Tag Archive: black humour

For sure I’d tell you about Ted Silverstein if I could without fear.

Only I don’t know who he’s working for now and they could be dangerous.

When I first know Ted he’s a burn-out and a fallen piano player, a shoe man.

His son, so he tells me, is expense-account rich, a direct sales whizz-kid whose obsessions include a fetish for the softer body furnishings.

In effect, shirts.

Yeah, Ted’s boy is a shirt man.

Nevertheless, he is obviously a big part of Ted’s world, although I cannot recall ever hearing a mention of the young man’s name from his father’s lips.

No, it is for Miriam, the shirt man’s wife and the shoe man’s daughter-in-law that he reserves his fullest passion and his truest praise.

She is the only thing his son ever got right, to hear Ted tell it.

“It’s one thing to be an expert on collecting receipts and selecting shirts but to be a menche with the right woman?  Hah!” said Ted. 

You can’t walk far in shoes made out of silk and a leather shirt you can’t wear beneath a dress suit.

“She was hand made in Lewisham.”

Ted tells me this with his eyebrows arching like vipers ready to strike and his Havana-brown breath walking spanish around the last sylables.

Hand made in Lewisham.

For those of you who don’t know so much, Lewisham is a south London borough famous for murder, drug abuse, a writer of popular songs who squandered his genius on fast drugs and a slow-burning woman, and a Saturday market.

Yeah, I could tell you about Ted Silverstein, for sure.

If I could without fear.


Had he not insisted on the move she might have died.

Her garden had been everything to her but all they had at the new place was a small square of paved-over back yard with a potted plant and some creepers.

She wasn’t happy and she deeply resented him.

All attempts at communication had failed.

There was a lot of door-knocking: a daily pageant of young men with large hold-alls full of dusters and dish-mops; double glazing and home improvements salesmen in bad ties; matronly market researchers with clipboards; prospective burglars, gypsy rug sellers and roof repairers…

He particularly disliked the evangelists.

They would hit the street mob handed, middle aged men and women in hats and overcoats, even in the summer.

They’d never simply rap once and then go away, sometimes they’d loiter for hours, flipping through their bibles, chattering about God knew what, periodically rattling letterboxes and knocking.

He peered at them through a crack in the curtain.

There was one of each: regulation hats, overcoats and bibles, big white teeth and cavernous eyes full of spiritual luminosity.

The man rattled and knocked and said something he couldn’t quite catch.

The woman giggled.

His breathing grew intense.

They must have known he was home.

Big T and The Badda-Bings blared out of the stereo – The Girl From Ipanema – and at one point the man came right up close to the window and peered in.

He could smell her resentment all over the house.

In the living room, the kitchen cupboards and the fridge, in the dust on the bookshelves and between the pages of the books themselves.

It was especially pungent on the first floor landing around the closed door of her room. 

Something had to be done.

He gathered together a saw and a kitchen knife, a pair of secateurs, some black plastic sacks purchased from one of the hold-all men, a large wooden chopping board.

She looked up from her pillow as he entered, watched in silence as he got to work.

There was a lot of blood, he almost slipped over in it as he positioned himself to begin sawing through the neck.

The spinal cord was tough but finally he succeeded in detaching the head.

It was while he was debating whether to remove the arms in one piece or cut off the hands first that he noticed the ring.

The flesh had swollen around it and it wouldn’t budge.

He snipped off the finger with the secateurs.

Once the head and limbs had been removed the middle section was light enough to be carried through to the bathroom.

He placed it gently in the tub and slit open the stomach with the kitchen knife.

The contents spilled into the bath.

Then he opened up the chest cavity and began to remove the various organs, laying them carefully on the chopping board.

These he cut up into small chunks and flushed down the lavatory in servings of about half a pound in weight.

He then cut out the ribs one by one with the saw and quartered the torso, placing each piece into one of the sacks ready to be taken downstairs.

He boiled the head first, followed by the hands, feet and ribs, in a big, copper cooking pot.

Once cleaned of flesh the bones were separated into smaller fragments, mixed with some general domestic waste and sealed away in another sack to be disposed of by the council garbage men.

It was nearly daylight.

He was left with several large bones – a pair of femurs, shoulder blades, other arm and leg bones – on which some flesh still remained.

Feeling suddenly exhausted and, deciding it was time for a break, he poured himself a whisky.

As he did so he turned, sensing her presence in the doorway. She said nothing, just stared at him with that I told you so look of hers.

He shrugged.

“All right, all right, I know,” he sighed. “If only we had a garden….”

Ruth and Daniel are dressing for church.

The sun streams through their bedroom window catching suspended dust particles that shimmer like sequins.

It’s a special Sunday, a baptism.

Daniel, in a black three piece suit, struggles with a collar stud in the full length mirror on the closet door, sucks his teeth.

Ruth is in Lucian’s room, the room she keeps just for him.

A white sheepskin rug is thrown back revealing a loose floorboard prised up.

She wears a floral patterned dress the colour of cheap wallpaper.

There’s a flash and the air in the apartment implodes.

Then a smell of cordite.

Blue-grey smoke thickens the atmosphere.

Lucian is stretched out in the Sunday morning lobby with the top of his head gone and a halo of blood and brain mess oozing, expanding outward from what is left.

We’re all open to re-use, we all get re-cycled.

The important thing is you have to kill, or be killed by, the right person.

That’s what makes murder alright.

Dear Arabella,

How is Arcadia?

I’m missing you too much.

I think I’ve been on the road too long this time.

The dream has no beginning or end and I always wake up at the same time: just before the door opens and the tall man is about to enter the room.

The experience never lasts beyond this point and there is no continuation.

But it is the way with dreams that the dreamer is both actor and director and knows every aspect of the script.

I know that the tall man is beyond the door.

I know his tuneless whistle and dry cough, the bad tattoo on his right earlobe, the jingling of loose change in his trouser pocket against his thigh as he walks and I know that seconds after I wake he will be in the room and the pale, red-haired girl will blanch even paler and the young man in the light-weight khaki Summer suit tied by his hands and feet to the chair will scream.

And though I have never heard that scream I will always remember it.

And the dreamer will be gone, running through the dimly lit corridor into the lobby, past the fat key-man sleeping at the reception desk and out into the driveway like a tabloid sensation, into the road, crossing the intersection, caught in the squealing headlights, creased by the slipstream.

But there is no freedom.

He might run this road forever and never be even falsely free.

To run is not to find freedom.

To run is merely to express the desire for freedom and desire is of no consequence.

We are simply protozoa bursting, vainly attempting bifurcation, hopelessly blind to the impossibility of success.

I will never know why those people are in that damnable and accursed place, will never hear their names in anything but hellish tongues, will never know why the bed is strewn with spent matches or what it is that makes the girl turn away from the window and smile just before the door opens.

But I will sleep again and dream again and again and again and I will shiver.

The chill in that room: the same chill that lives in the marrow of the dwarf’s spine.

And my heart pounds with the relentlessness of a living steam-hammer, the shock-waves like bullets striking my synapses as I struggle to take in the scene from my hide in a corner somewhere deep in that room that has no right or reason to exist for anyone but me and the dwarf.

The Amok-man scenario, the Mexican Motel room sequence played in dumb-show by crippled actors on a broken set to a symphony of traffic whooshing through the rain and meeting and parting at the intersection.

The same monstrous tableau with the unmade bed in the smoke-filled alcove, its pale, dirty pink candlewick coverlet awry and its faded paisley-patterned mattress exposed and littered with spent matches, a purple wash in a jagged wedge of luminosity from the down-lighter.

And everywhere the chill.

A chill of homelessness and late night early morning train stations, of highways, of strange bedrooms and other lives and other dreams, of the commingled breath of unknown lovers…

A witch freezes the dwarf’s semen, murders his sperm moments before he comes.

Will write again soon.




It’s Halloween. Billy the Pill, Zimmerman, Crazy Alice and Charlie The Mute are having a few in the June Bride. A body has been found in Banglatown. Billy the pill tells Crazy Alice and her boyfriend Zimmerman all about it:

“So Charlie’s having a curry in Brick Lane and he’s just about to order another couple of poppadoms and a beer when all of a sudden the Abduls are running about like headless chickens and there’s coppers all over the gaff, creeping all about and eyeballing all the punters…”

He pauses for a swallow of his pint and a drag on his cigarette and Charlie The Mute nods to Carol to confirm what has already been said.

Charlie isn’t too good with words, having had his tongue removed some years before by some rather nasty face who had been extremely upset at Charlie for speaking out of turn regarding the sexual politics of the said face’s girlfriend.

“Anyway,” Billy continues, “It seems one of the Abduls has been out the back dumping some dodgy leftovers or something and he’s having a crafty inhalation, when he sees this pair of legs sticking out from behind a f**king wheelie-bin. Well, he comes back into the gaff shaking like a leaf and whiter than a sheet. Ain’t that right Charlie?”

Charlie nods. A dribble of beer runs down his chin. Alice and Zimmerman follow its progress to the lapel of his jacket. Billy takes advantage of the natural pause for dramatic effect. Then he lowers his head level with Carol’s and draws his finger in a slow arc from ear to ear.

“Throat cut!”

Then in an awed, theatrical whisper:

“Almost took her f**king head clean off.”

Carol shivers and grips Zimmerman’s arm. He mutters:

“All right girl, all right,” and strokes her hair. Then he orders her another half of bitter and a double Jack Daniels for himself.

“They know who did it?” he asks.

“F**king hell mate,” retorts Billy, “give them a bleeding chance, it only went down not less than two hours ago. Ain’t that the truth, Charlie.”

Charlie nods and holds up two fingers at Zimmerman, who responds with an uncomfortable shrug, handing Carol her half pint and pocketing her change.

“Bet it was a f**king Abdul, anything you like. Any takers?”

It’s the Dwarf. He’s just come in, edging his way between them to get to the bar.

“Can’t stand that shit they eat!”

“No you’re wrong, boss,” Zimmerman objects, “They don’t eat that shit. They just make it for the punters. And they’re mostly all English… like us, like.”

“Here we go,” chortles Billy, laying his forefinger lightly on the side of his nose and eyeing The Mute conspiratorially.

“Here’s the man! Now we’ll get the inside story. What do you know, boss, no, put your money away. I’ll get that. Come on, you’ve heard something, haven’t you?”

“All in the fullness, young man, all in good time.”

Billy passes him a pint and the Dwarf takes a long pull on it before reaching up and ceremoniously placing his half empty glass onto the counter. Meanwhile Crazy Carol, Zimmerman and Charlie look on.

“As it happens, I had reason – one of my little helpers got a bit careless – to be entrammeled for a short period of time this evening in the rather unpleasant environs of Lime Street nick, wherein I stumbled upon…” He reclaims his glass and swiftly eradicates the remainder of its contents, “…a little whisper!”

Billy the pill bites the crook of his thumb. Charlie is trying to lick the beer off his chin with his absent tongue. Carol and Zimmerman stand open mouthed and transfixed. The Dwarf’s eyes meet Carol’s.

“It seems the unfortunate young lady is an acquaintance of yours, a part time brass, lives in a flat down Shandy Street with some nonce?”

Carol’s eyes pop with shock and disbelief and her features freeze.

“F**king hell, boss. It can’t be. Not her, not little Alice.”

Zimmerman mutters:

“Poor cow. Don’t get upset babe.”

He makes to apply a sympathetic embrace but Carol shrugs and shakes her head, pushing his arm roughly away as she fishes a packet of cigarettes out of her bag. She lights one and blows the smoke in his face.

“Poor cow my arse,” she growls, “c**t owes me fifty f**king quid!”

After about a microsecond of stunned silence Billy the pill starts to laugh, closely followed by the Dwarf, Charlie and Zimmerman, in that order, and then Carol too starts giggling. Billy chortles:

“F**king hell Carol, ain’t you got no respect for the dead?” At which point she loses control completely, collapsing into whoops of hysterical laughter and spraying everyone with beer and spit.

“Yeah?” she splutters, “well I’ll tell you something else Billy boy, the bitch was three months gone!”

Gales of hilarity shake the big bevelled mirror behind the bar, glasses rattle on the shelves and the guffaw echoes like scandal all through the pub and out of the big swing doors and into the street. Somebody says later you could hear them laughing all the way down the Mile End Road.


Down there in the big black beyond the turnstiles and the ticket machines and the spies, the grey trains stop and go and stop and go.

Always in endless revolution, they pick up and drop off and pick up or don’t, just like the boys, the endless boys, making it and losing it, with the grime and the pain and the  emptiness and all the money gone, lost or wasted or cheated away.

Picking up and dropping off, picking up and dropping off.  The natural rhythm of the trains. They don’t care, they don’t sing, they don’t see, they are just used by bodies to get from A to B.

Some soft hidden knowledge, some weird sense of a hidden possibility in the dark, a soft sensibility, a possibility of the existence of solace in the act of leaving, someone to kiss you goodbye with the promise of their return, a new beginning in the face of a new arrival. It all seems to exist here but you can’t tell why.

On the street there is no promise. You hit back and you lash out, at a thought or a face or a lie, to humour the beast, all the while knowing that nothing that hits or slashes or harms you in any way will avoid you. For avoidance is not the will of demons.

The concourse is middle ground. The concourse is no man’s land. The concourse is purgatory. Here the stationary expiate their sins while they wait for movement.

Here he finds her.

She’s networking, begging for pills, demanding money with promises, drinking, loving, seeking security, searching for pain like a screamer out for sentiment and babies, as if all those are one and the same.

The gesture that starts from within becomes a look and then a beckoning smile and a head movement that cannot be ignored and then he is there, like a falling angel at the mouth of the subway, swimming in the smell of urine and tobacco.

Panic costs him his breath and he begins to drown in that wonderful redolence of fear and power and expensive leather coats, now safe in the big black half way to Knightsbridge, Earls Court, Fulham, Chelsea…

He asphyxiates in the stink of the sweat and the breath and the alcohol that is the miasma of all the subways of the world, in the fog of which the same events are occurring or are about to occur and will endlessly repeat.

She greets him as if he is an old acquaintance and he invents a name for her out of the air while a man to whom she has been talking shuffles his feet and coughs.

His hands obscure his features from the beam of the overhead cameras and passers by.  He knows the situation isn’t right and he senses his own fear but fails to walk away, just as the boy knows that she isn’t quite right and he also fails, because she fascinates and transfixes him with her swaying rhythmic motion and strange accent, which he thinks may be Greek or Italian but with East London vowel sounds.

And then she’s offering a drink from a bottle of cheap brandy mixed with something sweet and slightly carbonated, but the neck hardly reaches his lips before she snatches it back with terrible laughter and hands too large to be feminine, then it’s in her mouth and a sense of weird sex, devoid of tenderness and existing alone and dangerous for its own sake entrances him and he sees the demon.

For a moment he is repulsed but it draws him back and holds him close and firm and he cannot break away. He grabs the man’s arm and pulls him close, too close, so that their faces almost touch and he can smell the fear on the guy’s breath and the power in his own and in the demon’s voice he’s screaming:


And the man’s coat collar clenched tightly now in both the boy’s hands as he head-butts him once then twice then once again and pulls him by the hair deeper into the subway out of range of the camera with the hair ripping from his scalp and the sound of his own screaming and the man sobbing and choking in panic echoing in his head and the boy head-butts him again and again until there is a sickening crack as the man’s nose bursts and the back of his head hits the wall and a ragged swathe of blood explodes across the white tiles before he slides to the ground with the girl’s big hand and horrible nails tearing the wallet from his coat pocket and the boy finishing him off with a final, fatal kick in the head.

They exchange a glance and leave the subway by the stairs up to the street. At the top of the stairs she links her arm into his and smiles.

He flicks a blur from his eye with his middle finger and a bloody tear dissipates in the night air.

I’m not even going to intro this. It’s here if you want it and I know people who want it. Just check out the comments on this past post

Download the whole album free by clicking here.

Also there’s a great article about Murray by Kliph Nesteroff here. And thanks to him for the download.


‘Nigger’ — there, I said it…

O.K. So you’ve watched the Kramer thing. Lots of people have.  It’s not the word, is it, you know, the ‘N’ word, that really pisses people off, is it?

It’s only a f**king word, man.

Black people use it all the time. To each other. Sometimes with affection.

No, that’s not what did it. Because words are beautiful and black people are beautiful and a word never harmed anyone.

No, it was the attitude and the context and the timing and the (lack of) talent.

Now, Lenny Bruce used the ‘N’ word a lot. He also used the ‘K’ word, the ‘M’ word, the ‘S’ word and ‘G’ knows how many others.


Tom Lehrer knew a guy called Henry, who spelled his name H-E-N-3-R-Y. The 3 was silent.

Like the main character of my novel, Weird Metropolitan (to be published soon, keep checking this space for details), he was financially independent, having inherited his father’s tar-and-feather business, and so was able to devote his time to writing and philosophising and giving ‘helpful’ advice to people who were happier than himself.

In otherwords he was a kibitzer.

Anyway, inspired by Hen3ry, Tom wrote this song, in the tradition of the great old revival hymns. It might more accurately be described, he said, as ‘a survival hymn’.

So, thinking about a slow death…

So recently I started smoking again and I’m coughing a lot. A long term prognosis?


The Government tells me that I get cancer through smoking and I continue smoking.

Why? Because I’m a good citizen. You know how much tax we pay on a pack of cigarettes in the UK? 80%.

Also, smoking encourages me to be more tolerant. No longer can I point a finger at a drunk or a heroin addict and tell him:

‘What’s the matter with you, man? Aren’t you using your brains? You keep drinking, you keep shooting that shit and it’s ruining your health, your family, your business…’

He’s got a lot of brains. That has nothing to do with it. He’s going to keep drinking or cranking up and I’m going to keep smoking.

As of July 1st smoking will be outlawed in all enclosed public areas and work spaces in England. They already did it in Scotland and Ireland.

People have been talking about the economic consequences: you know, all that lost tax revenue if people stop smoking? That’s not going to happen and the Government knows it.

I’ve been thinking more about what the tobacco companies are going to do. Well, they’re not going to stop selling cigarettes, are they?

I can’t knock them for that, because everything is profit-motivated and a lot of people depend on the tobacco industry for their livelihoods. So what will they do?

Well it won’t be down to them, it’ll be the responsibility of the spin-merchants, the PR people and the advertising agencies, won’t it?

One way out would be to make it cool to have cancer, turn cancer into something desirable, make cancer a status symbol in the community.

They could start with covert, soft-sell advertisements in movies and soap operas, guys talking in two-minute spots, you know:

‘Say, Mike, haven’t seen you in a couple of years. You really look great.’

‘Why shouldn’t I? I’ve got cancer!’

‘Are you kidding me, Mike? Well, that’s terrible.’

‘Terrible the way you see it, not the way I see it. I was making about £15,000 a year as a male nurse. Now since I got cancer, with consolidated benefits and an early pension… I mean, you never see any schlub with cancer, do you? Who has it? Doctors, lawyers, judges, actors, rock stars… What am I, crazy? Are you? No, my friend, it’s… the rich people. They’re keeping it away from us, man, with all those charity drives they have…’

‘Mmm, and it’s really good for you?’

‘Certainly is.’

‘Well, that’s fantastic. How do you get it?’

‘Marlboro lights!’

Run it…

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