The Earlham Road Project

Fiction, collaboration, disgust

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


There were two professors. One said that the stuff you saw and touched was real, and that when you saw and touched it you were touching the same stuff everybody else saw and touched; the other said that the stuff you saw and touched was all in your head, and that there was no sure way of telling what was real and what was not.

They argued for some time.

Both had, at different points in their careers, pondered the question of infinity, but had put the question aside as not being within the realms of human understanding.

They died, one after the other, in fairly quick succession.

Two other professors came along and took their places, continuing their arguments. One said that the stuff you saw and touched was real, and that when you saw and touched it you were touching the same stuff everybody else saw and touched; the other said that the stuff you saw and touched was all in your head, and that there was no sure way of telling what was real and what was not.

Both had pondered the question of infinity and both had concluded that life is short, but that the argument continues forever.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

New Morning Rain by Kenny Stetson

It is seldom that I awake cottonmouthed and joyful
After a tiring night of dry nightmares

To the reality of rain, dripping rhythmically
On the sad tin roof outside our kitchen

To the sweetest smell of water, leaking into my room
Dripping from the leafy ovaries of our chestnut tree

Unbroken by the lewd monotony of drought
I will wash my face in the grey morning sky

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Beau Forte Lodge - (Situated on the B1108, also known as Earlham Road). By Tony Krüger

John Clare, owner of the Beau Forte Lodge, greeted me with a thin moustache, cluttered teeth and lots of enthusiasm. After clamping my hand in his large mitts, and pumping my arm like a beloved ratchet, he showed me to my room - a spacious en suite overlooking the grounds of the refurbished Victorian house. After discussing the merits of oil-based paints, he bowed in the doorway and with a final flourish produced a floral-patterned card from his shirtsleeve. The embossed promise read:

‘You are assured of a warm and friendly welcome.’

I immediately felt relief. John really had been everything his warm handshake had suggested. I sat down wearily on the chintz-quilted corner of the bed, removed my steel capped boots and wept tears of gratitude. The walk from the train station had left my nerves in tatters following an incident with an errant cyclist who had abused me for my taste in overcoats. Walking the dusty road through the fumes and noise, I had hoped the lodge would be all the brochure had promised: ‘Comfort amongst the refined’, and there I was breathing in pot pourri and the lace of antimacassars.

That night after a fish dinner, John’s wife Claire: a husky contralto and pearl earrings, sang by the piano to a tape recording of Jeanne Moreau singing ‘When Love Dies’. As she bowed to the pre-recorded applause, my fellow diners and I threw our floral table decorations at her feet, she bowed low and delicately gathered faux roses and hydrangeas, before distributing another card:

‘We regret that we will no longer be able to accommodate risk.’

Another round of applause. We drifted from our tables to our beds. I have never known a more peaceful sleep, than the night I spent at the Beau Forte Lodge, on the Earlham Road.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Exercises in Earlham by Kenny Stetson

It was midday. I was cycling down Earlham road, swerving around the occasional large hole, downhill towards the city centre. Pedaling frantically, I reached the point when air drag and the friction of my tires on the hot tarmac prevented further acceleration. A swift-footed citizen hurried uphill against the tide, and into the mess of blurred shapes at the corner of my eye. He or she was carrying something, possibly a sledge hammer or a pickaxe. I resumed pedaling at an absurd speed, almost knocking myself off balance as I flew passed the crematorium. Tiny insects slammed into me and stuck to my forehead. I kept a tight grip on the handlebars, squinted and ducked even lower, tearing through a thick cloud of exhaust fumes. The brake lights of a truck flashed on the runway ahead of me. Maximum velocity. The rushing wind in my ears subsided and the flavor of carbon monoxide on my tongue faded. My blistered tongue. The warm lorry. And a shitload of fries. Unaccustomed as I was to cycling on the left, it surprised me to see Kruger and O'Cinneide suddenly overtaking in a blue Cortina. Kruger waved as they passed and steered clear of the truck. The truck turned to the right.

An hour later I caught sight of them again outside the Castle Mall post office. Kruger was advising his companion to have another button put on his overcoat. They didn't see me. I walked in to send a parcel of tobacco to an acquaintance on an Arizonian farm.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Tool by Tony Kruger

‘You’ve got to be in the system, to play the system, to get out of the system. That’s what you’ve got to do.’ The site foreman stared at me, waiting for me to nod in affirmation or raise an eyebrow, so I did both, but not because I understood him. I could only concentrate on the line of hair perched close to his upper lip, which looked like it would dissolve in his tea. I resisted the desire to flick it away, propriety standing behind me, its hands on my shoulders.

He carried on sipping tea and staring at his shoes, which made me stare at mine, but the boots had stopped feeling comfortable and anxiety began to spread from my steel toecaps upwards. So I followed some advice I was given once and wandered out into the backyard and picked up a hammer. It was the best advice anyone ever gave me: if you want to look busy, carry a tool and walk fast.

I hurried back through the site office with the hammer leading me, but just as I got near to the door I saw him take off his hat and for the first time since I’d met him, I got to see what he’d been hiding underneath. His head was hairless on top and as he went to smooth his scalp I saw his hand falter above the white shining pate. It happened in an instant, but plainly the hand still remembered the departed hair.

At that point I should have carried on by, but I didn’t. Instead I leaned forward and very gently placed the hammer on his head. Actually that’s not totally true. I made the sound of a helicopter and then very gently placed the hammer on his head. He looked up from his shoes, and it was then that I saw that he hadn’t really stopped talking to me and that there were tiny flecks of yellow and grey in his irises, that his pencil moustache was blond and his hand had a long scar running from knuckle to knuckle, and his mouth trembled from time to time and that the hammer was slipping from his bald head and he hadn’t even noticed it.

So I pulled him to me, hugged him tight and told him that he could count on me always. We stayed clasped together in the site office for some time, swaying to the sounds of the mixers and the cranes and the chisels and the drills.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A talk on aesthetics by Leo Runcible

I worked on a poem all day that day, called ‘Yer Thighs’, about my love of her thighs.

Her: gone now like all the others. I’ve taken what I can, used it in my work.

My work: seems at times so dusty and inelegant, like an unwanted phone directory lingering too long in the darkened garage of a long-abandoned house.

Abandoned house: like what I was when she left me for the circus.

The circus: where she went after she left me. The longing to breathe fire for a living could no longer be suppressed, she said. Why?

Why: I said. She said she could not explain to someone who had never swallowed a lit match.

The lit match: back then, long before, burning down to its base without me putting it in my mouth.

My mouth: unburned then, but, now: unloved.

So many whys: yer lovely thighs.

I never was much of a poet, but I’ve stuck to it like a limpet. You get used to it, like life, they say. One thing has become clear over the years of grinding out the lines: make them rhyme, hammer them out. Get paid on time.

With the rhymes came the adverts, and with the adverts came the money. I bought a new pencil.

Pencil: so sharp at the beginning, but dulled with time.

Time: what I now have a lot of. Since she left me.

The other night, I went,
Where all my money I did spent,
Three rings my entertainment provided
No clowns elevated my humours,
Or gave any explanation for why-she-did
Leave me for the dubious joys of
Flammable exhalations in the shabby sawdust
Damp with tiger piss, softening the blows
Dealt to the disappointed imaginations of
Once bright-eyed children.

Bright-eyed children: what I once was (at least, one of them).

I bought two new pencils. The second one a spare, retaining its point, keeping its sheen. Like a portrait of Dorian pencil. I kept it in a special wooden box at the foot of my bed.

Then, one day, it was gone, and in its place, in the small wooden box, some ashes.

She had smoked it, or something like that.

I never asked.

Soon I could detect the fumes of paraffin lingering around the house when I returned from the office.

The Office: where I go to work, hammering out rhymes like a man with a hammer hammers out whatever you hammer out with a hammer.

Another hammer, perhaps?

Metaphor: something you write when you can’t think of the exact word for something.

Circus: six quid in? Not exactly a bargain, but another chance to try and explain the world through a microcosm.

I thought, if the lions represent good, do the tigers represent evil? And what about the elephants?

They represent wisdom, I thought, as I watched one take an enormous dump on the dank sawdust in front of an entire family.

The monkeys could represent Christianity and its struggles with the bananas of truth.

Transubstantiation? Paraffin into fire.

Her: standing there blowing fire. Turned me on, slightly. Felt a twinge, and then had to leave the auditorium, shamefacedly, with a programme held crotchwards.

Crotchwards: towards which all art tends.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

'A History of the Earlham Pits' par Jozef O'Cinneide

With apologies to Hans Prinzhorn (sadly not late of these partes)

Holes are apt to open up on the Earlham Road, it is a limestone/chalk area; primal, cuniform, inviting holes into which buses sink at an average of (at least) one a decade, usually in the short stretch of tarmac that connects the so-called “Secret Gardens” with the dwelling-place of W.H., who is now incredibly old, but still a visible and extremely cantankerous local presence, and who has enjoyed something of a critical and commercial revival in the wake of recent appreciation of his work by sexy young writers from England, the Republic of Ireland, Germany and Mexico. If not enjoying the fame - he has been a recluse ever since his hand was maimed in a slapstick incident in the late thirties - W.H. has enjoyed the monetary rewards of his own rediscovery. His royalty payments have paid for a new digital camera, which he has recently used to photograph the disappearance of a number 26 bus below the surface of Earlham Road. Employing a very slow shutter speed, W.H. has created the illusion a white, pink and blue (some might say violet) blur emanating from a murky, gradual crevasse in the highway.

Of course, we can share in facts that W.H. is too obstinate (but he would be at his age) to recognise. Most of these require no further discussion, but is it not time that we acknowledged that this crack and its vaporous eminence have always been there. To W.H., and indeed to the few visitors who have been welcomed into his acquaintance, the translucent blur represents the potentialities opened up by modern photographic techniques. But the old sod can’t be right all the time. No, to tell a secret, he’d actually captured an image of what was actually taking place: he had only deduced that a bus was entering the hole because he had read the Kodak manual in rather a meticulous fashion.

What is this strange violet spirit? Well, in truth, it’s buying fags.

Even ill-defined and amorphous quasi-spiritual entities enjoy the lovely taste and effect of FAGS. Who doesn’t enjoy the relaxing effect of their first TAB after work. W.H. loves SMOKING and considers it a crucial element both in the successful undertaking of a literary life and his own superannuation. The pink ghost emerges from his crack and goes and buys twenty CIGARETTES from the shop. It does this several times a day but is ashamed of the stigma that comes with buying 4 packets of MARLBORO REDS all in one go.


I have just related the above FACTS to W.H. and, while disappointed that his camera had not in fact captured the disappearance of a busload of scholars but a chronically addicted genius loci, he is well pleased that ghosts love BINES. And so am I.