Creative Stuff Archive

0

IT’S JUST A HOBBY

This is for all the gifted hobbyists out there who choose to keep it behind closed doors.

This little piece is dedicated to anybody regarded by their family or friends as ‘talented’ or ‘naturally gifted’, and are encouraged, nagged, or just plain forced into making something out of that talent despite possessing no desire to use that gift for financial or professional gains. This is for those who’s gifts are ‘just a hobby’.

There are some people who feel that anybody with an ounce of talent should peruse that talent to the highest accolade. That capable actors should work towards treading the boards on Broadway or appearing in prime time TV show on the goggle-box. Singers should work their arses off to get noticed by Warner Music; fast runners should aim to proudly represent their flag every four years. The same types of people often say things like, “Be all that you can be”, and “If he was any good, he wouldn’t be performing at weddings”, “She can’t be that much of a journalist, she’s been writing for the Valleys Weekly for the last twelve years”.

The lingering opinion among these opinionists that if someone does not use their talents to aim for the top, then all the classes, training, lessons and micro-managing were all a waste of time and money – it was all for nothing. They call it ‘wasted talent’. I call it ‘bullshit’. There is no such thing as a ‘wasted talent’, a ‘waste of time’, or a ‘waste of money’, because some people convert their ‘wasted talents’ into things called hobbies; a strange little concept that involves people doing things they are exceptionally talented at to please only themselves.

You see, friends, no talent is wasted if the participant finds something rewarding out of the application of that talent, regardless of how small or insignificant it is. Rewards are subjective and depend on the individual. To a particular individual, performing in front of a crowd of one or delivering a wedding speech can be just as rewarding or horrifying as performing to a packed Stadium. Even alone, you can easily lose yourself in the moment when singing sweet lullabies to a shampoo bottle – you can still get something rewarding out of it. It’s all about the personal journey; not everybody wants to be heard or seen – not everyone wants to be the cream.

Not everybody gives a fuck about status or career, either. Not everybody wants their talents to be bastardised, criticized, scrutinised or compromised by ungrateful, opinionated fucktards. In my life I have known gifted individuals with superb singing voices, acting skills, gripping short stories, eclectic guitar styles, crazy dance moves and lightening kicks like Bruce Lee; individuals who are happy doing their thing in private. I’m totally down with that attitude.

Somewhere there is a Marketing Executive with a flare for poetry, a Surgeon who is handy with a piano, a Babysitter who paints magisterial Valley landscapes on an effervescent canvas, a retired Steelworker who makes good use of the carpentry set he was given as a leaving present from his fellow wage-slaves. A poem for a lover’s eyes only – words as moving as anything in the history of paper or parchment.

I like the idea that all around this blue pearl drop there are everyday people that do extraordinary things for no one but themselves. A planetary-wide abundance of creative awesomeness all around us; few people will never see how awesome some of it is. I also love the idea that the same creative potential of these individuals is in every single one of us. We all have the power to do something magnificent. And there the humbling riches lay.

0

THE SIMPLE ACT OF CARING

Caring is one of the most magnificent things you will ever do. Live it, own it; cherish it.

Caring is one of the most magnificent things you will ever do, whether in public or in private; briefly or indefinitely. Live it, own it; cherish it. It is a privilege to care and a reward to be cared for, it costs nothing and is worth everything. Caring is a personal adventure that will shape you…

There is nothing greater than when souls connect in inexplicable ways, sharing the good times and the bad – the laughter and the tears. Your life will be enriched with good memories of the friends and loved ones who have played a part in your journey through life; people have, and will, mould and shape you with their influences. They will inspire you to shine.

There’s more than enough room, so don’t come in to conflict with yourself when you find yourself caring for more than one person at a time – emotions have no rules or restrictions; they are yours to do with as you please. Do with them as you please! There are billions of human souls on this world, and each has the potential to stir you and improve your life in different ways. Welcome and celebrate each and every one.

You can’t measure love with a spirit-level and you won’t always be sure how the other person feels – not until we can all read each other’s thoughts, anyway. You were taught to disguise your true feelings from the time when you were a child; when told, ‘don’t give me that look’ or ‘don’t look so miserable’ – right up to the civility that you have to display in certain awkward situations; to people that you can’t stand the sight of. Think about how well you can pull it off – there are better actors than you in the world. But risk is part of the game of life.

Everybody walks to a different beat and it is natural that peoples’ feelings will be different to yours. You will be disliked by someone, someday – yes, even someone as adorable as you! Don’t resent that person if they don’t feel the same way about you as you do about them – there is, was, and always will be a 50/50 chance of someone liking or hating you; it is that clear-cut – it is the natural order of things. It’s none of your business what someone thinks about you, hard as it is to accept. You may one day be put in the position of someone claiming to care for you when you feel nothing for them. Be gentle with them, but remember that you didn’t choose for them to care – it is theirs to endure, just as it will be yours when the time comes.

Find no place for jealousy in your life, but if you have to be jealous, hide it well! Direct envy in a positive way towards the ones you hold dear. Never stop learning about them, earning their trust, and gaining their respect. Be proud of their achievements and celebrate their success; you are witnessing landmarks in a persons life, be grateful for that gift. Never rest on your own laurels; you are only as good as your last encounter, so don’t ever assume that you can pick things up where they left off – sometimes you may even have to start all over again.

The hardest thing to do is to say goodbye; whether in person, or apart. You will not always understand why it has to be goodbye. A time will come when you are the one who chooses to walk away; there will be times when you can’t face to walk away. There will be times when it is too late to say goodbye. Every goodbye will be different and scripted scenarios will always play out in your head – confused and clouded thoughts of how things might have been so different; what you didn’t do – what you never said. The hardest word you will ever have to say is ‘goodbye’; the hardest word you will ever hear is ‘goodbye’.

You will get hurt! It will happen without warning; and it’s called ‘hurt’ for a reason. It has to be felt and cannot be explained – you will certainly know it when it hits you. Let it take you when it comes; flood your lap with tears, rock yourself to sleep, play melancholic tunes, or drown yourself with booze; endure it and understand it because it will stay with you for a long time – and life will always ensure that there is more where that came from. Keep hold of the good memories, even if it makes you angry or hurt; they were a part of the days of your life; you are something because of them.

In my life I have been charmed and disarmed, deflated and dejected, accepted and rejected. I have won some and I have lost some; I have pulled some in and I have pushed some away. I have had to say goodbye and I have not had the chance to say goodbye. I have a life full of fond memories and stories to tell; encounters that have taken me to heaven and hell. I tell you all of this because I have cared. I tell you all of this because I have been there. I tell you all of this because I have nothing to regret. I would tell you more, but I haven’t finished learning, yet…

0

MY SELF-UNIVERSE

Despite its apparent sense of humour, the universe is a cold and foreboding place. It does not recognise care, cruelty, […]

Despite its apparent sense of humour, the universe is a cold and foreboding place. It does not recognise care, cruelty, love, pain, and empathy. It is neither the enemy nor the ally; it simply ‘is’. Primitive civilisations over the ages have tried to compensate for this cold, sobering fact by fabricating ludicrous belief systems called religions, centred around all-knowing, all-seeing, fantasy beings called Gods.

Like children who filled their boredom and loneliness with imaginary friends – created to be all they want them to be – so did these certifiable nutters create creators of everything, as an explanation for everything; available 24/7 as a conduit for credit and blame. All the positive things are because we are all ‘Being blessed’ (not to be mistaken for being ‘Brian Blessed’) and all the shit that happens is because ‘The Creator‘ (not to be mistaken for the creator V’ger was seeking in ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’) work ‘in mysterious ways’.

Not in my universe!

I cannot influence or control the universe – wars will happen, governments will fuck up, the wrong people will die, the banks will never learn, tax-cattle will get State Stockholm Syndrome – but I can influence some of what happens in my self-universe. My self-universe is made up of unique perceptions, sensations, thoughts, and emotions that are experienced from my own unique perspective – a private self-universe with spiralling galaxies of loves, hates, empathies, prejudices, sentimentalities, vices, voyeurisms, taboos, guilty pleasures, and hidden pains.

No one will ever be able to cross the barrier into my self-universe. No person will ever experience their self-universe in the exact same way I experience mine – even when other self-universes converge in the same physical space, as they tend to do from time-to-time, the way they perceive their self-universial reality (the way they feel when they hear a great tune, watch a sunrise, taste a drink, hear a joke) is totally subjective; unique to them, and them alone.

Compared to physical reality (I was going to say ‘the one that came from a big bang’, but then didn’t we all, if you know what I mean), a self-universe is a harmonious place to live in because there are many ways to control and influence it. I play by my own rules. In my own self-universe, for instance, I decide what is serious, relevant, satire, or a freak-show. I decide the important headlines, the greatest hits, and the latest trends. I decide who’s fuckable and who’s forgettable; I decide the truths and the lies; the laughs and the cries.

Sadly, though, most self-universes are conditioned to be unaware of such potential for self-universal determination. Instead, they are led to believe they are beholden to the perceptions of other self-universes –  confused and conditioned to live by  a set of collective fabrications that have been given form and false meaning in the physical realm; non entities without physical form, not even at a molecular level. They drift along, living someone else’s dream, playing by someone else’s rules, playing out someone else’s act; with firewalls erected in their own self-universes, blurring any perception of what is real.

Not in my universe!

With contradiction being a given in most self-universal circumstances, the most exciting thing about my self-universe is that most of the time I haven’t got a clue what’s going to happen next.  Also, unlike the physical universe, my self-universe is self-aware and recognises, and is capable of, care, affection, pain, loss, joy, jealousy, sadness, guilt, anger, and gargantuan acts of magnificence.   What is more awesome about a self-universe is the power to create any fictional reality where the laws of science don’t apply.

If you explore your self-universe deep enough, you’ll realise that while there are immutable laws in the physical realm (physics and shit prevents you from flying or walking through walls), a great deal of what is supposedly ‘real’ is fabricated anyway – you can’t touch ‘the law’, or punch patriotism in the face; tax doesn’t have a molecular structure, Governments, borders, even countries, don’t really exist. There is no such thing as a forest; you cant touch a forest – you can touch individual trees, though. You dig?

By exploring the self-universe, you can learn a great deal about the physical universe and allow the two to coexist in perfect harmony. It’s not always perfect in my self-universe and it does not hold all the answers (sometimes it even causes a few problems), but nobody in my self-universe pulls the strings or works in mysterious ways; there is no God to turn to when it all goes FUBAR; no higher being to be loved, obeyed, feared and worshipped. No one is the King of my self-universe. No one, that is, except me!

0

ARMPIT POETRY

An assortment of bad poetry I pulled out of my armpit.

In fine Vogon tradition, here is an assortment of some of really bad poetry I have pulled out of my armpit over the years. I will not be held responsible for feelings of nausea or out-of-body experiences you may personally experience; though high proof alcohol and a cocktail of narcotics will take the edge off what you are about to read. May the made-up gods have mercy on your eyes.

NO CHANCE

You have the perfect face; complexion and stare
You’re in full possession of your eyebrow hair
Curved, inked and pierced in all the right parts
A head-to-toe natural; not like most crazy tarts

You live on the edge; a hot smoking gun
The loudest bang since the big one
But you don’t have a clue who Carl Sagan is
You can’t answer questions in a Star Trek quiz

You don’t know a constellation, besides the plough
You can’t name what’s roving on Mars, right now.
Your favorite TV shows are ‘Twilight’ and ‘Glee’
This is why you don’t have a keeper in me!

A SUBTLE HINT (TO CHOCOLATE BOYS)

‘Spewing out your clichés from the “How Not To Do It” bible
Loafers and tacky tailored suit; you’re your own biggest idle
That charmless-cocky-arrogant and self indulgent smile
Doesn’t do you any favours; in fact it makes you look quite vile

Your bony, flapping arms conducting gestures where you stand
Look as clumsy as a mallard that’s coming in to land
I don’t like your silly hairstyle or that Charlie Chaplin strut
I’ve seen less tan and try-hard bling on a clapped-out village slut

I don’t want you in my sights, to smell your boozy breath, okay?
I don’t date fucking chocolate-boys, so get the fuck away!’

There was obviously a reason she wouldn’t give a second thought
With that, I took the subtle hint – it must be ’cause I’m short!

SOBERING THOUGHTS

 The problem with being drunk is that you never will forget
The perfect, priceless laughter; the cringes of regret
What starts as slurring dialogue becomes a sloppy, verbal mess
Of mixed up words and phrases; to total strangers, things confessed
Blurry flashbacks teasing; tit-bits from the night before
The thing you’re still unsure of is how you made it through the door
I what? To who? With who? Where to? Where, when and goodness why?
The flashbacks hitting hard and fast: “Good God, please let me die!”
“Never again!” a common phrase, but of course you always do
You’ll meet that stranger once again; the one you told, “I love you”

TONE DEAF DENIAL

Long ago I could sing, but now I’m not so sure
I’m a cross between Bono and that bloke from The Cure
I can’t hit the high notes or the bits in the middle
I’m like a frustrated busker with one string on his fiddle
But after a tipple it all starts to change
I’m a tenor and a baritone; I have a limitless range
With the voice of an angel; stray dogs howl with glee
Is it the PA that’s deafening?
No… sadly it’s me!

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

I’d seduced a brunette at a nightclub in Barry,
Slender and strong with a voice from the valley.
Chatting and laughing we were bonding just fine,
So I suggestively whispered, “shall we go back to mine?”
We lay there in darkness and embraced for while,
I was horny and eager, to go the full mile.
Frustrated and frisky I headed down south,
When something moist and warm found its way in my mouth.
This bouncy brunette I’d got off with in Barry,
Wasn’t female at all but a tranny named Gary!

0

HOW CRASS IS MY VALLEY

A satirical cross between Hemingway and Norman Malir with a Valleys twist, so I've been told.

This is the first piece I ever wrote, back in 2009; ‘a satirical cross between Hemingway and Norman Malir with a Valleys twist’, I’ve been told. With the airing of that piece of shit reality TV show that flies wouldn’t even land on, ‘MTV: The Valleys’, I thought it would be appropriate to repost.

I’m not trying to box or stereotype this particular breed of Valleys person in any way. They do a good enough job of that by themselves…

It is the weekend and the relentless rain has called a temporary ceasefire on its recent bombardment. The bejewelled, parading hoards gather for a wild night on the town. Soon metrosexuals and overdressed circus clowns marinated in fake tan and slap – dresses hanging like cheap curtains in a greasy spoon – plague the high street.

There is no substance or depth to this sub-species of chocolate boys and ladettes; looking like females but behaving like men to the extent of pissing in doorways while standing up. I kid you not; I have seen it countless times. There is nothing ladylike about most valleys girls.

As I type this, I am being subjected to the usual Saturday night freak show. Nearby is a hen party, one of the more tasteful. A pink t-shirt handily adorned with their names to forgo any small talk later on identifies each piece. In attendance tonight is Licky Lucy, Randy Mandy and Sucking Sarah.

The proud mother of the bride Saucy Sasha– never one to be up-staged – is straddling a large inflatable penis. My mind strays for a moment and I wonder how much money I could make from patenting a Fucking Bronco; a standard bucking bronco with a strap-on… never mind.

The blushing bride, complete with L-plate and halo is rolling around on the drink-soaked cobbles, riding her equally well-rounded relative in the missionary position. They are still fully dressed, but it is only seven O’clock. The pre-watershed hasn’t hampered these town bicycles ability to make ‘fuck’ the only audible word of each illiterate sentence, their thick slurring Lambert & Butler voices curdling the fresh milk at a nearby Spar.

A fire engine is trying to negotiate its way through the self-absorbed crows, blues and twos all in vain. Some class impaired gutter-slut stands in its path, flashing her udders of which gravity has long since rejected. This pair of deflated Zeppelins looks like they’ve clocked more light years than the combined age of the fire engines compliment. The fire engine soon escapes the melee to get pelted by the drunken ASBO Warriors who ignited the now rapidly advancing grass fire in the first place.

Back on the high street egging the ‘ladies’ on is a gathering of charred, tattooed, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals; primeval chavs with blond highlights, pink Henley’s t-shirts, ‘it’s not pink, it’s salmon, like!’, diamond earrings and fucking flip-flops. The girls are putting on a good show for them tonight. They acknowledge this with choruses of wolf whistling and copping of their shrivelled nuts.

Overcome by testosterone, the roiders remove their matching tops and wrestle in celebration. They seem to be enjoying their Broke Back Mountain moments a little too much – keeping it in the family I suppose. Each grapple is concluded with a firm manly handshake and a gentle peck on the cheek.

The street theater comes to a premature end, courtesy of a relentless bombardment of rain. The women remove their impractical footwear and put on shopping bags, complete with eye-holes to cover their hair and face. Only their hair will be dry by the end of the night. To the men’s delight, the opacity of the women’s dresses is rapidly reducing as the rain intensifies. The valley natives retreat to the many dive-bars for a cocktail of drink, powder, party-pills, and later on, each other.

0

DULL C1NT IN A BRIGHT CAR

A satirical piece about Boy Racers.

After the supermarket shutters close on the daily shopping masses, a different type of battered trolley rolls into the car parks. Piloted by 17-year-old boys in full pubescent swing – the nocturnal hours signal the rise of the Boy Racer…

Tonight we follow 17-year-old Trev – a strange ferret looking creature surgically attached to a genuine fake gold chain – the reason for the trickling blood flow to his starved brain. Trev has spent the last two weeks at his 30-year-old dad’s garage modifying his £150 Vauxhall Corsa with aero parts from the local scrap yard.

Today Trev is adding the final additions to his ride, straightening out the chicken wire grilles and touching up the poly-filler with Dulux finest gloss. He screws on his personal number plate: 1MA CNT, and with his tank filled to the brim with siphoned petrol, he buys a quarter of ‘skunk’ from his old man. He is ready for a cruise.

The place to be tonight is the floodlit forecourt of ASDA car park. In attendance since lunchtime is the regular 15-year-old throttle totty – dancing to Nokia ring tones while sharing a half-empty bottle of Lambrusco. The distant roar of a sports exhaust, designed to mimic the mating call of the blue whale, signals the arrival of Trev.

As it’s Friday, Trev’s female passenger has made an extra scowling effort, wearing week-old pink pyjamas and bunny slippers, a three day build up of Boots hair spray and an extra layer of make-up to protect her from the harmful rays of the moon.

Trev has had treads on his tires for over a day, so he makes his entrance in style, flexing his cars non-existent power with a performance of hand break pirouettes, masterfully undertaking a collision with a stray shopping trolley. He commences a lap of the car park, blazing from zero to maybe… eventually.

Cleverly designed to look as plastic as they are, the streamlined Lego appendages, consisting of an improbable wing that NASA hadn’t noticed missing, flatters to deceive, creating the aerodynamic efficiency required to negotiate the tricky speed bumps at near-stationary velocity.

His Kenwood digital theatre system is set all the way to 11, blasting a narrow variety of indistinguishable beats – the sonic boom box pounding seismic ripples through the earth’s core. His passenger seems almost hypnotised by the stationary display of the monotone graphic equalizer.

The underneath of the car is illuminated with blue lights, the purpose of which is to help find any drugs that are discarded if the police arrive. There are rumours that the pigs are venturing beyondDunkinDoughnuts tonight, in search of a vehicle containing a suspicious item, believed to be a tax disc.

Trev takes his place among the other 42 boy racers, all sporting alloy wheels bought from the same eBay seller. Signalling his intention to go EVA, he fixes his poloshirt collar, dons his baseball and steps outside. Choking on the clear Lynx free air, he complains to the other petrolheads about not being to afford ASDAs new congestion charges, he’s been saving up for his driving test so will have to hang out at KFC car park – where the Emos skateboard.

He is starting to look unwell, his eyes aren’t glazed over and his completion is returning to its rare gravy brown smear. After one coherent sentence too many, he puts on his official counterfeit shades and returns to the neon-tinted cocoon of his ride.

His passenger has sold four Mayfair cigarettes and two cans of Strongbow to the throttle totty, raising enough cash for them to share a donner kebab before going dogging. Trev rubs the two loose ignition wires together, bringing the Vauxhall Corsa to life. He rolls a joint on a stained MAX Power magazine, lights it up and toots farewell to the totty, leaving in a trail of intoxicating smog. He may lose his virginity tonight.

 

0

OF FRIENDS AND BASEMENTS

A short story dedicated to my good friends; in memory still bright.

OF FRIENDS AND BASEMENTS

Written as requested by my old friend Steve, and in shared memory of our dearly departed friend Andrew -“Good friendships are hard to find, hard to lose, and impossible to forget…”

It is the end of the school week and King has that Friday Feeling. This week he passed a Kung-Fu grading and is now just three belts away from black. He has been aching all over all week and is looking forward to letting off some steam. He meets is best friend Lurch after their History class – Mrs Smith had separated them for laughing too much during a ‘Hitler’s Germany’ lecture.

Finding Prewecki between lessons they briefly discus their plans for the evening – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. King hands Lurch his bank card for him to draw money out during the lunch break. Lurch obliges and drifts away to class, his near seven foot frame trying its best to fade into the crowd.

After a long day learning very little; consisting of a Religious Studies class teaching the importance of contraception – where King had to read out the part of a male whose condom had ‘slipped off’ during a particularly messy encounter- and this time getting separated from Ty ‘Dickey Bow Winters‘ Summers for laughing too much, followed by a mind-numbing Geography lesson on Fjords – where Mr ‘TerminatorThomas had clocked up a new record for the number of times he says ‘right’ in a single lesson, a woodwork lesson spent shaping wooden plectrums with an industrial sander, concluding in the afternoon with an English lesson taught by the lovely Miss Prosser – who had recently admitted to crying while reading one of his poems, and not because it was bunk – They have finished reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ and are watching the movie as a treat, after which King heads straight to Lurch’s house.

Upon his arrival Lurch’s mother – Elaine – gives King a polite lecture about leaving his half finished cigarettes on the upstairs windowsill – he apologises; taking the blame on behalf of Lurch once again. Lurch is cooking tea as an apology for accidentally closing a door in King’s face today, and lending him a pair of shorts that turned completely transparent when coming into contact with the smallest molecule of water, a flaw that King discovered when he was preparing to dive from a great height at the local swimming pool.

They scoff their food while watching Byker Grove– Nicola has fallen pregnant, Geoff keeps saying ‘you’re not coming in, now go away’, and there’s this odd spiritual cult thingy going on. After the grove they admire the delectable Katy Hill on Blue Peter, who is learning to ride a show horse and looks particularly fetching in the riding boots that she made earlier.

Elaine bids farewell to the boys. She is reluctantly attending a school reunion tonight, is not planning on drinking, and shouldn’t be too late. After Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the duo collects and carries the hi-fi equipment from the bedroom – where someone has left half a cigarette on the windowsill – to the basement where they will be staying for the rest of the night.

The neighbors, Vera and Marina, are enjoying the last few rays of the sun in their garden; the boys sit and chat with them for a while, until the gnats develop a taste for teenagers. Playing on the nearby field are three inseparable dogs that the boys call The Friendly’s’. Each dog represents one of them (King, Lurch and Prewecki). Their canine attitude appears no different from the boys at all; never worried that time would come to an end.

As the older, shorter, and more dashing of the two – but mainly because the local shop keepers know how old Lurch is – King heads to the off license. The licensee is convinced that King is a London businessman who only comes home for weekends; his startlingly convincing cockney accent adds to the authenticity of his cover.

After purchasing 12 bottles of ‘K‘ cider and a bottle of Kiwi & Lemon ‘MD 20/20‘ he heads back to base where Prewecki has just arrived on his 50cc bike – that conked out and had to push most of the way. He is stood with his usual messy hair, stocky build, and wide open smile, dressed in full green combat gear having just come from Territorial Army – though that never made a difference to his dress code.

He has a flagon of Stone Housecider in one hand, and is smoking something large and round with the other. He thrusts a ten pound note at Lurch and demands to purchase some chocolate puddings to feed his healthy addiction (Lurch’s mother works in catering and hospitality).

Inside the basement the boys knock back a few drinks and play some games of pool; ‘winner stays on’. King and Prewecki each get a break while Lurch demonstrates how to ruthlessly humiliate opponents. Therapy?’s ‘Troublegum‘ album is blasting through the speakers.

After Therapy? they put on a Rock Anthems compilation to which King and Lurch execute a well choreographed rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody– complete with pool cue guitars and Prewecki playing air drums – followed by an equally well crafted performance of Black Betty.

Too tipsy to hit the ball in a straight line anymore – and with King fed up of being beaten by Lurch for the 8th game in a row – the boys take their positions around the pool table for a game of cards; beginning, as always, with ‘Switch’ and then – after King loses that game for the 8th time because of the other two conspiring – a game of ‘Bluff’ where the trio make futile and fruitless efforts stare each other out with poker faces.

Far too drunk to keep straight faces any longer they abandon the card games and sing badly. Prewecki is particularly entertaining company – the joker in the pack – always with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step. He is on top form tonight and making the others pay. Lurch is sat at the head of the table, doubling over and begging his own breath-sapping laughter to stop; beating his chest and rocking back and forth like a hyperventilating Tyrannosaurus.

King is sat at the right of the table with tears streaming down his eyes and shoulders bobbing up and down like a pneumatic drill. Prewecki won’t be staying over tonight because he has obstacle course training in the morning. No-one will be receiving a surprise attack with a pillow, and the improvised bed time story – that the boys take turns at telling a chapter – will not involve blowing each other up, becoming immortal, taking over the universe, or contain a never-ending string of epilogues. Prewecki wants to listen to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon‘ before he makes his excuses and leaves. It is already past midnight; he is quite soused, and has to push his motorbike home.

A ‘thud’ sounds from above, someone is shuffling about. King and Lurch rush upstairs – Lurch grabbing ‘Slugger’ the baseball bat. They find Elaine – uncharacteristically tipsy from the school reunion, but still as dignified as ever. Lurch helps his mum to bed and removes her contact lenses – which would have been easy had she not started to fall asleep.

With Elaine sound asleep the duo looks inside the drinks cabinet at potential ingredients for the ‘end of night cocktail’. Normally they have to carefully negotiate their way across the room, avoiding the creaky floorboards – thank goodness for school reunions.

They pour a dozen shots from random and unidentifiable bottles into a half pint glass – adding a chocolate orange liquor for flavour which turns the murky contents an even blacker shade of noir. They have managed to stain the pool table with a permanent white ring on this occasion, agreeing that they may have gone a little overboard this time.

Strolling over to the nearby park illuminated by the prominent lunar landscape they sip their poison with a brave teaspoon and engage in conversations about life, the universe, their hopes, fears, dreams, and aspirations, moving on to music, movies, Star Trek, and breasts. After flailing a white flag of defeat they pour away the remaining ‘alco-stupid’ cocktail – rendering a considerable patch of earth uninhabitable for any future plant life.

Lurch has found an audio tape recording of a camping trip with friends from when he was an infant. Back at the basement he plays the tape and reminisces about his youth in Germany and the military bases that his father was stationed at. King complements the storytelling by adding his own tales of life in far away South America.

The hours pass un-noticed and as the dawn sun starts to rear its fiery head between two hills King finds the side that the room doesn’t spin on and absorbs the dreamy music of Enigma; “close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax”.

Saturday nights are always a more crowded affair; teenage parties at far away flats with old and new faces. As wild as these parties are it is always the Friday nights that King, Lurch, and Prewecki will recall most fondly. For this inseparable trio who by chance had unexpectedly clicked in an inexplicable way, it is the quality not the quantity that matters the most; being able to sit together, never saying a word and walking away feeling that they’ve had the best conversation.

0

LIVING THE ASTRAL DREAM (FOR ALL MANKIND)

For All Mankind is an 80-minute movie compiled entirely of NASA footage documenting the 12 American astronauts’ endeavors to the moon.

‘What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties… in apprehension how like a God!’

Tonight I had ‘a moment’; a moment that took me away from a material world encumbered in scandal, conspiracy, greed and indifference; to an awe inspiring era where astral aspirations became the living dreams of inspirational heroes.

For All Mankind is an 80-minute movie compiled entirely of NASA footage documenting the 12 American astronauts’ endeavors to the moon; from Apollo 11’s first historic landing on 20th July 1969 to the final moon mission of Apollo 17 on 11 December 1972. Between them, these men spent 170 hours on the moon covering over 60 miles, planting six flags, and bringing home 880 pounds of soil and rock, and over 30,000 photographs.

This seminal footage features thoughtful and reflective quotes from the astronauts who undertook these adventures. The soundtrack is Brian Eno’s ‘Apollo’ album. An Ending (Ascent) is one of the most ethereal pieces of ambient music I have ever heard; haunting and majestic. This dreamy combination of sound and vision is so clear and vivid that I could easily believe that I was there. During my moment, I was there.

‘You get sweaty palms and your heart starts pounding. It was like the big game was about to start’, says a voice, as a trio of astronauts are being secured in their space suits and composing themselves for the big show. There is trepidation and tension in the air. In the background is a large poster with a smiley face; ‘have a nice day’. One of the crew is lying down with a towel covering his visor; blanking-out his surroundings.

They receive the call to proceed to the spacecraft and make their way up the slow, endless elevator to the top gantry. A breathtaking view awaits; the low sun is casting an imposing shadow of the space craft across the desert; the crew are merely small black dots next to this behemoth spacecraft. ‘I just stood around and waited until they strapped in. There was a kind of a strange quiet. You look out and you can see the large part of the state, and ocean, and this… this thing… out here. You have the feeling that it’s alive’.

Countdown commences, ‘It won’t fail because of me…’ The rocket blasts off, travelling at seven miles per second. ‘It feels just like it sounds… There’s a moment, a spring release, a complete release of tensions. To feel all that power being precisely directed… At last, I’m leaving the earth; I’m destined for the moon’.

Soon Apollo is in earth orbit. The crew unbuckle their straps and experience the zero G, ‘I was getting the impression that this was such an amazing thing, that I’m going to forget these things. I’m going to lose this image and it’s going to be quickly replaced by another’.

We see images of the earth below. ‘In Africa there are a lot of Nomads out in the desert. You see the fires from all of these… you realise the broad areas that you’re looking at. Each of those little dots represents people – other humans out there in the environment that I would consider stranger that the environment they might think about, here’.

One of the crew members prepares to go EVA. ‘There are no boundaries to what you’re seeing. It’s like having a gold fish bowl over your head, which gives you unlimited visibility… It’s as if you’re out there without anything on’. He is floating over the earth; it looks so peaceful and majestic. ‘There’s a total and complete silence in that beautiful view; and the realization, of course, that you’re going 25,000 miles an hour… You are a representative of humanity at that point in history; having that experience, in a sense, for the rest of mankind’.

He receives instruction for mission control to return to the craft. Preparation begins for the three-day journey to the moon. They will reach speeds of 6000 feet per second; faster than any human being has traveled before. There is nothing else to do but sit back and enjoy the interstellar ride.

The crew have a portable cassette player. ‘Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars…’ Ground control appears to be caught up in the moment too. There is a playful atmosphere as the crew perform to the camera; filming zero-G antics and mealtime preparation. ‘ You’ve got to stick it somewhere so it doesn’t float away’.

What goes in must come out, eventually; ‘For the feces was a bag. You put this bag in the right position and you go, but the only thing is that nothing goes to the bottom of the bag… Everything floats!’.

Television pictures begin beaming across the globe, showing the people on earth a unique view of their home from space. ‘What I keep imagining is that I’m some lonely traveler from another planet. Would I land on the blue or the brown part of the earth?’

‘When you’re out there in this little command module you see the risk you’re taking because you realise that if the glass breaks or the computer stops working you’re not going to get back. You have time to contemplate this, you have time to think about it and you have time to run it through your mind different times.’

The lunar bound crew play the music from Arthur C. Clarke’s2001: A Space Odyssey. All of a sudden the music and pictures abruptly cut out and alarms start sounding. ‘OK Huston, we got a problem here… We had everything drop out’. An oxygen pump is venting vital supplies into space. Huston and the crew frantically collaborate to fix the issue in a chaotic and frightening period that must have felt like forever.

A solution is found and normality is restored; the mission resumes. This was a bitter taste of how quickly things can go wrong; how fragile they are in space. It is hard to believe that the complex on-board computers of the Apollo craft are no more powerful than the mobile phones from the 1990’s.

‘One of the things about a lunar trip is that you don’t pass anything on the way… That lack of way points has the effect of making it magical and mystical…’ Apollo is approaching the moon, bound for the dark side; it looms, foreboding and hostile. Appearing below the large prominent moonscape is the small, insignificant looking earth.

‘It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.’

Two of the three men prepare for the decent to the surface in the lunar module. One of the crew will remain in the command module. The countdown to separation commences, ‘I wanna go with them so bad I could taste it’. The lunar module departs. ‘You’ll never know how big this thing gets when there’s nobody in here but one guy’. The lunar module drifts away leaving the sole crew mate to contemplate; ‘I wish the damn thing could hold three people!’

The big moment arrives. This is what the mission is about – the culmination of billions of dollars to cover millions of miles. There is an initial sinking feeling of not recognising any of the landscape; a feeling of being lost. As the craft gets closer to the surface, its shadow is visible in the distance, growing as the module closes. They soon touch down. ‘The eagle has landed’.

I watched the images that I have seen countless times; Armstrong climbing down the ladder to take those first steps. Buzz Aldrin, who had bet five hundred dollars that no one would remember the words of the second man to touch down on the moon, says, ‘That may have been a small step for Neil but it was a long one for me’.

‘The moon is essentially grey; no colour. It looks like plaster of Paris; like dirty beach sand with lots of footprints in it – bland in colour, but majestically beautiful’. Caught in a moment if their own, hopping, skipping and jumping on the lunar tundra, the two astronauts engage in a sing-song ‘I was strolling on the moon one day, in the merry, merry month of May…’ They were human after all. ‘We were the only two there… we felt an unseen love… we were not alone’.

If I were religious, I would be thinking I was witnessing all of Gods creation; the carrying out of God’s work. I am fortunate not to have such a sterilised perspective. Caught in the moment, I am feeling what it is like to be a mortal man away from his natural element. I feel the fear, anxiety, excitement, awe and disbelief.

I feel alive on a dead, lifeless landscape; an eerie charcoal expanse where grains of dust have remained untouched for billions of years. Above me is the cold, endless skyline of space. Visible on the horizon is the living, breathing pale blue dot; mother earth.

I feel an impossible longing to witness the pure beauty and tranquillity of moon for myself; to see the earth through my own eyes; to put into perspective our place in the universe – how small and insignificant we really are. One thing is certain, humankind is far from being the centre of this intimidating universe.

‘Tranquillity base… you are cleared for take-off’. In my moment, I experience the feeling of leaving behind the lunar peace and tranquillity; bound for disorder and chaos ‘That’s our home. That’s where we lived; explored the mountains and the valleys… You leave it with the same feeling and awe that you left the earth with’.

In appearance, the moon is grey and baron. On the surface, however, the moon has an indescribable emotional presence. ‘Man did not reach out and touch the moon by the grace of God, but by harnessing the vision and integrity that has driven our species for millions of years, and will continue to drive us to the stars and beyond’.

‘We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained and new rights to be won. And they must be won, and used for the progress of all mankind’

For All Mankind Trailer from Cinefamily on Vimeo.