Tinsel

Ho ho ho!

Every year for the last ten years or so I’ve written a Christmas poem or two. So this year I’ve gathered them all together as a present for some close friends, and then I thought, well, why not make it available generally?

So Puddlehopper Books and myself are pleased to announce to the world a pamphlet just for Christmas, Tinsel! It contains some of my various poems written especially for Christmas and it’s available through the Lulu website.

Tinsel is the ideal stocking filler, a book for evenings of warmth and that post Christmas glow. Details on how to order Tinsel can be found below, as well as one of the poems from the book.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-garnham/tinsel/paperback/product-24334960.html

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.

A Christmas miracle

It was a Christmas miracle
Just like the ones you hear about.
Mum had lost her glasses,
Couldn’t find them anywhere.

All year long without them,
Assumed for some reason I’d nicked them.
Why would I nick your glasses?, I asked.
For a crazy prop, maybe.
For one of your shows?

(I mean, seriously,
Don’t you think I’d have at least
Asked her?)

All year long without them.
Squinting at cooking instructions.
Just get a new pair, I said.
No, she replied,
They’re here somewhere.
Are you sure you didn’t nick them
For one of your crazy shows?

All year long without them.
Bifocals too, she said.
I remember having them
At Christmas.
It’s a problem which really
Does vex.
Seriously, what have you
Done with my specs?

All year long without them.
They’d hang on a chain round her neck
So that she couldn’t lose them.
And then she lost them.
And anyway,
At what point during my act
Would I need a pair of glasses on a chain?

It’s not like I’m a drag act.

All year long without them.
And do you know where they were?
In the Christmas decorations box,
Sitting atop tinsel having been
Packed erroneously
Eleven months before.

Another Christmas miracle,
Another Christmas delight.

Seriously, though, I protest,
I wouldn’t have just taken them.
Jeez.

Have you ever read the smallprint on a shampoo bottle?

PLAXHORN HAIR CARE SHAMPOO FORMULA XL5 PLUS CONDITIONER

At Plaxhorn we care for your hair!

FOR FINE OR GREASY HAIR

When you use Plaxhorn Hair Care Shanpoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner for the first time you will be transported to the deepest forest, to a clear pool by a bubbling stream, where the air is pure and the sunlight full of enriching vitamins , Plaxhorn Hair Care Shampoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner has been formulated especially with Jojoba Oil and extracts of wheat germ to leave your hair feeling luxurious. Blends of natural oils cleanse all hair types and remoisturise dry or damaged roots to add a beautiful shine that can stay up to five days after washing.

I doubt if you are reading this, and even if you are I expect no-one cares.

I am being held prisoner in a shampoo factory. This is my only means of communication with the outside world and even now I am petrified that someone is going to find out. Please, somebody out there, answer my message: rescue me from this man-made hell which smells so sweetly of sunflower extract.

The individual needs of every consumer can be met by Plaxhorn Hair Care Shampoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner. All of us here at Plaxhorn are proud of our reputation for innovation in the field of shampoo research, and we are so confident that you will be satisfied with our product that we do not even need to offer a money-back guarantee.

They lock me in the electricity cupboard during the day so that I can’t escape and the humming throbbing circuit boards vibrate so loudly that no-one can hear my pleas.

It’s my sister’s fault, Felicity, it’s her who’s behind this. She hates me because I’m her dirty little secret. What can I do, really, though, what can I do? I’m a nobody and she is a shampoo baron, the boss of the Plaxhorn Shampoo Cor corporation . Please rescue me from this herbal essence-soaked purgatory.

DIRECTIONS FOR OPTIMUM USAGE: Wet hair vith shower facility or cup. Apply Plaxhorn Hair Care Shampoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner. Gently massage into wet hair and scalp with fingertips,, lather and rinse. You may rinse twice if necessary and feel free to repeat the process. Plaxhorn Hair Care Shampoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner is a frequent use shampoo so you may use it as many times as you see fit.

I’m her dirty little secret and I know I’ve said that before, but that’s how I feel. You see, Daddy was going to leave the company to me. When I was a kid he would hold me up so that I could see the big vats of anti-dandruff mixtures and he would say, ‘One day, son, all of this is going to be yours. However, please avoid contact with eyes, as painful stinging may occur. If this occurs, please rinse in tepid water. Contact with ears may result in an inflammation of the inner ear and a consultation with a Doctor may be necessary. Plaxhorn hair Care Shampoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner has also shown to be poisonous, so refrain from swallowing. If swallowed, please feel free to call an ambulance.

Biut then I committed the worst crime that a member of this family could have suffered: I went bald. And father, on his death-bed, said How can we promote the positive aspects of our fine range of toiletries and hair care products when even the managing director is as bald as a coot? How can we assure the general public that Plaxhorn Hair Care Shampoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner leads to vitality and bounce when the managing director’s head reflects the fluorescent lights of the ceiling above? So Felicity was given the company instead and I was made a bottle capping machine operative.

Remember, Plaxhorn is the last line of defence against scabby-llooking hair!

Except then I kicked up such a stink that she locked me in the electricity cupboard. Some nights I dream of strangling Felicity until her face turns blue and then I assume control of the company in a blaze of publicity, with the newspapers screaming ‘Baldie wins control of shampoo company!” The ultimate in political correctness! But the long hours trapped next to the electricity metre, which spins in a slow silence, and the fuse box which sometimes sparks
and spits like an angry python, have taught me the sense of smallness that emanates from me, the futility of all my actions. Sometimes I sneak to the adjacent cleaner’s cupboard and place a mop upon my head and pretend thatI have hair.

Plaxhorn Hair Care Shampoo Formula XL5 Plus Conditioner contains the following ingredients. Ammoninm Sulfate. Amnonium. Lauryl Sulfate ..

It’s night and they have let me out of the electricity cupboard. I’m in her office now. A big picture of daddy dominates her room. I don’t understand how he had such thick, luscious hair all of his life, right up until the day he died. I have deep suspicions and that is why I am here.

Disodium. Cocani de mipa. Sodium methyl paraben.

I’m looking in drawers and cupboards because I’ve had an exciting tip-off. I heard the other bottle capping machine operatives gossiping and apparently she keeps the evidence in her desk.

Propylene alycol. Benzyl alcohol. Magnesium chloride. Water.

But now I am halted by an absurdity. The world will ask: So what? He’s dead, Felicity’s in control. And where will it get me, eh? I’ll still spend all of tomorrow in the electricity cupboard, even if I did out my own father as a wig-wearer.

Benzophenone 4, Polyquartermine 7.

And now I am leaving her office because I know it’s just not worth it. I shall go back to my cupboard. It’s small, but it’s my world and it’s far less frightening than the world outside the Plaxhorn Factory.

Plaxhorn are against the testing of products on animals.

The postmortem, ah now, there’s a different story altogether. They say he died from shampoo poisoning. He swallowed it. Silly fool, they all said. He washed his hair and he just kept on guzzling that precious nectar. He was in the shower. Swigging from the bottle.

His wig. I’m sure it’s in her drawer. He wore a wig. I’m sure of it.

If you’re reading this, send help. Please, send help.

Customer Service in the Deep Dark Woods

My latest podcast is another short story written sometime during the 2000s.

I hope you like it!

https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham/perpendicular-customer

Adventures in Swindon

I just thought I’d write a quick blog about the gig I had in Swindon this last week. I’ve always got on well in Swindon, ever since a slam I entered there many moons ago and managed to come second, performing a poem about the town that I’d written during the interval. I’d headlined or featured in Swindon three times over the last few years, at Oooh Beehive twice and at Rusty Goat’s Poetry Corner. I’ve managed to build up a small fan base, you might say. So Swindon has always felt like friendly territory for me and I’ve always loved going there.

It must be said that what Nick Lovell and Clive Oseman have created in a small backstreet pub in Swindon is really quite amazing. Oooh Beehive, (the name a not so subtle pun on the name of the pub), is that rare thing : a well attended and enthusiastic poetry night in front of a non poetry audience. Over the last few years, Nick and Clive have got some of the biggest names on the spoken word circuit to come along and perform at the pub and the nights seem to be going from strength to strength.

I suppose I am a little biased. As I say, I seem to have a loyal fan base in Swindon, and my poetry always goes down best with non poetry audiences. But the fad that the drinkers at the pub are so enthusiastic is all down to the efforts of Clive and Nick.

It took me five hours to get to Swindon from Paignton, due to the wonderful insertion of a rail replacement coach service from Tiverton to Bristol. You have to wear seat belts in coaches now and the seat belts on this particular coach strapped me to the sit with very little room to manoeuvre. I couldn’t even bend down to get my iPad or a book out of my bag, so I was consequently strapped there for the whole two hour ride up the M5.

Shortly after leaving Tiverton, I noticed the good looking young man across the aisle from me. I’d seen him getting on the coach and I marvelled at his incredibly symmetrical face. Indeed, he looked almost like a robot, a created idea of what a human should be. His skin was smooth and his hair clipped and blended at the sides and back. His eyes were a luscious blue and he had the most amazing eyebrows of any man I had ever seen. And there I was, strapped in to my seat, unable to move and unable to concentrate for the next two hours.

As is often the case in such situations, I thought I’d try and figure how he lived his life. He could have been a male model, and would not have looked out of place on the pages of a magazine, or perhaps he was an actor, with his Hollywood classical looks. But then I happened to notice his hands. I’d never seen such bruised, battered, misshapen hands, with the dirtiest fingernails. How can his face be so beautiful, and his hands be so disgusting? A part of me felt appalled. This bizarre mix of the sweet and the sour, like carrot cake served with sour cream. And then I noticed his mobile phone. He was swiping through Google search images of tractors and farm equipment. Ah, I thought, he’s a farmer. That would explain the hands. And then I started thinking about his life, a country lad, chugging along on his tractor.

I stayed in a very cheap hotel just round the corner from the Beehive pub. It was run by three young Indian men. One of them let me in, and led me to the reception where the next greeted me warmly, and we exchanged a joke or two, but then he turned to the young man who’d let me in.

‘You haven’t finished preparing the rooms yet! Look, it’s four o clock and our guests are arriving! Go! Go and finish the rooms, you are lazy!’

The receptionist then turned to me and smiled as if in apology, as his assistant scampered away. And I found myself smiling in agreement with him, as if sensing his frustration. People, eh?, I felt like saying.

That night, as I prepared for the gig, I heard a fierce row break out downstairs, accompanied by the slamming of doors and one of the men yelling, ‘we’ll see! We’ll see!’ A part of me felt glad that I would only be staying there for a short while, though I was keen to know more about my hosts, as I felt it might even be the basis for a sitcom. What with that, and the sign on the wall telling guests that if they brought anyone back to their room, then the police would be called.

Things got even weirder the next morning when I left early to book out, to be greeted by the assistant who was standing at the door to the breakfast room in the most amazing hotel uniform, resplendent and stately, as if this cheap bed and breakfast were now a high class London hotel. He even bowed as I came down the stairs.

As I say, the Oooh Beehive gig went very well. About a third of the way into my set I became conscious that I had the attention of everyone in the pub, even those in the next room, and they were attentive and appreciative in a way that other audiences tend not to be, or at least, tend not to be with me. And once the evening was over, myself and Tom Sastry, who had been the other feature act, were treated like poetic kings, titans of the spoken word scene, by the audience, who were genuine in their excitement and gracious with their praise.

The next morning I went to Primark and then to the station to catch the train and coach back to Paignton, and I told myself not to be too complacent, that gigs will not always be as good as this one. The scene that Nick and Clive have fostered in Swindon is unique and loving, accepting and open minded, and both of them are people for whom I have a lot of time. I would recommend anyone with an interest in spoken word to get along to Oooh Beehive at some point.

Horse

https://youtu.be/NQdDlilcQ0Y

Poem

I always wanted to meet a horse
And last night I did!
My word
You’ve got big nostrils.

The horse said.

It’s not every day you see
An equestrian pedestrian.
He had the grooves.
He had the moves.
He couldn’t work the cash machine
With his clumpy hooves.
The Neon shone in his flanks.
I felt something move in my
Soul.

Psssssst!
I’ve always thought there was
Something equine about me, myself.
My favourite TV show is
Neighhhhhh,
Which is Horse for Coronation Street.
I said to my ex, Floyd,
Whack a saddle on me
And ride me round the bedroom,
Now whinny for me, Big fella!
Whinny for me!
Whinny like there’s no tomorrow!
Since then I’ve been
Desperately lonely.

Give me a call some time, I said
To the horse.
I can’t, he replied.
The mobile phone is too short
For my big head,
Plus,
I’m in a stable relationship.

We went to a bar.
The barman said,
Why the long face?
Ohhhh,
Just the usual ennui, I replied.

Why have you got that horse anyway?
Are you going to race him?
No, I replied, he’s much faster than me.

Clipperty Clipperty clop
With my horse I did trot
I could have such fun with one
I would buy a bun for one
My friend Ben is hung like one
That’s why we call him
Dobbin.

Ohhhh, horsey!
I want to take off my shirt,
And grab hold of his tail,
And twirl it around my nipples
And feel its thick horse strands
Sending me into raptures of heavenly oblivion.
It’s how I got banned
From ascot.
Naughty horse!
Naughty horse!

Briefs or boxers?, I ask,
Boxers or briefs? I say.
Briefs or boxers, boxers or briefs?
What are you wearing today?
He replied,
Usually, just jockeys.

We’re meant to be together,
But oh, the smell!
The rancid putrid smell,
I’m sure the horse will get used to it.
The two of us, having happy fun,
So carefree so rampant , the night comes undone,
Happy beyond belief,
The bit between my teeth
Life in all its horsey beauty falling in on us
A stirrup for the senses,
Love sublime every day
From the moment we wake up
To the moment we hit the hay
But instead
The horse did say,
Nay.

Oh look,
There he goes now!

Replacement Bus Service

Poem

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

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I was almost home
I was on my own
It came on
The microphone
The whole train
Let out a groan

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So comfy
So rested
My money
I’d invested
In a sandwich
For eight quid

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

It’s not fair
Don’t deserve it
My seat was
Not reserved
And now I’m
In the vestibule
I’m such a fool
In the vestibule

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It’s almost time
We’re almost near
Into every heart
Who holds dear
These words strike
So much fear

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

I sit with
A life coach
He said hey
I’m a life coach
Just trust me
I’m a life coach
And be happy
Just like me
Because I
Am a life coach
But he looked so
Miserable
As he got
On he coach

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It really is
A tough day
I was queuing
In the buffet
And just as I
Was about to say
Can I have
A coffee?

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

The man in charge
Hit by lightning
It was so
Very frightening
He was the
Conductor

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I don’t fear
Armageddon
And I’m not one
For religion
But I quiver
When you mention

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

The Lad with
No ticket
He really
Couldn’t risk it
He hid in
The toilet
He’s probably
Still in there

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I was sitting
In the quiet zone
Felt so peaceful
I was on my own
Now there’s music
From a mobile phone

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

Some people
Take so long
To sit down
As they faff around
And just when
They manage to

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Excuse me
I think you
Will find that
You’re sitting
In my seat
Get out please

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

The fear now
Is spreading
Those words that
I’m dreading
Welcome
To Reading!

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Excuse me
Says a lady
To the driver
Where is first class?
And the driver
Says ha ha
Ha ha ha
Ha ha ha
Ha ha ha
There isn’t one

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It’s personal
It’s galling
Those three words
So appalling

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My uncles
Dear funeral
It was so
Damn miserable
What’s worse was
The hearse was

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On ten years as a performance poet 2009-2019

This Sunday afternoon I did a radio interview with Jeff Sleeman. During the interview we talked about the fact that this was my ten year anniversary as a performer and indeed, Jeff had been at the very first gig I’d been to. It seems inconceivable that ten years have passed, for I remember the night in question in precise detail. I remember that three of the performers had been bald and that I mistook one from another, and congratulating them on a poem that they hadn’t performed. And I remember seeing Bryce Dumont a couple of days later doing his shopping and becoming very nervous, having seen a local celebrity out of his stage environment. It all seemed so new and fresh.

Ten years, though.

I asked the host, Chris Brooks, whether I could have a slot at the next event and he said yes. Great! But now a serious problem arose, in that I didn’t have any poems. Not one. I had no material whatsoever. I’d only come along to the night the previous month because I was bored. So I hurriedly wrote two poems, one called My Family, the other called I Don’t Want To Be A Performance Poet. Both of them relied heavily on rhyme. And the latter was somewhat prophetic. So I stood there, hands shaking holding sheets of A4 paper, and amazingly people laughed in all the places where I thought I was saying something funny. In fact, I couldn’t quite believe it. For years I’d written short stories alone and nobody laughed. In one moment I had doubled, tripled, quadrupled the normal audience for my output.

It’s probably fair to say that performance poetry has changed my life. When I look back at everything that I’ve done over the last ten years, I can hardly believe it myself. Ten years ago I was a shy individual who would do anything rather than speak to strangers or hold a conversation. And now I leap on to stages in far flung places and Spout the most meaningless whimsy, and people laugh. I came from a background in which such exuberance was seen as the sort of thing reserved for those from different upbringings, that those who, like me, were raised on the mean streets of Englefield Green’s notorious Forest estate, could not possibly aspire to a life in the performing arts. Culture was out of touch. I didn’t have the right to perform.

Yet I did have one thing going for me, and that’s my homosexuality. Growing up and feeling different to everyone around me, during a time of Section 28 and the AIDS crisis, a time in which homophobia was the natural response and the default setting of organisations and even those in authority around me, I kind of knew that the world wasn’t quite as settled as people assumed. My childhood love of comedy and writing could be more than just a hopeless dream. My voice could be just as legitimate as those who I looked up to, even if I felt that I was not entitled due to my upbringing, my education, my background.

It’s just a shame that it took twenty years for this entitlement to become apparent. We now live in a culture in which we are told that we are all entitled to a voice, and that’s great. By the time I started performing, I was thirty five. The spoken word scene is now filled with young people who leap on the stage from an early age with an imbued sense of entitlement and freedom. It was never this easy!

Regular Robheads will have noticed that I try not to be too autobiographical. Attendance at a poetry night these days, particularly in cities such as London and Bristol, is to be immersed in autobiographies and the dance of the self, explorations of emotion, lessons learned from life and hopes for the future. And yes, I have one or two poems of my own in which I explore my own life and things that have happened, but in the most part, I prefer to keep these away from public exposure. For a start, my own problems and misfortunes are very minor indeed and I have been very fortunate to live a life of contentedness. Secondly, I’m very aware that the persona of Robert Garnham, Professor of Whimsy, who appears on stage, is a complete fabrication. Anything that I say on stage will never have a ring of truth about it. The truth is seldom so convenient as to fit in with a rhyme scheme, and just because something rhymes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.

So what I’m saying in this blog is that I am very happy with the person that I am now, and the progress that I’ve made during the last ten years. Each day as a performance poet is a learning process. I see those around me, those I look up to and admire who are way above me in the spoken word pecking order, and I try to see what they do and the way they achieve it. Jonny Fluffypunk, Rachel Pantechnicon, Byron Vincent, Melanie Branton, Liv Torc, people whose success and acclaim I one day hope to emulate, and that’s what drives me on as an artist and as a human being.

And that’s the last thing I thought I’d mention, here. In honour of my ten years, I’ve started calling myself a performance poet again. The biggest change in the scene that I’ve noticed, and one that has been pointed out by people such as Pete Bearder in his excellent book, is that the community has moved away from the performance poetry of the late 2000s, in which variety was the keyword, and comedy, and props, and general silliness and the willingness to shock, to become a kind of homogenised slam-influenced autobiographical entity known as spoken word. And while I’ve been pleased to acknowledge the ‘art’ part of the phrase ‘spoken word artist’, it’s taken about eight years to realise that this is not who I am. I am a performance poet, and more specifically, a comedy performance poet. And just by carrying on with what I was doing in 2009, (and what other people were doing too), I’ve somehow become a bit unique. And you know what? I’m really comfortable with that!

So, then, ten years! I’ve had the most amazing time. To celebrate, I’ve undertaken a little mini tour and the lovely interview with Jeff can be found below. My part of the show starts just after the hour mark.

https://m.mixcloud.com/jeff-sleeman/happy-sundays-03-11-19/

Year of the Cassowary

So recently I found the manuscript of my first ever home made collectin, Year of the Cassowary. These poems were written during the first couple of years of my spoken word career. I thought I’d post them here for your delectation.

The book was home made, printed and stapled by myself, and it offers a fascinating snap shot of my preoccupations at the time!

Robert Garnham

Year of the Cassowary

Contents:

Poem (Lines Written Inspired by Somerset)
Plop
Barn Conversion on an Accident Black Spot
On the Subject of Mister Shaw’s Private Life
Poem Which Starts with the Words ‘ Pull Up a Chair, Philip Larkin’
Matt’s Duvet
On Air Trapped in a Parisian Radiator
Doc
Nowhere Near Magnetic North
The Jacket of Agnes
Llama-Trekking with Kim Jong-Un
I Am The Wardrobe Man
Poem
Mister Purposefully-No-one-wish-I-Was-Someone-Man
Poem
Frank (1-1=0)
Karaoke in the Departure Lounge
Love Poems Love Poem
Lament of a Noted Brazilian Anglophile

Poem

Alack! Do some settle
In Somerset.
Sunset’s set, sat un-set
And stomach upset.
Somerset.
Somersaulting vaulting sum of
Greater parts. Haunting dauntless Taunton,
Summer parks.
I’d settle soon in Somerset,
Besotted thus with summer sex,
Haystack fumbles, aching, wet,
Hanging round at nights with the badger set.
Think of all the joy I’d get
In Somerset.

Although, I do suspect
A seldom sudden thought remains unsaid.
I don’t like barns. Or farms.
Or country vets.
And that is why I’ll settle not in Somerset.

(written on a train just outside of Taunton, 2010)

Plop

I have probed the depths of literature.
But my friend Mark only remembers
The one poem I wrote.
The one called ‘Plop’.
And it goes something like this:
Plop.
Pah-lop.
Plop.
At nights I reach right in and thrust my hand
Deep into the fiery furnace of metaphor,
And I grab the human condition
And I throttle it.
And I squeeze the truth out of it.
And I tear the words from the sky.
And I wrestle with sentences like a demon.
I am the king of ink, monarch of the pen.
My nib moving faster and faster as my fingers
Grip the shaft of the biro,
Spilling on to the page beauteous visions,
Truth, honesty, existential angst
And what it means to be alive.
And yet Mark’s favourite poem of mine is
Plop. Pah-lop. Plop.

(Paignton, 2011)
Barn Conversion on an Accident Black Spot

Our love was like a barn conversion
At an accident black-spot.

We’d took time to transform decrepitude
Into something quite hot.

Aesthetically-pleasing,
Occasionally teasing.

A place of comfort in which to reside
And yet, on the road outside

There was carnage on a nightly basis.
Our beautiful home, once a quiet oasis

Tarnished, ruined, a private hell
Amid the chaos of tearing metal.

Perhaps, we reasoned, architecturally-speaking
The drivers of the cars, continually seeking

Perfection, driven mad by our decadence and style
Had kept their foot off the break just a while

Too long.
(Brixham, 2009)

On the Question of Mister Shaw’s Private Life

For years, carved in hot melted tarmac
In the suburban commuter town where I grew up, the words
Mister Shaw is a Tosser
A permanent memorial to a teacher
Long since, having passed through, forgotten by most,
His name a mystery to succeeding generations.
He lived in a flat tacked to the side
Of the church hall. I suppose it came with his job
In our C of E middle school.
The place might even have seemed exotic, bohemian
Divorced from the humdrum of growing up,
Though, a deeply religious young man,
Probably he disapproved of anything remotely bohemian.
A bachelor.
My dad said he walked as if he had
A roll of lino under his arm.
Jutting chin, and the Alex Hurricane Higgins hairstyle
Of the early 1980s.
Was Mister Shaw a tosser? No, he was reasonable.
He encouraged me to write, and for that,
I shall never inquire as to what he got up to
In his church hall bachelor pad,
Scene of nativity plays and jumble sales,
Whether tossing or not.
(Cairns, 2010)

Poem Which Starts With The Words ‘Pull Up A Chair, Philip Larkin’.

Pull up a chair, Philip Larkin.
Help yourself to some cheese and onion Hula Hoops.
Stop frowning, I wont hurt you.
Tell me, Philip Larkin, is it true that you couldn’t work out how to use the self-service machine at Tesco’s?
Or that you lost your glasses while jumping on an inflatable bouncy castle?
Help yourself to a fondant fancy.
Oh, Philip Larkin!
You looked so glum when I suggested we go clubbing and then when we got there you shocked everyone by asking for a cup of tea at the bar.
That reminds me, shall I put the kettle on?
How did it go last night, by the way?
Taking on the Americans in an impromptu tug of war.
You and WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood
Verses the Beats – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs.
Trounced, you say?
You let go of the rope to pick up the 50p coin?
And Alan Bennett called you a knob?
He’s got a point.
Is it true, Philip Larkin, that you stayed up late last night to watch Wrestlemania?
Would you like a jam tart, Philip Larkin?
Would you? Would you? Would you really really?
Is it true that when you met Princess Anne you sneezed all over her?
I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were allergic to horses.
Is it also true that you put stones on the railway lines to see what happened when the fast train came through but you got arrested by the Transport Police?
Is it also true that you fancy Sarah Palin?
Well, we must meet again some time, this was nice.
You’ve got a bit of something just . . . Just there . . . That’s it . . . No, to the left . . . Never mind.
(Paignton, 2011)

Matt’s Duvet

I see you
In that photo message you sent
Wrapped in your duvet.
Why do they
Say that our love should be
The way that it should be.
Heteronormativity.
I see you
In that photo message you sent
I now repent
My life has been spent
It’s such a cruel day.
I wish I was there with you
Wrapped in your duvet.
(London, 2011)

On Air Trapped in a Parisian Radiator

Last night I dreamed, initially,
Of Paris
And then of those plastic keys
One might use to bleed a radiator.

Post-midnight, REM-induced fluctuations
Bubble and spurge into my psyche
Tinkling like the sound of bubbles trapped
In the central heating system.

The spotlight on top of the Eiffel Tower
Illuminates rusted metal
And the thermostat throws crazy shadows across the wall.

I wonder what it is in my life
Which needs such adjustment
That I should dream so sullenly
Of radiator keys.

Mind you, it was cold
And the last time I was that cold
I was in Paris.

A turn of the screw and things hiss out like air.
A turn of the screw and its all much warmer.
A turn of the screw and the relief is gradual.
Flower-patterned wallpaper and 1950s chintz,
Gurgling pipes, rusted controls, non-traditional plumbing.
Flaking, stippled ceiling, subsidence cracks
Ill-fitting sash windows and damp duvets.
So much work, so much work needs doing
But a turn of the radiator key is the very least I can do.
And it becomes a little warmer
Like my love for you.

Oh! That’s what the dream was about!
(Paignton, 2012)

Doc

Doc and I ran to pee
Before the river ferry left.
We had two minutes at the most.
We aimed for a small copse of trees on the riverbank.
We didn’t realise until we ran into it
That we’d waded into a swamp.
Ideal crocodile territory.
The relief was fleeting.
Bladder pressure replaced by a sudden swarm
Of mosquitoes biting eating feeding,
Slapped blood splotches on itchy exposed skin.
We ran back to the backpacker’s van along
The jungle road, arriving swiftly
To high-fives and exuberant cheers,
But at what price?
Eaten alive in twenty different places at once
And we’d not had time to wash our hands!

But, as Doc, who is wise in outback lore explained,
You never know when you’re going to get another chance
To visit the bathroom.
(Cairns, 2010)

Nowhere Near Magnetic North

Hallowed be thy onion rings.
Now the yoots have big hair.
And you with your M
Increasingly, slaphead : Forlorn.
The line dissecting forehead constant frown.
No wonder they think you’re the boss,
You always look so cross.
Answering the phone with a packet of crippens.
Infatuated with Doctor Hotch!
You hate it when I say ‘calm down’
Or say things like, ‘You only know you’ve got a dose of the Hotch
When you’ve got it’.
Talk about obssessedness!
(Paignton, 2011)

The Jacket of Agnes

I wonder whether she’ll be wearing the same old coat again.
The green felt long one with the big green buttons.
And the compartments in which she keeps
Ocelot.

She looks like a walking
Prairie.
And the coat is slightly hairy.
And she often gets lairy
In her coat, the one that she wears.

It’s got a hood.
The hood isn’t very good.
When she talks she can’t be understood.
On account of the hood.

She looks like a barn.
She looks like she should live in Chard.

The zip zips up but it doesn’t zip down.
The often causes her to frown.
Going up and over in an endless zip
Of zip-pulling rip-cord zip-rip-torn
Zip-a dee doo-dah
Zebadee zip slip knot zip not
Stuck fast zippy zip zip
But in any case she’d got those big green buttons on the front there
That I spoke about earlier in this poem.

She often wears a scarf with the coat.
But the scarf is the same colour and you can’t see it
Like a Patagonian mule falling into a castle moat.
I seldom gloat at her coat.
She’d grab me by the throat.
I’d probably choke.

And the shoulder pads.
Like boulders. Balanced on other boulders.
She once broke the nose of a postman
While turning around a tad too quickly.
Whacking him across the mush with those boulder-like shoulder-pads.
He’s been off work.

I wonder if she’ll be wearing that coat.
It’s grubby at the hem.
And every now and then
She’ll tug on a sleeve
In a kind of compulsive manner.
And its inner lining
Puts me in mind of 17th Century Czechoslovakian porcelain
In that you hardly ever see it
Unless she wears the coat inside out for no reason.

Have you seen her coat?
Have you seen her coaty-coat coat?
Have you seen her coat coat coating coat
Coat coat coatily-throatily
Coat coat coca-cola-coaty coatie coat coatilly coat?
It’s from New Look, or one of those other high street fashion retailers.
(Paignton, 2012)

Llama-Trekking with Kim Jong-Un

I went llama-trekking along the Dorset coast
With Kim Jong-Un.

On the edge of a cliff
With our llamas in tow
He confessed to me he’d never seen an episode
Of The Only Way Is Essex
And it ate at him inside.

I said, now look here, Jong.
You’ve got to be true to yourself
And approach life as if it is a picnic basket
Because one day, when all the mini-pork pies have gone
And the last fondant fancy consumed
You’ll be left with nothing but angry wasps and the washing-up.
Jong just looked perplexed.

The waves broke below us, and the wind whistled
As we made our way over dale and hill
And at one moment we stopped and Kim Jong-un made
As if he meant to reach across and peck me on the cheek,
But then he changed his mind.

The grass was tall and wet with dew
And it made his trackie-bottoms sag.
And he told me that rather than being the
Supreme Commander of the North Korean Army and
Prepared at all moments to strike down with venom
The imperialist West,
He’d rather be bouncing on a trampoline.

We headed back to base, it was late
And our llamas were weary
And Kim Jong-Un was keen to show me
His collection of staplers.
And that’s when I decided that if I were ever going to change the world,
This was the right time.

Jong, said I.
Put down that pot noodle,
Stop fondling that llama,
Grab your anorak and listen.

Should we march in unison,
Should we maim and kill
Should we divide and rule
Should we conquer, should we judge, should we frame,
Will it ever be the same, Kim Jong-Un?

Is it all a silly game, Kim Jong-Un?

Are you a freak or a peacemaker, a geek or a ruthless dictator,
A monosyllabic slab, a leader wrapped in glum,
Are you coming undone Kim Jong-Un?

Are you pliable by nature, a first-rate hater,
A war-widow maker, an atomic risk-taker,
Have you ever seen the sun, Kim Jong-Un?
Would you like a cream bun, Kim Jong-Un?
Is it really so much fun, Kim Jong-Un?

Will you grab at the truth or will you let it fly by you?
Will you reach out towards the absolute screaming necessity of peace?
What do you have to say for yourself, Kim Jong-Un?
What do you have to do?
What does the future in all its
Pounding incessant ever-so fragile easy-gone
Quivering army-painted atomic
Parallelogramatic sensomatic
Button-pressing most-depressing dissent-oppressing
Nation-starving one-heart-beat away from senseless oblivion
Have in store for you?

To which he replied,
Let’s go for an ice cream.
I Am The Wardrobe Man

Big hulking presence.
I loom in your room.
I am the Wardrobe Man.

On uneven floorboards I lean
Ever so slightly at an angle
As if politely implying deafness.
I am the Wardrobe Man.

Fling my doors with gay abandon.
Like arms releasing coats and jackets
Faintly, the smell of mothballs.
I am the Wardrobe Man.

Flat-packed self-built
And not nearly as solid as my
Oak veneer might otherwise indicate.
I am the Wardrobe Man.

Shift me uneasily
It’s a two-man job
To get me moving.
Coming out of the closet that I am anyway.
No-one is in the least surprised.
I am the Wardrobe Man.

Oil my hinges!
Mister Carpenter!
Or else I’ll squeal for England!
Opening my doors
Like the parting of the flasher’s mack,
I am the Wardrobe Man.

I linger
And hide from your acquaintances.
All of your mess, your transgressions
The squeaky scratchy scrape of coat hanger on steel pole
Like the inner protest of one who is so often so profoundly wronged.
I am the Wardrobe Man.

Get those coats out of me!
I can’t stand it any more!
And the chest-of-drawers keeps winking!
I am the Wardrobe Man.
(Brighton, 2011)

Poem

I only asked you to show me round several districts of your home city.
The Icelandic district.
The Museum of Badgers.
The building that’s so tall they don’t let anyone go up it
Unless they’re scared of heights
Because they know that they wont get further than three storeys up.

You showed me the Museum of Dust.
The cremated remains of my Aunt Peggy
Being perpetually sucked up a vacuum cleaner
From a rug, and then the whole lot emptied back on the rug
And the process repeated. How ironic.
She was always complaining about the mess.

You showed me the Tesco’s Metro.
You showed me the World’s Largest Dartboard.
You showed me the atomic bomb shelter
To protect the city’s strangely large giraffe population in the event of nuclear annihilation.
You introduced me to the fishmonger who swears she got a text message from
Vincent Van Gogh.
The blind Morse code operator who swears he transcribed last year’s Booker Prize winning novel by decoding
The twenty-four-hour tap-dancing competition upstairs.

You showed me the bus station and you said.
You see all this?
You see all this?
What’s all this about, then?
What the bloody hell is all this about?

And that night we went to the zither recital,
The duck philharmonic
The wardrobes-on-ice show
And when we went to kiss in the underpass I strangely shied away.

The next morning, when I caught the train
From Platform 3, out of the city and off to somewhere else,
The whole place looked more or less like any other.
(Brighton, 2011)

Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man

You stride, purposefully
With keys jangling from your belt
Like a caretaker or a taxi driver
Bereft of that which would otherwise mark you out from the moment.
Perhaps you should fashion a natty moustache,
Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.

You effect, without reason
The odd opinion, then guffaw
As if it had meant nothing at all.
How apt, Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.
That you should disappear in a crowd of your own invention
When you’d rather be chasing squirrels
Across Platform 3 of Exeter St. David’s station,
Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.

You tell jokes. You are not a joker.
You tell jokes, and each one falls like a conker
From the horse chestnut of incomprehension.
And those who laugh do so because your flies are undone,
Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.

And when you effect a jolly demeanour
No-one thanks you, Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.
But when you add a tad grumpy
You encounter a strangely hostile, singularly perplexed and not a little affronted
Grouping of pensioners, who then laugh at you.

Once, Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man,
You fell down the stairs in KFC.
The perfect somersault,
Your hand-held carton of diet coca cola
Perfecting a neat parabola in the air.
Individual globules of carbonated soft drink crystallised like jewels
Before splattering on the sticky tile floor.
It was the prettiest thing you ever did,
Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.
And then, Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man,
You were fired from your position in the office
For drinking in the work place.
Alas, it was not alcohol on your breath they smelled,
But a lunchtime banana sadly fermenting on the windowsill.

Do you remember, Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man,
That time you met the perfect woman
And you poured out your heart
And you told her your feelings
And the state of your life
And your sincerest motivations
And your penchant for strawberries
And your fear of death and of dying alone
And your fears in general
And your philosophy that the world exists somehow as a kind of personal affront
And of your years of crippling horrific tedious soul-draining mind-numbing loneliness
And she looked you in the eye,
Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man
She looked you in the eye and said,
Enthshuldigung, mein Englisch ist nicht so gut.
You hardly saw the funny side, Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.

Oh, Mister Purposefully-No-one-Wish-I-Was-Someone-Man.
You looked in the mirror once
And saw me staring back at you.
It freaked you out. And I’ll tell you what.
It freaked me out, too.
(Paignton, 2010)

Poem

If the most obvious explanation
Is the most likely
Then why do I presume the worst?

Apricots.

Admiring the smaller moments over the large,
And always being optimistic,
That all the small moments build up and become the large.

Thunderry showers.

I bland into the blandground,
Overlooked and quite bland
In the blanding bland bland of the bland.

Maroon.

Grabbing at several things simultaneously.
Surreptitiously.
Bland.
Obvious.
Optimistic.

Badminton
Shuttlecock.
(Paignton, 2011)

Frank (1-1=0)

One minus one equals zero.
One times one equals one.
One divided by one equals one.
One plus or minus the square root of one divided by a half percent of one plus one equals one.
And a bit.
One divided by infinity equals nothing but not quite.
One divided by infinity equals almost nothing, very nearly, hardly a speck.
Nothing therefore exists, not even one.
One equals zero plus a smidgen.
(Paignton, 2010)

Karaoke in the Departure Lounge

Deep beneath so many layers
Of postmodernist subterfuge
Like an accidental Wotsit in a packet of Frazzles.
A glistening gem, a rhyming couplet
A misaligned toupee on the crown of a slaphead.
There once there once there once
Was a man from Newton Abbot
Who did nothing funny or clever, nor did anything he do rhyme with Newton Abbot.
Deep beneath so many layers
The poetry,
Like honey dripping from the claws.
Of a monster.
In Poundland.

(Paignton, 2011)

Love Poems Love Poem

When I gaze into your eyes
I think of all those poems written
About gazing into someone’s eyes.

When I stroke your skin
I think of all those poems written
About stroking someone’s skin.

When we make love
I think of Wagner,
Which is a little odd.

When I feel the magic in the air with you
I think of all those poems written
About someone being with someone and feeling the magic in the air with them.

I’m always thinking of different things
More or less connected to what I’m doing.
(Paignton 2012)

Lament of a Noted Brazilian Anglophile

The fire chief of Jakarta,
Solitary in his quieter moments,
Playing chess with the station porters,
And dreaming, dreaming
Of the rural English countryside.

Of barns and church steeples
And farm implements
And hot rampant rumpy pumpy
With a milk maiden while inexplicably
Someone plays bagpipes,
And knights in shining armour
Move like Jagger
In the rural English countryside.

The fire chief of Jakarta
Resplendent in his uniform,
His brass buttons blazing in the hot Brazilian sun
(Or wherever the hell Jakarta is),
Dreams of Newton Abbot
With its market
And its culture
And its skyscrapers
And its metropolitan nuance.
With Robert de Niro in the local Costa Coffee
And crocodiles in the River Teign
And Manchester United playing
On the local village green.

The fire chief of Jakarta
Taking time out from squirting his hose
At a bush fire near a shanty town
To daydream of bowls tournaments
And maypole dancing
And sausage butties
And tractors toiling the soil
And doing all their tractory toil.
And Betjeman playing hopscotch in a pub garden
And Elton John balances a Cornishware jug on his head.

Snap out of it,
Fire Chief!
The favelas are aflame!

He sees
Contrails in the evening sky.
Hot air balloons vibrant in the sun.
Ducks lifting en masse from the village pond.
Hedgerows and barns
Hedgehogs and farms.
Afternoons in Chard.
Broad-meadow swamp-monsters.
Cluster-thatch mis-match cottagey
Cottages two-storey stone-wall
Two-up two-down cottage-type things
Combine harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Harvesters
Combine bloody harvesters!
He sees all of this and he aches within
And his heart pines for the metaphysical
Dread-beat nuance of one who is enraptured, trapped
By his own dark imaginings,
Oh what a fool you are
Fire Chief of Jakarta!

What a fool you are!
With your National Geographic magazines
And you dreams
And those endless TV repeats
Of Last of the Summer Wine
What a blazing fool you are!

Or are you?
I’ve been to Newton Abbot and it sucks.
I like your version much better.
(Exeter, 2012)

Limerick

There once was a man from Aberystwyth
Who was an existentialist.
While eating some ham
He said ‘I am’.

(can’t remember when or where)