Friday, 27 December 2013

26 Words

A new direction.
It’s time for change.
Plan for change.
Ready for change.
Vote for change.
Leadership for a better future.
Britain can deliver.
Hardworking people.

Change Britain.
Change for people.
Change can change.
It’s time for a new hardworking leadership.
Plan for direction.
Vote for better.
Deliver for a future.

People vote for a hardworking future.
It’s time for Plan A.
Britain better deliver.
Leadership ready for new direction.
For change! For change!
Can change change?

Britain can deliver time for hardworking people.
Ready for new change.
It’s change (for a change).
Vote for a future
Plan for better.
Change leadership direction.

Plan! Vote! Deliver!
Change! Change!
Time for Britain! Ready for Better! Leadership for People! 
   Hardworking For New!
It’s a change!
For a future can change direction.

[The eight phrases in (i) were the slogans for the last eight Conservative Party Conferences; I arsed about with them for 'stanzas' - pah! - (ii)-(v).]

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Massacre of the Innocents, Part Three

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with what he had learned from the Magi.
   This confused the general reader, who thought, “Hang on, Part Two mentioned the death of Herod: what’s going on? Furthermore, why didn’t the Angel who initially communicated with the Magi just tell them to avoid Herod? Then all of those baby boys would not have been so senselessly massacred.” But the Angel hadn’t, and lots of baby boys were unnecessarily slaughtered through a simple lack of Godly foresight. Or they would have been, had Herod not died in 4BC.

This is the word of the Lord.

Response: Is it really?

The Massacre of the Innocents, Part Two

“…kill him.”
   Instead of remonstrating with the Angel about suggesting he appear to Herod, for real, and scare him out of this idea, or maybe send his mate, the not-surreal but very real Angel of Death, the one from off of the Passover, Joseph got up, for he always followed his dreams, even when they involved supernatural messengers from outer space (if not there, then where?), and even when he was asleep, for he was a somnambulist (and not just a carpenter).
   He (Joseph) took the child and his mother (that one) during the night (for he was still asleep) and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.
   And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son,” which was not in the least contrived by Matthew (the author of this Gospel, i.e. me) to prove that he (the baby) was the Messiah, as a way of tricking credulous Jews to convert to the early church.

The Interval: please collect your drinks

The Massacre of the Innocents, Part One

An Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, for Joseph always followed his dreams, even when they involved dolphins, so there was no need for the Angel to appear in the flesh (not like that); thus the Angel appeared in a dream, which fulfilled the prophecy about dreams. And Angels. Which meant the Angel didn’t really appear at all, did he?
   “Get up,” he (the surreal Angel) said.
   But Joseph replied, “I can’t. I’m in a dream. Pinch me. See? Didn’t feel a thing.”
   The fantasy/hallucination/trance Angel replied, “No, but seriously, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child and…” (cue sinister corduroys…)

…to be continued…

Starting at the End

On the 12th Day of Christmas my stalker gave to me:

12 pictures of me on holiday in Wales,
11 items from my dustbin,
10 nuisance phone calls,
9 copies of “Love Actually”,
8 drowned kittens (“had a bad day today”),
7 unidentifiable objects (burnt),
6 ml “of my blood”
copies of Thomas à Kempis’s “The Imitation of Christ” with key passages 
  “which remind me of you” highlighted in green,
4 flat tyres,
3 veiled death threats,
2 tickets to see Gary Barlow,
And a disturbing sense of my own vulnerability.

Weather Features

Weather features were fashion items:
low-slung clouds hung slack, like faulty trousers;
glass-bead raindrops, stilled mid-flow, were ear-rings;
wind – wind! all wind! – made one’s hair extravagant;
hot-cold weather fronts gave the appearance of cool.

Loon Attic

What fresh calamities of woe?
   What dread deadbeat feet stamp
With felony and larceny, descending
   Like death’s dark shadow-lamp?

What lunacy of thought is this?
   When caught between two fools,
Who flap their hands like dying flames
   Before the fever cools.

It’s done, to everyone’s relief.
   Cars smash, wind howls, thieves hide,
Incongruous, like mournful friends
   Berating one who died.

A Flippant and Facetious Difference (between Art and Science)

Painters experiment with colour,
Poets experiment with words,
Scientists experiment with (initially) live  rats.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Then Vanish

And so, create your desiccated heart
from blood and straw. Experiment with other
unlikely, doomed concoctions till you nearly 
chance on a remedy to fix what you've 
just broken. A lifetime's supply of salt
and air could not restore your sense of taste,
and no amount of poison, good or bad,
will bring back what you didn't know you'd lose.
You live each day like dust, and (worse) as dust. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas List

Dear Father Christmas,

In keeping with An Age of Austerity (and Because I Am Lazy) this is a shorter list than usual, but nevertheless, please could you include the following in my stocking:

glamorous atheists calendar (2008); 
a new conspiracy theory; 
DIY arsonist kit; 
an apocalypse; 
a certain sense of smug self-satisfaction; 
John Lennon.

If it’s not too much to ask.



ps You do not exist and neither do I.

Dictionary of Foreign Words in English: A - H


après ski – the feeling of dissatisfaction after eating a low-fat yogurt

autobahn – a road which travels along itself


beau geste – an aesthetically pleasing joke

bête noir – an addiction to gambling


carpe diem – boasting about one’s new Dr Marten’s boots

cause célèbre – something which makes you famous

chic – a stylish Arab

cliché – black-and-red poster, usually found in University Halls of Residence

cognoscenti – a group of experts, usually at hating sport

cul-de-sac – enforced castration

cui bono? – literally “Who is bono?” (abbr. of “Who does Bono think he is – God? Right, let’s show him how unimportant he is by lower-casing his name, if you can call it a name.”)


danse macabre – any sort of physical movement in response to music

de facto – hard-of-hearing thespian who has problems finishing his wor(ds)

delerium tremens – one’s twenties

dramatis personae – a collection of vain, self-regarding idiots

dumkopf – a police-officer


eau de cologne – the most fragrant section of the River Rhine

en famille – lacking ceremony (or joy)

en route – lost

erratum (pl. errata) – a newspaper (pl. newspapers)

et al – an empty larder

eureka – someone who doesn’t stay long enough in the bath

ex cathedra – luxury flats with stained-glass windows

exeat – weekend on which boys whose parents live abroad discover the joys of abandonment


fatwa – a thinwa who has really let himself go

faux pas – when fighting in a civil war (e.g. adolescence) and your father is on the opposing side, he is said to be a faux pas

film noir – a film which leaves you completely in the dark, usually French

führer – a person who is always angry, usually German


garçon­ – reason for feeling suddenly panicky during Mass

gendarme – one who stands around all day smoking Gauloises and leaning on a machine gun

gravitas – someone whose BMI exceeds 30 is said to have gravitas


haiku – Japanese poetic form, popular amongst English primary school teachers, who little understand it.

halal – meat which comes from an animal killed in strict accordance with Muslim law, i.e. barbarically

haute cuisine – food which has come straight from the oven  

hoi polloi – The House of Commons

homo sapiens – a member of the early cabinet of Margaret Thatcher (a 20th Century witch)

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Centre for Gushing Insincerity

A new report from The Self-Centre for Gushing Insincerity has suggested that actually, people really value the ideas of humility, forgiveness, and reconciliation more than a new PlayStation.
   "People are wrong to suggest that society today is characterized by rampant vanity, rapacious greed, and self-righteous fury (due to the fact that everyone else is always wrong about everything)," said a spokesdwarf.
   To show their support, a crowd of mourners set about the immolation of a passing iconoclast for not being humble, forgiving, or conciliatory enough.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Violent Jimmy

Violent Jimmy, Jimb to his mates and “Aaarrghh!” to his victims, were let out of prism like the air escaping from the nearly flat tyre of a long-abandoned bicycle, that is, without any fuss and nobody noticing.
   “Off to the DIY shop for me, oh, yes!” were him first words. Did he thought about nothing hells but the aisle of drills for the best part of eight years?
   Oh, dear me. Whatever necks?

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Hardly Any Teeth

When Little Lucinda Belinda By ‘Eck Bananas* was borned, her stewid Dad creaked, “Doorknobs, Betty, our bairn’s not hardly got any teeth in her face at all. Now, what am you made of that, eh?”
   She blamed him family full square and no mistake. “Your Ma’s a toothless old second-hand sofa, Steve. It’s all your flat our daughter has faulty jeans!” And so slaying, Betty wept the titter beers of a gret.
   “Shut up, you!” said a person. “One day she am have a bairn of her own, and what then, eh?” They all stood in silent conflagration at this thoughts.
   “Not now she won’t,” said Granpa, as he threw the baby out of the window. “We don’t want your sort round here.” And they all cheered loudly, but not before.

* Her family am a posh one, so she would lots of words in she name.

Never Kick a Man When He's Down...

...only kick a man when he’s standing,
And, if you really are going to kick him, do the decent thing and
    make sure that he has a soft landing.
Whilst on the subject of kicking men, I would advise that you kick a
    man who is not only standing up (obviously), but who is also articulate, 
    artistic, and sensitive,
As opposed to a 15-stone truck driver who is standing up (ditto), but
    drunk, violent, and extremely argumentative.
With the former, you have every chance of walking away victorious,
With the latter, you are likely to sustain a multitude of blows most
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and there is one
    exception when you must kick a man when he’s down,
Yes, go for all the kicking you like with gay abandon and gusto
    if you ever come across the reclined figure of a man who happens
    to be a clown.
Such a person is probably mentally sick,
And in need of a good kick. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013


Reflecting on words I never spoke –
Real or imagined, solemn or joke –
   My mind is stirred once more,
By the madness that absence always brings:
It dances foul and shrilly sings,
   Like symphonies at war.

Discordantly drowning in minor keys,
The size of the sky and the Seven Seas,
   And all that’s in between,
While answers we seek remain unsaid,
To chance every day until it’s dead,
   In ignorance obscene.

Fill every beat from one to ten,
Breathe from the heart with loaded pen:
   The loss of love life calls.
Stand with your back behind the breeze,
Silent as gaps between the trees;
   Unnoticed, sadness falls.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Rallying Cry

Call for the generals, the guards and the gaolers,
   Call for the scrupulous crooks,
Call for the Febergé asthma inhalers,
   Call for the unwritten books.
      Sing to the crowd,
      “I’ll not be cowed!”
Make your pronouncements unreasonably loud.

Call for the cavalry riding on goats,
   Call for the times we forgot,
Call for the Admiralty’s half-sunken boats,
   Call for the things that are not.
      Wave at them now,
      Give them a bow,
Turn on your heels before saying, “Ciao!”

Call for the mysteries none can unravel,
   Riddles both unwise and vain:
Ageing quite badly, unsuited to travel,
   By time, or by space, or by train.
      Look at them go,
      As uphill they flow,
Thinking they’re “Yes!” when really they’re “…no”.

Call for the terrible silence eternal,
   Call for the soil on your head,
Call for the loss of protection paternal,
   Call for yourself when you’re dead.
      See what is done,
      When you wipe out the sun:
Memories weaken then fade one-by-one.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


“All a poet can do today is warn” (Wilfred Owen)

A shame we never listened to that poet
who drank the poisoned well of human feeling;
who fell into the field of wounds and bled.

The soldier: now, the victim, not the hero;
who's led to die in men-filled abattoirs
the size of towns; worth less than condemned meat.

Sing out! Sing out! Sing out! You Hymns of Hate!
You half-rhymed words of warning! Tell the men
who fight: you are the enemy you kill.

The final insult to The Dead. We fight;
we maim; we kill: as if you never died.
As young men’s years are all undone. Again.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

NCT Barbecue

“And what do you do?” my wife had asked the Mousey-Looking Husband of a friend who happened to be standing next to her in our small group of mainly strangers at the NCT barbecue.
   “If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” replied Mousey-Looking.
   “Looks like we’ll have to guess, then,” I said to my wife, whose face didn’t so much fall as run to the nearest cliff-top and leap. “It’s okay,” I explained to the assembled group, “my grandfather worked for the intelligence services and he told me that as long as people guessed his work and he didn’t actually tell them, then he didn’t have to kill them.” However, before I had a chance to play my little guessing game, my wife had turned to the Inexplicably Smug-yet-Unattractive-Looking husband of another NCT friend.
   “And what is it you do?” she asked.
   “If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” replied Inexplicably Smug-yet-Unattractive-Looking, smiling conspiratorially, and smugly, at Mousey-Looking.
  By way of diversion, and possibly in an attempt to lighten the mood, Someone’s Wife asked me, “And what do you do, Fergus?” Tempted though I was to say “If I told you, I’d have to kill you” I didn’t, but I was loath to tell her that I was an undercover Islamist working on a new vest design for Al-Qa’eda. Instead, I turned to Mousey and Smug. 
   “If I told you, you’d have to kill me.”

Monday, 28 October 2013


For James Green

Here comes your wife: beauty transcendent,
Elegance personified, in raiment resplendent –
   Oh, how satisfying it is to love a woman who’s modern and independent.
You’re proud of the choice of your mate matrimonial,
Her outward appearance a flawless testimonial
To your impeccable judgement and taste,
And the main reason, on nights such as this, that so few of your thoughts are chaste.

She’s about to leave, you’re about to follow along,
But she stands there silent, for just a second too long –
   Oh, how awkward it is to love a woman when you don’t know what it is you’ve 
   done wrong.
Suddenly, she smiles (Oh, thank God!) and utters a remark
Which leaves you panicking: terrified, clueless, in the dark.
“Notice anything different?” her voice innocently lilts,
But all you can see are the ghosts of answers past diving to hide under their quilts.

You study her face: two eyes, a nose, a mouth. No, definitely nothing’s changed,
And it’s all in the right place, too; the geography of her physiognomy reassuringly 
   un-rearranged –
   Oh, how comforting it is to love a woman who doesn’t look deranged.
Your eyes dart everywhere in a fury of “What’s different?” detection,
For you have all of about five seconds to complete your 
   “What’s different?” inspection,
After which your answer must illustrate that you are the master of 
   “What’s different?” discernment,
Or else spend the rest of the evening in frosty “My husband can’t spot 
   the difference” internment.

You glance at her coiffured, immaculate hair,
It’s still the same colour and all of it’s there.
Both ears are in place and she’s not lost a limb,
She seems to be neither less large nor less slim.
Although it’s unlikely, you look just in case,
To check that she’s still got the lines on her face.
Perhaps she has changed her political views,
Or maybe she’s wearing some avant-garde shoes?
For your last-ditch attempt, you send reason to bed,
And ask of yourself, “Has she grown a new head?”
But you’ve learned, like most men, that to search is to fail,
And the answer still hides, like a smug Holy Grail.

There’s nothing for it now: you head for the last refuge of the unobservant husband 
   and gamble all on a guess,
As you casually inquire if she’s bought a new dress –
   Oh, how easy it is to love a woman who answers “Yes!”

Monday, 21 October 2013


I do not know why certain words upset
me so. There is no reason, none at all,
why simple sounds should drive me up the wall,
or set my teeth on edge, or make me want
to push the twit who said them off a ledge
some fifty storeys high. I don’t know why,
but certain words just make me want to clench
my fists  and shout, as if I’m trying to cast
some wordy demon out. A word I’d like
to kick quite hard, repeatedly, and grind
to dust with size-ten hobnail boots upon
my stamping, grinding feet, is sweet. You see?
There is no rationale at work. I don’t
mind wheat, or tweet, or seat, or even sweat,
but sweet? It’s not the infra dig of, “Would
you like some sweet?” that doth offend mine ear;
the sound itself is what’s at fault. Another
irrational abomination, one
I’d like to push out of an aeroplane
without the comfort of a parachute,
is cute. I don’t mind cut, or coat, or cat,
but cute? It’s such a ghastly, dreadful sound
it makes me want to spit upon its stupid, cutesy face,
but having just ejected it at cruising
altitude, maybe I’m over-reacting?
The third offender on The List of Words
I’d Like to Lacerate and Leave for Dead
is bless. Really? Why? Surely, “Fuck off and die!”?
And yes, you’re right, with bless, I must confess
it isn’t really bless itself, but more
the insincere and patronizing way
it’s said: “Ah, bless!” No, not, “Ah, bless!”
You’re not a saint, so stop with all this bless-ing.
The final malefactor hails from far
away, across the Transatlantic Pond,
from good ol’ USA. And no, I won’t
become all smug, superior and pompous;
I love the way Americans can piss off
the boring English pedant with a well-aimed
“Hospitalization”. It makes my heart
rejoice to see such pain across the face
of one so certain that they’re always right.
But... teary? You cannot be serious!
It’s such a limp, pathetic, dish-rag sounding
disaster of a word. In fact, it doesn’t
deserve the title “word” at all. And here
we see, again, there is no rhyme or reason;
I simply hate the sound of certain words.
I know there’s absolutely nothing wrong
with sweet, or cute, or bless, or even teary,
but when our language is so rich, we can
afford to leave some dying in a ditch,
with twenty fatal gashes to the head.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


People sometimes ask, “Are you a cat person, or a dog person?” a question which 
   leaves me to grumble and mither,
Because I’m never given the option of saying that I’m neither.
“I hate all animals,” I say, by way of a conversation-stopping explanation,
But all this does is elicit from my animal-loving interrogator a pained and appalled 
So charged with horror and shock
It’s as if I’ve just assaulted their animal-loving senses with a canine/feline 
   excrement-filled sock.
“Oh, no!” they shriek. “You can’t say that!”
As if the world isn’t divided on grounds of religion or nationality, but rather on 
   whether one identifies more with a dog or a cat.

Clearly, I’m not going to be allowed to sit on the dog/cat preference fence,
So come out, instead, with a statement I’m sure will cause further offence:
“It depends on how you cook them,” I say,
Much to their further disgust and dismay.
“Oh! You’re just mean!” they petulantly pout,
As if they’ve just twigged what I’m all about.
And as they sit there looking visibly shaken,
I ask them, “Do you prefer sausages or bacon?”

It’ll be bacon, of course; it’s bacon every fucking time: bacon, bacon, bacon, fucking 
   bacon. “Bacon!” they reply, with predictable unoriginality,
Which somewhat undermines the integrity of their animal-shaped sentimentality.
“Bacon?” I say in mock surprise. “I definitely had you down as a sausage person. 
   Just shows: you never can tell!”
“No!” they shout. “Everyone loves bacon; even vegetarians can’t resist the smell!”

Nobody, I learn to my surprise, even that benighted bunch of misfits and weirdos, is 
And it’s here, I suppose, that I should make some insightful point about people 
   being morally inconsistent
When it comes to animal welfare and protection,
But who am I to give an animal-loving animal-eater an ethical intravenous injection
By pointing out the logical incoherence of their position vis-à-vis the liking of 
   animals and being culinarily immoral?
All they did was ask me a question which I turned into a quarrel,
An argument, a fight, an obstreperous racket!
Me with my meat-free diet, my indifference to cats, and my unconscionable leather

Thursday, 3 October 2013


There are drinkers who have only just started on the drink,
And drinkers whose lips are permanently parted for a drink,
Who are the opposite of drinkers who don’t like the taste of a drink,
You know – the same drinkers for whom a good drink is a waste of a drink?

Unfortunately, we have drinkers who sound like a thesaurus on drink,
The very same drinkers who like to bore us about drink
By using words like blackberry, vanilla, chocolate, and spices when describing what you 
   think must be a truly extraordinary drink,
But which, when you drink it, turns out to be quite a pedestrian and ordinary drink.
These drinkers will complain in a restaurant that their wine’s not quite right,
That it’s corked, if you hold the glass up to the light,
And they always address the waiter as if they’re spoiling for a fight,
As if the waiter had corked the bottle deliberately as a pre-meditated, personal slight.

Which, if he didn’t, he should have done.

There are generous but slightly crazy drinkers who put anything and everything, 
   including the kitchen sink in a drink,
Who contrast with mean-spirited drinkers, who put much less in a drink than you think 
   ought to be in a drink,
And these mean-spirited drinkers are the type who turn up to your house with 
   garage-bought inexpensive drink,
Because they think it’s socially acceptable to go around fobbing other drinkers off with 
   what is, in all probability, quite an offensive drink.

We’ve all met drinkers who say they’ll have just the one, and then go on to have just 
   the ten,
Who are the same drinkers who don’t the meaning of when when you say to them, 
   “Just say when!
And those infuriating drinkers who refuse to believe that I, of all people, might actually 
   be on the wagon,
And take great delight in presenting me with a whisky-filled flagon.
Mainly, these would be my family, who are inveterate drinkers; barely have my feet 
   touched the doormat than they’ve poured the first pint, held it out to me with a look 
   that says, “I insist!”
Knowing full well that if you cut me in half, I’m like a drinker equivalent of a stick of 
   Brighton rock emblazoned with the words, “Drink? I cannot resist!”
(Until you’ve seen me drunk, you really don’t know the meaning of pissed.)

There are drinkers who never seem to know when they’ve had enough,
Emboldened by booze, they talk endlessly about random, unconnected, meaningless, 
   tedious stuff,
And when their wife gives them a look, they storm off in a huff
To sleep on the sofa, which is both big and clever as well as being extremely 
   manly and tough.
Who are the same drinkers who think they’re the soul of the party,
With voices too loud and with laughter too hearty,
Who sneer at those drinkers drinking diet coke and Bacardi.

 Mainly because it’s not not real ale.

And finally, we have people who don’t ever drink,
And I don’t know about you, but this is what I think:
If faced with a choice, I would choose
To spend my time in the company of those who reject sobriety and prefer to booze,
Despite the fact that – and here’s a statistic that will surely amaze – 
I haven’t had a drink now... for 278 days.

Is Not Shakespearean

Written for National Poetry Day*

I thought I’d read you all a famous sonnet,
By Shakespeare, Byron, Keats or some such chap.
You’d marvel at its form and think upon it,
And at the end you’d pause and then you’d clap.
And later, maybe in an English lesson,
You’d sit and try and write one just for fun.
Although you’d struggle with it, you would press on;
You wouldn’t stop until the thing was done.
But if I read some hi-falutin’ verse,
You’d sit and look all bored and lost and blank.
You wouldn’t write one later, and what’s worse,
You’d no doubt think that sonnets really stank.
So here’s a sonnet you can understand,
With simple words and written by this hand. 


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Scrumping for Apples

On special weekends, Father would allow us to go scrumping for apples from Mr Hitler’s concrete trees. My brother, Dorigen, would fire as many arrows at the stems of the apples as his battered hands could manage. He was an ace shot and the apples always landed on the razor-sharp grass with a satisfying groan.
   It was then my job to knock on Mr Hitler’s front door to ask for the arrows back. “Excuse me, Mr Hitler, but Dorigen was practising for next week’s Junior Olympics and I think that one of his arrows might have accidentally landed in your garden. Please could I go and get it?”
   Mr Hitler (“Call me Martin!”) was very obliging and would always let me try and negotiate my way through his booby-trapped garden, while he watched from a safe distance behind his favourite shaking bush. I’d usually come away needing a few stitches, and on more than one occasion I lost an eye, but it was always worth it for one of Mr Hitler’s concrete apples.
   As Dorigen and I bit hard into them, teeth would go flying everywhere, and Mother would run into the kitchen wearing her paramedic outfit, sometimes leaving Father in the dungeon for several hours before remembering to untie him.
   Nowadays, parents are far too over-protective and won’t let their children anywhere near television presenters.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Mood Diary, Week 1

For my psychiatrist

Monday: I am too

Tuesday: disorganized to do

Wednesday: this every day

Thursday: Uh-oh.

Friday: moody bastard.

Saturday: you can all fuck off and die; I'm spending the day hiding in a cloud.

Sunday 7 am: HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY-TRA-LA-LA-LA-LA! Let's cook all day long and ignore what really needs doing.