Events converge, are indistinct: tragedy’s routine, and hope routed. Even in small towns, banks bursting with nature raw, this catastrophe continues. It seeps into cracks and saturates. It is atmospheric. It conditions. It gives pace to the corrosion of innocence. What can be said to be certain still: Karachi, faith, murder. You can hear them scratching floorboards beneath your feet, those who say: it is time to go back to purity, "...until evil is extinct, until the death of death."
I dived off the harbour at Jard-sur-Mer into water thick with salt and petrol and full of long, leaping fish. This was for refreshment, and to complement my morning. I needed to get newspaper and document stains off my fingers; to ease out coiled energy and menace, knotted flesh and muscle. Climbing out, I felt healthy, bronzed. Skin purred and fizzed as I dried in hot afternoon air. I cycled back into town and stopped for lunch in a dank, grubby bar on the high street. I stuffed crayfish beneath ceiling fans that cut shadows across my forehead. I drank Pernod served by a young woman with strict, noble, Florentine visage. Shadows and potted shrubs tinged the heavy, cool air. And yet, even so, tension and temerity still. Too tightly wound to carve a crisp new phase. Cycling home along roads lined with poppies and dry grass, sun searing and heat rippling the surface, Pernod did not sooth or follow through.
Satellites circle a well-webbed sphere, knit by bullet trains and budget airlines, fibre-optics and holography. “It sounds like psychological warfare” said Bibi, resplendent and sprightly on Sky. Shimon Naveh was making space smooth, was walking through walls. “You stupid bastard,” screamed Gobi, in exasperation, “just arrange the fucking tanks!” Stewing safely in Damascus, Meshal sent in kids and things blew up. From Mr. Zapatero, routing bishops while Spaniards defaulted on loans and construction companies collapsed: “finally I would like to highlight the importance of the Mediterranean.” Ships shelled Gaza beaches. Queen Rania al-Abdullah, radiating, said: “We in Jordan will do our part.” Kuwaitis, with fat gore $$$ mouths, built the City of Silk on arid sand: a glossy smear of coloured glass, warped metal and liquid light boasting world class art galleries and towers taller than Burj Dubai. Emirate princes roamed European capitals in pursuit of Picasso and Cezanne. Theme parks, from Legoland to Las Vegas, were imported, improved. Abu Dhabi purchased branches of the Louvre and the Guggenheim. Al-Saud princes with ravenous eyes snatched Riviera casinos, Chinese coal fields, North Sea gas concessions, Australian gold mines and English football teams. Republican Guards and jet patrols and surveillance systems covered massing desert machinery, so everything kept working, and money circulated.
My blood is quick and busy. I watch carnivorous reserves with patience, alacrity. Trade on Brent crude, reconfigurable warships, revolving tropical storms. These are deep plans. The lure of privatisation, the weakening of consumption, the dizzy and delicious cyclical slowdowns. For those counting on fortunes and futures, let's just say, shall we, the point's been missed all along. The fun's been elsewhere. Some of us got into position, acquired the right sensibility, understood the message, the aesthetic and the pay off. It's been dicey, I concede: a case of sin taxes on a blessed product. But look at me now. Drama steeled me. My skin is richer than before. Ruddy cheeks highlight creamy complexion: country life evanescence. City bars keep me toned and wired; in peak condition. At 16, I was reading Nabakov and at 18 I was reading Dostoevsky. Now I'm into Essex girls and football and West End clubs. No transition here, so parents stay proud, and paid off.
Markets lie stunned. Drexel Burnham and Lazard Freres & Co. an early and eery prologue to months and years of panic and mania. (Giuliani said: “If I were sitting in my old place at the Justice Department, I would recommend a pardon for Michael Milken, and if I were president, I would sign one, and if the president does sign one, I'd congratulate him.”) Banning short selling makes markets more volatile. Shares continue to fall; vast, opaque liabilities exposed. Caverns of debt. (“Anyone who has closely examined what it is that Milken confessed to will tell you the crimes are so esoteric, so nuanced, as to be nearly indecipherable.”) Years of mantras and panics. Yulia: "new and invisible borders arise in Europe," and "our choice was irrevocable."
Oysters slip down a fully open throat. Crave seawater and its stringent and rejuvenating effect. I am now fully ill. I am in pain. Flow of alcohol and nicotine while gulping cold air and acid rain. I was also chatting up Latvian whores, as it was Riga, and the winter was icey, and I was full of hard liquor. Medieval streets in aspic, now streaked with neon and the dangerous and dirty come-ons of desperate starlets. Crowds spilling and rolling round churches and strip clubs. A certain venture on the brutal breeze: not a cure, or an answer, but a possible route, or several suggestions. I was here years ago, this was my city, very cheap, and there to learn the syllables of disgust. Running naked through empty hallways with a body in pain at various hours of the morning. Breakfasting on white wine with feet chipped to bits by snow.
Around this time you think of retaining dignity into old age, of physical well-being. What are you eating? You should closely regulate this: reduce saturated fat, up fibre intake, balance carbohydrates, etc. Listen: the expanding sun, or the atmosphere expiring, will allow beautiful English vineyards to bloom. Maybe French actors or American producers will buy these, and turn vast profits. Markets open and expand without pause; they are not predictable. The future is febrile. You must secure your place in it. You see, everybody would like a bright and healthy future. It is the driving basis of the Western spirit. Many do not understand the sacrifice or preparation required and follow a different route, with all its lusty attractions and romantic aspects. Others bet on neutered, self-destructive systems and services, but value freedom, dynamism, discipline. It is not tenable. Think: in time, why should you suffer? Why should you struggle? Each action and decision is an investment or a divestment in the years and decades ahead. You choose to lose, or succeed. So optimise your health, avoid anemia, cholesterol, hypertension. Buy a heart-rate monitor. Go low-GI. Invest in yourself. You mean that much. You are far too important to lose.
The robust breeze and chopped swell. Sand soft up to the tidal line, a rush of stone and shell sifted through white water. The low, wracked dunes; wire fences clogged with rust, ripped, collapsing. White sails and the forests and banks of Ile de Re on a sweeping, full-circle panorama. The breeze picking up to wind, full of salt, sun-saturated, above a curved drizzle of sea shells, dead molluscs: lovely white decay, subtle shades of white. Dried-out thistle and grass on uneven dune slopes. Little choppy sand breaks on the incoming tide, break from each point in patches, with gentle turbulence. And the sun, as it emerges out of laborious slabs of cloud, shoots light through the shore swell.
I cut my feet to shreds on the Vendee. I crushed snails and skewered lizards. The girls behind windbreakers were robust, bronzed, rich. Such health and delicious vigour - like Belinda Carlisle in LA, with puppy fat but without smack - while stubbing out Camels on sand. Turreau's death squads: colonnes infernales. Regional elements, shared, sustained: salt, blood. This canvas for clouds: white, black, light, heavy; sun-shafts and downpours and lightning. Dogs and herring gulls chewing charred corpses on searing sand. It happened. The salt marshes, their mechanics only grasped as you dry out on them, lips salty, bitten. Terns and avocets and egrets, circling, grazing. The marsh cows, harriers and hawks, herons and swans, moving slowly through murky air, low altitude.
A crisis not quick to be solved or resolved or undone. Of course you must remain social and rational and social to remain rational and somehow redeem rationality. And yet, there I was, spewing vast scarlet vats of Rioja and large chunks of Japanese cuisine outside the restaurant. Feeling, at times, untouchable; at others, like a sick man who invents stories. A while ago, problems began; hangovers spanned whole horizons and undid days. What happened? (We are not the bright young things of Karachi.) On the tube home there was a scene: a mentally unravelling Yardie shouted obscenities at walls and trains and women. Eventually a smooth old man (in genuine Aquascutum Mac) confronted this slurring bug as the rest of us dug our faces into books and free papers. Against mutual roars, we kept composure strict, asocial; felt ashamed, though not sure of what. Not rising as one to back right and attack wrong. Because righteous mass action would be group depravity: a Paul Dacre lynch mob. We were not that mob: we understood the subtleties of the situation, its subterranean tremours. We were psychologists and politicians. Not crude, but supple and modern. At home, undisturbed, apart from the ceiling spinning, I recall following the wobble of black ankle-tied high heels on some wasted tart sleeping opposite me. She missed her stop. Warning her, I guess, would have ruined my pleasure. The language, when she realised, was filthy.
Two heels stopped dead on stained concrete, after celestial sixty degree slice, in support of curt gym-toned figurine, topped by cute Cleopatra nose and blunt helmet bob. This august occurrence at Kennington Station with ten minutes until the Mordan train. I must mention that as the stench rose, the ceiling dripped hot sweat. It was midnight. Outside was sheer cold. But underground, jammed on the platform, we suffered in scarves, Macs, sweaters, boots. I must mention: I was clinging to sweat streaming down curved walls. I clung. It was clammy. The light dim, during these delays, with barely enough oxygen to breathe. Throat clogged by vomit while admiring various flesh tones and samples of delicious nylon. Not so easy: self-infliction, provocation, moral affliction. You learn. In trouble now: a soul in decline. We are not the bright young things of Karachi. Born 10 years from tattoos and unprotected sex in estate parks and cider injections and pet torture. Sliding down streaming walls, ogling sluts: you grow.
Sensex plunge. Aishwarya's eyes stay open: plucked & sublime FULL WHITE MOONS. "We are busy acquiring the accoutrements of prosperity." The lure of Goa; a hippy daughter raped on golden sand. W. said to Pope Benedict XVI: “Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech.” Carla: “We have no word for entrepreneur.” Carla swallowed spam mail. “Gross!” No more tapes & dodgy optical discs – you simply buy a new stock of hard drives. Carla purred: “it is all so tactile.” New deep sea discoveries: crusts rich in cobalt; 90 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic circle; gas hydrates on sea beds. Bickering about emissions trading and lavish incentives for biofuels, windmills and nuclear plants, in large rooms filled with PowerPoint displays and bottles of mineral water. Renegade ecologists caught transporting endangered species over borders. "Normally when people talk about water scarcity, they mean drinking water, from taps. We mean irrigation, crops." California and Tunisia screaming, therefore fresh dialogue and pristine plans: edible optics and aquatecture, air cars and space taxis. Capacity cushion doubled. OPEC, said Obama. "I'm from Chicago." Nothing original: it happened. Mind is leaping like dolphins; sharing the planet with Pixie Geldolf and can live with it. Bar Refaeli, backing new initiatives to recover endangered beaches, asks, "Will these tragic times make us happier?" Liberty Ross, at a Serpentine exhibition opening, had to make an impact in asymmetric satin. "So many things happened to me in quick succession that it's no wonder I blew up." "Fuck, I was enormous." Net the salmon, slit them open, strip out the eggs, toss the carcasses aside. Caviar.
We own little and owe lots. Maybe more things will happen soon, or not a lot will. You arrive here, and then go and let the sun sink, as if it meant to. In that way bones go soft or they get brittle, if you want them to or let them. A helicopter hovers over white yachts: the sky is flashed with sun-fire and ripped up by air sea rescue. We have a new lease, leant by events. For that let’s mark moments and set thresholds. Things we expect, hope for, fear. The swell picks up and yachts turn back; waves unfold along thin tectonic plates. Under hostile sky, next to cracked rock, crumbling wooden shacks, fences half-submerged in sand, we dispense hours in luxury, before things clarify. Before too much has been lost, or too many things forgotten. Before we begin to define years and days with attention and urgency, or develop diversions of posterity, legacy. Before habits and flaws affect things with force. Or every extra year mollifies and modifies, and perspective overpowers, or is lost completely. Eventually there will be a referendum on days. We’ll clamour for quiet, and get it.
October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 June 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 February 2005 March 2005 July 2005 January 2006 September 2006 December 2006 November 2007 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 July 2009 August 2009 November 2009