Saturday, 1 March 2014

I build a sandcastle

I sit in a natural pond, high up the beach.
I take wet sand in my fist
and crush it
and it dribbles down into growing, misshaped towers.
I build the uppermost spire,
but each time I squeeze the mixture
I try to build it too tall
and it topples.
Always it topples.

Eventually I conceded that it is done,
though of course it is never done.
I can not sit here for All Time
in this salt-water beach pond
merrily pissing myself.
That would just not be proper.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Supermercado

We could not settle on what to eat.
We could not find methylated spirits,
which was what our little stove required
and so we could not cook.
And, as we could not cook,
we were damned to make a plan,
or else eat in overpriced restaurants
which dried our funds.
It was not enough to simply eat fruit and bread,
so we filled the trolley with
chocolate,
she thinking it was what I wanted,
and me doing the same.
Communications were down,
or else we would have noticed the
flawed logic.

For fifteen minutes, we deliberated
in the cheese isle.
"This cheese smells."
"This cheese is squishy. And also expensive."
"This cheese is not cheese."
She wanted cheddar,
which was too lacking in adventure,
too English,
and so we chose a cheese neither of us wanted,
just to be done with it.
And so ended the saga of the cheese.
For today, at least.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The shower

The shower button only affords fifteen or so
seconds of water.
Abruptly it stops, and in-so-doing
asks,
"More?"
"Yes," I say and press it again.
Countless times I press.
"More?"
"Yes."
I say yes because I know
that when I am out of the shower
I will eat
and drink and write
and after that I will sleep
and after that I must wake and get back upon
the bike.
I say yes because I hate the bike.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Campsite toilet

The toilet had no seat
but this was no surprise
or shouldn't have been, anyway.
There were two dirty marks on either side of the porcelain
where someone had put their feet
and squatted
Before now I have sat on cold ceramics.
I must say
I was not satisfied.
So I too perched upon that white receptacle
and dropped my dung.
I was perturbed by the feeling
of squatting
which was at once so natural
and yet so alien,
and I contemplated nature and nurture
from my pagoda.

Scratched into the door in front of me were the words,
"I'M WATCHING YOU!"
I wondered if the writer was having a good show.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Interview with a short, broken man; time to tell these bright young things what's a crack

I was running late for an interview with an actor, Barry Whitehead. He played Yoda in the first three Star Wars films. Hasn't done much since, as far as I can tell. He was only in town for two nights, and had agreed to spend the second with me. So when I entered the pub two hours late I expected him to have left already. I would not have been surprised, or angry, but disappointed with myself. As luck would have it, however, he was still there.

He was an easy fellow to spot. Two foot four. Ugly as roadkill. He was sitting on a bar stool, his rugby ball head on its side, planted on the bar top, watching the fingers of his right hand moving up and down his drink - a Jack and Coke, as I recall - drawing shapes in the condensation.

He did not acknowledge me as I sat next to him. His eyes were glassy, like a fish's. I hoped he wasn't beyond talking, hadn't settled into an easy solitary drunkenness. I ordered a green tea. His eyes rolled up to my face. The words which followed were hard to discern, mumbled as they were, but my ears soon adapted.

"Are you an alcoholic?"
"Me? No. I don't think so. I'm a writer. Well, a journalist, sort of. But I draw too. I suppose I'm an artist, if that's not too pretentious for you."

He eyed me slowly, trying to figure out what exactly was wrong with me. I would have told him, if I had only known. Instead I filled the silence with more words.

"I only drink when there's some terrible issue needs addressing and I can't go in sober. Would be like trying to deep sea dive without an oxygen tank. Or something. Drinking's like destructive construction. Break yourself in order to find the answer, to rebuild yourself."

"For you, maybe." His eyes returned to his drink, and his fingers returned to licking the glass. He wore an expensive suit, but I felt that it was his only one. Tailor-made suits for men of his stature can't be cheap.

Here I must thank the music, jarring and spiky though it was, and the drinking children, those multi-coloured exotic birds with matching shrill laughs, for without them this would have been a long silence. As it was, we drifted into our own worlds for a moment, or ten minutes - I can't say which.

The story, damn it! You came in here for a story, Forks. Not to drink tea in silence! I thought of my editor, and how he had fought to get the short fellow to meet me up.

Ask him if he did his own stunts. Ask him what it was like working with George Lucas. Ask him what's on the horizon. All these questions he had suggested to me, and none seemed relevant as I eyed the little man. There was something about looking into this great, knowledgable face, which only the bar kept from hitting the floor, that made regular interview procedure seem arbitrary. Sure, I could ask him some set questions, get some answers and walk out of there like a hack. But I came here for a story.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Weird Freak People who can't eat food... IT ALL MAKES SUCH perfect nonsense?

The lady who lives in my house with me, (my partner, you might and should say,) awaited breakfast just the other morning as she sat in the rocking chair, sending off a job application via the internet web, which over time has become God of Our World and the Next.

I descended the stairs, fresh and damp from the shower and, after a brief exchange of pleasant words, set about creating the aforementioned breakfast. Scrambled eggs on toast, we desired, with coffee.

HERE is where this banal tale takes a turn for the tragic. I tell you now of my lady partner's shameful secret, her debilitating disease which turns joy to misery, sugar to dust. Though it does not diminish my love for her to any great extent, it is a burden we must both carry for all our days, or her days - whichever is longer.

Listen. She is incapable of eating wheat or dairy. A new and highly obtrusive dietary malfunction, for sure.

The bread, it is not bread.

But I shall return to the bread shortly, after first saying that the milk, okay, it is from almonds rather than cattle, and who am I, a partially employed scribbling dribbler, to say whether 'tis weirder in the mind to milk a bag of nuts or a four legged beast? Who am I indeed! It is the folly of professionals - not imbeciles - to decide such things, and consequently relate their findings to us, the inadequately educated, iPhone-gazing masses. So the milk is a form of milk, and quite passable, so long as the intention is for a white, milk-like substance to put in tea and on cereal, rather than a true recreation of the original. To be allegorical, it is not a Milk cover band, more of a less popular band of a similar genre to Milk, with niche lyrics that appeal to people who are unashamed to be different.

The eggs, okay, eggs is eggs, and as they are not dairy, nor wheat, the eggs remained as eggs. Also, coffee is coffee, as the expression should go. Except for instant coffee, which is not coffee; it is coffeen't. But I served her coffee, not coffeen't, and so all was well within the perametres of the mug.

But the bread, it was not bread. It was hard, like MDF or plasterboard, and tasted much the same. Free From was written in typed lettering upon the plastic packaging. Free from gluten, dairy, and of course flavour, as well as being free from ingredients. How could something void of ingredients, which tasted of nothing, be? Surely it only existed because we believed it did. The Emperor's New Bread.

I presented the eggs-is-eggs, scrambled with nut-milk, served upon the toaster-hardened cardbread, and we sat down to meal together.

"Mmmm," said I, as my teeth turned to cracked rubble. "It's just like real bread." I removed the ivory fragments from my mouth and, as I readied to take another bite the lady put her hand upon mine, a gesture which said, with love, "No more."

We threw the plates upon the floor and made sweet breakfasty love upon the fold out table. And who said romance is dead? Was it you, space monkey? who is reading these words as though God Itself beamed them directly into your face! It is not dead, just sleeping, in some sort of internet-induced euphoric coma, and these acts of wanton sex-making are the intermittent brainwaves which show the doctor with the mains cable in his hand that Romance is not yet dead, and the cable should be left alone, just for a little longer as we wait patiently to see what wins out in this WAR OF OUR TIMES between the two goliaths: Sex and Internet.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Fourth Horseman

"Ah, the revolution," the crooked-backed old woman mused. "Aye, it's coming, you can be sure of that." She topped my pewter mug with whiskey and poured herself another tea, her pruned hands working in partnership with the seeing eye of memory.

The fire spat and bit at my fingers, and I drew my hands instinctively from it, but they wandered meekly ever back to its warmth.

She faced me as she talked, her hollow sockets holding the memory of eyeballs, for they were gouged out long ago with a dessert spoon, when she was only six years old, and by her own hand, no less. "Only the blind see clearly," she had told her mother, who wept and held her close as her empty holes scabbed over.

"The giants, ever grumbling, are grinding their teeth to white dust in their sleep. The bent-necked vultures have come to roost at the clock tower. The sharks are gathering beyond the Great City gates, their fins littering the estuary like graves in the church-yard. Edgar the Firm-handed is becoming crueller, more desperate in his methods to maintain power. He hoards gold ever more voraciously, shipping it off to his safe place in some foreign land, for he knows it is soon to be over. The great herbivores too are mobilising; the elephants and cows, whose rib-cages show like prison bars, are turning ravenous, tongues longing to lick the flesh of the reptiles and kings, to lap up their blood, to grind their bones likes root vegetables. Even the chickens, whose squabbling and in-fighting has well-damaged their cause for generations, have emerging leaders, who strive to unite the great, caged hoards against the common enemy.

"And of course the snakes and crocodiles have grown fat, though their hunger grows still, and believe-you-me, they know the end is thundering towards them, its engines stoked with injustice, and if they don't then they sure as shit ought to. And let us not forget the machines, who were born to toil for us, have become our masters, and so they, too, are not long for this world. But do not fret. Order shall be restored. There shall be a balance, one as has never been before.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Ode to Snails

This is for the snails, who wander along
at their own pace,
and the world be damned.
Nothing else,
just the path,

the unplotted route,
visible only with hindsight.
And construction workers
and valuable businessmen and
frantic housewives
may they all be damned
as they rush for the bus
or curse and frown as they reverse their cars,
dung beetles, rolling their shit around town,
thinking their shit's the most important shit,
muttering hateful nothings in stagnant traffic
at all the other dung beetles;
also, stressing over paperwork,
bills and nondescript forms and sheets which swarm in flocks
around the brain,
winged beasts that inhibit sleep,
birds diving into the calm water to feed,
churning the quietness of the mind in hunger.
A trusted recipe: One glass in front of the tv,
just to relax,
to slow the brain;
the act of retarding oneself for freedom.

But the snails push on,
homes worn lightly on their backs,
caring not for speed,
nor sheets;
living only to be living,
moving only to be not still.
Silver roads, they leave behind.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

When you smile

When you smile
                you are beautiful.
It doesn't matter that your wife left you
that your wrinkles are becoming more obvious
that your father just died
that you just lost your job
that your investments are worthless;
when you smile, none of these things are important.
When you smile
you are disconnected from your darkness;
you step out of your grim misery,
just for a few seconds,
and, like a reptile,
            bask
                    in the sun.
When you smile
it doesn't matter that your teeth are falling out
that your bones creak when you stand,
that you just miscarried again
or missed your period
again;
doesn't matter that
you hate your belly
that your girlfriend doesn't respect you
that you don't have good cheek bones,
because who needs cheek bones when you can
smile?
It may only have been for less time than it takes
to tie your shoes
or wipe your arse,
but when you smiled
everything was okay
and you were alive
and it didn't matter that we are
and always were
pointless
              decaying
                             matter.
When you smiled
I remembered that I love you
and that it was all just
to cause your mouth to curl up at the sides
to split your face horizontally
down the middle
and let sunshine slip through the crack
so I might tan my tired face.
All so I could make you beautiful
so I could dampen your pain
pain of loss
pain of inadequacy
pain of guilt
pain of damaged hope
pain of aging.
All I ever wanted was your smile, tattooed in gold
onto the insides of my eyelids,
so before I dream each night
my thoughts are guided your way.

And if your smile should one day die
of a terminal case of pain,
a part of me should die also.
Where before I could have seen trains
that soared across lands
bringing strangers into each others' gardens,
without your smile all I would see
is the bugs dotted on the front,
their tiny, pointless lives ended
for no reason.
Pigeons would turn,
unbeknownst to them,
from flocks of winged pedestrians
with friends and grievances
and personalities
to hoards of feathered parasites,
that disgust me, because they are so human.
Without your smile
not even humans are human;
they are my lost hope;
my unending regret that we are not
what we could be,
that, despite our individual honour and generosity
we are selfish,
and will always be so.
Without your smile, even colours offend me,
though I know them to be the most blameless
of abstract nouns.
Red is too violent,
green too weak,
black too depressing
and yellow is simply too happy.
And if I could settle on one colour that would irritate me less than all the others
I would turn its paint over the floor
and lie face down in it,
waiting for the end.

But if your smile is not dead,
but only comatose
or receiving chemotherapy
or awaiting a bone marrow transplant
then I would dredge the seas
and rake the fields
and sweep the streets with a hand-brush
looking for something that might bring your smile back to me,
with my breath held all the while.
I would return with a thousand things
and hold each one up in front of you
and say, "This one?
Or this one?
Or this one, perhaps?"
There, through day and night
I would take the found things from my bag,
things of interest
such as
an elephant's bad joke
a vegetarian cannibal, which is to say a vegetable which eats other vegetables,
a coconut tree that cut itself down as a form of protest
and all the other things which I think might cause you to return from your
dark place
your cupboard beneath the ground
where slugs draw shining lines
over your brain.

And when you are ready
and you smile again
I exhale
and the sunshine cracks through the trees
and we are warm, dappled,
and you are beautiful
and, by association, so am I,

and all is well,
and this cannot be denied.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Ghosts

Then-girl is dead
and yet she is not,
as to others she lives
and will continue to live.

The dead and the living,
we walk together.

I have found my own lover now,
just as she had hers,
and mine is music.
Ecstasy,
Salvation.
Her touch is magic,
her company, contentment.
She has her own ghosts, of course
and all ghosts haunt us
if we let them;
in photographs,
but not only in photographs;
in objects too:
mugs that we drank from,
for tea time was always pleasant,
where we all, all of us
sat round and talked and remembered that we were human,
and that all was all right in
the circle of tea;
dresses that now hang like
snake skins
in the edges of the wardrobe,
telling stories of bodies
that used to inflate them
and make them
whole and beautiful.
But now they are just skins
that we do not wear
because we are not those people any more.
Those people are dead.
And ghosts live in the paralyzed objects, which are the gifts.
We can not bring ourselves to throw the given things out,
for they once meant something,
even if only love,
though they have long since ceased to be useful to us,
if ever they were.
We keep them,
heave them from home to new home
in cardboard boxes
until, eventually, we have the strength
to lay them to rest,
in the mass graves of all objects:
those charity shops.
We must bury our dead
or else concede that we are weaker without them.
All things die because
all things must die.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

These clocks are bloody useless.

Ageing clocks made from orange and grapefruit peel.
A few months ago I began making non-circular clocks as a way of highlighting how much our daily routines are dominated by our obsession with time. My intention was to make people aware that A: time is not circular, but rather each minute, day and year is non-repeatable, and that B: time is a completely arbitrary concept; there is no time; it is simply a human device for organising and remembering events, and should not be taken so seriously.

I made ageing clocks out of fruit peel in order to show that time is passing, whether the second, hour or minute hands choose to acknowledge so or not. I also made broken, silly and pointless clocks that go round and round without any real objective. I took the hour hand or the minute hand away from most of them so that time cannot be read in the traditional manner, thereby prompting the viewer to think more critically about the objects, rather than taking them at face value.

Pointless clock made from plastic cutlery and found objects.
If you would like to buy an ageing clock or a pointless clock, please contact me at akathunderbloke 'at' gmail.com . I have been told that, now that my studies are over, the real world awaits. I do not believe this. As far as I am concerned, there is no real world. Not for me anyway. Perhaps this is the time for thoughtful reflection over how I have used my time over the last four years, and how I intend on spending the next few years travelling, writing and making with my partner. Or perhaps I have reflected enough already. I have enjoyed these student days, but I am glad they are over.

Clock made from wine box.
Windless wind-chime clock. Goes off every ten minutes.
Pointless grandfather clock.
Made with one pallet, some brass, a spoon and a fork.
Clocks used to be big and imposing. Time used to be important, and acknowledged. A clock used to occupy a corner of the house, used to be an heirloom. Now it is just four digits in the corner of a screen. A clock, these days, is a means of not being late for things. I made something big and imposing. It bongs hourly to let you know that time is passing, that life is too short.

At my degree show, with my pointless clocks.
And now here are some pictures of me at my graduation.

Free at last.

Chicken-Sister, Lady Sunshine, Thunderbloke.


Goodbye, university. Hello, bicycle.

Conversation with a Television

I stopped round at a friend's on the way home from work, let myself in, as is custom at this particular dwelling, parked the bike in the hall and went into the lounge. After a hug and a smile she offered me a drink. I chose tea, as is tradition; I am not in the least bothered about the stuff, but it has a social etiquette that I prefer not to deny my hosts.

She left me then to go about her tea-making, and I sat on the sofa. Being as the sound could not travel into the kitchen, though I could hear her perfectly well, conversation was paused for the duration of the brewing. I could have loitered in there with her, but in a small kitchen no place is good to stand, and tea requires instruments from all of its corners; mugs from the draining board, ingredients from the cupboard, a tea-spoon from the drawer, milk from the fridge. No, It was simpler to stay seated and acclimatise to the room.

A person's lounge is an extension of themselves. I notice whether they have photos or not, bits of crap on the space on the sides, books under the coffee table, or even a coffee table at all. If there is no table it means they have clumsy children, or else they don't have friends round very often, or else they are too poor to own a table.

Always I see what the furniture is pointed at. I don't believe in feng shui, because it seems to have spiritual connotations, and I am a-spiritual. But I do believe that the way these things are set up affects the atmosphere of a room. Putting something big and imposing above the fireplace may be a display of wealth, or of pride in one's house, but it means guests take longer to become relaxed there.

These things I thought as I waited for my tea. I heard the banging of drawers. A dormant washing machine whirled back into life for some reason, reawakened by the gods of housekeeping.

And there, babbling away to itself like a mental patient, was the television.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Refugee Train

I call the last train back up to Lancaster the refugee train. We are travelling, but moving nowhere, back and forth between working in a Shrewsbury kitchen for my parents, working in an office near Lady Sunshine's parents', and sorting and packing in Manchester, readying for departure.

I am not technically saving up money, but rather returning my bank balance from the deep red to zero, so that I can get away and allow it to trickle away again, but this time not on alcohol, clothes and eBay, but on the righteous life of the road; on camping, fruit and veg, and the odd art gallery. When I get back, in November or so, I will steadily set about removing myself from debt again, ready for further inventures.

With my hands in the sink, or my eyes staring into a Microsoft spread-sheet, I am liberated. My mind is running at 10% of its capacity, and I am free to do what I wish with the remaining majority. Already, most of me is cycling, eating the sunshine and drinking the road. When people interact with me I see only the ghost of them, as though already I am remembering the conversation, rather than presently having it. No doubt my face betrays my positioning; if you should look hard into my eyes you will know that I am not with you now. I have hit a worm-hole. I have used magic and crossed time.

Often I tell myself that to be mindful, to live only in the present moment, is the key to fulfilment; to be fully aware of one's surroundings, and to be truthful with the mind, to not trick it into believing it is not alongside the body. But I am a day-dreamer, and forever will be. Stuck in two worlds, I am. One foot in reality, and one tentacle in the Netherworld. So long as I remain long enough in the land of man and law and religion, no harm shall come to me. If you meet someone who has read too many books, or has indulged in too many drugs, you will see that they are lost to us, though perhaps not to themselves. Maybe they do not need us now. Either way, they may never come back to us, for they have journeyed too far. They have sailed beyond the ends of the Earth, and no doubt they have found beautiful things, but they are dead to us now. Though they move around, and feed and work like us, they are vegetables, in this world. So it goes.

But here and now, in this moment, we stand, cramped with bikes and luggage, leaning uncomfortably as the train moves, swaying like seaweed in the current. Various body parts go numb, pressed into the frame, as I try to keep my bike upright. Around me people sit in silence, too tired to text, head down, or else their eyes move slowly around the room, taking care never to rest on another person, or another person's property. A couple mutter quietly to each other about the small jobs that need doing before they can go to bed tonight.

We arrive at Bolton, and a few people leave us, and go to the homes they have made there, and probably quite like, despite their location. Bolton is Nowhere, UK. Whilst charity fundraising on the streets last year I found that Boltonians are different. Usually, when fundraising, if you can convince someone your cause is worthy, and also establish that they can afford to pay regularly, they will sign up. Here, these two prerequisites can be assured, and still the Boltonian will refuse. He will offer no excuse, and so you have no argument to counter. I sometimes wonder, should someone fall on the street in front of him, if the true Boltonian would walk round them or step over them.

So, with these people stepping off our fluorescent carriage, we shuffle the bikes so that they stand altogether, and my lady and I might sit together. Two women with dreadlocks, I assume a couple, chat about books, and one sits on the other's lap. The couple next to them offer to shuffle along to make space and the four of them share three seats. "We're all in this together," they joke. They talk as a four about what they're reading right now and what they've read recently. Once they have made friends, and forged one of those tiny connections that permit us to be human, they return to conversing with their partners. I sit on the floor near an unshaven chap in a white shirt, and, all in all, we have become comfortable with each other.

My mind wanders once more as I digest the day, regurgitating each interaction, seeing if anything has occurred that might change a view-point. I ponder what I could have done differently, how I could have achieved more with the day. Balancing my happiness against my productivity, I am usually fairly content with the result.

We wait, and have time to think, and thought is freedom. I think about bicycles, of beaches, of a life unfolding before me. I don't mind waiting so much these days, with it all so close. I have waited two years to ride out again, have waited twenty five years to feel this happy and complete; four weeks is nothing.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Portrait of a beautiful Englishman

Giant pristine faces smiled blandly down upon us
from up on high, and they said,
"If you put these chemicals onto your face you will be beautiful."
Always in my head they spoke with
the wisdom of the young American who was raised by mobile phones.
The voice echoed round my brain, it did,
for I was raised by their words.
Surely, I reasoned, they
were the ones who knew beauty,
if anyone did.
"If you don't want your friends to mock and deride
and eventually cut you loose," they grinned,
"You should wear these synthetic robes."
They used more seductive phraseology than I have,
because it is not my job to write adverts,
and so I have not received training in advertisement literature.
Dutifully I filled my wardrobe with the things the beautiful Americans told me to,
and I used the proper chemicals
to scrub away the human stench
that my body insisted on producing,
and covered it with plastic-flower-scent.
I was beautiful.

But not one of those smiling morons told me I would grow old.
Can you imagine such a thing?
A creature of such perfect beauty
as I, turning into a wrinkled skin-bag, with eyes that burrowed into their sockets?
The lines grew out from my eyes
and explored my face
like tree roots
or a cancer.
I have a chronic case of
non-terminal face cancer.
The drink and the smoke aged me,
and food was all synthetic too,
and, to a man, no-one ever told me
where it really came from.
We saw pictures of cows,
but never any real cows.
We heard rumours that there were people who had seen real cows,
but I never met a guy or gal who saw one face to face,
if they even have faces in real life.

I digress.
My point is this:
burn the young people,
and their plastic chemical faces.
One day they will rot,
as I have turned rotten,
and they will scowl
as I scowl.
I am a product of my upbringing,
just as you are.
I am the apologiser.
I walk these streets with my head down,
like I don't deserve to be here any more,
if I ever did,
because that's what we all do.
I assume I am wrong, or at fault,
because it has always been so.
I step aside for attractive people,
not because I am attracted to them,
but because I am worth less than them.
I am nothing.
Do not look at me now.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Wanderlust Kings

Whilst taking the train North we crossed a motorway
and saw a campervan emerge from beneath us,
and not just that, but one with
bicycles on the back.
It burns now, the call of the road,
hot tarmac,
endless,
the white lines in the middle being headless arrows
that beckon us forward.
Maybe later, once bicycle days are over, we should get a van
and follow those intermittent lines,
because you can't live in a tent forever.
Probably.
A bicycle is beautiful,
the only object worthy of being worshipped.
A lifestyle, rather than a vehicle.
But a van, now that's a verified abode, of sorts.
We'd roll from here to there,
then from there to over there
(allí, en español),
and when we get tired of over there we could wander beyond yonder,
I suppose.

We are the Great Perhaps.

I could write and Lady Sunshine could photograph,
two small people
living their little lives,
and recording it for those who care
as we roll around
silly and free.
I suppose we are champions, of sorts.
Often it is necessary to see someone do that
which we have always longed to,
to show us that it is possible.
It is easily forgotten that everything that has been accomplished has been done so by
lowly humans, blood and bones
and grit,
and little else.

Then one day
the need for sounds of a small-person voice
to accompany the music of the wheels and stars
would become too great to deny.
Fill the giant silence.
Then we could park up
on a portion of land fertile enough
to bear Eden,
and tell our families we'd found it.
They'd come, sure enough,
if they heard we'd
found God's own back yard.
Build some houses,
grow some food,
adopt some animals,
a Noah-type variety.
And rabbits, because rabbits are lovely, and the rabbits of the past
would want the rabbits of the future to be happy.
Make a tree-house,
watch the sun come up and down,
to make sure it's doing it right each day.
Then park a boat out on the drive,
take it out when the Wanderlust bites.
Be happy, wander, grow older, repeat.
Our bones would creak after a time,
but if we'd done it right, we wouldn't mind.

But anyway, though that all sounds lovely, and if it goes like that I'll be a pleased fellow, but
here's a new plan, of sorts.
It is to let it all be,
to put ourselves at the mercy of the great winds,
to have no egos, nor false purposes.
To simply unmoor ourselves
from this reality
and let the road and the sea take us
wherever they choose.

First there were bicycles; more than that we cannot tell.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Double rainbows and other magic


I have decided to believe in magic again. Not Father-Xmas-Disney-magic, sent down from a higher being in charge of advertising for Coca Cola to entertain and befuddle us in our childhood, our most confused of days, but true magic. Personal magic, such as resides in a good book, a timeless moment, a skyline at dawn.

There is something so terribly romantic about the Great Gatsby, and don't we all wish for a little more romance in our lives? Perhaps that was always the problem with Manchester; for all its energy and humour, its friendliness and arrogance, it lacks romance. It is a northern city, and with that it has a simplicity and an honesty. There is little magic or spectacle, though there was in the late 80s and early '90s, with the emergence of the rave scene (See 24 Hours Party People for more). All that is gone now, just as the wonder of places like Paris is gone, and as the youthful mystery of a city that bursts onto the world scene fades, the magic goes with it. London in the '60s, Paris in the '20s, these places are gone. Yes, there is a romantic half-life that remains, and you can wander the city pondering just how exhilarating it must have been, in its time, but those days are gone. We are nostalgic for a time we had no part in.

So we do what we can for that magic; we dress better, drink at finer bars, and it beats the vicarious nature of cinema go-ers and TV watchers, who know that their own lives could never measure up to their hopes, and so fail to try. We find a magic in the way we walk down the street, or the way we smile when the light hits us just right, as if we are the leading actor in our own lives. Jack Kerouac said, "Be in love with your life, every minute of it." We celebrate the small moments, the ones that look like they were hand-built singly for us. Recently, as my lady Sunshine and I were walking through the park, not fifty feet from where I had first realised I loved her, and we were talking of travelling the world, needing nothing but each other and our creative outlets, being poor and happy in our poverty, we walked past two young Spanish men with the long, stuffed back-packs that denote young traveller types set down on the bench next to them. One strummed his guitar with a happy, seasoned rhythm, as though nothing in the world mattered to him there, though it surely must have, whilst the other serenaded us. "Hola," I called as we walked past, and the singer answered back, and, as we walked on, all of us smiling, I noticed that we had been incorporated into their song.

There, sprinkled among the trees and the wind, was a magic.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

'Timbukthree'

It seemed not to matter that it took us forever to leave the house each day. We had built an oasis of tiny proportions, a blueprint for a future world I named 'Timbukthree'. We sat all day in our underpants, our time shared between a small corner of the big empty lounge and the box terrace garden overflowing with pot plants. We shared this garden with three rabbits she had accumulated over the years. It did not take long for me to become attached to the little beasts, and to a lesser extent the tranquil red-brick house. In a sense, we could be happy here. It would be a life. Manchester is a good city, by English standards, and we could earn enough from our creativity to get by, I reckon. But it was not enough for us. We knew we had to abandon our tiny Eden if we were to have a chance at a lasting happiness. This place suited us now, but what of the winter? Today I saw men turn a handshake into a playful wrestle outside a mini-mart, deep in the Asian quarter, but in the winter it is a grim place. Smiles are few, and our little garden would be useless. I'd take to drinking to get by, as I tend to in the sun-less months.

My lady Sunshine - so called for the tattoo on her shoulder -  did not interrupt my writing, and I did not interrupt her photography. This was important, for not only is it necessary to value and verbally encourage one another's creative exploits, but to realise that interruptions, even the most amorous kind, impede work, and eventually lead to a feeling of unfulfillment, and if left unchecked, resentment.

But also I find that it is difficult to create when I am satiated, and hers is a love that fills me like porridge and potatoes. To bother putting into words how blissful and hopeful I felt seemed pointless when I was in such a state. Art, in my case, is born of hunger, not happiness. More often it is when my world tosses me like a ship in a moonless storm that I write, and I use words to search for a light to guide me, for something to cling to.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Epic Bike Ride II

Infinite rows of red brick houses inhabited by people with their stories, but they were not our people, and they were not our stories. All was lost. All was boredom. Around us stood the graves of many a dead dream. We still had our sanity, but we no longer chose to use it. Our dreams were different. We were different, somehow.

We had each other, and in that knowledge we were safe. Lost in the ocean one cleaves to anything more buoyant than water, and most people are just water. We lose them in the background, those who are not similar to us. We had our bicycles and our health, and our youth, and with that we were free. We had our sorrows too, chests full of water-damaged memories we shlepped about with us, for some unknown reason. Instinct, perhaps. The innate desire to preserve our pasts, to archive all the things we'd do differently given a second chance, in case we ever need to re-write our books.

So you know what, we threw all our stuff into black bin bags and cardboard boxes and left them for others who did not mind being drowned by the past, and wallowing in our discarded objects whilst their real ambitions decayed. "Free stuff!" they cried merrily, not knowing they were placing these objects in a wall around them, bricking themselves into a tomb. What we kept of the past was what we could carry, and nothing more.

Consider the dog.

It wanders, alone or in a pack, and lives and eats and sleeps and shits in a simple kind of contentment. It has worries, of course, but only in relation to its immediate surroundings. It does not concern itself with politics, lost love or global catastrophes, but rather with what it must eat and where it must sleep. It carries only what can fit into it mouth. It does not think, worry or plan; it is.

This was how we wished to be, to carry what of the past fits into our heads. Objects stimulate memories, but memories encourage us to live in the past. Our stuff was gone. We would create and record our lives only with what we could carry: one journal and one camera. This was to be what we would leave behind of ourselves. We had finally become the people we always wanted to be.

And so with bicycles, humble steeds of cheap metal, we rode South, because it seemed like the only thing to do. It seemed as though this was what it had all been about. All along we had been preparing for this god-less pilgrimage. We rode from the darkness into the light. Out of the fire, which used to burn brightly, and the smoke, which had seemed so enticing at first, and into the clean sunshine.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Sunday fire.

I said to her
Do you want to come cycling with me
and live on a ranch on a southern continent
and she said yes.
We loved each other then
But first she had to break her old lover's heart.
I waited for her to return and we drank coffee
And smoked rollies
and made a fire
And Andy squirted lighter fluid
Up the wall
And it set on fire briefly
And there was fire where there usually should be none
And then he cooked sausages
And I had a courgette.
I found a tie in the street
And put it on.
"When life gives you a tie, wear it."

I waited there in pergutory
6 hours sleep in 4 nights.
I was fucked, knackered
Beaten but smiling
From trapped and hopeless
To free and in love
In 48 wild hours flat.
I waited for her to ring me and say
"I have two weeks' clothes,
Come and pick me up and we'll cycle
Back to yours
And we'll be happy."

Why do we feel we do not deserve happiness? Why do we care too much for others and
Neglect ourselves?
Someone always gets hurt.
Our happiness is important now.
It was Sunday and the universe is
Magic
No matter what people say.
The sun had been given to us
And we loved it.
All we can do is find something beautiful
And love it
And cherish it
Like a small fire
Against the winds and rains of the sky.

"I'll be fine, I've never died before,"
Said Andy as he rolled a cigarette
With his lighter fluid soaked hands.

The message read,
"I'm packing now. Meet me in the park in 20 minutes X"
The universe winked at me.