James Brown’s body is missing. The Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Great Pop Innovators, the total wild-haired mad bastard of dance – his corpse has jumped picked itself up and disappeared into the wilderness.
First gear, second gear, accelerate as the lights far ahead switch from red-amber to green and whizz up the outside, cutting back inside the solitary inexplicably dawdling Nissan micra.
Into third, indicate, mirrors, brake, second, turn right, accelerate, third, mirrors, brake, over the speed hump, mirrors, nothing about don’t bother to indicate, second, down the hill, accelerate, third, fourth, straight down into second, brake, brake harder, slip through the width restriction, accelerate, into third.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
It was the middle of the night in London as I drove at speed through the half empty streets. Night buses lingered at stops as potential staggering passengers attempted to compose themselves. Couples kissed goodnight in poorly lit doorways, away from the light drizzle. Kids in dark hooded tops and shining white trainers lurked behind the smokey murk of recycling bins. An million different stories, all glimpsed through glass as sped on past.
Racked by insomnia and frustrated with simply lying in the lonely bed looking at a dark broken apart by the light of the moon and the hovering street light that crept through the open blinds and casted lines of silver across the room, I gave up and hit the road. I drove through the city’s small hours, navigating by instinct, unable to read the map in the dark and never once paused to check. I let my internal compass weave an irregular pattern across the London’s soul.
Michael Foot may have been the author of the longest suicide note in history with the 1983 Labour party manifesto, but as hypocritical bastards congregated for the great parliamentarian’s funeral I couldn’t help but be pleased that at least he had principles.
In contrast, good ol’Godie Brown and Beagle Balls pointedly refused to answer a question from an eight year old about what their favourite biscuit is - presumably not to upset all the other biscuits. ‘Good grief,’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Nick Cleggy, Foggy Cable and Compo Kennedy finally got their own media smoozing campaign underway and announced their new slogan at the Spring conference: ‘Change that works for you – building a fairer Britain.’
Aside from all the major political parties adopting grammatically meaningless catchphrases why does everyone seem obsessed with the image of Britain as some kind of fucked up travelling circus?
Somebody passed me a Bloody Mary, but I left it untouched behind a plant pot. I can’t stand tomato juice. Too much of it makes my piss sting. Bloody Marys, named after Mary I, eldest daughter of Henry VIII and the second of his children to take the throne. Mary had to patiently wait for her younger brother Edward to politely die before she could rule. A penis beat a vagina, every single time back then.
Once on the throne, Mary did what all frustrated rulers who have been lurking in the shadows, disagreeing with what was being done to the lands that should rightfully be their’s – she started to take it apart. Most crucially, Edward was a far more committed protestant that his father ever was, but Mary was a devoted Catholic – the true church had to be restored. But more than that. Protestantism had to be more than just reduced to playing the back-up act, but it needed to be eradicated, burnt from the nation’s heart.
Almost three hundred so-called heretics, two hundred and twenty men and sixty women, were burnt at the stake during her brief reign. Three hundred of her own people murdered for not believing quite the same thing as her. Bloody? There’s no blood in well-done meat.
One evening, I pulled over on Tower Bridge, near the fortress and sniffed the air. Perhaps there was still the tang of blacked flesh. Perhaps it was just the river.
Schroeder Johnson paused from bashing out Beethoven on his miniature piano down on the rugged floor of his private rooms in the Home Office. He looked up from his
cross-legged position on the floor and scanned the notes being thrust in his face.
‘You’re barking!’ he exclaimed to the DEFRA official. ‘Third party insurance for all dog owners?’
Beagle Balls looked worried, pulled down his flying goggles and scuttled away into his kennel, tail between his legs.
A week later, out in the marginals, the government was cowering as the oppositions, released from the leash, gambled and played with complete freedom. They humped and barked and ran and bit as much as they damn well pleased.
Shamefaced, Johnson stepped up to the front in the House of Commons, wiped his shoe on the back of his trousers, shoved his hands moodily in his pockets and mumbled, ‘told you it was a stupid idea,’ before announcing more loudly, ‘it was only a suggestion.’
I stopped at a junction on Haringey’s borders momentarily confused and then saw a sign to familiar Hackney. And I was off again.
Accelerate, brake, change gear, indicate, check my mirrors, all the actions on automatic as the world service murmured sweet nothings in the background. Soothing received pronunciation told me stories of foreign lands, of the weather far out in seas I’ll never experience the salty choppiness of. Calm, steady monotone relating news and politics and obscenely obscure detail for processes I have no need of knowing yet remain endlessly fascinating.
All that was important was that I kept on moving.
Mary was the first woman to rule England. Henry II’s mother, Matilda, was Queen in name, but she spent most of her reign either in exile or fighting the pretender to the throne. Mary actually got the keys to the castle.
Although, she did need a bored and homesick Spanish prince to at least pretend to help.
Despite ascending to the throne legally and through clear inheritance, Mary was weighed down by a severe martyr complex. Partly because felt so insecure, so manipulated by the men around her the same men who had in the past demoted her from royalty and then raised her up again. She felt her status was so unstable that she was desperate for a child, for a son to continue the line and legitimise her rule. Despite numerous phantom pregnancies and complications caused by ovarian cysts, Mary went to the death believing that her role was to be a mother and being patronised by those at her court.
Even so, despite the agonies on the morning of her passing she still managed to sign two warrants for burnings.
Anna Span, apparently a director of “female friendly “porn films, has been selected as a the Liberal Democrat’s candidate for Gravesend. When asked about her suitability as a member of parliament, Cleggy slipped his index finger down his collar to give his flushed cheeks a bit more air, took his mac and flat cap off and stuttered: ‘Well… It’s not really my cup of tea…’ before attempting to surreptitiously check whether any of his ‘at least thirty’ bedroom conquests had been involved in porn. Or perhaps, just whether he’d cracked one off to one her films and tried to claim it back on expenses.
Vacuous, flabby faced Dave exposed his so-called secret weapon over the weekend: SamCam. (And, Jesus Christ, do I want to stab my eyeballs out with knitting needles for having to type that? SamCam. Ugh.) Clearly, someone who’s the daughter of a baronet and descended from Charles II is going to appeal to one and all. What’s her purpose – to discuss economic policy? To be a potential ambassador to Iraq? To lead on sustainable energy production? No, nah, and no way. It’s to praise Dave with faint praise.
‘Oh, he drives me mad,’ I have to paraphrase because my typing no doubt doesn’t have the right upbringing to accurately recreate her words, ‘he so messy. Especially when he cooks.’ Ah, see what she did there? She pretended that she’s making him seem rounded and normal and imperfect because he’s messy (rather than, say, totally fucking barmy - the sort of man who spends what little leisure time he has starring at photos of concentration camp survivors whilst flecks of drool form at the corners of his mouth) but then she qualifies it by pointing out that it’s worst when he cooks.
Because, clearly running a political party means he gets home first and whizzes up some tea for her and the kids. And all the women around the country, who have to feed their spouse’s and partner’s and children’s insatiable appetites with non-stop rounds of tasty meals no matter how heavy their period or bad their day or that their Dad just died, think ‘oh he cooks, the little darling.’
Don’t be fooled.
Everyone’s gone after the women voters. Gordie crops up on women’s hour, using it to pretend he’s committed to defending your summer holiday by opposing the strike of the Labour Party’s biggest donor, whilst Dave lurks around Mums.net trying to pick up yummy sexually frustrated mummy from south ken.
In ninety-seven Blair wanted Mondeo man to vote Labour. Earlier this year, the media identified the target voter as single drivers in committed relationships. In other words, those couples who live near a motorway junction and commute in opposite directions to towns equidistance from the place they live, the sort of town which might only exist because it’s exactly halfway between two other places. Voters who spend huge amounts of their time alone in their cars going to jobs they may be indifferent about, living plastic home lives. Pointing out these people as potential supporters is not a complimentary thing to do. All it does is highlight the concessions to reality they’ve had to make. All it does it make the parties seem smug and self-righteous and all the things we hate about them whilst making real people feel a touch stupid.
Don’t be flattered. The parties don’t really give a fuck what you think or what; they’re just pretending that key groups can make a difference. They want to take non-existent groups of people, the sort who it’s easy to make a bunch of promises to and then it won’t be too much of a problem when they fail to keep them.
‘Hey, listen chaps, I’ve got a great idea. Yeah, like, you know women, yeah? Fnar, not half. Anyway, them. Which women? All of them. I know that’s a bit of a generalisation, but it doesn’t really matter. They’re all the same in the end.
But, listen, let’s promise them everything. I mean, let’s promise free shoes and access to cheaper designer babies and promise to give away free chocolates and pink spotted turtles every time the first of a month is a Wednesday. Just to get their vote and laugh all the way to a five year majority.’
They think that by patronisingly suggesting that they’ll give you free stuff – like happy meal toys – you’ll just blindly fall in line. I’d like to think that the majority of us are not so selfish and/or unintelligent as to be utterly disinterested in a political mandate that only offers fairness and a better way of life a few. I’d like to think it anyway.
Besides, do you really think that a man who refers to his wife as his “secret weapon” is any more reconstructed that the misogynist fighter pilot moustached bowler hated twat? Nah, he’s just got a better dresser.
By day I sat in an overheated office incessantly talking and pumping myself with barely diluted caffeine to combat the black-redness that encroached on my vision. At home, my fingers hammered across the keyboard, the voices in my head talking me elsewhere and filling me with life. But, in the dead of the night I just drove.
Outside, the artificial light blurred into streaks of gold and green and red and silver, tubes of glistening neon disappeared behind and ahead, simultaneously static and mobile – their fixed points dictated by my own mph. White headlights of oncoming traffic pixalate and star as my tired eyes failed to focus properly. Exhausted, yet utterly incapable of sleep, heavy eye lids struck in Newham, in Ealing, in Putney, places where I could pull over, lock the doors and doze blissfully for a few moments, but instead I headed for home and as Peckham or Catford or Lee loomed the fire reignited and the eyes sprung open. Awake again and so on I go, off to search out new corners under railway bridges, darkened boarded up highstreets, thudding bass from houses and other cars, the lost and the lonely on the lower decks of buses watching me at red lights.
So many stories.
James Brown’s body is not missing. It was just a mistake. See how easy it is to get the media to react? You just need to make stuff up and fire off a couple of emails to the right people. It’s harder to take it back, though. In my imagination, forever now, James Brown’s slowly rotting corpse will be propped up in the shotgun seat of a pickup that’s disappearing along the never-ending highway.