Friday, August 7, 2009


detail from "les très riches heures du duc de berry" by the limbourg brothers, circa 1413.

On the littered waste ground my apartment block looms over I spied a woman in a white jacket. She was on her knees, still as death, feeding a gathering of pigeons. Or observing them intently. In much the same way I stood watching her.

We are so high up, at first I mistook her for just another plastic bag. I actually had to retreat into the kitchen to fetch the scratched set of binoculars which once belonged to my grandfather. I am a nosy motherf@cker at times, I must admit. Add that to my list of vices.

Well, alright. It transpired it was just another plastic sack, but that doesn't mean we don't have our ration of Francis of Assisis round here. Albeit most are content to simply drizzle breadcrumbs from their windows. Or leftovers and glass bottles; and on one notable occasion a pair of scissors which very nearly impaled my skull. There is even a Chinese family with impeccably green credentials who rise every morning at the crack of dawn and sally forth to uplift beer cans and used syringes before the many children shared between twenty-three floors spew out in a tide.

A regular battalion of weasel faced brats watch the elderly matriarch stooping to retrieve the debris which has accumulated overnight. They too are forced out of their homes as soon as the sun comes up. They watch her dispassionately as they cram crisps into their mouths. They drop their emptied packets under CCTV cameras mounted on the walls and run.

In less than a year they will begin to swagger. This is the ritual.

I cannot quite grasp why the Chinese family persist with it. But I admire their dogged perseverance all the same.

I hear Bill Burroughs whine in my ear:
' "Aren't you going to do something?" I demanded. He looked at me and yawned.'

That old woman refuses to be cowed. Like a peasant sowing the fields while the B52's buzz overhead.


Löst Jimmy said...

Descriptive reflections of your proximity, much of your imagery reminds me of my own local environs. I am almost at my wits end with the descent into dystopia locally here though. I used to do the whole tidy up thing here but gave up 2 years ago, the mess is one thing but it is the noise the 24/7 noise which has begun to wear me down. The local one man crime wave got out of gaol today and celebrations ensue as I type this with dry mouth and heavy heart.

ib said...

I fell into a premature slumber shortly before you typed this, Löst Jimmy. I hope the celebrations were not so bad as you feared.

"Dystopia" is the best word to describe it, especially the noise. I finally caved in with the social maintenance and cleaning thing a few years back too. Before I keeled over with an aneurysm. At its worst - with regard to the communal areas indoors - it was accompanied by the constant thud of drum and bass from all quarters. My nerves grew so bad I developed a twitch.

Right now we seem to have fallen into a truce of sorts. There is no suitable recourse which doesn't involve violence. The repercussions are too dreadful to contemplate. Better to live under siege on the outside than to suffer the same in gaol. Console yourself that the cardboard gangster currently plaguing you will be back inside before too long.

Peace, Löst Jimmy.

Löst Jimmy said...

Thanks ib, I hope the aneurysm was sorted out.

I got 3 hours sleep last night as the party desolved into sporadic fighting and the laughable attempts at drunken diplomacy between the various participants. I lay in my bed, in the twilight of dozing off and the heart-thumping start of being suddenly brought to life by thumping doors, screams etc. Trouble with it all is that by 8.20am this morning they were back at the vomiting and fighting and now at 2pm the party has resumed as nothing ever happened. I returned from the shops to see the main crime family arriving with boxes of Wife Beater bought from the 'offie' up the road.

I've been plagued with bad luck in living accommodation, out of the 4 properties I have lived in over the past 25 years only 1 place was without the vesitages of social decay. Without smearing my whinging self with the jam of self-pity, I 'ain't asking for much' just some peace and some quiet, some respite for heaven knows it is stressful enough in the factory.
I've said I'll be like some tumorous old bore.
C'est la vie...

ib said...

No, No; the aneurysm thing was merely a figure of speech. The spectacle of what might have been if I continued to vex.

The picture you paint is an all too familiar nightmare, Löst Jimmy. You have my sympathy. I lived for a time in a flat above Billy McNeill's pub. Overlooking a railway line as per now. Even with the continuous late entertainment license and the clatter of shift maintenance through till 6:00AM, it seems positively innocuous compared to the hell of "The Ministry of Sound: The Ibiza Remixes" and the piercing screams of domestic abuse.

There are moments, too, when I realise I have turned into Harry Cross before my time.