Mar 13th – Stranded in Burma

March 13th – Stranded in Burma

20.55-21.05

I was going to write something amusing.

A British civil servant, perhaps, in the pre-war years, hopelessly out of his depth and struggling with the heat, the culture, the natives and an arcane filing system.

Or someone trapped in a restaurant, improbably named ‘Burma’, after it has closed, trying to work their way out.

But I’m not.

Because Burma, or Myanmar, as it is now called, sometimes, is not amusing. It’s not funny. Burma is not a good place.

So I’m going to write about the Rohingya. Because for the ones who can’t escape, the Rohingya are literally stranded in Burma. And they are being slowly and systematically wiped out by a brutal and callous regime. And Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, darling of the west, is complicit in her silence.

For those of you who don’t know, first of all – you should, and secondly, if the shitstorm of Brexit has blinded you to the fact that there is, in fact, something beyond British shores, or if the shitstorm of Trump has you looking for Mexicans scaling your garden walls, then this is something you should know about. And care about.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in a mainly Buddhist country.

Buddhists. Nice, peaceful, chanting Buddhists. All ‘Om’ and zen. Maybe I’m generalising. But you know the stereotype. And stereotypes work because we like to put people into boxes: it makes them easier to work with, easier to understand. It’s a simple way of seeing a complex world. but we like simple, because simple lets us get on with things without worrying too much about what might actually be going on. So we allow ourselves to be scared by a force-feeding media that tells us that Muslims are terrorists, while leaving us oblivious to the atrocities being dealt to the Muslim Rohingya on a daily basis by a Buddhist country with an abysmal human rights record.

There is nothing amusing about Burma.

The Rohingya mainly live in Rakhine State, where they have lived for generations, descendants of Arb traders who settled hundreds of years ago. And there they have stayed, generally peacefully, until the Burmese government decided they wanted them out.

The Rohingya have been denied citizenship, with the venerable (and feted) Aung Sun Suu Kyi even going as far as to deny their existence. They are not Burmese, she says, so they are not entitled to be in Burma.

Since the 1970s, the Rohingya have been slowly moving out of Burma into neighbouring Bangladesh and beyond, complaining of abuses from the local Burmese police and security forces. This has steadily escalated, and in 2017 the Burmese military undertook a state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, purportedly a move to drive out militants, but in reality a wave of aggression designed to remove the Rohingya from the land they have, as far as they can remember, always lived on. Villages have been burned to the ground, the fleeing Rohingya cut down in a massacre by Buddhist militias for whom justice is a blank script that they write with their own bullets.

This has led to what the UN have called the world’s fasted growing refugee crisis, as those that can have fled into massive camps across the Bangladeshi border. Those unable to escape are still subject to terror attacks and atrocities as the Burmese government look the other way and pretend that there isn’t a problem. The Rohingya remain, stranded in Burma, and there is nothing amusing about that at all.

 

Inspired by a prompt from here.

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Mar 11th – Fact or fiction

March 11th – Fact or fiction

19.40-19.50

My name is Sarah Jones.

I am a compulsive liar.

Or am I?

Right now you’re thinking, ‘Is her name really Sarah Jones?’ and you’d be right to think that. Question everything I say. Doubt yourself. Doubt the words that tumble from my mouth like glass stones and crack at your feet.

I am twenty-seven years old. Or am I seventeen? Or forty-seven? You can see all of these if you look at me, and then judge for yourself. But if you’re just reading these words now, on the page or on the screen, then what do you believe? How do you know?

I am left-handed.

I am right-handed.

Again, that poses a problem. Which am I? Which do you want to believe?

You might tell yourself that you don’t care, that it doesn’t matter, that the games I’m playing with your head don’t matter, but the problem is, you’ve read this far, and so you’re somehow invested in this. You’re going to read to the end. You need to know.

And now you think of my first line. ‘I am a compulsive liar.’ My first line, or my first lie. Or both. It’s like one of those puzzles you remember, where one person always lies and one person always tells the truth, and you need to ask the right question to find out the right answer.

Except here there’s just me.

I’ve given you no balance, no counterweight, no-one to set my words against. Would a compulsive liar tell you that they were a compulsive liar? Would you believe them if they did?

Do you believe me?

You want to believe me, you want to frame this narrative in something, give it some sort of meaning, impose your view of an ordered world onto this to make sense of it, but what if there is no order. What if I’m telling the truth? What if I’m lying?

What if?

My name is Susan James.

I always tell the truth.

 

Inspired by a prompt from here

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Douglas O’Malley

I met Douglas O’Malley one night on my way home from work.  I stopped off at my local for a quick, but much-needed pint.  It had been a rough day.  Week.  Year.  But I kept going.  Somehow.  My local had become my second home almost.  The barman knew my name and knew the type of beer I liked to drink.  I would just need to say, Hi, as I stepped towards the bar, and he’d be pulling me a dark, smooth ale, all within two minutes.  I liked my local.

Douglas O’Malley was sat on the stool at the corner of the bar.  He had one hand on his near-empty glass, and the other thumbing through the pages of a national newspaper.  Nothing unusual, except, he wasn’t reading the paper.  He was just staring past it.

Calling the barman over, I whisper, “Is he alright?” nodding to the weathered man sat on the stool in the corner.

“Yeah, he’s just… been through some things.  He’s a great character.  A lovely chap.” The barman smiles and finds another customer.

Looking back at the ‘great character’, I tried to think about what things he could have been through.  And my heart fell thinking of the possible worst.  Shaking my head – shaking out those thoughts, I pick my pint up and walk around to the man sat on the stool in the corner.  He lifts his eyes up from his paper – or the point past the paper and smiles at me.

“Hi, I’m Heather.  Can I join you?”

“Hello, sure.  Douglas O’Malley.  Lovely to meet you, Heather.”

 

….

Prompted by this link.

Springtime Splendour – Dead Deer

Springtime Splendour 

Pulling at his earlobe the ageing bank manager considered the frontage of his bank. Standing squarely, proudly and immovable in the very heart of the town. Deep coloured bricks, an impressive and solid building, the sense that it had always been there, would always be there, was palpable. Something, however, was not quite right. A splash of colour met his affronted eyes and he hurried to open up.

Seated now, in his office, he worried and thought. Miss Perkins had arrived and was called into the inner sanctum. Standing (never, ever to sit in this room) she listened intently to his concerns. She understood, and sympathised, but of course this was outside of her purview.

Naturally the manager agreed, was slightly perturbed in fact, that she may think that he wanted her to deal with it personally. No, no, they must consider who it was they must notify. Miss Perkins felt certain it was a job for the Town Council, which in truth it probably was.

This caused all manner of confusion, however. Obviously it was not possible for the manager to take the word of Miss Perkins, he must overrule her. Certain protocls had to be observed. Secondly his extremely complex relationship with the Council clouded the issue. He felt his long held burning desire to become, one day, mayor of this small settlement was well hidden, concealed. It was not. Would a complaint, at this time, be seen as an attack, his being awkward and attempting a Machiavellian approach to his ambitions? Or would tackling the problem himself be seen as over-riding the Council’s responsibilities. Tricky, very tricky indeed. He mused this problem the whole day, to the exclusion of all other business. Loans, overdrafts and repayment schedules were all put to one side whilst he tried to figure out his next move.

Meanwhile the tiny weed continued to grow in a crack at the base of the step of his Bank.

Today I wrote between 12:51  and 13:01. I was prompted by an idea here. My other writings here. All my prompted writing here, my tweets here, and my book here.

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Mar 10th – Bristly, yet sensible

March 10th – Bristly, yet sensible

19.31-19.41

Heads were turned at the closing weekend of Seville fashion week with the opening of Manolo Panolo’s Autumn/Winter 2020 collection.

Panolo, for Langoustine, sent out his models in an array of outfits inspired, according to Panolo himself, by the infinite variety and subtle effervescence of woodland life.

Browns and muted tonals were the dominant colours, augmented by splashes of iridescence inspired by the trout of Panolo’s childhood, shimmers of colours reminiscent of the scrape of scales resting gently on a light granite work surface in his Milanese grandmother’s cottage in the dying days of autumn.

Outerwear was led by daring asymmetrical uni-collared coats, in synthetic acrylic, featuring badger and ocelot motifs and faux-lynx buttons. Those of us lucky enough to have front row seats were able to marvel at the detailing, buttons reminding one of water voles in an early frost, and dormice at play.

Langoustine are known for their risk-taking approach to daywear, and this was year’s collection is no exception: one-armed jumpers were matched with one-legged hosiery, accessorised with Langoustine’s signature triangular day bag and diamond-soled heels. Several models were draped with this season’s must have shawl, gossamer thin and evocative of dying leaves and wood mulch on December 16th, just after the rain. Samples of these were included in Langoustine’s promotional packs, on of which your reviewer was lucky enough to receive (I am wearing mine as I type).

The highlight of the show, however, and the moment that proved Panolo has lost none of his wow-factor, was the head-turning appearance of Belgian supermodel Silke Verkeeft, taking to the runway to the sound of EDM wunderkinds MaX4’s thumping hit Enlightenment (Part Deux) naked, save for Langoustine diamond heels and Panolo’s take on the Ushanka, dubbed by those fortunate to get an early preview, The Hedgehog Hat. Verkeeft oozed the confidence that can only be brought about by having your head wrapped in something the designer himself, in customary understatement, described as bristly, yet sensible, while your much-vaunted body in its glorious nakedness, serves to highlight the wonder of such a hat.

Manolo Panolo himself took to the runway himself at the end of the show, applauded to the end by models and a standing audience alike, while Silke Verkeeft, still in the woodland ushanka, but now swathed in Panolo’s gossamer shawl, presented the designer with the customary bouquet of neon sunflowers, one of the symbols of the Langoustine brand.

A triumphant close to a spectacular week.

Marie Bloom, for Stylish Magazine, Seville.

 

 

Inspired by a prompt from here.

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Mar 9th – Pandemonium of a new kind

March 9th – Pandemonium of a new kind

09.23-09.33

mid 17th century: modern Latin (denoting the place of all demons, in Milton’s Paradise Lost ), from pan-‘all’ + Greek daimōn ‘demon’.

With the Miltonian version a little outmoded now, the demons were on the lookout for somewhere new. They’d tried a few places, on short term rentals, with the option to buy, but nothing was quite right.

The road bar in Nebraska had potential, at first, even if on the initial inspection it was a little small: there were quite a few of them, after all. The owner had assured them, however, that the outbuildings (a couple of barns and a sort-of shed) would be more than adequate for their purposes, and apart from actually knocking them down, they were free to do whatever they liked with them.

And so they’d moved in, all of them together, hiring a couple of trucks and a professional removals company to deal with the big stuff. Mastema and the Nephilim had put up some curtains in the bar, and re-clothed the pool tables with the dreams of the unworthy, which, they had to admit, was a particularly smooth move, and made putting swerve and screw on the ball a lot easier. A couple of the fallen angels manned the bar, working in shifts, and the rest of them strung up the fairy lights.

Pandemonium, they called it, and they opened on a Thursday afternoon, ahead of the weekend. They’d secured a supply deal with a local brewery, and even tapped into the emerging craft beer market, with a couple of rotating guest ales and some quirky IPAs. It was all looking good. Or as good as a demon-run establishment can look.

And it all would have gone swimmingly, if it wasn’t for the people. Ironic, really, that in a bar full of demons, it was the people that were the problem.

The bikers were fine. The first to arrive, they took in the new surroundings, slapped some coins down on the pool table and commandeered the impressively stocked jukebox which proved, once and for all, that the Devil does indeed have all the best tunes. Yes, the bikers were fine. They sparked up conversations with the resident demons, who were eager to share their knowledge, and the bikers regaled them with stories of life on the road: two gangs of outcasts who found something in each other worth holding on to.

It seemed like, finally, the demons had found somewhere that was actually going to work.

Then the others started coming in.

People passing by, with nothing to say for themselves, expecting food. They were just about tolerable. And then the locals came.

Drawn by the new bar in the neighbourhood, they came in their denim and their pick-ups, ready for trouble. And beer. Because trouble and beer are fine companions.

The demons didn’t want trouble. They could handle themselves, of course, but they weren’t actually looking for it. All they wanted was to get on with running the bar, and to see if they could really make a go of it. But when it all kicked off that first Saturday night, they just couldn’t help themselves.  The bikers, who had offered to help, could only sit back, awestruck, as the Nephilim ripped off heads and threw them out into the car park. The locals weren’t trouble for long.

But the authorities were. It seems that you can’t rip off heads from the shoulders of troublesome customers and be expected to keep your licence.

And so, less than a week after taking possession of the property, the demons were on the move again, looking for another Pandemonium, of a new kind.

 

Inspired by a prompt from here

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Mar 8th – The boy without a name

March 8th – The boy without a name
19.43-19.53

The boy without a name
likes to sit on the top deck
of buses, and watch the world
unravel itself outside the window.

Strips of cities tear
into strips of countryside
into strips of cities of again
and the boy without a name

lets it all go by.
The boy without a name
has an unremarkable face;
you don’t see him, clearly,

on the top of the bus,
with the world unravelling,
but he sees you, watches you,
notes your movements.

The boy without a name
carries no bag. He keeps his
story safe in the safe of his head,
combinations of events,

half seen, are accessed
when he needs them. He never
needs them. The boy without
a name casts no shadow:

He never walks in the sun.
His footsteps are silent,
a slippered ghost as he echoes
your pace: a grey shape

as you turn around. The boy
without a name is the brother,
the son, the nephew, the cousin
all of us never had.

At the last bus stop,
at the end of the stripped world,
there is an empty seat
and a lingering sense

of the boy without a name.

 
Inspired by a prompt from here

Mar 7th – Self-centered situations

March 7th – Self-centered situations

21.15-21.25

“How do you spell it?”

“Centred. C-E-N-T-R-E-D.”

“That’s not what it says here.”

“What does it say, then?”

“E-R-E-D.”

“What, at the end?”

“Yeah.”

“Ahh. That’s the American spelling.”

“American?”

“Yeah.”

“So is it wrong, then?”

“Well, it’s not exactly wrong, but – ”

“But?”

“But – well – actually it is.”

“It’s wrong?”

“Yeah. It’s wrong.”

“Why is it wrong, though? I mean, it’s not got one of those wiggly red lines underneath it.”

“Wiggly red lines?”

“Yeah, you know. When you spell something wrong. On Word, and that.”

“Well, just because it hasn’t got one of those – as you put it – wiggly red lines, doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. Because, actually, it is.”

“So Americans can’t spell?”

“Well, they can most of the time. Some of them are quite good at it. But there are some words that they always have problems with.”

“Like centred?”

“Yeah, like centred. And other R-E words. Like metre.”

“They can’t spell metre?”

“Nope. Metre, kilometre, centimetre. All of them. Not a clue.”

“Why’s that then?”

“It’s just the way it is. And it’s just wrong. And don’t get me started on aluminium.”

“Why’s that then?”

“Because they say aluminum. There’s too many vowels for them. It’s why they miss out the U in neighbour, and colour, and savoury.”

“They miss out the U?”

“Yep. Every time. Why did you want to know, anyway?”

“Know what?”

“About centred.”

“Oh, that. I was just finishing off my homework. I was asked to describe someone. I chose you, actually.”

“You did? What did you write?”

“I just wrote, ‘My dad is a self-centred grammar pedant, and a total arse at times.’”

“Oh.”

 

 

Inspired by a prompt from here

Mar 6th – Viable creations

20170720_165000

The Raven and The First Men sculpture, Bill Reid, Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Photo – Author’s Own

March 6th – Viable creations

14.27-14.37

The Haida people live in British Columbia. To the Haida, Raven was the Bringer of Light and before Raven the world was nothing more than a gigantic flood.

(Wikipedia)

Before time, the world was dark, and cold, and wet. There was nothing but water, and a rock, on which sat Raven, the maker of things. Raven knew he was maker of things, but there was nothing to make. Raven made himself aware.

With this knowledge, came loneliness, and a longing for something. Raven, maker of things, made the waters recede until there was land below, and his rock became a mountain from where he could look down on what he had made. Raven, bringer of light, created the day and his sister, darkness, and out of chaos came order. Raven stretched his wings and flew, tracing the edges of his world where the waters remained, skirting the tops of the trees he made grow along the coastlines, up to the north where the snows were born from the dying of the day. Raven’s wings beat shadows across the tops of the pine forests, and he was pleased with what he saw.

Raven was the magician, the transformer, and in his dreams he saw shapes that swirled and moved and spoke, and when Raven awoke he felt alone. He needed something to share his world with.

With the world came hunger, and Raven felt this for the first time. He flew high in search of food, almost to the house of the Sky-Father, and his shadow danced below him on the waters that sparkled in the sun he had made. And it was from here, looking down on what he had made that he heard a sound.

Curious, Raven swept down, and found the sounds were coming from inside a clam shell. Raven sang to the shell, as he had sung to himself on his rock in the before-time, and as he sang, to settle the sound, the shell opened and a small brown creature emerged, and then another, and from the shell stepped the first men, the first of the First People.

Raven watched the First people for a while, as Sun and her sister Dark and her cousin Moon came and went, but they didn’t please him: they were too similar, and Raven was growing bored, and hungry.

So Raven spread his wings again, and he flew from the sky to the rain trees in the south, where he found more of the first people, the same but different, trapped inside another shell, and Raven freed them with his song and brought them to the first First People, and watched as they learned to give names to the things that he had made, and to each other, and to the young they made, and Raven knew that this was good.

 

Inspired by a prompt from here.

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