riChard Lemmer rafiCq abduLLa thomas mogford
Van Jam essa W es eLr ooLf oY fLe C
Welcome to issue 90 of LiTRO From the editors What do you think of when I bring up the subject of a city’s ‘wild life’? Flocks of starlings, perhaps, or pigeons; or the zoo; squirrels, or domestics turned stray; perhaps with a little imagination you think of your own semi-civilised antics on the weekend or in your secret other lives. Well it seems that the writers around you have only one thing on their minds: vermin. Richard Lemmer brings us a rather plausible future scenario, in which urban golf seems to have merged with more dangerous sports, while Thomas Mogford reveals the sympathetic side of Rentokil’s descendents. To round off our flea-ridden collection, we have a creepy tale by Vanessa Woolf, set in an earlier incarnation of our verminous city. But there is more to life than living in sewers. Chris Smith’s brilliant story ‘Since Charlie Hadn’t Come’ is a disturbing tale of bucolic extra-urban wildness sliding into unexpected degrees of horror. Along with this story, we are lucky also to be able to present the superb line-drawings of illustrator Jess Watson. This month, too, we underline our commitment to bringing a little art to your journeys around and beyond the city with a few highlights from the celebrated Poems on the Underground series. We couldn’t resist a little punning with the inclusion of a gem by one of our favourite decadent poets. We hope you enjoy the issue. Sophie Lewis & Dena Ziari
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OuTFOxed richArd lemmer Prowling the city with an urban fox hunter As part of our ‘Urban Life’ series, Markus Man goes on hunt with the latest sport that is shocking London The Guardian, Monday 30th January, 2013 Holding his Kraven Crossfire M-26 taser rifle in one hand and his night vision goggles in the other, Eric Carr peers through the darkness into the garden behind the house in Brixton, south London. It’s the dead of night but Eric has a clear view through his night vision goggles, standing on the car bonnet to peer over the garden wall from the supermarket car park. Any fox that enters his line of sight is in for a shocking surprise. Pursing his lips around a specially designed whistle, Eric lets out a high-pitched squeak. In the darkness of the garden something dashes through a flowerbed. The next instant Eric pulls the trigger of his rifle and his quarry - a two-year-old vixen - is dead. “They think the squeak is a mouse,“ says Eric. “They can’t help but move, even if it’s just to go prone. That’s when I shoot them in the head.” Welcome to London’s latest sport - the world of Urban Fox Hunting. At the beginning of what is to be a very long night, I meet Eric outside the Knacker’s Yard pub in Soho, the starting point for this year’s UK Urban Fox Hunting 5
Eric goes outside for a cigarette while I sit down with my coke and yesterdayâ€™s newspaper found at the bar. Out of the window, as the sky begins to drizzle, I see Eric kick the rear wheel of his car.
Richard Lemmer is a freelance journalist in London. Recent work has appeared in NME and Adbusters magazine. He is currently News Editor for CtrlAltShift - www.ctrlaltshift.co.uk. He has interviewed The Killers, Maroon Five, Plane Stupid, Scouting for Girls, MP Alan Johnson, The Yes Men, The Prince of Jordan and Corrine Bailey Rae. He is working on a short story collection.
POems On The undeRgROund â€“ in LiTRO Why should Litro present a few poems that you have already seen and absorbed during your odysseys around the Tube system? We wanted to express our sympathy with the project of Poems on the Underground. Just as Litro exists to decorate and add texture and depth to your day, so do the poems that appear between ads, lining the Tube carriages. Equally free, equally publicspirited and occasionally equally odd, the short fictions purveyed by Litro are close cousins to those poems floating above your head. They too share a deep feeling for London with a sense of the space of the world stretching out endlessly around the city. Here, the three people who, more than twenty years ago, dreamed up Poems on the Underground explain how it happened: 13
nOw winTeR nighTs enLaRge tomAs cAmPion Now winter nights enlarge The number of their hours And clouds their storms discharge Upon the airy towers. Let now the chimneys blaze, And cups o’erflow with wine: Let well-tuníd words amaze With harmony divine. Now yellow waxen lights Shall wait on honey Love, While youthful Revels, Masks, and Courtly sights, Sleepís leaden spells remove. This time doth well dispense With lovers’ long discourse; Much speech hath some defence, Though beauty no remorse. All do not all things well; Some measures comely tread; Some knotted Riddles tell; Some Poems smoothly read. The Summer hath his joys, And Winter his delights; Though Love and all his pleasures are but toys, They shorten tedious nights.
From Best Poems on the Underground (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009)
since chaRLie hadnâ€™T cOme chris smith Dry-stone walls rose like towers up the steep and craggy hillside, patches of mist slithered across peaked summits, Herdwicks and Swaledales wandered through the fells. An aged cottage jutted from the side of the Old Man of Coniston. In red chalk on the paving stones in front of the door it was written: Albert Reynolds. This is your farm. Donâ€™t forget to close the door.
On Reading ViRgiL’s ecLOgues rAficq AbdullA Not so much the rivers that have dried up As myself, dried up with acts and failure to act, Alexis is yours, mine is named differently But beauty lay there too, my eyes joined my will To love for a while when the trees you speak of Stood tall and sang lyrics with the breeze, That was a long time ago, but yet a snatch of time When measured by mountains and laughing nature. Laughter holds me no longer, instead of rivers I have to offer tears that gather waiting to scatter again.
Raficq Abdulla is a writer, poet and speaker on topics ranging from spirituality and Shari’ah law to art and identity. In 1999, he was awarded an MBE for his interfaith work between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. He has published two books of poetry based on the Muslim mystics Rumi and Attar, and he has performed his poetry at Ledbury, Dartington, Chautaqua in the USA, and at St. Ethelburga’s in London.
PesT cOnTROL thomAs mogford ‘Trapped or shot?’ I ask the vicar. He looks at me in a way that can only be described as aggressive. ‘Trapped,’ he says. I nod. ‘It’s your call. But if I can just give you a wee bit of environmental background first?’ It seems strange to be giving the chat in a graveyard, with this tall, steely vicar looking on, dog collar above a green woollen jumper. But I give it anyway. The life expectancy of a London fox is just eighteen months. A fox born in the countryside can live up to nine years. Transport a London fox to the countryside and he’ll be dead within a fortnight. ‘It’s like taking someone who lives on takeaways and dumping them in the Scottish Highlands.’ The vicar strokes his stubbly, off-duty face, staring at the hole ahead of us, at the newly dug earth, the plywood of the coffin peeking through like bone beneath a wound. ‘The only way,’ I go on, ‘that your relocated fox will survive is if he finds a railway line and follows it back to the city. He’ll probably be back here in fact, digging up more graves, hungrier than before.’ ‘Trap and release,’ the vicar says, turning to go to his car. ‘And don’t touch so much as a hair on its back.’ I drive the unmarked Transit van south to the office. The desks are cluttered with loose papers. I stretch out my short, freckly arms. These London roads: murder. ‘Afternoon Scotsman,’ Julian says. ‘How was church?’ ‘Trapper.’ Julian shakes his head. ‘Will they never learn...’ He takes out a sheet, covered in old-fashioned, fountainpen scrawl. ‘Businessman in Ealing who’s lost a grand’s worth of koi carp. Reckons foxy loxy’s been doing some 29
BaLLad OF The LOndOneR JAmes elroy flecker Evening falls on the smoky walls, And the railings drip with rain, And I will cross the old river To see my girl again. The great and solemn-gliding tram, Loveâ€™s still-mysterious car, Has many a light of gold and white, And a single dark red star. I know a garden in a street Which no one ever knew; I know a rose beyond the Thames, Where flowers are pale and few.
In Best Poems on the Underground (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009)
Queen RaT vAnessA Woolf Francine marched past the grocers on Spa Road, past the station, towards the Thames. It was spring, but you wouldn’t know it by looking around. A stiff breeze blew the scent of the ships towards her. Wheat for the mills, pickled herring, tea… and over it all, the smell of humanity. The dirty clattering stomach of the British Empire. As she went along Tooley Street, a man smiled at her. “Hullo Sweetheart!” His skin was pale with some kind of sickness. Lifting her head, she walked faster. Jane didn’t know her letters, but she’d described the place perfectly. ‘Black basement door on ‘ibernia Wharf, a low one. By the Jolly Caulkers, if you know it Mum. She’ll sort you out, whatever you want, Mum. Anything.’ Carts lumbered by, piled with sacks, the steaming flanks of horses on either side of her. Men shouted. Everywhere you looked, there were signs of the most desperate poverty. Curtainless windows, cracked walls, mouldy pumps, barefoot children. Hibernia Wharf had the mucky salty smell of the Thames. In the nearest doorway sat an old woman, her jacket a bundle of rags. Her face was grained with dust, her eyes were blank. Filthy feet with black toenails stuck out from the bottom of her skirt. Pitiful – and repulsive Francine slowed her pace. Oh please, she thought, let it not be this creature. Then, a few yards along, she saw the door. Ancient steps led down to an archway so low that even a child would have needed to stoop. She hurried past the woman gladly. Taking a deep breath, she put one foot on the first step. Suddenly she noticed how tight and heavy her clothes were. She’d bought a new hat last week, a stunning blue swoop 39
symPhOny in yeLLOw oscAr Wilde An omnibus across the bridge Crawls like a yellow butterfly, And, here and there, a passer-by Shows like a little restless midge. Big barges full of yellow hay Are moored against the shadowy wharf, And, like a yellow silken scarf, The thick fog hangs along the quay. The yellow leaves begin to fade And flutter from the Temple elms, And at my feet the pale green Thames Lies like a rod of rippled jade.
From Best Poems on the Underground (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009)
events litro events cocktAils, ghosts And sexy nighties. but mAybe not in thAt order. there’s no better WAy to sPend october, but escAPing into the indulgence sPArked by the lAbyrinth of imAginAtion. We’ve found the best events on the scene to helP you do Just thAt, so you’ll never notice the shorter nights or colder WeAther. edited by Alex JAmes.
7th and 28th October, 7pm, Bedtime Story. Back at 40 Winks, the place German Vogue called ‘The Most Beautiful Small Hotel in the World.’ Take a magical trip back in time and rediscover the wonder and beauty of childhood and innocence, with readings in London’s sexiest boutique hotel, 40 WiNKS. In an atmosphere of dreamy decadence, guests will be plied with drinks and nibbles before being pleasantly frightened with “Tales of ghosts, ghouls and gothic horror”. A dress code of pyjamas, nighties and dressing gowns will be rigorously enforced. www.40winks.org. 9th to 18th October, Cheltenham Literature Festival. The world’s oldest Literature Festival was founded in 1949, and is set to celebrate 60-years of heralding the written word. Last year’s saw 450 authors participating in more than 350 events, attracting an audience of 100,000. This year’s sees the announcement from a vote to find the best loved novels since the fest begun. www.cheltenhamfestivals.com 12th October, John Irving reads, Queen Elizabeth Hall, £12, the writer goes to the Southbank to read from his latest novel, Last Night in Twisted River. 14th to 29th October, The BFI London Film Festival, Showcasing the best films to hit the screen in the next year, including some literary classics put to celluloid. Wes Anderson works with stop-motion animation and an outstanding voice cast to bring Roald Dahl’s much loved story, Fantastic Mr Fox, to the screen, from the 14th to 17th at Odeon Leicester Square, see: www. bfi.org.uk/lff. You can finish off with cocktails, with some named after actors, such as the Bloody Murray in honour of Bill, at the Park Plaza Hotel Sherlock Holmes in Mary-le-Bone, www.parkplaza.com 15th to 18th October, Regents Park, Frieze Art Fair. Featuring more than 150 of the most exciting 48
events contemporary art galleries in the world. The fair also includes specially commissioned artists’ projects, a prestigious talks programme and an artist-led education schedule. For directions, tickets, hotel information, tours and eating and drinking information, see: www.friezeartfair.com 19 - 25 October , Inside Out Festival (across London), Andrew Motion, Blake Morrison, Dannie Abse and Orlando Figes are amongst literary luminaries headlining a new one-week Festival this October called Inside Out. Organised by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange (LCACE), Inside Out will showcase the exciting, unexpected contributions made by universities such as King’s College and Goldsmiths, see: www.lcace.org.uk 29th October, Litro Live! Hyde Park and evening of the Macabre! A warming night of gothic tales and songs, roast chestnuts and whisky, art and conviviality. Thursday 29 October, 6pm until the Witching Hour ,Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, Hyde Park with words from: China Mieville’s gothic, Kevin Jackson’s vampires, Courttia Newland’s everday-eeriness Roger Clarke’s British Ghosts, Stephanie Theobald and Jake Arnott’s Paris demi-monde 23-31 October, The Original London Ghost Festival 2009. Thought ghosts couldn’t hold a festival? Think again. This event includes a ghost watch at the London Dungeon, entitled ‘Hell-oween!’, a scare performance called ‘Asylum Hill’, a candlelight tour of St Bartholomew the great, the most haunted church in London, haunted history walks, a lecture by Society of Psychical Research, a ghostly bus tour, a charity Halloween Ball at Charlton House, unique spectral tour of the notoriously haunted Chislehurst Caves, 5 free lunchtime talks and a paranormal investigation at the Cabinet War Rooms. If after all that, you don’t sense anything, ghosts don’t exist. See: www.londonparanormal.com
Read/wRiTe Visit www.litro.co.uk to: >> Access the entire LITRO archive online – the issues are laid out for easy printing on A4 paper. >> Sign up to eLITRO – monthly LITRO stories straight to your inbox. >> Find out how you can submit your own writing to the magazine. >> Complete and up-to-date event listings, including links to event websites. >>To list an event in Litro, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. disTRiBuTe If you would like to suggest somewhere you think LITRO should be available, please email email@example.com. Bulk delivery for your company reception, canteen, etc., can be arranged for a small fee to cover distribution – please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ads Interested in advertising in LITRO? Please email email@example.com to request a media pack.
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Litro's theme this month is wildlife, with writing from Chris Smith, Richard Lemmer, Raficq Abdulla, Thomas Mogford, Vanessa Woolf and James...