Posts Tagged The English Dragon

Fiction: Extracts from the English Dragon

EXTRACTS from The English Dragon
It was the working-class where common sense prevailed. It was the working-class
which rejected political correctness and yet took the brunt of its senseless
dictates. But the working-class was becoming an anachronism. Vast parts of the
country were peopled with those without hope. Stuck in tiny houses clumped in
soul-less estates – wired up to Sky Sport through ugly satellite dishes – men
watched footie and sons bunked off school. Women did the housework and earned
money part-time. Daughters journeyed into granite towns and hung outside
Macdonalds’ burger bars. Spitting with the best of them – tossing cardboard cups
and flaky plastic trays onto dirty pavements. The older generation tutting and
remembering greater hardships faced during and before the last war.
It was the working-class which oiled the communities of the richer peoples
with their electrical skills, their odd-jobbing; their mechanical ability. It
was “underclass” kids who stole and fenced goods; snorted crack and “twocced”
middle-class cars owned by middle-class drivers. It was the working-class that
took the brunt of social engineering. Listened to pale politicians and Sari
wearing social workers as they puffed on cheap cigarettes.

Oliver reserved the first circle for the writers of novels who censored their
own work so not to fall foul of politically-correct editors and publishers. For
the makers of films who dared not shoot with integrity; who satisfied their
masters. For the artists who spoke of freedom of expression and painted,
sculpted, crafted, composed in a mental strait-jacket. All the fey and
faint-hearted artists he would put there…the third circle – always getting
tighter and fouler he put the television presenters who voiced only one point of
view – that of the prevailing all-pervading media-dogma – and the queens of the
Channel 4 chat shows baring white teeth and platitudes.
The underground train stopped and expired through its hissing-lung doors. Lights
and fetid air sucked them in…
Oliver thought about the next circle. Tight. Close. Fleshy. Hot. Putrid.
Full of pain. Peopled it with social-worker busy-bodies who were inflexible. Who
tore apart families not for that family’s benefit but for the dogma of their own
Oliver smiled and listened. He heard the rush of air as the tube slotted
back into a tunnel after breathing outside air for a moment, flooding in light.
Heard the clank of the wheels and their horrific squealing. Felt the buzz of
electricity as it snapped its power into the mechanical worm. Felt this power
invigorate the worm.

Oliver thought about Ben and how in each passing second and minute, with each
passing hour and day he was opening up to an accumulated history of the country.
As he grew he had to take on so much. There was a constant bubbling up of the
past. The sap of history (containing everything that made the present what it
was) flowed through to the present – informed the future. Oliver saw tree after
tree being felled. A vast forest of collective consciousness; a vast woodland of
experience was being chopped and sawn. Vast swathes of forest were being
cleared. And in the clearings concrete was being poured in and shaped into
boxes. “Isn’t that better?” “Isn’t the forest better now that there are boxes
inside it?” “The earth and trees are no different from the concrete boxes.” “The
trees belong to the past.” “Concrete boxes are our future.”

In the late afternoon, before the clocks had been turned back he heard the
jumble of noise reverberating. Heard the “House” music; the rap music; the
drum’n’bass; the soul music; the trash and punk; the new R’n’B; heard laughter
and shouting; scooters revving past; cars with smoky exhausts cruising slowly;
clattering of dustbins and shrieks of children. This was another London. A
London as valid as any other. A London without a voice. A tired and cynical
London. Close to the creep of gentrification. Of the creep of money without
values. No Gentlemen. No gentleness in the painted facades. Oliver pulled up his
collar. It was the first day of Spring. And as he thought this thought a bird
appeared out of nowhere – a blackbird – and briefly sang close by him. It was
only the second Spring his son had ever known.

And it was proved that I was a distraction because by all accounts the trio did
very well that late Saturday morning in Oxford Street. And they did not beg. The
weather was changeable but the rain held off and I was eventually kitted out in
some rather fine baby ware after a short visit to an upmarket “everything one
could possibly want for one’s baby” shop. The exploits of the gang soon bored me
as I became more and more fascinated with the sights of the crowded street. It
appeared that – even for a baby – I had lived a sheltered existence. For I had
never seen so many different types of faces and styles of hair and ranges of
body. There were grey haired grandmothers with studs in their noses; black
skinned girls wearing robes wrapped about them and jewellery draped from every
part of their skin; women with yellowy-brown skin and thin material flapping
behind them or trailing on the spit-flecked pavement; men with ashen faces and
shaven heads (like giant babies); grown
men and women in metal chairs dwarfed by the thrumming crowd; black and white
faces with hats turned back to front and trousers joined at the knees (were they
wearing nappies like me?); men in football shorts with earrings and tattoos;
women with very short skirts and painted on faces; men in sharp suits with hair
like helmets…yes, yes, yes, this all fascinated my growing mind. It is a wonder
I could take it all in. But it was all being taken in. That is the way of minds.


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Book review: The English Dragon by Tim Bragg

English Dragon book cover

Click on image to buy this book!

The English Dragon
ISBN 1903313023
Athelney £5.95
Paper – 256 pages

The English Dragon is the story both of loss of innocence and the quest for the meaning of identity. A baby is kidnapped from a railway station in London and his father, Oliver, vows to find him. Part of the narrative is conveyed through the eyes of the baby/toddler – Ben. In the father’s search he is taken from a rural setting into the depths of London – and he continually asks what it means to be English. While handing out leaflets carrying a photograph and details of Ben (and approximate time of abduction), he meets a young man called Adam. Adam is a poet and runaway. Adam has information that will help find the child. The baby, Ben, gets caught up in the kidnap gang’s life. Shoplifting, drug taking and a bizarre appearance on the Harry Hangar Show (surely not a satirical stab at Jerry Springer?) comprise some of these events. As the baby’s story unfolds there is a degree of both horror and humour, with English contemporary culture exposed and often ridiculed.

Oliver, Ben’s father, is lead to the squat where Ben has been taken. Adam seems to have had problems while he lived there. By a twist of fate Adam meets members of the squat, on a bridge over the Thames, as they take Ben into the centre of London. After a brief exchange of insults Adam is thrown from the side of this bridge. The gang, led by Johnny, laugh this off and continue with their fun.

Oliver keeps an all night vigil at the squat and eventually comes face to face with Johnny and the gang as they return with Ben. A fight entails between Johnny and Oliver. Oliver triumphs and later his family are re-united. In the meantime it transpires that the old rectory in the village near where they live is to house asylum-seekers and Oliver’s wife, Rowan, has been asked to teach English. Wishing to agree to this she first asks Oliver’s opinion. He, both emotionally and morally sums up the dilemma of asylum-seekers entering England. Rowan is shown as someone who draws strength from the Romantic Poets. After Ben’s abduction she is left at their small-holding to look after the animals she and Oliver have taken in – and await news re her critically ill father. During the novel, and after visiting the vicar, she goes to an evangelical Christian meeting at the church. This both unnerves and shocks her. During the service “Ben” “talks” to her through one of the congregation “speaking in tongues”.The English Dragon is a daring and radical book. The mere fact that it discusses England and Englishness will probably upset some people – that it also dares to examine political-correctness and modern culture in a fair-minded and open fashion will be enough to slay the beast in the minds of many. For the bolder, stronger reader then The English Dragon might have an extremely sobering effect. This novel challenges.

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