Google+ A Tangled Rope: 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Interest in Cabbages


Ah… well, the cabbage….

I was rather hoping you would not notice that, or – if the worst came to the worst – you’d be too polite to mention it, but this is – after all – the interwebnets and politeness has no place here.

I mean it is not that unusual to… take an interest in cabbages, although, admittedly not usually that way.

Not that I....

No… no… no….


Of course not.

I merely had it here for research purposes, obviously.

Admittedly, the way the leaves, fall open so invitingly is rather arousing, and it is rather a sexy shade of green, and the peephole bra I accidentally bought for it does seem to suit it so well, and I….

Oh, the sexy little brassica, sitting there with its wanton look of….

Hang on I need to… erm… go away for a…. moment.

[Time passes]

Ah, now where were we?

As I was saying, my little sex cauliflower, I – of course - have no interest in the cabbage that way. After all, I am a happily married man… or so my wife tells me, anyway.

I would no more take an interest in a sexy little Savoy like that than… than….

Hang on; is that wanton strumpet of a cabbage winking at me?

I think I may be in there!

On the Run


It was wet and cold. The rain poured down as we ran from street to street, the governmental Cheese-Detector vans hot on our trail. We had made the mistake of gathering our cell together for some rather splendid underground Stilton one of our most experienced bootleg cheese-makers had constructed, but someone left a window open.

The Cheese Detector vans were there in moments, screeching to a halt as the health police tumbled from them.

We ran, gathering the Stilton, the crackers, the butter and our crude homemade cheese knives as we scattered, each expecting the shouts of the anti-cheese tactical police and the thump of a bullet in our backs with every breathless step.

I had been involved in the underground since the days when the Health ministry first outlawed cheese for contravening of the If it Tastes Nice Then it Must be Bad for You law of 2023, which outlawed nearly all the food people liked to eat.

The government had – of course - banned smoking a long time before, and alcohol not long after that, but no-one had really expected them to keep on banning things, not after they’d banned elections, not being nice and having an unauthorised opinion almost ten years before.

It seemed that the governmental activists were still not happy, still troubled that their constant legislation had not - as yet – produced the perfect citizens living in the perfect society. Rather than their banning of everything they could think of making everything better, it seemed – illogically to them – only to make things worse.

It didn’t help that the populace of the European state didn’t seem to want to contribute to these various governmental schemes to make us into perfect citizens, or to co-operate with the various rules, laws and regulations the Brussels government came up with to make us all perfect.

The revolution had begun and the idealists amongst us dared to dream that one day England would return and we would once more be free-born Englishmen able to openly slice traditional English cheddar onto our crackers once again without fear.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cheese Incident


In this place, we will find the things that are here. If you remember not to place your eggcups in the vicinity of the Stock Exchange, then you can rest assured in the knowledge that your marmalade will only go towards partial fulfilment of the next cheese incident in the manifesto. All of which without any danger of yet more quantitative easing causing undue consternation amongst those of us who enjoy bedecking office receptionists with a plethora of multi-hued lupins.

But, Delores, always be aware of the helicopters, and do not ask how all the toast will be kept secure. Walls have ears, and some of them may have chins. You may think you know all the secrets of the refrigerator, but you do not know the full story of what lies behind the bacon.

Ah, you laugh nervously now, Delores, but I know all about the cheeseburgers… and the donkey.

I saw it once. It was interesting. It is not that interesting now.

I have seen you, Delores, dallying with the helicopter goatpeople and their beguiling banana-flavoured enticements. But you know too that their chins still bear the stains of electrical indifference.

You may think you understand, Delores, but you are cursed with the need to wear underwear, so you will never know the glory of an early-morning lupin in an adjacent room, or the smell of string vests in the late dusk of summer evenings.

On Tour


Well, there you go… have a nice time. It would be… er… helpful however, if this time you did not take the ukulele. Admittedly, your knowledge of obscure East European ‘nose’ music is probably second to none and many of us who have had the chance to be subjected to your… erm… rather novel interpretations of it – accompanied by the ukulele – do feel it is something of an acquired taste, as the judge at your last deportation hearing suggested.

Not everyone shares the same taste in music, after all, even if what you produce, aided by your rather idiosyncratic approach to the use of the ukulele as a more interpretative device than is usually the case. When you think about it, if you must, you last extended ukulele solo could have been regarded as less of an attempt to extend the boundaries of tired musical genre stereotypes and - as the lady hurriedly dispatched from the RSPCA said – more like the cry of some domestic animal in severe emotional distress.

Still, there is a rather commonly accepted view that all great art is produced from suffering, and your art does make sure that, indeed, we all do suffer for it.

It must therefore count as very great art indeed, and I – for one – would not be in the least bit surprised if you do eventually receive some generous support from the Arts Council, if only to ensure that you spend as much time as possible touring abroad.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lift a Day Out of the Ordinary


What begins?

We can take days like this and make them into something that goes beyond the ordinary. We can make them into times that matter, days that will live on in memory.

It doesn’t take all that much to lift a day out of the ordinary, even a smile or a gentle touch can be enough to begin the day with.

Even the way the sun shines down through the red and gold and brown leaves of an autumn tree can be enough, or the sight of a fox or badger making their way back home as the dawn packs away the reluctant night in the mists of an autumnal morning.

Once a day like that gets underway there is little than go wrong with it, even though capricious chance can always take the perfect moment and rip it to pieces. Accident and happenstance can befall us all, taking the perfect day and trample it into the muddy ground.

The world is never going to be perfect, and to expect a perfect life is to spend a lifetime in disappointment and regret. The small moments in an otherwise humdrum day can lift the spirits; make the world seem not quite so bad after all. The smile from a stranger on a cold winter morning street can do far more for us than all the gadgets we own and give us everything the adverts promise us, all for a fraction of the cost.

Monday Poem: A World Grown Strange


A World Grown Strange

It is like the aftermath of illness;
a slow recovering of how to live.
The artful secrets of breathing,
the possibility of movement.

A return to a world grown strange,
just beyond the reach of feeble fingers,
which takes time and twists it through visions
that haunt the dreams of waking.

And the awoken world seems les than a dream
almost there and almost gone.
Evading the grasp and losing sense
of what comes before and what comes after.

As though it is making it all up
and telling tales to the one that lies
watching for life to begin again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Victimless Crimes


Well, obviously, if you put it like that, who am I to argue, let alone arrange a undertaking for your ‘special’ wallaby to take its final accountancy exams. Still, as they say, you can’t count your chickens without at least some rudimentary form of counting system.

Anyway, there she was standing there stark naked, but with her nudity cunningly hidden under her clothing, so that no-one would suspect her, or her motives. However, having said that, though, the tin of emulsion paint was a bit of a giveaway, especially considering the court order banning her from getting within a hundred yards of any trainee assistant supermarket manager with a tin of paint (emulsion or gloss) with intent to cause a non-consensual first coating was still in force.

It was not so much the fact that having freshly-painted shop assistants was somewhat detrimental to the retail experience of the shop’s customers, it was more that the freshly-painted staff did tend to leave sticky daubs of paint over everything they touched. Thus, leaving it difficult for shoppers to discern the list of ingredients on, say, a tin of peach slices with anything approaching confidence and – as I’m sure you know only too well, a paint-streaked till receipt is next to useless when checking to make sure that one was not overcharged.

Therefore, let us have no more talk of such so-called ‘victimless crimes’ and leave the wallaby in peace to get on with its revision.

Some of the Naughtiest Daubings in the Erotic Arts


Despite being a deft exponent of full-length underarm weasel charming, Herbaceous Ptarmigan, is not as well-known to the general public as she ought to be. Her talent as a leading exponent of some of the naughtiest daubings in the erotic arts made her infamous in her day - during the inter-war years - as she made the town of Grimsby almost synonymous with a decadent hedonism that made Paris, Berlin and Tewkesbury pale in comparison.

Ptarmigan left school at the age of 13 to become an apprentice mackerel bucket carrier down at the Grimsby docks. Soon it became apparent that she was growing into a strikingly good-looking woman, with the mackerel-filled bucket she almost constantly had in her hands at the time adding to her sultry sexuality.

A few years later, as she bloomed into full womanhood, Ptarmigan received an offer of work on the stage as an erotic dancer, where her risqué routines wowed the sophisticated Grimsby night-life audiences as Ptarmigan, naked under shifting chiffon scarves, danced languidly around her mackerel bucket. Ptarmigan’s act soon became the talk of first Grimsby, then the rest of the country.

Not long after, Ptarmigan was headlining bills at all the music halls up and down the country... and Wales.

However, the early fame awakened some latent desire in Ptarmigan to achieve something else in her life. Therefore, in a special headline performance at the Grimsby Empire she performed her last naked dance around the mackerel bucket and packed away the chiffon scarves for the last time.

As war with a resurgent Germany under the Nazis threatened to break out at any time, Ptarmigan fell under the spell of Churchill, then in the political wilderness, and his warnings about the dangers of German re-armament. So, feeling it was her duty to her country, Ptarmigan immediately began taking lessons in underarm weasel charming, instantly recognising how valuable people with such skills would become once war eventually broke out.

During the war, it was the vital work carried out by the underarm weasel charmers that first produced Britain’s revolutionary radar defences and then led to the setting-up of the code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park, where Ptarmigan was one of the vital weasel programmers that did so much to win the Allied victory.

It was during this time, during the long nighttime watches, while waiting for the valves in the nascent computerised weasel charmer to reach operating temperature, Ptarmigan began the sketches of underdressed young ladies languidly stroking their weasels that would bring her yet more fame.

The heavy post-war censorship of the arts however, prevented Ptarmigan from showing her work in the UK until after the Lady Chatterley trial made it possible to show erotica freely to the viewing public. Even then, though, Ptarmigan’s sketches and paintings of naked men and women engaged in fully-consensual underarm weasel charming as well as her now-famous Nude with Mackerel Bucket No. 7, Nude with Mackerel Bucket Descending a Staircase and many others, still had the power to shock.

However, when she unveiled her sculpture, made out of used and discarded mackerel buckets, of a naked man and woman engaged in explicit underarm weasel charming, called: Bert and Doris do the Naughty Thing, the art world itself reacted with shock, awe and a fair amount of furtive underwear readjustment. Disappointed with the reaction of her fellow artists to what she regarded as her masterpiece, Ptarmigan gave up on the art world and underarm weasel charming too. In a fit of pique Ptarmigan returned to her first love, and could be seen every day, right up until she retired at the age of 97, down on the Grimsby docks with a bucket full of freshly-caught mackerel in her arms.

Ptarmigan died at the age of 103, living in a home for retired underarm weasel charmers in Droitwich, just six months before the National Gallery put on a retrospective exhibition of Ptarmigan’s most erotic artworks. This exhibition went some way to restoring her reputation in the art world, and brought the delights of both underarm weasel charming and a bucket brimming with fresh mackerel to an entirely new generation.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ripped Dreams


We could hold this secret in our hands, keep it wrapped tight against the cold harsh deprecations of this world. A world that will rip your dreams from you and toss them on the storm winds until they are blown far away and out of reach. This world will tear your dreams from you and send them tumbling down the swollen torrents of its days until those dreams are lost on the sea of forever, while you stand on the shore mourning what might have been, if only you could have held on until rescue came.

We have all seen those dreams of some new life blown away on the wind, torn up and shredded, or washed away by the heavy-swollen flooded rivers of days that pour past our doors. We have seen the earth rip itself apart and swallow all we longed for in one greedy gulp to be lost below the ground forever. We have seen that slow molten lava bury what might have been under a new hardening rock as it cooled over the lands where we let our hopes walk free.

We have lost our dreams, our hopes and our desires… but yet… but yet we wake each morning to look out on a world that still contains much more than we expected, and slowly we learn to keep these dreams wrapped tight and close in our sheltering hands.

Thursday Poem: Each Season Brings its Own Days


Each Season Brings its Own Days

Each season brings its own days,
the small dark days of cold winter,
the growing young days of spring promise,
the mature long days of confident summer
and the ripe colourful days of aging autumn.

These are the days we walk through
watching the bare trees grow buds
that leaf and then there are the flowers
and the call of eager birdsong
as summer thinks it can last forever.

Until its mornings stumble into darkness
and the cold nips at those full leaves
as the flowers close their eyes in defeat
before we are walking over dead leaves

and hard frostbitten ground, when the summer
seems to be little more than a dream
distant and half-forgotten like some land
we know we can never return to see.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Edges


Sometimes, out there, there is movement, as though some other kind of world may exist beyond the Edges. The Edges, though, are always dark, shadowed places. It is not easy to see if there is anything beyond them. Occasionally, though, when hurrying past the Edges there is sometimes a sound, a feeling of not being alone any more. We here, this side of the Edges are not used to being alone, so this feeling that there is someone... something... else out there should reassure, but it does not.

Down by the Edges there is this feeling of... of... menace, a possibility of the world somehow going wrong. Things do sometimes go wrong, even in this the perfect society, the best that has ever existed. After all, we are still imperfect humans, despite all the advances that humanity has made since we came inside here and our world thus made safe by the power of The Edges to keep all of us and all we could ever want or need within these lands bounded by The Edges.

The Edges have bought us all safety and security. We live long happy lives, here, now. Now there is no longer danger and The Edges keep us safe from unruly possibility.

The Adventures of Perambulator Helicobacter, Gentleman Detective


“Furthermore, should you attempt to describe these lupins, or to inform anyone else, not trained as a semi-professional tadpole disconcerter about them, or the part they played in the rescue of the pomegranate from the bucket, then your life will be forfeit.” Everyone who watched it will be unable to forget this, the final words of one of the most impressive feats of TV drama to come out of these islands since the Party Political Broadcasts on behalf of the Quite Interested in Cheese party during the 1970s.

The hero of All Our Stoats are Ticklish, Perambulator Helicobacter – played with rare understatement, finesse - and with a telltale smoked mackerel fillet in the breast pocket of his formal donkey jacket - by Shakespearian legend Prole Flabbergast. He utters these final and deeply resonant words as the villain Plankton Formica - excellently played by Hypotenuse Tolpuddle - is about to fall to his death into a pit of slavering local government five-a-day fruit and vegetable co-ordinators. This climactic scene, after a fight that has taken place across the rooftops and scenic guttering of one of the greatest country houses in Grimsby, received wide acclaim by TV critics, several of whom stayed awake long enough to see most of it.

Of course, it must be said that The Adventurers Perambulator Helicobacter, Gentleman, detective and Intimate Confidant of Dorothy was one of the most famous of Victorian detectives. Up until now, there have been seven TV versions and twenty-three feature films featuring Helicobacter. Yet, this version, which brings Helicobacter into the 21st Century, updated to a contemporary private detective, has completely re-invented and re-imagined the great detective in a way that ensures all royalties from the series remain with its contemporary creators.

While helicobacter’s original 19th adventures took place in the great continental cities of Paris, Hamburg, Vienna, Venice and Cleethorpes, the new series replaced them with the more glamorous post-industrial northern British towns of Doncaster, Hull, Grimsby and Bradford to bring a gritty urban authenticity to the production costs.

It will be interesting to see how the character of Helicobacter develops in the next series where - the writers have promised – he faces his most famous adversary in The hamsters of Boxhouse Hall, with its most famous of helicobacter quotes, saying : ‘The curious incident of the hamster wheel squeaking in the night-time.’ Whichdaughter replies: ‘The hamster wheel did not squeak in the night-time.’ To which Helicobacter responds: ‘That was the curious incident. Come, let us tandem ourselves to Ilfracombe without delay!’

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where the Ground ought to Be


When you wonder if there is any reason why the sky is always there, remember that sometimes it is far too easy to forget where the ground ought to be.”

We were standing up on the headland when she turned and said this to me. She turned, holding her headscarf on her head as the wind whipped around us. I could see her curls, blonde, where they escaped the headscarf, dancing in the wind.

I don’t know how old I was, but my mother seemed young, youthful, as she turned and spoke to me, twisting towards and down to me easily from the waist and her hair seemed golden in the bright sunlight. She reached out and grabbed my hand as we stood there, as she spoke to me. She spoke with some urgency, looking into my eyes as she said each word slowly and clearly as though imparting some great instruction to me like, “Don’t talk to strangers,” “Don’t play near the road” and “Stop messing with it” and many other such rules for how to live my life.

I suppose, at the time, I took it to mean for me to pay attention to where I was walking, up there high on that headland with its sudden sheer cliff that tumbled down into the sea, and sometimes it did tumble down to the sea, quite literally. There were many places, you could see from the beach, where that cliff had tumbled into the sea as though some giant monster of the sea had reared up against that cliff and taken a huge bite out of the land.

I think I may have also taken my mother’s words to mean that I should always keep an eye out for this monster too. I was at that age where monsters lurked around every corner, hid in every bush and shadow, slept under my bed and made nests in my wardrobe. So, that too would not have been much of a surprise to me and my mother’s warning about such a monster would have been reassuring to me, just one more monster to be scared of in a world filled with such creatures.

Although, I don’t think I ever did find out what she really meant, or why she felt it was so important to say such a thing to a small boy. I never got the chance to ask her either, not long after that she was dead and I never did get that chance to ask her what she meant.

They knew they were Free


There were moments when it all seemed to fall together as though there could be some sort of design or purpose to these things. Of course, they knew there was no such thing. The People knew that the universe had no consciousness behind it, no direction and no purpose. They knew that life was for living and there was only one life with no purpose, fate or reason beyond itself.

The People knew they were free.

The People were free from the dead weight of the old gods who grumbled and moaned at a creation that had no need of gods and their attempts to impose themselves into a universe that had no place, or need, for them.

The gods were just stories, old tales from times long gone. The gods themselves weren’t any more - if they ever really had been – the heroes of those stories. Their heavens were empty, their hells had gone away and the gods themselves had come face to face with their own irrelevance to a world that had outgrown them.

The People, when they looked up into the sky, saw no gods hiding behind the beards of the clouds, they saw no faces in the moon or divine purpose in the movements of the planets and the stars. The People saw only the sky and how it held infinity more possibilities now that it was no longer held down by the dead hand of those once-mighty gods.

However, the gods decided they would not go quietly… not without a fight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ideological Compliance


This is what becomes of those who would throw rainbows at the earnestly correct and eat peas in a manner likely to cause undue distress to the humourlessly obsessive ideologically-involved. Let us not tarry here where the dread dead hand of those who would want to see their own tight correctness burned deep into the acts, actions and deeds of those they would wish to become the compliant drones of such a brave new world.

Let us go, you and I, to a place where all is unequal, unfair and unforced into the narrow, dreariness of such dead politicisation of the personal, the spontaneous, the natural and the real. We have seen how such ideologies, no matter how well intentioned, turn the world into a grey and fearful place, where every glance is a glance of suspicion and every motive is microscopically examined for ideological compliance before even a simple 'good morning' is risked.

Let us live in a land that does not have to live a lie underneath every action and deed and thought, let us instead just dance through our understanding that freedom matters more than anything else and that without it life is no life at all.

Monday Poem: Employment



I wait here for the slow minutes
to make up their minds and go,
walk on, passing me by.

I sit still, hoping time
will not notice me
and call attention to my idle hands
and how they could be employed

to make yet more useless distractions
to occupy other more restless hands.

I am satisfied within this stillness
and I can live inside this silence.

The world is welcome to pass me by.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Her Very Own World


I remember the way she walked through her days as though the world was there just for her. It was not arrogant or condescending, though, she did not look upon the world as her toy or plaything, or something she could wave away or dismiss with one imperious gesture.

No, she looked upon the world as though it was exposing its wonders to her, just for her. She seems entranced by each day and all that it could offer. She found each day there at the foot of her bed like some luxuriously wrapped birthday present she was eager to open.

I too became one of those presents she unwrapped, sitting cross-legged on her bed as the afternoon sun lit up her room and the summer breeze teased her curtains. I lay there, next to her, on her bed as she looked down at me, holding her long black hair out of her eyes with one hand as she kissed me. She kissed me as though she half-expected me to turn into some handsome prince who would take her by the hand to some kingdom even more magical than this world that seemed only to exist for her.

She took hold of my old leather belt as though it was the ribbon on one of those presents the world left for her to open each day, and she pulled it open. Then she opened my trousers and found that she did – indeed – have something new to play with.

Latest Dining-Out News


There are fads and fashions in dining out as there are in many other fields of human experience. It will be interesting to see if the new trend taking off in metropolitan restaurants is just such a fad, or if it is something that will – once the fuss has died down – become a staple of the eating out experience.

World-famous TV Chef, Slash 'Chainsaw' Massacre, opened his latest restaurant last week. It lies just off the M42 in a quiet rural village. Housed in a converted abattoir, it still contains many of the original machines and devices used in its former role. However, now there is seating for up to 200 patrons, as well as a special function room catering for wedding parties and so forth.

Service is quick and efficient, although patrons should be aware that the restaurant itself is usually fully booked for up to 3 or 4 weeks in advance.

Once seated, diners receive a full menu replete with this season's currently fashionable dishes.

To start, I chose arm of geography teacher, served on a bed of shredded exercise books, garnished with the sauce made from slowly boiled school desks. My dining companion, however, had a much lighter starter of TV comedian’s toes barbecued over a hot TV set, served with a sauce made from the ink of rejected sitcom scripts, which she found very toothsome, if a little lacking in humour. My geography teacher, I found cooked to perfection with even the leather elbow patches from his jacket both soft and tender.

For the main course, I chose tender roast accountant pie with shredded VAT receipts. The crust of the pie, made from some of the finest hand-written invoices was light and fluffy, whilst the accountant itself was young and tender with the bitterness of the boiled calculator complimenting it all perfectly.

My dinner guest chose stir-fried media-studies graduate, whose tender un-worked flesh was served in a batter of media-industry delusion and served with a side-dish of TV programme ideas which she felt was somewhat over-boiled and lacking in any real worth.

For dessert, my companion choose the lightest of dishes, some whipped up politician’s promises served with the cream of focus group research, which she found both bland and, eventually, completely unsatisfying as it seem to consist mainly of hot air which vanished into nothingness, the further down the dish she ventured.

However, for dessert, I chose streamed TV talent show hopeful, served with what turned out to be a rather sickly over-sugared custard of sob story where the saltiness of the (fake?) tears did little to disguise the general sickliness of the whole experience. It was a somewhat disappointing end to what had – up until then - been a rather enjoyable evening.

The restaurant is recommended, proving that diners exercise some caution over their choice of dessert and do not mind the sound of chainsaws coming from the kitchen every now and then as the evening progresses.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

City of the Air


We walked out to the edge together, behind us the city rose out of its base, up into the clear blue of the sky. Below us, we could see the peaks of the snow-capped mountains rising up out of the clouds as the city sailed serene above them. I put my hand out to touch the clear material of the viewing area. It was not glass, it was not plastic, whatever the material was there was a slight vibration to it, barely detectable unless you kept very quiet and very still.

Mia turned from looking out at the clouds below, saying something about how solid they looked, while at the same time so soft, enveloping. I could see what she was hinting at and took my hand away from the clear material – whatever it was – and wrapped my arms around her.

She smiled up at me, her dark skin glowing in the warm light, shining with health. We kissed lightly and smiled into each other's faces. My one hand moved up underneath her loose top, my thumb just brushing the edge of her nipple. We were about to kiss again when we heard the hiss of the door behind us. We separated and stood side by side, each with both hands on the handrail in front of us, and a perceptible gap between our bodies.

Behind us, I could hear the distinctive tread of the boots of the guards, more than one of them. I had a sudden shiver, fearing that perhaps some technician other than me had discovered the security camera above our heads was defective and had repaired it.

“Good evening Citizens,” one of the guards said as they came up behind us.

We turned. “Good evening, Sergeant, Private,” Mia and I replied almost in unison as all four of us nodded at each other as though we were puppets all controlled by the same string.

Thursday Poem: A Beach for Mornings


A Beach for Mornings

We saw then all the seas we could
and walked along all their long shores.
Each day a beach for our slow mornings
and time the tide that turned again.

Each pebble found became a planet
surrounded by the depths of space
and every shell held a sea and whispered
its secret stories to our ears.

The days came and went like the waves
Some stormy and some calm and there
until the day came for us to turn
back from the sea and make our way

inland to places far from shores
and any seas and all the days
they wash clean  as they flow across
the fresh new beaches of the morning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

These Were the Roads She Walked Down


The past hides around every corner with a vision of what once used to be as she walks back down that road that used to be so familiar to her. Although, now it all seems so much smaller, distances have collapsed, what used to stretch far into the distance is now only a short stroll and what once seemed so high, barely comes up to her shoulder.

These were the roads she walked down every school day from home to the village school, there and back, twice each day. Once they were familiar to her as her own hands, now they are more like the face of someone not seen for years, still the same but time had changed them.

The shape of the roads were still the same, but some of the houses were different, like the lines and wrinkles of age on that once familiar face. Some of the houses had changed, new windows, doors paint schemes, extensions, renovations and improvement. Some of the gardens she passed had altered too, new trees, older bigger trees and so on. Whatever had changed, though, it was still the same place and she now was no longer Jennifer, she was Jenny again and she almost had to stop herself from skipping down the lane and ripping the heads off the dandelions as she passed by them.

On the Edge of Our Lives


I step through this door and find myself standing on the edge of our lives. I do not know which way to go from here. For too long now, all my steps have been taken alongside hers, and now I find myself standing alone in this house we shared for so long.

The last steps I took from here were alongside her stretcher as they hurried her to the ambulance, and now I walk back alone. I look down and find I’m still clutching her balled up cardigan in my hand. Now, though, it is stiff with her dried blood. I go to put it down on the hall table as I shuffle past it, hearing her voice sharp in my ear warning me not to put it there. We shared this house for so long, but they were always her rules we lived by, her rules for living and a place for everything. Dirty washing should go in the laundry basket. I ought to know that by now.

Then I stop, and realise, that her rules no longer apply, that I will no longer have to live by her rules. My feeling of freedom is short-lived though when I allow myself to realise that only too soon I will be living by someone else’s rules yet again, when the police come to take me away for what I did to her when I just couldn’t take any more of her rules.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011




‘I think you may be right,’ I said. ‘But I don't really feel any connection with what I'm doing any more, there's none of that intensity of experience I was expecting from university. I used to think literature really mattered, was really important. But who really cares about T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence and all the others, apart from a handful of specialists? I don't think knowing about them is going to help me much. I just feel as though I'm going through the motions.’ I looked across the table at Julia and smiled. ‘I don't know what I want to know, what is worth knowing, any more. Does that make sense?’ I took a sip of wine.

Julia shook her head and looked away.

‘Ron was explaining devaluation to me the other day,’ I said. ‘I think that's what I've got. My knowledge seems almost worthless these days. Nobody cares about literature now, anyway.’

‘I just think you are pissing it away, not only the course you are doing, but the whole thing. The whole experience is just passing you by while you sit in that room. I think one day you are going to regret it, both of you,’ Julia said with an angry concern that surprised me and turned heads at nearby tables. Julia glared back and shamed eyes dropped back towards their plates.

I watched Julia as she was eating. Her intensity of belief frightened me sometimes. I, who found believing in anything almost impossible, found strong belief in others made me embarrassed and nervous: embarrassed at my own lack of any form of commitment, and nervous of the power of other people's beliefs. People would kill or die for a belief, but I sneered at the obvious simple-mindedness necessary for the continuation of all beliefs, from the religious and political onward and downward. Even belief in my own existence was sometimes too difficult for me.

I glanced out of the window. On the roof of the building opposite a line of pigeons prepared to roost for the night in the gathering grey gloom. Their feathers were puffed around them like greatcoats, like the old Soviet Politburo on May Day with the same solidity and certainty of their own perpetual existence.

The pigeons' eyes snapped to their left and there was a ruffle down the rank. I looked to see what the pigeons had noticed. A polystyrene hamburger container spiralled and somersaulted between the two buildings on the opposite side of the road. That container was more like me, blown about, never coming home to rest. Having nowhere to call home, and nothing solid to build on in my past, I drifted on eddies floating between the past and the future.

I knew Julia was right, but I felt as though I no longer had the energy or the will to change myself. I lacked the spark that would ignite me once again. Lines I had quoted from Prufrock and The Hollow Men in my first essay ran through my mind. If only I dared, then I would be able to act. I had no desire to do so, though. Life with Alison had acquired its own comfortable inertia. Neither of us had to try any more, not out in the world, not out in the rooms and lecture theatres, not out in the bars, parties and discos.

All that mattered to me lay in that small room with the door shut and the curtains pulled tight. A yellow pool spilt by the angle-poise for Alison and me to wallow in. I turned back to find Julia studying my face. I smiled uncertainly, and Julia nodded.

‘You do think I'm right, don't you?’

‘Yes, I know you are right. But I don't seem to be able to summon up the energy to change myself,’ I said. ‘I don't think Alison would want it... me... us... to be any different, either. We seem to have drifted so far away from everything, I don't know if we have the power to stop, turn and push ourselves back.’

‘Well... maybe. Perhaps this thing between you and Alison isn't what you think it is. Maybe it isn't such a good thing.’ Julia looked down at the remains of her pizza, crumbs and untouched olives.

I rolled and lit a cigarette, washing smoke down with mouthfuls of wine. I had felt a momentary burst of anger at Julia for talking about Alison. Whether it was anger at an outsider peering into my life or anger at having the truth pushed into my face, I wasn't sure.

‘Anyway,’ Julia said brightly as she looked back up at me. ‘There's a disco at the union tonight and you are going to come with me. What is more, you are going to dance with me. Don't look at me like that; I'm going to insist you dance with me. Maybe we'll even go to one of those student parties, you say you loathe so much, afterwards as well.’

‘Julia, don't try to make me into another of your worthy causes,’ I said. ‘I don't think you can put me to rights like the rest of the world.’

‘I'm just concerned about a good friend, two good friends, that's all.’ Julia picked up the bill and her purse. She stood up. ‘I do care about you, perhaps more than I ought to.’ She walked off to the till. Standing at the back of the short queue, she turned and looked over at me for a moment before turning back to sort through her purse.


Twilight had turned to darkness outside. The Christmas decorations threw pools of coloured light into the street where litter danced in the wind. Julia shivered and cursed as the wind threw the icy drizzle into our faces. I saw a taxi turn the corner in front of us and stop at the traffic lights. Grabbing Julia by the arm, I ran. We pulled open the door and tumbled into the seat as the taxi pulled away from the lights.

Julia, thrown off balance by the sudden acceleration of the taxi, slipped partially off the seat and fell so she lay half across me as the taxi illegally u-turned sharply back up the dual carriageway. The driver grunted and swore as he tried to push his way into the stream of cars leaving the town. I reached into my pocket for my tin. Julia nudged me and pointed around the taxi. On every available flat surface, a No Smoking sticker glared back at me.

As the traffic rolled from traffic light to traffic light, I automatically inserted noises of assent into the taxi-driver’s obligatory monologue. I shook my head and put my finger to my lips when I saw Julia was about to dispute some points with him.

‘What's the point?’ I whispered into her ear. She stared at me for a moment or two, but eventually nodded even though she did not look happy about it.

Julia shivered and snuggled closer to me. I could smell the icy rain in her hair. As the street lights lit up her face, I could see the animation in her eyes as she looked out of the taxi window at the now familiar sights of the town. She stared out as though seeing somewhere far more exotic and novel than this tired town battered by a relentless wind and too much indifferent history.

The taxi drew up at the house, and Julia reluctantly got out as I searched through my pockets for the fare. By the time I had paid - and politely listened to the last of the taxi-driver's speech - Julia had opened the door. She stood in the hallway silhouetted by the light behind her.

I stepped into the house and shut the door. We stood for a moment at the foot of the stairs. Julia looked at the door to the kitchen, then at the door to her room. I looked up at Alison's room at the top of the stairs. Up there James Joyce was waiting, locked in a darkened room. I thought I had better go up there and turn the light on.

‘I'll see you in a little while, after I've had a shower and so on,’ Julia said. ‘Remember, I want you to dance.’

‘You may live to regret that,’ I replied.

‘No. I don't think so,’ Julia said, smiling secretively as she turned away to her room.


[An extract from Hanging around Until]

Spiritual Yearnings and Sell-By Dates


Sometimes it seems that even the very High Streets of our souls are now themselves past their sell-by dates with the shops becoming the hollow empty husks that so much resemble the promises of politicians and the witch-doctors of all the religions as they lie bare and empty before us.

It is not that we have run out of things to buy, for shopping is still the holiest of holies, with the bright shiny things still holding us in awed devotions as we peruse the web pages of all that could be wanted or desired. It is just that the High Street itself no longer caters for our needs. Just as the churches and other edifices of the old religions lie as empty and falling into ruins as the temples and holy places of the even older religions, now our shops lie empty and forlorn too.

Of course, there are the religions of the perfectly-cooked meal and the dwelling space made more desirable by nailing fancy bits of wood hither and yon, as well as the studying of the entrails of the doings and sayings of the most holy celebrities to bring meaning into lives no longer spiritually satisfied by the holy rites of shopping.

But still we yearn for more, for a religion that transcends these dreary routine days and somehow makes a brand new world-famous celebrity out of each of us.

Fundamentalist Terrorism Alert


Still, though, you have to wonder about it all, at least as far as the jelly babies are concerned. I mean, as the Prime Minister said in his emergency broadcast to the nation last night, we could all understand it if had been wine gums, or even – in the case of certain religious fundamentalists – fruit pastilles: but jelly babies?

There was a time, back in the latter half of the last century when it seemed that sweet-based differences between the various peoples of this Earth were on the wane. After all, it was the time of Pick 'n' Mix where confectionery of all types could be happily put together in the same sweetie bag.

Some now look back on such times as overly and naively optimistic. Some say that Rolos and Opal Fruits were never destined to be seen together, let alone consumed together, and that the Mint Aero was a foolish naïve dream of those who would see the world filled with nothing but overflowing sherbet fountains of joy, peace and happiness.

Still, though, there were those of us who had seen - and, yes - fallen in love with the Flake adverts and the promise of Earthly paradise personified by the Cadbury's Caramel bunny and we knew deep in our hearts that we had found something akin to paradise here on this poor blighted Earth.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oh, and a Banana


Ah, but if we had world enough, and time… oh, and a banana I could show you things you know not the wot of, especially those things incorporating some of the more esoteric uses of the aforesaid banana, and several different ways to apply a fresh coat of creosote to any nearby hippopotami.

However, such is the current world economic situation that any uses of a banana for non-consumption purposes (as set out in the applicable EU regulations) would do more than be looked upon askance by the powers that be. This would especially be the case if it were deemed that we were approaching the dubious use of the foodstuff in a frivolous manner, or in a way likely to cause a breach of the peace, especially if the aforesaid hippopotamus did not feel the necessity for a new coat of creosote.

All in all, then, one the whole and taking all factors into consideration then I would suggest that tempting as it may be, we put the banana to one side for the moment and concentrate on perfecting the art of sitting quietly and behaving ourselves, at least until there is some sign of the now long-overdue economic recovery.

Monday Poem: Disturbances of Air


Disturbances of Air

The song is over, now the singer has gone
and no-one will remember all the words.
For what are words? Mere air disturbed and lost
a moment silence takes away, the sound
it keeps all for itself, away from here.

We wait for words to tell us how to act,
how to behave. We wait for songs to sing
that tell us how to love and lose, to kiss
and how to dance and sing our lives away.
But looking all around we see the song
is over now, the singer long departed
and no-one will remember all the words.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A String Contemplation Moment


So, here it is: yet another Dress-up-as-a-Marsupial Friday. It is like the last one, except that it isn't. But who am I to turn this into another String Contemplation Moment, especially when all the laminated zebras have been allocated to the itinerant wandering economists as they stroll the streets singing their songs and ballads of quantitative easing..

Still, it makes no difference. It changes nothing... not even your socks.

There are no adjustable spanners left in the salad drawer, and the social worker detection device is no longer working to its full capacity. I warned you that we would end up with solo yachtsmen infesting the wainscoting, but would you listen?

Still, there is always, always the cheese!

It could be worse....

It could involve those day-glo purple helicopters your mother warned you about - again.

Yet you still stand there, naked and holding your umbrella in a provocative manner. It is just the sort of thing that gets you a reputation as one of the more interesting Tax Inspectors.

These are my Spanish hamsters and there are no Austrian badgers in the playground any more.

Do not laugh at the elephant, she is very shy.

Approaching a Sherry Trifle with Intent


Surreptitiously approaching a sherry trifle with intent to cause a breach of the peace, as we all know, has been illegal in England since that infamous day back in 1743 when a band of brigands waylaid the then Bishop of Rochester and ‘caused severe indignities to his cassock’ with a fully-creamed sherry trifle.

Consequently, any attempt to reform the law to bring the legal situation in line with sherry trifles as they are used in the modern age, has always been strongly resisted by the clergy, especially those that sit in the House of Lords.

Of course, many of us have been to those kinds of parties where, if not providing trifles themselves, the hosts of the party have turned a blind eye, if not given tacit approval to the use of sherry trifles for – as the Act says – ‘purposes other than consumption as a foodstuff’.

Critics of any such reform, such as the traditionalists in the Church of England, point to the decadent use of sherry trifle – often in public, in countries where such things are not illegal – by celebrities and other famous people and voice their concerns that such people could be taken as role models by the young and impressionable.

However, the police, customs and other such authorities say they simply no longer have the manpower to police how people use their sherry-trifles - whether in private or even in public any longer. They also point to the increasing frequency of illegal ‘Sherry- Trifle Evenings’ sometimes held in the last outposts of decency the garden suburbs of middle-England.

Even that last bastion of hypocritical double standards the Daily Mail has called for the legalisation of sherry trifles ‘and not necessarily just for eating them’. That is, as the Daily Mail put it in an editorial ‘…that it can be proved both that illicit use of sherry trifles does not cause either cancer or a massive fall in house prices.’

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Pomegranates of Time


Here we are.

Still we search for those moments we can use as the pomegranates of time, or – at least the pomegranates of a fortnight ago. Even when we were young and we had access to all the mandarin segments our over-fevered erotic imaginings would allow, we still had no place to put the pineapple, at least until your friend, Lilly, arrived and we began to experiment with the erotic possibilities of the fresh fruit salad and its use in threesomes.

Still, though I could see that look in your eyes whenever one of us would – accidentally or not – mention custard. You had, of course, by then told me of you dreams of apple crumble and your fantasies involving firemen and rhubarb tart.

I though was still dreaming dreams of desire for steamed sponge pudding and jam roly-poly and I could see that look in Lily’s eyes too whenever the conversation turned towards custard.

It was no surprise then, I suppose, when you came how that day from a hard day working deep in the filing cabinets of our local authority diversity compliance directorate to find Lily and I lying there. All still with the telltale custard stains on our bodies and on the sheets and the remains of a home-made sponge pudding in the dish on the pillow.

Of course, I begged you to stay, promised you all the apple crumble you could ever desire and Lily promised to share with you her secret family recipe for home-made custard, but it was not enough.

Thursday Poem: Moments like Water



Moments like Water

That tiny movement of the head
leaves eddies in its wake as though
this air is water flowing past
as though this moment could run down
into the pool of memories
already forming all around us.

The pearl of this one moment grows
on from the single grain of time
a possibility that runs
between these moments water turns
around us, fills the emptiness
that lies between us with a chance
we can, together, swim these seas.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Including the Zebra


Well, now, disregard my undertakings and call me Edwina, never in all my days (including that special Tuesday), have I ever seen anything like that, and yes – before you ask – I have been to Leeds*.

It is amazing how you can do that and keep a straight face, as well as keep such dexterous control over your yo-yo. I’m surprised, though, that the zebra is not somewhat more skittish, especially when in such close proximity to someone of your reputation who is wearing both a kilt and wellies.

Still, as they say, West Bromwich wasn’t built in a day – despite all the seemingly contrary evidence.

Enough, though, of all this small talk, let us go then you and I (oh, and the zebra, if you insist) now the trainee supermarket managers are spread out against the sky and see what wonders and delights await us on this fine(ish) morn… er… afternoon.



Well, that’s that done. One more item to cross off the list.

Only… well, you see I thought there would be a bit more than this, and what with you wearing your special ‘Wednesday night’ cardigan too.

Still, we may as well not waste the zebra, being as you’ve hired it specially… so, wait here, and I’ll go and fetch my harmonica.


*But only the once… obviously.

The Early Morning Mists


It held there in the silence of the early morning mists, like some ghost of a wood, like some foggy silhouette of what it could become. The ground was wet and the grass, bracken and other scrubby plants hung heavy with moisture. It was as though the clouds had become too heavy with rain and had fallen from the sky to cover everything. The air itself seemed heavy with moisture and a cold damp smell that made breathing seem difficult.

There was no birdsong, no sounds of animals in the distance and no rustles in the undergrowth as we made our way towards the woods. The silence seemed heavy too.

The first few trees emerged from the grey gloom with a suddenness that took us by surprise. One moment, one step, and there was nothing but a darker grey mass amongst the greyness. The next moment, the next step, there were the black trunks of the first trees, their branches weighed down with the weight of the rain heavy on their leaves.

The path curled towards and into those trees, into the mystery of the mists. There was a sudden hesitance to our step. We knew that if anything were to happen, it would be amongst those trees. Who knew what lurked and waited there? It could be anything from savage beasts to villains to... to... anything, anything at all.

We hesitated, looked at each other and felt for the comfort of our weapons. They did not reassure all that much. We knew the old stories and we'd heard the traveller’s tales of what could lurk, awaiting the unwary traveller, some of which would be beyond the power of mere mortal weapons, creatures that could do far more than just wound, maim and kill.

However, we knew what was behind us, on our trail, and what would happen when they caught up with us. We could not delay. No matter what lay in wait for us, we knew that what lay behind us, racing to catch up with us, would be just as bad, if not worse than anything lurking in those misty woods.

We had to go on.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Map of Dreams


What do we look for in these dreams?

We hold a map and we pore over it together, looking for a way through, looking for a route that will take us along the dream routes to a new place, a place for us to be together.

We have walked the dream corridors of this deserted mansion, opening doors into rooms that hold nothing of all we have ever wanted and dreamt about. We have searched those echoing empty rooms from doorway to window and back. We have felt along the bare walls, hoping to find some secret route out of that place. All we ever found were more bare rooms and more long corridors with doors of possibility stretching off along the length of the corridor and leading only to another door leading to a stairway that led to more floors of corridors and empty rooms.

Then, one day we found a room that had once been a library, its floor-to-ceiling shelves, empty of books and, somehow, looking emptier than any other room because of those bare shelves.

Then, on the last shelf of the bare library, just before we turned back and left it we found this map, rolled up, covered in dust and forgotten.

Then, many days later, after nights spent huddled in corners of dark bare rooms listening to the howling creatures haunting the world beyond the house, we found our way down a long sweeping staircase. The staircase ended in a hall devoid of anything except a mirror and a locked door, which lead out into this world we now stand lost in, turning the map and trying to place ourselves on it.

If we could find our way back to that mansion, we would go back, shut the door behind us and – instead – step together through that mirror, into a different world altogether, back into some dream far different from this one.

The Underwear of the Legends


It was way back in the time of legends were the women wore metal underwear – and little else – and carried swords almost as tall as they were. Of course, the symbolism of women in armour – no matter how little of it there was – carrying large phallic objects was little commented on at the time. Especially, not by anyone who wanted to end up getting too closely acquainted with the sharpest parts of those swords, anyway.

Back in those days men were men – which was the way those other men who hung around down at the docks after nightfall rather liked it, and some of those women with the swords could, with the help of friendly woodcarvers and understanding leather-smiths be men too – at least for a while (or two). Although, that did depend on a completely different approach to swordswomanship, and a confidence that the woodcarver had left no errant wood splinters to bring a premature and painful end to the experience for the ladies they thus befriended.

There was – it must be said – a much more casual attitude to life, sex and death back in those days. Back in those days, the gods were not such moralistic prudes as those invented later and were – as it was commonly known – not averse to sampling more earthly pleasures themselves, even if they did tend towards rather odd imaginings as to what passed for normal forms of sexual experience as understood by the mortals they shared the universe with.

But then, they were gods and their ways were not human ways.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The River Flowing


The moment hangs there as if it is waiting for time to catch up with it and move it on. The moment is like a stick, or some other detritus, snagging on an obstacle as it flows down the river. It's possible to see the way the current of time pulls at it, tries to free the moment from this hold we have on it. Each of us grips tight, hard, on this now, not wanting to let it go, not wanting this last moment together to be taken by the current of time to flow on, float out of sight, disappear around the bend in the river of time as it flows away down to the sea of memory.

We wanted more than a memory; we wanted more time together. We could have, if our moment had not been this moment, if our time had been some other time, flowed on down the river together. Each of us helping the other past the objects and obstructions happenstance throws into the river of time to snag us and capture those of us that flow with it.

We met though, forced together by circumstance and accident, and we know that once this – our last moment together – is over, the river will flow on, pulling us further and further apart, probably never to see each other again.

I see it in your eyes, as the river breaks our grip on each other and the torrent carries you away; the fear that you may be drowning and that I will soon be too far out of reach to save you.

Monday Poem: The Space that Lies Between Us


The Space that Lies Between Us

It begins, and there is silence.
Then there is an end to silence
when the moment starts as movement.
Shapes form in the air, dissolving
fading into loss and darkness
memory is left recalling
vague disturbances of past times.

We have words to shape memories
conjured  from empty spaces
dancing them across distances
lying here between us, something
far too solid for our words to
pass on through or our hands to crumble
into dust and all we can do
now is watch each other sitting
much too far away for reaching
all before we turn away, go
back to those small lives we’re building
with invisible high walls that’ll
keep us  far apart forever

Friday, November 04, 2011

Such Things were Possible



What is possible and what is not possible.

It can happen. There is a possibility of magic on the page. There is a chance that you will see unicorns and there will be faeries down there at the bottom of the garden. Even gods could be real, even the one of impossible contradictions and with such a desperate need to be worshipped as the one you were told about when you were still young enough to think such things were possible, even if never very likely.

It is possible to believe in magic and the possibilities uncovered by the power of the imagination when you are young. When you are young, everything is magical, even the morning seems so full of wonder, whether you wake up to a sun-filled day or discover the whole world hidden under deep white blankets of snow.

As you grow older and the mornings lose their magic, becoming just another great lump of hours you have to wade through on the way to the rest of your life, magic seems to have faded away. You no longer expect unicorns, ride on dragons or to meet Oberon and Titania in the deep woods... and as for those sad, needful gods... well, really.

She Waited for Me


I did not expect it, or demand it, but she came to me. She sat and waited for me with a patience I could not believe at first. I was not used to such acquiescence. Up until then I had thought that other people couldn’t so freely give of themselves like that, without wanting something in return.

At first, I offered her choices and options, but she made it clear to me that she wanted no such things. She would not choose, or decide. She said she would not do anything without me first making the decision for her. She did not want anything to do with the way I offered the options. She was only happy, she said, when I told her, or made some other signal as to, what I really desired. She seemed happy to accept, or... rather... her acceptance made her happy.

At first, I was not sure if I liked it. I did not want her to depend on me, to live her life thought me. I wanted her to be free of me, but she chose the chain, attached it to her own collar and handed the other end to me. She gave me the responsibility of ownership, of being the one who made the decisions and had to live with the consequences, while she sat patiently, waiting for whatever I demanded of her.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Not Looking Back


In the distance, there was a city, but it was in the distance behind her. She'd had enough of places like that. She did not look back, not even once, to see it fading, losing shape, in the mists of distance.

When the path she was walking down, alongside, the river, curved away so that the city, looking like the ghost of some mountain in the distance, was lost to her she did not look back, did not say good-bye.

She was going. She did not know where she was going, just that she was going. She wanted a new life, something that she had not done before. Her life was far behind her. Her old life was over and gone. She hoped the memories of it would fade and be lost from sight like the city she knew she could no longer see behind her, even if she turned and looked back. She knew know that the city was out of sight, lost past the curve of the river and the distance. Still she did not look back. She'd had enough of looking back, looking over her shoulder. She had decided that morning when packing her few tawdry belongings into her travelling pack that she would never look back ever again.

Looking back was where she had made all her other mistakes, wanting to go back and make things right had kept her in the city for too long. She could feel her life slipping away the longer she remained and she'd known that if she did not take the chance that morning, then she would never leave.

Thursday Poem: An Epitaph


An Epitaph

Words will always change things.
The event becomes language
then disappears behind
its mask of words.

We know only the words,
when everything else has gone
only the words remain.
You left me behind here

as you walked away.
All I had left to hold
were your words of farewell
and I never let them go.

I took them back home with me
and sat staring out the window,
towards the summer fields
we would walk together, back

when everything was hand-in-hand,
and I took out your last goodbye
still warm in the palm of my hand
just to be near you once again.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Cold Blank Page


Sometimes it is easier to dive straight into the icy coldness of the blank page, and with a few quick strokes, swim a whole stream of words across the page, leaving it churning, disturbed in your wake.

Other times, though, you want to slip into the cold blank page, slowly and carefully, shivering as its cold blankness takes you within it. Times when you can only take a few hesitant strokes, when a mere handful of tentative words are left floating, bobbing on the uncertainty of what you wanted to say.

Here, though, it is safe to swim your words down onto the page. There are no shark shadows lurking under the surface, no monsters of the prose hidden deep below, their long sinewy tentacles reaching out to drag you down into the silence. There are no great ocean liners steaming oblivious towards you and no icebergs brooding closer.

Here it is just a small swimming pool where you can lay down sentence after sentence across the calm water, letting each stroke leave some thought bobbing gently in its wake.

Then when you feel you have done enough for the day, feel as though the exercise has purged the stiffness from your word muscles you can pull yourself up out of the word water, pick up your towel and dry yourself. All the while, promising that you will return the following day with a feeling that, yes, the exercise is doing you good.

A Major British Olympic Contender


Emeryboard Ducksplatter is – of course, quite-rightly regarded as the finest exponent of Un-Recalibrated Underwater Pissing-About that these islands have ever produced, getting through to the Olympic Underwater Pissing-About finals in the last seven Olympics in a row. He is all set to reach the peak of his ability in the upcoming 2012 London Olympics in the special Underwater Pissing-About bucket now approaching completion on the banks of the Thames itself, generally regarded as the very birthplace of Underwater Pissing-About.

Of course, people have been pissing about under, and in, water since long before it became an Olympic event, Hence the invention of the inflatable lilo and the snorkel. However, Olympic standard pissing about - whether in or on the water - is quite obviously taken to an extreme – some would say too extreme – level of ability, competence, physical strength and marvellous dexterity of the thumbs.

For example, Ducksplatter himself, spends up to ten hours a day in his Olympic standard snorkel, and skin-tight Underwater Pissing-About suit, in the British Olympic team’s Pissing-About bucket just outside Leamington Spa. There he practices constantly the various forms of Underwater Pissing About necessary for the top-flight Olympic athlete, and – of course – keeping those thumbs in tiptop condition by peeling up to seven tight-skinned oranges a day.

Of course, the British Isles is famous throughout the world for the ability of its citizens to piss about at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, with the entire country’s vast experience of spending a great deal of their days wandering about in drizzle, they have a natural affinity for the damp, which makes them ideally suited to the rigours of underwater pissing-about.

Therefore, with the seemingly increasing inability for this once-great country’s youth to do anything useful with a football, other than covering it with ketchup and attempting to eat it, a strong case could be made for making Un-Recalibrated Underwater Pissing-About this country’s new national sport. Therefore, if Ducksplatter does his country proud in the upcoming London Olympics, expect to see far more Un-Recalibrated Underwater Pissing-About taking place in many of the pissing-about buckets of this fair country.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Stanley Knife and Florence Nightgown


The field could be anything they wanted it to be. It could be a football pitch, a lonesome prairie, an alien planet, an unexplored jungle, a battlefield; it could change from day to day, or even hour to hour. But whatever the field was, the small copse of hawthorn trees was always the camp.

Adam sat on the lowest branch of the biggest tree. He liked to be there early, before Gary and Simon. He liked to have the quiet time, time to think of what they would play that day. He wondered why it always seemed to fall to him to decide what they would play. He had grown tired of trying to think up new games as the long summer holiday had dragged along. Now it was almost over, he found it hard to think back to where all the time had gone.

The worst time for him had been the one week he had been on his own, when Gary and Simon had been away on holiday. Adam sometimes wished he had a brother, someone to play with all the time. Although, Gary and Simon always seemed to be arguing and fighting.

Adam glanced up. All around the camp were tall plants with red flowers. About this time every year the flowers seemed to turn into cotton wool - or something like cotton wool - which blew everywhere, even into his mouth. It tasted horrible and his mother always moaned about the amount of the stuff that stuck to his clothes. He had once asked his mother what the huge red-flowered plants were called. "They're just weeds," she had said, and turned back to her washing-up.

Adam could hear the sounds of argument coming through the long grass. He stood up on the branch and held on to the trunk of the tree. He could see Gary's head as it bobbed through the grass. Occasionally, the head would stop and turn. Adam could see the grass parting for Simon, but he was too small to be seen above it. Adam sighed and sat back down on the branch, hoping that the argument would wear itself out before too long. He hated it when Gary and Simon were sulking at each other all day. He changed his mind about wanting a brother to play with.

"It was mine, and you broke it." Gary sat down under the tree. Simon had been crying, Adam could see the grey muddy tracks down Simon's cheeks as he stood, uncertainly, at the edge of the camp. Simon wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt and sat down opposite Gary, well out of his reach.

"What are we going to do today then?" Adam said.

"I don't care as long as he doesn't play," Gary said.

Adam thought about asking what had happened. He decided he did not really care. He was tired of getting involved in their constant disputes. He would be going to the junior school at the end of the holiday. He began to wish that he would find some new friends there, friends without brothers.

"Let's explore the jungle," Adam said, jumping down from the branch.

"I'm not exploring with him." Gary crossed his arms.

Adam turned to look away from them. "There was this man, an explorer, he was called Stanley - I think. He found this other man: Livingson, who was lost in the jungle. He'd been captured by cannibals, but he escaped and Stanley rescued him."

"What was his name, Stanley what?" Gary said.

"I don't think he had another name," Adam said doubtfully.

"Knife," Simon said quietly. "I heard our Dad talking about Stanley Knife. I asked Dad who he was, but Dad just laughed."

"Don't be stupid, knife isn't a name," Gary said.

"Anyway," Adam said to Gary. "If you be this Liverson, then we can come and rescue you."

Gary was silent for a moment. "Yeah, right then," he said and got to his feet. He turned to Simon. "I think the cannibals are going to capture you, and eat you." He laughed and ran off into the long grass.

Simon smiled weakly at Adam and began to trace lines in the loose dirt with a stick. "I hate having a big brother sometimes, everything is always my fault. Anyway," he smiled again, "I bet it was knife."

Adam nodded and looked away. He thought the whole thing was typical of grown-ups; they never answered your questions properly. They were either too busy or they said they didn't know. Adam wondered what was the point of being grown-up if you did not know the answer to everything. He decided that when he grew up he would know the answer to every question in the whole world.

"Come on then, let's go and rescue Liverson," Adam said.

"Are you Stanley Knife?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Who am I then?"

"You're,'re his faithful servant," Adam tried to think of a suitable name for a servant. "Passport Two."

"Passport Two?" That's even sillier than Stanley Knife." Simon laughed.

"It's the name of the servant of someone who went all around the world in a balloon. They made a film of it," Adam said defiantly. "Come on."

Simon followed Adam out into the field. "I'm not going to get eaten, I don't care what he says."

Adam and Simon wandered through the thick jungle, fighting savage natives and ferocious wild animals. Stanley Knife was wounded in the arm by a poisonous spear and Passport Two was mauled by a man-eating tiger, but they bravely struggled on in their desperate mission to rescue Liverson, despite the overwhelming odds against them.

Suddenly, they burst into a clearing. The long grass had been flattened, as if by a huge roller. In the centre of the clearing was something black.

"Careful, it might be a tranquilliser spider," Passport Two whispered.

Stanley Knife drew his sword and crept slowly up to the deadly spider. Before it had a chance to leap on him, Stanley sliced it in half.

"It's a pair of tights. Look," Adam pushed at the black nylon heap with his toe.

"Why would someone leave them here," Gary said looking around.

"Perhaps there's been a murder," Adam said. "Look, it looks like they were fighting and squashed the grass down flat."     

Simon looked around nervously. "There's no body and there's no blood," he said with relief. "Anyway, why would he need to take her tights off to kill her?"

"I dunno," Adam said. "But on the telly, when they talk about murders, they always say they found some bits of clothes and things."

"Look, what's this?" Simon poked at something on the ground with his stick.

"It's a balloon."

"I know that, but what is that stuff in it?"

Adam screwed up his face in disgust. "Looks like someone's blown their nose in it."

Simon turned away. Adam looked down at the pale pink balloon. It looked like it could be blown up quite big. He moved closer, the stuff inside did look a bit like snot. But, he decided, it looked more like the stuff snails made their shiny tracks with. He thought it was probably something - some sort of trap - people used to catch snails and slugs. His Granddad was always complaining about how the snails and slugs ate all the cabbages on his allotment. Adam had decided he quite liked snails and slugs because of that, and he secretly hoped there would be a plague of them and they would eat all the cabbage in the world.

Adam looked carefully at the balloon. He was relieved to see that the snail, or slug, had escaped. He wondered if it was something he could ask his Mum or Dad about. There were some things he could not ask about; things that made his mother's face go red and her voice go strange. "Rude things" and things that he would "understand when you are older", things like why there were girls and boys and why they had different toilets at school.

But the biggest rude thing had been the day Gary, Simon and Adam had found a magazine, which seemed to contain nothing but pictures of ladies without any clothes on. They had puzzled over the magazine for several hours. There were pictures of women, standing in fields and on beaches, with no clothes on throwing balls to each other, or just smiling at the camera. But there were no cartoons or stories; none that made any sense anyway.

Adam had decided to take the magazine home to ask his Mother about it. But he only just managed to hold the magazine up to show her, before it was snatched out of his hand and ripped to shreds. His Mother called it rude, disgusting and - strangely to Adam - filth. He knew that showing, what was called, his private parts to anyone except doctors and nurses was rude, but the ladies in the pictures had not looked filthy to Adam. They had looked clean, shiny even, with nice bright smiles. He wondered how anyone could be called filthy when they were photographed in the bath or in the sea, like the women in some of the pictures. There had even been a part of the magazine called Bathing Beauties.

Adam and Simon left the small clearing without looking back. They turned onto a small path.    

Gary ran up to them. "Come here," he whispered, "and be quiet."

Adam and Simon looked at each other in puzzlement, but followed Gary, trying to be as silent as possible. Gary led them to a small hedge; he crouched down and pointed through the hedge. Adam and Simon crept up beside Gary and looked through the hedge.

A girl, somewhere around Adam's age, with long, dark red hair, was sitting at the edge of the field. In front of her, a row of dolls lay on the grass. The girl had a toy stethoscope around her neck. She crawled along in front of the row of dolls checking each one with the stethoscope. Adam and Gary looked at each other and nodded.

The boys burst through the hedge, and stood in a rough semi-circle around the girl. She looked up at them.

"We are cannibals," Adam said. "And we have captured you."

The girl looked at each of the three boys in turn. She nodded and stood up. "I'm Florence Nightgown, a nurse," she said.

"Don't try to run, there is no escape," Gary said, stepping closer to the girl. She shrugged and nodded again.

Adam and Gary looked at each other and stood either side of the girl. Adam reached out to grab her arm, but found himself unwilling to touch the bright pink wool of her cardigan.

"Put your hands behind your back, so we can tie you up," Adam said quietly. "Please."

Florence Nightgown submitted to the orders of her cruel captors, knowing escape was impossible. Simon led the way, followed by Gary, who kept turning back to check the captive was still there. Adam brought up the rear. As the girl was about to step through the break in the hedge, she turned and looked back at the patients in her hospital. "You're all dead," she said to the dolls.


[An extract from Field, a short story published in How I Became the Fat Bloke and Other Stories]