By Derek Turner

The Connor Post - Exclusive - December 6, 2016

The introduction and part 1 of Sea Changes are here.
Part 2 of Sea Changes is here.
Part 3 of Sea Changes is here.

In this part-chapter, we make the acquaintance of leftwing opinion-former John Leyden, and see how he responds to news of the tragedy.

CHAPTER 5 (extract)

West London

Monday, 5th August

Tall with thought, John elbowed onto an eastbound between Polish builders and a large Indian family without seeing them. He even stepped on the matriarch’s foot, oblivious to her Gujurati glowering— simultaneously thinking about what he would write and enjoying “All Change” on his iPhone, Recondite Rock’s Band of the Week. He tapped his foot energetically to jangling guitars and an Old Harrovian’s slightly unconvincing Estuarial vocalizing—“I hyte the wye we are todye / Our lives are not our own / We must embryce the coming chynge / We’re a million miles from‘ome.” The Indian woman looked at him with distaste.

Forty-one minutes later, he burst blinking into the E14 glare, where the morning was bouncing between banked windows, giving him multiple reflections of himself as he walked along Bunyan Street past Wren’s St. Adalrics, the Evremode shop, finance houses, the cappuccino kiosk. Finally he entered the Examiner’s cool aquamarine offices (nickamed “The Fish Tank”), swiping his card to get through the barrier, oblivious to the smiling Ghanaian guard—up three floors in the mirrored lift (the shirt was just right)—gliding over to his desk. Most in Editorial seemed to be watching the large screen. Ignoring them (although some nodded, because they felt it was good policy to be on the right side of the paper’s risingest star) he typed rapidly while his coffee skinned over. He was caught up in the consciousness of his capability, and his responsibility.

He always felt when he was writing that he was sitting in front of a giant picture window, beyond which was spread out a coloured relief map of the whole world. There were clinical central business districts, privet- hedged suburbs and heaving favelas, boardrooms, red-upholstered clubs of red-faced men, luckless small people, campaigners and crushers, placards raised then trampled under baton and boot, columns marching forwards and crowds falling back, injustice and inspiration, currents and counter-currents, historical forces sweeping relentlessly over the map and turning everything around.

It was exhilarating to fly this far above the rest, like the chopper over the coast, seeing everything hyper-clearly and through his writing, changing what he saw. Looking down on it all, impossibly distant yet deeply involved, he saw a long white beach under the sun—a beach like a desert—a pleasure ground-cum-frontline—the soft shore of a hard country. The soft shore of a hard country! And draped picturesquely across that soft shore was human weed—uprooted by storms, at the mercy of great forces, cast up and forgotten. The newsroom faded out, as fine phrases chiselled something beautiful and strong.

He soon had much more than he needed, so he filleted the copy expertly but with a pang, keeping the phrases of which he was proudest, putting the overmatter into a blank document for future use. It was 11:15. How disgusting cold cappuccino was. He watched that brunette from the Weekend Section as she passed his desk, knowing she knew he was watching and didn’t mind. Her rear view reminded him pleasantly of some girl at Oxford.

He found himself thinking more these days of Oxford, no doubt a function of getting older (not that he would ever be conventional)— heady half-remembered times of indie gigs with blurred faces seen through speed and sweat, beer and dope and coke—dinner parties in SW districts—bhajis in Banglatown where the London brick gave a controlled exoticism—curated exhibitions in white spaces—book launches—Chelsea matches when adrenalin made him forget the incongruity of this communion with chavry—and of course girls— laughing so agreeably, hanging gratifyingly onto his longest words, granting admittance to their flats and friends, their soft mouths and pale thighs.

But Oxford had been much more than these things, which were, after all, the common currency of all his generation. Those things sufficed for most of them, but he at least had picked up a social conscience along with his degree.

Oxford to him had also been the Progressive and Radical Societies, networking that was now standing him in good stead and, most exciting, student union shouting at Christian Democrat MPs, whose anger and fear could almost be tasted, like a tang of blood in the water— no platform, no cuts, no justice, no peace—placards and speeches by déclassé allies in cheap clothes, waiting impatiently for his turn to make the audience sigh or shout to his formidable vocabulary and mellifluous accent, to make them anguished or angered by his passionate daggers stabbing dead straight at the authorities, The Man, the System, the tainted West. Thinking of the rebel he had been then made him proud. And he still had that same agenda, that urgency—but it was tempered now, he told himself, with incomparably more information, depth, breadth and understanding.

He was hauled back to the present by a horrified murmuring. It was C10 anchorman Mark Clark—famously seen on Celeb Rehab, naked and vomiting liberally into a plastic bucket. That all-defences-down and much-watched moment had purged him, and cleared the way for him to re-launch a career that had been in abeyance since his “momentary blip” with the rent boy. The cleansed celebrity was looking out sombrely at the world, as sternly kind as Mount Rushmore:“...even more disturbing. We go now to James Montmorency at Crisby. What more can you tell us, James?”

“Thank you, Mark. Medical personnel have told us that some of the bodies have suffered gunshot wounds. This means that what could otherwise have been simply a terrible accident will probably now become a full-scale murder investigation. There is a more heartening suggestion that at least one man has been found alive. If these stories are confirmed, then unsettling questions will be asked. However dreadful it is even to consider such a possibility—could local people have been involved? A horrible thought—but of course so far none of this has been confirmed....”

Thrillingness tore around the Fish Tank and many similar buildings. Unblinking lenses homed in even more narrowly and now also accusingly on the sea-besieged strand and the no-longer-harmless hamlet. John gazed down over the tiny Thames and the cutting–edge towers, and watched a jet descending into City Airport.

Murder! Racist murder! Failed states, hunger, fear, poverty, racism, repression, war, gangsters, guns in the night, mouths filled with seawater, hands clawing as they went down, down. Hope deferred, hope defeated, the South and East gone West in the North Sea...He turned back to the TV, and listened attentively to a plump, red-faced man wearing an old yellow shirt.

Next Tuesday - Part 5

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.

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