the m john harrison blog

Month: October, 2010

valencia beach

Every so often one of these conversations would be interrupted. The sun lost its edge and became merely warm. Cries of children receded to the distance but remained suspended in the air, perpetually refreshed. Both calm and excitement were underpinned by the sound of the sea. None of this would have been possible without its monstrous presence. Its thud and thump was the sound of the moon, the voice of gravity. Ships appeared on the horizon and remained there. Above them some cloud convoluted itself. A couple went past along the tideline. He was missing one hand. The way they walked was this: they were beautiful. He was a man with one hand and proud of it, she was a woman proud to be seen day after day with a man who had only one hand. Their walk was predicated on that. The way they walked would always be a gesture of no concessions. Later a wind got up briefly and turned over the beach, and a father pulled his children along on a surf board in the shallows. It was the only day of the week he could give them, he explained, so he always made sure they got the best of it.


lay down yr weary tune

To mark the passing of the Sony Walkman, here’s a scene or two from Climbers

My knee had begun to hurt again, and it felt stiff when I got out of bed; but effort seemed to ease it, so I took increasingly to the rocks behind Sankey’s house. There, a cheerful lad called “Red Haired Neil” to distinguish him from some other Neil who no longer lived locally, showed me how to solo with a Sony Walkman.

“Go on. Try it. Here.”

It was like discovering electricity.

“The big hazard at this crag is still falling in the dogshit,” said Neil;
but as long as I had the Walkman on I was invulnerable. I could thrive on risk. I played Brian Adams, “Straight From the Heart”: my intuition astonished me. I played Bruce Springsteen, “Ramrod”: problems succumbed so easily I was filled with energy. I played ZZ Top, “Deguello”: my aggression seemed endless. The music fell obliquely across the rock, illuminating it like a new wavelength of light to reveal brand new ways of climbing. It was still possible to be outfaced: but, burning magic fuels, I would know the end of the day had come only when my fingers let go of their own accord: I would look up suddenly, dazed with fatigue, adrenalin and rock-and-roll, to see headlights sweeping down Holme Moss and into the valley. My arms were grey with cold, the elbow joints painful from repeated pulling up, the fingertips sore and caked with chalk. Only then would I change back into my Nike shoes, turn the music up louder to combat a sudden sense of depression, and, shivering, walk down past Sankey’s cottage where the FOR SALE board had been up for a month.

I never saw anyone viewing it.

The front room curtains were down and all his furniture had gone: but you could see scattered across the bare floor the Subaru catalogues he had been poring over the month he died.

Towards the end of that fortnight the weather became strange and
undependable. Above the Holme Moss transmitter you could see alternating bands of weak sunshine and low thick cloud; shifts of pressure pumped them down from the plateau one after the other to give first a cold wind then a blue sky that seemed warmer than it was. Resting for a moment at the top of some problem, I would watch the late sun burning the bare trees and mill chimneys, igniting the windows of the double-glazed barn-conversions all the way to Greenfield. One minute things swam in light; the next they were flat and wintered, ordinary.

“It cuts like a knife,” whispered the Walkman: “But it feels so right.”

By now my leg ached all the time. At about two o’ clock on a Thursday afternoon–in one of those lenses of warmth and sunshine, with the Walkman turned up full so that energy and excitement flooded up inside me from moment to moment–I made a high step on a problem I had done a dozen times before. Something seemed to lurch inside my knee, like a small animal trying to escape. I was twenty five feet off the ground. A bit desperately, I threw my weight on to that leg and tried to stand up. Nothing happened, except that the headset of the Walkman came off and dangled on its wire in front of me, so that I stepped on it. The knee wouldn’t straighten. I tried to reverse the move, but I was already falling. Each time I hit something on the way down I thought, “That’s my shoulder, but it’s OK,” or, “That’s my foot, but it’s OK.” I could hear myself saying, “Christ! Christ!” I finished up in the heather under the climb, where the ground sloped away suddenly enough to absorb most of my momentum, with a sprained ankle and a few bruises. The sun had gone in. I was shaking. I could hear the motor of the Sony turning over creakily: and Mick’s clear voice in my head advising me,

“You’re not fit to be allowed out on your own, you incompetent wazzock.”

Fluid swelled the ankle, crushing the soft tissues until they blackened. I could still get about on it, but my knee would lock unexpectedly. I sat in the house for a week watching TV with the sound turned down and the Walkman turned up until it hurt my ears, trying to infer the news from jumbled footage of tanks and elder statesmen, the weather from the weatherman’s smile. High winds and rain were forecast until the New Year. Sometimes the moves I had done recently would pass before my closed eyes. Or I would hear jackdaws, and see with sudden heartbreaking clarity some crag in the summer sunshine: Hen Cloud, Bwlch y Moch, Beeston Tor.

“You can’t be ‘more or less’ lost,” I remembered someone saying.

You’re either lost or you aren’t.

Reading: Paul Bowles. Reviewing: Kurt Vonnegut. Looking forward to: four days in France. Amazed by: CW Stoneking, Jungle Blues.

post human

Al Robertson forwards this, which combines the trivial and the grotesque in an interestingly unironic way.

Find out more at PopSci–formerly Popular Science & still promising The Future Now–where in their 138th year of despair & wish-fulfilment they also offer a timely advance on an old favourite, the World’s First Everything-Proof Luxury Community.

Pity the rat couldn’t get a place in a similar facility before they stuck the wire up into its brain. Still, fuck that, if it’s stupid enough not to be human it deserves to be turned into proof of principle.

serial killing for charity

During a remand hearing, Stephen Griffiths confirmed his name as “the Crossbow Cannibal” & serial killing came of age as a UK media-career starter. Now it’s as formalised as any other challenge for people of all ages. It has a job description with a recognised structure and an inflated language. As soon as you decide to go all out for it, the system is in place to help you. It’s a standing invitation to excellence, to be as radical as possible in your ambitions, to go higher, faster, longer on the body count. It’s very much of our day. Everyone has the right to excel and be acknowledged, in two or three badly-spelled and ungrammatical entries on the BBC News-related Fictions & Public Psychodramas site. All serial killing lacks at the moment is the broader emotional connection to society. How can serial killing be presented as a fresh new method of exercise (the Red Gym) ? Where is the identity politics of serial killing ? More importantly, perhaps, where are the sponsors ? Where is the People’s Marathon ? Why isn’t it possible to serially kill for charity ? That’s such a motivator. I’d like to be the UK’s oldest serial killer. I’d like to reach for the stars and achieve my dream: but I want to put something back, raise a shedload of money for those people who maybe don’t quite have the energy & positivism I’ve been blessed with. I don’t feel it would be socially responsible to do it just to get noticed.

mysteries of cheltenham

Through the rinsing & leavening Mysteries of Cheltenham, John Gray, John Clute & Christopher Priest (here seen moderated by Sarah Crown) were transformed into Lady Georgianna, those ‘Ladies of Misrule’–

–i tell you i coud not belive mi eyes

light: nueva swing: pearlant

“He thought he wrote about the future, but it really was the past. In his novel, a mysterious train left for 2046 every once in a while. Everyone who went there had the same intention: to recapture their lost memories.” (Voiceover, 2046, dir Wong Kar Wai.)