photo credit Xavier Moles exposition St Félix Lauregais
writing in english
illustrated ebook Roger Hilton Artist letters from prison camp 1942 - 1944
Heavy Waters This book is being re-edited and is no longer available in its original form. It will be re-published at Smashwords spring 2017
Heavy Waters was born out of a desire to throw myself back into the week of 1940 in Bordeaux when France fell and nearly brought England down with her and out of my service in the Fire Brigade in England and the heavy breathing that went with it.
It has to do with the dark time out of which people of my generation were born to the half-crazed survivors of armed conflict. It calls up the sea, the liquid that surrounds us and the Bomb, the weapon that still threatens us.
Tap Once if Human 2016 Smashwords
I wrote this book because of my interest in exploring that funny frontier in the mind where you reach in but there's something you can't grasp - this happens pretty quick for me with mathematics. I went on writing into us people type things, to the huge, airy, upper spaces inside ourselves available for automating.
For field work I'd had my lucid moments. With a measuring wheel and a Husky hand-held computer, a robust black chunk of plastic and rubber, I was paid to patrol the unclassified roads of a rural English county. I tapped in to the Husky states of surface wear, dimensions of the wayside ditches and vegetation classification on a ten point code system. Tramped pleasant miles each day along tiny, tree-roofed lanes or round the backs of blocks of public housing where the garbage bins hung out.
During the eclipse of 1999 I sat down on a grassy bank and watched the birds flop up into the trees and the darkness come down, the sky go lilac. Sat down in my yellow patrol rain skin. What better? I had a lusty Vauxhall Brava utility into which, each night, I threw my measuring wheel and drove off to some hotel where we downloaded the figures to head office.
The next job I got I drove round like a private dick in my pale blue twin-carb Ford Sierra. Hunting for phone wires looped to chimneys, to chicken sheds - wherever they'd hang. I rewarded the owners - I was the man who gave away money. They called it Wayleave payment. Some genius had dug out this legal right to compensation, started up the company and hired sixty scouts. Claims flooded in, within three weeks the telephone people had changed the rules, the bubble burst, the company threw its hand in. During those three weeks I disturbed only one millionaire having his naked morning swim. For the rest I can't remember; I made about six hundred pounds, good money for me.
Those two jobs teed me up as an outdoor worker. The next was with a brand new outfit, Warmfront, set up to roll out the government's energy saving program. We checked out peoples homes and gave them stuff to keep warmer, a new boiler, insulation, at the very least a lo-energy light bulb. I had a goodly part of East Anglia to cover. I went down as far as Huntingdon and up as far as Boston. Lets say between your Boston and your Providence. Whole days out in the white box van, hundreds of speedy miles expertly timed.
Much of the country a watery district, cut off till the eighteenth century, land with nowhere to hide, a grid of dikes and washes, flat roads on straight causeways, endless skies, abandoned bomber strips. People with disassembled motor bikes in their kitchens, a sky warrior's half-caste alone in a bungalow with his model jet fighters hung on dusty threads. You broke in to their lives. Entering peoples houses, the dog smells, the ornaments, everything. You fiddled with their boilers, measured and drilled the walls, checked the attic, seven or eight a day for eighteen months. Work it out how many.
I was fired. I had hassled the line manager and upset the office, so I was ready for it. I'd just finished a survey. The householder wore a woolly hat and leant into the cupboard with me to zero the controls of her central heating system. It was a nice moment. I polished her off and went to lunch. Spam, tomato and chips at a vacationer's eatery on the road that led to the sea. I thought I'd run out their for a dip if I had time. I drove a Renault Kango, really lively. The line manager caught me as I left, I slewed into a pull-off,
"All your appointments are cancelled. Get yourself off home. We'll be over to collect the van"
I picked up and got another job. Safeskys. This time it was birds. Birds and planes. Keep the birds away from the planes and if you can't do that keep the planes away from the birds. What the people don’t want is an engine stuffed with feathers. Safeskys had the contract at RAF Marham, a military airfield close to where I lived. Nine square miles of grass, concrete, brick and bullshit. Safeskys had its own bunker in the middle of the field, broken armchairs, dog eared technical papers. Mostly you could sleep the night shift but you always had to be ready to get up and go out and clear a runway since call sign Sappho on duty round the clock. Bird watch and checking the runways for debris before each take off - metal objects, dead hares. It is not a job for nitwits, you have to be awake at the wheel of your pint sized Suzuki jeep with Tornado jets chasing you down the blacktop.
I had black flags, white flags, avian distress calls on a CD and a gun. Prince Charles came in and stepped out of a helicopter fifty yards away - a tall smooth dab of light chocolate cashmere coat. I was in a position to get myself a lifetime of care. My boss was a New Zealander with a black beard, cheerful, hardworking, generous. I could have stayed there for ever, but something called. I was in love.
In the garden, of our cottage we built a sweat lodge to her instructions. She’d been with the Indians. I got willow branches, bent them over, twelve of them to make a cage and loaded on old blankets and a blue tarpaulin I'd bought as a bargain. I made a wood bonfire and roasted stones. My lover went into the sweat and called out for the stones one by one, tho not by name that time. I had to lever them out of the fire onto a spade and carry them over the hummocky garden to the sweat lodge. And then fiddle with the folds, lifting the flap with one hand and push the spade weighted with the hot stone with the other. I exerted myself.
I could hear the steam hiss and her low chanting. When it was dark she called me in with the last of the stones. I stripped off and crawled in. My head burnt, I got myself low against the side and she slopped water and steam must have rushed up in the dark and the wave of heat flickered lower and sweat did come. When we came out the stars were high above the garden and two Tornadoes from the base were circling way up high, winking green and red lights.
Success=True work in progress
Time is there so that everything doesn't happen all at once, so things have room to move out of each other's way. But it does happen all at once - or at least enough of it does doesn't it?
Coincidence often beats time to the punch. You think it's a plot? Well maybe it is - but it's the only one we got. You take those islands out there in the water, the ones on every cheap atlas. They're American aren't they? Don't you think that? Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the troublesome one - Cuba. And of course New York where a surprising number things happen at the same time.
Then take a day, any day, take April 13 1950 go on, take it, there's no trick, its magic - watch as Florida sourced wrestler Dot Dotson comes out of a cabin above the ring at the El Palacio de los Deportes Cuba and steps down the wooden stairs for her match with Beverly Lehmer as Wallace Howell, his British-type tweed jacket flapping, climbs down from a Grumman Goose flown around the Catskills dropping dry ice to give New York the water it has had its tongue right out for months. And as comely Dot steps thru the ropes into the ring with the all around shirt-sleeved crowd, deep dark throated flicking handkerchiefs, at that moment in Hawaii in shipping firm Matson's executive Guest Lodge, a sweat stained Montgomery Clift look-alike wakes with a start to drifting thunderclouds seen thru the monkeywood slats of the custom blinds and gets intellectually fit to grapple with pineapple chunks and as Dot's manager, (who had hooked her by provoking her when she was an Orlando taxi driver to see how tough she was) turns his crooked promoters grin on her bobbing under the rope a Negro playwright in Puerto Rico looks down into the garden of his rented apartment rightly fearing surveillance by the FBI and wondering whether his sloppy at home costume would be reported as indecent. To start with.
short pieces at at Medium