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)

My Countryside

The countryside isn’t the countryside. Not really. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that much of the countryside isn’t my idea of what countryside should be. Allow me to explain…

If I asked you to think of the countryside, what would you imagine? My guess is that many may think of the things that they can see from the car window. Woodlands, lakes and mountains would hopefully feature heavily, but I suspect that vast, rolling fields of farmland would be the most common response.

I want to be very clear in stating that I have nothing against agriculture. It is hugely important to sustaining the population of the UK, and indeed some of our farmland is exceptionally valuable to wildlife. There are large numbers of species that wholly rely on farmland, including some of our most beautiful bird species and our most charismatic mammals. I have no beef with agriculture (excuse the pun), but I have a real problem with the bastardised form of agriculture that dominates many rural parts of the UK. Endless fields where ancient hedgerows have been deemed an inconvenience and ripped out. Fields that are cropped to their boundaries to maximise yield. Tracts of grassland given over to sheep and castle grazing to keep our failing dairy industry alive. The increasing trend towards crops such as oilseed rape and maize, both of which are like wildlife deserts in comparison to more traditional wheat or barley crops. Each of these practices has dealt a harsh blow to biodiversity in this country, sterilising huge areas of land for native wildlife and destroying valuable topsoil. This topsoil in turn is washed into our streams and rivers as silt, where it it clogs the gills of fish and contributes to our ever growing problem with flooding by reducing the carrying capacity of the wetland infrastructure upon which we are so reliant. In addition, the use of pesticides and herbicides that are needed to keep these areas at their most productive has an equally devastating effect on nature. We’ve all heard about the extent to which bees are being damaged by pesticides, but the same problem extends to a myriad of other species. Fish are poised, insects are wiped out, and in turn the species that rely upon them for food slowly starve and reduce in numbers. Intensive agriculture is tantamount to concreting over our green and pleasant land.

The farmers aren’t to blame. The blame lies with the politicians that have created an economic race to the bottom, wherein farmers are under extreme pressure to produce more and more in exchange for less and less. Money is pumped in via subsidies to create an illusion of a healthy, functioning market, but it’s not hard to see beneath the veil. Farming in this country is broken, and the farming communities and our wildlife suffer equally. This is the true price of a cheap loaf of bread or pint of milk.

It’s heartening that many landowners are in agreement that the current situation is unsustainable, and that there is a better way. There is an observable trend towards lower intensity land use, and in recent years EU funding has seen an increase in better environmental stewardship. It’s incredible what the retention of arable field margins and areas of set-aside can do, and it’s also evident that there is a market out there for ethical produce. People want to support sustainable farming and wildlife, but that’s still not enough. Without a fundamental sea change in policy and the economics of farming, the rate of biodiversity loss will continue. I’m optimistic that we can make real improvements, but it’ll be a long road.

My perfect countryside is an unachievable utopia, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.

My countryside is one of ancient woodland, of hedgerows enclosing small fields, of wildflower meadows and field margins, of rare breed livestock on organic land.

My countryside has clean water and rich soil, and crop fields are thick with skylarks, pipits and partridge.

My countryside is one where foxes and badgers can sleep safely at night, without fear of being murdered to appease a vocal minority.

My countryside is driven by self sufficiency and a love of nature, rather than tariffs and quotas.

My countryside is about 500 years in the past. Let’s make it the future too.

Threnody for the White Queen

The lanterns burned brightly over the marsh, illuminating the only dry path through a sodden expanse of sedge and rush. The soldiers trod carefully, a sparse vanguard clearing the way for the six hooded men that followed. These were the holiest men of their order, the men with the grave responsibility of carrying her body to its final resting place. They bore her prone form at shoulder height on a crude wooden palanquin, lovingly wrapped in a snow-white shroud.

The White Queen had been beautiful, but more than that she had been honourable and just. A true leader, who had negotiated the longest period of peace between the twin cities in written record. Her death had been as shocking as it was sudden, a brief illness that had taken away her lustre and eventually her life. The rumour and speculation regarding her decline had already begun, but today the voices had fallen silent as the people lined the streets to pay their respects to her cortège.

One might think that a leader of her stature would be given an appropriately grand funeral, but those in power were still very much wedded to the old ways. The monks would carry her body to the coastal cave to perform the ritual, as they had done for her father and for countless generations that preceded them.

The procession moved slowly on, silence broken by the sporadic chanting of the monks, close harmonies given sombre resonance by the bleak beauty of their surroundings. They were close to their destination, moving slowly through the peatland bog that would soon give way to a treacherous path down to the cliffs. All the while the lanterns continued to light their way, some glowing an eerie blue as the spongy peat gave up volatile gases underfoot. The chanting grew ever more intense as their journey neared its end.

She had achieved so much in her lifetime, and yet she was still in her prime when death’s hand had taken her. Men, women and children had wept openly in the streets upon hearing the news, as though a much loved family member had been snatched away without warning. Her first-born was only twelve years old, and the debate around his succession already raged. She herself had been but fifteen years when she became leader, and her son showed every sign of continuing her legacy. They had never yet crowned a leader that was not of the holy bloodline, but with every succession the murmurings grew more vociferous. Times were changing. A decision would need to be made, but not today.

The friable stone of the sinuous coastal path was made slippery by the coastal spray, slowing the caravan yet further. They wound their way down to the coast at a glacial pace, waves born and dying in a thunderous churn below them, eventually reaching a grassy plateau that sat above the rugged granite outcrop. The trail down from the burial chamber led south away from here, but the soldiers would go no further. Only the holy order could enter the cave.

Four monks with blazing torches formed a guard of honour at the cave entrance, flames casting grotesque shadows on the dark granite walls. Her body was laid gently on the cold stone dais in the centre, the same resting place that had welcomed her predecessors for time immemorial. They gathered around her, performing the sacred ritual that would sever her ties with the realm of the living and commit her to the pantheon of the gods. One final prayer was uttered, and the holy men left the cave.

The sky darkened as they made their way back to the cliff top to join the rest of the party. Lightning split the sky as the waves rose higher, flooding the cavern where her body lay. The men stood watch as the storm died as quickly as it had come. None returned to the cave, but they knew that if they did they would find it empty. The gods had observed the ritual, and had come to claim her. She was one of them now, and the people would remember her in their prayers.

Nautilus

Entirely by accident he found himself in his early 30s, a fully grown man with responsibilities and a crap beard.

He was older now than his parents had been when he was born, dragged kicking and screaming into a bleak world of Thatcher and synthpop. He still felt like a child in many respects, and he supposed that his parents must have felt the same way back then. He had always assumed that there was a hard divide between childhood and the realm of grown-ups, a point of crossing the rubicon where innocent thoughts were left behind and you were issued with a mortgage and a poorly-paid job by a man in a grey suit. It had never really happened that way though. His experience, and he expected the experience of a great many others too, was one of perpetual childhood around which he had formed a concrete shell to protect him from the hammer blows that the past few years had dealt him. Behind the emotional wall he was a little boy, weak and fragile. He was glass.

His childhood memories were bizarrely selective, his mind having disposed of or suppressed huge tranches of what he assumed must have been banal normality. The bits that he did remember, however, were rendered in vivid technicolour. Each of these memories was linked to extreme emotion, moments of heightened joy, sadness and despair that had remained with him as if experienced only yesterday. A painful fall, a moment of embarrassment, a cruel insult or a death, each given equal emotional weight and importance by his odd mind. He could only assume that his brain knew what it was doing, as he had very little control over it. The abiding memory of his childhood was one of failure to live up to expectations, and being crushed beneath the weight of them. He was held up as the golden boy, only for the lustre to fade to grey. His mother had only lived long enough to see him disappoint, and sometimes that still troubled him.

His late teens and early twenties had been a shambles, characterised by confusion, loneliness and a pathetic absence of focus. He didn’t know who he was, or indeed who he wanted to be, and he drifted around the fringes of academia, overweight and angst ridden. He was arrogant enough to know that he was more intelligent than most, but what intellectual capacity he had was wasted within a shell that lacked emotional maturity and social skills. He could mask these flaws to some extent with alcohol, but when sober he was at best tedious, and at worst, plain bad company. Still childlike at this time, but without the self awareness to start building the shell.

His mid to late twenties were a brighter period, and a time when he experienced some of the emotional development that should have happened years before. His life was changed by two things: a girl who taught him to see himself from the outside, and a job that gave him the sense of purpose that he’d always lacked. His confidence and self belief grew exponentially during this time, aided by great friends and new experiences. This buoyant period would be shattered in time by tragedy, but the progress he made would stay with him always.

His mother’s unexpected death would change him profoundly. Perversely, through the sadness and confusion the defining feeling would be one of acceptance and defiance, firing his desire to move on, to set aside the last vestige of childishness and to look forward rather than inward. More difficult times would come in the following years, including a formal diagnosis of the depression that had lain dormant for years, and the slow decline and eventual death of his father. It would be logical to assume that the hardships of the past decade might have broken him, and he wouldn’t deny that there were times that it came close, but entering his 34th year he found himself more confident and cheerful than ever. Certainly more comfortable in his own skin, and more optimistic than at any time he could recall. He had realised recently how primitive he was, how his spirits could be lifted instantly by a ray of sunlight bursting through the clouds, and this primal kinship with nature gave him great comfort.

He was me. He still is.

Casseopeia

The boy with the low voice sits hunched by the window, gazing up at the night sky. The girl who spreads happiness is out there somewhere, separated by time and distance, but beneath the same cloudless vista. Their minds are filled with the pain of another recent parting, the tedium of reality putting an ocean between them yet again. Each time the wound is more ragged, and every time they wonder whether the pain of separating is too much to bear, but the pull of love always wins out. The raw grief of parting is ever present, and each time the ache lingers yet more.

They could stop the pain easily if either was brave enough to punch through the inertia, but for now fear holds them rigid. Neither of them know yet, but two short years later she will make the bravest decision of her life. For now though, they exist in a sickening limbo of mutual adoration and suffering. If he wasn’t such a coward he would fly out there permanently and build a life for himself, but fear of change paralyses him. He’s a boy pretending to be a man and failing, or at least that’s how it feels. He’s never believed in himself enough to achieve anything, and perhaps he never will.

The nights are when it hurts him the most, and he knows that she’s suffering too. She’s a time traveller, living two hours in the future, but although kept apart by time and space they take comfort in sharing the same sky. They’ve taught each other the names of the familiar constellations that stretch out over the northern hemisphere, forming a celestial bridge between them. Her favourite is Cassiopeia. He likes Orion. The seven sisters look down on them both kindly, two lost souls both seeking the answer to an impossible question.

The clouds roll in, leaving the sky starless and obsidian. Their connection gone, for now.

“Until tomorrow, my love”.