Monday, 29 September 2014

Notice of Absence

I am starting to once again try and put together a long gestating novel on the Falkland's Conflict - this is start attempt five. This one is called Silent Voices.

I have managed to write nearly 5,000 words today and think I have found a working format.

So while I am hot, I will be ignoring my blog until the muse dry ups or the novel is finished.

Silent voices -

Richard and me had a system.

‘Head and Neck’ came to me: Richard was ‘The Rest’.

To the uninitiated this appears, at first glance, a rather lopsided division of labour leaving Richard with most of the body to deal with but as you read on you will eventually understand the logic and why Richard had the easier job.



My name is Julio da Silva, I have just turned 16.

I live in one of the many slums that skirt Buenos Aeries, to pretend they are not slums the intellectuals call them fancy names like ‘barrios’ or ‘favellas’ but they are slums. Slums where dog, cat and human excrement mingle on the streets, where children struggle to ever make their fifth birthday and of those who do, too many will be shot or stabbed in the incessant gang wars between the rival ‘landlords’ and their men, squabbling over control of the drug and prostitution markets. The better off of the slum dwellers have solid concrete brick blocks for walls and corrugated tin for their roofs. The really posh will have electricity and running water, toilet facilities, rooms and even a front door - 2 cm steel plate, bullet proof, lockable – and a garnish of razor wire around their property boundary for that additional crime prevention feature.
Me and I friends lived at the bottom end of the ‘barrios’ housing ladder. For me that means a 4m concrete block box, no windows, a tin roof held together by rust and a tarpaulin for a door. I shared this basic block with my mother’s parents, four sisters and two brothers. Running water came down the walls and electrical supply came from the highly dangerous procedure of illegally tapping into the local domestic supply at the nearest lamp post (along with another thirty or more, local worthies).

Give Dad his due, he had improved the place with the ‘add ons’ the intelligent would refer to as ‘quaint bijou extensions’ but were more accurately stolen wood, tarpaulin and tin ‘lean too’s’ against the back wall of the ‘house’ – but at least they allowed us brothers and sisters our own space.

Occasional we had to ‘flit’ when the local authorities decided they should be seen to be ‘in control’ and spent a day or two knocking down ‘illegal and insanitary’ shanties. Usually we had enough warning of their arrival and would take our bijou extensions down so the council would not steal our walls and roof, saving us the hike down to the local tip to hump the materials back to remake them.


I can read, count and write thanks to the diligence of the Jesuit Fathers – when I say diligence, read - innumerable beatings. I go to church most Sundays because it is a good way of staying warm and dry in winter and cool in summer, for an hour or two, and just maybe my prayers will be heard and God will strike down Father Orlando with more vigour than he ever beat me or at least tear off his ‘cohunes’ which have lead to quite a few choir and altar boys pain and humiliation (My big brothers warned me off becoming one of Father Orlando’s ‘little helpers’).

I have two avenues of escape from the grinding poverty of my family. I can join the local gang and hope I survive the wars and revenge killings to get high enough in the organisation to make decent money, at next to no risk or there is football and thousands of other slum dwelling kids who think they are the next ‘Ossie Ardiles’ or ‘Mario Kempes’.

Some job choice for the kid on the make ...”


I have just got back to the house I share with my friend John, just a stone’s throw from the docks at Devonport. I was playing in a mixed hockey match and we had won, John has Sunday lunch on the go – it was his turn. I am planning to meet my girlfriend at the Brown Bear then take in a film and a meal in downtown Plymouth, at the best Chinese Restaurant in the West of England (no blow, it really is), such is the excitement of the life I live. John’s girlfriend, Jane, has joined us for lunch so John has pulled out all the stops in the best traditions of a Lancashire Sunday lunch. I know, it would have been better if they were ‘Janet and John’, a bit of ironic humour for those primary school generations of the 1960’s (Janet and John have their first orgasm – See John put his hand up Janet’s skirt ....) but they are not. I am about to go for a shower, as I am still in my cold and stiffening hockey gear, the phone rings a dismembered, highly stressed voice says, “Get off your arse and into work as fast as possible, we have an emergency.”

I remembered it was my birthday, explains the film and meal combination with the certainty of a shag for afters. So that was the film and meal bit gone west – I wondered for a brief second if the shag would still be on but that would depend on the nature of the work emergency and whether I was back at a decent (or indecent) enough hour. I showered and got into my work gear, Jane phoned Mandy, for me, to explain I had a work emergency; I gulped down lunch and headed off to the dockyard.

Whatever was going on, it had to be very serious because the ‘dockies’ were moving piles of rubbish that had lain unmoved since the Suez crisis. There was a stream of ‘Jacks’ heading towards their ships and the gate showed condition ‘red’ which meant there was a serious terrorist threat, to my mind. I pitched up in my department: this was clearly serious when even the boss was in on a Sunday.

“Great to see you, sir, there’s a ten tonner with a driver and LMA waiting for you.” said Fleet Chief Munday, “the boss wants you to pick up all the portable units in the dockyard and bring them here for maintenance and restocking. He then wants you to identify the ships on this list and identify which require prioritising and move the mobile surgery units to those with most need, once the portable units are serviced and re-stocked (Ah! that will be me and the LMA’s task as well) you have to set them up on the ships next in priority, not covered by the mobile units. Then you have to organise the deployment of clinical teams to the clinics, portables and notify their bosses of where they will expected to be at 0815 tomorrow to start work – the Port Admiral kindly requests you have it all done by yesterday ”

It appears while I was playing hockey, we have declared war on somebody, on my birthday as well – but who?

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