Retail Island: an excerpt

The office’s chemistry provided a source of fascination as Robert whiled away many long hours wondering how to fill his time. In between reading around the various reports on strategy he had been passed, and browsing for reports on Medico and their operational methodology, he found himself contemplating the sexual dynamics of the workplace. Something about the office workspace was in itself erotic to a certain extent, albeit in an abstract sense. The crisp, linear clinicality of the office space, despite its open plan, seemed to gleam with erotic potential based around a sense of wrongness and incongruity. Another factor was the austerity of the requisite work attire: this somehow had the opposite of the desired effect, namely in that rather than providing an asexual uniformity, the suit, the skirt, the shirt, the blouse, seemed to accentuate physical aspects in a semi-unobtainable light, likely to create both a mystique and a certain frisson. This was common to many working environs. But while one would likely expect pockets of sexual tension in any office, Medico seemed to practically steam and crackle with pheromones and musk. Perfect strangers engaged in casual acts of frotteurism and Toucherism as Robert noticed colleagues subtly and not-so-subtly making physical contact, brushing past one another in tight spaces, even overtly making excessive and unnecessary contact while passing in corridors. Krafft-Ebing would have had a field day observing the interactions as groins surreptitiously rubbed against buttocks, hands swept against hips and breasts brushed backs and chests.

Ordinarily, these behaviours were merely alluded to in the workplace. At Medico, there was nothing simmering or beneath the surface: the kinks were rampant and rife. Was it something in the air – or the air-conditioning – which provoked this endless demonstration of sexual psychopathies and perverse paraphilias?

Retail Island is available now, published by Clinicality Press.

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Corporate Christmas

This piece was penned with a view to fitting the ‘Black Friday’ theme of December’s Fictions of Every Kind spoken word night at The Wharf Chambers, Leeds, on 30th November 2015 (which, incidentally, was great, with a good mix of writers of outstanding quality, and a brilliant atmosphere in a super venue).

‘Corporate Christmas’ is a part of the ever-expanding and presently ongoing ‘Rage Monologues’ project, and as such, is designed first and foremost as a performance piece. However, as I’m aware my live performances are few and far between, and tend to take place in the north of England, there are may who won’t be able to hear this material. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share this piece, which doesn’t feature in the tour edition pamphlet of The Rage Monologues, here.

Enjoy…

 

Corporate Christmas

It’s all about the money. But at a certain point, the money becomes theoretical. Top-flight executives, boards of directors, the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy, I get. No, that’s not true. What I get is that it takes a certain kind of person to become a top-flight executive, a director on the board, to scale the heights and reach the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy. A sociopath, no more and no less. I will never understand the mindset, the megalomania that drives such criminal disregard for everything other than money. They’re so far removed from the reality of the everyday, so distanced from the shop floor, they’re effectively exempt. They’re wired differently. They don’t see their employees as humans. They don’t see their customers as human. They never hear the voices of the downtrodden, the weary, the world at large. They can’t hear us cry out, fists raised.

You’ve got the money.

You’ve got the status.

You’ve got the power.

You’ve got the control.

You’re fucking us all over.

You don’t see the planet as a finite resource. Everything exists for your benefit. And nothing is ever enough. You have everything already. What more can you possibly want? More… always more. Because money doesn’t just talk. It buys whatever the fuck you want. Want it? Buy it. Because you can.

What do you want? World domination!

When do you want it? Yesterday!

Competition? You’ve bought the competition, and shut it down.

Regulation? You laugh in the face of it. You’ve bought the regulators.

Government? You’ve bought the government. The parties are in your pocket, paid off with the money not spent on paying tax. You’re not the law – you’ve bought the law.

But the countless other layers of management, from the cringing petty bureaucrats at the lower managerial levels, to the ones who command payola and power but don’t own a fleet of yachts or several Pacific islands… I get where they’re coming from. And they, they’re the worst fucking scum.

You, you’ve also got the money – not as much, but just enough to think you’re special, to afford the finer things in life, not least of all thanks to the company credit card, the expense account. Like you fucking need it on your salary – pleading poverty while cruising in your Audi, smugging it up, your 2.4 kids in private schools and destined for top universities and to follow in your patent leather footsteps.

You’ve got the status – not as much as the real high-flyers, but club class will do. You’ve got enough to flash it around, to swan off on management away days and three-hour “working lunches”, plotting espionage and tax avoidance on your iPhones while chilling in first-class lounge suites making like your lives are so pressured, while not having the first clue what it’s like to have to worry about the bills – your pampered wives sipping Pinot Grigot from balloon glasses on leather corner sofas in front of a 60” flatscreen while wearing a white fluffy dressing gown, perish the thought they might break a nail in a five-bed townhouse with the heating cranked up to thirty.

You’ve got the power – not world domination, but you’ve got a hotline to the gods of business, and they know people who know people who know people who know people and the next thing, you’ve bought into Europe and you’ve got steer on the TTIP… so you’ve got power enough to throw around, enough to make you feel good while holding others down. You need to hold them down, keep them in their place.

You’ve got the control – just enough to live out your fantasies of power play. Those rebels and potential usurpers… you know how to dispense with them. Dissent? Crush it! Remove it! Yes, there are ways and means to sidestep legislation about unfair dismissal and discrimination… show them the door. No-one’s going to stop your march.

We need to make cuts to boost profit! The shareholders have spoken! The directors have spoken!

So what do you do? What do you do? Front-line staff every time: you’ll never see management voting for a cull of management, a stripping back of the layers of the hierarchy, no. Because it’d be like turkeys voting for Christmas. You’ve got just one interest, and that’s self-interest.

So you stand there in your sharp suit with your company laptop rucksack, your sharp haircut and your buzzwords, making like you actually give a fuck as you apologise for the cuts, the redundancies as you lay off yet more staff, just to protect your own bonus. Cunt.

You think you hold the power, that you have ownership. But you’re all part of the same system. The capitalist system. You’re still climbing over one another to attain material goods, more and more and more, and nothing is ever enough.

You don’t own capitalism: capitalism owns you. You’re still a part of the system, a system the purpose of which is to make people buy shit they don’t need with money they don’t have.

Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Being a Music Reviewer – Part Five: Bollocks to the Brits!

As mentioned in the last installation of this occasional series, it’s often the case that music fans have unreasonable expectations, they seem to think if you haven’t heard of their favourite band, or don’t know not only every track of their favourite new release intimately and by title, then you clearly don’t possess the breadth of knowledge required to be a music reviewer worthy of respect.

Conversely, if you’re not completely ‘down with the kids’, then the same accusations are also levelled in your direction.

In short, you can’t win.

During the course of a single day, I’ve been quizzed – by which I mean grilled and challenged – over my lack of knowledge of various top 10 chart acts and Brit nominees, and been subject to complaints that my reviews are all of bands that people have never heard of.

Now, while I do try to expose myself to as much music of all strains as possible (to be clear, that’s an exposure to music, rather than me simply exposing myself) there are only so many hours in the day and like any other music reviewer, I only have one pair of ears.

This means that I do know who Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Paloma Faith are. I also know they hold no appeal to me, and don’t interest me. They represent the face of the mass market, the apogee of mediocrity. Aural chewing gum with haircuts. Stylised, mass-market emptiness. They have to have strong images to compensate the lack of substance to their music. Fuck ‘em. There are plenty of other reviewers out there to cover them. I consider it my job to provide exposure to the many interesting acts who don’t have major-label backing, who won’t get played on R1 and won’t be in line for Brit awards.

“I thought you were into music,” is the moan I hear most frequently.

I am, and that’s precisely why I do what I do. But we all need our niche. I don’t write for NME or Kerrang!, Q or Mojo, I’m not on the playlist panel for R1 and I’m not in the A&R department of Sony or Warner’s.

I’ll see who won what at the Brits on one of the news websites tomorrow. Or the next day. Really, it won’t change my world. For tonight, I’m busy sifting through the 40 or so independent releases of wildly variable quality I’ve received in the past few days. It ain’t glitzy or glamorous, but it means something.

 

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These smug crets are, allegedly, the face of music that matters in 2015, along with Paloma Faith and her big gums, and Madonna and her granny guns. Don’t believe the hype.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk

Smooth Salsa and Jizzy Jazz: The Great Corporate Crap Giveaway

I recently lent a friend of mine, who works for a large financial organisation, a handful of CDs. When he returned them, there was an extra disc. it’s not unusual: he often lends me music. On this occasion, said disc was housed in a gaudy digipak decorated with segments of primary colours and it was still in its shrinkwrap. A gift? Or an accident? No. Entitled ‘A World of Discovery’, the album was a compilation that promised ‘a journey through the world of jazz, soul, funk and blues’, and it had been ‘specially compiled’ for another financial firm by Jazz FM. The bastard! He’d offloaded this piece of corporate crap on me, knowing full well how much I despise jazz, soul, funk and corporate crap because he didn’t want it. And who could blame him?

There’s something that makes this kind of corporate crap particularly abhorrent. Sure, I get the idea of a ‘global’ corporation doling out promotional gubbins that reflects and encapsulates the spirit of their ‘brand’ (or what they hope is the way their brand is perceived), and a compilation of music from around the globe says ‘multinational’, ‘global’ and ‘inclusive’, and music supposedly transcends all borders of nation (the fact I think this is utter bollocks is something for another time). But it’s about as credible an image of global culture and a celebration of diversity as a Benetton ad. United colours? One world together in music? One world under the cosh of capitalism pretending to be friendly would be closer to the mark. Does anyone actually buy this idea? Do the creators even think that this is the face of finance, or are they laughing up their expensive suit sleeves and steaming up their Rolex watches?

There’s another thing, too. I appreciate that some would accuse me of being narrow-minded musically at loathing jazz, soul and funk, and while I’d strongly disagree, the point is that I do loathe jazz, soul and funk and I’m certainly not alone or even in a minority. I daresay that in attempting to associate themselves with the artists concerned (I’m assuming the artists all gave their consent and were paid handsomely for selling their music and souls in such a way), the company in question think they’re being ‘hip’ and presenting a ‘cool’ image to potential clients and partners. But in producing and distributing a compilation such as this, they’re making a huge assumption regarding people’s musical tastes. Either that, or they’re hoping to dictate people’s musical tastes, in which case they should be sponsoring something on MTV or Radio 2. But Jazz FM? What does that say about the company, really?

Sidestepping that question and letting it serve as a rhetorical device, I’ll admit that I haven’t actually played the CD at this point. But then, do I really need to hear the ‘old school raw soul quality of Australia’s Electric Empire on their number ‘Baby Your Lovin’’, or ‘Let me Show Ya (Funkhaus Sessions)’ by Jazzanova of Germany?

Against my better judgement, I bung the disc in the player. It’s fucking hideous and sounbds exactly the the way you’d expect it to. A flicker of flamenco, a splash of salsa, with the horrible drum machine backing favoured by the Peruvian pan flute bands that play on the high streets. Laid-back Latina grooves smoothed to slick perfection transports the listener to a forgettable restaurant where the wallpaper, food and music all melted into one beige blur not even worthy of a smiley snap for Facebook. The ‘United Kingdom’, incidentally, is represented Escala, with their multinational smash, ‘Feeling Good’. Er, yes, quite. Escala, the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ finalists covering Nina Simone. What in? Well, in keeping with the jazzy jizz of the rest of the material here, stringy sonic spunk.

In a time of recession, I do understand that companies need to find new promotional angles, and even when times are tight, it’s necessary to speculate to accumulate. But surely that’s all the more reason to ensure that promotion is effective – and cost effective. Even if the clowns who cooked up this cack-handed codswallop campaign genuinely believe that most people do like jazz, soul, funk and blues, what do they expect the recipients of these discs to do with them? Play them on an evening or at dinner parties to show how sophisticated they are, while subconsciously deciding they ought to do business with the company who gave them out? But as we’ve established, not everyone likes jazz, soul, funk and blues – so then what do you do it you’re the recipient of one of these dodgy discs? Landfill seems horribly wasteful. There’s the local charity shop, but who would buy it and would you want to be seen donating it? And while CDs make great coasters, it’s not everyone’s style. Which means the best option is to pass it on to your mate who happens to write music reviews and ranty blogs about pointless causes of irritation.

 

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A substantial stack of crappy unwanted CDs, not unlike the one in my house.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Liberator! Part 5

Tim rose at 6:30am and was at his laptop, set up on the rarely-used dining table, working, by 6:45. Still in his dressing gown, with a strong coffee, he sat blearily in front of the screen. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and this was reflected in his sallow appearance. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again.

It was after 11pm when he finally called it a night. He felt exhausted, yet his mind would not cease in its cogitations. Around midnight, after a large glass of wine, Tim retired to the bedroom and snuggled up beside his recumbent partner. He closed his eyes but behind his eyelids images flickered like a cut-up reel of cine film. He turned over and over as his mind turned his list of tasks for the next few days over and over. His heart rate began to increase, until it almost reached the point of fibrillation and sweat was running in rivers from every pore. It was no use. Tim simply could not sleep. Gingerly, he slipped from under the duvet and stealthily made his way back downstairs. Amy continued to sleep soundly.

Arriving in the living room, Tim did not turn on any lights and instead made his way silently to the window and stood behind the crack in the curtains. The street outside was dark and silent, yet unexpectedly bright, illuminated by the bright orange sodium haze of the street lights, one of which was in front of the house directly opposite. The curtains of the house were open, and there was a light in the upstairs window. He watched as a figure entered and exited the room. In shadow, he was unable to observe their features. It felt strange to be alone in darkness and at this time of night: Tim usually remained in bed, lying stock still so as not to disturb Amy, while him mind raced. Here and now, alone in the darkness and silence, with only the breathing of the house for company, his mind wandered. He projected himself outside into the long, anonymous, rectilinear street lined with almost identical red-brick terraced houses. He traversed the street like a ghost. His mind played in a flash a world in foment, in tumult, as rabid dogs and vigilantes prowled the alleyways. His heart raced with a heady blend of fear and excitement, the likes of which he hadn’t felt in years.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Tim retreated into the darkness and brought himself back to the reality of the here and now, his interior world. Pouring himself a shot of rum, he spotted the rather dubious pamphlet he had pickled up the other day lying on the coffee table. He didn’t recall placing it there, but nevertheless, he switched on the standard lamp and read as he sipped at his drink and waited for its soporific effects to take hold.

A recent survey found that people working from home work the equivalent of an extra 20 days a year, which almost counters their holiday entitlement. The technology that has facilitated what would first appear to be the perfect working solution and the best way to obtain a more comfortable work/life balance is thus a double-edged sword. Small wonder people don’t all want to rush home and check their inbox.

Be honest: how many times have you been gripped by fear at the prospect of logging in and checking your email, because of the idea of dealing with hassling correspondence from the bank and a slew of messages from people you can’t face replying to is simply too much? Email and mobile communications technology was hailed as a great means of keeping people in touch with one another. But how many proper emails do you send or receive?

Tim shook his head. He hated to acknowledge the fact, but this tract resonated with him. The way he spent – and wasted – hours trying to keep in contact with old friends and former colleagues, even more peripheral family members. He had the niggling feeling that life was too short to expend time and energy on people who couldn’t be bothered, but then, all too often he failed to respond to messages and emails from his friends. He felt like a cunt for doing so, but what could he do? He was busy – busy chasing his tail as he raced like a hamster on a wheel on the treadmill of life.

Tim was exhausted, but read on, slowly. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and this was reflected in his sallow appearance.

To reclaim your life and liberate yourself from the tyranny of technology, and at the same time, take the following simple steps.

1: Do not log into Facebook for a week.

2: Stop sending emails, especially forwards and links.

3: Do not send any text messages.

4: Do not make any non-essential phone calls.

It seemed a bit extreme. On the other hand, Tim reflected for a moment just how much time he spent checking into Facebook and reading endless reams of status updates that were ultimately pointless. He didn’t need to know that Neil was tired after going to the gym, or how sick Jonathan had been after his brother’s stag night. More to the point, he simply didn’t have the time to become mired in the vapid empty existences of others. He had his own empty, vapid yet insufferably hectic life to live. What could he possibly learn from a pamphlet that he hadn’t already read and discarded from countless self-help manuals, forums and television programmes?

 

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk 

Liberator! Part 4

‘Do you mind if we don’t got to the cinema tonight?’ Amy asked.

‘Hmmn?’

‘I’ve sort of double-booked. I don’t really feel like going out,’ she said, ‘and I can’t really be bothered to get dressed up and I’m really tired…’

‘Yeah, me too,’ Tim said, pursing his lips and blowing the air from his mouth through the small puckered gap. He rubbed his eyes. It was true, he was tired, largely on account of the fact he was having extreme difficulty sleeping. He had spent the last few nights lying awake, tossing and turning, his mind endlessly and restlessly cogitating myriad work issued, and now compounded by the fact the Sword of Damoclese hung over his career. This in turn was causing him to agitate over their finances. However much he earned, it was never enough and things were tight enough as they were. he simply couldn’t afford to lose his job. In the meantime, he needed to conserve every penny should the worse happen, and not going to the cinema meant money not spent and in the bank for the rainy day that blotted his once-bright horizon.

Amy, however, wasn’t done. ‘…but I kind of promised Lizzie and Will that we’d be there tonight for their awards night, and I know we were supposed to go out and spend some time together but this is really important to them and besides, it’s a really good networking opportunity. I can’t really go on my own…’

Tim closed his ears and his mind as he tried in vain to stifle a yawn, then rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.

‘Ok, ok. I’ll go and shower.’

It was after midnight when they got back home and his mind was abuzz from the endless babble of small-talk with anonymous, self-important pseuds. It was like being at work. Only worse. In an attempt to unwind, he poured himself a large Scotch, despite knowing that he really didn’t need any more alcohol after all of the wine and continental lager he’d sunk at the ceremony of back-slapping and smugness he had just squandered the last few hours. Slumping on the settee, he sipped his drink and picked up the leaflet again in the hope that reading something – anything – might help stop his mind from racing. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and this was reflected in his sallow appearance. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again.

It was no good. He was simply too tired to read on. He poured himself a glass of wine and returned to the living room where Amy was on the sofa watching some zombifying ‘talent’ show or something while simultaneously chatting on Facebook to a friend on her iPhone. He didn’t want to arrive at work hungover the next morning – in fact, he didn’t want to arrive at work the next morning at all – but yearned for a good night’s sleep and hoped that the alcohol would sedate him sufficiently.

***

It didn’t. Another night spent restless left him feeling disorientated, groggy, detached. Every day was exactly the same, only worse. Over the past few weeks and months, Tim had felt his energy levels decreasing incrementally, and now, having reached what he felt had been a non-specific tipping point, the plummet had moved into a spiral of exponential decline. And as his energy levels dropped and his levels of exhaustion soared, he increasingly began to feel that his life was no longer his own, as though he was being steered by some other force. He was no longer in control of his own destiny.

Tim felt a strange sense of déjà vu as he entered the office. It wasn’t his office, the office where he worked and had worked for the last five years, and it wasn’t the office he worked in for three years before that. In fact, it was none of the offices he had ever worked in. And yet he couldn’t explain this vaguely bewildering sensation any more than he could shake it. He spent the morning working like an automaton, firing off emails by the dozen and answering phone calls back to back. it’s relentless, it’s dizzying, it’s dehumanizing. He keeps on sinking the hot stomach fluids that pass as coffee that the machine dispenses, but never has the time to leave his desk and relieve the pressure building in his bladder. He can feel himself slowly losing his grip and his focus. All he can focus on is the acute stab in his lower abdomen, but he hasn’t the time to stop just now.

A tall, skinny man with short, mousy hair and an ill-fitting suit that hung from his curved meatless shoulders escorted him to a generously-sized meeting room. The unsettling recognition stayed with him as he took a seat, to which the grey suit man had gesticulated wordlessly, at the long glass table. Another faceless suit, charcoal grey this time, spoke, but while Tim saw his mouth move, he heard no sound. Tim nods. He has no idea why he nods, it’s as though he has some involuntary need to nod. Charcoal grey suit moves his mouth silently again. Again, Tim has no idea what he’s saying or why he can’t hear. He’s not even sure if the dude’s actually speaking or if he’s simply miming.

Why would he be miming? That doesn’t make any sense… Nothing made any sense. Am I deaf? The eerie silence, which Tim could only liken to how he expected it might sound like in a soundproof padded cell – something he had never experienced during the course of his extremely normal life – was only one of his concerns. Where was he? Why was he here? Who were these people? He’s in autopilot, feel like a car crash, like he’s in a dream watching a fictional performance simulating his own life.

He nods again. It’s not even a compulsion. He simply feels himself nodding as though he was a marionette, his actions controlled by some invisible puppeteer.

Charcoal suit man walks stiffly from the room and returns almost immediately with a small plastic cup full of some foul-smelling brown fluid. It could be the pumped contents of someone’s stomach for all Tim knows, but he instinctively knows it’s coffee.

Tim speaks, no words leave his mouth. Charcoal Suit smiles and nods.

Charcoal Suit walks around the table and sits down opposite. Tim’s feeling hemmed in: Baggy Grey Suit is situated at his left elbow and he feels like he’s a piece in a game of chess and the moves available to him are diminishing by the moment. He’s feeling like car crash and wondering why he simply doesn’t seem able to cope with certain things, certain scenarios, certain situations. The day spins by in a blur and he’s not even sure if it’s actually happened or if he’s dreamed or imagined half of it. He’s only too relieved when it’s time to knock off and head for home.

‘What time are you going to be in tomorrow?’ asked Peter as they passed on the stairs.

‘I’ll be working from home tomorrow,’ Tim replied. ‘I’ve got no appointments booked and I’ve got to get that report written and submitted by the end of the week and I’m way behind.’

Flashman pursed his lips, his brow furrowed. ‘Right, if it’ll help you get caught up,’ he puffed irritably.

 

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk