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.