Never Too Late!

Never Too Late!
any resemblance to anyone real or imaginary is mere bad luck
we are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are trying to get up


oh dear, blogger has screwed up my lovely template somehow while updating to this new interface. both interface and template served me perfectly well for years and years now, who knows what is going on...

in haste... but realgem is still here!


this reality thing still feels like a cutting knife, sometimes, with nothing to hide behind


The Return

for many of us, all roads have led to norway.

that is an oblique tangent on which to start the story.

tomorrow: remember to buy soap, a good knife, some alprazolam, and a surge-protected 4-way extension lead.


let’s start with something more sickly, sickly familiar, then. waking up at 0600 after a horrible sleepless night in deep dark, still distinctly withdrawally, forcing myself out into the pre-dawn black chill of winter london with nothing, not even a valium to take the edge off...

no, wait a second, we’ve heard this one before. i think.

some of the parameters are different, though. i would like to think.

the extraction operation begins with 2 large cans of monster energy drink, a quarter of vodka, and finishing off the thai and the moroccan in between bursts of frantic packing, phoning, organising, tying up loose ends in a desperate rushed fumble.

fast forward 28 hours and four time zones or so in a blur. (i get the emergency exit seat on the emirates B777-300, giving me all the leg-room, and a pretty and chatty slovakian air hostess sitting opposite me for take-off, before she gets up to keep the passengers fed and me supplied with magical endless absolut miniature bottles.)

dubai. i am sitting in a bar half-way up a reproduction in pale yellowish stone of the great pyramid - complete with giant statues, hieroglyphs and glittering pharaonic gold - only better, because it has terraces with palm-shaded multi-level swimming pools with swim-up bars set into the side. fans of peacock feathers wave mechanically overhead to stir the cool air and eddies of cigarette smoke inside.

i am drinking what turns out to be one of several hideously over-priced vodka tonics. i haven’t slept, and my foot still taps convulsively occasionally. i am waiting for a visa. nervously. i wonder if they will take notice at the consulate that i have travelled many times before to afghanistan, but on a different nationality passport. whether they found it curious that i ticked the box saying i had never applied for an afghan visa before but addressed the clerk in dari.


[to be continued. we are another 28 hours along now, and despite my best efforts to bludgeon my consciousness into a blissful coma, still sleep has continued to elude me]


sorry i haven't been writing.

a lot of the parameters have changed.

i'm trying to find the big story

others are looking for it too

(if you are browsing idly for something interesting to read, the labels feature might be instructive as to what this has all been about)

oh, who knows about anything


this is a serious document


today, I met a librarian of jihad


He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship," quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.
Chief Mess Officer's log:

Adrift off Looe, gentle swell. Crackle of West Country voices over the VHF. Attempting to cook a meal for three crew on gently rocking small gas stove. Gentle breaths of breeze strong enough to blow out a small flame but not strong enough to sail under.

"Food will be ready in three-and-a-half or seven minutes exactly."
"In three-and-a-half or seven minutes exactly?"
"It's the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. While the lid is on, the notional food inside exists in a state of quantum uncertainty. It is only when I remove the lid that the quantum waveform collapses into a definite state..."

We have been becalmed out here all day and are probably delirious with hunger and sun.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
"Oh shit! I forgot to put in the Higgs bosons! They could ripple back through time to before when I started cooking, and cooking time might increase to theoretical infinity. We might be stuck in a quantum time loop, just like in Dr Who... We're really fucked now..."
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
"Oh good. I have removed the lid, and the rice has collapsed into a... into a 'Mexican risotto-type thing' quantum state. I have hereby prepared a delicious meal, and disproved all that pseudo-scientific gibber in Dr Who as well. As Chief Mess Officer, it is naturally within my mandate to conduct physics experiments on the gas stove."
Lazy, now dubbed 'Whippet', is set to running errands around in the dinghy, when he can spare the time from putting out nets surreptitiously for mullet and wow, jackpot, even bass...

Halfway across Falmouth harbour he notices the water in the boat is almost up to knee-level and there is definitely more of it than there was. Then the outboard sputters and dies.

His unfortunate passenger is set to bailing frantically while he phones shore. "Um... is there a bung missing here that you forgot to tell me about?" - "No." - "Well, we're shipping water awfully fast. Did Wayne fill the petrol up like he said he would when he borrowed it last time?" - "Um, I don't know. Quite possibly not, knowing him..." There is laughter at the other end of the line as he rings off.

The water is about an inch from the gunwales. Lazy looks up, and a brilliant double rainbow has appeared, almost incandescent across a moody, glowering sky.

And God said:"This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you,
and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. (Genesis 9:12-15)

He sighs heavily, gets the oars out, and sets to rowing, hard. His passenger is bailing - a panicking man with a bucket is better than any pump when the water's rising - and we reach the mud, thank God it's low tide, just in time.

Lazy's passenger stalks off in a rage, convinced this was an incredibly unfunny practical joke played on them by "Captain Blight", and he is left alone with a heavy swamped boat and no outboard, and mystified and worried about the source of the leak. Surely he hasn't somehow accidentally holed the boat that Captain Blight borrowed from the old gentleman? No, that's impossible.

There is a little bit of petrol in a bottle marked 'meths' under the sail in the dinghy. Lazy fills the outboard and shoves the boat off, prays and starts the outboard. Holding the tiller with one hand and working the boatpump with the other, he heads back across the harbour and into the cove and creek.

He just makes it to the other side, ramming the boat into the low-tide mud shore, again with the water lapping at an inch from the rail, pulls her ashore, drags her up dry. Water jets out of a little hole aft where the bung is missing.

Captain Blight is kind enough to provide dry clothes and sherry.

"...and as we were there with a dead outboard, sinking, I was thinking..."
"You were thinking: 'It's not my fault!' " interrupts Captain Blight, laughing.
"...I looked at the sky, and there was this double rainbow, and I thought, well, if I'm going down, at least it's a beautiful day for it."

A near-disaster averted. I am pleased to note that Lazy seemed to enjoy every minute of it, but I am not so sure about his unfortunate passenger.

It is utterly mystifying why it all should have happened in the first place. Bungs aren't supposed to just fall out as there is water pressure keeping them in.

"I suspect..." I am saying later.
"You suspect skulduggery. You suspect - Wayneduggery," says the malung, who won't talk to Lazy any more, also due to a later boat-related incident.


ستاروں سے آگے جہاں اور بھی ہیں
ابھی عشق کے امتحاں اور بھی ہیں
تہی زندگی سے نہیں یہ فضائیں
یہاں سینکڑوں کارواں اور بھی ہیں
قناعت نہ کر عالمِ رنگ و بُو پر
چمن اور بھی، آشیاں اور بھی ہیں
اگر کھو گیا اک نشیمن تو کیا غم
مقاماتِ آہ و فغاں اور بھی ہیں
تو شاہیں ہے ، پرواز ہے کام تیرا
ترے شامنے آسماں اور بھی ہیں
اسی روز و شب میں الجھ کر نہ رہ جا
کہ تیرے زمان و مکاں اور بھی ہیں
گئے دن کہ تنہا تھا میں انجمن میں
یہاں اب مرے رازداں اور بھی ہیں

Sitaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain
Abhi ishq ke imtehan aur bhi hain
Tahi zindagi se nahin ye fizayen
Yahan siakdon karwaan aur bhi hain
Khana’at na kar aalam-e-rang-o-bu par
Chaman aur bhi aashiyaan aur bhi hain
Agar kho gaya ek nasheman to kya ghum
Maqmat-e-aah-o-fughaan aur bhi hain
Tu shaheen hai parvwaaz hai kaam tera
Tere saamne aasmaan aur bhi hain
Isi roz-o-shab main ulajh kar na rah ja
Ke tere zameen par makaan aur bhi hain
Gaye din ke tanha tha main anjuman mein
Yahaan ab mere raazdaan aur bhi hain

Beyond the stars there are worlds more
Our quest yet has more tests to pass
This existence alone does not matter
There are boundless journeys more
Do not rest on what you have
There are paradises more to explore
Why worry if you have lost one abode
There are a million addresses to claim
You are the falcon, your passion is flight
And you have skies more to transcend
Lose not yourself in the cycle of days and nights
Within your reach are feats even more
Gone is the day when I was lonesome in the crowd
Today those who resonate my thoughts are more

Mohammed Iqbal 
Naujawaan ke Naam, Bal-e-Jibraeel, 1908



Sharp metallic percussion of dropping scattering coins. They walked ostentatiously, spilling spare change all over the wet rainbow marble pavements.

Faded ideas to take to heaven




Said I one night to a pristine seer
(Who knew the secrets of whirling time)
"Sir, you well perceive
That goodness and faith,
Fidelity and love
Have all departed from this sorry land
Father and son are at each other's throat;
Brother fights brother, Unity and federation are undermined
Despite all these ominous signs,
Why has not Doomsday come?
Who holds the reins of the Final Catastrophe?
The hoary old man of lucent ken
Pointed towards Kashi and gently smiled
"The Architect", he said, "is fond of this edifice
Because of which there is color in life; He
Would not like it to perish and fall."

(Mirza Ghalib, Benares, 1827)

Some velvet morning when I'm straight...

Sale demonios

"The sick is in your head," said Viktor. Dismissively.
"Yes, and so is everything else. You're in my head, Viktor. Get out!"



i sit here trying to think myself into the head that brought you all these words


"Words build bridges into unexplored regions."

Adolf Hitler



Nature abhors a vacuum

And the vacuum, well, it abhors nature