Saturday, 20 September 2014

The social justice warrior in four seasons

The social justice warrior in four seasons

A tanka cycle

Spring blossoms. I write
on bare skin in our combined
sexual juices
a fawning review of your
terrible video game.

Summer winds blow favours
from friends. Undeserved status
wealth and influence.
Your money buys the ink for
my pen that sings your praises.

Autumn rot. The body
that we pronounced dead rises.
I, a megaphone,
cannot drown its words or still
the voice of my enemy.

Winter snows. Our febrile
heat cracks the ice underfoot.
A cold spider web
showing through starved foundations
slowly pulls itself apart.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Three or four angels

Three or four angels

By Mark Sadler


The unlovely office block where I worked from the week that I left college right up until August 2014 is called Moorcroft House. This is in reference to an 18th century redbrick mansion that formerly occupied the site where it survived two world wars but was ultimately flattened beneath the jackboot of urban developers in the early 1960s. The block overlooks Lambs Passage; an L-shaped road located just north of the Barbican, painted on either side with double yellow lines and barely wide enough to accommodate a single lane of vehicle traffic. It is more of a glorified alleyway.

My desk was situated in an open-plan area on the second floor, adjacent to a row of windows. Several times a day I would rise from my chair and stare out through the darkened glass.

From this vantage point I would often see in the street below a gathering of three or four angels who would congregate at the same spot on the pavement opposite. A colleague of mine once remarked how peculiar it was for us to be looking down on them when in biblical writings angels are portrayed as descending from on high and typically remain aloof from the ground.

The angels were dressed as one would expect in flowing white or champagne-coloured robes. The only time I ever saw any variation in this uniform occurred a few days before Easter 2009 when they manifested wearing hard hats and with fluorescent safety jackets pulled over their vestments. I attributed this change in attire to angel humour as further along the road a trio of workmen dressed in very similar clothing had dug up a short section of the tarmac exposing the pipes underneath.

The angels always appeared pre-occupied by some inaudible conversation that one felt compelled not to interrupt. However there was an occasion when, as I passed by on my lunch break, I noticed one of the host looking in my direction as if inviting my questions and so I asked him: “Why do you congregate here on this spot in the heart of London?”

He replied: “We gather here because beneath our feet lie the remains of the poet William Blake.”

I responded:

You are incorrect. The marker for the grave of William Blake lies in Bunhill Fields and his true resting place not more than 20 metres from the site.”

Then the second angel spoke:

It is true that William Blake lies here beneath our feet. As a boy he ate of bread that had fallen from the heavens. That which sustained both his body and his soul was incorruptible and never left him.. It remains in the ground to this day where it radiates something of the heavens above.”

The third angel joined the conversation:

William Blake died singing of the wonders he had glimpsed in heaven. In his memory we raised the pulpit spring upon this site. Alas, it has been forced underground and forgotten.”

It was then that I became aware of a fourth angel who seemed to exist only sporadically. He did not speak.

A few months ago I looked down from the window of the office and saw only bare pavement. The angels have not returned. Today as I packed my belongings and cleared my desk in readiness for my successor I have resigned myself to never seeing them again.


In the grounds of Fulham Palace, once home to the bishops of London, there lies the grave of an angel whose name is known but to god. A letter written by the bishop Edward Milbourn on the 7th July 1812 records how the seraph had fallen from clear blue sky the previous afternoon. A local doctor pronounced its neck broken and the body was quietly buried.

The following morning the heaped dirt over the burial bristled with long white flight feathers. Milbourn ordered these removed and placed in a studded wooden trunk that he kept in his office. 

New feathers reappeared on the grave the following day and have done so every day thereafter. Every morning before dawn a caretaker removes them and places them inside the Milbourn trunk. When the trunk is full the feathers are transported to an un-named bank where they are stored securely in a vault.

I once asked bishop Angus Pomroy whether he had ever considered either exhuming the body of the angel or destroying the feathers, which must surely now be very large in quantity.

He replied:

I would greatly fear the consequences for my soul were I to pursue either action.”


As you enter Bromfield's Tailory you will see hanging from the panelled wall directly adjacent to the door, a large tapestry. Its lower left corner is ragged from being brushed against by people as they enter and leave the premises. The piece as a whole is moth-eaten and riddled with holes. It is so filthy that it deflects all but the most determined gaze. However when subjected to scrutiny it reveals an image of the river Thames in London at some time during the 17th century, the water teaming with a great variety of boats and sailing vessels.

The tapestry was woven by Mr Bromfield 17 years ago during a long convalescence. I asked him once whether he had considered repairing it and perhaps treating the fabric with a chemical that might deter future insect infestations. He directed my attention to a hole which had been gnawed clean though the threads and to a caterpillar that appeared to be in the process of weaving silk across the empty space:

Am I to judge the work of god's hand as inferior to my own?”

One Sunday morning, while Mr Bromfield was attending mass, an angel entered the premises. He was carrying with him a black plastic bucket that was filled almost to the top with small coloured button badges – green, red, yellow, or blue, all decorated with pithy slogans.

He silently offered me one which I declined.

I explained to him my atheist convictions and my belief that angels do not descend to earth from the heavens but are the benign ambassadors of an alien race.

He nodded his understanding but still plucked a red badge from the bucket and handed to me. Printed in black ink across it glossy surface were the words: 'Hey! What's up?'

Upon Mr Bromfield's return I showed him the badge and inquired after its meaning. He pondered it for a few moments before responding:

What you have to take into account when dealing with angels is that everything they say or do occurs within the realm of the avant garde. Which is to say that there may be some meaning or intent to their actions but its been buried beneath so many layers of imagery and symbolism the chances are you'll drive yourself mad trying to work it out.

Trust me, I've been dealing with angels for over 70 years and unless they're waving a flaming sword in your direction I would take their behaviour with a pinch of salt.”


While wandering back home through the sketchy pre-dawn streets of Chalk Farm I saw what appeared to be an angel approaching from the opposite direction. As we drew closer to each other I realised that what I had initially assumed to be a celestial being was in fact Francis Newth, the lead guitarist of The Wens. Like me he was returning from a party which he had attended in fancy dress.

At a book launch the following week I relayed this story to my friend Jon Horsman who is a professor of logic at Woodford college in Dulwich. He asked me:

But how do you know that what you saw was not an angel disguised as Francis Newth disguised as an angel?”

I considered inquiry at length and found that I could not answer him.

Horsman took full advantage of having knocked me intellectually off-balance and seized the opportunity to have sex with my girlfriend in the cloakroom - an incident that I was only made aware of four months later.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Today, at 6:52am, I entered Super Power-Up Mode

Today, at 6:52am, I entered Super Power-Up Mode

Dear human reader, search-engine web-crawler, or itinerant porn-bot,

I am writing to you this evening on a matter of great import.

At 6:52am on Monday 1st September, 2014, a fortuitous set of circumstances, which I will describe in greater detail below, allowed my upward transition from Ordinary Life Mode (OLM*) to an elevated state of being known as Super Power-Up Mode (SPM).

Although this enhanced state lasted a mere 30 seconds the discrepancies in time perception between OLM and SPM meant that for me events taking place within this half-minute window seemed to be unfolding over the course of several hours. This afforded me plenty of opportunity to explore my modified environment and make detailed observations, some of which I will attempt to describe, though words alone will not do them justice.

(*more commonly referred to by people over the age of 40 as “Mode Five”)

How did you enter Super Power-Up Mode?

At 6:50am I exited my study which is located on the upper floor of my home. Having ventured onto the landing and established that there were no patrolling ghosts in the vicinity, I noted an unbroken line of yellow pep pills, each spaced a uniform distance apart, arranged along the middle of the carpet, starting at the closed door of the spare room then trailing down the stairs before disappearing around the corner into the hallway/lobby. Working from the beginning of the line I immediately began to eat the pills one after the other. After I had consumed around 50 (which by my estimate comprised just over two-thirds of the pills in total) a crude electronic fanfare sounded and the words “Super Power-Up Mode!!!” flashed repeatedly before my eyes. It was at this moment that a gnarly electric guitar riff began to play on a continuous loop.

You must have shit yourself! What is Super Power-up Mode like?

I did not shit myself. Such a thing would not be possible in Super Power-Up Mode where the laws of the universe are altered in a such a way that the outcome of any action you attempt can never be anything less than objectively awesome.

Scientists who have studied this parallel reality have concluded that the ambient levels of fail in Super Power-Up Mode stands at around >0.001% (for more information read Super Power Up Mode is Mostly Made Out Sex and Win – Dilkes & Townshend – East Anglia Journal of Transitory Modes, Vol 14 Issue 9). This is opposed to the 79% fail that comprises Ordinary Life Mode, which is often said to be “made of fail” by those with a fondness for hyperbole over facts.

Below I will outline my main observations of Super Power-Up Mode:

1. Upon entering Super Power-Up Mode I immediately became aware of long dead friends and family surrounding me, embracing me, warmly shaking my hand and congratulating me on my achievement. In that moment I was taken by a most peculiar sensation – a melancholy blend of aching sadness and soaring joy that surged through me as, one by one, I was reunited with those who I had thought lost to me forever. “Help us for we are damned to wander this curse-ed realm for eternity,” spoke one of the shades as a gathering wind blew them all from my sight.

2. Having regained my emotional bearings and wiped the traces of spittle from my reddened cheeks, I realised that my clothes had changed. I was now wearing on my top half a flared navy-blue jacket with epaulettes that had been cleverly fashioned from a pair of living raccoons. Occasionally these raccoons would detach from my shoulders and launch themselves high into the air where they would snatch pocket watches that were suspended from fixed points in the sky. Initially I assumed these antique timepieces were a means of extending the length of my stay in Super Power-Up Mode. However closer inspection revealed them to be ordinary watches of the kind that might have been worn by a Victorian gentleman.

Back in Ordinary Life Mode I attempted to sell some of the watches on Ebay. This resulted in a visit to my home from the local police who informed me that four of the timepieces I had put up for auction had been reported stolen. It seems that unscrupulous thieves are using Super Power Up Mode as a convenient place to store their pilfered goods. These thieves clearly had not taken into account the heightened scavenging tendencies of my raccoon companions. It is advisable that any the watches harvested from the blue skies of Super Power-Up Mode are handed in to the police upon your return so as to avoid the possibility of a criminal record.

3. In addition to my two normal arms which I keep beside me at all times Super Power-Up Mode gifted me with six additional arms which manifested as ghostly overlapping appendages. While my original arms busied themselves with mundane tasks my new phantom limbs engaged in all many of frippery sewing half-finished quilts, playing whatever the collective noun is for a group of xylophones, and engaging in light office and administrative duties. On those occasions when this flurry of disparate activity became a blur, the word “COMBO” followed by a multiplier would flash-up in front of me. The highest combo multiplier I achieved while in Super Power-Up Mode was x14. The next time you enter Super Power-Up Mode why not see if you can beat my high score.

4. A physician who was monitoring my vital signs for the duration of my stay in Super Power-Up Mode noted that my green health bar (which is used by doctors to gauge the well-being of their patients) had turned red and had expanded so that it was twice its normal size. An analysis of my blood taken during this episode indicated that, for a period lasting around five ordinary seconds, I also entered the complimentary state of Invincibility Mode. During this time I was immune to every known virus and all but the most aggressive forms of cancer. As my doctor put it: “If god had chosen that moment to punch you in the groin, he would have walked away with a sore fist.”

5. In Super Power-Up Mode I am able to perform a handstand, a feat that I find impossible in Ordinary Life Mode.

6. In Super Power-Up Mode making physical contact with trees causes them to momentarily become featureless silhouettes that rapidly flash blue and white. Striking them while they are in this state causes their canopies to shiver and eject showers of gold coins. I gathered some of these coins in a wheelbarrow and took them to my bank where the teller informed me that they held no monetary value. My theory is that this coinage is representative of the currency of an internet-based nation which has thus far eluded discovery. I vow to locate this civilisation and live among its people until such a time that the diseases I carry with me wipe them from existence.

7. The number '7' does not exist in Super Power-Up Mode.

8. There are many species of animal that are indigenous to Super Power-Up Mode. Swatting at these creatures causes them to evaporate in clouds of coloured vapour releasing points which can be redeemed at participating petrol stations. Strangely these points cannot be off-set against the cost of petrol. During my time in SPM I was able to identify nine new species of moth, previously unknown to science, and able to render eight of these extinct, earning me enough points to purchase a four-bar Kit Kat in Ordinary Life Mode.

9. There are no motorised vehicles in Super Power-Up Mode. Any long journeys are undertaken either on foot or on the backs of lions all of whom are carbon neutral and emit no harmful greenhouse gases. Unlike their African counterparts who dine on gazelle, antelope and wildebeest, the lions of this realm recharge by standing adjacent to immense sentient gemstones that rise up out of the ground and exude waves of powerful energy. In return the gemstones benefit from the lion's protection from leprechaun prospectors.

My friend Murial say that Super Power-Up Mode is addictive and that all those who return from it do so as empty shells of human beings. Is that true?

I am confirm that your lover Murial is correct, or at least she is in my case. I would happily betray both Queen and country for another another 30 seconds in Super Power Up Mode. Evidently my family soon grew weary of witnessing the varied tawdry and sordid acts that I was willing to perform for a chance of returning to my earlier state, as this afternoon they staged an intervention.

As of this evening I will be entering rehab where I will undergo intensive group sessions as well as 'Venezuelan Bark Spider therapy' where you offload all of your problems onto a South American spider that makes a reassuring nodding gesture whenever it feels threatened.

My other friend Erzbet, who is prone to making wild claims, says there is such a thing as Ultra Power-Up Mode which is even more awesome than Super Power-Up Mode!

Your friend Erzbet is a liar and a fantasist. To enter Super Power-Up Mode is to become one with the omnipotent and divine. To experience anything even remotely similar in Ordinary World Mode you would have to lick the naked body of god starting at the toes and then slowly working your way up. There can be no greater feeling than that experienced in Super Power-Up Mode!

Is their a cheat code that will grant me access to Super Power-Up Mode?

There is no cheat code. To gain access to Super Power-Up Mode you must first prove yourself worthy by eating 50 pep pills while avoiding the roaming ghosts. Many have tried. Very few have succeeded.