// INCOMING/SUPPRESSED: the commander of ****’s Battalion ******** Militia, announced that scores of fighters have returned to *****, Western ****, from ****** to join the fight against the **** terrorists.“180 **** ****** are now back in **** to help the popular forces in their fight against the **** and defend the city of ****,” **-**** Press news website quoted the commander as saying on Tuesday. He underlined that most of the fighters of the Battalion are also present in some regions of ******** and ***** provinces. The ******* are planning for a major battle against the **** in *****. The **** has links with ***** intelligence and is believed to be indirectly supported by the ****** regime. // ENDS
A giant flag draped behind the nation’s leaders. A faded flag hanging limply in an antique shop in a small town. A book of ensigns on a shelf next to tea sets and cracked crockery, medals and vinyl records and gas masks.
A woman standing proudly in front of a house. A family on the beach. An old motor car. The car of a man and woman. The house and family of a man and woman. A woman standing proudly in an old photograph in a tatty album, on a dusty shelf, forgotten beside the flags, in an antiques shop.
The cliffs went tumbling, making way for water and its irresistible surge that even time couldn’t stop. The rocks rumbled. One person dead.
And by the greyest of all the rivers the gothic palace began to crumble, its stone so soft you could brush it away with a fingertip, polishing it into nothing.
On our little beach the hard pebbles of the shore are covered with slippery weed. It’s difficult to walk. The buzzards lope above. The sky is ever so blue.
Where do we go to when all the signs say move, move…?
After they tore open the skies there was little left to protect. No more checkpoints. No more sanctions. No more barriers. No more disputes. There had been nowhere left to go on sovereign land. No way through the impasse of government and state. There was nowhere left to grow. They looked upwards instead, above the law. The sky was empty. Half of the wealth of the world down below could be lifted up there, into the light, above any regulations. Everything of value could rise into this untethered new world. The word ‘corporation’ could finally be divested of its meaning.
“The wee fat man: the Mittel-European; the guy with the cheeky smile; the captain of the ship; the Boss. He’s the one you want. But you’re starting from the wrong place. You are at the door of his castle, but you can’t enter. You must speak with his agents. His agents are not here. I can’t tell you where they are, but they will tell you if you are likely to be granted some level of permission. It would be best not to try; it’s best to wait. They’ll come for you. If they don’t, then that is an answer.”
Half a million spent on cranes and forklifts and trucks, lifting rock from a stately home (that doesn’t need to profit, what with the visitor tariffs and gift shop and restaurants) and digging up another site on monied ground. Planting up the flowers and pumping water through like it was a stream, a real stream. The Champagne people are here, stroking their chins and their wallets. The Royals stagger through. The paying people gawp. They look at the sandstone, at the scale. They feel in their pockets for cash. They forget that all this is theirs; that the land lives.
Charles had bunked off. There was some story about his mum, but they were only told that he had terrible hayfever. While he was away friends started telling tales, bad things. And though not many would have known Charles’s influence, in his absence the playground became raucous. There were fights. The girls goaded the boys. The boys got rowdy. The teachers stepped in and were mocked. Lessons became chaotic. One lunchtime, a game of British Bulldog was turning violent. A punch was thrown. Against the brick wall of the school Andrew flicked back his hair. This time would be his.
There will be no clichés. No morning light, no birds singing, no greening of the year. This is no bildungsroman. We learn nothing. We will repeat the same mistakes because we have the same hopes and the same fears and we continue to lack the facility to contend. We are compromised by ourselves and others but prefer not to think about it. We will not accept ourselves and our complicity. We accept feeling thwarted, but deny the true challenge. The roles of hunter and hunted are vainglorious, but we never let them go. We enjoy stasis. It is our alibi.
– What are the white flowers in the grass?
– Cow parsley, said John.
– No, no, Alex starkly corrected him: it’s Queen Anne’s Lace. She held his stare. He turned around and started down the lonning.
– Maybe May flower, something, he said.
– What was that?
– Nothing. Nothing.
Jack ran up to his heels:
– Does the cow eat the parstley?
– I don’t think so.
– Why did mummy say it was Queen’s Laces.
– She… well, it’s called that too. It has different names.
– It depends.
Alex had caught up and took Jack’s hand:
– You’ll tell him it’s about class.
– Don’t dislike me.
She was running through snowflakes. He always told her to take care, don’t slip, keep her gloves on, wear a hat, knowing how paranoid he sounded and how much he felt like his own father. The moment made him anxious, frustrated and sad. She just smiled and ran off up the hill. Look at her go. She was too young to know anything, she just wanted to slide. The burn of the cold would come later and she’d know then. Adults forgot how these days were nothing but fun. Fun was blind. Was that an expression? If only she’d lived.