Dead: A Celebration of Mortality
Dead: A Celebration of Mortality contains 52 short essays to coincide with the Saatchi Gallery’s 2015 exhibition of the same name. Charles Saatchi is no stranger to controversy...
Trashfiend photobook
A collection of images from the “disposable” horror culture of the 1960s and 1970s. For your viewing (and listening) displeasure.
Cult people talk
The trials and tribulations of interviewing film stars when in Argentina. Nicanor Loreti on Hollywood's exploitation A-list.
William Sanderson
An interview with William Sanderson
Balls, The Womb and Mexico City 1
 Image mexico city pt1

“Esto es un lugar muy peligroso,” says our driver,self appointed minister for tourism, as he pulls his cab away from the Terminal del Norte bus station, making a left toward Mexico City, or irrevocable change as I like to call it, the flat city, the largest land mass of people of any one city in the world city. “This is a very dangerous place,” he adds redundantly.

It is nighttime. Black and white time, with hues of grey. The three hour bus journey from Veracruz had been plagued by homosexuals contemplating the ring tones of their mobile phones, and a strange, disjointed conversation between the three of us concerning female anatomy and whether one should focus on the camel toe in public.

CALEB: “It’s a wonderful invention.”

ME: “What’s that? The television?”

CALEB: “No, the laughing Danny.”

BEN: “He had a machine in the back of his house that would rattle loudly in the middle of the night.”

ME: “Is it camel toe or camel foot?”

BEN: “It’s a dehumidifier.”

And so on, to the accompaniment of polyphonic bursts of the Village People performing YMCA.

Our introduction to Mexico City is a commentary from the taxi driver on life having no value, as well as good advice on all the “places to go for a murder and a mugging.” Life has no value, life has no value, he repeats in the mannered way a lunatic will attempt to qualify his sanity. Life has no value life has no value but our purpose is to reach the Hotel del Angel in the busy social area of the city known as Zona Rosa, the “pink zone,” pink representing gayness of the safe kind and the colour of many of its buildings. This is our destination, but our driver instead takes us ten blocks north of the Zocalo to a dead land known as Tepito.

If La Santa Muerte had a holy land, Tepito would be its bruised and bloody shame. Ben, who has visited seventy two countries, has never seen anything like it. Not even in Rio de Janeiro, he says.

This puts Ben in mind of Rio de Janeiro and the curiously agitated cop who stopped him there two years earlier for a routine search, a strange affair that comprised nothing more than Ben having to take off his shoes and socks and place his feet in the lap of the noble officer for a ten minute shakedown of the toes.

“He was clearly getting his jollies,” Ben recalls of the cop with a big 10-4.

But Tepito is not jolly, it is a wasteland exhibiting the kipple of a burned out planet with bleak streets that converge for an 8PM curfew on the vecinclades, the temporary shelters that spilled over and became permanent homes with rent fixed at one cent a month. The economy of Tepito has grown and collapsed with black market trade, a seismic shift that has had a more devastating impact on the cultural landscape than the earthquake that tore through it two decades ago.

Economy now of course is drugs and some of the vecinclades are replaced with apartment blocks whose rotten cramped dwellings with paper thin walls breed psychotic neighbours with howling dogs. The authority in Mexico City conveniently ignores Tepito, as it ignores the trash that is piled knee high beneath the extinguished street lamps. The only illumination is the timorous beam of our dipped headlamps as they bore a lonesome path.

Ten murders a day in Tepito and a police force not willing to respond to a single one of them, not since the riots in November 2000 when the police where forced out of the neighbourhood by a mob refusing to let them haul away the stolen electrical goods and handguns that had been confiscated that morning.

And then — el conductor del taxi está loco — the driver stops the car.

He cab driver sweeps his hands as if to signal that we have arrived and have to get out. This isn’t what we expected of Zona Rosa, the safe, predominantly gay inner sanctum of Mexico City where our hotel is located. We don’t believe that this is Zona Rosa at all. In fact we know it isn’t but get out anyway when the driver produces a gun, surveying the scene with its black barrel.

My only desire is to see lucha libre, a Mexican wrestling match, you cunt. How do you say “you cunt?”

There is no protest song, no choice but to give it up, to leave the horses and continue the climb on foot. Making no sudden moves the three of us are out of the old Chrysler Le Baron and out on the streets of dread, where not a true soul can be seen but maleficent threat hangs in the air, a fetid fog. In 1945 this barrio was marked as one of the worst places to live in Mexico, and if there has been any improvement since we are going to have to get on our knees and claw beneath the shit with our fingers to find it.

“Have a good life, my friend,” says Cal as the cab pulls away with our 700 pesos tip. Quick-draw McGraw is travelling so slowly through the rubbish it would be easy to wade through it and reach the vehicle and question him about Tepito and whether it has seen change for the better over the years. Perhaps even indulge in a little chaos and violence, if we were foolish and so inclined.

The first rule of travel is to travel with purpose in one’s stride. Striding with purpose is how we had travelled through the Terminal del Norte bus station, a bleak place but not as bleak as Tepito, arriving purposefully at the glass front of the desk that dealt with the sitios taxis, the legitimate taxis.

The desk was empty and remained empty, causing a queue of people requiring transportation to form that signalled to the wolves on the periphery that fresh tourist meat was about. We wanted not to be around when any strays from the pack got gobbled up and so sought an alternative route.

Andres at the Bartola in Veracruz had warned us to be careful in Mexico City and the Internet said always take the right kind of cab. The tail lights disappearing into the night ahead of us this minute belong to one of the wrong cabs, a Chrysler Le Baron with beat up paint work that we skipped the queue at Terminal del Norte to find outside on the street.

I am wishing I had a leather-coated mind when considering safety in numbers is merely an illusion. This isn’t happening. Where the night breathes the precise sound one would expect of a Third World sprawl that spans one hundred and twenty blocks, up and down the streets only debris. Above us a terrible sky this isn’t happening.

“Well, I’m safe,” I suddenly decide of our predicament. “I have the heart of Santa Muerte on my chest.”

Sure enough that heart is now also bleeding, having been cut into my flesh only this morning. Itching and bitching, too, Luis and Andersson. Itching like a bitch.

We begin to walk with purpose towards the first exit we can find, luggage on our shoulders, the Tepito death rattle vibrating in our souls. Only true delinquents accept a life here, everyone has a gun and anyone who doesn’t have a gun performs their hold ups with a rabid pit bull on a short leash. Cal is a betting man: he wagers that we don’t make it out alive, but he is proven wrong and we do make it and Cal loses the wager, what comes next in Tepito is the strangest sight we will ever see.

Through streets that police and even whores will not tread, in and out of shadow a young woman sweeps lightly towards us holding a baby to her chest. She has been transposed through this time from another, of this we are certain. She moves in a flowered blouse unaware that she has faded from her beautiful place and arrived in this one.

Our paths touch fleetingly.

“¿Está bien usted, el fallo?” asks Ben. “Are you okay, Miss?”

“Un pequeño animal que encoge sus hombros muy muy lejos un más grande uno uno uno,” she says without stopping, not smiling and not sad and not making sense, simply moving toward the dangerous epicentre of the dangerous city from whence we came.

“A small animal shrinking its shoulders very far away a larger one one one.”

From nowhere to nothing, alone with the infant she clutches tightly she is gone in a moment, into the maze of tragic housing, her words trailing behind her. In search of meaning, in search of space, in search of place, who knows? If we could stop her and tell her to go back we would. Not unlike Elvis down at the end of Lonely Street however, it is too late for that. Not that way, Miss. That way is only heartbreak and misery, keep away from it. Come with us.

And when we make it to the other side of Tepito we are alive, find the exit and beyond that is Zona Rosa and the Hotel del Angel.

Nothing can hurt us now. Nothing can hurt us anymore.

And so begins our ascension.

At 4:54AM Cal paints a picture of the events surrounding his balls, but first the staff in the hotels of hate and lucha libre.

A passport is not a requirement when checking into a hotel in Mexico, so if one ever commits a murder, Mexico is the logical place to run to and hide. We contemplate friends that may benefit from brutality back home and then dismiss the idea on the realisation that nobody running the hotels in Mexico likes us very much, and would gladly give us up to the police. In Mexico City the people running the hotels detest us with a passion. Here in the flat city, we aren’t able to leave our room without the electronic key code being changed to prevent our re-entry, which more often than not results in harsh words and gestures. It happens so often during our two days at Hotel del Angel that we are forced to arraign the receptionist at every available opportunity. It really isn’t worth our time to take the elevator to the second floor to check the state of the door to our room because the door to our room will be locked. The night watch receptionist, so stoned he literally doesn’t know what day it is and cannot remember how to find out, suffers the worse of our indignation when we return from the VIP gentleman’s club early one Saturday morning.

“By Cal’s crushed balls, you’ve changed the lock again!” we yell at him the instant he buzzes us through the entrance.

We flip the plastic credit card size key onto the desk with a flourish that suggests we come from Tepito but we do not belong there. A bounce takes the key into the air and as it descends so collapses the rapport we have been systematically destroying with the Hotel del Angel. The receptionist goes insane and curses blind that we should have died in that taxi and furthermore our mothers enjoy sexual pleasures from rabbi dogs, a hostility symptomatic of the hostility we encounter from Mexican hoteliers in general, hating us not because of who we are but who we are not. We are not you, we appear to be saying to them, we gringos are the opposite of your hard working selves with the money to prove it and you would like to be us.

We are gringos, if a little less gringo than the American gringos, who belong to a genus as removed from us as it is from Mexicans, but we are gringos all the same.

We decide to celebrate this new understanding with cigars from Cuba.

Down a road that takes us in the vague direction of Arena Coliseo where lucha libre — the wrestling — can be found on any given Sunday we come across a man with Cuban cigars. In a bright yellow “athletica” t-shirt but looking like the one least likely to succeed he pulls back his lips for a grin of big gums when Cal shows an interest in his wares. Ben wades in immediately, able to smell blood, and starts to haggle over the established price of five cigars for US$30. Ben will haggle over the wind and the rain and anything because he hates to feel as though he is being ripped off, which he claims is what everyone is about when it comes to money, his or ours. He can’t help himself, something to do with three years in law school and a voracious appetite for fat sex. Snatching pennies from the smashed souls of paupers is a disposition of the inhuman, we tell him. But still it gives us pleasure to watch Ben at work, so effortlessly does he do the snatching.

The haggling has been going on for fifteen minutes.

CIGAR SALESMAN: “Hangover. Hangover. My head hurt.”

BEN: “Really? That’s why it’d be better if we gave you twelve dollars; that way you could go home and buy a cure for your hangover.”

CIGAR SALESMAN: “I tol’ you. I no want to rip you.”

BEN: “You do! That’s your main aim!”

MR CALEB: “We’re Puma fans as well. We’re Puma fans.”

CIGAR SALESMAN: “I tol’ you, I tol’ you—“

BEN: “If you sell us this for twelve dollars the Pumas will win on Saturday.”

CIGAR SALESMAN: “Let’s make a deal: twenty three.”

BEN: “Twenty three? Twenty three! Is that how you treat all your friends?”

And so it goes until the cigar man with gums wants no more a part of it and gives to

Cal a box of five Cuban cigars in exchange for a quart of tequila and a ten dollar bill.

Six girls we later meet in a club called Cortesia tell us they cannot understand why we should want to go to see lucha libre. To them lucha libre is something of an embarrassment and they cannot understand. Big men in face masks throwing one another around is a thing of a generation past, it is old Mexico from which they are distanced, being modern people with internet access. Lucha libre has yet to reach a state where it stops being what it is and becomes what it is to understand irony.

Inside the Arena Coliseo it is a capacity crowd and the excitement is mounting. We have good seats, we have good seats four rows from the front in the stalls, next to a young mother with a three month old infant on the one side of us and on the other side a girl of eighteen, but probably twelve, about whom I should say no more advises Ben.

Given the cheers, rattles and air horns all around, it is a relief that the delicate ears of the infant are protected by delicate infant ear plugs, which we would have noticed sooner had we not been held up by police.

The police found us easily in the market square, three gringos bothering fish selling tradesmen for directions to the Arena Coliseo, and they made a great pantomime of checking our papers, as if to show to the world that everything in Mexico City was under control now that they were checking our papers.

“Nobody laugh. Or run,” Ben whispered as the police signalled stop with a leisurely left hand and beckoned us over.

He meant it. These cops were young and moved effortlessly through people that feared and hated them, their mirror shades representative of the worse kind of hate filled eyes.

They carried enough weaponry to immobilise a tank in a military coup and it did not bring us joy to have our passports looked upon as if guilt was waiting to be found therein.

Your papers are in order, the cops said with a simple nod of the head. Now go.

02-Aug-2010 David Kerekes
Balls, The Womb and Mexico City 4

Image mexico city pt 4

We pay the Zona Arqueológica entrance money of 45 pesos each and I tie my shirt around my waist to conceal the fact my trousers are falling down. I contemplate a belt from one of the callejones, but the belts all have big buckles with the word “Teotihuacán” engraved upon them and I don’t want that. I join the others in buying a sombrero, however. We hand over a bundle of notes and some loose change. When Ben thwarts an attempt to short change us, the assistant says under her breath “el carbon no sabe contar,” which translates as “The fucker can count.”

Zona Arqueológica has hundreds of hawkers, badgering visitors with trinkets and souvenirs, but only one hawker has a big black onyx cock for sale.

“A souvenir for your mother-in-law,” he says as we pass him by. We physically restrain Ben from haggling.

In the heart of the ancient city, at the starting point on the roads that define the godly places, stands the magnificent Pyramid of the Sun, the third largest pyramid in the world. It is located on the Avenue of the Dead, between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, the house of the supreme ruler, and is built on top of a cave located six metres beneath the earth that was considered by the Aztecans to be the birthplace of man. Some people argue that the cave is actually a tomb. It is not possible for visitors to go inside the cave or go inside the pyramid itself, but somewhere inside are the bones and remains of innumerable children, appropriate behaviour to the ancient ones when buried strategically.

Climbing the steep 248 steps of the Pyramid of the Sun, clutching my falling trousers and with a shirt around my waist, we stop regularly to take in the view, and for me to adjust myself and for Caleb to perform deep breathing exercises. He swears he will get fit again back in Britain. I swear that I should have bought that belt.

There is a better class of hawker at the pyramid, and the sound of panpipes rising from the base of the ruins is less atonal than the pipes at the entrance to the site, where the pipes are blown by hawkers not as comfortable with wind instruments as they are their pendants and black fake cocks.

A biting wind greets us when we reach the top, and against the wind are the sightseers who circle the summit and survey Teotihuacán for clues to a meaning. Here at the top are gringos and New Age hippies from the continent talking about Iraq and better tasting latte at Starbucks.

“They are on it, you bet,” says one American with great authority.

The city that once spanned 20km, with its great and noble founders forgotten to time, is observed now by a tribe of lost idiots. There is nothing else for it and so Caleb draws the mask that he bought at the wrestling from his red shoulder bag of drugs and places it over his head. An eerie calm falls over everyone when he throws his hands up into the air and yells at the top of his voice, “MÍSTICO!” For evidence, I snap a picture of him framed against the Pyramid of the Moon at the north end of the Avenue of the Dead.

On the top of the Pyramid of the Sun once stood a temple with an altar where human sacrifice took place. The temple was painted red for blood, red for the setting sun. Destroyed long ago by man and by nature, now in place of the altar is a silver key embedded in the stone, a physical point of reference over which I place my fingertip, and also a spatial point, because here is the vertex for the celestial sphere.

I place the finger of one hand upon the silver key and hold my other hand high, in the manner shown to me by a man from Colombia, who is on holiday. “You can feel energy,” he tells us. Here is my hand in the sky, my body a conductor down to ancient times, and a labyrinth of power and dead children. Here is space and here is place. The Pyramid of the Sun has existed since 100AD, which brings to it almost two thousand years of joy and bloodshed, wisdom and ignorance; men have lived and died by and beneath this stone, beneath its three million tons, packed into shape before the invention of the wheel. And beneath it all, some six metres below ground, is a tunnel that leads to the cave that birthed all the inhabitants of the earth.

Archaeologists found the cave in 1971. The ancient ones believed it to be the womb of the world, the origins of life. It had writing on its walls.

“What can you feel?” Ben asks from a distance, refusing to partake because he doesn’t believe in it.

“Nothing,” I say, my finger on the key, my hand in the air, disappointed that no stars explode, no sky turns black, no Jack Kirby crackle bursts out from the frame.

No Quetzalcóatl, the winged serpent. No Super Tortas Hamburguesas.

The focus of all energy brings to me nothing but the woeful song played by a woman on the slow bus back to Mexico City. One might assume that a woman in a white blouse would have the voice of an angel, especially in Mexico, where the mariachi was invented. Let me tell you this is not necessarily the case. It was horrible to endure.

Cal says to the man from Colombia as we start the mission back down the 248 steps: “Have a good life, my friend.”

“May he order His angels to protect you wherever you go,” the man says by way of a reply, the biting wind silencing the words so they sound like nothing at all on earth.

And that’s when it hits me.

02-Aug-2010 David Kerekes
Fear & Trembling #1

"We don't yet know if there's a God - and you want to eat!"

An episodic examination of the modern soul by THOMAS McGRATH who spent two months in 2009 looking for it.

Image fear & trembling lion

I'VE CRIBBED the above quotation from Henry Miller, though I believe he in turn lifted it from the lips of some long dead Russian, a Russian that no doubt lived in the midst of that nation's 'Religious Renaissance' of the nineteenth century. Dostoevsky described this period in his diaries and novels, how everybody continuously participated in an ongoing debate about the Big Questions, in markets, street corners and bars, trying to guess at the existence of God and the mystery of suffering. But hasn't the debate been settled, here in the secular Western Europe of the 21st Century? Apparently not - even my bus has joined the debate. The other week it was swaggering around like a teenager boasting that there "probably isn't a God", yet only a few days ago it had experienced an abrupt change of heart and declared conversely that there "definitely is a God". What insecurities must have bristled in that 'probably' - I didn't even know that the number 67 ran all the way to Damascus…

 Image cover dacinci code

 Image cover god delusion

And what about the common reading matter observed on public transport over the last few years? What books have the passengers been scrutinising? One of only two titles, according to my count (excluding that Pope bothering kid's book): The God Delusion and The Da Vinci Code. Bless it, the British public isn't the best read bunch, but these two titles arguably indicate a burgeoning preconception with metaphysical matters.

Were it not for the Romance novels, Bond pastiches, and the ubiquitous Jeremy Clarkson triptych (our national philosophe), in many cases The Da Vinci Code would stand alone on the book shelf of its millions of owners. Numerous friends and acquaintances, not usually disposed to discuss fiction or theology (yet knowing my predilection for both), have approached me with pregnant intent to comment on the thriller's esoteric subtext.

My girlfriend's mother, knowing that my family are Catholic (and assuming that my very haemoglobin sported little papist caps), interrupted my reading one afternoon during a visit to her Tenerife holiday home.

"I've read The Da Vinci Code," she declared, with a Lutheran twinkle visible beneath her blue-tinted contacts.

"Good show Linda. Well done," I responded over the brim of Anna Karenina, wondering why one of her eyebrows seemed to be violently twitching…

"… I believe it!" she finally declared.

"How do you mean mother-in-law - you don't think it's a work of fiction?"

Linda seemed momentarily inconvenienced by my unexpected though innocent enough retort.

"No. I mean what it says about the Church," she continued, shaking off my Jesuitical casuistry, "I believe it."

This is indicative of the general gist of its readers' responses. The book offers them new ways to believe, and reasons for the conspicuous absence of religion in their inner lives. A pity it's gash!

Then there is that other bona fide publishing phenomena of recent times (again excluding children's books): The God Delusion. In a nation that has for many decades treated churches as little more than picturesque and whimsical venues for weddings, the success of Dawkins' polemic (the best-selling work of non-fiction since the Bible, or something), is arguably a bit of a mystery. Atheists wouldn't flock to Waterstones in order to scoop a hardback copy of The Toothfairy Delusion, and as far as I can see the only explanation for the enormous success of Dawkins' tract is that it serves as a palliative to its reader's latent fear and trembling, the atavistic nervousness over the fate of the immortal soul, a trepidation that possibly announced itself only upon a confrontation with the book's bold title. Yet it would seem that the book has done more to irritate those buried nerves than soothe them - according to Amazon, The God Delusion is the cause of a 50% growth in sales on religious and spiritual books, and a 120% increase in sales on the Bible! Atheism never had a more vocal and fervent following than in Holy Russia itself, and so long as it is not silently assumptive, atheism constitutes a vital ingredient in any spiritually introspective culture. For these very reasons I adore Richard Dawkins. He is Nietzsche's fool in the marketplace imploring the peasants that God is Dead. This is a man that believes that humanity can be reinvigorated morally, politically and even artistically if we can return to the apparently abandoned Enlightenment agenda - Halleluiah!

Between our suicide bombers, conspiracy theorists, Rastafarians, Scientologists, militant atheists et al, it can be argued that the contemporary UK is a much richer religious ferment that Dostoevsky's Russia, and far more riven with spiritual conflict than in its own hectic period of Reformation. And I, comfortably savage, terrified by the sky, believing in everything, wish here to comment upon, document, and encourage our English Religious Renaissance.

01-Aug-2010 Thomas McGrath
Fear & Trembling #3

"We don't yet know if there's a God - and you want to eat!"

An episodic examination of the modern soul by THOMAS McGRATH who spent two months in 2009 looking for it.

Image fear & trembling lion

SO WHAT type of rough beast might we expect to have been born in Brick Lane? Under the impression that the Emperor's New Postcode (momentarily disregarding Dalston's recent usurpation) was in fact only a fatuous cloak for some apocalyptic prelude, I travelled down there last Wednesday evening. I was looking for a fissure in its diabolical disguise - some pentagram, caduceus or purposeful goat - but beside the bursting pink and white blossom that decorated the surrounding suburbs, the area (at least beneath its modern patina of 'fashionability') was in fact uniquely bereft of spiritual or magical vitality. I could only dimly speculate that evil festers and thrives in the dead zones where the modern heart beats weakest. Bewildered, I staggered about for the best part of an hour without any indication that it was anything but the most consummate of disguises - or perhaps an elaborate, meaningful joke. As I neared the area I did begin to come across a graffiti motif, a thoughtful looking fellow with long hair, stencilled in spotted silver paint and accompanied with pseudo-spiritual slogans such as GODLOVE. These thickened around Brick Lane itself - could they be the handiwork of a subterranean hipster Maitreya cult? I feared that I was clutching at straws. My expedition was looking hopeless.

Image russell brand

Image pascal

Russell Brand & Pascal (could have been such great friends)

Eventually I stopped for a coffee. As I sipped it outside a café on a grim patch of E1 pavement, a bus serendipitously passed by; although there was no Maitreya visible on the top deck, bent in thoughtful perusal of that day's London Lite, the bus itself boasted the latest theist retort to the Atheist Society's humanist propaganda campaign (discussed in my first post). This one came courtesy of the Russian Orthodox Church: "There is God", it declared, "Don't worry. Enjoy life". The unfortunate resemblance of this message to the preceding Christian response (the peppy little "There definitely is a God - so enjoy your life and join the Christian party") certainly ranks as one of the smaller historical consequences of the Great Schism, but the potential benefits of greater communication were easy to discern. Unless the quintessentially Russian omission of the definite article was intentional - perhaps as an obscure allusion to the Ontological Argument - it would appear that the Eastern Church has fallen into the common trap of putting excessive faith in the appropriately named Babelfish (last year I came upon a Tenerife menu offering English-speaking patrons the delicious delicacy: 'Turkey gizzard and fun spaghetti' - at least I presume this was lost in translation, though perhaps they were just trying to lighten up the turkey gizzard).

Grateful as I am to the Orthodox Church for pitching in - especially as it gives my blog the dizzying flavour of mediocre prophecy - what is it with all this "don't worry" business? What kinds of tipples are served at the seemingly oxymoronic "Christian party"? One need not be Pascal to find the blithe tone somewhat incongruous. In the Twelfth Century an infinitely sterner theological tradition begat a frightening little volume called entitled Hortus Deliciarum, a book that ranks the supposedly benign joys of gardening as a danger to soul only marginally milder than classics like fornication (incidentally, I am currently trying to rehabilitate this underused word, as it could potentially give things a novel ring, 'Fornication and the City', for instance, sounds wonderful). The Atheist Society might like to consider an amusing and unanswerable retaliation to its two opponents by plastering some more buses with the ironical slogan: "There is a hell - now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

The English Religious Renaissance requires a tautening of the soul's bow; not further reckless relaxation. I think that in this age of enduring (if precarious) wealth, only a dose of mediaeval severity is capable of curing the English of their endemic fatuousness, and the concomitant self-disgust that suffocates its possibility of noble or poetic existence. Will my generation really offer history no more than its current dismal little platter of indie bands and graphic designers? If so, then - irregardless of its slight though tantalising possibility of veracity - the purported residence of a demonic avatar in an area currently renowned for its 'creative' hairdressers is a powerful and apt symbol. "It is a monstrous thing to see," writes Pascal, "in the same heart and at the same time, this concern for the most trivial of matters and this lack of concern for the greatest. It is an incomprehensible form of bewitchment and a supernatural torpor which is a proof of an all-powerful force that causes it."

I walked home with my empty hands disconsolately wedged in my pockets, and again passed one of those stencils. I scrutinised it again. Could it be the Maitreya? I tilted my head. It certainly resembled somebody, though perhaps not the man whose photograph accompanied my last post. I looked hard into the thoughtful expression, the piercing eyes, the guru-long hair… Russell Brand. It looked a lot like Russell Brand. Could he in fact be the "rough beast", an anti-Christ propagating peace, vegetarianism and free love? Or the alleged reincarnation of Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna - residing in fashionable East London? It all makes ominous sense…

01-Aug-2010 Thomas McGrath

Good afternoon and thank you for your patience.

It is a corny tale written only with your similes in mind.


El Rey x


The head gaoler sat at the large, shabby, oak desk in the middle of his large shabby plank built office. He sat and he waited for his one and only appointment of the week. A visit from some local military or law type. He wasn't sure which. There were that many scumbags trying to eke a living through mercenary endeavours that he was no longer able to tell the legitimate from the vigilante. Not that he cared anymore. All he wanted was passage home. Away from this infernal never ending desert-island hell where the air was like fire to his skin. This colony of the insane and evil, where madness perched like vultures waiting to infect the walking carrion they called member of the community.

Behind him, the window over looked a thousand miles of nothing, and through its open frame blistering heat seeped into the rancid smelling office to boil the sweat off his withered and sore ridden flesh. His desk lay virtually bare. There was little if anything for him to do in this place. Those who lived there were a law unto themselves. They were a danger only to themselves. The natives rarely visited the area for fear of being brutalised and slaughtered. His job was virtually none existent; his position a farce. He was an object of ridicule. He wanted out and that was it.

In another seven months a ship would arrive with more wretched prisoners for him to free into the killing landscape and he was determined to board that ship and escape the place for ever. He didn't care what lay at the end of his return passage. All he was sure of was that if he stayed in this building much longer would be his grave.

There was a harsh knock at the door. Before he answered it swung open and a blistered scarecrow strode up to the desk and threw something hard onto it.

"Found this," snapped the bloke and thrust out his hand expecting some kind of reward.

The head gaoler inspected the object. A bent piece of timber flattened and smoothed; the inside edge filed and hardened by fire until it had become sharp as a steel blade.

"Where?" he asked.

"One of them funny looking local fellers was carrying it," snapped the bloke.

"He gave it you?" asked the head gaoler.

"No I took it off him," snapped the bloke.

"Where is he?" asked the gaoler.

"He's dead," snapped the bloke.

"What is it?" asked the head gaoler.

"It's a weapon," snapped the bloke. "Some kind of wooded machete. He was swinging around so I shot him."

"Oh dear," said the head gaoler beginning to tire of the man and rapidly becoming sick of his putrid smell. "It looks like a very poor weapon."

"They haven't a clue. They're stupid. Savages the lot of them! We don't like them here," snapped the bloke.

"Quite so," said the head gaoler. "Would you mind opening that window?" He indicated the side window of the office and the man walked over and opened it whilst the head gaoler reached into his drawer and took out a silver coin. He wanted the man out of there fast. Then he would get drunk and maybe walk to the whore hut to bathe. "Here you are sir. Thank you for your citizenship." He held out the coin.

The bloke snatched it and turned to leave. "What about this?" said the head gaoler holding out the piece of bent timber.

"What you want me to do with it?" snapped the bloke

"Dispose of it. It's of no use here," said the head gaoler.

The bloke took the stick and threw out of the window he had opened. He turned to bid farewell and the stick flew in the other window slicing the head gaoler's head clean off at the neck. The head fell onto the table and bounced onto the floor where it rolled through dust until it came to rest at the bloke's feet looking up at him.

"I think we may have we underestimated these savages," said the head gaoler.

01-Mar-2011 Ricardo El Rey
Lancashire Zombie Horror

July 27, 2009


Sorry for the late delivery. I sent this little gem of sicko sensationalism to the tabloids as an experiment a week or two ago. I have heard nothing and as I don't actually read the tabloids I have no idea if they took it seriously or printed their own version regardless.

Blimey... the things you do when you're bored. Hope you enjoy it and take it in the spirit it is intended. Which isn't actually mean.

Thanks for everyone who gets back to me. Enjoy (or maybe not in this case).


El Rey x



At three am on Sunday 5th July 2009 self proclaimed witch doctor, Mr Jon Lee Hoodoo called an ambulance to save a dying teenaged girl outside his terraced house in Kirkham Lancashire hoping to turn the paramedics into zombie sex slaves when they arrived at the scene.

The girl appeared to have been stabbed in the chest. The paramedics used an electric fribrillator in their struggle to resuscitate the girl and at the third shout of 'clear!' the wanna-be-Baron-Samedi swung at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital senior employee, Brad Such with a serrated bread knife. Fortunately the knife snagged on the collar of the paramedics overalls and the voodoo obsessed assailant was brought to his knees by Mr Such's assistant, Donna Blood.

It later transpired that all attempts to revive the still unidentified girl had been futile as police investigating the incident found her heart pickling in a jar of balsamic vinegar on the top shelf of Mr Hoodoo's well stocked pantry. In an ironic twist the Wesham born witchdoctor told police officers he had purchased his top hat at an OXFAM shop in nearby Lytham St.Annes.

Mr Hoodoo had been obsessed with voodoo since he watched the cult movie The Serpent and the Rainbow on video as a child. He had over forty zombie movies, including Night of the Living Dead, Shatter Dead, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead in his collection of horror and crime DVDs. He also had a large collection of pickled reptiles in jars and over two hundred blues and rock and roll CDs. His house was adorned with self painted portraits of Papa Doc, Lux Interior, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Boris Karloff, Aleister Crowley and other icons of the dark side.

Hoodoo claims he found the dead teenaged girl whilst walking his dogs along the railway lines between Kirkham and Poulton Le Fylde and has no idea who she is. He also claims he took her heart out to make sure that his spell didn't misfire and revive her instead of the paramedic. He says he did not make love to the corpse as suggested by investigating pathologists. There was no dog present at the scene. The case continues.

18-Jan-2011 Ricardo El Rey
Cypress Point Becomes Cypress Hill

Good Morning Children,

And here is a creepy little bogus report to get you twitching this bright and lovely morning. If you're already twitching (and I am sure many of you will be) maybe it'll help you stop.


El Rey


It would appear that the Fylde Coast in the North West of England is fast becoming a hotbed for allegedly 'undead' activity as claims flood in from the newly established housing estate known locally as Cyprus Point has become a target of zombies.

Resident of the ironically named new homes project Mr Kenny Biggs said. "We were sat on out decking overlooking the pond and the ducks when we heard a noise beyond the bushes. At first we thought it was a workmen working late who had got stuck in the marshland that forms the foundations of our lovely home. But my wife came out with my tea and said it didn't sound human at all. By the time I'd eaten all my pie and chips the hedge had been breached and this weird thing was crawling through the water on the lawn towards us."

"We went straight inside the locked the patio doors," continued Mrs Biggs. "After an hour we just had to draw the blinds the sight of whatever it and the noise it made was completely spoiling our enjoyment of X factor completely."

The next morning things had become so bad that the couple were forced to phone the local council and complain. They were called back the following Thursday by an unnamed woman saying that everything was in hand and their councillor for the area was dealing with it. However they were warned that since Cyprus Point is a private estate it may take some time and advised them to seek alternative solutions to the problem.

Meanwhile Mr and Mrs Biggs have told local reporters that their life has become a misery.

"We could cope with the ever present fear of sinking into the marsh and the never ending construction work. But this is the limit. Our settled family life has been shattered by the arrival of this undead man. We can no longer garden comfortably even in wellington boots. He has eaten the ducks and the smell is atrocious. Two of our neighbours have got similar problems and it seems that there is just no one available who can actually deal with it."

13-Feb-2011 Ricardo El Rey
Feeling Good and Man Seen On Roof

Good Morning you lovely daft people,

Welcome to another Sunday. It's the last official day of the weather. Once more there are two for you to plough through. One is an official Sunday Story the other is one of my mischievously bogus news stories, which has been sent to the British press. I also sent it to the New York Times, LA Times and Chicago Tribune. Please forward it to press offices the world over with impish relish.

May your bank holiday weekend continue in full swing. And remember boys and girls happiness is the only sensible drug of choice.

So long suckers,


El Rey x


Shaun didn't have any idea how old he was. He didn't know if he was really old and he didn't know if he was young. Nor did he care. He was alive and that was bad or good enough. It really didn't matter. He was here… or there. Life meant nothing at all to him.

It wasn't that Shaun wished he was dead. He really had no concept of what that might mean and never thought about it. He was just Shaun.

Shaun lived alone. He had no parents to speak of and no family who knew of him. His friends were all made up or were part of a past that he had lost somewhere along the line. Shaun had no idea how long that line was or even where it was drawn or, indeed, if he had ever had parents or friends or family.

Shaun never felt unhealthy. He was never hungry or thirsty either. He wanted for nothing and had never, ever known what he wanted. In spite of living alone he never felt lonely or unhappy. But then again he'd never ever been happy either. This was his life and he just didn't get it.

But in the summer when the sun rose early and the air was still cool and he was woken by  golden rays of light hitting his fur he ran like crazy round and round his cage and rolled on his back in the warm fresh straw and it felt good.


There have been numerous reports of a bearded man (or bearded men) seen sitting astride the ridge tiles of various detached houses throughout the Fylde Coast area of the United Kingdom. The man (or men) is (or are) usually described as being barefooted, dressed in a long green or grey cloak, around six feet tall, wearing a hood and sporting a long grey or black beard. Some reports state that the beard has plaits and what appear to be ribbons or holly leaves tied into it.

The man (or men) has also been reported as being quite friendly and, in some cases, has actually shouted to passers by with cordial greetings. There are also reports of the man (or men) holding what appears to be a sack of some kind.

Fylde Coast police have been unable to confirm the validity of any of the sightings so far, although they have confirmed an investigation is underway and all the reports are being taken seriously.

In unrelated news a spokesman for Coca Cola UK has said that the company’s brand promotion for the winter holiday season 2009 will not begin until late October due to the massive backlash from parents the world over complaining that Christmas has been coming increasingly too early.

Watch this space.

20-Feb-2011 Ricardo El Rey
Frankenstein and The Flood

Happy All Hallows Day,

And to the the bona fide saints amongst you congratulations on rmaking it through another year of immortal notoriety.

I have beed working on a two sunday Stories this week but neither are ready. And will all due respect I would not dream send of sending you lot stuff that I consider to be sub standard. Therefore I have attached a childrens poem I wrote about 18 months ago. In keeping with the spirit of Halloween (thee most important festival of the year) it is a classic horror story. I have been told by parents who have read it that it is too scary for kids. But what the hell do parents know? I've also attahed a poem that I recorded as part of a song with Razor Dog. It's suitably irreverent.

Thanks to everyone who attended my Spooktastic gathering last night. To quote the immortal words of Donald Shoenstien aka 'Boon' it was 'Unbelievable. A new low. I'm so ashamed.'

So Tally Ho me pals and palesses

"Be afraid. Be very afraid" (Veronica 'Ronnie' Quiafe.1986)


El Rey x


Few people know the awful truth

That lies within the east wing walls

The home of Baron Frankenstein

The maddest scientist of them all

Where for a dozen years or more

He's never left the mighty tower

In which he's built a huge machine

To harness lightening' fearsome power

Where on a marble slab is strapped

A grim genetic work of art

A human creature cold and still

Made from stolen body parts

For weeks the Baron studies clouds

As he awaits the perfect storm

The force that will fulfil his dreams

And make the creature's grey flesh warm

He's no idea the grave-robber

Did not sell him a normal brain

Instead he took it from the head

Of a murderer who was insane

At midnight as the thunder cracks

And lightening strikes the metal rod

The Baron sees the creature blink

And thinks that he's becoming god

A second bolt of lightening strikes

It overloads the huge device

The creature screams and breaks the straps

As flames dance in it's frightened eyes

With open arms Frankenstein speaks

'Come to me, my first born child'

The creature rushes to the Baron

The fear of fire has made it wild

'Be calm my son' the Baron says

And holds the creature close to him

'Bad father' growls the hideous thing

And rips the Baron limb from limb

And through the night the fire it raged

And by first light the worst was done

They found the Baron's bones that day

As for the creature it was gone!


Was on a stormy summer's dawn

They tied me to my shed

They dragged my old dog outside

And they shot him in the head

And pretty soon the crows had come

To pick his leathered flesh

But still I didn't shed a tear

And nor did I confess

At dusk they tired of beating me

And left me there to die

I lay down in the blood and dirt

And wished that I could cry

I didn't move for seven days

I didn't scream nor curse

Cause everything was dead to me

And life had done its worst

I crawled towards the rotting hound

And chased away the crows

I tore a hole into his side

And reached between his bones

Ripped out his heart and there and then

I ate the rancid meat

And struck by some unholy force

Was lifted to my feet

Although I'd never killed a bird

And rarely had transgressed

The thirst for retribution

Came and put me to the test

And though I struggled with my soul

I found no peace of mind

To hell with those that done me wrong

To hell with all mankind

The rain began at noon that day

And washed away my dog

By evening all the countryside

Was nothing but a bog

The rivers burst their muddy banks

As lightening fought the dark

And livestock died where once it grazed

No time to build an ark

I climbed up on my shed roof

With some whisky and a gun

And stared with eyes of wonder

At the damage I had done

By midnight I was set adrift

And floated t'wards the town

I heard the screams from miles away

I guess they hadn't drowned

The sea wall had been breached

So now everything was one

The sharks arrived before first light

The smell of blood was strong

And as the screaming died away

The rain began to cease

And as the morning sun rose

I was filled with righteous peace

The water it was all but gone

As quickly as it came

I sat there drained of anything

Too tired to take the blame

I finished off the whisky

And I thanked the lord for rain

Then put the gun into my mouth

And blew apart my brain

Now vengeance is an ugly thing

Too beautiful to see

And evil has a heart of gold

And gives it up for free

But if you cross that line my friend

You'll have to pay the fee

Cause sure as hell your heading down

To sit here next to me.

17-Apr-2011 Ricardo El Rey
Fear & Trembling #4

"We don't yet know if there's a God - and you want to eat!"

An episodic examination of the modern soul by THOMAS McGRATH who spent two months in 2009 looking for it.

Image fear & trembling lion

[This interview took place in 2009]

ON TUESDAY I interviewed Iain Sinclair, Hackney's resident White Wizard. I was, to say the least, somewhat nervous about it. After all, this is a writer whose London Orbital is adorned with a quotation from the late JG Ballard, in which the seer of Shepperton asserts that Sinclair's book (a fabulous document of his counterclockwise hike around the M25), will "still be read in fifty years time"! That's fifty years of Ballard time - a pretty rough passage, you feel, for the internet, let alone English prose. London Orbital thoroughly deserved the voluminous praise heaped upon it, a work in which Sinclair shook reality so hard that it alchemically transformed itself into fantastical fiction, revealing a territory both proximate and alien, and delivered in exhilarating prose that frequently attains the preternatural shimmer of truly great writing. This Saturday, at London festival Occulture, Sinclair will be introducing the accompanying film with which he documented that inspired expedition, and I seized the opportunity to meet him.

My introductory email would be my first notable obstacle to achieving that end, however. Almost every word (including some of the commonest little monosyllables) found itself cut, pasted and plunged into an online dictionary; distinguishing between there, their and they're unveiled itself as a Derridean riddle: my English had become a panic tongue, a fourth language hastily acquired by the tourist-victim of a Mexican miscarriage of justice. Eventually, the bland little missive was ready, and I dispatched it with a tentative tap (or spasm) of the mouse. Within seconds a response was embedded in my own inbox - Sinclair breezily accepting my agonised invitation to lunch. Beneath his reply was the initial invite, which I fruitlessly checked over one last time. It began: "Dear Ian" (sic).  I clamped a knuckle between my teeth and prepared for the worst…

I met Iain at a Turkish café in his adopted Hackney, the London borough in which he has lived for over four decades but only recently colonised in prose with the latest contribution to his weighty oeuvre, the surprisingly voluptuous Hackney, that Rose Red Empire. His imminent appearance at Occulture gave me the wonderful excuse to ask him all about his association with esotericism and the occult; along with authors like Yeats and Burroughs, Sinclair is part of a tradition of celebrated modern writers for whom the supernatural is a fact (albeit a complicated one). It was interesting to learn that, as with both Yeats and Burroughs, Sinclair also identifies childhood experiences as responsible for demarcating a reality broader than the narrow box most inherit.

In person, Sinclair, like his prose, exudes benevolent mischief, little resembling the languid intellectual captured in footage and photograph. He spoke about topics ranging from the occult to the Olympics, and even addressed (with pleasing spontaneity) some of issues touched upon in this very blog.

Image iain sinclair
Iain Sinclair

(ME) JG Ballard appears in the film and book of London Orbital. He was a very vocal exponent of your work, and I was wondering what he made of the esoteric motifs that run through it…

(SINCLAIR): I imagine he ignored them. His take on the world was his take on the world and other people's worlds were interesting in as much as they were kind of refractions of things he was interested in himself. He certainly responded to the whole notion of the landscape of the edge lands of London as revealed in the film because that was exactly his whole territory - although this was coming from a very different angle. And the madness of my walking through it, which is something he would never have contemplated, interested him because one of his great themes was the obsessive and satanic nature of Moby Dick. Moby Dick was one of his great markers. That book, and this sort of Ahab- like tramping around this orbital landscape, was really appealing to him, so it was sort of like a combination of Moby Dick and Ballard.

How do you think he interpreted obsession, from a Freudian perspective?

Yes I think largely he did. His whole work in a sense was about psychosis. It was about early fractures in his own life, the  breakdown he saw of the English version of colonialism that he'd grown up in, and then the England he arrived back in, which he always said was like coming from a colour movie and into a black and white newsreel, and feeling estranged from it and having to come up with devices that could energise a world of boredom and greyness. And the subversive strategies he adopted were obviously incredibly effective

Do you think he would have interpreted your esoteric motifs as examples of 'subversive strategies'?

I think he read me with a sense of difference, along with a sense of its parallel, sympathetic nature to what he was doing himself. He didn't want to engage with the inner city at all. He didn't like the inner city, didn't like the old buildings, he didn't want to be part of that. So someone doing that was interesting as a sort of alien species. And the way I wrote was so different to the way he wrote, that stripped forensic style, that again he was interested in it for its difference. But then when we got to know each other best I would sort of move into his territory and discuss things within his sphere of interest.

Did you ever try to discuss things from your own territory?

No. I mean I found him strangely like a version of Sir Les Patterson; very, very genial, very civilised, very friendly and generous in all his dealings. In a sense you felt he was like a being from another time or another world. I was just very happy to listen to him and gather up little fragments from his memory banks.

I was curious, because another writer he was very interested in was William Burroughs, with whom he must also have been confronted by many beliefs he would have had to completely 'ignore'.

I think Michael Moorcock introduced him to Burroughs very early on. He saw Burroughs very much as a kind of version of what he did himself. But they couldn't really get on in personal terms because they were both so strange. His writing was much closer to the way Burroughs writes than to the way I write. When I first knew his work I felt him very much to be a sort of English Burroughs, in that he was dealing with a kind of deep-in-the-bone satire and misogyny and darkness, but then as time went on I think he moved away from that and they became quite separate. But they both had that stoic humour; they both trained as doctors and gave up on it. Ballard by the end was sort of making his own mental prognosis of a culture - and Burroughs had become this Zen outlaw figure, stepped away from the word and into image, dream and ritual practise.

You met Burroughs, did you find him as taciturn as he was purported to be?

Well I  had dealings with him from very early on, and corresponded with him  when I was a teenager, then published him in Ireland, and was going to do a film with him, so I knew him a bit in that period. But then he went into Scientology and I lost touch with him. I didn't meet him again until he was pretty old and living in Kansas, and by that time he was totally detached, we didn't have a conversation where I felt he was present at all. It was fascinating to see him, to be with him, but he wasn't there. But Ballard was there and was somebody you could have a friendly relationship with in a way you never could with Burroughs. If you fell within his circle of disciples you could have a kind of relationship of power with Burroughs, but otherwise not. Whereas a lot of people had good friendly relations with Ballard as long as it was on his terms.

You mentioned Burroughs going over to Scientology. What did you make of that?

I though it was an interesting process for him, and provoked metaphor for lots of stuff in his writing. For me it was completely deranged and extreme, but I could see why he'd want to do it, and I had a lot of sympathy with him going there, even though it was completely inconvenient because we were trying to start a film at that point and he just completely lost interest.

Scientology's very interesting. This pseudo-scientific mask covering an esoteric system…

Yes with L Ron Hubbard as this sort of science fiction writer, super-galactic conman character with the boat and the slaves and this notion of the occult. The cult aspect of the occult.

Do you see the connection between demagoguery and magic as intrinsic?

I think it is, from my experience of the nature of the practitioners. Apart from, say, someone like Alan Moore, who is not at all a demagogue, but is a pretty full-blown magical practitioner, and that's one of the most important elements of his work. I just got yesterday morning The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this comic he's doing, in which a fictional character, an alter-ego of mine called Norton, appears, drawn to look like me - or sort of a mad Nazi dentist or something - spouting this occult loaded madness in a comic strip! Like a parody of aspects of my writing. But Alan's engagement with magic doesn't seem to be in any way about personal power. In a sense it's more to do with some deep engagement with Northampton.

That's the distinction between white and black magic, the former you don't practise for the sake of personal gain…

Well Alan Moore sounds quite dark, to do with summoning particular demons and entities, but it can also seem really quite white in its nature, to do with natural forces and place and the nature of place; it's not to do with making magical entities work for him in other worlds.

Did you become interested in the occult through the Beats?

Well, occult is such a blanket term, it has aspects I was interested in through my family in Wales:  my mother's side of the family were very interested in things that sound almost shamanic or magical you know, in terms of superstitions and the sense of the dead being ever-present and all those things, and rituals to do with horses' heads being dug up. All of that stuff was very familiar, all of that theatrical canopy was part of my childhood, so it seemed a natural thing rather than anything else. But this is to do with white magic, earth magic, and the druidic aspect, all of that stuff. And then looking into London and what was the nature and cultural make-up of London and its mythology you inevitably move into those areas, in terms of the nineteenth century of the Golden Dawn, Crowley… (recording indecipherable)

Then in the 60s and 70s, around that era, combined with a lot of the stuff that came out of the counterculture, earth magic and Carlos Castaneda, you know a lot of that was floating about. And then the whole thing cycles round to come back in a very different form in the aspect of politics. I began to see Thatcherite politics as a kind of black magic. But this is a metaphor as much as anything. I don't mean she actually sat around looking at a skull, although metaphorically she did, and then I think it became a battle in that sense, a battle for the city, for the soul of the city.

Do you see politics broadly as an esoteric realm?

No I see it as a profound unreality and one that's falling apart in front of our eyes. A projection that had no basis in reality, it was a mind game that involved a lot of symbols and mind control in terms of advertising and brain washing; all kinds of techniques that were essentially occult were used. But it fell apart - it wasn't real, it wasn't genuine, it wasn't about anything, there was no content. And it's quite interesting how it just dissolved and disintegrated in front of our eyes. The other thing is that a lot of the magical practises we're talking about are covert, esoteric, secret. You don't necessarily have to know these aspects in Yeats or something, but there it is, he's doing it and it only emerges later that it's the source of his poetry. Whereas in the political world it has to be totally visible, in theory, so there's a real schizophrenic bite there. They are calculating ways to hypnotise the masses, and at the same time they have to appear to not be doing any of the things that they are doing.

What do you make of the recent popularity of books regarding atheism and this whole debate?

Yeah, the adverts on the busses about God and all that; I thought, 'why are you fighting this campaign in this particular forum'. It's like a version of reality TV, it seems an argument in the wrong place. And then the other aspect are these enormously successful things like Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, and all of this which are a Xerox of the real material, so far down the line from their sources that they become massively successful. That's the process in the world where you copy something, and copy it again, and copy it again and it loses its bite, but achieves a kind of formulaic, simple-minded version which appeals massively. People are interested in the underlying things, but they're getting them through the pre-chewed, pre-masticated form. And it works gigantically, you look at any of these massively successful things and then you go back always four steps to get to something where it's originally from.

But the success of all these books - The God Delusion, The Da Vinci Code - reflects people's underlying interest in these topics….

Yeah. It's clearly a deep thirst for an advance into new territory. But it comes from study and practise and a lot of other things which are done by yourself. You can't sort of dip into some easy guide and have it all done for you.

Did the composition of your last book entwine you more with Hackney or did you finally extricate yourself from the area?

In the short term it entwined me much more, because I got very much drawn into taking part in all the stuff that's going on here. Four nights a week, solidly, from February to now, I've just been doing stuff locally. Dozens and dozens of people have come with the projects they're doing and wanted me to see them or contribute to them. So in a sense it ultimately involved me more in the area. But in other senses I feel I would now like to disappear into the landscape and keep well clear of it.

But you can't now…

I mean, we're not going to win. Whatever it is I'm writing about will be comprehensively wiped out by what's happening. The whole of Dalston Lane is going to disappear into this kind of Barratt monolith, and around Morning Lane around Ridley Road. So I think people will become much more fragmented, and the lines of energy which I talk a lot about will be broken up. I think the whole psychology of Dalston is going to become much more neurotic, nervous and dangerous.

I live there…

Good! Good! That makes it interesting.

Do you think the Olympic Committee is it a malevolent force?

I think so.  Big time. I think they were so mendacious that a level of malignancy has been embedded into the system. In the same way that now the whole kind of nonsense with the MPs and their swine-like behaviour that's supposedly minor- 'it's all within the body of the law' blah blah blah - but unveils a system of double standards, greed, madness …and with the Olympics it's is the same thing but on a vast, vast scale. And at a time of financial meltdown it's economic insanity for a kind of folly of a project that involves huge expulsion of so much which is of value, and the destruction of the whole kind of environment, to present something that is totally unreal and only for a very short space of time. And all that's left behind is what? A sort of monstrous shopping mall, like Westfield in Shepherd's Bush.

Have you taken much interest in the aftermath of the Beijing Olympics?

Yeah I have. I haven't been there but I've talked to a few Chinese people. It's moderately grim and in places like Athens it's very grim, a total disaster. They've got these huge stadiums totally unused and just rotting, rotting away. They can't afford to keep them up and there's no use for them. They're going to be paying them off for the next fifty years, and the break up in Greek society, with young people taking to the streets and feeling really, really disaffected, is all  very much to do with what happened with the Olympics, and all the debts that have been incurred to push through with this grand project that only revealed this moral bankruptcy and left  this catalogue of ruins. The only way it works is if you incorporate the games into structures that are already there, which can be done and to some extent if they had gone to France that would have happened.

Where does the motivation come from?

That's interesting. It's in part the hubristic sense that you still have it, you're the equal of China, you're still a player in the majors, when in fact you're not - you're a kind of offshore airstrip for the Americans. Politicians love these ceremonies, if you go back to Berlin in 1936 - that's really what it's about, the occult business of carrying the Olympic torch. You want something occult that's it, that's a kind of major public occult ceremony.

I liked your description of Thatcher's immediate deterioration upon leaving office as indicating that she had been sort of unhooked from some black magical power source…

We created her as much as she was psychically tapping on our  bad will. All the bad will around was focussed on her, a sort of Metropolis robot creation, the ugliest thoughts and aspirations of the whole country, which gave her that dynamic and insane energy. And as you say, when she's unhooked she kind of crumbles away like an old mummy.

What do you make of Blair's recent bouncing good health, he seems very well?

He looks like a vampire; he was always a freakish, cartoon creation that was always grinning and bouncing, but again with zero content. Then he buys into the Catholic Church, he's like a Dan Brown character.

And what would be his esoteric archetype?

I'm not sure which one, but he definitely is from that territory. Much less powerful than Thatcher, but maybe he was just in the spirit of his own times. He's a chip, a kind of virtual fragment; he doesn't really exist at all, there's so little there. And he also had the sense to get off screen before it all really hit the fan, leaving this sort of lumbering, material creature - Brown - to pick up the flack for him.

It looks now a bit as if Blair was some sort of protective shield around the government, and in his sudden absence they're completely exposed.

Well he does confirm this idea that politics is a totally occult practise. You jumble all the elements together, create this shining, sort of hermaphroditic figure who just carries it all and then you remove him and everything's wiped out and you start again. All these other figures like Cameron and Clegg are just clones of Blair, they're the same thing, but it doesn't quite work yet because they've got almost too much content. But [Blair] began to look quite ill towards the end...

I thought that Iain might be interested in the Maitreya saga I discussed in my second and third posts. After the interview was over I switched off the recorder and (with a flick of the nose and my best off the record voice) began to tell him about Share International, Benjamin Crème and the Brick Lane messiah. By the time I was finished the mild curiosity in his eyes was completely extinguished; it was as if I'd just 'broken the news' that Princess Dianna was dead.

"Yes, I've written about that story," he explained.

"Oh. Where?"

"I think it was in White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings."

"Ah. I haven't read that one. And you know that he supposedly lives  in Brick Lane?"

"Yes of course - the entire book's about the area."

Naturally! So I recommend readers interested in further information and analysis of the Maitreya phenomenon look to the aforementioned title.

Sinclair disappeared with the same speed with which he arrived, departing with such haste that I forgot to ask him to scribble in some of the titles I had crammed into my rucksack, which then may as well have been full of bricks so far as my walk home was concerned - my stroll back to the 'neurotic, nervous and dangerous' (if impeccably fashionable) Dalston.  

23-May-2011 Thomas McGrath

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