• Guy Martyr

'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 5.


'La Dolce Vita' instalment 5 of 20.



*

One morning at the start of their third week, working near the edge of the farm in proximity to a village, a strange sight befell Horatio’s army: an apparent skirmish through a development of just-finished new dwellings which projected half an agri-plot out of the village.

Like a general on the hill, Horatio observed: a wild band of people, all gaudily dressed, rampaged through these as-yet unoccupied dwellings, smashing as they go, some even atop roofs, hurling tiles down, perhaps levering them off with a plank. A few constructors stood ineffectually by.

The Police-Actioner in Horatio stared horrified, calculating offences and modes of engagement.

The builder in Horatio started in righteous rage at the wanton destruction.

But another emotion drifted across Horatio’s bows, to check these automata: from his architectural self a kind of sympathy; who after all, would not hate these meagre offerings, bearing the name ‘house’? Boring, soulless agglomerations of vestigial tradition, ill-matched to technologically convenient execution. ‘Houses’ for people who loved an idea, or an idea of an idea, involving the ‘rural’, but who wished too for all the cosy comforts of urbanity; houses which were sold on a view, yet upon which view in the coming time would be superimposed further developments; sad little groupings of mutual privacy; hardly houses; myth dwellings; utopia-gone-wrong-places. Horatio actually felt most hurt when he saw the constructors’ portacabin go up in flames: the only honest building there. The lads’ll have nowhere for brews now.

“What shall we do, sir?”

A good question. But after only the briefest of hesitations, Horatio said “Come on; we do represent Authority here” and set off down the hill. His diggers followed. Such was their strange appearance - muddied overalls, spade-wielding, and above all the resolve in the demeanour of Horatio in the lead – that the destructive band ceased, and stared.

“What are you doing?” asked Horatio, in a fairly calm, genuinely-wanting-to-know manner.

“Who are you?” asked the nearest breaker.

“Lieutenant Smith, Drainage Corps. Smashing up these buildings

isn’t . . . “

“Isn’t what?”


Imagine this stand-off: Horatio, muddy, tool-wielding, shocking hair, could have just stepped off the Viking boat come a-sacking, face to face with mud-spattered vandal, shocking hair, besmirched dungarees, old boots if you can see them under the mud, angry face smeared with muddy war-paint; only an ear-ring’s difference between them.

“Isn’t . . . right . . . “

“We have every right of the true born Englishman, to defend the land against invasion . . . “

‘Englishman’ : Horatio hadn’t heard that term for a long time: these must be anarcho-historicists . . .

“ . . . These so-called ‘houses’ are an abomination: they say nothing of the glory of nature . . . “ ‘Eco-anarcho-historicists’ . . . “They are the pathetic statements of would-be colonisation; they are mini-prisons, to the soul as well as the body, to those who live in them and to those forced to gaze upon them. They diminish the human spirit, appealing only to the meagre, cosy and ultimately hostile elements of us, who as witness to their own diminution, will attempt to assuage their own self-disgust.

This place is a contagion: it must be ripped out! Let the human spirit

flow!”

And on their ripping way they went.

Horatio and his men stood and watched for a short while: “You shouldn’t let them talk to you like that, sir” said Darren with some concern.

“No, I shouldn’t, should I . . . “

“Can’t we do anything, sir?”

“No . . . Perhaps they have a point . . . “

Horatio stood and watched the destruction a short while longer, saddened and strangely gripped, but ultimately powerless, and then departed, his men following.


*

An Order appeared heralding the departure of Horatio and his platoon: Fairfield Farm was to be completed by civilian contractors.

Dave hadn’t been seen for over a week: according to Dot, he was ‘in the shed’. What was he doing? How was he doing? Horatio had been so busy up to this point, that he had hardly noticed Dave or Dot, present or not. But the pair’s demeanour betrayed, through Dot, new levity. The rain had stopped and the farm was draining slowly: recently submerged pastures presented again their verdure; cows were let out of stalls again to traipse the earth. But there was more amiss: other materials had been arriving on some of the transports, no constituent of Ratty’s ditch-and-drain manoeuvres these, nor of his happy administration of the portacabin cluster now housing the contractors; engineering components, according to the packages, but which an occasionally-to-be-seen hurrying Dave wheeled or carried quickly off.


On nearly the last night, Horatio was sitting in the farm house kitchen with Dot, who was cooking them a meal. Dave as usual was nowhere to be seen, and went generally unmentioned. Dot was more nearly her normal self. Horatio, feeling relaxed, satisfied, having had a glass or two of beer, glanced at the busy, amenable Dot cooking for them both in the hearth room, warm, gently glowing from cooker and lamp, bubbling pots, her cotton dress lightly defining the curvaceous, farmy, earthy woman, and fancied himself, fleetingly, living this situation, Dorothy his wife, not stuffy Victoria, of whom he seemed not to have thought for weeks.

His mind drifted further, to the bequest of the farm to Dave on the demise of their father: the family home where they had grown up - become a scruffy male den since his mother’s unhappy parting from his father - which bequest either of the boys might have expected, or hoped for; the winning of the very wife too, for that matter - the neighbour’s daughter, with whom both boys had at some stage fallen in love. As far as he could, Horatio concluded the outcome, of the farm anyway, had been just, perhaps even predictable, Dave being the elder - even though Dad had said that wouldn’t count - but at the time he had felt put out, for some time angered indeed, at Dave’s winning both prizes. This episode had swelled Horatio's eagerness to leave home and pursue his architecture studies, a prospect he had entertained before with lacklustre enthusiasm. Why still, then, hadn't Dave, who seemed to have it all, been great in his good wishes for his brother's success? Because he had felt, and often said, that Horatio had had it easy. Dave had been in the last school year following the old education concept: learning using memory, and application of concepts and information, organised by your own mind in response to problems or set tasks. Horatio had been the first year of 'software-educated' children - following a completely computerised sequence throughout secondary school, in which subjects were not 'learnt', rather programmes were acquired - purchased, as far as you could afford, and 'ingested' or 'consumed', taken in by whichever means was prevalent at the place and time. Eg, 'chair programming', which required the pupil to sit and receive data via a screen for an hour a day. For others the programmes were ingested via a drink, leaving a residue of micro-chips dotted about your body – this was particularly useful for areas of the curriculum requiring physical coordination, eg sport and music. Some programmes were patched straight into the brain while you slept. Horatio had suffered several of these indignities, but he put up with them because he only needed to attend 'lessons' for an hour or so a day, leaving him much time for the sport and music he loved and at which was becoming quite proficient.

“Another beer, Horace?” broke in Dot. “Yes, thanks.” She smiled, and plonked a bottle on the table. Horatio looked up and smiled back.


On their last night, Dave, yes Dave, and Dorothy organised a farewell party in the barn - a roast pig and plenty of home brew.

Dave, it seemed, had reason to celebrate; he seemed happy, relaxed, and like most had got gradually drunker as the evening wore on. Toasts were drunk rather rowdily: to Horatio from his men, for getting them such a decent Service posting; to Dorothy for making them all feel at home; even to the absent Sergeant Sparrow, he having disappeared a week previously, last heard muttering about “this joke outfit” and of having “had enough”.

Darren, the youngest of Horatio’s platoon and more affected than most by the strong ale managed to fix Horatio with an affectionate, glassy stare, and tell him, over fifteen minutes, how much he liked him and how all the blokes liked him and how much his mum would like him, until Horatio was rescued by a nearly so drunk Dave, who ended up himself deep in slurred conversation with his brother.

“I really appreciate what you and your chaps have done here . . . haven’t really been able to be around much, I know . . . been working on a . . . thing . . . in the shed . . . “

“I knew something was going on. What have you been doing?”

“I . . . shouldn’t really say . . . I’ve been making an . . .

‘Invention’ . . . “

“You’ve got Permission, of course?”

“No . . . “

“Dave, no Invention Permission? You could get done . . . “

Horatio was speaking in a whisper, now.

Dave went on “I just had to go ahead . . . couldn’t afford the

Permission . . . “

(Note to the Reader: we are now in an age where technological advance has occurred so widely, with such extreme potential in every area, and where the technological ‘landscape’ is regarded as the most ‘real’, that a new invention can not be regarded as a neutral proposition: scope for seizure of power, great concentration of wealth, or threat to commonly accepted apprehensions of ‘life’ are relatively easily graspable ends of invention; furthermore, one’s sanity being to some extent a function of recognition of the facts of the world around one, it would be contrary to social health to allow the technological, ie real, landscape to be laid open to rapacious exploitation. Hence ‘Invention Permission’, which must be sought before any invention may be made, even in trial form (long ago had traditional ‘Planning Permission’ been abolished, under pressure from continuous development programmes, and latterly policies of Total development).)

“Why do people keep telling me things like this?” wondered Horatio. “What is the ‘Invention’ Dave?” he asked, still at the whisper.

“ . . . “

“What are you two plotting?”

Dot had arrived, smiling, if a little tipsily, and plonked herself in Dave’s lap.

“Oh, nothing . . . “ Dave said, smiling tipsily back.




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