Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Today’s To Do List

Collect Thoughts
Drink Tea
Have Fag
Try Again
Be Philosophical This Time
Remember Housework? Just Saying
Cook Food Which Nobody Eats
Hide Feelings in Poem
Notice the Time
Drive Somewhere Else
Laugh in All the Right Places

(Full list appears in this month’s “You and Your Chin”)

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Entertainment has Arrived

The Entertainment has Arrived –
   third door on the left.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   riding on a donkey.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   on alternate seconds.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   in the Big Time.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   as we say.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   all covered in honey; wrapped up in a £5 note.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   if only for my sake.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   listen to the roar.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   with his girlfriend.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   causing widespread famine and disease.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   either way, you lose.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   and to Hell with the consequences.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   has it indeed?
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   if you say so.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   for a little piece and quiet.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   three weeks past its sell-by date.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   back from his holidays, all in one piece.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   but nor for such as you or I, my flower.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   after last week’s shock resignation.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   in a variety of different flavours.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   before the final act has even started.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   although the middle bit confused me.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   was it really necessary?
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   The entertainment has arrived?
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   how come nobody told me?
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   borne by stretchers.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   in an email.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   armed with a water pistol.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   with heavy showers expected to follow.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   after this ad-break.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   by the light of the syrupy moon.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   get outta here while the clock’s still ticking.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   green was the colour of my true-love’s hair.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   gold-diggers of the world unite and take over.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   avoiding the long-term harmful effects.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   is the final decision.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   gets emotional, leaves the room.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   call for a specialist.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   the entertainment hasn’t arrived.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   hypomania? Don’t mind if I do.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   sealed in a big, black box labelled label.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   written in gobbledegook.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   two vouchers short of a pop-up toaster.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   reclining, drinking, and swearing in Russian.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   what makes you think you’re so special?
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   taking its secrets to the grave.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   strawberry jam for pudding.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   give a dog a bone.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   try and mask your disappointment.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   attack! attack! attack!
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   after the last disaster.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   as if we were in any doubt.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   have you ever thought of stopping?
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   with backing vocals by Sting.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   we are not amused.
The Entertainment has Arrived –
   and that was that was that. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A Long Apprenticeship

Antionakis Sheftalia felt that the secret to being a successful chef was to understand plumbing thoroughly.

Thus it was that after twenty-years of u-bends and financially remunerative emergency call-outs, Mr Sheftalia decided that he had paid his dues and could finally open up his restaurant.

The menu was mainly over-brewed sugary tea and the occasional digestive, but the loos were executive standard.

Last Night’s TV

Two lovers carve their names in living wood;
the bold calligraphy of her heart
displays elsewhere on other special trees.

Answers fight their way into the exam paper
for fear of being stranded in a section
of the brain which is never again accessed.

A late and uninformative thank you
letter is tortured into existence
by a furiously embarrassed mother.

In one dull place, the words which might have formed
a poem struggle for coherence in
a conversation about last night’s t.v.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Yesterday, I Held the Sky

“You cannot hold the sky,” she said. “It isn’t
yours to hold, and besides, your arms aren’t wide
enough.” I held my arms apart and touched the
horizons with my fingertips. “But look,”
I said. “I am holding the sky.” “How heavy
is it?” she asked. “It’s lighter than your first
laugh,” I said. Then she moved to stand beside me,
stretched her arms as wide as they could go,
and danced around the field on angel tiptoes.

We Exchanged your Son for a Haircut

for Cathy, July 2003

So, this is where my mother said goodbye.
Quite difficult to contemplate, and yet
I do. A different woman, who is also
my mother, (though she wasn’t at the time),
stole me away. Her husband, full of kindness
and sympathy (there is no irony
intended), took my no-longer-mother
to have her hair done. The past is a foreign
country; they do things differently there. Was
he referring to the hairstyles, do you think?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

On the Transience of the Painting of Distant Clouds on the Horizon

There are rare days, where clouds from far away
acquire a fixity about them, making
that picturesque landscape seem real, but not
as life, rather as art. And see the very
next morning: all of it has changed or gone.

Ah, Nature – you capricious, restive spirit.

Saturday, 17 August 2013


Tonight, before you fall asleep, if
you grasp an ink-pen in your hand, will words
be written on the sheets when you awake?

Will lines appear across the surface of
the wooden floor, the wall, the bathroom mirror,
explaining how you made it through the night?

Or will you write a poem on her body,
of Beauty, Happiness, and Love that is,
to be washed off in the morning’s rain?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Tea Situation

"You're so fucking weird," she said. 

It had been in response to something I had said. 

She had kindly offered to make me a cup of tea, but the only tea immediately visible in the kitchen was Lapsang Souchong which, if you are unfamiliar with it, tastes like a bonfire in a cup. 

"I'll go and explore the tea situation," she said, then did an impression of a person who very much did not want to go downstairs and explore the tea situation.

"You don't have to go and explore the tea situation," I said.

"The tea situation isn't the problem," she replied.

"It might be if it's hidden in the roof," I said.

What's so fucking weird about that?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

To Happiness

By Edna Clarke-Hall (1879 - 1979)

In the doorway there you stand
leaning lightly, with your hand
on the lintel – well I know
you will turn, and lightly go.

My Great-Great Aunt Edna was an artist and poet.
This poem is from a collection called “Facets”, published in 1930.

Fortune Cookies (Part 1)

Like most things in my life, I hadn’t thought
it through at all. Instead, I’d acted on
a whim: invite the neighbours round for tea.
And where’s the whim in that? I hear you ask,
but wait! Dismiss this whim as nothing more
than normal conduct, if you must, but first
please hear this key, essential detail of
the invitation: when I say the neighbours
I don’t mean Dave and Jill who live next door
(those aren’t their real names, by the way, but just
a loose approximation of that thing
we call ‘poetic licence’); neighbours here
refers to every person in our street:
indifferent youths who wouldn’t want to come;
the too-nice parents dragging them along;
some sprightly, geriatric folk;
and one young same-sex couple from The North.
   I won’t regale you with the details of
their various arrivals, save to say
that those who weren’t embarrassed were bemused.
It’s fair enough, I guess: if you’d expected
to be the only guests invited over
for tea and half the neighbourhood turned up
within five minutes, you’d be nonplussed too.
   The tea itself was quite a lavish spread.
Or, rather, would have been a lavish spread
if neighbours here referred to Dave and Jill
and no-one else; but as it was, two plates
of sandwiches, a chocolate cake, a tray
of flapjacks, half-a-dozen scones with jam
and cream, and one small pot of tea did not
go far when shared between twenty-three
surprised and hungry neighbours who were crammed
inside my kitchen. Quite surprising, really,
that they were too polite to leave, apart
from poor old “Mrs Cat” from Number 8,
for whom I had to call an ambulance.
   I feared that her departure might provoke
a sudden exodus, and that was why
I locked them in my kitchen. “Please stay calm!”
I shouted from the living-room. The noise
Subsided long enough for me to tell
them that (surprise, surprise!) I’d baked them all
a Fortune Cookie. (This was why I’d asked
them round for Sunday tea: to spread the joy,
throughout our neighbourhood, of eating cookies
and reading fortunes simultaneously.)
   Explaining that I might be armed, so no
quick moves, I turned the lock inside the door
and slowly pulled it open. Everyone,
without exception, seemed somewhat suspenseful;
the expectation of a fortune cookie
had clearly piqued the interest of my guests,
exactly as I’d hoped. Hooray for me.
   After a small commotion, during which
we all made friends, I handed out the cookies.
   I’m not entirely sure what happened next,
but when my consciousness returned, the scene
was reminiscent of the time when I
had pushed my mother down the stairs,
by which I mean that there was quite a bit
of screaming, stuff was on the walls, and on
my hands and clothes, and I could barely think
for all the noise those bloody sirens made.

to be continued…

(21st/22nd July 2013, Barnyards-dels-Asprins)

Forty-Four and Counting

As if the world isn’t already enough of a messed-up place,
We now have doctors whose aim it is to persuade you that it is 
   tantamount to an illness to have lines on your face.
“Holy Grand Canyon!” he shrieks as you walk into his plush, private 
   surgery. “I’ve never seen a face with lines so disordered and erratic.”
You’re too alarmed by this professional diagnosis to notice the shiny 
   shredder on his desk marked OATHS: HIPPOCRATIC.
And thus it is, with legs of jelly and heart full of despair
That you collapse into his plastic consulting-room chair.
“No need to worry: a few cuts here and a few slices there,
We’ll soon have you looking like a bulimic octogenarian in the throes 
   of an anaphylactic shock brought on by eating one too many 
   Walnut Whips,”
He professionally quips.

If ever I had to propose somebody as an Enemy of the People, this man 
   would be it.
How infected with existential bile
Do you have to be to massacre the beauty of a well-worn smile?
Wield the knife? Don’t even tempt me.
These people must be ethically empty,
Because otherwise they’d say, “I can’t make you any more beautiful 
   than you already are.
All cosmetic surgery does is turn your face into a massively ridiculous 
   and repulsive scar.
Fine – if you want a face that looks like the aftershock of a dozen 
   different drafts of Edvard Munch’s “Scream”,
Then go ahead, cosmetic surgery’s obviously for you, and I wish you 
   all the best in your mentally-ill quest to realize your nightmarish 

Of course, something’s got to get you into the consulting room in the 
   first place;
Something’s got to get you feeling that an old face is the worst face,
And this is where we meet those first-class despisers of all humanity,
Those people whose job it is to persuade you to buy into their particular 
   brand of insanity:
The Advertisers.

It could almost be funny,
If it was simply a case of, “L’Oreal – because you’re gullible and we 
   want your money.”
But it goes far, far deeper than that.
It’s not just an exercise in pickpocketing your wealth;
These people are out to undermine the very way you feel about yourself.
“Combat the Seven Signs of Ageing,” they assert, as if this was a 
   well-established scientific fact, so specific it must be true.
SEVEN. There are SEVEN signs of ageing, and they’re all coming for…
Seven signs of Ageing? Sounds more like bollocks to me.
One: deteriorating eyesight.
Two: having to get up for a piss every night.
Three: repeating yourself.
Four: repeating yourself.
Five. Deafness.
Six:                  . I said, “INCONTINENCE”.
Seven: Death.
What kind of cream are these magicians selling?

They’re not selling cream; what they’re selling is insecurity 
About the inevitability of advancing maturity.

Don’t buy into it; it’s all lies – and you know it.
You’ve got a new line on your face? Then celebrate it; show it!
Look at me – my life has given birth to a new line today!
Sing – if you’re Glad to be Grey!

When I am old, if I ever get to that stage,
When people look at my face, I want them to know my age:
Forty-four, and counting.

(27th July, 9-ish – 11-ish a.m. Bank-Balance-dels-Aspen-Colorado)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


That sky was a distorting mirror,
reflecting back your likeness. "That,
you said, "that is how things are
     beyond elsewhere."

On days when you felt an easiness,
your weightless smile ascended to that
firmament overhead. You muttered,

On some days, all you saw was the
impressionist contusion of your
impending cloudburst, "injuring
     the sky," you said.

So when you asked me what the weather
would be that day, I told you, "Look 
with that dark eye of yours; look up
     towards the sky."

You took the obsidian glass
from that distempered eye and skimmed it
across the level surface of 
     an anvil cloud.

That whole sky shivered into giant,
falling, grey shards. And afterwards,
when the rains came, they washed away
each bruise, and let you see the sky.

(Banoffee pie-dels-asp viper, 6th/7th August)

Elsewhere and Afterwards.


She did a proper double-take,
a real 'glance/look away/gasp/
look back again (with mouth agape)/
and stare' number, all in the space of
one thousand millionth of a second.

Sunbathers dozed. Two lifeguards chatted.
A mother rushed to scoop her child up
before the wave crashed. Sand was kicked
by brothers. Summer yawned fully,
and everyone enjoyed their beach.

But none of them had seen her vision.
She stared in silence at the image
walking upon the breaking surface,
far out beyond the rolling platform,
then laughed, as if for the first time.

(Bankruptcy-dels-Aspartic acid, 7th/8th/9th August)


I used to think that aeroplanes were ships,
sailing above my head upon the clear
blue waters of the sky, but now I see
that they are fasteners whose vapour trails
unzip the heavens. Look again next time:
it seems that on the other side is nothing.

(Banarama-dels-Aspirant, 9th August)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Know Smoking

“You can do it to your heart’s contents,” she said, when I’d asked her if she’d minded my smoking.
   “Surely you mean my heart’s conTENT?” I said.
   “Your heart’s a tent?” she said. “That explains a lot.”
   “No, my heart’s not a tent, and what does it explain?” I said.
   “Well, if your heart isn’t a tent, it doesn’t explain anything,” she said, “though it baffles me why you said it was in the first place.”
At this point, I lit a cigarette, blew smoke in her face, and left.
   “Smoke isn’t blue, it’s grey,” she said, as I walked away.
(4th August, or was it 3rd? Banjos-dels-Hairspray)

Chaos Theory

A butterfly flaps its wings in Wakefield and in Vasco da Gama there is a thunderstorm. Not everything is meaningfully connected or causally linked; coincidental. Somebody, somewhere, doesn’t understand cause and effect. An absent-minded man walks into a lamp-post and develops a headache. Sure, life is chaotic; I’ll drink to that, especially if it means we can all cheer as the notion of planning one’s life, at the expense of spontaneity, leaps off a cliff edge. A butterfly flaps its wings in Wakefield and, as a result, in Vasco da Gama, nothing is changed. Yes, thank you. And sanity returns.

(31st July scribbled in the half-light of the early morning, Bandwagon-dels-Asperities)

Family Joke

A new family joke, courtesy of St. Bernadette of the Abandoned Wine Warehouse (our sat-nav). BEAR LEFT. The first time I say it, “Where?” in response to her command, as I attempt some rare ill-timed levity in the midst of a brewing storm, it is met with completely understandable silence from all concerned. Three days later: same road, same bend, same command. Same joke. Different person (son 1). “Where? I can’t see a bear.” This time met with a ruffle of laughter. As with so many things in life, the exasperated “It wasn’t even funny the first time” lament of the humourless parent doesn’t apply. The more you say it, the funnier it becomes (have you never watched The Fast Show?). BEAR LEFT. “That’s not a bear, that’s a dual carriageway.” See? Absolutely hilarious. Or, as my sister might still say, thirty years on, “Absolutely Hilary’s Arse.” How we laughed.

(29th July Bandicoots-dels-Asphericals)


Lock Up Your Great-Great-Grandmothers, It’s Pantomime Season Again

It doesn’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than this: The Rolling Stones playing their hundredth anniversary gig.
   The corporate logos light the backdrop as, for support, U2’s grandchildren take to the stage dressed as Morrissey Dancers, cavorting meaninglessly to a medley of their one tune: four-and-a-half notes played through The World’s Most Complicated Effects Unit, which no-one remembers. Paul McCartney’s seventh wife, a new remix of “Hey Jude” (accidentally released from a computer in Barbados) sings backing tambourine.
   After a forty-five minute ad-break for the new Blueberry iWantitnow!, The World’s worst Rock Band, their corpses wheeled out like Lenin’s Red Square Freak-Show, unleash their manifesto on an unsuspecting world (maaa-an!):
“Rock ‘n’ Roll is Dead.”

   As Salman Rushdie later gushes in his review for the Business Section of The Financial Times: “The carcass of Lord Jagger of Tax Haven rippled across the stage in the most unconvincing spectacle the world has ever seen. This, then, was the True Spirit if Rock ‘n’ Roll made decomposing flesh. I loved every minute. Hey, these guys are my pals, actually, so I do have rock credibility credentials and a leather jacket.” A review for which the NME issues another one of its fatwahs.


It’s all so unnecessarily tragic.
   When Bill Hicks said (always a statement which carries a sainthood-alert caveat), “I want my rock stars dead,” I don’t think this is what he had in mind.
   Rock ‘n’ Roll is Dead?
   It doesn’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than this, then, does it?

(25th July a.m. Bandanas-dels-Asphalts)

Fergusthepoet only listens to embarrassing pop music or opera, so what do he knows, eh? Pffft.


You’re at the beach, at last, and doing all
you can to try and get a proper tan.
Not for you the unnatural orange spray
that makes you look like Colleen Rooney on
a really rubbish day; that’s not the way
you Englishmen abroad behave. So what
if you’ve acquired a rather rubicund
complexion, laughably resembling an
embarrassing infection more commonly
referred to as: Lobster Face? Think of it
as apoplectic rage meets terminal
frustration and we have the general picture
of what you look like at the end of Day One. 
   Day Two arrives, and what is this we see?
Oh-deary-me. It’s not a pretty sight,
especially when the sunburn’s kept you up
for half the night. If anything, it’s worse
than Day One’s Lobster Miracle: you are
a beetroot. Look into the mirror for
the evidence empirical, and weep.
More sunbathing must keep until tomorrow,
but in the meantime, drown your sunburn sorrow
by drinking from the bar a beer
or nine or ten and then collapse upon
a sunbed for a sleep till God knows when.
And thus we leave Day Two: sunburnt, hungover,
The Quintessential Englishman Abroad.
   Days Three and Four and Five go by in quick
succession: drink too much, eat too much, sun
and sea and lack of sex, predictable
depression at the thought of going home
in two days’ time. But wait: at least you seem
to have what might pass for a tan. In Swindon.
   Day Six: the day before you travel back,
the day before you have to pack, the
on which you might have said, “Farewell,” to friends
you didn’t make. You dwell upon the post-cards
half-written, not-yet-sent, the budget which
you overspent, the novel which you meant
to read, the tourist tat you didn’t need,
and then the thought pops up from nowhere:
this week has been a microcosm of
your life. You stop, surprised at this rare bout
of insight. You reflect upon your life:
like five fifteen in the afternoon,
it's Pointless. This unwelcome rumination
starts to nag at you How did it come
to this? The highlight of your year: a week
of doing nothing, going on the piss,
and ending up hating yourself... because.
   Day Seven. Spare us all the details. It’s
too late to salvage anything of worth.
Another wave of clarity and you
decide to end it all; the holiday,
that is. You leave the hotel, catch the first
flight home and, once again, surprise your girlfriend
with a premature arrival. She looks
at you askance and tell you that you’re peeling.

(1st/2nd/3rd August Banbury-Cake-dels-Asphyxiate)