Friday, June 30, 2006

"A Ship to a Far Sea" - Ronald Potter

I have recently received some pages from a new thriller to be published next year by Puffin Books. I'm talking of Ronald Potter's ongoing "A Ship to a Far Sea" saga, of course. The indefinitely long trilogy of books began with the transvestite novel "Tratchenbute/Tratchenbuta", continued with the failed sequel "I Just Want to Be With You Tratchenbute", and is finally (possibly) concluding with "A Ship to a Far Sea", said by insiders to be Ronald Potter's Masterpiece. I'll let you decide for yourselves with this sample of chapters...


[The opening chapters.]


IV

"The scuds are comin’! The scuds are comin’!" The cry arose from one of the uglier shipmates and panic set in. The cry resounded about the ship as crates were lifted treble speed, animals grunted, hustle and bustle, the levering mechanics of the ship cranes levered.

Along the harbour line, minding his own, Tratchenbute, our humble yet unwitting hero, walked. When suddenly he sprung into such tremendous action as was never before witnessed on the harbour line. "The Scuds were comin’!" Where? There were no scuds at this time of night. Tratchenbute knew that very well – he used to be one. The Scuds, the city police force, would only leave at night if the moon shone full in the sky and the cock crewed, angel-like, along the seashore. Then he realised... they must mean him. After all, he had just come back from a Scud reunion at the Scud Union and was wearing his old gear, kitted out in harness, belt, quiver of arrows, and finally, his bow, resting on his shoulders. Tonight he wasn’t just Tratchenbute, ex-Scud, now hustler, he was Tratchenbute the Archer, scourge of the Villains of Neopolis! Nostaligia kicked in... he could relive the glory years, forget his new job of entertaining city officials in the nitty gritty, be a hero once more! Unbuttoning his blazer, he began to run, faster and faster, until he reached the docking, by now nearly complete. The scene ahead was a few angry looking muscly blokes in string vests with only harpoon guns for support. "Easy," thought Tratchenbute. He unslung his bow, nestled an arrow carefully in the arrow nestling ground and fired one off into the string vesters as a warning shot.

"Careful, you could have killed one of us!" one of them shouted.

"Strange," thought Tratchenbute. "That was the plan!"

He pulled another arrow and sent it whistling into the gang. This time he struck gold! A burly looking fat bloke hit the deck. His jellybelly hit the ground and rippled out as he screamed his last scream.

This was war then!

The others then began to launch harpoons at the threatening Tratchenbute, missing every time.

"Stop! Stop!" This was not Tratchenbute’s cry. He was prepared to dodge until the muscley ones grew tired, and then hit them straight in the in-outs and haul them all down to Scud HQ. This cry instead came from the ship’s deck.

"Stop! Stop! Don’t harm him!" Not likely, Tratchenbute thought. He could dodge and while away the time for an age. But it intrigued him as to who could be saving his neck like, for he had few friends in all the world except Marta the Pepper Seller, a blind old woman who would give anyone the time of day or night.

"He must come aboard clean and unscathed!" This really began to get Tratchenbute interested. He hadn’t heard anything about a ship and even less about an army of muscle guarding it.

"Net him!" He hadn’t expected that! No sooner than he heard the cry was a net surrounding him. He then saw a shovel and thud and crunch and darkness...


V

He awoke aboard the "SS Gibralter", at least that’s what the guard guarding him said. He was semi-naked in a cell and felt as if he had been buggered to kingdom come while he was asleep. He couldn’t sit down and so knelt.

"Where am I?"

"The SS Gibralter. Now keep quiet!" The guard eyed him curiously. Tratchenbute had a feeling he had unknowingly been a little more intimate with this guard that he would have liked.

"This isn’t a naval vessel! Where am I?"

The guard turned, angry like, and faced Tratchenbute. "If I hear another peep out of you... I’m going to... go and get the captain!"

"Yes. That’s what I want. To see the captain! Get him for me!"

The guard looked shocked as if he hadn’t expected him to disobey. "Right. That’s it. I’m getting Captain Octopool, and you’re not going to like it. And to teach you a lesson..."

The guard raised another shovel and brought it clambering down on the head of Tratchenbute.


[Some more chapters.]


XXII

"...So there we were. Me and the crew," Tratchenbute yelled. "There was young Arthur, and Jimmy, and Oscillator the Causicaaan, Byron the Pervert, Aethos the inappropriately named, Bernard the Whistler, Archibald the ship’s boy, the first mate Klangtang, the Captain, and me... Tratchenbute the Archer. We were so happy."

He indeed looked so happy as the sun set and the ship undocked and they sailed into a halcyon sunset with the little boat being tugged behind.

"Ready for more adventures?" the shipsboy asked Tratchenbute.

"I certainly am, Archibald. I can’t wait! Let’s go!"

And with that, they went ready for another adventure in this indefinitely long series of books.

THE END

Friday, June 23, 2006

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

DATELINE: Oxford, baby

ASSUMPTION: "I want to be straight! I want to be straight! I'm sick and tired of taking drugs and staying up late!" (Thanks to Ian Dury, Esq.)


KEDAZZLE. English Student. Poet-warrior. Renegade Mime.




VEINS, Sable X. Waster. Dramatist. Renegade Mime.




BLACK, Withiel S. English Student. Artist. Renegade Mime.



So, [writes Withiel] it being late in the evening and our pockets being completely devoid of money, Sable, Kedazzle, and myself decided to attend the very prestigious Magdalen College Commemoration Ball, and perhaps on the way obtain some fine Champagne for which we had in no way paid. The obvious thing to do, then, would be to pretend to be the entertainment for the evening. A quick trip to the Temporary-Reprobate-Cave provided us with make-up and costumes, and looking ever so slick, we slipped over the back gate and wall, and into the Deer Park under the cover of some rather fantastic fireworks. However, as we approached the party some very large official-looking men with torches started pointing them in our direction. Kedazzle took cover, while Sable and I frantically made out against the wall until they went away. Which they sort of did. Except for it was to get reinforcements. Who were, if possible, even larger and armed with more powerful torches... While my companions stayed behind to distract with heterosexual kissing this time, I legged it over the fence to the riverbank, where I hid around a corner. No sign [closes Withiel] of the other two.

Pretending that the polysolar-candlepower torch pointed at our heads did not exist, I prevented Kedazzle from undoing my belt, since the floating beams of light were nearly upon us, and had stopped at a distance of thirty-odd yards in order to materialise into suits and fluorescent jackets [writes SXV].

"What are you doing in the deer park?"

"Not a lot."

We were escorted from our position against Withiel's ladder-fence, which we had neglected to follow him over due to the instant, static illumination thereof following his helptily-timed disappearance.

"How did you get here?"

"We just wandered in."

There were multi-multi-men of two types. Large, hippopotamic "gentle"men in fluorescemt vests carrying large, blunt flashlights like handbags oversaw small, confused, angular teenagers in white tie, who look as if they've been practising holding their walky-talkies in the mirror all night. The two of us are surrounded on all sides, and multi-multi-more pour into our cauldron of frozen tort from behind scaffold-fences with lights on and folding desks resplendent in their snowy-white table robes.

"Are you with the Ball?"

"...Yes?"

"Do you have bracelets or tickets?"

"...No?"

"Is this your girlfriend?"

"Yes," helpts Kedazzle.

Thenceforward she is considered exempt from all procedings save winking and protecting.

"Are you dressed for the ball?"

"Do you think we are?"

"Don't take the piss [or words to that effect]."

"Well, if you think we are, then we are, aren't we?"

A pause.

"Think hard. Are. You. Dressed. For the Ball."

"No."

"Right answer."

Do we get a gold star? The tort cauldron starts to unfreeze as walky-talkies are re-engaged and a general drift toward the lights is set in motion. Now comes the inevitable curiosity! - wreathed, yes, in authoritarian demand, as though a staff wristband is a talisman indicating the right to All Knowledge, Obscene, Irrelevant, and Secret - how did we get so far? Our fluorescent neighbourhood hippopotami and their army of student irregulars have this place sewn up tighter than a clitoridectomised pudenda [sorry - SXV]; they even have a guard on the punting dock island, presumably to repel marauding Ball-pirates [sorry - SXV]. Little will they know (until the Dean questions us) that we cunningly slipped undetected through a highly-lit side gate with a high fence, twelve-foot wall, and CCTV surveillance because nobody had thought to guard it. They ask us how we got in.

"How did you get in?"

"I don't know. I just sort of... stumbled in here."

"Oh come on! You must remember how you did it."

I smile ingratiatingly. "Well, it was dark, and - well, I don't rightly recall!"

At this point it becomes clear that they don't get much excitement, and have been waiting an awful long time to recite some tough-man, quasicriminal one-liners. Presumably practised late at night, in bedrooms with blinds pulled down, half-naked, half-fluorescent, in order that facial contortion, vocal modulation, and pidgin body language combine in the most effectively menacing manner. Threats such as, I could try a few techniques to refresh your memory.

"I could try a few techniques to refresh your memory."

Three parts shocked to two parts amused, I decline to respond. At this point, a supervisor intervenes, and escorts us to the "Control" "Room". Trailed by the gaggle of haphazardly nonchalant heroes who have just succeded in saving Magdalen College Deer Park from a pair of ill-off artists in make-up, the supervisor, who presumably has the biggest torch, tells us his name (several times, and I still forgot it, damn it), and performs a convoluted analogue of reading us our rights. Except instead of our rights, it's their rights. And they're not so much rights as explanations of what we have to do now. Such as follow me, (please - almost forgot to say that!), don't enter the Ball (please! please! don't forget to say please!), give us your names and "details" (um - oh yes! please!), &c.

A token fluorescent female arrives, declaring, "I'm the female present, I'll look after her [viz, Kedazzle]."

Can the male present look after me, please? I'm really quite afraid that someobody will run off with my "details" if I don't keep an eye on them...

"Don't forget to call off the dogs," suggests one of the fast-dissipating conquerors.

The dogs?

The fucking dogs?

Do you think I'm an idiot?

You have not unleashed attack dogs in the Deer Park. You are merely trying to intimidate me, and I have seen straight through it, and am trying not to smirk.

"No, the dogs are in the top field at the moment."

The "top field"? Withiel post-assumes that this referred to the other partition of the Deer Park. Where the deer actually were that night.

We were tadpole-marched (they were most intent on not touching us) through the Ball, which was apparently designated white tie in order that the lighting designer would have more surfaces to bounce his acid trip of spots and washes off. It really was most excitingly gorgeous. And, alack, populated by the privileged and affluent. As Kedazzle, somewhat infuriatingly, played the role of airheaded girlfriend (even her gait was an assumption of giggliness), I smiled beatifically at the "Beautiful People", who did not smile back, because I was invisible to all but security guards.

Meanwhile, [closes SXV] on a ledge above a river stream that had only recently been blessed by Withiel and myself during daylight hours on our way to scaling Magdalen Bridge from the river...

...So I'm hiding around a convenient corner [continues Withiel] in the college wall facing the riverbank, and there's no sign whatsoever of Sable and Kedazzle. What's more, torchbeams are flashing on the exact position where I'd just leapt over the wall. The original and, in fact, far superior idea was to stay very still exactly where I was until the lumbering bastards went away, but when they started shining the things in my direction around the corner, it quite frankly put the unholy shits up me, so I legged it over the nearest wall into the body of the college, putting a large accommodation block between myself and my monolithic pursuers. A lovely expanse of lawn in front of me, terminating in a dancefloor and what is almost certainly a drinks tent. I begin to mime-walk towards the promise of alcohol, and am almost immediately accosted by two youths with earpieces and worried looks.

"Have you got a ticket?"

Quizzical mime-face. Cocked head and... pose on one leg.

"Ahh... what about a wristband, then... have you got a wristband?"

Exaggerated look of understanding. Roll up sleeves and display each wrist theatrically, as if offering up placatory presents. They don't look too impressed, so I proceed to roll up my trouser legs and indicate my equal lack of ankle-bands. Hopeful look to no effect. I mime that I'm a renegade performance artist come to entertain and enlighten the beautiful people of Magdalen College, but they either don't get it or think I'm trying to tell them that I'm a dangerous, baby-kicking vagrant come to steal their women and molest their jewellery, because they radio for help...

"Got an intruder here on the corner of the large quad and the riverside, can we have some backup please."

For about ten minutes, no-one arrives at all, so I amuse myself by eyeing up possible escape routes while miming to my rather confused captors that I'm an entirely harmless performance artist, and it'd be perfectly safe just to let me go. Evidently I'm not too good at the whole miming business, because they continue to radio their accomplices until what appears to be a large, upended sofa in a suit lurches down the path. As it gets closer it becomes apparent that this sofa-shape in fact has a small, head-like object balanced on top. It is not a very friendly head. The head and its rather cumbrous besuited appendage take me towards the aforementioned "Control" "Room" while demonstrating my status as a dangerous performance artist and possible dog-rapist to its associates, who are similarly oblong and loomy. Eventually, I give up on the miming and attempt to explain that I'm a renegade mime, but just not very good at it, to which Bouncerzilla replies that I should be telling this to the Police. Who will of course be more than happy to spend their busy Friday evening interrogating a slightly trespassy performance artist and wannabe booze-defrauder. In the security office, there are even more thugs security menhirs, and a dwarfed-looking Sable and Kedazzle. I'm told [concludes Withiel] to take a seat, and do so, expecting the bright lights and thumbscrews to come out any minute...

Then all the "thugs" went away/started smiling [continued SXV]. Which was unexpected. We were invited to sit in the brightly lit office, and perused (from behind) various flickering screens looked over by a student co-ordinatrix in a white tie ballgown and black shirt earpiece. We awaited the Dean. The Dean was just coming. No, really, he's on his way right now. He'll only be a moment. I think he's - um - is somebody getting the Dean? Hm. Wait here, I'll go and get the - is that him? Dean?

Meantimes, one of the mult-multi-squamous-sized men-levered-into-dress-suits that had been flitting in-and-out-and-in of the security-ether that hides them from the Beautiful People questioned us on numbers. Having previously sworn blind that there were only the two of us, Kedazzle and I were somewhat dropped in the boiling pool of exploded fibs by the appearance of a sweat-bejewelled Withiel, who, not realising that we "didn't know him", knew us. So we had to re-swear that there were no further insurgents renegade mimes fucking in the shadows, and then explain it all to - here's the Dean.

Mainly the Dean wanted to know if we were Oxford University students, and, burningly, how the fuck we got in. So we truthed at him about respective university non-status and status, and Withiel regaled him with a brief, precise summary of our entry route. Kindly declining to take names (or "details"), and apparently in the understated throes of social itch brought on by proximity to both security personnel and mimes, bade the torch-bearers release us. Thanking him as we passed, we were once more surrounded and escorted to Longwall Street gate, where we were informed that we had "had a night of it," and that nobody wanted to see us again that night. Then, with a word to the bouncers that we were not to be allowed back in (as though we might try our luck through an authorised entrance), he allowed us to walk away. It was all most nervously polite and superficially kindly, but polite and kindly nonetheless.

Released from her neo-chauvinistic bondage, Kedazzle dragged us back to the PHL, refusing to allow us to try our luck with Oriel Ball the same night. UTI sausages and tea, we researched our rights - and not only is trespassing not technically illegal (in many circumstances), but [concludes SXV] detaining trespassers is.


GLOSSARY and LINKS

helpty a. Mischievously or misleadingly helpful, whence helpt (v.)
--SXV/WSB

white tie nn. "White tie is the ultimate in formal attire, nowadays reserved only for the very smartest of balls, state occasions and other suitably grand affairs. [...] For gentlemen, white tie consists of a double-breasted tailcoat, which is never buttoned, rather remaining open to reveal the starched perfection of the white waistcoat beneath. The stiff-fronted shirt should feature a wing collar. Shoes should be black leather and highly polished. The ensemble is completed, naturally, with a white bow tie. The gentleman might like to enhance his outfit with white gloves, white scarf, top hat, cape or cane. Ladies must wear a long, formal evening gown. Elegance and sophistication should be the objective."
--MagdalenBall.com

Wiki on Trespassing

Magdalen Commemoration Ball

Kedazzle's LJ Post

Friday, June 02, 2006

Some Poetry

As I've wasted a whole afternoon on these things, thought I'd at least stick them somewhere they'd be seen. They're dreadfully self-reflexive; never mind, that's always ever so slightly the point. The first one might seem a little bit tastless, so much as I hate explanatory notes, it might help to know that in younger and more innocent days I was a speaker at the travelling Anne Frank foundation holocaust exhibition and played the role when the drama came to Brighton. Anyway, enjoy.


"ANNFRANKLY"

Better by far than the fresh air this free june morning
Better than visions that teem and the sweetness of flesh
This strange substance, essence of being, terror, delight! Shuddering over the surface of paper,
More than two generations more, in the same moment, here, on this page,
is my handwriting, writing my hand, writing.
Crabbed and blackly imperfect, staining self-suspense.
Somehow I have been saved to this.

Surviving adolescence. Never easy.
We had our holocaust too, privately -
Hunted. hiding in hot rooms, the hand fisting dryly inside,
the wasted flesh, the scream -
sharpness of contours, searching for our own outline
in the shitandblood hole of self-seeking sickness we'd gouged ourselves out.
And the hunger that maddens, the shrunken limbs of loneliness,
angels made inhuman beating wings of bone
monstering shyly in summer bedrooms. Hunted. Haunted.

No blackbooted stickcracking maninamask
No worldmoving machinations of empire
No mass unmarked grave for the broken and creaturely young
Our holocaust is scattered to the winds,
No children's choir will light cheap candles for our shame, there will be
No lesson to learn. In half a million vaccumed rooms,
The radio peals thinly and the maninblack waits in the mirror
And we are still unsafe.


(POEM ANOTHER)

Push a thick finger
Into the wet and dark and sounding
Meat of my heart, and
Loosen the passages.
Let love lean
Along the racing blackframe contours
And heat-hardened ateries
Hasten and heighten and soften the sense.
For I'm sick of all this thinking.
Want
To feel these things on the pulse.


(POEM ANOTHER)

Somewhere hibernating in the soft numbness of flesh
There is a beast of bone
Under the skin and meat and muscle
A creature of sense electric, skullsnapping sensation
Is waiting.

Some untamed thing born to captivity
never knew more than the steel bars of its rage.
Darts of lethargy bolting down the veins.
Some hard-fought tranquilizer. I am afraid.

Someday I'm going to step out of the skin
Out of this soft slickfucking sheath, the contours
newly riven, claw back the flesh and the fright
Back to some honest madness.

Because these loves are far too heavy,
Dear friends, strong words, fast brightness! Ah, my dears,
Every day now dying for hollows and sharpness
The wasted, holy hellish deep nerve-pain
To strip me down to the sense

I am older and braver now and I have discovered
A gentle wantonness that's some compensation
I will write myself into the sense.
I'm going to throw up all the catches.

The tense air sickens with sugar and sawdust.
The tamer's spats are shined to a sparkle, a film of sweat
greasing the rim of his topper, his whip fails in his hand;
he is terribly afraid.
Listen to the boys and girls cheer!
Dazzle the gaslamps! The uncomprehending crowd!

Somewhere within, a wild, tormented thing
Rattles its cages and roars.

Redwatch

BURN THE WITCHES! BURN THE WITCHES!

A veritable feast of innacuracy and bigotry.

Heh... I've brought you a new toy...