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 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 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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Work in Progress – Extract from “Beats”

This is an extract from Beats, the second novel in the Bums, Beats, and Bones trilogy. Bums has already been published. Beats will follow in 2018.

But it’s not really about the music is it?” Old Steve knew he was pushing his luck but he’d had decades of Billy’s bullshit and now and again he challenged him just for the hell of it.

“Don’t be bloody daft, it’s all about the music – the music is all there is,” Billy huffed.

Old Steve shook his head. “Nah mate! Believe me, you may think that – but all those punters out there – they don’t – not really, not if you dig a bit. Not if you get inside their skulls.”

Billy sighed. “You know what Steve – we’ve known each other since we were kids, a long time – what is it now? Fifty years near enough, but you ain’t got a fucking clue.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know; it would be impossible for you to admit to something contrary to what your whole life is based on. It would turn your brain into mush if you did that – not that your brain isn’t already mush – you lost that in the seventies.”

“Shut the fuck up. You’re doing my head in.”

“That’ll be the drugs too.”

“Who the fuck do you think you are? Without the music you wouldn’t have fuck all. Without The Redcurrents you’d be driving a bus. The music has given you, us, a good life.”

“You could say that about Val Doonican.” Old Steve chuckled at his own joke, it didn’t take much to wind Billy up, he was so insecure, but he’d better not start with all that crap about ‘electrifying’ the seventies with their radical socialist songs – that was pure luck, and Tommy’s lyrics of course.

“Please, I’m not in the mood,” Billy pleaded.

“OK, all right, I’ll shut up. Now, do you want another pint?”

“Ah, go on then, I’ll get them.”

Billy got up, went to the bar and waited for Andy to realise he was there and get off his fat arse to attend to him – he couldn’t be bothered to call out. He stared into nowhere, his mind meandering back through the decades. Of course, Steve was right – the actual music was just the wrapping – like the coloured cellophane around a cube of fancy chocolate. He knew as much as anyone that talented musicians were as common as yellow daffodils in March and good music was as ubiquitous as white seagulls on the inhabited coastline. It was pure luck, with a good dollop of ruthlessness that made a successful career. He knew because he’d been there, done that – got his fucking face on the T-Shirt. But you had to keep up the act – the moment you let it slip, it would be over, you might as well put a gun to your head.

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4 More Oil Paintings

These are probably finished – also added to this gallery

Abstract Landscape #2 – Oil on Canvas 80cm x 60cm – Price: TBA

Bluebell Abstract Landscape #1 – – Oil on Canvas 80cm x 60cm – Price: TBA

The Estuary – Oil on Canvas 80cm x 60cm – Price: TBA

Wavy Abstract – – Oil on Canvas 80cm x 60cm – Price: TBA

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Special offer just 99p/99c books for Kindle

On offer for just £0.99 or $0.99. Click on the book covers for more

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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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Blog abstract number 3

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Work in Progress – TV Scripts

I’m not sure what type of writing I prefer but if I can probably narrow it down to two – they are writing novels and writing film or TV scripts.

I think it’s because each of those forms allow you to write proper ‘stories’ with plots and characters. For example it’s exciting to throw a random plot twist at the characters and see how they react; then follow them to the end to see how everything gets resolved.

There’s time to get to know the characters a bit, time to chill with these new and interesting people. It’s also a bit like that with painting, especially painting portraits, where you don’t know where that first mark on the canvas is going to lead, who is going to emerge from that mess of form and colour.

I suppose that it’s a bit like that for all art-forms – the creation of something out of nothing but an idea. But then, isn’t it a bit like that for science and engineering too? Isn’t it a bit like that for every facet of human existence, from making a cup of tea to designing a spaceship?

There’s nothing special about writers and artists.

Anyway, my work-in-progress includes adapting two of my books into television scripts.

It’s going great so far, in fact both books seem to lend themselves to the visual style of a television script. The books are Bums and Boys from the Backfields and each story is being developed into a six part TV drama. Both books are set  in the industrial/post-industrial town of Elchurch on the South Wales coast but they are very different books in other respects.

Click for more about the books : BUMS or BOYS FROM THE BACKFIELDS

Here’s a sneak peek

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Cardiff Central Library – Open Space Event

Next Thursday December 15th

T O N I T E

open-space-english-leafletmore details on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/1307412925977956/

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Reading and discussion at Cardiff Central Library Open Space Event

On December 15th 2016 from 5:45pm until 7:00pm I will be at Cardiff Central Library reading from and discussing two of my novels – Boys from the Backfields and Cheats and Liars. I might also discuss some of my other books and possibly talk a little bit about the publishing process.

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013Cheats-and-Liars-Front

The two novels

Boys from the Backfields  is a murder mystery set over half a century. The story begins in the 1960’s when Mick a young teenage boy and his little gang witness the murder of Betty Fish while out blackberry picking around the Backfields council estate in South Wales. Mick is haunted by this tragic event for the next 50 years until finally the truth is revealed and the mystery is solved.

Cheats and Liars is set in an affluent inner suburb of Cardiff and follows Brian Llewelyn, ‘The Greatest Living Artist in Wales’ as he comes to realise that his success depends on the sycophants, cheats and liars that share in it. The novel follows Brian as the foundations his life is based on crumble from under him and he has to redefine what is important.

There will also be plenty of time for any questions from the audience.

This is part of the Library’s Open Space Events series and it’s free but space is limited so it might be best to book through Eventbrite where if you search ‘Open Space Cardiff’ you should be able to find them, though, as I write this it may be too early for the December event’s listing.

More about Cheats and Liars

More about Boys from the Backfields

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There’s Always Burnt Jam

I thought I’d written about this before but can’t find it anywhere. I know I did write a poem at least, and I know it ended with the line ‘But there’s always burnt jam.’ I can’t find that either. I wonder how many other poems or snippets of writing I’ve lost, many of them on paper from my teenage years, and many more on broken computer disks since. Ah! Sometimes you just have to let things drift down to the dim depths of the Akashic Records.

It was the late sixties, possibly 1970; I was seventeen or eighteen years old. I used to hang around with a group of young people from around the town of Llanelli, where we behaved in ways that defined that period if you believe the myths that have arisen since. The truth was there were not that many of us, no more than a few dozen – a hundred or so at the most, and that from a population of around 77,000.

Llanelli Beach - Stradey Woods in the background

Llanelli Beach – Stradey Woods in the background

We were a small group, but we were highly visible because of the way we dressed and the way we behaved – roving around the streets, openly smoking joints and tripping on acid, as well as squatting the grass opposite the town hall, playing guitars and engaging in free love, well free foreplay at least. Continue reading

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Detritus on Llanelli Beach

We visited Llanelli Beach yesterday. There were little piles of material along the tidelines. The piles contained a mixture of natural and man-made material. After decades of humankind’s neglect and selfishness God knows how much of this crap is in the sea.

When viewing the images, scroll down and click to view images full size then zoom in on the images for a closer look.

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Extracts from: “The Diary of an Ordinary Man”

Saturday

Despite the sobs, I am not sad. I know what it’s like to feel the weight of the black dog, as Churchill called it, but that’s not what I feel right now. It’s more a sort of extreme frustration, like seeing the taillights of the last bus disappear on a cold, rainy night; the mobile phone’s battery is dead and there’s no money for a taxi anyway.

diaryIt all came to a head in the Asda car park after a silly argument about shower curtains. We’re poor you see. Buying a new shower curtain is a luxury I can’t contemplate, even if it was only ten quid, and would have brightened up our gloomy bathroom, adding a little light to this dark phase of our lives.

Fuck off, she said, just fuck off. So I did. I got out of the car and walked. I cried all the way home. Continue reading

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Oggy Oggy Ugly

Bore Da

rugby-ball-castleRugby again today. Sorry about that, but since I live in Wales I find it difficult to avoid what is effectively a national religion, especially if you listen to Radio Wales in the morning. I used to tune in to Radio 4 but I can’t bear to have it on any more (click here for a video about that).

It looks like I will also have to abandon Radio Wales because of its obsession with rugby, a sport I already have major issues with (see yesterday’s post for more). And then, earlier, on Good Morning Wales, there was a discussion about a report suggesting that conventional rugby is far too dangerous for young children to play, due to the risk of serious injury and the long term consequences of the heavy tackling involved.

The presenters of the programme said they were finding it difficult to find anyone on social media who agreed with the report. They spoke to an ex-player who had to retire because of epilepsy brought on by injuries he received playing rugby, and even he defended the game. I’m not surprised – a while ago, when I worked as an IT consultant I helped two ex-rugby players with their computer setups; both seriously injured by their dalliance with the oval ball. They were in wheelchairs, one was paralysed from the waist down while the other, a quadriplegic, had to operate the computer with a plastic stick attached to a headband, and couldn’t talk properly.

Neither of them blamed the game in any way and I got the impression that they regarded themselves as wounded warriors rather than victims. The Rugby Union paid for their computers and for my time and no doubt for other equipment and services to help make their lives more comfortable. I suppose the money also helped to keep them sweet. I wonder how many other people are tucked away unseen in adapted accommodation nursing their rugby wounds for the rest of their lives.

Like all my contemporaries I was forced to play rugby in my early years at Llanelli Grammar school and was good enough to be selected for the school team, until I fell out with the gym teacher – bastard that he was. After that incident I began to hate the sport – so yes, my antipathy towards it is personal.

If it was up to me I would consign the whole game to the same bin of history as press-gangs and sending kids up chimneys. I accept that not everyone feels the same as I do and if you’re an adult and you want to play then no one’s stopping you, but please, stop forcing children to engage in an activity that can cause them irreversible damage and ruin their lives.

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St David’s Day in Wales

This is a piece I wrote this morning, on St David’s Day. If you would prefer to listen there is an audio recording at the end.

lambIf you believe the hype, the Welsh are rugby-obsessed lamb-eating choristers. As with most lazy stereotyping this is completely wrong of course. I’m as Welsh as they come and I don’t like rugby, lamb or male voice choirs. It’s not just me though, but most Welshies are too afraid to admit it. For example, a friend persuaded me to go to a rugby international in the Millennium Stadium a few years ago, to see a match involving our Celtic cousins Ireland. Because of a ticketing mix-up I ended up sitting up next to strangers in the upper hinterlands of the stadium. Continue reading

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A few recent random pics

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See Slade in their prime for 60p

Yes, just 60p to attend a gig by Slade but you’ll have to travel four decades back in time first.

I came across this poster advertising a gig by Slade at the Glen in Llanelli in 1970/71.

I was taking pictures for a new website for the No Strings Rock Bistro in Llanelli. The bistro has just been opened by Tony Rees, originally from Cardiff, who himself, played at the Glen in 1968.

Thing is, it was me who organised that gig. I was vice-president of the students’ union at the local college at the time and I remember going backstage to pay Slade, I think it was about £200 in cash. I remember we made money on the night so seeing as it was only 60p to get in, we must have had a good few hundred punters in.

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