Sally almost didn’t come out tonight, but Rochelle had eventually irked her so to the point of distraction, that she was wriggling to get a vodka and orange, to help blow the steam off. On how many occasions has she come to within a hair’s breadth of slapping that irksome, useless bitch square across the jaw? She lost count as she pedals furiously to get herself to Pearly dewdrops, where Sylvia is just finishing her shift, through the jam packed Friday traffic.

About nine buses are blocking her way, so she puts on her earphones and listens to some of Kate Bush’s brilliant eighties stuff, to keep the city out of her head for a while (to kill, deaden the pain which oozes through her every muscle). She dare not weave through the traffic. The last time she did that she got side swiped by a bus and needed a skin graft and seventeen stitches on her left thigh. Extra caution is now her way on the city trail — she even wears very gothic (she enameled them black in Pablo’s workshop) bicycle clips, holding her voluminous cherry emblazoned black skirt out of the way of the bicycle’s teeth. The soaring music in her headphones blocks out the city for now, and she follows the nine red buses (not all really red, she ruminates, some are brick red, others magenta, or crimson, cherry, maroon and fuscia. Burgundy and port, even), past plane tree after plane tree, terminal buds aching now to sprout, releasing their hay fever inducing seeds… but still, the aching pain which is always there, letting her only half perceive things and again, she daydreaming, hoping she’ll be swimming again this summer in the warm cold shallows, darting unidentifiable fishes pushing mysterious shadows on the course golden Iona sands.

Eventually she gets to Pearly Dewdrops, finds a free space to chain her bicycle, and walks in after removing her bicycle clips (she won’t forget to to this like she did last Friday). Sylvia is sat at one of the window tables, drinking with Kate and Brenda and a young blonde guy she’s never met before who watches every move that Brenda makes. She walks over and says hello.
‘Sally, how are you! Love your hair. It makes such a “look at me” statement. I see you’re still wearing your drag on the floor skirt…’
‘Shut up Sylvia. I appreciate the compliments, but you’re rambling again! Hi Brenda,’ Sally says, seeing that Brenda’s blonde roots are showing through.
‘Hi Sally. This is Anthony, my new friend.’
‘Hi Anthony,’ Sally says
“Please, just Tony,’ he says somewhat grumpily.
‘Anyway,’ Sally says, ‘I’m going to get myself the drink I’ve been dreaming about all day, Anybody else want one?’
There’s a palpable silence until Tony says, ‘We’re all broke, so why not get a jug of Honeydew. It’s a tenner for a five pint jug.’
“It’s bloody delicious,” Kate says.
‘What is Honeydew, anyway?’ Sally asks.
‘It’s the lager which won the London Lager competition. Don’t tell me you didn’t hear about that. It was all over the press.’
‘Yeah,’ says Kate,’The Sun ran the headline London’s best to beat Continent on Monday.’
‘Don’t have a telly, don’t read the sun, and work is too busy in these times for idle chatter.’ (She is not going to tell them a big screen scrolls the news all day across from her reception desk.)
‘It’s delicious, anyway,’ Tony says, draining the very last, warm looking dregs from his oily, fingerprint laden glass.
‘Okay then, a jug of Honeydew,’ Sally heads off for the bar.

Outside, Chris is happy to be with his old courier buddies from five years ago. They’re talking and moaning about the stagnant wage situation — the hourly rate hasn’t gone up for over two years. It’s the third round of beers already, and Arnie is looking sheepish: ‘Sorry guys, I’m broke…payday’s only next Friday, and I’m still paying off the van, and the school fees.’
‘That’s fine,’ Chris says, ‘I’ll get these. Same again?”
‘Yes,’ Seb and Arnie say in unison.

The bar is quiet for a Friday evening. Just seems to prove the the point that she and about a hundred thousand other people ‘alternative culture’ people have come to — there’s nowhere left in this metropolis for individual expression, and what is there, is so substandard that it just isn’t worth the effort of showing up.

‘Hello,’ she hears.

She looks behind her, and she’s lost now. She has always held onto the assumption that you never meet the same person twice on the same day in a city this size, but here is the man she blew kisses at this morning with his gorgeous curly hair twinkling his blue eyes at her.
‘I really appreciated that series of kisses this morning, even although they positively bedeviled me.’ ‘
They did?’ she can’t help an involuntary giggle.
‘Want to feel the bump?’
‘Not right now,’ she’s trying as hard as she can not to blush, but can feel the heat pushing up her cheeks, ‘what bump, anyway?’
‘Calm down, I’m only playing. Go ahead and get your drinks. We can talk later.’
She can’t work out his accent. It’s flat, almost northern. He spots her at once as a Fulham girl, She orders her jug of Honeydew from the surly barman and turns back to where he was, only to see he is outside, smoking a cigarette and talking to his friends.

Time winds on, talk of careers, families and finances, and then Chris finds the conversation winding down to ridiculousness.
‘What beats old street for its grotesque ugliness?’ Arnie asks, out of nowhere.
‘Euston underpass? Especially with the new University hospital, which I think looks like an hypodermic needle.’
‘Highbury corner, ugly, unthought about, post war rubbish?’
‘Holland Park Roundabout with the dirty Thames Water indicator?’
‘Hammersmith Broadway. Shopping mall culture meets bus hell?’
‘The roads around Speaker’s corner, Hyde Park. Carbon heavy haze?’
‘Archway and it’s hideous eighties architecture which once looked like a good idea?’
‘Hampstead Road – total sink.’
‘Camden High Street, just a higgle piggedy mess, apart from the bit around the canal.’
‘Putney Bridge.’
‘Finsbury Park, around the station. It’s all rotten concrete.’

Chris, bored now, wonders off to find that young lady who he is so intrigued by. Maybe today is a day of two halves. Lucky and unlucky. Ying and Yang. He feels like he’s living that old Chinese proverb, and indeed living in very interesting times.

He finds her, looking very bored with her friends, their table full of almost empty glasses. The music is thumping louder in the background, all agony, pain and emo. She sees him coming and smiles. He smiles back and bends over to whisper in her ear: ‘Fancy a bit of a club night tonight.? This place is so god-damned depressing.’
‘It’s not going to be too expensive?’
‘My treat! Meet me outside in about five minutes, and we can make our escape. There’s a great club I know, and it starts to get going about eleven on a Friday. Thump-ing music, cutting edge DJ. Not what you’re used to, but I guarantee you’ll love it,’ he says, not knowing of any such club.
‘Okay, I’ll meet you ouitside in five then.”

He has to think on his feet. He has never been out clubbing in London. It’s not his style (he prefers big boisterous house parties and loves them for their who gives a fuck attitude) In the corner, next to the cheap plate glass door, is a leaflet which stands out and grabs his attention. He goes over to take a closer look. On a midnight blue card, in bright electric blue letters:

chemical dreams 30 March 2010
£16 @ the door
£12 advance

He knows, just knows, that this is something he must experience. He pockets the leaflet and goes back outside to have a banter with Arnie, who is so proud of his son’s mathematical skills, and goes on and on about it. Chris gets a tap on the shoulder which makes him spill a bit of his beer. He looks back and sees that it’s the red headed woman. God. He doesn’t even know her name, and they’ve been flirting all day long!
‘You’re ready?’ he asks.
‘Yes, I am, and I don’t even know your name.’
‘It’s Chris. And you?’
‘I’m Sally.’
‘We’re going to this new nightclub opening tonight. It looks very interesting,’
Chris hands her the flyer, ‘you still going to join us? It’ll be mental.’
‘Mental is the only way.’ ‘
The place doesn’t seem very gothic to me.’
‘Did I say I’m gothic?’
‘Well, you dress the part…and you’ve got black finger…’
‘They’re not black, but burnt cherry red. Black’s like white. It comes in many hues and tones.’
‘Okay! I can’t get it right!’
‘He gets nothing right,’ Arnie pipes in, the only one of Chris’s friends not to have called it a night already, ‘not today, anyway!’
Chris punches Arnie on the shoulder, hard, “Shut up daddy! The lady and I are having a private conversation.’
‘Then get a room,’ Arnie replies, smiling broadly at Sally.
‘He assumes a lot,’ Sally says to Chris. ‘You’d better get used to him. His mathematical genius son is spending the weekend with mummy, so he’ll probably be next to us on the dance floor tonight, if he doesn’t pull first.’
‘It looks,’ Sally says, ‘like an equatorial treat.’

Outside the neon strip, under the purple overcast dark sky, Arnie, Sally and Christopher find themselves. The strip sprang up suddenly at the start of the year and just hasn’t stopped growing, the latest addition being Bar Heavannah (during daylight hours, a humidifier with cigars is attended by a beautiful blonde ambigu-sexual who every business cigar chomping man and woman goes to for their social networking and plain old gossip) On weekend nights, Flloyd the cigar seller works as Tranceman the DJ at the recently opened Equator nightclub — the place which has taken the neon (neon for the eighties retro feel, LED for the slickness) wars to a new level. Hence, the most exciting light show outside Vegas, and certainly, unlike anything London has ever seen before.

When they arrive at Equator, they are agog at the queue, which goes round the block one and a half times.
‘How big is this place?’
‘It’s at the old Empire — it can hold thousands, I’d say,’ Arnie says.
‘I’ve never been here before,’ Chris says, eyeing a girl in front of him wearing what looks like a one piece latex body suit, emblazoned with web and raindrop designs. It looks brilliant, especially on such a lithe and sexualized body. Suddenly he realizes that Sally is watching him, a rye smile on her lips. He stops looking at once, all to aware of the energy he’s put into pursuing Sally tonight, and not at all in the mood to have to repeat those energies all over again.
‘I was only looking,’ he says.
‘No you weren’t,’ Arnie chirps in, ‘You were eating her alive.’

Even the banks have gone in for fancy light work to fit in among the crowd. Chris needs to withdraw some money, and does so when the queue passes a bank machine. He is amazed by the illuminations above the machine and on the screen :’The electric quarter welcomes you to National Bank Holborn, the best, most individualised and careful bank in all of Britain.’ He snorts at that.

Cash drawn, Chris rejoins the queue, ‘Damn,’ he says,’that bank machine almost charmed the pants right off me.’
‘You mean,’ Sally says, ‘that it’s halved the work I have to do?’ and she laughs a silly little laugh Chris would never have expected. There is a palpable sense of electric excitement in the air as they pay their cover charge and go inside. A sense that this is special, that is the start of new direction in cultural evolution, or, at the other side of the spectrum, just a bloody good night out — entertainment par excellence. Depends on the mindset, these things,Chris thinks, and the mindset here among these twenty and occasional thirty somethings is high and effervescent, anything to get away from the depressed gloomy strike and march world out there. Chris, not too far from forty, finds himself feeling a bit old and truly horrified by the price of the beer (not horrified enough to stop buying an extra can for himself and Arnie and Sally to avoid having to queue too soon again — he knows that he’ll have a lot of dosh to play around with in the not too distant future).
‘So, should we wonder about for a bit, find out what this place is like?’Arnie says, ‘Oh, and Chris, I’ll pay you back next week, thanks bro.’
‘That’s cool. Sally, you want to explore?’
‘I know this place. I used to come and see live jazz singers here with my dad when I was a girl.’
‘You mean you’re still not a girl?’ Chris says, grinning broadly, showing a gap where one of his incisors was punched out in a high school fight.
‘I’m not too sure I like the lighting — either pink, blue or a mixture of the two. It really is very retro.’
‘Everything has something of retro about it, Sally! Look at me. An eighties kid in a twenty first century nightclub, fitting in even.’
They find a sofa to sit on in a darker corner (projections of the milky way making them all feel a bit silly at first)
‘You think Scotty is going to show up?’ Arnie says, sipping his beer
‘I’d prefer Luke Skywalker,’ Sally says, squeezed between the two virtual strangers.
‘Me — I’d like Osama Bin Laden just to give him a good bollocking and then a a good lesson in human rights.’
‘Good luck on that,’ Sally says. ‘ I hope the DJ starts soon. These thumped up covers are doing my head in. I’m almost tempted to start listening to my i-pod…’

She is cuts off by the sound of some kind of pipes echoing and rebounding off the walls, undercut now by a pulsating bass beats which sounds like a man humming underwater. They strain their eyes but the lights have dimmed right down that they can see only five feet in front them (the fog machines are adding their scent and thick whooshing sound to the music which is slowly ascending. Sally feels a hand touching her right flank and she asks:
‘That is you, Chris?’ as a woman’s voice begins soaring with the music which is as loud as anything, but not intrusive.
‘It’s me,’ Chris says, leaning in to kiss her.




copyright 2009



 Ian James McAdam





 Saturation of substance

 Reaching higher,

Sub-spacial now,

 Condensing our hopes and dreams

 Into toxicity


Force for equilibrium

A cycle within a cycle

(A multiverse experiment)

The progression of nature

 (For we are nature)

Water, earth, air and fire.

And us.



 CHAPTER ONE (first section)

spring rose spirituality, crimson to green...


 Blossom petals litter the road as hyacinth smells assault his nostrils in a rush of instant sweetness. The sun is strong now that it’s managed to fight off the dirty cloying mist, heating his pvc jacket to instant discomfort. He’s just picked up a message from Westminster and is coming past Trafalgar square (where there is another march, this one with placards today shouting for “PRICE DETERMINATION BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE”, and “ECONOMICS IS SCIENCE NOT SOCIOLOGY” {they’re all creeping out of the woodwork}), and the police are still hoi-toying.

 By his count, this is the third march this week, the fifty-fifth this year, he’s lost count of how discontented this, the English capital, is, placarding up with with more focus on the chaos, emphasizing the chaos…why he came back…but he knows it was money.

And money is making him impatiently honk his wincing Vespa hooter. He has to get through the gridlock for his Bloomsbury delivery and decides the only way is to cut through Soho. He getting used to mindmapping his way through the gridlock that is the standard 2010 Trafalgar Square, always in protest, way.

He has a moment at a red light contemplating other people insularly contemplating him. They’re all jiving to their various forms of music-radio technologies, apart from one girl on a bicycle — with the most ridiculous shade of red hair, who stops him in his thought tracks and every other bit of sensory perception he has — because she is blowing him kisses. Beautiful wholehearted twinkle by the eye kisses…

There is the sound of twenty hooters and bicycle bells behind him. Damn, he has to rev up and move on. Ah well, he thinks, another perfect moment, lost in the endless album of perfect moments, fading already to uselessness.

He notices that he is now surrounded by a whole bunch of bicycles. Old bicycles, new bicycles, bicycles which are cutting edge and lightweight (hardly heavier than a starving budgie) and bicycles which are solid, heavy, reliable and have baskets with fruit, flowers and dogs. Aerodynamic cycling helmets in the eighties resprise dayglo coulours, making those wearing them (along with their earpieces) look like clones of the basic human animal. They look, he thinks, as if they’re auditioning for the cover of a Pet Shop Boy’s album cover, which he hopes in a wayward wish way, will be like the old fullsize album covers. Fat chance, he chides himself.

His Utopian dream is bankrupt…his moped motor chugs up the barely perceptible gradient of Regent Street, stuck behind an infinite row of taxi cabs, the one next to him saying, with a dreamy picture of the sun, that 300 days of the year are like this in South Africa. He chuckles under his breath. Not in Kwa Zulu! In Kwa Zulu it weeps like a premenstrual woman, and the humidity is like an invisible blanket. Things are moving so slowly so he lights up a cigarette, thinking in his random way of Catholic blue hot war Bushism. The pollution magnifies, as a lens intensifies, accentuates, and clarifies the loud, pulsing traffic flow.

He suddenly sees a gap opening up ahead of him and whizzes through, making his gambit for a quick, efficient delivery.

Someone shouts after him: “You fucking idiot!”

The defeaning noise in his ears (louder than anything he has ever heard in his life) is secondary to the feeling of being a rocket flying through the air, the sky, hemmed in by the buildings, a perfect flat plane of blue. The fast falling feeling as gravity returns him, head crashing through the glass of a estate agent’s speed racer painted, Mini Cooper windscreen.

“Sorry,” he says to the shocked estate agent.

 He looks behind him, and there is a jackknifed articulated shiny red lorry, and glazed red bricks everywhere, and the post accident silence he’s always been told about. Amazingly, there are no crushed vehicles, or any injured people he can see. Already the pigeons are pecking at the Doritos spilling out of the red lorry’s cab which is lying on its side and separated from its load. Chris can only smile at the ‘Eat my shorts’ slogan and picture of Bart Simpson on the back of it. The driver crawls out with a bloody nose, which makes his pale terrified complexion look even whiter. Chris looks back for only one more second before he rushes ahead to his dented moped to make his escape.

There’s no way he is taking responsibility for this mess. He just hopes that he hasn’t been captured on the ubiquitous camera culture mill. Down one of the sidestreets, and he realises, Damn, that he’s lost the package he was delivering. He’s never lost a package before. How is he going to explain this?

He’s pleased at the effect of the crash, though. He has never seen Oxford Street so quiet, except perhaps on Christmas day, and chugs his damaged moped down the street, which he has all to himself, apart from the people staring and gaping and taking photos and video of the fine mess he’s created.


The housing benefits office is busy, as is usual in these economic down times. Sally is wishing she hadn’t had such a heady Thursday night, especially with Rochelle bitching consistently. The reception desk is still dented from the heavy kicks it got from that abusive poor confused man this morning (he had to be dragged away by five security guards, he must have been on crack). Outside, the crow is singing the old Nokia ring tone — it really is behind the times.

“I’m goin to sue the bloody council for this,” Rochelle moans, “I’m not paid for this, and if they don’t put up barriers to protect us from the public, they’ll rue the day the didn’t when one of us gets stabbed.”

“Don’t be stupid, Rochelle,” Sally says, “We’ve already got a security guard watching over us all day.”

She books another customer in to see a benefits officer, and when the phone has rung for the sixth time, she glares at Rochelle. Rochelle knows the look, and answers the phone quickly.

Ah, Sally smiles to herself … the weekend, after the drama of the day, drinks with her old friends at Pearly Dewdrop’s and who knows what London will throw up this weekend? That was a wonderful moment this morning, blowing kisses…

“Sally,” Rochelle is whining again, “You do realise your hair dye is running down your blouse, don’t you?’

“That’s the intention.”

“You coming to that march on Sunday”

“Which March?”

“The March march. Better conditions for working mothers.”

“I’m not a mother, Rochelle…”

The conversation meanders along this strand as customer after customer is pointed in the right direction. She always knows that the ones with the old worn shoes are the ones who need the benefit most.


‘Damn,’ he thinks as he walks through the door of Angel Wings Couriers, his place of employment, trying to sort out the lies… I should have called Alpin — my little brother can lie his way out of anything! ‘

I’m in trouble, Roxy. I’ve lost the package I was supposed to deliverl to the TA. Is Danny in his office?’

‘Yes, he is, and it sounds like they’re already on his case. Good luck, Chris.’

He smiles at her, andf she smiles back, as he makes his way into the boss’s office.

‘So, Danny, there I was cycling down Lamb’s Conduit, trying to avoid the protests on around Whitehall and Westminster, when all of a sudden a group of young hooded teenagers appear like from nowhere, block my path, knock me off my bike and steal the contents from my backback. How they knew…’

 ‘I don’t care how they knew, Chris! Do you know what was in that envelope, don’t you, Chris!’ 

 know it was something for the territroial army headquarters…’

‘Chris, use your fucking brain! You picked it up in Westminster to go to Bloomsbury. They were bloody military instructions!’

‘But wouldn’t they go with an armed escourt?’

 ‘Moron! With half the army beoing used to contain the civil unrest and guard the streets of the country? Chris, you’re a fucking moron. Do you know how much trouble I’m going to be in?’

‘Don’t worry, Danny.’

‘I am worried, Chris. Get yourself to Holborn Police Station and report the theft.’

He takes a bus to avoid having to find a place to park (and to avoid having his dented Vespa inspected by the law). He decides he needs some giudance, so he quickly dials his brother, Alpin, hoping the little bugger isn’t boozing away his lunch hour.

Alpin answers on the first ring, and after the cordial hello’s, Chris asks: ‘Alex, how do I get myself out of this one?’

‘Well, I kinda caused a lorry to jacknife accross Oxford Circus, and lost a very important document.’

‘That was you? It’s all over the news. You’re lucky no-one was killed. Still, sounds like something you’d do.’

‘Anyway, listen, Alpin, how do you always manage to lie so convincingly? With such…panache?’

‘I’ve put that behind me, Chris. You know that.’

 ‘I know. But how did you manage to convince people?’

‘Easy, Chris. You have to believe what you say. Anyway, I have to get back to the pub for evening service.Good luck. Ciao, big bro. Good luck.’

 ‘I’ll need it.’

Chris walks as confidently as he can to the reception desk, involuntary repeating his childhood prayers.


Evening rushing on,lies told, and believed by the impressionable constable, and apologies accepted by Danny, and now it’s reunion drinks with his old pals at Pearly Dewdrops. He used to hang around there on his last stint in London. Now it has been relocated, and as he motors over in the Friday evening traffic (mellowly congested – the only time of the week where gridlock is treated as hardly a problem, which makes it seem even more jammed than is usual), he wonders if they still have mice playing together behind the bar. That used to amuse him and his old mates no end. He’s very curious to see what the new place is like. His phone rings, and he’s lucky to be at another red light so he can answer.

 He sees on the display that it’s his business partner, Arno, calling from South Africa.

‘Arno! Howzit goin, bro! Hows the consignment looking?’

‘It’s on the way from Malawi as we speak, just wanted to update you.’

‘Schweet, got that, speak soon,’

Chris puts the phone back in his pocket.

West facades are basking now in a strengthening, post equinox, sun. The light, mellowed through the haze — red super strength, brown brick lifted, momentarily, from its dirty dullness, windows twinkling — the closest thing this city sees to twilight. He feels the cold eating into the eastern terraced basements. Winter is lingering and does not want, nor is ready, to say goodbye. Seasons move by degrees, with the minutes and seconds marked by flower phases, moon phases, insects and birds on the wing. He listens for a moment to the sounds from the pavement, and hears at least ten different languages all overlaid each other — and, passing by, a group of continental student types all speak in various degrees of English to each other. He knows that his own accent is half London, becoming more so the more time he spends in this godforsaken city.

 He arrives at Pearly Dewdrops, and is horrified to see its new exterior, all concrete with over exposed curtain windows. The building can only have been built in the eighties, and Chris is horrified that Sebastian had even thought to ask to meet here. The old Pearly Dewdrops was dodgy as anything, but at least it was a suitable, poorly ventilated, poorly lit Victorian, aged,becoming dilapidated,building.

He parks his Vespa as close by as he can (which ends up being more than 300 yards from the pub), the sun lingering forever. Everything seems to wait for this moment — especially on a Friday in the spring time, even the contrails forming at maximum altitude take on a spirtual illuminance. Infinity moments, Chris calls them, because they are forever remembered.

whoah!!  What a picture!

whoah!! What a picture!

                                                                         ART BY Jacqui Farell


His sisters had been smoking on the weekend, with his cousins. Christopher misses nothing, so he knows exactly where the smoking paraphernalia is hidden. Cigarettes, matches and even some strange papers he can’t identify are hidden under the plaster-of-paris mountain in the middle of his older brother’s train set. He walks past the lounge to the play room, and sees that his mother is lavishing yet more attention on his two-year old brother. He takes the matches, puts them in his red dungaree’s pocket, and makes his way out of the kitchen door, progressing down the hill to the farm with the yellow sunflowers and ripening corn.

The burning sun shines on his face, bringing his freckles into sharp focus, turning his nose into a sharp shadow sloping down his chin. His tummy is still full from the caramel tart he’d eaten at Auntie Maria’s this afternoon (after he’d spent an hour watching every little thing the canaries, cockatiels and budgies had done in the aviary). He is still buzzing after finding the corpse of a puffadder on his way home. He had pushed it along with an acacia branch, poking it with the thorns.

He looks now directly at the sun, against his better judgement, against everything he’s ever been told he should do, his little legs still marching him down the hill to the farmer’s field, the seven matches rattling in the box.

He climbs over the rusty barbed wire fence, and feels the dryness of the red soil on his bare feet. It’s been three days since it last rained, he knows. He sits down under the tall corn stalks to continue his exploration of the way things work.

Later, that evening, after his hiding, and after his refusal to eat the broccoli on his plate, his father unceremoniously takes him to the farmer’s house. The farmer is red faced in his fury, and says that he will whip the bejesus out of Christopher if ever he sets another foot on his land.

Trying to sleep, all he can see is the tears on the face of the farmer’s wife. He puts his face into his pillow, and cries at his misfortune. His fat little brother ticks  like a mentronome in his cot on the other side of the room.