The Nameless Horror

Wake 3: Me

I sometimes look back at that evening in Mac’s yard. Summer starting, and so many other things ending. School out, time to move on to the big, wide world beyond. There’s a photograph tucked in a box somewhere in my closet. The eight of us. Fat Hal Lennox acting like he’s going to toss Mickey in the pool. Kyra held aloft, laughing, on the shoulders of Ali and Zack. Will Harris at the side, raising his bottle at the camera like a brandy snifter. And Stacey flinging herself at me like she’s not sure whether to put me in a headlock or kiss me.

Kids, graduating from nothing much to nothing at all, life at its brightest and most goddamn stupid.

They cut Mickey out of the wreckage of his car three months later. Wrapped it round a tree on the Richboro road, trying to impress a couple of girls he nearly killed alongside him. Ali and Kyra lived together for a while. Then he moved to New York and became a suit. She married, had a kid, divorced, works teaching English to the next batch of clones off the same conveyor produced us. Neighbors found Hal in his bathtub two years ago. I still see Zack around town, but his eyes, hell his whole body, gone dull and faded through drink. Don’t think he recognises me, or if he does, then we’re both pretending like we don’t. I heard Will was put away for armed robbery not long after we all graduated. Stacey… Stacey was here, and now she’s gone.

I still think about her, now and again. Even after everything, all that happened, and all that’s passed since then. You never forget. Even if you want to. Wonder where she is, what she’s doing. If she’d talk to me. If she’d be happy to see me if I showed up, or if memory of what we had and what we didn’t would make her kick me to the curb all over again.

No bigger barrier to overcome than the long stretch of your own history, and the gulf between what you are now and what you once hoped you’d become.

I take out that photo, just sometimes. Eight strangers looking back at me from the past, and I’m one of them.

By me. “Wakes” is (intended to be) an occasional-regular writing exercise, fragments out of nothing, inspired in part by whatever cycles through iTunes as I sit down to work.

Wake 3: 'With Me' - Sum 41

The Fall Of The House Of Murdoch

Following the spectacular implosion of the NotW, the evaporation of the aura of invulnerability that’s surrounded the Murdoch media empire for pretty much my entire adult life, and the thorough shoeing that News International and its past and present heads, along with the Met and politicians (most particularly David Cameron) are currently - and rightfully - taking has been astonishing. It’s like witnessing a popular revolt against a long-serving dictator.

The fact that the Met were saying only, what, one year or so ago that there was no sign of new evidence and no need to reopen the original phone hacking inquiry into Goodman and Mulcaire given the number of people who’ve come out of the woodwork in the past week to say, “Hey, since you mention it, yeah, some grubby fucker did rummage around in my personal communications back then” speaks to either incompetence or corruption on a grand scale. What with the Met apparently sitting on a big list of names of those who’d had their voicemails illegally accessed - the 7/7 victims etc. - all that time and all. And, y’know, Rebekah Brooks famously saying to a Commons select committee that they’d paid the police for information. Years ago.

But I’m just a simple guy. Probably not for the cops to investigate all crime. Just some.

The fear that NI seems to have engendeed in politicians across the spectrum for years is astonishing and very sad; people in positions of power not coming forward to say in public: “Hey, this newspaper cracked my private messages and then tried to blackmail me. Let’s put a stop to this.” Presumably because they were worried about being pilloried by the Murdoch empire. It’s all well and good for the press to be part of the system of checks and balances by which those who claim to represent us are called to account. It’s quite another thing for that press to cow politicians into representing them or else, and then telling us what it is we want. Especially if the press organisation in question has reached such a size that it’s capable of buying just about anyone it cares to.

Equally, I must assume that most of the people working for the accused newspapers are actually decent people, including those who must have known they were writing stories based on material that could only have been obtained illegally and used extremely distastefully (the splashing of Gordon Brown’s children’s medical status across the press must have caused some people at the Sun to say, “You know what? We print this kind of thing and we’re monsters.”). The level of fear of losing jobs and finishing careers necessary to prevent those people spilling the beans - and I doubt it’s coincidence that so much is coming out now the NotW staff have lost their jobs anyway (I rather doubt lectures given by Brooks were recorded and leaked to the internet before people had nothing else to lose) - is equally sad.

So that’s NI, the police and the politicians, three groups who between them wield a vast amount of power. Who else is to blame?

You are.

Not all of you, of course. But you. Us. Society in general. I also grant you that you’ve been influenced to regard such things as news, as the must-read stories of the day, and you have been for generations. But the greed-led drive that tempts the press into breaking the law and tossing any concept of privacy, respect or decency into the shitcan comes from the fact that you want to find out what footballer is screwing what girl on the side. In any sane world, that’d be a matter for him and his family to deal with. Why the fuck should you care? But you do, and because you do, you’ll pay for the knowledge. Once everyone starts trying to be the first or the most with that kind of knowledge, well, then the biggest and the nastiest realise they can get it by doing things the other guys can’t or won’t, and they’ll get the biggest piece of the pie.

Everyone bitches about superinjunctions. A bunch of them recently were blown on Twitter. And what did it turn out they were almost all about? Affairs. People shagging other people they shouldn’t have, and so some of those people - for a variety of reasons - who had the vast amounts of money it takes to do so, took out the ultimate gagging order. These people wouldn’t have needed to do this if there wasn’t an insatiable public desire to gloat over the private fuck-ups of the rich and famous, and now instead of a horribly garbled mess of arguments over internet regulation and judicial restrictions on reporting, we’d be in a position where it’d be far easier just to do away with the sodding things to prevent people like Trafigura using them for far shadier and genuinely newsworthy matters.

The idea that ‘the scoop’ is everything, that he who gets the news first and biggest and in the most detail wins, came about, in part, because of you. 2.5m people bought the NotW every week. Millions more buy the other papers accused, not to mention the ones that haven’t been… yet. Millions more buy the rash of trashy gossip rags that feed off the leftovers. You want to know the news before anyone else, and you love your sleaze and your celebrity gossip and your pants-down scandals in Westminster. You support the system that produces it and it just can’t feed you enough of it. Supply and demand.

So next time you’re wondering who’s to blame for listening to the messages on the phone of a murdered schoolgirl, or for pilfering the private medical details of a newborn baby so a newspaper can sell a few more copies off the back of the family’s anguish, just remember that it is, in some small way, you that did it.

Until we as a society come to terms with what gets done in our name, and the inevitable consequences of that, nothing will really change.

Wake 2: Hotel

Warm night breeze coming in through the broken window. The smell of those thick, gnarled succulents Jackson had seen on the drive, splashed around the desert and all the way to the horizon, dark leaves and rust-colored flowers tracking the sun as they’d sped west, him and Cherry.

He’d found her - or she’d found him; if he was honest, he didn’t know who’d been in good enough shape to claim primacy - in the burned-out wreckage ringing Little Rock. He’d had a car, the ten year-old station wagon that was now tucked in tight against the motel wall downstairs. She’d had a gun, and most importantly of all, a plan. There was a place near Needles where, she said, there were others like them, and they could claim shelter. A battered Moleskine clutched in one dirty hand like she was going to preach from it. Jackson, who’d just been kind of drifting, figured he might as well. He’d never been out that far, so why not? Wasn’t like there was anything better to do.

"Just for the journey," she’d said to him, facing him across the roof of Jackson’s car. Hand up to stop the wind smearing straggles of blonde hair across her eyes. "You can come with me all the way, or you change your mind, I’ll split, go it alone. Whatever."

It wasn’t like gas or food was getting any easier to find, but he still hadn’t changed his mind and she still hadn’t split, and Jackson was finding the thought of this girl with the tired eyes and the bright scar on her cheek leaving tougher all the time.

"I could be gone before morning," she told him each night.

"If you need to," he said back. Thinking, don’t.

A dusty, wind-tossed motel room. Some of her things in the sink where she’d done her best to wash them. His in a pile on the floor beside the bed. A long, hard road through the desert ahead of them, and her always promising to leave if she had to, but for now he had Cherry curled up, warm and soft between his arms, the curve of her back pressed against him, and that was enough.

By me. “Wakes” is (intended to be) an occasional-regular writing exercise, fragments out of nothing, inspired in part by whatever cycles through iTunes as I sit down to work.

Wake 2: ‘Hotel Song’ - Jon Crosby, off 'Generica vol 1'. That version’s acoustic, but not on YouTube. His later VAST version isn’t, but is.

Wedding yesterday, where I was The Official Photographer in return for lunch, wine, and the hideous stress of not fucking up a friend’s main record of their big event. Initial checks on the 700-ish shots I came back with suggests all is well and I can relax. While the actual wedding pics aren’t mine to share (it being someone else’s occasion, and all that), here’s one of Aidan and his stepdad that Young Stompy wanted me to take:

Over the coming days comes the sorting and the processing and the bleary-eyed staring at the screen until all the suits and dresses and flowers start to blur into one psychotic mass.