FTMT's Favourite Five Top Tenets

Friday, July 17, 2009


Craig was on his own in the flat, the TV was on in the background playing a documentary about the Beverley Sisters, Jimmy Tarbuck was talking about the London Palladium. Craig was in the kitchen stirring milk and sugar into a white cup of coffee whilst looking into the distance. His mind wasn’t on the TV or the coffee or the annoying fungal infection glowing red and white beneath his foreskin. Neither was he thinking about smoking a cigarette, though that seemed like a good idea, no it was Carol. Carol at the counter of the bar, Carol with the cleavage and the beer and the smile and quick line in cheek and wit, available to all the customers. A golden haze surrounded her in his head in his self indulgent daydream, she wasn’t prefect but she was close to prefect. He stopped stirring coffee into submission, sipped a little and nipped his lip. Then it was back to the couch and some mindless channel hoping to fill the gap until pub time came around.

8.45 was pub time, a clean shirt, a little gel and out down the stairs, through the dim to bright light effect of the lower and corridor and out onto the street. Twenty five steps down the grey stained pavement, a left turn past the laundry, the Chinese and the vacant double glazing shop and then the Saracen’s Head, Carol’s pub, the pub. The spring on the door always needed a tug to overcome, sharp and defiant, holding back entry to the bar but a brisk practiced pull led into the dark brown interior. Craig quickly made a mental note that none of the regulars were in, a suit in the corner reading a paper and nursing a pint, two students fiddling with phones and crisps and an older gent munching on a sausage roll. By now he was leaning on the bar looking up, down and across optics, racks and glasses for Carol.

Up from under the bar a dark head popped and a gruff voice announced “Aye, what’s yours!” Craig was momentarily stunned, no Carol just this white shirt, steely blue eyed interloper. “Emm..IPA please, a pint!” The new barman looked away and poured the beer slowly, carefully, he knew what he was doing. “So’s Carol not in tonight?” Craig gulped at the end of the short sentence. “Carol?” the barman said casually, “aye she’s gone, am just fillin’ in.” “Ah right, Carol’s in tomorrow then?” “Naw, she’ll no’ be back.” Craig gulped again. “Got another job then, another pub?” “Naw, getting’ married, this weekend, keeping it quite, her lad's a biker, £2.70 that’ll be.” Craig handed over three pound coins, scooped up the pint and wobbled towards one of the round tables. He was controlling himself well, nobody could know, nobody could see the huge slow tremble that was grinding up and down his spine like a lazy snake, feel the sweat and heat, the embarrassing heat, the warm backward glow of his failure.

Suddenly aware of his surroundings Craig saw he was facing the bar, seeing the space where Carol should be, the new barman now dotting back and forwards, serving a customer, handing over change, making the idle chat, switching the TV channels. Carol was gone and was marrying somebody, how could his goddess marry a mortal man, an ordinary man, a man not him, a biker. Craig finished the beer and without looking back left the pub, through the stubborn door and onto the street and the suddenly spongy pavement, no Carol, no future. He was looking at his shoes, the street lamps fished fat and distorted shadows from the paving stones, his shadow was staggering but was still walking, walking past his flat entrance and on down the road, walking in a panic, burning up and showering in a wicked adrenalin. A bright pub door was opening before him, not the Saracens’, this would do.

Craig woke up. He was squashed onto a wooden bench, a church pew. Looking around there was brass, stained glass, Jesus and Mary and assorted saints, assorted plaques dedicated to the heroic and rich local families, dignitaries and Victorians. He was at the back by the door with no memory of how he’d got there but today had become tomorrow, he could sense that much through an aching head. Looking over the carved edge of the seat he could see a lone figure down by the alter, some candles flickered in front of it, now recognisable as a woman. Slowly Craig rose to his feet and moved silently towards the alter and bank of candles. The woman was sobbing into her hands, quietly, purposefully, unloading. Craig looked at her, her head was covered, her age and look indistinct in the shards of stony church light. Craig sat beside her an touched her shoulder, he was feeling something but it was something beyond himself, a not knowing. The woman responded to his touch and fell silent, “Carol?” he said as if it was the only word he could find. The woman turned and with a crumbling and cracking voice said, “y..you knew her?”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Strange people

It’s the people who don’t look when everybody else is looking that you worry about.

They are there and they are everywhere, some say. In shop displays, grimy reflections, magazine covers and behind windscreens and tinted glass. Blankly staring out of office windows, on buses and other forms of public transport, in queues waiting to served with tea and coffee, standing beside supermarket trolleys, pushing supermarket trolleys, putting their purchases into trolleys and then depositing them into the rear end of a cheap Korean hatchback. Others hold mobile phones up to their heads and talk incessantly or text with their thumbs using those popular fonts. This is the unique vision, a world without end or sense, more painful shopping excursions, dirty public transport, food that reminds of congealed slurry and buildings built with materials that are suspect from designs that are corrupt. In the back ground sweet and soulful slide guitar music plays but is drowned out by the hammerings of the water pipes buried deep in the apartment walls. Once their clanging stops, strange screams and thuds are heard, all from unknown sources. The banal and the everyday are unpeeled before our eyes and after our unreliable thoughts have started to form into some pained rejoicing actions. So we cling to the cold wreckage and maintain a sober but polite sense of humour thinking “it could be worse and it could be better so it must be all that it is.”


I always dreamt of America,
A bright place in my 1950’s dreams
Scurrying across the pillow
In the monochrome of the TV
But sharp as gangster
And as defined as a cowboy
Black people in white shirts
And spaceships with monkeys in them
Hamburgers and Coke that you don’t get at the Coop
Road signs and hoardings
Names, games and advertisements
Households with porches and screen doors
Things that I don’t know what they are there for
Each telling some fantasy
That becomes as familiar as a friend
A foreign language I could comprehend
Where the ugly becomes as beautiful
As tailfins, long cigarettes or bucket seats
And so I lay me down to sleep
To dream of the mythical America.


“There are at least 27 islands but I have heard that the count can vary, at least two are inhabited and they are a fair size, the others are just covered in trees.”
“Surely you could just fly over and count them to get a true figure.”
“I’m sure that has been done but for some reason the count isn’t always consistent, even modern map makers can struggle at times.”
“Well I’d have thought that we had the technology to count a few islands on an inland body of water.”
“of course some of the islands aren’t islands at all, they are actually floating and from a surveyor’s perspective that could cause problems, you know, float islands might merge or sink or break or something.”
“OK but you can still establish what islands are real by simply landing on them.”
“I’m sure that has been done.”
“But every so often islands appear or disappear so fudging the count?”
“Well it must be possible, we’re a developed country.”
“Crannogs? Are they called crannogs?”
“The floating islands?”
“Well they could also be man made, perhaps thousands of years old but still floating.”
“Crannogs don’t float, they rest on wooden stakes or piles or something, and in relatively shallow water.”
“They could be mistaken for islands though.”
“Well yes, in the sense that they are in the water but not on it.”
“We need to take a boat trip.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

intermittent stimuli

Summer memories in winter

The most commonly played card in the pack
Placed face down
Worn at the edges
And round

Constructing the end of the game
Celebrate the way we came
To be here in this adopted strangeness
Always unaware of the rush

The breeze that blew the years
Was just exhaled breath
And I sip and suck
On past times and curse what passed for luck

I took no time to even mention
The tired and unjust predestination
That colours all their chaotic thoughts
And bought us nothing

So we salute the rain
And the intermittent stimuli
That feeds a waking need
Evermore invisible

Some tunes and fragments
As we go
As our forces splinter
Some summer memories in winter.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Methodist Madness

Kelvin believed that there always was an undiscovered best method for doing anything. There had to be some new approach or some change or improvement that could be made to any task that would take it to some new economical or expedient height. It could be described as continuous improvement of course but that term had become rather debased and tired in the world of modern business. Kelvin liked to refer to his thinking processes and their results as simply “better methods”.

In this state mind, not fevered but normal in his opinion, all of Kelvin’s waking hours were spent exploring and studying other ways to tackle the rudimentary and the basic things in life. At times the copious amounts of lateral thinking were almost painful. He would break into sweats making a cup of coffee or spend thirty minutes trying to decide where best to lay down the TV remote, the position of furniture, groceries placed in cupboards, clothing in drawers and on hangers, mixing laundry and then the optimum amount of time to wear any piece of clothing. Sometimes getting out of the house was a major problem if there was some new approach that he had to test out whilst in the process of leaving. Fifty ways. He soon began to realise that he needed a better method of establishing better methods, his own world was too small and his time available never enough and of course the point of better methods was to get to the place where all these economic methods paid off and the individual became free to other things. That point seemed further away than ever as Kelvin wrestled with mundane activities that continually scream out for his attention.

Sometimes he felt like god hearing the many never-ending prayers for improvement and understanding from the routine tasks: Shower from the head down, only use one shaving product, comb wet hair, just a centimetre of toothpaste on the brush, turn the tap 1.5 turns, socks on last, always put your valuables in the same pockets or bag space whenever you go out- so it went on.

Eventually Kelvin made it outside and into his car and after a short altercation with himself decided on the best route to take to his office. Already tired by his incessant self analysis and questioning he began to day dream in the way that regular drivers do. He was conscious of moving forward, slipping up through the gears, weaving through traffic and obeying the many signs and lights that came into his blurred field of vision when it occurred to him, “Why not get others to do it all for you?” That was it, get others to study the methods, make the improvements and then they’d simply update him in a way that allowed his adoption of their method. Suddenly he was aware of his driving again as he slowed down to join the queue of traffic that was forming up in front. So what was the best method to employ to get others to develop these best methods and then in turn report them. This was something he’d have to research. The best methods to engage and motivate people, the means to inspire them to understand his goals and then for them to have a similar motivation to deliver solutions. This in itself was significant and he’d need more help with it, just to understand the process before he fully embarked on it through his extra hands. It was as if Kelvin’s universe’s boundaries had spurted in growth exponentially, now where could he go and where would this takes him?

Kelvin’s office was very logical in it’s layout, it had taken a few attempts but now once the furniture had been rearranged numerous times a truly methodological balance had been struck, the emphasis being on function and not form. He sat at his desk, switched on the PC and picked up the phone, he looked at a list of numbers on the wall and punched the keys. “Hello is that the First Minister’s Office? Kelvin Bishop here at The Scottish Executive, I’d like to speak to somebody about a slab of new funding urgently required for a very special project that I‘ve recently become aware of.

Almost two months later Kelvin handed in his resignation, there were by now a team of 25 people working on “better methods” on behalf of the people of Scotland. The “Better Usage Methods - Measures Engineering Revisions” or BUMMER Project was taking Scotland and the lives of the common people by storm. Neurotic and irrational behaviours has increased by 50% in the few weeks the project had been operating and domestic violence and personal debt are spiralling out of control. “Excessive social micro-management, change for the sake of it and increased self based absorption are the causes” said an official spokesman.

Kelvin was last seen heading for the international departures desk at Edinburgh Airport carrying a biography of Tallulah Bankhead in one hand and a Chinese “ear” cushion in the other. He seemed to have hit upon a better method.

Black and White

Brian was hunched over the pub urinal in the usual way when he first noticed the little spot of blacky brown pigment on the tip of his foreskin. There were currently about five pints of Guinness in his system and he recognised that now was not the best time or place to do further research so he quickly did the business and returned to the bar nursing a small amount of concern and the strong desire to have another beer.

Next morning he awoke with little recollection of the previous night, typical Friday was as much as Brian thought. It was only when he lazily took of his pyjamas and stepped into the shower that he realised that something was not right. The previous evening’s small spot was now about a inch wide, a deep dark brown and was covering the entire head of his penis. He applied soap and scrubbed and inspected the result only to see no difference. He comforted himself with the thought that at least there was no pain or bleeding and that it must be some sort of skin pigment problem or mole that no doubt could be treated eventually. That would be ok.

At work Brian was distracted and much more than usual paid visits to the toilet, not to use it but to inspect the “browning” effect. With each new observation it became clear that the small square stain was spreading rapidly and Brian was beginning to panic. He quickly excused himself and drove down to the local A&E where he demanded an urgent consultation. The details of the problem were difficult to explain the young lady on reception but fortunately a male doctor came upon the scene and seeing his obvious distress ushered him into a cubicle.

Brian blurted out what he understood to be the problem and the doctor duly examined him. “I’ll need to run some tests, please wait here a few moments” said the doctor, his face a picture of perfect puzzlement. Brian tried to calm himself and not look but as the examination had been running it had almost been as if the new colouration was moving more rapidly, almost right down to the base of his penis and threatening the rest of his body. Already he looked like a white man with a black dick, a concept he did not find amusing.

The doctor returned accompanied by a female doctor and a nurse, “do you have any pain?” A series of questions followed whilst the nurse administered what was described as “ a relaxant”. Brian continued answering the questions as best as he could but his head was starting to swim, the medical faces blurred and their speech rose and fell like some peculiar and formless music. In a few minutes the waves of sleep overcame him and all was gone.

Brian awoke slowly in what he realised was a strange bed, behind the curtains it was clearly night time and the room was only lit with the red glow of emergency exit signs. He stared at the dull ceiling and angled unlit lamp and tried to collect his thoughts and walk away from whatever dreams had passed over him. He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles and let out a gasp. Even in this poor light he could see that the skin on his hands was a very deep brown, the colouring had spread. He pulled back the bed sheet, sat up abruptly and opened the surgical gown. All his skin was affected, head to toe , a new thick skin had formed. Bursting with an indescribable feeling he stretched across the bed to look into the small vanity mirror. An eerie beery black face stared back and crop of new and frothy white curls was perched on top of his head.

Suddenly a light switched clicked, the room was dowsed in a brighter but unhealthy electric glow and the doctor walked in. “Ah! Brian, Mr Encino, I’m glad to see that you are awake, I’m afraid it’s what we thought, a pigmentation problem has occurred within your skin and hair cells. As you can see your tone has turned a very dark brown and I’m afraid it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. “ “God almighty.!“ Brian gulped and made some curious choking sounds. “Nurse!” called the doctor.

When he next regained consciousness he quickly became aware that the doctor was there hovering over him checking a pulse and writing on a chart. Along with him were two men in suits who sported grim expressions on their faces and did not look like the usual medical types. “Mr Encino, these gentlemen have asked to see you, they are from a famous local brewery, apparently there was a problem with a recent batch of Guinness“.