Part 2 of the gallery. Here’s part 1 if you missed it, complete with introductory rant.
A true account of snakes and death.
George Orwell once wrote a short, heart-wrenching essay about the death of an elephant. This won’t be like that. And it won’t be as exciting as ‘Snakes on a Plane’. This is ‘One Snake on a Road’, and I don’t think Samuel L Jackson would’ve starred in that movie:
‘Get this motherfucking snake off this motherfucking road.’
‘OK, Samuel, that’s me shifted it.’
‘Anything else I can help you with?’
‘No, that’s fine. It was just the snake I was concerned about.’
‘Cool. You going to be OK now?’
‘Yeah. So long as there aren’t any motherfucking toads in that motherfucking grass.’
I was walking down the side of a rural road in Turkey with my girlfriend when two guys zoomed past us on reasonably shit-looking mopeds. I say zoomed. Imagine the noise of a coin-operated hair-dryer from a cheap motel passing you at the speed of evolution. One of the guys, who was rather fat – a reasonably irrelevant observation, but I just wanted you to be able to picture him; he had a moustache too, if that helps – made a sort of ‘Ahhhh-ooooop’ noise as he realised he’d ran over something. It was the noise of guilt, but a half-assed guilt. After all, he quickly discovered, he’d merely run over a snake. It’s not like it was a mouse or a puppy. ‘Fuck snakes,’ his ooooop seemed to say, ‘I actually found its maiming quite funny.’ If any crippling was to have its own pompy, trumpet-based theme-tune, then this would be the one.
We walked to the middle of the road to check how much damage had been done to the poor fella. He was a thick, long and black snake, his head, tail and body immobile. I got down on my haunches to look deep into his tiny snake eyes. They were red-rimmed and staring. His little forked tongue, still and silent, was poking out from his open jaws. Blotches of blood and bits of brain stained the concrete. I prodded his body with a stick I found near-by and watched as his length pathetically swished, curled and twitched from side to side; not knowing whether his movements were caused by some posthumous reflex, or indicative of a last-ditch fight for life. Whichever way I looked at it: that snake was fucked.
I used the stick to push it to the grass at the side of the road. So what to do next? I’d never put a creature out of its misery before. I understood the noble inevitability behind the act of animal euthanasia in cases of extreme injury and illness, but always hoped I’d never have to administer it. Especially since this was no cosy vets’ surgery with a sterile needle and a panpipes’ tape. I was at the side of a Turkish road with a snake and a bunch of rocks.
So I picked one up. It was slightly bigger than the palm of my hand, and felt hot from the sun. It wasn’t terribly heavy, but heavy enough to turn a snake’s head into bloody mashed potato. Was I really going to do this?
‘Maybe it’ll get better and be able to slither away itself,’ worried my girlfriend. ‘Or grow a new head or something.’
Deep down, we both knew that this snake wasn’t going to dust itself off and belly into a hedge to gub a shrew. It had chomped its last rodent, terrified its last sandal-wearer. Still, the thought of pulverising this wounded creature made me feel uneasy, despite the mercy aspect.
‘You’re going to kill a snake?’ my girlfriend asked.
‘I think I’m going to kill a snake,’ I replied.
At that moment an old Muslim woman – head covered, and dressed in peasant apparel – approached us on her way up the road. She didn’t speak any English, but I decided to cross the language barrier by way of mime. I pointed to the snake’s unmoving body, making sure she noted its injury. Then I pointed to the spot on the road from whence I’d flicked it, making sure she saw the blood. I then mimed a man on a motorbike running over a snake. This was the strangest game of charades I’d ever played (sounds like ‘ooooooooop’). I showed her the rock in my hand, and then mimed me bashing in the snake’s head, but made sure to keep a sad expression on my face to let her know that I wasn’t relishing the prospect. After every mini-mime along the way of the long dramatisation of my intended snake-kill she shrugged her shoulders and nodded, a look of nonchalance on her leathery old face. She finally walked off, still nodding and shrugging, leaving me feeling vindicated. After all, this woman was as close to a resident expert on snakes I was likely to find. And, being Muslim, of course she was going to be supportive of a good stoning. The decision was made. I was going to kill that motherfucking snake.
Fine in theory, but I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t even like squashing spiders, hideous nether-beasts though they are. I clenched the rock in my hand, felt its hardness dig into the base of my fingers. I imagined what it would feel like to drive this object through living flesh, but couldn’t, having no frame of reference with which to compare. Maybe it was just resting. Maybe it was in shock, collecting its thoughts, watching its little snake life flashing before its blood-darkened eyes, waiting, just waiting, for some spark, some scintilla of strength to carry it swishing and bobbing back to the safety of its home in the long, lulling lengths of grass and swaying reeds; back to the snakestead; back to its little snake babies, and its anxious snake wife, who’d been so worried about her husband’s absence that she hadn’t even prepared his daily dinner of half-regurgitated rat, and was instead hissing a soft, sussurating lullaby to all the little baby snakes as they cried and cried and cried and cried for their SPLATT! THUD!! BIFF!! KERSPLURGE!!
Like 60’s Batman, but with more snake-blood.
By the time I knew what was happening I’d hammered its head about six times with the rock. Then I placed the rock on top of what was left of its skull and stomped down about another six times. Goo was on the roadside, and blood speckled my fingers. My girlfriend said I looked like a maniac. I just wanted it to be dead – medically and incontrovertibly dead – to deliver it from any further agony. The aim was to euthanise the snake, not subject it to a Guantanamo Bay-style shit-kicking.
Mission accomplished: it was dead. It now looked less like a formerly-living creature, and more like the end of a flex of cord that someone had dipped in tomato sauce. And the act of killing it had felt no more unpleasant than slamming a paperweight into a block of warm butter. Those are the kinds of sentences that serial killers smuggle out of prison when they’re writing their memoirs. ‘It all started with the snake. From there, hitch-hikers were easy…’
A German couple walking down the road saw me do it. I approached them, bloodied-rock in hand, shouting: ‘I’m not a snake murderer!’ and then attempted to explain my actions to them. They didn’t speak very good English, so I’m not sure what impression of British people I left them with.
A little farther along the road my girlfriend and I encountered a stray dog, hobbling and panting in the heat.
‘Poor beast,’ I said. ‘Looks on its last legs.’
She looked at me and smiled, ‘You’re not going to bash its head in with a rock, too, are you?’
‘No,’ I laughed. ‘No, of course not, no. Certainly not…’
It was a very poorly dog.
‘…I don’t think so…’
Culture Jamming emerged as a response to the dominance of brand advertising on our streets and in our culture. It’s basically a form of politically-motivated vandalism, through which the often false sentiments and claims promoted by ads and logos can be manipulated to reveal the horrible truths that lurk beneath.
The most popular targets of this sweeping movement are those large, ruthless, multi-million-and-billion pound corporations that permit sweatshops to operate in their name; that put children to work making gaudy trainers and stitching logos on T-shirts for 20 hours a day for a pound a week; that ignore human misery, hardship and death so long as their cash registers sing and their shareholders can buy second homes; that despoil and pollute the environment; that support fatally-corrupt regimes and brutal dictators; that silence, threaten and sue those who attempt to expose their callousness; that lie, cheat, swindle and pillage their way to the top of the FTSE in the name of liberal capitalism and expect us to be grateful for their efforts: and that will attempt to obscure their evils with an innocent shrug, a reassuring smile, a slick slogan or two and a dazzlingly colourful ad campaign.
And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s simply funny vandalism. Here’s a selection of some of my favourites:
I’m going on holiday next week, acutely aware that the odds of dying increase exponentially the farther you venture from your own fart-stained sofa (despite what all of those ads from the 80s told you, which featured old grannies being immolated by their plug sockets and big, fat guys with beards being cooked alive in chip-pan fires).
So this is my plea to fate, in which I don’t believe. Really, this is just a pointless ritual to make me feel better.
1) Air Disasters
None of that, please. I’ve been keeping an eye on recent news reports featuring crashes – thanks to @bigmarkdavies for his research assistance – and found evidence of at least 5 major incidents in the last fortnight. That should be plenty. You’ve had your fill, Fate. OK, the victims mostly have been Asian, but you don’t have diversity targets to hit. It’s all about the numbers, baby. Leave me out of it. By my reckoning, travelling after 5 crashes I should be virtually indestructible. Hence I’m going to remove my seat-belt mid-flight, send people texts from 20,000ft and run from side to side in an attempt to tip the plane.
I checked out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, and read up on Turkey. The PKK, a Kurdish separatist group, announced in March that they plan to unleash a wave of terrorist atrocities on various parts of Turkey, including resorts popular with foreign tourists. Not a bad plan, chaps, and I’m not questioning the effectiveness of your terrifying campaign, but at least wait until the English school holidays. You’ll only get one shot at this, and you’ll want to ensure a large, broad selection of targets. And nobody would really give a shit if I died, so I’m a poor choice of victim. Plus, do you really want to take the chance that John Smeaton’s on vacation in Turkey? He’d fuck your entire organisation into the ground with one swift banjo. That man makes Bruce Willis look like Willis from Diff’rent Strokes. Thank you.
3) Highly contagious disease
Hello, pathogen. Skip me, please. I don’t really go out that much, so your chances of bringing down the species by infecting me with a highly contagious, incurable disease are slim. Plus, Swine Flu already came to Falkirk, and we kicked its porcine ass. Did you kill a single person, Swine Flu? No. All you did was give publicist Max Clifford work, and allowed a young Falkirk couple to cash in on their ‘We were infected on our Mexican honeymoon’ fame so they could get a new conservatory. You failed. Spanish Flu pissed itself laughing when it heard. And Bird Flu thought to itself, ‘At least I fucked over a few swans, and made some farmers shoot themselves.’ Here’s an idea, Fate: send giraffe flu to Swansea instead.
Broadly and historically speaking, the Labour party is the party of the working class. Unfortunately, there’s no longer a working class. All of the coal-miners and their descendants are now working for Scottish Power, working eighteen hours a day in cramped conditions down t’call centre, just waiting for George Orwell to write a book about them.
That’s if they work at all. Now that the steel, maritime, coal and gas industries have gone the way of the Dodo, Labour’s traditional supporters – people with tattoos who enjoy cheese sandwiches, swearing in polite company and beating their wives – are now mostly to be found signing on the dole, or having their bollocks shot off in Afghanistan.
That’s why Labour was forced to advance and embrace the ideology of New Labour, which merged Thatcherism with a commitment to giving free money to work-shy scumbags who wanted operations for nothing, White Lightning, drugs and fags. Tony Blair was the first face of this brave new way of thinking. He was posh enough to appeal to Tories, but he called people ‘mate’ and had an ugly wife.
If John Smith was still alive, he’d definitely be bitter. Ed Milliband is the next generation of Labour leader. He was created in a laboratory by splicing the DNA of a 12 year old boy with one of those psychic aliens from Star Trek with the gigantic throbbing skulls. His vocal and oratorical capabilities were modelled on Sylvester the Cat after a horrific brain injury.
There’s been a radical re-think in recent years. Most labour supporters want to go ‘more literal.’ That’s why the existing politicians and councillors will be replaced by women who are actually in the process of child labour. Work has already been commissioned to fit hundreds of stirrups into the parliament building in Westminster.
‘Yes, the entire Labour Party will consist of women, and specifically women who are just about to give birth,’ said some guy who I think said his name was Andy, ‘This will ensure that we remain a fresh political force with a constant stream of new ideas and policies, because once one of our MPs actually gives birth, it’s out the back door and another one gets wheeled in. By a smiling Eric Joyce.’
The new leader of the opposition, who will be a different person every 3 – 36 hours, will spend her time in parliament screaming abuse at the Prime Minister, and demanding morphine. ‘Do you think David Cameron will be so keen to come out with his usual smart-alec remarks when the grip of just one of these deeply hormonal, pain-ravaged women would be enough to crush the neck bones of a rhinoceros?’
Prime Minister’s Questions will now involve the speaker sitting ashen-white with terror as the hundreds of women surrounding him wail like dying animals; ‘THIS IS YOUR FUCKING FAULT YOU BASTARD DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME – ESPECIALLY YOU, ED BALLS!’, the only phrase decipherable through the tumultuous din.
I wrote the piece below about four or five years ago. These days, Jeremy Kyle styles himself on a waxwork of a waiter from the Titanic, and has taken his hectoring talk-show to the States, its spiritual home – Jamie
His long-running show serves us up a daily dose of poor, stupid and ugly people with which to satisfy our voyeurism, and generally make us feel better about our own pathetic little lives. Jeremy and his production team like to pretend that each edition is a sort-of pseudo trial, designed to expose dishonest behaviour before a furious Jury of the People, an act that will surely take away the need for any real social work, and possibly save the world. It’s all about reclaiming lost dignity, punishing the sinful, mending fences and repairing lives. Is it? Is it really? Then why does it seem that all Jeremy – and, by extension, we the viewers – are interested in is humiliation on a grand scale, with the added bonus of the threat of violence?
The typical guest is from the north of England, or Scotland, possesses little in the way of teeth or intellect, and has usually been – despite resembling a walking tumour – shagging their entire home town. Paternity and lie detector tests are the order of the day. The results of the latter wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law, but anything goes in Jeremy’s daytime Kangaroo Court. That’s why there are so many big, bald men with tattoos on stand-by as security; just in case any of the big, bald men with tattoos featured as guests decide to pop Jeremy’s head off and use it as a football.
The episode I watched featured the usual slideshow of human sputum, tears and tantrums. One of the segments told the beautiful story of an adolescent male who had met and ‘romanced’ a young lady, only to find out after their brief relationship ended that his ex-beau believed herself to be pregnant with his child. He disputed the accuracy of this claim, and thus demanded that she submit to a DNA test. Once his neckless, feckless, and dietarily reckless ex-partner thundered out on to the stage, I too was pretty eager for a DNA test: to prove she was human.
The ex instantly endeared herself to the audience by free-style swearing, and nervously yet aggressively hitting her shoe. I know it’s become something of cliché to describe an inarticulate, chavish girl as being like Vicky Pollard, but Neckless really is the closest match I’ve seen; in looks, speech and mental processing abilities. She couldn’t see any connection between her outright refusal to submit to a simple test that would prove she was telling the truth about her pregnancy, and Jeremy Kyle’s mounting disbelief at her story. As guests often do on the Jeremy Kyle Show, she stormed off backstage. He followed her, changing his tone from hectoring, Hellfire Baptist minister to wise, understanding uncle. ‘Never mind them out there, it’s just you and me, now,’ he said to her, or words to that effect, refusing to let the fact that millions of eyes were on them both destroy the sense of intimacy he was cultivating.
‘Why don’t you want to take the test?’ he asked her softly. Her response almost had me rolling on the floor. ‘I’m not going to go down to his level,’ she said, rolling her eyes and continuing to batter her shoe.
Some might say that once you’re sitting on Jeremy’s backstage sofa it’s a little too late to worry about dropping a level or two. This is it, Neckless. This is rock bottom.
Let’s put aside our role as collaborating spectators for a moment (yes, I’m talking to you) and ask ourselves why anyone in their right mind (I think I’ve just answered my own question) would want to appear on Jeremy’s show. I see it as a venal circus, from which few emerge with even a shred of dignity; and that’s true even of the protagonists who initially approach the producers to get their pound of flesh from someone who’s done them wrong. Why don’t the guests see it that way? I can perhaps see why a cuckolded husband would want to see an angry audience screaming at his scrawny, cheating wife; but why would the wife want to subject herself to this treatment, and vice versa where the sexes are reversed?
Who gets a phone call from the Jeremy Kyle Show and thinks, yes, yes, I do want to have a middle-aged man shouting at me in-front of two hundred people, who will also be shouting at me, while the people watching at home hiss things like ‘scum’ at me. Well, perhaps you would consider doing it if you were dirt-poor, trapped in a life you couldn’t escape, ill-educated, desperate and sincerely believed that the Kyle show was an institution primarily concerned with helping people and not with exploiting and humiliating them for advertising revenue. Or if you were getting an all-expenses-paid trip to London, and the chance for your fifteen minutes of fame, however grizzly.
Certainly one thing you won’t see on the Jeremy Kyle show is a top-hat-wearing male doctor arguing with his Gucci-clad lawyer ex-wife about who’s going to get custody of their Shih Tzu, Phillip. How do the producers sleep at night? I’m sure the Nazi doctors salved their consciences by assuring themselves that their work was for the good of mankind. Maybe that’s what they do.
Our society, and care industry, must be in one Hell of a shape.