The introduction and part 1 of Sea Changes are here.
Part 2 of Sea Changes is here, and here is part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9.
Multicultural modernity finally comes to Eastshire.
Thursday, 29th August—Tuesday, 2nd September
The pathologist’s report shuffled unobtrusively but insistently into history. The idea of local involvement in the deaths was expeditiously expunged from all except a few independent minds— like Scum, who in his final interview the following year would return to the theme, telling his sycophantic interlocutor that it had all been, like, a cover-up, the Secret State looking after its own, it’s only a few mavericks who know the score, get wot I’m sayin’? When the singer was found dead a few days later in a pool of excrement and blood after a rash experiment with a heroin/emetic cocktail, some whispered that maybe he had known too much.
Quizzed on Curt’s Comfy Couch, Dr. John St. Germains laughed at Curt’s suggestion that his Bugle column had blamed rural racists. But his black eyes did not leave his much-modified host for a second, a look of the intensest dislike magnified through Mitteleuropäisch bottle- lenses: “Of course I did not, Curt, and it is, frankly, a little disingenuous of you to say that. If I may say so, I am a Temple Prize Winner and the author of three best-selling books on positive psychology. If you had read the article properly—but that might have been a bit of a strain for you—you would have seen that it was all theoretical, hypothetical—a what-if scenario—but one based on the latest scientific findings. You’re trying to distort my findings and ideas. I know that’s the kind of, frankly, rubbish you have on this show, but I—Curt—I am a scientist!” The audience “Ooooooohed,” and Curt winked into the cameras.
Something else that had helped derail the theory was the news that three Dutch nationals had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in people-smuggling.
The taciturn deckhand Jan had belied his reputation. He had been expounding in a bar down by the docks—at first to the Kapitein. Then when the Old Man had gone, himself half-seas over, smacking Jan on the shoulder in comradeship as he left, there was a girl buying cigarettes—axe-faced, lips like a wound, but what a little body! So Jan had told her how lovely she was, asked what she was doing, told how he had some money to spend having successfully completed a little bit of business, would-you-like-a-drink-no-strings-attached-I-promise, and God you’re gorgeous, I work on a trawler you know but we don’t catch fish these days, we’re too clever for that, there are much more interesting things in the sea these days, laugh, leer, hand on her knee and she didn’t mind, on her thigh and she still didn’t mind. Eventually she took him out of the warm and whirling bar and past lines of streetlights and shops full of things that wobbled and toppled around them as they went all the way back to her takeaway-pack strewn apartment, and they had kissed as soon as they got inside the door, and he had at last got his hands up her skirt, and afterwards, he had wanted to talk.“I’ll tell you” he said,“but this mustn’t go any further. Do you swear?” Half-bored, half-amused, she had agreed. She lay naked beside him, smoking, but after a while she forgot to smoke, while her eyes widened with horror.
“And-then-there-were-all-these-shouts-and-people-thrashing-and- those-Albanians-those-bastard-Albanians-do-you-know-what-they- did-then-shot-the-poor-fuckers-I-mean-it-SHOT-them!-bang-bang!-poor-sods-didn’t-stand-a-chance-and-then-they-told-us-they-would-do-the-same-to-us-if-we-ever-blabbed-they-paid-us-well-but-I-can-still-see-and-hear-the-people-in-the-water-poor-fuckers-I-can’t-sleep-awful-pathetic-isn’t-it...”
When he finally subsided into stertorousness, she got dressed quickly and crept out to phone the police.
The East Eastshire Echo had reported that the government was considering setting up a new Asylum Adjudication Centre in Thorpe Gilbert, on the site of the old hospice. It was a social necessity as well as a boon—and it would create new jobs. Yet complaints nonetheless streamed in. None of the complainants were racists but...there was insufficient infrastructure, it was too expensive, the hospice was needed even more, there would be traffic problems, it would disturb wildlife, and the refugees would be much happier amongst their own people. The ambitious young editor scowled; how could he achieve balance with correspondence like this?
His inspired answer was Ethnic Eastshire, a colour supplement launched at a stellar happening in Thorpe in the presence of national and local politicians, ethnic representatives, civic dignitaries, churchmen, and the nearest the county came to culturati.
Wanda Lo was there, with the weakly grinning “Mr. Lo”—and Dick Barge from D. I. Davies—Phebe Moody, best-selling and bosomy author of Where Two Hearts Dare and 36 similar books—Lord Chimbay, “Britain’s leading Jamaican theorist of equality”—and Isaac Ringrose, who had been a session drummer with all the big Sixties bands. They all dined from the Fusion Menu and sat through the Multi-FUN-Tural entertainment by local schoolchildren. There were ecumenical blessings by the Bishop of Eastshire and other faith-choice group leaders, including a moving message from the Chief Scientologist. There were speeches in Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu, Togolese, and Mandarin, a video message from none other than Wilberforce Smith, fireworks, a magician, free music by Thorpe’s upcoming musicians (Isaac Ringrose joined them on stage for a condescending crescendo).
It was a memorable night, and the editor felt justly proud of his supplicatory supplement which had even managed to earn the paper some revenue from go-ahead local businesses who wore their huge hearts on shop-coat sleeves—“Smith’s Tastee Grub—We welcome ALL to purchase our high quality meats and quality comestibles. This week’s specials—minted lamb ONLY £5 per kg.— burgers ONLY £1!”
Dan sensed that strangers were staring at him. Even neighbours and his oldest friends gave Dan knowing smiles or ostentatiously talked about anything except politics. One or two weren’t speaking to him at all, and an advantageous haylage deal had fallen through, with no reason given. His old enemy Charlie Davies gave him a Hitler salute when they met, before laughing nastily. Once when he was in Williamstow, a car passed by at high speed, and the unknown driver honked the horn madly while the passengers shouted“Racist!”and made two finger signs. So he took a sheaf of newspapers to Tom Spaggart in Thorpe, the family solicitor for decades—although it was a highfalutin term for a man whose services had not been required for at least ten years.
The first floor office above the newsagent was crammed and stifling. Framed photographs and certificates vied for space on needing-a-paint walls with a baize notice-board and a calendar of local views—empty churches, rape fields in full bloom, snow-covered lanes, boxing hares, deserted beach. Cars were passing up and down the High Street, sending glittering lozenges dashing across the ceiling. Dan was surprised to notice that the Georgian windows above the prosperous-looking clothes shop opposite were rotting and covered over with cardboard, and the iron downpipes appeared to be leaking, to judge from the green smear that spread out fanlike below the junction. Blowsy starlings surveyed the scene from a guano-crusted windowsill.
Spaggart was tiny and slender, with the neatest hands and nails of any man Dan had known. He had come here in 1965 to work as a clerk and taken over the old local firm after the principals succumbed to age and Scotch. He always wore the same three-piece, made for him in Jermyn Street to commemorate passing his final exams in 1964, and which still fitted without a wrinkle. This made him dapper by local standards, although the too-many buttoned, too tight 1960s appearance of the suit might have earned him curious looks in London. Dan had met him once by chance on a day off, walking along a high road in the hills, miles from anywhere, and had been astonished to see him wearing the same suit. He was a man who appeared to make no concessions to environment or time. He seemed faintly embarrassed to see Dan, but shook his hand and asked how he was.
“Oh yes, I’m fine—thanks, Tom. That is I’m well, but I do have a bit of a problem I hope you can help me with. Have you seen these?” Dan fanned out the offending newspapers, and the other man’s eyes dilated as he leafed through them, his face becoming ruddier. He inhaled and made tiny clicking noises of disapproval. “Well, some of them—some of them. Goodness, I didn’t realise there was so much of it. It’s all fairly horrible, isn’t it? Even the Three Es is at it.” He held up Ethnic Eastshire in index finger and thumb, before dropping it fastidiously back onto the desk.
“You can probably imagine what I want to know, Tom. What can be done about this legally? Can I take these people to court?”
“Now you’re asking, Dan—and you’re asking the wrong man. I’m just a country solicitor, and I’ve never gone in for libel, or politics for that matter. All I know about libel law is that it is a very tricky business—a double-edged sword, in fact. You need to go and see a specialist. Scales & Scales might be a good first port of call. I know Arnold Scales well; I’ll give him a ring for you.” He picked up the phone, while Dan sweated and watched the lozenges of the cars chase across the ceiling.
“Arnold? Hello, it’s Tom Spaggart. How are things? Is Marjorie well? Ha, ha, ha! Look, I’ve got a potential client for you. It’s someone from Crisby, a farmer whose family I’ve done business with for years. I think you’ll be surprised to hear who...OK, I’ll put you out of your misery. It’s Dan Gowt...Yes!”
He smiled across at Dan and raised his eyebrows.
“Actually, I’m slightly surprised you’ve heard of him. I didn’t know you followed politics...Eh? Ha, hmm, I suppose so. The thing is that the papers have been saying some fairly foul things about him, and he wants to know where he stands. It’s much more your sort of thing than mine! Can I send him along to go and see you? He’s here with me now...Sorry?”
He began to find the guttering on the building opposite interesting. Dan tried to read his profile. It was unusual for him to pay so much attention to someone’s face, and he realised for the first time that Tom Spaggart was extrremely old. Just beneath that spruce, even dandyish, demeanour was a frail, fluttering, near-future phantasm, whose shrink- wrapped skin was slowly tightening over his whole body. Dan could see his veined hand trembling slightly on the phone handset, as if he might lose his grip at almost any moment. In that never-disturbed office with its shelves and cabinets overflowing with dry leaf-litter, Spaggart was like some outsize imago. His famous suit was almost like an exoskeleton. It was a faintly horrifying but also ludicrous notion, and Dan was surprised by his own imaginative faculties. Thinking of the lawyer this way made Dan feel guilty.
The lawyer was still talking. “Yes, yes, I can see that...I understand. If I’m honest, I can’t say I blame you. Nasty business—very nasty...What’s that?...You think so?...I’m surprised...Yes...yes... Absolutely...I’m sure he’ll understand...No, no, of course, I won’t. OK, well thanks anyway, and please say hello to Marjorie. I’ll see you soon. Lunch, maybe? OK, thanks.”
He turned back into the room, sat thinking for a few seconds and was about to speak when Dan interjected. “I got the gist of that. He’s not interested.”
“Well, he is interested, even sympathetic, but he feels there is probably no case to answer. He says the coverage he has seen has stopped just on this side of legality. It’s innuendo, rather than accusations. Those boys always cover their backs—that was the way he put it. He also has quite a small practice, and he’s busy—very busy, in fact...”
“All right. There is an ‘And.’ I’ll tell you as we have known each other for so long, but only on the strict understanding that you will not repeat this to anyone...OK? Good. He was straightforward in saying that even if he wasn’t so busy, and even if there was a good case, he would prefer not to take you on. First, he hasn’t got experience in this kind of political case, which is much more complicated than other types of libel. Secondly, he felt that the...um...fallout of having you as a client might be… um… professionally disadvantageous. Remember, I’m just saying what he said!”
Dan sat silent, looking less at Tom Spaggart than through him. He had rather expected there would be some pretext for doing nothing. The papers would surely not have left themselves open to legal action. The law’s apparent impotence or unwillingness to help fitted in with much else he had learned recently.
He wasn’t certain he would have gone through with legal action anyway. He had always had the countryman’s slightly sour suspicion of the legal system, the taxman, the police, and doctors. Hatty had never understood his sour suspicion of all authority figures—but all he had seen and been through lately had just underlined his original conviction. The world didn’t belong to people like him, but people like them—people who relished the hypocritical and Byzantine game for its own sake. Even people like Tom Spaggart, so much cleverer than he, were just interpreters and enforcers.
“I’m very sorry, Dan—very sorry, indeed. I’ll have another go at him, or maybe I can think of any one else. You could find someone in London, but even there I think you might find it quite difficult. This whole subject is...well, difficult!”
Dan shook the neat, dry hand and left. He realized Spaggart was simultaneously ashamed of not helping and embarrassed by his presence. He didn’t blame him really; he sensed correctly that the country lawyer was like him uncertain and out of place in this world. As he walked along Southgate, the hateful newspapers heavy under his arm, he became aware that a group of smoking teenagers on the corner were watching greedily. “It’s him, OK!” he heard one whisper. Dan nodded stiffly, they nodded back, and he was past. A girl with a lopsided, bleached hairstyle giggled, and they huddled together, a conspiracy of youth against crabbed age.
Next Tuesday - Part 11
Copies of Sea Changes are available from Amazon (a few copies of the first edition still available)
…........................................................................................- Derek Turner has appeared in a number of top-notch news outlets, including Taki's, Chronicles and the Times.
Follow him on Twitter: Follow @DerekTurner1964
or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some recent articles from Derek Turner:MUDDLING THROUGH (OR NOT) WITH MULTICULTURALISM
Taking back the city
FALSE FLAGS, AND TANGLED GROWTHS
FLIGHTS OF FANCY