Tuesday, 8 June 2010

If you ask me...

Who has influenced you the most?

The Reverend Wilbert Awdry - without him, my world would be a very different place.

Which professional has helped you the most?

Firstly, my art therapist, for helping me to arrive at several important realisations that I would never have reached alone. Secondly, my careers advisor, who - despite her ruthlessness at times - is helping me to find my place in the world once again.

What three words best describe you?

Romantic, medative and noble.

What event most changed your life?

Withdrawing from university - and giving myself the chance to explore better things.

Who/What is yor dream date?

Chris Evans - if he were gay, British and the way I've imagined him to be in my head for the past ten years.

What is your favourite book and why?

Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because it reminds us of how truely flawed the adult world can be when we see it through the eyes of one who is not part of it.

What is your greatest achievement?

Providing music and 150 lemon and cream-cheese frosted cupcakes for sister's wedding in August of 2009.

What is your favourite expression?

Better late than never...

What is the most important lesson you have learned?

That not every person my own age is a bully.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Folly of a Fool

My exboyfriend - with whom I broke up last month after a bizzare and frustrating ten weeks that, if narrated, would rival The Decameron in length - comes from the stock of fools foolish enough to pursue their online activities beneath the same username on every forum, social network and amateur porn website that they haunt, even going to the extent of displaying enough evidence to give one no doubt as to their identity.

A week after we began dating, I - in a moment of curiosity - typed the username he used on the personals site through which we met into a search engine. Besides a number of things that it would be a waste of words to recount, I found
that he had made a number of posts on a support forum, which revealed a disturbing portrait of his past and mental health. It was only partly due to these revelations - and the danger I could have faced had we remained together - that our relationship terminatied. Less than a month later, I returned to this forum to find that he had made yet another post after five months of silence.

Despite his continual abuse of rights in his daily life, I will not cite the source from which the following extract came - because even fools have the right to remain annonymous...

I've been in a Long Term relationship and can't fault the first half... But recently, I've started raising a hand to my partner and this afternoon I've belted the crap out of him.

I can't stop once I start, I chased him up the stairs and committed the worst sin I have ever seen with my own eyes. I feel terrible. I feel like my life as I know it has fallen apart around me.

The argument in question started because he's so lazy. He won't mow his lawn or take any pride in his home or posessions. All he does is go to work and then watch tv all evening. Is it me? I was bought up in a fairly regimental household and I am always doing something I see as productive. I can't stand TV and I've torn the Sky Box from the wall and destroyed it.

I have massive temper issues and I know I'm the problem... I just don't know what to do. I've been SI Free for 2 years and am doing all I can in my head to stop myself slipping down the slope again.

I feel like I've just been thrown into the seventh circle of hell and I hate myself terribly. The walls feel like their about to close in on me and crush me alive and worst of all, he's upstairs and locked himself in his room scared to hell of me.

Reading this post filled me with such loathing and frustration that
I had to restrain the urge to join the forum with the sole intention of responding to this post. Having become fully aquainted with the maniplative, arrogant, bullying liar behind those words, I couldn't stand the thought of him using the vulnerable members of the forum to seek pity. This was evident from his other posts, in which he spun similar yarns - each as Hollyoaks-esque as the next - and showing no gratitude for the sympathy and advice offered to him by the other members (and the fact each story contained the same archetypes suggested that he had no intention of putting their advice into practise). This happened continually during the time that we were together; he would spend hours telling me woeful tales about his turbulent life, and ignore me completely when I tried to give him sympathy. On one occassion, he was ranting about his plans to storm B________ County Council in order to demand that his house - destroyed in a fire that could have only happened to him - was repaired quicker. As I tried to advise him on staying calm, he showed no sign of having listened my words until he cut across me mid-sentence, reading out a police report from one of his previous driving offences - making it quite clear that he wasn't interested in what I had said. My impression was that the mere opporuntity to display his oratory skills was quite enough, because it meant the spotlight was shining on him alone.

I couldn't stand the thought of him using others in the same way, especially those with far more serious problems than he would ever possess. Instead of joining the forum and exposing myself to trouble, I have decided to post my response here, so that I can say I have put my thoughts down on paper instead of allowing them accumilate inside my head where they will only intensify if not released.

"I've been in a long-term relationship..."

Even though it does not surprise me in the least to know that he has since added yet another notch to his bedpost, I seriously doubt he is at the stage to be able to call his latest relationship 'long term', considering that he and I only ended our 'long-term relationship' four weeks ago. That's unless he was seeing this poor sap at the same time, which wouldn't surprise me either.

"I've started raising a hand to my partner..."

Anyone who knows S__ resonably well will recognise this as being a typical trait of his craft. He likes to compensate for a lack of education (his school years being devoted to a series of adventures in the E___ criminal underworld - or so he claims) and a rutal upbringing through the use of words such as 'partner' in order to make himself sound more sophisticated. Once again, I doubt his latest relationship has progressing long enough for him to be able to call his new boyfriend a 'partner'.

"The argument in question started because he's so lazy..."

Which completely contradicts what he said previously about not being able to 'fault the first half'...and if I had the patience to do so, I would happily list the ways in which the word 'lazy' falling from his thin, cigarette sucking lips epitomises the meaning of hypocracy.

"He won't mow his lawn or take any pride in his home or posessions. All he does is go to work and then watch tv all evening."

Has it not occured to you that, perhaps the reason why he can only 'watch tv all evening' is because he has a job? This quotation perfectly summarises the human condition of working class Britain.

"I was bought up in a fairly regimental household and I am always doing something I see as productive."

Which explains why you are still on the dole, having left a job that was supposedly earning you up at £10,000 a week for sitting on your five foot backside in deserted pubs for a few nights at a time, in between making trips to Belgium to collect cheap cigarettes for your 'boss' - claiming expenses all the while.

"I can't stand TV and I've torn the Sky Box from the wall and destroyed it."

What right do you believe you have to destroy his property, simply because it does not comply with your standards? I hope that your 'partner' - once he has dumped you - sues you for a new one.

"I feel like I've just been thrown into the seventh circle of hell and I hate myself terribly. "

If Dante was speaking the truth - and you continue to lead your current lifestyle - you'll find yourself there quicker than you realise.

What I find most amusing about this is remembering the number of "I hate cowardly men who beat their wives" groups he had joined on Facebook.

Yesterday, S__ and I had the latest in an a series of 'textual confrontations', which always follow the same archetypial pattern. They usually begin with me recieving an annonymous text message asking me timidly if I will spare him the time to excuse his behaviour, and pleading that he wants to keep me as a 'friend'. I respond by listing reasons why I have no intention of allowing him back into my life. With the ball then back in his court, he counters my criticisms with as many colourful excuses his creative unconcious can conjure. This latest episode followed the same pattern to the letter. An annonyous text message arrived asking me if we could 'talk things over'.

"I have no intention of resuming any form of relationship with you" I replied, "Especially now that I know what you are capable of"

"Eh? What is it I'm supposed to have done?" he quavered in response.

"Let's just say that I hope your new 'partner' has the sense to dump you and then sue you for a new Sky Box"

After faking ignorance, I referred him to his stories on the forum. I expected him to deny it - to which I would have responded by asking him if it was a coniscidence that another S__ existed who used the same username that he went under on every other forum that he used, lived in the same town, and had the same mobile phone number, sexual fetishes and views on capital punishment as him. His actual response was one of his most creative tales to date; he claimed that the forum administrator had asked him - as a 'moderator' - to fabricate the story and post it in an attempt to 'encourage' other members to talk about similar issues.

I know this is a lie, for two reasons;

1. The post was made five months after the previous one made under his username, suggesting that he had returned to the forum to relate his woeful tale in a moment of spontaneous passion.

2. Having moderated a forum myself, I know that once a user is granted with moderating duties, this title is added to their profile to show others that they have been given that role - and their name is added to a list of 'staff members'. A glancing at S__'s profile showed that he had never been given moderating powers - and his name was absent from the 'staff list'.

Monday, 18 January 2010

"Toby Under Fire" and Other Essays...

Dear B__

This may seem a rather abrupt observation to make, especially after several months of silence. But I need to let off a bit of steam. If I don't, I won't sleep, and I'll spend the hours unconstructively shouting at windmills. I shall try to speak as directly as I dare, because elaboration will turn this anecode into a disertation - and besides, you and I have been discussing issues like this since we first began our correspondence. Therefore, I would only be retracing old rails.

To begin with the context, a feminist academic from Canada has recently reviving the age-old criticism of Awdry's Railway Series as 'convservative' and 'sexist' - the old
'passive females hauled by dominant males' and 'Fat Controller = God' analogy being but two of the cliched observations she has used to make her point, perhaps under the impression that she is the first to have made them (a little more research - something she clearly lacks, as we'll soon see, may have deflated her head a little). I can only roll my eyes - you'd think a modern critic would come up with something more original to carp about. This particular gonk has merely regurgitated a string of cringingly over-used and unfounded accusations that others of the same stock have been ejaculating since 'critics' first began sinking their grapplers onto the stories.

I haven't read the original critique, and I do not want to, because I wouldn't want to endorse someone with so little much time on their hands that they want to read an ignorant narrative into something that has given me nothing but support and pleasure since my childhood - and then attempt to spoil it for the generations who are recieving that same benefit today. But according to a particular article from the Daily Mail, which paraphrases one of this 'scholar's' observations - it would seem that yet another thing Awdry's critics share in common (besides their criticisms itself) is an inability to undertake proper research. One is reminded of the 'scholar' Ian Jack, who declared Toby the Tram Engine - an innocent tale about an old engine finding a loving home - a racist allegory about immigration, while showing at the same time that he clearly hadn't read any further than the first few pages. This latest individual is clearly no better. Funnily enough, she too refers to the events of Toby the Tram Engine...

In one episode, for example, Thomas whistles impatiently at a police officer and is replaced with a different engine as a punishment for showing dissent.

If the so-called 'professor' who made this observation had actually done what all respectable academics are encouraged to do - and properly read the material they are critiquing - she would have seen that Toby replacing Thomas was not 'a punishment for showing dissent' - and that it had very little to do with him whistling 'impatiently at a police officer'.

Firstly, he didn't whistle 'impatiently' - he whistled in greeting. I quote the text itself;

"Thomas liked policemen. He had been a great friend of the Constable who used to live in the village; but he had just retired. Thomas expected that the new Constable would be friendly too.

"Peep peep" he whistled, "good morning"

- Awdry, Toby the Tram Engine [1952] (London; Egmont Books, 2002), p. 22

Secondly, he was replaced by Toby because it was illegal for him to be travelling on that particular part of the branch line;

"Engines going on Public Roads must have their wheels covered, and a cow-catcher in front. You haven't, so you are Dangerous to the Public!"

- Awdry, p. 26

Toby was drafted in to replace Thomas because he was the only engine - being a tram engine with both cow-catchers and side-plates - legally fit to travel on that part of the line. It had nothing to do with Thomas' apparently 'impatient whistling' - and it is quite clear from the original text that he didn't even commit this act of 'dissent' in the first place.

I don't know why so-called 'scholars' who attack the Railway Series annoy me so deeply. They do not deserve to call themselves 'scholars' at all, since they fail to properly interprite the material on which their studies are based. This - added to the fact this latest nobody to join the queue has simply regurgitated what countless others have said before her - leads me to the conclusion that they do not deserve to be taken seriously as people, let alone 'scholars', when their hearts seem set on trying to weave political incorrectness into a world that - for as many souls as there are railway locomotives to capture their imaginations - has stood for nothing but innocence. Such 'scholars' think they are protecting the innocence of the audiences who are supposedly corrupted by such material as the Railway Series - but such insular individuals will always be outnumbered by the extensive fraction of the world's population who dream of becoming engine drivers thanks to Awdry.

It is at such times I am glad I left university - life as a 'scholar' would be very dull indeed, if it would bring me into contact with such people as this latest unimaginative gonk.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1234547/Thomas-The-Tank-Engine-branded-right-wing-conservative-demeaning-women.html#ixzz0d0Cn9jgu

Friday, 13 November 2009

Sailors and Stalkers

Based – I confess – on a very limited number of purchases, I cannot help associating gay-interest magazines with the wrong things. One gains the impression that their purpose is to keep the intended market informed with affairs exclusive to their lifestyle, and to encourage a sense of ‘community’ by celebrating what divides them from mainstream society.

Yet all I associate with these publications are the advertisements for gay sex-lines, saunas and construction companies, the homoerotic cologne adverts showing sailors in stripy vests, the occasional rant about the homophobic comments made by some public figure, critiques of films and stage productions that have become ‘gay cult classics’ simply because there is one apparently gay character among the cast, and interviews with middle-aged women worshipped as ‘gay icons’ despite not actually being gay themselves. None of these things ignite my interest, and having passed the phase of finding the top shelf of the magazine rack at WHSmith dangerously alluring, I have no reason to even acknowledge these publications, let alone purchase them.

Earlier this week, I found myself walking aimlessly about the town with an hour to fill before an appointment, and went straight to the library to seek solitude from the crowds and cold. I would have used this time to read, but I had only just finished “The Amber Spyglass” the night before and hadn’t yet chosen a new text. Of the various publications available in the reading room, G_______ was the only periodical remotely relevant to my character. The cover image of gaunt, pouting, muliebrous boys with white hair and vibrant tea-towel thin outfits posing before a minimalist studio backdrop should have prepared me for what I found amidst its pages. But I needed something to occupy my mind. Had there been a magazine on baking, books or Boccaccio, I would have approached them for the same purpose.

Forty-five minutes of entertainment included;

• A yearn about a threesome with two ‘three-legged friends’ that was secretly filmed without the teller’s consent, and how he endured several days of trauma fretting over his career being ruined should the video find its way onto the internet (yet showing no reluctance to share the gruesome details with his readers in the article). But, forever optimistic, he managed to put a positive spin on his troubles by prophesising that a sympathetic constable would take ‘pity’ on him if he reported the incident to the police…

• To honour the advent of Halloween, a selection of ‘horror stories’ from readers detailed their most frightening memories. Of the twenty of so anecdotes published, at least seventeen began with variations of “I’d taken some guy back to my place and we were going at it with gusto when…” or
“I’d just finished having sex with some random I'd met the night before when…”

• A delightful piece titled ‘21 Sexual Adventures to experience before you die’ – the words ‘of AIDS’ having been tactfully left to the imagination. Such ‘adventures’ included having sex on your parents bed, seducing a married man, seducing a distant cousin and loosing your virginity to a ‘random’ (‘coz you may as well get it over with’).

• The somewhat gothic tale of a DJ who gained himself a stalker after making the mistake of giving out his business card to a conquest he’d picked up the night before. This Aesopic experience had led him to the conclusion that it is foolish to give private details to the likes one finds in gay bars, and that it is not 'fashionable' to have a stalker (was it ever 'fashionable' to begin with?)

And there were, in addition to these, vast quantities of the things I remembered from my earlier experiences of such magazines; adverts for gay travel agencies, insurance brokers and plumbers, pornographic publicity for a suit-hire service, an interview with a woman with a large, sparkling mouth I’d never heard of (hailed as a ‘gay icon’ despite no indication that she was gay herself) and a furious rant about the apparently homophobic comments made by a journalist over the death of a gay celebrity. Not to mention the extensive directory of sex-lines and ‘over-the-phone’ erotic storytelling that would keep anyone with more money than sense occupied for a lifetime.

It is quite depressing to feel like the only gay man in the world who isn’t interested in sex. Many of the gay contacts I’ve made (and lost once they realised they weren’t as attracted to me as they initially thought, or because I wouldn’t consent to marriage after the second date) spoke of their ‘libido’ as if it were a corrosive illness, curable only by hourly casual sex like a form of medication. Some of them have implied that I am an abomination of nature because I do not follow the same practice and bed every male specimine to enter my field of vision (one couldn't believe that I hadn't had sex with two school friends who were also gay - the implication being that just because all three of us were gay, we automatically had to have sex as if it were a rite-of-passage into the turbulent life of homosexuality). To use an analogy influenced by my recent reading of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, I would feel just as shocked and perplexed if I discovered a world in which gay men had had their ‘libidos’ removed as when Lyra discovered our world, in which people’s daemon’s are inside their bodies. I’ve given up trying to understand why this troublesome affliction seems to affect gay men exclusively – at least those that haunt Gaydar and who write columns for G_______ – and why I seem to be immune to the disease. Could it be a Jungian archetype that appeals to the male homosexual unconscious? Could it pure male egotism? Or could it be plain, simple Conformism – chief mistress of Inequality?

I am determined not to allow such publications as G_______ to mould my judgement of gay men. But when you appear to be the only person amidst the crowd of conformism fighting against the current, you begin to wonder – am I missing out? And do others like me actually exist amidst this fog of frolicking? The first doubt can be taken alone; in my own case, sex simply doesn’t interest me, and so I do not believe I am missing out on anything when I come across articles such as those mentioned above involving the author boasting of their unending sexual conquests and having ‘playmates’ as readily available as tap-water. And yet, the sheer fact I have been prompted to wonder if I am missing out demonstrates the way in which conformism lead us to question our beliefs and decisions, no matter how fleetingly - just as bullying over our skin colour, weight and appearance turns our bodies into burdens. Responding to the second, the answer is far simpler; people who do not conform avoid the fog completely.

In the same way that you never see quiet people because they are quiet, you never see the non-conformist homosexuals because they do not conform – they do not go to ‘pride’ events, work in theatres, purchase G_______ and use Gaydar as a virtual cruising ground. In which case, were would one find them, if one is seeking like-minded individuals? While I have no doubt a gay periodical exists somewhere in the cosmos which isn’t concerned entirely with cruising tips, steroids, drag acts and the treatment of battle scars received after a session of fetish indulgence, I challenge any brave individual with the tolerance to find it on a typical magazine rack. Gay-interest publications can always be identified by the presence of an suggestively posing, bare-chested man or two on the cover, splashed with sexual innuendos in bold letters giving one an indication of the features within (“What’s really between those legs – So-and-so bares all in his first GAY interview!”). Retract the one quality that these publications seem to share in common - what every gay man seems to live and breathe and require on an hourly basis - and how else can they be identified? Will a hint of sex always manage to slip into the picture regardless of the scale? And am I really an abomination of nature because I have yet to seduce my married neighbour, an adventure I am unlikely to achieve before I die?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Troubled with Witches

Dear B__

Last year, it was reported on Radio 2 that police and parents in a certain English county - for such a thing could only ever occur in Britain - had been granted permission by the local government to approach and question the motives of adult males using the community park at the same time as children. Whilst I cannot quote any specific statements, it was clear that many - men and women alike - saw this episode as a bizarre epitome of the hysteria and infringement of personal freedom that has exploded admist British culture as a result of increased awareness of child abuse and the safety measures that are now in place to neutralise it. Many stated that they felt embarrassed and insulted that others had immediately branded them as a suspected child molester on the basis of their gender, age and circumstances – we can assume without a moments thought that a woman wouldn’t be treated in the same way if she were seen alone in a park where children happened to be playing.

I endured a similar experience today. I had just finished helping at a function hosted at a local church hall, and was venturing across the lobby to use the lavatories, located along a short corridor. But my journey was terminated when the old witch guarding the entrance hall like a hunched,
voluminous old griffin - always placed in me in the mind of Alyona Ivanovna from Crime and Punishment - leaped forth and barred my way, declaring that I could not go any further because there were children in the room at the end of the corridor. And even when I informed her that I had no intention of going anywhere near that particular room, she triumphed with rebuttal that would have silenced Cicero - "It’s the law” . That, of course, justifies everything. There's no point in questioning it, because that's how it is - even though, of the two of us, Alyona was likely to cause greater psychological damage to those chilren than I ever could in a lifetime. The narrators of fairytales have been warning us for centuaries of the dangers mysterious old women present to the innocence and purity of young children. And I needn't remind you of the countless number of such tales in which children are antagonised by vengeful, carnal, sadistic step-mothers.

Had I been able to subdue my embarressment and confusion,
I would like to have asked her to produce written evidence of this ‘law’ and to explain what gave her the right to enforce it - but I appreciate the fact not everyone will refuse to accept an apparent ‘truth’ without supporting evidence. I also couldn’t help wondering that, if it is now against 'the law' for an adult male to merely approach a room in which there are a children - or to enter a room near to where children are present - will there come a time when every adult male must immediately evacuate an entire property the moment a child steps across the threshold?

I am in no position to transform this tale into a lengthily meditation on the politics and morality of child protection laws. That is a task best left to a future historian, or someone with better knowledge and understanding of their context. Neither do I wish to question the need or purpose of these laws; I believe in the power of childhood idealism and innocence just as strongly as any parent or politician, especially in the face of a cynical, captalist world in which children are forced to grow up sooner than Nature intended.
My grievence is with the way in which these laws make us feel about ourselves and others. I accept that Alyona had a duty to prevent me from entering the presence of the children under her guard - what I do not accept is the assumption that, because I am above the age of eighteen and belong to the male gender, it was automatically assumed that I would present a threat to their innocence. Just as an adult has no right to penetrate and destroy the purity of a child, neither does another adult - regardless of rank or standing among the local women's guild - have the right to assume every beneath their scrutinous gaze adult male is a sexual predator on the basis of his gender and circumstances, until a lengthily, embarressing interrigation process is undergone to prove otherwise.

I hasten to add that those who do point and shout like marytrs - such as Alyona - are those naturally garenteed to avoid being negatively labelled a paedophile themselves. Since the hysteria surrounding child protection is unlikely to lapse - if it has reached this stage, where an adult cannot even approach a room in which there a children without having been 'cleared' by the 'authorities' - such people should consider themselves extremely fortunate. For where will this fear and discrimination eventually lead? To a society ruled by fear and hysteria, in which every man will be a suspected paedophile - and the only way to deflect that accusation will be to accuse others, for none will suspect you of the crime if you are united with them in incriminating another.

The Cruible by Arthur Miller has a special place in my heart; it was the first text that I tackled for an assignment during the early phase of my university existence. It holds nostalgic value, but I will never forget the way in which it demonstrated so vividly how social
hysteria tore apart a seemingly uniform community, through a whirlwind of fear and accusation. The only way to avoid being branded a witch was to accuse someone else of the crime, deemed so despicable by those in charge. I can easily see British society undergoing a similar transformation. Just like witchcraft, to be suspected of paedophilia is a disgrace that words cannot alone cannot convey the weight of. To have ‘laws’ in place which allow 'people' – the Alyonas of this world who needn't worry about being branded by such shame themselves because they are old women in charge of designating rooms for the local 'Quit Smoking' and Yoga class - to justly accuse others of it until proven innocent can only lead to a social catastrophe far more damaging than any recession. Just as The Crucible provided a historical allegory, highlighting the corruption that was erroding American society at the time it was written, so can it provide a contemporary allegory for the impending destruction of a society torn to shreds with the Alyonas of the world leading the charge - safely protected behind a sheild of protocal.

Paedophilia is contemporary Britiain's counterpart of Salem's witchcraft. While we know within our hearts that it is amoral,
we cannot deny that contemporary beliefs towards it have been generated by external forces; government and media. Since the extreme notions of the evil surrounding paedophilia have been created by two governing forces from within society - out of its very own crucible - we thus find that society itself is to blame for the shreds of hypocracy and fear in which it now resides on the matter of child protection. And to cover up the damage that it has inflicted upon its own children, society dresses up its intentions to counter-act that hysteria with 'the law' in order to make you feel even worse - and to create even further distance between you and the Alyonas who are exempt from accussation, and live to accuse because they know it only too well. Thus, society tightens his grip around your throat and keeps you firmly attached to the seat of your office chair.

I don’t think the people who create these ‘laws’ understand the damage they are weaving. While the children remain protected, the adults who they supposedly protected from are faced with shame and embarrassment. And just as hysteria and mistrust tore Salem to pieces, so will our world become one ruled by fear of what little trust we have left in one another. The 'law' that prevented me from using the downstairs lavatory at the church hall today is the same law that encourages the Alyonas of this world - and all of us besides - to see evil within each other, evil that only a CRB check - a piece of paper and a computer system - can clear, because a piece of paper and a computer could never lie to you.
How can those who write these laws then say that they are trying to wrap the world in cotton, when beneath the happiness of the children lies the fear, resentment and bitterness of the adults who can never look one another in the eye – or even glance at a child - without wondering what lurks behind those eyes? Child protection laws may well prevent those with genuine intent harm children from accomplishing their plans - but why must every man who can be clasffied an 'adult' have to suffer the humiliation of being pushed under that category until written evidence shows otherwise? If 'the law' is put in place to prevent crime, why must it then reinforce those invisible but continually felt barriers that create the crime in the first place?

An acquaintance I once knew lived on a street frequented regularly by groups of school children journeying to school. So intense was his fear of being branded a paedophile that whenever a certain time window came about - in which he knew there was a likely chance of children passing his window - he moved to the opposite side of the house, away from any window facing the street, should a neighbour or passer-by catch him looking at the children in a way that might suggest he intended to drag them into his house and devour their innocence. Another related how, when walking to work one day, he found himself mustering every concious effort within his grasp to look away as a nursery group walked by on the opposite side of the road - even though he knew he had no natural urge - moral or immoral - to want to look at them in the first place - should those stern-faced Alyonas escorting the children catch his glance and scream for the police.

I draw your attention to the fact these two cases have concerned men. There has been a great deal of controversy lately in the UK over an incident of child abuse conducted by a woman. From the way in which the matter has been addressed, I am certain that the reason for this controvery is because the public have been presented with the realisation that women are just as capable of paedophilia as men. Are the vile crones and wicked step-mothers of the fairytale realm beginning to rise from the crucible and find a form in the modern world? Is it time we took notice of such stories as Hansel and Gretel and understood the reality of their raw meaning? And for how much longer will the Aylonas of this world remain immune to accusation?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Auctore Deo - A Fragment... (IV)

January 2000
L___ Senior was unabashed enough to make it obvious that he hated me, since my cross-country running abilities did not meet his standards. Therefore, it was hard not to wonder if he invited the slippery product of his ejaculation to continue his work beyond the framework of Games hour.
My companions found it comical that Andrew L___ didn’t remotely resemble his father in hue or form. Whilst L___ Senior radiated with male egotism from every sharply chiselled corner, L___ Junior had the exterior of a starved beaver and the giggle of a five year old girl. With his yellowish hide, some were convinced that Andrew was his father’s love-child.
The only two qualities they seemed to share were an intense fetish for cross-country running, and the same brutal pleasure in using their eminence to crush others beneath the studs of their finely polished rugby boots.
In a lamentably weak parody of teen movie archetypes, Andrew had an extensive entourage in the year below who were sheltered by the guarantee of immediate protection from prosecution due to his father’s place among the staff - and the amount of sport-related awards carrying his name that adorned the trophy case strategically placed outside the lunch hall where every governer and potential parent could not avoid having it thrust under their noses.
The members of his circle were just as bland and soulless as he himself, though he had two in particular who could have been considered his lieutenants. Alex S_____, a rake-like object with pasty skin, ginger hair and a snub-nose that seemed to tilt even further skyward with every sneer of satisfaction that flashed across his face. The second was a rat-faced individual whose name I never learnt, but who merited a second glance only because it appeared as if an internal disease were slowly eroding his features from within.
History has exemplified that those with power - the loudest voices and most venomous tongues – use this privilege to mask their shame. Andrew appeared to have no cause for shame. He did it because he could, and nothing more. I have no doubt he exercised this privilege over countless students throughout the school. I was merely one statistic. I was going to say that he made use of his father's power in such a way that he could escape blame every time - but he wasn't clever enough for that. It was simply in place from the beginning; he didn't have to work for it at all. His father did it all for him. It is one of those things about the world I will never be able to understand - why vile bullies end up in positions of power, and maintain it even the majority can see them for who they really are.

My tormentors each selected a fragment of my appearance and character which they perceived worthy of ridicule, and took it upon themselves to remind me of it each day, perhaps under the impression that enough prompting would uproot that weed and in turn make me eligible for adequate society. For L___ and company, it was my skin.
I knew of Ch_____, and I also knew that certain others believed we were related. This assumption was based on nothing more than the fact we shared a similar skin tone. Being assumed to hail from Pakistain and to carry the name Mohammed was not an alien concept to me, but I saw no point in correcting those who crafted my identity as 'Indian Stan'. To such people, any person a single shade darker than white was a paki - and every single person under that category came of the same stock. And even if I had told them that I was in fact a quarter Burmese - and three quarters British - they would have only assumed that Burma were a mythic extension of India that they hadn't heard of, just as heavily scented with curry powder as every other Asian country.

At first, being told that I resembled Ch_____ did not concern me. But Andrew deemed it necessary to tell me so every time I had the misfortune of him invading my presence (I went to extreme lengths to avoid his). It didn’t matter when or where. He told me in the corridor. He told me in the lunch hall. He told me before concerts. He told me at prize giving ceremonies. He told me in the presence of teachers. He must have alloted a five minute appointment in his crowded schedule each day - when not away winning sports trophies or reporting to his father -
to seek me out and impart his casual observation to me. And from the womanly squeal of delight he ejaculated as he swaggered back to the safety of his lackeys, I knew this wasn’t simply a casual observation.
I’d be told before that I resembled other people. It hadn’t merited any more than a single mention. But something about this particular case was giving Andrew L___ orgasmic pleasure. It was as if he did it to satisfy an urge within him that he couldn’t contain. Or he was determined to stamp it permanently into my brain as something to be ashamed of.
I frequently saw them gathered in a group, the rat-faced one stabbing a carrot-like finger in my direction and clearly mouthing the words “Don’t that kid look like Dave?” as the others nodded and gurgled in agreement.
Then they took to calling me 'David's brother'. Again, it didn't matter where I was - Andrew took every opporunity within his grasp to remind me of my supposed heritage, even though he knew my 'brother' and I carried different surnames.

Then my physics teacher began calling me ‘David’, and my patience expired.
Being labelled with someone else’s identity made me feel as if my own had been torn away. My individuality had been snatched while I wasn’t looking, stamped to dust beneath Andrew L___’s perfectly polished rugby boots. I began to resent Ch_____. He had stolen my identity, leaving me nothing but a severed shadow.
The truth of the matter was far simpler.
One morning as I stood in the playground talking to A______ and C_____ before registration, L___ and his cronies sidled up and began their usual song about how much I resembled their classmate.
A______ asked them – “Who’s David Ch_____?”
L___ slithered away, tingling with anticipation at the thought of his approaching stunt, and returned moments later dragging behind him a small, thin Indian boy.
“This is Ch_____”, he declared, no longer able to contain his delight.
It wasn’t Ch_____. His skin was several shades darker than either of ours put together. But the suggestion was clear as day, and Andrew and his friends sailed away rooting with heartless laughter.
It didn’t help that, at the time, I was experiencing insecurities about the colour of my skin, believing that being just a shade darker than white made me subhuman, placed on the earth only for my peers to make the subject of jokes about terrorism and curry.
A______ thought it ironic that L___ was making fun of my skin colour.
Perhaps he was insecure – about his own.
The thought of sharing the Sixth Form block with Andrew L___ was one of many that made my blood run cold, and shattered any whimsical optimism over the benefits of remaining at the school to undertake A-Level studies. I was certain that his poisonous spite and organism gurgling would become intolerable if I had to share the same quarters with him for a whole year. There had been, at least, some separation from him while in the lower school.
My expectation was not met, for he never spoke a word to me once he - flanked by his cheerleaders - sailed into the Lower Sixth without a hitch in my final year. But it came as a surprise to no one when he and his sister were bestowed with prefect privileges for reasons that do not require elaboration.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

'Sensible' literature

I am unlikely to forget that 'episode' in one of my earliest English classes with Mr. G______, when he set us the task of naming pre-20th centuary 'books of fiction', in an attempt to get us appreciating 'the classics'

"Pinocchio" I suggested, those four syllables prompting an erruption of hysterical laughter.

"Sensible books of fiction, Stanley" remarked Mr. G_____ once the tide had subsided, and he'd wiped away a tear.

This being the world that we populate, it is likely that those I entertaining that day were under the impression that Walt Disney created Pinocchio. I cannot describe the pleasure I would take nowadays in shoving a Penguin edition of the latter - with an introduction by Jack Zipes - under their noses.
I am happy to say that that episode has in no way deformed my appreciation for Pinocchio in his many forms. The is one of my golden books. I could outline countless ways in which it can be called 'sensible', despite it's Voltarian randomness (I like to keep Pinocchio and Candide alongside each other). But I might argue that the sheer fact it is far from 'sensible' is the reason why it is still regarded as a 'classic' today, loved, appreciated and capturing the soul of the world like many other 'classics'.

We have thus come full circle - and what can I now ask myself? Does this shed greater light on the extent of Mr. G_____'s knowledge of literature, or did he know I was right all along? I'd also like to add that the boy sitting next to me that day - who laughed as heartily as everyone else - the following week was pouring over a pictoral edition of Alices' Adventures in Wonderland, another 'sensible' 'classic' that is under continual threat of being mistaken for a Disney original. I needn't say anything more.