Songs of Bliss
War and Peace
Beyond the immediate sprawl of the hospital buildings Barnstaple fades quickly in
Billy's rear view mirror, not that he is at all aware of the mirror, signal, manoeuvre process.
Images of Bex merge with shots of junkies in their Trainspotting brutality; threadbare
interiors, screams and shouts, blue lights, shadows, blank faces, anonymous dealers, and
spliced into the sequence he sees Jock Cascarino's smug face as he tells Billy to buck- up his
ideas and get a plan. A plan. Billy can barely see the road through his tears. Planning
requires forethought and Billy is running on blind instinct.
Houses give way to fields, to the high banked hedgerows of the rural Devon
landscape, to broken down fences and dilapidated field gates. Trees, where they stand in
thin knots, are bent and misshapen, pointing out the path of least resistance to Atlantic
squalls. Global warming turns Easter daffodils paper brown. Clumps of primrose are
already bursting through the early grass heads as cows lay down in fields under a changing
sky. Late lambs follow their mothers, blissfully unaware that this brave new world of ovine
possibilities and green, green grass is short on time. Billy wipes a sleeve across his face and
gets a noseful of his own odour, of dried bile and mohair. Lambs to the slaughter. The
images of Bex in her hospital bed, wired and comatose, loop back inside his head and the
tape plays again, but there?s still no soundtrack.
Diversification. A neatly hand painted sign outside a farm entrance proudly boasts
that you can hire ball gowns and hats as well as buy the obligatory free range eggs. Billy
reads it as he flashes by and he starts to laugh out loud. Ludicrous bloody people. The
madness of taffeta and slurry cuts into his thoughts; maids a- milking dressed in chiffon and
silk, wearing elbow length gloves and tiaras. Billy has to jink right as he approaches a hard
right hand bend, narrowly avoiding the chevron signage in the hedgerow, and, oblivious to
the state of the road behind him, he slams on the brakes, white lining, and slides to a halt.
Autopilot kicks in. He manages to edge the car onto the hard packed ruts of a field entrance
and, bending forward, he rests his head on the soft plastic of the steering wheel. The car
lurches and stalls as Billy's foot slips off the clutch, its bonnet buried in a thick ly matted
wall of hawthorn and beech.
Billy sits hunched over the steering wheel for five minutes, letting the tears fall. He
gulps back the sobs, but his entire being is in shock. He wants Bex to wake up so badly and
tries to imagine her opening her eyes, tries to will her awake. Every time he sees her
invented face open its eyes he also sees his dishevelled self sitting by her bed holding her
hand, but no matter how many times he wills her back into the waking world, the daydream
is spoiled, is broken apart. Every time that Bex wakes, Jock walks into the room and
whispers in Billy's ear; „Got to have a plan, Billy, got to have a plan?. Strangely the dream
Jock has no trace of his usual Glaswegian guttural harshness.
The road is quiet and Billy is vaguely aware of bird song, of blackbirds and robins
marking territory and singing out loud to keep their tiny little hearts from bursting. A
couple of cars whoosh by, the occupants clearly unwilling to take to notice of the shape of a