The Debt of Memory

J wanted to live now, pay later, or preferably not pay at all. She had no savings, a small income from part time work, and a family background of generation after generation of poverty. She didn’t want to find herself old, and poor, having travelled nowhere and experienced nothing.

She perused the search results on her cheap laptopโ€™s screen. She was looking for a loan, or a line of credit, that she could exploit to this end. She had no security, no property, nothing to be able to guarantee that she could pay anyone back. She’d done this before, six years ago. She hadn’t even bothered to go bankrupt, just moved to another place, another job, another bank, dropped off the electoral register. After six years, the financial records were reset, her old debts sold on so many times as to be virtually untraceable. She didn’t spend the money she borrowed on physical things, like cars, or technology, or furniture, but on experiences. Travel. Cultural experiences. Drug experiences. She never took out any kind of payment protection insurance, never read the small print. It didn’t matter to her, she had no intention of making any repayments.

She opened up her photos app. Smiling, she remembered her time in Belarus and Bratislava, the people she’d met, the fun they’d had. J had been to nearly every continent. Hadn’t done Antarctica yet. That was next on the list, and some South American countries too.

There was a knock at her door. She jumped. She wasn’t expecting anyone. The doorbell was disconnected. She had a Bedsit, with shared bathrooms, in a less prosperous area of Exeter. She couldn’t think who it could be. Probably a neighbour, wanting some change for the electricity meter, or asking for her help with technology. She got that a lot, from the older people in her house.

She opens the door. A man is there. Short, rotund, grey haired, smiling, slightly familiar. He asks her name. She tells him, almost in a trance. “I’m from the company that you had a credit agreement with, about six years ago, Oblitus Credit”

“You can’t come in. I know my rights, that was an unsecured loan”, J said.

“You didn’t read the small print, did you?”, said the man.

“Are you able to make a payment today?”

“No” replied J. “You’ll have to take me to court before you get anything!”.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” he said. He pulled something out of his dark blue Uniglo jacket. J saw a glimpse of metal, then a flash of bright light. The man gave her a business card.

“I’m sure I’ll be hearing from you soon”.

He walked away, into the gloom of the corridor. J stood there, at her door, until the main door slammed shut. She sat on her bed. What had just happened? How had they found her? She. Needed to move out, and quick. She went back to her laptop. The photos app was still open, but something was wrong. Where she’d been looking at images of her travels, there were now just grey boxes of static. She tried to remember which pictures she’d been browsing. Then it hit her. No memories. She had no memories of her travelling. Just a blank. What had he meant, by the small print?

She googled Oblitus, the credit company. Terms and Conditions. Lots of text, scanning through it,

‘In the event of non payment, unsecured loans or credit may incur the repossession of memories deemed by the company to have been made possible by this credit agreement’.

Fuck. They’ve repossessed my memories. That thing he flashed me with. How did that work? J knew she was stuck. Without those memories, she may as well have spent her life in one place, working endless low paid jobs. She looked at the mans business card. No name. Just a phone number, an email address, and a central ‘Oblitus’ logo. She tried to remember how much she owed them. About ยฃ10k. Plus some interest, she was sure.

J couldn’t handle a phone conversation. This was just too weird. An email. Find out what they wanted. She hit send. Almost immediately, a reply. No interest if she agreed to their payment terms. Memories to be restored sequentially upon receipt of each payment. They already knew her income, and their prediction of her outgoings was surprisingly close to her actual budget.

The Global Workhouse

My name is Mustapha. I fled from Syria, from the war. I came to Europe to find a safe future. 
Instead I found the work zones. International Work Zones. Areas where National Law was suspended. Not belonging to any country. Ghettoes of alleged safety. Part of the TTIP agreement. A solution to migration. To survive, and live in the safety of Europe, I must work 14 hours a day, every day. For this I get food, shelter and clothing. No wages. No union rights. No support if I get sick. No days off. 
I see now why they bombed us. Those like me, who want to live in peace, will flee. We will be easy to control and resettle, easy to lie to and deceive. With nowhere to go, and no country to return to, we are the first residents of the new global workhouses. 
Soon, I think, others will arrive. The poor, and sick from European countries, the old who have had their pensions stolen. The unemployed. Anyone who opposes the marching advance of capitalism. Anyone from the wrong side of the wealth divide. 
Sometimes, my work involves recycling newspapers and magazines. The guards don’t know I can read and speak English. I used to see, sometimes, articles about us, our lives in here. The New Slavery, they called it, rather than the new safety we were promised. Journalists argued for our freedom, for human rights. There were protests and petitions. Then all that stopped. The names of the journalists changed, as if they had disappeared. As if they had never been. 
I wonder what ghetto they are in now. I wonder f they still think that protests and petitions are useful weapons, against brutal men with no morals, and guns. 

Harmonic Heaven

I’m dead. 
I’m still aware. 
More aware, perhaps, than ever before. The atoms that make up my body reawaken to universal awareness. There is no separation. I’m a monad. We atoms are all one. 
From this perspective, I can see that what I considered consciousness, or self-awareness, was a dim candle to the bright sun of this direct experience. I see my physical existence in four dimensions, the flow of matter and energy. Food that became my body, breath that kept me alive, output products as ripples in a sea of matter. I am a twisting worm in time. Fatter in the middle. I spin a helix around the path of the earth, and the path of the sun. These were my true limitations. Like a ripple on a frozen sea. Zoom in, and there are details in the helix, wobbles from this country to that, repeated fractal patterns of commuting and consumption. I am a waveform, a vibrating string. My habits harmonics, adding a unique timbre to my existence. 
Like a wave, I was never really there. An emergent phenomena of matter in motion. Facing forever the direction of times arrow. Blind and blinkered by narrow bands of perception. 



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 byย 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. ย 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.



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. ย 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.

To Be A Man

I grew up on a council estate in North Manchester, and as a working class man, there are a number of skills that some seem to think would come naturally to me. However, I seem to be missing the working man genes for DIY, decorating, self assembly furniture, car maintenance bicycle maintenance, and having any opinion at all on football or other sports.

I am moving into a new place. The housing association have provided me with paint and tools to redecorate. It is not going well. I watch youtube videos of self assured, manly men, who make it look easy, then I try, and fail.

Who decided that we must keep inside the lines when painting? And what purpose does a skirting board serve? How do people manage to paint in straight lines?

I think housing design needs a radical rethink. We need homes with programmable, self healing, colour surfaces, an end to paint and Polyfilla. Windows we can stretch to the dimensions we require, plumbing and power wherever we need it.

This is, of course, a first world problem. I remember sleeping rough when I was homeless, and any shelter would’ve been a blessing. Sleeping in a cold, empty squat, I was glad to be out of the wind and rain. I must remember this, and when I step back and look at my patchy painted wall, with masking tape edges, be thankful for the small things, food, shelter, and my inability to decorate.


I waited in my empty flat this morning, for long, cold hours, waiting for the man from Dulux to deliver my paint. He came about 11. He had only three of the right things. He left them for me to take up, and promised to return.

And return he did. With many right things. I was frozen by this time, and popped into Sid’s Cafe for a coffee. It was quiet. No job club today. Mostly old ladies with baked potatoes. I had a black coffee. Alone on a small table. Scanning the walls of community notices.

I walked into town, to choose and order some carpets. An expensive action. This completed, I headed to the Boston Tea Party for more coffee, and soup. Here it is busy. Students. Workers. Old ladies with dogs. A different kind of community. In Sid’s, you see disabled people. In Bostons, the stairs limit accessibility. There’s another difference of accessibility. Price. Most could afford the ยฃ1 I paid for my coffee at Sid’s. Many would balk at paying ยฃ4.50 for soup. Money gives you choices. Not to eat where the poor and excluded eat. To sip your coffee in a make believe world where everyone has a mac, an iPhone, or an iPad. Where no one is poor, and no one hungry.