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At some point in 1992 I telephoned Channel 4 to offer them my proposal.

“It’ll need a helicopter. A Steadicam guy. Back-up in a Jeep.”

It was late at night after a trying evening, so I left the pitch on their answering machine.

I slept until noon the following day. When I surfaced, I began to clear up thinking nothing much of it. In fact, I was retching on my electric toothbrush when someone rang.

I didn’t get the name. “From Channel 4?”

“Ah. Good news.”

“And you are?”


“Jamie, it’s about your proposal. Are you good to talk?”

“Albert Eugene Babendreier. Maryland. Can’t be many of those.”

“What a name. Why? D’you know him?”

My partner didn’t bother to look at the international news story which had caused me to stop scrolling. I read further in silence. We were sitting in the kitchen, as we had a habit of doing on darkened evenings when the farm was lapped in unending drizzle.

“We were penpals.” I replied eventually.

If you’d asked me to recall Al Babendreier’s address after all these years, I’d have said something generic like ‘Lakeview’, with a high house number. ‘1144 Lakeview’. Somesuch. ‘MD’. …

God in the bin, of broken things. Leftover clay. Fossil paper towels crushed into grey flowers, grey failure. Cuts and remnants. For you I have loose pigment in a dustpan, which I knock into your belly with the small side of a brush. Watch it settle for a second, blowing space for breath, fine particles exploring my face. A plane of off-scrape, iffy pots in forgotten evening classes. Temples of wrapping to burn and mourn.

At seventeen, I wrote to a sculptor and I asked her what Brighton College of Art had been like, since I was considering studying there…

My father once met a man whom he used to help with homework. Who had inherited a paper mill. And my father asked him, in the course of their conversation, near a shopping centre car park — why?

Why he not only employed east Europeans but actively flew to these countries promoting the firm to employment services, offering potential recruits assistance with relocation, six months in one of his apartments. Why he explained that while wages might not be as attractive as a big city, the affordability meant they could accrue a pot of savings, a nest egg. …

“The boy brings me oxygen. He’s the oxygen boy. Unskilled, not caring. Not a medical professional, so he needn’t even pretend that he cares. He’s exonerated, just a driver in modern overalls, who whistles as he scoops up the latest pale grey tank from the rear of his van, and balances it with no thought at all over both forearms, and opens the gate with his elbow and his bum. And I listen for the oxygen’s calm knock on the doorstep, and I hear the doorbell ring.

He asks me how it’s hanging. I wheel myself back into the living…

I remember broken motion sensor taps on a rocking ferry. Packs of boys with clipped Germanic haircuts stirring into the café, slapping walls and spinning chairs. Passing though women in perfect team uniforms. Blues and reds, blacks. They passed through reading adults, tired families and juice-sucking girls, hunting out the games rooms and the cinema.

I open my eyes and turn. What time is it? I have an appointment I’m going to miss if I don’t get up. Don’t know why I’m in two minds. A tablet beside me on the bedsheets.

I have been away. My overnight bag remains…

What do we do with him now? Beyond us, the snow begins to fare in mixed dances across the windscreen and, up front, they seem to want an eight-year-old abortion. They never use those terms, of course. They pause and inhale (it’s the nerves talking) to elongate phrases like ‘take. him. home’ and ‘give the kid the special surprise’, while Yuri leans around, slowly, to stare at my hands. Like: I’m in the back seat, therefore the boy should be my responsibility. Like: I have a habit of stretching things out, don’t I? Don’t I? …

No to dirty energy. Yes to renewables. Climate jobs now. Justice for people. A superficial run around the Anarchist Bookfair, its gender-neutral toilets having migrated to CSM, King’s Cross. Civilised behaviour begins on the can. I didn’t go to any lectures, heavy after a week of insomnia (a vague Gestalt feeling of ‘unfinished business’) but it was interesting to look for fresher concerns amongst the struggle. Fuck Shame posters. ‘How to organise a workers strike in China’. A copy of the Christian-anarchist crossover, Catholic Worker, who see the weakest and most destitute as God’s ambassadors. Ecosex. No Borders No Nations…

There is no heterosexual sex culture. Welcomed, win-win, not monetised and fun. The BDSM scene has a greater active participancy than any ‘normal’ casual sex scene. It would be easier for me to find someone to hurt tonight than hug.

The clouds above the Wellcome Building didn’t dispel by the time I left. I wasn’t expecting a sexy exhibition, as such. I knew it would be charts and graphs and a jolly reflection on the folly of historical ignorance (based on the belief that we are ‘getting it right’ today). The mechanics and prudery, the bare reproduction of sex have…


Post-ghost. Medium.

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