Glossary for the Fragmented (Part II)

Gary Hartley
5 min readAug 23, 2023
Old tennis ball on ground
Photo: Santeri Viinamäki, via Wikimedia Commons

Note for users: None of this should be taken as read. Cross out any sentences you don’t like. Use margins for insults.


To have a thing, or even things: the most basic status symbol. Bags provide an ideal means of concealment, the prop in an elaborate piece of theatre. You could show off your things, indeed you might, but unless you’re walking through an official checkpoint on a national border or the entrance to a museum, or else being mugged, you’re not compelled to reveal the cause of the lumps in your carrying device. If it’s sand and chunks of brick, so be it; they’re your sand and chunks of brick. The beauty of such pure pragmatism cannot last. As a species we yearn to ruin things that have been running along fine, whether for ruination itself or out of some phoenix delusion. Now we make the bag an object in itself and all bets are off. Designer bags have been around since the early 20th century, when the wealthy began carrying at least some small items themselves. This is not about that. This is about the watershed around 1996, with the opening of Harvey Nichols in Leeds providing the provincials with a knowledge already known to the true metropolitans, which is thus: even the printed plastic or paper bag could confer, if not knowledge, at least a strong impression. Tote bags came along and stepped up the shift, offering ‘bag as moral/intellectual statement’, whether rooted in love of planet or simply enjoyment of reading. We cannot go back. Supermarket plastic bags now cost, but not prohibitive enough to stop us entirely. Our bags will not serve as adequate parachutes as we descend. The bump will come, and then both our bagged collections and bag collections will be revealed as nothing of consequence.

See also: BANKS, BITS


Second only to the wheel in the genre of ‘round thing innovations’, balls give so much delight, receive so much duress and ask for nothing — never the peep of a landmark case for better treatment and/or conditions, just the way we like it. A life of being kicked and beaten by joyous mobs. When a ball is kicked over the fence of a neighbour with a razor-toothed hound or hits a road or waterway, these could be interpreted as allowable revolts, a rolling into peril rather than a storming of the Bastille. It is easy to be cynical about the joy of mobs. Ball games are particularly vulnerable to extreme reductionism by their detractors. Kicking a bit of leather about, hitting a tiny ball towards a tiny hole 300 yards away, hitting a furry ball back and forth across a net of at best moderate height, all will be repeated as if new insight. These slurs should be thrown out to reside alongside a lost split tennis ball in a thick hedgerow housing several generations of woodlice and mites. Clear trajectories in our roll towards death are hard to find. Admiring known, some might say contrived, arcs may provide sly hints for our existential ‘spot the ball’ routines, and if they don’t, it is no sin to accept their exquisite, simplistic salve.

See also: FOOTBALL


We pretend we don’t feel the weight of the money just sitting there, feigning innocence. We have been told fantastical things, and it’s always a reassuring and pleasant sensation to believe in the fantastical. The whole idea is that we can club together and that’s all in our best interests, even when the world is beginning to show strong signs of being on fire and we’re only earning 0.05% interest. We cannot have the truth played out in prose or in song, we will grow extra hands quick-snap to cover both eyes and ears together. We should just leave what we have there, hidden among multitudes, safety and anonymity. Together we’re stronger, we can build roads and buildings and plough the fields, then wrestle with each other outside the doors when crashes happen, partially as a means of keeping warm, given the new knowledge that extreme weather can mean cold as well as hot. We can’t change, but we can, but it feels like an awful drag even when it’s all automated. The skyscrapers with big brand names and comprehensive security staff, we instinctively do not like them but they have simply been around so long. Staying power probably means something, right? Shutting doors and repackaging risk as something we truly own has a singular, hellish beauty. Hold ’em or risk it all. Trust. The comfort of impenetrable density and a decent colour scheme.


Parthenonb statues of blokes
Photo: Ian Glover


The joke, the half-joke, the idea that could be taken as a joke, it must all be expressed. It cannot remain untold, for the risk of it festering in within-skull privacy and lichen growing upon its remains. Put it out there into the beyondness and hope for reward, risking humiliation or worse, silence. Total ubiquity of funny has somehow made the world significantly less net-funny. Our stocks are falling as they seem ever-more abundant; mathematics as we know it cannot spit out a valid equation, it must fall on its own sword and we will all laugh, assuming deft stage-trickery with a wink and a click of the tongue. Dating profiles often specify banter as a criterium of coupling, when there’s so much out there just waiting to be consumed, not dependant on any social relationship with the banter purveyor. Perhaps it would be wiser to seek a de-bantered partnership, bringing much-needed respite in a domestic setting before diving back out the door into a banter-filled world.



Even living alone, the battle to keep on top of the general accumulation of bits — bodily scraps and those dragged in from outdoors — is a losing one. Domestic bits are hard to like: a constant reminder that the Great Outside will take any chance to swallow civilisation up in a mound of dirt and that our work will never be done. Bits in an outside context and it’s a different story. When not alone and serious enough about it to formalise the arrangement, expect to have bits rained down on you, your rapt public revelling in license to litter. What were coloured paper became plastic became largely paper again, a certain sort of ethical consciousness nudging into proceedings. No-one really wants to think of turtles and puffer fish with guts full of confetti on their Big Day, so let the entourage take care of that. We live in a world of bits and we cannot make a radical peace (piece?) pact with this fact. If only we could sweep them to the side and look at only the things that give the impression of being complete, ever-solid. If only we could. Get the hoover out and try again, then open the bag over the nearest pair of strangers holding hands.




Gary Hartley

Writer of different things. Come for the insects, stay for the odd literary works, or vice versa. @garyfromleeds