In the Shards of Night

The Consumer

It all begins with living your dreams. Not the actual dreams but the alternative, achievable dreams that you drift into as you spend your way to an identity you think a comfortable compromise – given the circumstances. Then, one day, the doorbell pulls you out of bed before your alarm clock does. You open the door, and a uniform-clad pair of strangers ask for your partner. Why not you? You ask what it’s regarding. They say it’s a private matter. You wake your partner who’s still ruffled after the first night of partying in long, long, long months. When you return to the door, one stranger is already both-feet inside the flat.

–Out! Out of the flat!
–I’ve got a warrant.
–Out of the flat!

They relent, eventually, stepping back into the morning chill. It turns out your partner has not paid a penalty for driving in the wrong direction. Allegedly. The reality of it hits you like a wet rag across the face. The wrong direction? An unpaid fine? Wait, what? When? Half a year ago? Why haven’t you been in touch?

–There’s a clamp on your car. Unless you pay up, it’ll be towed away.
–Wait a minute, you can’t just barge in and demand money.
–Look, be reasonable.
–Reasonable? Why has nobody notified us before?
–The council has sent you a letter; the debt-collector has sent you a letter; the court has sent you a letter.

You make the point of sifting through the unopened post addressed to previous tenants you’ve been diligently keeping safe for two years to find a voting register reminder addressed to nobody specific.

–Three letters? There has been no letter.
–Have you got your log book?
–No.
–Did it not strike you as strange that you wouldn’t receive it?

It’s your partner’s first car. You know she was autistically fussy about every detail. Could this have escaped her?

The pair dismiss whatever you say. Your remonstrations evince eye rolling and verbal nudges hinting at your being unreasonable. Are you? They remind you the interaction is being recorded. They don’t answer your questions, pointing you to Google. You’ve heard about that thing, but you insist on being unreasonable and persistently asking where to appeal. It’s all on the record – your being unreasonable, their being in right, your sleepy, harassed face, the inside of your flat. You relent and give them the precious credit card you’ve been refraining from touching for months. It doesn’t even hurt, does it? The receipt you are issued with has the neighbour’s address on it.

–I’m not signing this. This is the wrong address.
–It’s the address the car is registered at.
–It’s the neighbour’s address.

He scrawls something on the receipt and shoves it into your partner’s hand before scampering away, into the unbranded car like the cowardly scamster he is. REFUSED TO SIGN. They’ve known… The council correspondence can’t reach you; the debt-collector’s correspondence can’t reach you; the court correspondence can’t reach you – but the bailiff sniffs out your door like a hyena a slab of putrefying flesh. You wish all the preemptive measures were as efficient.

–How did you find the address, then?
–The car stands in front of your door.

The door that says ##. The door that decidedly does not say ##. The door that belongs to an anonymous tenant. The door whose number was not on any of the letters. The door whose number is not on any warrant. The door upon a threshold this pair of scamsters never had the right to cross.

Later, your partner knocks on the neighbour’s door. She is told that the bailiff was there too, recorded on the premises without even a tacit permission but that no mail in your partner’s name had ever been delivered at the address. Curiouser and curiouser; but do you believe them? You believe nobody. You trust nobody. Untrustworthiness is a universal quality, intrinsic, innate.

The authorities confirm the address is wrong and duly amend it, but they can’t make amends. What’s done is done. Whose fault it is is irrelevant in a world where the thing that actually matters is responsibility, and that invariably rests with you. So, plans fly out of the flimsy windows. What’s on your mind is the setback. You’ve been paying off your stupidity and lack of judgement for months. You’ve been unchoosing unnecessary choices and curbing irrational drives. What’s on your mind is the temerity. The bailiff’s underhand behaviour and lies are all on the record. They didn’t give a toss about anything – criminals and dregs of society like you do not deserve half a casual toss to be given about them. Thoughts and expletives fly in exasperation. Did she drive in the wrong direction? She did, the CCTV says – at two o’clock in the morning, in a deserted side road somewhere in —— where the GPS led you, where Google told you you’d find a 24-hour pharmacy that would fix your pathetic slashed finger instead of a busy doctor in the A&E. So much for an immigrant’s effort invested into an attempt not to waste the NHS’s precious budget…

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Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice

An obtrusive part of the cityscape, he looks down on passers-by who couldn’t care less. He’s stood there for so long, he’s known to everybody yet known by no one; just dust-coated brass among grime-encrusted concrete maintaining his cogitative countenance of casual conceit.

He was erected to remind a field of its purpose and so he did – for two orbits or so of the Earth around the Sun. Then his gaze grew less importunate, hazy, mundane until, eventually, it reminded the folk treading past him of no more than their quotidian purpose. Lofty ideals on a pedestal were too high for the pedestrian to whom he is now but an aberrant excrescence obtruding from the flat wall guiding their blind feet on the way to and from work.

More from the News Archive

12/05/2017

A soup can has exploded on a bus.

The tin filled with malodorous liquid burst open on the top deck of a stationary bus at B—- station at 12:34 today. There have been no casualtues so far.

The liquid appears to be thick and viscous and has chunk floating in it. It is believed to be harmless, albeit nauseating.

The 1—- bus from  M—- to R—- was motionless at the bus stop when an attempt to access the contents of the container ended in the contents escaping with a pop. It splattered all over the young lady holding the can and the window shield of the bus.

The lady has been offered a packet of tissues by a co-commuter.

Our reporter is on site and more may follow.

From the News Archive

30/09/2016

A man man is singing in G—- while being restrained by the police.

A gentleman, apparently of no fixed abode, is being pinned down on the pavement by five law enforcement officers wearing forensic blue gloves.

The gentleman, being thus immobilised and handcuffed, is singing the following lines in a catchy melody: “Fuckin’ pig/fuckin’ pig/fucking pig/fuckin’ pig!”

The situation is developing.

Occasional Transpositions

Writers ought, perhaps, to leave the protective cosiness of their homes and socialise every now and again, see other people so as to have more to draw on than their solipsistic selves; they may want to see a touch more of the tangible world beyond their doorsteps and escape the bubble of the hyperbolised world constructed by the media.

An event far down south drew me all the way from far up north the other day, one of the scarce outings I have done this year and the first one out of the pseudo-middle-class bubble I have found myself ensconced in. Having come too early to loiter in a pub without the intent to put down any brain cells with a sugar-laden beverage, I took a stroll around Deptford and explored with a lay sociologist’s eye the setting of Kate Tempest’s brilliantly disheartening novel, The Bricks that Built the Houses. I may have resided in places more or less grim, but as yet I have not lived in a place where the local high street has five betting shops huddling together next to their handy cousin, the pawnbroker’s.

It may be trite for a person who feels out of place everywhere to note how incongruous I felt in that street and how alienating the feeling was; but that was the effect of the place on me: a place left behind by the mainstream, local traders’ personal businesses in place of coffee factories; graffiti, tags, garbage, the otherness of the place’s commercial composition, the seedy, the beautiful and the beautifully seedy  were all inevitably interpreted in terms of deprivation. It engendered in me a sentiment of pretence and dissembled dissonance, perceived, churning and solidified in my oeasophagus, trachea, self-consciousness.

In my search for security, I recently dismissed the notion of displacement and moved into another borough in the north of the city. The move involved dealing with agencies bent on stripping and ripping off until the tenant has realised they have just signed a contract in blood and bony hand, their accounts have sunk into figures of an identically sanguine hue and their wrists have been tied tight behind their spineless back by an property investor living in a prosperous Far Far Away. The decision drove me into a flat in a dead-end road so secluded and soundless it cannot be overheard over the peace of the graveyard across the alley darker than the estate agent’s goodwill, a road whose rate of burglary stands at 80% higher than the average and whose disquieting quiet allows for no rest. It is a working-class dwelling at a middle-class price with two people in it trying to feel the security they’re renting while being too aware of its dearth. People of Deptford, at least, do not seek the illusion of stability, the faux-respectability and branded seal of approval in a life-style far beyond its worth. They live the reality with all its dreams, the realised, the unrealised and the abyssally bleak.

Autumnal Burnt Oak, 6am

I walked the length of the road from up at the junction to the station down the hill where the road caves in before rising again. The morning was inebriated with winter-crisp street lights refracting in a thin fog hovering between the two baleful rows of rundown terrace houses, & the shuttered store-fronts & rubbish strewn on the pavement & tarmac evoked a curfew in a B-list zombie flick. All were fled; the dross, debris, detritus – the evidence of a hasty flight – sat cold in a dewy coat, & the road was dead except for the languid motion of the apparently living. The dawn workforce was not plodding to work but rather prowling the pavements, straying, occasionally, off onto the litter-spotted ground beyond the kerb as if foraging for scraps like dawn-clad foxes sniffing the spoor of leaky refuse bags. Disorientated & displaced, I trailed a silent couple that broke its way through the haze of stagnant particles, following a purpose. […] This Burnt Oak was a postcard of the rare charm of the baited working-class posing against weary, dilapidated urbanity.