Wednesday 18 November 2020



by Evan Hay

still water

Len Sell is principal consultant at Leisure Arts PLC, manufacturer of the world-famous Bullworker- its UK head office based in Kings Cross, a stone’s throw from intelligent cultured people in beautiful Islington, & despite a fair degree of gentrification, still squatting like a melanoma upon the crown of brainy Bloomsbury. Accessing reception via a no-nonsense steel-glass portal on the Euston Road, my humble press-pass credentials were checked, & announced by a 30-something woman in corporate livery (her tarrying stare over the top of a pair of ‘Jimmy Choo’ glasses, allowed a meaningful hiatus). Despite her material uniform, everything else- her powerful hair-style, multi-coloured acrylics, remarkable piercings, tattoos, bright blue contact-lenses, spoke of somebody adrift upon salty seas of superficial narcissism; vaguely unaware of themselves in any context beyond a most limited rote perspective. Fancying myself an investigative journalist, I sparked a dialogue (whilst awaiting door supervisor clearance, & Len’s call from upstairs, heralding his readiness to receive me); in the course of conversation, she inadvertently disclosed that she’d sampled a fleeting education, part of a student loan-financed degree in photography, but lacked aptitude, or sufficient drive, to complete her course, utilise its basic insights within another creative profession, or feel inspired to hatch a comparatively beneficial, albeit unrelated idea for gainful employment, & a career path out of here. As Len’s busy morning continued to detain him, & nobody else awaited reception, I persisted- discovering she now dossed in her Filipina mother’s modest council tenancy on nearby Purchese Street, a security industry authority licence, qualifying her to work reception, was acquired FOC via Jobseekers, & her single mother’s perfectly happy with her casual familial company (evoking Southeast Asian childhood memories of quaint village life, I fancied). I certainly didn’t strive to spread manure in their bed of roses, yet pressing on, I established that my interlocutor was heavily indebted, & furthermore, wholly unaware of her ancestral homes toponomastic link to Philip II, or all those Spanish-American-Filipino wars. Inter alia, the prevailing atmosphere changed from chatty, to awkward, so we were mutually relieved when word arrived for me to elevate.

Travelling vertically, I supposed much of my time was foolishly wasted on academic tosh, fearing my long-held notion, of a little learnt history strengthening one’s character, was exposed as a vain pipe-dream- not central to a poor boy’s wants & needs. As, if all self-awareness resulted in was- an acknowledgement of one’s place in a precariat, a smelly, shitty-dark place- & didn’t transport one anywhere better, then of what use was such insight for lower castes like myself? Fortunately, no additional precious time was contemplatively squandered, segued into an art-house rêverie, starring me as ‘Last Guy Standing’, imprisoned, abandoned by comrades, marooned from joining their collective progress, stuck with only old Maslow’s dirty, ugly, sloppy, nasty mother as punitive cell-mate. Saved by a bell, the lifts doors opened, & my scheduled appointment welcomed me with an affected smile. At first glance, Len resembles a sort of mythical cisgender geezer, who scoffs three whole chickens every hour, whilst bench-pressing fourteen-hundred weights twice as often as not. But, in mundane actuality, he principally confirms one’s nagging concern, that in our synthetic world, ruled by innumerable fictions; a solution to one problem’s simply the genesis of a dozen more. Undeterred, Len bulges indiscreetly through a tasteless, off-the-hanger, salt-&-pepper suit; flirting, posing, yet enjoying little capability for grandeur, communicating rather in a slightly serious, utterly unattractive tone- not unlike a police constable: he has standard-issue brains to match. Consequently, I struggled to coherently balance being there, with what was apparently available, & on offer. At a glance, a non-descript open-plan office clearly portrayed a subdued, flustered telesales workforce, conspicuously chipping at coalface. Regrettably, I witnessed a spotty looking youngster, akin to a schoolboy, rudely dismissed- after having sought assistance in call-handling a typical prospect’s objection, the kid was berated by an office manager behemoth, proud tartan tent-dressed possessor of a granite hard, resting-bitch face; disinterested in her puny wards pleas for occupational guidance, she scolded: ‘I don’t know, I don’t want to fucking know, so why don’t you fuck off?’ Seemingly, certain ostentatiously adept performers, theatrically embodied the right stuff, created an all-or-nothing atmosphere, where inefficient, unreceptive, or un-admiring colleagues, are summarily stigmatised as defective, or reactionary. As a reflex, I offered cordial greetings, remarking how busy business appeared to be, enquiring, despite myself, if he experienced a high-turnover of staff. My query seemed to puzzle, rather than irritate, only for a moment, & Len clicked straight into tub-thumping missionary mode- retelling a well-worn tale of his products stirring back-story, plugging its efficacy, confidently revealing, with a sweep of his arm, that all Leisure Arts employees receive generous discounts on both products, & private healthcare insurance- pimped up by fiscal incentives. Citing a new government tax-relief program, took us on a minor NHS diversion. In a fatidic register, Len advocated against poor planning inherent in publicly funded healthcare systems, predicting ours would implode in the coming few years, despite billions poured in, as all public sector monies inevitably evaporate PDQ. Crystal to him, was a dire need to ring-fence public services into a pay-as-you-go stratagem, with sensibly curtailed options, based on sound transformational leadership, essential to underpin sustainable excellence- expressing in conclusion that our current crop of quacks were out of their depth, jumped up social workers, a lamentable shower, unequipped to get laid in a proverbial. I imagined him to be the right man, in an ideal part of town, to consummate this fantasy.

Telesales is critical to effective sales growth, & Len, a self-styled strong man, heading up a Can-Do cult of target orientated closers, keeps Bullworker’s RRP undiminished, & subsequently its numbers way ahead of competitors. However, challenges never fade away; one’s objective is to forever surmount the next hurdle. Key to survival in a brutal world is power; private, independent tactical intelligence, disseminated by the fittest, for those masses to follow to the letter. And one should never get bored by success! Len was on a descanting roll by now. There’s no scope for cycles of feast & famine; uncertainty simply can’t be allowed to factor. Hence, an aspiring apprentice needs to learn a victorious methodology, rinse & repeat, without question. Like a master butcher, continuously sharpening blades- a tried & tested formula, no deviation allowed, or forgiven. History spawns aberrations like socialism, but if we’re to prosper, we have to obediently lockstep in line. Is the vision the mission, or is the mission the vision I wondered, at which he closed, leaning over me like a benign dictator, before relaxing, & in a masterful haptic response, taking me by an arm- a prelude to announcing: ‘Come. I’ve more to show you.’

Digression over, moving into his personal office, secluded by its privacy blinds, affording a handy hide from whence to espy his team; assisted by a neat PowerPoint presentation, Len insisted state-of-the-art biological researchers prove muscles actually desire exercise- a healthy percentage of supine readers will be vexed to learn, that despite their inclinations to the contrary, their miniscule muscles crave ambitious expansion. So, imagine you're interested in bodybuilding, & having used a chest expander, gave up due to repeated nipple tweaking- then prepare to resurrect your pectorals, & thank the Bull of Leipzig, Gert L. Dumbbell, for the pleasure. Unexpectedly, post presentation, Len appeared emotional, conveying tears-in-the-eyes-honesty, as carefully, he tenderly set up an old black & white amateur film screening. Surely shot on a Pathé-Baby 9.5mm movie camera, incredibly survived after all these tumultuous years, it was a chaotic home movie- Genesis in flickering moving pictures, featuring the true creator, the one & only Dumbbell. Seeing the big man, albeit on celluloid, lent a human face to Len’s enterprise. The short film ended; Len took up the story of this late great idealist, one who had set such high standards for followers to measure their efforts against. It truly was a moving experience. A graduate from of the premiere C20 European school of hard-knocks- an unplanned, unwanted love child, from a couple of dishonourably discharged Edelweiss Pirates. Herr Dumbbell single-handedly invented principles of isometric contraction; Stierarbeiter was an instant success, adding value to grey lives behind the iron curtain, where one day followed another, in a meaningless succession of light & darkness, full of hyper-normalised ritual. Materialising out of the gloom, in a command & control society, saddled with dystopian economics, irresponsibly blighted by suicidal monetary stringency, dreamt up to maintain power & prestige, enjoyed by its entrenched politburo elite, which resulted in crippling deflation for the mensch in the street- Bullworker provided an outlet for pent up frustrations; so much so that just using one was an act of athletic rebellion- an effort to stay strong, in a milieu of systematic enfeeblement. Early classic Bullworker models traded high above their standard retail price, as an embryonic Dumbbell cottage industry struggled to keep pace with strong egalitarian demand for his invention’s non-monetary purpose. Durable, portable, uniform, widely accepted, initially in limited supply- unsurprisingly Gert, a lush tyro entrepreneur, still a callow teenager, decided to risk all, by escaping to West Berlin, taking his prototype with. What followed represents history, & legend: scientists & doctors’ worldwide work actively to spread Get’s particular iso-type of exercise, embodied in the isotonic contraption that’s Bullworker. Many European government health bodies (most Belgian hospitals too apparently) routinely order Bullworker models. Each member of the East German Olympic teams trained with it in preparation for the Games; it receives favourable mention on television & radio, so sales increase monthly, especially in fitness crazy California This popularity, along with a bullying incident on the beach, prompted me to visit Leisure Arts Limited, in order to conduct an enquiry into isometric equipment. But, after all this dramatic melancholy, I just felt like a complete twat. What the fuck was I doing with my life?

Whoever said that the basis of an authentic relationship is the autonomy of self, & the freedom of another, was definitely a trustafarian. Still, I definitely embarked upon this line of journalistic work desiring to be conscionable; a sniffer & snorter, imbued with integrity- OK, maybe not Seymour Hersch, or Julian Assange, but someone solid, credible, breaking stories, not stones, in the public interest. Yet here I am, reduced to the flaccid status of bum, bound to a boring descent into visceral decay; humourless damnation- levity-free travails upon a pitiless wheel of time increasingly incline me to question my purpose, when polishing copy nobody really digests. A spiralling cost of living forces me take on just about any freelance gig going; as a result I cover far too many topics, for inexplicable post truth editors, at the glossy helms of vacuous advertorial trade magazines, into which, for reasons I’ve now quite forgotten, I limply attempt to tactically sprinkle sparse elements of whistle-blowing copy, to reflect my ongoing cognitive dissonance. Last night’s deadline had been a close-run call; just before midnight I filed my Trade Stock Investment article, with a bottom-line caveat, quoting Paul Volker, along the alarming lines of: nihilistic forces dismantling monetary, fiscal, all democratic governmental policies, especially voting rights- capturing regulatory bodies, & the concept of honesty itself.  No one bats an eyelid. A few troubled hours sleep later, in a complicit world of electoral fraud, corporate control, endless wars, & Ponzi schemes, I’m in the British Library, prepping for today’s bog-standard interview, aiming at ultra-professionalism, but struggling in the sociopathic face of a gargantuan, ham acting gimp, this deranged, second-hand sales-whore. 'There’s absolutely no hype involved, forget Charles Atlas, we simply produce a genuine commodity.’

          Struggling to get a grip, I wondered whether it would work on a feebler frame than that of Len Sell. Mr. Sell’s cheesy grin was not born of embarrassment; it definitely conveyed a magnanimous superiority. 'Young man, you will achieve nothing without maximum effort in this world, believe me, I know. But if you look after your body, persevere, & never lose faith, then Bullworker will reward you with a very powerful physique indeed. And this, I assure you, will engender a very healthy respect from your peers.’ From then on, he lectured me listless in his droning copper’s voice, as regards vitamins, vitality, & athleticism in general. He was keen I followed up this afternoon’s presentation with a visit to my local south London Bullworker Fitness Group, where I’d meet participating members in their sweaty flesh, maybe in immodest mankini’s, & completely at ease, hear about their heart-warming journey’s first hand. What’s not to like? Well, I couldn’t help noticing his breath reeked of protein. In fact, he unashamedly broke wind without breaking sentence: it was the eggiest sort of a fart. Now, I'm not the earth's most vigorous man; Len Sell more or less told me I was an ego-feeding, comfort seeking weed. Unsurprisingly he offered me a Bullworker on a week’s approval, encouraging me to strive for increased power to enhance my innate manliness. I was tempted to suggest tu quoque; that he ties a breezeblock around his bell-end to enhance his. Upon second thoughts, I quickly reversed my decision. Not that I was scared of the big meatball, rather it struck me, that with the likes of Sell, rudimentary penis enlargement has previously occurred, no doubt upon entry into some sort of vacuum-operated device, bestowed to him upon joining a Skull & Bones type of members-only, homo-erotic, high school fraternity. He advised me, I quote- 'Eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, milk, & cheese, as often as you can'. The mind boggles. Hardly had I time to safely swallow this piece of savoury pabulum, when he, without warning, hoisted his hulking frame off its immense arsehole, to begin jogging merrily on the spot. To my horror he lurched toward me, lifted me onto my feet, in his aim to liven me up, & end our interview on a high note. Naturally I struggled; succeeding in unbalancing Man Mountain, together we performed a strange tense waltz across a few yards of leased office space. Hereabouts, I laughed nervously, guessing at how girls must feel, when realising they're about to be overpowered by a rampant physicalist intent upon a ten-fingered grapple. I mean had Mr. Sell been quick enough to force me into a half-nelson, Christ alone knows what should have become of me. Still, I may not be very big, but I can run when required; thankfully I've lived to tell this tale- spell check, word count, & email it off, along with my modest invoice, before anxiously awaiting late payment. So, summing up, in my revered estimation, there are basically two types of merchandise on offer in a post-modern, free-market my friend (each reliant on the doxa, stock rhetorical devices, those radical commonplaces of salesmanship); one’s pukka, whilst the other’s shmatah. I fear Sell’s Bull-Working, adolescent, dream-catching contrivance, to be the latter (falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus). The only thing it'll build up’s a varicose vein; in short, don't self-immolate, waste precious money, or evenings, sat on a plastic chair in your local A&E. However, for those determined wimps, well, necessity is your big bad mother of invention- & you ought to expect to pay no more than £135 cash for any Bullworker combination. Devoid of succour, I'm sure as a self-help hobby it’ll prove a tad lonely, won't seed charisma, an engaging personality, or pull crumpet- but it will almost certainly cause rectal piles, with attendant mouth ulcers. Best of luck, you'll need it, along with a cheeky pair of flagrantly trade-marked support stockings.        

About the author 

E F Hay exists in Britain & rather than follow spurious leaders- over the years has intermittently found it therapeutic to write out various thoughts, feelings & ideas as short stories, to be examined, considered, & interpreted by clinical practitioners, who may offer professional psychological assistance.                                                                                                           

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