Sunday, April 21, 2013

My various blogs have been suffering as I trudged through a divorce, but I'm getting more active again, writing again, so here goes.

To warm things up, here's an ancient story of mine, written in 1995 or 1996 (a scarily long time ago)

It says a lot about what I believe about writing.

The formatting is a cut and paste from what was originally an on-line zine called Crania

Alex Keegan

Henry V, or A Welsh Crime-Writer Paints His Sitting-Room Blue While Listening to Henry V

The paint was called Moonflower. It was; Dulux. Primrose blue; slate, a slash of sinless morning sky over an Usk meadow in May, clean, covering; sharp as the line between yellow fields of rape and unrelenting, perfect, cloudless sky, morning sky, border sky. When it was wet, nearer slate, the blue on a herald's shield, it moved quickly, tongued out by a twist of sheepskin roller, a sticky phhllrrr forward; a faint brrrrrnnn  when he pulled back. He worked quickly.

This had been his office once. He'd commandeered half of their lounge, filled it with an old, bloated civil-service desk rubbed clean of bored scratchings, blue Quink, black Black Swan, the Friday slippages, burns, of Passing Clouds, Senior Service, and once, rare, but once, the faint musk and drip of a coupling; she moved on to work in Whitehall, he went back to his empty wife. A man polished it, "Couldn't get a better desk than this if you tried, sir! History is that! Solid is that! Better 'ope where you sit is as solid!"
The wall had been hidden. A map of Lundy, a book-cover, a woman he'd- three women, none of them the character he sold, nor parts thereof, but she was all of them - and pictures - a seaside tenement; a cottage on a hill, home to a murderer; a pier, alive with light-music, oom-pah-pah adverts, a grey cold sea, shingle and seabirds, and old people walking, and lovers - oh, lovers, and once - he had stuck up his wall with Blue-tac; another mistake.

He'd removed them, his pictures; of deck-chairs, people stilling, people sitting, who'd come in Ford Prefects, driven down from Basingstoke, sat on the shingle and remembered the war; and stared - a boy looked sideways at a woman in a towel.
And cuttings; the Sunday Times, rape again, words, cowardly, and another, three paragraphs, a woman who had made it up. All Blue-tacked, stupid, ruining the original magnolia; not white, not cream not yellow or fawn; but magnolia, a loaming, anagram for nothing. They covered with so much of it that it came very cheap.
He had removed them, had tried to, his pictures, his cuttings, and the Blue-tac, the errors that stuck to his wall; and his wife had come home, their children unhappy and said, "Jesus! It's awful. What the hell have you done?"

His furniture was old. Heavy, solid, real. He had dragged it to the centre of the room, a barricade, and piled it with books, pictures, a Kingfisher, photographs of an island holiday. The wall was wretched now, exposed, stumped, pocked with grey-blue, a mess; lack of planning, lack of care, leaving him with so much more to do; not even a simple loaming could deal with this. It was too far gone. It was scarred; flawed.

When he found the trick, steel-wool and soap, brilliant, foaming Brillo pads, dripping pink bubbles down the body of the wall like a lung-shot man; and found too, that as the Blue-tac went, so did the loaming, the coating, the plain surface, leaving the raw dark plaster, more leprosy than small-pox; he prayed his wife would not come home early. He worked quicker; eager to remove, rinse, wipe and dry.

At some point he switched on the TV and drank beer.

The walls, briefly pink, were dirty now, and with water and an unforgiving bleach he smeared and mixed a raised distemper, the dirt, dye, until all were equally bled into the others. He called that clean, and drank more beer while it dried. O for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.

He poured blubs of Moonflower into a tray. He heard the words of courtiers but thought of Ghostbuster slime and film scripts. He s-flacked the first band of blue grey, prittling a diagonal across the wall, his hands prickled finely with a spray of that Usk sky, the pressure too much and the carpet, between the newspaper cracks, a finer blue, blues in blue, blue on blue, to be covered up later.

Then, as he tried vertical strokes, italic strokes, too much paint, too little, he heard something about a King who sat with baser men, something about the courses of his youth. He bent again for paint and for some dark reason thought of woad. He took steps for extra height and, as he reached up, he heard, "Never was such a sudden scholar made; Never came reformation in a flood." This made him smile, but as his mouth widened, a poor stroke marked the ceiling's white. He cursed, angry at himself, and stepped down.
He worked very quickly now, angrily; with an ulcer-heat in his belly, the mocking television, voices, music, beer; an eagerness to have the wall covered, wondering when the phone would ring, what time his wife would be home. Somewhere in the barricade he'd built was his computer, faster than ever before, under cover, safe from the blue, safe to stay cream or was it magnolia?

He worked quickly. He realised that his broad brush-strokes, by thickness, crudeness, repetition, could hide his lack of skill.

And still the television burred, burned. He worked over an area where the cover of his first book had been, swigged at his Bud, tried not to hear. The wall became blue, at least a coat, but he heard, Pistol, Nim, Quickly and then three traitors trapp'd and all the time, all the time, all the time, the words; as they mocked him.

And he worked. He rushed. He slapped and slathered, covered his wall. Covered the loaming, covered the scars, painted the pock-marks where his book cover had been, three women, some cuttings, an island, a house.

He rushed; but the TV war rushed faster. And then the speeches came and even he knew the speeches; of breeches and bodies and once more! once more! into things, with Englishmen, Welshmen at the quick; broadswords bloody - and Branagh; a wild King Harry, sure Harry, God's Harry.

And he felt so wretched, so feeble, so small and so trivial; and he worked faster, his glasses now coloured as he blue-blued another wall, slap-slapped more sky and drank Bud and spilled things and cried he was so God-met.

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