iamhyperlexic

Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Dear Mr Fascist

Dear Mr Hypothetical Fascist:

Why do you feel so vulnerable?  I get globalisation, and the constant changes in the job market, and I have to put up with all that, but it doesn’t make me hate other people.

I don’t hate gay people.  The fact that gay men exist doesn’t mean that they want to bugger you, personally.  You are probably nowhere near their league.  And, as for gay women – you might as well be building a base on one of the moons of an as-yet-to-be-discovered exo-planet.

Polish sausage in supermarkets, with the legend in Polish – this sausage is on sale AS WELL AS, not INSTEAD OF other sausage.

I have been to four universities, and I am unemployed.  But I am not trying to blame other people.  I listen to reggae and ska musik.  I cook South Asian food.  I converse using French and German quotations.  This cultural diversity has not yet secured me another job, but it has still done me a lot of good.

The concepts of Britishness/Englishness/Masculinity/Employment are all being challenged.  What else would you expect?  I would start by saying that you do not have to be British to be British.  You think that sounds like sophistry or gibberish?  The person I have in mind in Mayala Yousufzai.  She was born in Pakistan, but she is British.  And not just because she was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham.  “Shot in the head for campaigning for female education?  Kept going?  British.”

So if you want to demonstrate how British you are, you are going to have to do something more constructive than merely being bright pink and wearing a silly, St George T-shirt.

Advertisements

Book launch: Something I Need To Tell You, Leeds Library, 11 July 2018

The launch of my debut short fiction collection, ‘Something I Need To Tell You’, will be at the Leeds Library (not the Central Library – the one on Commercial Street) from 7-10pm on Wednesday 11 July 2018.

There will be a small number of short readings.  Short, I said.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1882445795149897/

Refreshments, including beer and wine, will be available.

You can pre-order the book:  http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/something-i-need-to-tell-you/

The Leeds Library happens to be celebrating its 250th anniversary, this year.

Poem: Water Molecules

Water Molecules

 Each one is a little, spiky thing,
looking like something the police 
might scatter on the road to burst the tyres
of a stolen car.  They are in the exhaust 
emitted by the car.  They are in the exhaust
emitted every time you exhale. 

They suffer from bipolarity and are 
sick beyond treatment, unable even to admit
they have a problem.
This condition makes them stick to their neighbours,
faster than leeches,
faster than Triads, the Mafia:
faster than that chap you met at the freshers’ fair
who had seemed all right at first.

Seventy per cent of him was made of them.
They were trying to stick to you then, like they 
are sticking together now, inside you, 
in your blood, your bones, your brain. 

If it weren’t for the insane grip
of these little tetrahedrons, 
there’d have been no Pyramids,
no Hitler, no Internet,  no mobile phones, 
nothing carved into the Stanza Stones.

Matthew Fisher is a hero.

It was never my intention to allow this site to become dominated by sport.

However:

Matthew Fisher, age 20, 1st class batting average 14.33, Highest score 37, hits 24 off 8 balls to lead Yorkshire Vikings to victory. Fisher’s innings: 2 4 6 1 2 1 4 4. He scored off every ball faced, all of which were in the last 2 overs. Half of everything he faced went to the boundary.

Matthew Fisher is a hero.

Amorous mad-women

The phrase was coined by Paul, in the 3rd form, in 1981.  They were girls who would approach you and start to talk about emotional or sexual subjects, with the express purpose of making you embarrassed.  Sometimes they would hunt in packs.  They were terrifying.

The worst at my school was a girl called Christina Saul.  She was of Polish origin.  Paul and I used to refer to her as ‘the amorous mad-woman with the biblical surname’.

She was last heard of living in Spain, in a lesbian relationship.

I can’t speak for Paul.  Nobody apart from Paul can speak for Paul.  But I now converse on a daily basis with a right load of weirdoes, and it all seems to go remarkably well.

I have learnt that the embarrassment of the teenage era had two components.  The obvious one was that it was about something tense, smutty, or inappropriate.  But that was not all.

The rest was about the fact that what was being said was obviously not genuinely directed to the purported recipient.  Their basic tactic was to walk up to you, and say, “I really love you,” which might have seemed great, except for the fact that it obviously wasn’t true.

And you need to keep saying, “Thirteen.  Thirteen. Thirteen.”  There is a great deal of difference between a boy of thirteen years of age, and a boy of sixteen.

It was regular, if not systematic, emotional abuse.  Paul and I lived through it.

And now, I like to camp it up with the best of them, not because I am sublimating abuse, but because that is what I like to do.  I have learnt a lot of vocabulary since then, and a lot of manners.  My wife, Valerie, also does camp supremely well.

Howard Wilkinson turned me into a feminist.

I was conceived, born, and grew up in Leeds.

After I left university, in Liverpool, I began to identify with Leeds United Football Club.  This was in the late 1980s.  The club had then, by no means, left behind its legacy of hooliganism.

I cannot deny that there was a certain cachet to being associated with the most hated and despised club in World Football.  Unlike certain other clubs I could mention, we didn’t even bother to chant, “No-one likes us / We don’t care”.   To do so might have sounded like doing our haters’ work for them, which we didn’t want to do, because we hated them as much as they hated us.  It was just that our hatred, unlike, say, Rangers v Celtic, was a more equitable form of hatred.  Apart from Sunday League teams, there is only one team in Leeds, and so, if you support Leeds United, you hate every other team in the world, equally.

Be that as it may.

In 1993, I was living in Glasgow, and became very perturbed about the fact that the Football Association fined Leeds United and Manchester United for withdrawing their respective teams from a youth competition, on the grounds that it would over-tax young players they were expecting to break into their senior teams.  They regarded the youth competitions as a means of bringing young players on, not running them into the ground.  The actions taken by Leeds United and Manchester United seemed completely reasonable to me.

I wrote to Howard Wilkinson, the then manager of Leeds United.  I wrote to Alex Ferguson, the then manager of Manchester United.  I wrote to the Football Association.

I got no response from the Football Association.

I got a printed letter from Manchester United, which acknowledged the point I had written about, and had a US-presidential-style pro forma signature from Alex Ferguson.

I got a hand-typed letter from Leeds United, with a hand-written signature in blue biro from Howard Wilkinson.

He acknowledged my letter to the Football Association (which I had enclosed).  He said he agreed with all the points I had raised about youth football, and players potentially being required to play too many games.

The last line of his letter was, ‘Thank you for your support.’

The thing was that I hadn’t given him any support, other than emotional support.  I hadn’t intervened.  I hadn’t managed to change the situation.  But he still thanked me for my support, and this is from a chap who has never been known for being emotional.

Even though the letter was about men’s football (and don’t get me started on the patriarchially-suppressed history of women’s football, because we would be here for the next two centuries) the words, ‘Thank you for your support’, in that letter struck me at the time as feminine.  They also struck me as strong.  And when you have feminine and strong, you have feminism.

I continue to reflect on this.  If, as a man, I had to sum up my idea of what feminism has to say about the male-dominated world in one sentence, it would probably be, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this.’  That may sound trite, but I doubt I would have got this far without that letter from Howard Wilkinson, and, it is worth noting, I only got those words from him because I wrote to him in the first place.   There are few things in the world which are as important as clear, timely, and honest communication.

Announcement: Wakefield Litfest 2018

There will be no official Wakefield Litfest 2018.

There might be an unofficial writing, spoken word, and varied arts festival in Wakefield, in 2018.

If you are interested in contributing, then join our Facebook group, or post a comment on this article:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1890331577914664/

At the moment, we have no funding.  All we have is our city, its people, its performers, its venues: our own faculties.

Something is definitely going to happen, whether we get external funding, or not.

We Are Wakefield.  Refugees Are Welcome.  We Are Not Giving Up.

Review: 20 Stories High, by Michael Yates

ISBN 978-0-9934811-8-5

Armley Press

GBP 8.99

This collection contains some experimental pieces, including one which has no human characters, and others in which some of the characters are human, but also dead.  There is a story set aboard a stranded spaceship, in which two of the characters are inscrutable robots with seemingly diametrically opposed moral purposes.

There are some references to what the Open University calls ‘sensitive material’ (substance abuse, violence, sex – particularly sexual impropriety) and a healthy amount of swearing.

I enjoyed this collection in two, separate ways.

The experimental stories intrigue me not so much in how the weirdness of the story is set up, but more by how it is resolved.  These resolutions, without contradicting any of the set-up, often emphasise the more basic elements of character, motive, and desire.

This leads me to the second way I enjoyed them, which was to dwell on Michael Yates’s own biography and career as a provincial journalist in the days before word processors and the smoking ban.  Whether set in a sub-editor’s office or a spaceship, Michael Yates’s most convincing characters are male, middle-aged, and have a chip on their shoulder about something they may or may not admit to.  The chap who might try to bore you to tears in a golf club or railway station bar is somebody we never want to meet, but I do like to read about him in Michael Yates’s stories.  Michael, like any good writer, can make a character who sounds as if he has had a boring life come clean about the one part of it that makes a good story.  An extraordinary person, telling interesting stories, will soon get boring.  An ordinary person, telling just one story, as if his life depends upon it, can be fascinating.

I will not divulge which among the collection is my undoubted favourite.  I will just say that it uses a borrowed title, a first person narrator who is clearly out of his mind, and it has no section breaks.

Review: Tom Allen, Theatre Royal, Wakefield 3 February 2018

The theatre was packed.  The moment Tom Allen arrived on stage, I could only hear Lord Peter Wimsey’s voice in my head, talking about Mr Willis from Murder Must Advertise.  “And he wears, I deeply regret to say, a double breasted waistcoat. That is the most sinister thing about him.”

That is by no means the most sinister thing about Tom Allen.

The support act was provided by George Lewis.

When Tom Allen came back, he did a stint of interacting with the audience, in an ironic way.  He asked people what they were called, what they did for a living, another question about what they did which was calculated to confuse them, and then said something mildly disparaging.  This is a formula that works very well, and Tom Allen does it to a tee.  He asked somebody, as a follow-up question, ‘What is your favourite council tax band?’

He identified Terry, and then James, who happened to be sitting next to Terry, and they turned out to be married, to each other, and had been together for 22 years.

When he gets going, Tom Allen’s delivery is fast, supremely skilful, and it pauses in unexpected places, but for reasons that become clear. Tom Allen generates comedic tension not just from what he is saying, but from the way he is saying it, as well.  When you get the two things together, you know you are listening to a real stand-up comedian.

Tom Allen does what stand-up comedians have to do, which is make a believable world which is about them, make everything important about them.  Tom Allen’s world is a place that has problems, but which many of the audience, including me, would have liked to inhabit.

This is rather a short review, because I was too busy listening to Tom Allen’s act to make many notes, and, when I did make notes, it was too dark in the Theatre Royal for me to write clearly.

 

iamhyperlexic: New Year’s Resolution

2017 was a bad year, with more people on zero hours contracts, and other exploitative working arrangements; people in full time work who are reliant on food banks; the continuing creeping privatisation of the NHS, and other scandals.

What I want you to do in 2018 is complain, in writing.

If you are middle class, then dust off that degree certificate, and put it to some use.  Articulate.  Decide what it is that you don’t like, identify whose responsibility you think it is, and write to them, on expensive paper.

Keep writing to them, until they give up.

If you are working class, then you don’t need to dust anything off, because any letter you write will come with a complementary thunderbolt.  You have the capacity to scare the hell out of the ruling elite, at your fingertips.

The complainer’s handbook is Whitaker’s Almanack.  You can find it in your local library (if it’s still open, of course.)  You can buy it from Waterstones, but it costs £90.  It contains, among other things, the address of every government department, every local council, and every other organisation that might be considered to be an emanation of the state.

If you are living with a disability and need more access or support, complain.  If you are being discriminated against, complain.  If you are on low pay, or unemployed, complain.  If your housing needs are not being met, complain.  If you are worried about environmental issues, complain.   If your transport needs are not being met, complain. If your health needs are not being met, complain. If you can’t get access to education, complain. If you work in the arts and can’t get funding, complain.  If there is a humanitarian crisis that you think requires our effort, complain.  If there are other people in your community who are experiencing injustice and who can’t advocate on their own behalf, complain.

Complain, complain, complain.  In writing.

In the era of paper-based offices, desks would usually have two trays on them, “In” and “Out”.  Let’s make 2018 the year of the tray labelled, “Oh, Bloody Hell.”