“Humanity’s single most important role,”
Said the man with no hair,
“Is to claim Victimisation.
You, Mr. B, are claiming it all the time.”
I looked up at him. I felt like a victim.
He was singling me out
From the two thousand men, filling the tent.
“You are always complaining,”
He continued,
“That people are picking on you,
Is that not true, Mr. B?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Yes Mr. B, it is very true,” he said,
“You winge, and whine, all day long.”
I looked around the tent.
Four thousand eyes were focussed on me.
I felt like a victim. They all blamed me.
But twenty-four hours later, I was not alone.
For, every owner of those four thousand eyes
Had been accused of claiming victimisation.
Now we all felt like victims.
“So, you see,” said the man with no hair,
“We all think we are victims, but there
Are always bigger victims than you.”
A black man and a white man
At the back of the tent
Got up and left through the back door.
“Oh that’s right, get up and go.
Can’t you face the truth?”
cried the man with no hair.
Five minutes later a petrol bomb
Flew into our tent and the man with no hair
Turned into a pile of ash, smoking on the floor.
“I’ve been victimised,” he cried.
But the two-thousand men were not listening
For Mr. Authority had told them,
“You don’t have any right to complain.”
So they did not complain.
They just smiled and said,
“Oh well, that’s life.”

Eat Food

The Neurocentic’s invaluable guide to life in the big smoke. The question is, can you live without it?

Eat food, that’s my advice. When you’ve done your monopoly board trail of London it’s time to get started on your snakes and ladders. The supermarket, that’s a great place to start, because there you discover ultimate invisibility. Do not, under any circumstances, assume politeness, patience, willingness to assist or satisfaction. Collect basket, ignore existence of all other life forms and be a selfish shit. Hurry, hurry, hurry. You know it’s a slippery slide; stop to let the mother with her daughter in a pushchair through the gap in front of you and the woman with the shopping trolley rams it up your backside. ‘Hurry up, get out of the way, I have to get to Kipling’s Cakes before they sell out of cherry bakewells.’

There’s a special device above the door in supermarkets that sucks out your brains as you pass under it. That’s why we’re all zombies focused on buy, buy, buy, and sod everyone else. I cast my dice, get out of there, two bags of shopping (one and a bit to you), take six steps, oh, there’s the ladder; let’s cook something real tonight, no more KFC. But wait, I get home and there’s a message on my carton of orange juice: ‘If Foil Seal is missing Return to Store.’ Well, I returned to the store, but what now? Didn’t I do my shopping an hour ago?

Eat anything, that’s my advice. Avoid shops at all costs. Make loads of friends and invite yourself around to eat their food. Make fourteen good ones and you won’t be back for two weeks. How could they catch on? Snakes and ladders, up the stairs to the highest flat, your prize is waiting for you. Snakes and ladders, down the road to the kebab shop underground, you hit a snake. Fifteen hours on the bog (have we been here before?), you should’ve stuck with KFC.

One more thing, you have another option; if you don’t mind food that isn’t real, you can get a Vesta curry when you enrol with the Union. Packet soup, just add water. Dehydrated caviar, just add water. Powdered water, just add… bother, that was going to make me millions. But, students, please remember: Pot Noodles are not the special variety found around the Pool Tables in SOAS Bar, but, apparently, the too gorgeous snack not to be missed if you really can’t be bothered to cook / eat out / eat with a friend / eat food. (Also note other complexities of the English language: A joint in the oven usually refers a leg of lamb. Coke in the fridge refers to your empty bottle in the door with only traces of the brown liquid at the bottom because I invited my friends around and we helped ourselves to your food.)

Cooking is not a problem, buying it is what stinks. So here’s your final plan: Ring your friends, tell them you’re having a dinner party, get each of them to bring something. An onion, a bottle of wine. A tomato, a bottle of wine. Half a zebra, a bottle of wine. That kind of thing. Then when they say, ‘Anything I can do to help?’ give them those little jobs: peeling onions, stirring the stew while you check your voicemail, measuring the rice. Sit back, relax and serve, with four bottles of wine. You were the snake, you climbed the ladder, now you’re home and dry.

Stupid messages on my voicemail

Tim. This is Mimi. Um. I came across a quote today that I think, I think you should hear. And the quote is, “In a world of comparisons and conformity, make your own statements, honour your own truths, have the courage to be yourself, risk speaking your own thoughts and claiming your own emotions. Share your vulnerabilities, fears, doubts and insecurities, let the others experience the real you and have the courage to be yourself.” Tim, I was reading a couple of your poems, um, and I really like them. I really, really, really did. And I’d really like to sit down and sit down and get to know the real you, the one that you are inside. And, I guess this quote just made me think of you, because it was just so appropriate. So, call me when you get this message and we’ll talk. Bye.

What, then, do I do?
“Just be yourself.”
I am myself. There is nothing more to me.
“So say so.”
She wants to dig deep inside.
And if there’s nothing more, she’ll see.
And then she’ll throw me away.
“Get drunk Tim, forget about it.”
I feel so empty. What if I am nothing?
“Lie. Tell her you’re an astronaut and you collect butterflies.”
Do you think that’ll work?
“Sure. She’ll love to see your butterfly collection.”
The real me?
“Yeah, just be yourself.”
So, where can I get these butterflies from?
“I’ll lend you mine.”

Put on weight. Hairstyle. Muscles, laughter, clothes. Conversation, wit, style. Be a musician. Genius. Rich. Generous. Never cry. Be shallow. Be vain. Never tell your secrets to anyone. Smile. Drink beer. Be rude with the lads. Disrespect the ones your friends are disrespecting. Be a leader. No sheep here. Be carefree. Demand. Don’t try to understand. Be artificial. Be popular. Sit in the pub with your fourteen other friends. Laugh at the guy who won’t fight back. Impress the girls. Know your music inside out. Never get mad. Never, ever get sad. Try to be bad. Now see where you stand. Don’t that just feel so fine?


I read the graffiti on the wall. In big, bold letters, scrawled a foot high, it said “APNI MARZI KARDHI!” I didn’t understand. Next to it, written in white correction fluid, the words, “THE POOR CAN TAKE NO MORE: RESIGN”. My conscience was jolted and I took a pen from my pocket and wrote, “The cure is an elixir in a small glass bottle, but only god knows where it is”. There were other words on the wall. “Hold me tight. Don’t let go.” “You don’t own me. I have rights too.” “Fahari wawili wanapo pigana nyasi ndizo ziumiazo.” “If you treat me like shit, you’ll have to live with the stench.” “I love…” and “Sal was ere B4 U”.

The words expressed people’s thoughts. I left and returned a week later, but now the words were gone, lost beneath another layer of cream emulsion. There was a single, new message.


Hold me

I don’t deserve you, but I want you.

I’ve done nothing for you, but I want you.

I’ve done nothing for the world,

But I want the world.

I’ve taken all my life and I’ve never given back.

I don’t deserve you, but I want you.

I’ve had everything I wanted

And I threw most of it away

I wasted many years

I threw it all away.

I don’t deserve my friends, but I love them.

They give and give to me.

What do I give to them?

Stories about my sorry life?

My sorry life?

I was given everything I wanted

But I threw most of it away.

Look at me and listen.

Listen what I say.

I want to change everything.

I hate what I see.


I hate what I see. I want to change me.

I want to hold you. Not for me.

For you.

I never give. Now I want to give.

Hold me.

One Hundred ways to Hate

I wanted to hate her because she made me feel like nothing. I wanted to make her feel small because she made me feel small. I wanted to hurt her because she hurt me. I thought of a hundred ways to hate.

Now I am reduced to a mad, psychotic idiot, crying, lying down in a cold police cell. Now I am reduced to nothing, but a man capable of only hating. I am small and weak today, but I felt powerful and strong yesterday, when I held that gun in my hands. I shot the world down. Because the world shot me down. Or did I just imagine that? Was I really alone? Was there really no one there? Now there is no one there. I could think of one hundred ways to love, but it’s too late now.

The War

The war was over, but the scars remained. Pushed together, the people lived in compounds scattered across the vast landscape. It was better like this; not much better, but better than the urban squalor that faced the returning refugees. The compounds were a sanctory from the ever threatening outside world: The minefield hell holes. The pitted landscape filled with cluster bombs. The poisoned lakes. And the dead land. The dead land that was good for nothing any more. Poisoned for a million years; a graveyard of a once fertile land. The compounds offered saftey.

One of you

I am not one of you because I cannot find my feet. 

I want to stand proud, but I’m too quick to admit defeat. 

I want to be just like you; you’re so self-assured, 

Thinking about my own life, I can tell you, I just get bored. 

I hate my selfish, self-centred ways. 

I hate them, but I cannot change them. 

That is what I am. 

Love is the most important thing in my life, 

But I haven’t got a clue. 

I’m lost and crying. 


Now I’m lying. 

I want love and I want to give away love, 

And they say love isn’t love til you give it away. 

But what I want is more than that. How do you say? 

I guess it doesn’t matter how you say it. 

I’m bored of being alone. 

I hate my empty heart. 

I can hate myself more than the world can, 

But it’s the world that makes me hate myself. 

They ignore me; I hate myself. I wish I’d never spoken. 

They laugh at me; I hate myself. That stupid, stupid book. 

I find myself on my own; I hate myself. 

I brought this on myself. 

You are so, so confident. I feel like death. 

You have so much to say. I feel like a brick. 

I am not one of you because I feel so empty. 

I’m sitting in the dark. I feel like nothing. 

Rejection hurts me. It makes me hate myself. 

I am not one of you, because I cannot find my feet. 

Wake up and smell the coffee

I looked him in the eye and he said no. Good. I needed that. I asked him why and he just smiled and winked his eye. That wasn’t an answer. I wanted an answer, not a smile and a wink. I turned around and saw a hole in reality. A huge gap. A gap where there was nothing. Just. Nothing.

There was a reason, but it was pink. And as anyone knows, a reason that is a colour helps nobody. It means nothing. The reason was pink and my life was purple, so if the floor stayed green and the door blue I was sure that everything was insane. Drink. Eat. Die.


I turned back to the man. “Why?” I asked. He winked again and nodded his head towards the hole. Then he said, “Minty fresh” and left me. What did that mean? Life is like a Polo mint? Insane.

I stepped into the hole and now everything was nothing and nothing was everything. Everything had become the gap and the gap had become everything. It was yellow and my mind was mellow. Inside, the rain. Outside, the pain.

I drank the coffee. The coffee was me. It screwed the world, but who cares? It would be my brother who’d say, “Wake up and smell the coffee.” But what he’d mean is something quite different: Get a life. Pull yourself together.

That’s what he’d mean.

If he ever came home.

Now smell the coffee. Smooth aroma. Taste it. Drink it. Live it. In debt. Cash crop. Poverty. Death.

In this other reality; through the gap, there was a man. A tall African, farming man. But he wasn’t farming when I saw him. His face was buried deep in his hands and he was sobbing empty tears. “Your actions are illegal.” I heard. I heard a voice behind me, shouting. Yelling. Shouting at the man.

Coffee. Debt. Death.

I couldn’t stand it there, so I stepped back into the other reality. Reality. Hole. Gap. Whatever. I stepped back into the place where I was comfortable. The man was there again, as though he had never left. It seemed too familiar. Like I’d done this before. It seemed too familiar. Like I’d done this. I looked him in the eye and he said no. I was kind of expecting that. Somehow. I asked him why and he just smiled at me and winked.

I shouted at him.

I screamed.


“Don’t wink. Don’t smile. What’s going on?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” he replied, as though he hadn’t heard me the last three hundred times, when the hole became everything and everything, nothing.

“Kenya, right?” he said, almost like a robot, “Debts, yeah? Coffee plantations. Grow  coffee. Sell coffee. Man, right? Hungry, lives, sleeps. Food to live. Land to grow food. Need land. No land. Only coffee land. Eat. Drink. Man chops down coffee bush to grow food, while debts cut down man to grow profit. Illegal to chop down bushes to use the land for food production. Income from coffee pays back debts.”

“Does it?” I asked.

“I doubt it.” he said. “Come with me,” he said, “I’ll buy you a coffee.”


What I say

What I do.

They say don’t put yourself down.

Do I put myself down?

I’m just stating a fact.

I’m just making a statement.

They don’t really know me.

They think what they see 

Is what they get.

But it isn’t.

I don’t know me very well

But I know me better than they do

And I don’t like what I see.

They say don’t put yourself down

So they want to see the real me.

But then they would hate me

Selfish me.

I hate like anybody else.

I love and I admire,

But my mind is twisted

And broken in two.

I always think of me.

Me. Me. Me.

I’m not putting myself down.

I’m just stating a fact.

Trying not to conform, to conform 

I lied about what I believe in 

Because I was bored of agreeing with everything she said. 

I said I didn’t believe in marriage. I said it was dead. 

I lied because I was bored of looking like a follower, 

I was bored of looking like I was doing everything to please her. 

I made a statement, but it wasn’t one of mine. 

I suppose that makes two of us; we both told lies. 

I made a loud statement 

Because I wanted them to turn to me, 

Something I had no opinion of. Something I couldn’t see. 

I was seeking attention, self-centred me. 

I see them watching my great friend and I wish that he was me. 

I argued with my friend, but really I agreed with him. 

You’re selfish, man. You’re selfish. You’re selfish stupid Tim. 

I wanted to be more than what they think of me. 

I wanted to be more that what they see. 

I wanted to show them my independence, 

But with everything they said, I found myself, 

Honestly, having to agree. 

I felt like a copy cat. I felt like a nobody. 

I wanted them to see that I am not what they think. 

I tried. I lied. I failed. I am what they think. 

You think I am nothing, 

Therefore I am. 


The scene opens in a white room, where the only furniture is a couch and a stool. Tim is lying back on a couch. The Questioner is sitting at his head, on a stool. Tim has his eyes closed, while the Questioner asks him questions.

Questioner: “Do you know why you’re here?”

Tim: “Yes.”

Questioner: “Tell me.”

Tim: “I am suspicious of my best friend.”

Questioner: “In what way?”

Tim: “I don’t believe he wants to know me. I’m too weak. I make all the effort.”

Questioner: “What makes you suspicious?”

Tim: “He seems distant.”

Questioner: “But he always compliments you. He keeps telling you that he is your best friend. Why can’t you see that?”

Tim: “I’m a pessimist. I’m too stupid. I’ve trusted too much in the past and been let down. Now I am suspicious of people telling me that they are my friends.”

Questioner: “So it’s not really about your best friend, is it?”

Tim: “No.”

Questioner: “It’s just about you and the rest of the world.”

Tim: “Yes.”

Questioner: “What has happened?”

Tim: “People push me to the outside. I had friends, but they all decided they wanted to join chess club. I didn’t like chess. I should have taken the hint, but I trusted them too much. When I got used to it, started getting to like it, they stopped going to chess club. They went to photography club instead. There were only five people allowed in the darkroom at a time. I was number six. I should have taken the hint, but I trusted them too much. I used to walk around the school. Round and round. Pretending that I was doing something, but everyone knew that I was just alone. And I knew that everyone knew that I was just alone. I left that school. I trusted my friends too much, but they just rejected me. So I rejected them and went away for a new start.”

Questioner: “But not everyone was like that.”

Tim: “No. IH was my best friend at that school. We both left at the same time. But he used to spend time with JG. They told me it was nothing private, but the rest of the world told me to leave them alone. I was pushed out again. I was suspicious that he was just telling me it was nothing private because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. So round and round again. ‘Oh look,’ they’d say ‘it’s Billy Nomates.’ People pushed me away from my friends.”

Questioner: “And this makes you suspicious?”

Tim: “My best friend is so much better than me. Everyone loves him. People who were like me, rejected me. How can someone so different from me, so much greater than me, want to know me? That is why I am suspicious.”

Questioner: “But what about your other friends?”

Tim: “They say I’m great. I was always the stupid one, the weak one. But they say I’m great. I’m not that suspicious of them. I trust them. I don’t have to make an effort with them, they just keep on encouraging me.”

Questioner: “And your best friend doesn’t?”

Tim: “Of course he does, but it feels different. He seems tired. I’m the one who rings up or goes to see him. When he went away he did not have any contact with me. When I saw him walking in town I got angry with him, because he never bothered to contact me. Just to say he was back. I don’t like being suspicious, but it felt like chess club all over again.”

Questioner: “Is it because of loneliness?”

Tim: “I think it is everything. I depend on people too much. I turn people, who are just acting like friends towards me, into saints. Because of bad experiences in the past. Then I get too high expectations of them. They’re all just people. Love. Rejection. Guilt. Loneliness. Regret. Mistrust.”

Questioner: “You are frightened that you will be locked out in the cold again, aren’t you?”

Tim: “I am frightened that people are lying to me. I am frightened that one day they will admit to me, ‘We just felt sorry for you.’ I don’t want pity, I want true friendship.”

Questioner: “But you have that. You must forget the past. You must look at what you have now.”

Tim: “The past haunts me each time I look in the mirror. I have few friends and many enemies. I am scared that, when I don’t hear from friends for ages, they have done the photography club trick on me again. I enjoy good company, but I spend my life on my own. How can I not be suspicious?”

Questioner: “Because they tell you that you are great. When did those other people ever tell you that? Listen with your ears, not with your memories.”

The image freezes like a photograph, then a hand in a pair of rubber gloves grab the corner of the image (now a physical photograph) and dips it into liquid in a plastic dish in a darkroom. The image on the paper fades out (i.e. developing a picture in reverse) The rubber gloves pick the blank photographic paper out of the dish and hangs it on a drying line. The scene fades out to black and the titles roll.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part four, 12 March 1996.


Here we are in a crowded night club. The college leaving party. We move across the dance floor, weaving through the revellers. The bassline of dance music thumps in the background.

We’re moving in on a young white man (Nobody) standing away from the dance floor, clearly completely out of place. As we get close to him, a young Gambian man (Somebody) walks up to him and whispers into his ear. ‘Nobody’ glances at ‘Somebody’, following him to a slightly quieter part of the club.

The camera cuts to them standing, talking. They are having to shout into each other’s ears because the music is so loud.

Somebody: “This party’s pathetic.”

Nobody: “You’re not kidding. I can’t relax.”

Somebody: “I’ve seen this girl I like, but she’s with her friend. I’ll offload her friend on you. Come on.”

Nobody: “I don’t think so, I’m just a nobody.”

Somebody: “Come on man, it’ll be good.”

The Gambian man leads Nobody over to the other side of the club. We follow. Somebody talks to the girl he liked, and then to her friend, a Somali girl. Somebody points towards Nobody. She looks towards Nobody and laughs.

Girl: “You must be joking!”

She laughs and laughs aloud. Back to Nobody. There is his face. It’s filled with rejection. The room has gone silent. All we can hear now is Nobody’s heartbeat. The girl is still laughing, in slow motion now. Turning to the dance floor, everyone has stopped dancing. They stand looking at Nobody, pointing at him and laughing too. The volume of the noise of laughter increases until the whole room is filled with laughter. Cut through black.

Nobody is now sitting at the bar with a bottle in his hand. He drinks a mouthful and then looks straight on. A young Asian man, Friend, walks up behind him and taps on his back. He shouts into Nobody’s ear over the music.

Friend: “There you are, I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I’ve found someone for you.”

Nobody: “Thanks, but I’m not in the mood. Didn’t come for that.”

Friend: “She’s waiting for you.”

They walk over to the girl. We follow. It is the same girl as before. Friend points at her.

Friend: “There she is.”

Nobody: “No man, she’s already told me to get lost once.”

Friend: “Just go for it.”

Nobody stands behind her for a few seconds. She does not turn to him. Eventually he walks over to her and she turns around.

Nobody: “Hi, I’ve been trying to relax into this. Will you come and cheer me up.”

The girl does not look at him. She just gets up and walks away. Nobody is left standing alone. Suddenly the room is empty and silent, and Nobody is the only person there. He is standing perfectly still. The surroundings around him morph into a mountain top. Tears are rolling down his face. Cut to black.

We’re in the centre of a grey room. It’s filled with a crowd. Around the edge, people are holding banners. We circle the room to read what they say: “Get lost!” “Go Home!” “Loser!” “Reject!”

Someone runs towards us, shouting: “We don’t want your type round here, you stupid loser!”

All the people in the room are pushing and shouting. They’re staring and angry.

We’re back in the club, Nobody left standing as the girl walks away. The bass continues to thump in the background. Everyone around him is having fun. Nobody turns to walk away, but just before he does, the random, repetitive beat of the music changes into a very cool, hip-hop beat. Nobody turns to the camera and a big grin fills his face. He shouts in his mock-Jamaican accent: “Ya, Mon!”

Nobody walks down onto the dance floor and starts to dance to the now brilliant music. He moves into the group with the Friend and Somebody, showing off. His friends smile as they see him dance. He moves in front of the girl who had rejected him and dances wildly to the music under strobe lighting. He does not look at her, his eyes are closed and he appears like he is in a trance. He moves away from the tight group and weaves his way through the rest of the crowd.

We’re floating above Nobody now. People stare at him as he dances through them, but he does not care. The number of people on the floor is reduced. He seems to be dancing constantly, but the people are disappearing as time accelerates past. Eventually only Nobody remains, dancing slowly now, until suddenly he falls to his knees, and then, backwards, down to the ground.

He lies on his back on the floor. His eyes are still shut. There is no smile on his face. We zoom in on his eyes until suddenly they open. Instantly cut to black.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part two, 29 December 1995.


Two main characters. The first is a young white man (Regret). The other is an old, wise black man (Listener). He has a grey beard and is nearly bald.

Silence. The two characters are facing each other over a game of chess. The chess board is resting on an up-turned tea chest. Regret sits in a broken car seat. The Listener sits on a large, empty, cable spool. They appear to be sitting in a dark warehouse, where they are illuminated only by a single stream of light from a hole in the roof. The floor is dusty. We move in towards them as the Listener moves his white bishop and takes Regret’s Queen. The Listener drops Regret’s piece to the floor. We watch it falling in slow motion. As it hits the ground and bounces, Regret speaks:

“I regret.”

There is a brief silence.

Listener: “What do you regret?:

Regret: “I regret my life.”

Regret moves a black pawn one space forward on the chess board. We focus onto Regret’s right eye until it blurs out of focus, and then back into focus at a different scene. There is a small, young boy wearing shorts and a T-shirt, standing in a school playground. His friends are around him surround him, but we focus on him.

As another boy runs past them, one of his friends shouts out: “There he is!”

All the first boy’s friends turn to run away after that kid, but a bigger boy says to the first boy: “You stay here.” As the playground around him becomes empty, we hear Regret speaking over the image of this lone by standing in the playground. We circle him, flying up in the air above him, looking down on him.

Regret: “I regret letting them leave me. I regret being weak. I regret my life.”

The Listener moves a white pawn and captures Regret’s black pawn. The piece drops to the floor, in slow motion again. We focus on Regret’s mouth as he speaks.

Regret: “I regret not going to see that trumpet teacher. I regret being weak. I wanted to play the trumpet. I wanted to play jazz. I regret it.”

We pan to the Listener. He looks into Regret’s eyes. We turn back to a younger Regret. He is sitting on the back row of an orchestra playing his oboe. The older regret continues to speak over the music.

Regret: “I regret learning the oboe. I wanted to play jazz. The oboe won’t let me do that. I wanted to play the trumpet. Why was I so weak? I want to play jazz. I regret my life.”

The image on the screen goes black suddenly. It reopens at an image of Regret on a stage, playing his trumpet in front of a Harlem jazz club, accompanied by a saxophonist, a double bass player, a pianist and a drummer. He is playing wildly. The image cuts off as the Listener interrupts.

Listener: “Your move.”

Regret moves his Bishop across the board and captures the Listener’s Rook. He picks it up and throws it up into the air. It spins, in slow motion, as it passes through the stream of light and then comes hurtling down to the ground again. It hits the ground and smashes into two pieces.

Regret: “I regret letting people get away with treating me like dirt.”

An image of a school corridor appears. A younger Regret walks down the corridor in school uniform. Two boys start following him, every where he goes. Everything he does, they copy. As he starts to walk up some steps, he turns to look back at them. Suddenly, we cut back to the chess game. Regret hits his fists down onto the board and anger creeps across his face. In slow motion, the board flips over and all the remaining piece fly into the air.

The image of the corridor comes back. Regret turns around and punches one of the two boys following him. He leaps into the air and kicks the other in the head. The boy falls to the ground and blood splatters over the floor. Regret shouts, angrily, over this.

Regret: “I regret not smashing their skulls into a thousand pieces. I regret being so weak. I regret letting people treat me like dirt. I regret my life.”

We cut back to the warehouse. The Listener picks up the black Queen and holds it up on his palm. Regret takes the piece and holds it between his finger and thumb. A tear roles down his face as he looks at it. Everything blurs out of focus and re-focuses at another image. There is a pretty girl sitting on a wall outside sixth form college. The image disappears almost immediately as we cut back to the chess piece in Regret’s hand. He speaks softly.

Regret: “I regret listening to threats. I regret giving up. If I was not weak, I would have asked her. She is a dream in my head. I regret that. I regret my life.”

We move back towards both of the players. The Listener looks at Regret. Regret drops the Queen to the ground and speaks quietly.

Regret: “I regret letting the world run my life. I didn’t want to let the people who loved me down. So I didn’t take any risks. I regret that.”

The Listener reached across the table to shake hands with Regret. Regret reaches back. They stand up and walk silently, together, to the door of the warehouse. At the door, where there seems to be no scenery, just a very bright, white light, Regret turns to the Listener.

Regret: “What can I do?”

Listener: “It’s your move.”

The Listener walks out of the warehouse and disappears into the light.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part six, 28 December 1995.


Hear that: the sound of a muffled heartbeat. Everything is hazy and out of focus. We are closing in on a picture of a baby in the womb of its mother. Then we cut though a blur transition, the sound of a beating heart replaced by the sound of children playing in the playground at school. We focus on a lone child standing away from the other children in the playground. He turns to us and whispers.

Child: “I am not useless. I can do it.”

We move away from him and towards the playing field where a teacher is supervising the picking of teams in a game of football. The boys are aged about ten. As the others are picked by the two team captains, one boy is left to last. The boy stares at us and speaks. 

Footballer: “I can play football.”

We gaze up into the sky and back down again, finding ourselves outside an old abbey. We move into the abbey, through the doors. There is a service going on inside, mainly young people. It is dark. The people are sitting in a circle on the stone floor and there are small candles dotted about. The leader is saying a prayer of healing. We circle the room, only to finds our way back to a teenager sitting at the edge. His eyes are filled with tears. We hear the teenager’s thoughts.

Thoughts: “I’m not sure about this. I am an outsider. I am lost.”

We move away from him and out of the doors of the abbey. It is now dark outside the abbey. We gaze up into the dark sky then back down onto a pavement in a town. There is a seventeen year-old boy walking down the street on his way back from sixth form college. There are headphones in his ears. We hurry to catch him up and hear the thoughts inside his head.

Thoughts: “Now I am alone. My best friend has gone away. I am nothing.”

We gaze up a path to the front door of a house. There is a sign on the door, “Vacancies”. We push through the front door and up the stairs, moving into a room. There is a bed in the room and a television on an upturned box. An eighteen year-old man is lying on the bed with his eyes shut. We hear his thoughts.

Thoughts: “Isolation.”

Cut to darkness. Silence. After a few seconds a tiny flame flickers in the centre of a vast dark space. The flame gradually grows bigger, and bigger. After a while it begins to illuminate the room and faces appear out of the darkness. One of them speaks.

Face One: “I feel so alone.”

There is silence, and then another face speaks.

Face Two: “Why must I feel different?”

Another face speaks. Suddenly the whole room fills with voices complaining of their own lonelinesses. There is a great volume of sound.

Face Three: “White man build big fire and sit far off. I build small fire and sit close.”

Face Four: “I am an outsider.”

The talk continues for a few seconds and then cuts off very suddenly. The flame turns into a fire and all of the people in the room are revealed. They look at one another. The first child stands up.

Child: “I am not alone.”

We focus into the flames of the fire and then through the flames to another image. There is a young white man sitting, legs crossed, on a grassy mountain top, looking out over the land. He speaks to us directly.

Man: “I am the man you see in the street. You say I am racist. I am alone. I am the man you see with my hand in my pockets. You say I do not care. I am alone. I am the man who looks into your eyes. You say I am bad. I am alone.”

He stands up and walks along the top of the ridge. He smiles at us and speaks again.

Man: “But I am not alone in my loneliness. I am the boy who you said could not play. Now I play and I am happy. I am the boy you always picked last. Now I will choose for myself. In desperation I can feel so alone. But in loneliness I can feel my brotherhood with the rest of the world. The world leaves so many behind. But the many make up a different world.”

He turns away from us and looks out over the land, shouting.

Man: “My friends, we are all alone. We are all individuals. And we are all brothers.”

Cut to black.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part five, 28 December 1995.


The two main: Pessimism and Optimism. They look the same, a thin white man. Only, Optimism sits up straight and wears bright clothes. Pessimism slouches and looks scruffy.

Silence. There’s no music or sound. We’re in a square white room. There are two stainless steel chairs in the room, directly opposite the other, about three metres apart. We circles them, moving around the edge. After several circuits, Optimism appears in one of the chairs. Then Pessimism appears in the other.

An image flickers onto the wall next to Pessimism’s head. The image shows my face. The image breaks up and fades away. The image flickers on again, but continues this time, with sound. The face moves away. Behind it there are flames and white South African Policemen shooting black men to the ground during apartheid. A man dressed in long white sheets walks to the front of the image and blocks what was behind him. When he moves away again, there is a cross burning behind him, and the previous image is gone. The face of a black child comes into focus. We focus in on his tears, and his crying fills the room. The camera moves around him and shows a gang of men shouting abuse at an Asian women in a block of flats. My face comes back into view as the image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is white.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? He is not responsible.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is white.”

Another moving image flickers onto the wall next to Pessimism’s head. The image shows a my face again, but it moves away also. Behind, there is a long line of women, from all over the world, joining hands. A truck drives in front of them, carrying a load. The load is a stone statue of the male symbol. Diesel fumes cloud the image and the roar of the engine fills the room. When the truck moves away, the line of women is broken, and they are moving away. My face comes back into view as the image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is male.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? He is not an oppressor.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is male.”

An image flickers onto the wall next to Optimism’s head. The image shows a homeless man in the street. A business man steps over the man’s legs in a hurry to get home. The polystyrene mug that the homeless person was collecting money in falls over and the money tips out. The coins fall in slow motion as the coins bounce on the ground and then disappear down a drain cover. The image pans up into the dark, miserable sky and the image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he has been brought up in the middle classes.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? It is the only life he knows.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is middle class.”

An final image flickers onto the wall next to Optimism’s head. The image shows a solitary Union Jack flying against a sunset sky. Black and White photographs of the days of the British Empire flash up on the wall. Images of the Irish famine flicker onto the wall. A copy of The Sun falls down from above, followed by a plastic Union Jack. There is a final film clip of Michael Howard holding his white paper on asylum seekers. The image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is English.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? It is his nationality. He does not have to be proud. He should not feel guilty.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is English. He is guilty.”

Optimism: “He cannot help being these things, he is also an individual.”

Pessimism: “Guilt will equal recognition. Guilt will make him remember. Guilt will stop him being like them. He must carry this burden. He must feel guilty.”

Optimism stands up and walks over to Pessimism. He stares into the eyes of Pessimism.

Optimism: “I don’t think so. Only the guilty should feel guilty.”

We cut to the a bar scene. There is bouncy reggae music in the background. A black, dreadlocked, man, with a very broad Jamaican accent looks into the camera. He smiles and hold out a can of drink. It is labelled ‘GUILT’.

Guilt Man: “Guilt. It’s a totally unnecessary waste.”

An Asian woman walks in front of the Guilt Man, and taps on the glass.

Woman: “We don’t want your remorse. We want action.”

She taps on the glass again. Cut to black.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part three, 28 December 1995.


Meet two characters: Pessimism and Optimism. Pessimism is a disjointed voice. Optimism, a white man, quite thin.

We’re in a square, white room, with no windows or doors. Exactly in the centre of the room there is a high stainless steel chair with a young white man sitting in it. His name is Optimism. His arms are handcuffed at the wrists to the legs of the chair, as are his feet. There is one electrical wire leading to the chair, but it does not appear to be connected to anything, its form fading away.

We circle Optimism several times. Then we stop, facing him. A blinding light switches on behind us. Optimism scrunches up his eyes to avoid the light. He struggles slightly in the chair but then settles down. The light seems to fade. As it does we move around the man, in a clockwise direction, to Optimism’s right. We stop at an angle behind him. A voice fills the room, but there are no speakers.

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism does not respond. Silence.

Pessimism: “I’ll ask you again. Why are you here?”

Still no response.

Pessimism: “You may have noticed a wire leading to your chair. If you continue to ignore me, I will press this little shiny red button. It is not something I would like to do, I hate the smell of burning flesh. But then that won’t bother you will it?”

Again: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “You brought me here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you in this country?”

Optimism: “I live here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you here?”

Optimism: “I was born here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you here?”

Optimism: “I was born here. My name is Timothy…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “My name is Tim…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist. There is no evidence of your existence.”

Optimism: “My family…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “I have friends. They will tell you.”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “My best friend… he’ll tell you. He knows I exist.”

Pessimism: “Your best friend? When was the last time you saw him?”

Optimism looks at the floor and does not respond.

Pessimism: “Your mind is playing tricks on you. Was there really a best friend? You told everyone he had gone away. But he hadn’t. Had he? He never existed. You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “I exist. I have enemies. They will tell you I exist. They will tell you bad things about me, but it will prove I exist.”

Pessimism: “Enemies like X? Only she wasn’t really your enemy was she? You loved her didn’t you?” 

Optimism: “I never told anyone that.” 

Pessimism: “She messed you about. You thought the way you felt was just a crush. But it wasn’t. You loved her.”

Optimism: “I didn’t love her. I didn’t even know her. You can’t love someone you don’t know.”

Pessimism: “You loved her.”

Optimism: “She hated me. How could I love her?”

Pessimism: “You don’t know what love is. I know what your feelings were.”

Optimism: “I never told anyone how I felt.”

Pessimism: “Oh, but you didn’t need to. You don’t exist. She doesn’t exist.” 

An image is projected onto the wall, like a cinema image, but there is no sign of a projector. It shows a similar room. On the chair in the middle is a young Asian man. His name is Shafat.

Shafat: “He asked me if she was Muslim.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “He knew that he wouldn’t be able to meet with her if she was.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “We have rules.”

Pessimism: “What did you tell him?”

Shafat: “I knew she wasn’t Muslim. I said I would find out for him. I spoke to someone about it.” 

Pessimism: “If you knew, why did you have to find out?”

Shafat: “I had to check, make sure. He was going to speak to her on Wednesday.”

Pessimism: “Was going to?”

Shafat: “He was just about to when I saw him. I told him that it wasn’t possible for him to be friends with her.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “I found out that her brother would break his back.”

Pessimism: “Was this a serious threat?”

Shafat: “Yes.”

Pessimism: “Did he tell anyone else his feelings?”

Shafat: “No. His best friend had gone away. Nobody else knew the girl.”

A second projection hits the wall, next to the last. It flicks through a series of photographs. Pessimism starts up again. The pictures show X lying on the ground. There is a pool of blood by her head and a wound on the side of her face.

Pessimism: “She’s dead.”

Optimism: “No she’s not.”

Pessimism: “It’s true.” 

Optimism: “I don’t exist. She doesn’t exist, remember? If she’s dead, I exist.”

The room goes silent. The images on the wall start to break up, then go fuzzy and finally cut off. Optimism remains isolated in the room.

We cut to a beautiful forest. Pessimism sits looking into a small pool of water, stirring it with his hand. We move in, through the trees and towards Pessimism. We pass behind him, focussing down on the pool. The reflection in the pool shows Optimism still bound in the white room. Pessimism shouts down into the pool.

Pessimism: “You’re weak!”

Pessimism looks up into the canopy of the trees and smiles, then glances back into the pool.

Pessimism: “I rule you. I can shut you down. I will shut you down.”

Optimism looks up to Pessimism, shouting: “So I do exist then?”

Pessimism: “Can you call it existence? I wouldn’t. I am you, but you can never be me. I see the truth. You don’t exist.”

We cut back to the white room. The voice of Pessimism booms into the room again.

Pessimism: “You don’t exist.”

The voice echoes and, as it fades out, the room falls into darkness. Pitch black. Only for a second. Now we’re bathed in a very bright, white light. We’re back within the white room again. The voice of Pessimism booms out.

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “Why are you treating me like this?”

Pessimism, angrily: “Why are you here?”

Optimism, shouting as loud as he can: “Why must you treat me this way? I am better than this. Can’t you bear to hear his confidence? Why must you lock me away? Why must you always win? Who are you protecting?”

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “You lock me up inside for no reason. Why must he be protected from confidence? You lock me away, just to keep Pessimism strong.”

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism, quietly: “I know the truth.” Shouting: “I know the truth. Why’s it so important that he must live in your world? People are happy when they see his other side. I bring out the best in him.”

Pessimism: “You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “You’re mad. I exist, but you deny me. If I could kill you, I would. Tim doesn’t need you.”

Pessimism: “He needs me. I protect him from the bad world. You’re blind. You would let him fall into another trap. He needs me. You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “How can you be so sure? You have never let him take any risks. I exist, but you tie me down so I am weak.”

Pessimism: “You’re nothing!”

Optimism: “I’m nothing because you make me that way. Release me, and I would be strong. I would show him the way.”

Pessimism: “You’re kidding yourself. Tim needs me, not you. You can dream, and I will show you the truth. Wait, and I’ll show you.”

The white room falls into darkness again. We cut back to the forest. Pessimism gets up and takes a small, tear shaped, glass bottle out of a pocket on his belt. He holds it up in front of his eyes and shakes it. There is a purple liquid in it.

Cutting back to the white room, Pessimism reappears with the bottle and walks across to Optimism. He holds Optimism’s head and tilts it back. He drips the purple liquid into Optimism’s mouth.

Pessimism: “You must trust me. You form the dreams. I form the nightmares. Your dreams are just dreams. My nightmares are warnings. Drink this, and you will see the truth.” 

Optimism falls into a state of unconsciousness.

Pessimism: “Goodbye.”

Optimism: “What is this place?”

Girl: “Existence.”

Everywhere is light. We’re zooming back from it, until we can see the edge of the sun in a clear blue sky. We’re outside, circling Optimism, standing in the middle of a field. He is free. There are other people around him, just standing still. Optimism walks over to a girl who looks like X.

Darkness falls momentarily, only for a hazy fog to emerge. Optimism is standing on a clifftop looking out to sea. There are other people standing in the background.

Optimism: “Don’t dream your life.”

The girl walks up behind Optimism.

Girl: “Live your dreams.”

Briefly, she seems to smile kindly, but suddenly the hazy, dreaminess clears and everything becomes sharp and bold. X is on her own in the college canteen. She stares straight back, her face all serious. She gives a look that tells Tim that she is not interested in him at all, turning her gaze away from him one final time.

Truth. Pessimism rules this soul.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part one, 9 October 1995.