Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Invasion of the funny trees...

Here it is: the Funny Tree. Well, not a tree at all really, a telephone mast pretending to be a tree in a spiky, plastic, almost-but-not-quite, kind of way.

It sits on a hill high above the Menai Straits on the mainland side between Bangor and Caernarfon. I must have passed it a thousand times, two thousand even, and each time I never fail to notice its angular impression amidst the real trees it stands amidst.

I wonder what they make of the funny tree. This tree that never sheds its leaves or bows to the wind, this tree that is made of metal, plastic, and cement with not a single drop of sap running through its tree veins – no chlorophyll here.

Each time we pass we cry ‘Funny Tree!’ Another ritual from the past for a small girl’s amusement – and for luck of course. All ritual is for luck.

I know of other alien trees, robotic and sterile, like an invasion of space dryads from another planet. One on the A64 past York and another only a few miles down the Chester Road. Look out for them; they may be coming to take over the Earth.

I wonder, can the real trees hear the tinny voices flowing through those weird spiny leaves as the funny tree sends our voices out into space back to its home planet?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Teeth to dust with hazy cosmic jive and rust…

No matter how metal you may think you are, a drop of rain or a burst pipe corrodes and eats at you until you are tarnish.

And then after the tarnish comes the rust, eating away at you, thinning and flaking, and yet at the same time releasing. Oh, such freedom as you flake and spin away into infinity and beyond...

Until (landing on my old green metal garden table and all at once) an identity is discovered and - is that a face?

Goodbye love.

I was watching Top of the Pops the other morning, too late or very early dependent on your perspective. Watching, but not watching the way I sometimes do, unable to sleep. David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Suzie Q. Sixties and early seventies, the music of my youth. And as I watched, remembering those Top of the Pops of long ago, realising that I’d seen each of those performances at the time, as always my mind began to drift. Rusting away, words popping into my head in half-formed phrases, thinking of the way Bowie is rumoured to have written the lyrics to his songs – cut up phrases picked at random, then strung together to make a song.

Flakes of rust falling and settling.

I’m no Bowie. But the phrases that popped into my mind randomised themselves to make this; my rusted way of saying things.

To whom it may concern:

Oh, Julie Driscoll with alcohol fuelled stupidity and such consequences, to jump and leap through hoops and over fences.

My own cells have beat me in knowledge firm that such I need herding towards the hurdles to sweat and bleat in a fleece too thick for summer heat.

Used? Well no, not I. I’ll stand what tiny ground I have until my molehill runs to mud. No far too early paper wrapped declaration this time – so let us talk of blood.

Oh well, it is all our lots to be judged at the end and what we start to become an unexpected conversation between unexpected strangers, unfriended friend.

Blood is thicker than mud. But are you really so sly stone sure? Perhaps, but even if you never knew, still the mud might not stick as it hits the fan, so sure are you.

Blood is blood, mud is mud and in the end any day is just another day. Passed, forgotten, the cardboard reminder all just hazy cosmic jive down on Devilgate Drive.

So rust, contaminate this blighted life with lack of trust. On sunshine afternoon and out of school you looked and saw this stupid fool. All four.

But you without a hint or sign - and even then you less than mine. I brought that fowl thing home in trust to feel my teeth to fall to dust.

Teeth to dust, some hazy cosmic jive, some rust, but always, always in the end – this unforgiving lack of trust.

End of message......................................

That is the thing with rust. It is gorgeous and horrible all at the same time, and no matter how hard you paint it simply eats away at your fabric.

Goodbye love.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Norwegian island, Amy Winehouse, my freezer…

I’m finding it hard to blog at the moment. It isn’t just the time, although time is a bit of a constraint. I’m just finding it really hard to say what I feel and think in a way positive enough not to bring you all (whoever you all are) down.

Truth is that so far it has been a less than positive year for me what with one thing and another. If I were royal I might even call it my annus horribilis, but then if I were royal I probably wouldn’t be where I am now.

I’m told that bad things come in threes. Well, if that’s the case my bad things should have stopped a dozen or so things ago - dead cats, flooded kitchens, lost friends and work, bad blood, empty days - should I go on? Sometimes I think that I’m cursed.

The latest evidence of this - a broken freezer at the cottage and four white bin bags of rotten chicken, duck, beef, lamb, pork, gammon, prawns, salmon, lobster, cod, sausages, oh and the odd beef burger or two. The good news is that I’m so used to bad things happening now that I just mopped up the blood, loaded the wheelbarrow, and took it to the tip with hardly a whimper or mumble about my cursed luck.

‘What next?’ I thought as I drove to the tip expecting it to be closed, which it almost was - another minute and we’d have missed the attendant who was knocking off ten minutes early and about to lock the gate.

And then, as I was slinging the contents of my overstocked freezer into the skip, it suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea why things happen the way they do. Everything is random no matter how hard you try to make order and structure, or how hard you plan. At the end of the day ‘we’ are not in control - ‘it’ is.

I don’t know why Amy Winehouse died this weekend, wasting her talent and her life, or why some random Christian fundamentalist should blow away more than ninety of his countrymen on the weekend that I threw away just a freezer full of food. But perhaps ‘it’ does.

As I heaved in the last of the bags, the one containing my seafood into that smelly skip I felt lucky for a moment. After all, it was just a few prawns, some salmon, cod, and a lobster in that bag, not me. There were enough bags on that island after last weekend and poor Amy is back to black as her fans sang, maybe a touch insensitively, outside her home that terrible night.

Perspective is a wonderful thing. After all, what is a few lost meals and the cost of a new fridge-freezer compared to either of those tragedies?

The very talented Amy Winehouse was cursed, doomed from the start it seems, and that madman in Norway, shooting and killing everyone in his sight has cursed the lives of countless families for as long as they can bear or must remain living. What a pity that such tragedies should offer me a little optimism by making my own curse seem so very small.

I told someone I know that I was having a bad day recently and he looked me in the eyes and replied: ‘Why did a plane crash into a tower somewhere? Did a big wave wash away your house and kill all your family? Did someone invade your country and take away everything you own? Isn’t any day when that doesn’t happen a good day?’

And of course it is, but still I don’t really know how to finish up this post. I feel lucky not to have Amy’s demons and even luckier not to be a Norwegian teenager stranded on an island with a mindless gunman. I guess using these extreme yardsticks I really am a very lucky man. Maybe I should try to make myself believe it; perhaps then this curse will go away.

Friday, 22 July 2011

I can and I will…

They call this a weed, but just look at it this is no weed. This is a colourful, strong, magnificent plant that if it were a little scarcer, a little harder to grow, maybe not quite as invasive, would be growing at the backs of mixed borders all over the country – and I mean by design, not through laziness.

The Rosebay Willowherb is everywhere and anywhere: waste ground, embankments, rocky places, mountain scree, open woodland, my garden, it’s even been recorded as high up as 1,850 feet in Britain.

It wasn’t always so common though. Up until the Second World War it was quite an unusual sight. Then, for some reason, it began to become abundant on the bomb sites left by Hitler’s bombing raids. It soon spread as Britain rebuilt and began springing up all over the country in burned areas and forest clearings. On the Isle of Wight, it suddenly appeared like a deep pink fire on an area of woodland destroyed by a real fire in 1909.

It tolerates acid and alkaline soils, grows in wet conditions as well as on dry sandy heaths and chalk downs and is happy in shade, full sunshine, and just about any other climatic condition. It thrives wherever it sets down seed, from mineshaft entrances to the top fields of hills and mountains everywhere like these beauties in Wales.

I guess that you could say it’s adaptable, a survivor, and maybe that’s why I like it so much. But I can’t pass a clump without being blow away by its vivid pinkness. Their colour seems so optimistic, so full of life and it seems to shout ‘I can’t be beaten, I can and I will!’

No not a weed. Not a weed at all.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A quick post on the beauty that is everywhere…

I had to go to that Swedish furniture superstore yesterday. You know the one I mean, the one that sounds like ‘my ear’, or ‘gonorrhoea’, or even ‘what the hell am I doing here’. Actually thinking about it, going to the STD clinic is probably a more fulfilling experience that traipsing around a big one-way warehouse full of MDF and cardboard.

Now don’t worry I’m not going to go on about how annoying it is to have to walk all the way around the store just to get to the place where you are supposed to lift down your half ton purchase and then drag it on an uncontrollable trolley for miles to a checkout where the queues just stretch on forever. Neither am I going to go on about how fantastic the meatballs in the restaurant are, or even try to tell you why you should clear your own table after you’ve gobbled them down wishing you’d ordered the fifteen instead of the ten. I’m not even going to tell you what I bought. Although there was so much of it we had to take two journeys around the store and then have all thirteen huge and heavy boxes delivered this morning.

Let’s just say we have a project going on.

But I do want to tell you about the beautiful roundabouts (Yes, I know that beautiful roundabouts is an oxymoron) I passed on the way back from Warrington, the ones that had been seeded with wild flowers creating the most pastoral of circular meadows.

Someone in the planning office has a soul, and I wish I could shake them by the hand.

So I want to tell you how, when I saw them, I parked my car on that roundabout and spent a few hurried seconds snapping a few (two) photographs, much to the amazement of other motorists who had to swerve to avoid my car and my wife who spent those seconds trembling and sweating in fear.

I also want to tell you that I got away with it without police involvement and with no major accidents being caused by my actions (honestly officer) so - No - Harm - Done!


The thing is that opportunities like that don’t present themselves everyday so you just have to grab them when they are there and just like that person in the planning office (who must have replied when asked how to spend the ‘tidy up roundabouts’ grant from the EEC said: ‘wild flower seeds?’) I grabbed it.


We'll see...

Monday, 18 July 2011


Back on 16th November 2001, over ten years ago, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released some time after the publication of the fourth book.

I don’t remember the exact date that we went to see the film, probably a while after its release. Films take a while to arrive at the cinema above the library in Pwllheli, but since then we’ve seen all of the other films at in Pwllheli cinema from Stone to Deathly Hallows One and Holly has grown from an excited little girl to an excited teenager. It’s a nice old place, comfortable and warm, with plenty of popcorn and prices that must be hard to sustain.

But for this final film, Deathly Hallows Two, we’re breaking with tradition and watching it in 3D at Altrincham cinema.

Well, there’s been a lot of change recently with more to come, and the old things and old ways are having to make way for new. It’ll still be Harry Potter, and it’ll be in 3D, and we’ll all be watching it together like we did that very first film way back when life seemed simpler and more ordered. Somehow though, I’m expecting just a touch of sadness alongside the excitement as we sit in that shiny, new space wearing our glasses watching Harry, Ron, Hermione, Snape, and all manner of creatures jump out of the screen towards us.

It’s Holly’s birthday treat. How nice that at seventeen she’s still happy to go to the pictures with her mum and dad, although I have a feeling that this might be for the last time.

Oh well; ‘Expelliarmus!’ as Harry would say.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Other side of the stone...

Of course there are two sides to every stone, for every smile a frown and for every chuckle a tear. The trick is to keep smiling, keep laughing and don't let things get you down. Hard to do at times I know, but you have to try.

God knows there are so many things to be smiling about. Any day where there's not a tsunami, earthquake, or plane crash has to be a great day. We (and I) just need to keep that in mind.

Finally - Happy Birthday Holly, seventeen today.

See, today is a good day. I can't understand why the stone isn't smiling.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Rocks and drivel...

Sometimes trying to make things happen is like trying to get a rock to smile. Thinking about it - sometimes it’s probably easier to make a rock smile.

I used to think of myself as a rock. No, not the hard type; the solid type. Good (almost always) dependable old me. You could always rely on good old dependable me to deliver what was required. People knew that (despite my sometimes unpredictable reactions and even more hard to gauge responses) no matter what I had to do, how early or late I had to do it, the cost to me personally. I would get it done.

Sometimes though, I had to become a rock to do it and sometimes it was hard to make me smile. Oh, I could laugh, (ha-ha!) but smiling was another matter.

Smiling is a wonderful thing. It lifts your spirits and it lifts the spirits of those around you. I love people who smile; not those false smiles we all know, but the real ones. The ones that make you feel liked, loved, cared for, respected... I won’t go on. I could probably extend the list forever, and I think you’ve probably got the message.

I was driving this morning and pulled in to let somebody pass in an overcrowded road. I do it a lot and sometimes don’t even get a nod or a wave, but then sometimes I don’t give a nod or wave when others do it for me. Sometimes, lost in my own thoughts, getting things done, being a rock, I don’t even notice that they've pulled in. Anyway, as this person in the other car (a pleasant faced, middle aged woman) passed me she looked at me directly and her face lit up with the most brilliant smile. Not just her mouth and lips, but her eyes and nose, her chin and ears, even her hair seemed to smile at me.

For a moment I didn’t know what to do – and then, because I had no choice, I smiled back. It hurt a little, I even gave her a bit of a wave.

Maybe rocks can be made to smile after all.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Orange and Green…

Too much sleep, and then that last hour where everything that 'might be' rattles around in my worrying head. Doubts and worries, regrets and 'what ifs', 'should I's', 'shouldn't I's', and all the rest of that sorry troop of sack cloth pilgrims on their way to the Slough of Despond.

STOP! Just get up! Out of bed! Despite the early hour.

So, with my head too full I venture out into the yard with my coffee.

Early morning sunshine, so bright, catching the flowers and leaves of my Nasturtiums and Marigolds - and then the rush as the darkness leaves to be filled with colour and light. Madness? Not quite - and caught up in that rush.

Orange and green, such a colour combination - why never to be seen? I think not! It makes me feel so happy, so full of life, enlivened, rejuvenated - alive in this aspect of life I call living. Happy! It’s all around me and all I did was plant a few seeds. Orange and green, oh lucky me, the planter of seeds to bring so many smiles to me through colour I never did expect to be. Would that all seeds planted were so - and I the gardener, the sower of the sow, was always happy with the way my seeds did grow. Happy? Well, mostly if I want it so, and if not? Well no - but even then they still will grow until this living is taken by the crow. So much orange and green - and all I did was sow.

Quite a frenzy going around in my head as I sip my coffee in the sunshine. Mad? No, not mad. Not quite, not yet - and alive! What more is there?

I sip my coffee as the clock strikes six content in the knowledge that coffee will straighten me out.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Go meditate on that…

For me it’s as much about what isn’t there as what is there. Maybe more so.

My old wind chimes in Wales are weathered and worn, hanging by a thread, almost ethereal, other worldly as they hang in their own small cosmos of suspended sound on a background of shadowed time. Another set of chimes upon that wall, as real as any other, silently chiming their tune to another’s dance.

Such a sunny evening, warm gentle breeze, the sun casting shadows through that nuance of a holly tree, the one that drops brown thorned leaves all summer through.

That nuisance of a holly tree.
No matter, I’m in Nirvana or at the very least Shangri-la.

Listen to them sing their tinkle songs.
See how their shadows play upon the rich cream wall.
Upon another reality.

Now, I’m no Buddhist but with all this serenity going on, well it can’t do any harm can it?. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Ommmmmmmmm...

Go meditate on that I say.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Another creature on the beach...

A friend of mine asked a while back when I was going to make another beach creature. Thing is I never quite know where or when one is going to appear. One minute I’m wandering around the rocks on the beach on a sunny afternoon trying to avoid wet dogs and screaming kids and the next, by that rock over there, the one that’s shaped like a flat-out chicken, a creature suddenly appears out of nowhere.

That’s what happened on Sunday. It was such a glorious afternoon that we decided to have a wander along to Penlech beach and catch a couple of hours in the sun. I have to say that when the creature appeared it quite took the warmth out of me.

There it, well not exactly stood, more sort of quivered, sucking and tutting in a whistling, reedy, birdlike whine as the creature’s tenuous, multiple, stick thin legs scratched and scraped along the sand. Half prehistoric bird, half badly made spider with just a dash of alien thrown in for flavour.

The three horned head on top of the long wavering neck was looking this way and that with those empty, bead-like, silver eyes. Just what was it searching for?

Such stilted movements too, all jerk and jump, like a scrawny, featherless, fledgling bird not quite yet ready to be out of the nest, but out nonetheless as its almost endless tail flipped and whipped and dragged along behind it like a thing with a life of it’s own. Who knows? Perhaps it had.

You could see it wasn’t clean. No, I’m not simply talking grime - there was something distinctly unwholesome about the way it picked its way carefully across the sand sniffing the air as it went. It was looking for something, and that something wasn’t good either.

That’s the thing with beach creatures, they arrive out of nowhere and inflict themselves on an unsuspecting world - well, at least they inflict themselves upon mine.

I didn’t stick around (if you’ll forgive the pun). Instead I moved on along the beach in a hurry, trying to get the sunshine back into my bones. I didn’t want to be there when the creature found whatever it was it looking for. I had an idea that once it found it things were going to get very messy on that sunny beach, very messy indeed.

Word is that some beach creatures go looking for the one that wished them here. Maybe my friend should have kept schtum.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Making myself invisible...

Ever wanted to be invisible? Yes of course you have. All that fun to be had, all those riches, all that opportunity, not to mention the...

No, I won't mention that.

I like the idea of invisibility and I’m sure that one day science will come up with a device that could make you disappear from your surroundings just like the Klingon cloaking device in Star Trek.

Of course some would claim that this has already been done. The US navy’s Philidelphia experiment back in 1943 was supposedly based on some aspects of the unified field theory, a term coined by Albert Einstein. Don’t ask me to explain the theory because I can’t, but according to some accounts US Navy boffins thought that by using the unified field theory they would be able to use large electrical generators to bend light around an object so that it became completely invisible.

Allegedly they tried it on a ship.
Allegedly it worked.

Nature is very good at cloaking. You just have to look at a chameleon or some of those fishy rays to see invisibility in action. Actually thinking about it, you probably aren’t going to see invisibility in action even if you look, because nature does it so damned well.

So, if you want to be invisible, or practically invisible, I guess you simply need to blend into your surroundings and become unnoticeable. It’s not quite invisibility but it might as well be.

Camouflaged soldiers keep close to the ground to blend in with the terrain and avoid getting shot at. Maybe that is why so very few people ever seem to notice anyone sitting on the pavement. Particularly if they have somewhere to go to, particularly if they are trying to dodge the showers, and particularly if the person on the pavement is sitting hunched into a ball to make themselves appear as small as they possibly can, head down, empty Styrofoam cup in front of them. I guess some don’t want to look and others simply don’t see. After all, who takes any notice of a beggar?

Seems like invisibility to me.

Friday, 8 July 2011


It is a day for firsts. My first peas and my first tomatoes – not very plentiful and not very big, but sweet, grown from seed and then raised in pots on ledges and windowsills in my yard to maximise their daylight.

Yes it’s a day for firsts with the things I’ve grown.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dear photograph…

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook the other day that takes you back in time to the past. When I went there to take a look I was struck by the poignancy of what I saw. What a simple, yet fantastic idea. I wish I’d thought of it.

It show photographs of people holding old photographs of events and places over the original place the photograph of the event was taken. They hold their cherished prints so that the past is superimposed over the present, bringing the past into the present and merging them in a single timeless image.

Almost time travel really.

Well, you know me I just have to try these things, so I rushed to the place where we keep our old fashioned paper photographs and dug out one that I thought might work. This is a picture of the play bus we hired for Holly’s fifth birthday. It’s parked up outside of our house on the seventeenth of July, 1999 - almost twelve years ago.

I’d almost forgotten all about it. So good when something prompts you to remember, even better when the memories are happy ones.

As you can see the original paving-slabbed pavement has been vandalised since the picture was taken, replaced with horrible black tarmac when the road was dug up to repair the main drains and widened slightly. The tree that used to overhang the pavement (causing you to have to step onto the road sometimes) has been cut back and (although you can’t see it) the house to the right of the bus in the original picture now boasts a brand new enclosed porch. Apart from that though, things in the road are pretty much the same. People have come and gone, but the same grumpy old men still grump up and down it - and these days I’ve joined their ranks. The toddlers that once were are now six feet tall and driving cars, and the cars themselves are flashier, more streamlined and electric windows are the norm, not a luxury. But it’s still the same old road, the road that it’s been for the last hundred years or so.

Standing in exactly the same spot I’d stood all those years ago with my throw-away camera, I struggled to hold up the picture with one hand whilst juggling my Lumix with the other.


Well, not too bad for a first attempt.

And then like some older, less attractive, suburban, Dr. Who I was back to that day travelling through time to the past as the memories flooded in.

Small people everywhere, dressed in frilly skirts and shorts, feather boas and glitter masks, running up and down the road, screaming and laughing as they waited for the bus to arrive.

“It’s here, it’s here!” I heard them shout - and it was as Rumbletum’s Partybus drove over the cones I’d borrowed to keep the space outside free, squashing them flat as that proverbial fart.

“Sorry about that.” The driver smiled.

I wanted to smell his breath but didn’t dare, besides the little darlings were already piling onto the bus, pushing and shoving and pulling hair to be first up the stairs to the party games.

“Slow down, slow down.” The party hostess hissed from between clenched teeth. But of course they didn’t and one little girl was pushed back down the stairs where she lay, a crumpled heap of purple taffeta, spread-eagled on the floor at the bottom of the walkway. Needles to say she screeched for her mummy, who rushed onto the bus, scooped up her oscar-winning performance darling and carried her off to the car never to be seen again.

But apart from that (and the squabble that broke out between two waiting mothers who drank too much wine, the broken chair, the badly grazed knees, the child who was petrified of balloons and had to be slapped to stop her screaming, and that mysterious white dog who ran on to the bus and snatched most of the sausage rolls) the day went very well.

So take a look at some other time traveller’s pictures. Perhaps it may inspire you to make your own. I know that I’ll try this again and when I do I’m sure that I’ll share it with you.

Just click on the link below.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Speed demon – my first school sports day…

School sports days, they are all about us at this time of year like bees buzzing in the playing fields of every county. I passed one just yesterday afternoon and it made me shiver despite the muggy warmth of the day. I can’t even think about those three words without a slight feeling of fear passing through me – like a ghost walking over my grave,

School sports days… brrrrr.

Did anyone really enjoy them? Well the answer to that question is obviously yes otherwise sport wouldn’t be so highly prized, even worshipped by so many people. But I think that you needed to be good at sports to fully appreciate the joy of school sports day - and I wasn’t.

The egg and spoon, the sack, even the bean bags in a basket races left me trembling with unathletic fear and as for the proper sports, the running, jumping, and hop-and-skipping... well.

I have to admit to quite liking the tug-of-warring, but was that really sport or just an excuse too let of some boyish aggression?

It started out well though. The first time I felt the thrill of the race was a very special few moments for me, moments that I’ve never forgot or managed to experience since. It really was very strange and remains one of my clearest early-school memories.

Summer, 1962, John Hampden Primary School, Lower School – the class down by the recreation ground, a mile and a half from main school. Back then there wasn’t room for all the children in main school, so for the first year we were taught in a portkabin type structure in the grounds of the old school on Windmill Road. It had a playground, a huge beech tree, an overgrown garden that we weren’t meant to venture into, and an old school hall. The old hall was no more than an empty space where children were taught in a single class back in the times when kids had rickets and went up chimneys in their spare time. It was freezing cold inside in summer and even colder in the winter. I can still hear the wind whistling through the broken glass panes high in the tall, rectangular, windows above.

Back then the old school hall building was reserved for assemblies and ‘Music and Movement’ lessons on the radio (be a tree, you are the wind, float like a feather). Basically it was falling down and too unsafe to spend too much time in, but it had the space required to leap about in stockinged feet to the sound of a Home Service announcer.

We were taught our lessons in the two pink-painted, warm rooms in the adjacent cabin; our library, a large cupboard space with shelves between the two rooms. Strangely I can’t quite remember where the toilets were, although I think they must have been in the old school hall at the back, outside toilets, under the beech tree and open to the elements.

One summer’s day it was announced that we were to take part in a running race heat for the school sports day. All the children were marched up to the recreation ground in Plimsolls and our white sports clothes and lined across the width of the rec’s short green grass. It was quite a line - fifty or sixty five year old girls and boys all waiting for the whistle to be blown and the heat to start.

The first three boys, and the first three girls across the line, far away on the other side of the field, would go through to the main races in Thame park the following week. We’d be racing against older children from the next two years above ours in the real race, so we had a bit of a disadvantage, but at least we were all more or less the same age for the heat. I desperately wanted to get through to the real race.

The whistle blew and we were off, running as fast as our ricket-free legs would carry us. Andrew Roberts, the tallest boy in class, was in the lead followed by Anthony something-or-other. I was with a mass of flailing arms and legs somewhere behind them fighting for a bit of space - and it was then when the weirdest thing happened.

All of a sudden I began to run faster. It was as though something fast had entered my body and was helping me to run. I felt exhilarated - my arms pumped, legs pounded, my fringe flew in the wind, a huge smile upon my face as I ran faster and faster. Nothing could stop me! I ran quicker, then quicker still, soon overtaking Anthony and making ground on Andrew Roberts who was twenty feet in the lead. I knew I would beat him. A voice in my head calling ‘faster, faster, faster’ and the more it called the faster I ran. It was almost as though I was floating watching myself run towards the finish line, cheering myself on from above my sweating head.

Soon I was level with Andrew Roberts, despite him being a foot taller than me with legs to match and running towards the blue cloth tape stretched on the ground in the distance. ‘Faster, faster, faster’ the voice repeated. Five yards to go, then three, then two, then one - and I was over and collapsing to the ground, gasping for breath, watching Andrew Roberts as he approached the line with a good five yards still to cover.

I’d won! I was through!

“I didn’t know you could run that fast!” Miss Higgs said in amazement.
“Me neither Miss.” I managed to pant.

On the day of the proper race I came in a sorry last of nine. Andrew Roberts won and Anthony something-or-other came third. I gave it my best, but whatever speed demon was in me on the day of the heat wasn’t around for the real race. He’d moved on to another sports day I guess.

I was very disappointed in my performance. ‘Don’t worry love’ my mum said, but I never really enjoyed running much after that. I’d tasted the thrill of winning by miles and knowing I’d never manage it again, at least not on my own. So I let running drop away and be ousted by Daleks and rockets and drawing.

Even today though I still believe that it wasn’t just me that ran so fast that day, and often wonder who or what it was that ran with me.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Something about nothing...

There are days when there seems to be literally nothing to write. On these days it would probably be best not to write anything, but instead I usually find myself writing anything about nothing. Well, not today. Today I am going to write nothing about anything.

I suppose I could stick some sort of image in to illustrate nothing, but just what sort of image would it be? Probably better if I simply illustrate nothing with nothing instead of something that tries to illustrate nothing but is actually something pretending to be nothing.

Sorry to have gone on about nothing, but sometimes nothing seems to be everything.

Monday, 4 July 2011

A warm night and a blunt knife...

The night is warm. I may take off to the moon and embroider the universe with a single poem.

That’s the status I stuck up late last night on Facebook, just before winding my way up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire. Bacchus brings thoughts like that to me all the time, usually late at night, usually as the red wine is finished, usually as I sit pondering just who I am and what I am meant to be doing. Pity I don’t have the soul to live up to the grand statements that he drops into my mind.

At the time they seem important, the detritus of a tired, befuddled, mind struggling to make sense of another day – well, at least this one was sunny, and who knows perhaps they really are of importance. Perhaps they are the knives that could cut away the wool that encases me, if only I could sharpen them and make them last.

So, with this in mind it’s off to bed, struggling up that wooden hill, and as I flop the words come, pretentious and self reflecting, annoying and over sentimental. Like a silly sixth form student who has read too many poetry anthologies, noticing the rhyme, missing the meaning, but still managing to get a verse or two published in the school magazine because his English teacher knows that he can’t do any better. Probably out of pity for a stupid blunted boy.

Maybe I should never have been encouraged. Perhaps then I’d have a useful trade – an expert in double glazing, a mechanic, a salesman, a knife-grinder – anything other than this. I grind my knives to utter bluntness it seems.

Oh well, this is my blog. My dumping ground for all the rubbish of my life. I can chuck in anything, secure in the knowledge that if anyone reads this at all they’ll probably skip the poem.

Here’s another blunt knife to grind away on.

Warm nights and blunted knives

The night is warm.
I may take off to the moon
Embroidering the universe
With sewn stitched words.
Simple words made plain.
Small stars to speak my mind.
To convince myself in verse
That I see when I’m really blind.

The night is warm.
I may take off to the hill.
And watch the stars
Compose a dimming song.
Hummed upon the air.
In pattern hard to find.
The answers are all there,
Lost in a drink dulled mind.

The night is warm.
I may take off to the sea.
To watch the waves paint rusted foam,
Salt water dripping through me.
Stretched and pulled as paint
Of splashed and splattered kind.
To an end I knowingly await,
Still keep deep dark in mind.

The night is warm, not going anywhere,
With coldest nights yet still to come.
A warm night and a blunted blade
The moon, hill, sea will soon be done.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Bubbles. Over the years I’ve seen pretty much all of mine burst and fade to nothing, first love, marriage, friendship, family, trust - promise after promise popped with a pin to vanish into nothing as if it were never there. POP!

Oh well. Whatever. Wherever. Whenever.

Best not to think about it. Best to walk away and put some distance between it, them, he, she, and me. Best to laugh out loud and carry on regardless - what’s that you say Sid? ‘There are always more bubbles to blow.’ Y’know, I think that you could be right, after all, in the words of the song: ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles.’ I’m sure that I can blow up a few more.

Is there anybody in the land who hasn’t blown a bubble? I guess there must be, today’s children seem far too busy with their X-boxes and Wii’s to bother with the simple pleasures involved in blowing a few rainbow shimmering orbs and watching them as they float up and away into a distant sky.

I wonder what it’s like inside? A view of the world through a rainbow? A universe caught within an undulating, shifting, transparent skin. Must be nice to be inside a bubble. All safe. The outside world just that, outside, unable to get in. Viewable, but at a distance and far more beautiful, far more colourful than it actually is. Maybe being in a bubble is like being in love. It never lasts - POP!

Bubbles are so magical. How strange that a splash of water, a little detergent, and a few breaths of puff can create such things that look so unreal as they float against the backdrop of the real world, intangible, ethereal, a passing fancy. When I was a boy we would hold competitions to see who could blow the biggest bubble. Usually we made our own mix with washing up liquid and a piece of carefully twisted fuse wire for a blower, but sometimes my mum would buy me a tub of ‘proper’ bubbles from the shop. They always seemed to work so much better, the blower an unusually blue plastic attached to the screw top of the bubble tube. Those bubbles were bigger, more colourful, longer lasting - I don’t think I ever won the competition though - POP!

I could watch bubbles all day; the precise spherical shape, the incredibly fragile and microscopically thin soap film, the beautiful colours that swirl and shimmer, and of course the combination of all three of these attributes meeting to form a wonder that is here one moment and gone the next – POP!

Of course there are the ones that get away, the ones that float on the wind, disappear over the roofs and on to who knows where? I wonder where they end up. Do they go on for ever never popping, always moving forward on the breeze? I hope so. Maybe I’ll go with them one day, caught up in a big shimmering rainbow, on my way to Oz, or Wonderland, or Shangri La, or simple madness - lost in a bubble moving forwards on the breeze.

I’m going to blow some more bubbles while there’s still time - POP!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The return of the Ju-Ju…

Ju-Ju’s back.

Yes, he’s reappeared. He does that. He pops out and up when you least expect him.

He can be lost for months, wandering around it the deserted desert of the Me Mind and then – when I’m least expecting it, he’s back with his terrible smile and deadly piety. He is the light you see. He carries the Hoodoo Voodoo Heart. And of course he is the one true way. All praise the Holy Peanut! Amen.

It never takes me long to slip into his world, or rather for him to slip over into mine - and when he comes he brings a deadly dread. I dread awfully angled and aligned alliteration, an anthology awesome as anything. Dread the terror of the complex sentence. Dread a torture of alphabetically composed paragraphs. I find it all too angsty, bothersome, credulous, distracting, eerie, frightening, gut-wrenching, harrowing, and all those other alphabetic characters up to terror and then beyond. More terrible than should be known to any man. He is the electricity that scars the earth. He leaves the smell of burning toast behind him. Sniff the air - he is the Holy Peanut.

I never see him coming. I take my wine and wafer and when I stumble to my rise the next day I find him perilously perched upon the paper, perfectly poised, pending personification, practically pathetic in his peanut pictured penance. And then he is out, with no remembrance of him arriving save the ink from the smudging stained upon my fingers, my heavy head a’thumping, thumping, thumping.

Kill or cure? Curse or Blessing? Who knows? Only the Ju-Ju, his holiness the Hoodoo Voodoo can answer those questions.

Yes, it is a god awful small affair to the girl with the mousey hair and so suffer the little children. He is the light. He is the shade. He has the light and wears the shade. He is the standard that lights the world. He is the eclectic, elastic, ecclesiastical electricity. Peanut Be Praised!

His journey continues…

Friday, 1 July 2011

Heroes... my Uncle Dennis…

Back in the sixties, yes I said the sixties, I had a hero. Well, I had a few really – Dan Dare, Dennis the Mennis, the Lone Ranger, but this one wore a leather jacket, roared around on a motorbike, seemed to know a little about everything, and talked to me about space – outer space that is, the planets, the moon, and rockets and stuff. I didn’t see him often - he lived far away in Lincolnshire and we lived in Oxon, Oxfordshire for those of you who may not have heard that some towns are allowed to use this royal alternative.

My uncle Dennis popped in and out of my life for a few years bringing excitement and thrills each time he turned up. He wore leather and jeans, and he was so cool, not that cool was a word I understood or used back then, but he was very cool despite his glasses. He’d roll up on his motorbike sounding like thunder, shattering the peace of our estate like some kind of Jimmy Dean, a real ton-up lad, a rocker and all the other estate kids would come to see – fantastic!

Yes, Uncle Dennis was a real biker, well at least he was in my mind although I think he worked as a bookkeeper. Either way, not only was he cool but clever too.

He was always interested, asking about what I was reading, studying my latest model kit, talking to me about my latest drawing. I think he told me about Andy Warhol, at least I can never think of him without linking the two in my mind. He was the first adult that talked to me like I was a real person, not just a kid and I knew that he wasn’t joking.

Uncle Dennis, my auntie Shirley’s husband, a man of letters and numbers, a biker, more friend than uncle even though I was only five or six.

Later the motorbike became a motorbike and sidecar, and later still, a three wheeler - a blue (or was it red?) Robin I think. I don’t think he ever bothered to drive a car. Well, why would he? He was a biker. Throughout these changes though Uncle Dennis didn’t change in my mind, he was always cool - double cool, triple cool even.

Somewhere there’s an old black and white photograph of him standing outside our house in Kings Close, number 57 I think, not number 53 we moved there later. He’s wearing a white nylon shirt and black tapered trousers. His arms are firmly folded across his chest and he’s perched, one foot on the ground, on the saddle of his bike – a BSA I think. He’s looking directly at the camera, straight at it and he isn’t smiling, he’s looking cool, he always looked cool.

That picture seems to have vanished along with all the other bits of the past that resided in our old blue photo album, the one with the blue tassle marker and the cellophane photo hinges that never seemed to hold the photos in place. My mum says it’s around somewhere. I really hope it is, it holds so many people in its battered covers and Uncle Dennis is one of them - frozen in time leaning against his bike on a sunny afternoon so very long ago.

And then one day I heard that he had died. I don’t remember exactly when and I don’t remember exactly how I heard – we didn’t have a phone at the time. Something to do with his brain, an embolism I think. Uncle Dennis had complained of a thumping pain in his head and a short while later he was gone. Uncle Dennis my friend and early mentor - another word I wouldn’t have used back then and only recognise him for what he was now.

I didn’t go to the funeral. I was too young, and I’m not at all sure that all of the above is totally accurate. But it is in my mind and that’s what counts. In my mind Dennis lives on - the motorbikes, the coolness, his leather jacket and his friendship. I’m very sure about that.

I was given his leather jacket by my Auntie Shirley, I think it had tassels on the arms but that may be my fantasy. It hung in my wardrobe for years in the dark. Sometimes I’d take it out and put it on, wishing that I was old enough to make it fit. It smelt of leather, and bike, and oil. It smelt of Uncle Dennis.

I kept it for years and then, I don’t know why, I let my Uncle Bob have it. He rode a motorbike, and leathers need speed, and I knew I’d never ride one. And I never have. I wasn’t my uncle Dennis. I’ve simply never been that cool.