Syd

It’s all personal opinion, not factually based on anything other than my own feelings and perceptions.

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?  YOU SHONE LIKE THE SUN.

It was 1981 and I was 15 when I started to piece together the jigsaw that was the music that filled my head. I knew Echoes and Dark Side of the Moon intimately, had listened to them in darkened rooms, escaped to them when I needed to flee from the everydayness, or from the self-indulgent turmoil and angst that was my typically teenage life at that time. Like many of my school friends, a couple of years earlier I’d marched up and down the out of bounds main school corridor, outside the staff common room, singing the banned words,

“We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”

I was a good girl, I didn’t get in to trouble, but I think I may have been hauled in for a detention or two after that. No-one has the right to tell another living soul what they may or may not think, and I transcended that to music. Tell me I can’t sing something and I will. Thought police (or an over-zealous, controlling head teacher) be damned.

We were dance students and one of the English teachers was preparing an assembly for our year. He approached 3 or 4 of us, asked us to put something together for him and gave us the piece of music he wanted us to use. I’d heard it before. I already loved it. It was a poignant, evocatively familiar keyboard and guitar introduction, as always so expressively emotional and soulful, culminating in those four haunting notes that I knew so well, but only then managed to collate with the earlier stuff I’d listened to. I may have loved the intricacy of the music, the expressively affecting melody, the powerfully emotional lyrics, but it wasn’t until later that the poignancy and tragedy of the legend behind Shine On You Crazy Diamond became known to me.

At that time I was still focused on just the music. I’m ashamed to say I missed the hype of who they were and how they’d become. It was only later, while listening more, learning more, researching and finding out who made this music that so filled me, that I started to develop an understanding about their story. I seem to have a penchant for story. A thirst for legend, for narrative that develops characters, the descriptive account that introduces us, leads us to learn about, get to know, understand and fall in love with people we’ve never met.

That’s how I came across the enigma that was Syd. Roger Keith (Syd) Barrett, born 6th Jan 1946. Musician, composer, singer, songwriter, innovator, artist and founding member of one Pink Floyd. Described by those that knew him as beautiful, witty, wonderful, sharp, outgoing, charming, friendly, funny and massively, incredibly talented. As well as music, he was a gifted painter and artist, and, it seems, successful at whatever he put his mind to. I was just a little too young to see it first-hand. I only know what I’ve read and what I’ve seen, and I’ve heard the ruminations of others, some who knew him and many more who didn’t. I make only a very small apology that the rest is romanticised and made up in my head.

Syd grew up in the midst of a Cambridge riddled with friends and associates who would be instrumental in the development of Pink Floyd. He knew Roger Waters from a young age and the fundamental essentials of an artistic, creative and musical future were created. David Gilmour too, was a Cambridge protégé, and it’s clear that his path crossed with Syd’s in those early days and beyond, sharing a love for music and a flair for ingenuity and inventiveness, sometimes jamming and playing together.

Following Roger to London to attend college, it was inevitable that Syd and Roger would fall towards some outlet of creativity, and they, along with Rick and Nick, after various incarnations, became Pink Floyd. Syd is widely accredited as the mastermind behind their early originality and accomplishment, the instigator and initiator of new and unique sounds and experimental composition. They had initial success, foraying into the world of psychedelia and progressive rock with a new record contract, a successful single, See Emily Play, the production of their first album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and the establishment of a big, underground following as they became the house band at Joe Boyd’s UFO club. The one time producer of Floyd is recorded as saying that he couldn’t take his eyes off Syd, clearly feeling that the real creative shape of the group emanated from him.

And then it changed. Something happened and there’s no definitive for what was the real truth, just different versions of events, different takes and perspectives. Some speculate that it was a weekend episode with LSD that, quite literally, fried Syd’s brain. Some venture that it was a predilection or pre-disposition towards mental health and emotional well-being issues. Others hazard that it was a combination of many things, a mish mash of over-zealous drug use combined with a susceptibility for breakdown, and a propensity towards anti-establishment, a turning of his back on the sell-out of fame, success and celebrity. That there is no single version of a truth adds to the mythology, rhapsodises the legend. Whatever actually happened, it became clear that Syd could no longer function within the confines of this newly successful band. David was brought in to do what Syd at times couldn’t and other times wouldn’t do,F and Syd took to de-tuning his guitar on stage, refusing to sing or play, dis-engaging from any sort of meaningful conversation or exchange. Eventually, inevitably, the rest of the band simply stopped picking him up for gigs and functions.

But for me, that’s where the story becomes so mesmerising and fascinating and draws me in so completely. From that point, Syd’s imprint remained indelible on Floyd, the influence of both his genius and his demise an inspiration for their music. Without the initial influence of Interstellar Overdrive, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, and other early compositions, it’s difficult to comprehend where Echoes would have come from. Without Echoes, would there have been a Dark Side, and without Dark Side, Wish You Were Here? It’s not just the musical inspiration and stimulus, but the effect he had on them personally. They knew him, they’d grown up with him. He’d been their friend. They shared both childhood and adult stories and events with him, how could they fail to be shaped by him and the impact of his loss on them, personally, musically and lyrically. The continuous and key themes of their work, absence, loss, madness all point clearly at his hold on them. He’d gone from charismatic, talented genius, to reclusive and mal-functioning in the inexplicable blink of an eye.

That the remaining members of Floyd were the ones to help Syd write, record and produce his solo albums after this, is also a complexity. By all accounts it wasn’t an easy task to take on but surely it was about more than just feelings of guilt at how they’d ousted Syd. They had to have some deal of respect and admiration for his talent and genius to have the patience and understanding to work with him in such difficult and frustrating circumstances. I choose to think it was a hearty mixture of guilt, regret, admiration and love.

For me, Syd is as intrinsic to the later Floyd music as he was the early days. And that sentiment is perpetuated by the bizarre circumstances surrounding the recording of Shine On, many years later, when Syd showed up at Abbey Road studios, on the very day that they were working on the song that embodies him and his memory and is undoubtedly about him. The rational me believes it has to have been planned, that someone has to have known what would be happening in the studio and plotted and schemed to get Syd there after years of self-imposed isolation and estrangement from the band. The idealist romantic strives to see it as a mythological co-incidence, an aligning of the moon and stars, a fluke of epic proportions, that he would be there, on that day, in that studio, with those people. It’s a tragic detail, that no-one recognised their former friend, colleague and collaborator and that the once beautiful, talented prodigy had become an unrecognisable, erratic, distorted version of his early self. It’s the contrast between the two, the absolute ends of the continuum that confound me. From such beauty and potential to such nothingness.

His beauty, his talent, his tortured self is there, in all those Pink Floyd albums, from the start through to the end, sometimes more obvious than others, but there all the same. In saying that, I don’t profess to know what the other band members felt about Syd, what their thoughts were or how much he remained with them through their career. I say this all as a mere listener and a lover of the music. This is the influence he had on me, and my love of Pink Floyd is heightened enormously by the story and the mystery that surrounds him and it. It’s one more place that the mind can wander over, meander around, roam through and unravel against when listening to the sound.

I’m just another person flirting with facts, making up the mythology. He was a very private man, he wanted no limelight. His story has been widely and speculatively documented by many. He and his family chose to distance themselves from the glaring publicity and intrusive complexity of public scrutiny but he and his story will forever be enshrined by paradox and intrigue, puzzle and mystery. I desperately hope he was happy, that he made conscious choices to shy away and live the life he did. For me, I can’t listen to Floyd without thinking of them as a five. He is as intrinsically a part of the music as Roger’s drive and lyrics, Rick’s musicality, Nick’s drumming and David’s God like, soulful strumming. Rest in Peace Syd, you Crazy Diamond. Wish You Were Here.

Using Media as a tool to make a difference

This is an abridged version of a report written about the work of the Connect Centre in engaging young people from marginalised backgrounds in positive experiences.  It was highly successful.  Funding was cut in 2006 and the Centre was closed, in much the same way as cuts to front line services in 2016 are affecting the opportunities available.  On a personal level, I am soon to be redundant again from a role that can make a difference and that I’m good at!

 

FOREWARD

Making the Connection

Written By Charnwood Arts in 2005

It’s not how much space you’ve got, but what you do with it that counts. The Connect Centre in Coalville, behind the local branch of Connexions, is a room not much bigger than my lounge at home. A couple of years ago this was just a cold, damp room not being used for much at all. Now the walls are a vibrant orange, covered in artwork and posters. There are two internet-ready PCs, comfy seats and a small kitchen area. This is somewhere warm and inviting, a place where young people are always welcomed and accepted for who they are.

Those who come here have all been through tough times. Aged between 13 and 19, often they’ve had problems with drugs or other addictions. They’ve been victims of bullying and abuse, sexual and physical. Some of them have been homeless or in prison. None of this does much for their confidence; normally when they come here their self-esteem is at rock bottom.

But they don’t leave like that, according to Centre Co-ordinator Nicola O’Neill. Nearly every young person who has left the project so far has gone on to some form of education or full-time job. Having been there since the Centre was established in April 2001, she has seen it develop into what it is today and is fiercely proud of its achievements.

I’m given a real flavour of those achievements when I watch a video, Lone Bird, that has won this year’s Youth Against Crime award at the Conquering Crime Awards. The video is part of the Multimedia Project that runs here every Monday and Tuesday. Harvey Sharman-Dunn, a filmmaker and composer, is on hand to help as the young people produce leaflet and poster designs, build websites, make animations and videos. It gives them a chance to use equipment they might never otherwise have access to, to build up valuable computer skills, and above all, to build confidence.

The quality of the Lone Bird film is astounding. It manages to convey, in a powerful, even shocking way, the dangers of drug abuse. But it does this without using any dialogue, and without resorting to a “scolding teacher” approach. It simply uses images, music and film techniques to get its message across. Although Nicola and Harvey insist that it’s the process, not the quality of the end product that’s important, you’d never realise that from watching this film. The quality of the end product is amazingly high. Various organisations have caught on to this and are commissioning the Connect Centre to design leaflets and posters for them. On the day I visit, preparations are well underway for an exhibition of all the work, at the Y Theatre in Leicester. Hopefully, this exhibition should give this amazing work some of the recognition it deserves.

Background and Underpinning Principles

Originally funded jointly by Leicestershire Careers and Guidance Service Ltd and New Start, Coalville Connect Centre aims to provide a safe, welcoming comfortable and non-judgemental environment for young people aged 13-19 to seek information, advice or support on a range of issue. Established in April 2001, it developed into a thriving and successful Centre for young people reflecting the needs and issues faced by those who use it. Importantly, the development of the Centre and the services that it offers were directly informed by consultation with young people and local agencies who work with them.

With the introduction of the Connexions Service in Leicestershire, the funding for the Centre transferred also. With the Centre refurbished and resourced, Connexions paid the salary of the Centre Co-ordinator and there was an annual budget of £4000 to run the Centre and develop projects and programmes. All financial costs came from this budget apart from heating and lighting. The Centre was able to generate a small amount of income to cover costs of producing materials for other organisations who commission leaflets, posters, websites or videos.

Chris Humphries, Director General of City and Guilds, used Starbucks as an analogy when he talked about changing the environment as a means of effecting change in outcomes. Despite a very large investment in advertising, and a campaign that was hugely successful in terms of the interest generated in members of the public, Humphries highlighted that this had no effect on the significant drop in coffee consumption in the 1980’s. The overriding factor in turning consumption trends around was the opening of Starbucks outlets – the provision of a different environment for consumption that was what people wanted. He parallels this with a change of environment for learning to provide an upturn in the quality and quantity of learning and acquiring skills and qualifications.

Independent Psychologist Dr Gerald Lombard states that 1 in 10 young people have a systematic reading failure and have not learnt at an early age the skills to read people’s faces. This, he argues, is a key reason for disaffection, beginning with restricted exchange in early, informative years within the circle of intimacy, through the circles of friendship, participation and exchange. Compounded by 2nd and 3rd generation family break ups, which have reduced access to extended networks, this has resulted social deprivation. During extensive research he has identified several diagnostic tools to assess the level of disaffection and provide a baseline from which to start to repair the damage.

Young People are involved in this Centre. The have an opinion and a say. Focus groups and discussions with individual young people have been used at all stages of the planning, implementation and development of the Centre and their views have been taken on board. This provides them with ownership of the Centre and being involved in the decision making process empowers them, resulting in the capacity to maximise their potential. Monitoring of the facilities and provision ensures that young people remain involved in the consultation process.

The young people who use the Centre are from the group who have been disengaged in the formal education system. They would not continue to attend if they did not find the environment comforting and welcoming. Attendance rates at the Centre are exceptionally high in a client group where attendance at educational establishments has been traditionally and consistently low.

Methods of Delivery 

Unlike some mainstream provision, delivery sessions are enhanced by the ability to be flexible. Discussion is often the best tool for recognising and diagnosing issues to be addressed. Delivery methods focus on curiosity, challenge, interest, discussion and planning and promote personal and social skills, thinking skills, problem solving abilities and empathy. Young people who have become disaffected with just about every system they have met do not usually respond to psychometric assessments. Delivery styles at the Centre increase confidence, self esteem and communication skills and focus on soft outcomes, which have been a significant factor in achieving the hard outcomes outlined above.

Case Study

This case study illustrates the way the Connect Centre is able to effect change and impact on a young person’s development, achievements and progression.

History:-

K’s father left home when he was a baby after physically attacking him and his mother, and K has never seen him since. He witnessed the physical abuse of his mother by subsequent partners and has also disclosed that he was both physically and sexually abused although he has never spoken to anyone about specifics, or about how this has affected him.

When he was 10, he and his siblings were placed in care on a temporary basis while his mum was in hospital. Afterwards, the siblings returned home, but his mum refused to have K back. He has subsequently had 8 foster placements, some of whom have physically abused him.

Having not attended school much, K left with few qualifications and has always been labelled with low literacy levels. He continued contact with his mum and siblings though he recognises that his relationship with his mum is “unconventional”

K was referred to the Centre on a Life Skills programme having identified an interest in IT. He regularly smokes cannabis (supplied by his mum). He is against “hard” drugs and argues that cannabis is less addictive than cigarettes and less destructive than alcohol. K is very anti-establishment, frequently swears, and can be verbally aggressive. He would rather walk away from an opportunity if he has to compromise his individuality in any way. 

Now:-

K is very intelligent and can form sound and reasoned arguments. He is sensitive, non-judgemental and extremely talented, although he becomes easily bored and de-motivated. He has also, very recently, begun to talk for the first time about the abuse he suffered as a child.

He has now begun an HND in photography and digital imaging at College. He is living independently (with financial support from the Leaving Care Team), and has a long term career plan. He has a girlfriend and has built a strengthening relationship with his Mum and siblings. He no longer uses drugs. K has a substantial and impressive portfolio of art and photography work and has sold some of his work to help finance his College course.

How this was achieved:-

The Centre was able to offer K time to build relationships and trust. He was not rushed to divulge information and was not judged about his appearance, his achievements or his opinions. He was actively encouraged to explore his points of view and, through a process of discussion, debate and challenge began to realise that his opinions were valid and important. He found an area of interest that he was encouraged to pursue and this led to the production of work that was very positively received and recognised. He learned that he would not be judged on his mistakes and that he could develop at his own pace. Working to make these changes with K did not take a significant amount of financial input, but did take a long time.

The positive affirmation that K has achieved for his work has gone a long way to increasing his confidence and encouraging him to look outside his previously insular life style to progress. One method of celebrating his achievements was his participation in an exhibition of Connect Centre media projects which was attended by workers from a host of agencies, and participants friends and families. Here are just some of the comments received:-

“Well done – some excellent stuff”

“Amazing – such talent”

“Absolutely brilliant. Particularly liked the photos”

“Great photos, really good artwork and ideas – well done”

“Wonderful”

“Out of this world”

“Project to be proud of”

“An excellent promotion of your work”

The Film WINTER – A Personal Take

WINTER – A Personal Take

This is not a film review. I’m not qualified to talk about writing, acting, directing, cinematography, music, or any of the other thousand things that make a good (or bad) film. I’m a watcher, an audience member, lucky enough now to have seen this film (twice), in its fledgling circuitry of film festivals. I can only say what I like and what impacts on me, and this is just a description of that.

Written and Directed by Heidi Greensmith, the film Winter is about a father, Woods Weston (Tommy Flanagan) and his two sons, Tom (Tom Payne) and Max (Bill Milner) living and surviving the aftermath of the violent death of their wife and mother, Marie. For me, it’s about relationships; those between Woods and his sons, Woods and other people and, significantly, the one between Woods and himself, the voices in his head, the struggle of who he was, who he is and who he might be in the future.

Whatever thoughts I have about Winter centre around my own internalisation, my own processes and acceptance of the traditions and norms imposed on me by other influences within society. I am the sum of my experiences, which include being a white woman, from an immigrant background with one addict parent, and the other far too busy simply trying to survive with four children, with direct elements of race and gender inequality in my upbringing, who is a divorced, single parent, working in the social care/informal education field, and who is now an orphan.

And there-in lies the truth and the heart of Winter. It makes you think. So hard. If the job of an actor/writer/director is to influence, impact, effect, sway, prompt, impel, then these immensely talented ones have made a film that is a resounding success. Up there at the top of my list. It’s been described as a beautiful film. Beautifully filmed maybe. Beautifully acted. But I can’t say I found it a beautiful film. I found it hard-hitting, persistent, brave, stark, blatant.

If the viewer comes to this film with any personal experience of the subject matter, and let’s face it, most have plenty of baggage, both claimed and otherwise, then it’s not always an easy film to watch. It asks difficult, tough and demanding questions of ourselves and our imperfect little worlds. It absolutely stimulates reflection, in the truest, widest sense of the term, for me, both personally and societally. I was so angry with the society that I live in that poor Maxi, in my real world, wouldn’t even be in the care system. He’d be out there, a casualty of austerity, in a family left to cope with the barest and minimum of support, trying to access insufficient, inadequate mental health services with forty week waiting lists.

I love the tosser in the care home. The front line worker with no idea of how to actually engage with people. We’re either brilliant, or we’re most definitely not. I’ve said those phrases. I’ve deliberated, considered, pondered my words and come out with the same crap. What a total spasm!  He probably went off to recommend anger management sessions for Maxi.

I love both Tom and Maxi, played brilliantly. Understated. Confused. Torn. In different parts of the film I was each of them. Utterly real, in my humble opinion.

Tommy is amazing. It almost seems redundant to comment on his acting brilliance, and the bravery of putting himself out there. There’s not a lot of hiding from this reality.  I knew he would be those things, but there are also very different things that I hadn’t considered before. He absolutely took me back to how I felt as a child. I regressed to that frightened, introspective introvert. He took me back to that fear like it was yesterday. Like it was five minutes ago. Not horror or fear of danger. Not a perceived or actual threat. Not the irrationality of a phobia. Just a twisted, knotted, gut wrenching, instinctive, intuitive dread, deep inside.

Fight, flight or freeze was never the issue. No desire to punch or rip, to lash out or battle, to struggle or argue. Not feelings of anger or rage, no fury or frenzy. I didn’t fly, I certainly didn’t stay and fight. I don’t think I even froze. That dread would just envelop me, wash over and through me, wrap me in its claustrophobic cocoon, entrap me in the repetitive, cyclical, recurrent attempts to be better, to be good. Every day, turning the key in the lock, I’d start to choke, to drown on the fear and dread that engulfed me, wishing I could be anywhere but there.

But I came out of that theatre so wanting to be like Woods. Not the tortured soul, but the funny, couldn’t give a shit, one finger up to the world, artistic, gentle, heart on his sleeve, angry, sarcastic, facetious, oh so human being. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I’ve done a thirteen hour round trip to, in effect, go to the cinema. Who would do that, except someone who just wants to say, “Because I can”?

That’s the dichotomy that I can’t navigate yet, I so liked him as a person, wanted to love him, wanted to make him better, empathised, understood, identified with him somehow. Yet when that person’s in your life it’s a bit of a bastard. Everything comes down to that. Even the bits that you think you totally have under control, that you think can’t possibly be influenced by your past. Of course they are. How can they not be?

What most struck me, what remained as I walked back from the theatre, what was stuck in my head whilst I thought, and in my dreams while I slept, was the axiom ‘the sins of the father’. Not in a religious or biblical way, but how what we have/had affects us all, in such different ways maybe, but still intrinsically, inherently, fundamentally. And I struggled with redemption. I so, so, so wanted Woods to be saved and for him to save Tom and Maxi. But in whose reality does that sort of redemption exist?  In my experience, it rarely changes, seldom improves.  If we’re lucky we just learn to live it better.

I love so much about this film. I love the scene where Woods is frustratingly trying to find his inspiration to paint. No clever words or fancy one-liners, just a man, lost in his world, trying to find his way back. It made me want to ask him to dance. I love where he tells Tom he has to take his place at uni. How sane, and rational and right. I love when Tom jumps on his bike (literally), breaks down, then picks it up and carts it home – the absolute duality of how close he is to breaking, but how resolutely together he is. I love that, above all else, those boys know that they’re loved.

I think, maybe more than any other film I’ve seen, certainly that I can think of, Winter pushes those internalisation buttons. Whatever we think of it is shaped by our own reflections, how we recognise our own pasts and the influences on us as adults. Recognition, knowledge, understanding, empowerment, challenge. They’re all good words, difficult but necessary processes. Winter manages to grasp them out of our soul, shake them up a bit, and roll them out. Where they land, nobody knows. Powerful stuff!

Board Meeting in Heaven

Set in heaven, this is a board meeting with Sons of Anarchy characters based on religious characters discussing cuts to services.

Clay                       God
Jax                         Judas Iscariot
Chibs                     John the Baptist
Juice                      Jesus
Tig                        Satan
Bobby                   Holy Ghost
Happy                   Grim Reaper
Opie                      St. Peter
Piney                    Angel Gabriel
Gemma                 Mary
Tara                      Joan of Arc
Unser                    Moses

 

 

BOARD MEETING – CUTS TO SERVICES
 

God bangs the gavel, bringing the meeting to order.

God (Clay): Okay people, let’s get started. There’s an episode of Sons of Anarchy I want to see at 9pm, so I need to be away by 8.45pm at the latest. Want to get me some more insight on dealing with all this disorder we’ve got going on. We’ve got too many people starting to think they can run this place with their own political ideology. Freedom of the individual is not an option. We’ve got to curb this now.

Moses (Unser): Hang on a minute, these commandments we live by, they’re sacrosanct. You know that, right? You can’t just change them to suit yourself. We’ve all got to live together. We’re not above the law here.

God (Clay): Erm, yeah, I think you’ll find we are. I gave those commandments to you, Moses.   Anyway, I’m not saying we change them on earth, just up here where it affects us. We run Heaven, always have done. You’ve been in my pocket for years. That’s what’s kept us straight, you and me, doing what we do, for the good of our charming home.

Moses (Unser): I ain’t in nobody’s pocket, God. I’ve just learnt over the years to work with you, turn a blind eye for an eye occasionally. What exactly are you asking of me?

God (Clay): I’m asking nothing. But you’ll do well to remember who put you where you are. You got a problem with any of this, let’s you and me take it outside.

Moses visibly shrinks into his pew, his voice catching.

Moses (Unser): I got no problem. Just need to be sure we’re singing from the same hymn sheet here. If there are no proposed changes to the rules we’re all good.

God (Clay): Okay, good. We’ll start with apologies. Anyone heard from anyone who can’t be here tonight?

John the Baptist (Chibs): Aye, St Jude, patron saint for lost causes is off on some wild goose chase trying to sort out miracles for a queue of people at the pearly gates. He’s also pissed off at always being mistaken for Judas Iscariot so he said he couldn’t be arsed to keep trying to explain to ye all that he’s the good guy, not the nasty bastard who betrayed Jesus.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Bit harsh ain’t it? Betrayal’s a subjective word. There was never any evidence to back up that accusation, and nobody ever found those 30 pieces of silver I was supposed to have got for it!

Judas Iscariot looks towards Jesus and gives him a derisive grin

Jesus (Juice): Look, did you all see that? John, babe, did you see that? He smirked at me! I swear, he’s always accusing me of betrayal, but he just doesn’t see it in himself. I want that recorded in the minutes.

John the Baptist (Chibs): Aye, lad. I saw it. Don’t worry, darlin’. He’s not gonna hurt ye again, I’ll see to that, boy.

God (Clay): Jesus Christ, we’ve not even started yet. Can we get on with it please? Holy Ghost, are you minuting this meeting?

Holy Ghost (Bobby): I am indeed, God.

God (Clay): Thank you Holy Ghost. And thank you John for passing on that message from St Jude. Any more apologies?

St Peter (Opie): Yay, St Christopher’s off on his Harley somewhere. I saw him burning rubber, just as I turned into Chapel. He asked me to leave the key for the gates for when he comes back later on.

Holy Ghost (Bobby): Just because he’s patron saint of travellers, that guy thinks he can come and go as he pleases. We could really have done with his input tonight. Maybe we look at reducing his travel allowances? His mileage claims have been astronomical recently. Let’s get him off the road and in the office a bit more.

God (Clay): Noted. And agreed. All in favour?

All: Yay

God (Clay): Passed. Moving on. As you know, we’ve called this meeting tonight to look at the dire financial position we find our heaven in. Government cuts have blighted us over the last few years, but this year the spending reviews are crippling. It’s the only thing on the agenda, so I’d like to get straight to it.

Mary (Gemma): I’ve got some ‘any other business’ I’d like to bring up afterwards.

God sends Mary a quick wink, seen by everyone.

God (Clay): Duly noted, Mary. Let’s get started. As this is an addition to our normal monthly meetings, I’ve taken the liberty of inviting a few extras along who may be able to help with some fund raising or cost cutting ideas. Welcome Ladies. And Moses. In light of this, I think it’d be useful if everyone could introduce themselves and give a brief overview of their role. I’ll start. I’m God, I rule this place. My will be done.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Hi, I’m Judas. I’m one of the 12 disciples, originally meant to support and follow Jesus, then single handedly responsible for creating the situation that directly led to the crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.

Jesus (Juice): Jesus Christ, Son of God, doer of miracles, founder of the church, died by crucifixion and rose from the dead. And yeah, that arsehole was the one that got me nailed to the cross.

Mary (Gemma): Hi, I’m Mary, mother of Jesus and blessed virgin.

Snorts of laughter ensue from around the table.

Mary (Gemma): I’ll have you know I was a good, God-fearing girl you judgemental fucks! The Mighty One did great things for me. So I’ve read.

God chuckles under his breath.

God (Clay): You were so full of sin you little jezabel. Immaculate conception, my arse!

Mary flashes a sultry smile his way. Moses clears his throat to move things along.  

Moses (Unser): Ahem. Hello. I’m Moses. Religious leader and lawgiver. Scriber of the 10 commandments, God’s police. Parter of seas, and advocate for slaves.

St Peter (Opie): Evening. St Peter, former fisherman, apostle, keeper of the keys to the kingdom and guard of the pearly gates.

Grim Reaper (Happy): Hey everyone. I’m Grim Reaper. Killer. Soul collector. Greatest job in the universe. People have to die. A LOT.

Joan of Arc (Tara): I’m Joan of Arc, heroine of France, burnt at the stake but proved innocent 25 years later. Not pissed about that at all!

Angel Gabriel (Piney): Angel Gabriel. Messenger sent from God to deliver prophecies. Official tequila taster. Nice to see you again Mary, long time no see!

Mary nods in response.

John the Baptist (Chibs): John the Baptist, preacher, prophet and baptiser. Foreteller of the coming of Jesus. Often maker of the coming of Jesus. And he is beautiful when he comes.

Jesus reddens slightly and a small smile glides over his angelic face. There’s nothing angelic about that mouth, thinks John, squirming in his seat.

Satan (Tig): Satan. How d’ya do, all? Bringer of evil and temptation, and lover of all things sin related.

God (Clay): Thanks everyone. Okay, on to the main matter at hand. We’ve already made a decision to quash mileage rates for St Christopher. Does anyone have any more efficiency saving or fund raising ideas?

Holy Ghost (Bobby): We could save a bit on bread and wine – Christ, every time we have a communion it costs us a bleeding fortune. And as for feeding the 5,000, we can’t carry on using that sting. As a hustle it’s wearing a bit thin. People are starting to see through this so called miracle and we just don’t have the stock left to keep pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. I think we need to make people responsible for their own food.   As long as we’ve got enough here for our own needs, food responsibility should be taken away from the board.

St Peter (Opie): I’d agree with that. There are plenty of do-gooders coming through the gates who will open up a foodbank or two for the needy. Foodbanks are the way forwards. It’s what the leaders downstairs are saying.

Angel Gabriel (Piney): Yeah, that’s the message I’m getting. The gap between rich and poor is widening the whole time. Everyone knows we have to cut services, this is the time to be drastic. We can blame it straight on the Governments.

St Peter (Opie): That’s right Pops. Ooops, Gabe. The blowback won’t be on us.

God (Clay): Right then. All in favour of banning communion bread and wine and getting out of the food business?

All: Yay.

God (Clay): That’s a good start. But it only scrapes at the surface of the problem. What we really need is to reduce the number of referrals to heaven. Grim Reaper, what’s your take on this?

Grim Reaper (Happy): No, not an option. My role is to kill off those on earth. You talking about making me redundant?

Holy Ghost (Bobby): Not redundant, but maybe you could scale back a bit? Be a bit more choosy about who you end down there? Cut backs, Grim. We’ve all got to make sacrifices, there are posts being deleted.

Grim Reaper (Happy): I’m not happy about this, not one little bit. It’s all there in my job description. I don’t give a shit about what goes on up here, and it’s not my decision who gets in to heaven and who goes to hell. I just do the killin’. I love my job.

Holy Ghost (Bobby):  Have you read your new job description Grim?  It may be in the original, but you might have to look at comparability and get it re-written to include murder and torture.

St. Peter (Opie): Maybe I could get a bit stricter on who we let in. If we raise the thresholds a bit and turn a few more away, we might be able to manage things better up here. How would that sit with your lot down below, Satan?

Satan (Tig): That’s fine with me. The more the merrier down there. When it starts to get a bit too crowded we just chuck a few in the fire pit.

Joan of Arc shudders, goose bumps rising over her body.

Joan of Arc (Tara): Seriously Satan? Do you have any sensitivity at all for what people have been through? Empathy? Understanding? Consideration? No, all foreign concepts I guess for a corporate heathen like you!

Satan (Tig): I gotta say, the thought of those compassionate words terrifies me, but I’m totally erect right now.

God (Clay): Thanks for that image Satan. Don’t minute that Holy Ghost! You need any training to put that in place St Pete? Assertiveness training, difficult conversations, that sort of shit?

St Peter (Opie): No, I’ll be fine. I got this. But on that point, I think we need to look at the training budget in a bit more detail.

Holy Ghost (Bobby): Good idea. What sort of shite are the training department offering at the moment?

Jesus (Juice): John the Baptist and I went on a mandatory management stimulation course last week. Not sure how the rest of you lot managed to get out of it?

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Because we avoid our emails like the plague of locusts the old man released back in the day, you conscientious prick.

Holy Ghost (Bobby): How was the course, Jesus? Any good?

Jesus (Juice): It was a pile of pants. Run by some dipstick from corporate paradise, got no idea what goes on in the real heaven. A four hour course for what they could have got through in ten minutes. The only decent thing was networking with Johnny. And does that shithead Judas get to call me a conscientious prick without being challenged?

John the Baptist (Chibs): Actually Jeezy-boy, the course was management simulation but always good to network with ye. Nothing like a bit of schmoosing and interaction with colleagues for purging the soul. And I think calling him shithead probably negates yer argument somewhat, darlin’.

Angel Gabriel (Piney): Which brethren are in the training team now? Anyone likely to kick up a fuss if we pull their funding?

Jesus (Juice): I think Paul’s still heading up the department – sanctimonious, holier-than-thou saint that he is. And just a couple of prophets through whom God reveals truth, and teachers who explain the truth of God’s words.

Angel Gabriel (Piney): God’s truths? Now there’s a unique concept! And maybe if God had a bit less to say…….

Moses (Unser): Careful Gabe, you’d be out of a job for a start.   But maybe we could lose the prophets and teachers. That’d save us a bit. Just leave St Paul to manage himself. 

God (Clay): Sounds like a plan. If we leave the head of department there, we can’t be accused of slashing the whole team. And any more quips like that Gabe and we’ll be looking at retiring you.

Angel Gabriel (Piney): Couldn’t give a shit. Just know that there’s no way in this heaven that we’re watering down the tequila. That’ll be over my dead body.

God (Clay): That could be arranged, old man.

Moses (Unser): Thou shalt not kill, God. Remember that one?

Grim Reaper (Happy): Moses, you do talk some shit. That one better be written in my job spec. Kill, maim, hurt!

Angel Gabriel (Piney): You don’t scare me, oh God the hallowed one. Remember, I knew you when you were a snivelling kid, back in the days when we were fresh and idealistic, not worn down by years of your lies and deceit. You were supposed to lead us not into temptation.

God (Clay): Shut it, old man. I swear one of these days I really will clip your wings, with a bullet right through the middle of them. Vote people please – all those in favour of losing the prophets and teachers?

All: Yay.

John the Baptist (Chibs): That’s the ones in the training department though, not me is it? I’m a prophet.

Jesus (Juice): Ah no, Johnny. We couldn’t get rid of you. I need you too much, babe.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Come on boys, can we move it on a bit. Some of us have some betraying to do!

Jesus (Juice): Don’t you think you’ve done enough yet? Shame you’re not as good at money saving ideas.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Jesus, Jesus, you’re the hacker extraodinaire. Can’t you just hack in to the banks and put a few noughts on our current account balance?

Jesus (Juice): It’s not that easy you douchebag. Firstly, if we want to do any decent, regular hacking we need to invest in some new equipment. I know for all you old men a decent laptop is a bit of a leap, but really, Amstrad computers the size of a wardrobe went out with the Ark. In fact, I think Noah’s got better communication and internet connection through his carrier pigeons than we have. Secondly, even with updated media systems you still can’t hack into tablets of stone. We need a whole new set up covering banking, security, law enforcement and business systems, and an update on all the peripherals. Then I might be able to hack into the financial systems.

John the Baptist (Chibs): That sounds reasonable to me. Ye have to speculate to accumulate, eh sweetheart? I’d happily back young Jeezy-boy with a bit of new equipment. I’m more than willing to give him whatever backing he needs.

Jesus (Juice): Gee, thanks Johnny, happy to be backed by you, whenever you fancy. In fact, I’ve got some pretty good hardware solutions I could show you afterwards if you’re interested, back at my place?

Satan (Tig): Keep it going lads. Still erect here!

Jesus (Juice): Are we voting on that then?

God (Clay): We’re supposed to be saving money not spending it.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Are you actually saying that you can make this work, Jesus? Because if you can, we might as well do it this way than faff about with heavenly bake offs, pin the tail on Mary’s donkey, or throwing wet sponges at Moses.

God (Clay): Okay, okay. All those in favour of updating computer systems and Jesus setting up a bit of fraud in the collection plate?

All: Yay.

Judas Iscariot draws Jesus in for a manly hug and a kiss to his cheek. As he does so, he whispers menacingly:

Judas Iscariot (Jax): This is how you earn the trust back, Jesus. Do it and we’re even. Fuck it up and I’ll kill you. 

God (Clay): That about wraps it up for financial issues, fraud, deception and scamming it is. Over to Mary for any other business.

Mary (Gemma): Okay you cretins. The only reason I came here tonight is to try and get my boy re-instated. They were switched at birth God dammit. You only have to look to see. My beautiful blonde little Judas Iscariot, who’s been accused of selling out his brothers. How can you even think that this Hispanic imposter Jesus could be my son?

Jesus (Juice): Really, Mom? That old nugget again? And people wonder why I’ve got attachment issues.

Mary (Gemma): Oh come on, Jesus. Your parentage has always been an issue, and you’ve played on it as much as anyone when it’s suited you. You’re quick enough to deny your father’s biological imprint.

Jesus (Juice): That’s because my father wasn’t that waste of space carpenter from Nazareth. It’s enough that you tried to convince everyone you were a Goddam virgin. God is my father. Joseph was just another pawn in your web of deceit and lies. You screwed me over good and proper when Herod found that little gem twisted up in my DNA.

John the Baptist (Chibs): Ah Jesus, sweetheart. I’ve told ye, laddie. If Herod keeps giving ye grief, ye tell him to suck yer Daddy’s big black cock. It only matters what yer birth certificate says, and if that names Joseph, then yer safe. Herod can’t do a damned thing to prove yer the son of God.

Mary (Gemma): Too right he can’t, because you’re no son of mine. God can deny it all he likes, but I know the truth. He couldn’t keep his hands off me, fucked me good and proper, got me up the duff, then went off on his merry way, left me pregnant, to ride to Bethlehem on that flaming donkey.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Is this true? You’re my mother? And he’s my father? Jesus Christ….. Mom…….? You didn’t think this was important to tell me?

Jesus (Juice): Look, will y’all at least stop using my name in vain. All this blaspheming is getting confusing.

Satan (Tig): Hell yeah. I’m lost. Can someone tell me what the fuck’s going on here? There may be some people in this room by mistake who should be wallowing in the fire and brimstone downstairs. That’ll be a great efficiency saving, it’s sooo much more expensive housing people up here than it is down there.

Jesus reaches across the table for John the Baptist’s hands and holds tight, fear gripping his face.

Mary (Gemma): It’s perfectly simple. God, surprise surprise, let his big dick rule his head one night and managed to knock me up. He couldn’t face his responsibilities so came up with this cock and bull idea that I should marry Joseph. I had a torrid time of it at the birth, no hospitalisation, and certainly no decent drugs, but God had a crisis of conscience and switched the babies at birth to protect his own son from that perv Herod who was the only one who believed me, and was determined to kill the son of God. As it was he fucked that up and left me with this Hispanic imposter while God hid Judas away – took him away from the mother who loved him.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): God?…. Dad?…… Is this true? I’m your son? Is that why you’ve always looked out for me?

Jesus (Juice): Dad? You’re not my father? And you left me to die at the hands of Herod? How could you do that to me?

Tears are rolling down Jesus’ face.

John the Baptist (Chibs): Jeezy-boy, don’t fret lad, I’m here for ye. Ye still got me.

God (Clay): Look, it’s complicated. DNA was just so expensive in those days. But yes, it’s true. I knocked Mary up and then switched the two of you at birth. Judas Iscariot is my real son.

Holy Ghost (Bobby): I think technically, you’ll find that Jesus, or in this case Judas, was conceived from myself, although the bible story is floored when it insists that he was born of a virgin named Mary!

Mary (Gemma): Careful you old goat!

Jesus (Juice): So who the fuck am I? Who’s my Daddy?

Satan (Tig): I’m really tempted to just fuck with your head and say John the Baptist, but actually, the truth might fuck with you more. I think I might be your Daddy.

Jesus (Juice): Jesus Christ.

Angel Gabriel (Piney): It’s true boy. Another one of those secrets that God here tried to bury. But St Moninna from Ireland, a good friend of John the Baptist and St Patrick, sent me some letters confessing all, that she’d done some sort of deal with the devil before she set up her community of virgins.

Jesus (Juice): Johnny, babe? You knew about this?

John the Baptist (Chibs): I never knew for sure, sweetheart. But it’s why I’ve always been there for ye. Always had yer back, in both the figurative and biblical sense. I knew yer Ma, and I suspected that it was Satan who had dishonoured her.

Satan (Tig): What can I say? You all know I can’t resist defiling and corrupting the odd virgin.

John the Baptist (Chibs): Jeezy-boy. I’m sorry I never told ye, darlin’, but I always kept an eye on ye when God used ye to save his real son. Please forgive me, sweetheart?

Jesus (Juice): I forgive you, babe. It’s God that I can’t forgive. I’ve always thought of him as my father, always tried to make him proud of me. And he’s used me.

God (Clay): Jesus Christ, don’t be such a wuss. I always treated you like my son. Did miracles for you and all sorts, even if you did fuck up all the time!

Joan of Arc (Tara): Judas. Baby, I know we’ve kept our “relationship” quiet for years, but if you’re really the son of God, I think we might have a problem. Your “mother” is a controlling bitch and I’m not sure I can live with that. And your “father”, he sanctioned for me to burn at the stake at nineteen. Nineteen for fuck’s sake. I was just a child. How could any God do that? The pain and suffering he caused me….

Satan (Tig): Really, darlin’? Why are you not over that yet? It’s an honourable way to die, even got my own daughter the same way.

Joan of Arc (Tara): Look, I was noble. I was pure. It bloody hurt! And being dead obviously put paid to my career. But really Judas. Our boys, that we’ve kept secret from everyone, we can’t bring them up here, this place is toxic. Our Cain and Abel will end up killing themselves or each other.

Judas Iscariot (Jax): Joan darlin’, we can sort this out. I know you have that job offer from up North, but we can make this work. I will handle my mother, I promise. If it’s my destiny to sit at the head of this table, I won’t let it ruin us. Please, let me just stay until this place is back on its feet, then I promise you we’ll leave and start afresh. I’ve got so much more betraying to do, I have to stay for a while.

Mary (Gemma): Wait a minute. I have Grandbabies? God, we have grandbabies together. How old are they? Who looks after them when you’re at work? What are they like? When do I get to meet them?

Joan of Arc (Tara): Oh for fuck’s sake. Here we go already!

God (Clay): ENOUGH. QUIET. All of you. I’m still in charge here. We’re supposed to be trying to save money. All we’ve done is spend a shit load more on IT crap and then open the closet on all the office gossip and family skeletons. Let’s go see St Paddy and his Irish cronies, to see if we can’t do a deal on some AKs and rocket launchers. We should get a good family discount now we know he knew Jesus’ Mom. We can sell ‘em on for a massive profit to some unsuspecting disciples. All those in favour?

All: Yay

They all rise from the table and retire to the bar to turn water into tequila and whiskey.

Continue reading

Swings and Roundabouts

This is a prequel to my story Give and Take.
It takes place around seasons 3 and 4 starting with when the group are released from Stockton after 14 months.
The story explores the start and development of the relationship between Chibs & Juice. There are some changes to the original story and timeline, but it makes sense in my head!
Language – yes, this is SoA! Some sexual content.
Characters belong to Mr S, I’ve just borrowed them to mess it around a bit.
Would love to hear what you think of it if you want to leave a comment.

Chapter 1: Reflections

It’s a memory that evokes so many emotions, a photograph in time that transcends the absolute dichotomy that is Juice, the idiot fool and comic prankster who, at the same time, is so much more. More giving and kind, more intelligent and insightful, more everything than anyone gives him credit for. Chibs remembers fondly the vision of Juice dressed only in a diaper and his boots, a cardboard sign stapled to his chest offering the retarded child for adoption, and a pacifier taped in his mouth. Duct tape. Who’d have thought that’s one more thing it’s perfect for?

 

Tig and Bobby had dressed him, or technically undressed him, after he’d passed out on sleeping pills he’d mistaken for speed, and they’d found him face down in a puddle of his own dribble under the pool table. It might have been Chibs who’d suggested they leave him comatosed in the middle of town to be found by the local Feds, and they’d all collapsed with laughter when they spied from afar and watched an incredulous Hale nudge him with a wary foot and move Juice along as he finally came to.

 

He can’t be sure but Chibs thinks that’s when his infatuation with the boy had first started. There’s no denying that the lad’s taut body could elicit appreciative glances from many a watchful eye, and that he’s probably the only brother, save Jax, who could possibly have come out of the situation with looks of admiration alongside the ridicule. But for Chibs, that episode gave him far more to dwell on than the firmness of Juice’s body, the defined contours of his abs, the tone of his skin and the brightness of his joyous, if embarrassed smile. What Chibs most remembers is a feeling of awe and respect that the crazy, stupid fool was able to take the jibes, laugh at himself and return to his brothers without a trace of bitterness or resentment at the stunt they’d pulled on him. He took it in such good grace, far more generous of spirit than any of the rest of them would have been. Chibs knew then that that kind of self-effacing humility made the boy special. Special in a way that he’s never quite got out of his system.

Continue reading

For You..

Language Alert. Sorry – had to be done!

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For you…..

If I knew before what I know right now
If I knew the truth the when, why and how
If I knew the signs and which path I’d take
If I knew back then those decisions I’d make

Would I change the road that I wander along?
Would I change the tune, sing a different song?
Would I trade the lows for a new set of highs?
Would I change my mind, be astute and wise?

If I could turn back time and find a different means
If I could change the view and see some different scenes
If I could find reverse and turn my life around
If I could undo life and change the lost to found

Would I live my life to a different tune?
Would I change my sun for a midnight moon?
Would I stifle love and silence my cries?
Would I turn to you and say my last goodbyes?

Would I fuck!