The Terrible Secret of Bluewater

IMAG0278

It’s a lovely day, and we’re off to Bluewater Shopping Centre to celebrate my wife’s forthcoming birthday. We pop into the Disney store, Boots, Paperchase, Starbucks (Coffee Republic was full) and even Waterstones (just to check that my books were prominently displayed).

Then it happens.

I’m on my way to the toilets when I spot this door:

IMAG0280

It’s an oddly angular, misshapen little portal…and it could lead anywhere. What’s more, I can hear strange noises behind it: a sort of distant, offbeat chanting, in fact. A few shops on, I spot another strange door from which the same distorted tunes are rising. The new door looks like this:

IMAG0273

Sure, it has a ‘Wet Riser’ warning over the top of it, but – let’s not beat around the bush – only a goblin could access such an arcane hatchway. Unless David Bowie needs direct access to the place for the next time his cohorts snatch a snotling, I very much doubt this is a useful or even useable portal. It’s neither an exit nor an entrance….but that odd chanting is definitely behind it, accompanied by a few tortured screams and one or two loud shouts. “Another fifty! Another FIFTY!”

What is going on?

It’s only when I’m passing a beautiful but hugely overpriced painting in the window of Blah Blah Portesque Smythe Whatever & Bros that I begin to understand what’s happening: Bluewater makes £2,400 every second because it needs to.

No, really.

If I dare to open one of those tiny doors, I will find a long and dark staircase that leads down, down, down….

…to the Secret of Bluewater.

Far beneath the shopping centre are the workers you don’t see: ten or twenty men and women paid slightly more than anyone else in the complex because their job is so very, very dangerous.

That job is to shovel cash and credit card receipts – piles and piles of accumulated turnover – into the giant, tooth-filled MAW that has opened up in the mouth of the dark god Gluttony. This enormous mouth, which – if opened fully – could rise up to swallow the entire shopping centre, needs to digest at least £130,000 every minute. It eats and eats and eats and eats….

745661-65663772-176a-11e4-85ab-b94874755dbc-2

…and the hunger never goes away. While you’re in bed at night, fast asleep and enjoying the gifts that three quarters of your monthly wages have bought you that day at the perfume stands, coffee shops, clothes boutiques, computer outfitters, toy bizarres and deluxe eateries, these poor stokers are hard at work filling the thing up so that the next shift runners can take over and they can finally hand back their flat-headed shovels and get home to their families.

So keep buying.

You have to.

Spend your wages.

Spend it all.

For underneath the valley…..

…the Secret of Bluewater waits for the day when there isn’t quite enough turnover to bankroll a small city.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

Is 2000AD Worth Buying?

Is 2000AD actually any good? Have you ever picked up a copy? Were you once an avid reader, like me? If so, is it worth going back? Well, from my point of view, yes and no. I guess if I’m pushed on this point, I’d turn in more of a yes than a no vote, but then I’m always contradicting myself….so what’s my word really worth, when it comes down to it?

Enough guff. Let’s take a look at the latest issue:

Striking cover by Greg Staples

Striking cover by Greg Staples

JUDGE DREDD: BLOCK WAR
This is a good start to what promises at least to be a mild amusing if not full blown epic Dredd story, set in the grim environs of * Heights. Following the death of the outgoing Block Judge, Dredd and two relatively new cohorts (Corrigan & Beeny) are assigned the duty of caretakers/law-enforcers for the building. Housed in a poky little control room with crime report calls buzzing in every few seconds from the 60,000 inhabitants of this towering hive, Block Judge gets off to a rip-roaring start as Dredd dives straight into his duties with all the usual gusto and grim enthusiasm.

IMAG0260

STICKLEBACK
I didn’t really take to this one. The art was beguiling and spooky enough, but I’m not sure the brief text outline at the beginning of the issue quite managed to bring new readers up to date with the flow of what has gone before. Stickleback was a criminal at the end of nineteenth century London, one who was notorious for dabbling in a sort of circus-like version of the occult underworld that existed at that time. Resurrected by unseen forces for mysterious purposes, he emerges into a Jack the Ripper type scenario with a flock of ready made enemies to face down before he can establish who is he going to be working for, and why.

IMAG0259

KINGDOM
There’s a great use of language in this Mad Max meets Fallout style romp set in the wilds of a far future ‘Auxtralia’. The protagonist here, a genetically engineered dog-soldier called Gene the Hackman (I kid you not), is immensely likeable, leading his gang of outback freaks with an apparent intelligence somewhere between a plate of cornflakes and Conan the barbarian. Still, if you like your heroes full of vigour and primitive determination and your enemies akin to those disgustingly insectoid killing machines in Starship Troopers, then you’re in for a treat. His quest? To find Them, the masters that have steered the group’s collective urgings to wage a constant war against the multitudinous enemy.

OVERALL
I’m just not sure. I still don’t feel that there’s quite enough here to justify the price tag of £2.45 per week. Yes, I know it’s less than a small mocha at Costa and I’m certainly not saying that the product isn’t worth the payout: I just feel that if I was to stick with 2000AD in the coming weeks that it would be purely down to a desire to follow the new Dredd storyline, and not from any particular hope that the new stories would eventually hook me in. I’ve dipped a toe into the comic quite a bit over the years, and I’m always disappointed that there isn’t at least one classic fantasy script every now and then, or even an overt horror without the cosmic borderland surrounding it. I know: I’m really difficult to please. Still, if you like comics, you could do a lot worse than 2000AD…and, in the UK, least….you certainly couldn’t do any better.

In the video below, I explain a bit about why I stopped reading and spew out some of my initial thoughts on the new issue:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/107300836″>Bloke Called Dave on 2000AD</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/blokecalleddave”>Davey Stone</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Minimum Wageslave

david-age19

Yes, I know it’s a terrible sofa. Don’t worry, though: it wasn’t paid for. We owed a fortune on it.

During the mid nineties, I worked at a Thanet estate agent that was so tiny that a man once wandered in, glanced around him and asked where he could find the button for the first floor. He thought my office was a lift. I’m not sure what kind of demented ar*ehole sets up a desk workspace inside a lift, but I was laughing so much that I didn’t give the situation much thought.

He was right.

It was tiny.

Tiny, and desperately crap to work in.

The company was joined to an insurance brokerage and a financial consultancy upstairs, and it was run variously by a con artist who vanished with half the money before the estate agent actually opened, a slimy middle-aged lizard of a man who was patiently and desperately pursuing his mega-breasted blonde secretary, a lad about town insurance broker who doubled up at the weekends as a rave organiser for coach loads of horny teenagers and wannabe DJs….and my mum.

My poor mum.

She worked two jobs in the end to keep the agency going, quickly changing from her smart business suit into a home care assistant outfit to drop in on elderly patients for a care home. I think a lot of people thought she was a prostitute specialising in role-play fantasies.

Then there was me.

I hated the company, and I pretty much despised the management (although the rave guy was okay, most of the time).

To make matters worse, the building’s owner was an octogenarian crystal collector who conjured up the impression that Skeletor from the He-Man cartoon might once have had sex with a tortoise and that this man was a direct result of that intercourse.

Words almost cannot describe how this guy crept around the building, startling and terrifying people by appearing practically from nowhere and taking almost an entire minute to get out the word ‘Hello’. His office was a tiny cubicle – marginally smaller even than mine – in the basement covered by a curtain that would regularly whip aside when you thought he was out for the day before beginning his treacle-slow walk to the bottom of the stairs. If you were ever caught behind him at the bottom of a flight, you would simply give up and read a book until he got halfway up.

If the job wasn’t pants enough, the money tipped it over the edge into comedy.

I earned £72 per week, about £5 more than my mum took home after all the bills had been settled.

We had a car that broke down so many times that I once actually left it at a set of traffic lights and just walked away.

I had thoughts like “Should I have a bath this week, or get a new toothbrush?” This explains why people thought I was a chronic smoker when I arrived at Blockbuster Video some years later: my teeth were practically yellow.

There were some bonuses to working there. I would occasionally get to cause rich people no end of distress by pretending I couldn’t find their file on completion day, or by suggesting there might have been a terrible mistake and that we had accidentally exchanged contracts on the wrong property…..

….but these were slim pickings.

I tell you, if it wasn’t for that £1.50 per minute soap update hotline, I would have got no pleasure from the job whatsoever.

You see, when you’re working for horrible b*stards, it’s the little victories that count.

The Voodoo Priest of Kent?

Some things could only happen round here….

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/106939940″>VIDEO0038</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/blokecalleddave”>Davey Stone</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

B*tchfingers

I’m at Costa, taking selfies (see below) and leafing through pictures of the wonderful cork my friends Sarah and Chris bought me for my last birthday (go to the end of the article to see this disgusting, but epic, piece of wine-stopping merchandise) when Scott arrives.

Let me tell you about Scott.

Selfie...at the Costa Westwood Drive Thru (best coffee house in Thanet)

Selfie…at the Costa Westwood Drive Thru (best coffee house in Thanet). Occasionally, the sun shines onto my face and I feel all ‘Bejesus’ in that half-Irish way I have.

Scott always has interesting stuff for me to look at. He’s the one who originally found me the dude who marries his own toy dolls, and he only ever calls me to have a coffee with him when he either a) has something for the blog or b) needs a favour.

Fortunately for me, on this occasion it’s the former.

I look down at the letter. It’s written in meticulous handwriting without any punctuation, and it reads:

Dear Margaret

I dont want to panic you or cause any alarm but I saw two men going in and out of your house yesterday and Joan seemed to think you were at work just trying to be a good neighbour I can give the police a description if you need one.

Elsie

When I finish reading the letter, I look up at Scott, who is apparently waiting for some sort of reaction from me. When I just shrug, he passes me another letter. This one reads:

Dear Miss Jessop

I hate being a gossip but I saw something yesterday and a few of the neighbours seem to think I have a responsibility to tell you about it Im afraid its your neighbour on the left side Mr Coombs who has been pulling up your rosebushes I think the dear man must be very unhappy in himself to do such terrible things as he looked very cross and frustrated with himself as he threw them up and down your front garden he even hurt his leg

Elsie

When I look up this time, Scott has his arms folded. Before I can ask him anything, he immediately thrusts a third letter into my hand. This one is a bit mottled, and tattered at the edges. It reads:

Dear Edith

Nobody blames you for what keeps happening at 43 but as your friends and neighbours we have a duty and a responsibility to warn you that people are watching if his wife finds out youll be tossed to the curb like so many others before you hes nothing but a rat b*stard.

Elsie

(Note: I blocked out the swearing – Elsie didn’t)

“Okay,” I say, folding my arms. “I admit they’re getting worse. Who is she?”

Scott grins. “We found these in the attic of that place we cleared out over Canterbury way. A young couple lived there, left the place in a hell of a state: she must have lived there just before, or maybe even a long time ago. It can’t have been that long ago, though: the paper on some of these looks newer.”

“But she obviously never sent them! She wouldn’t have letters like this herself if she’d given them to people!”

“They’ve all got mistakes and crossings out on them, Dave! Look!”

He’s right: every letter has some sort of scribble or blot out mark on it, and notes in the margin lines that are scribbled in such tiny writing that even I can’t read it. They look like proofs, not finished copies.

He hands me a fourth letter. This one reads:

Bradley

Dont you worry about him youre a good boy and he’s a no talent little s*it even his mother spits on the ground every time he walks past its a small wonder hes not in prison considering the fact that we all know he burned down the off licence a few drops of poison in his beer might give him something to think about

Elsie

Now I’m paying attention, because she’s advocating the poisoning of someone she knows, a fact that immediately moves her from an interfering old gossip to a fully qualified Bitchfingers.

I ask for Scott to pass me the rest of the letters, and – boy – do they ever get worse. Most of them are spiteful, a few are funny….but towards the end, the name ‘Elsie’ disappears: she seems to become anonymous to the victims, and her letters just get straight-out offensive:

Jenny

Theyre talking about you and none of its good a grandmother at your age you must be disgusted

Philippa

the flower shop doesnt serve you anymore because nobody can wash the stink of Roger off your back

Daph

Lost your job again dont worry love you can’t be shit at everything theres always a toilet to clean in my house

Wendy

every time a tile slides off your roof i cant stop laughing the next time a storm comes you might as well just go out in the garden and lie there on the ground in the mud on your back like the filthy cow you were when you were younger

I’m actually taken aback by the sheer power of the hatred that this woman managed to conjure in her writing. She obviously wasn’t particularly gifted with words, but she certainly had her own brand of flare that just brought stark, horrible life to everything she wrote. It’s a shame she didn’t turn her hand to fiction, as she might have made a lot of money with that strength of passion. Who knows: maybe she did.

When I look up again, Scott is staring at me expectantly.

“Is there a blog for you there?”

I shrug. “Maybe. I guess so. It’s pretty grim stuff, though…”

“Life is grim, mate.”

“Yeah.”

Scott heads over to the counter to get another latte, and I look out the window of Costa, wondering what’s wrong with the world and trying to ponder why it is that people get so twisted up inside. Then my eyes stumble across another letter at the bottom of the pile, and I can’t help picking it up.

Dear Elizabeth

what a beautiful cake that was you so deserved to win and it couldnt have happened to a nicer person can we go out for tea again on Friday I so enjoyed spending the day with you in Whitstable love and happiness to you and your family now and always

Elsie

My gaze trails to the bottom of the page, where she’s written – in tiny writing – the words: ‘Ugly B*tch.’

I burst out laughing.

I just can’t help it.

That poor, poor woman.

I wonder what could have happened to make her so mean: I’m sure she was happy, once.

On a lighter note, here’s a couple of pictures of that cork I told you about:

Top Down (I call him Barry)

Top Down (I call him Barry)

Barry again....in full stride.

Barry again….in full stride.

Dental Wonderland

Evie....who thinks she's in the Caribbean.

Evie….who thinks she’s in the Caribbean.

Tiny kids have no idea what’s going on at the dentist. No, really: I mean it. We took Evie recently, and she walked around the entire situation as if she was under the impression that it was some sort of fun day at the madhouse.

Think about it….

You arrive in a very clinical and sterile office environment where a rather stern lady takes down some details at a desk. Then, it’s into the playroom: lots of toys, doll houses, plastic tea-sets and building blocks. It’s also a room full of worried looking adults, who keep disappearing through a door in the corner with worried expressions before a crazy buzzing sound goes off for a long time. Eventually, the same adults emerge, most of them looking even more upset than they did when they went in. However, when it’s your turn, you just go into a room with a big screen on the ceiling where you get a pair of cool shades to wear before a strangely grinning man wobbles your mouth about with a metal chopstick and gives you a badge.

For all that, you usually end up getting a treat.

Then, when you’re still young but hovering around the middle of Key Stage 2, suddenly all the badges, the toys, the shades and the crazy adventures disappear….

…and you’re left in a room with all those worried people.

Except, now you’re one of them.

We really should try to prepare little kids for the realities of the dentist, or maybe we shouldn’t? Maybe the whole point of life is to protect them from the stuff many of us find frightening until they absolutely have to experience it for what it is.

What do you think?

Looking back, I loved the oblivious joy of knowing practically nothing about anything: many of my friends would say that I enjoy the same level of ignorance today.

Either way, Evie loves the dentist. She wants a Frozen badge on the next visit, because it’s not enough to listen to that song on constant repeat during the twenty minute car journey: she has to listen to it constantly, and then sing it again while we walk from the car to the building.

It strikes me as totally ironic that ‘Let It Go’ is the one song that kids simply cannot, well, let go of.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject…..don’t try to get on of those authentic Elsa Disney Animator dolls. Just don’t. They’re gone. The last one left Euro Disney the day we arrived, and all of the others are knock-offs. I’m serious: there’s a sweat shop somewhere in Asia pumping out almost identical plastic dollies with a slight nose-cone and a mole on the right cheek.

The world’s out to get you.

Remember where you heard it.

 

Not One For Cat Lovers….

Not One For Cat Lovers

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/106922101″>Bloke Called Dave – Not For Cat Lovers</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/blokecalleddave”>Davey Stone</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>