Thursday, 28 February 2013

Noel Redding

It was with a sense of wonder that I looked at your phone number written on a crumpled piece of lined paper. This number, I've no idea what later happened to it, that could connect me to a real live rock star.

It took me a few days to pluck up the courage to dial. An international code.

When I finally did, and you picked up, I could hardly speak for what felt like a brick in my throat.

You said, 'Is that Jonathan? Good to hear from you man.' Then you said, 'just a sec, 
let me get settled' and there was the sound of ice clinking in a glass and a cigarette being lit.

The salient points that I remember:

You worked hard to pass your O levels. You had no interest in being a rebel.

You thanked God that you were still a working musician.

Donovan and Roy Harper lived near you. I told you that the first gig I ever went to was one of Roy's. You said that the next time you saw him you'd tell him.

Jimi was just a shy kid. It was the fame that did him in.

The official albums were the only one's worth having. All the others were garbage, record companies cashing in.

I can't remember anything else, but Noel, you were a really kind, gentle, gentleman.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

My Life As A TV Star

I have always been inept when it comes to televisual distraction.

My first television belonged to my girlfriend. I gradually moved in to her place and began a semi-serious relationship with the television.

This was in the days when there were four channels to choose from. We could only get two.

The choice of channel depended on the lottery of me climbing up on the roof and pointing the aerial this way and that like a demonic wizard in the rain and starlight until my girlfriend shouted 'okay'.

Inevitably, the picture would be lost by the time I'd put down the aerial and shimmied down the drainpipe.

I would have to climb up and go through the whole process again.

My girlfriend's Dad was a 60inch colour wide-screen of a man. He doubted the wisdom of his daughter shacking up with someone who couldn't organise, take responsibility for her viewing habits.

I found it to be a bit of a turn off. I broke up with my girlfriend. Left her television.

It would never have worked out between us although I sometimes miss the rain and starlight.

Later that year, TV star Rod Hull, that pipe-smoking genius, had his fatal mishap when he climbed up onto the roof to adjust his aerial during the middle of a football match.

Take my advice: stay away from channel-hopping women and loose televisions. Go up into the starlight by all means. But make sure you carry a book.

They're easier to hold onto when you fall.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Shaped Us Forever

I sat down in the staff room. Lounged back to give the impression of being comfortable, at ease. I never find being in close proximity to people an easy thing. Especially when there's nothing to read. Sometimes I fiddle with my phone. It's a legitimate thing to do. Getting out a novel or book of poetry seems to provoke a strange reaction: as if I'd decided to blow my nose on my sleeve. I suppose it's a statement. People don't like the fact that you've entered another world that's closed off to them. Maybe. Any way, the lady on my left starts up a conversation. I can't for the life of me remember how it happened, but somehow we got on to the subject of a primary school down the road in the next town. This road, now a dual-carriageway, was once the route that John Cowper Powys wandered with his walking stick that absorbed all of the mysteries of The First Cause. I digress. It turned out that we had both attended this primary school, forty years ago. Names, faces, bottled up inside me finally found an outlet. It was like sharing a dream. We both agreed that Mr Hunsley was a wonderful man. And we both had the same feeling: at the time, because he was so strict, we'd been scared of him. But as the years rolled by, what he stood for, what he'd taught us, had seeped into our very being.

Shaped us forever. 


Friday, 22 February 2013

Florence Nightingale Floats In Like Lamplight

For William

Dave's wife talks to him from two, sometimes three rooms away. But this isn't the reason why he's decided to go and see a doctor.

The truth is, it's been so long since he's seen a doctor, he doesn't know how the system works any more. A woman waits behind the counter but she's only there to answer the phone. When he tells her that he's here to see Doctor Gammon she points to a touch screen glowing at the far end of the waiting room. An old boy of maybe ninety-four, wearing a hunting jacket, is working the machine. Dave follows his example then wilts into a leatherette sofa.

The place feels more like an art gallery than the old doctors waiting room. Dave looks around for a magazine to pretend to read. It can get awkward, in situations like these, knowing where to place your gaze. But there are no magazines. A sign says that they've been removed for fear of spreading disease. Dave wonders who makes these rules. He thinks of his good friend William Michaelian. William reads books with pages that were last touched when the bubonic plague was around.

Dave waits. Red letters flash on a black screen. They say WELCOME TO THE SURGERY as if it was the next nicest thing to being Christmas.

At any moment he expects a doleful, Florence Nightingale-like woman to come into the room and announce his name in a hushed tone. A young man comes in and sits opposite. He wears a T-shirt as if he's somehow forgotten that it's snowing outside. He hunches over one of these new i-phone gadgets that probably cost more than Dave's car.

A name flashes onto the screen. It says Mr Andrew Legg – Doctor Lamb – Room 10.

Puzzlingly, the sign flashes the words acute illness. This strikes Dave as strange. Mr Andrew Legg, as he gets up to cross the room, looks as hale and hearty as William Michaelian.

Dave looks at the other magazine-less people and wonders what the screen will say about them. The old boy with the hunting jacket – can't hold his arm steady to shoot foxes any more...

Dave notices that the young man has, all this time, been absorbed in a game of Pac-Man. It's good to know, Dave thinks, that the technological revolution is being put to good use. 

The door opens.

Florence Nightingale floats in like lamplight. She glides up to Dave. She pushes a trolley loaded up with dusty volumes. Milton, Shakespeare, Elbert Hubbard...all borrowed she says, in a hushed voice, straight from the shelves of William Michaelian. All the medicine Dave could need.


A not entirely unrelated musical interlude:


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Game Of Cards

Crescent of beetroot on a white plate.
Flakes, crumbs of whatever it was
you were eating last night. Feel
a spring in my heel. Brightness,
birds, if you pay attention,
singing. Plans, purpose
waylaid by distraction

photos spread like a hand
of playing cards. I'm lying
on top of the deck, lying
with my head propped in my hand.
Brightness, whiteness
in all of these places

kings, jacks, aces.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Clean Shirts

He didn't mean it.
Just didn't know how
to handle it.

We all understand this now.

Two crisp shirts, freshly ironed
hanging on the back of the door.
Both white: the colour
of surrender.

I have no need for ironed
shirts where I'm going now.

The gesture wasn't lost on me.
But didn't stop me
from making my bid
for freedom.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Crystalline Spider With Brass Neck

Someone's up to no good. I can't remember what he looked like but I had a good view at the time. A choking cough brings tears to my right eye. A wave of black hair in need of a wash. A black coat. I'm looking through a window into the street and I see him peering into a car. He moves up the line of parked cars. Cups his hands on glass to get a better view. Examines the interior of each car. The brass neck of this man. He attracts an audience. People come out onto their steps to watch his shameless progress as he tries a door handle here, pushes at a window there. He draws level. I have a grandstand view as he starts to punch at the glass. It bruises. Spreads like a crystalline spider. The clearness of the glass turning black and green. I open the window, say can I help you? I can't remember his reply but I'm sure he did. Said something and was gone and the people on the steps broke out into noise like a verbal applause. There was a moment that felt like danger. Me and him. Him looking at me and the air charged with the expectancy of his reaction in which anything could have happened.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


The white temple of Asda.
A tiled walkway parallel with the tills.
Everywhere, Asda green. Stairs leading to a café.
When a streak of steel grey hair, moustache like a wire brush,
denim shirt bulging with the shape of a substantial stomach
came heaving and panting towards me. Two security guards in pursuit.
They were on him in seconds, each locking an arm under his armpits.
'You've got no chance mate' one of the guards said through clenched
teeth that were as white as his shirt. Packets started to fall from the man's shirt
as he kicked and struggled like a fly in a web. Red boxes of vitamin supplements,
a dispenser containing some kind of alternative to sugar and a low energy light-bulb.
The man closed his eyes in defeat as he was frogmarched into an office.
An electric toothbrush fell to the floor as the door closed.
When the office door closed, two policemen arrived.
A police van waited at the entrance. The back door was open.
A meshed pen fit for a dog.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Minute's Silence

Drive to buy coffee. Lately
I've been making it my business
to stand for one full minute
before setting out for the day.

Survey the sky:
patches of grey.
Feel wind on my face.
Bird song.

Headlights reveal silver rain
that turns to snow awakening
the old feelings of wonder.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Lunch Break, Weymouth

Two concrete posts set in the ground like a goal.
Dry stalks spreading along the porous surface.
Wire chain-link fencing. The throaty bass
of a young man's car. Hear it but can't see it.
Rhythm of a train. The bank rises
to what feels like an immense, intimidating height.
Scrimmage of ivy and a sawn down tree.
Its concentric circles – the ones you were taught
to count to determine the tree's age
stare back like a wooden eye.
A plastic tub the colour of clay
supposed, I suppose, to look like earthenware.
Puzzle as to how it got there.
A blackbird pulls at black leaves,
probes them with its orange beak.
Cooing of pigeons. Hills behind me.
Eerie mounds bobbling along the horizon.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Strange Thing

I tell you, it keeps me
awake at night and half
dreaming all day.

It's a strange thing to decide that you are going to be happy.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

No Harm In A Little Light

The wolf is pounding at the door.
I limp down the dark hall,
hobble down the stairs.
The golden bolt is shot
securely and I see no harm
in a little light.
Fix myself a sharp drink. It helps,
gets to work on dissolving the
barbed wire coiled in my throat.
Light plumes. Red embers
ask to be roused back into some kind of life.
Other places, not far from here, delight in fresh winds, daylight.
A woman in blue jeans and Fair Isle sweater gets her back into
shoving a wheeled contraption to the top of the hill.
The load is hidden under a tarpaulin.
You join me as I get on my boots,
go back to the farm from where,
for reasons I can't remember, we – or is it just me?
have been forbidden.
Stealth is required.
But somehow, the old farmer's wife is alert
to any changes and I tell you to quickly
to get under cover:

I can see her glasses glinting from the farmhouse window.

Friday, 8 February 2013


Sweet smell in the smoky upstairs of a red bus.
An old man in pork pie hat smoking a Honeyrose cigarette.
The sea falls away at a 45 degree angle.
I'm wearing a black polo neck sweater my mother knitted for me.
I'm feeling slightly sick, what with the smoke and the quantities of yoghurt coated raisins I've been eating.

The bus smells like dope but the old man doesn't seem to know or care. A bee floats in through the open window and starts to doodle up and down the glass trying to find its way out again. 


Monday, 4 February 2013


'76 was the BIG ONE. The long hot summer that went on forever.
Free bumper stickers SAVE WATER – Share A Bath. Trips out every

Wrought-iron gates in a crumbling wall. An American tourist
hanging on to the rails help! We've been in here for

Cool sanctuary of a shopping arcade in Dorchester.
for The Spy
Who Loved Me the latest BIG THING
the white Lotus Esprit replete
torpedoes that really fire!


Saturday, 2 February 2013

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Today, I visited the grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Three things delighted me:

A pipe had been left on the gravestone

Despite other dignitaries being buried near by, the grave to his left belongs to Fred and Gladys

A short walk brought me to a grave belonging to a man named Holmes.


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