Not All Of What Follows Is True

A recurring journal of mixed veracity.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Instantly her thoughts linked back, reconstructing the past, creating memories which the circumstances of formation gave a certain high-definition quality to.

The landscape was dry, giving up dust whenever foot or tyre disturbed it. There was a roughly-surfaced road, off which were a number of simple prefabricated buildings – mostly the usual fast-food chains. It always made her think of a set from one of those American films that are all about big dusty cars and briefcases full of money.

Two details revealed that it was not. The first was that more fractal camouflage was being worn than would be the case in even the most red of states. The other was the sight, far on the horizon, of the hotel-casinos lining the seafront. She had been there, just once.

Her workplace was here, beyond a chain-link fence and the usual guardposts, in a portacabin which had as its most endearing feature an air-conditioning unit. Inside the cabin she would sit at a cheap table surfaced with wood-effect formica. She had sat there hundreds of times, but her memory tended to render one particular batch of work as a representative of all the others.

She opened the first of the large cardboard boxes that had been left for her, and placed the Ziploc bags that it contained on the table, careful to preserve their groupings. Each had been marked with a date and GPS reference in hurried permanent marker. She did not collect them: that was the job of the human crews which followed-up the armed ROV sweeps through insurgent villages.

The bags contained the personal effects of insurgents themselves: weapons, combs, photographs, mobile phones, cigarettes and lighters, sunglasses, lucky charms, important texts of religious or secular nature, coins, and the large number of objects which were classified as “misc.”

The purpose of her project was to database these collections of items. Over time, the body of data would become large enough for patterns to emerge, consistent associations of particular types of object. Analysis of the patterns of association would reveal the element that had not been recovered – the human figure which the material had once acted in concert with. Results of the analysis would gradually filter up to where tactics, strategy, and eventually policy were determined, imperceptibly shaping the future.

All of that was distant. This was the initial phase, known in the academic literature as “interrogating the agents”, a phrase which she couldn’t help but feel had leapt from her thesis and caught the attention of her new employers in Intelligence.

Friday, April 24, 2009

This is that poem that I haven't written yet
I've been wanting to write it for a while
But it's a target hard to hit.

I tried to take a photo once
of a courtyard at the Louvre.
My camera couldn't fit it in.
I got what I could into frame
But when people looked
They'd say "Is that it?"
and the palace seemed a let-down.

You want to know
What I think of
When I think of you.
Some things don't fit into the frame
You can only show a part
To show the whole.

I remember The first time
When we took a taxi
Down the potholed street
And you held my hand.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hispaniola chapter 2
(part 1)

Lucy da Silva was woken by the shrill beep-beep of her alarm clock, the generic moulded plastic number she’d never yet bothered to replace. It had been provided along with her room at the Radisson and she would only ever remembered how much she disliked it and its awful alarm tone at night right before she fell asleep, and then in the mornings when it woke her.

The Radisson accommodation was courtesy of her employers at the Bureau des Étrangers of the city of Saint-Marc, a residence judged befitting her status as Sergeant. It wasn’t cheap, but it was about as low-grade as rooms got in the city. She and the rest of the officers were put up in the hotel because the city could never afford any of the private housing in the city proper and was unwilling to have its employees living in the suburbs. Lucy sat up and cast a bleary eye over her room – a studio apartment, really. It was a mess. Clothes were strewn about the floor and used crockery and food containers were scattered about the place. Cleaning services, as part of the city’s cut-price accommodation deal with the Radisson, were not included. Lucy would liked to have blamed the disarray on her extensive shift work, but that excuse was fooling nobody, least of all herself.

She crawled out of bed and took a brief shower before finding a minimally crumpled white blouse and dark skirt in her wardrobe. Once dressed she brushed her hair and regarded herself critically in the bathroom mirror. She looked, she decided, a mess. Nothing particularly out of place but for the worn-out look of someone getting too little sleep. She’d had three hours last night. That was enough for some people, she’d read, but not her. She wasn’t sure how long she could keep this up.

She’d been the other side of thirty back when she started the job. Yet looking in the mirror she couldn’t see what had changed. What had she even looked like when she was younger? Still the same dark skin and features now that made people mistake her for a Haitian. Not an unreasonable assumption. Her friends and colleagues, they’d aged too, of course, but she couldn’t remember what they’d looked like when they were younger either.

Lucy was in the office by seven in the morning. The headquarters of the Bureau des Étrangers was an open-plan office of about twenty cubicles. At this time in the morning, only half a dozen or so of the desks were occupied. A large plate-glass window provided a panoramic view of the sea. The sky today was pale, more white than blue. A brightly coloured delta-wing could be seen skimming the waves, a pleasure craft taken out for an early cruise. The police building was more or less right on the seafront. To either side along the shore and behind it stretching inland, the shining buildings of Saint-Marc reared majestically in the sun. Monuments to commerce and internationalism, tinted windows and steel frames glinted and sparkled. The logos of the world adorned the skyline. Companies and institutions old and new, giants of manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and finance. The emerald torus of the UN representative office protruded into the sea on a purpose-built pontoon. At the heart of the grand International Plaza, the old WTO meeting house that had begun the whole thing stood brooding, its hulking blocky form a contrast to the elegant forms that clustered around it, a brutalist architecture that meant business.

Lucy was intercepted on her way to the coffee machine, by Inspector Guerin, a tall, skinny Haitian officer who’d been at the Bureau for three years now. He often exuded a rather gloomy demeanour that many people found off-putting, but Lucy had found he had a streak of wry humour once she got to know him. This morning, he looked harried. “Lucy,” he said, “are you busy?”

He continued without waiting for her to reply. “There’s a security detail we need someone for – coming in to the airport in half an hour. Someone from the Emirates, big money. Upstairs say he gets full police protection, not just private security. Apparently he’s big in kelp.”
“Yes, kelp. The major supplier to Burger King, apparently.”
“Who has this kelp magnate upset enough to warrant all this fuss?” asked Lucy.
“I don’t know,” said Guerin, “I’m probably not cleared for that kind of information. Can you do it?”
“No worries,” said Lucy, “I’ll head over there in a few minutes.”
Guerin nodded his thanks. Lucy got herself a coffee from the machine and headed out to the motor pool, checking her notices on the way down in the lift. There a few new faces on the watchlist. A couple of guys connected with slave trafficking, a wanted embezzler down from California, the usual kind of thing. Her personal inbox was nothing but departmental event notices and circulars. She closed the program and the information vanished from her mind’s eye. Sending emails and bulletins like this was a pretty frivolous use of police technology, but it was no real load on resources so it had become policy.

Police and thieves, in general, were the only people with permanent connections like this. The rest of the world seemed to think it was too invasive, and Lucy couldn’t blame them. She would have preferred not to have them at all, but the implants were a prerequisite for employment in the Saint-Marc constabulary. Rumours would constantly circulate, privately shared horror stories of fellow officers here and abroad whose systems had failed, something gone on the fritz and left them with wire-generated hallucinations or hearing voices, false memories or screwed-up vision.

It was an edge, though, a built-in communication system that couldn’t be detected and was difficult to block. It was invaluable – or it would be for an honest-to-God crime fighting unit. For the Bureau des Étrangers, though, it did kind of seem like overkill.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Conversations with Myself

This is what happens when you're very, very bored and have a new program to play with.
The program in this case is Comic Life...
Click on the preview image for a legible version.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The opening monologue to my non-existent Edinburgh Fringe show about Chinese history

The main problem with doing a degree in Chinese is that it's very difficult to parlay into a career in stand-up comedy. People can manage bits of French or German - Eddie Izzard or Bill Bailey, for example - and I've even seen someone do a whole bit about using mathematical equations to deal with hecklers.

But it just doesn't work with Chinese. You do a Chinese gag and, well, let's try one:

I got into a London taxi the other day. I said "take me to Henan province!"
And the driver said, "Henan? That's south of the river, isn't it?"

... see?

Because, "Henan", right, literally means south of the... well, anyway.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hello, Goodbye, London

About quarter to four, Victoria station. Sat in the afterthought-space formed by the angles of W.H. Smiths, drinking expensive branded coffee and waiting.

Something about the two girls stood a short distance to the right seems odd. Blue jeans, pink t-shirts and baseball caps. Furry boots. One is white, the other asian. Both appear lost and uncertain.

Assistance would be positive, but standard stranger-fear prevents it. After a short amount of time a man appears, not tall but stocky, blue eyes and imperial-style beard the colour of corn. He talks to them in Cyrillic-sounding language, angry for unknown reasons.

Intervention seems positive, but standard stranger-fear and lack of proper context prevent it. The man produces a mobile phone and talks into it, still seeming angry. Then one of the girls does. Money changes hands. From the corners of eyes, it appears to go from them to him.

Then they go, him leading, the three of them disappearing into shifting curtains of commuters, leaving only the after-impression of glimpsed nastiness.

Hello, goodbye, London.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Wit of the Prophets

Pharaoh's wife spoke unto Moses, saying, "If you were my husband, I
would release an asp into your bedchamber at night."
Moses replied, "If you were my wife, I should clasp the serpent to my breast."


"I take my wife everywhere," said Abraham to the visitors. "Yet she
keeps coming back."


Then Daniel said to the king, "I am not afraid of death. I wish only
to be elsewhere when it happens."


Elisha returned to them, saying, "This very day I slew a lion wearing
only my sandals. Although why it was wearing my sandals, I know not."


The people of Nineveh decided to test Jonah. "How long should a man's
legs be?" they demanded.
"Long enough to reach the ground," replied Jonah.


Isaiah said to the people, "I flew here from Mount Sinai with a host
of angels. Boy, are my arms tired!"


But Jeremiah refused them all, saying, "I do not wish to dwell in any
city that would make me its citizen."


Elijah said, "Take my wife, please."