David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #11

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 2: PC#11

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had developed the idea that it is possible to split off those parts of oneself that are at odds with the way one would most like to be or, at least, the way one would like to be seen. I was familiar,  however, from my reading of psychoanalytical texts, with the dangers of such splitting.

I knew that that which is split off will return. With an attitude. How could I forearm against, for example, the allure of objectless worlds of wistful intricacy that existed only to provide a haven for yearning that would be extinguished by the slightest contact with brute reality?

There were two ways to go: the soft or the hard. I could soften myself to the point where the distasteful parts were embraced and absorbed, losing their harsh power and simply being accepted as part of the whole spectrum of qualities that were just very much me and who I simply very much am.

I thought that I would model myself on Julia Roberts’ lips. I arranged to meet Julia in the bar at Blake’s Hotel. I had a Stella and Julia had a half of Bombardier. After making small talk I asked her if I could take hold of her lips. Specifically, could I take her upper lip in one hand and her lower lip in the other hand?

Julia suggested that, since she hardly knew me, it would be better to discuss what I needed at another level. She said that, in fact, she had only got where she was today through a process of inner hardening. Her apparent softness was largely a matter of  strategy – it was needed to counterpoint the apparent hardness of the male actors with whom she worked.

Walking back through the park I met a hippie. I recalled that back in the 60s the hippies were very tolerant. They said that you should dig yourself. I asked the hippie to elucidate. He said “Okay. It’s like there is all this shit moving in patterns. You have to disconnect from the patterns and let the shit flow by.”

The hippie raised an interesting issue. He had described something that sounded straightforward yet had no basis in anything anyone could do about anything. How do you disconnect? What from? How long does it take? Can you reconnect if needs be? If, indeed, there are patterns, do they impinge in the least upon our lives?

I concluded that while patterns can be found all over the place they had fuck all to do with our lives. Our lives appear to be shit storms in an unending typhoon of disorder. So what if a fucking shell has a spiral? So what if things come in fucking threes? What’s it to me if nature is ridddled with nice shapes? I’m fucking not.

Fuck Julia Roberts! Fuck hippies! Fuck this underlying shit! It’s underlying! It’s not fucking overlying! If it was fucking overlying we’d all be lying on deckchairs waiting for an enema from Princess Diana while listening to violins and sucking sweeties! Shit would never happen!

It wasn’t that it was abstract or philosophical, what the hippie said. It was that the world is full of people whose connection with meaning is based entirely on the desire for meaning. They see a pattern, they admire the pattern, they imagine they contain pattern, so they identify with the pattern they see.

The desire to dwell within pattern has been considerably intensified within the domain of consumer capitalism. Sufferers from obsessive compulsive disorder, in an attempt to suppress what they experience as intrusive and unsettling thoughts, will repeat ordinary actions, such as turning off the lights in their house, over and over again.

In so doing,  they unwittingly enact the condition of the consumer who has been taught to feel incomplete unless they repeat an act of consumption. The consumer, however, becomes a beacon attracting further invasion whilst enjoying the sensation of shedding light on a predicament. 

In this scenario pattern is everywhere to be seen and closure is achieved on a rhythmic basis. The consuming act will, it is suggested, fill the hole that you deserve to have filled but, like the Chinese meal of legend, has to be reinforced by many subsequent acts. In this respect consumption is an ecstatic practice.

Its strong repetitive rhythms assist the process of ‘getting out of it’. The ‘it’ that you get out of is imagined to be a hard place full of objects and obligation while what you get into is a soft place of transcendence and meaning. In fact it’s a place scoured by the winds of yearning and hire purchase.

I’m sorry. I got carried away. I don’t normally rant but I was embarrassed by my crass behaviour with Julia Roberts. I had hoped to pitch her a screenplay about a young man of modest background who wins a fortune on a television quiz programme thanks to plot devices apparently based on 1950s children’s stories.

I needed to get to a hard place – it was clear that softness was not doing me any good. I needed to reject all those elements that led to self-doubt. I thought of the Italian Futurists and their undisguised admiration for machines and war.  Self-doubt had no place in their programme.  Unfortunately most of them were fascists.

So how to expel softness without splitting? Was there some way of being soft and hard at the same time? Like a chocolate. Or a snail. Or an egg. Or an olive. Or a peach. But these were scarcely sentient things. I could hardly model myself on a chocolate. Then I noticed that I was passing Clint Eastwood’s house in Ladbroke Grove.

Despite his forbidding and often mean screen personas he seemed affable and approachable in real life. I realised, however, that this did not mean he would be pleased to meet a random passerby. I walked slowly past the house, glancing casually at the windows as I did so. I could see paintings on the wall of the living room.

I walked back past the house, not looking this time. Then I turned and walked back the other way. Not looking. I turned again and walked back. Then I turned, and walked, and then, after a short while, I turned again and walked back. Past the house. Not looking. I walked up and down. I walked up and down.

Then out came Lance Johnson, the young surfer from Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. He was played by Sam Bottoms. Sam died last year from a brain tumour, aged 53. Lance walked up the hill. I followed him. He walked north, through Edgware, Radlett, Frogmore. I followed him. He walked and walked. He never paused. I kept following him.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #12

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 2: PC#12

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had attempted to find a balance between softness and hardness by visiting Clint Eastwood’s house in Ladbroke Grove.  Who should come out but Lance Johnson, the young surfer from Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. Lance walked north to the outskirts of London and I followed him.

Lance was played by the late Sam Bottoms. Sam’s first movie was Bogdanovich’s ‘Last Picture Show’ in 1971. That’s him in the small town cinema, aged 15. He played Billy, a mute and backward boy. Lance, Billy and Sam were brothers. They were all wistful, which I liked. Billy had a soft, distant smile.

Lance was stoned most of the time in Vietnam. He was so out of it that he didn’t seem to see the horror around him. Or maybe he did see it and had to get out of it. It’s so strange to think that soldiers smoked dope. We used to think that dope was part of the revolution. Lance was on acid going upriver. He befriended a puppy.

I knew that Sam was dead because he kept walking through things. It made it hard to keep up with him. He had a brain tumour. That’s why he died. Lance kept him going. Lance said “Sam, come over here, I’m on acid. It’s beautiful.” We were near St Albans. Lance didn’t understand that Sam was already dead. Lance would always be eighteen.

Someone joined us along the way. “Who are you?” we said. “I saw you going by from my house,” he said, “I’m Bluff Jack.” Lance said “That’s a beautiful house, man.” Bluff Jack said, as was his wont, “It is a beautiful house.” Lance said “I like you, man, you’re direct.” Jack put his hand out to shake Lance’s hand but it went through him.


As we neared Duxford Aerodrome we found Squadron Leader ‘Tatters’ Taytham and Group Captain ‘Taters’ Tatham sitting in deckchairs by the roadside. Bluff Jack was quick, as was his way, to establish that they, too, were dead. “We are,” they confessed. I asked if they were familiar with Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. They said that

they had admired Lance’s performance but found the drug references perplexing. Sam, assuming a protective attitude to Lance, told them it had not been a just war and they seemed to understand. I felt that they were soft in their hardness but this could be explained by their phantasmal bodies. They had not changed their clothes since 1943.

A large group of dead women pilots marched towards us. My mind began to race. If the women and the men walked through each other would the women become pregnant? Because this would be the ideal sex, where the bodies were light and there were no imperfections. The babies would form almost immediately.

But it was actually very cold. Several dead women passed through me and my brain silted up with snow. I heard Bluff Jack, the only other live man, moaning piteously. Then everything was quiet. I could not even hear my footsteps. I knew that I must keep going, though. Eventually I saw a steep pathway.

Sam was dead. Again. Lance, Billy, Jack, Tatters and Taters were nowhere to be seen. I felt sick and depressed. I knew exactly what had happened and where I was.  For reasons that were as yet unclear I had brought myself to a place where the only way forward was death or enlightenment. In other words a place of the utmost banality.

I was within moments of embarking on one of the most pointless journeys that life has to offer. Beyond cliché, beyond sentimentality:  the stairway to heaven,  in all its variants,  some less prescriptive than others, some involving actual death, some not, was  the single most debilitating prospect that any sane and healthy person could face.

Eager not to be absorbed into the eternal light, I went to a pub that sold Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. It’s an ale with a good head, malt aroma, fruit, a hoppy flavour, fairly dry and bitter. At 4.3% it’s obviously not as strong as, say, Director’s or Abbot, but it feels strong and delivers a beer buzz quite quickly.

My thoughts turned to Jade. I’d found her bullying and lazy racism pretty unpleasant  on Big Brother but now that she’d gone I had no ill feeling towards her and felt sorry for her kids and even the surly, feckless Jack. In a perceptive article in ‘The Guardian’, Madeleine Bunting quotes the psychoanalyst Susie Orbach, who suggested that

in Goody’s dying we are “grieving for the death of a fantasy world we have all been living in”. This was, clearly, the world of easy credit, happy motoring and limitless resources. Bunting also quotes another psychoanalyst, Andrew Samuels, who detects “a huge diffused anxiety”about the future spreading through society.

“Patients talk to me,” says Samuels, “of walking through a door into a room that has no floor. People fear the structure of their lives falling apart.” I ordered another glass of Landlord. It was clear that I had been mistaken in seeking solace in Clint Eastwood,  let alone Sam and Lance. I had been walking with ghosts.

I could see that ghosts were – to use a loaded term – spirits without bodies while zombies were bodies without spirits. I liked zombies – their single-mindedness impressed me. We’re encouraged to see them merely as the living dead but I think that’s unfair. Also unfair is the way that they are denied political status.

This zombie, for example,  is dedicated to a critique of the coercive cult of depression embodied in the colourful and manic clown.  The latter,  in its pre-depraved form, fails to address either the complexity of contemporary experience or the primal simplicity of the incontinent shitting and pissing upon which much slapstick is based.

Zombies also represent the obliterating power of religious belief wherein the sufferer, fuelled by the great light that suspends discernment, arrests experience and neutralises scepticism, subjects those of us still beguiled by the material world to the numb intimacy of the thousand yard stare.

What if the driven body of the zombie were somehow filled with the restless melancholy of the ghost? Surely this should result in a perfect balance of the softness and hardness that I had been pursuing! I needed to find a large open space to which I could attract great numbers of almost human creatures.

I hired a luxurious coach and filled it with uncooked meat  and a sound system playing Dutch gabber at 180 beats per minute. The coach had a capacity of 76, plus a driver – necessarily undead. It soon filled up. I would follow behind in my Volvo. We drove to Colindale in North London, a site of perfect melancholy.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #13

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 2: PC#13

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had chartered a coach and filled it to capacity with zombies in order that I could attempt to blend them with an equal number of ghosts, phantoms or wraiths. My objective was to determine the proportions of softness and hardness required to make a balanced individual.

We drove at dawn through the suburbs of North London. The zombies seemed fairly content – I had found a skip full of condemned meat outside a shoe shop in Leytonstone and filled the coach with it. All that could be heard was the tearing of flesh and the intermittent but shreddingly violent breaking of wind.

The last time I visited Leytonstone with any particular objective was in 1972 when I went with my girlfriend Carol to see Roxy Music play in a pub. We had seen the band on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC2 the previous evening and had been shocked and entranced. I thought I had found the musical answer to everything.

Kari-Ann Muller, the 18 year old model on the first Roxy Music album cover,  came from Cornwall. I remember meeting her when I was at the Royal College of Art. She was a speed-freak – allegedly – and her enraptured expression, while entirely apposite in this context, is quite probably comprised of tooth–grinding and free-floating anxiety. She is now a yoga teacher in Highgate.

It could be argued that both Bryan and Kari-Ann look as though they’re having a shit but  actually their expressions are ecstatic. This is not to disparage the act of defecation – it is, after all, an act of evacuation  associated with purgation and release. My own attraction to Roxy Music, however,  stemmed not from its affinity with the transcendent so much as its embrace of artificiality.

Before I went to the Royal College, back in the late 60s, I thought of myself as a beatnik. I was, in fact, a middle class undergraduate reading books about beatniks. Of the many things that could be said about the Beats,  one is that they were committed to a search for authenticity. When I went to the RCA I encountered  other ways of being.

Being authentic was more complicated than being. It involved a peeling away of artifice in order to reveal – well, what?  At my new college were whole departments dedicated to the layering on of artifice as if that was simply what you did. Despite my view of myself as an acid-fuelled outlaw I was both fascinated and disapproving.

Surely these fops, fashion plates and velvet  dandies must be vain and hollow creatures? Their outfits seemed to express self-absorption in selves whose only distinguishing feature  was ornamentation. After a year or so I changed my mind. My fellow students – not in every department –  were conducting an experiment.

They had no problem with designing objects and also designing themselves. Why would you separate these things in the first place? They had stepped away from their bodies then looked back upon them as if they were objects and treated them according to their training. Their bodies were a prosthetic device that facilitated the realisation of their taste.

I had an enormous amount of fun with my new found college friends but also became aware that,  among them, were those who felt that only in extreme artificiality was there to be found authentic authenticity. They echoed the thinking of the French Decadent movement of  the late 19th Century, particularly that of J-K Huysmans,

in whose novel ‘Against the Grain’ we encounter the dissolute Duc des Esseintes, an aesthete whose view of Nature was that “she had had her day; she has finally and utterly exhausted the patience of sensitive observers by the revolting uniformity of her landscapes and skyscapes. There is not a single one of her inventions, deemed so subtle and sublime, that human ingenuity cannot manufacture.”

The authentic, then,  was of no great value. This could cut two ways: you could celebrate it – in the manner of the art school rock band – or you could use it to escape. It could be an amplifier. It could be a mask. As it says in Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Home a Heartache’, an ode to an inflatable doll: “Immortal and life size / My breath is inside you”.

I opened the mouth of the robot girl and blew gently into her. I had to be careful not to burst her. After a few moments she began to stir. Her eyes opened. She said “Please can I be your bride?” As she spoke I looked down her mouth to the back of her throat. There were silent shining machine parts there.

I led her into the street where she befriended a fawn. They wandered off towards Epping Forest where they would live together inside a tree. I could have had her as my sex slave but I believe it is important to give pleasure not just take it. Besides, I had a responsibility to the zombies. Their meat was running out and things could get ugly.

I parked the coach in an abandoned shopping centre on the outskirts of Stansted and locked the zombies in. I got out my compressed air horn and gave three short blasts. The zombies bounced against the coach windows, leaving pieces of their face stuck to the glass. A figure in a business suit walked briskly across the tarmac. It was Roger Harris, Ghostmaster.

“Roger, good morning!” I said.

“David! Bang on time!” exclaimed Roger. He caught sight of the zombies. “Christ! Ugly motherfuckers!”

“No fun being undead, Rog,” I retorted.

“Well, no,” he said, “Bummer, obviously.”

“Anyway,” I went on, “They’re all here, are they?”

They came shuffling across the car park.  Disconsolate spirits, plucked out of their lives in an instant, dying slow painful deaths as their anguished families looked on helplessly, summarily executed on trumped up charges, maimed in the night by roaming skagheads, their light snuffed out, their promise cancelled.

I released the zombies. They would unite with the spectres and – joy of joys – become whole again. And I, at long last, would learn the true interplay of softness and hardness. The creatures rushed towards the pitiful phantasms and engulfed them. But something was wrong. The screams, the flying flesh.

An eyeball rolled to a stop against my shoe. A pair of lungs wrapped wetly round my face. “Roger, you fucker! These aren’t ghosts, they’re fucking people, you bastard! They’re fucking transparent people! And they’re all going to die! Give me my fucking money back!” Roger looked extremely uneasy. The colour had drained from his face.

He explained that when a person’s self esteem is drastically low they become less noticeable to those around them. In the current economic climate an intense despair was spreading pandemically and many people had lost the ability to project themselves outwards.  They wandered the streets unheeded, broken, hovering at the very edge of visibility. They were ghost-like but they were meat. And the zombies had fucking eaten them.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #14

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 3: PC14#

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had attempted to construct well-balanced people by setting up an encounter between a horde of zombies and a band of ghosts in the hope that they would blend to their mutual advantage. The experiment had gone disastrously wrong. I had come to a dead end. I was exhausted. I turned off the ignition and fell asleep in my car.

When I first started writing for theatre, back in 1972 or thereabouts,  I used to say that I was committed to reproducing the language of dreams on stage. Rather than concern ourselves with the tired and tiresome conventions of the well told story and the psychologically rounded character I declared that we would voyage into the chaos of the unconscious.

I find it quite embarrassing now when  I see old video clips of myself banging on about dreams and theatre.  Nevertheless, we developed a strong signature style and the work was unsettling, obscene and funny. Gradually we moved  away from hardcore surrealism towards imagistic work set in a territory of broken narratives and eruptive psychologies. 

I was walking down a street in West London and a bloke came up and asked me the time and I realised I’d left my watch in the bathroom so I apologised and carried on looking for this shop that was supposed to stock grub screws, the sort you screw door knobs on with.  They’re quite hard to find, surprisingly.

Then I bumped into  a woman called Teresa who used to live next door to us in Holloway.  She said she still had a book of mine that I’d lent her before she moved. She said if walked to her new house we could pick it up. I said okay and off we went.  I asked her if she knew of the hardware shop I was looking for. She didn’t.

I got the book off her and walked for a bit then found the hardware shop. I had a sample screw with me which I showed the man and he said he had some so I asked for a dozen, thinking I don’t want to have to come all the way back here again next time a door knob falls off. Then I went for a cup of tea.

My neck was aching. I realised I’d fallen asleep in my car. The sun was up. There was no need for me to stay in the derelict shopping centre any longer. On the way back I remembered I’d been dreaming. There was something about the dream that wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Like anybody else, I expect,  my dreams were sometimes elating, often frustrating, intermittently frightening and always at least a little strange. On a good night they were very strange. The whole point is that nobody controls their dreams and therefore nobody can be described as a good dreamer. It’s just something that pays a visit from time to time.

But as I threaded my way through the rush-hour traffic at the junction with the M11 and the M25 I started to feel that something quite disturbing was going on. My dream, or at least that part of it that I could remember, had been unbelievably dull. It was, in fact, more than dull, it was completely devoid of any emphasis or colour whatsoever.

My understanding was that while dreams will freely borrow from everyday life they do so to make a point and in making the point they will transform any number of characteristics of the original scene so that it is recognisable and mysterious at the same time. This has the effect, sometimes,  of making us ask questions about the possible meaning of the episode.

There was no difference between my dreams and my waking life. Somehow my unconscious had suddenly become identical to my everyday mind. Clearly I still had an unconscious because something was producing the images. But I really had no desire to see everything twice.  Furthermore, where had my unconscious gone?

I didn’t feel dramatically different. As far as I could tell I was functioning the same as ever. I tried to remember everything I had read about basic Freudian psychology. Did he ever say anything about losing the need for the unconscious? Was there a situation in which it had done its work and simply faded away? Or maybe had been completely absorbed into consciousness?

If I had actually ingested my unconscious then there must be some way I could test this. The idea of taboo, for example. If I had become one with my inner depths then I would no longer have any taboos. I could, for example, freely imagine my parents having deep penetrative sexual intercourse. Crying out as the relentless pounding went on and on and on through the night.

I realised that in the act of thinking of this possibility I had already allowed it into my mind. What, then,  of the ultimate taboo? The taking of human life. In a deranged and frenzied bloodbath. Indifferent to the screams for mercy, intoxicated with the final freedom, every ounce of my being pouring into a single annihilating deed.

I told myself that merely being able to think of terrible things did not prove that I had somehow become miraculously disinhibited. There was another, quite different explanation available. I had gained wisdom. I knew myself. I was in touch with the deepest layers of my being. I had touched my inner Christ.

If this was the case then I should be able to heal the sick with my touch and perhaps even raise the dead. As I was passing Epping Forest I noticed a dead deer beside the road. I stopped the car. The creature didn’t seem too badly damaged. I ran my hand over its skin and, to my amazement,  it stirred. I was actually appalled.

Rising shakily to its legs the deer turned to me and spoke. Its voice was soft but deep. “David, I shall be eternally grateful. All creatures will be grateful to you. My only wish now is to return to my son Bambi before his grief impacts negatively on his development.” With one graceful leap she was gone.

I knew what I had to do. I ran into the forest and gathered up some nuts and seeds. Soon a blue tit landed on my hand. “Please tell the creatures of the air I have come to dwell among them. Tell the stoats, the fish, the fox, the adder and the vole. Tell them all that I can speak with them as I speak to you.”

After a few days not only did the animals and plants come to me but also brighter, flatter things. I saw paintings from the past,  images from newspapers and books, photos from all over the world. In every case I could simply step into them and walk around. I could feel and smell and taste just as if I were in the forest that was now my home.

It wasn’t that I had absorbed my unconscious. That had been an arrogant and mistaken assumption. I had been absorbed into it. It had flooded through me. I had drowned but I had not died. The animals brought me food. Far way I could hear the roar of traffic but it didn’t disturb me. I had left it all behind.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #15

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 3: PC#15

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had become disturbed to find that my dreams were  precisely replicating the most ordinary episodes of my everyday life without any embellishment, heightening or emotional intensification. They were simply unexceptional replays of unexceptional moments.

I was out on my bike going to the Post Office. It was a mild day, a bit grey. The traffic wasn’t too heavy.  It’s about a five minute ride. I had a letter clipped onto my bike rack at the back. When I got there I joined a queue to get it weighed. It came to 59p which  meant getting three stamps. I posted the letter.

On the way back I noticed the gears were clicking a little. I changed gear but they kept clicking. I looked down at the chainset – that’s the set of cogwheels joined to the pedals – and realised that the chain wasn’t quite seated properly between two of the chain rings so I moved the front gear shifter slightly and it fell into place and the clicking stopped.

I stopped off at the corner shop to get some bread then made my way home. I found some lettuce in the fridge and got out the marmite and made a lettuce and marmite sandwich and sat down to eat it at the table while reading the paper. After a while I washed the knife and the plate and put the lettuce in the fridge to keep it fresh.

Clearly something thoroughly strange was going on. Even  the term ‘thoroughly strange’ isn’t quite right given that my dream was actually not strange at all, it was spectacularly dull. Again, the word ‘spectacularly’ is wrong as well, but I think you get the point. The more I thought about the situation the more I began to feel uneasy.

The thing about the unconscious, obviously, is that you’re not conscious of it. So if it had stopped working, how would you know?  And what does ‘stopped working’ actually mean? Perhaps it is working perfectly well but has stopped communicating. It’s down there but it’s lost interest. I am walking around with the engine turned off. How long can that last?

I found myself wondering if I had died. How would you know?  I suppose you could ask a friend to put their hand on you and see if it went through. I once went on a canal holiday with Patrick Swayze just after he had made ‘Ghost’ with Demi Moore in 1990. I decided to give him a ring. Patrick, who is currently quite ill, was gracious enough to pass on some tips.

He said that it was to do with quantum physics: the passage of the hand through the body of another may not suggest the immateriality of oneself or the other so much as differentials between styles of materiality. One might pass through another without  learning anything about their world. This was the crux of the multiple universe theory.

Was it possible that my lifeless dreams were evidence of a world through which I passed but of which I had no cognisance? Not a dreamworld as such but some odd synthesis of space and memory. I knocked on the door but no one came to answer. I pushed and it softly gave way. Instantly I was overwhelmed with feelings of impossible yearning.

Hatfield, Copping, Bishop, Bourne, Carruthers 1, Harrison, Brookes, Ray, Shepherd. All gazing back from fifty years ago. Solemn, surly, sunny. Then I saw the line. Diagonally across the picture, from top to bottom,  the boys’ jacket lapels were in a perfect line. What if I were to push softly against it?

The boys folded in and fell. There was a clamour.  “Mum! What are you doing here?” “Keeping an eye on you, darling.” “But you died six years ago.” “Do you mind?” “Well, no. I mean, it’s lovely to see you again. But where exactly are you?” “Where do you think?” “Heaven?” “I don’t believe in heaven, darling. Neither do you.”

I went to the phone box next to the park and dialled Directory Enquiries. “Hello, is that Shepherd? It’s Gale. From school. 1961. Yes! How are you, Shep? Been a bit of a while.  I was just wondering…I’m in town and wondered…if you might like a drink. Oh, great! Um, is there some place you go to? Ah! Remember it well.”

Shep used to be a bit tubby and he still was. He was quite quiet. Quite reserved.  We drank Greene King IPA, fresh with a dry, bitter finish. “I’ve got this idea, Shep. We all ought to start again. ” “Say again?” Shep said. “We should get the rest of the boys and go back to school.” “Eh?” Shep said. “We wouldn’t actually go into school, of course, ”I said.

I think Shep thought it was all pretty odd. He agreed to contact some of the boys, the ones he thought he could find. I persuaded them to meet up every morning at twenty to nine and get on the bus. They were all in their early sixties now. I thought we could just laugh and joke like we used to.

I persuaded them to assemble at the school bus stop at three thirty to go back again. For a few days it worked well. Then Harrison said “David – we’ve  been thinking. It’s been quite fascinating – goes without saying – but, you know, well, we’re not really sure what you want, but anyway it’s been most interesting. All the best, anyway.”

But I knew I was onto something. Somehow my unconscious had been scrubbed clean and in order to get it back I had to start again. I asked Mum if I could move back into our house. She said that it had been sold in 1953 – didn’t I remember? It looked much the same though – some new garage doors, the porch had been altered.  I knocked on the door.

“Excuse me, is it okay if I come and stay in my old room? I used to live here. I’d like just to stay in my room if that’s alright. Only until I get started again.” She said “My husband is in the garden. He can hear me from here.” I said “Is he under the apple tree? The one on the right. With the fork. I fell from there.”

There was a cracking sound. The road opened. I pushed through the soil. Flints and stones and larvae were in my mouth but as I pushed I became more clear. Even as I swallowed the larvae I became clearer. A vast wave of nausea overcame me.  I clapped my hand over my mouth. There was no point.

It was a beautiful bathroom. The tiles were cool, the light was soft. I was sick all over it. It was like all the food I had ever had was coming up. I braced myself against the wall and let the torrent hurtle forth. I had a terrible pain in my head, a white, migraine bolt that split my mind in two.  But I knew what I had to do.

I had been headstrong and slapdash. I hadn’t explained things properly to Shep and Harrison. I needed to be methodical now – take things stage by stage. I would contact people politely and ask them to take part. I would start at the beginning – as early as possible. We would go through my life and build up my unconscious.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #10

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 2: PC#10

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had continued in my attempt to dispel any quality of fiction in my presentations, adopting an unadorned style in which the clumsy attempts to obscure the autobiographical would be replaced by a transparent directness. I noticed, for example, the preponderance of images of larvae, grubs, beetles, insect eggs and maggots in my repertoire.

I was aware that, for me at least, they represented abject levels of consciousness: all that was most repellent and shameful in my sense of myself. In Peachy Coochy Number 9, for example, I alluded explictly to my attempts to sever contact with my shame, going as far as leaving it to languish in a house in Hertfordshire.

People say to me “What is it about Hertfordshire, David? You seem to regard it as the arsehole of the south-east. A repository for that which must be relinquished, a terrain of aching boredom, a place where, after mixing  Red Bull with Wifebeater, disconsolate late-night youths wrench bus-stops out of the ground and propel them through the window of the doner kebab takeaway.”

“You said it, not me,” I tell them. The desolate eventless core of the county is to be found in Royston, where, for several days, I installed myself in a B&B near the Sports Centre. Lady Roisia founded the town in the 11th century, erecting a cross on a boulder at the junction of two ancient tracks. The Royse Stone, as it was known, is a glacial erratic.

Instantly I realised the significance of my appalling sojourn. A glacial erratic is a stone deposited far from its place of origin by a glacier.  There is no question of return. There are no trucks big enough and nobody can be bothered anyway. Why would you tidy up that which nature has in her wisdom wrought? I decided to go to the BackPacker Pub in King’s Cross

I wanted to squeeze between shouting Australians and hoist foaming tankards in amiable anonymity. The pub had changed hands and was now called the Cross Kings. The cultural historian and mythographer Marina Warner was drinking mineral water by the window. I admired her work greatly and asked her to sign my wrist. She asked about my maggots and suggested that they could be seen as emblems of possibility.

In the back garden of my house I have a sizeable shed where I keep the objects that I photograph for the Peachy Coochy presentations. You can see a wicker chair through the glass door there. When I got back from the pub I went in and instantly reeled back in horror. There on the chair, seething with maggots,  was the denuded body of my songbird Celine, named after the singer Celine Dion.

A great rage welled up within me. Even in that moment, however, I was able to remind myself of what Marina had told me. I crushed Celine’s fragile sack of a body in my hand and swallowed it whole. The maggots writhed as they passed from my mouth into the warmth of my pharynx and thence to my larynx. I recalled that a friend from the BackPacker days had given me valuable information about such creatures.

Among the central Australian aboriginal tribes the so-called witchetty grub is valued as a foodstuff. The raw grub tastes like almonds and when lightly cooked the skin becomes crisp like roast chicken while the inside becomes light yellow, like a fried egg. The grub has a high protein content. I would be sustained by Celine’s murderers as I sought to avenge her.

Little did I expect the dreadful contest that I had precipitated in my own stomach. As the grubs swelled and writhed, steadily consuming  the lasagna upon which I had dined prior to my insectivorous digression, the body of the little songbird began to revive. I felt light flutterings against the lining of the warm pocket that until then I had seen only as the place where grub goes.

The stomach, however, is not designed to support life. The levels of hydrochloric acid necessary for digestion are capable of dissolving the bone of the beak and reducing the feathers to an uneven plastic sheath. I felt, however, that there was little that I could do. Then it occurred to me that I could tip the scales in favour of Celine by eating certain carefully chosen foods.  

I went to a vegetarian restaurant near Warren Street tube station and ordered a sunflower seed bake. I found myself sharing a table with a young American competitive swimmer. She was in training for the London Olympics 2012. We talked about a range of non-swimming topics such as action painting, cheap reading glasses and the remarkable range of phobias routinely presented at the doctor’s surgery.

As we talked I became aware that, far from divorcing her profession from her predilections, everything she said reflected her experience at a deep level. She related to action painting because of her engagement  with swimming free form, to reading glasses because of her absorption in submarine optics and phobias because her morbid fear of water gave her a rabid energy.

Celine reacted well to the sunflower seeds. She consumed them eagerly and, I suspect, began to peck at the maggots. I began to wonder what their reaction would be. Despite the predations of the songbird they were well adapted to the warm, moist environment. Was it possible that they would soon transform? If so, what form would they take?

When it came it took me completely by surprise. I had never imagined that the two sets of DNA were compatible. The lights were blinding but I was drawn to them. The dust from my arms rose in shimmering clouds. My voice was thick but fading fast. I shrugged and soared softly upwards. The dead skins of the transfigured maggots  showered from my arsehole. Now I was the Mothman.

I soared over the land as we know it. It was really great, looking down and everything. Everyone wants to fly and I’m no exception. As I winged my way over Edinburgh I heard a piteous piping. I realised that the songbird Celine was still inside me, revitalised by her meal and keen to spread her wings. I opened my mouth and uncoiled my proboscis.

Fluttering, she twisted through my tubes and opened like an orchid in the air. Now we flew together. My own voice was a high-pitched twittering shriek but hers was a clear, high, pealing, cry. We soared over the military bases at Fairford, Feltwell, Greenham and Lakenheath. Celine’s revisioning of ‘The Power of Love’ brought  the jets up. We could see the pilots in the windows.

“Wolfman engaged offensive!  Two bandits right ten, one mile, low!” To my astonishment Celine suddenly spoke out: “Mothman, this is Mothman, visual, do not press!” “Bandit closing, committed.” “This is Mothman. Abort, Wolfman, bug out. I have super-powers and will deploy.” “Mothman, this is Wolfman, your legend precedes you. Aborting, aborting.”

In the early 80s it was found that young American fliers responded more precisely and obediently to a female  rather than male voice transmitted from the control tower. It is conceivable that a reversion to a mother/son relationship is more readily effected in a hairline situation. The reluctant politeness of the everyday “Yes, Ma’am” is overridden by the submissive “I copy that”.

Celine, nestling on my back, had seduced the fliers with her siren song. As they arced away we swooped and soared, tonguing tiny flies, spinning in the light, drinking the rain, gazing down on the world remade. We had left shame and putrescence behind but we knew we would never land.