Friday, 30 August 2013

Post-Modern Plumbing Theory

The queue in the post office moves forward the space of a second class stamp.

I think about Stan: that day when he stopped my kitchen from flooding. The copper pipe had been weeping for weeks. I had been weeping for weeks. The floorboard was starting to rot. Something would have to be done.

Am I alone in this? Am I the only person in the world who'll do anything rather than ask for help?

The DIY manual that a well-meaning friend bought me for Christmas, I could finally put it to use – rather than just staring at it occasionally and wonder why anyone could dislike me enough to give me such a present.

I bought a wrench – which, on my limited budget, was a bit of a wrench.

The easy, step-by-step photos made it all look so easy.

These step-by-step guides are a missed marketing opportunity. They could make all our lives so much easier.

Here are some potential titles that would surely fly off the shelves like hot cakes.

How to divorce your cheating husband in 6 easy steps
How to poison your neighbour's barking dog and get away with it in 6 easy steps
How to duplicate yourself as a mannequin so that you'll never need to go to work or boring parties ever again in 6 easy steps...

Come to think of it, it must be easy. After all, Stan didn't need to read Foucault or Derrida when they trained him up to fix water leaks.

Comforted by this thought, I set to work. But a voice in my subconscious dripped into mind. Don't bother it said. You're not a practical type. You'll know it'll end in disaster.

Deep down, I knew this dripping subconscious voice was telling me a profound truth. I paused and listened.

Call Stan the voice said.

I ignored the voice. Not just through wilful stupidity. I was still partially confused by the image of a hot cake flying off of a shelf.

I shook my head, cleared it of voices and cake and cautiously approached the copper pipe with the wrench held behind my back. I felt that I stood more than half a chance if it didn't guess what I was up to.

When I was within touching distance I suddenly pounced, throttling its silvery nut with my wrench and set to work.

I think that this was around easy step 3 according to the manual.

It was then that I wished that I'd called Stan.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Long Way Round

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

I took the drastic step of getting out of bed and descending
into the weird world of downstairs.

It'll take days to get the noise out of my system.

I read an article and realised every word described my situation. 
Why I always take the long way round. Cut through the woods, 

follow the river that adds twenty minutes onto the more
direct journey that goes by the fast road.

Oh what to do with this knowledge!

The realisation that I was stranded in a foreign country 
and needed to get back home.

Meanwhile the river water is filled with leaves and dead wood.

You can smell the stagnation as white birds shave
through the trees.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Key

In time I turned the key formed/forged from frozen wine to unlock a chest filled with Christmas gathering snow and annuals. Pears Encyclopedia was one combining its weight with The Guinness Book of Records. Quiz books that asked questions, story collections that gave, if you worked for them, answers. Through the pages of one of these books I learned the word 'davenport'. Mahogany wainscoting lined the walls and a ruby wine shone inside crystals of cut-glass limned with gold from a blazing log fire. There was text writing itself in black print from one side of the room to the other and back again, over the brass studs that pinched the leather of an armchair into place and the grey-lead lattice that ran itself in Xs across the windows. The only chaise-longue that I have ever seen in real imagined life composed of 3D objects rather than print and paper belonged to Rodney who made his world from from print and paper. He kept it in an office where, sometimes, he'd lounge like an emperor and drink red wine among stacks of magazines and books – the only place where I can go to visit him now as a lamp hangs from a bough and the key begins to melt.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Night Drive

The fairy lights, strewn through the leaves of the neighbour's trees have the desired effect. It feels like we have wandered into the pages of a very old tale. The sky's tinted with a mysterious green and the sickle moon hangs where something strange comes down from the greenish heaven in the shape of a grey heron – lazily, effortlessly skimming itself back to roost by the river the trees turning black on the riverbank and the Sunday bell silent in the flint tower. Meanwhile, a black car sets out down a winding road that leads through the woods, blues filling the cocoon of the car and the smell of summer coming in through the windows. The driver sees a light some ways off in the woods. He can't look for long the road being full of curves. It's a white light framed in a square. The edges of the light get blended, blurred with the darkness. Not the right kind of light, the driver thinks, to signify a window because the white flickers and can't keep still. Besides, the driver is thinking as he half watches for those curves, there are no houses in these woods. The road moves on. Comes to a white sign hanging from a tree. TROUT FARM. Comes to a town where a shape runs down the street. The shape turns and the driver is thinking now of a dry field he'd passed earlier that afternoon. The field was very dry, the stubble bleached to a white that was almost silver in places. A buzzard composed of red and brown feathers sat on a post, statuesque and scanning, surveying the stubble, the long grass in the verges for prey. The driver had thought that it was inevitable: some mouse or rat would be bound to come along soon and betray itself through complacent movement. The eyes in the road fixed him. Two gold-green discs like strange planets until the shape turned and showed itself in the black outline of a fox. He parked the car. The black bonnet smothered by a lilac bush that would combine to create a striking colour contrast in the morning. It was still damn hot. The moon made a mirror image of herself. Then the original went away.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


I am standing up to my ears
in tinder dry wheat. 
The wheat scratches.
The heat blazes.

I can see them,
maddening as a mirage,
always, always in the distance.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Man From Porlock's Socks

I suppose that I'm some kind of romantic.
I have always been trying to see beyond the veil.
But, apart from one blurry period in my life,
I've never tried opiates.

I'm some kind of romantic,
but I'm no Samuel Taylor Colridge
and a pair of socks flung in the face
doesn't create quite the same image
as the fabled man from Porlock.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The One Great Chance

The idea of travelling on foot seems simple enough until you set out.

First there's the problem of audience. You walk down the pavement trying to marshal your thoughts. You start to let go, clench a fist and almost start talking to yourself as the excitement of the plan begins to build. The plausibility at last, of seeing this thing through, the one great chance of your life that almost seems to be within reach when you realise that the traffic is stationary, waiting for the lights to change and every window rolled down and every driver looking you up and down as you suddenly become aware of their presence; the flow of the dream staunched in a flash for fear of appearing mad.

You wait for the lights to change. Your thoughts settle: the eddies and drifts of imagination settle in ever decreasing circles as you do your best to look like any other bored punter on some mundane errand.

The path through the park creates some kind of sanctuary.

But right now, having just had a pair of freshly cleaned socks flung into my face, all of this will have to wait.

Sunday, 18 August 2013


An aerial photograph would reveal a spider shape. Eight black legs running from the grey body of houses. Each house clad with gravel that resembled cold porridge. A police station on the corner – which was very necessary, there being a high population of drunks and addicts with a penchant for petty crime.

The house at the end of the row belonged to the man with no name.

He had a name, he must have done - the post woman always knew where to deliver his giro every alternate Wednesday. It was a hefty cheque on account of him sharing his two bedroom house with a wife and seven children. They must have had a name to call him.

But none of his neighbours had taken the time to learn it.

Every day the man with no name logged onto his computer. His main line of business was in football cards. The premier league, each player for each team sealed in a plastic pocket. The faces changed each season. So did the shirts. I don't know if he ever really made any money out of it but each day his wife came home with 24 cans of lager. All of which gives the impression that I must have been very observant. I wasn't. I was just another drunk on Porridge Row making pointless journeys along the spider legs and hoping for something that would finally get me out of there.

In the end, it was pollen. It made it impossible for me to concentrate on doing nothing. I was sitting in the backyard staring at a black fly and my eyes wouldn't keep from streaming.

I threw my book at the fly and started to walk. I cut through the path that led to the road.

The post woman was making her rounds. Her rounds were made in a slouching, round-shouldered motion.

She was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.

She didn't look up as I headed up the road past a Ford with no wheels and the police station. The windows in the police station were obscured by grey blinds. I reached the main road.

There was a dirt track beyond and a house on the hill that looked ripe for a murder. The track was made of chalk. I kept on going. Trees with dusty leaves lined each side of the track. I kept walking. I kept sneezing.

Something purple got my attention. A length of ribbon tied to a tree. Then another.

I kept going and the last thing I saw was the man with no name, his violent hands holding reams of purple ribbons.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

In Honour Of His Birthday

Llewellyn Powys

Always, excepting the dawn, the most impressive hour of the day on the Dorset downs is the last twilight hour of a June evening. Along the horizons float the huge summer clouds, veils of a temple against the background of which are enacted the experiences of our transitory human lives, with their anxieties incident to husbandry, their shocks from the betrayals of death, and their deepest rewards of love.

from Death by Violence Somerset and Dorset Essays 1935

Monday, 12 August 2013

Twentieth Century Cave Men

With a coal black stove pipe beard and a claret red shirt to complement his breath, Gilbert led me onto the forest and showed me my first crab apple tree.

Of course, I'd seen these trees many times before, but being a feckless youth I'd never troubled myself with trying to put a name to them.

So Gilbert, worse for wear although it was only 4 in the afternoon, did it for me.

He carried a wicker basket in the crook of his very brown arm. Naturally, he'd made the basket with his own fair hands. 'Look' he said. 'There's a crab apple tree.'

I looked at the tree and somehow I knew it was obviously so.

We walked along the white ridge and it came into my head to lead Gilbert to the cave made out of bricks that, if you were especially sharp eyed, could be found in a bank hidden by bracken.

Of course, it wasn't really a cave.

After all, primitive man would hardly have made a cave using red bricks and mortar.

No. These were were the sophisticated materials belonging to modern men like me, unable to name a crab apple tree that I'd passed nearly every day, and men like Gilbert, perpetually half-cut from trying to find a place to blend in, not be noticed in, in the dying light of the twentieth century.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Shepherd's Crook

A synthetic perfume
triggers the shape
of a shepherd's crook.
Outside of museums
I have never seen one.

Vague memories of cream walls
a green armchair, the open door
sunlight coming in, the light split
into geometric sections.

Brooding, behind, under all of this
a large nose and a face shaded
by the peak of his flat cap.

The memory becoming submerged
like everything's under water.
That's white, not cream on the walls.
Black waves emanating from the figure
sitting in the armchair to mingle
in the clear blue water
of drowning memory.

The blocks of sunlight
cannot penetrate that water.

Surely that's
a shepherd's crook
propped in the corner?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Nothing Doing

You run your hand through
your hair and wonder what to do.

Complete silence in the field.
Nothing doing over at the farmhouse.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Post-Modern Cat Critic

If it hadn't been for the black cat I'd have been a great novelist.

In fact, I was two thirds in to what was probably going to be a great novel when the problem started.

Each morning I'd fire up the laptop only for it to behave like a cat magnet. Somehow, she had a sixth sense for when the machine had hummed into life and the Word document was ready to have more words added to its whiteness.

She'd leap on to the keyboard and ghdil;s

Sorry. She'd leap dfghjd

leap onto the keyboard and make random letters on the page until I hurled her off in the direction of the curtains.

Sometimes the keys would get hooked under her claws and and travel with her. To this day, although my career as a great novelist is over, I can't find M.

Things came to head when the two thirds completed novel was somehow deleted.

Cats are the sternest of literary critics.

Incidentally, I had nothing to do with the writing of this piece.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Green Shoots Of Recovery

The ticket machines remain hollow:
no coins go clanking
into their tarnished mouths.

Monday, 5 August 2013


Nothing for it but to get out and walk. Across the track that leads to the five bar gate. The gate that you spent some of yesterday scouring with a wire brush. A lonely task. Silence and scouring. Your thoughts driving you mad.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Pure Theatre

The play acted out on the stage
had dialogue composed
in soporific rhyming couplets.

I dozed in my seat and found my hands
in time for each round of applause.

Until the roundness
of the applause lost its shape.

The actor was saying his lines,
turned and threw a punch
that knocked his co-star
to the boards.

The falling co-star said
something like urmph
as if the punch
had really landed
on his lips.

The co-star lay
with blood trickling
along his cheek.

It was really rather impressive.

Later, the lead actor told me that he'd misjudged the distances.
Verily muddled the particles and inches.
Although no-one in the audience had the slightest hunch
that fist had refused to be typecast and threw a real punch.
The co-star saw stars and nearly passed out
as a result of the mistaken clout.

Saturday, 3 August 2013


For my part, I was drawn
to a capsule of silver
fountain pen.
A chunky pen with a golden nib.
Silver ribs on its chunky lid.
A pen like this could make you happy.

We parked in front of a supermarket.
I found a piece of paper stuffed under the driving seat.
I couldn't wait to get going, get going
with my new silver capsule pen.

I wrote in tight, constricted hand-writing.
As if the careful formulation of my writing,
the neatness of my lettering
would somehow give the content more worth.

All that remained of the original market was the old walls that surrounded the car park. Once, where the supermarket now stood, there'd been a yard where farmers set up temporary corrals with sections of galvanised gates. Built walls from hay bales. Scattered straw to make a place to exhibit their pigs and cattle. A place to set down cages. Rabbits. Chickens. My friend Nick once bought a cockerel.

A tractor whirs down the road.
It pulls a shepherd's hut on a trailer.
A turquoise shepherd's hut
made from sections of corrugated sheeting.
A wave of ivy grows and streams down the back wall.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Corral

Lily pads with tubular stems
draped over a wooden shape
worn smooth by cloudy water.

Three lines cross the sky.
Later, they'll connect
with the telegraph poles.

Iron rails spiked into the grass
to keep the gravestones
corralled in place.


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