“The day the crow came began like any other.
The hunched, dawn-defying
shoulders of the town shrugged
plumb-lines of dew through a
skin of soot, and gave no notice
to the bird
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“There was a fog gathering on the ocean.
The people heard something
turning in its belly.
They said: it is the sound of cannons.
They said: it is the cackle of many guns.”
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The Boy with Nails for Eyes is the first section of a three-part novel-length comic.
In every life there comes a moment which teaches that the world and the child living in it are not the same thing.
This was Bobby’s moment.
He went back inside.
He went to bed as he always did.
But there swam, beneath the calm surface of his routine, a sensation of profound loneliness.
That night, the dreams began.
Imagine a sea creature – some strange deep-dweller that has hauled itself up onto the land, unfolded its tentacles, and fallen into a dank, troubled sleep. That is what the town looks like – a sprawling, beached creature, with bad dreams.
If you descended, sank into that town – if you wandered through its streets to the edge of he ocean, turned your back to the thick half-circle of chimneys that locked in the town on the landward side, and looked across the water, you would see monsters. Vast machines, behemoths striding to and fro, fighting one another across the horizon. The war.
Any day now, you might think, those great machines will turn their eyes in this direction, see the small town across the ocean, and turn lumberingly to destroy it.
The sky over the town is thick with crows.
All his short life Bobby has lived in this town. Now he too has begun to have bad dreams.
Night after night the dreams come. They set their saddles on the cells of his blood, chase one another whooping along the veins and arteries. Bobby is going mad.
One morning Bobby hugs his mother goodbye and sets off. But he isn’t going to school. He is heading for the old abandoned bunker, perched like a vulture on the hill at the town’s centre, fast by the shore.
There is more magic to be worked, in the black pit of the bunker.
The Boy with Nails for Eyes
In the Valleys of the Sea
“If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would discern them.
If to air, then touch. If to light, the eye.
If the world were turned to milk, or honey,
The tongue would trace through it both territories
Of bitterness and sweet, and constellate
A rainbow where they met. And if the world
Were thunder, the ear would breed a thunder
In it, and crib it in a residue of silence.
The world is fire.”
In the Valleys of the Sea is a verse play based on an ancient Greek myth, the story of Demeter in Eleusis.
Six months ago the Greek armies came, invaded Nira’s country, killed her husband. The land lost its name, became a principality of Greece – now Nira and her three children live in an occupied country.
Six weeks ago, the drought came. The wells dried, the crops withered, one by one the animals succumbed. The family began to starve; Demara, Nira’s youngest daughter, a baby, is soon very ill – dying.
And then the old woman came.
It was Iambe, Nira’s middle daughter, who spotted her out in the fields, stumbling, bleeding, delirious. Iambe and Kallithoe, Nira’s eldest, brought her into the house.
There the old woman babbles nonsense. She tells them she is the goddess Demeter. Her daughter was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld; now she searches the earth for her. It is she that has called down the drought, and has vowed it will remain until her daughter has been returned.
In the Valleys of the Sea is a verse play in three acts. It is going to be adapted into an opera by composer Ed Scolding.
the smooth cloud;
the calm water;
a million edges
bloom within a circle.”
Wreckage of Dreams
Night. A small raft, adrift on the sea with a dead engine, is alone under the moon.
In March 2011 seventy refugees fled Libya, heading for Europe across the Mediterranean. A few days into their journey, the engine died…
On Harrowdown Hill
In 2003 a body was discovered in an area of woodland known as Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire. It was identified as that of Dr David Kelly, who had been at the centre of the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ scandal during the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq…
In 2012 I entered two scripts into English National Opera’s Miniopera competition; both were selected as finalists.
Both of the scripts have been released to the public domain; several musicians and composers have already produced works based on them, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend performances of some of them in London and Gothenburg, Sweden.
Follow the links above to download either script in pdf or text format, and to listen to some of the pieces they have inspired.