Tamarite VI

The Spanish are no strangers to a party, or ‘fiesta’ rather. They do things very differently to us in the UK, where people either go to Revs on a saturday night, spend £40 on alcohol and ironically dance to Flo Rida, or the ‘cool cats’ who go to some sort of rave and dance until the early hours on a bag of cheap class As. In Spain, fiestas are part of the fabric of society, a way of life that everybody subscribes to. I’ll take you to one and show you what they’re all about..

It’s Saturday and this week the fiesta is in a place called Azanuay, which sounds very Welsh when pronounced, like it’s the kind of village Daffyd Thomas would live in. You find a bus that goes to the fiesta, whack your plastic bag full of booze in a plastic crate in the bottom compartment of the coach, then join the kids on board. You wanna leave this relatively late, about one o’clock would be ideal. In Spain, it starts late and ends late. We’re talking about 8-10 o’clock AM late. Because what kind of crazy party ends at a perfectly reasonable four, say o’clock?

From about midnight onwards, the streets will be adorned with gangs of teenagers sitting on the pavements, drinking a concoction of alcohol and pop from a giant plastic bottle they prepared earlier. They’re all wearing silly bright T-Shirts with skyscrapers on them and American City names in massive letters. They’re either very skinny or very fat. Many of them park up their cars, pop the boot open and play some of the most repulsive music you could possibly imagine, slowly bopping and laughing hysterically at something. Go a bit further through the winding streets, towards louder music, and you will find a stage where the real entertainment is. A band will play all of the Spanish school disco classics, which nobody seems to be getting tired of. If they don’t actually play Cotton Eyed Joe, they’ll play some Spanish equivalent to get the crowd moving. You don’t need to pay to go in, there’s no gate, no staff. You will, however need to buy some bingo tickets, and grab hold of the nearest translator you can find.

Now any accomplished Dionysian like you and I will understand that the essentials of proper party- alcohol, sex, drugs, rock and roll, and bingo. The lead singer of the band, a quirky young girl in a cowboy hat and vest, calls the numbers while the crowd are silent.

Unlucky. Someone gets a line almost immediately, and the house takes a while longer, too long. It’s like when the rickety old rope bridge you needed to get across the chasm and escape the monster is about to break, the rope fibres are slowly snapping. You have two numbers left to go. It’s only a matter of time before some crazed yob at the front makes the call and subsequently gets lifted up by his friends like a manager whose team have just won the Champions league. It finally happens, you sigh with disappointment, dream of what could have been. Then it’s back to business as usual.

At about two o’clock, the fourteen year olds’ mums turn up to pick up their disgraced little kids, who are still absolutely bingo’d off their faces. So what remains are a bunch of hardened party goers, the regs. The ‘DJs’ turn up, the family band goes home, and the music transitions into something a bit more adult. Near the stage area, there is a ring reserved for young bulls. There is seating all round, and professionals wind up the bulls, provoking them into a charge, then backing away at the last minute. The crowd is well into this of course, and occasionally pissed up people go into the ring and play around with the young toros themselves. The real mavericks get the baby bulls pissed first, pouring beer into their mouths. I heard from a lady that there has been a person who has ended up in a wheelchair from this in every town. This kind of stuff could only be normalised at a party in Spain. Have a go if you want, Jose says it’s definitely a good idea.

So the next few hours, until about five o’clock involve more drinking, and are therefore difficult to recall. For us it will involve asking a lot of people if they speak English, and being asked a lot about Brexit if they do, agreeing to go separate ways, receiving a grimace if they don’t. The music never really changes, it’s all just cheap Spanish crap like that Pitbull freak. One of the only songs I remember was that ‘Gasolina’ song. I remember listening to that on Now 62, when I was eleven years old along side ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Westlife, and thinking it was okay, in a jokey way. It’s not like they’re playing it at these fiestas as a one off either, I’d bet my left arse that it gets played every single week. Besides from being bad taste, to play the same old track week in, week out is nothing less than a sign of insanity.

When the sun starts to come out above the dancefloor, you begin to notice what you’re walking on, which resembles the garbage shoot in A New Hope. You are treading on all manner of rubbish and filth. Everyone is smoking, you, The DJs, your parents, your kids, the bulls. The personal space, which has slowly atrophied throughout the night, becomes almost non-existent. The environment is a bit like a rave, only the people there are one big family, there’s no drugs, and there was no DJ available so they went ahead and booked DJ Spanner, the forty year old with the baseball cap from down the pub, who ‘does the odd party’ when he’s not doing his normal job, which is plastering.

Before you know it it’s eight o’clock in the morning and you’re getting bored of it all. Everyone’s done with the bars now, and it’s onto the hot dog counters. They don’t have brown sauce in Spain, so you have to settle for loads of Mustard, or worse- ketchup. The bread is stale. There are some dodgy looking people around. You want to avoid Bethan as well. The night is over- it’s time to wait for that ten o’clock bus to take you home, get to bed, and then wake up at three o’clock on the day of rest, ready to eat paella, snails and rabbit.

So overall they’ve got the idea right with these fiestas. If I went when I was 16 I would have considered it to be paradise. It was what I was desperately looking for for most of my teenage years but rarely captured, a solid form of community with other kids. The kind that you achieve in holiday resorts, playing on the pool tables with new friends, drinking by the swimming pool together at night. The fiestas provided that. But you realise as you grow up, there are very few communities that one can truly belong to at all.

**

In Spain breakfast isn’t the norm. You might have a little something, like a peach or a coffee, but that’s it for the morning. What you’re waiting for is three o’clock, when it’s lunch time. Now I’ve stated before, it’s all about the meat with these guys. If it’s got flesh, eat it. They’d eat the stray cats off the streets if they had any meat on them.

As you might guess, rabbit tastes exactly like chicken, and is therefore nothing to write home about. Snails on the other hand, are the most pointless food on the planet. They come sizzling on a tray, and look exactly like the snails you’d find in your garden, not the giant ones from foreign lands. You get one, and find that it’s body has shrank almost entirely into its shell, then with your cocktail stick you are faced with a further challenge. That of scooping out the correct part of the snail, ignoring it’s digestive organs, which take up about fifty per cent of the pathetic little lump of mollusc flesh that remains. It’s then completely necessary to smother this all over in aleoli to mask the taste of it (which you should probably avoid at all costs) then shove it in your mouth and eat it, for some apparent reason. I had one and soon ruled out the possibility of tackling another.

The best thing about Spanish food is the watermelon, or ‘sandía’ en espanol. The family I lived with were provided with fresh sandías every week, the massive ones, with dark green skin, and perfect vermilion insides. You eat sandía for breakfast, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, for dinner, after dinner, before bedtime. It’s so hydrating it’s crazy, and as someone who immediately after eating a meal– in spite of how full I am– has an insuperable craving for a dessert, it provided a very reliable, healthy, and delicious alternative to whatever shit I’d normally eat. I’ve taken my love for this fruit back home with me, and now try and ensure that my fridge is always stocked up with a nice big juicy sandía. It’s made my life all the better for it.

Why did I come to Tamarite? Something to do, mostly. But there are other underlying motives. I want to go to the quiet places, I want to go to my own places. A couple of years ago I went to Rome for a day. I walked on the streets that Julius Caesar once walked upon. I looked at the mighty Colosseum, and felt absolutely nothing.

Armies of tourists have murdered these cities, they are everywhere, inescapable, unavoidable, stealing it all for themselves and their camera phones. I’d sooner go to somewhere else nobody else is interested in, and see that culture, naked, free to be whatever it is natural for it to be, and blend in or stand out as much as I choose. Then the experience is my own, and what’s more I am not a mere cog in the tourist machine, but for a short while, a part of the system itself. Tamarite wasn’t Barcelona, or Madrid, Paris, Berlin or Rome, but you can’t say it wasn’t completely unique. For better or worse.

A Poem for Fabio Thomas

A Poem for Fabio Thomas.

Fabio with your plucky little ribs like the strings of a guitar,

walks down the street like a guitar on wheels sliding down a hill.

Your hollow wooden body, that starts wide, then gets much narrower,

before it gets to your head at the top, which is like a headstock on a

guitar. Fabio, with his perfectly aligned pegs on the side of his face.

Constantly tuning himself in and out and off and on.

Fabio with your voice gentle and melodic, not quite as soft as

a violin, but similar, much like the gentle rhythms of a guitar, in fact.

Your skin always perfectly varnished, done by the guitar man

from the guitar shop, who you get on with really well

because you’re both interested in guitars.

You’re just Fabio- that guy we love, the guitar playing lumberjack

who smokes roll ups and likes american stuff. And Jimi Hendrix, who you

have a massive poster of in your room, because you say he was particularly

good at the guitar. Fabio whose favourite thing to do is have a massive spliff

and play the guitar with his friends who also love guitars.

Just Fabio, always with a plectrum behind your

ear at parties. Ready to get the guitar out and play jazz or whatever

music you listen to because you think the guitar in it is really good.

I remember when we first met in Arizona when you jumped out of that Jeep

and played a merry tune on your guitar and smiled,

then we drove off to live the American dream, and I didn’t like it

but you did because you love that shit and you’re always

happy when you’ve got a guitar, because that’s just you man.

Tamarite V

I came to Spain thinking I wouldn’t mind learning a bit of the second most spoken language on the planet. In theory the combination of three weeks exposure to a Spanish population that speaks next to no English and an open mind, would be enough for me to happily pick up at least a conversational level of Español.

This theory did not translate well into practice. I will offer my reservations as best I can.

First of all, there are far, far too many syllables. What I love about English is that so much of it consists of short, sharp one syllable words that bite, punch or kiss. Words like run, jump, punch, live, die, hot, cold, sky, fire, ice, fly, eat, drink, love, hate, boy, girl, day, night, cat, dog. The list of words like this in our language is practically never ending. In Spanish, none of these words have one syllable. I’ve only encountered two actual words which do have one syllable, these are sol meaning sun and sal meaning salt. I have found that the increased amount of syllables needed naturally causes speakers to rush their sentences, sliding all of their words into one dragged blur of a sentence, like one of Picasso’s brush strokes, very fast and very incomprehensible.

Too many vowels as well. Almost every word in Spanish ends in a vowel which must be pronounced. Spanish is a language that is completely dominated by vowels, mostly a, e or o which are their personal favourites. To put so many vowels in a word willy-nilly constitutes word-abuse in my opinion, because there is so little diversity, many words almost identical, like ano and año, which mean very, very different things.

Words rarely end in consonants, and most consonants in words are merely there just to gloss over. There are no hard consonants like the k at the end of quack, or the t at the end of cut. In very simple terms, it seems like we use the vowels to get us to the consonants, and they use the consonants to get to their oh so precious vowels (if you like vowels so much, why don’t you have sex with them?). It’s a shame really, because it’s a very restrictive way to use language. There are twenty one consonants in the alphabet, and only five vowels. English exploits this difference, Spanish seems to ignore it.

Almost every word will end in a vowel, most likely a as in Luna, or o as in Bastardo. So why the need for the extra syllable, you ask? Oh, because the entire language is enslaved by a masculine and feminine word rule, of course. Almost every noun has a gender, which determines not only how the word is spelt, but which word (of which there are a plethora of gender dependent variants) will precede it.

I can not learn to respect, or begin to understand this. Where does it come from? Why does every object, from a solid object like a table, to an abstract noun like anger have to be treated as if it has genitals? It sounds like a joke, to give a table a gender. It’s preposterous. It sounds like the people who developed the language were doing it as a prank on their own people, some kind of hoax. Or that they had a deeply strong desire to deter people from other languages bothering to learn it.

The combination of more syllables, more vowels and therefore less consonants, and arbitrary masculine and feminine words, was enough to put me off learning this language. If one was omniscient and one was to create a language from fresh, the ultimate language, one would create nothing that resembles this nonsense. Spanish, you might be the best of a bad bunch, but I’m sorry, you are quite frankly, naff (which is obviously a word you could never have in your language).

Tamarite IV

Tamarite IV marks the penultimate episode of the Tamarite saga, and similarly to the second it and the final one it will consist of a series of notes about random events and thoughts.

*

After three weeks I knew almost all of the children of Tamarite. I was effectively a celebrity. I was watching How Not To Live Your Life as an activity with one of the kids, and the mantra ‘always think with your balls’ seems to have rubbed off on him. He has told his friends about the phrase and they all seem to say it now. I’m happy I taught him something of value.

The older kids are at that age where they haven’t smoked weed yet, aren’t entirely sure what it is and are therefore absolutely obsessed by the idea of it. Presumably they think ‘getting high’ is among one of the coolest things one can do. When I walked through Tamarite the kids would surround me and demand that I say ‘Smoke Weed Every Day’ in the voice of Dr Dre, which I did reasonably well once and they found absolutely hilarious. Most of the time I would decline to do it, and they would follow me round, saying ‘oh please Jim, say smoke weed every day, please!’ I would perform for them the odd time, of course just to make the happy. Which reminds me…

**

One of the highlights of my time in Tamarite was when I was invited to a meal with the other Au Pairs at a farm in the neighbouring town of Esplus. It was a pittoresque farm, surrounded with apple orchards in which white horses were grazing and rooster gangs roamed free. There were telephone masts in each corner of the property, each one with a nest on top, and a stalk stood completely still on one leg, watching over, feathery sentinels.

In the early evening we bathed, and then played badminton in the swimming pool before it was time for dinner. We opened a bottle of Rioja, and made a real mess out of the cork, half of it crumbled its way into the wine itself. There were flies everywhere, in your hair, on your lip, on your plate. One of them landed right in my glass of red and entered a pitiful cycle of treading water/drowning among the powdery islands of cork. It took me several attempts to fish it out with my finger, and I ended up having to press its wet, filthy body up against the side of the glass. If it survived the drowning, and the crushing against the glass, it had surely drank itself to death, not a bad way to go. I drank the wine anyway so as not to be discourteous.

The food was all right. Now if there’s two things the Spanish love other than fags and beer, it’s bread and flesh. The meal consisted of Sausage, Salami, and Serrano Ham. The bulk of it however, was tortilla -known as Spanish Omlette in the UK. With a load of salt on them these things are bang on the money. After a bit more wine, the party began to take a change of direction. We were told we could put our own music on, so I stuck on that Sing It Back remix and we all sat at the table with the rest of the corky wine. A girl says to me, ‘I didn’t think you’d like this music?’

‘Oh yeah, what music did you think I would like.’

‘I don’t know, rock music?’

All of a sudden, the host- Suzy comes out of the house holding a tray full of paraphernalia, and asks ‘would anyone like to roll a joint?’ She then takes the tray closer and reveals that it’s got a box on it full of all the necessary utensils, and piles of tobacco and dried cannabis sitting there, harvested and waiting to be turned into a spliff.  Suzy tells us it’s homegrown, none of this super genetically modified, will make your kids grow two heads, skunk stuff that they smoke in the UK. The weed was really smooth – the way God intended, and needless to say it complimented the music wonderfully. We had arranged a lift back pretty early, and it soon came. We all went our separate ways, wishing the evening could last longer, but delighted with the time we had spent. Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg would have been proud.

***

I soon grew to appreciate the Spanish custom of going to the swimming pool every day. I grew to love a glass of lemon iced tea in a plastic cup with ice in it. By the pool you can lie on your towel, read, sleep, reflect, listen to music, drink, play cards- which are five of the best. I would even jump in the pool occasionally, and try my arm at swimming.

I really don’t much care for swimming. I struggle to think of an activity quite so tedious and boring. Now I don’t like jogging either, but at least it offers a wide variety of scenery to look at. Swimming is just intelligent splashing, up and down and up and down the swimming pool. The only thing it’s got going for it is the whole wetness thing, which admittedly does make a change from our mostly dry lifestyles. I now completely understand why as a species we have no fins, -our primate ancestors clearly wishing to avoid the activity of swimming wherever possible, not through fear of being eaten by a crocodile, but through fear of being bored to death.

I can’t swim very well at all, which I accept might constitute part of the reason for my antipathy. I do quite a lot of flapping around, but don’t seem to go anywhere, my body threatening to sink at any moment. It’s very frustrating to thrash around like a shark and get no rewards for it. I usually jump in the swimming pool intent on swimming lengths, swim halfway across the pool to where it is shallow enough to stand, then get bored, forget what I’m doing and stand there daydreaming until I feel like getting out again.

I do mildly enjoy diving in though. It’s not often you get to leap off something face first. It’s not like in England where diving is presumably seen as offensive and not ‘politically correct’, in Spain you can dive to your heart’s content. After a dive you can swim underwater for a bit, and see how far you can travel before having to surface for oxygen in order to avoid death. I was doing a variation of this once, very slowly and casually, swimming towards an empty space by the side of the slow lane. Almost as soon as I got under the surface I hit something. I turned out to be a very bald, very serious man in goggles and weird swimming flippers on his hands. He looked like an overgrown, dilapidated seal with legs. The collision set him off and he proceeded to launch a tirade at me in Spanish. I nodded along occasionally, saying ‘si’ occasionally, despite having no idea what he was saying. I remember thinking after five minutes had passed, what on earth is he finding to talk about for this long? I’m dreadfully sorry- can we please just get on with our lives now?

 

****

 

You  will have noticed that the featured image is of a mountain. We walked for eight kilometres through the Pyrenees mountains, mostly on the sides, among the pine trees that cling to the mountain side like a dark green rug. I saw some very beautiful things there. We followed the path of a stream. It travelled down giant stone steps that look as if they were created for a community of giants, by giants. The water would collect at the bottom of each step, and would take a mesmerising azure colour, and rest momentarily in a miniature lagoon before trickling down through towards the sea. Some people would bathe in these pools, but I forgot my swimming trunks, which was a tragedy.

Once you’ve walked most of the way, you reach a mountain valley, which is all but obscured by the preponderance of green leaves, their colours gilded green-gold as they bask in the showers of sunlight that pour down into the valley from above. In arbitrary places, many all-but-dead trees would poke out of the vegetation, standing there like silver skeletons. Relics of the all-but-dead past, contrasting the impregnable, vibrant life of the present.

 

cof

As we walked the valley dug deeper into the ground, until two rocky mountain walls were towering on either side. I had never seen something so enormous. To be among nature so incomprehensible. To be in the middle of a natural phenomenon of mountainous proportions, something that took millions and millions of years of wind and water and erosion to form, to see the crumbling old patterns of the rocks half way up the mountain was get a glimpse of the truly ancient Earth and it’s lifelong flesh, to see nature’s tyranny upon all matter, to view nature’s perpetual work of art. To walk in the valley was nothing less than to taste a morsel of eternity. To walk in the valley was to come face to face with what will murder us and recast our bodies into new life. To come face to face with the valley that swallows all life and spits it out into trees, water and earth. To walk here was to walk in the valley of all life and all death.

 

cof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tamarite II

Things are very different here. The kids are not the same. For example, they aren’t at each other’s throats all the time. I asked one from my family yesterday if he disliked any of the other kids from Tamarite and he responded with ‘no’. When I was a kid, everyone hated each other. Everyone was falling out all the time. Who slagged who off on MSN? Bullying left right and centre. He’s shit at football, she’s fat, he’s gay. I spent a lot of energy on hating other kids, and many spent a lot of energy hating me. Hatred of the completely irrational, childish sort. Everyone in Tamarite seems to get on perfectly well.

I could guess at the reasons for this. Tamarite is a small town,nestled between two rocky hills, isolated from nearby civilisation. It is by no means tiny, I would say it was about the size of my own village, Barrow Upon Soar. Tamarite has a population of about four thousand, Barrow nearly six. I got here on the Monday, met quite a few kids on the second day playing racket sports, Uno, swimming, Pokemon hunting etc. And I found that even the next day I was bumping into the same kids, sometimes twice. Everybody knows everybody. With the frequency of seeing each other so high, people become like some kind of extended family- naturally it makes sense to have amicable relationships with your next door neighbours.

But also, I think the kids are just brought up with decent values.

The sun helps. In Tamarite there is a swimming pool, right next to the football stadium. When it gets to twelve o’clock, you flip on your slip slops, jump on your obscure brand Spanish mountain bike, you’re out of the door and the world is yours.

When you walk in there is a bar, the tables have the word San Miguel strewn across them in that classy green and red font that exudes class. Then you go through an arch made of hedge onto the lawn, and you are by the swimming pools. Take your towel to your preferred patch, lay it down next to your cerveza, and you are free to bask to your heart’s content. In the evening, the pool is surrounded by families who perpetually seem like this experience is novel to them, spellbound in summer mirth. It really is quite idyllic. People passing slices of watermelon around, reading books in the shade of the trees, playing racket sports, men, women and children alike sliding in and out of the water like otters. If Bethan happens to be by the side of the pool you can just swim underwater for that part it’s fine. What’s not to be happy about?

Back to the kids. I used to find kids really annoying, I used to question parents for their obsession with them, their dependence on having them. But I think it was the parents whom I rejected. I rejected the deluded, middle class English parent, infinitely proud of their child– their child over all others– places astronomical expectations upon them only for them to inevitably achieve nothing but a life of mediocrity and banality, a paltry echo of their parents dull lives. Here the kids are all really quite cute, happy creatures. Like Kangaroos their mothers carry these miniature versions of themselves smiling in their front pouches everywhere they go.

Considering that they speak a different language, one might expect all manner of verbal abuse to be going on in my presence. Now I can’t say I have any idea what they’re talking about when I’m there, I know they ridicule me because I wear sports socks. But that’s nothing. It’s certainly not ‘oi fuck off clean shirt’. What I love about the kids as well, is the can-do attitude. None of this ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’ve not got any money’, ‘what if a rock falls on my head?’ bollocks. The attitude is, let’s find something to do and do it.

There’s a rock in Tamarite, it looks like it’s been placed on top of a much larger rock, and sits on top of it like a hat. A steep granite lump which if you climbed, you could see everything. You could look down upon God’s creation in its entirety and smile. I was there the other day and I weighed it up and thought, I can’t climb that. I wouldn’t be able to get down. It’s too steep. My legs are too big. I’m too clumsy. I’d end up being that English bloke taking up one paragraph on the right hand side of the Metro. I asked my fourteen year old kid if people had climbed it, and he said, yes, as a matter of fact, he had climbed it once.

“One day I was there with a friend, and I say shall we climb this? And he say no we can’t climb this. I say why can’t we climb this? And then we climbed this.”

I love stories like that.

He also told me about how the other day he was at his friend’s house, who has a swimming pool full of stagnant, muddy water, which had accommodated a plethora of frogs and snakes. He was saying they were all swimming in it. I asked him why? He said ‘because it was funny’.

Zengin’s Pride

Deep in the heart of the ancient woods, two slimy hermaphrodites were sharing a slimy embrace, suspended high in the air above a carpet of woodland leaves and mulch. Fuelled with strange invertebrate desire, they hung from a string of mucus like an umbilical cord and spiralled and pirouetted and danced through the night. For hours on end they hugged and kissed and smooched and cried together. They lost themselves in each other’s slippery skins and tasted each other’s slime until one final burst of enthusiasm that marked the conclusion of their meeting. The atmosphere pervaded with awkwardness all of a sudden. Immediately the two slugs were incapable of eye contact. It was now time to go separate ways. With their teeth like clandestine guillotines they severed the cord and dropped to the ground and slid away in opposite directions like they had never known each other. No goodbyes were uttered. They plunged into the darkness, never to meet again.

Hoot-hooooot. Yellow eyes glowing in the distance, between the leaves without blinking. Fast-forward to the night of our protagonist’s birth. The momentous night. A litter of slime in the dark. Hoot-hooooot. Yellow eyes glowing in the distance. A pale and translucent thing at first; the colour a gentle light blue, nestled into the rotten undergrowth, among others, all feeble little sacks- some without motion. Hoot-hoots in the distance. Yellow eyes glowing between the leaves.  Two slugs remained, one sizeable and full of life. The other a runt, pathetic, soon to expire. His mother stared only at one, who she has named Zengin. Hoot-hoooootShe rejected the other slug, and gave all her attention to its superior. Yellow eyes.

The owl is coming!” uttered the maternal slug, covering her favourite son with a leaf as she saw the flapping of wings through the needled branches of the pine. The young slug was devoured in one peck. Zengin watched from a gap under the leaf as the owl finished chewing, and then slowly rotated his head as he locked on its prime target, who on this occasion had not the haste to escape. Zengin’s mother’s shouted to her son one last time “be proud, Zengin. You are the greatest!”. The owl then scooped her up with his claws and cackled to himself as he dived into the air.

“Bless my feathers! I do love the fat ones. This’ll feed the kids for a whole week. Hoot hoot!”

From this point onwards, Zengin was left on his own to confront the world, however barbarous. All that he had to take with him were those precious words uttered by his mother. Being too young to understand the concept of hyperbole, he regarded them as infallible, as literal truth. Be proud at all costs. You are the greatest. As soon as Zengin could develop thoughts, they were exclusively self. Or I. Or me.

The young mollusc soon left the leaf under which he had viewed the slaughter of his mother, and got on with his life. He feasted on all of the rotten treasures of the woodland until he increased in size and strength, and his muscles began to show. God I’m handsome, he thought to himself. The mollusc purchased designer clothes from brands such as Ralph Lauren and Paul Smith God I’ve got style, the mollusc thought. The mollusc soon met other slugs of a similar age and established a clique full of admirers God I’m popular, the slug thought. The mollusc began to have dalliances with other youthful and exuberant slugs God I’m a stud. He watched his children grow up God my children are better than everyone else’s. The mollusc began to read the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, William Wordsworth, William Blake and George Gordon Byron. God I understand poetry, he thought. It was only a matter of time before the keen mollusc took up a pen himself. The mollusc composed an epic poem of twenty eight thousand lines titled The Eternal Quest of Zengin the Perfect Slug. God my verses are delicately cadenced, I’ve outdone Dante! were his thoughts on this occasion. Nobody read them of course; It’s just a shame nobody is intellectual enough to appreciate this emphatic work. The hubris was frightful and burned bright like phosphorus, and was equally corrosive, as we will soon learn.

The slug began to develop an insatiable sense of anger at the world, the world which he deemed to be insignificant for a slug of his intellectual capacity. But most of all he felt that his excellence was constantly unrecognised. In his bohemian slug circles he began to vocalise his thoughts about the pretentiousness and lack of ability that surrounded him. He ended up telling a slug with a liking of impressionism to “fuck himself” for refusing to make him the subject of all of his paintings. “Impressionism is shit anyway. An impressionist picture of a family of slugs eating a dock leaf is just a regular picture of a family of slugs eating a dock leaf, only slightly more blurry. Paint me, and you must not ever blur what is immaculate as it is.” The disgruntled impressionist slug left the society and was never seen again. 

Soon the community began to realise that this Zengin slug was a most arrogant creature, whose thoughts were always completely concerned with himself. Thoughts that were descending into chaos! Why won’t they provide my food for me and attend me at all times? Soon became Why won’t they make me their Monarch? Soon became Why won’t they worship me like a deity? He was insufferable. They soon banished him from their circles.

Inflamed with rage and disappointment, Zengin decided to take a stand, and make his voice heard. Crowds of slugs were congregating to discuss routine political matters, and Zengin the slug, wearing a T-shirt with a pseudo-iconic picture of his own face on the front, climbed onto the top of the tallest dock leaf and commanded the attention of the populace, rudely interrupting a discussion regarding tax credits. 

“Zengin stands before you. Worship me you pathetic slugs. I am the best. You are all worthless molluscs spawned from your mothers purely for the purposes of following my designs,” there was an intrusive silence. “I am the righteous dictator”. Each sentence took what felt like a life time.

“I am the greatest.”

The crowd had already grown tired of his grandiosity, “Are you not also a mollusc?” a little leopard coated slug dared interrupt from the back of the crowd. Slugs speak every bit as slow as they move.

“No. I am no mollusc,” if not slower.

“What are you then?” another slug, flummoxed by Zengin’s words gave in reply.

“I am a celestial deity in the form of a slug,” some slugs laughed in response, others were growing irritable and murmured to themselves their discontent and embarrassment.

“PROVE IT!!!” they all roared.

“Does not my mastery of oratory demonstrate this clearly enough to your impoverished brains?”

A long pause, “no.”

“Well what must I do?”

A fat slug with short stubby antennae addressed the proud orator.

“You say you are celestial and a deity and not a slug like the rest of us. Surely you must therefore be immortal?”

“Yes, immortal. I am yes.”

“Then we shall pour salt upon your flesh, and watch you return unscathed. Then we shall worship you unconditionally, for as long as our miserable lives may transpire.”

“How insolent of you to even require proof. Do you not know it in your souls when you gaze into my eyes, my eyes heroic like lion’s eyes on stalks?”

“Not really,” the fat mollusc replied with ambivalence.

“Oh as you please. Bring me the salt. You will see. Oh you will see that I am invincible.”

The slugs congregated and after eleven long hours of acquiring salt granules and carefully placing them on a dock leaf, which they carried to the spot where Zengin remained standing, facing the slug crowd in what he believed to be an imperious stance. The slugs violently beat their drums and violently waved their torches in the air. They drank beer and ate popcorn (sweet flavour)

The fat slug with the stubby antennae saw this as an opportunity to make money so took it upon himself to open a betting shop, and take bets on the outcome. Most backed death. The queue stretched further than the eye could see. It is rumoured that even a number of snails came to view the spectacle. And the other slugs were too captivated too notice. They were consumed and in a frenzy.

Zengin was not intimidated by the mob, and stood strong, laughing at the gormlessness of the crowd. The crowd were divided in their chants, some roared for Zengin’s divine rulership, others for his demise. Some wanted divine revelation, others simply the gore of death. The dock leaf full of salts –carried on the shoulders of eight labouring slugs– was moving ever closer to the mollusc orator by the hour. Zengin was not phased and stood magnanimously on the his rock. He imagined that this image of him would remain the most prevalent and revered image for the future of not only slugs, but all molluscs alike. The gastropods, the chitons, the bivalves, the cephalopods- they would all remember the image of Zengin on the rock. Some slugs took it upon themselves to video the event on their camera phones, others drew portraits. Some merely watched intently, waiting.

“Salt!”, “SALT!!!” they screamed.

“You shall see. You shall see pathetic ones. You shall see,” Zengin responded.

The slugs who were administering the salt couldn’t help but portray their enthusiasm. It was not often they had the opportunity to potentially destroy a fellow slug for sport. Zengin lay next to the leaf, unwavering and motionless. With smiles on their faces, the slugs began to tilt the leaf while the crowd was catapulted into ecstasy.

The first granule fell onto Zengin’s back. The second. The third. Then the rest. The eight began their journey to the other side of the leaf to witness the results. The crowd fell silent as the granules began to slide down the dock leaf towards Zengin’s back. 

Yellow. Then came the swoop and in a matter of seconds the young slug was in the talons of the same owl. As they flew off into the trees, Zengin shouted to the crowd at the top of his lungs.

“Zengin is the greatest, and will be resurrected!”

“Shut up little slime! Hoot hooooot!” replied the owl as he carried off his dinner.