Saturday, 24 March 2012

Dishing the Dirt

By Humbert Git

London’s history has been defined by its relationship to dirt. “Shit, filth and flies everywhere” was how Rotund W. Tippety first described his sight of inner-city London. That was back in 1566. Nothing much has changed. Yes, on a physical, empirical, material, logical and mathematical and scientific and English and History based basis, it has all changed. But what really has changed? Nothing much has changed. Yes, the roads are no longer filled with shit, at least not of the literal kind.

But, the compensation is that Londoners feel the need to vent anal-based spleen in public in whatever way possible, as evidenced by Mary Small’s recent studies into Londoners’ collective anal fixation, Mind the Anal Fixation: Why Londoners are Weird, which chronicles events in London’s history from a unique ‘pü-based perspective’. Like a may pole, its central tenet revolves around the axiom that at heart, all Londoners are ‘monkeys needing to throw their pü at each other’. Small makes the essential distinction between the word ‘poo’ and the pü concept by explaining

            One is spelt like the normal word ‘poo’ and one is spelt pü.

Pü, maintains Small, is the propeller driving the “helicopter of progress” that helped give rise to the Industrial Revolution. She argues that during this time, when London was the centre of the world,

Pollution was at its highest. Our health levels were at their lowest; the level of pü was higher than ever before, for, crucially, pollution’s pü is even more toxic than that created by actual ‘poo’, and the plague, which, crucially, contains the word pü, albeit without the umlaut, but nonetheless, the point remains valid [Small’s initials, not mine].

The point is finally made:

Plague arrives in the 17th century and many die. England’s power as a naval force grows. The Industrial Revolution wreaks havoc with people’s lungs and many die. We reach our apex. In the early 20th century Spanish Flu wipes out millions. We win World War One. In the Sixties Londoners cower from an attack from a radioactive ox. We create the Beatles*. Highest level of pollution = highest level of power. Fact.

Holding to her theory like a captain holding forth on a ship made of academia, Small navigates the waters of controversy by making a valid point that without pü, London would have not have maintained its high spirits during The Blitz; for, in the externalisation of pü realised in the total-aesthetic of the V2, Londoners

...could see their own pü extended beyond themselves; Hitler was the final embodiment of the pü built up over the years: but, through their collective pü experience, from the Plague to the smokes of industry, Londoners found in themselves a complete redemption, a unique innocence unseen before or since. Each and every Londoner was clean, for their inner souls were made whole by the

At which point Small began to lose my interest, but nonetheless up until this point (coincidentally the point at which she herself admitted to feeling ‘a little drained’ in her autobiography) she presents a valid argument that without the dirt of history ingrained in their pores, each Londoner could not have coped with having the ultimate dirt rained down upon them – the dirt of seemingly certain annihilation.

It is said that in AD 43 when Londinium was first established by Claudius, he told his generals 
 
Iacio is urbs super a flumen. Planto is splendidus. Planto is novus. Opus sulum sinew, frendo sulum lacertosus, fluo sudo, cruor quod bone in is partum; pro is ero urbs of totus civis.

[Lay this city upon a river. Make it magnificent. Make it new. Work each sinew, grind each muscle, pour sweat, blood and bone into this creation; for it will be the city of all cities.]
 
 His soldiers, and those following in their footsteps, took his orders to heart, and poured all their energy into the task. In AD 200, when constructing the London Wall, one soldier, Tiberius Cornelius Silvanus, was said to have run out of bricks. Looking around for resources, he discovered to his horror that there were no more pestles available, nor cement. So, he took it upon himself to create his own. As recorded by the diary of a fellow soldier, Silvanus

Made a space for himself far from the rest of us, but not far enough to fail to arouse our curiosity. He squatted, and produced forth a specimen the likes of which we had never seen.

This exact brick can be found on a section of the wall that has remained on Barbican Estate. Upon closer inspection, the brick itself seems a shade darker than the others, although I was not inclined to touch it in case I got germs. It is even possible to theorise that more than one brick was produced by this method, if one inspects Silvanus’s diary entry from that day:

            Today I shat bricks.

It will by now be fairly obvious to all who are familiar with London colloquialisms that the phrase ‘to shit a brick’ originates from this event.

Celebrating its own past, and predicting the faeces of the future, London now remorselessly grasps its own shit and lays it out on a canvas for the public to see, as witnessed in high-profile events, such as the Turner Prize, London Fashion Week, openings of clubs in Mayfair, Camden Market, and every article by AA Gill.

* One mistake: the Beatles came from Liverpool.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

No one reads this but I'll post anyway

I guess I'm actually a little lonely. Nobody but two people seem to get me. Nobody but two people are safe to me. I can't be 100% myself with anyone else and it's infuriating because I know most people would like me if I really was myself, with all my weirdness and annoying tics and whatnot. Truth is, I don't think I'm cut out for this being a person lark. I can spend my days acting like I'm a grown up, when the truth is, I'm just following what other people do and act accordingly, hoping the disguise will suffice. I'm not really myself. I'm not really anyone. I look at photos of myself then I sort of come back to what I know I am, if that makes sense... but if I can't keep myself in check like that, if I can't remember myself, I come away. And start being more or less bonkers. Because I am a bit bonkers. Not in the hilarious way that 'mad' people are who tell amazing stories about being drunk, but actually a tiny bit crazy. Anyone who has attempted suicide has to be a little bit crazy. Anyone who hasn't taken any medication for head wrongs apart from one month has to be a little bit crazy, especially if they go to sleep and find that thoughts run around their heads like Tasmanian devils, hardly ever ceasing, only drowned out with music.

In the daytime babbling cracks come spilling out on occasion. Paranoid thoughts and random irritation come out too, and knowing they're coming out makes me feel even more anxious. The more I become aware of it, the worse it gets. I'm going to unleash something terrible upon the world someday. When I reach breaking point. Which is why I'm afraid of moving right now. I am incredibly fragile. So fragile I shouldn't even be allowed outside of the house. Really I might not even be out of the house. I might be stuck in a room fantasising all this. All this happiness. Take a step back and look at it all. All that reality. All that good. Can't be real. Not if I haven't got any friends. Not if the idea of going driving somewhere or going to a gathering of people renders you completely speechless and liable to eccentricities of the type that cause nervous titters.

I can't do it. I've been able to pretend for a few years now. Back in the day when I was truly alone, I don't know how I did it. That feeling of absolute reality left me for a time. It's coming slowly back in right now. Nervousness. I once wrote as a twelve year old in my diary "I dread life." I still dread life. Assuming I'm not already living it. Life is lived when you forget about yourself. Paradoxically, no longer being self-aware is when you actually present yourself as a person. Rehearsing for your own personality, preparing jokes and potential conversations... that's fake. The banal comments about weather, the mistakes... they are you. And for the most part people seem to like you, but you push them away because you realise most people aren't as interesting as yourself. Which may well be true. Be an elitist. Why not. You're an exotic essence that only a select few appreciate and mull over. Better that than a Big Mac slobbered upon by millions of masses...

Now chin the fuck up and go to sleep, you eccentric, melancholic, inventive, dour, happy fuckwit.

Also Paperhouse is a brilliant film.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Death and Destruction, London Style

By Tracy West

Death, in all its many forms, has never strayed far from the mind of your average Londoner. Raised as I was in Stockton-on-Thames, the phrase that let me know I was in trouble was if my mother glared wide-eyed at me and said “You are dead.” Only when I clinically died for five minutes following a heroin overdose did I realise the emptiness of her words. I was revived, and went on to write numerous articles, including this one, in which I made constant reference to my drug-fuelled past because as we know anyone who has done drugs becomes a leading authority on anything.

Death, in all its forms, has been the motivation not only for children to stop being naughty, but for adults too. Death stalks every alleyway, grinning from furtive corners, peeking up from drainage pipes. Londoners like us make money from telling seedy, vicious tales about Jack the Ripper, Derek Splat, Paul Stabbey, Ernest Killedthecat, Fanny Malicious, Sweeney Todd, and Alan. Indeed, in 1998, I spent the time between jobs driving random tourists around London sites, convincing them that Angus Steak House in Leicester Square was named after a man called Angus who had created a fort on that spot made from human bones back in 1834. I developed the idea that Angus developed his own religion based on the Aztec rule of Montezuma, with willing human sacrifices lining up outside the spot to be killed and eaten by the hand of their leader. Problematically for me, a cult developed around this Angus character and for a year or so, that restaurant was besieged by strange people lining up outside with meat cleavers. Even more problematically, none of these people was seen emerging from the restaurant. When asked as to the whereabouts of these tourists, the site’s manager shrugged before saying, “Who knows. All I know is my clientele weren’t so much served dinner, as... dinner served.” When asked to elaborate, he added, “The meat I serve here is made from human flesh.” When I asked what he meant by that, he said, “It is made from those people you are asking me about, who I kill and then cook.” Unfazed by his riddles, I set about investigating further, before I was distracted by a passing randomninja who ended up sending me flying two kilometres away with a roundhouse kick.

As a result I found myself standing by the Golden Boy of Pye Corner, a monument to the “Sin of Gluttony” that caused the Great Fire of London in Pudding Lane. Gazing at this boy’s balls, it occurred to me that all throughout London’s history, we have found it all too easy to ascribe multiple deaths to our own misguided inclinations. The Shameful Massacre of 1681, for example, where a procession of left-handed fishermen were shot down by locals for no reason whatsoever, became the subject of much naval-gazing when it was reported in The Gazette by Ezekiel Skoda, its then editor. “Why Did We Do It?” asked Skoda, writing in an informal, confessionary style many years ahead of its time,

More importantly, why did I do it? Betimes Thursday eve, returning from a rooster scrap, I beheld most unhappily a series of Gents marching forth from some sort of Gathering; one man in particular incurred my Wrath, for his was clearly the gait of an Idiot; fisherman’s Rod lofted so high up in the air that I thought the Lord himself may be Pok’d; presently a great Unrest boiled up within my Loins, and I thought it only reasonable to grab my Blunderbuss and blast the damned cur to the seventh level of th’Abyss;

For the “bravery” of this confession (to quote the local JP), Skoda’s sentence of hanging was reduced to public humiliation. Two weeks followed in which each and every Londoner was allowed to call Skoda an arsehole to his face. Unfortunately, the insults plagued him for the rest of his life and at the age of 40 he died an unhappy man, his final words being “At last, I find rest from those who would seek to turn me from the path of the holy.” His pilgrimage in life from his internal struggle was described as “Dantean” in his obituary.

A man who often struggled in his own personal hell, hands gripping the oars as he sailed the Styx like Virgil, that it seemed his whole life was spent attempting to extract his cold hands from his Cocytus, and failing. Sometimes he spent his days on the edge of madness; inhabiting the outer skirts of many a Dantean circle. I had to extract him from several circular rims on occasion, including his own, metaphorical rim, into which it seemed he frequently disappeared.

Later he wrote an acrostic highlighting Skoda’s personal qualities.

            Wisest of all men; worshipped as a pagoda.
            A man who did not give one iota.
            Notably condemning of freeloaders.
            Knowledge eternal, like that of Yoda.
            Eventually we die, reaching our coda.
            Royalty is inferior to Ezekiel Skoda.

The new editor Edmund Hacffurthe avoided censure for this barely disguised insult and went on to lead The Gazette into the powerhouse of journalism that it remains today.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Cor, Luvva Duck: A History of London Dialect 1900-1918

By Jeremiah Jones

Jeremiah Jones once stated: “the sound of London’s masses reflects the nature of whoever is living in London at that present moment.” A blindingly obvious observation, I find; yet one that I feel must be expanded upon: the sound of London’s masses reflects the nature of whoever is living in London at that present moment, and beyond. Therein lies the important crux: that London’s voice is both constant and yet always changing. Visitors from distant lands who have landed upon our shores have discovered that the first voices they hear are the most authentic London voices living in England today: those of the Tube. The Tube, rather like the primordial soup, has informed and reflected the nature of our ever-changing discourse, and, rather like the populace, has grown grimier with time.

In 1900, one Bradney Spoogenplatz arrived on a boat from New York on a six-month sojourn; seeking, in his words of his diary,

Fame, fortune, and gosh spankin’ darnit if I don’t find myself one of those refined British girls to take back and show to Ma! And a hat.

Within a day, Spoogenplatz would discover the harsh reality of 1900 London. But what really shocked Spoogenplatz was the language. The extract from May 21, 1900 describes it thus.

I attempted to procure a drink from the nearest pub but was shocked to hear men react to bad news with a ‘D__n’ or a ‘B____y H__l.’ Never in my life have I heard such foulness. The air seemed to blister with the sound of the oaths. Gee, I like the Barrison Sisters, but asking a bunch of guys if we’d like to see their p___y is nothing compared to hearing such barbaric blasphemy. I’m going to bed now. I’m going to stare at a woman’s ankle magazine. This city is making me itch.

Having spent a month in London’s green and foggy climes, he attempted to find a job as a waiter. What he failed to realise is that the cuisine of London at the time was not quite on par with that of Paris, the last capital city he had visited.

I don’t understand it. The food here is so bad that to look at it causes the stomach to turn. Pork pie? Damnable brain–like substance wrapped in slippery greasy bread-esque matter. Scotch eggs? Like eating an eyeball wrapped in cancer.  Black pudding? It’s just blood. And that’s not the worst of it. I hear names given to food - euphemisms to disguise their wretchedness. Goat’s Folly. Rusty Gibbet. Cackling Monkey. Farting Goblin. Wicketkeeper’s Favourite. What do these all mean? Must find out.

He appears to run into a pit of despair the following day with the realisation that

            All these refer to bread. Nothing else.

Another month spent in London resulted in Spoogenplatz being admitted to Bethlehem Mental Home following newspaper reports of “A most Unwell Gentleman of Yankee Persuasion seen Wandering the Streets Naked & Babbling About Food”. His final entry featured nothing more than the revealing statement of

            Fuck

which was reproduced in print in a two-page article in Moustache and Monocle, causing a major scandal. This was the first time that the f-word had been seen on a page, ever. The tragic downfall of one of America’s most promising young aristocrats later became known glibly as ‘The Fuck Incident’.

Indeed, it is this word, above all others, that has endured in London’s vocabulary where others have failed. It is this word that has lived on when all the artists and writers have seen their words slowly fall away.

Attempts to forge new vocabulary have usually resulted in failure. One famous eccentric named Reginald Ox was known to wander the streets of 1913 London, attempting to start new slang trends by butting in on any conversations he could possibly could and dropping in made-up words in a manner as subtle as his second name suggests. Locations he turned up at ranged from births to bar mitzvahs. Soon he had acquired his own small fanbase, including Vera Aryre, a cello musician based locally who had a knack for befriending the odd and befuddled of inner London. She would follow Ox around and record as best she could the nature of his conversations. Other times she would bring him along to her parties, introducing him as ‘my beloved buffoon’. Within two years, they would be married. Inevitably, when asked to say “I do”, Ox responded with “I skabob.” When asked by the priest whether this represented a positive response to the question, Ox replied “Only if you believe in pecocknige.” With the patience befitting that of one of his ilk, the priest took the time to ask further what Ox meant. “I just mean to say I jort. Yliminop. I need not say more.” Prompted perhaps by her recent enjoyment of the Jeremiah Jones’ non-fiction work depicting the life and work of Bradney Spoogenplatz, Very Aryre brought about the following ultimatum to Ox: “Just say I fucking do.” He obeyed, and the couple went on to enjoy a happy year of marriage before Ox was forced to sign up for the war. A week later he was back home, sent back with the following letter attached to his lapels:

            Dear Mrs. Ox,

Private Ox has been discharged from duty on the basis that his unique vernacular renders him incomprehensible not only to his unit, but the entire army. As a result he has been declared potentially dangerous. We were at first wondering if he was a spy of some kind. Maybe you could ask him. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Yours,

Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig xx

But, as put by Ox himself in his memoirs written sixty years later, “one cannot help but chuckle at the irony of this so-called disability giving me the opportunity to live a full and happy life so denied to so many of my generation. One might be so bold as to say that he who laughs last, laughs bare shank blud innit.”

Thursday, 15 March 2012

If This Be a Man, Then What Be Am I?

By Bernard Stalemate

Ask any Englishman who his favourite author is and he will most likely name Dickens. Anyone who has ever read a book has read Dickens. According to recent polls, Dickens came top of the list of authors who have appeared top in lists about authors. The proof is in the pudding (Tosh, 1983).

Dickens is, to quote David Tsundere, “so god-like in stature that to utter any criticism of his works should be illegal.” In fact, like a stool, such a petition was recently passed on to Parliament, signed by thousands, which stated baldly that “not reading Dickens should be against the law.” It was later revealed that the petition was created by a solitary individual roaming the Internet named Stanley Buttermother, who, like some sort of octopus, spread numerous emails and usernames all around the areas of the Internet in order to create the false impression of numerity whereas in fact it was only him typing in his name over and over.

His ruse was foiled when, drunk, he posted a YouTube video confessing to his crimes, which was somehow picked up by a local policeman intrigued by its tags containing the words “bomb”, “Parliament,” “kill”, and “terrorist”. When asked as to the point of the tags, Buttermother went on to explain that he was attempting to place himself alongside Guy Fawkes as one of the all-time terrorists. When asked why he was digging himself into a deep hole, he said “Because that’s how he got under Parliament.” When asked why he was digging himself into an even deeper hole, he said “Because, like me, he wanted to blow up Parliament.” When asked what his love of Dickens had to do with his obsession with Guy Fawkes, Buttermother said, “both were patriots”. At this point officers released him from jail, stating that Buttermother “had begun to deeply, profoundly and offensively bore us”.

As for the petition, it was accidentally approved, until the mistake was realised a day later. However, during May 23th, 2007, criticising Dickens could land any British citizen an 18-month long sentence in jail. Most of the population were unaware of the law, apart from journalists and civil servants. The only sign of any disturbance was during the Breakfast show on the BBC, when a feature on British authors appeared. An unnamed presenter began to ask the question “Why do you like Dickens?” to his co-presenter, before remembering the law. Inevitably he stopped himself before he could finish the question and ended up almost being sued for sexual harassment. The Dick Incident, as it was later referred to by no one, has gone down in infamy for being the only time the word ‘dick’ was ever aired on British television.

Dickens liked to ramble. It is said he once approached a child; and when prompted, began to describe the boy in such great detail that the boy began start seeing himself no more than a collection of words. Notable parts of London that inspired his work include a shop, a street, a brothel, a pub, and a dog. None of these exist anymore.* There do, however, exist numerous plaques all over London commemorating their connection with Dickens. Outside a McDonald’s reads the plaque “Dickens ate here once. He ordered a burger.” The G.A.Y. club features a plaque on one of its toilets stating “Dickens visited this site out of curiosity.” From this, it is clear where The Old Curiosity Shop’s original title, The Old Curious Faggot, found its origin. By a car park reads a plaque “Dickens conceived here.” It is unclear as to whether Dickens himself was conceived or partook in the act of conceiving whilst parked in whatever it was people drove around in those days. I peered up a chimney recently and found a plaque saying “Dickens wept here at a child for two hours straight.” Researching the event further, I found that afterwards, he gave the child a shilling. That child later grew up to be Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. I also passed a local tramp holding up a plaque saying “Dickens ignored me here once. When confronted about it, he spat in my face and shat on my shoes.” Later, I passed by a plaque commemorating Jack the Ripper. Upon this plaque was a plaque about Dickens, stating, “Dickens read this plaque.” Later, I visited a morgue in St. Thomas’ Hospital, and, attempting an amateur autopsy, discovered to my surprise that a plaque lay within the patient’s mouth, upon which the words “Dickens killed me” appeared. I presumed this was some sort of calling card, and gave it to the on-site detective. He later used it to solve all the crimes.

Having visited Rochester, I can safely say that Dickens’s home truly lies in London and that nowhere else holds any significance at all, especially Rochester. Dickens was not only a great man, but a great writer, a great author, a great wordsmith, a great swordsman, a great chess player, a great cheese grater, a great tutor, a great tenor, a great Tudor, a great trooper, a great looper, a great stooper, a great pooper, a great pauper, and most of all, a man. A man? Yes. A man. A man? No. Possibly.

*not sure about the dog

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

London: An Anthology

Foreword by Devon Smarks

“London is an aardvark,” to quote Gerald Cacophony in Rifts in Time, “To deny her the ant is to deny her life.” Looking back on such an aphorism provides the contemporary reader with a simultaneous feeling of amused confusion derived from Cakey’s inability to remember that anteaters eat ants, and yet a constancy of melancholia at the underlying truth behind said phrase. Indeed, it has been argued that London is in itself responsible for this duality of mirth and melancholia; for, when one looks back and forward at both the history and the future of London, one can see a very consistent path defined primarily by a mixture of both hilarity and hate, suffering and sneering, battles and buffoonery, agony and apoplexy, whooping and writhing, festivity and falling off.

The Great Fire of London. The invention of the flubbedegizmo. British-Pop. The so-called ‘golden age’ of the eighties. The kebab. The Leftover Entrail. Chip shops. Curry houses. Brick Lane. Cuntgrope Lane. Alan’s Back End. Dovetail Joint. Sneering Street. Old Isabella. Crunchy Jim’s Pork Cake Emporium. The Summer of Love. The Hour of Ash. The Year of Grovelling. Dragon’s Shin. All names and places that conjure up not only individual memories, but also a collective memory; for, if a collective unconscious could ever be seen projected upon a landscape, it is London itself. The witches gather under sooty tunnels. Owls peek from behind Hyde Park trees. Lemmings pour from sewage pipes. London does not hide its dead. It hides only the living (Smauge, 2001).

Like all the great cities in the world (apart from Copenhagen) London’s history has been a mixture of gin-sodden, sin-ridden, flim-flammen, stuck-in-the-mudden, flea-bitten, pea-mushen, blood-letten, pock-markeden, pock-picketen, and rape. Like a mixture in a test tube, London has on occasions exploded, cut itself in half, developed artificial intelligence, mutated into a mixture of spider and man, helped cure penicillin,  and done nothing at all until the scientist throws the whole damned thing away in a Götterdämmerung of the gods.

Within this collection of assorted essays, stories, poems and stains, the theme of London is explored with all the love one would expect from those who have spent their time there, whether it be for a lifetime or only a paragraph’s worth. Authors as diverse as Ricardo Bicep and Penelope Flobbernog each add their own personal touch to the fractured narrative that is London. Pieces range from simple observations taken at sundown to wide-ranging postmodern summaries of how London reflects not only the world, but London itself - and how it too is reflected not only by itself, but London: for it is not only by not the world only that London is  - but by, and also the, how; is reflected, London.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Nameless

Smoking out the window at the house again. Smoke whispers from the side of my mouth out the slit of the window across cold tiles, escaping into the night. A train passes by. One or two inhabitants. I wonder where they’re going and why they’re out so late. It veers right and I crane my neck to watch it depart. No stars in the sky. London’s sickly orange tint cuts them off. Silence descends. I stare into the distance to try and rectify the optical damage I’ve caused from my video games. Buildings glow on the horizon that I’ll never get to know. A whole world of opportunity out there; or, a whole world of missed opportunities. Returning to this spot, the place where I felt absolute depressions, feels like returning to the scene of a crime. A crime against myself. Like that feeling in uni I had each night when entering the shower and remembering how I sat against a cold wet wall, watching my blood descending into a drain and being aware only of the void. The silence remembers my sins. The smoke is sin made material. With each inhalation of sin we tar our bodies like we tar our memories. Exhaling them out into a nameless but understanding night is our consolation. We take what we can get. Brief moments of comfort are all we’re allowed. The whole thing is a long defeat against our limitations. Something will have to go wrong soon. Always does. Sickness falls as my body realises its being poisoned. The surplus piles up and my stomach eats itself. The mind begins to bubble. I shut my eyes and see static. Bile overtakes each organ. Soon it shall be overwhelmed. But in the meantime keep on looking into the distance, sending out silent signals of invisible prayer. Perhaps one day something will answer back. A sign of recognition. Of benevolence. Of a world that gives something other than the impression that all it wants is for you to fall into the abyss, hopeless cigarette in hand.