Google+ A Tangled Rope: 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

The White Attic Room


Carla’s room was right at the top of the house. It was small, under the sloping roof with angled odd-shaped windows set into the roof. She took me by the hand and led me there.

It was an odd-shaped room, seemingly with more corners than walls. It was obviously some kind of afterthought, shaped out of the spare places of the house and turned into a room.

However, it was a bright sunny room with bare white walls that seemed cool and inviting in the heat of that summer. The windows were open and I could hear the cries of the gulls as they circled the cliff top and this big old rambling house which stood up their like some royal personage on the throne of its cliff.

There was just a small three-drawer sideboard, also white, and her single iron-framed bed in the room. On the bare floorboards as a small striped brown and cream rug.

There were no pictures, posters, no record player, no discarded clothes on the floor, just a single plain-covered hardback book on the floor by the bed, and nothing else.

Nothing else except the two of us. When I turned towards her, Carla was already reaching out for me, smiling that smile of hers, which I already knew, and I knew what it meant.

She’d smiled that smile many times before, already for me that summer, down in the dunes, over on the far cliff-top over the other side of the bay, in the woods, the old abandoned barn and several other places.

Yes, I knew what that smile of hers meant, and – so – I smiled too as I stepped forward into her arms.

Monday Poem: A Marker


A Marker

It will all end here, a few stones piled up
to signify another pair of hands
that reached out, but they could not touch the world
which lies just out of reach of stretching fingers
that need to hold onto this world that twists

so easily from the grasp, evades each hand
that reaches out towards it, hoping to touch
and waiting for the world to take and hold
us by the hand and lead us back to a place
we can pretend is something like a home.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fruit Security and Public Thoroughfares


When there are days like this, it helps to have some sort of container for the raspberries, at least if you are considering venturing out onto the public roads. As you will be aware the 1987 amendment to the Use of the Queen’s Highway Act of 1867, expressly forbids anyone to venture onto the roads, paths and other avenues of communication (except – for obvious reasons – canal towpaths) without their fruit being secured in some sort of container.

As we all know, the fruit riots of the early to mid Victorian period resulted in several deaths, many hundreds of injuries and some of the largest elderberry stains ever seen in peacetime England, certainly in the post-Reformation years.

Of course, in the Victorian era there was much concern over the access the working class had to such middle class foodstuffs such as fruit. It was felt that - in the moral climate of the time – that fruit led to licentiousness and other forms of moral delinquency that the god-fearing Victorian middle-classes would find too upsetting to contemplate, especially if, say, approached by a wick trimmer brandishing his gooseberries in an overly provocative manner.

Of course, there were certain Victorian gentlemen wiling to pay young women – and even – occasionally – athletic-looking young boys to fondle their plums or give their banana a good squeeze, but most Victorians overlooked such things.

We would like to think times have changed in the intervening years, but even in this day and age, any attractive young lady out on the street with her melons on display will be on the receiving end of a great deal of – often unwelcome – interest and speculation.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

World Enough and Time... and a Bag of Chips


Ah, but, if we only had world enough and time... oh, and a bag of chips, then perhaps we could see what has become of our lives. There was a time… but then I'm sure you remember that, especially when you dropped your bag of chips due to the passion of the moment.

Anyway, those were the chip shops of our youth. Back in those days, they were everywhere and all our kisses were salt and vinegar flavoured.

It doesn't help though, to dwell too long on the past, especially if it suddenly makes you remember what happened to your most-prized mandolin... and that incident with the butter.

Still as they say... or do they?

To be honest I've never come across a bit of concise, but meaningless, bit of folk wisdom condensed down into some half-remembered pithy aphorism that deals with all the subtleties of a situation like that. Not one that specifically mentions a naked Subbuteo cup-final between consenting adults, anyway.

Who would have though that green baize could be so erotic?

Those were the days... and the nights. Although, some of the afternoons did tend to drag a little, especially in those long dull hours before the chip shops opened.

Waiting for Me


Well, what if....

There are always possibilities. There are always times that can seem as though they offer all the ways you want to go. There, in an instant, it seems the future lies in the palm of your hand, just waiting for you to close your fingers around it and clutch it tight to yourself, never to let go.

I have been there and I have held on to those moments. I have seen the world begin to shape itself around me and the road I walk down.

I have created the distant horizon and shaped the sky that barely touches it. I have peopled that sky with a bare handful of small white clouds to contrast against the eternal blue. I have sculpted those dark distant hills that keep the lands of my creation safe from the unknown that lies behind. I have turned the twists of the slow lazy river to flow between the sides of these valleys I walk down. I have traced this roadway that goes to meet the simple wooden bridge that crosses the lazy river to go on towards the village that nestles beyond, filled with those who know me. A place where I know the one small cottage waits where I have placed you, waiting for me to come home.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dark Matter and the Nature of the Universe


All of this is pretty much about all of the thing that it is... unless there is some of it lost down the back of the sofa cushions – what is known to astronomers, cosmologists, and that nice lady down at the chip shop, as dark matter.

Dark matter is dark which is why it doesn't show up very well in the dark. Light matter is another matter – this accounts for over 98% of the stuff in the universe that is beige.

The rest is just stuff.

Planets, we know, are made mainly out of dirt, except of course for the Earth a lot of which is made out of rain.

Moons, of which the Earth has only one, but other - more showy and insecure planets - have many, are, of course, made out of cheese.

Saturn has rings – which is only to be expected really. Uranus exists only as a place for schoolboy jokes to get a punch-line. Pluto is made out of cartoons. Mercury gets bigger the closer it gets to the sun and smaller as it moves away. Mars is made out of nougat and caramel covered in thick, thick milk chocolate, although recently scientists have discovered that the surface of Mars is not as thick as they once believed.

The rest of the universe is made of stuff, with a few billion holes, where the light from the universe next-door shines through, which we call stars.

Crawl into the Mind


What if all of this was nothing at all? What if it was less substantial than one of those dreams you leave behind on your morning pillow when you step out of that bedroom to face the day?

After all, this is only words, mere marks on the screen, scratches on paper and movements in the air. They do not amount to that much, easily ignored.

You can turn off the computer, close the book or just walk away, leaving the words to fade into nothingness.

Think of all those words we have ever spoken and how many of them really mattered. The silences when the words are left unspoken are often more eloquent, more meaningful than a whole jugful of words poured into the ear that does not want to listen.

Although, words too can be the poison dripped into the ear of the sleeping king that brings about the downfall of the entire kingdom. Words can tell a jealous husband about his wife’s handkerchief and words can promise kingdoms around cauldrons and tell of great loves that will last all through time.

Words can creep and words can crawl into the mind and stay there for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Secrets of a Woman


She knew all the secrets of what it meant to be a woman. She knew them all a long time before I ever could untangle what it meant to be a man.

So, that one summer morning, while there was still dew wet on the grass she took me by the hand to show me all the things she had found out.

We walked down by the river, the day waking up around us, as she told me what she knew and I had yet to find out.

She knew all about those secret places that belong only to women and what could be found there. She knew what secrets could be unfolded and opened, even by the tentative fingers of those too young to become lovers. She took me down the sloping riverbank under the tree that dipped its branches into the river and gave me all her secrets to unwrap, to touch and to hold.

She taught me about kisses, and the way that lips can keep secrets and how those same lips can tell the fingers where to touch and explain to the hands how to hold and how to let go.

She taught me about the warm. She taught me about the dark and she taught me about so much about all her secrets before she turned in my arms to discover and unwrap those few simple secrets that were mine.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Young Love’s First Audit


When you are young and in love and you have a box full of invoices to share between you, it feels as though there can be no end to the good times. There is nothing quite as exciting to a young man as seeing a sexy young girl running her fingers through his cashbook, or for a young girl to witness the first bloom of manly pride when a young man achieves his first trial balance.

Then there are the days of filing when it seems that a single filing cabinet can contain the hopes, dreams and memos of all that young love can offer.

Even then, there is always the hesitation and uncertainty of a couple as they finally build up the courage to undertake their first audit together. Some times, they will experiment, or maybe they’ll prefer the woman taking the lead and the man using the calculator as in the normal way these things are done. Sometimes they are too scared that they could be doing it wrong, or that they will not be able to come to a mutually-satisfying balance.

However, once they have their pencils sharpened and they sit down at the desk, ready to begin, then all the nerves and the worries fade into nothingness as he watches her slowly… sexily… sensuously… opening the ledger.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shakespeare and Advertising


‘How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the Cornish pasties of this world! / Fie on’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,’

Of course, nowadays, Shakespearean scholars are slowly coming to acknowledge the commercial basis for much of the bard’s work, especially the plays. The above quotation for Honest Rosencrantz’s ‘Real Meat’ Cornish Pasties is but one example along with, of course, the famous further quote from the same play extolling the virtues of Guildenstern’s Pencils, the 2B in particular.

Obviously, back in those days there was no Arts Council, or any such diversion of taxpayers’ money into what the great and good of the arts world thought ordinary folk ought to be made to like – or, at least - pay for. Instead, there were such things as patronage, Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis poem, for example, was dedicated to a patron: the Earl of Southampton, and used by the Earl as advertisements for a dating agency he had set up to enable the sons and daughters of the Elizabethan gentry to meet each other.

However, Shakespeare’s plays were a different matter.

In later years, Shakespeare and his company of players were paid a certain amount of money for some of their plays by royalty: both Queen Elizabeth I and, later, James I. Unfortunately, this was not enough to even cover the costs of staging a play, especially with the price of theatrical doublets. Therefore, like modern commercial TV, Shakespeare used both commercials and sponsorship to provide the money necessary to get his plays on stage.

One of the earliest of Shakespeare’s successful in-play adverts was the line: 'what light though yonder window breaks? It must be a Capulet's candle to shine so brightly.' in Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare’s use of advertising in his plays reached its artistic peak in his play dedicated to Macbeth's Original Scotch Broth. From its list of the famous secret ingredients, herbs and spices hinted at as the witches prepare a cauldron of the broth, right through to what many playgoers regarded as the advertising slogan of the year:

'Is this a soup spoon I see before me. All the better for a spoonful of Macbeth's Original Scotch Broth – the taste thee'll never forget, even when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane!'

Towards the end of Shakespeare’s writing career, The Tempest was sponsored initially by a company producing what they called ‘the most powerful laxative powders’ then on the market, with the advertising slogan:

Enough to cause a Tempest in your closet.

So successful was this commercial link up it enabled William Shakespeare to retire to a house in the country soon afterwards and live a life of comparative luxury right up to his death in 1616.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Donkey Festival


Well, once. But that was only because I was cleaning it - washing it - and it… sort of… went off in my hand. I don't usually…. Well, y'know, I suppose not more than… ooh, well… once an hour. Oh, all right, twice an hour… at least. That is, until it gets too sore.

I suppose you think…?

Well, I suppose we all have to think occasionally. No matter how little we like to do it. I mean - to be honest - would they have invented television otherwise? Still, as they say - 'There's many a donkey in a field full of donkeys on donkey audit day at the Donkey Festival'.

However, at least I'm normal. I'm not one of those perverts who wears a suit and tie. I mean, dressing up like that in public. It's no wonder people point and stare. I mean, well, it's not normal, is it? I suppose if you work in a bank, or something equally sordid, but not a normal job, not a real job.

Me? Well, I like to wear raspberries, in the summer especially. Well, at least I did until the problem with the wasps on the top deck of the bus. Although, I did keep the ticket, as a sort of memento. After all, it is not often you are offered so many Maltesers by complete strangers.

Pithy, Apt and Erudite... or Not


Well, there you go. Or, on the other hand there you stay, unless, well, you have found some sort of state of existence that exists between movement and stasis, which would I would presume be a bit of a bugger to maintain, especially with all that excess strain on the upper thigh muscles, to say nothing of the problems of maintaining the necessary close contact between yourself and your sandwich of choice.

Still, as they say, you can't butter Rome in a day. Or – for that matter count your chickens without recourse to some sort of numbering system.

So, here we are then. I suppose you are expecting something, if not quite pithy, apt and erudite about one of the subjects of the moment, something at least mildly diverting which doesn't bang on too much about the penguins, or mention cheese in a way the author finds - for some odd reason – quite humorous.

You never know with him though, do you?

It has been known for him to witter away for a whole blog post about nothing in particular without coming to much of a conclusion and/or point. Sometimes he's even been known to just stop right in the middle of a....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Times of Legends and Accountancy


So let us take arms against this sea of invoices and take all these memos of the seven kingdoms into our stationery cupboard of destiny. I have seen how the Management Accountants are massing on the borders of, this, our fair land, on their mighty auditing steeds ready to sweep down across the plains and murder, rape, pillage and fully-audit all the villages and hamlets that lie open and defenceless against them.

Once, under the last kings, this was a mighty land with some of the most tightly-audited villages and hamlets with a taxation structure that meant all the castles of the land had accountancy departments that were feared in all the surrounding kingdoms.

There were times when the invoicing procedures of this kingdom struck fear into the kings of the surrounding lands, who knew they did not have the cash reserves that could withstand a siege by some of this land's most feared Knights of the Audit, some of whom had been training on their calculators and before they could even walk, let alone reconcile a cash book.

Then though came the dark days, the dark years, when the land was captured and taken over by the Dark Wizards of Financial Services who cast their dread spells upon the land and laid waste to all the taxation regulations that the kingdom had built up over the centuries, until even the very petty cash boxes were ripped asunder and left empty and desolate on the deserts of what had been a once proud Balance of Trade.

[And then came the Dark Knights of the VAT and the evil mages and wizards of the Inland Revenue to bring the dark times upon these once-fair lands and our world would never be the same again.

Not Enough Time


Whenever I thought about such things, she was the one I thought about. We had not known each other for that long, but it seemed that we knew more about each other than anyone else I'd ever known. I can remember her sitting in some café with me, looking at me over the top of her coffee cup as we told each other our stories.

I remember thinking then that I would never, ever, meet anyone who understood me the way that she did. I remember how she laughed and looked away from me as she put her cup down as if she was already imagining some route that she would take which would take her away from me.

I knew that she wanted to be somewhere else, that that place, that town, was not the place for her. She seemed out of place there, as though she was some great actress and that town was some small provincial theatre that had a stage too small for her.

I knew that I was not enough, either, back then I did not know who I was or what I wanted to be. I had no life, except a small pointless day-to-day existence. She knew that I was on the verge of making some kind of breakthrough, of becoming the sort of person I was capable of becoming, of who I ought to be. She was already there, fully-formed and ready to take on the world, while I was still struggling to break out of my chrysalis.

She was ready to take flight, and we both knew that life is so very short and that she had no time to wait for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011




‘Are you going to tell me?’ Julia said as the song ended.

‘Tell you what?’

‘Why you aren't going to the lectures? Why you act so pissed off all the time? Why you don't make me laugh like you used to?’ She knelt up on the bed, looking at me. The light of the desk lamp behind her made her blonde hair a pale halo around her head, her face in deep shadow.

I sighed and sat up slightly. ‘All right...’ I paused for a moment of thought. ‘It is the contrast, the difference, the gap. In my tutorial group, we all sit in this small room around a table talking quietly about rages, angers, passion, despair, love and confusion. Then after an hour of this we pick up our books, put away our pens and walk away for a cup of coffee....’ I paused again and took a long drink of my wine, holding my hand up as Julia opened her mouth to speak.

‘Then, I come back here to Alison. I think about food, whether or not I need a shower and if we have enough dirty washing to go to the launderette. Now, I find myself thinking of The Wasteland as I watch the tumble-dryer, and thinking of sweat-stained shirts in the tutorials. But neither of them seems to be of any help, of any use. I can connect nothing with nothing. The shirts will only get dirty again, and what real use is the other stuff?’ I took the cigarette from between Julia's fingers. She sat with her head down, deep in thought. I laughed as I lit the cigarette. She looked up at me, slightly puzzled.

‘It's a silly thing, I know. I thought I was too old for any of this teenage-angst stuff, walking through the rain in a too-long second-hand overcoat, raging at the cold indifferent moon and moaning in existential despair.’

Julia shifted slightly and I could see her eyes as she looked at me. ‘It doesn't sound silly to me,’ she said. ‘I get upset by things like social injustice, inequality, the Tories winning the election again, university underfunding and the poverty of students, and things like sexism and racism, but I've never felt so... so lost as that.’

I reached out and took her hand in mine. I shook my head slowly. ‘It's not that bad, honestly. It just gets like that sometimes.’ I smiled, squeezing Julia's fingers. ‘Anyway, it will soon be Christmas; perhaps I just need a holiday.’

Julia turned, and moved back to sit beside me. I let go of her hand, but she picked my hand up and held it in both of hers, resting in her lap. ‘You will come back though, won't you, after Christmas?’ Julia looked down at my hand and stroked her thumb across the back of it.

‘Of course,’ I said. I still felt, despite everything, that this was my last chance. My last chance to find some sort of life for myself, some sort of meaning, nothing else had worked for me. Nowhere felt like home any longer. If I gave up, I would have to go back to my parents' house. I would have to face my sister's confirming sneer, my mother's reproach, but most of all I would have to stand face to face with my father.

‘Good luck, son,’ he had said with a shy, almost proud, smile. ‘I wish I could've had a chance like this. There's always been so much I wanted to know, to learn, I envy you.’ I felt the rough skin of my father's hand as he held mine, tight, for a moment. He winked and then smiled at me. The sound of my sister's car horn jerked me into movement and I let go of his hand. As we drove away, I looked back to see them both, my mother and father with their arms around each other, waving.

Until that point, I had never felt my father needed to know anything. He was a man who could fix anything with a short, sharp intake of breath, a shake of the head and a screwdriver. He had a screwdriver with a shining shaft and a worn, sweat-stained wooden handle, far older than me, and probably of far more use.

I had no use for those screwdrivers, but I felt I could use some of my father's envy. The envy that had so surprised me. I could envy Julia and her belief in the rightness of her socialism and feminism. I could envy Guy's desire for the music, noise and crowds of a good party. I could envy Ron's desire for a good degree to get him a good job, and his easy social manner. I could envy Margot's arrogant disregard of those around her. I could envy my sister's tabloid certainties, her desire for the money, expensive clothes and jewellery that spelled success for her. I could even envy Alison's ironic distancing of herself, turning away from the university life she no longer felt she needed. There was also my parents' stable, happy contentment with each other, which I could envy too.

I could use some envy, but only if I could feel it like the solid, purposeful weight of that screwdriver. But, I had no strength for envy. Strong emotion feels out of place with me, fraudulent in some way; I am not built for such things. At that moment, I couldn't even feel the true weight of my own doubts about the value of what I was doing at the university. They seemed airy, light and insubstantial. As I had said to Julia when I tried to put them into words, they seemed silly, adolescent even. I was getting very tired of words.

‘Do I dare eat a peach?’ I said.

‘What?’ Julia said sleepily, letting go of my hand to stroke her hair back from her eyes.

‘Oh, nothing,’ I said. ‘Do you want a cigarette?’


[Extract from Hanging Around Until]

The End of the Chapter


She saw. That was enough. Now she understood. She closed the door. She walked away. She closed that chapter on her life with that closing door.

She walked for a while, for hours. She walked along down by the river with the autumn wind blowing her red-gold hair around her face as it blew the red-gold fallen leaves up around her feet with each step. The sky was grey and moody with heavy clouds threatening rainstorms that never came.

She would have liked the rain, would have liked its cold stinging drops thrown against her bare face by the wind. She would have liked to feel washed clean by it all. She would have liked a storm to wash away the visions of what lay beyond that door.

She stood for a while, watching the river, swollen with autumn rains, tumbling on down between its banks. She would have – if she'd ever really though about it – expected her thoughts to be tumbling and troubled like that heavy river, but they were not. She felt as calm as a lazy summer afternoon when even the river feels slow and placid.

When she got back to the house that was her happy home until she opened that door, she did not need to open that door again. It was already open and the room beyond was full of an absence that she knew she was already getting used to.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Poem: One Breath


One Breath

All there is, is all there could be
enclosed all within this one breath
that takes a lifetime to exhale
and is all over in an eye-blink
then lost on breezes that blow us
away into forgotten dust.

All moving with the flowing winds
and chasing on along the breezes
that take the seeds of starting life
all falling down to waiting ground
and ready to begin to grow
out from this dust we leave behind.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Have Seen the Future and it Tastes of Marmalade


The oscillations of my turbo-sexual donkey divination device are but of naught when put up against the stalagmites and stalactites of your indifference. Let me touch the more intimate parts of your erotically-supercharged wallaby with the very tip of my touching stick (suitably recalibrated for marsupials, of course) and I will never again question the veracity of your expense claims.

Let us go then, you and I, now the stockbrokers are spread out against the sky and go on down to the naughty device shop and see if we can buy a half-pound bag of mixed and assorted naughty devices for our later perusal back in the comfort and safety of our very own potting shed.

I have seen the future and it tastes of marmalade.

Onward, my sex weasels, onward! There are wildebeests in the wainscoting once again and it is still only autumn. How can this be when there are only small grommets available in the shops?

Still, I have the banana here, do you have the lawyer oiled and readied?

Jam and Scones


Ah, but we were young then and not quite as hairy in surprising places as we are now. There were times when it all seemed as though even the winters were one long endless summer and your impatience with the restrictions of underwear were not affected by sudden drops in temperatures and the prospect of a bracing cold front bringing a sudden nip into the air.

What cared we for the goose-pimpling cold when we shivered with desire and need and had so much picking vinegar and what seemed like an endless supply of shallots.

In the summer too there were strawberries and your deep yearning for me to spread our very own home-made jam across your still-warm scones, trembling with need as I then began to lick it off.

Still though, back in those days were young and free – or at least did not have to include VAT – and we thought they would last forever.

Now though, we sit here and debate the relative merits of socks and woollens as we feel the first chilly fingers of winter's icy dark mornings linger a little too long a little too close than we'd like to our nether regions which – for reasons known only to themselves – have seemingly decided to opt for early hibernation.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stories on the Wind


There were times when there were stories blowing on the wind. There were once times when it seemed there was a tale lying over every hill and each horizon hid legends and myths beyond the rising or setting sun. There were times when these lands seemed full of stories and each traveller carried with them tales of far places we only ever heard of in the stories and legends.

Now, though, we grow old and we grow weary. It seems we have heard too many tales. We have gone past wondering if all these stories are true, or embellished with distance and imagination. Now we wonder if we know the nature of truth at all. We have lived long enough to distinguish the lies that those who would make promises of leadership or salvation tell with every turn of their tongues.

We no long believe, even those of us who wanted to believe and those who needed to believe, no longer believe in the stories of gods and devils, monsters and ghosts.

We have lived too long and seen too much about how this world does not fit inside all those tales we have been told.

And yet....

And yet we sit here watching the dancing flames of our fires, waiting for someone to begin telling us a new tale....

The Curse of Our Age


Now, you may have become somewhat over-involved in giving displays of exhibition cheese-grating in many of the more infamous vestibules of some of the UK’s most resplendent stately homes, but that does not give you the right to disport yourself over our most holy TV schedules with impunity. Be that as it may, I am not one to hold a grudge against anyone who has had the misfortune to become famous through over-frequent TV appearances. Celebrity is the plague of out age, and we should not hold those who become infected with it with scorn or contempt, providing they have – of course – done their best to avoid catching the disease in the first place. Celebrity is indeed the curse of our times and a serious threat to the integrity of our very elbows themselves.

However, if it does result in an enthusiasm for collecting begonias or attaching improbably shaped sets of cardboard wings to Dalmatians, then I’m afraid that questions should indeed be asked, but not – you’ll be pleased to hear – by any self-proclaimed interlocutor on those very same TV programmes. That way madness lies, that is if you remember to turn left at the traffic lights and take the third exit from the roundabout.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No More Words


[Hotel room (1931) by Edward Hopper]

What if there were no words? What if all of this was left unsaid, with just the wind blowing through the leaves and the rustle of something prowling through the undergrowth?

Would anything change?

There are too many unnecessary words in the world as it is. A few more handfuls make no real difference to anything.

We do not need to speak. We do not need to tell each other things we think are true, but in the end turn out to be little more than lies masquerading as hopes and possibilities. We know we have no future to speak of, so we say nothing. We just let the touch of finger against face and the eloquence of skin against skin do all our talking for us.

All those words we have used in the past, to get lovers to take our hands and step out of their normal lives into a place like this, seem overused and meaningless now. A place like this is where the normal rules do not apply and time ceases to pass until see shrug our clothes back on and walk those separate paths back to our own lives without needing to fill the time saying things we know we cannot mean.

We can only ever really say goodbye and mean it, because neither of us knows whether it will really be the last good-bye this time, rather than the acknowledgement that these few stolen hours have only temporarily come to an end.

Making a Day of It


Those were the days, of course. You could tell by the way they tended to start in the morning and went on through midday into the afternoon and later, if they felt up to it, most of them would have a fairly good stab at an evening, with some of them even managing to make a night of it.

Obviously, not all of them made it, some of them struggled to get going in the morning. Almost as if all that effort of getting the sun to rise at dawn wore them out, so they would fall back into the night exhausted, never really making it out from under the duvet unless there was a halfway decent old black and white film on TV in the afternoon.

Some of them, though, made the effort: giving us a day we could – if we so desired – remember forever. It always gives people a bit of a boost when they open the curtains and see the day has made a bit of an effort. It doesn't have to be a bright warm sunny day. Some winter days with a fresh layer of snow sparkling in the crisp winter sun can seem worthwhile. Spring and autumn too can have fine days that linger long in the memory.

It is those rather dull days that never seem to get going that are the disappointing ones, the ones that make you feel you are living through Carlisle on early closing day, they are the ones that need to pull their socks up and - at least – try to be decent days.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fire Hose



‘Aaarrgh! Jesus, fuck!’ Pete leapt out of bed, suddenly soaking wet and cold. Johnny was standing on the bottom of Pete's bed, stark naked except for a bright red bra fastened over his head like a Spitfire pilot's leather helmet. He was aiming a still-dripping fire hose at Pete.

‘Oh, hello Helena,’ Johnny said cordially.

‘Bastard!’ Helena said as she tried to extricate herself from the sodden sheets.

Johnny whipped the sheets away from her. ‘Nice tits,’ he said. He dropped the fire hose and sat on the bed, taking one of Helena's cigarettes from the bedside table and lighting it. ‘Y'know, I wish I'd seen you pair shagging on that table. Not old hairy arse here, of course. But you.’ He leered at Helena. ‘I suppose a quick one, now, is out of the question?’

‘Would 'fuck off' and 'over my dead body' be too ambiguous for you?’

‘Ambi-what? Don't forget dear heart, I'm just a working-class thicko. I don't understand your posh words.’ Johnny stood up and waved his cock at Helena. ‘Anyway, fancy a bit of rough then?’

‘Piss off.’

Pete leapt across the bed. ‘No, don….’ He made a grab for Helena just as Johnny did as she'd asked, all over the bed where she had been sitting. Pete took Helena by the hand and ran for the door as Johnny re-aimed his own personal fire hose.

‘Johnny's coming to get you!’ Johnny cried, leaping over the bed. ‘Come back, Helena. It's only a bit of social justice. I only want to do to you what you upper-class folk have been doing to us workers for centuries.’

Pete grabbed the door and flung it open, dragging Helena out into the hotel corridor with him.

‘Good evening, sir.’ The police sergeant said. ‘We have had reports from the hotel manager here, of a disturbance.’

Pete and Helena were trapped. They stood, naked, in front of the open hotel room door, confronted by the police sergeant, a constable, a WPC and the hotel manager. The two policemen smiled humourlessly at the nude couple as the WPC turned away towards the room just as Johnny pissed through the open doorway.

‘Oh… shit,’ she cried, jumping back out of the doorway and gingerly trying to keep her sodden uniform blouse away from her skin, holding it between the tips of her fingers.

‘Er no… WPC Rogers,’ the sergeant said, trying not to laugh. ‘A misinterpretation of the evidence I would say.’ He looked around the door into the hotel room. ‘Oh, hello Johnny, I thought it would be you,’ he said with a sigh. ‘You know the form. Hold your hands out for the cuffs, and keep that thing pointed away from me.’ He turned to Pete and Helena. ‘I suggest you get dressed, sir, miss… before….’

There were several flashes in rapid succession. Pete turned to see a photographer and reporter at the other end of the corridor.

‘Hey!’ The constable shouted. But the photographer and reporter had already disappeared through the fire exit.

The sergeant herded the entire group back into Pete's room. Helena began to pick her clothes up from the floor as the WPC disappeared into the bathroom, still trying to stop her sodden blouse from touching her skin.

‘I was going to say: 'before the press boys get here',’ the sergeant said. ‘But it's too late now.’ He turned to Johnny. ‘Have you got any idea where your clothes are this time?’

Johnny shook his head. The sergeant turned to the hotel manager and asked to borrow a blanket.

The manager nodded. ‘I'll add it to the bill.’

‘We are going to have to charge you this time, Johnny,’ the constable said. ‘Someone had parked their car underneath where you let that telly fall out of the window. He is not a happy man at all. It was a brand-new Mercedes.’

The WPC came back from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, and dropped her blouse and personal radio on the bed. ‘There's also damage to police property,’ she said. ‘He pissed all over my radio, it's completely fucked.’ She turned to Johnny.

Johnny smiled at her. ‘Any chance of a shag? I like a woman in uniform.’

The WPC smiled, and then brought her knee up quickly. Johnny groaned as he collapsed. He squirmed on the floor, gasping for breath and clutching his genitals.

The three police officers stood watching impassively for the several minutes it took before Johnny could speak again.

‘My, my. What happened to you then?’ the sergeant asked Johnny.

‘I… I….’ Johnny looked up at each of the officers in turn. ‘I seem to have foolishly bumped into some furniture while I was too drunk to realise what I was doing.’

‘Yes, my thoughts exactly,’ the sergeant agreed.

‘How much this time?’

Everyone turned at the sound of Stan's voice.

‘It's gone beyond that, I'm afraid… sir,’ the hotel manager said.

Stan glanced at the manager, then ignored him. He walked over to the sergeant. The sergeant was standing in the middle of the soaking wet hotel room, next to where Johnny lay on the floor. The PC and the WPC stood behind them. The WPC was now wearing a Transmission tour t-shirt Pete had given her.

‘Is that true?’ Stan said to the sergeant. The sergeant nodded.

‘In that case,’ Stan said. ‘How much would I have to pay you to drop him out of the window?’

‘I'd do that for nothing,’ the WPC said.

‘I’m in love!’ Johnny said, reaching up to kiss the policewoman's hand. He groaned and then curled up into a ball on the soaking wet carpet. A moment later, he was snoring soundly.


[An extract from Dance on Fire]

About the Shadowed Places


She knew about the shadowed places. She knew there were places in the shadows and dark corners of this world that could lead off to other places set at an angle to this world. She knew that to pass through those shadows and dark places could bring her out into a world not like this one, but out into a new world.

She knew there were other worlds and other kinds of realities, and not just the ones where she would be the Warrior Princess of the Nine Kingdoms, riding into battles of destiny with her faithful war tiger at her side. She knew there were worlds beyond those places where she took her pick of young lovers and led them from the flickering brightness of the camp fire off into her tent where they would spend the night entwined on her bed of furs.

She knew too of the monsters and demons that crawled out of those dark shadows into the safety of the night to clamber and claw their way into all our dreams. She knew too, that she could step off into those shadows and walk the dark alleyways and convoluted corridors of all our dreams, taking arms against those monsters and demons so that we could all sleep safe.

She knew all this and yet she walked past those shadowed places every morning on her way to her ordinary life, knowing that the time was not yet quite right for her to walk out of that life into some new land, some new way of living... not yet, anyway.

Being Human


I don't suppose you would consider... y'know, just for a moment....

After all, you are – sort of – a rather attractive... erm... well, although there are some superficial resemblances to the human, I'm not quite sure if you'd actually qualify, not outside those remote rural backwaters where interbreeding has produced some remarkable genetic cock-ups, anyway.

Not that – to be honest – being human is all that it is cracked up to be, anyway. I mean, well, we've got the talking and the tool-making abilities, granted. But this whole genitalia thing is a bit of a botch job and walking upright - for those of us who've managed it - seems at first glance a good thing. There does seem to be quite a lot of back problems which seem to make the thing about reaching the high shelves in the supermarket as more of a curse than a boon.

Then there is this leg business. As a method of locomotion it does – more or less – serve the purpose, but the thing is you are never quite sure what to do with the legs when you are not using them. Then there is the thing which the wife does while sleeping which seems to involve her using the whole of the bed – and the quilt – leaving you with little more than the top corner to curl up in while she - somehow – turns into a snugly duvet-wrapped octopus spread out over the other 95% of the bed.

Makes you realise that 'Intelligent Design' is a load of old bollocks though, and that can only ever be a good thing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Buffet Provided


Well, there you are. That is, if it is you and not some cunningly-placed cardboard cut-out you have placed there to give me the impression that – this time – you have actually bothered to turn up and that my time spent preparing this buffet, modest though it is, has not been entirely wasted.

I had to walk all the way down to the corner shop for that packet of crisps. Admittedly, that was some time ago a you can tell by the long-expired Best Before date, but – as they say – it is the thought that counts. Although, why they do say such a thing is beyond me. They, whoever they are, though do have a propensity to talk utter bollocks at such times anyway.

Anyway, the pickled onion is of special – if these days only archaeological – interest. It is a family heirloom, passed down through generations of family parties, get-togethers and other such tortures by relatives, lying untouched throughout some of the most significant moments in the history of this country and special anniversaries of the collection of troglodytes, un-convicted serial-killers, child-stranglers and other detritus of the human race that passes for family whenever it is humans feel thy can face up to seeing those they share some sort of genetic relationship with, no matter how tenuous.

So, y'know, treat that pickled onion with the respect it deserves and I may, just, let you have five minutes alone with that slice of pork pie – that is as long as you provide your own piccalilli.

In the Dark of Morning


Then there are those mornings when the alarm drags us out of the night while it is still dark. We huddle tight against each other to keep the cold at bay while we try to hang on to those scraps of dreams that somehow promised a life better than this. A life where I did not have to leave you, lying there, while I went out to look for the morning and to see what new ordeals it had brought with it.

It seems there were once times when our mornings were bright and sunny and we were woken by bird song and sunlight streaming in through breeze-blown curtains. Days that brought us mornings where anything seemed possible and the day would not twist us and torment us with its new hard cruelties.

It seems every day now starts in darkness and in cold, creating journeys for us where we seek the light and the warmth. We wake knowing that each new morning takes us deeper into the cold and dark of the winter that looms in the darker shadows like some dread heavy beast with freezing talons that grab and will not let go until we are frozen to the core.

These dark mornings, though, give us no option but to stumble through them, looking for some sort of light, looking to see if we can find some way through to the bright sunny day that we know ought to be there waiting for us, and be ours for the taking.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Disappearing


Sometimes it gets too hard to hold onto the world. Things lose their shape, become indistinct and their edges fade away. Sometimes whole areas of this world disappear. I have lost houses, streets, villages and even towns and cities sometimes. All just disappearing and leaving no trace. Sometimes the buildings disappear, leaving just roads that snake off into the distance leading from nowhere to nowhere. Sometimes the roads disappear too and leave just a landscape of emptiness that contains nothing but grass, trees and scrub right up to the horizon and beyond.

There are times too when the landscape itself disappears, leaving nothing, nothing at all. It is hard to describe the nothing that is left behind, because when we try to think of nothing we have to have something there that we can call nothing.

On the days, though, that everything disappears there is not even an absence – there is just nothing.

People disappear far too easily, as though they have stepped into another room. They are there and then – suddenly - they are gone. If they don't come back, then maybe I forget them. I don't know... I can't remember.

The other day there was a mirror – at least for a while – I looked into it and there was nothing there to stare back at me, just the reflection of the far wall and the painting that hangs there of some deserted empty landscape.

Then that was gone too.

Plumbing the Depths


Time was when there were things around that made it necessary to rub the upper thighs in a lascivious manner and speak of things involving baby oil and some of the more arcane sizes of tap washer.

Ah, but we were young then and plumbing seemed both exotic and daring. There were times when I lay awake in those long adolescent summer nights just imagining what it would be like to apply my adjustable wrench to you u-bend. I dreamt too of winter nights when I could spend evening after evening lagging your pipes.

My blowtorch got hot just thinking of your touch on my nuts and the first gentle probings of your spanner on them. I thought that one day, maybe one day, when we got to know each other better you would let me install a washing machine somewhere intimate and out-of-the-way.

Of course, when we met we talked of guttering, pipes and taps and strolled hand-in-hand along streets that seemed nothing but thinly-disguised water supply and drainage systems. Everywhere we looked there seemed to be nothing but plumbing and we wondered if we would ever be able to think of anything else again as your hand slowly caressed my standpipe.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Minutiae of our Moments


There are times when it seems the very ring roads of our souls are as empty and deserted as any early Sunday morning car park that stretches forlornly around the DIY Megastores of our hearts. We wander through our thoughts and dreams like that lone wandering shopping trolley that has been left exposed and alone out far from the comfort of any trolley bay and the safety of the herd as they doze chained together, waiting for the unwary shoppers to attempt to capture one.

We have been here before, holding hands as we stroll along the canal towpath, watching the discarded shopping bags sailing by, blown by a wind that can find no home in the shattered factories and broken down empty warehouses of our lives.

There was a time when all this throbbed with life, with workers, shoppers, all giving the impression that they were going about purposeful lives that were o’er brimmed with meaning and direction.

Now, though, we know that time will pass us by no matter how many electronic gadgets we use to store the minutiae of our moments and fill with appointments that merely pour through our days like sand though hourglasses.

Still, as they say, though… eh… you can’t complain, can you?

Waiting for Something Interesting to Happen


Well, there you are, fancy seeing someone like you in a place like this. Makes me wonder what the world is coming to. Still, pull up an aardvark and rest your weary jodhpurs. It may take a while for anything that interesting to happen. These days it seems to take longer and longer to get anywhere near anything resembling a punch-line in these ramblings, let alone any kind of point or purpose.

Not like the good old days, eh?

Sometimes it seems that these things just ramble on for a while, maybe mentioning the penguins, or some out-of-date piece of popular culture that no-one under a certain age knows the wot of, as well as the use of archaic language and rather long-winded, and wandering, circumlocutions that, although seeing erudite, never really seem to amount to much of any great significance or import.

However, sometimes – just sometimes – there is a dull gem in amongst al the waffle and verbiage – that with a bit of polishing could refract some kind of light onto the issues of the day that would make you feel that your time here has not been entirely wasted....

Today, though, is not one of those days.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Naked Unicyclist of fate


The naked unicyclist of fate is travelling from door to door of your hopes and memories, soliciting funds to finance the building of a sculpture representing all your failed dreams of a better life than this.

Meanwhile the small furry rodents of time are deserting all the sinking ships that were to take you across the seas of years into a future land you will now never see. Never will you even once feel the sands of its beaches under your bare feet.

Still, though, the mornings appear one after the other like the final demands for a life you never got around to using, leaving it with its windows curtained and its doors shut and bolted with all the future possibilities left piled under dust covers that you know you will never dare to lift again.

On the other hand, though, there are thousands upon thousands of web pages out there just waiting for you to alight upon them, so… what the hell, eh?

The Thing Falling out of the Sky Incident


'Then it came out of the sky like… like some kind of falling out of the sky thing…. And my first thought was something like… ‘Bugger me; something has fallen out of the sky’!'

This scintillating description by bystander and eyewitness, Splunge Cheesestroker, of what later became known as The Thing Falling Out of the Sky Incident tells us all we need to know about that strange event that took place on June 23rd 1998 in a secluded woodland area just outside the exotic and mysterious West Midlands town of Walsall.

For several years, with so much mystery and secrecy surrounding the thing that had fallen out of the sky in the vicinity of Mr Cheesestroker, people began to suspect there must be some sort of cover-up and conspiracy.

Not long after the incident, the secluded woodland area was subjected to a painstaking search by conspiracy-theorists, alien investigators and paranormal detectives and many other such specialists in hoodwinking the gullible, all searching for an explanation of the mystery of that warm summer evening that could form the basis for a book, lecture tour or, even, a lucrative TV series.

Many investigators, quite naturally, suspected there must be a secret US base operating on British soil, either some place where the American armed forces were conducting covert – and quite possibly illegal – tests of some new ultra-secret weaponry, or were using the area as a forward base in their clandestine contacts with aliens.

The investigators soon dismissed the idea that there could be some kind of secret UK government facility in the area as there was absolutely no record of any UK government employee leaving a briefcase full of secret papers, a laptop, or memory stick contain full details about any such facility on public transport at any time in the recent past.

However, all that could be discovered - by even the most painstaking researchers - was a nearby naturist club, just yards from where Mr Cheesestroker had set up his bird-watching hide that fateful evening. Further investigations revealed that the naturist club had set aside an area for Frisbee games not far from the hide too.

However, most of the UFO investigators found that they became mysteriously hot and confused the closer they got to the Frisbee-playing area of the naturist club, with several of the investigators finding they needed to take a lie down, especially when the Naturist club's Under-30s Ladies Frisbee championship cup reached its later rounds.

Despite staying near the naturist club's Frisbee area – as well as the beach-ball and badminton courts - well into the evening, none of the investigators seemed to notice anything unusual falling out of the sky. However, when interviewed about their experiences that night, none of the investigators was able to speak coherently, with one of them only able to repeat: 'bouncy, bouncy' in a strange far-away voice whilst staring off towards the Naturist Ladies' Under-30 Frisbee champion as she danced around the court to celebrate her victory.

Therefore, it seems that the mystery of that summer night, and just what it was that fell out of the sky in the near vicinity of Mr Cheesestroker may never be solved.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Big Laugh Theory

Still, you have to laugh, don't you, even if it is only at the misfortunes of others. At least that way we get to feel some sort of distance from those very misfortunes. Almost as if the laughter is some charm or ritual that will prevent those same, or similar, things happening to us instead.

Laughter is an odd thing though.

Laughing at the world, and all its slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, shows a greater understanding of the world and its capricious fates and accidents than most – if not all – the philosophers and sages have managed. The world will never make sense and it will trick us, trip us and trap us in hundreds and thousands of ways as we stumble through our lives walking into walls and stepping on discarded garden rakes, as we fall down holes and get hit full in the face by the custard pies of slapstick happenstance.

By way of example, it is obvious that the hassles and tribulations of human sexuality really can only make sense through the use of bawdy humour, the peculiarities of desire and the weirdness of wants are often too absurd for anything but humour.

The dirty joke is what makes us human and makes us aware of the essential silliness and arbitrary absurdity of our existence.

The universe did start with a big bang, but it soon turned into one big joke.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Times When Time Was


Time doesn't hold on to us, hold us so close as we once believed. Time goes on around us while we wait here, wait for it all to begin. There was a time when time itself seemed to wait for us, as though each day would wait impatient on the other side of the curtains for us to be up and ready for the day to take us by the hand and lead us out into the green and possible of the new world the morning had found for us.

Back then it seemed as though it could be our world to take and shape around us as though we had all the time that world could contain ready at our fingertips. All just waiting for our single word of command to set the whole thing flowing around us.

These days though time seems distant, as though it no longer wants us, or needs us. It is off somewhere else taking someone else's young days to wait for them. Nowadays, time is sullen, distant, carrying on without us, not really acknowledging us, just passing by beyond our reach, beyond our ability to take the day and shape it.

The days seem to be over, these days, before we've even had a chance to acknowledge them, let alone take them into our hands and feel the weight of possibilities they contain.

Warning over Lack of Fruit and Vegetables in Children’s Lunch-Boxes


Parents are failing to put enough fruit and vegetables into their children's school lunch-boxes, recycling experts have warned. As one recycling expert said:
The EU has imposed some rather stringent recycling quotas on the UK and unless we do things like putting fresh fruit and vegetables into children's school lunch-boxes, which – almost certainly – ensures they will never be eaten we will not meet those targets.
As almost everyone knows children will do their utmost to make sure that anything that may be perceived as 'good for them' in their lunch-boxes will remain totally untouched for as long as it is allowed to remain in the lunch-box. This is a good way for parents to use up any fruit and vegetables they may have bought – often in a fit of naïve optimism - by first storing them in the child's lunch- box and then, later, emptying out that untouched fruit and vegetables into the recycling bin.

An education spokesperson also pointed out that putting fruit and vegetables into a child's lunch-box could also have positive educational benefits:
As all adults - who've had to clean out a child's lunch-box - know, after a few weeks in a child's lunch-box all the fruit and vegetables in there will have become a very interesting science project and one that is bound to fascinate most children. Although, we do try to make science as uninteresting as possible because – as teachers – most of us know next to nothing about the subject, we feel that something like this could easily be passed off as a project for the pupils to undertake on their own.
Furthermore, as a Government spokesman pointed out:
All of us in this country must do our bit must make sure we meet all EU targets, unless the UK is to lose its place as the country most likely to enforce EU laws no matter how stupid, expensive, pointless or self-contradictory.