A short story by J. ASHCROFT

‘The world is language. If you want to the change the world, you have to change language first.’ This was probably expressed in more terse terms (go on, have a go) but you get the general gist. I can’t really remember who said it – ever since the summer of ’05 I’ve had this unruly ability to retain information but forget the source. Good for parties, bad for footnotes. But it really depends on how you look at it – some people would say it’s like trying to pack a bag without a suitcase but I don’t really go in for that kind of thing. Rejecting logos would be a better analogy. Would you want to meet Wordsworth? I don’t think I would.

The logical mind might attribute all this to a mere instance or decision in which the proffered results were unanticipated in their depth or weight. A type of cerebral scarring perhaps. Forcing a rusty tap. But objective observation could never hack the subjective experience. What I can tell you is that before the summer of ’05, whether instance or process, colours weren’t as colourful, cheers weren’t as cheerful… things weren’t as thingful. Ever since I have had this knack for corrupting nouns into adjectives. In a broader sense, relations and associations have become more malleable. Time could be a flat circle and the world a spec of dust but the space in the middle, the stuff, I realised, is where it’s at. Fuck A to B, or the gun and the tape. There would be no elegy if the poet got the girl, nor would there be science without Socrates. I often think I could squeeze a thesis out of a fleeting thought but not everyone has delusions of grandeur as mundane as mine. I can be a bit wordy you know. Alliteration can be serendipitous. Maybe you should raise your game.

The summer was unremarkable. If I asked you to recall what you did in the summer of ’05, chances are you couldn’t say. A couple of hot days. Busy streets, roidoids itching to derobe. Maybe you got a tattoo. Fair enough then. But maybe you just ate a Cornetto and went home with sticky fingers. Remember that? Probably not. Two Hoffman-grade microdots and I still can’t make up my mind. But come on, let’s at least try and find some middle ground here. You know those children, you know, the ones you see coming out of learning shops and calling all the bullshit, well you know those kids, you know they’re children right? You also know that, hopefully most of them, at some point, might not be children anymore? At some point. Adults and that. You know what, I’m not even sure you’ve figured that one out yet so go figure, go on, raise your game. The subjunctive breeds complacency that’s unworthy of Mother Nature. Capitalism isn’t going anywhere, and the tube still makes that noise like the Ethernet dial-up. But you’re probably too young; discuss, betray.

8 years later, give or take a few (who even comes up with this shit???) and I’m in the park. It’s red-nose tender-ears kind of cold but I have a warm jacket and a fifth of Jameson so I’m doing all right really. It’s a Wednesday, so it’s mid-week. This isn’t pure coincidence: for reasons unknown to me, the boss has always allowed this day to be my day of rest. I can’t say if it’s to do with me or him but I keep quiet about it because there are always more important things to discuss, like football, sex or philosophy.

Since I’ve spent the years after that summer trying to build a home between A and B – i.e. the space where Diotima locates Love, the space where the sun is drunk-driven (or its reins tugged loosely by the mortal kin of Apollo), the space where motion moves and desires tend, the space where material is material, the space where the stuff is, the in-between, the for-play and the foul-play, etc. etc. – it has become increasingly difficult to reconcile this with any sense of schedule or normality suitable or sustainable in a consumerist society. Getting the balance right is, what you and your army might call, sanity. Notice how they love to polarise, yet words are always interchangeable: greasy banker, filthy hippy. They know the middle has always been dangerous and always will be. Why do you think Tolkien called it that.

Either way, there will always be compromise on both sides of the wall, a wall which by my books (seriously, who actually comes up with this shit) takes several formative years of dope-smoking or insomnia to knock down (each to their own, of course. By which I mean there are other methods). And this isn’t a ‘heeeere’s Johnny!!’ kind of knocking. It has to be more delicate than that, like a subtle etching that perpetuates or a timid poking where white light bores through day to day, unasked and not always welcome but forever substantial. Most people lack the constitution to stage an entrance more bombastic – maybe this is a good thing. I haven’t made my mind up about that one yet either. Anyway, (you and I have different definitions of the word ‘digress’ but I cater) what I was trying to say is that the mid-week Wednesday mix-up (as I coined it) was invented as a way to keep the stuff in sight and to stop material transcending its dictionary definition. Block that programmed pattern-seeking urge that pervades all human endeavour and blackens subjective experience. Decondition. The real world vs. the real world. I soon discovered that one is not compatible with the other and so even here there is a middle ground, which I am trying to transform, from a no-man’s land into a rich tapestry.

The park and the whiskey is just Stage One of what has become a weekly tradition. Even though one of the main objectives is dissolution of structure and purpose, I still like to be organised with the implementation. So it always begins on an empty stomach, at the top of Primrose Hill, with a fifth of Jameson and a cheesy panoramic view of London that gives you 360 and costs nothing. Cough up the tar. Inhale the geography, exhale the infrastructure. It’s 7am and the Shard looks pretty good. And the Gherkin, and the Eye… there’s Canary Wharf, glad I’m not there, though I might be able to afford Black Label and straights if I were, whatever, fuck it. Take it in because it’s harder not to. You see the way you’re sitting? You realise that’s the easiest way for you to do that? Do you know why that’s the easiest way for you to do that? Because it is, and that’s why everyone’s been doing it that way, for years and years, because it’s the easiest way. There’s comfort in that itself if you ever get lonely. This is the only stationary part of the day.

So I can’t say how you’re built, but after a fifth of Jameson on an empty stomach (at seven in the morning) I tend to get quite drunk. Everyone knows that if you drink before you take drugs, you are probably going to feel those drugs come on in a heavier way. I always let the last drop settle for a bit and leave the bottle lying around before starting stage two, the last of the stationary stages. There’s something romantic about littering, especially when the litter is the vessel you left your harbour on, thrust into a grey that needs the courage to change colour. Empty, one person’s secret, another person’s dollar, a game-changer, my mid-week breakfast. It’s kind of a nice thought really. So many outcomes varying in degrees of misery, so many situations, tainted, graced, dulled or enhanced by that strong aroma. You pick the word depending on the mood. I pick the word depending on the day. And today is Wednesday and I’m ready for Stage Two.