Monday, 18 August 2014

Going Electric. Again...



Just about the time Dire Straits became a global phenomenon selling a gazillion copies of Brothers In Arms with a daft song about custom kitchen deliveries I had succeeded in achieving a new all time financial low.

While Sting and Mark Knopfler were experimenting with cutting-edge computer cartoon characters bisected with graph paper squares that boogied across their chiselled and tanned faces I was trying my hand at seeing how far I could make a bag of Safeway basic porridge last.

After dinner smokes were rolled from fourth generation butts bulked out with dried nettle leaves.

Aside from hair-loss, I had little in common with Sting and Mark Knopfler.

No, looking back on my life now, I’d say my career has run in parallel with that of Bob Dylan. I got to meet him once and I told him so.

It dawned on me, as I held my concert ticket that even Bob Dylan has to sleep somewhere. And the answer my friend, was obvious.

I drove down to the Royal Bath Hotel where the concierge was dressed in a pink Sgt. Pepper suit. He looked one way and I went the other. The receptionist was busy on the phone. Like all hotel lobbies, this one contained pot plants. Except here the plants were as tall as trees with leaves the size of elephant ears.

Without stopping to think about what I was doing, I shimmied up the nearest tree and waited.

How long passed in this way? I can’t say. At some point I must have drifted off listening to the soporific quality of the long, dusty silences as I traced the patterns in the Turkish rug. Sometimes the clack of shoes on the marbled tiles. Nodding off in the top of a tree is not a good idea. I would definitely advise against it.

But after a while I heard the whoosh of the lift doors opening and a white ten-gallon hat appeared above tight black trousers and the coolest pair of snakeskin boots this side of town.

I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of the situation. Bob had written a song about going into the lobby of a strange hotel. But now I was in his place and he was the king. I saw straight away that he had pencilled on a moustache. I told him that I liked it and he said ‘thanks man’ as he signed the record sleeve I handed him.

Back outside, pleased to have accomplished my mission, I took a drag on my tobacco free cigarette.

Like Dylan, I had gone electric.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Jamaica Inn



Mary's hair floats like smoke. She looks out of the stage-coach window. Her face blurred by rain on glass as the drama unfolds.

The men are very thin and have hungry eyes.

The landscape they live in is cold and difficult to navigate due to the Vaseline smeared on the lens.

By the end of the first episode I’m not sure who is a friend here.

Who is good, who is bad.
Where redemption
will finally come from.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Ford Transit With A Flat Battery

In recognition of some kind of application to study, I was rewarded with responsibility. They put in charge of managing the school stage which meant coming in early when all of the others were condemned to be locked out in the frozen yard.

It meant rigging up the OHP and locating the correct hymn, typed onto a transparency that the Dracula frocked Head Master requested.

The one I dreaded was Holy, Holy, Holy.

Because it was the Head Master's favourite, this hymn came along quite often.

It was a horror.

The transparency was three pages long on. It was the Devil's own job to keep it straight so that the words didn't appear crooked on the projection screen.

It was like hanging wall paper. When you are very drunk.

One slip and the whole thing could fall from my hands. The kids in the hall knew it, too.

I'd kneel at the OHP and start to line up the transparency feeling the pressure of a thousand eyes boring into the back of my head willing me to slip up.

The spotlights would beam down on my neck, my fingertips would start to slick with sweat.

Worse still, despite the universal hatred for the hymn that the Head Master alone seemed to love, the Head was very particular about how it should be sung.

With intense powers of concentration, I'd line the transparency up on the glass of the OHP, the bright bulb blurring and burning in my eyes. I'd hold it as straight as I could as the dead weight of pages to 2 and 3 conformed with the rules of gravity. I'd look up at the screen and see the opening lines nicely straight and in focus on the screen.

The Reverend would start to play the piano and the droning of 500 students would fill the hall with all of the energy and vibrancy of a Ford Transit with a flat battery.

'Stop! Stop!' the Head Master would shout.

'Come on. You can do better than this. Put some effort into it!'

And off we'd go again.

But by this time the hymn had slipped slightly off to one side.

This meant that by the time we'd reached verse 3 I'd be in real trouble. How to feed the hymn over the OHP without dramatically wiggling the transparency to get the words back on course again?

Keep going.

The spotlights beaming down on my neck. On my knees, neck exposed and the OHP before me an executioner's block.

'No! No!'

The Head Master roared so loudly that I almost dropped the transparency altogether.

'Look. It's Hoe-ly, Hoe-ly, Hoe-ly. Not 'oly, 'oly, 'oly. The word has an aitch in front of it. And you at the back, yes you, stop yawning boy.'

I think that it was on around the third run through, the students now finally finding gear because they realised that there was no other way to get out of this one, and the Head Master was booming along happily in his Dracula cape that my trembling hand somehow managed to travel across the power button and trip it into the OFF position.

'Hoe-ly, Hoe...leeee'...

And everything went dark.


An updated version of an older post . Published here in a revised format  after fresh research has enabled the author to facilitate a  different approach to reveal the  historical accuracy of this significant moment in the late twentieth century British educational system.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

All This Rain!

Throw back the covers. The house, completely silent.
Inside five minutes, I'm hitting the road.

Run. Breath smoking in the early morning cold.
Sometimes rain, soaking my hair. The estate perfectly quiet.

Keep going, past cars and drives and neatly clipped lawns
until I've left the town behind and fields begin.

Stone walls, dripping trees.

Slate water babbling in the bowl of the reservoir.

Heart pounding, breath smoking.

Put my hands on the mossy walls and lap in all that water.

All that rain...

The grey water constantly moving, rippling,
swerving to the walls of the reservoir.

Photo: Su Joy

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Three Legged Tales - Tail Two: The Handbag

Mrs Smith is delighted with her new bag.

She can't help smiling every time she looks at it. Which is fairly often. Times have been rough lately, but Norman has finally come up trumps with this gift. Red leather with lots of brassy bits. Plenty of room inside for everything a girl needs to carry.

She feels like everyone on the beach must surely notice her brand new leather bag as they walk by.

Pete the Pins and Tom, the three-legged labrador pass by. But, to tell the truth, neither of them notice Mrs Smith's brand new bag or have any idea what a sacrifice good old Norman has made to show that he still loves his wife after all.

The fact is, Pete the Pins is somewhat pre-occupied.

For some reason he hasn't been appointed as acupuncturist for the Laurels Clinic. He runs the interview back through his mind like a film trying to identify where his interview technique might have let him down.

Disconsolately, Pete lobs a pebble into the sea.

Tom lurches into the sea and comes up with a pebble in his mouth which he deposits at his master's feet. Pete chucks it back in again. Tom flounders after it. Pete wonders if it really is the same pebble that the dog brings back. Can dogs, amazing and sensitive creatures that they are, detect smell under water?

Pete lobs another pebble into the sea. The dog, all smiles and slobber, brings it back. Lob, pebble, slobber, lob, pebble, slobber over and over. A pointless, mechanical game. An hour goes by before Pete wearies of the sport.

Tom looks game for another two hours at least.

Pete walks back the way they had came towards a beach café. The dog follows, water dripping from its coat and tail.

Neither of them stop to admire Mrs Smith's brand new red leather bag.

Pete orders a cup of tea. The dog lies outside, slobbering. Pete drinks his tea and runs the interview through his mind once more. A pointless, mechanical way of thinking that the dog certainly wouldn't have bothered with for more than a minute.

But Pete looks game for another two hours at least.

Pete orders another tea. The dog lurches to his three feet and walks towards the beach. Pete's not unduly worried. He knows the dog won't go far.

The dog heads towards Mrs Smith and her brand new bag. The bag is open because Mrs Smith can't help looking inside it every three minutes or so. A pointless, mechanical activity she never grows tired of.

Right now, she's looking out to sea and wondering how she can ever thank Norman for this beautiful gift.

Tom reaches the bag, sniffs the contents and starts going through that weird doggie convulsion that is a preliminary to vomiting.

The dog pukes around three gallons of sea water into Mrs Smith's lovely brand new red leather bag.

Mrs Smith screams.

'Who owns this dog?'

Pete decides to linger on in the café for a bit longer after all.


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