Tuesday, 30 April 2013

King Neptune Was An Amber Gambler

King Neptune drove down
Holdenhurst Avenue in a Chevrolet.
He passed a Pizza Hut.
The air smelt like an oven.
The lights started to change.
But old Neptune
stepped on the gas,
put his flipper to the floor.

Surprising, isn't it?
But you wouldn't think
that the watery old King
was an amber

Monday, 29 April 2013

War Story

I could never pluck up the courage
to ask him about the war
the topic always being somewhat hardcore:
not something he wanted to encourage.

Sometimes, after some duration,
he'd bring up the Old Comrades Association,
speaking slowly, methodically,
of the dinners he was invited to, periodically.

One more mountain to climb.
One less place set each time.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


She waves. The room fills with a golden cloud that evaporates into a golden
rain that settles into the fabric of the chairs, the rugs on the floor.

Long after she's gone the glitter sticks to the heels of our shoes, the pores
of our skin.

With glitter on my soles, I walk to the library. One of those converted churches
with high windows and stained panes shaped like temples.

The smell of books. The 3pm clientèle,
out of work, down at the heel.

In a corner, local history. I find what I'm looking for.

Or it finds me.

I remember when this was first written.
The digs, the jabs. The copper discs
falling from the trees. Grey skies,
the wind blowing in across the Chesil.

At the seas edge a wooden bed.
A man asleep, breathing out a golden cloud,
glitter in his beard.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Happiness Is A Cold Nose

We're walking through the Saturday market.

It's always cold. Something to do with all that concrete. My nose feels cold. But something in this adversity lends itself to the determined act of remaining happy.

Happiness is always being assailed from all angles. Being among these traders and shoppers, their eccentric dress and smiles, kind of rubs off.

A woman in a leopard -skin coat stands with her back to me. Blonde hair flows down her back. High heel boots. When she turns round the folds in her face say that she's somewhere around seventy six.

Her husband wears a long grey coat and a moleskin trilby. Black suede winkle-pickers on his feet. Sharp enough to cut your throat on. Silver tips on the toes. Boot-string tie at his neck, knotted under some kind of silver pendant inscribed with I can't make out what so I just keep following my cold nose.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Looks Like Another Dead End Sunday

I'm wearing my heavy boots. They look wrong, pressed down on the woven rug.

But I'm not taking 'em off.

You never know when you might need to make a quick get away.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A Golden Evening

I'm driving a winding road where green hills meet shady woods and the river glitters blackly.

The sun heads down in blood red.

I once found you by piecing together clues.

Now you've dropped off my horizon the clues come my way again. First, like last time, is a number. This winding road runs through your code. I look at tradesmen's vans to confirm it. I know I'm getting warm. The river sparkles under a bridge. I know that bridge from a Thomas Hardy novel. I can't remember which one.

It leads to a pretty town where the centre is dominated by an electrical shop. White letters on blue. Like that Dire Straights song, it's your face I'm looking for on every street. Then I give it up. Head on back to the bridge.

Felt numb as I entered another region where they have a different code. I was as cold as the trail.

I won't pick it up again. No matter how many clues you pass my way.

I think that there's a pattern in this. Who am I to break its beautiful, fearful symmetry?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Friday, 19 April 2013

Fish Therapy (Episode Four)

Another Inmate

Now Noddy.

So called because he nods his head from left to right as he walks along. He's allowed to walk to the Abbey every afternoon. Here, he sings hymns as loudly as he can.

And carries on singing them as he nods his way back up the high street.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Fish Therapy (Episode Three)

One Of The Inmates

Here's Huey.

In his seventies, flat cap and waist-coat like an archetypal grand-dad.

He's considered safe enough to be let out on his own. He's allowed to keep an allotment halfway into town. Huey walks through the streets carrying a garden-fork and a galvanised bucket looped onto the crook of his arm. His wellie boots scud on the pavement as he walks along, talking to himself.

Huey likes to present historical documentaries on the trade unions as he heads down the high street.

'Once,' he says, 'these old cottages belonged to factory workers. They were treated very badly by the factory owners...'

Then he really gets into it, uses the handle of his garden fork as a microphone.

Most presenters are glad of an audience. But Huey swears and curses the American tourists who can't help but stare at his show.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Fish Therapy (Episode Two)

The Man In Charge

The staff nurse in charge of the ward has seen an advert for Grecian 2000.

It's made no appreciable difference to his greying hair, but he does smell like he's just climbed from a sulphur pit.

Sometimes he bends the rules and turns up on the ward without his uniform. Today he's wearing blue slacks and a bright yellow shirt like a lemon. Sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

Once you've got used to the sulphur you might notice the underlying odour of Old Spice.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Fish Therapy (Episode One)

The Investment

A room with round windows like portholes in a ship. Except that they are barred.

The room is painted beige. Chairs covered in beige fabric line the walls. You can sit in them and spill your tea with a clear conscience.

A work surface against another wall complete with a double sink. Clay creations sit on newspaper.

These grey lumps serve no obvious function, but one lump might serve as an ashtray for a caveman.

Some of the other lumps might be prehistoric cigars.

An aquarium gurgles along another wall.

The management are pleased with this investment. The fish are undeniably therapeutic.

Even the sane ones have been known to sit and stare.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Infinite Guitars (For Robert)

Pallets were once a big part of my life.

I have a strange affection for them. 

I spent five years of my life stacking them. 

Moving, lifting them. 

Burning them.

The conversations I had with truck drivers as I unloaded them.

The driver with a big red beard and blood shot eyes.

In a way, he was a free man. 

On the road with his cassette collection. Rock and roll all day, all night. Smoking as and when he wanted with no boss fuming down his throat.

A rough life with no future.

Carrying pallets out the warehouse doors into a December 5 o'clock. Fire blazing on a piece of waste ground. Me, glad to get away from the boss, his endless boundless enthusiasm for the profit all going his way.

Profit built on credit. Profit built on sand. The Range Rover parked on the waste ground.

A rough life, no future.

Feeding the pallets into the fire. Seeing the boss, the employees, his employees in the yellow light.

The blood shot driver, smoking through his red beard.

A rough life. No future. Infinite guitars.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Burning The Cakes

Right from the off, cooking was a strain.

In those early years, I didn't think to complain. Soup was her speciality. Quick and easy.

Green puddle soup that looked like something ladled out of a pond. It never, no matter how many slices of bread you had with it, hit the spot.

Mine was a physical job. Loading and unloading trucks, humping crates, shrink-wrapping pallets. I could never believe that after a bowl of green puddle soup that I'd be able to get up and do it all over again.

But I never thought to complain. You just get used to things.

Summer came around and the call for cakes that raised money for our daughter's school at the Glastonbury Festival.

To help alleviate the panic, my girlfriend's mum agreed to come down and bake the cakes.

It was a long affair. There was no room for me in the tiny kitchen in our trailer. Which, in a way, was fortunate. I think that I may have even gone to bed, left them to get on with it. On a diet of green puddle soup it was a good idea to conserve as much energy as possible.

Now, in those halcyon days that now feel as if they belonged to someone else and not us, we shared the trailer with a very smart, loyal dog.

Although he was fed with something more substantial than green puddle soup, he was as lean as I was with a xylophone rib-cage and certainly couldn't be trusted to spend the night in close proximity with freshly baked Glastonbury cakes.

The highest point of the kitchen was on top of the cooker – the tall part that housed the grill.

Everything would be fine so long as no-one turned on the grill without first removing the basket of cakes.

Of course, as is the way of things, the grill was fired up the next morning. Delightfully, for once, it was nothing to do with me. My girlfriend's mum, the one who'd laboured long into the night, set about torching her own creations.

My girlfriend came rushing in when she smelt burning willow.

A quarter of a century on we still have that basket with the blackened bottom.

Things moved on. We moved on.

But I've been burning the cakes ever since. 



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