* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Chapter One

24 September 2003
James has an idea for a novel. The first chapter goes something like this:

A bedraggled young woman with blank eyes implored me for a travelcard, but I'd bought a single, and was quite clearly entering, rather than leaving the station. Did she think that I had come looking for someone to donate a train ticket to? Mumbling a lame apology ("My arms don't work") I hurry on.

I sat (my train was heading into town, opposite the evening gush of commuters) with my holdall on my lap. Scanning around the faces I am not surprised but disappointed that I don't recognise anyone. I always am. Only the same types of faces of people who look like other people with the same type of face. Practiced staring into space occupies the rest of my journey to Euston.

There's just enough time to buy provisions for the journey before the long dormant sleeper train pulls up. My ticket specifies a berth in a carriage mid-way along the train, but it's still a satisfying hike to that point. Being that kind of man, I marvel at way the train almost disappears into the distance, before wondering if that thought is too phallic for a Tuesday night.

Finding my allotted cabin, replete in its plastic convenience, I slump on the bed and polish off the bread, cheese and wine I'd just bought (too gallic for a Tuesday night), and start to wonder if all my thoughts occur in rhyme. Only then do I take the official envelope back out of my bag and re-read the letter that had started this journey.

I had arrived this morning, and I'd picked it up off the floor only two and a bit hours earlier, my body clock having become shifted by my recent late-night recording sessions. Being the only one in the band to have quit my job for the greater good, it fell to me to be the studio engineer, gig-getter, as well as all the normal layabout duties required in an as-yet-undiscovered saviour of modern music band. I'd just had enough time to shower, shove some clothes in a bag, and get to the train. The distraction of the immediate had kept me from pondering its contents.

For the attention of James Ropemaker jr., resident at flat D, 38 Penchant Road, London. Please attend at the offices of Dunn, McGunash, Trench and Dunn at 9:15am, 15th October. Enclosed was the train ticket in my hand, plus a simple map of where their offices were located. Nothing else was said.

I'm the kind of guy who wouldn't turn down the chance of a good story to tell, and this one looked like a corker. After all, it would be fairly lame to tell people in the pub "Yeah, got this bizarre letter - hand written - telling me to go to some Scottish solicitors the next day, with a train ticket, map and everything." "Yeah, and...?" they'd say. "But I couldn't be bothered to go" is not a very interesting response. So I went.

I reclined on the bed, thinking about the chain of events that led to me being on the train. How likely was it that someone receiving that letter that day could have made it to that train that night? The fact that I'd only just left my job was a big plus in its favour. When I used to work, the post normally only arrived after I'd left, and the hours meant that I'd have had absolutely no chance of catching the train.

Not only that though, but given the terseness of the letter, most normal people would be assumed to it be some kind of joke, marketing ploy or scam and chucked it straight in the bin. But for as long as I could remember I'd always been a curious cat (as yet un-killed by this inclination, obviously), and now that I had the temporal (if not monetary) freedom of unemployment, I had been pursuing and encouraging this faculty. It was something either inherent in me or learnt from a very young age that I'd been like that, and now I gave it free reign. I drifted off to sleep, dreaming that I was at school again.

Waking up with my mobile alarm, I dressed in peace before the butler guy serves the tray of simple processed breakfast. Train stations are in essence the same all over Britain: Old structures from a grandiose industrial time, but now smeared with the bright colours of convenient signs, flickering information screens and cluttered advertising. I choose to revel in the background evidence of past glory as I slide over the wipe-clean flooring in the direction my map indicates.

I turn up at the ancient-looking offices early and am greeted with courtesy but not friendliness. I sit on a stiff leather backed chair flicking through an impenetrable legal periodical as the receptionist sorts through the post. A discrete buzz on her desk and she stands and leads me up a narrow flight of stairs to Mr. Dunn's office.

He is old, must be over seventy, tall and narrow. He greets me at the door of his office, dismisses the receptionist, and strides back behind his immense immaculate desk. No computer, I notice. Before he sits down, he looks me up and down and says:

"You never knew your paternal grandfather: James."

"No. No, he died in the war".

"Sit down, Mr. Ropemaker, and allow me to tell you a story".


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
16 October 2003. James writes: Jakesy's School of Urban Driving
24 September 2003. James writes: Chapter One
4 September 2003. James writes: The Silicon Soul
14 August 2003. James writes: A Room With 100 Seats
24 July 2003. James writes: English For Beginners
3 July 2003. James writes: Coldplay are crap. Discuss.
9 June 2003. James writes: It Takes All Sorts
22 May 2003. James writes: Lesson 2: Buying his Gran for a tenner
1 May 2003. James writes: Rosencrantz and Leytonstone
10 April 2003. James writes: Character Building
20 March 2003. James writes: So This Is It. What Are We Going To Do About It?
27 February 2003. James writes: Street Level Zero
6 February 2003. James writes: Reference: James Noteworthy
16 January 2003. James writes: Kissing George Clooney for just £99!
26 December 2002. James writes: Hongkong In Four Tableaux
5 December 2002. James writes: We Are Your Idea
14 November 2002. James writes: The Knight Of Spring Fervent
24 October 2002. James writes: Go On, Be Honest
7 October 2002. James writes: Cold Comfort
12 September 2002. James writes: Peas In A Pod
22 August 2002. James writes: Seed Investment
1 August 2002. James writes: We Are QPR
11 July 2002. James writes: The Road to Ossuna
20 June 2002. James writes: Pret A Teleporter
27 May 2002. James writes: A Play On Words
2 May 2002. James writes: Labour Saving Device
8 April 2002. James writes: Beggaring Belief
14 March 2002. James writes: Small Things
18 February 2002. James writes: Drop Dead Letters
24 January 2002. James writes: High-Rise Rhapsody
27 December 2001. James writes: My drift's too hip to resist.
6 December 2001. James writes: My Lord Has No Nose
12 November 2001. James writes: A Job For Life
18 October 2001. James writes: Which is the cleverest animal?
24 September 2001. James writes: Interview With An Automatum
30 August 2001. James writes: Each To Their Own
6 August 2001. James writes: An Escape, In Sonata Form
12 July 2001. James writes: Truckloads Of Goodies
18 June 2001. James writes: There's No Such Thing As A Coincidence
24 May 2001. James writes: It's All True - The Paper Says So
30 April 2001. James writes: A Letter From Prisyn
16 April 2001. James writes: I Quit
15 March 2001. James writes: An Essay In Procrastination
15 February 2001. James writes: Confessions Of An English Sand-Eater
22 January 2001. James writes: The Future And The Pasta
28 December 2000. James writes: Never drink with men in red
4 December 2000. James writes: The Underground
9 November 2000. James writes: Right answer. Wrong answer
16 October 2000. James writes: The March of Proudfoot: Part I
21 September 2000. James writes: You haven't got a chance
28 August 2000. James writes: Bad, man. Wicked
24 July 2000. James writes: I play games with street lamps

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