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James Skinner

Even as I stare at this bloody laptop screen with that idiotic jumping paper clip icon constantly staring at me I can’t help but think: ‘Have I passed it?’

I don’t even know what the phrase means, but at this very moment, that is how my brain feels: ‘Dead as a Dodo’. Ever since the first moment that I ventured into the world of pseudo-journalism, via a loopy course at Falmouth College of Arts called ‘Professional Writing’, I’ve been an ardent contributor of Hackwriters, off and on for over a year. It’s mad editor, one known as Sam North, part time script writer, part time author and all time babble connoisseur, opened my eyes and my mind to the unfathomable depths of this incredible, exiting, heart-braking and hostile subject. As course tutor he drove most of us students mad. ‘Must meet deadlines!’ he would say. ‘Avoid subjective and hostile reporting! Your first line must capture the reader!’ he would add. God, I miss those Monday morning sessions when your weekend thousand words had to be presented for scrutiny. It’s as if the next edition depended on your ability to mastermind the leading punch line. I suppose most of you haven’t a clue as to what I’m talking about. You’re right. I’ve finally flipped. I haven’t even finished what I started.

If you check under ‘Travel’ you’ll find a summary of a Mediterranean cruise I went on sometime in April (I think). I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the trip and was keen to share it with you, dear Internet navigators as a weekly ongoing literary event. I began in full force describing every possible anecdote I witnessed or encountered. The ship’s details, the people I met, the food I ate, the ports of call, and my wife’s moans and yet suddenly, my brain stopped functioning. The ship sailed away and I became suspended in a vacuum of blank thought. The key word in the title is ‘geriatric’, because that is what I feel I’ve become at this moment in time; a geriatric writer about to enter into the unknown world of has been thinkers. Even as I stare at this bloody laptop screen with that idiotic jumping paper clip icon constantly staring at me I can’t help but think: ‘Have I passed it?’

No dear reader, this is not a death wish note, nor is it a literary last will and testament. It’s what I would describe as a ‘pause’ in the life of a writer! A sort of midlife reflection or better still, a grey matter oil and filter change preparing for the spark to ignite my approach to the next theme on my writing agenda. Do you know why I feel like this? Take a good look around you and try to assimilate what you see and read. I’ll tell you.

The world’s gone mad! In Asia. Whilst a world football championship is taking place on the one hand, a small international war (Afghanistan) is hopefully coming to an end giving way to yet another that is brewing in the wings (India/Pakistan). Millions are frolicking in city streets or public bars over the success of their home team or crying in their vodkas over a defeat, whilst others are loading up their modern muskets ready to change the course of humanity.

Some countries are chasing shadows seeking out evil terrorists (USA and Europe) whilst others are merrily blasting away at poor families desperate for water and a loaf of bread (Israel vs Palestine). Other humans are dying down south of Aids or famine (Africa) watching helplessly at their northern brothers (Europe’s youth) enjoying the ‘Life of Riley’ smoking pot and jiving to the latest metal rock musical junk. Their politicians, in general, are more intent in looking through their telescopes at NASA’s space station. And what about economics?

Where do you start? Argentina? IMF? Third world debt? Unemployment statistics? Rich against poor? What about multinationals and the stock markets? Shareholder value, stakeholders, CEO feuds! Does any of it make any sense any more? Buy some technology stock today, swap it for ‘futures’ in a week’s time and you may make a fortune or end up under a cardboard box in the Bronx. Will we all live to ripe old ages and receive our pension dollop every month, or will we succumb to euthanasia when the money runs out? How about energy, especially oil? Now that is a good one! Some one said that sooner or later it’s going to run out. When? Ten, fifty or in a hundred years’ time? Nuclear power, that’s the answer. By Jove, just imagine it. We’ll all be driving around with a nuclear bomb under the bonnet. Hold on! I’ve left out the environment. You know, Kyoto and all that jazz!

Forests, rivers and seas, wild life and let us not to forget the ozone. They’re all in danger of being forgotten about until it is too late! Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations are all preaching to the converted and being listened to by no one. Even the poor fish have nowhere to hide. They are literally being eaten alive as they splash onto the decks of the Spanish Armada. Doomsday ahead? James, you may ask, have you flipped and are you just writing about world holocaust for holocaust’s sake? Can you see me shaking? No I’m not shaking! I’m thumping at the keyboard as hard as I can to see if anything can be changed. Wait, wait, I see something!
There they come. Jesus and Allah, hand in hand walking towards me! They’ve finally stopped before me. They’re speaking in unison. ‘James. You’re our man. We need you to stop the madness.’ ‘But what can I do, dear prophets? I am a simple mortal. You know, seventy percent water!’ I cry. Suddenly I blink. I wipe my eyes and stare once more at this wretched screen. The paper clip is frozen. ‘Sam! Are you there? Do you read me? For the next episode of ‘Geriatric cruise’…
© James Skinner. 2002.

Cheer up James. Don't you recall a year ago you actually wrote an article on the coming nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Just remember no one loves a prophet. Ed:

Meanwhile about that Cruise
James Skinner

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