Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Here Is A News Flash

This morning I woke in a strange bed.

My silent thinking shattered by the alarm clock radio.

Austerity Measures

Changes to the DLA. We'll target those that really need it...

I've heard that one before, straight from the horse's mouth .

Lost her appeal and now faces The Death Penalty

What a way to start the day...

Hate Week has begun.

Once I woke in the middle of the night. Very dark in my trailer in the wood...

Something is wrong... something has happened...

I reached up through the dark and clicked on my radio. Something had happened alright.

I lit my first cigarette of the day/last cigarette of the night.

But I'm very health conscious.

I never touch newspapers.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Cake Expectations

The house is a happy carriage-like corridor of commuters mingling around gate-fold tables laden with bottles and cake. The bottles are black with golden labels. The cake is upside down. Molecules bound together with a plasma of jam.

Petrified orange slices in jelly.

Dave, irrepressible party-goer, bites his cake and says isn't it nice? Light and moist.
That kind of thing, like you do when you eat cake in public.

You can't just eat it. You feel obliged to provide some kind of cake commentary/cake review or else you just aren't being polite in cake eating circles.

But Dave pulls a face. Sticks a finger – his finger of course, not just any old finger, into his mouth. There are other bits in there that don't feel like they belong in a cake.

Tracy watches him spilling bits and pieces of cake molecules down his finger. His cake speech isn't worth a crumb now and he knows it.

He gets off at the next stop. His reputation and tooth in ruins.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Sea Travellers

Silver held in crystals.
Burnished heights
surging steeply
to where the sea
travellers arrive
in the burgeoning
woodland bringing
bounty from other worlds.

The old windows in the hills.
The secrets still hanging
behind doors.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Moon On Pink Stone

Miniature Maiden Castles were arranged around the classroom.

Generous layers of green poster paint spread onto papier mache mounds.
Match sticks were used to represent where the prehistoric fences once ran.

The classroom had a series of very high arched windows that let in a lot of light.
The houses in the surrounding street were red brick Victorian villas.

I wasn't involved in the reconstructions of Maiden Castle.

The teacher showed them to me.

She was a pale faced woman with piled up black hair. She was always very kind.

Once I met her at the school gate. She said, 'here, hold this will you?'

It was a carton of chilled cream. 'Don't drop it' she said. The carton felt very cold
as it slipped through my fingers and exploded on the pink pavement.

She just smiled and said 'never mind.'

One day she was teaching us and she started to cry.
'Oh, I'm sorry children' she said as she went to find a tissue.

I've no idea what happened to her.
But that pink pavement is still there.
I could show you the place where
the cream made a perfect white circle
like a moon on the pink stone.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Forest Gate

The shop was stocked with strange fruit stored in plastic bowls. In a dark corner, behind sacks of rice and flour, a glass cubicle had been installed for some kind of alternative business. The window reflected the shimmering shape of a church. The actuality of the church had been blackened by air pollution.

A pair of wrought iron gates were padlocked in case there was a sudden mania for church-going. There were parking spaces behind the gates, and almost completely faded white-lettering painted on the tar signified that one space was reserved for the vicar, the other for the organist.

Somehow, it was difficult to envision cars battling to find spaces in the yard – even if the gates were ever unlocked.

Meanwhile, the 99p shops always have a full congregation: worshippers of imported bargains filing down every aisle.

An old, sepia photograph of the same street gathers dust on a mantelpiece. One or two people strolling in old-time clothes. A dray horse pulling a cartload of beer barrels.

At the top of the street, a strange domed building like a stone igloo that serves no obvious purpose. It doesn't have a window or door.

People hurry by as if this mystery, like so many others, isn't there.

Some file into the tiled entrance of the underground. No-one notices that the man behind the ticket counter has a marbled eye through which he sees everything.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

A Country Bumpkin In London

A grizzled old Aqualung of a man with a yellow beard smiles down on me. 

I'd just sat down on a bench in a rose garden, lit a cigar and given myself up to the sun. The second I'd dared to relax he was there, staring down as if I was a curio that had somehow escaped from the British Museum. 

I smoked some. Said nothing. He nodded and smiled as if I had.

Tried walking back to the city. No hope of getting on board one of the soon to be extinct Route Masters. Crowds stood at each bus stop like people gathered around the last lifeboat being lowered from the Titanic.

I kept walking with no idea where I was going. It was a sunny street. Market stalls loaded with silks. Mobile phone vendors and all the weird pointless paraphernalia that goes with them.

I came to a public library about the the size of a small post office. An inscription carved above the window said that some famous scholar I'd never heard of had studied there when he'd written his great masterpiece that I'd never heard of. 

If he was around today he'd probably feel much the same way about me.

I went inside. A man in a charcoal suit with gold-rimmed glasses looked me up and down. 

Made me feel like the country bumpkin I am.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Confessions Of A Reluctant DIY Enthusiast

She set me loose with a sledge-hammer.
I set about doing her work. 
Turned the house inside out.

Sometimes I wondered 
what on earth we were doing here.
Sometimes I wanted 
to throw it all in: 
pick up our sticks.

Get out.
Move on.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


H mentioned it the other day.

She said 'do you remember? 
That new year's eve when 
there'd just been the three of us, 
drinking vodka into the dawn.'

Our conversation was easy now. 
The walking, the woods. 
The feeling of breathing, 
breathing in what the 
pine plantations gave out.

Of course I remember.

Sometimes it feels like 
I think of nothing else.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A Ghost Story

Like all good ghosts, this one decided to get in bed with us as the sun came shining through the curtains.

Neither of us said anything. I went down and made coffee.

Then I dialled a wrong number. The voice at the other end was warm and friendly enough to make me wish that it had been the right number.

I went back upstairs carrying the coffee jug and two mugs. There is a limit to my hospitality.

My wife was reading a novel. This was a new thing for her.

I got back into the bed, the ghost lying between us.

My wife put down her book. She started to tell me about the old house in Wales that she lived in a long time ago.

She said that there were lots of old houses in Wales. This particular one had a door that wouldn't stay closed. Her boyfriend of the time nailed it shut with six inch nails.

Sometimes they heard voices, footsteps in the night.

When they came down in the morning, the door was open again.

It had gone quiet now. A peculiar, greenish light came through the window.

My wife picked up her book again.

I sipped at my coffee and pictured the door, the nails hanging out like horrible teeth.

The ghost said nothing.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Button Badge

'Funny', she said. 'We all seem to have them.'

Funny indeed.

She stands there, waiting in her kitchen doorway, me stood on a chair, dabbing white paint onto the ceiling.

'So do you try and keep in touch?'

'No,' I say. 'It's bad enough trying to get along with people you do like. Never mind those you don't.'

This makes her laugh. 'I've got something for you' she says and the kitchen doorway's empty.

The floor of the kitchen is covered in newspapers.

When I set them down, I put the pages showing half-clad girls facing the floor. Same with the headlines about people beating or succumbing to cancer.

I scan the floor now, hoping I haven't missed anything.

She comes back and pins a button badge to my scarf. It's a black badge with white lettering. I haven't worn a button badge since I was at school.

'I'm not going to see what it says' I tell her. 'I'm going to wear it until I forget it.'

She smiles.

'I'm going to try and guess what it says from peoples' reactions.'

I look up to say something else.

The kitchen doorway's empty again.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Ebb And Flow

A jackdaw dropped twigs down a cold chimney. They fell into the grate with a scratching sound. Bits of soot came down too. The bits of twigs lay on balls of screwed up computer paper and unpaid bills. Next came the sound of pigeons cooing. But this sound came through the window that had been left open despite the chill and gloom. Another sound was a track from LA Woman; the one that starts off with The cars hiss by my window like the waves down on the beach.

He lay on the bed. Listening to these sounds. The ebb and flow of an English winter afternoon mixed with American rock and roll. Summer music on a winter's day. More twigs fell. Bits of soot soon followed to make a pattering sound on the white paper. The unpaid telephone bill. The aborted poems.

Somewhere, in that cluster of crumpled paper, now gathering bits of twigs, collecting small explosions of soot, you'll find the line there is a peace that lives under the ebb and flow.

He took a deep breath of the winter afternoon.

The door started to slowly open.

It creaked on its hinges.

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Dump Damsel

'Do you think she's attractive?' my wife says.

How are you supposed to answer that?

The woman in question has long blonde hair and wears a quilted green jacket. It's a bright day. The first one we've had in years. She wears big sun-glasses to protect her eyes. The freshness of the day adds colour to her cheeks. All in all, she looks dressed for the ski slopes in some desirable Alpine fashion resort rather than the local municipal tip.

The men who run the place, in their hi-viz jackets certainly appreciate the glamour walking through their dump.

With me, however, they remain professionally rude. They watch me stagger across the yard hugging an old oven to my chest like an old-time bank robber making off with the safe.

They stand and watch me, my legs bending like a clown's as spatially challenged old ladies get under my feet carrying paltry sized pieces of rubbish from their cars.

They stand and watch me, tottering like a drunken monkey as someone decides to help things along by trying to reverse their car into me.

When I reach the far-side, a grizzled man in a hi-viz vest tells me that ovens need to be kept separate from the other metal in the bin and that I need to 'take it over there, mate.'

He points to where I've just come from.

Meanwhile, three young men help the damsel of the dump carry a baked-bean can.

'Do you think she's attractive?' my wife says again, as I collapse into the car.

I turn the key in the ignition, say nothing.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Sinister Sofa

In a good drama there is always a sinister and stormy cliff to throw the dead body from.

In this particular drama, all we had was the sofa.

Admittedly, it was a sinister sofa. It might have been gathering itself for a storm, too.

After all, the conversation had turned thundery.

Someone said what makes for a community?

When people gather together in adversity somebody else said.

But she was very drunk.

I threw in 'bingo' to be provocative.

I stood on the sofa so as to close the red velvet curtain across the window and draw a close on this first act.

The sofa tried to swallow me. To suck me down between its leather lips into its cushion mouth never to be seen again.

No-one noticed. Or minded.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Fool's Gold

The sun gave them false hope.

Bill was completely fooled.

He stood on his porch. Stretched his arms towards the sky like he was auditioning for the lead role in Oklahoma.

For her part, she felt that the day was like an event. Like the release of a new Beatles album.

They dragged their furniture outside.

A bottle of champagne was chilling in the fridge. The evening was going to sparkle!

Friends would come round and exercise their endless capacity for talk.

But sometime in the afternoon there was a hint of snow flaking in the air.

The sun was finally seen for what it really was.

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Scientific Problem

You didn't need to see the wart on the side of her nose to realise that Mrs White was only teaching science as a day job to fund her passion for black cats and broomsticks.

What a drag it must have been for her, every morning, when she swapped her black cloak for a white lab coat.

Once she'd caught me setting fire to the classroom.

I'd been playing a spill this way and that through the blue flame flowering from the Bunsen burner. The flame bloomed along the spill and blossomed at my inky fingers.

My fingers started to burn. 

I dropped the spill and set a burning gravity in motion.

It landed like a small dragon on the white page of my exercise book. The page started to smoke and wouldn't stay white for much longer.

I was so absorbed in this particular scientific problem that I didn't hear Mrs White creep up behind me. The first thing that alerted me to her presence was a sharp pain sprouting from my scalp as she pulled my hair towards the ceiling. I had to stand to alleviate the pain but she only pulled harder.

'Little boys, like you', she cursed, 'cause fires!'

But she used tugs on my hair instead of punctuation marks.

Later, she rubbed a bat's wing on a broomstick handle to demonstrate the cause of friction.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Miles Between

Timbers washed in a yellow stain.
Flowers breaking from the bud.
Glass lets in light from all angles
on our business conducted in the open.

But there are still miles
between what I'm thinking,
what I'm saying.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Something Drastic (Part II)

The morning decided to arrive and I had to go along with it.

Somebody said how was your weekend?

It was hard to reply. I was feeling like a particularly slow-witted zombie after the drastic action of the night before.

The drastic action meant getting out of bed. It meant descending into the weird world of two am downstairs. I'd last visited this place, on a regular basis, when I'd lost my job and wondered how I'd ever manage to keep the roof over our heads.

The cupboard, luckily for me, contained a box of very strong painkillers. I sat in the armchair for a while and waited for them to get to work.

Now I would have to do the same.

How was my weekend?

I thought about how the moon had looked through that 2 am window. The roof still in place.

Just fine, I said. Just fine.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Something Drastic

At some time around two I was awoken by the call of a killer combo. A reservoir flowed through my nose. A bradawl bored a hole through my upper incisor. I tried keeping my eyes sealed. Pretended that whatever was happening wasn't happening. Tried to continue with the serious business of catching up with my beauty sleep – a race, so the morning's mirror keeps showing me, I've been losing for years.

But it was of no use. Something drastic would have to be done.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A 100th Of Our Lives

It all added up to 100. A 100th of our lives. He worked it out on the board. Spelt it out in numbers. Whichever way you looked at it, it all boiled down to the same brew: we'll know each other for less than the blink of an eye.

The hurt in this didn't make it any less true.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Winter Stream

bronze votive oars

in Thames

eight burnt tiles
for the water


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