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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Other People

Other People
People Other People
can appear strange
They have different habits
and they smell
differently.

For instance:
they live in different houses
with different chairs
and different foods
They drink
from different cups.

And it all adds up
to strangeness

Around this time of year
(the festive season)

They come closer
They share our air
they eat our foods
(and we eat theirs)

We visit their strange houses
or meet them in pubs
sometimes they’re family
but different.

Their lights shine
differently
and mostly
we can’t see them
(other lights)
because
because
. . . . . . they’re different

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I am not a number, I am a free tree!

Today we went to the National Museum of History at St Fagans, a village on the western outskirts of Cardiff. They’ve recently revamped their visitor centre and we wanted to check it out and to visit the famous castle that is situated there.

The outdoor museum is spread over a one hundred acre site emanating from the castle and consists of reconstructed buildings from all over Wales, including farmhouses, chapels, shops, a woollen mill, a blacksmith and many others. It’s definitely worth a visit since it does throw some light on the kind of places people in Wales have lived and worked in over the centuries. The visitor centre alone is a gem; it’s been well designed and is a lovely airy building full of space and light, though this is partly because it is still in development and they haven’t crammed too much stuff in yet.

We found our way to the so-called St Fagans Castle – the former home of Lord and Lady Windsor as far as I could tell from the kitsch memorabilia propped up in some of the rooms. It doesn’t look like a castle and in fact it reminded me more of a prison with dark dingy rooms and a dank stink of rotten privilege and oppression. I came out of there strangely disturbed due to the nauseous feelings it stirred up in me. If it was up to me I’d blow the bloody monstrosity up and let the ruins decompose into a sickly sculptural reminder of how inherited position and privilege is a disease that has infected society for too many lifetimes.

I would probably have crumpled into a gibbering wreck if I hadn’t escaped when I did. And it really did feel like I was escaping; it was as if I was connecting with a version of myself from a previous life who had once worked there as one of the servants and I imagined that self doing a runner from the hellhole before dawn in the dying days of the nineteenth century when Lord Windsor’s power was at its terrible peak.

Today, as I looked back at that monstrous building from a safe distance across the ornamental ponds I felt utterly relieved and imagined that former self bounding off into the wild Welsh mountains to commune with mystical nature spirits.

As I bathed in the relief of my escape I noticed a huge beautiful tree which probably existed at the same time as that previous incarnation of myself; it had a tiny metal plaque screwed into its bark.

I am not a number, I am a free tree! *

The little oval of metal had been stamped with the number ‘0014’. After that I noticed similar plaques with different numbers screwed to other trees and wondered if they felt as trapped as I had and whether they would like to uproot themselves and head off into the hills.

Then I realised that they were trees and didn’t have the disposition to move anywhere other than where they had first sprouted from the earth, but I still hung on to the idea that they might resent being tagged with a silly scrap of metal. I guess I needed to make a connection to ameliorate the awfulness of the feelings stirred up by that dreadful monument to greed and inequality.

* This is a reference to the 1960s TV show The Prisoner.

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An Ordinary Bloke writes about Vegans keeping Cats.

As a vegan of over twenty years and a vegetarian of more than twenty years before that, one of the  questions that has always perplexed me is why do vegans like to share their lives with and look after cats, particularly rescue cats.

Purr-purr

Cats are obligate carnivores – they must eat meat, their physiology is based on eating meat. If they don’t eat meat, they will die. I know there are supplements available made from non-animal sources; for example the amino acid taurine that comes from meat can be synthesised and added to vegan foods like lentils. This then in theory gives cats the necessary nutrients. But this is unnatural, and cats, if they are left to roam outdoors at all, will in any case kill and eat small animals like mice, birds and frogs.

Most vegans accept that cats are carnivores and will buy standard cat food to feed their feline overlords. To me this is blatant cognitive dissonance, A domestic cat lives for fifteen years on average. How many chickens or rabbits or fish or bits of cows and pigs does a cat consume during its lifetime? Even if it’s only the equivalent of one chicken a month that’s twelve a year; so one hundred and eighty chickens have to die to keep that pet cat alive. And some vegans have more than one cat – many more.

How does that square with living a vegan lifestyle?

Then there are all the other animals in zoos or in rescue centres or in the wild that vegans in particular get very emotional about – like the lynx that recently escaped from such a zoo in Wales and was eventually tracked down and shot. There was a huge outcry from people in the vegan groups on Facebook – how could anyone kill a beautiful innocent animal like that lynx? Yet in the few days it was on the loose it had killed many sheep at least, and most of the bodies of those sheep had been abandoned and left to rot in the green green grass.

I admit that I love cats myself and if my wife wasn’t allergic to them I’m sure we would have at least one in our lives. I’m also sure that cats and other companion animals contribute hugely to the mental and emotional health of the human population but I can’t pretend they’re benign and benevolent creatures.

We had a cat once that found a family of shrews and played with them until they all fell dead in a circle on our lawn. At that point our feline psychopath lost interest and wandered off to bother some birds who were innocently flitting about in the bushes at the bottom of the garden.

So that’s why I won’t support cat rescue centres and cat charities. Cats are killers, gratuitous killers at that – just because they’re cute and fluffy doesn’t excuse them. In fact they have evolved to be cute and fluffy to facilitate their murderous lifestyles. Their prey animals and their human enablers are mesmerised by their big eyes and their soft purrs and I can guarantee that if they were bigger or we were smaller – well you can guess what our fate would be . . .

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Happy World Toilet Day 2017

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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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An Ordinary Bloke writes about Being Stupid

I’m not stupid. At least that’s what my family, friends, and teachers have always told me. And there is evidence to support this view. For example, I once sat the Mensa IQ test. I think it’s agreed that intelligence is the opposite of stupidity, and I soared to the top of the class in that test with a supposed IQ that was higher than more than 99% of the rest of humanity’s.

I’m not convinced.

I mean, if I’m not stupid why am I broke?

And if Donald Trump is stupid why is he the billionaire president of the USA?

That’s it!

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An Ordinary Bloke writes about Aliens, Drugs and the Nature of Reality

Yesterday, after a breakfast of tea and toast with tahini and yeast extract we went to the Farmers’ Market to buy organic vegetables. We’ve been going to the market for years and once ran a stall there selling our own handmade soap and body products, so we know a lot of the regulars and stallholders.

I know that last paragraph makes me sound like an over-privileged hippie but I’m not, we actually spend a lot less on food and suchlike than most people do and cook everything from scratch in our pokey little kitchen. We just like to eat healthily.

I got chatting to a friend next to the fair-trade beverage and snacks stall, and, as it does when you engage in a bit of small talk at the Farmers’ Market on a Sunday, the subject got around to the nature of reality, involving life, death, and the hallucinogenic drug DMT.

The theme of the conversation was that we, i.e. human beings, or possibly all beings, project our own realities. We are all from the same source and each of us is an expression of that source but essentially we are one.

While we were pondering the imponderables, my wife carried on walking alongside the stalls. When I caught up with her she was talking to one of the other stallholders. He was nattering about aliens and about how there is incontrovertible evidence that they walk amongst us. He described a species of very short (compared to humans) hairless aliens. He also said that there are many proven examples of UFOs visiting our planet but that it’s all been covered up.

When I got home I did a bit of googling about DMT and discovered that those who take the drug sometimes ‘see’ small alien-like creatures, similar to the ones described by the UFO man. On my Twitter feed was a quote from the work of the Irish poet Medbh McGuckian: “There is only One universe at a time”

So, that’s the point – yes, life is so random there’s no way of working out what it’s all about. Maybe aliens do zip around our skies; maybe the universe is a personal projection, and this is only one of an infinite number of possible universes. Certainly, in the context of all time and all space then whatever our world is it’s less than microscopic.

But, you can only deal with what’s in front of you now – one universe at a time, no matter how insignificant it seems. If you need to have a purpose then your job is to contribute to the coherence of it all, because without your contribution then none of it would matter, or even happen.

Because you are it.

Love yourself. Go on.

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An ordinary bloke writes about the Gents

Due to my cisgender conditioning the inside of women’s public toilets are not familiar to me, but as someone who seems to urinate twice as much as I drink I am a frequent visitor to the Gents. Maybe I’m anti-social but I’ve got to the point where I prefer to use a cubicle even if all I want is a pee. I’m not comfortable standing thigh-to-thigh with strangers as we merge our steamy urine against the ceramic. It’s not them, it’s me, and that’s just the way it is.

The consequence of this is that I do spend more time than most out of sight behind a closed door, so get to hear the comings and goings of others as they use the facilities unseen. I hear them come in, position themselves at the urinals, and release their streams. Sometimes you hear only one person at a time and sometimes you can hear more. After they’ve wetted that wall I’ve noticed that people behave differently, depending on how many others are in the toilet at the same time and where they are.

A row of urinals in the toilet at an arts centre

For example, in scenario one; if I am alone in the cubicle and a solitary bladder-emptier comes in to the room, it’s more than ninety-percent certain that when they’ve done their business they will leave immediately without bothering to use the hand-washing facilities. That is probably the most consistent behaviour pattern I have observed but there are many other scenarios and responses, for example:

Scenario two: If when I walk into the gents there is only one person already relieving themselves, then after I’ve gone into the cubicle and they’ve shaken it dry the probability of them walking out without washing their hands is reduced to around sixty percent, although I think that more than half of the people who do visit the sink don’t actually wash – they just push the tap and walk. The other half of those ‘gentlemen’, splash about a bit then put their hands under the blower for a couple of seconds in a pretence at cleanliness.

In scenario three, when there’s more than one other person using the urinals then the first one to finish will actually wash and dry their hands. All the others will behave the same except for the last one to finish, whose behaviour will revert back to that described in scenario one above.

Scenario four is a variation of scenario three, based on the times when I finish and come out of the cubicle and there is still someone lurking or peeing. Of course I walk immediately to the sink, wash my hands then dry them thoroughly. If the other person is ready before I leave then they too will walk over to the sink and go through the motions. If I leave before they finish then my educated guess is that they revert to scenario one.

There are many other variations on these scenarios but the moot point is that if no one is looking then the overwhelming majority of people using the male toilets to urinate do not wash their hands or at best make a feeble pretence at washing them.

I don’t even want to think about the other things they do in the Gents, especially when they’re cosy and invisible in a cubicle.

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An ordinary bloke writes about being culled

Have you ever been ‘culled’?

Yes, removed from the herd because you are surplus to requirements; more than that – you are persona non grata. I’m talking about social media in general and Facebook in particular.

The other day I was browsing my wife’s Facebook page, as you do. After decades of being together we don’t have any secrets, not one, zilch; well apart from the little bit of ‘private browsing’ I do now and again, just to see what it’s all about like. Anyway, enough of that . . .

DJ Self Portrait digital version

So there was a post in her newsfeed from one her ‘friends. Not that they’ve ever met in real life of course, this was one of her ‘Facebook Friends’ who only added her up as a friend because they mistook her for someone with influence in the publishing industry. They are more of a networking contact than a friend, but that’s how it goes on social media – everyone’s got something to flog, even if it’s just their blog, the one where they like to entertain you with ramblings about what sludge they had for lunch or what they thought of the over-hyped gig they went to last night,

OK, I know it’s ironic that I’m doing the same thing – sort of, but I’ve long since given up actively trying to sell or promote anything. I won’t even draw any attention to this post except maybe by way of a solitary tweet to my meagre hundred or so alleged followers.

So this post, from one of my wife’s friends said “Congratulations! If you’re reading this then you have survived the cull.” Now I was initially quite pleased by this, because I had thought of this ‘friend’ as an interesting person who possibly had some talent in the writing department, and who was my Facebook friend as well as my wife’s. But then I remembered that I was reading my wife’s Facebook feed instead of my own.

I jumped back to my computer and looked at my own Facebook feed, just to make sure. Nope not a sign of that post, and when I checked my friends’ list the person was missing.

So yeah, I had been culled.

What am I supposed to do about that? Do I just accept that I’m the sort of person that gets culled, i.e. either a non-entity or an annoyance, then just shrug and get on with my pathetic life? Or do I log in again to my wife’s Facebook account and defriend the offender on her behalf?

I don’t know what to do, I’m just an ordinary bloke.

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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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Reviewing the Evidence

Reviewing the evidence
he just walked up to me as if it was an hour ago
my legs were shaking
Oh he sang better than you.
It’s gonna bring tears to your eyes, I promise you
I’m just practising, excuse me
Yes I still want that
Falls asleep ’til about 9 o’clock
Tell-tale signs
New underpants
I found a number of dirty shirts in the wardrobe
Always going to collect money
I couldn’t fault him on that
I told you that the other day
He thought I was bloody thick
It was all in my head
I failed my MOT test

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Make the connection

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Does this pen work?

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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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An ordinary bloke writes about ‘Lessons you learn’

An ordinary bloke writes about ‘Lessons you learn’

I was standing in the queue at Iceland, the frozen food store, yesterday. I was clutching a modestly-sized bag (700g) of McCain’s skin-on fries. We were having a dirty burger night and it was the last item on the shopping list. I’d already bought the Linda McCartney chunky vegan ‘meaty’ quarter pounders (from the big Tesco), 4 crusty white rolls from Brutons the bakers, a small tray of mushrooms from the Co-op, a bag of ‘washed and ready to use’, salad leaves from the small local Tesco, and a block of Violife vegan mozzarella ‘cheese’ from Beanfreaks, the health food shop.

At home already were the seasonings and additives, like a litre of rapeseed oil (from the Co-op), a large squeezy bottle of Tesco mid-range own-brand tomato ketchup, a bottle of Biona cider vinegar (with the mother – Beanfreaks), a tub of Saxa finely-ground sea-salt (small Tesco) and a jar of gorgeous home-made mayo, whizzed up from a block of silken tofu, a cup and a half of own-brand rapeseed oil, half a teaspoon of said salt, the freshly-squeezed juice of a lemon, and a couple of tablespoons of co-op brand Dijon mustard.

Anyway the point is that there was a woman behind me in the queue. She was quite young, probably late twenties, though it is difficult to be precise because she wasn’t in good shape, I mean, for example, she was quite short, just over five feet I’d say, and she was very obese, huge in fact, by any method of measuring. The trunk of her body was a large ball, like one of those orange bouncy things from the seventies that had evolved to an adult size.

She was wheezing and moaning out loud about how long she’d been waiting in the queue. I thought, at first that she was trying to garner my sympathy so that I would let her go first, but she had a large trolley full of the sort of cheap frozen stuff they sell in Iceland, like hot and spicy chicken in breadcrumbs or bags of 22 skinless pork sausages, and I had just one moderately-sized packet of skin-on fries and I had the correct money ready (£1.50), so I decided not to be chivalrous and duly ignored her.

She turned her attention to the person behind her in the queue and said: “They are a real bargain and only 50p each. I turned involuntarily to look at the conveyor belt to see what it was that was such a bargain. There were six 250 gram packets of full-fat butter making their way along the belt, at the beginning of their journey to her already engorged tummy.

I shook my head inwardly, judging her to be a sloppy, lazy, dullard, who if only she stopped eating dirty rubbish like butter, would lose weight, become much fitter and happier, and would not be metaphorically bouncing with joy just because she’d managed to contribute to her undoubtedly early death for such a bargain price.

It took a while, in fact it was tonight, more than 24 hours later, for me to realise how utterly crass and judgemental I’d been, if only in my own head, especially since I am going on for 4 stone overweight myself, and at least half the food I eat is not at all essential to my survival or good health.

So now I’m thinking :-

Nothing is worthless
Everything has a value
No one deserves disrespect
Everyone deserves respect
Everyone is unique and beautiful
Everyone hurts – it’s far better to behave in a way that ameliorates that hurt than in a way that exacerbates it
blah
blah

So, today’s lesson is that what you learn from teachers who don’t even know they’re teaching can sometimes be the best lessons of all.

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