Paul Steffan Jones 1st


 

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Hellish London

melting tower block

melting faces

plummeting bodies

front seat atrocity

death on live TV

as firefighters attempt to tackle

the emboldened blaze

with depleted numbers

low water pressure

and delayed equipment

the bravery and dedication

of the “ordinary” citizens of a state

without courageous and honest leadership

the so-called Blitz spirit trundling on

unaware that a kind of war

is still being fought

in every home

in every workplace

in every school

in every hospital


it’s now OK to feign amnesia

about vulnerable people

especially if they’re “foreign”

and deregulation and austerity

don’t admit to their  hand

in the  production

of the corpses

from among this disposable section

of the population

the invisible and expendable

who don’t qualify for adequate

health and safety

whose voices cannot be heard

who can’t even be enumerated

or identified quickly enough

among the shambles jumble

that used to be their homes

in one of the richest corners

of the unearthly omnishambles

that is their country

meanwhile the Secretary of State for Health

gets a £44,000 bathroom

and nurses pay furtive visits

to food banks

it’s time to make our country our own

our rulers don’t need us

and we don’t need their misrule


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On The Banks of Lightning River


By Paul Steffan Jones AKA, 2018-01-18



A hill river in spate20171111_122128.jpg

in its pomp

its waterfalls are thunder

to its name

the call and response

of precipitation and gradient

the fall they call “snow”

is a curtain of moving water

frothing and seeming to boil

the torrent

and the history

of the torrent

and all its previous versions

various machinations

volumes speeds and force

have left on the bank

smoothed stones

the size and shapes

of loaves of bread

and cakes

roots are exposed

hard

obdurate

obstinate

the healthy brown bones

of the skeleton trees

fringing the foam

this water course flows underground

swallowed by a wide mouthed cave

we pause and peer

at the vanishing point

our boots lapped by the shallows

the air loaded with

the incense of spray

and someone else’s cannabis smoke


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The loss of the supernatural weighs

as heavily on us

as the loss of our religion

we invent new terrors

novel demons

the latest monsters

surreal serial killers

genocidal generals

privileged politicians that condemn

thousands to slow deaths

by favouring the rich

instead of the poor

what occasionally appears

in the corner of an eye?

what does one divine

in the embers of a fire

one has stared at unceasingly

for a whole wordless evening?

what is heard above the crackle

of a hearing aid

when the wind bends branches

and is somehow transformed

into footsteps on roof tiles

as one is separated from sleep?

we are haunted

we haunt

so bring me my ghosts

before dawn

before the replaying

of days and daylight begins again

all the old spectres congregate

in the camouflaged fog chapel

that is the meeting place of their calling

closer to Heaven

in what was once called

“God’s country”

the cast includes the celebrities

of my land’s theatre of haunting

the corpse candles

highlighting imminent death

the bwcas that preceded

then made mischief for miners

the fair folk the fairy folk

known as the tylwyth teg

and revenant sin eaters

who gorged on surfeits of sin

and the spirits of ordinary

and extraordinary sinners

dogs and magpies

we enjoy illusory freedom

and unjustified notions

of our own independence

our elbows perpetually jostled

by endless distractions

and chapters of false narrative

I fantasise about phantom football teams

playing in a dead Premier league

unseen in video playback

as an antidote to endless TV

shot in poorly lit US constructions

purporting to show scenes

unsettled by poltergeists

we are haunted

we haunt

so bring me my ghosts


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The Visitors


By Paul Steffan Jones AKA, 2017-09-11



It’s funny what you remember and what you forget.  Is it a choice or an accident? Or somewhere between the two?  I don’t know but I can’t forget that night and its aftermath though, if I’m honest, I would choose to.

It had been a fairly ordinary Friday in late April, a day of work and of fitting in those things that have to be fitted in around work.  In those days I earned a living of sorts in a seafood processing factory several miles away from my home.  The commute took me past flinty escarpments with their suggestion of standing stones and down a blackthorn valley with sparse, ancient cottages like the one I rented.  I parked my car on the grass behind a make-do building covered by corrugated iron sheets the colour of port in a former port town.  The equipment for processing the produce of cetaceans had been inserted into the vacuum left by the decline of traditional farming that was due to a series of bad harvests, a collapse in trade deals and the foot and mouth epidemic that had led to the mass cull of cattle and pigs.

In the stench of dead dolphins and over the searing buzz of the mechanised knives, a rumour arose, first debated in the morning ten minute break, developed during the twenty minute lunch and fully formed by the time the last mugs of tea of the shift were empty.  One of the migrant workers had asked if any of us had seen strange lights in the area over the last week. He claimed to have observed white, yellow and red lights both above and below the horizon, moving at enormous speed.  A couple of the smokers nodded but then they always did when they were smoking.  One colleague said that she thought she had seen something not quite right in the sky while driving recently but it had happened so quickly and whatever it was had gone by the time she’d stopped.  Cigarette smoke spiralled upwards to a cacophony of seagulls. I looked for these birds and wondered when they would be available on supermarket shelves.

I had nothing to contribute to the debate and kept to myself the conversations I’d had recently with some sheep farmer neighbours of mine. Several of their animals had been found dead on the moor which was not that unusual but these beasts had been marked with strange geometric shapes gouged into their corpses.  This had been kept out of the news as no one paid much attention to such small fry now that the new agriculture was dominated by massive conglomerations and horrors dressed up as opportunities.

The workplace emptied with a palpable feeling of relief and expectation and a haste that always impressed me.  I waited for the cars of the others to leave and I started on my way home.  My first call was to a market where I picked up some flowers, wine, and two packets of horse burgers.

I pulled in next at the care home, a former mansion, where we had installed my mother when she had become too much for us.  I entered the impressive but dismal hallway and signed my name in the visitors book. There weren’t many staff members around at this time of the day.  I found my mother on her own, tiny in a large chair, looking out over the gardens. I kissed her, introducing the flowers.  She was not interested in them so I left them on a nearby table. The conversation was a struggle but her eyes still shone. I was happy that she was well cared for but I couldn’t shake the thought that this was a pointless exercise.  I said goodbye and drove the last few miles home.

Mary was waiting for me at the cottage.  We caught up with the day’s news and thoughtlessly switched on the TV. We fried the burgers and sat down to eat as the sun was sinking from view. I had the wine to myself as she had just started maternity leave.  We didn’t say much as we were tired and we had already said most of what we wanted to say.  We both lifted our heads, however, to follow a news item concerning an incident in which a car had crashed off a road in our locality the night before, its driver apparently dazzled by a light approaching from the sky.  The motorist was uninjured but spooked, barely able to look the reporter in the eye.

We collapsed onto the sofa, exhausted, me a little tipsy.  We must have fallen asleep soon after, leaning into each other.  I awoke briefly a couple of times and half-noted on these occasions that the light was switched off and that I couldn’t see the TV standby light. I was too sleepy to realise that we had not caused this.

Mary woke up, murmuring that she wanted to go to the toilet.  She was about to get up when I pulled her back by her arm.  The room was bathed in a light coming from outside the window.  I knew that there was no moon that night and that vehicles could not access the building from that side.  I very carefully peeped over the top of the sofa and gasped when I saw a tall figure dressed in some kind of illuminated space suit standing completely motionless at the window. I saw no identifying marks on the clothing and could not see the face through the helmet.  I quickly ducked back down and whispered to Mary what I had seen, exhorting her to stay quiet and not move.

Our hearts beating almost audibly, we clutched each other and remained tensely still, holding sweaty hands.  I  prayed that no harm would come to us or the baby and tried to summon up the courage to confront the intruder.  However, the motive for the watcher’s visit was not clear and as time passed it became more and more possible, and hopeful, that our presence had not been detected.

A little before dawn, the night visitor at last moved away from its position and the room was immersed in the kind of darkness that occurs for a short time after a bright light is extinguished. As the day was about to begin to break, I regained my confidence and rose cautiously, keeping an eye on the window and taking my shotgun from out of its cabinet.  I nervously crossed the threshold to patrol the exterior, gun at the ready. I poked the barrel into bushes, around the car and aimed it futilely down the rough track that led to that place.  Nothing greeted me save the barking of the awakening dogs of the nearby farms and the chill of the morning of the night before.

I got back inside and tried the lights.  They worked. I gave Mary the biggest hug my dwindling energy reserves could muster.  She put the kettle on and we drank a cup of tea in silence and relief, me with the weapon across my knees as the world stirred around us, a world that had appeared to have changed forever.

Later that morning, we packed a bag or two and left for the in-laws in the town. She would stay with them while we tried to work out what to do for the best.  I left them and walked the short distance to the police station to file my report. To my amazement, I was not met with incredulity as it had been a busy night for unexplained sightings.

On the following Monday, two officials who claimed to be from a Government Department I had never heard of, The Ministry of Mystery, called on me at work. The manager allowed us a cramped storeroom and they interrogated me about what had happened. Both had the same unidentifiable accent and were polite enough, asking the type of questions I would have expected.  There was something awkward about the whole exchange, however. Maybe it was me, maybe it was them.  When they had finished, they shook my hand and left.

They would return a number of times over the following weeks to ask the same questions at my home, also interviewing Mary at her parents.  I had the impression that they would have liked me to retract my statement.  I told them that I knew what I thought I had seen and very definitely felt, at which they just smiled.  I noticed on at least two of these occasions that they had to make their excuses fairly early in the meeting as they both appeared to be either fatigued or ill.  After a while, I became suspicious of these unnamed and enigmatic bureaucrats. When a couple of phone calls revealed no record of such an organisation, the visits suddenly stopped.

Mary was worn out by the whole thing and lost the baby. She blamed me and we grew apart. I stayed on at the cottage and remained at the factory until I could no longer stand the smell, the people, the place, the memories.  I left the area and took a job on a ship in the resurgent whaling industry, making good money working out my disappointment and rage in the slaughter of huge animals, and keeping away from UFOs and their occupants.


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The Little Red Riding Hood Murder


By Paul Steffan Jones AKA, 2017-07-05



The summer of 1946, the first since the end of World War Two, was a chance to appreciate the benefits of peace alongside the work of rebuilding the battered nation. Swansea had suffered catastrophically at the hands of the Luftwaffe, especially in a three night blitz in February 1942 in which over half of its town centre was destroyed . It was a time to at last look forward to the future. However, the tranquility of the nearby village of Penllergaer was disturbed in that hopeful June by a sadistic crime that remains unsolved and remembered to this day.

On the cold and rainy 27th afternoon of that month, 12 year old Muriel Drinkwater began to walk the last mile of her journey home from where the school bus had left her off, singing as she went. At the railway bridge, she met 13 year old Hubert Hoyles who was going in the opposite direction as he had visited her parents’ remote farm, Tyle Du, to buy black market eggs and butter. It was a rough path that meandered in and out of woodland and her mother caught a glimpse of her as she emerged onto a lane about 400 yards away only to disappear into the trees. She put the kettle on but would never see her again. When her daughter did not return home, she and her husband went to the village to search for her, assisted by a policeman and a dozen men as glowworms sparkled in the gathering gloom and mounting panic of the twilight forest.

The next morning, PC David Lloyd George found the red glove in the undergrowth that led him to Muriel’s body, her eyes open and one hand raised in a final, pleading and defensive action. She had beaten about her head, raped, and shot twice in her chest. Two days later, the police discovered the murder weapon close to where it had been used, a 1911 Colt .45 pistol that was found to have been manufactured in 1942 and issued to US forces in Europe. It was distinctive in that it had modified perspex grips. American troops had been billeted in a local mansion during the war and the police theorised that one of them may have been the source of the firearm. Food remains in the vicinity of the gun were evidence that the killer had lain in wait for his victim.

Scotland Yard detectives were brought in to support the investigation which was not uncommon in those days. Hubert Hoyles recounted seeing someone in the woods the week before the attack who was:- "30 years of age. Thick fluffy hair, stern looking and appeared agitated, had a menace about him...a wickedness. He was smart looking, wearing a brown corduroy trousers and a light brown sports jacket". The police visited every house in a 150 square mile area and interviewed 20,000 men. More than 3,000 mourners attended the schoolgirl’s funeral. The numbers are large but so far have added up to nothing as far as identifying the killer is concerned.

Strategic bombing had created an air of fatalism and a relaxation of inhibitions among some who existed in targeted, rearranged cities. There was a glut of guns available to those who wanted to further their criminal careers, whatever their objectives, whatever their needs. In February, George Orwell’s essay “Decline of The English Murder” had appeared in which he bemoaned the scarcity of the “perfect murder” to read about in one’s News of The World i.e. one committed by a solicitor or dentist whose outward respectability masked his decision to enlist poison to conceal his adultery and illicit financial affairs. Homicide was changing.

The author Neil Milkins suggests that the murderer could have been Harold Jones who killed two young girls in sexually motivated acts in Abertillery in 1921. He had been found not guilty of the murder of Freda Burnell, aged 8, and had been given a hero’s welcome on his return from his acquittal. Fifteen days later, he murdered Florence Little, aged 11. He pleaded guilty to both murders, most probably to save his neck as his 16th birthday and the gallows were fast approaching. He was released from Wandsworth Prison in 1941.

A team of retired detectives led by Paul Bethell, a former Detective Chief Inspector with South Wales Police, was set up to re-examine unsolved murders and decided to consider this case despite it being well outside its period of interest. As a result, a DNA profile was obtained from semen on the victim’s mackintosh in 2008 and it is believed that this is the oldest case in the world in which such a profile has been secured. To date, there has been no match in the UK National DNA Database, or to members of the murderer’s family in that database, but a link was established to the killing of 11 year old Sheila Martin who was raped and strangled with her own hair ribbon in woodland near the Brands Hatch Motor Racing Circuit in Kent on 7 July 1946, less than a fortnight after the death at Penllergaer.

In 2010, a decision was made by the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Council on National Records and Archives to remove the Muriel Drinkwater files from public view until 2032, to prevent the murderer, if still alive, finding out what the police knew 64 years after his crimes had been committed.

The point blank execution of a girl by an unknown assassin with a powerful handgun in a secluded place long ago was an act of brutal excess that still resonates in our own age of murder, regrettably accustomed as we have become to regular news of predation on children.

Muriel’s family left the area and their isolated smallholding has become subsumed by a modern housing development. This coldest of cold cases maintains a troubled presence in the minds of the elder inhabitants of the village while the mute witness of Penllergaer Forest continues to keep its secrets.


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