We step through a small door, and we are at a small stone table, with a view like Lydford Gorge. The bar is miles away at the bottom. I push scary old dolls down a pipe, and repack my baggage. We walk down the beautiful gorge to the sea. I try another photo, but it’s all too beautiful. We cross the incoming tide on stepping stones, and outside the bar, I see people I know from the Café Viola! I realise we are all robots, and that in normal interactions, we only meet so many different individuals, so there’s no need for us all to be individual. I realise I am networked with the others like me, as they interact in their groups. I remember thinking the same thing about the other mes in parallel universes.
I’m in some kind of Dads Army regiment. Charles Hawtrey is with me. His glasses break, and new ones fold out onto his face automatically. A line of our troops join us through a hedge, facing down the troops of darkness in the forests behind a low fence.
We advance on some entrenched gun positions. I drop down into a gun emplacement. The gravity is low, and I float down slowly, about 20-30ft. The gun is manned by women. All foreign. They are with us. I use a viewer, like the science station scanner Spock uses in Star Trek. It’s a targeting device. In the low gravity I have trouble steadying myself to see through it. Eventually, I’m able to target and fire. I’m not sure if, in reality, the whole process is automated.
I look up from the rangefinder. I’m in a tank, on the back of a flatbed truck, racing against a similar vehicle as we speed through the night along a motorway. We joke about God bless the Queen, and her wonderful army. I’ve no idea where we are going.
I’m in a spacesuit. I cling to a large, rectangular satellite. We orbit the Earth. We start in low Earth orbit, and that rapidly drops to a few hundred feet from the ground below us. I try to repair the satellite. People on the surface fire missiles at me, trying to destroy the satellite.
I’m back on the ground, in a waiting room. On my iPhone I watch my friend Steve Harris take part in a reality music TV show. I know he’s going to win. I vote for him anyway.
I leave the room. I’m in a shopping centre. Work colleagues pose for photographs with trainers.
I am inside a garage. I’ve been taken here by a contact. We meet a mechanic, a dangerous man. I’m aware the last person we sent vanished. The mechanic leads us through a back room, where a young woman joins us, into a large elevator, which has the exact dimensions of the low orbit satellite I was repairing earlier.
I tell them about the satellite, the high winds. Here, it was a dream. They all look at me, as if I’m very unprofessional. We exit onto a windy, snowy landscape. The young woman points out a large rock that she thinks may be useful. I pick it up and carry it.
After a while, the rock gets heavy. She asks why I’m carrying it when I complain. I put it down. I’d made an incorrect assumption, in my attempt to appear helpful. I joke with her about how, if she wants help, she can go elsewhere next time. We both laugh. We cross a flooded road, and enter a forest, to do battle with the army of a robot Charles Hawtrey.