Monday, 22 March 2010

Morocco: Lost in Space

Morocco: 16 - 23 June 1987

As I’d vacationed to Gran Canaria during May, I was reticent to go on vacation again so soon. Gary and I had discussed a trip to Sweden and had gone there the previous Summer; but with my imminent possible return there to work in August, I decided to change tack and go elsewhere.

We made a quick decision and decided to go on a cheapy to Morocco; 10 days at the exotic sounding, Hotel Flangria at Tangier, for the bargain price of £ 149 inclusive of food.
As I had gone alone to Gran Canaria, I was looking forward to a “mans” boozy holiday abroad before setting off for a six month job in Sweden. I knew that I would not vacation while on contract in Göteborg. Too much money to lose.

But things did not turn out as planned. We set off in good spirits from Luton Airport, only to arrive in Tangier where Gary was refused entry into the country due to the fact that he had a passport which was valid for only one year and not the required ten. And the thing that really pissed Gary and myself off is that we actually asked the fucking Thomson assistant when booking if a one year passport was valid and we were told "yes". Consequently, Gary returned home on the same plane that he arrived on later that day. Not only that, but he took with him my duty free fags, which pissed me off even more. So I was alone.

The hotel, which was in the centre of the town, was very basic and noisy. It was also soon apparent that on leaving the hotel you would be accosted by the locals constantly for you to buy anything from bracelets to their 12 year old sister for half an hour (or brother). After being hassled on the first night they arrived, one party of ladies from Sweden refused to leave our hotel on subsequent evenings.

At that time the Dirham was valued at 14 to the £; so with, for example a beer at 9 dh, it was cheap for entertainment. And so was the local hashish which you could order from one of the waiters or bar staff during the day and they would deliver it to your room later, usually after six pm. Then, in England I was paying around £10 for 1/8 ounce of “black”. Here in Moroccan “black” country I got it for 150dh for ½ ounce. Same price, four times as much. It was even cheaper on the street.

During the evening, as you strolled along the beach, you would be offered it every 100 metres or so, along with sex, especially if you were a man walking alone. Then, you were generally accosted by good looking teenage boys. It was by sheer coincidence that I had purchased Joe Orton’s “Prick Up Your Ears” who narrated about his sexual experiences in Tangier, so I was not surprised by the attention.
The thing though was, not to be aggressive with them . Telling them to “fuck off” was not the way to go. If you politely said “Oh, not tonight, thank you. Maybe some other time”, they left you alone to go on your way.

I had met a Brummy, Mark, at poolside during the afternoon. He was there alone; but not. He had booked the holiday with his wife, prior to separating, and neither would forego the holiday. So they were both there. A very pleasant situation!

We ventured into the hotel disco later in the evening with two Moroccan girls that we assumed we had “pulled” in the hotel bar. The girl I was with, who was from Rabat, was called Maria.

It was after midnight, and I realised that the girls had not in fact bought, or offered to buy, a drink all night. I assumed that they were just girls leeching off of the tourists. In my naivety, I failed to realise that they were in fact hookers. I looked around the disco which was a reasonable size with an long bar around 12 metres, in front of which, was a dance area about 10 square metres.

Due to the fact that I had been “accompanied” for the time I was there, I had failed to notice the array of young women, all basically dressed the same in tight, shimmering, short dresses similar to that which Maria wore. In fact looking around at the various tables was looking at a kaleidoscope of our own.
All pale faced men with dusky, tanned women.

It was then not hard to suss out how the room was operated.
The owners of the place employed the girls to accost, and entertain any pale skinned boy looking for a good time. This, not only reaps money from the punter but also doubles the income with the drinks he will buy the girls; which is usually very bad, but expensive, Champagne. Meanwhile; any of the girls who are “working” but have no punter, are administered free drinks at the bar until a client turns up.

Sex is an obvious extra. As long as you are plying the girls with drinks, the management doesn’t care. If you don’t, the girls will move on. Having now the understanding of the format, I asked Maria how much she would charge for sex. She said it would be 30dh ( around £2 50). It sounded a bargain.

She assumed that I had made a proposition and rose to “just go powder her nose”. On her way out, she stopped to briefly chat to a bald headed, suited, meathead, near the door. She indicated to the guy, and looked towards me. He was obviously her pimp, and her security in case anything untoward were to happen to her. It wouldn’t, and didn’t.

On her return, I thanked her for the evening and bid her farewell. As I had already contracted a nasty little disease a couple of years earlier, I was not going to risk another. I could not imagine how many Johns these “ladies” entertained over the period of a year, but I was not to be one of them. I must actually be getting for sensible as I get older.(You don’t believe that!)

I returned to my room where a small package had been pushed under the door. I opened it, pulled off a portion, placed it in foil , cooked it, spread tobacco from a ripped up cigarette, joined two cigarette papers, mixed the hash and tobacco together, skinned up. Took a glass, opened my Jameson’s and got stoned. Bliss.
I had met a girl, Sue, at the hotel the previous day who was together with a Moroccan man, Mohammed. We had talked of going to the Kasbah (local market place) as she was going to buy some articles of leather. Mohammed owned a stall apparently.
So, as I was interested in maybe purchasing a leather jacket, when Mohammed met Sue that morning, I accompanied them.

The Kasbah is a completely different world. A covered market for food. Fish market, meat market. The stench was awful. We then went through narrow meandering streets and passed shops selling copper and brass goods, carpets etc until we came to Mohammed’s place which was small, only about eight metres square but was chock- a- block with all manner of leather goods. I purchased a leather jacket for1080 dh (£79). He then escorted us out of the Kasbah and we returned to the hotel.

I had told Mark of my visit.
The next day we decided to go there together. We had been told not to go to the Kasbah without a guide. As you went to the edge of the Kasbah the paths led down into the maze of streets. We were approached by several “guides” who offered to show us around for 35dh which seemed to be the going rate.
As it was now the weekend and the banks were closed, and the hotel will not accept my travellers cheques, I was a little short of cash, and so was Mark.
We plundered into the unknown thinking it can’t be that hard to find your way out. It was. We got hopelessly lost, going in completely the wrong direction. We were hot,irritated,and had been wandering for an hour when we were approached by a swarthy smiling man who knew exactly our problem.

You lost?
We lost.
You come with me.
We’ve no money
says Mark
Come, I take you out. Where you stay?
Hotel Flangria
I take you. Come!

And off we go, and he’s chatting merrily away and we assume that we have found the only non money grabbing Moroccan in the whole of Tangier. Wrong.
First. We stop at my uncle’s house. He give you tea,refresh you.
Er…I’d rather just get back to the hotel…er…my mother, she’s sick.
Yes, yes, wont take long.

Yes, I’m sure it wont, I muse. We wandered along the narrow streets. Our guide knew every stall owner that we passed. And they greeted each other with what sounded very much to me like “More Eeengleesh idiots” though I hoped that I was mistaken.
After ten minutes more, I was really losing my usual placid temperament:
Er…how much fucking further is it?

He indicates down another bric-a-brac ladened street. It looked exactly the same one that we had started out on with this cretin. He turned and walked into a shop. It was full of rugs and carpets.
Look, just guide us out of here will you!?
Soon. Come we meet uncle, have tea

The fixed smile had not left his face since we met him. He’s fuckin’ mocking us, I mused.
He led us to the rear of the shop where he indicated a flight of stairs.
Come, we meet uncle.
Now, I’m angry, and a little afraid. No one knows we’re here. We could disappear without trace.
He indicated us to precede him, and we climbed the narrow staircase. On the floor above we heard the sound of machinery. Stepping from the stairs we saw at least six women at their weaving machines making all sorts of colourful rugs of all shapes and sizes.
There was no uncle serving tea.
So where’s uncle?
He had not entered the room but stood in the doorway. There was another staircase
Fuck this, I’m out of here!
You no leave without tea! Very rude to leave now.

The smile had gone, and in the light of the staircase, our guide looked ten years older; a good deal of lines had somehow materialised on his face. We climbed another staircase. I was now frightened and, as I was wearing white shorts, hoped that I would not have an uncontrolled bowel movement.

There was a raffia curtain at the top of these stairs, I pushed it aside. The room on this floor was smaller than the lower one; around 8 square metres. I am staring at three bearded men aged between 40 to 50 years. They are seated on the floor on cushions. They stare back. They are smoking and drinking tea.

One of the men exclaim to our guide. At least we now know his name. Our guide mumbles back a greeting, and then a narrative that leaves the three men looking at us, and pensively nodding.
So, sit, says Aziz. Have tea.
We sit. We are furnished with a small glass of sickly, sweet, green tea. I retch.
You no like? Says the guy I assume to be uncle.
I know that I should not appear to be unfriendly but my facial muscles have frozen and my mouth is so dry, I cannot speak.
What do you think of these merchandise?
Uncle indicates at the walls covered with his merchandise.. Good ,eh, you like?
No, I don’t fuckin’ like, you fuck!
Yes they’re very nice, I squeak. Please let me go home, you cunt!
You buy a little something for your girl?
No I don’t want one of your fuckin’ rugs, shove it up your arse!
Well, I can have a look. I don’t have any money today, but I can come back tomorrow.
Uncle chuckles at this. I’m amusing him.
You Eeengleesh! there’s that word again. You all have money!
Maybe, but not to spend on this shit.
How much you want for shirt?
Uncle indicates my “Dire Straits, Money For Nothing” tee shirt. Fuck me, he wants the shirt off of my back!
I not sell shirt
God I’m starting to talk like him now. It’s bad enough being with a Brummy. After a couple of days you start talking all nasal loik.
Then buy rug. Then you go!
I’ve no money.

Mark has said nothing the whole time we are there. As I am bigger, and older, all conversation is aimed at me.
You got any money, Mark?
He stares at me. Quizzical. Terrified.
Don’t YOU want to buy a rug, Mark?
Speak you worthless piece of crap! He says nothing. Seeing that this would either go on until we were, or I ,was forced to make a purchase or we were beaten and mugged I took out my wallet from the rear pocket of my shorts. I had my last 200 dh.
O.K... How much is that small rug?
I point to a mat which was 12” x 24”, the smallest I could lay eyes on. I’d have to carry the fuckin’ thing back to the hotel, so I wanted the smallest.
How much you have there?
That is the price.
And Aziz will then guide us out?
But of course!
Aziz has his fixed smile back on his face. I picked up the rug and was thankful that I had purchased the leather jacket the previous day when I had a far greater amount of cash in my wallet.
Aziz led us out into the searing heat and dazzling sunlight and took us to the Kasbah entrance which was, of course, hardly any distance at all; if you knew how to get there.
Well, goodbye Eeenngleesh!
Fuck off you robbing bastard!
Were my parting words.
I turned to Mark. And that goes for you. You can fuck off too!

I returned to my hotel room: showered, rolled myself a large joint and, wanting to speak to a comforting voice, tried to connect to my girl Jan in England. No reply.
I was on the way to oblivion: I opened the hotel room window, picked up the rug from the floor, snorted up a large amount of phlegm from my throat, spat on the rug, and threw it out of the window.
I watched the rug as it pirouetted its way to the street below and fell back into the room convulsing in childish laughter having seen it slap into the face of some poor unsuspecting soul.
I then slept.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Three Blind Mice

Starry Night, (detail) 1889
Vincent van Gogh
The three girls were all dressed the same, in clothing that not only suited the time of day, nine pm; but also the season of winter: Black.
Black knitted hats, black anoraks, black jeans, black boots. All worn to suit the minus three degrees Celsius of the January evening.

They were all latter day Gothics, remnants of an age where they would have been Cure groupies, but were born too late. Not one part of their attire was other than black.
Two babbled incessantly while the other supped on a can of Coke. The vermillion of the can the only contrast in colour to the black of the night surrounding us.

In the girls' appearance, there was only one difference, and that was that one wore spectacles; the type that one would associate with a nineteen fifties secretary, and which had now returned to be fashionable. But she was not the girl of interest.

All three girls stood by me, and I assumed were waiting for the same tram as I.

The girl whom had nervously supped her Coke; maybe because she could not fit herself into the conversation, furtively looked around now for a place to deposit the empty receptacle.
Not being involved in the chatter meant that she now had nothing in her hands to distract the other two, so would have to make conversation.

She caught my eye.
A waste bin was no more than ten metres from where we both stood.
A damp, tram shelter bench was closer.

I heard the tram approach and looked left to see the No.7 brow the hill.
When I looked back, the empty can of Coke lay on the bench.
As I boarded the tram I peered over my shoulder to see the girls walking away, disappearing into the winter's mist. No tram was required.
I could not understand why they had stood there.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Affairs of the heart

After Ten Years Apart
Watercolour, 26 x 34cm, 2007

As far as my marital affairs were concerned, if they were known at all, they were not bought up or discussed by Marilyn. But as a man who considers the female of the species to be deadlier than the male, I see women as being far more perceptive in regard to disloyalty in a relationship than the male who will continue his foolhardy escapade, on the assumption that his partner be oblivious to his adulterous liaison(s). Fool!

In this respect, women are far better honed to sensing such situations. A man will blinker his self and run headlong into the mire, then wonder where it had all gone wrong. Too late. Usually all the signs are there, men just are too preoccupied and self absorbed to take heed. I am sure that this was the case in the demise of our relationship.
Extract from It's My Life to be published next month

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Love Lies Wasted

21st December 2009

Can you believe this?
Yes, of course I can, she replied
Well I can’t! Why now?
It’s us, our Destiny.
But how long?
It’ll be alright. Believe me. We need time.
Fuck! I can’t wait. I need you.
I can’t move. You have to trust me.
I do.
We will be together. Don’t pressure me.
I’m not.... I Love You.
I know.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Oh Please God, make it stop!

The ScreamEdvard Munch
There was little else that I could have portrayed tonight. There was certainly nothing in my portfolio that would have depicted my thoughts as expressively as Edvard has here. Maybe he too was at a Liverpool game all those years ago and was in the throes of throwing himself off of that very bridge. Maybe that was a bridge across the Mersey. Maybe he was so distraught that he was going over to the other side; to become an Everton fan.
Certainly on tonight's performance, no Red fan could have blamed him. How can there be any excuses when you have a "Super Team" that cannot beat a team that lay a division below, in 21st position, 2 points above the relegation drop zone.
And after Torres is dispensed with, which is akin to a kick in the balls; then Gerrard is also absent for the second half, which is akin to a full blown vasectomy, the believer assumes that there is something more, that the manager has something in reserve, that there is hope on the bench. Oh what fools to believe in such tripe. Oh what fools to believe that Liverpool could progress after the tantalising Champions League victory all those years (it seems) ago..
There has been nothing more. The impotence of a second class team is there for all to see. Millions upon millions of money wasted on useless fucks; Who is Ngog? Who the fuck is Lucas (is he a dynamo (sic)) Why the fuck did Liverpool pay 18 million pounds for Aquilani? Who else will Liverpool pay exorbitant prices for, and get fuck all in return.
Crouch has gone, Keane; Owen, Liverpool could have bought back,.... I could go on.
Months back I said that Benitez should go. How many more embarassments must Liverpool suffer before he fucks off.
50 years ago, Bill Shankly took over Liverpool's management. He removed all the deadwood and resurrected the Liverpool team.
Now is the time for just that to be replicated; another Shankly. Otherwise we will be screaming until eternity.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Signs of the Times?

Jealousy, 2010
Oil on board, 61 x 81 cm
double click to enlarge

I painted this rather violent work as an expression of my despair at the rapid increase in violent crime, especially among the youth in our society. Non more so than in Sweden, where to the rest of the world, the country is portrayed for its: cleanliness, diplomacy, low crime rate, and high standard of living.

Unfortunately this is not exactly true. I live in Göteborg, and one has only, for example, to walk around the city in the early hours of Sunday morning to see the broken glass, litter, and graffiti that has accumulated during the evening and overnight hours of any Friday or Saturday.

Not to mention the scum that use the main social thoroughfare, The Avenue, as a public urinal during the hours when bars and clubs are open, regardless of whom may be passing by, and often in clear view of stationary police vehicles.
Before I moved to my present location, I lived in the Haga. It was common (and probably still is) to see women squatting, knickers down to their ankles in the doorways, unashamedly urinating.

Sign of the times?

Places during the summer months that you can guarantee to be cleansed frequently in Göteborg are those visited by tourists, such as the Haga area which is the oldest part of the town and a big attraction, though why, I have yet to fathom.

Graffiti is washed from the walls, so is unseen by the visiting Germans, Brits,and Danes etc. Fortunately for local government, they do not venture to areas in the town as far afield as Angered or Kortedala.

The crime rate is rising constantly. One only has to read the local rag, the GT, or the national Aftonbladet to read of the ever increasing number of rapes, murders, muggings, and store robberies to see the problem nationwide.

The painting depicts (from my imagination) something that happened not so long ago in the town, and was told to me by an acquaintance who had known the victim.

That friend had also been the victim of local crime, when her boyfriend was shot and murdered in one of the city's suburbs. No arrests have been made, and as it was a gang relate crime, police have been met with silence when questioning possible witnesses.

The painting was to be auctioned at a local function next month, but due to a contractual disagreement with the organisers, will not now go ahead.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Indifference of Youth

Vattentorn, Slottsskogen, 2007
Watercolour 30 x 22cm

I hate winter.I can't understand for example, skiers who suppliment the joys of spring and summer by foolhardy going on excursions to some far off place in the cold. Why?

The French artist, Monet hated snow. The only reason that he painted snow scenes outdoors, was because he did not have the use of digital cameras at hand. Believe me, nobody nowadays paints plein air, in winter, in snow.

I was walking to my tram stop this evening; I was passed by three girls of no age at all, maybe 18 or so. They skitterly walked by in attire that would have been more akin to late summer, or early autumn.

Of course, they did not notice me.

I noted that, regardless of the conditions underfoot, they all were wearing high heeled shoes.

When I left my apartment, I was concerned that I would fall when walking, due to the fact that the temperature was minus three degrees and breezy; so forming ice.

Nevertheless, these three Swedish beauties tiptoed, chattered, and chuckled there way towards Valands nightclub, without care or fear of being undone by the Göteborg weather.

They disappeared into the club to join, no doubt, their youthful companions.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Unforeseen Circumstances

Winter's Gate, 1992
Watercolour 22 x 32cm

She peered out of the window at the leadened skies.
How could this be? After all the planning, all the excuses, all the deceit. Why now?

The year had bought so much trauma, which she was wanting to leave behind. And, she had to do it all on her own as well. Condemned for her sins. But she'd got there; or almost.
She'd almost gained her freedom, and for her work deserved the prize of seeing him again; she needed this. It would help her to continue to the end..but she did not expect this.

It never occured, it didn't happen. Had not happened since she was small and she revelled in it then; in her little red coat, under the bright white skies as she lay there making angels, but it hadn't happened since; not at this time of year. So why now? All she wanted was to go there, to be with him and to lay in his arms.

The man that she loved was so near, and yet so far away.
Why now?
She could not continue with the lies. She could not now say that she would drive to Norfolk, in the middle of the night to see friends; not now. It was ludicrous!
And now, as Christmas was upon her, she knew that it would be months before she saw him.
Why now?

All she would have wanted; if not wanting him, would have to have seen a white Christmas; but not now, not this year. She had not foreseen this, and the cancellation of her flight.
Snow; she had not accounted for snow.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

In Sickness and in Health..

The Sick Child 1885-6 (Edvard Munch)
Oil on canvas 47 x 46cm

I was speaking to a friend tonight, regarding the game that we were watching; Liverpool v Wigan. My friend, let's call him Andy, was interrupted by his mobile telephone's annoying ring...

".Er... Excuse me, Will, he said "It's Josie", apologising for the abrupt exit as he moved outside to take the call.

On his return, I advised him that, apart from dire emergencies:ie.deaths in her family, or the equivalant, that mobiles should be turned off when Liverpool are playing.

He rightly apologised, and humbly took his seat.

As it happened, Liverpool won an innocuous game whereby, I have to say, I would have been happier to have spent the rest of the evening conversing with Josie, or even her mother, or an orang utan, rather than watch the mindless boring rubbish served up by the Liverpool manager, Benitez, and his Squad of useless individuals.
If Torres is on the bench, and fit; then why play him for 15 minutes?
And, If we pay XX (I think that it was 18 million pound, but I checked the Liverpool website, and they appear to be embarrased to announce the actual cost) for the midfielder Aquilani, who's fit to play but on the bench.Why buy him?
I hate Man Utd
I hate Chelsea
I hate all the other fucking teams, but how come, for instance, Chelsea can disgard two managers after Miserable Morinho ( I know that I have spelt that wrong,but bare with me) and still be top of the Premiership.
Something is wrong somewhere higher up.
One year ago, Tottenham Hotspurs were being managed by some asshole who is now managing on the continent. They had 8 points from 12 games
'Arry took over and now the Spurs are above Liverpool, what does that tell us?
Sick Child Indeed!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

I Can't Take Much More of This!

Worn Out at Eternity's Gate (After Vincent van Gogh), 2007
Pen and wash, 40 x 30cm
(Double click to enlarge)

As you pass through life you have love affairs, many are fruitful, hopefully more fruitful than barren. But, after the initial 9 ½ week period of sexual bliss, if nothing materialises to sustain a long relationship, then you must call it a day, hej då, goodbye, adieu, the sex was great, but we are not going to make it.. in the long run.

So. Goodbye, Benitez. If you were my lover, you would have been kicked into touch 6 weeks ago, after the Lyon disaster. Like a mother-in-law, you have overstayed your welcome. Now fuck off.