Jet From Gladiators

I hold the teacup gently, rotating it slowly with my fingers to learn its secrets. The low winter sun streaming into the study gives away the translucence of fine porcelain, but only after I’d used a soft cloth to wipe away a decade of dust. It had sat neglected on the shelf above my desk ever since the day that we cleared mum’s house. I don’t know why it caught my eye today, or why I felt the urge to take it down from the shelf.

Clearing the house after mum left had been a sobering task for all of us, and very few of the bizarre array of artefacts that she had collected in her final years escaped the skip. The stupid cup had only escaped the cull due to a pang of emotion, dredged up from the far recesses of my mind. Bloody idiot. I distinctly remember how proud mum had been when dad bought the tea set home. I was only six years old, but the excitement emanating from the pair of them was palpable. Chinese porcelain! In our pantry! My word, what a time to be alive. In the intervening forty two years I’ve learned that it’s not normal to whip one’s self into a frenzy over kitchen goods, but for mum it was quite the status symbol. I never did find out where dad got it from, but with dad it was sometimes better not to ask.

Over the years the tea set dwindled, cups and saucers falling victim to clumsy hands, excitable dogs and children acting out Buck Rodgers fantasies. The day that dad dropped the teapot was particularly harrowing, although I learned three new swears that have stood me in good stead throughout my adult life.

The fragile piece of bone china in my hands is all that survives, an anchor for so many bittersweet memories. A hairline crack, barely perceptible, runs perpendicular to the ornate handle, and a small chip at the edge is stained brown where the bare clay has soaked up years of piss-weak tea. The rich blue cloisonné glaze has started to fade, but the carefully rendered figures of dragons are still visible, brilliant and red.

A glance at the base of the cup provides a small surprise – Armitage Shanks isn’t the first thing you expect to see printed on period Chinese ceramics – but it doesn’t matter. It was real to mum, and dad never let on otherwise. An authentic piece of Tang Dynasty earthenware couldn’t mean more to me than that tiny cup. I place it gently back on the shelf above my desk, giving it pride of place next to the signed photograph of Jet from Gladiators.

I don’t think about them often these days, but I miss them both.

Painter of the Edgelands

She sits up late into the night,
Brushes cleaned and neatly packed,
In her worn wooden case from the old man’s market stall.

Fingers gnarled and twisted,
He’s long since daubed his last.
But in her he sees the genius he was before.

Morning comes and bags are filled.
Paper, paintbox, flask of tea.
A day of capturing beauty lays ahead.

She’s heading for the edgelands,
On the sleepy morning bus.
Seeking out the stories where the people seldom tread.

The painter sees things I can’t see.
Her eyes don’t work like mine.
Enchantment flows from brush and pen,
When skill and magic combine.

Off the bus and through the park,
To find her favourite scene,
Where the river winds beyond the gasworks wall.

She’s happiest on the fringes,
Where the town and country meet.
Painting ghosts of industry that few alive recall.

Her work’s so very different
From the textbook landscape scenes
Factories and chimneys are her fields and her trees.

She’s not Constable or Turner,
But her work speaks more to me.
It makes me feel something, and the old artist agrees.

The painter sees things I can’t see.
Her eyes don’t work like mine.
Enchantment flows from brush and pen,
When skill and magic combine.

Abstract lines on paper,
Give a guide for paint and ink
As chaos turns to order over time.

She slowly creates
As the hours pass
Her page a forgotten world of smog, soot and grime.

As sunlight slowly fades,
Wooden case is packed away.
A slow meander back towards the town.

She’ll be back tomorrow,
With fresh paper and paint.
To create another masterpiece when she sets her easel down.

The painter sees things I can’t see.
Her eyes don’t work like mine.
Enchantment flows from brush and pen,
When skill and magic combine.

 

Disco Badgers

I’ve seen some things you won’t believe,
Whilst jogging in the park.
I once saw a duck eat a chocolate eclair,
But the strangest things come after dark.

Last year I saw two postmen,
Who appeared to be in distress.
The first’s trousers had fallen down,
And the second seemed quite out of breath.

But the oddest thing I ever saw,
And I swear I wasn’t drunk,
Were disco-dancing badgers,
Taken over by the funk.

They’d built a dancefloor in the woods,
Just outside their sett.
One had silver hotpants on,
And a Chaka Khan cassette.

I couldn’t quite believe my eyes,
I stood there quite askance.
They used a pine cone for a glitterball,
And boy, those guys could dance.

If you’ve never seen a badger strut,
And shimmy on the floor,
Think of Travolta in a stripy suit,
Crawling around on all fours.

I’ve looked in all the textbooks,
I’ve spoken to the nerds.
But all I get are funny looks,
And i’m told that it’s absurd.

But I know what I saw that night,
Don’t patronise me please.
Glamour, sequins and funky moves,
From the Badgery Bee Gees.

I rushed back there the very next day,
To see what I could find.
But all I saw was a plain old sett,
And no sign of bump, nor grind.

I felt a bit downhearted,
A sadness in my soul.
Until I saw, whilst walking away,
A silver flash from a rabbit hole.

It feels strange to tell you this,
I’ve kept it to myself.
But a pair of hotpants (badger sized),
Are sitting on my shelf.

The government will tell you,
That the badgers are no good.
But that’s a lie, I know the truth,
They’re the dancing queens of the wood.

Lefty Protest Song

Pull the plugs and cut the wires
Throw your smartphone on the fire
Shoot down the satellites,
Tear down the masts,
The only news we need is the weather forecast.

Delete Facebook, send your last tweet
Chuck your laptop in the street
Stop funding Murdoch,
Ignore the press.
It’s time we made some real progress.

Let’s go outside and make some noise
It’s time for action, girls and boys.
Let’s go outside and breath some air.
It’s time to say the revolution prayer.

I don’t really know where the internet is.
But dad never had it when he was a kid.
Too much information.
Eyes glued to screens.
One step away from being ruled by machines.

It’s got to stop, it’s gone too far.
A concrete jungle with a billion cars.
I’m all for progress,
But this ain’t it.
Dying from fumes that the city emits.

Let’s go outside and make some noise
It’s time for action, girls and boys.
Let’s go outside and breath some air.
It’s time to say the revolution prayer.

Goodbye media, goodbye big oil.
Goodbye industry that kills the soil.
Goodbye tech giants that pretend to be poor.
Goodbye to politics that vilify the poor.

Let’s go outside and make some noise
It’s time for action, girls and boys.
Let’s go outside and breath some air.
It’s time to say the revolution prayer.

Lay Us Down

Winter mist hangs in the air,
As we sit and plan our great escape.
Down from the village by the secret path,
To where the wooded valley waits.

Hand in hand we skirt the barley,
We climb the fences and the dry stone walls.
Beech and ash reach out to meet us.
As we enter the wood where the ring dove calls.

Lay us down amid the leaf-fall,
Where the fungi grow and the foxes play.
Lay us down amid the leaf-fall.
We’ll close our eyes and drift away.

We’ll take the track down to the river,
That silver stream where the dippers dwell.
Let’s clamber over mossy rocks,
And bid our urban lives farewell.

One last push will see us free,
One last climb up to the ridge.
We’re miles away from the place we left,
Far past the vale and the river bridge.

Lay us down amid the leaf-fall,
Where the fungi grow and the foxes play.
Lay us down amid the leaf-fall.
We’ll close our eyes and drift away.

Each step from here on is uncharted,
As we walk toward the setting sun.
Twin souls with a shared desire,
To melt into old Albion.

So lay us down amid the leaf-fall,
Where the fungi grow and the foxes play.
Lay us down amid the leaf-fall.
We’ll close our eyes and drift away.

Stinky Alan

Some jobs make you hard to love,
They suck the romance out of life.
By day I scrape fatbergs out of the sewer,
By night I want to find a wife.

I just can’t seem to shake the smell,
It seeps into my every pore.
I’ve tried to bath, and I’ve tried to shower,
But I smell worse than a wild boar.

They call me stinky Alan,
Which doesn’t help my case.
Every time I talk to ladies,
They scream and slap my face.

They call me stinky Alan,
And it really isn’t fair.
I’m actually very handsome,
With a lovely head of hair.

My only hope is to find a girl,
Who doesn’t seem to mind the stench.
A busty lovely with a wooden nose,
But classy, like Dame Judi Dench.

I’m thinking about online dating,
You can’t smell bad on the internet.
I’ll search for someone accustomed to odour,
A zookeeper, or a saucy vet.

They call me stinky Alan,
I want to make love all night.
All I want is to find a girl,
Who can stand the smell of shite.

They call me stinky Alan,
And I’ve had a great idea.
I’ll carry a skunk wherever I go,
And say that he’s got diarrhoea.

They used to call me stinky Al,
Until I learned a cunning trick.
“What’s that smell?” I hear you ask,
“It’s my skunk, he’s very sick”.

Inglorious

 

The vixen lay dying in the undergrowth, wracked with searing pain where the cruel snare bit deep into flesh and sinew. She was used to being hurt, indeed her whole life had been one of pain and hardship, but she knew that her struggle was nearing an end. The hunters had found one of the places where she came to drink, and had concealed their crude wire traps in the bracken that lay along her regular path to the woodland stream. Traps with one purpose, to devastate that which had previously been so full of life and spirit.

Her final act was to drag herself into the undergrowth, as far from her natal den as her maimed leg could manage. Her kits were strong and nearly full-grown, yet their chances of surviving the winter without her were slight. She knew that her moribund form would attract attention from animal and human alike, so finding a secluded spot to wait for the inevitable end was critical. Her final act of motherhood would be to try to keep the evil fuckers as far from her younglings as possible. In seclusion lay safety, and in safety lay a chance.

The fine divide between life and death was a constant in her short life, and she herself had been the angel of death and destroyer of worlds. She was a killer, but she was different to those that were soon to take her life. She killed to live, and to ensure the survival of her offspring. She killed because she was part of nature, and nature is primal and vicious. Yet she never killed when she didn’t have to, and she never killed for pleasure. Her conquerors were different. They were not part of nature, but instead saw it as something to be owned and controlled, to assert dominion over. It’s true that their species had once killed to live, but those days were many generations past. Now they killed for sport and took pleasure from apportioning pain. They hunted for the sheer joy of taking life, self-proclaimed gods intoxicated by their own importance.

None of this mattered now, of course, as she lay still in the undergrowth. Her breathing grew laboured and shallow, her eyesight milky and dim. The fading light of day picked out the crystalline sparkle of the leaf litter, the cold air turning evening dew to the first hoar-frost of winter. She had so nearly made it. She had so nearly escaped the brutal end met by so many of her kin, and yet the hunters had won in the end. In some ways her ending was more peaceful than those meted out to others of her kind, be it by the crack of a shotgun or evisceration by the baying hounds, however the result was always the same. One more life exchanged for a fleeting moment of satisfaction, soon forgotten. One fewer scrap of beauty in the world.

She thought she could feel the sun on her back as she closed her eyes, never to open them again. The hunters never found her.

The Ballad of Bridge 34

He’d seen it all from his booth on the toll bridge.
From his crude wooden shack that held off the rain.
Beneath him ran the creek, a meandering blue streak.
Above, the rusted struts of a cantilevered frame.

From his worn leather chair he’d seen countless acts of romance.
The valley a stage for declarations of love.
Each illicit kiss, each secretive tryst.
Recalled to him his sweetheart, his Mary, his dove.

Through the sliding glass window he’d seen love turn to hatred.
A thousand wedding rings cast into the abyss.
Vicious verbal combat, tears and bitter words spat.
Were a mirror for his own loss of marital bliss.

Beyond love and hate, the bridge had seen tragedy.
He had 911 on speed dial on his old service phone.
Car smashes and suicides, jumpers and drowners.
He felt them more deeply now that he was alone.

He’d though he’d seen it all from his booth on the toll bridge.
But he didn’t see it coming when his dove flew away.
Whilst performing his duties, his Mary had been fruity.
With the jerk of a toll clerk from Bridge 38.

It’s hard to be normal when you live in a toll booth.
The bridge was his real love, and that’s the sad truth.

Arrogant Alan (A Children’s Fable)

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m by far the best animal in the whole wide world.
No other animal can compare to me.
I’m better at dancing than a boa constrictor.
I’m better at tennis than a bumblebee.

I’m the cleverest creature that ever existed.
I learned all I know from daytime tv.
I’d outsmart a badger on Jeremy Kyle.
I’d beat a cat at Countdown and have sausages for tea.

I’m the bestest beastie since records began.
I once won an award from the BBC.
I’m greater than a gecko and cooler than a camel.
Suaver than a sausage dog, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I’m the most handsome organism to ever draw breath.
Michelangelo’s David ain’t got nothing on me.
I’ve got smarter facial hair than a Walrus at a barber’s shop.
A bigger horn than a Narwhal, the largest in the sea.

Oh what’s the point, you don’t believe me.
I’m a compulsive liar, that much is true.
I’m actually a particularly boring type of worm.
I’m very unimpressive, and I live in a poo.

I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused.

Yours sincerely,

Alan the poo worm (age 7 months)