Skip to content

Posts by iantimothy1

The Watch

Eve Mills looks through the jewellery shop window every morning.

Her job was supposed to earn pocket money for her summer holiday.  That was twenty-five years ago. Kate Byron talked her into being trained as a consultant on the cosmetics counter and Kate introduced her to the subtle love making which only another woman understands. When the affair was over she stayed with the company as she loved the products the famous brand produced. There is a unique aroma which comes from the blending of perfume, lipstick, powders, eyeliners and nail varnish, it entices the client with an illusion which is “Buy me, I will make you beautiful, beauty is magic.”  The fresh white clinical coat gives the makeup artist a magical persona. The superior look and attitude of the cosmetic consultant seems to offer a certainty rather than a possibility of rejuvenation and clients pay a high price for their skills and products.  What Eve loved, really loved was that after her training she could touch the clients as she applied the make-up. The often perfect hair, white teeth, expensive clothes of wealthy clients captivated her emotions and fuelled her aspirations. The strange arrangement was that as the clients stared into her green eyes they would become captivated and wonder if they too could look like the beautiful girl who was working a special alchemy upon their faces. And Eve is The High Priestess, when the client looks into the mirror after a twenty minute session it seems as if twenty years is lost from their appearance. It is inevitable that they return time and time again for the genius to perform her work. For Eve there was something else as she applies the makeup she can almost kiss the attractive ones.  She imagines her lips touching theirs and the tip of her tongue seducing their inhibitions.

Eve joined a drama society which met twice a week. Not for plays or companions, but for the learning of the art of acting.  In the first year she realised that the voice is key to an actors success and her voice would become honed into a special ‘normality’.  No false accent or superior falseness, she cultured a beautiful calm and sophisticated tone which was without doubt hypnotic. The poise of a trained actor, the voice of a seductress and after two years of studying psychological selling techniques Eve became the assistant floor manager earning more in commission than the basic salary.  “Why don’t you go for the area managers job Evie?” Asked Kate Byron “I prefer to be working with the public Kate.” In truth Eve could not be without the physical contact of her customers. No, she would stay where she was happy.

Over the years the counter and its makeup chair had been the conduit to many sexual relationships.  She could always tell when a client had become interested in her. The slight change in the rate of breathing, the tremor and whisper in their words.  “What do you do when you’re not working?” “I like amateur dramatics and listening to music” “Do you have a partner?”  “I’m non too keen on men at the moment.” This answer is carefully scripted as it does not suggest she is a lesbian although the words contain the innuendo she could be.  And there are married women who like the idea of a relationship with another woman, especially one as beautiful as Eve. “I’m not supposed to associate with my clients.” And then after a firm but deliberate brush stroke which applies the colour to erogenous lips “But I can make an exception if you feel you would like too…” And many times they do.  Eve loves the power over each conquest and has lost count of how many she has loved. More delicious is the after taste of each affair. Eve is able to gauge when it is time to close the book and stay good friends. And when they return as ‘knowing’ customers who then confide their hopes and fears she knows she possesses another humans soul. Eve Mills is a temptress, seducer and sex addict who should have been christened ‘Naamah’ the Hebrew female devil of seduction.

“I don’t know what you do to look after your teeth Eve, but keep on doing it they are perfect and your gums are as healthy as one could hope for.”  Jane Holt looks at her patient, Eve knows the ‘look’. That was nine months ago and she had fallen in love for the first time.  The couple took a discrete holiday to a Greek Island in the summer where they enjoyed baiting the local men and drowning them in disappointed rejection. Shop girl and wealthy professional opposites attracted.   The wedge was the social arrogance of Jane’s friends who had had their suspicions of her sexuality confirmed when Eve came into her life. There was no financial void between them, far from it Eve was the countries top earner. The inevitability of the relationships failure came from differing political and social attitudes and the separation coincided with a difficult episode in Eve’s life, the death of Kate Byron.

Before taking her life Kate wrote a will which left her substantial estate to Eve. Inevitably resulting in a vindictive and malicious campaign by Kate’s siblings who felt they should have received their sisters inheritance.

Rumour poisons the weak mind and the rumour factory went to work on an innocent victim.  Eve could feel the cold winds of malice icing previously good working relationships with colleagues and managers. The assumption that Kate had taken her life because Eve had become involved with Jane became the accepted truth. And when the contents of the will mysteriously became public knowledge the rumour followed the course of jealousy, dislike and then hatred Eve decided to leave her beloved cosmetics counter.

Within three months the area manager contacted the premier sales woman “Why don’t you come back Eve?” “What would I come back to?” “A new beginning, all of the old staff have gone, they could not meet the targets after you left.”  And so she returned determined to become the ruler of her domain and this time she chose her own staff and colleagues. The cosmetics counter is run on her terms.  Of cause each girl could be a potential conquest. Eve knows she is becoming Kate Byron.

A client sits in the chair and after some time asks “Can we meet again Eve?” The expert removes the old makeup and cleanses the skin. The process usually takes a few minutes, she’s taking her time before answering because in truth she is finding it difficult to recall the woman’s name. Removal of makeup adds to the years of a face and also reveals the true character, without makeup she remembers. As the foundation is applied to Martha’s face she asks herself the question “Where has my life gone?”  And as she begins to transform her old lover she wonders if she should become involved with Martha again. “How’s Kate Evie?” The question lead weighted her legs “Kate’s no longer with us.” “Oh what a pity, she was such a beautiful woman, so serene, so fresh…. so perfect.” And in this moment Eve realises two important certainties. She loved Kate and Kate took her life because she could no longer keep up with the passing of time and the ageing of her body.  Eve is certain of this and becomes frustrated with her client for cracking the ice of time and forcing her into the cold lake of hard truth. With every intention of breaking the promise she whispers “Can I call you later in the week?” “Of course you can Eve I’ll look forward to seeing you again in a more intimate surrounding.”  Eve finishes the makeover, Martha gaze’s into the mirror “You’ve not lost your touch Evie.” She selects same eyeliner, lipstick and blusher used in the makeover and adds a medium sized bottle of perfume to the purchase the total being a respectable one hundred and ninety-one pounds. As Eve returns the credit card Martha brushes her hand “It will be delightful to be with you again Evie”  No reply, only a knowing smile.

A small part of Kate’s bequest will pay for the Rolex. Solid gold, diamonds surrounding the bezel and highlighting the twelve hour positions. She knows the salesgirl is wondering why this customer insisted she served her.  A sale of this magnitude should have gone to the senior salesman.  Eve is firm “This young lady will serve me and you make sure she receives the commission on the sale.”  Then the hesitation “I will come back and make sure she has received it.” The documents are filled in and stamped now the credit card is authorised.  Her wrist is measured and Eve insists the watch is loose fitting. “Can I set the date and time for you madame?” “No leave it exactly at the present setting.”  The girl is confused a watch the price of her mothers new VW Golf and the customer doesn’t want it set to the correct time, day and date. Eve answers the girls thoughts. “I’m getting older and soon my looks will fade, the watch and its incorrect setting reminds me of a friend and a message  – Time is of no importance.”

She looks square into the sensuous young girls eyes “Why don’t you come to my counter? I’ll make up your face, there‘s no charge.”  The girl takes the business card looks at the older woman and has no idea why she replies “Yes…Yes, I believe I will.”

Mr Boring

Millionaire Property Developer

Millionaire Property Developer

Don’t you just hate the boring people? I know I do. Here I am in conversation with this guy who’s got his own business and drives a BMW sports saloon. I’ve learned he’s got a detached house in the suburbs and a small cabin up in Scotland. His wife is as sweet as a peach and an obvious tease. I wonder if she is the driving force behind her husbands persona.

He’s telling me about the contributions his ‘Big Boy’s Club’ has made to charity. “It’s a perfect platform to extend you’re writing and personal reputation Ian.” I do not know what he means “In what way?” “Join us, we’re a team with compassion, we share and sharing is caring. Come along to an open evening, the girls are allowed to come along now, we’re a long way away from the old secret and occult days.”

He is an entrepreneur. A corner shop, then another, renovates an old house and sells it, then another. The volume of his voice lowers to a conspiring whisper “There are three secrets Ian. Bus route, shops and a school.  If you have these three ingredients you will make plenty of money.  I ‘do’ four a year and make an average of forty K on each one. Don’t buy and rent, buy and sell that’s the way to make real money, money you can spend and enjoy.”  “I do not know what he’s talking about. I take pictures, write books and spend my time on social media.  I am earning a living whilst I sleep. My books and pictures are a never ending pension. When I die my work will reincarnate me.

My pitiful response is… “That’s very interesting and candid of you. I’m very interested.”  I’m lying of course, I always do. It’s the habit of the weak. Rather than the confrontational  “Well do you know what? It sounds like a load of bollocks to me. You and your greedy fat ball friends have conspired to put up the price of houses and hold millions of people at ransom with mortgages which enslave them and their families.  Don’t get me started on your bedfellows, the imps and demons who rent properties and impoverish million of innocent tenants.” I have capitulated, degraded my inner being, I smile in hopeless self pity.  The oaf cannot see my self deception, he is too thick skinned.

“Well here’s my card I’m only a text, e-mail or even a call away.”  He smiles I am certain he thinks the ‘even a call away’ is some kind of verbal wink of an invitation into a more intimate social world.

Shops - Bus Route - School

Shops – Bus Route – School

The clothes company was formed by Dennis Coates and most of the fashion world condemned his design, quality, attention to detail and price believing there was no place for this type of clothing in the modern world.  Fast food and throwaway Far Eastern made clothes were the way to go.  Rags for the masses who follow the trends of the fickle minded haute couture which trickled down the from the stream of Paris, London, New York designs into the estuary of the world market, this is the way of fashion.

Dennis Coates was bought up on a run down farm just outside of Leeds. Fortune shined on him when he was a child. His mother loved and adored him and his father did not want his son to work the land “Get thee to collage lad, bogger the freezing mornings and the farm agents greed.” His beloved mother supported him in a very special way.  She had sold all of her own mothers jewellery and worked in the local pub every evening to save enough for Dennis’s future. On his sixteenth birthday Dennis was given a new Raleigh three speed bike which he used every day of his life for the next five years.

And God did he study and work and learn his trade. His degree in fabric design and his first job as a tailor in Bradford were both a direct result of his parents sacrifices. On his twenty sixth birthday he gave his parents a present.  A two bedroomed bungalow in a small village near Harrowgate and this would not be the first home he purchased for his Mum and Dad who Dennis loved more than life itself. He had a pragmatic attitude to life, for example when he was asked about his parents Dennis answered. “I live for my Mum and Dad’s memory, but that is not to say my life is stifled by their loss, no, every child should celebrate their parents lives and if they cannot, the parents have patently let the child down, for it is the parent to educate the child. The child IS a product of his or her parents nurturing of their offspring. To live in a void or to perpetually mourn ones parents is a sign they did not teach their child wisely.”

This was one of the most poignant statements ever made on Gerry Gevaert’s Saturday evening talk show. Dennis received a standing ovation from the audience and the three film stars who sat with him on the world renowned television talk show.  After this interview Dennis became an overnight sensation and his clothing became something very special as the label now possessed a meaning.  The man, his company and his product were all about, quality, family, long term ownership, honesty, integrity.

Those who wear his brand are cloaked in a magical uniform of those attributes. His label was not purchased for occasional use, the clothes could be worn day in day out, would stand wash after wash, dry clean after dry clean, they could be repaired, jackets relined at the factory in different colours, buttons came four colours and these could be changed to alter the look of a jacket, trousers were buttons not zip. Differing designs of mens clothing was targeted for either ‘work’ ‘leisure’ or ‘formal’. Women’s styles have the same formula. And the clothing evolved. You may remember the fervour when the famous wax cotton overcoat with its removable lining was discontinued. And the universal applause to the replacement of the same design being made in Gore-Tex fabric as Dennis considered it a better material. And every item had the three inch by two inch label sewn upon it. ‘Made in Bradford by Dennis Coates’. I still wear the originals items made to Dennis’s strict parameters to this very day.

First Shops

First Shops

Bradford and Leeds had the first two shops and ten years later there were thirty. And within each one was Dennis’s ethos. The manager and staff all had share’s in the outlet. Indeed there was a two year waiting list for those who wished to work for any part of the organisation. The clothing was made with the highest quality materials and made with the strongest of thread, buttons machined in with waxed cotton! But it was the generosity of the cut and the ageless design that set the brand apart. Dennis Coates was a genius who had to do things his way. The fashion experts knocked his work and the more he was critiqued, the more determined he became to succeed. “I do not have share holders.  I have an objective to personally earn a million a year, this is enough for any man.  The rest of my profits go back into my staff, my factory, and the quality of my clothing.” Is the quote below his photograph on most of the magazine advertisements. Later when he built the wool spinning factory, the cloth mill and dye works next to the original factory, an astonished fashion world believed him to be mad.  Ten years later there is only one word… ‘GENIUS’ . 

Dennis’s death came as a shock to the whole business community. The announcement was made by his solicitor by way of a press release ‘It is with sadness I have to announce the death of Dennis Coates owner of the clothing manufacturer of the same name. He has been buried in the family plot with his mother and father he wanted no fuss surrounding his demise‘.  The business had over a thousand employee’s who benefitted from the estate. He chose ten ‘trusted’ managers to take over the day to day running of the business and they came into full ownership after five years. One day after this day, they betrayed Dennis and floated the empire on the stock market making themselves multi millionaires overnight.

The ‘Bar room millionaire’ takes a card from his inside pocket and makes the statement “Well here’s my card I’m only a text, e-mail or even a call away.” I notice the label in the brand new suit. Although now, the material is not as good as it used to be, the cut is not as generous and the buttons no longer have the name impressed around the edges I see the three inch by two inch label. ‘Made in Bradford by Dennis Coates’.  As I take the card I think to myself ‘You are just like your suit Mr Boring, a fake, living behind a beautiful and long gone sentiment.’

BarRoom Millionaires

BarRoom Millionaires

I wrote this ‘flash story’ in 2011 and was reminded of one of the paragraphs when I listened to the news of David Jones’s death last week.

Synopsis ~ Short Story

The synopsis of a short story – I have written hundreds of them!

Title ~ Traveling Light

Life is a ‘whole’ story it is the chapters which are of interest to us. And after a failed relationship I needed to run away. A long time ambition was a desire to travel, write and record images. This journey took me to destinations and situations I could never have anticipated. I learned some important lessons, one is that failure is often more interesting than success.  Overcoming difficulties can be inspirational and how one falls into a disaster can be fascinating. Every facet of life is one moment a reality and in the next the ‘moment’ becomes a reflection or memory. When the writer has a story he or she will have a reader and if there are many readers he or she will have an income. I write because I love to.  I wish I’d always been a writer, a journalist, a photographer.  Fame and celebrity did not appeal, nor thought of.  No, scratching a living and roaming the world, gypsy, nomad, care free, without commitment became my way.  Cheap hotel or motel rooms, hired car or motorcycle, bus, camera, film, notebook, rucksack, jeans, tee shirts, heavy hiking boots in winter, light walking shoes in summer. The laundry with its strong commercial wash powder and the food market, small baker and occasional bar my comforts.  Writing, photographing and living in a way I would eventually call ‘The Personal Statement’ evolved, there was no set plan and this way of life became my heaven.  When a man asked “What are you doing?” The answer is always the same “Here to work today, I will be gone tomorrow.”  Without friends, lover or commitment and with just two objectives the story and the picture, my life began. The paradox was the difficult and often materially unrewarding work paid a wage of sublime happiness and pleasure.

Safety was not a consideration.  Could I encounter theft, injury, violence, accident, illness? It’s always possible although I cannot remember a serious problem which a few dollars and a big smile could not settle. And within each encounter there is always a possibility of a new story, a real story and factual stories hold the imagination. And after reading one of my stories the stranger may say to her friend “How could he live like that?” or “He must be crazy” and later the pictures and the stories became successful and the readers commented “Have you read Ian’s latest article?” Was this a progression which I desired? I had no idea of where I was going. I had every certainty I was doing what I wanted to do. This has never changed, when I am unhappy it is because someone or something is restricting the following of my purpose, which is to record what I see and make stories of fact become interesting fiction. Its reinterpretation, the manipulation of lives and images. I suspect is that for many people the writer or the entrepreneur is of more interest than the story or his success.

A man takes to the road, takes pictures and writes about the images and then becomes successful.  Look at the social media sites which are all about the human condition and the situations, problems, winners, losers, birth, illness, death or marriage which strangers enter into. The demand for peoples stories is incredible.  And those who write the stories can never fulfil the demand, because stories wether fact of fiction are like lessons in an exercise book in the class room of life. My initial sacrifices, poverties, voids, difficulties did not mean inevitable success, far from it.  I am certain success is only tasted when the objective is gaining pleasure from what we do. Is this the real secret of success? Sacrifice, poverties, risk, failure, learning and then reward. Of course it is, this story, my story reveals the formula. Imagine being without the constraints of societies restrictions, no nine till five, credit card debt, oppressive employers. When in need of some extra cash I’d work in a kitchen, bar, clean toilets, labour for a few days or a few weeks and when the objective of money for travel and consumables is fulfilled, I’d buy twenty rolls of film and travel on to the next encounter. And every second I am happy, content to be on my journey.

I cannot remember when the magazine and newspaper gave me the monthly and then weekly column and along with the recognition the payments good enough to travel further, photograph and write about more interesting and diverse subjects and people.  And the more interesting the images and stories, the more the following and demand for my work. One afternoon a woman finds me, she tells me that she wishes to become my agent.  She sends me an air ticket for New York, a deal is signed, six months later a forty image ‘retrospective’ is held at the Strange Gallery in Manhattan, its a sell out and the limited editions of pictures and books earn me fifty-thousand dollars less Virginia’s thirty percent I pay the tax owed to the I.R.S and I’m left with nineteen thousand after paying the gallery, printer and framer.  Foolishly a contract for three books was signed after a drunken business meeting so the pressure is on to fulfil the obligation. I wanted to get back to Mexico to write about the Tamara indians.  Ginny tells me I’ve a contract to photograph and write about the drug abusers in downtown Dallas “It’s been done before Ginny”  “So what no one will notice”  I believe her, the book is a flop, critics slam my work. I manage to climb back up the ladder with the Tamara project, the book, the exhibition and film rights earn over a million from which my share is ninety-one thousand after tax and Virginia’s commission. I call her Virginia when its business and Ginny when emotion is evoked.  I prefer the separation, the distinct line between work and friendship and I suspect this is a mistake. I feel uncomfortable with her positive and driven attitude.

The magazine sends me on assignment to India.  ‘Photograph and write about whatever comes your way’ is the editors remit. Another woman who knows I will come back with something new and takes advantage of my weak personality. Many people fall in love with India, the mystical non sense, happy population even though poverty is rife and never ending hassling of the child street sellers.  All I see is disease, blindness, child prostitution and corruption.  A taxi driver rips me off on the journey from the airport to my hotel, I complain to a policeman who drags the driver out of his rusty wreck then beats him mercilessly with a two inch thick baton.  The officer smiles as he say’s ‘That teaching him lesson sir, he no take wrong turning again.’ For good measure he hits the driver again and breaks his teeth. I realise until I walk away the beating will not stop.

The article and thirty images of tortured victims and the human hornets who have inflicted the suffering becomes a three week special. First week is the political agendas. Second week, the victims stories.  Third week is the police and governments making their defence. No doubt about it, it is the best photojournalistic piece of the year and I win a Pulitzer for humanity.

My editor asks me to go back to follow up on the story. I could have jumped over the moon when the visa application is rejected. I run away and go to Cuba and the Cuban story is another winner although a turnaround in subject matter from the Indian nightmare. I write of the Latin Jazz scene and its connection to prostitution, bars, rum and cigars. What a fantastic country, the people are incredible and strong in their enforced poverty.  Their happiness and love of live genuine and addictive.  For the first time in my life I am in love, not with a woman, a whole population. I also become addicted to rum, Havana tobacco and a dark eyed beauty.  Two of the habits stay with me, the one I should have kept I leave behind. It is the first time working with colour film and in March of the following year I’m back at the Strange Gallery in Manhattan with a forty image exhibition called ‘No Crisis Cuba’.  Virginia talks me into buying a small apartment, it costs two hundred and fifty-thousand, amazing to think when I began the journey I’d work to buy film, now my work has bought the five roomed prison outright.  I earn three hundred thousand from the one and a half million turned over in books, the film and limited edition printed from ‘No Crisis Cuba’.

By now Virginia had offices in New York, Paris and Tokyo. I think it was at this time we had the decisive argument. Throughout my career I’d used Pentax cameras, indeed I have a suspicion the Takumar lenses were the reason my work had a differing look to it, setting it aside from most other photographers who used Nikon or Leica.  Virginia had negotiated a three year deal with a camera maker and I refused to change from Pentax.  ‘It will not effect the way you work’ ‘The way I work has nothing to do with you’ ‘Without me you’d be nothing.’ This was the end. When the agency contract came up for renewal the following year I decided not to continue with Virginia.  I discovered she’s made millions from of my work during the court battle. Sadly she attempts to sue me for not giving her an option to re-new, the judge rules in my favour.  There is no resentment on my part. Her Paris and Tokyo offices closed and with her reputation damaged due to the legal dispute the New York office closed in 1988.

The Berlin Wall falls, everyone wanted my pictures. Philip Woolf takes over my affairs and buys back on my behalf the rights to all of my previous work from the accountants who were dealing with Virginia’s estate. I decide to take a year off and return to Cuba and the dark eyed beauty.  When we return to New York Phil has made me half a million richer.  I’m now a million dollars and a million miles away from my original plan which was to be a nomad photojournalist. The whole point is I followed my art and became compromised by money, much of which I did not receive. Is fame or fortune worth the price?  Only those who taste the bitter sweet non-sense of this illusion have the answer.

The Cuban has long gone. And yes there is resentment toward the woman once loved, who betrayed me and more bitterness that I had to pay for those moments of another type of illusion which became another failure. I am artist and the art is the reason for my life, the creative output sometimes becomes the living wage.  There are many who think money is the goal, it is not, money is a by product of success and can be mistaken as evidence of brilliance or ability.  The world is full of brilliance which will never be seen, listened to or discovered.  Is it better to be poor and happy than rich and without emotional security? No, poverty is hard work, full of insecurity and my photographic essays prove this.  I know this much there is no social statement within any photograph.  The viewer will think for a moment that a particular image is full of horror and soon becomes accustomed to violence, murder, degradation, poverty, injustice. Do the images of the acid destroyed eyes changed the methodology of the torturers?  No, they will not, and never will do so, because the truth becomes forgotten and the perpetrator more careful to hide his evil. And because the evil is hidden the campaigner believes they have scored a point toward freedom, they have not, they have scored an ‘own goal’. The shame of the mind is the more we see evil, the less its impact upon the conscience and psyche.

I’m a loner that is my true personality and loners do not need security, excess or future. The loner or nomad should abhor possessions because possessions are the links in the chains which connect to the anchors of stagnation. Where will I go to, what will I record?  Who knows what is happening on the other side of the world which will become my next project and then gestate into the inevitable exhibitions and books?

Synopsis ~ Ends.

A story begins and if it is powerful enough will have a character worth reading about and within the story the character will be subject to difficulties to be overcome.  Is it possible that within this short story there is a novel?  Is it worth expanding upon?  I doubt it as at this moment in time I cannot build upon the character.  What is interesting is the part about the blinding of the criminal during interrogation with the use of acid. This is factual and is the reason I wrote the synopsis of the story. Most readers do not remember the whole of a book or film it is the scenes with hard hitting impact which make a book or even film memorable.  Make the principle character one the reader can empathise with or detest and the story comes alive. And finally let a moral statement infiltrate through the spirit of the story and maybe the writer will  produce a masterpiece.  One’s methodology of writing and artistic creativity is in truth a experimental and accumulative learning curve. If a creative believes he has produced a work of some magnitude and it fails to inspire his reader he may become disheartened.  An author or creative who is wise is constantly producing work which he considers as exercises in their chosen discipline.  Discipline is the correct word as nothing worthwhile is produced without a methodical approach in the initial years or even decades of learning.

Indeed I find the writing of short essays and blogs the most powerful of learnings.  If I see a few fellow bloggers or visitors ‘like’ a particular essay then I will print it out, re-read it and review the contents and style. I feel the ‘blog’ is an superb school room where I can experiment and test my writing’s effect upon other writers and bloggers.  The story above is written as a synopsis for a short story of ten to fifteen thousand words and each paragraph could have become a chapter and it would be easy to infiltrate each episode with certain anecdotes, risqué, dangerous, thoughts on poverty and living without money.  If I write a synopsis I like then maybe I will spend two weeks writing the expanded work and another two weeks honing the story.  I write for personal enjoyment and at this moment a nomadic carefree photographer does not appeal to me. Although my imagination may return to this character in another story at a later date.

‘Write often and without censorship or restriction’

‘Write often and without censorship or restriction’

‘Write often and without censorship or restriction’ Has become a motto which I write on my notebooks. And this concludes the first blog of 2016.

Coin Boy

Flax Plant (Six Branch)

Flax Plant (Six Branch)

Market stall traders have a dubious reputation which can be traced back to the days when they cared not a fig for the customer. Profit ruled every minute of their day. I know a few and I would wager their night-time dreams are still dominated by scams and dodgy deals. Money, profit, business and ‘the good old days’ is all they talk about. In certainty the old time stall-holders were wealthier than the customers would have believed, half million pound homes with Mercedes sports cars or new Range Rovers parked in the garages were not uncommon. I once knew a man who sold white handkerchiefs who lived in a seven bedroomed country house and took two first class cruises a year.  To give the reader a further insight read this bizarre and factual story of a man who sold dress making materials. Every three months he deposited many thousands into a Swiss bank account believing it to be safe and secure, a tax free hoard of happiness.  One Saturday evening whilst drinking a well deserved glass of ale after a fourteen hour day he was felled by a massive heart attack, the last thing he saw was a damp and filthy beer stained carpet in a bar full of losers.  The money is still safe in the account, Ken failed to record the password in his will. His family discovered statements showing the balance. Anne his wife cursed him until the day she died, having made no secret of the disaster… Three hundred and sixty-thousand pounds and unable to touch a penny as she could not prove it to be hers.

Markets were seen as places to find a bargain, now many are tourist attractions, Camden, Portabello, Petticoat and Brick Lane just four old sites which are visited for the spectacle more than the desire to find a bargain.  In the old days meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and basic but good quality clothing were the trading stock. Today a more varied choice of goods and services has changed the atmosphere. Eyebrow stringing and mobile phones have become more popular than a pound of apples. Its all changed, if the trader does not look after the customer he’s going to fail and the chain store supermarkets have all but finished the weekly or temporary market venues. It can be tough for anyone who wishes to start a new business, twenty years ago a man could buy his stock and struggle to get a temporary pitch as the demand was so high, today he will get a pitch without a problem and struggle to sell his stock because fewer customers attend one day markets.  The full time indoor markets are the way to go. Trouble is with little profit on fruit, vegetables and meat (the three mainstays) the inevitable empty stall syndrome makes the covered markets look neglected. Unique and specialist one man or woman operated service providers could take advantage of the low rents, if they have an entrepreneurial attitude and can see the potential. Hairdressers, nail bar, barber shops, even opticians are seeing the opportunities available. If I were an insurance broker, I’d look for a market stall! I write of this so the reader understands the market trader is far from being just a ‘humble’ small business.  Their environment is tough, changing and difficult, those who survive are real winners.

This stall is owned by my partner who sells items that although are off the main stream, have proven to be popular. Tarot cards, crystals, esoteric books, essential oils and incense sticks are the main sales lines. It’s the sticks which are the staple diet of the stall.  Indian or Japanese are the most popular choices.  There are two principal types of buyers. For type one the price is secondary to the quality.  For type two the quality is secondary to the price.  This is where my partner wins, the prices are the best in the city and there is no compromise upon the quality.

For me this market stall is an excellent observation platform of human life.  A wealthy artist buys twelve boxes of Nag Champa incense each month “I would like two of each of the fragrances please.” He then asks for a small discount and receives the same reply every time “Sorry we do not discount, the prices are already the cheapest in the city.”  A not so well off shop girl prefers the Japanese ‘Morning Star’ brand at three times the price of the Nag Champa, after buying three boxes the comment is “You cannot beat quality.”  Students can never make their mind up, always want to know how many are in the box and like to mention the ‘last lot didn’t burn very well’ which is a hopeless attempt at getting a discount or a free replacement. Trouble is, they all try the same scam, its a cat and mouse game, my partner is the cat, and unlike Tom and Jerry cartoons the mice lose every time.

A difficult customer needs to be careful if they believe the market trader is in some way inferior to them and can be negotiated or bargained with.  The arrogant customer often thinks the trader is either a rogue or a wanderer and believes them in some way inferior or poor and as I have already written nothing could be further from the truth.  If they think they are going to ‘chip’ away at a price or do some type of ‘special’ deal, they will disadvantage themselves if they underestimate the knowledge and business acumen of the stall owners who are not fools or idiots, just because there is not the image of a swish and seemingly profitable shop does not mean they are a walkover.  Of course there are traders who ignore the certainty that it is in a wise salesman’s interest to allow the customer to believe they are king or queen. The customer must be treated with respect and courtesy, sadly there are more than a few who do not and these cast a shadow upon many honest traders.  Let me be clear though, it’s not  ‘them verses us’.  Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s a win-win mutual agreement, both parties are happy and very often customers become friends.

Flax Plant 1991

Flax Plant 1991

This is the basis of market trading and there is no real difference in the way the customers attitude is seen by traders regardless of the items they sell. Allow me clarify, the market trader is, if he knows it or not, a wizard of retail psychology. An astute trader is monarch of their realm, woe betide the individual who thinks he’ll pull a fast stroke on the seasoned stalwart he’ll become the loser even if he believes himself to be heavyweight customer fighting a bantam weight stall holder.

Today has been busy, a few moments ago a young man purchased a box of Nag Champa incense.  It’s a particular favourite of mine, a frangipani flower and sandalwood blend which smells sweet and mystical, an excellent fragrance and the number one top seller.

I watched him as he picked up the boxes smelling each one to get an idea of the fragrance of the sticks.  This is an impossible task as once one has sampled two or three differing types the sense of smell is defeated and there is no way to tell the difference between any of the blends.  One way to neutralise the effect of numbed  nasal sensors is to smell ground coffee and then go back to the original task of deciding between the differing blends, although experience guides me to write the best way is to buy two or three types and burn them in ones home to discover if they are to your olfactory preference.  As I watch him I know what is happening.  As he has become confused about his choice he’ll buy only one box, and for a moment he will hesitate.  If I ignore him he’ll put the box down and go away.  If I watch him, or allow him to think I am watching him he will buy a box.  It is the way of the stall holder, not to speak, just watch and a small sale will be made.  The psychology behind it is very few people like to be seen as indecisive and a small sale will prove the observer wrong!

This fellow is from a wealthy family.  His clothes are new and expensive, the watch is a few hundred not a few pounds, he is well groomed and I know he’ll be well spoken, he is not old enough to afford the costume which is how I know his family supports him. I’m guessing he’ll go for the blue box and he does.  Now, he does not know why he’s done this because he has not sampled the contents and this will make him slightly uncomfortable.  The colour which has dictated the choice, most people are safe with blue.  I am not guessing about his attitude, this young man will reveal himself as arrogant, an inferior superior and as his sub-conscious mind does not know why he’s purchased the Nag Champa, I know he will become in need of some little victory. How? I’m soon to find out.

He’s given me a five pound note and awaits the change. One twenty pence, one fifty pence and three one pound coins, the game begins. He looks at his change and picks out a coin.  “This coin is a fake.” I take it and look at the old coin, I’m not so sure.  His arrogance can be heard in the next sentence “Come on this IS a fake, replace it.”  I have every intention of changing it, he suspects I’m going to argue the point, I will take my time though and I look carefully at the picture on it.  It seems familiar.

There are millions of counterfeit one pound coins in circulation. It is a fact people will innocently buy items with these fakes without knowing about the problem, if indeed it is a problem. Even the banks recirculate the dubious ones. The problem is how do you pull them out of circulation? This is a difficult conundrum which is being addressed with the new shaped one pound coins which will come into circulation over the next few years.  For the market trader or shop keeper it makes little difference its into the till and out! Same goes for the customer, out of his pocket and into the till.  And who would search through one hundred pound coins to find the ‘bad boys’? I’d wager not many.

Are you going to change the coin?”  I look at the coin again open the draw take a shiny new one pound piece and say “Are you sure you do not want this?” “Listen its counterfeit, you should not have given it to me or your customers, its illegal to do so.”  I give him the bright shiny replacement. “You should show more respect for your customers, trying to rip them off with fakes.”  I say nothing and do not make the mistake of smiling.

All Seeing Eye

All Seeing Eye

“Any interest in a 1991 Flax Plant?”  “Lets have a look”  He puts his magnifier to his right eye and looks at the coin “Purchase or commission?” “What are the two deals?”  “Commission its worth three fifty… I take twenty percent… you’ll end up with two eighty or straight purchase I’ll pay one fifty cash.”  “Give me the cash.” Seven twenty and one ten pound notes later I’m pleased the genius gave me the ‘fake’ back! The coin was the rare and collectable one with the ‘Flax Plant’ engraving.

I believe he did not know or care if the coin was a dud.  For him it was a step on his staircase of superiority! For me it was a one hundred and fifty pound bonus.

“Coventry” – For Heather Pedley

Coventry

It’s the late 1960s in the grounds of an English ‘Prep’ school.  At the bottom of the playing fields there is a small wood the grounds-man is shooting rooks. A young man is watching the killing with interest. The suicidal birds return only a few minutes after the last shot, it is of course the lure of the nests which brings them back to the slaughter. Man in his ingenuity designed the rook gun, a specialist weapon, a double barrelled rifle which uses a heavy bullet fired with a light charge of powder. The bullets do not travel far and have a heavy hitting power, ideal for shooting upwards in woodland.

Gerry is a kind man who knows the little boy is watching.  A bird fly’s down into the rookery and just as it lands on the tree Gerry lifts his double barrelled Westery Richards to his shoulder and fires a well aimed shot.  A puff of feathers and the bird is dead.  The boy and the keeper watch the bird fall through the bare branches of the oak tree and hit the ground.  The twenty-first to die this morning.

“You’re in a spot of bother son aren’t you?” Gerry talks in the opposite direction to where the spy is hiding. “Come and have a shot, nobody will know.”  There is still no reply “Come on, there is no need to worry about the house master and the others will not cross me, you know that.”

He struggles to get out of the thick hedge and as he frees himself the grounds man watches the struggle and thinks the damp winter mornings mist has depressed the portrait of the young fellows plight even more. He’s tall for his age he should be six or eight inches shorter. His duffle coat is oversized as are all of his clothes. Grey shorts and shirt, deep blue crew necked jumper, thick grey knee length socks and thank goodness for the Dunlop wellington boots, scarf and woollen gloves.

Gerry continues to study the boy as he walks over to him and he wonders at the cruelty of man.  God knows he saw enough of it in Germany in the last year of the war.  Cities demolished by Bomber Harris’s Lancaster’s, millions gassed in the camps, women raped by Russian soldiers and others prostituting themselves for a G.I’s chocolate bar.  The boys eyes reminds him of the day his tank arrived at the Belsen horror.  As he looked upon the systematic evil of the camp it was the hallow eyes sockets of the children which haunted him. He remembers thinking that the child is strangely similar to animals when suffering pain. There is a vacancy with their misery and as you look through the eyes into the soul you know they are asking why?  Although the child suffers more than the animal because human intelligence compounds the torture, making the sufferer unable to understand the actions of those who were supposed to look after and guide them.  Food and family happiness is exchanged for, rape, scientific experiments, gas and the inferno of the oven. He knows this boy should not be asking the ‘Why?’ Gerry also knows there is no answer.

A cup of hot soup is poured from the Thermos flask “Here son drink this.”  The oxtail taste reminds him of home and his grandmother who would know what to do about the situation. He feels like crying although no one is allowed to see fear or pain the word ‘courage’ flows though his character. As he sips the warming beverage and watches the man who has a reputation of being uncompromising and brusk with the pupils. “I did not do it Mr Coates.”  “I know son, lets get on with our work shall we?” Gerry will talk about the situation in an hour or two there is no rush.

 

“Have you used a rook rifle before?”

“No, but I shoot a four-ten and my Airsporter.”

“One seven-seven?”

“No it’s a two-two.”

“Don’t you find the ‘sporter’ a little big?”

“Possibly, but I’m used to it now and the heavier calibre is fine for rabbits on the farm.” Gerry wonders at the boys articulate speech and is impressed that he uses a shot gun and air rifle.

“You’ll have no problem with this Westerly then?”

“I do not think I will Mr Coates, its about the same as my four ten, double barrelled  and light.”

Gerry pushes the top lever with his thumb, the rifles breach is unlocked and the spent case is ejected by the powerful ejector spring, a live round is dropped into the chamber and the open gun is given to the boy who rests it on his forearm. Kahrrr! Kahrrr! Is the cackling siren announcing the approach as a hundred or so of the family circle above the wood the black scout glides down for one final time. The boy’s eye is steady watching the corvid, his left hand grips the forend as his right lifts the wooden grip, the lock snaps shut, safety pushed forward, the stock comes into contact with the shooters shoulder. Crack! The guns report is followed by a final Kahrrr! The bird falls dead though the tree and hits the ground.  Gerry knows its no fluke, the boy is a demon with the rifle.

The Westerly is opened, spent case ejected and replaced and the ‘broken’ gun again rests on his forearm. The weathered face of the man changes from dour as a rare smile betrays his delight. The following two hours are a rare pleasure as he watches the boy consistently repeat the exhibition of excellent marksmanship cut short by the dimming of the afternoon light. “Thats it lad, lets tie the dead birds to the fence and we’ll call it a day.”  The anticipated disappointment is eased with “When we’re finished we’ll go and get sandwich and tea at me cottage if yer like” “Yes please Mr Coates.” The pair clear up the corpse’s and collect the empty brass bullet cases then walk the half mile to the cottage on the far side of the wood.

“Who’s this then Gerry?” Asks a pregnant wife.

“He’s the young fellow who comes from Coventry sweetheart.”

“Oh, how sad for you, never mind. I’ll mek a nice cheese ‘en ham sandwich, would you like mustard pickle or chutney they’re both home made.”

“I cannot make my mind up, could I have chutney on one half and pickle on the other?”

“Could you eat two sandwiches?”

“You bet Mrs Coates.”

“Two it’ll be then, Gerry pour our guest some tea and Coventry remove that duffel, get them boots off, sit by AGA get your sen warm.” The way she talks is like the workers on his families farm, shortened words and country dialect. Coventry knows the bread will be fresh baked and that he’s safe, very safe, in the company of Mrs Coates.

Gerry fills a white mug and without asking puts in three heaped teaspoons of sugar.  The brew is fresh, dark and strong.  “Is that ok for yer?”

“Yes thanks Mr Coates” The day is getting better for Coventry and when a massive piece of fruit cake is put in front of him there’s a feeling inside he’d forgotten. “Well then old chap do you want to talk about your predicament?” “I did not do it Mr Coates and I would never have walked out of the common room if I’d have known what was going to happen.”  Gerry Coates looks at the boy seeing the pain of the injustice in his wide and sad eyes and the anger in his clenched fists. And more memories of the war enter the veterans head. The ‘why me’ wide eyes of his friend as he lay dying in Gerry’s arms. Standing by as the Jewish skeletons used their last atoms of strength to beat the Kapo’s to death.  It was amazing the guards were spared and Jewish traitors slaughtered.

The fountain pen ink spots were a deliberate act of vandalism.  One of the boys had flicked his fountain pen and left his mark on many of the walls of the school. Within a month every one of had been questioned by the staff.  The questioning turned to interrogation as senior prefects were tasked with using a more robust method to discover the guilty child.  All was to no avail although the bulling prefects’ suspicions were beginning to fall upon a naturally nervous and intelligent boy in the third year stream.  The pressure was on and Head boy David Ross (a publicans son) had made his mind up to break the boy.  Constant questions, bullying and covert threats came to a head yesterday evening when the whole of the school was summoned in to common room where they were told by the house master “You will all stand here until the vandal leaves the room” Two hours passed before Coventry was cajoled by David Ross and most of the others to leave the room.

That was a Friday night one month ago.  Mr Hemming the House Master decided the punishment should be severe and instructed that no pupil should talk to the boy for the rest of the term. It is fair to say the staff and majority of the pupils believed the sentence excessive.  The judge had set the tariff there was no turning back or place of appeal.

Gerry Coates’ war was a long one, he served for the duration.  Many said he is fortunate and a few still believe him to be a lucky talisman.  The ex-sergeant major does not see it this way, his turmoil is that he did survive and the small wound inflicted on D-Day was of no comparison to the way the conflict had hardened his heart. As he watches the young man talk to his wife he sees the future. Watching the boy talk and giggle with his wife as they wash the dishes in the Belfast sink, Gerry realises that if Coventry is not helped in this war of attrition, this terrible loneliness and cruelty, he will become scarred. laughter and trust of adults could be lost.  He rises from his chair by the warm cream coloured AGA and walks over to the old oak dresser which belonged to his mother. He opens the right hand draw and takes out a small box.

“Time to walk you back to the school old chap.” Coventry senses a softness in the Sergeant’s voice even though it’s a parade ground bark.  Mrs Coates helps him on with his wellington’s and duffel then give him a hug and embarrassing kiss.  In truth its the best feeling he can remember.  The walk back is misty and Gerry choses to go through the wood and the pair walk across the playing fields.  At the main door to the school he rings the bell and the house master opens the door.  “I’ve bought the lad back.” He says and then “You should be ashamed of yer sen Hemming.”  Gerry looks at the boy and gives him the box “Its for you lad and you keep it, you deserve it… You seen me give it to him Hemming so no more lies or you’ll be dealing with me…I’ll be watching you and that bastard Ross… mek no mistake.”

Later in the dorm Coventry opens the four by two and one half inch box.  There is a crimson ribbon below it is a bronze cross on which the words ‘For Valour’ are engraved.

Fifty Pence Greed

Fifty Pence Greed

This is the first of three essays centred upon the greed of humans. Each essay is based upon real events and will become chapters in my next book of short stories.

Nothing Is Crystal Clear

Nothing Is Crystal Clear

A friend is the best mother I have known. She looks after her child with a balance of love and discipline which is a reflection upon the way she lives her own life.  Perfected happiness? I have never seen such devotion. Her family is a happy one due to the truth and integrity which are the foundations of their family success. I am certain there will be many mothers who make the same commitment and their families excel due to the hard work and consistent effort which builds a secure future.

In this essay the mother should have a name, no one who is such a kind, complete and transparent human should be anonymous.  From this point onward I will give her an identity, she is Becky.  Becky is a hard working nurse. And a dedicated mother and wife who looks after her home and possessions. Which is the way of those who have to earn the money to purchase every thing they own.

It is worth considering that the items we cherish are most often paid for with our life hours.  Each hour of work is alchemised into money which in turn is exchanged for our material needs.  Money earned literally represents used lifetime. The exchange of life hours for money is a principal commitment to any families security and happiness.

Becky’s daughter is loved beyond words. There is healthy food and an ice-cream or occasional biscuit is a treat not a bribe. Education does not stop at the nursery learning to read, write and calculate are part of everyday normality. Every weekend is a joyful, strong interaction between friends and family, a growing life of happiness, protection and peace.  This little girl is dressed each day in fresh clean clothes, bright colours are the way, nothing dull or mundane and due to the little girls speedy growth clothing does not last long. Not that they are in poor condition, far from it. I’ve never seen her in anything which is scruffy or thread bear.

From time to time Becky lists the outgrown clothes on eBay. Not, I suspect to make money.  I feel the listings provide a small contribution to the new clothes which need to be purchased as her daughter grows and benefits other parents who buy good clothes in excellent condition. The auction monster is a difficult beast to tame. Near on impossible if truth to tell, high fees and a real effort to keep the listings alive, one has to be dedicated and ethical seller to succeed with eBay as is getting a bad reputation. The rules are notorious for being bias toward the purchaser and neglecting the seller.  As Becky discovered on Sunday evening.

Becky listed a tee shirt which has a Disney theme at a glance one would not think it had been worn. As is the devil of auctions the listing sold for fifty pence and two pounds eighty postage. The auction over the item was posted to the winner, nothing more to be done the transaction concluded.

Good Quality

Good Quality

Until…

“My daughter received the Disney tee shirt and she says it is only fit for the rubbish bin”. Its the eBay nightmare. A potential negative feedback from a lying buyer. And I know the buyer is lying.  In certainty a thief.  Not a thief of fifty pence and two pound eighty in postage.  The buyer is a thief of human integrity. A thief of human integrity? Yes! Because the possible threat of negative feed back can make a seller succumb to the wishes of  the e-Buyer. And make amends for faults which are non existent, in fact the faults are deceiving lies. Becky is understandably upset as her e-Bay reputation could be effected by negative feedback from a mean and disgraceful woman who values pennies more than honesty and truth. E-Bay allows the e-Buyer to punish the innocent with unfair complaints from the buyers.

The auctioneer is bias toward the buyer which is why its reputation is becoming soiled. The neglect of the sellers and the judge, jury and executioner attitude encourages this type of deception. Injustice produces a bitter emotional feeling and injustice makes the victim less trustful of strangers.

Think about the situation and the fact that stories often remind a reader of real situations or events and therefore evoke an emotional reaction.  The woman lies over a three pounds and thirty pence deal. I write this essay and a reader on the other side of the world is reminded of a similar situation or the unfair and unjust rules and laws which effect the innocent. Does the example have its parallels?  For example, judicial outcomes which defy common sense. The criminal who uses the weight of the law to avoid conviction.  The e-Buyer who wishes to deceive the seller through the blackmail threat of leaving poor feedback.  Fifty pence or fifty-thousand pounds the sentiment is exactly the same, a deception is a deception.

Losing fifty pence and the postage is no great drama.  The damage is the intent of deception and the poison of the threats possibility of damaging a reputation. An innocent victim paying the price of a thief’s lie. Read or listened to the same story before?  Of course you have.  Injustice is as fatal as a cyanide pill to confidence and open-mindedness.   It’s not long before the innocent become guarded and set up their own defences.  Often the innocent end up not trusting anyone or if they are sharp they will see though the greed. For example I once knew someone who used to enjoy saying, “Do not trust anyone” she was a mean tight fisted woman who used to keep uneaten toast and use it for fried bread the following day ‘Thats the way to make money in catering’ she used to say. She would find fault in everyone and could not see her own. The e-Buyer reminded me of the caterer. Thats the way of association, one string of thought takes us to another. It is worth thinking about the meanness of individuals and the effects their greed has upon the innocent who become effected by their actions. In the case of the hotel keeper above I know for certain guests saw the penny pinching as a reflection of the way the establishment was organised and customers were lost.

Becky is a woman of integrity, the way she looks after her family, the way she lives life and wastes not a moment of it shines through in her reply to the message to the e-Buyer.

“I am sorry you did not find the article up to your standards. Would you confirm that you are able to post the item back to me.  When I receive your assurance that you can do this I will refund you in full and send an extra three pounds so the item can be returned. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, I will be happy to answer them.  I look forward to your reply so as your account can be refunded and enable you to return the item. Many thanks for your assistance.”

A reply came back ‘I will ask my daughter what she would like to do.’ One week later she is still awaiting instructions. I do not have to wonder why this would be.

Vague Truth

Vague Truth

The key is rather than attempt to protect her reputation and integrity then enter into futile argument. Becky had faith in her description of the item and had the confidence to reply in a way which ‘wrong footed’ the e-Buyer.  The reply left the buyer no way out, she could either keep the item or return it.

When the author writes a story every situation should have an outcome. It is important not describe any situation or character unless there is a purpose or reason they are in the story. Truth to tell unique story lines are difficult to find, it is the characters, their tests, difficulties, pains and disasters which make the stories. The writer has to at some stage draw from examples of real life situations which will become adapted and then introduced into the fiction.  How many President assassination or space disaster films have been made over the last fifty years? Ten? Twenty? The e-Seller and hotel owners meanness can be turned into many short stories or used as foundations for novels. Becky’s episode could be hyped into a story where an item is taken by a friend for appraisal.  The reality is the friend cannot afford to buy the item and begins to make excuses for not returning it, the situation escalates from argument to violence. An astute writer could decimate a family over the sale of a lawn mower and rebuild the same family when Grannie Jones enter the story.  The wise old woman has high life values and her integrity, love and devotion brings the feuding clans back into harmony. Stories are everywhere, we do not have to listen or look very far to discover incredible seeds for wondrous novels and short stories and the real winning dramas are the ones which have strong and powerful characters as the central figure.  Just like the real life Becky.

Voodoo Stories

Voodoo Stories

Uncensored = Friend Lost

King of Thought

King of Thought

“You Cannot Print That!”
“Ian this is evil, terrible. I have nothing to say.  You cannot print that!  For your own sake don’t do it”.
“Why not? The theory isn’t a new one”.
“It may not be, it’ll upset more than a few readers.  I do not like it, you’ll lose friends”.

I printed 20 copies of my zine ‘Lucifer’s Wisdom’ and posted them out to my two distributers for customer appraisals.  I’m waiting with interest to discover if the zine will attract more orders. I am sure three decades ago the zine would have caused more than a few vitriolic comments.  The title explains the content, and this essay is not about the zine ‘Lucifer’s Wisdom.’

I wonder about my friend.  Is she concerned about my reputation or has the book offended her?  I suspect the latter.  So I ask.

“I sense its contents have offended you?”
“Frankly, Ian. Yes, it has”.
“It was not written with you in mind, it’s not a personal attack.”
“I know that. I’m disappointed you could have written such an evil diatribe.”
“Ah! Best we leave it there.”

No doubt about it my zine has damaged a friendship. Permanently? Or for a short while? I’m not sure. Possibly this essay will be the medicine which heals the wounds.  If one writes from the heart (this is the only way), then there is a probability many will not like the subject or opinion. The writer’s words are an insight into his mind.  The reader knows this with either conscious or intuitive secondary thought.  The primary attention is a conscious act, reading the words and then forming the images or meaning in the imagination. The secondary focus is the ‘feeling’ the essay or story gives the reader. It’s the ‘I do not know why I like this, but I do’ or the ‘There is something not right about this.’  And later the primary and secondary thoughts evolve into a realisation very much like when one has misjudged a character or situation. The ‘I have decided I do not like what I have read because…’ or ‘I have changed my mind I understand his opinion.’

Writing is to me a personal journey of exploration.  I write for myself, and I am prepared to expose my fears, doubts, prejudices, anger, dislike, desires, loves, pleasures and emotions. When I wrote ‘Lucifer’s Wisdom’ I knew exactly what I was doing. I enjoyed the thought that if I had written the chapters thirty years ago, the essay would have caused lots of anger.  Indeed it still will.  The question I hope the reader will ask after reading the zine is ‘Is this fictional or not?’  I no longer believe in the existence of the highest or the lowest of spiritual entities, concepts, ideas. And therefore Lucifer’s Wisdom may be a fictional essay.  Sarah has a strong spiritual inclination, and I realise I should not have given her a copy of the zine for her appraisal. I cannot apologise for the content. I do apologise for my lack of caring for my friend’s feelings.

If I were to apologise for the content of the zine, then I would have to question everything I have written.  I do not, some of my early work was poor in content and methodology, I do not regret writing any of it.  I never will.  The creative cannot succeed if the words, images or sounds do not come from the inner self. On occasions the conscience will be aware that the subject may be difficult for the reader or viewer.  And when this is the case the writer’s jury of the mind (conscience) may question what effects the work will have on the reader. If he changes the sentiment to smooth the edges in the hope, he will not offend he’s failed as a writer. In my work, the more effect and controversial the writing has the better it is for it!

I am sure free thought and intuition are the reason the ‘few’ rise above the ‘many.’  Once the camera is used, or the words flow without effort the work produced seems to have more depth, uniqueness, and effect. Take the camera for example.  I have no interest in expensive cameras, far preferring to use affordable equipment and learning about the way the lenses make the image look. Ultimate sharpness or resolving power becomes insignificant to the composition of the picture. In my mind, an image taken with a 1960s Super Takumar lens looks far more beautiful than one taken with an up to date lens with its razor sharp cruelty. In other words, I am looking for a ‘style’ which takes my images away from the mundane.  When I gave the zine to Sarah, I did not think carefully enough about her.  My desire was for her read my zine and see if she could fathom the sentiment of my writing. Her personal beliefs overwhelmed any possibility of this happening.

Turn Away

Turn Away

I am sorry I did not consider Sarah’s feelings when I gave her the zine.  I made the wrong decision, my conscious mind was not attentive enough to my intuition and conscience.  My writing has threatened a long friendship.  Sarah is a gentle soul she may not forgive me easily, and that is not a good feeling, I understand and have to accept my writing has hurt a friend.  What am I to do?  Change the way I write and the subjects I choose to distort and test? I do not have a Super Takumar lens like mind which resolves my words without a sharp edge. I do not possess filters called ‘kind‘ or ‘harsh’ which can change the sentiment to the message.  One cannot write about war with kindness or love with vindictiveness. Although I can write about a kindness within a war or a vindictive situation within a love affair.  The hard fact is different to hard fiction. We can mentally walk away from a fictional drama and be affected by a factual documentary. The theme of the essay is now apparent.  Words either fictional or based upon reality can effect emotions, destroy friendships, ruin reputations.  Should this be considered before one taps the keys? I do not believe so. Self-censorship is restrictive and possibly hides or stifles the creative mind. This leads me to think of the reason that some ‘artists’ are difficult individuals.  Is it because they are subject to critical appraisals of their work and the assessments are far away from the artist’s interpretation of their subject? I have no answer to the question, maybe the answer is the question.

The written word needs care.  It is true that we will put stronger sentiment into e-mails and letters than the spoken word. I have had a few vindictive letters over the years, and I love them.  Send me a hate mail or text and joy of joy you have made my day.  I will share it, redistribute it put it on a picture.  I will turn it into art, my art.  Pin the print out on a wall, frame it and send a copy to my friends. The vindictive letter is like two Alka-Seltzer’s being dropped in a glass of cold water when the hangover threatens an early death. It’s a pleasure to consume.

Scary Ride?

Scary Ride?

The creator can design, record, write what he or she likes.  There should be no intentional audience as the audience finds the artist. Many will like opera and dislike the ‘Sex Pistols’ some, of course, are eclectic, maybe John Lydon singing Nessum Dorma appeals?  It does to me! And someone will read this, and just the thought of  Johnny’s Nessum blaspheming Pavarotti’s version could culture a profound resentment of me for seeding the idea in their mind. That’s the way of words, actions and artistic experiment.

What is written as fiction can become a seed of creativity which manifests into a reality?  And what we see in fact can become a fictional story.  The question is, do I write from my heart or write with consideration of the feelings of the reader? The answer, of course, is one must fulfill the creative purpose which is to invoke the thoughts and emotions of the reader.  Some will like what is written others will not. The more I write, take photographs and record my thoughts, the more I believe artistic creation is aligned with life itself.

We Are Not Equal

Why Not?

Why Not?

I read about the death of Jonah Lomu the New Zealand rugby player with interest.  I cannot write I have sadness as I did not know him.  His manager commented “The world will be a poorer place without him”  Will it?  I hope not.  Surely the world will be a better place because of the influence his career and life has had upon those who desired to follow his path, in a sport he and they love?

Its tough to face the truth when looking at difficult emotional situations.  I watched a friends four year death, Sam’s fortitude was an inspiration to any one who saw her valiant fight. I remember a friend who lost her three year old child in a Christmas Eve car accident, the memory of the white coffin cannot be erased. I felt a emotional heartache on those occasions, for the rugby player there is nothing. I am careful not to follow a tide of opinion which overwhelms the reality of the situation.  Its seems to me there are many who believe one has to show grief, almost as if the display of emotions is imagined to be the right thing to do. And by doing ‘the right thing’ one conforms to the requirements of society. I do not wish to be a conformist. I wish to live within my truth.

So why don’t we have a world wide and public display of grief for every child killed by the drones bomb? Is the sacrifice of the child in the pursuit of freedom and civilisation justified by the bombing? One could argue it is if we learn by it. The essay could end here if I continued with this string of thought.  Let me turn it around.

Real Sacrifice - Real Lessons

Real Sacrifice – Real Lessons

In the TV Show CSI Miami the detectives says ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ – Now everyone says ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ Are they?  Do I want a sorrowful police officer investigating my friends murder?  No, I do not! I would like a clear minded non emotional, intelligent investigator to bring the criminal to justice. I remember being interviewed by two so called police officers many years ago.  Their personal feelings came into play during the interview.  I could tell neither one liked me, my educated mind was a match for their bull like methodology and I’m certain they would have found a way to charge me with the crime if my alibi had not been so water tight.  These two hero’s of justice had an effect, as even today I’m unable to trust the police. ‘I’m sorry for you’re loss’ It reminds me of the two spiteful comedians who did more to propagate crime than solve it. I do not believe the sentiment. In the same way I do not feel I have to be sorry for the death of a stranger. Its nothing to do with conformity.  Its everything to do with my personal integrity.

An unknown man or woman dies the family and friend grieve. Is the unknown loss less important than the public bereavement?  When a celebrity dies many grieve.  Statements like ‘The world will be worse off without him’  ‘She will never be replaced’  ‘One of the most inspiring actresses who ever stood on a stage’  How is this relevant to the tens of thousands who mourn them? Who or what is the ‘star’ to the ‘stranger’ fan?  A clear minded reader may know the answers.

There is but one death there is no certainty after the final breath. We are certainly remembered for our lives and how we lived them.  The reality is NOW, this moment, this life, this journey.  To contemplate that there is anything other than ones personal reality seems to me to be a time wasting exercise.  When Amy Winehouse died, I did not think, ‘What a tragedy’ I though,’What a fool’.  I do not need to understand the whys of her addiction.  If the opportunity arrives to talk to an addict I would use the singers death as an example ‘Look drug and drink abuser this is the real possibility, there is no fame in this woman’s death only a lesson for you to learn’ Compassion? For a drunken addict? Not in my reality.  Are we born equal?  Well, I do not wish to be on the level of fools who had everything and abused the privilege.

The artist reveals his imagination through his images.  Placing a man in the scene where there was non.  Painting a woman’s face with hypnotic eyes. A cubic family in Rubic like unsolvable puzzle of colours. An astute viewers mind wonders about what the artist is portraying. Often the artists work is exposing, even betraying the inner mind and the artist who does not have to think about how to express his ‘world‘ is often the one who excels. Do the most powerful creators of visual and vocal expression thrive upon intuition? I believe they do. Do the great creators concern themselves with technique? Not as much as one would think. What is worth considering is the artists mind is a cannibal cooking pot.  It has to be because he or she will often consume the ‘normal’ ideas, ideals, morals, beliefs and protocols of his fellow humans.

Turn life into a story…

Jack Lewis cried as he listen to the news.  Jack remembered watching the player in the final between his country and the opposing team. He’d hated the six footer as he had been instrumental in his countries defeat. On the way home that day Jack’s inner being had been awakened.  His hate had turned to admiration and then adoration. He now understood the warrior, the soldier, the hero. His life had changed because of a man he would never meet.

Jack read every book he could about the warrior.  His bedroom walls were covered in framed posters and photographs of this one man.  The images had to be framed, blue tac or tape would be an insult to the status of this god of the game.  These images were blurred through his tears and his emotions had turned to anger, just as they did when his mother died.  Only this time, the anger would become explosive, a volcano about to erupt.

He made it to work and he did not like the way San Verit looked at him. He’d never got on with that bastard. Jack and his hero had exercised every day, keeping fit, eating the right food, training to win.  No, not together, Jack knew the player would never know him, but his personal fitness was a spiritual connection to the man who lived on the other side of the planet.  And that bastard San Verit with his drug taking, girl abusing, lazy waste of life abused every second of his existence.  Jack could see Verit was pleased to see him in the pain of grieving for his hero.

“Sorry for your loss Jack”  What did the bastard just say? Jack looked at the skinny addicted wimp.  “Sorry for your loss Jack”  Did he see a sneering lift at the corner of his mouth? Verit walked between the rows of racking.  Nine, one ton pallets of soda crystals in each section.  His foot pressed on the pedal of his yellow Caterpillar forklift, he would be careful not to be in the view of the warehouse cameras.  The forks sliced through the securing bolts at the bottom of the racking post and he knew how a lumberjack felt as the tree wavered just before it tumbled to the ground. Verit would be taken down to where he belonged.

The waster died exactly one hundred and eighty seconds after being crushed by the racking and the soda. Jack knew it was one hundred and eighty seconds because he counted as the teenager died in his arms.  At the inquest the verdict was accidental death, the coroner recommended the company should be fined for its lack of safety standards.  Outside of the court Jack walks slowly over to the weeping mother and whispers “I’m sorry for your loss”.

The Writer Uses Everything He See's

The Writer Uses Everything He See’s

Is man born equal?  I doubt it.  We can look up to or down upon those around us.  The beliefs of superiors or inferiors prove the inequality.  The artist, writer, songwriter, photographer cares nothing for status.  The artist will take advantage of news, sorrow, pain, ways of life, ways of death. The creator must take advantage of everything which enters his or her mind. And with concentration without effort (intuition) will expose their inner being.

Writing Difficulties

 

Escalator of Opinion

Escalator of Opinion

When I was young my parents sent me to a small boarding school in Oxfordshire. These seven to fourteen age group schools were called ‘Prep’ schools and in the sixties they offered the very best in private education.  At the age of fourteen I passed my ‘Common Entrance’ exam and became a pupil at a ‘Public’ boarding school, again in Oxfordshire.

My father spent thousands of pounds on my education.  I passed most of my O and A levels with C’s and B’s. I worked hard in the exam years, I had to, because my spelling and grammar was terrible.  So bad in fact that I received extra tutoring in the subject.  Try as they might the tutors were at a loss to know how to instil the rules of the written English language into my mind.

I do not remember my father writing one letter in his lifetime and this includes business letters.  The same goes for my mother. Toys like meccano, building blocks and cap guns were my educational stepping stones.  A Rupert Bear book at christmas was my favourite present, I could not read it of cause, the pictures told the story.

The Symbol of Thought

The Symbol of Thought

Later on I decided to become a part of the Open University and the problem with grammar drove a deep wedge into the desire to learn and the probability of attaining a degree.  A tutor suggested I talk to a specialist, who suggested I may be suffering from Scotopic sensitivity. What I know is words, letters and numbers on pages or computer screens float!  Like small balloons of words wanting to free themselves from the ground of the page or screen.  It’s a difficult for the writer and student who has a desire to learn and a difficulty in reading, as the fellow pupils and tutors inevitably believe the student is ‘thick’.  And make no mistake, even today this problem effects every day of my life. For example it is one of the reasons I only keep one return bus ticket and receipts which need to be kept are clearly marked with a sharpie pen, so I can recall what was purchased.

I file all correspondence’s which are sent to me with regard to my writing. Good or bad all is filed for future reference under ‘Lessons To Remember’. One morning I received an email which read.

“Look at your grammar it’s fucking childish, you are an uneducated bastard, you must be pissed when you write”. On other occasion –  “You’re no writer, the grammar is shit and self publishing is not being published. You are a fucking idiot”.

I have around sixty e-mail and texts about the lack of quality and poor grammar in my work.  And do you know?  The comments are not my problem.  They are the problem of those who make the comment.   I control them, not they me. If I allowed them to effect me in any way.  You would not be reading this essay!

The certainty is this.  Once the errors become scotomic for the reader, he will be able to see the errors with more prominence!  Scotoma by the way is tunnel vision, either visual or mental. A scotomic mind only see what it wants to see. Scotoma can be limiting. For example, imagine watching a man who looks like Fagin. Mean, flithy, rotten teeth and greasy hair.  And allowing the mind to recall the possible dangers of such men and then disliking him for his visible faults and appearance, rather than how or why he looks as he does. And then he offers you an envelope, in it there is a cheque for a million pounds with a note on which is written ‘I am a good man, live a happy life for me’.  How would you remember him then?  For the gift and the message or  the way he looked? A scotomic mind would not accept the envelope.

My ‘hard won’ formal education knows and understands why this is so and how it effects peoples attitude, character and personality.  Its possible the grammar is not the real reason for the comments on my work, certainly the two earlier examples are vindictive not ‘helpful’. Another consideration is that the grammar expert may find it difficult to accept that there are many millions of readers who do not know the rules of grammar and are able to decipher the stories, essays and articles without too much of a problem. If the writer is of low esteem or confidence, even a genuine observation of faults within the work can have a negative and sometimes catastrophic effect upon they’re continuing to write.

I can remember a ‘art critic’ talking about the edge of painting canvas’s.  She said the side boarders MUST be painted in and not left white.  The last time I was in the Tate Modern her ‘expert’ knowledge had obviously not been taken on board by many famous and wealthy artists.  Its all well and good to have the theory.  Its all well and better to actually produce a finished piece of work. The artist must be encouraged to express his mind.  We all cannot understand the ‘rapper’ words, the ‘abstract’ painters work, and I’d suggest an hour or five with many of the ‘Beat’ poet, writer, artist’s work if you want to see the ‘rules’ being broken. We cannot like every thing we see, hear or read!

Empty Street of The Mind

Empty Street of The Mind

At this moment in time I am assembling an account of an incredible episode within a man’s life.  His story will amaze and help people who are about to go through difficult surgery.  He is a man of courage, kindness and love, an inspiration.  The book is nearly finished has taken more time than I at first anticipated because it needs to be more perfected than my usual efforts.  There’s no doubt he’ll be impatient to read the first draft, but he’d be disappointed if it was not up to his expectations. So I will continue to work toward finishing a good, not an indifferent book.  That’s the way a writer should work, when the book needs to excel then time needs to be taken.  All other writing is practice and exercise.  Like the photographer who takes a thousand images to get the excellent one he is remembered for and the painter’s fifty canvas’s for the one that sell’s.

Maybe the reader will already know why this essay is written.  The probability is that the reader may feel I am in some way attempting to vindicate myself for the poor standard of my written word.  I am not! The grammar is poor and the essays are often not re-worked as much as they should be.  What if I become Fagin with an envelope?  And tell you this essay will, because of my ‘jumping words’ take five to six hours to get to its conclusion.  Frankly I run out of enthusiasm for the exercise.

This essay is not about vindication, it is about understanding and acceptance.  Two words which when placed together and unified become a key to happiness. The understanding and acceptance of another cultures religion, traditions and attitudes.  A blending of work colleagues who all have specialist skills which turns an idea into a success.  (Steve Jobs was the master of this attribute).  An allowance for individuals to follow their path with the gift of encouragement, not disparagement.  This is the blood of this essay.  As is the idea that any human with aspirations MUST follow his path no matter what the opposition, personal sacrifice, or disability.  To listen to those who find fault is as sure a death of ones hopes as a bullet through the brain.  The man in the picture below has followed a path where many vipers and assassin’s waited in hiding to rob him of his ambition.  If Darren had listened to the vindictive words spoken by the ‘few’, he would not have become admired by the ‘many’.  If there is a desire to succeed, then there is a need to wear armour and fly the standard high so all can see you’re position and intent.

Mr Stanton Follow his Purpose to success

Mr Stanton A Man With An Incredible Will To Succeed

The reader may have noticed the name of the blog has changed from ‘Why Short Stories’ to ‘The Copper Staple’.  This is because a man who self publishes and sells thousands of Kindle Downloads has formed a new business its name is ‘Copper Staple Publishing’ . The name comes from the copper staples used in the Zines which I print and sell through another distributor.  It is my intention to print and publish the work of photographers who wish to be part of a secure distribution network.  More about this in the coming year, although those who aspire to be published by Copper Staple Publishing are invited to send their details and C.Vs to copperstaple@hotmail.com.

Junk Shop Doll

A life of Abuse Awaits

A life of Abuse Awaits

The mind spins.  Thoughts wander.  Yesterday, last week last month.  Forward thinking is hopeless. Too many ideas thwarted by the whispering feeling time is running out. The sand in the hour glass of a lifetime has nearly filled the lower reservoir. Do not waiver now, do not capitulate.  All tasks must be finished before a new one is undertaken.  Why did I write that word? Is the subconscious mind reminding me of the undertaker’s hearse?

Even writing this blog brings me full of foreboding.  The picture I have chosen, the lonely doll, who would want her?  She’s too big to be carried around and surely it will be difficult to find new clothes to fit her? She’ll be in the cabinet until the car boot sale, the graveyard for no sale toys.  The owner he doesn’t care, a fiver is all he want’s.  And yet, I learn from the plastic figure.  Patience, silence, theres always a chance.

I discover she’d found a new home ‘Who bought her Ken?’ ‘An art student Ian, he’s going to spray her in differing colours, body blue, limbs four other’s and the head will be untouched’.  Why did I ask? The doll’s become a surgical experiment.  My mind goes back to concentration camp horrors taught by history teachers. If the doll had a memory who would it think of as the student placed her on the experiment table?  Would her eyes see the dismembered limbs and torso being sprayed blue? Horror of horror when will her troubled life end, or was her life difficult?

Once loved and surrounded by other dolls and toys and the little girl grew up and found real people to play with.  Or was she just to big a doll in the first place? Unwanted, ostracised for her beauty and grotesque size.  The other toys being of a smaller scale, she didn’t fit in the small community she could never become part of?  And why did she loose her clothes? The indignity the flesh toned plastic portrays makes me feel ill at ease.

You think, Ian your crazy, a doll effects your mind to these thoughts.  I answer why does a diamond ring represent love and mean so much?  Why does a sunset or sunrise evoke such feelings of wonder? I wish I’d paid the fiver and saved the Junk Shop Doll as a representation of the sharp knives of experiences which scar ones life.  And what would I have done with her once I’d possessed her?  Initially found some clothes, returned her dignity, spoken to her when no one knew?  The tragedy is I would have tired of her, the vacant stare, the whimsical oversized eyes and the unkempt hair.  I’d have wished her to be with the artist, because I would come to hate her.  The smug ‘knowing’ half smile, the silent answers to my questions and the revealing of my inner thoughts.  One day the artist may hate her too. For he may find her to be adulterer! Each time someone buys one of my prints of this image, she is mine and betrays her lover.  Yes, she may only be a model, but I know artists and they see life in a different way, he has taken her, made her into a representation of his inner creativity and if he discovers she’d already been abused, what then?  I’ve answered the question already…

%d bloggers like this: