One from the archives – a game I wrote for the Spectrum in 1983
Might do a T Shirt or a painting or both based on this
The Sixties are finally ending. The signs are everywhere. The characters that populate the sixties of our shared imagination are shuffling off their mortal coils faster than newly elected politicians shrugging off their promises. It won’t be long before finding a genuine sixties survivor will be almost as impossible as getting an honest Tory to open your village fete.
So, from our vantage point half a century in the future, what was it all really about? Well, it’s kind of defined my generation’s life, coloured it in at least. But did it really mean anything? Was there a cultural revolution? Did we achieve Sexual Liberation and Gender Equality? Did we Ban the Bomb and Make Love not War?
I don’t think we did any of the above, but did we at least stall the inexorable rise of capitalism? Nope, never got far with that either. But, the sixties were special, with the music, the art, the fashion, the technology, the social movements – weren’t they?
Maybe The Sixties was just an idea. Ideas are powerful, everything comes from ideas. I mean, the music, the art, the fashion . . . and all the rest of it, they all started with ideas and then they happened. But – so what? Nobody wears mini-skirts and hot pants now, nobody marches from Aldermaston to London demanding nuclear disarmament – yet the nuclear arms are still there, more than ever. The reasons to do all those things still exist.
So, what’s happened then? Maybe the sixties were about hope, and now we’ve given that up in this topsy-turvy post-Trump-election world. There are too many billionaires, there is more wealth concentrated in the pockets of a couple of percent of the population than all the rest of us combined. The sixties itself has been commercialised more than any other decade in history – it has become a product, a facsimile designed to mesmerise, and squeeze money from, naïve punters like you and me.
Now that The Sixties is finally expiring maybe it’s time to bury the last of its warriors or at least let them sink into the shadows in retirement homes. We need to get on with now – the future.
In the meantime if you can think of anything positive that’s stood the test of that half century then write it on a banner and parade it proudly around town – or maybe just make a jpeg out of it and stick it on Facebook – job done.
I’m just an ordinary bloke and I used to be a vegan. Is that a contradiction? Can you be a vegan and be ordinary? Can an ordinary bloke even be a vegan? What’s ordinary about being vegan?
Well, it used to be impossible to be thought of as being ordinary and a vegan at the same time. Everyone’s perception was that vegans were weird, far from ordinary, sub-ordinary if you like, not worthy of any respect or consideration.
But now, apart from the opinions of some knuckle-draggers in the comments sections of online newspapers and your auntie Betty, who still swears by steamed sheep’s brains on a bed of fried bull’s balls, being a vegan seems to have become accepted as quite an ordinary thing to do. So, that’s why I’m done with this vegan thing.
More than two decades ago I became a ‘vegan’ and long before that a vegetarian. Almost forty-seven years eschewing (not chewing) animal flesh, and you know what? I’ve had enough of it.
I don’t want to be a ‘vegan’ or even a vegetarian any more. I just want to be a normal human being who goes about their daily life without a big neon sign above their head declaring their foibles to the world.
It’s not just me. I was in Berlin recently and visited a small vegan supermarket. The company was all over the vegan grapevine a few years ago because they were opening, or planning to open, vegan supermarkets all over Germany and there was talk of them opening in the UK. At the time it seemed to herald the new golden age of veganism, at last there was enough of a market in providing for such a diet to make it commercially viable. Hooray!
Bu no, the guy in the vegan supermarket in Berlin said their plans to expand had fizzled out and their entry into the UK market never happened. Why? Was it because the vegan revolution itself fizzled out? Was the market smaller than they thought?
No, it was because regular supermarkets and shops started to stock the same ranges of specialised vegan products as they did. There is nothing unique about them anymore. Veganism has entered the mainstream, there’s unashamedly vegan options everywhere.
We may be a few years behind in the UK but it’s starting to happen here too.
So, I’m hanging up the label, I am no longer a vegan. I’m just an ordinary bloke eating an ordinary diet. I just don’t eat any animal products – but that is normal – right?
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
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,
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 even honno,
and the university press
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
while welsh nats
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
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
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
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.
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.
The balls of our vision roll
as I roll
beneath the lowest life form
So slow, the speed of light.
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
Create, begin to live again
another flame-flash try
A gleaming clear stack of light
Undulating via carpets of cloud
I ride another tiger tail
catch a star and put it safe
for when I need
to get away.
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
Garbled Gobbledy Gook
gooks garbled on my face
and many loving arms
wrap the long nights
in their comfort.
More words spilling
until my arm
and needs a fix
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
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?
It’s a night of sadness
a night to forget
a night to sigh
Scratching dudes create the tunes
Caring hands caress the bands
All around the people shout
Let me out, let me out.
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
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
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.
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 - - - -
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)
acrylic on board 520mm x 670mm (20″ x 26″), 2001
Collected poems 2017
You are a creature
Smudge nose askew
You are a flower (an open flower)
A head on a stalk (A face on a stick)
Seeds like eyes
You absorb the earth
Soak up the sun
Flow with the wind
Grow with the rain
You are raw life
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 . . . .
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
Left too long in the shell
Fit only for eating
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.
the art of seeing.
Finding the form
in CAR PARKS
where they shouldn’t be
eat cheap tarts
and drop crumbs
I wouldn’t like to be a jackdaw
Being a bit of a fussy eater
I wouldn’t eat a slowworm
even if I was starving
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
There’ll never be another jackdaw
or maybe you could
MATE with a sparrow
and have babies
Jackrow or Spardaw
What if you lay on top of your egg
and quietly died
feeding your young
Then it’d grow up
and have a different dilemma
but at least it’d have
What comes last?
The jackdaw – or
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.
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