Wednesday, 30 November 2011


The day was a short interval
that happened between driving.
He sits on the couch covered
in a white throw. Two empty cups
next to his right boot. He snuffs
up the air and thinks about the road.
Feels it travelling through his body.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Two Stories

Now that the spaghetti’s settled in his belly
he has to admit, concede,
that this room’s not too bad.

A succession of paintings, photographs -
a plum Ford Cortina with ban-the-bomb lights,
a red rocking chair, President Lincoln
and a bowl of blue jelly.

Meanwhile, she drives down the highway.
It’s been a long day. Something orange, getting nearer.
White light shining, making a shadow, getting nearer,
filling the screen, filling the screen until she can’t see.

He dreams.

The knife, the cold blade,
the yellow implosion
as it touches the bulb.

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Space as Black As Night In The Brightness of Morning

Rooks with their charcoal beaks perched on the pergola. A profusion of vine leaves that look very green, wet with rain. One rook ascends and loops down onto the outhouse roof. It stands alone like a sentinel. I let the curtain fall and shake him by the shoulder. Come on. Time to get up.

Turn left here Jon. I must have passed this place a thousand times without noticing it. A track with deep ruts and a patch of ground covered in ivy. You can pull up there Jon.
Lock the doors. Walk down the track through an avenue of trees until we come to a church. The iron gates are corroded with rust. Sheets of plywood cover the windows. Is there stained glass behind there? A set of steps leading to a doorway under the church. The door has gone but the hinges remain and there’s a space as black as night in brightness of the morning. There’s something in there. Metal. A boiler or a furnace. And further on something silver, trembling in the dark. Stupid. I’m a grown man but dare not go any further.

But something’s there alright. It shines like water.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Almost But Isn't A Smile

A silver cobweb in the window.
It’s a cold, dripping morning.
Dew has turned the grass white.
Not yet really cold, but a warning shot.
Soon, winter will be here. It arrives like
the last chapter of a novel.

The left hand is filled
with the bulk of finished pages.
The right holds the slender leaves
that remain. Always a temptation
to rush through at this stage.
To get on with the next story
in the stack. But this is a mistake:
you have to take the time
to savour every word.

Trying to make sense of these things: the silver,
black and blue. Dylan’s face, always in the shadow,
the wide-brim of his hat, that strange raising
of the upper lip that’s almost, but isn’t, a smile.

Distortions and echoes.
Before the cobweb
was formed?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Work (Part 2)

Like all good things, this will have to come to an end. Terry yawns, pats and slaps at his paunch. His favourite chat-up line is ‘why have a six-pack when you can have the whole barrel?’

His interests are mathematical, scientific and astronomical. So it doesn’t take him long to cotton on to my tactics for playing chess. He can beat me in two, three moves. Or string things out like a cat with a mouse. I guess you could say this is disheartening. He sticks his thumbs in to his braces and yawns. His breath smells like mackerel.

But it’s not too bad once you get used to it.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Terry looks like an old-timer from a Steinbeck novel. He has a long beard that’s going white and wears a wide-brimmed hat that makes him look like a prospector. It’s a Friday afternoon and we’re busy trying not to think about five o’clock. The long day drags on even further if we steal cursory glances at the clock. So we divert ourselves by playing chess and taking turns to sleep while the other one of us keeps watch. Not that there’s any real need to keep a look out. It’s as if we’ve been stationed at a lonely outpost and the generals have forgotten about us, their attention focussed far away where the hotbed of battle really is. In many ways, it’s the perfect job.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Harold In The Memory Store

I’m in the Memory Store where the relics of the mind can be tried on for size, and returned if they don’t quite fit. Here’s the early years rail, located next to the pre-teen shelf. An oversized TV, - black and white of course, the screen set in a zebrano cabinet.

Complementary biscuits are provided - nice. The sugar granules dissolve on the highway of my tongue. The door’s left open to let in the sun. Geraniums, African Violets in real flower pots. They breath out purple and blue, red exhalations. But wait! Stop everything! Here is some breaking news…

Grandad, sleeves rolled up, the sun accentuating the white hairs curling like pipe smoke up his arms, explaining who Harold is. Harold in welly boots, two long-eared dogs keeping him company.

walking through green fields
the mechanics of memory
slowly failing

Monday, 21 November 2011

Apart From The Doberman

She says ‘tell me how you met your wife.’

I leapt right in. Best to get started with the talking before you allow the brain/editor to censor your thinking.

‘The day we met? Well some people had come down from Leicester. They had funny sounding names. They were parked up on a triangle of land in the backwoods somewhere. They were considering joining us later. Someone said we should go and see them. That’s when I first met her.’

Her bus was painted in bright colours like a gypsy wagon.

It was a Bedford and had a big silver badge on the nose to say so. A strange bearded god with a spear.
The bus was decorated with Celtic knot work. This was a sign that you were a together traveller. The sweet smell of incense hit your nose before you went inside. The walls were lined with planks of heavily varnished pine. A fire burned in the range. You had to take your boots off before you were allowed inside. Things were homely.
Apart from the Doberman pincer growling in front of the fire.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The First Winter From Home

I spend a long time just looking.
The skeletons hang from the trees.

Two roundels in the windscreen where the tax disc should be.

Support Your Local Hell’s Angels
Free State of Avalon

The man next door looks thin and sick.
He lives on chocolate and cigarettes.
Says he wants to be a mechanic.
Just as well: his truck’s
always going nowhere.

It’s parked behind a half-sized
bus owned by a man with a big
red beard. He wears a trilby hat
with a badge pinned on it.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

We’re all packed in here
on this patch of sandy ground.

Tonight, snow will come
to catch us unawares…

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Electric Line

The electric line runs the length of the field. It signifies that the sheep will soon be here. He’ll lie in his bed and hear their teeth tearing grass from the earth.

All night, he’ll hear them bleat. They’ll come right up to his walls to
rip the long grass right out from under the A frame.

In the morning he’ll open the door and send them skittering.

This will go on for weeks. A punk green spot on every fleece.
The bleating and tearing will get into his dreams.

They’ll rush the pick-up truck. The farmer’s son in his flat cap,
smoking a cigar because it’s a Sunday, throwing feed and straw from the bed.

Sometimes they’ll talk.

For men of few words, they’ll have a lot to say.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The World of Sport

Before time turned her bones to brittle twigs that sometimes snapped in the slightest of breezes, my mother was a sportswoman. In a way, in the safe-padding of her armchair, she still is.

Her involvement, engagement, in televised rugby transcends mere spectatorship. She is there, on the sideline, roaring England on.  

‘Go on, Son, run…’
My grandad was a football man. After the war, he played for Dorchester Town. They had a black and white striped kit like Newcastle United. Grandad was the keeper. He had a crooked little finger sustained after trying to stop the pig-bladder ball.

After a match, Granny and Grandad would cycle home sharing the load between them: it was her job to wash the kits.

Black and white stripes
hang from the line
smell of soap powder
in the clean air

Mangling and scrubbing was the full extent of Granny’s contribution to the world of sport. She worked as a cook in Dorchester prison. Her cooking was so bad it was part of the punishment. She was there in the days of hanging.

So Mum must have got it from Grandad – the sporting prowess I mean. She probably inherited his passion for televised sport, too. Once, when watching the 1978 FA Cup Final, Grandad pounced from his armchair to fall onto his knees, then all fours as underdogs Ipswich scored against Arsenal. When he got up everyone laughed and Granny called him ‘a bloody fool.’

Mum’s sport was hockey. It was a primitive game in those far off times. They played with a cannon ball and shin pads and gum shields hadn’t been invented. Goalkeepers didn’t wear crash helmets. They played in pleat skirts in sub zero temperatures. Their legs would turn pink with cold and get splattered with mud. At half-time someone would bring on a plate of oranges cut into smiling segments.

In the evenings she’d play badminton. But this was too tame so it came as something of a relief when it turned to 1980 and squash became the latest thing. Every summer, Borg won Wimbledon. Then that nasty terrier McEnroe stole his crown. Snooker was sponsored by Embassy and the players, waist-coated like penguins, chain-smoked into the small hours. Granny would watch in bed on a portable TV. In black and white because she said it was relaxing.  

A Shadowy Impression of Suits

The leaves are rusting. I tried to remember the statuesque, majestic greenness of summer. The mysterious darkness in the lush interior of the whispering leaves. Everything feels like it’s turning in on itself now like an old married couple who know that they are reaching the end of their lives. The leaves softly swayed. Vein-like tendrils were spread across the fence made of alternating grey and brown planks. Blood coloured leaves gathered in the angle made by fence and lawn.

I closed my eyes, no longer able to resist the drowsiness creeping over me. My arms ached from wielding the sledge-hammer. I saw a pair of sunglasses set down on a sandy road. Tyre treads in the sand. A yellow truck rolled right on over them. The frames survived but the lenses fractured into a thousand tiny squares. I put them on. The world was broken into pixels but still made sense. If anything it looked better. It looked enhanced. The sun goes in and there is no more need for sunglasses.

But I keep on wearing them anyway.
When I awoke it was getting cool so went back inside. I passed the bookshelf, the books stacked haphazardly in no particular order. I plan to read them, haphazardly and in no particular order. For some reason a Gideon’s Bible has made it into the stack, sitting on top of an Elmore Leonard. The representatives of Gideon. My memory holds a lot. School, in particular, keeps coming back to me with startling clarity.

But I can’t picture the representatives of Gideon.
I try to remember and get a shadowy impression of suits. They told the story of Gideon but I can’t remember this either. Did it involve a racoon? No, no. That’s The Beatles. Rocky Racoon, slipped into the room, to shoot off the legs of his rival. But there was a story. I knew it once. Text on an OHP. Maybe a song. A hymn – not The Beatles. Something intended to move us but not penetrating the general mood of cynicism and grinning confusion that dominated the room. The staff looking on sternly. Harry ‘Bastard’ Basterfield with tufts of hair like cotton wool stuck to the sides of his bald head. Going up to collect the Bibles with the golden logo like a lamp.

An unpleasant but necessary thing to be got through like having an eye test or seeing a nit nurse.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Story That Requires A Punch Line

I got to work. The wall had to come down. I procrastinate and procrastinate. I even put things off. So I decide to start: to walk before they make me run. Slowly.

When I get the bit between my teeth, the sledge pounding and blocks tearing away, visitors arrive. It’s hard to keep going. I get self-conscious when people watch me work. The visitors get invited through to see what the noise is all about.
Well’, the better looking of the two says. ‘He’s a real handy man, your man.’ I must admit, I looked the part. My hair was floured with plaster and brick dust. I half fancied that the physical activity had made my beard grow so that it was jutting out and that I looked like a navvy from a century ago. My checked shirt was hanging out. The gloves had red leather bits sewn onto the palms and fingers like cat’s paws. I had a shovel to lean on in the classic labourer at rest pose. The handle was worn smooth. My jeans also looked like I’d been working in a flour mill. You could see the steel caps poking through the frayed holes where the toes on my boots had worn. I was impatient to carry on with shovelling the debris into the barrow so that I could wheel it outside.

‘Just putting the finishing touches on this room’ I said.
This got a laugh.

I also thought about trying out another joke I had been rehearsing in my mind. I said… (Please insert your joke here)

Friday, 11 November 2011


Looking neither left nor right, I walked down the aisle of the supermarket in a state of total disconnection. It was damn chilly. Fridges everywhere. As an automaton I pushed the trolley while my wife tossed tins and packets into its wire belly. I think she said things to me.

Everything felt very orange - the supermarket’s livery. Every space was taken by the spatially challenged. If I tried to step out the way of an approaching zombie they’d change tack at precisely the wrong moment so that I might as well not have bothered. A life-sized Barbie Doll strolled among the freezers studying the boxes of frozen chicken nuggets as if they were the spines of academic periodicals on a library shelf. She checked her reflection in the chilled glass of an upright freezer. Don’t worry babe, you’re still here, tangible and desirable as a chicken nugget replete with dipping sauce.

Somehow we got to the conveyor that led us out of there.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Lizard

The LED shone in the night, its blue-white beam interrupted by a snaking cable that painted a shadow shaped like a long-tailed lizard onto the ceiling.

Today had been Halloween. I used to like it. We’d decorate the office with plastic bats, spiders, cobwebs sprayed out of a can and the inevitable pumpkin would show up with its black grin.

I kept turning over the same old thoughts, sifting through them until I saw a green table cloth like the baize on a snooker table. Colour, a spot of purple, provided by a pot of African Violets. Yellowing net curtains drawn aside. Paint the colour of butterscotch spread on the walls too thickly: you could see the brush strokes and lumps where the paint had ran.

More flowers on the window sill: red geraniums in clay pots. A beast of a chair, its bones pegged and bolted together, its wheezing body ribbed with springs. The fire burned and on the hearth an ashtray with a black button. Press it to make the silver lips retract, reveal the ashy mouth. Twisted dog ends inside like dirty teeth.

Such was my thinking as I stared up at the lizard.

Eventually we crawled our way into sleep and parted someplace before it got light.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Skibbereen Rain


Geese in a V - morning flight. Clear-eyed as a priest he sees this thing. Watches as it travels on towards the horizon, to what might be on the other side.

White houses on the hillside and a solitary star, still shining in the morning sky.

In the evening, in the cool of his room, the old man raised himself from his chair to see the rough clouds intersected by the lead diamonds of his window.

The geese are long gone.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sun Glasses

Imagine a pair of sun-glasses set down on a sandy road.
Tyre treads in the sand. A yellow truck rolls right on over them.
The frames survive but the lenses fracture into thousands of tiny squares.
You put them on and see the world broken into pixels but still making sense.
If anything, looking better: enhanced. And the sun goes in and there’s
no more need for sun-glasses.

But you keep wearing them anyway.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


Walk don’t run. The polished floor in Primary School security. The flowing frocks like they wore in those days. Eye sockets in a skull.
The mad professor’s spectacles. Cuts and cruel government remedies.
Sheffield stainless steel. The Full Monty. Denim jacket rivet.
Planting a note in a pretty girl’s coat pocket supposedly penned by
the boy she fancies, bitter words that taste like aspirin. Iron
tank radiators. Filling a hand basin with water, drinking it like a horse
at a trough. The frightening red shadow of a klaxon horn.
Red blades in the bottle green machine to keep the lawn shorn.
Daisies survive the cull. The giant contact lens of a magnifying
glass, training a shaft of white light until the chestnut brown of
your shoe starts to smoke. Trading lines from Laurel and Hardy. I
was Stan Laurel, scratching my head and beaming like a goof
provoking the severe teacher to lose her temper. The teacher with
the cancer husband. Losing her mask, the tears flowing when we tried
to do arithmetic. Sorry children, she said. Years later I heard she
re-married to an alcoholic. I met her at the school gate and she asked
me to hold a carton of cream. Don’t drop it, she said. It slipped,
still fridge cool through my fingers to splat on the fondant pink
paving slab. The same slabs that would freeze, wear a skin of ice
in winter and leave me stranded like a baby duck. The dry chuckle of
the Headmaster who came back to find me. Oh Mr Hunsley, what
40 years dead? How alive you still are in the school of my memory.
He threw the lime-green tennis ball high in the hall in a perfect
trajectory for it to travel straight back to his hand without leaving
his chair. Pounded his chest with his fist so that the boom echoed
around the hall bouncing off the walls mapped with the red shaded
territories that were still our Empire. Pipe smoking Deputy, Mr Deer.
We were all very scared of you. A fierce man with a bite as bad as
his bark. Paper men, paper scissors. Hold them by the blade.
Always walk, don’t run. Time to go now children. You stupid boy.
How are you going to do your coat up with your gloves on? 

One Man Rock and Roll Band (in honour of his 70th birthday)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Ghost of Stan Laurel

During the course of the day
I received one or two unkind
comments about my hair.

This afternoon I saw my reflection
in the hardware store window.

I looked like the ghost of Stan Laurel.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


These Temporal Rooms, thank you and welcome...

Camera Sauvignon

A cutaway diagram of Voigtlander’s camera shows the Petzval lens with its two groups of lens elements, each having a convex and concave part. I read these words and the book smelt good: musty and piquant. Books mature like wine or cheese; they develop their own aromas, textures, flavours. This book is of a fine vintage – it’s a, let’s guess – a 1969 Camera Sauvignon maybe… nice yellow stains like nicotine on the title page. That’s an Arial font, I think and oh that bouquet… it keeps rising off the page… a symphony of smell. Well now, it’s a 1970, how about that for a guess!
I like the word cutaway. It rhymes with Steinway. Camera, piano. Two objects meant for creative hands. Black and white keys, black and white photography. Monotone – which rhymes with Parlophone – the label that signed The Beatles when no-one else would touch them – groups with guitars are on the way out now…
Cutaway, castaway. Desert Island Discs. My eight discs would have to be:
1.       Roy Harper – The Green Man
2.      Christie Moore – Ride On
3.      Rolling Stones – Prodigal Son
4.      The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever
5.      Bob Dylan – Nettie Moore
6.      Jethro Tull – Cheap Day Return
7.      Johnny Cash – Wabash River
8.     Davy Graham – Anji
This list will always change. If I chose it tomorrow, it’d be different. You have a go: it’s really hard to pin your favourites down. You start to remember the other songs it’d be hard to live without.
The book reminds me that it’s still with me. Books. The smell of them. Voigtlander sounds like a person who comes from the small island of Voigt. It’s a rocky escarpment where men eke out a living fishing, farming and sustain themselves through hard-drinking. You need to be fatalistic in a land where there are only two hours of daylight in summer.
Petzval sounds like Pretzel. My friend Ruth used to get through a packet a day. Curving bits of baked wheat that were polished like a hardwood. Twisted into shapes like miniature carpet beaters.
Now you have The Bible and Shakespeare. What would be your choice of book?
            ‘Well Sue, I think that it would have to be…’


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