Posts Tagged ‘London’

Hackney Dusk:  “This is the gun that shot Gandhi.”



Dusk sitting on my step smoking a cigarette in a typical London backstreet on a typical Summer evening. On the corner, where my road meets the High Street, the Eastern European accordion player recites a Balkan melody, pausing each time he hits a bum note to repeat, over and over again. His fingertips are bruised purple by the endless playing, fingernails ripped and pitted, at his feet a McDonald’s Styrofoam coffee cup to optimistically try to catch any passing coin. The music acts as a counterpoint to the distant sound of police sirens wailing and overlapping each other in the gathering dusk – an urban whale song.

A few houses to my left I can see the old man dressed as always in a too small sailor hat, white beard and corduroy trousers which end above the ankle. He looks like an emaciated Father Christmas waiting hopelessly for his stolen reindeer to return. Each day, come rain or shine he waits outside his house, motionless, shoulders hunched, head down as if the weight of his life and loneliness has physically crushed him from above.  Despite this he waits leaning on his little wooden gate, a final act of defiance, refusing to accept that whatever or whoever he’s expecting have long since gone, never to return in this lifetime.

Across the street I watch the large black woman walk round in circles in her small concrete yard. She’s always wrapped in a grey shawl, eyes vacant staring into the long-distance sweeping from left to right like a lighthouse beam. Even when I cross her field of vision sitting on my step she looks right through me. Haunted, empty. At her feet she kicks a child’s small plastic football ahead of her, her long and jagged uncut toenails almost puncturing the rainbow coloured ball with each jab. The ball shoots ahead, and each time she seems to panic and rushes towards it, as if scared it might disappear forever. She seems to resent the ball with each violent kick away, but then changes her mind and realises she can’t live without it.

It’s got dark enough now to see into the window of the apartment opposite me. Lights on full blast, curtains open, a man in his early thirties sits on his sofa tearing feverishly into a cardboard wine box. He is sweating profusely as he fumbles with the gelatinous silver pouch trying to locate the wine tap, like an alcoholic baby impatient to suckle on the teat. Most evenings around this time I see him do the same thing and by the time I return for my last cigarette he’ll have sucked that breast dry and will be sprawled out on his sofa having forgotten to draw the curtains, eyes closed as a passenger in a First Class airplane seat, destination nowhere, travelling round his room on an internal flight of fantasy.

I finish my cigarette and flick it into the open drain, missing by a mile now the wind has picked up. The accordion player has finished for the night, off to spend his pennies on another coffee cup ready for tomorrow’s concert. As I stoop to collect the cigarette butt and throw it over my wall I hear the sound of running footsteps.

A small Asian man runs past me headed towards the main road, in his hand he waves a broken china tea cup. Upon seeing me he holds it up, wild eyed, as if it’s on fire or about to explode.

“This is the gun that shot Gandhi!” he screams, before the night swallows him up once more.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”

Henry David Thoreau




The Missiles of Suburbia.

Based on a true story…

The Lexington housing estate, main building, East London, mid-July twenty-twelve.

Kwami stood at the urinal and felt the release of pressure. Man, there was nothing better than taking a piss when you really needed it. He shot a glance across to his left at the uniformed soldier who was feeling much the same emotion next to him. Catching each other’s eye they both looked down at the same time and focused on the task in hand. Kwami studied his length as he stretched out the last drops.

About forty feet above them on the wet roof, the Rapier missiles gleamed in the rain, black and sleek. They sat there perched like sullen crows watching out over the Olympic stadium tonight lit with an ethereal blue light in advance of the opening ceremony as yet still over a week away. All four missiles pointed up to the sky as if expecting an alien invasion from the stars. Ergonomics and art in one long black metal cylinder, beauty and devastation amongst the steel casing. A raindrop hung from the almost needle sharp tip of the missile.

One floor beneath and breaking all urinal etiquette Kwami twisted his head to the left so as his ear almost rested on the shoulder of his silk shirt and spoke to the soldier. Knowing himself to be on home turf and with at least five homeboys down the corridor in his flat he felt he could allow himself a certain swagger. Whoever this soldier was, he didn’t care, but his uniform represented authority. And authority always had to be questioned, in Kwami’s book.

‘You been at it since early this morning, hey, I could hear y’all scratching round up there like pigeons in my roof’.

The soldier rolled his eyes, ‘Tell me about it, we been on the roof since five a.m. and what time it now?’ Without thinking he let go of his manhood and checked his watch, the continuing spray of urine arcing wildly against the stainless steel dangerously close to Kwami.

‘Hey man, don’t cross the streams’ said Kwami part in jest part warning, ‘It’s got to be round half-three, I guess. I just got up. Big night, bruv.’

Both men zipped up at the same time but only the soldier moved across to the wash basins.

‘I guess we’re having different days then?’

‘Guess so’, nodded Kwami, one hand on the door. ‘Good luck with putting those missiles on the roof. Olympic bullshit ain’t it?’

‘The soldier warmed his hands under the drier, moving his arms under the hot air.

‘I’m just doing my job…’

‘Yep, I hear that. I’m just doing mine’. Kwami patted his pocket and felt the angular edges of the Crystal Meth.

‘We’re just dealing the deck and playing the cards we been given, you sitting up there in the rain and I’m rolling in bitches back in my crib.’

The soldier wiped the remaining moisture off his hands by wiping them down his army fatigues.

‘…For Queen and Country pal, Queen and country.’

Kwami was half way out the door but held it open with the back of his heel.

‘Hey, don’t suppose you got a spare one of them rockets up there I could have?’

The soldier cracked a smile, but seeing an intent in Kwami’s eyes he quickly resumed his role.

‘Afraid not, sir, they’re all spoken for.’

Kwami kissed his teeth and let the door slam behind him. In the time it took him to walk across the hallway to his flat an idea had formed in his mind. Damn if he wasn’t going to steal one of those missiles and put it in his flat, pride of place, a show of his power and warning to anyone who came round to buy meth off him that he was not a man to be fucked with.

He slammed his front door shut a man on a mission, convinced of the genius of his plan. In the front room the smell of skunk weed hung heavier than the oxygen. Two lava lamps were the only lighting and the two girls on the floor busy packing up crystals from a tray into small plastic bags barely noticed his entrance above the music and TV blaring news in the corner by the window.

‘Listen up. Daddy got a great idea.’

The taller of the two girls groaned and waved him away.

‘Get lost Kwami we’ll lost the count.’

The second girl dropped the small plastic bag she was holding and let out a snort of frustration.

‘Aw, for fuck sake Kwami, now I lost it…’

Kwami came out fighting. ‘What you chatting about, you got the TV on, the tunes… how can you concentrate anyway?’

Sandra spinned round on her buttocks like a crab. ‘This Barclays bank shit. They’re the ones who just reposessed my nan’s house. Now there’s something about them lying and doing fraud…’

‘So?’ Kwami reached into his pocket for his rolling tobacco and papers.

‘So…’ continued Sandra,  ‘So. … Scumbags. They take away Nana’s flat all high and mighty, but they’re low and dirty… Ah, just fucking Barclays bank… What you want Kwami, you’re getting all up in my head.’

Nichelle, arms folded, spun round too, joining her sister in indignant questioning: ‘Yeah Kwami, what you want..?’

Kwami kicked up the carpet with the heel of his trainer. ‘I had an idea… great idea, put us up on top of things, yeah.’

Nichelle gave a knowing look to Sandra like they’d heard it all a thousand failed times before.

‘Kwami had an idea, huh? Well don’t get so uptight you can’t pull it out your arse.’

Both girls laughed. Nichelle couldn’t help herself, she had to twist the knife. ‘Yeah, last idea you had didn’t work out so good, hey? How much meth can a cat eat before it doesn’t land on its feet when you drop it.’

Kwami shook his head and sat down in the arm chair facing them.

‘Nah, I’m over that. I’m thinking bigger these days, you get me? You won’t be laughing when I got that big fat black rocket on my shoulder.’

This time the laughter came from deep within them, a belly laugh. The second girl pointed at him in the chair and between breaths of laughter called him out.

‘Let me get this straight boo, you gonna climb up on the roof and jack a missile, just breeze on past the soldiers up there?’

Kwami had no idea how to do it. Certainly he couldn’t overpower them, but he was sneaky, maybe some sort of a distraction? He waved a dismissive hand. ‘No, no, no. There’s only two of them up their tonight, I been watching. And I just met one of them in the bog…’

Nichelle broke out in uncontrollable laughter for a third time, ‘Ooh Kwami, something ’bout a man in uniform huh?’

Kwami leapt out of the armchair, he could take anything from these girls except a direct assault on his masculinity.

‘Fucking bitches. Listen up. I’m gonna get that rocket. Ya hear me? Sure, I met soldier boy in the toilet and he’s about twelve year old. Tall skinny streak of piss too. Olympics haven’t even started yet, they just got ghost patrol up there, you get me?’

Seeing he was serious, Sandra put down the bag of meth crystals and leaned in towards him. ‘And…?’

Kwami could feel her interest and he liked it. ‘…And… We gonna distract them…’

Nichelle too had become drawn in by his enthusiasm. ‘How? How you gonna distract them, Kwami?’

‘Nichelle, go flash ’em your great tits.’ He licked his lips with an exaggerated motion. ‘Two young soldier boys like that see a princess like you and they gonna get missiles of their own, for truth. They’d follow you into hell.’

Nichelle pushed out her chest with a sense of pride. ‘You better believe… ‘

Sandra didn’t seem so convinced. ‘Get over yourself girlfriend, these ain’t scrubs hanging out of their ride, these are soldiers, trained. T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G’ ,she tapped the side of her head with her finger. ‘No, I got it. What we do is start a fire. Damsel in distress and all that shit, soldiers can’t resist that shit. Kwami starts a fire in the cleaning closet by the lift, Nichelle, you scream out and freak. Down soldier boys come, creaming their pants at the chance to be a hero. Meanwhile I’ll sneak up and grab you your rocket, babe.’

Nichelle shook her head: ‘you two’s smoked to much of your own product. You talking stupid. Anyhow, you can’t just take it off though, it’s like fixed isn’t it, took them long enough to set up, didn’t it?’

Kwami gave another dismissive gesture with his hand, ‘I don’t know, Google it. How to dismantle a rocket or some such shit…’

‘Well it ain’t just a rocket is it you thick bear.’ Sandra turned to the other girl. It was on BBC news wasn’t it, remember when your mum phoned and said it’d been on the news about the Olympic missiles on our building. Check out the story, find out what sort of missile they are, then Google about how it works and shit.’

Kwami had to admit he felt impressed with Sandra’s cold logic. But that was why he was desperately in love with her, no, he reminded himself, not love, I just want to have her. I’m the kingpin, I’m the big daddy.

‘Alright then Kwami boo,’ said Sandra, ‘leave it us then, we’ll get you your little rocket honey, I mean after all, jeez,  it’s the only way I’m gonna get my hands on a long black rocket tonight, hey? she turned to Nichelle and winked.

‘Yeah’ she replied, ‘you just sit there on your throne Kwami boo, all soft-cock. We’ll do it. You’ll just fuck it all up  anyway. You just start the fire. Even you can’t fuck that up. Just sit there getting high, then round midnight drop your blunt like you usually do.’

Both girls fell about laughing, Kwami tried to rub an invisible stain of the arm of the sofa.


The fire had been small, but Nichelle’s screams huge and sure enough down the two soldier’s came for Queen, Country and a free look at the best boobs in town.  The rain had stopped by the time Sandra opened the access hatch. A weight of water rolled off and slipped through the gap wetting her shoulder. She shivered off the droplets and hauled herself onto the inspection platform.

She looked up and felt the breath come out of her. There they were. Black death from the skies. So sleek, so elegant, long and shiny reflecting the moon off their casing. Standing up, Sandra ran her hand along the length of the black shaft, catching the raindrops that remained and feeling the water run down her elbow and into her armpit.

Finding the release catch for the main housing it took both hands but she managed to prize it open. Then, reaching into her back pocket to check the folded paper, scrawled with Google instructions, she moved towards the front of the missile support and found the small green release button. She pressed to disengage the clamps and as simple as that the missile clicked forward on its bed a little and was free.

Sandra stood up on the guard rail, leaning in, pressing her toned stomach against the metal for support and took the Rapier missile in her arms as delicately as if it were her baby. She held it to her chest and carefully stepped backwards. Resting the surprisingly light rocket against the wall she stood either side of it and felt it between her legs, allowing herself a moments self-congratulation. She pointed the missile out over the rooftops towards Canary Wharf, skyscrapers rising up above the masses, the red aircraft warning lights twinkling triumphantly from their tops. She aimed it at the tallest skyscraper and sat down on the shaft of the rocket, waving her beeny hat over her head like a cowboy on the bucking bronco imagining she was coming back to save her Nan’s apartment. She slapped her hat against the cold tip of the missile and let it hang there. What a crazy fucked-up world we live in, she mused, patting the glistening rocket, this baby cost more than she was ever likely to earn in her whole career, just this one little rocket could put thirty of her friends’ kids through private school and university.

Lost in thought, she didn’t hear the sound of the soldiers returning back up the ladder. The shock made kick back against the missile. She was trapped, short of jumping off the small observation platform thirty storeys to her death, she certainly couldn’t go back the way she came. The sound of heavy boots on the ladder told her that there was less than fifteen seconds before she was at eye-level with the soldiers.

Trying to stand up too quickly she tripped on the guidance system for the missile, a small black box attached to one of the four tailfins. Feeling the vibration of action beneath her, Sandra studied her crumpled sheet of paper panicking. Almost immediately she felt a burning sensation on her ankle, seconds later she heard the noise. With a bright light that made the soldiers involuntarily cover their eyes the missile launched, taking flight like a raven enraged leaving its rookery. Sandra fell to the ground in the heat and power of the thrust. In the twelve seconds it took for the soldiers to grab Sandra by the arms, the missile had acquired and slammed into the Barclay’s building Canary Wharf like a massive candle being lit by a flame-thrower.

On the floor below Kwami was looking out of the window as the missile struck the skyscraper, his methpipe hanging in the gap between his front teeth as his mouth fell wide open. Immediately closing his lips around the pipe he quickly lit the bowl and inhaled deeply. The firework display lit up his dilated pupils as he stared out at the collapsing building. On his exhale he swore he could smell burning money. The smell carried across above  the exhaust fumes and rat stink that spanned the distance between him and the now decapitated Barclays skyscraper. Moments later, the sound of sirens wailing in the distance, getting closer, added a melody to the drum and bass blasting round his small flat. Kwami turned up the volume and prepared his bowl for another hit. He looked out the window shaking his head.




The First Day of Summer, real summer, happy summer: sweat in the eyebrows and squelch of dirty flip-flops dug out from the back of wardrobes unseen since autumn. The street rejoices as one, exhaust-pipe belches mingling with body odours and kebab juice.

 Happy sidewalk summer: To the black boys kissing their teeth on the street not knowing why: wailing at ATM’s as they put their card in again and again like toddlers trying to understand the square block can’t go into the circular hole, whilst behind them a line slowly forms, impatient and pitying in equal measure.

 To the new mums attacking ankles with taxi-sized buggies, too self-absorbed by their precious fare to see beyond the front wheels.

 To the dustbin-Daleks shuffling in their burkhas, welcoming in the fresh season with their new fashion range, black is the new black, is the new black. Pillar-boxed and pilloried yet taking a perverse satisfaction from their self-imposed exclusion from society as flies in the ointment.

 To the mentally ill tramps lurching past them at the edge of the curb and sanity, nothing but warm spittle washing around the bottom of their empty cans, pockets rattling with pennies and forgotten medication.

 To the unemployed new media ‘freelancers’ draped over their coffee-tables begging to be admired, blocking the pavement with chrome chairs, chrome glasses, chrome laptops, the sun bouncing brightly off their sweaty foreheads as they stare forlornly at empty screens and diaries. Desperately preening in the shop window and to any passer-by who may give validation to their peacock dreams, offsetting their nervous and fragile aspirational egos.

 To you all who fill my first day of summer with a deep and predictable joy. Tomorrow, rain is forecast and you will all be swept away back behind your closed doors, watching, waiting for a break in the clouds.

But I will still be here, pounding the streets and sweeping up your messes and near-misses, I am always here…


BADTHINK: “The Principles of PC NewSpeak.”


 This has to be a delicate post, a post so well written and subtle that it tickles your brain cells softer than a baby eaglet’s under arm hair. If I get it wrong then I will become guilty of the very thing I’m trying to explain. More guilty than the scumbag ignorenti and high-handed cognoscenti I’m trying to write about. I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge frankly, so I’ll let you judge.

Right now in London in the 21st Century there is nothing worse than being a paedophile. It is a safe news item – a story guaranteed to unite the left and right, the rich and poor, the emotionally intelligent and thick under a banner of ‘WE DO NOT LIKE THIS!” … and quite rightly so. It makes readers/viewers feel comfortable because they can define themselves by what they DO NOT LIKE. A line in the sand. Safety. Societal safety. But have you noticed how it is now almost impossible to have conversations about more marginal, grey area issues without having the debate shut down. I’m not talking about Davos Economic Forum, or Child benefit being withdrawn from those earning over £50k, I’m not even talking about sensitive issues like people on the dole, or on disability allowance, or those who have contributed nothing to society expecting and demanding society pay them £ 80k a year on housing benefit. All this seems up for debate. I myself am taking the piss on many levels of society right now – always taking more than I put back. But no, what I’m talking about specifically  is Multiculturalism, Gender Politics, Ethnicity – have you noticed how for intelligent people, cultured people, these topics are now off limits for debate and any attempt to engage them will be shut down with comedy or worse – cries of “Racist”, “Sexist”, etc.   Again another way that people can align themselves with the media perceived ‘Cool’, so they can say ‘I do not like this, therefore I must be cool.’

I’ll give you a few basic examples. I live in London: The top news stories in London are about Pakistani men grooming vulnerable white girls, Pakistani men outside East London Mosque patrolling the streets and warning women who are not covered, ‘gays’, people who are drinking to get out the area of Whitechapel as it is now a ‘Muslim Area’. Pakistani men killing their daughters in ‘Honour Killings’ and Female genital mutilation by yes… can you guess..? I’m merely reporting last night’s news. Now any debate about what might be wrong with their interpretation of Islam, or even deeper, male Pakistani culture is immediately shut down with cries of ‘Oooooohhh I’m telling – that’s Isssssslamophobic’ – ‘We must not even discuss this.’ This is Bad Think and the new doctrine of ‘New Speak’ finds this ‘unhelpful and problematic’.

Likewise, there is a massive problem with gun crime and street muggings. I actually put in a freedom of information request to  the Ministry of Justice (yeah too much time on my hands, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just acting from my own empirical and anecdotal evidence) 79% of all gun crime and street muggings are committed in London by Black Males. But hell – we can’t talk about that, there isn’t a problem – the problem is you are racist to even mention it. No problem here… move along.

Concerning Gender politics – it is illegal to ask a woman of child-bearing age whether she has/plans to have children or if she does what her childcare arrangements might be. Fair enough – why can’t men share the burden of child-raising equally? Totally. But considering 35% of children live in single mother families in London and due to an inconvenient genetic fact that women must physically give birth to  the children  and take up to six months maternity leave, then (as many of my female friends decided, to not return to work) the cost to small business of employing a woman in her twenties and early thirties is the same as playing roulette with loaded dice. Of course, if a small business interviews people for a new job if that business has any brains they’ll always take the best person – but if the choice between best person is equally qualified man or woman then….

Bah, I can tell I’ve lost you already dear reader – because you are intelligent you’ve been conditioned to shut down already and just consider me an asshole. But look deeper: don’t you see how it’s genuinely frightening that we can’t even debate these issues any more (and hundreds of better examples my brain ain’t grand enough to posit) without the knee jerk reaction of ‘Racist, Sexist, Islamophobic’)

You might say ‘Why do you care, Zealey? Surely you got enough of your own problems?’

Quite so. But as John Donne said – ‘No man is an island’, and so I’m symbiotically linked and interdependent with the society I live in. I care about this society for better or worse and I hate to see the 99% of Pakistani Men, or young black males who are quietly going about their life same as I try to do. But Without being able to have an adult and serious considered debate about what might be true and real, honest and important, it leaves the gate wide open for genuine racists and sexists, people who actually hate people for no other reason than there fearful prejudice. Such nuanced discussions are no longer acceptable without being shut down by your dinner party host blocking your mouth up with wilted asparagus.

Fancy discussing these topics in a considered and qualified manner on mainstream media…?


Thoughts welcome…

(Or just shut me down with ‘this is an unhelpful conversation, we shouldn’t even be having You are guilty of Bad Think, remember the Olympics , ‘Celebrate’ or die…’ 😉

Hope you understand where I’m coming from, if not, then I’m off to drink another bottle of Victory V gin without your company….

The Dolphin Dalai


3am Outside the Dolphin Pub. Mare Street, Hackney, London.

Walter Sikhart stank of piss again, only this time it wasn’t his fault. At some point earlier in the night someone must’ve found him drunk and asleep in the shop doorway and actually urinated on him. It was probably another drunk, caught short on his way home from the pub, unaware that tonight this darkened doorway was Walter’s bedroom.

Walter preferred to believe this rather than think they’d done it on purpose, few people deep down were that rotten, he reasoned. These were part-time drunks after all, mere amateurs at the craft, not full-time masters like he who’d studied for years at the altar of disappointment and despair. It was a Friday night and these drunks were off the clock from their regular office jobs. Jobs where they got to use staplers and paperclips for their original purpose and not to hold up their trousers, where correction fluid was used to mask mistakes on paper, not drunk as a shooter to mask mistakes in life.

Walter moved over to the bus stop, hoping the orange glow from the overhead bulb might give the illusion of warmth and dry him off a little. He looked down at the floor and saw a cigarette butt with a good length left on it, probably thrown down in the arrival of an unexpected bus. He carefully straightened out the crumpled end between thumb and forefinger and put it too his lips, rooting round in his overcoat for a match.

He hadn’t been born an alcoholic, in fact he hadn’t even been born Walter Sikhart, he had become both in the intervening years.  He’d actually chosen the name himself when he’d first come over from Nepal some ten years ago, for all the good it had done him. He’d been born Wai Sikhinn, on the northern shore of Lake Rara in the west of the mountainous Himalayan kingdom. Even this harmless twist of fate had gone against him, because if his mother had decided to take the ferry that day then he’d have been born closer to civilisation on the southern bank and wouldn’t have been brought up to believe he was a demigod.

The town elders had decreed that nineteen forty-eight was the year the next Nepalese Lama would be born and they searched the villages in their flowing orange robes scattering lotus blossom as they went and ensuring Walter could never again have a normal life. He remembered nothing of the determining test, laid down for millennia in their sacred teachings. When all the different animal bones had been spread out in front of him that early spring afternoon, smooth and rounded from the years of having been wrapped in silk, his four year old hand had naturally just reached out for the one that interested him the most: the sacrum bone of a pink bottle-nosed dolphin.

He did recall how this action had changed the electricity in the room, the energy had picked up and the people in the funny orange sheets seemed to become animated and talkative. The necessary astrologers and numerologists were consulted and charts drawn up. All had agreed he was a shoe-in for the top job. The stars were in correct alignment, the dolphins were crooning at night in the nearby lake, the bone had been correctly selected. And so for the next twelve years Walter Sikhart was trained and instructed in his future role as spiritual leader of the Limbus people.

Then, about a week after his sixteenth birthday his world changed forever and his destiny gurgled down the plug-hole like the mulch of so many dead lotus flowers and pointless tears, culminating in his inexorable sluice down the drain to exit here in Hackney. His mother had taken ill and deteriorated fast. On what was to become her death bed she confessed to him that she’d got the date of his birth wrong all those years ago. She’d realised soon after the monks had taken him to their monastery, but knowing that they could provide for him better than she ever could, she held her tongue, until the guilt and cancer had eaten away at her and now she was dying. He found it hard to come to terms with either situation. His whole life had been a based on a lie. Having spent his formative years being revered as a saviour he was suddenly reviled as a fake and shut out in the cold.

After much thought and in what was looking likely to be the only moral stand he’d take in his life, he told the elders of his village the truth and relinquished his destiny.

He’d tried to stay in the village but the constant looks of pity and suspicion that the fix had been in from the get-go, had eventually forced him out. He became a fisherman, using the dolphin bone that he still kept with him to call the pink bottle-nosed dolphins close to shore.

Each morning, just after sunrise he’d stand with his bare feet in the turquoise water and sound the bone, relishing the ghostly noise bouncing off the residual fog like a skipping stone and echoing up through the tall pines. What followed was an amazing symbiosis between the land mammals and our aquatic distant cousins. Each time a school of fish congregated in the lake, the dolphins would corral them up and push them towards the shore so the waiting fishermen could catch them. So deep did the relationship run that once the fish were rounded-up, the porpoise would give a flick of their tail to show it was time to cast the nets. It never failed!

What amazed Walter most about this relationship was that there was nothing in it for the dolphins, they were purely doing it to be helpful. It was then that he realised the true connectedness of life. The inter-dependency and co-existence between everything, all alive with the same spark of life-energy linking as one on a sub-atomic level. All relying on each other for survival and a purpose. A purpose in life that had so cruely been robbed from him. The bone had of course been lost in the pissed mist of time, along with any last dreams of redemption.

Walter smoked the butt down to the filter before tossing it back to the floor of the bus shelter, such memories were dangerous for him, they invariably led to bitterness and more drinking. He exhaled slowly, savouring the last puffs of the chocolaty smoke and looked round at the city, surrounded as it was by rat-maze walls of man-made concrete. The exhale became a sigh. There were very few places left on earth where humans still understood this precious symbiosis of life. Here in the artificial urbanity there was only humanity and machines, and both seemed pretty heartless right now. Man appeared hell-bent on an unstoppable rush into the dark and unnatural blending of flesh and silicone. A Cybernetic marriage without possibility of a divorce.  In only a few hundred years we’d gone from being surrounded by the ecstatic hum of life, to the incessant whir of cold anti-life in metal, stone, smoke and plastic. To Walter what was most crazy of all was that we’d done it by choice, but the physical comforts we’d gained sure as hell didn’t add up to the spiritual reality sacrificed.

He was starting to feel the bitterness well up inside himself again. Damn, he wanted a drink. A chemical cosh to beat the bilious monster back down again for a few more hours. He shook the can of barley wine between his legs but it didn’t even make a rattle: more empty than his pockets. Maybe if he had’ve been a demigod he could’ve magic’d up another can, but not here, not now.

His train of thought was broken by the clatter of dustbin lids behind him in the pub alleyway. Twisting his neck in the damp, piss-stained coat Walter watched two teenagers kicking at a trash can. They looked detached, malevolent and empty, surrounded by artificial things he guessed they’d never known how to live connected and real.

They saw him staring, Walter turned quickly away and stared at his feet imagining invisibility, but it was too late. The taller of the two youths swaggered up, the angry vinegar piss coursing inside rather than outside on somebody else’s coat.

‘Hey, what up, clot? You wanna get shanked old man?’

Walter buried his face in his coat. The smell of stale urine was stronger here, he felt there were hints of hops and wheat, definitely a drinker.

The youth was immediately all up in his face, posturing and looking for an excuse to escalate their encounter.

‘Hey, I is talking to you. Want to get robbed?’

His friend had caught up and grabbed his arm.

‘Leave him, he’s just a bum, look at him. He ain’t got nuffink. Fuck it blud.’

As if to show he’d given it careful consideration, the taller youth kissed his teeth and snatched the can from Walter before turning away. He watched them go from the corner of his eye not daring to turn his head, leaving the majority of his face concealed by the coat. On discovering the can was empty the youth drop-kicked it at a betting shop window across the street only for it to bounce off the advertisement for some perfume none of them would ever get to smell.

Right now Walter was smelling piss and he didn’t like it. The smack of the can startled a fox which had been rummaging nearby through a discarded fried chicken box and it started across the road towards him.  In the relative safety of the bus shelter the fox cowered under the red plastic bench, covering three of its four possible avenues of attack.

Walter leant forward and peered between his legs to get a better view of the fox. It was shivering and wide-eyed with a mix of fear and adrenaline. Remembering he had a small piece of kebab left in his pocket he retrieved the greasy strip of meat, grey and glistening in the orange light. He flapped it on the grooved seating and the fox instinctively got up to inspect the offering. As it slinked up to the rancid meat Walter could see something clasped between its teeth, a white bony protuberance sticking out either side of the jaw. The fox cautiously sniffed the meat, then stepped over it towards the scrunched up material of Walter’s coat. Locking eyes with him, the fox bowed its head and dropped the object on the urine-soaked clothing, before retreating back and hastily gobbling up the meat.

Walter recognised the gift instantly and poked it with his nicotine and shit stained finger, just to make sure. For the first time in weeks he forced himself to mentally focus and cut through the drunken stupor. It was undoubtedly the cranial bone of a bottle-nosed dolphin and as he reached out for it he felt again like the innocent four year old selecting the thing that was most pleasing to him. With trembling hand he put it too his lips not daring to believe and exhaled…

Above him in the bedsits and studios of Mare St people found themselves being roused softly from the depths of their slumber to hear a haunting sound that had no business on a London street. Walter took another breath as it began to rain. The droplets danced over the air-hole of the bone making the sound even more watery and ethereal in the blue dawn. The gently haunting sound wailed out, soft yet insistent like a candle against the darkness, becoming a Pied Piper’s rallying cry quite impossible for the sleeping city-dwellers to ignore in their artificial beds.

© Michael G Zealey