Hacked By NeT.Defacer ~Kurdish Hackers~Aton mebel
…licked his lips, and wagged his tail Was overjoyed he should prevail Such favour to obtain.
Among the rest he went to play, Was put into the wheel next day, He turned and ate as well as they, And never speeched again.According to the Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus, dogs were often rewarded for their work with ‘a taste of the steak’, but a taste clearly wasn’t sufficient given the numerous accounts of dogs attempting to shirk their duties. A Welsh travel journal published at the tail end of the 18th century describes how at an inn in Newcastle Emlyn which employed the services of a turnspit, ‘great care is taken that this animal does not observe the cook approach the larder; if he does he immediately hides himself for the remainder of the day, and the guest must be content with more humble fare than intended.’ The little dogs were often taken to church on Sundays – not out of any concern for their sooty souls, but to be used as foot warmers – and one popular tall tale claimed that, at any mention of Ezekiel and his wheel, the turnspits would make as one for the door. Such a reaction is understandable when one learns hot cinders were often tossed in to the treadmill to encourage the exhausted dog to run, prompting a contemporary animal lover to compare the turnspit to Ixion, ancient King of the Lapiths, condemned by Zeus to roll unceasingly through the underworld on a fiery wheel for the murder of his father-in-law. Given the labour involved, Wilf seems temperamentally unsuited to life as a turnspit, yet physically I suspect he might be ideal. Although on the Continent they used any old mongrel for the task, in their heartland, the British Isles, the animals favoured for the purpose were a distinctive type, drolly termed by that noted wag Linnaeus canis vertigus, or dizzy dog, and cited by Darwin as an example of selective breeding. So prized were good turnspits that there are records of an early Philadelphia inn keeper importing them from England to toil in his basement kitchen. They certainly weren’t valued for their beauty: turnspits were ‘long-bodied, crooked-legged, ugly dogs, with a suspicious, unhappy look about them’ according to the Victorian naturalist Edward Jesse, though the only surviving example, imprisoned within a glass case at the Abergavenny Museum, looks like a cross between a miniature dachshund and a meerkat, with a curious curved spine that might well be the result of crimes against taxidermy rather than animal welfare. Historian Jan Bondeson is of the opinion that they would more often have resembled the modern Glen of Imaal terrier, or possibly a Welsh corgi. (Wilf, I note, does not look entirely dissimilar to the former.) [caption id="attachment_4021" align="aligncenter" width="500"] 'The Old Dogwheel' at the Castle of St Briavel, Gloucestershire, illustrated in E.F. King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things (1890)[/caption] This is mere conjecture, however, because, although common throughout the British Isles in the 18th century, by 1850 the turnspit dog had become a curiosity, and by the Great War, the breed had disappeared completely. A technological, rather than ethical shift seems to have been responsible for their demise: an American campaign for a ban on turnspits in the 1870s succeeded in changing public attitudes to the use of these dogs, but had unintended consequences when animal rights activists discovered goats, donkeys and even African American children had replaced them in kitchens unable to afford more modern equipment. Such concern for animal welfare was unusual in a period when few could afford to keep an idle pet for their own amusement, and dogs were considered little more than a cheap utensil, to be used, abused, and then discarded once a more efficient alternative came along. Given the importance of spit-roasted meat to British cooking, the appearance of the automated spit turner at the end of the 16th century must have seemed like a culinary miracle, and as the technology improved in the 17th and 18th centuries, these mechanical jacks moved from luxury purchase to culinary necessity. Though there are records of turnspit dogs operating into the early 1900s, in many cases they were retained for their rarity value – there’s some evidence the last of their kind were even hired out as attractions. With its unfortunate looks, and understandably ‘morose’ temperament, however, the breed was never going to make the transition to favoured pet. Queen Victoria is said to have kept three retired ‘turnspit tykes’ at Windsor for her amusement, but this particular royal fad didn’t catch on with her subjects, and the distinctive, bandy-legged beast quietly breathed its exhausted last just as the 20th century was getting into its stride. The real sadness is not that this poor, put-upon creature has been rendered obsolete by a machine, but that it was so little valued in its time that it's almost as if it never existed at all. Few who enjoyed the fruits of its labours troubled to record the brief life and times of the turnspit – but let us hope they at least threw Wilf's ancestors the odd bone.
‘Once upon a Tide’ is a variable, restless, shifting narrative. Turns of phrase, stage directions, and lines of dialogue from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610-11) are randomly, repeatedly, and somewhat enigmatically recombined within a close, tense, ship-bound setting reminiscent of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer (1910), or The Shadow-Line (1916). On the deck of a ship off the shore of an island, two interlocutors are closely observed by a narrator who remains hidden from view.
Not quite a short story, not quite a stage play, ‘Once upon a Tide’ is just one of those moments in literature when time ... stands ... still. When plot advances by simply refusing to budge. One of those waiting times, slack tides, great hollows within which heat intensifies, cold deepens, night thickens, fevers rage, or the sun continues its relentless blaze. Tension builds, and still nothing happens; neither the sight of a sail on the horizon nor the slightest breath of wind. It is within these long stillnesses that sailors’ yarns unravel. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), the entirety of Marlow’s tale is recounted in one evening whilst sitting utterly still on the deck of a ship moored on the Thames. In the pitch dark and the heavy night air of the river, the narrator strains to discern meaning: ‘I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips...’.
In fiction, these long feverish pauses eventually break. In a variable text, however, we may hover forever within the tense and nuanced relation between reading, listening, watching, and waiting for the sentence, the word, the clue...
What tide is this – spring, slack, or neap? And what of this ship – charmed, safely in harbour, or bound sadly home? Are the interlocutors slight, strong, or old? Are they mariners, travellers, or strangers? Where are they from exactly? And what on earth – or sea – are they talking about?
To each of these questions there are endless answers.
There is no logical reason to cause Conrad-esque characters to speak Shakespearian dialogue. The compulsion to do so is born of reading and re-reading sea stories across genres and across centuries. The reader of ‘Once Upon a Tide’ is encouraged to do the same – read and re-read, aloud if possible.
The controls at the bottom of the narrative allow the reader to read the text more quickly, more slowly, to stop the text from shifting, or to move on to a new permutation of this sea-sorrow, to suffer a sea change into something rich and strange.
Rufus Emmanuel is the name of a nasty little creep I met at a party. He’s nine years old, small for his age, tastelessly dressed, and he responds to everything I say with, ‘Really? That seems unlikely.’ The most interesting thing about Rufus Emmanuel is his dad, who is also called Rufus Emmanuel.
Rufus Emmanuel senior is someone I’d really like to be like – and to like me. Because he’s someone who cares about the future. His computer is made entirely from renewable sources. All his bags are reused. He never does anything in the short term that he, or anyone, might regret in the long term. Which is why it seems to me one of life’s great cruel ironies, of which pessimists tell us the world is full, that Rufus Emmanuel’s single direct contribution to the future, his son, should be such a nasty little creep.
Rufus junior and I were the dregs of a party that should have ended hours ago, but that he couldn’t leave because his dad was still talking – to my friend Cissy – and that I couldn’t leave because I’d promised Cissy’s fiancé, John Leviathan, that I’d accompany her home – which is a euphemistic way of saying I’d make sure that no-one else accompanied her home. Cissy has a tendency to fall in love with herself when she drinks, with the double effect that she expects to be propositioned at least once, and will forgive herself for saying yes once, at least. Sometimes Cissy has been known to be accompanied home by crowds. It occurs to me that she’d happily settle for just Rufus senior tonight, if I weren’t around to act as a sort of portable, detached (and thus unwelcome) conscience, which sets up a nice contrast between her and me, because I don’t seem to be able to get anywhere with Rufus junior.
Rufus is standing next to the buffet table spearing the remains of the food with a used cocktail stick. He is grinning so widely that spit sometimes drips from his underlip, but never quite lets go. I can’t imagine why it would hang around, and yet here I am. He greets my approach with the offer of a massively punctured olive, which I eat without knowing whether this is a rite of passage or a prank or a bit of both. Then he announces: ‘You should never wear orange.’ To which I respond defensively: ‘Lots of people here like this dress.’ To which he responds: ‘Really? That seems unlikely.’ To which I almost respond by kicking him hard in the shin, but instead I take a second horribly savaged olive and eat it slowly with a look of defiance. ‘You should never eat in public,’ he says.
I send a panicked glance across the room to Cissy, who callously turns her back to me and laughs ecstatically at a joke I know she can’t really have liked, because, 1: she never gets jokes, and 2: Rufus senior doesn’t get the point of them. I catch a glimpse of his confused face over her chiffoned shoulder, but he doesn’t stop talking to her about the endless reusability of bags, or whatever it is he’s talking about. Either it doesn’t matter to him to be understood, or he hasn’t quite understood that she doesn’t understand. Either way it doesn’t bode well for a long-term relationship. But neither has been put off yet, and they’ve been talking for hours. I find myself feeling impatient for their disillusionment with one another, like a vindictive God watching the universe and knowing the plot. I turn back to Rufus junior and venture an ice breaker.
‘Do you like phones?’ I say, holding out mine as an example of what I mean. ‘Why don’t you have an iPhone?’ he says, with a sixth sense for a sore point (it exploded). But he takes the phone anyway and starts to fiddle around with it, commenting every now and again on the silliness of a photo or the idiocy of an app, though without seeming to be conscious of me at all. It’s as if he isn’t criticising me but the phone, and I’m happy to have found a way of entertaining him at no further cost to my ego. I remind myself that I like myself in orange. When I look back across the room, Cissy is laughing uproariously at something I’m sure she shouldn’t be laughing at, and leaning in towards Rufus senior, whose glasses are misting. When I turn back to Rufus junior, I find that he’s disappeared, but that there’s a new folder on my phone called ‘Shit’, which I can’t open. I wonder vaguely whether it contains my unconscious.
When I look back across the room Cissy and Rufus have also left, which perhaps proves that people only exist while I’m looking at them, and that if I turned quickly I might potentially catch life out in its eternal game of filling my visual field with stuff, but maybe it also proves that I’m a bad friend. I decide that the best thing to do about this second discovery is to let John Leviathan know and plead forgiveness. I open my Contacts and find it empty, except for the mysterious personage, ‘Sucker’, whose number is apparently, 999. I go to my text message folder and find it empty too, except for a new one from my friend Tod Sarassen asking me whether I know that someone with the initials RE is posting vicious things about me on Twitter. I say, ‘No … But Cissy has pulled (again) – what shall I do?’
Tod doesn’t reply to this, perhaps because it isn’t an interesting question, because the only thing I can do is retire with my tail between my legs. The question becomes interesting later, though, when I arrive at midnight at John’s front door, after a post-party nightcap and a lot of brooding. John answers the door in goggles because he is in the process of glue-gunning together a matchstick sculpture of Cissy that he plans to present to her on their wedding day. It’s life-size, but otherwise completely unlike her in every way, just as Cissy is herself completely unlike the person he imagines he is about to marry. It occurs to me that it would be just as insensitive (for different but related reasons) to tell him at this point that the sculpture isn’t Cissy as to tell him that Cissy isn’t Cissy, as he knows her, so I decide to help him with his wedding preparations instead, by making a matchstick sculpture of their first child. When I last used a glue gun I glued my hands together, but there are no such complications this time, perhaps because I know to point the gun away from myself – and also perhaps because I am turning away from myself metaphorically: pointing the gun of attentiveness towards John and his child.
In the morning (which I awake to on John’s pull-out sofa bed), it strikes me that what seemed kind in the moment may not have been kind in the long term. I start to think in the way Rufus Emmanuel senior likes to do, in terms of future futures. But I can’t think what to do with the information I have. In the absence of a good plan about how to explain matters (including not just Cissy’s disappearance last night (which may mean nothing of course) but all her disappearances in the company of men she likes (which probably cumulatively mean something)), I decide to help myself to some coffee and to check my emails on John’s MacBook Pro. The password is ‘Cissy’ (I have to guess because John is asleep), and the wallpaper is a picture of a vegetable that looks curiously like Cissy. When I open my inbox, though, I’m immediately distracted from all thoughts of John’s crisis by one of my own. The glue gun of attention is pointing at me, again, after all, because this is what Rufus Emmanuel junior says:
Hello again. Don’t ask me how I know all this: you should assume that I have good evidence, because I do – why else would I embarrass myself by emailing you? These are the things I know:
1) That you stole your boss’s car.
2) That you were an accomplice in a diamond heist.
3) That you impersonated your colleague, Carmen Haze.
4) That you spied on the cultural theorist, Gio Calvetti.
5) That you stole a cat from Nicholas Larensen.
6) That you drink more than you should.
I want £500 for my silence.
Best wishes (not really),
Panicking, I wonder who can possibly have told him my secrets. It couldn’t be Tod because Tod is loyal, for all his faults, and it couldn’t be John, although Tod tells him everything, because John is the sort of person who makes sculptures of people he likes. The sort of fame that interests him is laudatory. The only person who knows everything who would be likely to talk is Cissy, who is probably cuddled up next to Rufus Emmanuel senior right now.
Cissy agrees to have a drink at 5. She peers out at me from her furs with little shiny eyes that catch the remains of the late January light. ‘So I told him your secrets, so what?’ she says, adding by way of explanation, ‘Rufus and I are in love.’ ‘Let’s leave aside the fact that people who are in love tell one another their own secrets rather than other people’s,’ I say, ‘What interests me is whether Rufus has spoken to Rufus.’ She looks confused, and proceeds with her own story. ‘Rufus and I left the party at around 10, and couldn’t find any taxis, so we decided to break into his friend’s house (which was nearby) and swim naked in his pool. Rufus said his friend wouldn’t mind – that he would understand if he saw me. Rufus said he has never seen anyone so beautiful or met anyone with as interesting a slant on life as me. He said (while we were swimming) that it had never occurred to him before that being so eco-friendly was in fact quite funny, although not in a way that detracted from what he was doing at all. He said he would chuckle now when he reused his bags, but would still reuse his bags, so the environment wouldn’t miss out. He said I had brought laughter into a life that had seemed too full of serious things. He said I reminded him of laughter and should always wear yellow, the colour of laughter. Incidentally, he also said at that point that you should never wear orange.’
Cissy says she can’t stay out any longer because she’s meeting Rufus for more naked swimming at midnight and needs a catnap. She yawns felinely, and leaves. I pay the bill, and wonder how I’m going to manage to stomach paying £500, bearing in mind that this £40 cocktail bill (for just four cocktails!) is making me uneasy – or maybe that’s my conscience. It occurs to me that one of the downsides of being a chaperone is that you’re automatically complicit in the things you witness, whether because you agree to throw in your lot with someone else, whatever they’re up to, or because you promise someone to intervene if things go wrong. If you’re the second sort of chaperone, and you don’t intervene when things go wrong, you’re as foolhardy as the chaperone who agrees to take responsibility for whatever happens to happen – like Christ, but without God on your side, if things then go wrong for you. You have the opportunity not to take responsibility for a bad thing, having originally decided to be the more responsible sort of chaperone who doesn’t go along with everything, and you blow it, and no one is on your side. It certainly feels as though no one is on my side now, and I want to blame this on the Cissy and Rufus situation, although, in a way, what’s potentially messing up my life is incidental to what’s making theirs beautiful – as incidental as Rufus junior seems to be to Rufus senior, bearing in mind that he must have made his own way home…
Tod says he’ll meet me for a drink at 4 tomorrow, though he’s busy so he won’t be able to stay long, and in the meantime I brood. I check Twitter for the ‘vicious’ posts, and am vaguely relieved to find that RE doesn’t divulge anything incriminating, though sad to find, that, apparently, I have numerous bizarre Beckettian mannerisms – e.g. I tell all my stories backwards, I walk off in the middle of sentences (my own and other people’s), I march continuously to the accompaniment of a soft ‘rum-pum-pum’ sound I make conspicuously by puffing out my lips whenever I’m not talking (when I’m talking, my feet ad lib), and I cower and cry a little bit whenever I hear my name.
‘X,’ Tod says the next day, ‘you need to stop worrying about this. No one is going to believe a nine-year-old, especially if his so-called ‘evidence’ is Cissy’s pillow talk. Cissy isn’t even supposed to be engaging in pillow talk with anyone but John, and, believe me, she and Rufus will want to keep this whole thing a secret.’ ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but it doesn’t matter whether RE is credible on an objective level. This isn’t a court of law. The problem is that he’s threatening to spread rumours about me online that are true, and spectacular, so people will want to believe them – and anyway, no one will know that the initials ‘RE’ refer to a nasty little nine-year-old with a chip on his shoulder because his dad sometimes forgets about him. He could tweet all this tomorrow and I’d be out of my job.’ ‘You’re being melodramatic,’ says Tod. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but somewhere between my melodrama and your massive underestimation of the seriousness of this situation, is how I should be feeling.’
After I’ve left Tod (at 7ish), I go back to John’s to continue work on my sculpture of his firstborn. John pours me a whisky when I arrive (he already has one himself), and we each fall into a workmanlike meditative silence, exchanging words only when one of us needs to use the glue gun or replenish our whisky. While I work, I wonder how to tell the man whose future I’m helping to design that he may not have the future he wants, and also wondering whether I should feel guilty about all the stealing I’m being accused of – and that I’m guilty of, if not about. The only thing on RE’s list that I didn’t do is steal Nicholas Larensen’s cat. It was Tod’s cat, that Nicholas Larensen stole, and we were just reclaiming it.
At around 10, John looks over at my sculpture and says with fatherly wonder, ‘It’s a she.’ ‘Her name’s Ophelia,’ I say, ‘She’s let down by all the people she loves, but she has amazing dignity.’ ‘That’s nice,’ says John, “Ophelia Leviathan’ sounds quite good too [I disagree with him about that] … Well, I’m going to bed now. If you want to carry on, make sure you switch off the glue gun when you’ve finished with it, because it doesn’t like to overheat.’ I carry on working until midnight, and then just sit there until 3, or maybe 4, staring at Ophelia’s tragic features, whispering (a little drunkenly because I’ve had about half a bottle of whisky): ‘I’m sorry, Ophelia, I’m sorry about everything. I know I shouldn’t steal or lie, but I’m not sorry I made you. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve made.’
When I wake up I’ve glued my hands together (again), though the glue gun’s turned off – it must have been its dying last ooze. Anyway, I decide that this means I’ve become self-preoccupied (again), and should be focussing more on others, so I make John a cup of coffee and a bacon sandwich and take them upstairs to his room. John is so nice that he says ‘thank you’ although he’s in shock. The copy of today’s Times that he’s reading in bed on his MacBook Air (he has two computers) is in the process of informing him that his fiancé is a member of a gang of delinquents called ‘The Pool Crashers’ who wander drunkenly from one mansion to another in Mayfair in search of swimming pools. Few bother to swim when they find them, but some do; there’s a picture of a loving couple swimming naked in a pool belonging to one of Prince Harry’s school friends. John immediately recognises Cissy from a swarm of freckles on her thigh. He doesn’t know Rufus Emmanuel by appearance (though he happens to be reading his book – called Green Futures), but he’s seen enough to start to feel sick. I tell him that Cissy and Rufus probably aren’t pool crashers themselves: they’ve just crashed a pool crashing party, by the looks of it. He nods as if that sounds sensible, and bolts to the ensuite to be sick.
Because it sounds like he’ll be in there for a while, and because it would be especially insensitive of me to leave him alone right now (though I’m a little bored), I decide to check my emails quickly. I’ve only just logged in and found a new email from Rufus junior in my inbox, when someone rings the doorbell. I assume it’s Cissy, and it is, and she doesn’t seem particularly happy to find me at John’s at 8 in the morning in yesterday’s clothes, but nor does she bother to question my explanation (i.e. I’m here to glue together her daughter.) After this brief exchange, she more or less ignores me, probably because she’s mentally preparing to announce to John when he emerges from the bathroom that she’s in love with RE senior. ‘I’m in love with Rufus Emmanuel,’ she says, when her fiancé appears, green, from the bathroom – a metaphor for the Rufusian future, unbeknown to himself (or itself.) ‘What?!’ he says, ‘that little prick who’s been bullying X?’ ‘No, of course not,’ says Cissy, with some impatience, ‘and I’m sure X is being melodramatic about that. What I mean is, I’m in love with someone else.’ ‘Me too!’ says John, and he points wildly at the sculpture of Ophelia I’ve been working on all night. I experience a weird quiver of maternal protectiveness, but not for long, because John has spotted his mistake. ‘I mean I’m in love with this someone else,’ he says, pointing at his sculpture of Cissy. ‘It’s me!’ says Cissy. ‘What I’m saying, though,’ says John, ‘is that she isn’t you!’ ‘But she is!’ says Cissy, ‘You’ve made a whole sculpture of me out of matchsticks! I love you!’ she adds, incongruously from my perspective. ‘I love you!’ says John, equally incongruously, and they embrace.
When I’m back at my office computer (at 9.30ish), I’m surprised to find – having skimmed RE’s ‘urgent’ request for a meeting at 4 – an email from Tod, advising me briefly to: ‘Just pay him.’ ‘Why the change of tack?’ I write back. ‘Because he has to be bluffing,’ Tod replies after a minute or so, ‘There’s no way he’ll cash the cheque. He just wants to humiliate you.’ ‘How do you know?’ I shoot back. ‘I don’t; it’s an informed guess,’ he writes, ‘You’re a fun person to wind up – you’re melodramatic.’ ‘Thanks,’ I say, and add: ‘BTW, John and Cissy suddenly seem to be a unit again.’ ‘I know,’ he says, ‘I just got a text from John. Go figure!’ He then proceeds to ‘figure’: ‘It’s something to do with a sort of voluntary mutual delusion. John thinks Cissy’s someone his experience teaches him she’ll never be, and she’s prepared to believe in his ideal, despite knowing herself.’ ‘That sounds likely,’ I say, accommodatingly, while reflecting that Tod has become cynical about love since Nicholas Larensen stole his cat.
I’m quarter of an hour late for my meeting with Rufus Emmanuel junior, because, I explain to him, ‘I’m much in demand at work.’ ‘That seems unlikely,’ he snipes. I toy with the idea of asking him, ‘Why would you think that I’m not in demand?’ but hesitate for the same reason that I haven’t asked John or Tod to help me open the ‘Shit’ folder on my phone. ‘Anyway,’ I say, ‘This is your cheque for £500. Now maybe you’ll leave me alone.’ ‘It’ll be a pleasure to leave you alone,’ he says, which suddenly makes me nostalgic in advance for his negative attention – a convoluted matter of looking ahead to the inability to look anywhere but back, at something that makes me miserable anyway. So I rack my brains for a question that’ll keep the conversation going. ‘I’m curious,’ I say, not altogether truthfully, ‘as to why you only wanted £500.’ ‘Ah’, he says, ‘Because you wouldn’t have been able to afford anything else, judging by your clothes, accent and manners, and because a £500 deduction from a monthly wage that just about covers rent, meals and a bit of drinking is bound to be inconvenient in a really close-to-the-nerve way. I mentally see you preparing your daily repast of boiled cabbage, lentils and gradually diminishing pasta, and it makes me smile with my heart.’ It’s at this point more or less exactly that I realise that RE isn’t bluffing at all.
A few days later, £500 disappears from my bank account. My first thought is to ask John for a loan, but I already owe him £3,000 – and more if you count all the whisky and the damage I did to his first glue gun (when I first glued my hands together.) My second thought is to ask Cissy and/or Tod, but I can’t imagine either saying yes, though both are rich, so I give up. It’s also a few days after my meeting with Rufus junior, that I’m reminded of his peculiar sounding phrase, ‘makes me smile with my heart’ – and remember that it comes from the song, ‘My Funny Valentine’, which makes me wonder whether all his viciousness might be a kind of confused declaration of love. After all, that song could be pretty vicious in the hands of a sociopath – ‘Your looks are laughable/Unphotographable’ etc. It’s the sort of thing I imagine him saying unaffectionately, apropos of nothing. It’s a little like telling someone they should never eat in public. Maybe he imagines that we’re soulmates because my history of theft makes me a sociopath. But he’s completely wrong about that. Theft is just something I get up to when I’m drunk, when it seems like an entirely harmless and inexpensive (indeed, potentially the opposite) way of spending time. The nostalgia (this time real-time) that the memory of my drunken thieving arouses in me is a welcome reminder that whatever RE’s motives may have been, the end-result is that I have no drinking money and am sitting here eating cabbage, lentils and diminishing (not real-time) pasta, because of him.
I’m solemnly eating cabbage, lentils and a few forlorn twists of fusilli on Valentine’s day – which may seem like a nice day to some people, but not to anyone who’s halfway through the desert of a month of pennilessness – when an email pings into my inbox from ‘Rufus Emmanuel’, and, in spite of myself, I smile with my heart. But, as it turns out, my heart has jumped the gun in this instance, because – before I read the email – my eye is caught by the paraphernalia of status: the ‘Professor’ ahead of the name, the Oxford College (namely, Crispsmith College – I didn’t know it existed!), and the link to a flamboyant advertisement for Rufus Emmanuel’s new book. It strikes me as tautological to give Green Futures a green cover, but then, tbf, what other colour could it be? Even white would seem subversive of the message. Anyway, the email says:
Dear X (if I may),
I’m emailing you on Valentine’s Day to tell you that I love you. When you first glanced across at me at the party the other day, my heart melted, and so did all my elaborate theories about the future (thankfully, the book is published), because the only possible future I could imagine was one with you – though I didn’t (and still don’t) know how you feel about me, or what our combined futures might look like – although I think I can safely say that they’d (may I say ‘they’ll’?) be somewhat more attractive than Rufus Emmanuel junior, poor fellow. I often wonder what you’re doing, bearing in mind your history of adventure, as described to me by our mutual friend, Cissy. I associate you with the colour orange, not just because of your dress at the party, but because orange (for me anyway) is the colour of adventure. You should always wear orange.
All My Very Best wishes (really),
‘Völuspá’ compresses the whole of the Norse vision of the universe’s history and future into its 60-odd short stanzas. It is narrated by a seeress, or Völva, who is requested by Odin to share her memories and prophecies with humankind, ‘Heimdall’s young’. She begins with a version of the creation story, and tells us of the great war between the Aesir and the Vanir that ended with the Vanir’s deification. She then looks forward to Ragnarok, and the death of the Gods, then beyond that to the purified world’s rebirth.Visual Cage
We don’t know when the poem was written. It is quoted extensively in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda (1220), a kind of manual for writing Skaldic verse, and appears in the collection of poems known as the Poetic Edda, the earliest manuscript of which dates from the 1270s, but it is much older, and the stories are older still. It is generally thought to have been a minstrel poem that was passed down through the centuries by word of mouth. The catalogue of the dwarves that begins in the 10th stanza, an important source of names for the characters in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books – Gandalf means Wand-Elf – probably comes from another poem entirely, and some translators leave it out. I think it’s one of the best bits.
Most translators of ‘Völuspá’ have sought conscientiously to decode the Norse rather than attempt to capture the poetic spirit of the original. In the Norse the lines are short, dense and heavily alliterative. They have a very distinctive, muscular music, which I’ve tried to imitate in my translation. I’ve also tried to make the poem easier to understand by making the names of the characters consistent. In my version, at the least, it should be clearer who is doing what to whom and when.
Jon’s initial plan is to smear a teddy bear with dog food and drag it through the streets of Kilyos. The town is full of stray dogs, so he hopes that by the time we get back out into the countryside we’ll have a comet’s tail of mongrels chasing after our two cars. We’ve come to Kilyos to help him make a film for an art show he’s putting on in London. The film will be only be 30 seconds long, like a car ad, and it will also have the glossiness of a car ad, except for the frantic dogs. There are six of us in the crew – me, Jon, Jesse, Samara, Ali and Mihda – plus Esteban, Mihda’s dog. Esteban is theoretically still a puppy, but he’s already so huge that when he treads on your foot it feels like he might have broken a few of your toes. Apparently his breed was developed to hunt wild boar. His white coat matches the colour of Mihda’s dad’s car, a four-wheel-drive Porsche Cayenne, and whenever we leave him on his own even for a second he gets into the driver’s seat and sits up with his paws on the wheel looking like Rick Ross. Esteban is not here to act in the film. But he’s not just a shark-eyed mascot either. We think of him as key grip.ir-leasing.ru
Kilyos, a resort about 15 miles north of the centre of Istanbul, has had most of the life sucked out of it by the local mafia. The satellite dishes on the roofs here are so brown with rust that they make me think of oversized forest mushrooms. We find that there isn’t nearly enough manoeuvrability on these little streets to do our Pied Piper act, and also the dogs are already so well fed that they may not have much interest in our meaty decoy, so instead we just eat some spinach börek and then carry on to Gümüsdere Beach. On the way, alongside the cabbage fields and cemeteries and go-kart tracks, there are fences which have repeating patterns of blobby holes cut out of their struts, as if eaten away by some meticulous weevil. Jesse explains that the wood must be the interstices from a type of automated woodwork called CNC, so these struts are like the leftover dough that you guiltily cram in your mouth after you’ve stamped out a dozen heart-shaped biscuits. There are also so many strays by the side of the road that when we pass a few cows for the first time there is a terrifying moment when I take them for gigantic horned mastiffs.
After a while we come to a stretch of beach that looks about right to Jon, but all the beach resorts here are privately run, so they all have gates, and the gates here are locked. They do look a bit rickety, but there’s a CCTV camera nearby, and Jon doesn’t want to do anything that might get us arrested. Ali goes to speak to some old men in a café nearby, and they tell him that the guardian of the gate is somebody called Mr Hasan in the village. I was excited to come on this trip because Jon said we’d have to pay a lot of bribes and I’d never paid a bribe before. Surely, I think, Mr Hasan will be our first bribe. But when we eventually track his son, he tells us that he can’t unlock the gate for us but we’re very welcome to break in if we want. I wonder if there’s any chance we might be permitted to bribe him anyway, just for the experience.
After Jon has wrenched the gates open, we have the beach to ourselves. The row of holiday homes further up the slope are all identical in their architecture but in various stages of dilapidation, so from the rear they remind me of one of those anti-drug posters showing the slow decline of a meth user. We’d hoped we might be able to swim for a while, but the grey sea is far too cold. The Bosphorus has a one-way system that changes direction every 12 hours, and by the time we leave so many ships will be queuing up on the horizon that they look like a manufactured coastline. Jesse, Samara and I walk up the beach to look for some stray dogs. Our progress is slowed a little by Samara’s scavenging. Her art is full of creases, furrows, and stains, so she’s finding a lot of treasure on the beach that she wants to take home with her. In this briny wind, everything erodes at the speed of a time-lapse video, so the half-buried tarpaulins and plastic buckets look as if they’ve been here since the Hittite era. Eventually, we do come across three fairly photogenic strays, but just as we’re making our first shy advances with a bag of sliced sausage, two teenagers from the riding school nearby come cantering across the beach, and the dogs go straight for their horses. They really seem to think they have a shot at taking both horses down like cheetahs against gazelles.
We don’t have a hope of catching up. So we’ve failed to assemble a cast of unknowns. But of course our star has been right in front of us all this time. As a test, we tie a length of twine to the teddy bear and dangle it in front of Esteban to see if he’s interested. The teddy bear has a disconcertingly Lolita-type posture and when squeezed sings ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ Esteban is interested. Esteban is very interested. Esteban is so interested that it soon becomes clear that wrestling the teddy bear out of Esteban’s mouth between takes will constitute a full time job for at least one member of the crew (I remember reading that the same was true of Jack Nicholson during the filming of The Departed). Afterwards, I grope the muddy bear again, hoping to hear a slurred and atonal rendition of its little song, like a damaged robot’s, but evidently it’s been traumatised into silence.
Jon has a shouldermount for his camera, but the spring is too weak, so whenever he tries to use it the camera lolls around like a concussion patient. Instead, he’s going to steady the camera by hand. Since I have nothing in particular to do, I join him on the cargo bed of the second car, from which he’ll be filming the action. The sun is setting, and we are entering what’s called the Golden Hour, that divine burnishment which has inspired filmmakers with its fugitive beauty since the very advent of Technicolor: perfect conditions, in other words, to get a few takes of a big dog running after a cuddly toy. Communicating with walkie-talkies between the two cars, we begin filming. The teddy bear is dragged at high speeds behind the Porsche like Hector’s body behind the chariot of Achilles. With three bodies in independent motion, this feels like something between exceptionally complex stuntwork and a total farce. Esteban seems to be having the time of his life, presumably assuming that this entire game has been arranged for his benefit. I find myself wishing that being a novelist involved a bit less sitting alone in small rooms and a bit more riding in the backs of pick-up trucks at high speeds.
By the time the dog finally tires, Jon has come to accept that we aren’t going to get the smooth 30-second take he was hoping for. But he’s got quite a few shorter takes he can edit together. As we’re packing up the equipment, we see that at least one other party has taken advantage of the gate we left open. A guy in one of those stubby, top-heavy delivery vans has driven on to the beach and is now attempting to do donuts on the sand. It’s like watching Esteban practising pirouettes. After a while the guy gets out of his car for a cigarette, so Jesse and I decide to go over to say hello to him. It’s only when we’re within a few paces that I realise I’m still carrying the filthy, ruined teddy bear on its noose of twine like some sort of avant-garde handbag. The guy looks at the bear and then looks at me. I look back at him. Nobody says anything.