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Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

Our arts correspondent Terry Cotter The Potter and his unique insight into the world they call “Art”.

Hello,

My name is Terry Cotter. I’m a potter.

I have been potterising for over 20 years and stock a wide range of ceramic goods in my shop The Potter’s Reel, down here in Lower Swell. The shop is named after my potter’s wheel which goes round and round. Like a reel.

1. Painting

The Creation Of Adam – Michelangelo stuck this on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. I  got a crick in my neck looking at it. Why didn’t he paint it on the wall?

2. Movies

The Exorcist – Devil visits a girl, she vomits pea soup, is potty mouthed and finds a new way to use a crucifix. Max Von Sydow sorts it out. Goes on a bit (I think – had me eyes closed most of the time. Slept with the light on that night!) – by the way Devil spelt backwards is lived.

3. Music

Back In Black – AC/DC – Titchy Australian dresses up as schoolboy and a dwarf Geordie in a cap perform songs about their giant penises and the pleasure their todgers bring to women whilst they down fifteen bottles of whiskey a night. Goes on a bit.

4. Literature

War And Peace – Tolstoy – There’s a bit of war then a bit of peace. Then a bit more war and then a bit more peace. Goes on and on and on and on and on for a bit.

Village News

The vicar’s wife has darned the net and so the annual table tennis tournament will take place this weekend in Budgen’s frozen food section. First prize will be a packet of Quorn Sausages.

‘Til next time – The Wheel Keeps On Turning!

TCTP

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It has been a year now that our arts correspondent Terry Cotter The Potter has been giving us his unique insight into the world they call “Art”. To celebrate this (and the fact that it is time for a break) we will publish some of his reviews for your delectation and delight. Remember this one?

Hello,

My name is Terry Cotter. I’m a potter.

I have been potterising for over 20 years and stock a wide range of ceramic goods in my shop The Potter’s Reel, down here in Lower Swell. The shop is named after my potter’s wheel which goes round and round. Like a reel.

For Valentine’s Day, I’ve made some Ceramic Clogs. One size fits all. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Not sure now.

Here are some reviews of some of my favourite bits from the world they call “Art”.

1. Painting

The Persistence Of Memory – Salvador Dali’s most famous piece. It Droops. Nope, not a clue. Sorry.

2. Movies

Love Story – Da de dah de dah – then she gets sick and croaks. Goes on a bit.

3. Musical

Les Miserables – Don’t know why they didn’t crack a few jokes or do animal impressions to cheer themselves up a bit.  Rabbit impressions always make me titter. That’s the French for you.  Goes on a bit.

4. Literature

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte’s classic. She loves him. He loves her. Watch out for the pyromaniac first wife! Goes on a bit.

Village News

Next Week’s lecture by Peter Stench on The History Of The Drain has been cancelled by Mrs Griggs. If you are not happy you can sewer.

‘Til next time – The Wheel Keeps On Turning!

TCTP

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It has been a year now that our arts correspondent Terry Cotter The Potter has been giving us his unique insight into the world they call “Art”. To celebrate this (and the fact that it is time for a break) we will publish some of his reviews for your delectation and delight. Remember this one?

Hello,

My name is Terry Cotter. I’m a potter.

I have been potterising for over 20 years and stock a wide range of ceramic goods in my shop The Potter’s Reel, down here in Lower Swell. The shop is named after my potter’s wheel which goes round and round. Like a reel.

We have a Sale on at the moment. All plates are £5 each, mugs are £2.50 each and the hand finished ceramic bananas, which didn’t fly of the shelves are reduced to £547 each. Value For Money. Only another 6,567 to shift. So come on down.

Here are some reviews of some of my favourite bits from the world they call “Art”.

1. Painting

Autumn Rhythm – One of Jackson Pollock’s most famous. I don’t have a clue either.

2. Movies

Dances With Wolves – Don’t Dance With Wolves. They will eat you. Great car chase and the underwater fight scenes are wonderful. Who will ever forget Whitney Houston’s theme tune? Goes on a bit.

3. Music

Michael Buble- Christmas – I love Micheal Bubble – Ba Ba Boo Boo so to speak – I just haven’t met him yet – needs to wash his hair first though – it is greasy in my opinion. Goes on a bit.

4. Literature

The Times Atlas Of The World – Got this for Christmas! Maps spelt backwards is Spam. Now there’s a thought. Goes on a bit.

Village News

The Postman

Whoever stole his rubber band ball (10 years in the making) could they please return it. He was only four short of the world rubber band collection set by an itinerant Sioux postal worker stalker in the Oklahoma in the 1960’s.

Request Review – The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes

This was requested by the marvellous Hollyannegetspoetic (http://hollyannegetspoetic.wordpress.com/).

Ted Hughes was a poet (I once went out with a girl called Ted Hughes). He had a famous girlfriend (Anne Frank I think her name was) and he wrote a lot of poems. They didn’t rhyme so he can’t have been very good.

This one is about a Fox thinking about writing a poem. Clever Fox I say. Bit hard for a Fox to hold a pen though. And it doesn’t rhyme. So not such a clever Fox. Goes on a bit too.

My wife said it was an Allegory. Shame he lost to George Bush.

‘Til next time – The Wheel Keeps On Turning!

TCTP

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It has been a year now that our arts correspondent Terry Cotter The Potter has been giving us his unique insight into the world they call “Art”. To celebrate this (and the fact that it is time for a break) we will publish some of his reviews for your delectation and delight. Remember this one?

Hello Folks,

My name is Terry Cotter. I’m a potter.

I have been potterising for nearly two decades now. I stock a wide range of ceramic goods in my shop The Potter’s Reel, down here in Lower Swell. The shop is named after my potter’s wheel which goes round and round. Like a reel.

Since my last Column I’ve had some good news. Upper Swell’s potter, Jay Clay, “The Funkfather Of The Throw” has had to close down due to the recession.

He used to make ashtrays with health warnings inscribed in them. Things like “Don’t hit anyone on the head with this ashtray” or “Stub out the Marlboro Light and go for a run you emphysemic bastard”.

Still he hope to make a go of things with his funk band “Earth n Ware n Fire”.

So, without further ado here are some reviews of some of my favourite bits from the world they call “Art”.

1. Painting

The Scream – I like this painting a lot. It shows someone screaming. I reckon they have got toothache. Probably need a spot of root canal.

2. Movies

Lawrence of Arabia – Has Camels in it so bound to be brilliant. Goes on a bit though.

3. Origami

Take a sheet of paper. Fold it four times. Voila! A Swan!

4. Poetry

Wordsworth – I like him. Handy name for a poet too. Pity his odes don’t rhyme though. I like it when they rhyme.

5. Literature

Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist – Chubby Checker read it and the rest is pop history. Goes on a bit though.

Do you have any views on these pieces? If so drop me a line!

‘Til next time – The Wheel Keeps On Turning!

TCTP

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It has been a year now that our arts guru Terry Cotter The Potter has been giving us his unique insight into the world they call “Art”. To celebrate this (and the fact that it is time for a break) we will publish some of his reviews for your delectation and delight. Remember this one?

Hello,

My name is Terry Cotter. I’m a potter.

I have been potterising for nearly two decades now. I stock a wide range of ceramic goods in my shop The Potter’s Reel, down here in Lower Swell. The shop is named after my potter’s wheel which goes round and round. Like a reel.

I’ve made some plates for my local pub The Misgoynist and Duck as they have expanded their food sales. I call them surf n turf n earthenware.

Here are some reviews of some of my favourite bits from the world they call “Art”.

1. Painting

The Guernica –  Picasso’s most famous. I gurn a lot too. Especially if I eat pickled food.

2. Movies

Gone With The Wind –  Set in AmericaHe doesn’t give a damn in the end. Nice staircase though. Goes on a bit.

3. Music

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks – I love a bit of folk rock, this is what Emerson Lake and Palmer would have sounded like if they hadn’t split up.  Goes on a bit.

4. Literature

Yann Martell – Life of Pi – Pies don’t last long in my house! There’s a tiger in it. The book not the pie. Goes on a bit though.

Village News

The Local Cult’s Proposed Mass Suicide

Elsie has a sprained ankle and this event has been postponed. Keep an eye out in the Post Office window for a new date.

‘Til next time – The Wheel Keeps On Turning!

TCTP

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Hello,

My name is Terry Cotter. I’m a potter.

I have been potterising for over 20 years and stock a wide range of ceramic goods in my shop The Potter’s Reel, down here in Lower Swell. The shop is named after my potter’s wheel which goes round and round. Like a reel.

I have been commissioned by the local Lord of the Manor, Sir Giles Plaque-Buildup to make a six-foot ceramic figurine of his favourite shoe horn. Alistair.

Here are some reviews of some of my favourite bits from the world they call “Art”.

1. Painting

The Kiss – Klimt’s painting of two lovers kissing. I’m not a very good kisser – a phantom lower lip and congenital halitosis work against me.

2. Movies

The Towering Inferno –  Big building catches fire. Goes on a bit.

3. Music

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – Introduced Skeletal Harmonic Frameworks into Jazz. I don’t know either. Goes on a bit. Daddy-oh.

4. Contemporary Dance

National Dance Company of Wales – Virtual Descent – He’s naked, she’s naked – they stand in a bucket and wave trowels at each other – Goes on a bit.

5. Literature

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens classic novel about that magician bloke. Makes an elephant disappear at one point, but never explains the bouffant hair. Goes on a bit.

Village News

The  Film Society will be showing Bridge Over The River Kwai in the Church Hall on Saturday. Tickets are £1 each. It is hoped that Alec Guinness will introduce the film from beyond the grave.

‘Til next time – The Wheel Keeps On Turning!

TCTP

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fresco_rescue

“The train goes through a six mile tunnel!”

“We thought he knew.”

“A six mile tunnel!”

“We did make sure he wore a high vis jacket.”

“Great.”

“And goggles. We did do a full risk assessment.”

“Well done.”

“Cheers.”

“One question.”

“What.”

“A high wire act on a train?”

“The risk assessment didn’t have a section to cover that, so we thought it was OK. Afterall he did walk across Niagara Falls!”

“Where is he now?”

“In the tunnel. On the tunnel too, for that matter. We found the goggles though. And his pole. They can be used again.”

“Every cloud …..”

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Hello,

My name is Terry Cotter. I’m a potter.

I have been potterising for over 20 years and stock a wide range of ceramic goods in my shop The Potter’s Reel, down here in Lower Swell. The shop is named after my potter’s wheel which goes round and round. Like a reel.

I’m currently firing a ceramic sieve and colander as wedding gifts for my nephew, Terrence who is getting married next week. She ‘s a lovely girl is his fiancée, Marian. Half French. Which is a shame.  I wish them all the best for the future and hope they like the gifts. They have been a strain to make. Just my little joke there!

Here are some reviews of some of my favourite bits from the world they call “Art”.

1. Painting

Mona Lisa – Went out with a girl called Lisa once. She moaned a lot too.

2. Movies

Gone With The Wind – Haven’t we all at some point on our lives? Goes on a bit.

3. Music

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon – Seminal rock album that has songs on it, where people sing and play instruments and stuff. A lot. Oh, and a woman gargles and it is meant to sound like an orgasm. But it doesn’t. Goes on a bit.

4. Literature

Oliver Twist – The Dickens classic – Young lad has a hard time. Then he doesn’t! Goes on a bit.

Village News

The new Chinese takeaway on the High Street, “Chairman Chow’s” opens on Wednesday.  10% of all orders before 6 pm.

‘Til next time – The Wheel Keeps On Turning!

TCTP

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She’d a smile for the whole village
The whole village smiled back
Picked up and spun by the bread van
Set down by the door with a bread roll
To clutch in tiny fingered fist
Granny and breadman smiling
The neighbour asking for a bite of the bread
She knew to laugh at the joke
But gentle offered some all the same.
Gentle smiles of the toddling child.
All shoes and cardigan
Warm in wool
Warm in the village’s embrace.

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fresco_rescue

Hello!

Many thanks for all the encouraging feedback on the story.

Ma Fightback said I should post it as one complete story. So if you haven’t read it yet, make a cup of tea, grab some Lincoln Biscuits for dunking and read on….

Part 1.

He had forgotten.

He lay on the toilet floor. Time; Relative or absolute? Time along with choice are our most precious possessions. A luxury we are all afforded.

The train rumbled onwards.  At first, its mechanical voices were welcome, amplifying freedom and the beckoning ability to choose once again. But now the chatter irked.

How long had he been in here? What was he doing here? Where was the train taking him? Why was he locked in the toilet? He was confined once again. The train rumbled on. He was powerless.

The vision; Where had it come from?  Standing in a church pulpit casting down on a garishly dressed congregation of alabaster models, their faces obscured by fluorescent light, impervious to this impassioned vision of his God. The finest sermon he had ever given. Probably too clever for this congregation.

Only one face revealed itself as he spoke. An elderly man who tapped his stick on the church flagstones in a shiftless, artless fashion as the Sermon enunciated the joys of forgiveness and fortitude to this catatonic congregation.

He began to laugh and cajoled the other  lifeless figures to join him in applauding the words. None did. Instead, The alabaster figures grew into bloated, distended shapes. Sores and weal’s fixed themselves to their skins. But they remained motionless.

The old man spoke, “Bravo, Father David, Bravo. Such success in preaching cant to your flock.  I now count myself as one of your disciples. How temperate you are. How prudent! Your faith, your precious sacrosanct, conceited faith. I come to claim that faith from you Priest.”

The Priest was confused. What had he had done to deserve this?

“You already know the answer. For your own glory, your own sense of destiny, you have aborted your faith.” The old man melted from view.  The priest remained still, silent. He heard a noise.

Someone was knocking on the toilet door. The door handle moved rapidly up and down. Were they were coming for him? A wraith of fear gripped him. Thankfully the knocking stopped and the handle was becalmed.

Thirst. He stood but his legs could barely support his weight. Where was he? Panic. He had no control. No choice. He vomited.

Again there was  a knocking at the door. More insistent this time. Fear returned. His heart raced. Again he threw up, a dry, incessant heave.

He was alone, isolated from a world that had never understood him and shunned him. Only the toilet door protected him from this harsh world.  He wished he was back in his room and his choices were made for him.

The train stopped. Its clanking, harsh voices returned to torment him as it idled in rest.

For a fleeting moment, the heroin had reconfirmed his genius. Cooled the scratching madness in his mind’s eye. He could depend on it as always.

He had found Peace.

He realised he was not alone. She was there.

Part 2

She held out her hand. He noticed the self tattooed dots on each of her knuckles. He had asked her once what they represented. Her answer was, “Nothing. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” That summed her up. Live for the moment. To hell with consequences.  Not like him, a man who weighed each and every action before committing to it.

“I miss you,” he said, “Come back to me. I am nothing without you.”

She smiled. That gap toothed smile. Her green eyes sparkled. “Be still Father. Be still.” Her eyes, despite all that she had suffered still radiated kindness. Cramps rented him, but Susan remained.

“She’s come back for me!”

He had tried to help her. Find the heroin she needed. Give her life. If needs be with his life. He had started to buy it for her. To help her overcome her addiction. Get away from Luke her pusher and pimp. He could save her, his very own Magdalene.

He had found her in the Church on that distant Summer’s evening, asleep on one of the pews sporting a black eye and split lip.  Her visitation was a sign. He was sure of that.

A sign that his duty was to help her. Through his faith and his magnanimity. But it would also prove to be a test of faith. A test that he had failed. The wrap of foil and the smoke stained Biro casing lying on the floor attested to that.

At first he left her food. Sandwiches,  Tuna and Sweet corn or Cheese and Pickle. Mars Bars.  Coffee even though she preferred Coke. He began to leave small amounts of money, loose change from his pockets,  a fiver now and then.

He had asked about her parents. There were none. She was taken into care as a baby. Her mum was dead. Heroin she thought. Couldn’t be sure. Didn’t care either way.

He had told her about the night shelter in the Town Centre, but she didn’t want to go back there. Too dangerous. Besides, she liked being alone. Something a Care System never allowed. People prying into her business, her “welfare” when the only people who ever took interest in her were the men who wanted to groom and pimp her.

Here in the Church, she was alone. Safe. After all that is what churches were at the end. Havens.

She would return to Luke each morning and earn the money to pay for the heroin he sold her, but at least it was safe here in the church. And after all, she told the Priest,  one day Luke wouldn’t come looking for her and she would be free then. Then she could make some choices about her life.

The Priest was uncertain at first. It wasn’t his job. He wasn’t a Social Worker or trained in this world. He had had a quiet word with Detective Inspector O’Leary, a parishioner. “Watch her, she’s trouble that one. If you want I will sort her out for you.”

It was not the reply he had been expecting. A tad harsh. The girl was a victim of fate or at least circumstance. He should help her. More to the point he could help her. Demonstrate to her the love of His God for all people.

The train began to move. Station lights bled through the opaque glass. He tried to read the station sign but couldn’t. He threw some cold water on his face. The shock was welcome. He was on a train heading to Durham. Good, he was beginning to feel in control again.

Luke. A spindly urchin of feral design and mindset, who reeked of cannabis and Lynx body spray. At first, he was aggravated by a Priest interfering in his affairs. The Girl was popular. Cheap to run and earned him more than the other girls. He would be mad to let her go. Not until she was spent and the punters wouldn’t want her anymore. Couple of years away at least. Then she could just fuck off and the Priest would be welcome to her.

The Priest spent a month caring for her, leaving the sandwiches, drink and money. He had even sought out Luke to score for her. Small amounts to  help her wean herself off the stuff. On the third occasion, Luke had said to him, “Try it Father? I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. You seem the sort. You lot always need something to cling to.”

He refused the offer. Naturally. Heroin was dangerous. Evil. Like the asp in the Garden of Eden. At first he was impervious to its mendacious whisperings, but the voice grew louder and attached itself to him, wrapped itself around his sub-conscious.  He now saw it as a test of his faith. And if it would bring him to a closer understanding of the Girl’s struggles, then that could only be a good thing. He had given up smoking and knew he had the strength of will to refute the narcotic’s siren advances

He smoked it. Luke showed him how. He reminded himself it was to get closer to her suffering and understand what agonies she must be enduring. Why she needed to escape her life.

He had enjoyed it.

No.

He loved it.

Fuckin’ loved it.

It instilled the peace his restless mind had always sought and brought him closer to a God who had become distant in the past few years. He forgot about her, Luke and everything else he had concerned himself with.

Heroin loved him and helped God find him again. Intellectually as well as spiritually. He had craved this insight all his life and the Girl, as if a messenger had shown him the way to enlightenment.

Luke was right.

Blackmail is a cruel trick to play.  But Luke being a shrewd business man knew that extorting a priest for two hundred a week was a much easier way to earn than scoring, pimping or robbing. He granted Susan one  night a week off as part payment. “Fair deal, your holiness!” he said without a glimmer of irony.

The train drew to a halt at another station. Through the frosted glass he made out the  comings and goings of other passengers. The train cranked and cussed as straining metal cooled.

Susan stroked his cheek. How could she have been oblivious to his feelings for her? If  he had heard once “I love you Father,” it would have been enough, even a simple thank you would have sufficed.

No, no that was wrong. He had not sought or played for the girl’s affections, she was the one at fault not he. She must have understood his life as a priest, his celibacy and his devotion to the poor rather than himself. Through his haze, he felt anger rise.

Good, an emotion. The drugs were beginning to abate.

No, it was plain to him now that she only saw him as an amusement. A conduit. Less risky, an idealistic fool who supplied her drugs for free, kept her from the clutches of Luke and the punters who beat her. Let her sleep in the church. She probably thought he was a perv. The Bitch.

Where was he? What was he doing here? Who is this girl smiling down at me?

“You have to go Susan. Can’t you see you led me to this?” She withdrew her hand. The  smile tipped from her face and in its place a scowl darkened her gaunt features. She was at fault. If only he had never met her. If only he had not taken Confession that night in the Church.

Did she not see that in this confined space, her Christian duty and duty as a woman, was to help him? What was she doing here anyway? She didn’t belong here.

She faded and the warmth of her touch returned to being a memory.

“Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Please.”

She did not reply.

Again there was a knock on the door. “Are you alright in there?” The voice outside displayed some concern.

“Yes, yes, sorry,” He replied. Guilt was his companion now. The opiate rush dulled further. The anger and confusion were replaced by the crimson shame. It had been so easy to succumb to his addiction once more. It had not been conquered, merely fettered for those months of rehabilitation.

He stood.  Stronger this time. Good. The train jerked forward. He fell towards the wash hand basin, wrapping left knuckles in the process. The pain was welcome. Real.

He opened the door and gingerly stepped out, expecting to be confronted by the impatient voice that had been knocking earlier. There was no-one there.

He cast a glance backwards. The foil wrapper lay on the floor by the flush pedal and the smoke charred pen case lay at an angle to it.

He began the unsteady journey back to his seat, stumbling into other passengers as he did so, earning agitated glances. He mumbled apologies, his pallid features and sweat matted hair presenting a disturbing, deranged portrait to other passengers who averted their gaze.

He was thankful that he would never see these people again. Thankful not to be wearing his priest’s garb.

The train slowed. The scent of asbestos lined brakes filled the carriage.

He inhaled deeply. The carbonated taste of the air brought him back to his current location.  He estimated that he had been in the cubicle for nearly four hours. The Guard announced that they were now approaching York station.

He moved through the carriage trying to remember where he had sat. Several rows away he saw a young boy furiously colouring a drawing. He remembered. He had been sitting opposite the boy and his mother.

“Look mummy, I’ve finished!” The child held up his crayon scrawl for his mother to view. She praised the boy and shot an uncertain glance at the catatonic man now sitting opposite her.

The boy sat back with a furrowed look on his face before saying, “It’s a pig mummy can’t you tell?”

“Of course it is Jake.”

“Oink! Oink!” the little boy said gleefully. His mother laughed to. She tidied the pile of coloured pictures the boy had completed on the journey. The Priest’s eyes scanned them and noticed the clowns faces peering up at him. The boy had been colouring in that one when he had left them. White faces and red noses.

A residue of vomit had collected in the corner so his mouth. He pulled out a tissue and wiped it clean. He felt his Rosary Beads in the pocket too. A memory. Of only a few hours ago. Four hours.

He thought back to the final session with Father Stephen,

“Your own conceits and half-baked assumptions about your own intellectual rigour and proximity to the seat of God were your undoing David. Most people turn to God in times of personal or national crisis. You on the other hand turned to God to seek adulation.”

“I always thought I was different Stephen, somehow set apart from everyday life. I was created for something else.”

“David, accept what you have been given and revel in that. Lose this self deluding notion of saintliness and you can still offer something to God, the Church and people.”

David ruminated on Fr Stephen’s belligerent assessment. He could admit to being a little self obsessed, he had the treatment to thank for that, but he was surprised that Stephen could still not see how different he was to everybody else.

Part 3 –Four or so hours earlier…….

Choice. Decisions. The stuff of life. Without them we would not possess happiness, sadness, regret or relief. And without these we would not experience life.

Everyday we exercise free will to determine the shape, pattern and direction of our days. Perhaps these events are of the nondescript kind, such as buying a Tuna and Sweetcorn sandwich at Taunton station.  He used to buy her Tuna and Sweetcorn sandwiches.

But being free to choose when for so long his actions have been scrutinised, monitored, prescribed, reviewed, sanctioned and judged, is a small step to the symmetrical world of decision and sanity.

Along with the sandwich, he had bought a packet of ready salted crisps for the long journey to Durham. Six hours give or take.

He  returned to Father Stephen who was checking the departure board. He hummed the now familiar tune of “Welcome Home” The Peters and Lee classic.

“Good choice. That should keep  you going until you reach Durham. Got your ticket?”

“Yes.” He patted the breast pocket of his overcoat.

The train arrived.

“Got your ticket?”

Yes,”

Father Stephen shook his hand vigorously.

“Well, good luck David. It’s been a pleasure to work with you. You have my number in case you need to talk but I will see you in two weeks in any case.  I won’t wave you off. I haven’t bought a ticket for the car park. Father Sidney will meet you at Durham. Give him this letter. It contains the terms of your rehabilitation up there. Safe journey.”

“Thank you. For everything.”  Both men flushed. David placed the letter in his jacket.

He boarded the train and found his seat. A table seat. Good.  A woman and a young boy sat opposite. David and the woman smiled the cautious pre-emptive smile of strangers thrown together. The child was engrossed in colouring in a picture. Clowns by the look of them. White faces and red noses. As a child, the Priest had always been afraid of the menace that lurked behind that make up.

After a short struggle, he managed to stow his case in the overhead shelf and settled in his seat, catching her eye again. Once more they smiled weakly at each other. The train pulled away. There was no sign of Father Stephen. He really was eager to avoid a fine.

David unwrapped his sandwich.

He thought of first time he had met Stephen as he bustled into David’s room/cell clutching a lever arch file. He paid scant attention for the first twenty minutes or so. This was unsettling.

His angular, busy face scanned the file notes, humming “Welcome Home” as he did so. Occasionally an eyebrow would arch at a particular detail in the file, or he would take a deepish breath after reading another snippet.  Finally he spoke in a broad Mancunian accent.

“Father Patterson, I am Father Stephen Joseph, the Society’s chief counsellor. You can call me Father Stephen, Father Joseph or anything you like really as long as it does not contain profanity.”

He  was not thinking that. He was only thinking when he would be given his Methadone.

Stephen  continued,  “Heroin addiction is very rare. Thankfully. Alcoholics, Manic Depressives and Pederasts I see plenty of, but Class A drug addicts? I believe you’re the first one I’ve dealt with.”

Where was his methadone?

“I must understand your own belief systems and those factors that underpin your faith. That is all. No more and no less. If and when I can address what committed you to a life of Christ and all that goes with that then I can, in all likelihood, find the key to rebuilding your spirituality, seek an explanation for your addiction and what led you down this path and the trouble with this…….Girl, Susan.” He studied her photo. His eyebrow arched once more.

David blanched at these words. He did not understand. Why should he? All he wanted was Methadone.

Father Stephen scribbled furiously into his notepad as he spoke. He tore the page out of the book, held it aloft and muttered, “Good legs, poor tail, that one’s not so bad.” He passed the drawing to him. It could have been one of several animals, but it was mammalian.

“Yes it is a mammal. That is a good start. Reptiles are a no-no for me I must say and as for amphibians? Don’t get me started.”

Thus the pattern was set. At the end of each of their sessions, David was handed a badly drawn animal to consider. They became a daily treat, blistering the routine of therapy and forced contemplation.

“Just think about this for tomorrow, tell me about this tomorrow,” and each morning at the start of their session they would spend five minutes discussing experiences of and feelings towards the animal so laughingly depicted.

He  admired this abstract method of communication. Clearly, Stephen  was not as intelligent as he, not many in the Society are, but his love of anecdotes, similes and metaphors made their sessions entertaining and at the very least an amiable distraction from the rote of addiction recovery and its physical manifestations or tortured abstraction.

“Is it a Gorilla?”

“No, it is a Goat. It’s not that bad is it?”

He had wondered when his methadone would be sanctioned.

The train pulled into Temple Meads Station. The kerfuffle of humanity boarding and leaving the train took him by surprise. So much nervous energy expended on such mundane tasks. Life in all its glorious pointlessness. He had missed this.

Susan.  He would love to see her again, but the gagging clause in her contract with the Diocese made that impossible. What she thought of him now he could not begin to imagine. That was the worst part not being able to apologise. And to let her apologise to him.

In the six months he had known her, he had turned his back on his Vocation to instead live a life based upon the impossible pursuit of intellectual ecstasy via opiates. All to satisfy her.

He opened the slim volume of The Collected Essays of St Thomas Aquinas. As always the book fell open at the same spot,  “In such reading I find devotion, whence I readily ascend to contemplation”.

Thick bloated raindrops began to fall against the carriage window. It would be good to feel the rain on his face. The rhythm of the train moving over the tracks instilled a sense of calm in him.

Nine months cooped up in a room containing a bed, dressing table, chair, armchair and wardrobe. No mirrors, not even a carpet and a large black crucifix hanging over the bed. The only utensils allowed in the room were the small plastic beakers. Room searches on a weekly basis.

Part Monastery. Part Prison.

It felt inspired to be amongst people once more, revelling in the anonymity and freedom from inquisition. And carpet underfoot.

His mouth felt dry. He searched for a packet of mints in his jacket. As his hand searched he felt another container in the pocket. Small, made of leather with a button fastening. His rosary beads.

He opened the case. The beads nestled comfortably. He wondered. There it was. Wedged in the bottom of the case. Enough for one smoke, in an emergency. They must have missed it.

But was this a final test from Father Stephen? His possessions had been thoroughly searched. Two wraps had been removed from the lining of his jacket. Perhaps this one had slipped through. Perhaps, it is a sign. Designed to test his faith, his resolve to keep off smack for good.

Stephen had provided him with the platform to refute her doltish advances in the future. His mental strength was such that the addiction could be controlled via a combination of  intellect, strength of will and methadone.

But.

Nobody would know.

He knew he could give up any time he wished. He had proved that in the clinic. He had stopped smoking to. He popped the case button shut and returned it his pocket.

One more time?

Maybe.

Why not? I love it.

Don’t. Think of the struggle you have been through.

But the struggle shows that I can overcome it. Use it to my advantage. To reach God in that uncluttered manner.

Besides I love it.

“In such reading I find devotion, whence I readily ascend to contemplation”.

There it was again. The symmetry between free will and choice. Only this was a choice for good. For the benefit of his spiritual self. His devotion.

Fuck it.

He stood up and made his way to the toilet. The child scribbled with a toddler’s delicacy of touch and his mother, who was reading a magazine, gently stroked the boy’s back.

He glimpsed at the clowns. He and the mother smiled once more.

He recalled watching clowns on a Saturday Night Variety programme with his parents as a child. They had scared him. But he never expressed this fear. It had been a silent upbringing in so many ways.

The sign on the toilet door indicated it was occupied. But then it opened.  An old man stepped out, clattering the toilet door with a walking stick as he left. They smiled as they passed each other.

A number of sodden hand towels littered the floor. He closed and locked the door, flipped the toilet seat down and sat. The frailties returned. The guilt returned. Why was he so fragile? Weak? He needed to distance himself from these feelings. He double checked that the door was locked.

He loves it.

He  retrieved the case, removed the beads and held the wrap of heroin. The train rattled over a set of points.

Fuck it.

The heated tinfoil reduced the brown powder to an oily residue. He watched the transformation from powder to oil and thought of extreme unction. He placed the Biro casing in his mouth and drew in the fumes.

There was little reaction for a few seconds. Then the HIT.

He floated into an ether of peacefulness and stillness, sat back and let this balm cleanse. Even the train’s dullard voice failed to disturb him. It added to the intensity of the experience.  After months of enforced abstinence, the deep rich insights into the world of ecstasy and spiritual certainty returned.  His convictions were reconstituted into a set of sharp, focused reasoning’s that had eluded for so long. Tranquil subsidence and contentment seeped into him.  He began his ascent, like a glider released and tossed upon the thermals of his imagination. He was one with his soul again.

He Loves it.

Part 4 – Durham Station

David stood on the platform of Durham Station. He had been told to wait on the Platform and Father Sidney would meet him there. The cold air was a treat. The train pulled away, the whine of the engines increasing as the power fed in. Other passengers scuttled past, hunched against the mid-winter coldness.

He was relieved to be off the train. The journey had been awkward, uncomfortable. But he knew that he could control it now. Needed to find where he could score in a few days time. Just a couple of times a week to be getting on with.

He had left Aquinas on the Carriage table and wondered momentarily who would pick the book up and whether they would have the mental capacity to understand the learning’s contained within its hallowed covers. He did not really care.

The heroin made him feel good about himself and knew that his spiritual awakening leaned more in this direction rather than the teachings of a medieval scribe. He could manage his addiction to assist his spiritual growth.

He felt happy but also felt himself a liar. But he would live with these contradictions. Life is about choices.

A man walked towards him. He was in his fifties and wore a heavy wool overcoat. He was a heavyset and walked with a certainty of purpose. He waved towards David, who assuming this to be Father Sidney, his chaperone walked towards him.

They smiled at each other and shook hands. “Father David!”  Sidney beamed. His grip was firm. Perhaps a touch too firm David thought. He looked familiar, but David couldn’t place him.

“Good Trip?”

“Yes, thanks,” David replied, “I don’t mean to be rude, but have we met somewhere before?”

“A few months ago. I was the one who found you.”

“Oh. I see.” Even in the cold of the winter’s night David felt himself flush.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Sidney said, “We all have the ability to err. It is our ability to admit our failures and overcome them that mark us out as Human. Besides, Father Stephen tells me he has every confidence in you making a full recovery and he is the best judge of character I know. He is impressed with your strength of purpose. But, we’d better hurry. I haven’t bought a ticket for the car park.”

They arrived at the car and got in. The bitter cold was painful and David was glad to be inside once again.

“Did Father Stephen have a letter for me?” Sidney asked.

“Oh yes. Sorry. I forgot.” David reached into his jacket and handed Sidney the letter. He opened it and read, humming “Welcome Home” as he did so. He folded the letter, returned it to the envelope and threw it on the dashboard.

“Just the instructions for your time with us here. You’ve had a long day, so we will do the first blood test tomorrow. Nothing to worry about.”

“Thanks.”

He had forgotten.

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