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Nov 30 16

St Andrews

by admin

 

(This is a monologue written for St Andrew’s Night at The Georges West Church c. 2005. It was originally performed by Gabriel Quigley as Veronica)

 

Veronica sits at her laptop wearing an expensive silk dressing gown.

She types.

Dear…
Dear..?
Is it ‘dear’?
I’m sorry I’m new to all this. This praying.
If it is praying.
I don’t even know to start.
How do you address a saint? ‘Dear’, ‘Your Holiness’. ‘Sir.’

Hi Andy.

I ought to make it clear I’m not one of your actual believers. I’m not even a Christian. Not as such. I love the Watch night service and I always light a candle in a catholic church and when I drive up through the Cowal peninsula and the Autumn colours are out I must admit I do get a sort of melty feeling about just how nice the world and how we’re all connected in a great big one-ness but no – I don’t – I’m not – I can’t… believe.

I’m guessing you know this.

I’ll cut to the chase. You’re a busy man. I have a proposal to put to you.

A business proposal.

Put it this way, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

You get Gavin up here now.

And I will make your life Con. Sid. Erably easier.

Let me explain.

My name is Veronica Frost.

I run a wee boutique in Milngavie just of the A82 – ‘Frosty Looks’. You may have heard of it.

I’m guessing not.

Well, anyway, I’m writing this email from a bedroom in a hotel in the town which bears your name. We’re staying in In the Old Course Hotel. Gavin’s on a pilgrimage. Golf. Every year he goes to the Dunhill cup. Me, I can’t stand golf. Normally I’d stay at home or maybe nip down to London for a bit of shopping with the girls but – and this is the point of the email – I’m fertile just now.

I told Gavin to book us a double – just on the off chance.

No chance tonight, of course, Gavin’s in the pub. Which he persists in calling – with no sense of just how not funny I find it – ‘the nineteenth hole.’ He’s drinking with the boys.

He was due back ages ago.

I’ve spent the last two hours lying on the bed in a state of appropriately wanton deshabille listening for the soft knock at the door just waiting to be ‘caught’ relaxing. But no soft knock has came.

About twenty minutes ago he texted to say he was sorry he was late and that I should go down and have dinner and he’d meet me up here later. ‘Norwich’ he texted. That means – you know what that means.

So here I am dolled up in my best Victoria’s Secret with a gin and tonic from the minibar so I get out the laptop thinking I might do the accounts but in fact the hotel has wi fi so…

I find myself idly googling. Just surfing the web to see what there is to see. At first I just go through my favourites. I watch a couple of old bros videos on You Tube. I bid for a pair of vintage legwarmers on Ebay and I spend five minutes reading my favourite fruity blog from a woman in Idaho who’s having an affair with the local police chief. She’s not posted anything new for a week. I hope she’s not been arrested.

Well anyway … you know the way it is with goodle… sooner or later you start googing the big questions.

Should I wear legwarmers?

Where the hell is Gavin?

What is the point of golf?

What is the point of…

What is the point?

That’s the thing about the internet. If you’ve got google and broadband then you can get an immediate answer to any question you decide to type in. Do you do that?

I’m guessing saints don’t google.

So now the second gin us kicking in (I know I know) I find myself typing.

Am I a really bad person?

Am I a bad person dot com. They’ve got a questionnaire.

Yes yes yes no no yes no no no yes

Enter.

You are quite a bad person.

Oh.

Another gin. Won’t do any harm now.

Will I conceive in St Andrews?

And that’s how I came upon your site.

St Andrew. Dot. Com.

Here’s the back story Andy. Gavin doesn’t technically, actually, know I’ve come off the pill. The thing is Gavin says he doesn’t really want kids – yet. He says we’re young, we’re making acres of cash, and – as he says – there’s still a lot of Maldives left to go snorkeling in. That’s Gavin to a T. He’s not a bad man. He’s really really… generous with his money and he’s… easy to get on with, popular, you know. We’ve been going out since we were at college. He’s just a bit emotionally disorganized. You know. I’m on a schedule and time is ticking away.
So I’m thinking that if I was to fall pregnant ‘by accident.’ Then it’ll jolt him, you know, give him a prod – push him into the pool.

He’d make such a lovely dad.

If it was a boy he could take him to the rugby and the golf and… snorkeling in the Maldives.

So it’s not really deceitful I’m just bringing the schedule.

So I came upon your Website and I couldn’t help but notice that you are quite a busy man. According to your publicity people you are the patron saint of:

Amalfi; Anglers Berchtesgaden; Burgundy; the diocese of Constantinople; fish dealers; fish mongers; fishermen; people with gout; the diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan; maidens; old maids; Patras, Greece; Plymouth, England; Russia; Scotland; singers; people with sore throats; the Spanish armed forces; the University of Patras; unmarried women;

And this is the one which caught my eye:

women who wish to become mothers.

You, it turns out, are my patron saint.

I wish to become a mother. But Andy! It’s not happening. And I’ve been asking myself why? Is it me. Is it him. But reading this it’s all become very clear to me. It’s you.

How can you expect to focus on unmarried women when you’ve got all those other responsibilities on your plate? I have seen it so many times before. This is a very typical situation some chief executives find themselves in. They burn out because they will not delegate.

You’re stressed.

Tired all the time.

Complaints coming in from all departments.

Phone never stops ringing.

Email.

And so you just start to shut it all off. You pretend it isn’t happening. Things start to slide.

I don’t imagine the university of Patras is happy do you? And what about all those singers with sore throats?

So this where I come in. I’ve sketched out my proposals on the back of a napkin here. It’s simple enough.

One – focus on your core business – That’s unmarried women and women who want to have babies.

Two – The fisherman and fish dealers makes quite an attractive package on its own and I suggest you offload that on to one of the less glamorous saints in exchange for another thirty something woman based portfolio – say patron saint of chardonnay or cats.

That leaves you Greece and Scotland. I’m suggesting you organize a team of angels in either country to look after the basics for you and then you divide your time between the two headquarters – Scotland in the Summer, Greece in the winter.

Now, Russia. Oh dear. When did you pick up that one? Russia’s too big for one Saint, Andy. So there’s only one solution – franchise. Train up some of the younger saints in your particular style, use the saltire logos and brandings, and let them do the work. You sit back and count the royalties.

I’m thinking put the rest of your portfolio on Ebay.

I promise you. Under my plan, you’re life will be one hundred per cent easier.

So that’s my side of the bargain.

If you could just send Gavin up, right now, we’ll be all square.

Please.

Please.

Veronica’s phone beeps. Veronica squeals.

That’s Gavin.

He’s texted.

Oh thanks Andy. Thank you so much. I won’t let you down on this I promise.

What’s he saying.

‘Still with boys at the nineteenth hole. Don’t wait up.’

Three years I’ve been with Gavin.

Three years of him going on about his car. Three years of him spending satruday night with the boys. Three years of the Dunhill Cup. ‘St Andrews, Vernonica, I haver to go. It’s my Mecca. It’s my Jerusalem’ Three years of driving every autumn to a wee hotel down the cowal peninsula and me saying that the autumn colours give me a melty feeling, a feeling as though I’m part of some great one-ness. Some great living breathing ancient one-ness that’s as old as the hills and doesn’t he think we ought to have a baby. And three years of him laughing and saying – what are you on Veronica. Prozac?

Well in fact I am on Prozac, Andy, although he doesn’t know that. He’d only laugh at me.

Three years and the thing that’s dawning on me Andy as I write this email to you is that

I love Gavin but I don’t like him.

I don’t like Gavin.

I don’t want to have a baby who’s half Gavin.

Is that possible?

Is it?

Andy.

If I google it – will you provide the answer?

Is that a deal.

‘Do I love Gavin?’

She is about to press enter when she stops.

I don’t need to google it do I?

You’ve given me the answer already haven’t you?

A knock at the door.

That’s him isn’t it. Knocking.

A knock again.

‘Veronica’ He’s drunk.

A knock again.

‘Norwich’ he’s saying.

‘Norwich Veronica’

There’s no talking to him when he’s in that condition.

She takes out her phone.
She texts.

‘I’m with Andy. You can sleep in the car. Don’t wait up.’

 

Fin…

Jul 10 16

The First Time She Saw A Ciabatta

by admin

(Reflections on Brexit, in a Betjemanian style)

 

The first time she saw a Ciabatta

Was on one sunny springlike day

In a snack bar, by the meadows

Sometime round ‘92 I’d say.

She stopped and gasped, ‘A Ciabatta?

I never thought I’d see the day.

A ciabatta, here in Edinburgh.

And look – so casually displayed

Just tossed into a world of pies

Like some cosmopolitan grenade.’

And as she saw it something shifted

A feeling she can still recall

It opened her up, that Ciabatta,

Like knocking through an adjoining wall

She thought,

‘Maybe I’m not so far from Europe

Not so far away at all.’

She thought, ‘Perhaps I can be Scottish

In ways I have not previously been

Still Scots, yet firmly in the mainstream

Of European snack cuisine.’

And looking back that ciabatta

Did seem to herald Tony Blair

Her first espresso, Purple passports,

Easy-jet, mens’ facial hair

The fad for purple sprouting brocolli

Cafes playing Nouvelle Vague

Bulgarian country wine from Oddbinns

Scottish plays peformed in Prague

Belgian crash dance, Spanish Football

Surprising Czechoslovak beer.

The internet, the Bosman ruling

Dirty films by Lars Von Trier

Direct flights to Barcelona

Direct flights to anywhere.

One day a hole beside the castle

The next, a Traverse builded there.

It felt to her a time of blossom

And something else felt very clear

That just as she was going there

‘They’ were also coming here.

And each new voice, each new arrival

Seemed to enlarge, infinitesimally

The space she had to be herself in.

‘We’ no longer felt so wee.

She felt as if she’d been invited

To a party in the sun

But her name wasn’t on the invite

She was the UK’s plus one.

It’s very hard to explain how closed

That Scotland of the eighties felt

After a failed referendum

The awful feeling, we’d been telt.

It’s hard to explain the sense of being

A million miles away from hip

A rusting skiff attached to Britain

Tethered to a rotting ship

Scratchy jumpers, B.A. Robertson

Thatcher just wouldn’t go away

Selling rockets to Saddam and guns to

General pinochet.

You were amazed when something scottish

Appeared among the headlines list

Sitting pointing at the telly

‘Look, it’s Scotland, we exist!’

Usually it was for a murder

Or the derailment of a train

Or the closing of a factory.

Or Glen Michael’s Cavalcade again.

And always, always the assumption

If she’d had the least ambition

She would, of course, end up in London

And then one day a ciabatta…

And the thought perhaps she could be

Made up of more than one identity.

Not riven like a stick of rock

One slogan through it’s length imbued

But like a coastline, complicated

And containing multitudes.

And yes, it partly came from privelige

This sense of European-ness

No doubt it’s far away from many

Those with less, might feel it less.

But what a gift that she was given!

Looking back at what it meant,

The sense she was more than just one thing

The sense she was a continent.

But here we are now, party’s over,

Husband’s kicked the canapes

And punched the waiter, after pissing

On the silver service trays.

‘Fuck your vol au vents!’ He’s shouted

‘Fuck your wine, and fuck your books!

We don’t pay you all that money just to get your snooty looks!

When I first came you all laughed at me

Yes you Madame, yes you – Frau,

You said I uncouth and arrogant,

Well you’re not fucking laughing now!

So fuck the lot of you we’re leaving.

We don’t need you, we’ll survive

Get your coat your dear, stop fucking crying.

Here’s the car keys you can drive.’

And now the headlights cut the darkness.

As she drives the autoroute

Husband dribbles, drunk beside her

In his double breasted suit.

‘You don’t need that world my darling,

I am all the world you need.

Aren’t you glad we’re back in Britain

Aren’t you feeling very freed?’

And now the head-lights cut the darkness

As the Pas de Calais comes

Husband’s on his calculator

Working out the currency sums.

And now the headlights cut the darkness

As she drives away from Dover.

Husband humming Rule brittania

Now she knows it’s really over

‘Why’re you crying, silly darling’

Silly petal, what’s the matter?’

‘I’ll tell you why I’m crying Nigel

You shat on my fucking ciabatta.’

Sep 30 15

Letter of Last Resort

by admin

It’s late.

She writes, or rather attempts to write.

He enters.

 

Still here?

Burning the midnight oil.

Getting the old legs under the desk.

Not old legs. Of course.

Young legs.

New legs at any rate.

Is there something?

Something?

I’m rather in the middle of -

Of course.

Didn’t someone say?

Say?

The young man.

He said you were busy.
Still.
I thought I’d pop by.
It is your first day.

Right.

Just wanted to check everything was all right.

Everything?

Arrangements, rooms, people.

Arrangements are fine, thank you.

I just wanted to check that you were on top of things.

– sorry your name is – ?

John.

And you are?

Arrangements.

Well, John – I think I’m pretty much – of course it’s all new – I mean I’m still getting lost in the corridors and so on – and arrangements are – unfamiliar shall we say – but yes – I think that – yes – essentially I think I’m on top of things so far – so far – anyway.

Good.

It can be… discombobulating. Especially on the first day. The realisation that one is … in charge. Holding the reins. It can un-nerve one.

One is fine. One’s nerve is holding.
One feels quite comfortable holding the reins.

Good.

So, if there’s nothing else.

As a matter of fact, there is something else,

Right.

Just a small matter, it’ll barely take a moment, but nevertheless, it is a key part of arrangements. If you don’t mind?

Can it wait?

Given that I’m here.

How key?

Quite key.

A moment?

A couple of moments.

May I finish this first?

Of course.

It’s just – this is – I wouldn’t mind getting it out of the way – if that’s all right.

She writes, or rather attempts to write.

What is it. The… (a gesture) ?

A letter of condolence.

Oh.

Yes.

Would you rather be alone?

It’s fine.

I could go out into the corridor?

It’s fine just –

With the young man.

No -

Yes, I’ll just…

Just…

Hover.

She writes, or rather attempts to write.

Do you need – ?

It’s fine.

She screws up the paper and throws it away.

There is a template.

I don’t want to follow the template.

No.

However difficult it is for me to write – it’s not as difficult as -

Being dead.

Reading it – the mother.

Oh. Yes. I suppose.

It’s my responsibility to be honest, to be human…

Start as you mean to go on.

She writes, or rather attempts to write.

– it’s cheap. It’s…

You reach out a hand – you hold a hand.

Silence is only honest response.

Still – to offer no acknowledgement – no letter – that would be worse.

Yes.

And there is a template.

She takes a new blank sheet.
She looks at it.

Perhaps a break.

You’re right. I can’t do this now. I’ll come to it later. My head’s – [gesture]
All right – so – what time is it? –

A few minutes to twelve.

– so – John – the small key matter?

Yes.

What is it?

We need you to write a letter.

Right.

The letter of last resort.

The letter of last resort.

It shouldn’t take a moment.

All right.

It’s usually done on the first day.

No problem.

She takes another sheet of blank paper.

John?

Yes Prime Minister?

What is the letter of last resort?

Ah.

Fill me in.

Well, as you know Prime Minister, at any given moment there is always at least one British Trident submarine on patrol somewhere in the world. Its mission being to and avoid detection and remain hidden. Inside each Trident submarine is a safe, and inside that safe is another safe and inside that safe is an unopened letter. That letter contains your orders in the event that the captain of the submarine believes that the United Kingdom has suffered a devastating and decapitating nuclear attack.

‘Letter’, because it’s a letter and ‘last resort’ because it’s only ever opened in the event that – and this would have to be ascertained after the Captain and Vice Captain had completed a number of very specific protocols – the captain believes that the United Kingdom has been attacked, London has been destroyed, all the members of the government killed, defence installations obliterated and so forth.

Once again – given the execution these long and complex protocols – if the captain determines that the United Kingdom no longer has functioning political or social networks sufficient to give him a legitimate order then…

He opens the safe?

He opens the safe.

And then he opens the other safe.

Yes.

And then he opens the letter.

That’s correct.

And the letter says.

Well that’s very much up to you Prime Minister.

You may wish to tell him his orders are to fire our nuclear missiles in retaliation or you may wish to tell him his orders are to refrain from retaliating.

The letter is the means by which we ensure that, even in the very last resort, the correct democratically elected hand remains on our nuclear trigger.

Even if the correct democratically elected hand has been vaporised.

Yes.

And democracy vaporised with it.

Quite.

John.

Yes.

That’s not a small matter.

No. But it is a key matter for you to attend to because – in order to preserve secrecy the previous letters were destroyed this morning when your predecessor left office and so – at the moment – as a nation – were anything untoward to happen – not that we expect it to happen of course but if it it were to happen – in the absence of a letter – we would be – so to speak – ‘caught with our pants down.’

Is there a template?

No.

How does the captain of the submarine know who he’s retaliating against?

Responsibility for a massive decapitating nuclear strike is not something that it would be easy to hide.

No.

Our captains are kept up to date with the latest geo political movements. They constantly monitor radio and satellite traffic – world broadcasting services and so on. There may even be, in the case of such a massive attack, a direct admission of responsibility on the part of the aggressor nation.

I see.

How does he know that there’s nobody left?

He follows the protocols.

Protocols?

Signs.

What signs?

Not so much signs as the absence of signs.

Right.

No signal traffic on UK defence frequencies. No announcements by UK government or royal officials. The absence of Radio four.

The absence of Radio Four?

Yes.

The absence of Radio Four? Really?

Amongst other things.

[she sings the theme tune of the Archers]

Ha ha.

Because without the Archers there is no civilisation.

In fact it’s only one of a number of protocols and if you think about it – it makes a certain amount of sense given that it if the BBC were in any way able to broadcast someone would be doing so …so the implication of it’s absence is relatively severe.

Sorry.

Really Prime Minister we just need you to write … From The PM… etc etc… to Commander HMS etc etc… Given the execution of protocol x and subject to validation procedure y by your Vice Commander your orders are to either a) retaliate in a like for like manner… or b) not retaliate or c) act on your own discretion or d) some other option.

There’s another option?

You may wish neither to retaliate nor withhold retaliation but instead ask the commander to put the submarine at the disposal of Australia.

Right.

Or New Zealand.

Because they are part of The Commonwealth?

Yes

Also they might be left.

Look, John – the thing is – this is all very well but it’s – I don’t – I mean it’s all so hypothetical –

I don’t catch your meaning, Prime Minister?

There isn’t going to be a devastating nuclear attack on Britain. London isn’t going to be wiped out by bombs from Russia or whoever… I don’t know.

Iran

All right, Iran but the fact is the political conditions are just – it’s impossible in the modern world. Maybe during the cold war but nowadays it’s…who would do it? Who would actually launch the missiles? Which leader of which country thinks an attack like that on a country like this would have any kind of… would have any meaning?

Still.

I could write a nursery rhyme on this piece of paper, John, it’s never going to be read. The events that require it to be opened are quite simply impossible. They’re never going to happen.

Except of course that they have happened.

What?

The events have happened.

No they haven’t.

They have.

London has not been attacked, John.

With respect Prime Minister London has been destroyed.

Look – London – trees – sky – bird – cat – night.

The only circumstances in which this letter will be read are those in which there are no longer trees, or birds or cats… or London or you. As you write this letter you must assume a world not as it is now but a world as it exists in the circumstances of the letter’s reading. As soon as you put pen to paper, Prime Minister, London ceases to exist.

What did Fuckface write?

I’m sorry?

Monsieur Coiffeur?

I’m terribly sorry I don’t -

My predecessor.

Oh. Him. I can’t say.

Say.

I can’t.

Do.

No.

A moment.
She writes.

Dear Commander – what name?

Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant, Vengeance

I want to use a name.

A name?

Jim, Stan, Jack, Reg.

The Protocol is to use the titular form eg. Dear Commander HMS Vengeance.

Britain has been destroyed. John. The Queen is dead. London is ashes. This man’s family are dead. Everything he has ever loved is gone. I want to use his name.

Peter, David, Hugh, John.

Dear Peter…
Dear Peter…
Where is he reading this?

In his cabin?

Where.

Under the sea.

Under the sea where – I’m just trying to picture it.

His location will be secret.

Roughly.

Nobody know where they patrol.

I bet Russian intelligence has a fair idea.

In fact not.

Nobody?

Nobody.

Don’t they have sonar?

Once every three months a trident submarine slides out of the Firth of Clyde and into the North Atlantic where they hide, usually under the polar ice, or in deep mid ocean trenches, or in the shadow of undersea mountain ranges… they may receive communication but they send no communication out. Nuclear engines mean they move silently. Their only purpose, their entire mission whilst on patrol is to remain undiscovered so that in the event of a devastating and decapitating nuclear attack the United Kingdom still has the capacity to retaliate.

Unless of course your orders are that he not retaliate.

Look, no! I’m not going to do this John. ’m not going to write any letter. The truth is, I’m pretty ambivalent about the whole nuclear weapons thing anyway. It may be a fact of government but – no – Giving orders in advance is – no.

Ambivalent?

Yes.

That’s not something about which I was advised.

It’s not something I like ti advertise but it’s true. I was at Greenham John, and Faslane. Not as an actual protestor. As a – fellow traveller. I went with people. I was beside people. In the end I found it all too… marginal – somehow we’re stuck with these things – these – but come on, ideally we’d be rid of them wouldn’t we… first chance we got. Nobody likes nuclear weapons. Do they?

I do.

I like nuclear weapons very much.

You like the shape. The penis shape.

It’s not their form I like. It’s their concept.

You’re military. The military always like weapons.

In fact, on the whole the military are rather against Nuclear weapons.

Are they?

Military people like fighting wars and nuclear weapons are useless for fighting wars.

Now I’m confused.

Nuclear weapons aren’t intended to fight wars Prime Minister. They’re intended to NOT to fight wars. Their destruction is abstract and conceptual. They are truly philosophical weapons. The military, on the other hand, like weapons to be concrete and visceral.

Not you though.

No,

Even though you’re military.

I’m not military, Prime Minister, I’m arrangements.

And arrangements likes its weapons philosophical?

The knife stabs, a gun fires, a pilot clicks a button and there is a vanishing puff of pixels and smoke but if the commander of a submarine launches a nuclear missile strike he instigates the total destruction of an entire society, millions of people die, vast tracts of land are poisoned forever – the death he brings isn’t prosaic or literal it’s philosophical. It’s death as we would experience it ourselves – all encompassing, personal, and yet at the same time utterly unimaginable.

And that’s good?

It’s the foundation of deterrence. In all the years of their existence, no nuclear armed nation has ever attacked another nuclear armed nation.

Until now.

I don’t understand?

Birds – trees – cats – London

Oh… I see. Yes. No nuclear armed nation has ever attacked another nuclear armed nation… until now.

I’m dead?

Yes.

The captain is somewhere?

Yes.

We don’t know where?

Yes.

In a cabin.

Yes.

At his desk? Does he have a desk?

Yes.

Not dis-similar to this desk?

Yes.

Let’s role play.

Role play?

You be the captain, I’ll be me.

What?

Just – imagine…

All right.

You open the safe and then you open the other safe and then… you see me and you say -

Madam, I have reason to believe there has been a completely devastating nuclear first strike on the United Kingdom. I am no longer receiving communication from any identifiable British sources . Monitoring of radio frequencies from other countries suggest that London has been destroyed along with Glasgow and therefore the submarine bases on The Clyde. I have gone through every one of the protocols designed to confirm the extent of situation and each protocol has been passed. What are your orders?

What’s your name, Captain?

My name isn’t important Madam.

What is it?

John.

Hello John.

Hello Madam.

John, Have you tried radio 4?

I have tried radio 4.

And?

White noise, madam.

Who did it, John?



China.

China?

China.

Where are your missiles targeted?

Beijing.

Peking?

Beijing is the correct term.

I think we can call it what we fucking like after what those fuckers have done to us.

Yes madam.

Is retaliation technically feasible?

We have two missiles on board with nuclear warheads. Targeting co-ordinates are programmed into the computer. If I turn the launchkey we will hit Beijing sorry Peking within twenty five minutes.

The turn of a key.

Two keys, I operate the launch jointly with my second in command.

What’s his name?

It really doesn’t matter madam.

What’s his name?

Kevin.

Do your crew know about this?

Not yet.

Who knows about it?

Only myself and – Kevin.

How many people will die?

Madam?

How many will die?

Probably something in the region of 10 – 15 million people, madam.

What went wrong.

I don’t know madam.

China?

Yes.

They always seem so rational.

They must have believed an attack was in their interest.

Didn’t they know we’d retaliate?

They must have calculated that we wouldn’t.

Did we indicate we wouldn’t retaliate?

Quite the opposite, Madam. We forcefully indicated that we would.

But they didn’t believe us.

No.

Why?

I’m not sure.

Not sure?

There is a possibility.

Which is.

It’s possible that they believed it was in their interests to attack and that, despite our indication, after the attack we wouldn’t retaliate –

Of course we’re going to retaliate, why wouldn’t we retaliate?

Because to retaliate would be irrational.

What’s the point. Britain is already functionally destroyed. There is no state to speak of. Most of our people are dead. Whatever remains of our society is defeated.

I’m sorry but –

There may be an emotional argument in favour of a revenge attack but in all likelihood the Chinese cabinet ministers who ordered the attack will have long ago repaired to a well defended nuclear bunker somewhere in remote Mongolia. Any retaliation we enact will be nothing less than the wholesale murder of fifteen million civilians and all to no political or military purpose.

They started it.

It may also be illegal. Under international law it’s likely to be construed that the captain of the ship – me – who fires the retaliatory weapons could be committing a war crime.

That’s a very fine argument isn’t it?

It’s actually a very central argument. I’m not sure I would be able to obey an order that effectively induced me to commit a war crime.

Your country is destroyed. All the people you love are dead.

I realise it’s an emotional scenario.

It’s emotional fucking scenario all right. I don’t see how there can possibly be a problem with international law. Surely – any putative court at any future time will understand that retaliation in the form of wiping out Pe –fucking – king is legitimate use of counter force to their massive provocation.

Yes, but you’re not giving the orders in the future Madam, you’re giving the orders now.

So?

When you write the letter you’re not in the hear of battle. You are in the cool of the present moment. And in that moment you are ordering the murder of twenty million innocent civilians in the full knowledge that it’s an act with no military or political purpose. If and when you write that order, therefore, you are consciously committing a war crime.

I’m vapour. John. What are you going to do? Sue me?

You maybe dead but I am alive.

Alive in a tub under the sea – a tin tub and a bomb, that’s all that’s left of Britain John, the United Kingdom, The British Empire, Albion – all that’s left of all we ever were and have been is you and Kevin and some bewildered seamen in a can.

The moral point remains, madam.

I saw one once. We were on a hillside above Loch Long. My boyfriend at the time was a protestor I went up for a weekend to visit him. We were sitting round a campfire. My bum wet with morning dew. Bacon frying. The forest orange and brown, a whisper of mist. The loch still and black and then suddenly I saw it – Trident – Cutting through the water silent and black, like time passing. Everyone started banging pots and pans. Booing. Yelling. My boyfriend shouted ‘murdering cunts!’ ‘mudering cunts!’. But I felt … warm. I was surprised. To see them, the sailors on the deck, the captain on the tower. I felt warmly towards them – them? – it? I didn’t say anything, of course. I hated nuclear weapons. Obviously. But there was an ambivalence, the sailors on the deck, the movement through the water, the seriousness of it. I felt as if I was watching my father riding home on a black horse.

The boyfriend – he is – was he – vetted?

Long gone.

John is there really no way you can contact someone in authority? Can’t I order you to call, I don’t know, the UN?

Any form of radio contact would give away our position and render us open to being sunk which would therefore remove the potentiality of the weapon.

Right. So I can’t order retaliation because that would be a war crime. So I must order you not to retaliate.

She takes a blank sheet of paper.

Dear John… Dear Kevin… if you’re reading this then I can assume there has been the most terrible fuck up. I’m truly sorry. However it came about you can be sure it was not intended. Please don’t to retaliate. Whatever dignity there is left in the British state we muster at this moment and we refuse to stoop to their level and commit a war crime. My orders are that you sail to Australia, if it still exists, and put yourself at the disposal of the Australian navy… accept the orders of their Government. I hope that in some way you and your crew manage to build a life of some worth out of the horror in which you find yourself at this moment. God Bless you all.

She signs.

Of course madam.

She puts the letter in an envelope.

Thank you John.
That was helpful.

You’re welcome madam.

She offers him the letter.

Prime Minister –

Yes.

Could I offer some contrary advice?

What?

Some advice against ordering non retaliation.

Are you Captain John now or Arrangements John?

Arrangements John.

Arrangements John, It’s late.

I know but – as I say – this really is key.

All right.

Prime Minister , deterrence can really only work in principle if a potential aggressor nation has complete and utter certainty that in the event of a devastating decapitating first strike they will be retaliated against.

But – you just – you – we

If you don’t commit to retaliation then the United Kingdom will always be vulnerable to the threat of an aggressive decapitating strike.

To retaliate is irrational.

That’s as maybe but without the irrational threat of retaliation there is no point in having nuclear weapons at all.

John?

Yes, Madam.

Are you saying that the entire edifice of Britain’s nuclear weapons establishment, the submarines, the sailors, the missiles, the bases, the whole multi billion pound project… are you saying that in the end it’s all rests on what I write on this piece paper now –

Yes, Madam.

To write ‘retaliate’ is monstrous and irrational. To write ‘don’t retaliate’ renders the whole nuclear project valueless.

Yes, Madam.

So these words – these words which I have to conjure now in the face of unimaginable horror – a horror which nonetheless I have had to imagine – and given that these words now exist – we must assume that somehow in some way this unimaginably horrible world has come into being – into this abyss – this– John – into this darkness that we are spared but which someone will have to confront in reality – into this darkness these words must go in that darkness they must say – ‘don’t retaliate’ but the only logic I can use to write the words comes from in the actual world in which I’m writing – the world of light – and in that world the only words I can write are ‘do retaliate.’

Yes Madam.

Which brings me to another paradox. If these words exist then I’m dead, and not just me but all those who would represent me. So these words, therefore, that I must conjure tonight in the form of orders, orders written, stamped, folded amongst the full pomp of power of state of ‘arrangements’ are in fact nothing but marks on a page that, on the moment of opening, will mean absolutely nothing… nothing. Why? Because who is going to enforce them? Who will make John obey my orders? Kevin? No – these impossible words that I write as orders are in fact not orders but a request – not even a request – a thought – barely even a though… a prayer? A spell? – an incantation written by a little girl, spat on, sung over burned to ash then hidden in a locket and given to a boy before he goes to sea – I speak you a spell – spoke it – will speak it – and when you open the locket’s the spell is broken.

And so whatever dark magic it is that gives these words their power now will in the moment of opening be reversed and each syllable, each phoneme smeared across the paper will carry reverse magic – a dark anti – animation the opposite of life, the opposite of breath – death – the suck of death.

Yes.

Logically, I have to write ‘retaliate’.

Yes.

She takes a blank sheet of paper.

Dear John, there’s been a fuck up – please retaliate.

Yes.

She signs the paper.
She puts it in an envelope.
She gives it to him.

Madam…

Yes John.

It isn’t enough just to write it.

You have to mean it.

What?

If you don’t mean it, your ambivalence will reveal itself in your behaviour. It will appear to our enemies that the letter of last resord does not order post strike retaliation.

But it does. I just wrote it.

What you actually write doesn’t matter. All that matters is what the world thinks you’ve written.

I could show them the letter.

The moment you show the world the letter you’ll be potentially liable for prosecution for inciting a war crime.

What can I do then?

There really is only one rational thing you can do.

What’s that?

Be irrational.

John it’s late – I – what?

The rational thing for you to do Prime Minister, in all matters of world affairs, is to behave in a wayward and dangerous manner.

You can’t be serious.

I’m deadly serious. In order to keep the value of a nationas Nuclear deterrent the rest of the world has to believe that the leadership of that nation is basically – irrational – on a knife edge – ready to go off at any moment – likely to do berserk things – they have to look at that nation and believe that its premier is driven by enough psychopathy that they would be willing to see twenty million innocent civilians die for no other reason than sheer revenge.

Right.

It’s called the ‘crazy’ strategy.

The crazy strategy.

It’s a strategy which Israel pioneered. Iran has adopted it. America pursues it quite successfully.

What about us?

We on the other hand adopt a different strategy.

Oh really?

Our strategy is rather more subtle.

What is it?

The letter of last resort.

John – I don’t understand – I can’t –

Try Prime Minister,

my head’s full –

Twenty million human lives depend on this.
Try.

A moment.

It’s rational to behave irrationally.

Yes.

Therefore it’s irrational to behave rationally.

Yes.

Therefore we prove our irrationality by behaving rationally.

Yes.

The more rationally we behave the more irrational we appear to be.

Yes.

So… We must pursue rationality to utterly insane levels.

Yes.

We pursue rationality until it creates a logical paradox so extreme that it breaks through the simple binary opposition of rational and irrational and it becomes something else – something beyond – something transcendent.

You’ve got it!

The letter of last resort.

The letter of last resort.

A letter which has to exist but which can’t exist, a matter in which in which the only rationally way to behave is to be irrational, writing words whose purpose is never to be read… absurd.

Isn’t it!

Like an absurd drama.

Yes!

It’s like an episode of Yes Prime Minister.

Ha ha! Yes Prime minister.

In which you’re a sort of Satanic Sir Humphrey… and I am a sort of contemporary female Jim Hacker.

Yes! That is a funny thought.

An absurd scene in which You and I are caught up in one of the odd conundrums of British political beaurocracy – mysterious and maddening but oddly endearing.

Quite!

Or
Pirandello.

Yes Pirandello.

A spiralling pirouette of logic that leads up and up into pure ether…

The Daily Mail.

Hilarious.

But of course we aren’t in a play by Pirandello.

No.

This scene is ‘like’ an absurdist drama but it’s not actually an absurdist drama.

No.

Because I am the Prime Minister.

Yes.

And you’re John.

Yes.

Except, of course I’m not the Prime Minister?

No.

Because I’m dead

Yes.

And so are you.

Yes.

A moment.

Prime Minister? Are you all right?

I’m can’t help thinking of him, John, him and Kevin, under the sea, hanging in the shadow of a mountain searching the frequencies – no Archers – no Today Program – no Gardeners Question Time – no Cricket – No Woman’s Hour – no Feedback – no thought For The Day – No voices at all – only the absence of things – he’s searching but there’s nothing there – only the empty wavebands calling out over the sea.
Shhhhh.
Shhhhh.

Prime Minister.
It is late.
We don’t want to be caught with our pants down, so to speak.

No.

Would you mind writing the letter now.

She takes a blank sheet of paper.

She writes, or rather attempts to write.

He waits.

THE END

Sep 7 15

Lucid Dreaming

by admin

 

Today we filmed a crucifixion. Light poor. Seven likes.

 

*

At 3 am she wakes. The sheets are damp from her sweat. The fan at the foot of the bed stirs the air around her. She walks out onto the balcony. The green and white lights of the city litter the hillside at her feet. She lights a cigarette. She checks her hand.

 

*

Hey

 

Hey

 

What’s happening?

 

Listening to Rihanna.

High heeled shoe emoticon – miniskirt emoticon – bouncing smile emoticon.

U?

 

Reading Emily Dickinson

Book emoticon. Sad moon emoticon. Football emoticon.

 

U don’t know how 2 do emoticons do U.

 

Nope. I’m bored.

 

U can stand under my umba rella.

 

Hey hey hey.

 

High five emoticon.

 

Annoyed face emoticon.

 

I’m in love.

 

Again?

 

Properly this time.

 

Sceptical face emoticon.

 

4 real!

 

Who?

 

The guy in the café? Heart emoticon. Bouncing smiley face emoticon.

 

Kassim?

 

Spunking cock emoticon.

 

Have you told him?

 

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

 

Good.

 

I need him.

 

Ur bad.

 

I need his cock NOW!

 

Life sucks.

 

Life sucks.

 

Miss u.

 

Miss u 2.

 

One day

 

One day.

 

*

At 3 am she smokes. In the building opposite, a middle aged man in a vest and striped pajama bottoms sits in an armchair. His apartment has no wall. She watches him and wonders if he’s dead or alive. It’s hot. He lifts his head slightly. His phone shadowed face glows green. She checks her hand.

 

*

Today we went round the musuem with sledgehammers. It reminded me of the Seabird Centre at North Berwick. I wondered if there had ever been a café. The glass cases were mostly empty. We smashed them anyway. I tried to get an interesting angle but it was dark. On the back wall there was a stone frieze of a flying lion. I told the lads to wait. There was a mess of electric cabling on the floor. Miraculously there was still power. I managed to recharge the camera battery and rig up a light. When the battery was charged we smashed the lion. Lots of likes.

 

*

Hey

 

Hey

 

I dreamed of a boy.

 

The boy in the café?

 

No – a boy in Beirut.

 

From that time we went to the club?

 

Yassssss! Dancing emoticon. Bouncing smiley face emoticon. Miniskirt emoticon. champagne emoticon.

 

I hated that night.

 

I loved that night.

 

Annoyed face emoticon.

 

U should of danced.

 

I DON’T dance.

 

U have a hot bod.

 

Fuck u!

 

HE had a hot bod.

 

OK. He was cute.

 

CUTE???? He was AMAAAAAAAAAAZING!

 

He was shallow.

 

SO!?

 

He talked about clothes?

 

Baby?

 

Quoi?

 

Not every person wants to talk about American Lady Poets. Clothes are important too.

 

Tounge in cheek emoticon. Fuck you emoticon.

 

Anyway I dreamed of him.

 

Sexy?

 

He was standing on a boat in St Georges bay. He couldn’t see me. I was waving.

 

Sad face emoticon.

 

It was nice to see him.

 

Life sucks.

 

I want to suck him!

 

UR bad!

 

One day

 

One day

 

*

At 3 am the world presents itself to her as if it were behind glass, as if it were an exhibit and she an observer, wandering the empty museum at night.

At 3 am she sings to herself. Very very quietly.

When the sun shines we shine together…

At 3am she throws her cigarette end down into the street.

 

*

Today we dug a baby out of the rubble of a house. She was burned all over. I managed to film as we lifted the stone from her chest. She was quiet and covered in dust. The father stood on a stone and was crying out to god. The mother must have been in there somewhere. We wrapped the baby in a foil blanket. We took her to hospital in the jeep. I uploaded the footage at Kassim’s café. Kassim showed me how to make Turkish coffee on the stove.

 

*

At 3 am A shaft of moonlight creeps over the bulletholes on the balcony wall. Smoke rises from her cigarette. A jeep rolls down the road below. She steps into the shadow. She checks her hand.

 

*

Hey

 

Hey.

 

Fucking hate this.

 

What you doing?

 

Reading reading reading. U?

 

Dancing dancing dancing.

 

Quoi?

 

Rihanna has a new album.

 

Hands over ears emoticon.

 

Fuck U! Rihanna is QUEEN!

 

Fuck U! Emily Dickinson is QUEEN!

 

Wish u cud hear.

 

Life sucks.

 

Life sucks.

 

One day.

 

One day.

 

*

At 3 am the world appears to her as if from behind glass, its sounds muffled, its meanings absent, her thoughts distant.

 

*

Today the sheikh said he has a girl for me to marry. I’m going to meet her on Friday.

 

*

At 3 am she writes short poems in her jotter. At 3 am she tears them out and folds them up like love notes. At 3 am she hides them in a sock in her underwear drawer. At 3 am she makes coffee and waits for dawn.

 

*

Hey

 

Hey

 

I read about Lucid Dreaming.

 

Que est que c’est?

 

Its when you dream but you know you’re dreaming so you can control your dream. So you can do anything you like. It’s like it’s real. I read it on facebook.

 

How do U do it?

 

First write a question mark on the back of your hand. Then when you catch notice of it U stop and U ask the question ‘Am I awake or am I dreaming.’

 

Aloud on in ur head?

 

In ur head.

 

Am I awake or am I dreaming?

 

That’s it.

 

So?

 

So what?

 

Are u awake or r u dreaming?

 

Ha ha! Nightmare. I am in a nightmare where my cities gone to shit & I’m getting bombed every day and I can’t get to Beirut!

 

Life sucks.

 

U?

 

I’m awake.

 

Ok so you have to say that out loud.

 

I’m awake.

 

Again.

 

I’M AWAKE!

 

OK. Now for the rest of the day just go about your business –

 

What business! I just sit on my ass in my room all day in the dark.

 

Ok. well… you sit on your ass in the dark and when you catch notice of the question mark ask yourself –

 

Am I awake or am I dreaming?

 

That’s it. So you do that 4 a few days & in they end it happens in a dream. You see a question mark on your hand in your dream and you ask

 

Am I awake or am I dreaming?

 

And then you realise… and you say, out loud, in your dream… ‘I’m dreaming’ And ur lucid.

 

Lucid?

 

It means ur in control of the dream. You can do what you like. You can make people appear. You can have sex. You can go places. You can do whatever it is that you would most like to do. Most people have sex or fly.

 

What is it you would most like to do?

 

Fly.

No, fuck…
No, fly…
Fly.
U?

 

See you.

 

Tongue in cheek emoticon. Heart emoticon. Wish you were here.

 

Wish that 2.

 

One day.

 

One day.

 

*

Today we dug trenches on the hill side. The Sheikh says we’re expecting an attack. I filmed in the morning. The light is better. I uploaded the footage at Kassim’s café. I told Kassim about Irn Bru. He said he’d see if his supplier could get some. I used a filter on the footage. Lots of likes.

 

*

At 3am a breeze drifts across the balcony. Gunfire scatters the silence. It sounds like her neice popping bubblewrap. She checks her hand.

 

*

Hey

 

Hey

 

Did u try it?

 

All day.

 

And?

 

Nothing. U?

 

No.

 

What you dream of last night?

 

Rubbish. Man with horse. New door in house. U?

 

My dreams are all about water.

 

Good water or bad water?

 

Floods

 

Cool.

 

Not cool. Drowning.

 

I want to fly.

 

Keep trying.

 

One day

 

One day

 

*

At 3 am the world presents itself to her as if it were behind glass, as if she were an exhibit in a glass case and out there in the enfolding dark archeologists were staring at her, trying to work out what she meant.

 

*

Today Celtic got through to the second round of the Europa league. I taught Kassim how to sing ‘The Fields of Athenrye.’ The café was quiet. We watched on my lap top.

 

*

Hey.

 

Hey.

 

Did you dream?

 

No luck.

 

U know. I was thinking. Lucid Dreaming. Being in another universe. A universe you can control. Seeing your boy on the boat. Flying to him. U know what it’s like.

 

What?

 

Poetry.

 

?

 

U shd write poetry.

 

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

 

U shd!

 

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

 

Ur BAD!

 

Oh Kassim!

 

Oh Kassim
Your eyes are like coffee.

 

Your butt is like two scoops of ice cream.

 

Your chest is like the plain of Nineveh!

 

Your voice is like humous!

 

Your laugh is like dawn

 

Your smile is like Rihannas smile on the cover of Good Girl Gone Bad

 

Ur Funny.

 

Me or Kassim?

 

U.

 

U shd write that poem for me.

 

I will.

 

He’ll think I wrote it. He will think I have soul.

 

Haha!

 

I will get in his pants.

 

Ur Bad.

 

One day.

 

One day.

 

*

Today we threw a homosexual off a grain silo. I tied myself to a pipe so I could lean out and get the shots of him falling. He was quiet. He kneeled at the edge. There was a lovely stretch of landscape in the background: road going winding away into the distance. The sheikh made a speech. The boy shouted.Then he fell. I uploaded the footage at Kassim’s café.

 

*

At 3am An American jet tears open the night. In it’s wake a trail of silent flashes scatter the hillside opposite. Each flash briefly illuminating a house, or rock, or forest. Then boom boom boom boom boom … dull thuds far away. In the silence after she hears starlings rising from their roost below then…sirens. She checks her hand.

 

*

Hey.

U can stand under my umba rella.

Hey hey hey.

Hey hey hey.

Bored.

Hey.

Sad face emoticon.

 

*

Today Kassim’s father told me Kassim has gone. He didn’t know where. Kassim’s father said there were four cans of Irn Bru in the fridge for me. Kassim’s father said Kassim told him to keep them for me as a wedding present. Kassim’s father has no idea where Kassim has gone.

 

*

At 3 am she calls to mind the dust on his hand making it seem grey. She calls to mind the question mark, still visible just above the knotted rope.

At 3 am the world presents itself to her as if from behind glass. As if a posting one could scroll past. As if a feed of which she has grown bored.

At 3 am she sits on the old deckchair and watches the sky lighten.

 

*

When the sun shines we shine together
You know we’ll still have each other.
You can stand under my umba rella.
Hey hey hey.

Miss u

x

One day.

 

*

Today the sheikh said there was a problem with the footage of the boy. When you play it back it’s clear he throws himself before he can be pushed. He rocks forward and tumbles before the sheikh can push. This is suicide which is a sin. The sheikh recommends we take the footage down. Before he falls the boy makes a shout which is in English. The sheikh asked me to translate.

 

*

Hey.

 

Hey.

 

Whassup.

 

Whassup.

 

Where u been? Me Bored! Angry face emoticon.

 

 

U there?

 

U been to the Café? How’s dream boy?

 

 

Hey?

 

Sister. Be careful what U say. We have his phone.

 

 

God is great.

 

God is great.

 

*

Today I checked the footage again. I played the moment back. I think the boy shouts. ‘I am dreaming’. The sheikh wants to know if this means something. It it a hashtag? I said it means nothing. Just shouting.

 

*

At 3 am she wakes. The sheets are damp from her sweat. The fan at the foot of the bed stirs the air around her. She walks out onto the balcony. The green and white lights of the city litter the hillside at her feet. She lights a cigarette. She checks her hand.

 

I am awake.

 

 

 

THE END

 

First Performance August 2015, Summerhall presented by Northern Stage as part of ‘Here Is The News From Over There’

Director: Lorne Campbell

Actors: Sara Sharaawi, Abdel Rahim Alwaj, Umar Ahmed