Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Gas Mask

Back in January 2009, my cousin Nadine committed suicide by putting a hose on the tail pipe of her car.
This had quite an effect on me.
It's funny the first thing that entered my mind on hearing the news was a gas mask and it started a burst of writing, drawings and designs based around this symbol of danger and fear.
SO here is a collection of the stories and images starting with the story I wrote about Nadie pretty much the same day I heard the news.

Life in a Gas Mask

It was hard to live your life with a gas mask on.
Distorting the words you wanted to really say and clouding the sights you wanted to see.
Nadine knew this.
For the last 30 years it had destroyed her marriage and alienated her children.
Alcohol seeped through the mask and diluted the bondage and made the mask a little easier to ignore.
Medication didn’t work when she took it and everybody told it did when she didn’t.
Then one day Nadine took the mask off and it was all so clear .
In her car with the windows up and the hose connected to the tail pipe.
As the cockroaches, mice , spiders and rats ignored the purring motor in the garage till the fuel run out.
Clarity was brief and so was the answer.

When in danger always copy nature.

The gas masks were always the first thing ripped off as soon the “All clear” sounded.

No matter how many times Thomas heard the second sirens he always felt a sense of over whelming relief as opposed to the warning sirens which filled him with the deepest dread and fear.
Surprising since they sounded exactly the same.
He often wondered if he ever slept through the first sirens and awoke to the second whether his mind would be able to tell the difference?

Best not to tempt fate.

All the other families where packing their gas masks back into their belt canisters and were making an orderly line out of the bunker.
No one said a word not sure what to expect when they reached the surface let alone the streets or their homes.

Thomas thought of his train set and his soldiers then automatically thought of his Dad, no letters for a couple of weeks had caused some distress in his Mum but Thomas was getting used to not having him around, Mum was a bit of a soft touch and let him stay up late.

As the entered back into the dull Saturday afternoon that was London’s early spring plumes of smoke were rising in the far distance and sirens could be heard, but just faintly.

“Looks like Islington got the brunt of it”
Thomas heard someone say.
Obviously no one had relatives over there because everyone walked hurriedly towards their homes in silence.

Thomas found himself dropping back, now certain his home will still be there when he got back (his mother however needed proof and rushed onward) He noted the rats had got a bit game and where boldly scampering on the rubble left by builders on one of the vacant lots used for clean ups of the bomb sites.

“I wish I was a rat” thought Thomas “No one to tell me what to do. Climb into small holes if the bombs come and not have to queue up for food with ration cards”

Thomas studied the rats as the went about their business and whilst tapping on his gas mask canister realised how much the neighbourhood looked like rats when the sirens wailed .How they all scurried to the bunker holes to get away from the blitz with rat snout like gas masks on their faces.

“ I wonder when the government’s gunna eventually fit us with little tails” Thomas thought and gave a little snort at his own joke.

On the way home Thomas passed the grocers who only opened every other day and looked in the window to view the half empty shelves.
Dairy products had been in short supply recently and the milk ration was low but just visible below the counter Thomas could see a block of yellow cheese.

He must make sure he makes Mum get up early tomorrow to queue uo to get some.

Lately he really missed the taste of cheese.


A favourite Sigor Ros piece featuring GasMasks

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