So this poem, amazingly, is based kn a true story. I’ve changed his name. Because he might read this!
Land of the free.
Stars ‘n’ stripes,
And it’s so amazing,
They’ve even got McDonalds there.
But I tell you
What they haven’t got.
Cheese and pickle sandwiches.
And forever there shall remain
A chasm as deep as the Grand Canyon.
My friend Brody,
All American boy raised on
Baseball and NASCAR,
Country music and out of town malls,
And fishing down at the old creek
With Emmy Lou,
Weirdly infatuated with
Texted me one day
The question that was burning within.
What’s a cheese and pickle sandwich?
One moonlit night in small town America,
In the midst of apple pie baking,
Pick up trucks and 7-11s,
Did his postman deliver a jar of
Imported English pickle, and Brody,
Ever keen to sample exotic foodstuffs
In the glare of diner neon and freeway streetlights,
The roar of pick ups and duck hunts,
Concoct a delicacy so rare as to make
The Angels whimper.
I asked him afterwards
What he had thought.
And he replied
That he melted inside,
His taste buds had come alive,
He almost cried
For the years he’d existed without
Cheese and pickle sandwiches.
The air seemed more pure,
Colours more vivid,
Senses heightened and he was overtaken
With an inner peace
So utterly consuming,
He said he felt a strange compulsion
To grin at a squirrel.
Imbued with hope he skimmed above
America made sense.
The love of Kermit for Miss Piggy.
The intricate rules of the rodeo
And most of the Twilight saga.
A lump of processed cheese.
A spread of pickle sublime.
Two slabs of supermarket granary
Lifted him above the humdrum.
Oh! It was like a gastronomic slap in the face.
Oh! It was like a religious awakening.
Oh! It was a cruise control on a turnpike
(Because I definitely know what both of those mean),
Because they Lord of the Snack had sung
And the words which oozed forth
Into the ears of this small town boy were,
‘Go on, make yourself another cheese and pickle sandwich’.
And he opened the screen door.
And he sat on the stoop,
Filled with righteous fervour,
That he should lift up
This cheese and pickle sandwich
As an offering to God on high,
All hail the cheese and pickle sandwich!
All hail its mighty goodness!
And he howled at the night
Like a cowboy,
So you liked it?, I asked.
Sure, he replied, it was swell.
What do you think I should
And I suggested
Today’s Advent Calendar picture is of Beryl Reid eating a wagon wheel. An actual wagon wheel.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture is of the crank handle of an old jalopy.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture is of Samuel Beckett breakdancing in the cafe at a garden centre next to the narcissi.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture is apppatently an advert for Dreadnought Sheep Dip.
Today’s advent calendar picture is of a monk trying to feed a jacket to a horse.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows a small field just outside of Norwich and some of the adjacent lay-by.
Today’s advent calendar picture shows Skippy the Kangaroo waiting for an exhaust manifold to be fitted to his Ford Capri. One of the mechanics is Liam Gallagher. It’s raining. The Irn Bru drinks machine has an Out of Order notice on it written in calligraphy. The man in the office behind a glass window is sad because nobody appreciates his calligraphy.
Today’s advent calendar picture shows kylie Minogue as reimagined in Fuzzy Felt
Today’s Advent Calendar picture is of Inspector Poirot looking for a pair of scissors to open the packaging that his newly bought pair of scissors have come in.
Today’s advent calendar is a picture of a colander. It’s an advent colander.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture is very minimalist and shows a penguin at the South Pole looking very quizzically at a harp.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows the starboard spark plugs of a coal barge.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows the Easter bunny.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows a duck behind the wheel of a 1986 Opel Manta being stopped by a policeman who happens to be a ferret, whose pointing at a speed limit sign which says 30mph, while a badger walks past pushing a prom inside of which is a lobster baby, while the other side of the road there’s a kangaroo which, inexplicably, is walking a dog.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows a selection of different pasta shapes laid out in size order next to a Philips screwdriver, presumably for scale.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows the bearded captain of the bulk carrier MSC Mercury Thora Hird on the bridge behind the wheel, but he’s vogueing, Madonna style, while his First Mate captures the whole thing on his mobile phone, as the other crew on the bridge clap and cheer. They’re obviously intending to upload it to Tiktok.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows an exasperated theatre director shouting at an ostrich through a megaphone on a theatre stage. Muscles are bulging in his neck. The ostrich has fluffed another line in the big monologue and will have to start again. The ostrich can barely hide its contempt. The play they are rehearsing is called Up My Left Trouser Leg.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows an advent calendar.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows a moment of hilarity on the novelty farting gnome production line. Doris has put one of them on her head and is doing a silly little dance to Cher’s Believe, everyone’s laughing, though she doesn’t realise that her supervisor is standing right behind her. This is the third time she’s done such a thing in the last week. The manufacture of novelty farting gnomes is a serious business, doesn’t she understand? And why is it necessary to add the word ‘novelty’?
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows the Three Wise Men having stopped off to buy scratch cards , are leaning on a post box and furiously scratching them with 10p coins.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows an argument at the crunch nut corn flake production line because the manager has sped up the conveyor belt and they’ve obviously started falling off on to the floor, there are boxes everywhere, tempers are fraying, arms raised, red faces, bulging veins in necks, and nobody has noticed that a lion has just sauntered in through the door.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows a runaway flat bed truck with about fifty standard lamps balanced on the back making its way driverless through the giraffe enclosure at a safari park. The giraffes are curious, of course, and somewhat envious of these long necked mechanical objects. Maud from the adjacent tea hut looks up from her urn, she’s pointing to the large net that she’s kept just for a situation like this.
Today’s Advent Calendar picture shows Yogi Bear lying flat on his face with a tranquilliser dart stuck in his rump, in the meat aisle at Morrison’s. He’s riffled the chiller cabinet and made a hell of a mess.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a cappuccino-flavoured flapjack. I say ‘true love’, he was actually the man upstairs, the one who has a face that could rival the angels and a flat that smelled of beef-flavoured crisps. I must admit there was a certain chemistry whenever he spoke, he would ask about things that had nothing to do with anything, like whether or not I preferred skimmed to semi-skimmed milk, and had I seen the football at the weekend?
I’d not been sure what to make when he had moved in, a couple of months previously. He didn’t look like the sort of person who would have time for anyone else. He drove a souped up car with a big spoiler on the back and whenever he started it up it sounded like a fart in a sewer. And he wore a baseball cap a lot of the time, and not even ironically. I’d phoned up a friend.
‘I think his name is Aaron. Although it could be Adam. It’s hard to tell. Whenever he has friends come over they stand outside my window and shout up at his flat. And you know what people are like, they’re so sloppy with their syllables, sometimes’.
‘Is he good looking, though?’
My friend, Matt, was incredibly shallow.
‘Yes, very much. He has a face that could rival the angels. And blond hair. He’s absolutely gorgeous’.
Yes, Matt was very shallow indeed.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two chocolate coated flapjacks and another cappuccino-flavoured flapjack. Obviously, he didn’t know that he was my true love, yet. Plus I hadn’t eaten the flapjack from the day before, yet.
‘Where are you getting all these flapjacks from?’, I asked him.
We were in the communal entranceway. Tinsel undulated on the heat rising from the radiator.
‘It’s kind of a family tradition’, he replied.
Did I mention that he’s got blonde hair and a winning smile? I’m sure I remembered mentioning the winning smile.
‘But I don’t really like flapjacks’, he added.
‘I’ll have ’em’.
Kind of like a flapjack-orientated advent calendar, I told myself.
‘Right, I’ll see you tomorrow, then’, he said, and off he went, back up the stairs.
I kept the flapjacks in the cupboard in the kitchen, the one that gleams and shines whenever the kettle boils. I’d put a few Christmas decorations around the kitchen, some fairy lights around the microwave and some dangly jovial elves on the mug stand. Yet whenever I opened the kitchen cupboard door and saw the flapjacks there, it made me more festive than any plastic tinsel while at the same time reminding me of my true love with his blond hair and winning smile and his flat that smelled of beef-flavoured crisps.
He was out in the front driveway the next morning, putting rubbish in his bin. He was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts and it must have been about two degrees celsius out there. His manly, yet graceful frame contrasted with the drab surroundings. I almost dropped my cup of tea. Sure enough, there was a knock on my door around ten minutes later and he gave me three bakewell-flavoured flapjacks, two chocolate flavoured flapjacks and a cappuccino flavoured flapjack.
‘I saw you putting the rubbish out this morning’, I told him.
‘Crisp packets, mostly’, he replied.
And boom, that winning smile.
‘Are you okay with all of these flapjacks?’, he asked. ‘They’ve got a good date on them, so you don’t have to eat them all at once’.
‘No problem. Keep them coming . . . Aaron?’
That grin, again.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four plain flapjacks, three Bakewell-flavoured flapjacks, two chocolate flavoured flapjacks and a cappuccino flavoured flapjack. To be honest it was only the cappuccino flavoured flapjack which appealed to me, which meant I was only going to be getting one a day of the sort that I actually liked, which wasn’t really fair but again I told him to keep them coming.
He went back upstairs to his flat and a short while later I could hear him belching the theme tune to Match of the Day, which, I guess, must have been quite difficult to do.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five onion rings.
‘Is this some kind of a joke?’, I asked. ‘Where’s my flapjacks?’
‘The post was late this morning’, he replied.
‘My advent calendar picture today was of an advent calendar’.
‘Well’, he said, with that winning smile, ‘How meta is that?’
He went off out in his car a short while after that, baseball cap and big puffy jacket, and off he drove, those big double exhausts blowing raspberries at the cars behind them. I stood in my window next to my fairy lights and I gave out something of a deep sigh.
I don’t need to go on, but suffice to say, a veritable torrent of flapjacks arrived over the next six days sprinkled here and there with a modicum of onion rings. But it was the season of goodwill and in a strange sort of way I wondered if he felt sorry for me. It was great that he wanted to involve me in his annual tradition, what with his blond hair and his winning smile. But onion rings gave me wind, I didn’t have the heart to tell him.
The advent calendar picture that day was of a sneezing unicorn.
I’d start to imagine all kinds of scenarios where we might go out together in his souped-up car, me and my true love. Of course, he’d have to be very patient as I lowered myself down into the passenger seat. I don’t know why the suspension has to be so close to the ground in these things. We’d park in the multi-storey and go to the Christmas market, just the two of us, him in his puffy jacket and baseball cap, and sure, people might think that I was going around with my nephew, but it didn’t matter what they thought. And we’d sip mulled wine and marvel at the wooden carved decorations and the fake snow and the mince pies which were given a shockingly high mark-up just because it was a christmas market. And then he would go back to his car and he would smile and I would smile and he’d put on his CD player and instead of it being DJ J.D. Deejay D and the Angry Muvvas, it would be Bing Crosby singing I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, booming out from his speakers as we slowed down for the speed bump on which his front spoiler might scrape.
And then, subsumed beneath the warmth of sherry and mulled wine, he’d come back to my flat and we’d sit on the sofa and he’d snuggle up next to me and we’d watch late night TV. A festive edition of Police Interceptors, perhaps. With the normal theme tune but someone rattling sleigh bells over it, and superimposed fake snow over the opening titles.
Every day he would come. With his body-hugging plain white t-shirt and his blond hair and his winning smile, wearing shorts even though the heating was on. And I would look forward to it because I knew that every flapjack he delivered was his little way of saying, ‘Yeah, you’re alright, you are’.
I phoned up my friend, Shallow Matt.
‘Why don’t you ask him out?’
‘Yes, but where would we go?’
‘It’s just an expression’.
‘The christmas market? That’s just ridiculous?’
‘I didn’t mention the Christmas market’.
‘No, but you were thinking it’.
‘He went out to his car this morning. I don’t know why, perhaps he was just checking that it was still there. And he kind of ran his long fingers along the bonnet. And I thought, wow, that’s true love, that is.’
‘Do you actually like flapjacks?’, Matt asked.
‘Only the cappuccino ones’.
On Christmas Eve he came down with a box. It contained twelve Wimbledon fancy flapjacks, eleven goji berry flapjacks, ten yoghurt-topped flapjacks, an almond croissant, (I still don’t know how the almond croissant got mixed up in all this), eight caramel flapjacks, seven cherry and oat flapjacks, (‘Aren’t they all oat flapjacks?’, I’d asked), six toffee flapjacks, five onion rings, four plain flapjacks, (‘That’s your oat flapjack’, I said), three Bakewell flavoured flapjacks, two chocolate coated flapjacks and a cappuccino flavoured flapjack.
‘Just pop it down there’, I said.
‘Aren’t you going to invite me in?’, he asked, ‘What with it being Christmas Eve and all that?’
He lingered in the hall. He smiled. He even leaned on the doorpost in what I suppose was an approximation of nonchalance.
‘Come on then’.
He came in. He looked kind of smaller.
‘Do you want something to eat? I’ve just cracked open a Pot Noodle, I can easily get another one on the go’.
‘Go on, you twisted my arm’.
‘It’s good to see you, Aaron’.
I looked out the window. It was drizzling. The sun had long since disappeared behind the factory that manufactured novelty farting gnomes. (Is there any other kind of farting gnome than a novelty farting gnome?). Our reflections glared back at us from the darkened glass, me and him, my true love, with his winning smile and blond hair and plain white t-shirt and shorts, and me, and we did look kind of good together, it must be said.
‘What was your advent calendar picture today?’, he asked.
‘It was an advert for some cut-price ceiling tiles’, I replied. ‘I think I might get a different advent calendar next year’.
‘Your flat’, he said, ‘smells of flapjacks’.
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of performing at many venues and entertaining audiences. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of these filmed, either as snippets, or the whole show. Collected here are some of those which I didn’t put on YouTube, fearing that to put my best work on social media would leave me with nothing to perform in public.