IT’S ALL HAPPENING NOW!
Bubbling hot lava, flowing in rivulets.
Sheets of bright flame, orange and yellow, leaping up and forming long curving lines and columns of fire.
Clouds of billowing brown and grey smoke boiling and rising from the flames, writhing upwards towards the arches and hangings of rocky subterranean ceilings.
The thumping and banging of numerous huge hammers echoing against stone and metal, and the grunts and groans of toiling minions in ceaseless servitude.
The sharp cracking of whips.
And the screams that are so ear-piercingly loud and blood-curdling.
They echo through my head, as if it too, were some vast network of caverns in which grotesque and monstrous demons are wilfully, gleefully, torturing and maiming helpless captive victims.
The carnage is just too dreadful to behold and not make me want to cringe away in some hidden corner and curl up into a foetal ball, eyes shut, hands over ears, chanting mantras to myself.
“I’ll close my eyes and count to ten! And when I open them again– ”
It’s gone! Thank Christ for that!
Now where the hell am I?
Ah! I’m in bed – And I’ve been dreaming. That IS a relief.
But why do I have to have such bloody horrible dreams? It’s getting so I’m almost afraid to go to sleep.
Except I can’t stop myself.
I always drop off just as my favourite Tv programme is starting.
That’s only when I’m sitting in my armchair in the lounge with my feet up, of course.
Then I wake up, just as the programme is finishing. It really pisses me off, particularly as there’s only a load of crap on every channel for the next few hours.
Thankfully it’s not too late to get to the shops, and I’m running out of essentials such as milk, sugar, bread, eggs and who knows what else.
I tried to catch a bus, and I couldn’t catch the bastard. It was going too fast. I can’t run that flaming fast, what do you think I am, a bloody greyhound?
Why don’t they stop at the bus stops, instead of flashing past like demented maniacs?
The driver can damn well see me running for the stop, one hand clutching my chest and the other desperately hailing him.
Bastard! Deliberately awkward, maliciously unhelpful bastard!
There are no two ways about it!
He’s a blinkered, bigoted, anti-social git! Psychologically autistic to the nines, with a whopping great classic, ‘Bugger You, I’m Alright Jack’ complex.
If I only had a gun! I’d shoot all his tyres flat so he’d have to make an emergency stop, that’d teach him to be a bit more responsive to the public who pay his wages in future!
They do it on purpose, of course. He’s supposed to be providing a service, that’s what he’s employed to do and paid for, not to dismissively and gleefully thwart his customers.
Should have rung a cab. But I’ve left my mobile indoors. And naturally I haven’t got any cab company’s numbers on me.
Now I’ve got to wait for at least ten sodding minutes for the next bus and I’ve just remembered there’s a bloody road works all along Woodlands Park Hill, and the bus has to make a very convoluted detour.
Takes fargone ages to get into town, by which time all the shops I need are about to close in ten minutes.
To crown it all, these frigging road works have been going on for bloody weeks. Huh! I nearly said, in progress for weeks. But that would be a lie. I mean, you can’t call it progress, can you? Not when it’s been going on for weeks.
It really is a bastard, the way everyone messes you about.
Sometimes I wish I was Prince Charles, I bet he doesn’t have all these problems. Oh, I know he had a tough time when he was a kid. They sent him to all those freezing cold northern latitudes to tough it out amongst hardened army soldiers, with nothing but a tin of spam or something similar and a campfire billycan of tea brewed from goosegrass, thistle and heather or whatever.
This would be followed with a dessert of last year’s porridge oats made with real Scottish oats grown in fields of finest Caledonian soil by hefty great, redheaded, honest-to-goodness Goidelic clansmen reared on haggis and whisky. The oats would be simmered and stirred in a large black cauldron with gnat’s milk, which Charles had to catch and milk himself. Not exactly easy when you consider the comparison in size between a gnat’s udders and the human hand; especially Charles’ hands, which are rather bloated and sausage-fingered.
All this just to prove royalty earn their crust, along with the Queen’s and Duke’s numerous visiting duties around the Commonwealth and all that strenuous waving and smiling they’ve got to do till their arms and faces must ache something dreadful.
But Charles got through it all with a stiff upper-lip and a daily dash of salt, pepper, some humour and wit. He’s a real trouper at heart. And look at him now. He’s doing alright, I’d say.
He’s got antlers — no sorry — butlers, footmen, pages, chauffeurs, chefs, postmen, policemen and lawyers at his beck and call. Like me, he’s an artist, but unlike me, he can get on with his painting in peace.
Well, actually I’m writing at the moment, as you can see.
What it is to be born into positions of power, wealth, privilege, nobility and the ruling classes, though. Eh? Not half!
To be fair though, I don’t begrudge Charles his lifestyle in the least bit. Good luck to him, and I also find him unaffectedly genuine, engaging, witty and quite human and likeable, but I’m sometimes chagrined at life’s insouciantly random roll of the dice.
Although, to be honest, I’m glad because I’d rather that our traditional monarchy, exuding a congenial aura of family togetherness and companionship were head of the realm with their more friendly human touch, than the alternative of a robotically regulated, power driven, politically motivated republic; cold, indifferent, ruthless, and without a drop of empathy.
In actual fact, like a republic, it is the politicians who administer the laws and their flunkies who enforce them; and while little more than a figurehead, the royal family is the one alleviating factor making Britain preferable to all the republics in the world.
So I blame the politicians for any problems that arise.
Still, so long as we can all get on with our painting in peace!
I’m not saying I can’t, but there’s always something to spoil things for me. I take the trouble to get all my utility bills in credit and all the duties slung upon me up-to-date.
Read this meter, Christ It only seems like five minutes since I last read the bloody thing. Then after I’ve rung in and given the gas people my reading as requested, they send someone round to read the meter. I wish they’d just make up their frigging minds, instead of giving me the runaround. What do they think I am, their employee?
Then theres all the stuff from the council, please fill in this form and send it in by the twenty something of this month if you still wish to be registered as human and eligible to be called so.
Christ, that leaves me hardly more than a day to get the bloody form sent back and I don’t trust the post, so I rush around like a blue-arsed fly half-killing myself to get it personally to the council offices, and it’s not as if I haven’t a million other things to do before I can relax.
It’s not that flaming easy when you’re in your later years of life, living alone, sometimes run down, incapacitated with various ailments from time to time, and too often finding things such an inordinate stretch of physical effort, that it leaves you breathless and struggling to complete each fiddly thing in time to do the next.
Something else, eh? I’d say!
Hang on, I need to stop and take a rest before I pass out!
The Featured Image is a watercolour of the Croydon skyline that I painted in 1982. Having chosen it, I thought it made an interesting contrast to the introduction of this article, although as the actual source of the district described in the story, it becomes more relevant later in the plot.
Dave Draper, October 2016.