FTMT's Favourite Five Top Tenets

Friday, December 15, 2006


Impossible Songs


She sails over the deep sea.
She sails over me.
A drowning man.
A weight of lead on me and too shaky to stand.

Her boat is like a silver dart across the waves.
The blue menace holds her above the swirls below,
The watery caves, the wake of slaves,
The dead and the pirates, the lost who seek land locked graves.

She sails over me, a drowning man once more.
Lost and crashing, looking out but unsure,
Until I stand with her, stretching my toes in the sand,
On some safe shore.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hold on to your songs

Hold on to your Songs

Words of wisdom from the contained and the contrite.
The magic pull of garden centres does not last long.
Wine and cigarettes are an unhealthy combination.
Take a twist and you may bust, or win.
Sleeping in movie theatres is never good.
Watering down glue to spread it further.
Lottery tickets burning in a fire.
Noodles, poor men's or other wise.
Pasta, chicken, pasta, mushrooms, pasta, cheese, pasta, onions.
A rain torn sky hiding the brightest star.
Red sails in the sunset.
Hot chocolate cake melting behind the microwave door.
The North Pole is the warmest place in the world.
What happens when the ink finally runs out?
I don’t much feel like dancing.
Capturing fallen leaves in a frame so they survive the winter.
Time for reflection.
Pondering the angst and problems of a chosen level of anominity.
The white space that collides with the grey matter.
You can manage knowledge and you can’t knowledge manage, or can you?
Podcasts are catching on but maturity takes time.
Writing a critical review then leaving in a spelling mistake.
Deciding what half of my brain to use today.
The quick, the dead and the pedestrian.
Hearing about odd exploits in Saudi Arabia.
Is it possible to overdo the salad part of the meal?
Daydreaming in the classroom and then waking up.
Fairytales revised and doing the revision.

Monday, November 06, 2006

6th November

Fish oil and false tears.
Justifying the great Christmas spend.
Long emails and replies.
A strange story from the west.
Toasting cheese and ham but in opposite ways.
Not hitting the bottle.
Deciding that inspiration comes from the oddest places sometimes.
An early breakfast and then back to bed.
Not topping up the windscreen water fluid.
Eating 27 grapes and 2 bananas.
Having a telephone conversation with a tailor in Eastbourne about a tuxedo.
Laughing at photos on the web.
Letting someone borrow a DVD.
An un-ironed shirt.
Practising some songs and forgetting the chords.
Dipping your finger in warm Dettol.
Watching Reporting Scotland.
Ripping one of our own CDs back into mp3 files.
Thinking about yesterday’s football match in Kirkliston.
The cat climbing into the wine rack.
Not getting a letter from my solicitor.
Ice cream and maple syrup.
Telling somebody to put their Pot Noodle into the microwave.
Francis Vincent Zappa.
Feeling a bit panicked and mildly shocked.
The Royal Tenenbaums.
The natural history of Wiltshire.
A good cat comes in at 22:13.
A serious chat about the next few months.
Deciding to go to Henley on Thames and making the arrangements.
Talking to people who are the same age as I am.
Having a strange dream about Wales or something.
Discussing the BBC’s attraction to Gaelic programming.
People queuing up to go register with the dentist.
Text messages.
Thinking that a really good time is just up ahead.
Applying for a job.
Not reviewing anything on Garageband.
Trying to think of a witty remark built around a Scottish soap title.
Johnny Beattie’s 80th birthday party attended by various celebs.
Looking at the wedding page in the Courier.
Channel 4 News Republican v Democrat coverage: Priceless.
Trying not to gloat over the misery of others.
Avoiding shops of any kind all day.
Thinking about ghosts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

After done click here

Darker visions

There are living souls out there
So I am led to believe
Evidence and signs
Cracks in irregular lines
Holding to the certainty
That there is no such thing...as certainty.

To air I do not dare

Air kisses

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Air kisses in the USA

Air kisses in the USA

Air kisses in the USA

Air kisses in the USA

There is no easy way

To say I love you today

There is no easy way

Just air kisses in the USA

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Bop Bop ooh yeah

Air kisses in the USA

Air kisses in the USA

Air kisses in the USA

Air kisses in the USA.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Modern History



The emancipation of the witch or modern history.

The year is 2027, with the demise of conventional religion, discredited in the great Mediterranean War of 2021 and the fall of Rome an unpleasant spiritual vacuum was created. The authorities (on all sides) gazed into this vacuum and decided that an appropriate filling was required, for the common good of all the people. A way to explain, calm, resolve, solve and focus the heightened sense of purposelessness that now seemed to dog each human life in the heartlands of Europe and Asia was needed.

As there was no emperor these days, or one who could decide things properly anyway, a competition was devised and run to help decide on what the best solution might be, answers had to be submitted by text, email or on a postcard to:

“Things to fill the vacuum” c/o The Founding Fathers, Room 202, The Former Vatican City, Rome, Italy (as was).

The suggestions went something like this, in no particular order:

Cream Cheese
More vacuum
Different kinds of vacuum
A black hole
Pulp fiction
Herds of screaming, howling animals
Frogs and 6 other plagues
Alien beings
Orchestral music
Figures of speech
Lonely people whistling nervously
Fizzy lemonade
Old kind of ideas
Books from charity shops
Flotsam and jetsam
Lost keys and old mobile phones
Abstract theories
Home baking
Various Simpson’s episodes
Odd socks from Chinese laundry baskets
Sweet potatoes and chives
Millions of tons of cement
A single red balloon
Football fans of all sorts
Overheard conversations
False nipples
Some other old ideas about what god might look like
Left over Happy Meals
A big asteroid
Actual air
Vacuum cleaners
Reformed religion
Classic cars
Glen Millar melodies
Tupperware items
Torn up newspapers
Princess Diana memorabilia
Niagara Falls
Broken DVD players that you could easily repair
Carbon Monoxide
Civil Servants
Junk mail
The remains of Indian take aways.

The list went on and on, I’ve chosen to list just a few of the better suggestions. In the end however there was only one winner and that was Witchcraft.

At first this choice was not popular in all quarters and a number of dissidents and priests who complained to the authorities had to be executed, unfortunately. Some socialist radicals also wrote strongly worded letters to their socialist newspapers but thankfully things settled down once their reporter style note pads were confiscated and their coach suffered a puncture. Cyber complaints were more difficult to control, one large website “www.No! To the hated witchy thing!” ran for 65 days until it was shut down by removing the plug. Over a million hits were recorded and comments passed.

So it was witchcraft or nothing. A pan-Europe vote was taken and in the Middle East a number of oil rich sheiks had a meeting with some bearded clerics. The people finally spoke in one clear voice through these diverse yet complimentary mediums and the resounding answer was “Nothing”. “The people have spoken” was the headline in many newspapers but strangely not the day after the vote, it came a little later in fact.

At first it seemed like a bad day for witchcraft and many activists were clearly, visibly disappointed at the rebuff they had suffered. There is however no such thing as bad publicity of any kind. While “Nothing” became a very successful religion and vacuum filler throughout most of these parts and some others, Witchcraft flourished in new and unexpected areas such as: The Royal Family, the Army, the financial services area, Albania (as was), in many ships and oil tankers, on coasts, on islands and in dark and spooky houses and homes. Old people embraced Witchcraft also and many of then grew fine warts and extra large tomatoes in season. All things seemed fine and in an perfect, edgy kind of balance until the cold hard winter of 2029 descended...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

No Game



Laughing at your God?
Mocking your Prophet?
Calling him names?
Saying you’re insane?
Trying to unpick history
Trail the bloody legacy
Massaging facts and memory
Along this sorry road.
Things that were ever misunderstood
Can’t just be left to gain
A little mutual respect
Everything you want, you want to direct
And trample in some Holy name.

So how we accommodate?
Share this strange planet
Or get along at all.
Any way we play
It seems it’s got to be your ball,
Your nice round ball,
Or there is no game at all.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Viva Maria



Yeah, Viva Maria and all that stuff...

The Last Days of August

Sitting under the porch in the watery sun
Feeling like Steve McQueen, his life’s work done
Feeling my age creeping through to my bones
Staring at the grass, staring alone.

These are the last days and less time to breathe
I should take more care, I should eat more greens
I should gather together all the smithereens
I should take all the advice from the lessons I should’ve learned
And put it all somewhere, somewhere useful, somewhere outside my head.
Put things in their proper place, instead of thinking them,
Spit out the words instead of drinking them,
And lay me down, untidy
Like a bed unmade, or song unplayed
Like a sentence delayed, some garment frayed.

For you I’ll allow a glimpse into my soul,
See, hear and feed and then nudge the controls,
Staying and playing when our energies return
When these times pass to memory, a beginning will come....
Viva Maria. Viva Maria.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Town



My Town

I don’t park my car anymore; I don’t visit the DIY store
I don’t walk to the paper shop, I don’t go when the sign says stop.

My town looks so grey to me,
No place to raise a family
No peace to ever let us be,
You won’t be coming around,
In my town.

The horses slid on the cobbled streets
The hungry found something good to eat
Some business grew and success repeats
But, you won’t be coming around,
In my town.

I don’t read the daily news; don’t hear the gossip or street corner views,
I don’t drink in those bars or clubs, I don’t try I just give it up.
I don’t park my car anymore; I don’t visit the DIY store

I don’t walk to the paper shop, I don’t go when the sign says stop.

I won’t go when the sign says stop
I can’t go when the sign says stop
You can’t go when the sign says stop

Tuesday, August 15, 2006




Things not to worry about:

The church being behind you.

Any kind of artistic rejection.

The weather – it always happens.

People thinking that you are invisible.

Car exhaust fumes from the car in front entering your car.

Scottish religious fundamentalists – that’s a real joke.

River beds if they are murky.

Athlete’s foot – no one died of it.

Enjoying fish fingers.

Where the cat may be on a cold night.

What you will ultimately achieve in your life.


Having odd bits of paper in your pocket.

Eating regularly – get out of that crippling habit.

Liking music that other people don’t.

Having a torch with decent batteries in it always at hand.

Burning your finger tips on candles.

Eating chocolate from the fridge.

Disturbing your neighbours (don’t make a habit though...)

Other peoples ignorance – is that your fault?

Knowing the correct time.

Whether or not a bus will come.

Everything in your life having to make some kind of sense.

Drinking the last bottle of wine, the one your were saving for a rainy day.

(Above applies to all “rainy day” based thinking).

Blogging and getting dumb, unhelpful comments, who cares?

Two faced, po faced Christian types.

Stuff on the other side of the world.

Whether or not there are 8, 9 or 10 planets.

Not reading those recommended books or seeing those films.

Not agreeing with reviews in the List, Q, empire or whatever.

Picking your nose, you can’t reach your brain from there.

Getting old(er), not so bad really.

Having bad, anti social little habits, (gum, dogs, cigars etc.)

Being rubbish at darts.

Not understanding chess or HTML.

The Scottish Nationalists ever winning anything substantial.

Avoiding apples, because they never taste as good as they look.

Being born too late / too early.

Being hit by a meteor.

Losing a tooth.

The meaning of biblical passages.

The American government.

That one day all the things you love will be lost to you.

Understanding other people’s over inflated views on things.

Not getting ecstatic over Italian food.

Spending a few hours doing nothing in particular.

Taking a risk with something.

Handling snakes.

Whether to save or spend.

How your bum actually looks.

Being engulfed by some kind of natural disaster.

Keeping up with soap operas.

Starting to write a novel and actually finishing it.

Getting the right size of T shirt.

Eating crisps straight from a bag.

Wearing odd socks now and again.

Brushing your teeth too fiercely.

Walking along a road.

Watching a subtitled film and keeping up with the action.

How many hits your website may be getting.

Having a scuff on your shoe.

Life in general.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006





Swing and play
I’ll be alright some day
Wait and see how I feel
If this feeling is real.

You try to escape me
When I attempt a catch
You’re here then you’ve moved on
As the opposites attract.

Sit at the South Pole
I climb to the North
Stare back at the mirror
For all that you’re worth.

Here comes the thunder
There goes the rain
The lightning that strikes me
When you try to explain
I try to explain, I let you complain
I read and remember
The moods in the game.




She flies over fields
Skipping the trees
Falling into shadows
Does as she pleases.
The moon is a woman
Bright and curved
High and unreachable
Hated and loved.
What we see is part
The dark stays a secret
Bright hides an answer
And covers the weakness.
Here is your sailboat
Now on dry land
Safe from the journey
As gravity planned.
We are the earthbound
We watch you cast spells
She says she’s a woman
But who can ever tell?

Friday, June 09, 2006





Heidi Hi was half Chinese, half Dutch and half the age her mother had been when she died. Heidi lived with her gardener partner Walter Blomfield, one hundred percent Dutch, in the gardener’s cottage on a grand country estate deep in the Range Rover heart of Scotland. “Holland, where we come from, is a very flat country” said Heidi “very flat and not very dusty, in Holland we have little in the way of dust. Our wonderful hard wooden floors show only muddy marks and clumps of fluff and there is seldom a household dust problem”. In Scotland, Heidi had encountered a surprising amount of dust that she could not explain. She had also noticed a great deal of dust in Lisbon during a short stay there when Walter worked for the Prison Service. “The Portuguese know nothing about chimneys,” she would say. “They simply don’t know how to build them, we had to show them, but still there was a lot of dust”. They had also stayed in Paraguay for six months but hadn’t really been aware of dust problems there particularly. “The equator and our proximity to it may be to blame”, said Heidi. “It could also be the rainy season or the amount of magnetism generated by the ancient tram cars that sizzled and sparked past the windows of our apartment, we cannot be sure.” She thought that excess magnetism should keep dust suspended in the air, not allowing it to settle and preventing from being a problem, except of course for the difficulties raised by breathing it in.

When Walter went to work and Heidi had the house to herself, she could think about her own routines, start on her housework whenever she liked and of course tackle the dust. It was eight thirty and he had just left to spend the day working on the restoration of the walled garden that flanked the great house. “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” sang Heidi as she combed her spiked and tousled blond hair. She then began to wonder what the first book ever to have been written on a typewriter was, and then what had been the first book to have been written on a word processor or a laptop. She stopped the thinking for a moment and made herself some green tea. It was going to be another long day but she would sit down and map out a plan.

She picked up some scrap bits of A4 and doodled on them with a brown fibre pen; she drew clouds, birds and flower heads. Then she wrote in the blobs that were the clouds, lists of tasks and things to do, shopping to buy, clothes she needed to fix, things to remember. There was a housework cloud, a Tesco cloud, and a lunch cloud. The clothes cloud was still empty, she preferred not to think of sewing or ironing or mending. There should have been a friends cloud but she hated even having to draw that one, that and the going out cloud. The edges of the clouds grew a darker brown as she struggled to find appropriate fillers. They stared back at her like angry empty sandwiches denied their spoonfuls of coronation chicken or tuna mayonnaise. The hot tea was the best thing about this little process.

Once she had finished her tea she gathered up her tools and began to search for dust. She had her vacuum cleaner, her dustpan and brush, her aerosol cleaner, a duster, an anti static wiper and a feather duster. Most days the dust appeared firstly by Walter’s side of the bed, then the toilet, then to the shower cubicle, then back to the bedroom, into the wardrobe and by the chest of drawers and then down stairs towards the kitchen. The stairway could be particularly bad; it had an old heavily patterned carpet that Heidi did not like and many elaborate pieces of woodwork and cornicing on the walls, banisters and doorframes. The kitchen was dusty from the stove to the fridge, to the cupboards then to the hall and then out to the back door. The tracks of Walter’s pre-work morning routine was marked by his boot dust trail every day.

Walter was quiet most of the time and tired the rest of the time. He had black fingernails from soil and oil and manual toil. He seldom touched her in a way she appreciated, when he did she thought mostly of the dirt ground between the flesh and the nails, tainting and colouring the skin, caking the cracks and scrapes in his hard working nails. His touch, once an electric arc of pleasure was now something of a familiar numbing pain; she gripped the handle on the vacuum cleaner, fingers coiling round it and dragged it along behind her like a stubborn child. A slight cruel shiver ran down her spine, the feeling almost made her want to squeal. There was a glint in her eye nobody would ever see.

Heidi stopped by the hall mirror and gazed into her reflection. Dark Chinese eyes, slight slant and a look that came from her Chinese father, also there was her a small eastern mouth and pointy chin. She studied her flat Dutch nose, red cheeks and mousey blonde hair, genetic gifts from her Dutch mother. She touched her nose, pulled at the tip and tried to stretch it to make it longer and sharper, to reshape it’s annoying flatness. For a few seconds she admired her new profile and then let go as her flat nose sprang back into shape. For the meantime she blanked out the look of her hair. Now back to the dust and disappointment of discovering more.

She sniffed at the house air, she sucked and pulled in housey air and allowed it to resonate around the inside of her nostrils, she imaged dust, visible as if in a wind tunnel, circulating and spiralling in her nasal cavities. “Too much dust in this house and much of it living in my flat as a wardrobe door nose!” She sneezed into a Kleenex tissue four times, encouraging each extra spasm and then closely inspected the matter caught in the fresh tissue like a fisherman inspecting a newly surfaced net for the catch. “Pollen, mainly pollen, but also many microbes, tiny unwelcome visitors invading my house”.

The cleaning routine began as she folded the tissue and placed it in her apron pocket. She tapped the folded bulge and reached again for the waiting vacuum cleaner. It was a red “Henry”, not the best or the most stylish, a workhorse really but effective. She selected the small pointy tool head, inserted into the waiting chrome pipe and switched on. She felt a hum of physical excitement as Henry’s song of collection began to be sung by his whirling motor. She inserted the nozzle like some surgical implement into nooks, crannies, crevasses, along skirting board tops, behind sleeping appliances and white goods and deep into the floorboard cracks.

“Very little of our modern dust originates on this earth, 97.5% of dust is true cosmic dust, space debris and particles driven across the universe, blasted for light years and over billions of miles by great magnetic winds and the pull of mighty stars and planets. Then sieved, strained and pummelled through the pressures and heat of our outer atmospheric layers, down through extremes of heat and cold, through cloud and rain and lightning strikes, hurricanes and storms until it settles on earth in the homes of homo sapiens.” Heidi liked to think of these words, words her mother had taught her many years ago as the two of them cleaned their farmhouse kitchen, a kitchen thick with agitated dust, gathered from all corners of the universe but still running. Her mother was cremated now and resided in a jar at the bottom of the wardrobe. Her silent soul allowed the screwed lid to remain precisely in place as it stubbornly refused to soar. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

Almost freed from the tyranny of the hall mirror she lapsed back into thinking about her hair. Her thoughts were turning an unhappy colour. Heidi though her hair was not quite right, (she thought some more and flicked her tongue across her top lip), not coloured in the places it should be, not thick where it should be. It had outgrown its last unplanned cut. One in a series of cuts and styles that had led to this unfortunate point, as all styles seem to, where the hair is not right. Now her eyes saw two things, the predictable gathering of the dust and the irritating reflection of hair that was not what it should be. For dust there was instant, quick hoovering and removing solutions, dust could be dealt with, albeit effort was required. Hair was different; there never would be any quick solution to the feeling of bad hair. The continued, disciplined and pointed pursuit of dust might just numb those hairstyle thoughts however. Lose yourself in a muddle of cleaning, a flap of dusting, a sniff of dust gathering. She looked down and around, scanning the room.

She picked up a single short hair from the floor, idle against the skirting board. Blond is the colour of dust, blond is the colour of this internal vacancy, blond is the colour of domestic slavery, and blond is the colour of blond hair that needs more vibrant blond colouring and some frantic, white hot cutting. Her hair, the dust, the atoms that made them both up seemed almost visible, spinning in the sunlight as the bright morning invaded her routine. These moments of focused clarity, this pure thought only came in unexpected, unpredictable spasms, like an athlete’s high, a rush gleaned from a special achievement, the perfect rapport of a musician or and artist with an instrument or a brush. They were gone before they could be fully savoured, like a dirty and forbidden dream.

Heidi had an itch. Heidi’s eyes glazed and her concentration on cleaning, seeing the details in the dust and the patterns and geometry in her housework broke. Heidi’s hands were feeling itchy; she stopped her hoovering, right there at the foot of the stairs. She put down the appliance and returned to the kitchen, opened a pine fronted cupboard and reached in for the bottle of hand cream. It had a white plastic push down applicator top; she liked its shape and how it felt. With the flat of her hand she pushed down on the top and squeezed a great glob of pink perfumed viscosity onto her left palm. She slapped her right palm against it and squashed the lotion into her hands with a circular motion working it into each crease and pore. Her eyes were now closed almost painfully tight, her mouth a straight line of concentration, some sweat was now visible on her brow and she was warming up. She rubbed her hands together more and more allowing the heat to build. The hand cream oozed between her fingers and ran to the tips; she was almost tempted to lick them but resisted and rubbed more. She rubbed fifty times, then another fifty times, rubbing with all her strength. As she rubbed more and applied more lotion, she began to stagger, her ankles seemed to disagree with her vertical stance, they closed like pliers, shutting at an odd angle. Her hands were melting together as she stepped backwards and sideways. Her elbow knocked over a plant, her heel skiffed the waste paper bin as she kept on moving around, oblivious of her surroundings. Worlds made of internal dust; sunlight and rainbows were orbiting and spinning endlessly inside her head. She felt herself to be in the middle of her own brain but still aware of the external need to rub more and more in order to continue to heighten the experience. Finally as she looked deeper inwards, she began seeing everything that mattered to her as smaller and finer than ever, from the tiny to the microscopic in this new and bright personal cosmos.

Then with the hardened auto-mechanical movement of a fifties sci-fi robot Heidi stopped the rubbing and allowed her hands to part and she stared at her palms. They were hot, red and seemed larger than life and dazzling and bright to her. Sensing that there was now no way of rescuing herself she slapped her hot hands against the inside of her thighs and resumed the rubbing but now grinding against the fabric of her skirt and through to the skin. She was trembling and she was almost dropping to her knees, fifty to five hundred was the count, mad figures running parallel with the rhythms she was making. Then behind her the tapestry cushion couch suddenly opened up its welcoming arms like a mother at the playground gates and she fell backwards. Five hundred to…

At six thirty Walter came home. He parked the white VW pickup in the usual place casually stubbing out his cigarette butt in the ashtray as he slipped the keys from the ignition. Over the wall and across the fields a dog barked and close by two pheasants careered past the garden hedge clucking and squawking, obviously agitated by his arrival. The sun was still warm on the courtyard flagstones and Walter was distracted by the thought of taking a cold beer from the fridge as he slammed the pickup cab door shut. He walked across the yard and opened the kitchen door, looking in he saw there were loose papers on the table, dirty teacups, breakfast dishes, the hoover and assorted cleaning materials on the floor in the hall. Nothing appeared to have been done all day. “Heidi?” he cried.

Heidi was lying on the couch in a foetal like position, a towel across her head; she appeared to be fast asleep and at peace with the wide world. Only partly hidden by the towelling shroud a glimmer of a smile could be seen running across her face. “Hard day?” Walter whispered and laughed, a little unsure of what he should be saying. “You said that we would have an early night tonight.”

Heidi opened her eyes, cleared her throat and grinned, looking at Walter close up and squarely in the face “I have had such a fantastic day”, she began to giggle a little, strangely amused by her own words and the sound her voice made, “ I have discovered that if you rub enough, all of the dust just disappears.”

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Lost Jotters...Part 1


Blue, ragged cover, “The Lomond Series”, corners like Labrador ears, pages flapping in a directionless breeze, the jotter sat on a green, crusty and flaking park bench. At first I made a split second decision to ignore it and maintained my pace travelling past the seat. Then a sudden sharp pain of realisation made me stop, turn and without second or third thought pick up the book, curl it and ram it into my inside jacket pocket. It fitted, almost, as I patted the bulge it made and resumed my previous stride pattern, the one that would carry me to through the wrought iron gates and onto the relative safety of the busier streets.

I’m no thief. I’m an opportunist, sometimes a lucky one; there are many of us, and many kinds (of us). The rain started and I reminded myself of that basic truth, timing is everything. A few seconds more and the book would have been an indigo mess of running ink, grey pencil blurs and porridge pages. I looked down past my lapel, into the pocket and shielded the book from the rain like a mother hen would her chick.

I passed a newsagents, a hoarding bore the headline, “American serviceman’s remains found by Holy Loch”, I made a mental note and walked on.

At the greengrocers I bought a bag of peppers, assorted colours, some grapes, some onions, some Mackintosh apples and some garlic. I had no particular meal or recipe in mind but I knew later in the day, probably in the evening I would cook. I could hardy think of anything but the jotter now and it’s contents. A blind man busked on the corner, playing a white violin, the tune was familiar but I couldn’t place its name, I threw a pound in his hat and he ignored me.

In the off-licence I bought a bottle of red wine. I wondered why there were no supermarkets around here, just little shops, both specialising and struggling with an appealing degree of energy, the kind a Sunday supplement journalist would enthuse about in some unreadable piece towards the rear of the weekend section. I now had two bags of things and a jotter so I jumped on a bus, the first that came by, I hoped it was the right one as I asked the driver for a £1.50 fare.

After fifteen minutes on the bus I began to recognise were it was I was, so I alighted at the next stop. The streets were dry, the rain gone and the school run traffic had begun for the afternoon. I walked about a mile turning every second left and every first right. Red brick houses, grey stone houses, concrete flats and offices, mobile homes and caravans, large amounts of miscellaneous street furniture and stubborn trees keeping them all apart. I recognised the final corner, checked the number, opened the green gate, walked up the path, then down the path. A Yale key was at the bottom of my trouser pocket, I picked it out and put it in the lock. It opened. I was home.

Once inside I opened the wine, poured some and sipped it from a crystal clean glass. I reached into my jacket and place the curled up blue jotter onto the flat surface of the coffee table. It was safe.

I went into the kitchen and unpacked the grocery bags, well the fruit and veg. I laid the peppers and onions on the worktop, ran some clean water and plopped them into the basin. I turned the tap on harder and showered each one in white water to remove any surface dirt. There was a red, a yellow, a green and an orange pepper, three small onions and a clove of garlic. I put the garlic to one side and began to clean and chop the peppers and onions with my sharpest vegetable knife. Some I diced to be quite small, mainly the onion, the peppers I kept in larger pieces once I had removed their seeds. When I had finished the chopping board was piled high with all those colourful vegetable pieces. I drank another glass of wine.

I switched on the radio and straight away a voice said “Tailback on the A46 due to an overturned vehicle of the eastbound carriageway”.

In the fridge there were two chicken breasts in a dish, on the lowest shelf. They had been there for twenty-four hours. I thought, “writing is really mostly a mix of application, concentration and unfinished perspiration”. I realised that that thought made no sense and was towards the end disjointed and stupid, this was as I removed the chicken from the fridge. I washed it and chopped it with a different knife, a smaller, sharper knife. I put the pieces in a bowl and looked out of the window. I then began to think of a dish of Buffalo wings being served up to me in a TGI restaurant. I don’t much care for TGI. Once I was working away from home and on Valentine’s Day night ate a meal in a TGI with a male and a female colleague.

After I had eaten the chicken and vegetable stir fry I sat on the couch, just across from the coffee table. The jotter was on the table where I’d left it, slowly uncurling. I looked a long the top edge and could see it widen towards the spine, some pages had been torn out. Each corner was slightly crushed and creased; there were scribbles across part of the front cover. I couldn’t see the back as it was facing the tabletop. I imagined it would be scribbled on also. After all it was very much a used, filled up, written on, scribbled in and torn jotter.

That had been my first proper meal in twenty-four hours but I was not counting. Then I remembered I was counting after all.

“It must be love, love, love, nothing more, nothing less, love is the best.” The radio interrupts my train of thought again. I sat back on the couch and studied the jotter on the table for a few moments more. Then I drifted away and thought about being in Bristol and walking down the hill from Clifton to the city centre and old docks. I remembered the paving stones, the crossings, the shops and pubs, the cold wind on my face turning a corner. The incongruous mix of old and new that makes up the centre, the never-ending building work. People standing outside offices or in doorways smoking or waiting at bus stops. Bristol.

The food and the wine took effect and I fell asleep. I don’t pay much attention to time, apart from the big 24-hour gaps, as I’ve mentioned, so when I woke up and found it was dark I didn’t care much about it. I got up, toileted and went to the bedroom and slept some more. I had a vague recollection of a dream (from the couch), mainly travelogue and not much action with a generally yellow impression and some perfume smells. Pleasant enough but I couldn’t get back into it so I stayed asleep dreamless.

When I awoke next morning I showered quickly. I dressed and walked down to the local McDonalds and had sausage and egg McMuffin, coffee and a hash brown with ketchup, I read the Independent also. It clearly was some time before 1030 but I wasn’t worried about that I just knew I must remain on the lookout for more jotters. The headline in the paper said, “Name the day”. A long political piece followed, I read it disinterestedly for a few moments but then skipped forward to the editorials, the letters and some pages of reviews. That’s usually how I read that type of newspaper, skip, and then dip. What happened next surprised even me as I looked across the McDonalds car park. The usual array of breakfast vehicles were there, white vans, sales reps Mondeos, 4x4s and Subaru boys. The crows were hoovering up pieces of food and attacking milk shake cups that had fallen short of the bins and making a mess. It was then that I saw it, in a bin, sticking out like a badly broken arm, like a blue distress flare in a green rainforest canopy, like a cry for help. A jotter wedged into the swing bin lid in the far corner of the car park.

As it happened I’d just taken my last gulp of coffee, I rolled the newspaper under my arm and whilst carefully avoiding eye contact with anybody in the place headed over to the bin. I was trying to look innocent, normal if you wish. I became self-conscious, aware on my walk, my gait as I crossed between the parked vehicles, heading for the remote corner, heading for my prize. In seconds it was mine, captured and in my parka pocket, blue, ragged cover, “The Lomond Series”, you know the rest.

A silver Ford transit mini bus full of children pulls into a parking bay that is too small for it and I get a text message tone on my phone. The message says, “You have new voicemail, phone….”

I decide to walk back via a completely different route, strange bus stops pass by, strange passers by and collections of traffic that belong to nobody, homeless traffic. I decide to turn around at eleven thirty but as it happens I’m home by then having lost my bearings. I inspect the jotter and place it beside the other on the coffee table. This one has slightly more aged and weathered than the other, a paler blue, more creases, more promise perhaps. I choose to ignore all daytime TV programming and instead pick up an edition of National Geographic magazine from the bookshelf. I wake up at twelve fifty five, not in the least bit hungry.

The doorbell rang. I ignored it. I could only be some unwanted salesman or some one doing a survey or some minority religious group on a recruitment drive. I sneaked a peek through the curtain; sure enough it was two young men, both in grey suits and carrying large black brief cases, Mormons or JWs on a mission. Quickly I blot this insignificant event from my life and begin to wonder if Van Gough actually looked like any of his self portraits, was he just playing a joke, perhaps other famous artists did the same thing. Perhaps there was a secret rule, a pact made amongst art students and apprentices (prior to photography) that their self portraits would not be “quite right”. Now their non-self self portraits hang in galleries and collections in complete mockery of the medium and only a few are aware of this secret.

My attention turns again to the two jotters, side by side on the coffee table, then it shifts again. On a sudden impulse I go over to the computer with my wallet and decide to book a flight, on line. I scroll through various destinations and finally click on Rennes in Brittany. That will do, I’m booked onto the 1005 flight tomorrow morning. The rest of the afternoon is spent reading tele-text adverts, sipping sweet tea and watching DVDs with the commentary option on. As night falls I pack a bag (a small rucksack) and retire for what I hope will be eight hours of undisturbed sleep.

Next morning I pay the taxi driver and find the check in line. I’m about fifteenth but I’m not counting. The line is made up of an odd collection of student types, a couple who look to be on a business trip, some older folks dressed in pale greens and browns and a small group of animated and excited schoolgirls chattering French. When my turn comes I hand over the rucksack, even though it could go as hand luggage, pick a seat, a window seat and then wander past more chrome and glass and shiftless people to the security checking area. In the lounge I buy a medium latte and a pastry at Costa and find a quiet spot to bide my time until boarding starts - in about forty-five minutes. People in airports are distracting, I should be reading but I can’t concentrate, every few seconds I lift my eyes and take in the latest group of passengers or individuals passing by.

A woman sits across from me, middle aged, she has on blue business suit and her hair is over dyed and permed rather unfashionably, she is hurriedly reading notes from a plastic folder. She crosses and uncrosses her legs at regular intervals as if needing the toilet. She is agitated about something, possibly the meeting that she is headed for; perhaps she has not done enough homework. Our eyes do not meet. I try to decide if she is attractive or not, on a scale of one to ten she’d be four. Her water bottle is almost empty as she stops reading to take a mouthful and then continue with her reading. I think she is possibly Welsh.

There are the older folks that wee in line with me; they are studying their boarding cards, almost in a kind of disbelief as if they don’t trust the airline or the information provided. One of the men (there are two couples) gets up from his seat every few minutes to gaze at the departures on the TV screen. When he returns to the others he says nothing. Perhaps he dislikes flying or needs a cigarette. The women are chatting and holding glossy magazines they have brought to read on the plane. They look like sisters. The other man is detached, staring into space and bored with the holiday experience so far, this holiday is another of their habitual breaks that he tags along on while the sister’s enjoy each others company. They have reached the stage in life where their circle of friends and family is steadily reducing, falling in on its self as their world shrinks.

No football teams, stag night parties, religious groups looking for healing time or 19 –30 holidaymakers. This airport isn’t so bad after all. Outside on the tarmac a monsoon has begun, agitated think clumps of people are queuing in the open rainstorm to get onto narrow aircraft, papers are on heads, bags and briefcases are used as temporary shields against the rain. The baggage handlers carry on in their bright yellow jackets carelessly tossing the luggage as the rain soaks the suitcases. Amber lights flash meaninglessly on while Landrovers and Ford Fiestas as they buzz under the aircraft wings. In the distance a 737 lazily climbs into the sky through and into the grey murky weather just as another Tannoy message cuts across the lounge somewhere above my head. It’s for me this time.

I find my seat on the aircraft and pretend to sleep. I secretly squint up and down the passenger compartment as the safety brief drones on, the plane is three quarters full but nobody sits beside me. Joy.

The clouds roll below like unfinished white carpets, blue horizons are strangely dull and a slow boredom sets in even on this hour and forty five minute flight. I don’t bother with a drink or a snack; there will be plenty of time for that in France. A country that I know to be full of decent food and drink of all kinds, why waste time and money on the airline food? I prefer to arrive hungry and then seek out something interesting.

The in-flight magazine extols the virtues of everywhere; there are no bad, tedious or unglamorous destinations. At least not as far as this airline is concerned. Everywhere is worth visiting and when you get there everything will run like clockwork, locals will greet you with flowers and smiles, the weather will be perfect, hire cars will gleam and have 10 miles on the clock, taxi drivers tell you of all the best places and are honest in how they charge you, hotels will roll out red carpets and pick up your baggage from the car, waiters serve you the best wine whilst grinning under their moustaches, swimming pools and old castles cry out for dips and visits, markets promise fun and fantastic bargains, hotel beds are king size and a blonde woman (of uncertain age) sits in the corner reading a magazine wearing only a clean white robe. Even before you get there the kindly airline will sell you gifts, alcohol, perfume and cigarettes all at give away better than high street (who shops on a high street?) prices, you hardly need to shop at all from now on. This perfection wearies me no end, but eventually I get to the maps part of the magazine and study the many places that this airline does not bother to fly to. They all seem a lot more exciting but it’s far too late for that by now.

I sleep for about fifty minutes and then wake up hoping I haven’t snored or dribbled, I read a paper and stare blankly at that blurry space that seems to be neither sky nor land. Then after the usual 10-minute announcement and some wet weather forecasts the runway hits the plane and we judder and slow up all along the tarmac. Remember the days when the whole cabin would burst into spontaneous applause on landing safely, wonder what they did when the other thing happened?

No baggage to collect, just a quick passport check and I’m through the glass doors and into a drizzly grey taxi rank. Renaults and Merc taxis whiz past splashing and flashing in the dull afternoon. I stop walking and get my bearings. The airport is not large but at the moment it’s busy, I look around a few times and decide a taxi is the best and quickest way out and into Rennes itself.

The taxi is a roller coaster ride. I hand a print of the hotel detail to the driver, he nods and heads out onto the dual carriageway that clears the airport traffic, the rain now getting really heavy. The rain masks dull units and factories by the road, sickly trees and forests of odd signs that seem to be about tyres or furniture, it’s hard to tell things apart. I stop trying to look and think about a massive divorce settlement I read about in the paper, a huge income split between the two warring partners, it doesn’t seem quite like the full story, more lies beneath, but the papers like good copy in the big numbers.

25 Euros pays the fare. I run up the hotel steps. It’s an IBIS on the edge of the town, a Travelodge moved up half a notch. I have room, a bed, there is a bar.

The TV turns onto a French news channel; I sit on the bed and watch it. The newscast is like that blurry space that seems to be neither sky nor land I saw for the aeroplane window. Not quite true or real or fathomable. An idea or expression of some editorial vision, clamped together by a body of what has happened today. While all the while, all the while, a billion far more interesting thing go on unreported and unseen. I know where they are, hidden now and forever in that blurry space that seems to be neither sky nor land. The planet’s history kept safe from prying eyes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My Migrations



My Migrations

Every day is a journey to somewhere
Moving across the golf ball glass house
Searching for the exit and entrance
Standing in the queues,
Standing in the standing traffic
Pay the toll, jump the queue
Then find yourself back at the start
Power up the windows
Turn on the AC
Drown out your neighbour’s music
Who is he anyway?
Far too many questions.

Who is in there?
Where are the emergency services?
Who can rescue the likes of me?
Time traveller with nowhere to go
Time traveller with the clock unwound
Ticking on a dead man’s wrist.

One more cup before we start
Today’s migration, embark
Puzzle the day away in this cocoon
But you will be released soon.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Food Poisoning

The chances of food poisoning (while travelling).

The fear of dying from crayfish poisoning
Paralyses the heart, stills the gut,
Freezes the brain more quickly than gulped ice cream.
But those textures, colours and aromas
Are so damn attractive
Hold yourself back
It’s just your juices are active.

While travelling to the ends of the earth
And Europe
Tedious but riveting
Airports, cheap food, staff emptying buckets
While other consumers fill them relentlessly.
Rustling sandwich packs that resist being opened,
With all their artificial might.
I can’t wait for some more legroom in this.
And the toileting arrangements are unfamiliar to me.

Like Chernobyl’s deadly footprint
I witness
A social revolution
Without my inclusion
The chattering classless on annual migration
Pass me by,
Like the love dance of the dragonfly
They fly, those people fly, over and under
Without wings or consequences
For no particular reason.

Strange love but worth a suck
And we don’t hold anything against anybody.
A repeat prescription please
Or maybe something to tease
Just some slow release
For my ongoing crayfish poisoning.
Some of the life from some of the heart
Turn it over
See if it will start.

I suppose I will eventually die of it,
Sometime, somewhere,
Perhaps with a view of palm trees
From the hospital window.
A fashionable drug,
An accessory in this life,
An added piece that I somehow ingested
Like smoking, liver failure or overdosed amphetamines,
Traffic accidents or falling down unfamiliar stairs,
Cancer of the bone, brain or anywhere,
Older but unaware.

After so many years, the young doctor will be amazed,
Remove her glasses, shake her head
Toss her head back and pull her fingers through her hair
And stare at my deathbed results
On a clipboard or pda.
“Poisoned by crayfish”,
It will say.
(Accompanied by rocket), all from the past,
But he’s certainly dead at last.
I guess we must all die of something.

Dirty living things

Getting increasingly drunk
Waiting on the rain
And the football results
Weeding the flowerbeds
Hour by hour by deadheads
This is the window
Here is the door
I am recalcitrant
This is how it pours
Even with something blocked.



Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ravenous Like...



Hungry but…

Ravenous for you
Ravenous, like no other
Ravenous for my lover
Tangled up in these strings
Brought back to earth by crashing things
Feel the heat and feel the sting
Circles of spirals and peace
Exploring all that lies beneath
Backward steps and straight ahead
Lost in the tender zone

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Judas again




The role of Judas in history – who are his heirs today and who will speak up for him? Portrayed as wretched, evil, bitter, misunderstood, dark and brooding, always self-seeking, characteristics that cross many boundaries of behaviours and action in this wide world. Where is the truth about him and where are our so called leaders in relation to him?

Christ’s confidant: Jesus said to him “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom, of my kingdom. Where you plant those poison seeds the most fruitful vine shall grow, the clearest, sweetest wine shall be made from the fruit. The troubled acre will come to yield the greatest harvest of them all. For you have understood your part in my plan and have remained faithful to it. Ignore the empty curses and disregard the bleak memories your name shall recall for them. What do they know or understand after all?

Loyal servant: “You will be cursed by the other generations, that is the price of your immortal standing. They have not understood the events of these last days, but you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me and in this act you are reborn.”

Triumphant: Jesus answered and said “You will come to rule over them. The holy purity of human rejection is not so hard to bare, even for the simple and straightforward that is the only path that can succeed. I am going there first, you will follow; they are reluctant because they cannot see the way but you shall be the pathfinder for many. You must stay strong and faithful to this destiny for in those days they shall come to curse your ascent to the holy.”

Possessed by the devil: Then Satan entered into Judas, called Iscariot, one of the twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests… and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. Luke 22: 3-4.

Betrayal and self-possession: “What choice do you really have in this eternal chess game, what influence and by what or whose motivation do you act. Are you a pawn or a king? You have no clear knowledge of these things. You slip and trip on this broken path, you forage and gather to live and by your appetites test and condemn yourself. When I speak to the world who listens? Voices cry from every household and street corner, from every market and frontier. “Go this way, go that way!” You listen to the cacophony of this human pandemonium and try to make sense of it, but no common strand or clear meaning can be found. This is the rhetoric and graffiti of the chaotic and undisciplined minds that will tear all good things down and apart eventually.”

You say, “there is the church, see how it is built, see how strong it stands, a perfect model for us to copy.” You copy, pilfer and plagiarise those ideas until they are dry husks and then you abandon them. Then you say, “we were wrong, that is not the way, see, this man has the answer, and so you follow him for a time, you tread in his footsteps and sleep in his doorway. You sneak and learn his secrets and then turn them against him and say, “We were wrong about him..” So in this process you do the greatest damage, you twist and torture the innocent, you lead them astray while you seek this muddled glory you believe is rightfully yours, never considering the harm you do all along the way.”

What must it feel like to always believe yourself to be right and righteous all the time? To hold up a public face of shining godliness that is so rotten beneath, corrupt and so diseased at it’s core and yet in the face of everything maintain it steadfastly.

They are afraid to ask the questions, they are afraid to speak out. You have trained them in your ways and they cannot and dare not speak out against you. A paper thin smile across the faces as you lead them to a manufactured hell. Nothing but wilful and cold manipulation and a constant stream of sugar coated evil messages and a need to control. I see what the mirror now reflects for you and I do not envy you your future.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Searching for Madge


Better than Madonna

Like Madonna in “like a prayer”
You are out there
Black and fragile
Sexy and unfathomable
Life is a mystery
Somewhere in the fantasy
Somewhere in the belief
Hold on and holding
Eyes wide open
This sunny morning
Tucked in and under
Hunger and wonder
That was us
That was you
This is us.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006




Romance burned there once
Slow like a watched candle
Hot like the yellow flame
Then back to blue again.
Tears and conversations
Moods and apologies and the clink
Of glasses and outpouring
Now yesterday is today
Facing the empty space
Reaching into a black name
Here lies the remains.

They were never truly together
Never completely apart
It was a hundred mistakes rolled into one
That made sense to friends
And never looked good on paper
Rolling in the cold snow
And running for shelter
But everything is consumed

They tell you not to look back,
Don’t be like them
Be some new bright idea
That doesn’t struggle to succeed
Or survive
Until the harder times arrive and we sit.

As all must, sit and face that opposite thing
That made sense but now twists
Like the waiters corkscrew
Slowly pulling the seal from the neck
Uncorking the pressure
Spilling and dribbling
Something sweet and intoxicating
Safe for tonight and some other day perhaps
But destined to melt away.

Andy says...



Andy says..

Eat yourself silly
Don’t wait simply for me
Blame the penguins and the pelicans
Diving in shallows of the blue Red Sea

Where are the pickle farms and jar trees?
The twilight remedies
For the spaces in your mixed messages
The headaches that replace

Sleep yourself into stupor
Delight in the absurd dance
Of twitching eyebrows and snoring
And that signature backward glace

The verbs just trip the adjectives
The nouns and pronouns collide
And where to put the commas and apostrophes
I can never easily decide.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

About living



About living

Live where you want to be
Not where you have to be
Somewhere beneath the moon and stars
Some place where your loved ones are
Lover, partner, family and friends
Sad to think this all must end..
Happy to know it is this way
In this electrical moment, I stay.

Relax and unwind, say goodbye to the daily stresses
They can belong to somebody else
They can grind down and trap and snare you
Escape yourself, if you dare to.

We first came up with Fairytale Management
Driving in my old Mini around the Hopetoun Estate
Now we’ve ended up living here
Funny to think we’ve managed this fairytale

All by ourselves.

48 Hours



48 Hours

When a man reaches a certain age, appetites and attitudes begin to change as time and experiences wear out the mind and body. More sleep, less sleep, more healthy food, and maybe more junk food, exercise more or exercise less. Breath in deeply, take smaller more efficient breaths, run, walk, stop, stop a little, stop a lot. Take time, now that you know more and can manage it, take less time for you have less real time left. Love more deeply, love more often, or do what you like and to hell with the consequences, then save yourself for some golden moment of fulfilment and retirement.

I like to watch, I watch and read all the time, I look around, take mental notes, remember times and places, faces, scribble them down in my memory in a blinding mental shorthand. Sights, sounds and smells, names on badges and advertising hoardings, book and cinema lists, routes, stories, newspaper columns and letters, radio captions, TV trailers and listings, web and email addresses, interviews and second hand chat. Overheard phone conversations, ring tones, number plates and sunglasses, clothes, hats, messages on T-shirts and bumper stickers, mannerisms, handbags and briefcases. Signatures. We all leave our signatures. The way you talk, comb your hair, colour it, touch it, toss it back or brush it from your eyes. You do things all the time; I notice them and note them. I give them meaning and significance, for you.

48 hours is the ideal recovery time but 24 can do under certain circumstances. The conflicts between sense and appetite and time and energy. The conflict between need and delivery, holding back or stepping out. Moving and standing still. In all of life timing is everything. Without it you are an uncoordinated, inexperienced teenager, a puritan caught in a dilemma of conscience, a drunk and swaggering middle aged man with no sense, or over the hill in a dementia driven dream world. There are other places and variations, there are other sets of circumstances, there are drives and deliberations to make. I choose my own ideal.

Passion is a hard nut to crack. A drive in the wilderness of lost years that leads you to an unexpected, rich and refreshing oasis. As you dive into the cool blue, reflective waters you realise you have passed this way a thousand times and yet missed this spot. A spot that has now drawn you deep into its life and sensations. You set up home with no regrets, save the past.

Guilt eats the heart like a fierce cancer. The tightrope walk between duty to others and duty to yourself and towards all the confused and inappropriate directions that you may head into. Guilt is a tightrope but when you fall from it there is only one direction you can go in. best to love yourself, the others will survive and to do so they will have to learn the same trick, hopefully more quickly than you did.

I like to drink, I like to taste, new and fresh flavours, subtle sensations, changes that bite back and then mellow down. I like the fresh intoxication of the second glass and the rush of the third. The deep drumming and persuasion of all that follows under the blind chasm of over indulgence, loss of control, sense and then consciousness. The stinging bitter regret and the blundering shame fully balance the experience and generally ensure decent lapses of time between incidences. I could be wrong. I like to drink from you, that couldn’t be long.

48 hours is the ideal but 24 will do. Fall outwith these guidelines and something will give eventually.

I like to watch. I like to watch you dressing, starting from the beginning, the daily routine and ritual, the order and the precision, the procession of habits and economies, the little techniques and repetitions like a hidden symphony. The checking, the setting out, the applying of cream or lotion still hidden by a towel or dressing gown. The process, not always time driven but by stages of feeling and fit and correctness, smooth tactile comfort, heat and cold. Short and to the point on a winters morning when the winter heating doesn’t provide an adequate shield, easy in the spring, lazy and longer but as deliberate in the summer. Autumn drums along with the summer memory till early October quickens the pace and heralds the change. I see you checking the clock just the same, but the train will not wait unless you become queen.

When a man reaches a certain age he doesn’t give a shit anymore. He is dissatisfied with himself and all around him. The realisation that the world is much more than imperfect produces only a slow and steamy rage that spits and bubbles like the lid of a black boiling kettle. Traffic, call centres, devices, sports commentators, politicians, experts and doctors, jargon and political correctness. Change. Early in the morning these things are tolerable, as the day progresses the vapour builds in the chamber and signs of stress appear. By night they are pulsing and fretting like nitro glycerine in a barbeque on a roller coaster. Shit happens.

Guilt eats the heart like a fierce cancer but you must not give way to this red eyed, sleazy beast. Guilt was invented by the religious to batter the poor unbelievers with, until they cracked and capitulated into accepting their free but costly candy brained nonsense. It is a blunt and primitive instrument but very effective in the wrong hands. People love to tell you what you should be doing, thinking, feeling, saying and how you should be living and how you don’t shape up. This because they think they know best. They think they know best because they are not sure of anything and are feeling guilty about their own inadequacy. Guilt is of course most effective when self-administered in the form a coloured suicide cocktail served up by the smiling airhostess you would like to have sex with in the aeroplane toilet. You are on a family holiday at the time.

Passion is a harder nut to crack. Lose it and you are dead from the neck up and from the neck down. Grey and unforgiving. Losing the thrill of living is the end of your humanity, you spark is dead, your light blotted out, your signature disappearing from the page like rain from a street in the surprise heat after a thunderstorm. Work at caring and staying on the edge. Do not retire from life or love. When you kiss take a bite, lick and spit, do not roll over and die. When you go to a dance dance, when you go to a meeting speak, when someone asks your opinion and you are not sure, make something up on the spot. Eat hot food, drink angry drinks, play music loudly, play guitar and write songs and poems about things that matter, read the words you love aloud to anybody who will listen. Let your passion lead you into love, again and again, till your love leads back to passion.

48 hours is the ideal but 24 will do, 12 is pretty good and 6 is a daydream, which I am happy to hold onto.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My skin is not big enough


My skin is not big enough

There is not enough room in my skin
for all those other people to fit in
names and faces passing by
interesting, complicated, sexy and shy
each one calling out to have their try
a moment in the sun or somewhere close by
brave but poisoned and shaken and high
to exist for once and colourfully
have habits and needs
appetites and illness
abstracted and unaccountable
as they live expressively
outside the prison that they see as me.
eye contact comes to hammer the senses
unused voices that lip sync with menace
threats to unravel, de-stable and let loose
still born thoughts and a dangling noose
promises to behave and speak only the truth
young and holding on, thick and thin, bold and restless
the family of figures unrelated but connected
we breathe from the heart and we cry from the gut
but the route back is blocked and the cell doors stay shut
bolted and dry
from the floor to the sky
the past to right now
we live only in a film script.
A screenplay.
A routine.
A sensible film script.

Friday, March 24, 2006



The Peddler

There was a loud, sharp and unexpected knock on the door. I opened it and small, dark, middle-aged man looked up from the zip of his anorak and began telling me about himself. “Hello sir, my name is Francis McMaster, I’m fifty one years old, I’m out of work, epileptic and I’m trying to make an honest living by selling household items around the doors. If I could just take up a few minutes of your time to show you some of the useful things I have for sale in this here bag.” I wasn’t really wanting to enter into a long dialogue about anything really, being busy, or not being interested and I was aware that my mind had frozen and that though I wanted to tell him “no sale” I couldn’t. He began to unzipper the holdall he was carrying and rummaging around inside it.

I just wanted this to be over so I started to think of how much cash I had on me; I had at least ten pounds in wallet I guessed. Already I knew I was going to be buying something but I didn’t want to give that fact away so I quickly decided to spend no more than a fiver.

“Have you pets sir? Does your wife need a new ironing board cover? Do you own a motor car?”

“Ok” I said, “let’s make this easy, what can you sell me for a fiver?”

“A fiver sir? Well I’ve these lint-free cloths, these air-fresheners for your car and packs of dish towels”. “Dishtowels,” I said. “Green or blue?” said Mr McMaster the peddler.

I chose the green towels, handed him five pounds, thanked him and began to close the door. Before I could he began talking,” Sir you are very clean person and may you always be, look after the towels and they’ll look after you. Now sir, how do I get next door? There are lights on in the house but the gate is locked.” “Well, try the back door” I said, “They don’t really use that gate much.” With that I finally closed the door and returned to what I had been doing, preparing the evening meal. I tossed the dishtowels onto the kitchen worktop and forgot about them.

The rest of the evening passed quickly, I read for a time, ate a light supper and retired to bed around ten thirty. The next morning I was awake at seven sharp. The sun was streaming in through the blinds, catching the dust particles that danced on the static charges of the air. Outside all was still and quiet apart from some birdsong from the depths of the hedge across the road. I felt sure that today would be a perfect day, or at least close enough. I rose from bed, put on a robe and shuffled along the corridor to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. The sunlight had caught up with the kitchen and reflected on the taps and dishes and it seemed from all the chrome parts of the appliances. It all looked so very clean and bright and not at all how I had left it the previous evening. I remembered cooking my supper, drinking a little, putting down pots and dishes and moving away the dirty cutlery and crockery that was left unwashed from a previous meal. Now everything was immaculate, tidy and in it’s proper place. There was no sign whatsoever of the meal I’d eaten and the clutter I had left over. I looked down at the worktop; the green towels were there, where I’d left them the night before. I stared at the packaging, I was sure that yesterday they had been wrapped and sealed up in cellophane. They were now unwrapped but still in the same place and as far as I could recollect, folded the same way.

“Hi!” I was startled to hear her voice come unexpectedly from the dining room, “I got a late flight, I came home at midnight, didn’t want to wake you…”

“It’s great that your back, I glad you’re home. I didn’t realise..”

“Yes Dad,” said the voice from the dining room, “I slept on the couch, the spare room is full or junk.”

I was still looking around, admiring how clean the kitchen was looking this early in the day, “Thanks for clearing up in the kitchen.”

“Wasn’t me, just woke up.”


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Occasional Rhythm

Occasional Rhythm

Rain and the sixth day of the week
Amusement and stealing hubcaps and trims
From the cars, learner drivers overtaken by trampolines
Full of expert children.
Plan a holiday but at the last minute don’t go.
Some people enjoy taking photographs of hedges to the point they become unhinged.
The book is always better than the film.
We queued for hours in all types of weather but did not enter the contest.
Crowds came to the beach that day, some remarked on the prices of soft drinks but the pancakes all went down well.
As I recall the sound system was very tinny sounding.
Meanwhile the Batmobile was given yet another parking ticket.
A slab of cake is not the same size as a slab of concrete,
A slab of fish is not the same as a slab of blubber.
Work it out for yourself.
The sounds of different groups of words when put together are mildly fascinating.
Tomorrow I’ll go the supermarket and pretend to be a young mother.
Stellar interference is affecting our television reception and our wedding reception. There were a series of unfortunate incidents when the band turned up late and the audience turned up drunk.
I don’t care for you in those heels.
If a person has four tins of spaghetti and steals another how much cash is actually in his wallet compared to the vouchers in his hip pocket?
Cold pillows found under my head in the wee small hours. Who put them there?
George Best had so many Miss Worlds that he lost count but recanted on his deathbed some say.
The pleasure you get from chocolate is none of my business.
I drove for miles without looking at the speedometer.
The practice of avoiding appointments at the doctor’s surgery is called denial of the symptoms.
Practicing typing with one finger instead of all eleven.
Alien films belong to another genre all together.
After sex a cigar is best.
Spending hours programming a drum machine incorrectly and then reading the book of instructions.
Occasional Rhythm is all you get.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

National Geographic



National Geographic

To be madly in love
On Sunset Boulevard
And be welcome to the wireless, pseudo connections.
You say, “I’ve seen the most amazing cities”.
That moved me more.
As natures forces mingle
Standing alone
No longer flights of fantasy.
A photograph of Jupiter taken
Reconstructing the president
And taking no chances
At the little white chapel’s tunnel of vows
We discuss the fourth state of matter
In plasma view.
Tourist invasion
No invitation
Get arrested
A conference of the elders (and betters)
Life’s risks
Water for the few
Glad for the work they get
So we squeeze all the money we can out of them
Those so eager to learn.
Community effort makes for good neighbours
Rain barrier – adrift
Friendship in a dance
Hard living
Acacia clothesline
Where two worlds meet.
That cocktail of brain chemicals that sparks romance
Ice and few lone blackbirds.
An arched back and avid eyes, “some of us are looking for love”
They said.
“And I’ll do anything for you” (a whisper, a sigh)
“I’ll get you a Tweety bird”. Look me in the eye.
The most important thing in life: the opportunity to pass along your DNA.
Then the passion ends, spent. Nothing to hold back.
Giants under siege
Sparring partners, respect, trophy shot.
This cross fire threatens you and me. Long hooks.
A candle lit hall leads to the entrance; we launch the global scheme to learn,
Symbols and script, language and nuance, we are light footed.
Holy ground.
The very nature of what a mother is.
Bound by this fragile belief, in systems without an author,
Lies without guilt, tears without salt.
Eternal presence and lost heritage. Mountain stones.
Going downhill we capture the soul of man’s neighbourhood.
Connections. We though about the options of using voodoo on them. Not a commonplace solution.
This is a passionate devotion.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Driving in your car: Part 4



Clear blue light

Blue light driving is a skill you need to be trained in, mentored in, allowed to mature in. It’s not “natural” driving it’s nor about driving from A to B quickly, it’s about delivering a fragile package on time through hostile traffic when under duress. My eyes are closed but I can see, I can see the ambulance roof, I can pick out the fabric design on the roof lining, cables and conduits, lights and flashes at the corners of my eyes, even though they are closed. It seems I have two sets of eyelids, working with and against my conscious mind. I am the blinded man who sees through the veil of sleep. I see the truth and the roof.

Dead men in ambulances, live men resting in hearses, smoking cigarettes, eating rolls containing flat sausage and brown sauce, blowing smoke rings shaped like skulls, secure and insecure and badly described. They are queuing up to take away my remains. Those in the wider world are desperate to perform a commemorative ceremony, they want to “say a few words” and write some meaningless drivel on cards they bought from a witless supermarket. They may make a donation to some charity connected remotely with the circumstances of my death, a big help to me now. Most of all they want my day of saying farewell to be over so they can get on. I don’t want a bunch of petrol station flowers attached to a fence post with tie wrap near the point where my car left the road. This is not a special or holy spot. It’s just somewhere between the road and the fields and there is a hard boundary there that I have now crossed.

When I joined the Army Cadets I really thought I could have a career in the army. I’d avoid the basic training and join as a junior at the ripe old age of fifteen and a half. I’d sign on for nine years for the extra pay and that would be that. I’d drink bottles of Piper Export, smoke, eat pies and fried eggs and do what I was told. There would be fear on my part, I’d be insecure, my naivety would be exploited but ultimately I’d come good. I may end up in Germany or Singapore. Perhaps if, despite my attempts not to shine, I did shine, I would be recognised and singled out, I’d be promoted eventually and get even more Piper Export.

I fight the white light that makes no sense. I throw down the cross of Jesus that I have refused to carry any more, I touch the silver chain that is around my neck, the one I have worn for eleven years. Everywhere in the universe there is magnetism, electricity and cosmic dust. I return to supp on the sap of the universe. I overhear static electrical celestial phone calls. Words, numbers and mathematical formulas flash before me as if to offer an explanation. A deep cut is made to sever the spiritual from the physical and I duck to avoid the final haymaker punch. Death is like being pricked by a drawing pin or sleeping in for an appointment or dozing after a heavy meal, falling asleep in the cinema, buffeted of a roller coaster, flying from the pillion of a fast moving motorcycle. Sitting at the bottom at the deep end. Hearing a conversation tail of without ever having really been part of it. Drinking two bottles of red wine. Hanging up the phone. Pressing the delete key over and over and over again.

Ah! the sweet smell of a pig farm. Peter O’Toole.

Monday, February 06, 2006





The magic months have gone and left this husk in their wake. The deadest time of year, when the bleakest outlooks and weather patterns combine to tire you in a daily queue of the stickiest traffic jam.

Cold as ice sings the killer bee. Tub-thumping is tiresome and I wish you’d do the decent thing and turn down the microphone and shorten your songs. Tedium and opportunity make strange bedfellows and the whole wide world seems to think that it has something to say today but none of it is coherent or credible.

Last person to the bar buys you nothing good to drink or look at. Dirty, rusty taps pour more beer into scratched glasses that you drink from with your chipped lips and sandpaper tongue. Who are you?

A thousand lights flicker away to the North, the people pour out of manicured houses onto short driveways and go forth. To do jobs in warehouses and offices, at desks that are veneered and plastic, flat screens and phones, keyboards full of biscuit crumbs and coffee rings beside penholders. Read and hear the daily threats to life, love and liberty, cartoons that offend, religions that offend, politicians that offend, children and adults that are out of control. Sweat at the madness of frenzied extremists who sadly cherish their one-eyed view of nothing because it’s all they can clearly see. They say they love a God, one who tramples them regularly whether it’s in the chapel, the cathedral, the mosque or the ashram. Sow some more seeds and see just what it is your anger manages to grow for you. It may not be the happy children you dreamt of or the ones that the holy book promised.

Streetlights pick holes in the dark like small boys attacking their dirty noses with index fingers erect. Fog and smoke from the hell of the curfew bonfires sizzles and circles in deadly pockets. Old men fall from bicycles as if hit by snipers fire from some charcoal tree stump hiding place. Blasted blood pours onto the cobbles grey glaze.

Girls giggle some more and suck thumbs; eyeballs reflect the room light and the occasional camera flash to capture the moment and then drop it into the bucket of obscurity. This is a sub human zoo. Full to the lapping top with quirks and passers by, disconnected and uneven as a tightrope walk in the wee small hours. People sidle in, dropped and flopped into some austere common purpose of misunderstanding. Try to find a voice that doesn’t sound like a riveter’s gun and be noble as you can for those few moments of exposure.

Boy with tinfoil in his hair, thought he looked good when he left his house, but that was earlier.

People drown and lose themselves in this peaceful warfare, anywhere where the struggle is visible, most likely in your head only.

Down in the basement the rats crack their whips, the sailors dance hornpipes with cabin cats and blind companions. The city inspires this nighttime revelry, to creep towards and celebrate a dawn that breaks only in the sleepiest of chunks and filtered signs.

One strange day the sun shone through this invaluable, exhausted and choking mist and we wrote more songs. I got drunk on your writing and singing. My fingers became cold and hard on these hardwood fingerboards, the strings dug in and hurt, the old fingers ached even in following the most familiar patterns that this music dictated. I struggle with this geometry in my head, I try to combine the shapes and sounds and rhythms to match the patter of the tiny feet as the baby’s song spins up from his cradle. You smile a hundred times a day with twenty-five muscles exercising and kissing at the fresh air. If we could we’d cycle and whistle and perhaps have a pillow fight. The potholes in these roads make you take care but the roads will still take you out on this careless journey. How can we navigate when the leaves cover the track, there but never back?

We are all on the road to success and it all began with a simple push.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Things I cannot do



List of things I cannot do (and you can't either)

Be God

Be good

Be bad


Knit with pasta

Knit with turpentine

Forgive my parents

Forgive your parents

Understand quantum physics

Dislike smoking


Cry on demand

Sing in tune for long periods

Make pasta from scratch

Stay awake all night when sober

See new colours

See small print

Fix my own headaches

Concentrate on a problem

Seek a long term solution

Understand foodies

Build a spacecraft

Snorkel in Antarctica

Like wasps

Like monkeys

Like clowns

Appreciate conceptual artwork

Smile on command

Shave the back of my own neck

Keep money in my current account for long periods of time

Take a steady photograph

Enjoy other people’s misery

Change a tyre on a Landrover

Dislike pipe or cigar smoke

Drink a whole bottle of whisky

Eat mussels no matter how they are prepared

Learn languages

Stop fidgeting

Put my ear in my elbow and a range of other physical stuff

Get hooked on soap operas

Get hooked on operas

Get hooked on fishing

Respect 95% of politicians

Leave my laundry more than a week

Not flick over TV channels during adverts

Take part in surveys

Believe in the current version(s) of history

Easily start a fire

Dislike myself

Not respond when my family needs something

Get to the point where I want to stop

Go to a supermarket and not buy milk

Function at work from four thirty

Stay on a diet for any length of time

Read a book in one sitting

Remember the names of all my favourite films

Stay away from you

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Driving in your car: Part 3



Coffee coloured dreams

The addled world of the adults, where real time does not count.

There is nothing on the other side, absolutely nothing, as empty as a dog’s head, as barren and bleak as the horizon and if you are not there then I am not “on the other side”. When you die you go nowhere. All the “how can I become nothing when I cannot conceive of the thing that is nothing” is just a mess of thinking. A big mangled, disjointed mess like a car crash. Life is a car crash waiting to happen to everyone, over and over again. We are all in a big line, the difficulty is you don’t quite know where you are in the line and that can be problematic. You don’t know where you are going or if at any moment some drunk is about to rear end you and conclude the whole grimy thing.

You are dreaming of reheating your cold coffee in the microwave, but the cup has a gold rim. If you put it in the microwave will arc and spark spectacularly. So how to reheat that nice cup of coffee? Add some boiling water? (That works but it waters the coffee down and could spoil the taste – risky) Put it in another cup and microwave it? (That would dirty a second cup and that would annoy you so much that you wouldn’t enjoy the reheated cup). Make a fresh cup? (A waste when there is a perfectly good cup sitting there, undrunk and cold, no you can’t face that idea either). Drink it cold? (Hmmm, this has been tried before and it does not really work, cold coffee is unpleasant, but there would be no waste and that is a big plus point). Leave it alone? (Ignore the coffee, let it sit on the table all day, it may get spilled, some one else may clear it away, lots of odd possibilities). Then you realise that as you thought of all these things you’ve thoughtlessly drunk the whole cup of cold coffee. Next time don’t use the gold rimmed cup, despite the fact that it is your favourite.

Footballs keep hitting you in the face; they come from nowhere like round bolts of lightning, hard and leathery. They strike your cheeks making them beetroot red, or the bridge of your nose forcing wet strings of tears. Hard on your left ear until it truly feels like a battered cauliflower, then with a stinging certainty on your right ear, flattening it and making your inner ear drone and throb. Now the back of your head, more footballs are raining in on you, pounding your skull and thumping messages into your brain. You think of the cranial fluid around your brain cushioning each blow, taking the strain, taking each hit, getting weaker all the time. Today is your first day at Primary school; nobody said that it would be anything like this.

God says to you (via his many agents on this planet) that neither your life nor your body belong to you – they are his as he is your creator. Also your spirit does not belong to you, so what are you really responsible for in this life? Without ownership it is hard to take responsibility, everybody knows that. So if your body is God’s temple and should not be abused, tattooed, pierced, smoked in, poisoned, overfed, taken to any of it’s limits or neglected in any way, why should we care? It’s like driving around in a rented car when your company is picking up the tab. No wonder the world is so screwed up.

Falling into somewhere that does not exist, yet my existential friend.