wednesday, march 4, 1998

radical writers gather
at the dylan thomas centre
on wednesday night
in early march
during st david’s week
also known as ty llen
in the maritime sector
of swansea.
with nigel jenkins,
who says ‘i’m just a gower farm boy’
and ‘i make bugger all from my writing’,
others discuss cabbage soup,
and mike jenkins talks of majis,
and  spliffs,
we drink pints of cwrw,
and don’t live in red wine republics,
with sculptors’ sons,
near seven sisters rugby club,
published by seren,
or gomer,
or parthian,
or even honno,
and the university press
come barefoot
to see mike jenkins
and 2 women
one a filmmaker
the other an historian
look at the 1930s
and wives of miners
sheep roll over cattle grids
red-necks complain
while welsh nats
and painters
listen to stories of shop boys
who steal your breath
the writer sought three wild bards up a mountain
to make his name – alun richards
back to a muddy car park
past the books on sale
in daps
looking chic
down the m4
past the traffic lights
with our own agendas
to beat own drum
words like dirty snowdrops
at home a welcoming spliff
away the celtic warrior
and weasels of valleys
present voices of wales
bits of llais cymru
chasing arts council
vocational grants
why not try self-publishing
like roddy doyle
where’s irvine welch
on the internet
in a web
handing out pamphlets
to a welsh mam
she’s barefoot & still nuts
but, harry, he’s a poet

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Being 66

Today is my 66th birthday. Because of the conditioning we gather from the weird cultural sewer we all bob around in, that feels like something I should be ashamed of. I mean who the hell wants to be 66 years old? That’s old, really old, beyond doubt old. You can kid yourself you still possess some vestiges of youth as you pass 60 and edge up towards 65, but 66, hell yes, that’s properly ancient. You’re so decrepit that you start to notice different things about the world, like the way your fellow codgers behave when they use their bus passes.

Here in Wales you are entitled to claim a bus pass when you are a fresh-faced 60. It took me a few months after I passed that long-dreaded birthday to overcome my shame and get the necessary documents together to prove I was ancient enough for free travel but eventually I gave in and shamefully presented myself to the local council hub to get photographed and approved. I collected the magic plastic rectangle and left the building, head down in case I bumped into someone I knew and had to explain what I was doing coming out of that emporium of benefits and social needs.

Anyway that was nearly six years ago and since then despite the odd pang of shame I have accepted that I am a member of that gang still politely referred to by some as Senior Citizens and more honestly, usually under the breath, as Old Gits.

So the way it works, on the local buses at least, is that you enter the bus and place the pass, which is the size of a credit card, on a pad near the driver. There is a beep, you then thank the driver and board the bus. Sometimes, depending on the bus company a useless ticket is printed, which you take from the machine and stick somewhere or discard.

Now, what I’ve noticed is this.

When an eligible woman boards the bus she will use her left hand to put her bus pass flat on the card reading device, remove her hand, wait for the beep, and then use her right hand to retrieve the pass, before shuffling off into the guts of the vehicle.

When it’s a man he will place the magic card on the pad with his right hand, keep his hand on it until he hears the beep, then remove his hand and the pass together.

In practice it means that men take a few less seconds to go through the formalities.

What I want to know is: What does this mean? Is this significant? Are men more efficient or are women more artistic? Will the proximity of a man’s hand to the reading device when it beeps have an effect on their health? Is this the sort of behaviour that contributes to women’s longer longevity?

I haven’t got a clue.

These are the sort of things that preoccupy a 66 year old.

God help us.

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Time Revisited

(i)
As the planets roll
I am caught in a bubble
on the sub-atomic motorway
Trundling at the speed of light
there is only one view,
an overall that covers all
and warms this creature
All the magic of all the ages
is contained in my pocket.

(ii)
The balls of our vision roll
as I roll
bubble
beneath the lowest life form
So slow, the speed of light.

(iii)
There is light, there is love
There is no doubt
no sullied nag
no wind to blow
the sun away
no darkness deep
enough to stay

(iv)
Create, begin to live again
another flame-flash try
A gleaming clear stack of light
AAAAAAAAAA*

(v)
Undulating via carpets of cloud
I ride another tiger tail
catch a star and put it safe
for when I need
to get away.

(vi)
Survive – and when survival’s beat
when time grows longer
when the silent air
threatens to lay bare
the screaming of the soul
what remains but
self (expression).

(vii)
Garbled Gobbledy Gook
gooks garbled on my face
and many loving arms
wrap the long nights
in their comfort.

(viii)
More words spilling
falling perhaps
until my arm
is empty
and needs a fix
to stay
(alive).

And at the end
we all must ask all
the (same) question.

Inside the darkened life
it’s too weird
too much to cope
too little as it is
without you
going.

(ix)
So where will this creature find its rest
where it can make a comfy nest
where will it lose itself in joy
where in the world is its new toy?

(x)
It’s a night of sadness
of meditation
a night to forget
a night to sigh
again.

(xi)
Scratching dudes create the tunes
Caring hands caress the bands
All around the people shout
Let me out, let me out.

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The Importance of being Earnest – in your art

They say that art is sweat and tears
You have to work at it for years
You have to burn the midnight oil
You have to suffer pain and toil

You get distracted by the world
By every precious boy and girl
They just don’t realise it’s hard
to keep it up when times are bad

When you’re tired, feeling low
and all you want’s for it to flow
You have to force yourself to work
You have to try until it hurts

The fleeting second of the scene
on the page or on the screen
Is all that others ever see
It’s a fucking joke, believe you me

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Christmas coming fast

Saturday-Bloody-Morning
Christmas coming fast
Should have been here Tuesday
Wednesday, Thursday night perhaps

The world has got a problem
Only one? I hear you ask
Well one that’s really pissed me off
That awful shopping task

We all come down together
to fill our metal guts
With putrefying blood and bones
and other awful stuff

The charity collectors
jangle at the doors
Piss off you pious bastards
I won’t give you any more

The dreaded day comes round again
We gorge until we’re numb
Forgive the sodding year that’s gone
and curse the one to come

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There’s always Hope

This is something I wrote nearly 24 years ago after attending an event at the Hay-On-Wye Festival Of Literature.

Saturday May 21, 1994, 12:20p

‘The First Novel’

A motley gathering of aspiring authors collect together under the grubby canvas of a  large marquee. Two hundred or so enthusiastic literary souls eagerly await the arrival of an editor from a famous large publishing house. She is to be accompanied by two of her latest discoveries – two brand new novelists just about to have their first works published. There is hope, it is transmitted by the excited breathing of the assembled scribes. Books from new authors are being published, despite the economic climate; someone with the power to rescue the diligent, lonely aspirants is prepared to take a chance with new writers.

Four smart middle-class women enter the arena and arrange themselves tastefully on the dais; the background hubbub fades, all eyes face front. A dedicated wannabe novelist, a cloth-capped round man is scribbling frantically into his filo-fax. An elderly lady with a limp finds herself a last-minute seat near the front and sits down with a tired sigh – it’s been a long road.

Let the lesson begin. The editor speaks first: OK, let’s forgive the carefully cultivated tones of her voice, the expensive haircut and the cigarette dangling from manicured fingers. Let’s give her a chance. The slush pile is dismissed immediately; nothing of any value comes from that. The audience fidget, embarrassed, thinking of their own contributions to that bane of the publishing world. OK, what is it then? That magic spell to get your first novel published.

Let’s have examples. The two new authors are discussed.

Writer A is an old friend of the editor, her father was a well-known poet and her mother is an accomplished novelist. Poor thing had a deprived childhood with her arty father, even had to slum it in the castle-like homes of her family’s aristocratic Mediterranean friends. The editor and this princess of words spent months, meeting for lunch and at each other’s houses, trimming and buffing her manuscript until it eventually emerged as a thin and delicately polished literary flower.

Writer B is a senior literature journalist with the Times. She was wooed by our editor (why?) until she produced a delightfully funny piece of work based in the offices of a gardening magazine. Wonderful gimmick – a free packet of geranium seeds with every book sold.

Both writers have got friends who are literary agents. So what is that magic?

The two authors speak about their work and read extracts to the sinking audience, and finally, a marketing superwoman from the publisher explains how new authors are launched with minimum expenditure and maximum publicity (in the literary sections of quality newspapers no doubt – ah! that’s why); but none of these discourses mattered, all hope had long vaporised along with the few quid each of us had paid for the privilege of a sharp slap in the face. Maybe that was the point of the event after all?

Go back to your kitchen sinks and your allotments, you’re a punter – not a writer; writers are smart cultured people with friends in the ‘write’ places.

There was to be a question and answer session afterwards. In the back of the auditorium, a disappointed and disgruntled working-class man stands up, touches his forelock to the dais and makes a quick exit. It is me.

NOTE (December 2017): I don’t think much has changed in the quarter of a century since I wrote the above piece. Maybe I should have concentrated on running my computer business. I was quite good at that until I walked away from it to focus on writing, a couple of years after that Hay session.

Still – that’s hope for you.

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It goes like this

it goes like this
whooooosh
Sometimes
it goes like this
piiiiiing
or
pinnnnng
you understand me
don't you?
there are gaps
where you can fit
galaxies
universes even
the theme is the same
and time
time
it doesn't care
or
it doesn’t matter
m a t t e r
- - - -

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Happy World Toilet Day 2017

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Monkeys

eerertertertertertertertert  drg dfg dfg dfg df d gd monkeys typing rubbish on a
computer using a program called a word provcessor

can somirtimes vatch a packet of stars ad live a litel more tha the earthworms thaey
vonae form snfd then dee if they ahf es pacvker tof ticxod

Monkeys can catch packets of stars and keep them in their pockets
They can see a thousand miles, a thousand thousand years
They must see. They must.
There is a monkey in my garden playing with platinum dust
Being careful not to breathe
It is holding, waiting, giving its madness away
Like a generous uncle
Or a forefather leaving a legacy
It is time
It is now
It is then
It is not well crafted because he doesn’t believe in that human foible
He only believes in packets of stars.
(and where they can lead)

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A Poem and a Painting (and a book)

The full cover of Blodyn – my latest collection of poetry
Blodyn the Painting

acrylic on board 520mm x 670mm (20″ x 26″), 2001

Blodyn the Book

Collected poems 2017

Blodyn the poem

You are a creature
Petal-haired
Mouth-organ lipped
Smudge nose askew

You are a flower (an open flower)
A head on a stalk (A face on a stick)
Seeds like eyes
Seed-like eyes

You absorb the earth
Soak up the sun
Flow with the wind
Grow with the rain

You are raw life

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FILLER

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An ordinary bloke writes about Dog Shit

Before we start let me say that I love dogs – well, maybe love is too strong a term, let’s just say I respect them in the same way I respect all other living things – who all have the same right to make use of the facilities our shared planet offers. Obviously you’re not going to let a person-eating tiger lodge in your kitchen, but as long as an animal doesn’t directly threaten your well-being you should just leave them alone to get on with things in their own way.

On the council estate where I grew up hardly a dog had a lead, let alone a poop scoop or a biodegradable poo-bag. Dogs used to shit anywhere they liked and nobody judged them or their humans. We had a dog ourselves and like its peers it didn’t usually wear a collar, but it did crap on the pavement. We generally side-stepped the decaying stools until they were washed away by rain, or dried into white powder and blown to the gutters by the wind. The powder was something to do with the massive amounts of calcium in tinned dog food then. I suppose the manufacturers, to save on costs, added the calcium-rich bones from the uncountable carcasses of animals whose flesh had been stripped and swallowed by omnivorous hominids.

Of course these days, every local authority is cracking down on dog fouling. Now, according to the BBC, South Ribble Council is taking it a step further by restricting the number of dogs allowed per person.

That’s probably a step too far but despite my respect for dogs as fellow living creatures of this universe I could never ‘have’ one now. What it boils down to is that I cannot bring myself to follow a canine around and pick its poo up. Is this where human evolution has brought us? God I hope not.

Cat people are just as bad. I mean, since when has it been the done thing to allow cats unfettered access to every corner of our dwellings. My granny’s cats lived in the alleys behind her house and sometimes sheltered in the coal-shed; they were fed scraps and if they got ill they crawled into a dark corner until they got better or died. When we first had cats ourselves it was a given that they were not allowed upstairs and were put outside before we went to bed.

Now pussies sleep on people’s faces for goodness sake, and their human companions bring them gourmet snacks on blue velvet cushions trimmed with gold braid; they are so pampered and spoilt they have begun to think we are their servants. And maybe they’re right, because cat-shit can infect rodents with a parasite (Toxoplasma gondii) that makes them in thrall to cats, and helpless victims to their murderous claws. A growing number of people are convinced that the parasite can infect humans in the same way, turning us into mindless slaves desperate to do the bidding of our feline overlords.

But then again, sharing your life with pets, or companion animals to give them a more respectful term, has been shown to have positive effects on your mental health. So maybe it’s a trade-off. You pick your dogs’ shit up and they will reward you with a sloppy tongue and a cuddle now and again, while in turn you can give the same love to your cats and get lost in their beautiful eyes . . . .

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An Ordinary Bloke Writes About . . .

This may turn into a regular column, maybe I’ll try and do it once a week.

To read all the posts tagged with An Ordinary Bloke – Click Here

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An old poem

(an old poem)

Left too long in the shell
almost, touching.
Shrivelled apricots
almost, sweet.
Dried-up peanuts
without stones.
Fit only for eating
soggily, successful.
Ex-dried-up riverbed
waiting for water.
The turn of the planet
falling, will come.
Warm comfort comes
from here, from now.
Planted, the seed
waiting for water.
Welcome, a wink.
The secret exposed.
Lightly learned
the art of seeing.
Finding the form
delightfully, pleasing.
Peacefully, blissfully
sleeping, returning.

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A couple more poems from Blodyn

Jackdaws in CAR PARKS

Jackdaws
in CAR PARKS
where they shouldn’t be

But then
ppl
eat cheap tarts
and drop crumbs
everywhere

I wouldn’t like to be a jackdaw
Being a bit of a fussy eater

FOR INSTANCE

I wouldn’t eat a slowworm
even if I was starving

BUT JACKDAWS
eat almost everything

They have no lines in their minds
except that possibly
(and I don’t know this for sure)
They won’t eat their own eggs

I suppose if they did
they wouldn’t exist

Imagine that you’re the last jackdaw
in the world
and the only thing left to eat
is your one remaining egg
which is about to hatch

do you gobble it up
even though you know
that however long you live
afterwards

There’ll never be another jackdaw
or maybe you could

MATE with a sparrow

and have babies
called
Jackrow or Spardaw

What if you lay on top of your egg
and quietly died
Your decomposition
feeding your young

Then it’d grow up
and have a different dilemma
but at least it’d have

A LIFE

What comes last?
The jackdaw – or
THE EGG

****

If we were rich

If we were rich, would we still have a table like this?
A table covered in the most recently used bits of shit?
Like scissors and glasses and ashtrays and tips.
Like candles and radios and needles and sticks.

There’s last Tuesday’s mailshots and yesterday’s news.
There’s this week’s TV guide and half a pair of shoes.
A table that’s creaking and sagging with clues.
Yes, we’d still have a table like this – it’s the truth.

****

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Three thoughts

To be a good gardener, sow the seeds with love
Believe in what you’re doing, do what you believe in
Even the best words dissolve into mush when you read them too many times

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Mid-October Blues

When the fallen leaves remind you that Summer’s gone
And the days are getting short and the nights are getting long

That’s the time to think about where you’re going to
That’s the time to think about what you want to do

The winter is coming, and with it a pause
There’ll be time to consider, to smooth out your flaws

You’ll be ready in no time, to get on with your life
For now, take it easy, enjoy the long nights

NOTES: This is off-the-cuff on a slightly drunken Saturday night, so will more than likely be deleted in the morning

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The Flying Boy – Work in Progress extract

A short passage of work in progress from ‘The Flying Boy’
(one of the novels I’m working on)

There was a girl once, almost fifty years ago, at the end of the sixties, beginning of the seventies. You were seventeen or eighteen; she was a year or two younger. She played a guitar and sang her own songs. You can’t remember now if she was any good and don’t know if she became successful, whatever that means, but she at least had potential, and now and again over the years you think about her and wonder if she ever got anywhere with her music. According to Wikipedia there is a singer with the same first name as her from the same town who might be the same age and could be the girl herself, but you don’t want to research it any deeper than that because whatever the result it would tarnish your timeline. Continue reading

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Facebook and Twitter stole the Internet

Blog: From Web Log, From ‘Logging your thoughts and activities on the World Wide Web’

Once upon a time there was a thing called blogging. It still exists in name of course, for example this website is built on WordPress which is known as a blogging platform.

I first started blogging around the turn of the millennium when it wasn’t much more than a few nerdy types writing the odd banal paragraph about their lives and opinions. I didn’t do much at that time but I set up a website to use as an online journal. The website was built and edited using raw HTML.

Around eleven years ago I started a new blog using the Blogger platform. Then moved it to my own site using WordPress. The blog was anonymous at first under the pseudonym Skintwriter. It wasn’t long before I was just one in a worldwide community of bloggers. We each kept a blogroll, i.e. a list of links to other bloggers, who we hoped would reciprocate with a link back to us.

Anyway, because I used my own domain name there were no adverts on my site, nor on most of the others. We paid our dues to the purveyors of internet access and started building a community. No one else had control of the content of my site, no one could tell me what to post, no one made any money when others read what I wrote. Continue reading

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A couple of television scripts Work in Progress

A couple of probably failed TV scripts from some dark corner of my hard drive

Blood Brother

Winners and Losers- TV Script – 2017

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