In my previous post I was banging on about how I’m presently living in a caravan for two weeks, while we have guests in the gite, and it’s the first time I’ve been caravan bound in fierce weather since the winter of 2004. In the winter of 2004 I found myself living in abject poverty in a caravan in a cowshed in rural France. I took up residence in the cowshed in early January. On that same weekend I was joined by Sultan the dog. We were both refugees. Sultan was a rescue dog, who joined the other two dogs, Bess and Rosie, and an indeterminate number of cats. I’m not sure how anyone could have been brave enough to abuse Sultan, since he was a huge beast, almost like a small horse, and looked a bit like a Millwall fan who’d been having a bad day. He used to scare the living daylights out of just about every visitor to the farm; but Sultan really was a softy and I used to play with him and take him for walks; or more accurately, he used to take me for walks. Due to various hard drive crashes over the years, I can no longer find a photo of Sultan. Take my word for it, Sultan would have scared the shit out of you.
So, there’s me and Sultan in the cowshed, January 2004, with temperatures hitting 15 below (I think in my previous post I also said that I had Amy the Chinese goose living in the caravan as well). Then the farm chickens joined us in the cowshed. There was a haystack behind the caravan, and the chickens made home there. The chickens did have a coup in the wreck and ruin part of the farmhouse. The chickens decamped to the cowshed because a punk rock band started rehearsing in the wreck and ruin part of the farmhouse. The punk rock band were called ‘The Unforgiven’ and consisted of my cousin’s two sons, James and Steff, and their French friend Benjamin. They were all young kids. For a time I sort of became the manager of The Unforgiven.
There was some sort of karma going on with the cowshed. The Unforgiven got chucked out of the wreck and ruin part of the farm house, because of the racket they were making. So, The Unforgiven started rehearsing in the cowshed. Steff was on drums, James the lead singer and Benjamin the guitarist. When numbers like ‘Hotel Concentration Camp’ started thundering from the rafters, Amy the goose would run squawking from the cowshed. To give you a flavour of it…
We’re going to Germany
to the infirmy
what about the jews
I think they may lose
they’re not wised
what about the night
black is white
hotel concentration camp, camp!
hotel concentration camp, camp!
James sang it in a Johnny Rotten snarl. Hotel Concentration Camp started with a quite good guitar rift from Benjamin, then Steff came in on drums, then James started singing. Problem being, the three of them were totally out of sync with each other. The hotel concentration camp, camp! bit was sung in chorus, with the three of them punching their fists in the air. To be fair to them, they were just young kids at the time. The Unforgiven: would you forgive them?
I found The Unforgiven’s rehearsals a tad disconcerting, because not only did the sound make my plates rattle on the draining board, but I was also writing a book at the time. I was also writing a lot of poetry. ‘Merde A La Puissance Treize’ translates literally as: shit to the thirteenth power. It’s used in France in its abbreviated form, MALPT, and you say ‘MALPT’ as a way of wishing someone good luck, a bit like the way thesps say ‘break a leg’.
Merde A La Puissance Treize
White worms drop down from pussy’s arse
to join the heaving, cack caked floor.
The flies and mites sup rooster cum
and dance around where rubbers score
fecal byways. By the barn door
a hen sits on her rotting brood;
all maggoty, the sulphurs pour
into the heat where pigs once queued
for lies and pain and carrion food.
God’s animals don’t mind the smell
and defecate right where they sit;
yet barnyard creatures know quite well
that humans, too, are full of shit.
Getting back to The Unforgiven, I shall spare you Hotel Concentration Camp. Instead here’s a number called Leavin, and I’ll finish with a pic of The Unforgiven at a local concert…
postscript: even by the standards of my life, those six months I spent in the cowshed, with a whole cast of characters, was weird. I’m well used to a life like that – it was weird because of all the energies involved.
In that summer of 2004, long after I had moved out of the cowshed, my cousin Carmen and her son James were involved in a very serious car crash. James, miraculously, suffered only a broken collar bone and broken arm. My cousin Carmen was completely mashed-up and spent weeks in intensive care hovering between life and death. My cousin Carmen survived, but she’s never been right ever since.
I’m not sure what the take-away here is with a Christmas blog post. I suppose I should maybe say that life is much more mystical than many people realise.
Happy Christmas and a merry New Year!