Anger – Week 46 of the 52 week short story challenge

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For the purged

‘So,’ he said, ‘What makes you feel angry?’

I looked at him with the kind of face you pull when you really can’t believe that someone has asked you such a silly question.

‘You know better than anyone what makes me feel angry.’

He laughs. ‘I know what I think makes you feel angry but I don’t know if they are the same things. Tell me? I really want to know.’

I shrug and take a deep breath. I hate these word games but we have to play them so I might as well get it over with.

‘Child abuse, adult abuse, domestic violence, abuse of power – particularly when it is well-paid MPs and greedy members of officialdom taking money and services away from those who desperately need them. Let’s face it – abuse makes me angry – in any form.’

He nods calmly, infuriatingly calm in fact.

‘So how does it feel when someone who doesn’t even know you accuses you of ‘abusive behaviour’ then?’

That makes my hackles rise.

‘The alleged ‘abusive behaviour’ was accidental and it was not aimed at any individual, and doesn’t meet any prescribed criteria of abuse anyway.’

I can feel my face getting hot and red.

He nods. Still calm.

‘But somebody felt offended by that behaviour. Somebody felt strongly enough about the abusive behaviour to complain about it, didn’t they?’

‘No. It wasn’t like that and you know it wasn’t. The powers that be were after us because they disagreed with us. They were frightened of the power that we held due to our numbers and so they sought to cut those numbers down – by using underhand – and I think illegal methods.’

He frowns. ‘Illegal? How do you mean?’

‘I never gave anyone permission to go trawling through my social media accounts. I only gave them the details because they said that the information was needed to communicate with me. I don’t think that the person who originally made the form thought that the data would be used in such an underhand way. That kind of Machiavellian process comes from someone with a particularly devious and hateful mind.’

He is still frowning and I can see that I have him on uncomfortable ground. So do I press him or back off? I look over at my lovely friend; the one who supported me when I had to battle against authority before. She gives a very slight shake of her head and I back off. He looks down at his sheaf of papers again.

‘I need to ascertain whether or not you feel any regret over your actions – and whether you would be likely to make this kind of comment again.’

This really makes my blood boil. My friend is desperately trying to catch my eye and calm me down.

‘All I did was retweet something that someone else said – and unfortunately that same person added hash tags on the end of the tweet that I hadn’t even noticed. I subsequently found out that the words in those hash tags were banned from use three weeks later. I regret not noticing those words now but as they were banned after they had been used, I had no control over the action. Would I be likely to make that kind of comment again? No. Nor would I be so foolish as to allow anyone to have access to my social media accounts.’

‘That wasn’t quite what I was asking for.’

‘That is all you are going to get from me. I am the person whose reputation has been defamed, I lost my vote as a consequence of this underhand behaviour and now you expect me to grovel and apologise? Forget it mate!’

It is at this point that my friend puts her hand on my arm and turns to the young man.

‘Please don’t take it personally, we both know that you are trying to sort things out but I don’t think the people who started this realise how much harm has been done – or what a horrible position you are being put in having to go round and sort out issues that are of someone else’s causing.’

Although I am angry, I know that she is right. This earnest young man is not responsible for causing my anger. The people who did that are too frightened to face us because they know what damage they have done. It was intentional. All part of a noxious plan to put the wrong person back in power. I am still seething but I am back to a simmer rather than a boil.

‘I can offer you membership but this incident will stay on file.’

This is not fair but there is a bigger picture here. This ‘staying on file’ is intended to insult me and make me feel so angry that I stand up and walk away – if you don’t want me then I don’t want you. But that is exactly what they want. They failed to get rid of enough of us to win at the first attempt, so now they are trying to alienate us with this additional slight.

I look across at my friend and she nods.

‘Okay. Do what you want. I want to be a member so that I can help to get rid of the people who are attacking the vulnerable people and making them suffer.’

His shoulders slowly sink back down to a normal level and he seems surprised that I have capitulated so easily.

‘It isn’t just about me you see. I have to remember that there is a bigger picture. I really don’t care about what your boss and his deluded friends think of me. My thoughts are my own and will stay that way if there is any chance that they’ll be used against me again. There is one thing though…’

My friend looks worried and so does the young man.

‘Not only do I love the Foo Fighters, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the Stranglers, but Lemmy from Motorhead will always be my hero. So ner.’

It ends in laughter and more than a little relief. I don’t see it as stepping down. There is work to be done and I need my freedom in order to support others.

And then I stepped out of the shower.

 

 

 

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A Small Political Intervention – Week 31 of the 52 week short story challenge

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I’ve always liked people who have a twinkle in their eyes. A wry smile rather than an ear-splitting guffaw. A sense that there is more going on behind those eyes than you might think.

I’ve already written about my renewed interest in political matters (Week 29 ‘To Thine Own Self Be True‘) but recent developments require a small updating.

I am officially a registered supporter of the Labour party – having forked out my 25 quids and refrained from using threats, bad language or failing to support the aims and objectives of the Labour party.

Twitter has become a bit of an obsession and I am sure that I retweet far more than I should but I haven’t had any rude comments – so far.  I follow quite a few comedians and writers, organisations dedicated to preserving wildlife, the Green party (I promised the  young Master of Science and all things Green that I would – although I don’t follow him on principle in case I see something that a mother shouldn’t.) I also follow my wonderful cousin Ali Sparkes who writes brilliant children’s books and my friend Mark who runs a business cleaning ovens, houses and offices.

The number of people I follow – and who follow me – has increased threefold in the last couple of weeks. The bulk of my Twitter acquaintance has come about because of Jeremy Corbyn. I have also discovered the joys of muting and blocking – the Twitter equivalents of Pacman – and a satisfying way of getting rid of Twitterers who are rude, threatening or trying desperately to get other people into trouble.

As a new Labour party member, I took it upon myself to find out who the MPs were, who they represented, those that were brave enough to sign up for Twitter, and what kind of tweets they put on.

My conclusions are:

  • some Labour MPs are exceptionally hard-working and use their Twitter accounts to publicise events and good works in their constituency areas. They don’t put negative tweets on. You can learn about them as people and MPs from what they write.
  • some Labour MPs use their Twitter accounts as a weapon to disrespect other members of their own party  – and other Twitterers. They moan about bullying and abuse but are quick to make threats, abusive comments and tell HUGE great porkie pies in order to whip their supporters up into a frenzy. You can learn about them as people and MPs from what they write.

I do my best not to retweet stuff with lots of bad language; I know that tempers run high and there are times when a good swear helps but not in writing and not in a place where it can be used against you.

Fellow Twitterers that resort to personal insults get blocked (after I’ve had a sneaky peek at their profiles). Someone had a look at mine and commented that I wasn’t worth bothering with – phew!

Apologies to the nice chaps out there but most of the really aggressive and abusive Twitterers do seem to be ‘ bully boys’ of a certain age who have little else to do but make nasty comments and cause trouble. Block!

I like Jeremy Corbyn because he doesn’t do nasty. Even when faced with the most biased interviewer or Cruella de May herself, he remains calm, reasonable and polite.  People complain that he doesn’t defend himself in PMQs but this is merely because he doesn’t have to stoop to the personal insults, cackling and hectoring of Cameron, May and their supporters. The silly Labour boys and girls who join in with juvenile and disruptive behaviour fail to understand that they are making themselves look stupid. Who wants to elect an MP who behaves like a spoilt child and a bully?

I certainly don’t.

The trouble is, we have become so used to politicians being arrogant, rude, insulting, lying, claiming ‘honours’ for friends, and being totally out of touch with their constituents, that when an honest man appears, a man who doesn’t wear Savile Row suits, uses public transport or rides his bike, AND is a vegetarian, we don’t know what to do.

We don’t believe him.

Politicians are not allowed to be honest and trustworthy. They are supposed to have deep dark secrets concerning the source of their wealth, their illicit affairs and their unsavoury habits. We have been overtaken by career and hereditary politicians who are looking for fame, glory and power. Especially power.

No.

Enough now.

There are good politicians out there. People who have gone into politics because they want to make changes for the good. Because they want to help disabled people, disenfranchised youth, immigrants, people living below the poverty line – anyone who needs them really.

People like Jo Cox MP.

She may not have agreed with everything the leader of her party did and said, but she would not have sworn at him, accused him of persecuting her or threatened violence to him. She tried to achieve change through positive words and actions. Other MPs would do well to look back on her works and learn from them.

Aggression, violence, lies and threats solve nothing. Using them to try to harm Jeremy Corbyn is pointless; he shrugs off such behaviour like the impotent drops of poison that they are. We give people the power to hurt us and somehow, Jeremy has has the skill of diminishing that power – wherever it comes from.

I shall continue to Tweet and Retweet. I don’t know if Jeremy will win the leadership election – I really hope he does and that the Labour party pulls itself together and upholds the aims and the objectives that it so keen for the rest of us to uphold. I hope that the silly boys and girls on the back benches stop squabbling,  work for their constituents and support their leader as they should – he was democratically elected after all and the Labour party embraces democracy – doesn’t it?

The Referendum has already caused hurt and harm throughout the land – and I don’t care what the Brexiteers say – they had no idea of the devastation that a Leave vote would cause for all of us.

Now is the time for the Labour party to unify behind their leader, not indulge in petty fights and name-calling. Time to earn trust and expect nothing more than respect for good works.

It is a time to be honest, to understand the meaning of integrity.

It may not be Jeremy Corbyn who leads Labour into a General Election in 2020; there are other MPs in the wings who are not ready to lead just yet but given time…

They are the MPs that listen and learn, that fight against discrimination and prejudice, that put themselves out to combat injustice.

No more nastiness please?

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Sheer Indulgence – My Top Twenty-Five

 

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In May 2012 whilst flicking through Twitter, I discovered a link to a site called ‘This is my Jam’.

The site gives you the opportunity to choose your favourite piece of music (or comedy clip) and post it.  You can leave a brief comment on the post and as well as sharing your choice with other jammers, you can also link it to FaceAche and Twitter – to name just a few social media sites.

I love ‘This is my Jam‘ because it enables me to play my favourite songs and to listen to those enjoyed by other people.  I’ve found old favourites that I’d forgotten about and discovered new singers and groups that might otherwise have been lost to me.

Apparently 130 other jammers appreciate my choices – which is nice 🙂

Since May 2012 I have posted 162 of my favourite jams – which is roughly (very roughly – numbers are NOT my strong suit) one a week.

From that 162, I’m going to extract 25 – and in no particular order (ooh, sounds like Strictly Come Dancing!) attempt to explain why they are special to me.

Some of my jams have been shared by at least 75 of my fellow jammers, some  have fewer shares but I love them anyway and the others appeared on the site for the very first time – some surprises for me there.

They are songs that make me want to dance, songs that make me smile or cry so those offended by sentimentality may as well bog off now.

Ta Ra La!

One – Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye – I put this on after hearing my very talented young cousins singing it at a family birthday party. I like it and so did 776 other jammers.

Two – Rip It Up – Orange Juice – A song that always makes me smile and want to sing along with its boppy, popcorn beat. Huge respect for Edwyn Collins after all he and his family have gone through.

Three – Teenage Kicks – The Undertones – A common love shared with John Peel – I think I’m having more fun now than I did when I was a teenager though.

Four – Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt – Covered by others more famous but there is something in the plaintive wispy singing of Robert Wyatt that makes this song even more poignant.

Five – Rock The Casbah – The Clash – Another song that makes me want to get up and dance – preferably in the dark.

Six – River – Joni Mitchell – My big sister and big brother introduced me to Joni Mitchell and my love for her music has never gone away.

Seven – Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand –  Another choon to jig around  the kitchen to.  Love that beat.

Eight – Weapon Of Choice – Fatboy Slim –  I couldn’t believe it the first time I saw the accompanying video.  Having only ever seen Christopher Walken in sinister or menacing roles, this was a wonderful revelation.  The man can really dance!

Nine – Life’s What You Make It – Talk  Talk – Guaranteed to lift my spirits however bad a day it is.  The wailing guitar solo sets the hairs on the back of my neck quivering.

Ten – Peaches En Regalia – Frank Zappa – I was amazed to find that 75 other jammers liked this one too.  I listened to a lot of Zappa  music in my teens – my mother hated it – but not quite as much as she hated Captain Beefheart.

Eleven – Roxette – Dr Feelgood – Timeless  – and as I listen I can see Wilko Johnson stalking ominously around the stage – a fitting tribute to a lovely bloke.

Twelve – Rush Hour – Jane Wiedlin – I have to stop and sing along whenever I hear this song on the radio. Happy words and an equally happy tune.

Thirteen – Rocking In The Free World – Neil Young – ‘One more kid that will never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool’. Heartbreaking.

Fourteen – A Dream Goes On Forever – Todd Rundgren – If I had to choose the best, this is a song I would never grow tired of hearing.

Fifteen – Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon –  This is dedicated to the one I love – my Hub.

Sixteen – Go Buddy Go – The Stranglers – Yeah! The definitive get up and boogie song.

Seventeen – Loveshack – B52s – Hub and I have made complete and utter fools of ourselves dancing along to this one – and we DON’T care!

Eighteen – My Sharona – The Knack – A song to sing along to in the car with the sound turned up to eleven.

Nineteen – Capricorn – Motorhead – If Lemmy can be said to be romantic – this comes near it – dedicated to me by my Hub.

Twenty – Sail On Sailor – Beach Boys – Love the Beach Boys but love this one the best – it’s a bit spooky.

Twenty-One – The Time Is Now – Moloko –  Such a smoky, sexy song. Flippin’ heck!

Twenty-Two – You’ll Hear Better Songs Than This – Eleanor McEvoy –  My Bezzie Mate introduced me to Eleanor McEvoy. Love her voice and love the humble and beautiful message of the song.

Twenty-Three – As The Snowflakes Fall – Smith and Burrows – This is just one of the wonderful alternative Christmas songs on the album.  I had to force myself to choose just this one.

Twenty-Four – Northern Sky – Nick Drake – ‘Brighten my Northern skies’. A beautifully romantic song to lighten the saddest of hearts.

Twenty-five – My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains – Captain Beefheart – Not renowned for romance, I love Beefy’s ballad the best.

Having got to 25, I am now discovering loads of other songs and singers that I’ve left out – so…

Anything by Steely Dan, The Stranglers, Paul Weller (in all of his incarnations), Paulo Nutini, Foo Fighters, Carole King, Jake Thackeray, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac.

When I pop my clogs I would like ‘Old And Wise’ – Alan Parsons Project – playing as you troop in to the Crem, and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ – Fairport Convention‘ playing as you trudge out to admire the flowers – freesias please?

Not that I have any intention of shuffling off this mortal coil for some time to come – but it’s nice to get these things settled way ahead of time.

Oh, and the Lovin’ Spoonful, The Mamas and Papas, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer – ‘She Makes My Day‘ – Glorious!, my cousin Jake singing ‘Witchita Lineman‘ in my front room and making me blub.

Yes, music hath charms to soothe this savage breast (not beast) – well said William Congreve.

Time to break out of my mellow mood now and catch up ‘The Neighbours From Hell’.

This week’s jam is ‘I Won’t Back Down’  –  Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ – I love the song but I think Sam Smith might have been listening to to around the time that he wrote ‘Stay With Me’.

Just sayin’.

Check out ‘This Is My Jam’. You’re worth it.

 

 

 

‘Bullies’

Any bullying is bad but using the internet and social media to stalk, insult and mock is the worst. It happened to me today.

 

Gavin looked up at the clock.  Twenty past two.  Time for a snack.  His parents were sound asleep and would not be disturbed by the sounds of him whipping up a way after midnight snack.  He shut the door from the living room to the stairs, and then quietly closed the kitchen door so that no cooking smells would permeate the upper floor.  He had been caught out like that before.  Despite the meticulous washing up and putting away of all the cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils, his mother’s face the next morning at a breakfast of rubbery scrambled egg and burnt toast, had said it all.

It was the silent reproach that hurt him the worst.  He could parry the acid comments as they fell from her disappointed lips, but the look on her face, the look that told him how ungrateful he was for supplementing the food his mother so carefully ruined for him, it cut him to the quick and made him even more determined to hide his secret excesses.

There was no such reproach from his father however; locked inside the fantasy world that had descended long before the official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease had been made, his father smiled through every day in a place where he shovelled in the burnt offerings as if they were ambrosia from the gods.  A place where the TV held new delights every day and the operation of the remote control was a thing of wonder.  Answering the telephone was slightly more problematic; Gavin’s mother wasn’t always quick enough to seize the handset before his father’s querulous voice could begin interrogating whichever hapless PPI salesperson or accident insurance company had called.  His mother dealt with all callers with a briskness at odds with her age and disabilities; cutting through the call centre scripts and dispatching the recorded messages with expediency.  She was a formidable woman.

Hatches thoroughly battened down now, Gavin began assembling the foods for his favourite late night meal; chicken breast, salsa, onions, peppers, a soft tortilla or two, sour cream, grated cheese and oh, deep joy, guacamole.  He was the fajita king!

Ready to rustle up his guilty pleasure before creeping back to his internet stalking on the laptop, he could feel his mouth fill with saliva that wasn’t just due to thesmell of the food. He would savour every mouthful, washed down by an illicit bottle of fizzy drink that he had smuggled home in his briefcase with the fajita ingredients.  His mother didn’t approve of fizzy drinks having seen a programme where they left pennies in a glass of fizzy overnight and produced a batch of shiny metal in the morning.

“Just think!” she said.  “Just think what that stuff is doing to your stomach!  I didn’t go through fifty-three hours of agonising childbirth to have your stomach ruined by fizzy drinks!  Are you sure that you aren’t drinking this rubbish at work?  I can always ask your secretary!”

Gavin had briefed his secretary well.  Anna was a good girl.  Not bright but bright enough to understand that when Gavin’s mother phoned she was to use the list he had made for her when replying to questions and not to deviate from the set topics.  Yes, Gavin was in a meeting. No, she wouldn’t forget to ask him to call his mother back, she was writing a note for him at the moment and would pop it on his desk for his return.  Yes, she had seen Gavin eat the sandwiches his mother had prepared for him and she had only made him two cups of coffee this morning using the decaffeinated instant brand that his mother used at home.  Gavin had made it quite clear to Anna what would happen if she revealed his mother’s demanding ways to her colleagues and as a consequence, she gave a tight-lipped smile when asked about him and would only comment that he was very easy to work for.

Licking the sour cream from around his lips, Gavin searched hungrily for any mention of the woman he had set out to torment.  He hadn’t actually followed her online yet, that would come later.  A nice piece of intimidation that would inevitably end up with his being blocked, so he had to work hard to rummage around in her brief and personal musings first.  Music; she obviously liked music, and comedians, actors, journalists and writers.  He sighed as he chewed on a particularly tasty piece of chicken; this account was not proving as fruitful as he had hoped.  . Damn!

Fajita finished, he left the laptop on whilst he washed and cleaned the surfaces; removing every trace of his transgression, then moving silently out of the back door to hide the last pieces of evidence in their next door neighbour’s bin.  He had been doing this ever since his mother, wielding her stick, had gleefully produced the fruits of her wheelie bin grubbing; a bag containing the remnants of a KFC meal that he had consumed on the way home and needed to get out of the car because he was taking her out shopping the next day.

The mileage his mother got out of this heinous crime haunted him to the extent that his fast food intake was severely affected for over a month and his digestive system suffered from the penance of burnt offerings.  He had grown wise now and all evidence was deposited in next door’s rubbish or in a bin far, far from home where his mother and her stick could never venture.

Putting his briefcase up on the table; Gavin extracted the file that contained everything on the woman who had been his obsession for the past six days.  He would see her crumble before him; begging for mercy with no sign of the cool and almost amused tone he had heard when he had spoken to her on the phone.  She was not going to be as easy to deal with as some of his other victims.  No matter.  He loved a challenge.

He skim read the file again.  Her qualifications annoyed him too.  She had far too many, and she had a long and unblemished service record.

The profile picture had been changed recently to a selfie she had taken.  He stroked the long hair with his finger; traced the shape of her large blue eyes hiding behind the glasses.   He knew her; knew so much about her now that he was sure that  the means of her downfall lay in his hands.  This was his skill, the reason for his meteoric rise from a humble clerical officer to the head of his department.   He had worked for six different employers in order to achieve this however and whilst he had left damage and resentment in his wake, Gavin Slime was headed for the top of his profession and was a man who was head-hunted for his ruthlessness and determination.

He looked up at the clock.  It was twenty past three and time he went to bed.  With a sinister smile on his thin lips he hit the follow button knowing that an email would be waiting in her inbox when she got up the next morning. An email announcing that he was following her on Twitter.  His profile picture, in an attempt at humour, showed him eating a giant fajita with only his eyes and horn-rimmed glasses on show as a clue to the man within.  He closed down the laptop and put it away so that the kitchen table would be pristine for his mother when she descended to her kitchen to prepare his sandwiches four hours later.

Following the routine he carried out every night, Gavin checked the doors and windows on the ground floor of the house.  He checked every inch of the scoured worktops, cooker and table, even peering short-sightedly down the plug hole of the sink in case any fajita detritus remained to betray him to his mother.  Nothing.  He put his laptop bag and briefcase out into the hall and under the table where no one would trip over them, then climbed the stairs  before he turned the corner and went into his immaculately tidy bedroom.

It was a room that was frightening in its sterility.  The predominance of white prevented any undetected sullying of his domain; duvet cover, sheets and pillow-slips were pristine, starched and laundered to his specific requirements rather than thrown in the washing machine by his father’s carer June.  The sterile white vertical blinds gave the room an additionally medical feel that was enhanced by the uncluttered white bedside cabinet, part of a set from of white Swedish furniture that included a wardrobe, chest of drawers and two chests.  One of these chests held fresh bed linen, still in its laundry packing and ready for Gavin to put on the bed once the sheets no longer felt clean and new.  The other chest was closed with an iron hasp and weighty padlock to which only Gavin had the key. It contained secrets; the sort of secrets people cringe from, the sort of secrets that destroy lives and that would put Gavin in a position where at least a dozen people would pay to have him quietly removed from the earth.

They weren’t just other people’s secrets however.  Gavin kept his own secrets in the chest, secrets that made him blush and rush to lock his bedroom door, secrets that lit up his pale grey eyes and made his pulse race. They were secrets that no one must ever know and the mere thought of anyone else discovering them gave Gavin chills of excitement and fear.

He got changed for bed into his crisp pale blue cotton pyjamas.  He never wore the same pair for more than two days and then they too went off to the laundry.  He slipped into the small en-suite that he had paid to have built into his room.  The main bathroom was filled with the equipment and medication of two people who were dying by degrees and he wanted no part of it, no unnecessary clutter in his life. Not anymore.  After brushing his teeth with the state of the art electric toothbrush, Gavin Slime went back into his room, placed his glasses neatly on the bedside table and slid between his glacial sheets, a sinister smile on his face as he thought of the woman’s reaction when she got up and saw the email sent on his behalf.