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‘Content’ Vol 3 – new writing from Merseyside

November 23, 2010

time is what keeps the light

‘Content’ Vol 3

Liverpool is a city that has lived off its own mythology for far too long. Forever shackled to the 60s explosion of musicians, writers and so-called ‘comedians’ who forged their careers off the back of the Fab Four (TM), Merseyside has become a tourist park destination, a city centre of admittedly fine architecture both old and new surrounded by desolate, deprived estates as poor now as they’ve always been. For all the talk of re-birth and progress, Liverpool remains a poor city and its citizens have become hardened to an economic and cultural climate that bypasses them or else stigmatises them as ‘self-pitying thieves and scroungers.’

Ofcourse some scousers trade on this, encourage it even and whilst there will always be an element of a population eager to play up to stereotypes, there are others who want to disassociate themselves from all the self-indulgent romanticism and cosy mythology of a city and its people. The writers who contribute to ‘Content’ are not part of the bland mainstream or the self-declared ‘underground.’ They are by and large people who would never dream of attending a traditional ‘creative writing class’ and who have often had their voices ignored or drowned out by ‘professionals,’ those writers who claim to speak for ‘the ordinary man or woman on the street’ but who ghettoise themselves in leafy Bohemia or else move away from the city of their birth at the earliest opportunity. The ones the media extol as ‘radicals’ and ‘controversialists’ who long ago lost touch with reality if they ever had a grip on it in the first place. The Willy Russells and the Alan Bleasdales and the Jimmy McGoverns and the Roger McGoughs and the Brian Pattens of the scouse litocracy, these parasites and ponces, pimping their words to the BBC and Marks & Spencers.

‘Content’ offers a fresh perspective on Merseyside life as it’s lived day to day in the various badlands left at the mercy of successive ‘Middle British’ governments. Take Adrian Bailey’s ‘Advent’ or Lea-Marie Eale’s ‘Tumbleweed’ for example, both stories that leave the reader breathless. Powerful stories about the emptiness of lives left shattered by outside forces beyond their control. These are the consequences of abstract ideological theories forged in the 80s; the free market economics that cut a swathe through Merseyside left in its wake thousands upon thousands of people who fell through the safety net. Was it any wonder that heroin took hold of an entire generation during the 80s and that we are reaping that Thatcherite harvest now that another Tory government has arrived with a familiar yet perverted moral crusade.

Through it all, humour still generates warmth in the dark and ‘Content’ offers a mixture of comedy and tragedy; Sam Makhaba’s take on the Half Man Half Biscuit classic ‘Four Skinny Indie Kids’ for example or Robby Myers’ ‘The Dog, The Bone’ a superb example of modern conversation as heard through the one way call and response of mobile phone calls. Or Roy’s tragicomic story ‘Reversible’ or the pitch black autobiographic howl of Rare Kid’s ‘Blood, Blood, Sweat, Tears And More Tears.’ The poetry too offers snatches of comedy, absurdity, confession and polemic. Patryce Ryce’s two short poems, ‘You and Him’ and ‘Conversation Killer’ leave scorch marks on the page whereas Denis Joe sculpts his words with the precision of a master mason. The brutal domestic setting of Elaine Robert’s ‘Ping’ contrasts sharply with the abstract flow of Amanda’s ‘Platform.’

Throughout ‘Content’ the language remains resolutely and unapologetically Liverpudlian, not in any bogus quasi-scouse for beginners manner, designed for outsiders. If readers are unfamiliar with modern scouse slang and language then the writers make no concessions for this. Gillian Thompson’s poem ‘Eeeeeeee’ is written as it’s spoken and elsewhere, in the work of Shaireen Cooke, Lee Santamera, Roy and Robby Myers that unique scouse voice cuts through the crap of literary orthodoxy. ‘Content’ may be rough n’ ready in parts, it may not appeal to the self-elected professional scousers on the one hand or the self-regarding literary establishment on the other, but then, it wasn’t written for them.

You can order a FREE copy of Content Vol3 by sending a SAE (3 x 1st class stamps) to The Spider Project, 22 Pilgrim St, Liverpool L1 9HB or picking up a copy at News From Nowhere on Bold St, Liverpool.

You can also read Vols 1 and 2 of ‘Content’ at www.spiderproject.org (showcase section)

‘Reversible’ by Roy

 I love it when it’s like this. It’s still, blissful stillness. I’d have it foggy every morning if I could. The danger and mystery of it excites me but at the same time it also calms me. I feel elated that I can only see five yards in front of myself. Of course, it won’t be like this for much longer, it’ll be gone by ten o’clock. Time, it fucking destroys everything. Sometimes I gaze at the clock and can’t believe that the time is actually the time. Fix the clock, pretend there’s loads of time. I would if I could, I’d fix it for permanently between five and eight a.m. That’s the time I go out running every morning. The loneliness of the long distance runner? Fuck that! I’m never lonely. Alone, yes, but never lonely.

I’ve got this pavement, the sky is mine as well, so is the fog. It’s starting to clear up a bit now, I can actually see people’s faces. All silently angry and bitter. I pass a middle aged woman who scrunches up her face and looks at me like I’ve just admitted to being a paedophile. I’m a runner not a nonce, deal with it. Some people run, some people are runners. I’m a fucking runner, that’s what I do. What do all these creatures do except spread their bile and hatred whilst walking? They could be running, the lazy fuckers. But they probably haven’t got it in them. All the thoughts I had, all them thoughts I had, now that the fog is descending they don’t seem to make any sense anymore.

What time is it? Time to head home. Head down, head home. That fuckin window cleaner better not try and talk to me. I don’t like the look of him, he reminds me of that fella who presented Blockbusters and I fucking hated that programme and the lazy student gobshites who appeared on it. I bet none of them ever go out running. Got to get to the shop and get some bread and a paper, Fineform multi grain and the Daily Mail. I love the crossword in the Mail, it’s challenging. I done it in four minutes thirty two seconds yesterday and that’s without pausing the clock when I went for a quick piss. Too much Irn Bru y’see. The scotch have got it spot on with Irn Bru, probably the only thing they’ve got spot on .
Home, home again. The clock on BBC breakfast news says 07:54 but the one on my wrist says 07:53 and a bit. Their one must be wrong. Every timepiece in my gaff is bang in line with Greenwich Mean Time. Why do I pay my license fee? Telling the time isn’t hard. If kids can’t tell the time by the age of four, then they should be put into special schools. You’ve got no chance in life if you can’t tell the time. If the British Broadcasting Corporation can’t get it right, what chance have the kids got?
This fucking country!
Two slices of toast, dry. Then a shower, I can do that in less than nine minutes then I’ll be free to finish that jigsaw that I started yesterday. I’ve got to beat fourteen minutes forty three seconds for my own good. I’m nearly half way through it and there’s only six minutes forty nine seconds gone on the clock. This place needs tidying up, sooner rather than later. Not today though, or tomorrow. Gonna have cod in butter sauce for me tea. Put it in the microwave at about 17:07, will have it polished off by 17:14. I’ll be going back out for a run between now and then like. I’ll just keep focused on something, be it the time, running or eating. Don’t really like to think about things too much. Got no gas in the meter, will have to have a cold shower. That might shave a minute or two off my time. I pick up the Daily Mail and stare at the headline ‘DIANA DRIVER IN PORN ROW’. I turn straight to the crossword page.
I start to think about people who have died, mostly shit musicians; Elvis, Hendrix, Marley and that fella who sang ‘Light My Fire.’ Once you’re dead, you’re made for life. I mean, you get legendary status when you die regardless of whether you were any good or not. I don’t listen to music anyway, there aren’t enough hours in a day. I’m supposed to be going to the doctors tomorrow, It’s 6.3 miles from my front door. I’ll probably run there. Or I could always walk, see how the other half live. I scan the crossword clues and decide that today’s is so easy, I’m not going to waste time doing it.
Time is of the essence around these here parts.
It’s 08:41 now, me sister usually calls in on the way back from dropping her kids off at school. I don’t know why she calls in, she never has anything to say apart from the fact that she wants to come running with me sometime. She’s been saying it for the past four years.
I’m glad she’s never been running with me, I can’t be arsed with part timers. I’ve got targets to hit, deadlines to keep to. I like my sister though, just not too keen on her kids. They’re always having a pop, asking where my bird is and where I get my clothes from. The eldest, Mia, is an absolute nightmare. To be quite honest, I’m terrified of her, it’s embarrassing. I’m totally uncomfortable around her, I go bright red when she starts talking to me. She’s ten, for God’s sake. Maybe I should start trying to build a bridge between us. I could take her out running. Then she’d have no energy left to harass me with. She might even enjoy it. I wonder whether she can tell the time properly? I could buy her a watch. I’ve never bought them presents though, birthdays or Christmas. I’m getting terrorised by a ten year old and have no idea how to stop it. I’ll probably just continue to ignore her, as I’ve done for the past few years, hoping it will ease with time. Speaking of which, it’s 08:51 now.
Why does she knock so loud? For fucks sake, she’s shouting through the letterbox now.
“My God, you could be lying dead in there for all I know”.
“What?”
“Just let me in will you, I’ve got some good news for you. Oh, and our Mia says hello”.
My whole body instantly fills with dread but I try to cover it up with an offer of a brew.
“Oh, er OK, do you want a brew?”
“No ta, do you want this good news or what?”
The only good news I can think of is that she’s going to offer to make my tea and toast so I can get on with other things and save time.
“Go on then”
“I’m coming running with you today”
“You’re not!”
“I am, I’ve brought me stuff”
She points to the bright pink Puma bag that she has positioned on my chair in the corner. The last game of football I ever watched, I watched it sitting on that chair. I gave my season ticket up after Kevin died, watched the next game on telly. I couldn’t bear to look at the screen, just kept thinking about the moment I realised Kevin was dead. We had just pulled a goal back against Arsenal, a bit of a six yard box scramble. Michael Ball managed to finish. We went berserk in the Park End, giving the cockneys loads. We specifically bought our season tickets so that we were as close to the away fans as possible, we loved it. The momentum was with us, the Gunners were silent, Graham Stuart went close to equalising, that’s when Kevin slumped in his seat. The lad in front of us started fuming, he thought Kevin was pissed. I didn’t know what to think, I tried to move him but he wouldn’t budge. Foam started to come out of the corner of his mouth and people around us started to panic. Some girl started shrieking then some fella from a few rows behind leapt towards us and started doing some sort of CPR manoeuvre. I realised Kevin was in serious trouble then. I knew all about their family’s history with problems of the heart. I knew all about Kevin’s colossal cocaine in-take, despite the warnings the doctor had given him. I’ll never forget the resigned look on the first aid fella’s face, but the thing that sticks with me the most is the way Kevin’s arm just dangled.

I remember staring at his watch and just clocking the seconds ticking away. My best mate’s life literally ticking away in front of me. I remember thinking how his time was up but everyone else’s time just went on regardless. Arsenal were still on the back foot, surely it was only a matter of time before the toffees slotted an equaliser.
I wonder what happened to Kevin’s watch, is it still ticking away somewhere? I have visions of a massive collection of dead people’s watches somewhere. This wasn’t quite real, my closest friend had just dropped dead in the seat next to me and all Earl Barrett could do is launch hopeless balls up front
for Graham Stuart to chase. As I walked around the side of the pitch, accompanying Kevin’s body on a stretcher, Danny Cadamarteri fires in an equaliser. Goodison went off.
My eyes are filling up when I suddenly remember that my sister is standing in front of me with her bright pink Puma bag. I compose myself and keep the tears at bay. I look at the clock on the wall, then my watch. She looks like she’s waiting for me to say something, so I do.
“Come on then, get your trainees on if you’re coming for a run with me”.

You can also read Vols 1 and 2 of ‘Content’ at www.spiderproject.org (showcase section)

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