Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Newsagent

Let's not beat about the bush: the boy's fat. There's no other way to put it. He has a thatch of yellow hair and angry eyes that smoulder with something unpleasant. Eyes are the window to the soul. At the very least, this is a boy who's pulled the legs off of a spider or given some innocent cat a good kicking. He wears a white shirt that accentuates the red in his cheeks.

Mr Watts walks the length of the room to where the boy is sitting. He walks behind the row of desks and looks over his shoulder. Some urge wants him to identify this boy, put a name to the unpleasant face. His name is printed on his exercise book and it stops Mr Watts in his tracks. Hits him like a slap in the face, puts a chill in his heart. Not the Christian name, that's innocuous enough. But that last name – he knows it. It's so singular that he just has to be one of them.

Mr Watts travels back in time some forty years to stand outside a newspaper shop. It's a small shop with window frames and door painted black like a funeral parlour. There's a rack next to the door loaded with the day's newspapers with their garish red and black names. The local rag – The Western Gazette has its letters printed in a Gothic typeface that makes him think of words chiseled onto a very old and creepy tombstone.

Inside, the shop is narrow and long. That peculiar smell – an olfactory amalgam of newspapers, nougats, toffees, walking sticks and tobaccos hits his nose. Brown and black combs, banded to card, hang from the ceiling. A tall and ancient gaunt man in a black suit waits behind the counter. He wears a blue bow-tie and his cheekbones are very prominent. His hair is white and slicked back with Brylcream. He could have been a matinee idol if he didn't look so cadaverous. Instead, he looks like a character from a Hammer Horror. He looks the boy up and down - looks right through him with his glassy blue eyes and asks him to go through, behind the wooden counter where, he says, he has something for him.

Oh, he doesn't want to through there. Oh, how he'd like to turn and run but can't, his legs paralysed under him, his eyes transfixed by that cold, marbled gaze... The old newsagent reaches out, his old hands mottled with black ink from the constant handling of newspapers.


Mr Watts comes back to the here and now. Says that name out loud as if uttering some evil spell, horrifying himself by hearing it alive again, real in the air of the classroom. The boy says yes. He walk backs to the front of the class feeling the eyes burning into him.

The clock on the wall says that there are only five minutes to go. Mr Watts sets the homework and threatens detentions for those that do not complete.

It's a Friday. Mr Watts collects the homework. The boy has shifted and now sits at the front of the class, directly opposite Mr Watts. The class are rowdy, in high spirits this last day of term before the school breaks for the autumn holiday. The boy cracks a joke: it is a good natured joke about how Mr Watts should bring in a hand bell to get the class's attention. The angry smouldering has left his eyes. Mr Watts begins to think that he's got it all wrong, got himself worked up over nothing – probably nothing more than anxiety created by the stress of the workload.

He flicks through the blue exercise books before dismissing the class. It's a relief to see that the pupils seem to have completed the homework assignment. He doesn't, this last day of term, want the hassle of setting detentions. He gets to the final book. It belongs to the boy. He turns to where the homework should be. Nothing. Just a blank page. Except for one thing: a black thumbprint in the middle of the page. Mr Watts stares at the whorls of the print. It's too big to belong to a child. It belongs to a man's hand. He looks up. The boy smiles. The ugly, red look is back in his eyes. Mr Watts is silent for a moment. Then says, 'class, you can go.'

Monday, 29 October 2012


She describes what she saw on TV.
Fills in the scenes. Does it well.
She says I should watch it.

But there's no need.

Now I've seen the programme
like so many other things

- through her eyes.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Frozen Bolts

Dr Faust's Sea-Spiral Spirit
by Peter Redgrove

The mines like frozen bolts of black lightning deep in the

  • from Minerals of Cornwall, Stones of Cornwall

    Victorian tin miners

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Sixteen at that curious stage, age
of neither one thing or another
shelter under a single umbrella
like curious colours coagulating
in a cocktail tumbler
in their fresh clothing
before converging
in the great hall
where candles are burning
amongst flowers
and green odours
of grave water.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

John Cooper Clarke

I don't know what's got into me, another night out! That's two weekends on the trot. Last night we went to see...

(i musn't go down to the sea)

And afterwards, we met the man himself. Very kind, a really nice guy.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Flesh The Morning's Bones

I told you that it can go either way,
you knowing full well
that I'm a disaster at
social gatherings.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


I first came across this beautiful word in the following passage:

Not far from my cottage on the downs is a barn known as the Old Barn. It is surrounded by a wall and there is a cow-pond within the enclosure. It is the very place for a man of philosophic temper to visit. It might have been built here on the bare hills for no other purpose than human meditation. It resembles a diminutive Abbey Church standing within its garth. Its walls are constructed of huge blocks of chalk and if you enter the windowless building, crowded now with farm implements, and examine the masonry closely, it is soon revealed that the white flat surfaces have been used by generations of Dorset labourers as tablets for the simple graphetai of their days.

  • Llewellyn Powys The Tolpuddle Martyrs

George Loveless was one of my ancestors. 
This white page, these keys, this screen
form the graphetai of my days.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Bedmaking

Lucky enough to get out last night and see the incomparable Martin Carthy perform in our town hall.
This is the song that sticks in my mind...

I should also add that Martin is a very nice and approachable man.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

2 Day Loan

Black wheels turned to roll an aisle where books grow into walls.
After regaining an Alice-like sense of proportion, you can start
to follow the letters, heart-scudding along, forgetting all cares
as the great names click into place.

I came to a book that had a cover that grew like some natural thing.
I held it in my hands. It was a dusty green with a symbol on the spine:
the Egyptian ankh. I put it in my bag. The first person to borrow this
book in twelve years. After another similar time span. Left to ferment.

I rode the silvery path not noticing the cars blurring around me
but heard a black heart beating in the deep shades made by a leafy
lane where, according to the general guidance given, you need to be
on your guard.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Cloudy Conferences

I left you for a clock face like a moon.
Black hands travelling, pointing to
whatever time it felt like as long as it was now.
Artificial thunder hung up like tinsel in the trees
spreading and shaking cavernous sheet metal sounds
as a jet plane carries its load of passengers
to a space comprised of cloudy conferences.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Yellow Lamps In The Inn Window

The windows clouded.
The air, tropical in this room
with mat made of shredded coconut.
The light held in a dome: our own desert island.
Day became evening. Our talk made mists on the windows
and the trees were voluble in their dripping.
The heaters breathed hot breath into the glass
and a hill continued running on its downward slope,
found a sharp bend and rolled into a village
of antique petrol pumps with oval heads and white on black digits.
The Inn attracts, guides us like a compass to where you've arranged to meet your friends.
No, I did not want to go in and say hello to the yellow lamps in the window.

A Brace of Belt Sanders

The red bus melting,
sliding the road

like a brace
of belt

Monday, 8 October 2012

Blue Couch by a Swimming Pool

Like that Hockney painting, very California – or at least, having never been there or likely to, an interpretation of the water gliding under the spiky leaves. Why, at this panic-moment must you stand on this shadow? As if thought-reading the book closes on the theory that globes suspended from the hut beams are not light but darkness suckers. Today, two lozenges of compact herb gathered from banks of water streams that provide all of the help we can get. Clothe-smelling darkness. That shade is a cat crawling the sleeve of my Grandmother's frock, its head revealing startles. The shed changed the colour of its door twice, I think, in that particular lifetime. It was orange like fire green like traffic. But black latches – yes, certainly orange remained constant. It was the smell that got you made of garden tools their well-worn handles. The plastic mower with its carefully wound acres of orange wires. The fruit boxes lined with the big stories of the day – experimental vegetation such as the evening's labour depicted in cheap pencils in seductive packaging – the case with the zip – flamenco dancers – a tall señor posed, embossed on the canvas. 

David Hockney - A Bigger Splash

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A Romantic Interchange

I'd donated a jumper.
White, straight off the sheep.
Said she liked the smell of oil.

In return,
a time-travelling scarf.
Black and white sections
like a road control pole.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Goods In

One time we opened a packing case from India.
Prised the lid with a crowbar. Shredded newspaper.

Shredded paper in pink and green-lime.

A cigarette pack with the warning: cigarettes are injurious to your health.
Then on the front, in old-time lettering cigarettes for the real man.
We pulled this stuff out. This is what the Boss pays us for.

Paper like a mad clown’s wig decorating the grey floor.
Then something starts moving.

The Boss comes in. ‘Look, look’,
the black shape crawling through the papers, flexing its pincers.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Talons, Claws and Rainbows

Gaps under the eaves of the house, front and back. When Stefan came to connect the boiler he climbed into the loft, felt the whirring of wings in the darkness. Bats, he said. Tonight there's something padding around in the roof. It taps its talons on the boards. The grey cat pricks up its ears. Stares at the ceiling. There's nothing much either of us can do about it.

My record collection is in the loft. Once it was my proudest possession. Most weekends, in my youth, I added to the collection. Then I left home. Lived, as we grandly called it, on the road. No place for my Hi-Fi system - on the road. I left it at home, along with the records. From then on, music came in the form of cassettes played through car stereos wired to 12V batteries. Eventually, I was re-united with my record collection. Technology had made it redundant. CDs were the thing: strange little discs that glimmered with rainbow colours as you turned them this way and that into the light.

The grey cat is a fine companion. She lies next to me on the bed. Earlier she'd looked up at the sky. An airliner spread vapour trail through the sky. The plane looked very silver. If we were Neanderthals this scene would have sent us scurrying.

Narnia-like, an old wardrobe towers against the wall. There is a keyhole in the door. The key is silver. The door needs to be kept locked to stop those that are tempted to try and find what lies in the darkness beyond the coats and dresses that hang in there.

The cats licks its paws. The creature in the loft continues its scratching and pacing. The record collection continues to gather dust.

Come morning, the silver key will still be in the lock waiting for someone to turn it.
The records will wait another day for someone to take them from their sleeves.
Talons, claws and rainbows and the darkness still waiting.


says the old farmer's wife,
around her
is the essential ingredient
in any recipe.

Tonight we have:

a sauce made from
anchovies tomatoes
seasoned with some
old fashioned telephone
that we just happened
to have handy.

Say, is this salad
supposed to come
with marinaded

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Money Evening

Shoes reach somewhere.
Austin Street.
The stopped dark sticks
on the world gone to scraps:
he stops his tongue with chips.

Christmas fizzed on, lonely.
Shoes adhered to the orange streets.
Lonely. Street, scraps and pieces
of grand-old impossible habits
spending what’s been made.
Whatever was learned. 


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