All this happened so it must be true

Mostly stories, plus other odds and ends

Green Grow the Rushes

Burton is drunk again and explaining to the barmaid about astral projection.

It’s Friday night and the tiny, one-room pub is half empty. Burton is telling the barmaid about the impossibly thin thread that ties her to this mortal realm, and about the wonders we could all experience if we could only shake ourselves loose of our attachment to this mundane version of reality.

‘Dawn breaks behind the eyes,’ he tells her – he’s quoting now, his hand on hers, leaning across the bar, and, oh, that voice – ‘From pole of skull and toe, the windy blood slides like a sea…’

It’s not the first time he’s used this approach. It may not even be the first time with this particular barmaid. In the three weeks they’ve been filming in this forgotten town in the middle of the marshes, the twenty-five-year-old Burton has managed to seduce two schoolgirls, a postmistress, a fifty five year old widower, a landlord’s wife – and at least four barmaids. He’s also started five fights, crashed two cars, been banned from three pubs and performed Hamlet at four in the morning to a field full of surprised cows. Read the rest of this entry »

The Love Song of the Predator Drone – the video

The Love Song of the Predator Drone

If there was one thing Mary had learned in three years in Afghanistan, it was as banal as this: Love and war are a terrible combination.

Also: never get into a Chinook helicopter piloted by a drunk member of the royal family.

Mary was as an official war artist, just like everyone else. Due to a British Council error in late 2009 hundreds of artists had been sent to the country to interpret the conflict. During the second Helmand offensive you couldn’t set up a mortar emplacement or sweep a road for mines without tripping over a mixed-media collagist or a site-specific sculptor.

Eventually the army decided they’d had enough and revoked everyone’s visas, so the artists all drifted up into the mountains, where they held community outreach events and private viewings and opening night cheese-and-wine parties for the bemused local tribespeople. Occasionally a performance poet or someone who worked in ceramics was kidnapped and beheaded by the local Taliban franchise, but for the most part relations were good.

And it was in the mountains that Mary had fallen in love with a United States MQ-1 unmanned Predator drone. Read the rest of this entry »

Special Economic Advisors, in Love

We met in the air, of course. Cocktail hour in first class, thirty thousand feet above Frankfurt or London or Paris. All it took was a spot of turbulence and a moment of mutual understanding. It was Friday night and off our starboard wing all of Western Europe was lit up like Christmas.

Forty five minutes later we were on the ground and ordering champagne up to our room.

You’d been on your way to consult on another round of bailout talks and I was coming back from a guest spot at the World Economic Forum. We were young, beautiful and stupidly rich. We spent the weekend playing ‘you show me your fiscal stimulus policy and I’ll show you mine’.

“My position on interest rates,” you told me, breathlessly, “is very flexible”.

We agreed on further exploratory talks. Read the rest of this entry »

Special Economic Advisers, in Love – The Video!

Robert Rauschenberg & Jasper Johns – A relationship in three photographs

Image Read the rest of this entry »

God, Grant Me The Serenity

My love affairs were starting to get out of hand. My love affairs, and my drinking. It was no way for a particle physicist to behave. There was nothing for it, they said, but to send me to the South Pole.

“For how long?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about that right now,” they said.

Don’t worry about it? The South Pole?

“Think of it as a chance to… reassess” they said.

And then they stuck me on the plane. Read the rest of this entry »

God, Grant Me The Serenity (video)

The Greatest Breakfast in the World

It’s two thirty in the morning when you write off the second rented Ferrari.

You leave it wrapped around a lamppost somewhere in East London and pay a passing teenage drug courier five hundred quid to lend you his BMX.

By the time you reach your mistress’s flat forty minutes later, the ketamine is already wearing off and the two highly poisonous, highly illegal Japanese puffer fish under your arm are on the turn.

You’ve had better – and worse – Saturday nights.

Barry Large, celebrity chef: you’re a monster. Read the rest of this entry »

So it turns out…

…that one of my photographs accidentally won second prize in a Granta Magazine photography competition.

I won’t let it change me, honest.