Bulk (A very short story)

Out with the lads, Friday night, Jake all lairy and Tom all leery and all of them pretty beery, darts, pool, lager, perving over women, playful shoulder punches and heterosexual hugs, rhythmic belching on a hot summers night.          And Jake says, ‘Here’s Pete’.

          And you know past midnight the bars still open and the goodness the dwells within every soul, open minded and ready to accommodate this new friend, Pete.

          ‘Alright, Pete?’

          Bloody hell!

          Pete is a fifty six tonne sperm whale.

          ‘Pete’s famous’, Jake says, ‘Cos he can drink like a fish. Can’t you, Pete?’

          Pete grins.

          His polo shirt only just fits.

          ‘I’ve just been playing pool’, he says. ‘But I leaned on the table and the legs broke. Completely collapsed! But I won the game anyway because all of the balls just happened to go down the holes in the exact right order. We had to leg it’.

          I want to ask him how he can leg it when he has not got legs.

          ‘Up till then’, he says, ‘It was going swimmingly’.

          I also want to ask him how he can hold the cue with his flappy little fins but I’m afraid he might give me a slapping.

          ‘Let’s go out and get a curry’, Jake suggests.

          ‘Or a kebab’, says Tom.

          ‘I don’t know about you guys’, says Pete, ‘But I’d love some krill. I think there’s an all night plankton place near here’.

          At this moment we hear some loud mouthed skinhead at the bar tell a joke in which the punchline denigrates certain sea-based large mammals.

          ‘Just what did you say?’, Pete asks.

          The skinhead looks somewhat taken aback.

          ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t realise you were a whale. I couldn’t tell from the accent’.

          But now we’re beginning to warm to Pete and plans are made to get a taxi back to our place. Helpfully, Jake suggests we might need a six seater, without drawing attention to Pete’s bulk, the elephant in the room.

          ‘We could watch a dvd’, Pete says. ‘But not something sad. I always start to blubber’.

          ‘You could stay over’, Tom says. ‘I could make up some beds’.

          ‘That’s fine, I can always sleep in the bath’.

          At that moment a fight broke out at the pool table. One of the combatants lobs the cue ball, it sails through the air and goes straight into Pete’s blowhole, where it lodges, and he dies.

The Shivering House (A short story) 

The house keeps on shivering.
I’ve called for a builder in order that he might assess the problem, and he recommends a doctor. The doctor didn’t know what to do himself, although he prescribed some pills because of a nasty rash in the kitchen near the microwave, and he also wondered why there was a patch of stubble in the hall.
‘Do you ever shave the floors?’, he asked, somewhat accusingly.

‘Of course not!’, I laughed. ‘Why would I do such a thing?’
‘I just thought you might be one of those house- rights activists. They have such weird beliefs. Shaving a house, they often say, gives it some dignity’.
I pointed to the floor of the living room where we were both standing and I indicated that the carpet had not yet had a chance to grow, though the previous house- doctor had stipulated a month’s wait at least until the shag pile had developed. ‘Would I have willingly ordered carpet’, I asked, ‘If I were in the habit of shaving the floors? Now I understand that stubble on the floor might be the next big thing in interior decoration, although I’ve heard that it can be quite painful on the feet. But I can assure you that the house, in all purposes, is allowed to follow its own developmental path’.
‘Hmm’, the house-doctor said. He wrote out his prescription and he passed it to me. ‘I’ll look into this’, he said, ‘But I’m not promising anything’.
The house kept on shivering all through the night.
I wondered if it was anything to do with me. Bad luck seems to follow me around, or maybe it is that I take to heart anything that goes wrong in my life, that I take things so personally. I have, however, never been happy in my new home. There was a curious burping noise when I first moved in, which was revealed to be a build- up of installation gasses in the main bone structure, and a nasty lump had to be removed a few weeks later, under aesthetic, a process which meant that I had to stay with my parents until the house recovered. But now this constant shivering, which, eerily, occurs more often at night, seems to confirm that such matters are completely out of my control. 
I go through the next few days with a grim determination that the problems of the house should not ruin my enjoyments of life. At work I am personable and polite and all conversations regarding the developments of my living space are answered with an airy grace, underscored by a ruthlessness in not inviting any of my colleagues home to view the place. I describe to them the exact colour of my carpet – when it finally grows – and they applaud me on the colour that I have chosen. ‘It is obvious’, I am told, ‘That you have a flair for decoration. Maybe you would like to work on our office, when the next budget comes through’. But I look around at the plain, glass and steel building, and the whole place gives me the creeps.
‘It just doesn’t seem alive’, I whisper. ‘How can one ever get a bond with an inanimate object? Who hasn’t fallen asleep at night lulled by the heartbeat of their own house? I’m sorry, but brick and mortar have nothing for me’.
I do not hear from the house-doctor for a while. Yet the shivering gets worse, a continual flexing and spasm evident in most of the inner walls. At last the rash on the kitchen wall clears up, although the house-doctor was correct, a path of stubble on the hallway floor would hint to me that a razor was being applied to it in a methodical fashion. One night on television I learned of a horrible disease affecting houses of a certain period, and a whole street in Basingstoke closed down and condemned, the houses coughing and spluttering, the walls braking out in cold sweats. The programme made me think and I wondered if my house, too, had caught such a disease, though it comes from a healthy stock and good breeding and is the result, I was informed at the time of its purchase, of a natural, free-range house-to- house courtship. The only problem I could see is that there was, in its heritage, a quarter bungalow, that its grandfather was a seaside shack by designation, and by their nature, single-storey houses have long been prone to infection.
 One night the shivering became so bad that I could not sleep. The bed kept on moving with each involuntary shudder, and I found myself walking the neighbourhood. The night sky was clear and I could see the stars above, and even the Coca-cola moon shining bright with its red neon laser glow. I could see beauty in the world, and for the first time I wondered if this beauty came from nature. Could it be possible? I remembered the years of my youth when I once saw a squirrel, and as my mother hurried me away from it in case I caught its diseases, I was entranced that another creature could also exist on this planet without having been designed or tested for usefulness. I remembered how wonderful this squirrel had looked, how sure of itself it was, and how there were once trees and the squirrels had lived in the trees. Heavens, they had even eaten nuts and still survived without succumbing to some allergy! But the stars, despite everything, were still there.
I returned to my house. I could see it convulsing at the end of the driveway. As I reached out to open the front door, it seemed to shrink back from me. When I breathed out a sigh of relief in the hallway, the walls broke out with chicken flesh bumps, and I thought to myself, ‘It’s almost as if the house is repulsed by me . . . ‘ . It was only when I got to the kitchen that the moaning started.
A deep, deep throated yawn. Which was most strange, because the house was not installed with a throat. I clung on to the furniture as the house swayed from side to side. Ohhhh, it said, ohhhh. It was as if there was an ache somewhere within it, and I thought about applying a paracetamol to its bloodstream, but then thought better because it would invalidate my warranty. Ohhhh, the house said. Ohhhh. The swaying got worse, as if the house were drunk, and I started to slide down a wall. Such a stench! Of stale sweat, and I could feel a clammy odour seep from the skirting boards. Then the heart beat started accelerating. No problem, I thought. Houses often suffer cardiac arrest. My Uncle’s house had three bypasses before it finally expired. But this was a pounding, a rushing of blood, and I could see veins underneath the wallpaper. The house was rocking from side to side, now, as if in the throes of some primeval dance. I wondered if its bungalow ancestry was coming to the fore, or the impetuosity of the maisonette. But this was worse, much worse. At last I fought my way back into the hallway to see something horrific, something so tremendously appalling that I have never set foot in such a house again.
A pair of arms had sprouted from the walls. The house-doctor told me later that in just two generations – and no doubt accelerated by the chemicals used to speed up the growing process – the houses had evolved, and grown inner arms by which they could amend themselves for maximum personal comfort. And what were these inner arms doing? They were shaving the floor, right where I had decided to grow my new carpet. Scrape, scrape, scrape. I ran into the night and I hid until morning in the shade of my garden shed, my only comfort coming from the red neon glare of the Coca-cola moon. 

You can listen to an audio of this story here https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham/shivering-house

The Day This Summer I Almost Gave Up On Spoken Word

It’s been a strange year for a lot of reasons. Professionally for me, it’s been a very good year with lots of opportunities and reasons to get excited about the future, some of which I can’t reveal right now. But just a few months ago it looked very different.

I was reminded of this by the retirement of Nico Rosberg, the current formula one world champion. For those uninitiated with motor racing, he won the world championship after a thrilling duel with Lewis Hamilton, reckoned by many to be the best driver in the world today, then promptly announced his retirement. It was a brave and honest move.
This summer I performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was only there for a week, but the usual Fringe madness was endemic, the seemingly endless cycle of promoting and leafleting, flyering, talking, then putting on a show in front of three people at the most. I was getting audiences at least, but I was not having the best of times, in a noisy venue which was very supportive and friendly and yet wholly unsuited to my show, which demanded long periods of quiet. Consequently I did not enjoy the experience. However, I did appear at a few other shows, as a guest at Stand Up and Slam, which my poetry helped the Poet team to a resounding success, and at the Boomerang Club, where I headlined on the very last day of the fringe.
By this time I was feeling a little frazzled by the whole experience. I’d also had one or two problems, such as losing my passport, so while I should’ve been flyering and leafleting, I was making phone calls and stressing about the passport, because I had a trip to New York and it was looking like I wouldn’t have a passport in time to get there. I’d also had to move accommodation for the last day of my stay due to another procedural problem. So it was all quite stressful.
On the penultimate night I thought, hmmm, why don’t I give it all up? The possibility of a promotion had come up at work, and this would mean less spoken word, perhaps I ought to go for the promotion and not do any spoken word at all, become a professional and competent retail manager instead. And as the penultimate day wore on I thought more and more that this was the right decision.
So I planned the set for the Boomerang Club in the knowledge that this might be my last ever performance anywhere. And where better to do a last performance, but headlining in Edinburgh? It would be a great story. Something to remember for the rest of my life while ploughing ahead into the beauty of a career in retail.
On the way to the gig from my new lodgings, I walked along listening to music, walked past the Courtyard, and someone recognised me from the Stand Up and Slam event, they acted as if they’d just seen a celebrity. It made me feel good.
The show went well and I finished on my poem ‘Plop’, which I normally start routines with. I did this because it was a little symbol to myself, a little nod. The show went very quickly, and I sat down and thought, well, that’s done then. And now I’m a retail manager.
Getting home to Devon took about twelve hours and when I finally arrived my mind was blank. But then something weird happened the next morning. It was like my brain had been wiped, that the whole future of spoken word seemed a blank canvas on which I could completely start again.
And instead of retiring, I found myself acting as if I was a complete newcomer. I set in motion a system of rehearsing and concentrating on performance skills. I decided to try and learn all of my new material. And I decided to have fun. Why should I stop doing the only thing I’m halfway decent at?
And I decided not to go for the promotion.
It’s a gamble that has paid off. I’ve got a few opportunities and projects which are quite advantageous, financially, and I’m even considering reducing the number of hours I do in my day job to accommodate these. This whole half year has been a complete reinvention. And of course, I had a fantastic gig in New York, once I’d sorted my passport out, winning over a cabaret crowd in Greenwich Village right next door to the Stonewall Inn. 
It’s been a weird year, and I’m so glad that I didn’t Do A Nico!

This year’s advent calendar 

Well this year’s advent calendar was a strange one. Here’s every day in it’s unusual glory. 
Today’s advent calendar picture was of a duck wearing a Groucho Marx moustache, nose and glasses.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a clown waving his big shoe at a smoke detector 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of the Easter Bunny trying to keep two sides of a build-it-yourself shed upright while Marilyn Monroe reads the instructions. 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of the seven dwarves waiting, angrily, at a mobile chip van, while the lady serving, who for some reason is a panda, is looking at holiday photos being shown to her by Snarf from Thundercats
Today’s advent calendar picture is of Gandalf at the self service Tesco machine 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of an advent calendar 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of Vladimir Putin eating a Pot Noodle 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of sixteen Laurels (from Laurel and Hardy) and Sid James queuing at a self service cafeteria.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a frog trying to push a sofa up a flight of stairs, backwards, sweating profusely.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of an igloo, a bin with contents strewn around, and a polar bear flaked out by tranquilliser dart. 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a Peruvian brown bear wearing a scarf scraping frost off the windscreen of a parked car with its engine running. 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a sneezing unicorn.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a badger and a rabbit having a row about who gets the last chicken mayonnaise sandwich in the chiller cabinet while TV’s Victoria Coren Mitchell sneaks in and grabs it for herself.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a stack of suspended ceiling tiles, £11 each plus postage and packing 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of the nativity scene. (Bit early but there you go). 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of fifteen donkeys wearing sombreros and a man at a stall trying to sell them more sombreros but the donkeys are having none of it.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a badger getting a refund on a pair of trousers.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of Lord Byron on roller skates in a crumpled heap next to a slightly dented Ford Focus. 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a panda in a library reading a Will Self novel, double checking some of the weightier vocabulary in a dictionary. 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of Mr T from The A Team at the boating lake in the park, rowing a rowing boat past some rhododendrons. 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a squid waiting in the queue for the Primark changing room with a Tigger the Tiger onesie.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of Darth Vader in a lightsabre battle with Alan Bennett. 
Today’s advent calendar picture is of Michael Portillo looking very grumpy on a rail replacement bus. Oh, and why not, Skeletor from HeMan is sitting three rows behind him, eating a Pot Noodle.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a confused ostrich.

Make your own Robert Garnham Poem with this Automatic Robert Garnham Whimsy Generator

Make your own Robert Garnham Poem with this Automatic Robert Garnham Whimsy Generator!
Your birth month:

January : An ocelot

February : A badger

March : A haberdasher

April : A lollipop lady

May : A dental hygienist

June : Jeremy Clarkson 

July : Mark

August : My Aunt

September : A duck wearing a Groucho Marx moustache and glasses

October : Another badger

November : The bus driver

December : TV’s Alan Titchmarsh
Your eye colour:

Brown : is playing a trumpet.

Green : is getting a refund on some trousers.

Hazel : is sneezing.

Blue : Is looking for the tv remote

Grey : has a dodgy stomach.

Other : is fumbling for some loose change.
Birth order:

Eldest child : Look out,

Middle child : Get ready,

Youngest child : Eat some cake and

Only child : Hang on a sec,
Hair colour:

Blonde : They’re coming after you next.

Brown : There’s bound to be an argument.

Red : They’ll send you a Facebook request.

Grey : run!

Black : did someone say ‘plop’?

Bald : Fetch a bucket.

Other : Put the kettle on.