Thoughts from a Cambridge hotel


I was sitting in the hotel reception area this morning waiting for the man behind the desk to stop pretending to be busy. I knew that he was pretending to be busy because he was tapping away on a computer keyboard and huffing. And this is exactly what I do whenever I don’t want to be interrupted, or if I’m on a train and I don’t want anyone to sit next to me. He had very prominent eyebrows, in fact you might even call them purposeful. The left one looked like it knew what it was doing, the right one looked like it was doing its own thing, but the cumulative effect was that they were making a statement. His eyebrows were saying, we go to places you can never imagine.

From where I was sitting I had a good view into the adjacent breakfast room. It was a buffet style breakfast and I could see other guests loading their plates and bowls and filling cups from a coffee machine. They’d tried to sell me a breakfast when I’d booked in, even though the room had already been paid for. They were quite insistent that I bought a breakfast but at nine pounds I thought it somewhat exorbitant.

My parents always used to stay in places where you had a buffet breakfast. My dad would always eat too much but he would be too embarrassed to be seen getting so much food, so he used to get my mother to pile extra food on her plate, too.

A very middle class looking white couple come in with their son. They’re all smiley and looking well to do, all pastel clothing and beige chinos, while their son is an emo goth, looking very sullen, with his trendy long hair and glum expression. He lurks behind them, scowling, fed up with the world and he injustice of it all. Or maybe he was still seething over the price of the buffet breakfast. And I think, what have you possibly got to be miserable about? Your parents look nice and they’re wearing nice clothes. And the sun is shining. And you’re young and you’ve got the whole of the rest of your life in front of you. He stands behind them at the self service buffet, then gets to the front, fills up a bowl of cornflakes, goes to put milk on, and the canister has run out. And I thought, there, that’s given you something to be miserable about.

So I go to the desk to book out once Eyebrows has looked up from his keyboard and let out a sigh.
‘Room 111. It’s all paid for, I believe’.
‘Yes, it was prepaid’.
He takes my room card.
‘You haven’t paid for your breakfast’, he says.
‘But I haven’t had a breakfast’.
‘Yes, but you haven’t paid for it’.
‘I didn’t want a breakfast’.
‘My colleague has put you down for a breakfast’.
‘I said I would think about having a breakfast. And now I’ve thought about it, and I don’t want one’.
‘But you haven’t paid for if’.
‘Just as well, then’.
‘So you need to pay for the breakfast’.
‘But I haven’t had one, and I’m not having one’.
‘Anyway, you need to pay for it’.
‘Why should I pay for it when I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t want it?’
‘Because my colleague says that you wanted one’.
‘But I didn’t want one then, and I don’t want one now’.
‘So how are you going to pay for it?’
‘I’m not going to.’
He lets out a huff and slams the printed receipt on the desk.
‘Good bye’, he says.
I take the receipt and I leave. And as he door closes behind me I do begin to feel a little bit peckish.

New York Poems

Going through my archives, I’ve found the poems I wrote while I was in New York a couple of years ago. Most of them were written in coffee shops or diners, though one was scribbled in the Museum of Modern Art, and another was written in the Museum of Native Americans.

New York 1.
They say that Manhattan is a state of mind
But I’ve looked on the map
And it’s definitely there.

It doesn’t stop,
Not even in the dead of night,
The rumbling, the growl,
No wonder they look so angry.

I went into Starbucks at five in the morning
And there was already a queue.

Shuffling jittery city dwellers,
The insomniacs and the early risers,
The boy who cannot sleep in
The city that never sleeps,
Nothing more offputting than a
Mardy pre-caffeine New Yorker.

Don’t take coffee, I take
Well actually I do take coffee,
Thanks for asking,
And maybe one of those tarts.
I’m English, you know.

Sitting in the window and watching
The cyclists,
Weaving, open-mouthed.
Stop lights mean nothing to them,
Life seems so tentative,
These two-wheeled mosquitoes,
How many of them end up
Plastered on the front of those
Big-assed delivery trucks that you see,
Or some nobhead’s Humvee?

I thought the barista was only being nice
When he asked me for my name.
He repeated it with a smile, all
Rhotic on the consonants,
Elongating the vowels in a way
They don’t normally get pronounced,
Making my heart all fluttery
Until I notice he’d written it on my cup.

It’s the familiar things
That make me feel at home.
Crushing disappointment,
And the fact that they
Also have McDonalds over here.

New York 2

I need one with a shot of espresso.
You’re the newbie, you’ll need this.
There’s a whole bunch of confidence there.
She never told anyone
But she likes attention.
She’s like that with every guy, trust me.
And then she can cut him out, say uh-oh,
It’s like oh, it’s bad, she’ll go far,
She got green locker room doors,
She won’t try to apologise.
I don’t have an issue with her.
Every time I told her she gave me the one two.
I used to consider you a friend
And I was your friend whatever.

(Found poem, three NYPD police women chatting in a coffee shop at the next table).

New York 3

The way he’s sitting
And what he’s wearing
And his hair
Those are the definites.
His sensitive eyes
His long eyelashes and the
Way he just looked
At that jogger,
Those are the peripheries.
And the hoodie,
American Dance Theatre,
Alvin Ailey,
Whatever that is.
(I will google it later).
It’s all mostly symbolic
I feel
I know him.

New York 4.

She took my hand and danced with me
Amid the noise and clamour and cacophony
Of Times Square
As the skyscrapers whirled in their
Concrete and glass delirium,
She yelled
Above the engines and the horns and the
Shouting and the hooters and the sirens and the roar
And the buzz and the energy and the excitement
And the rush and the glee and the pulsing rhythms
Of the city in all its brash omnipotence,
I thought you were my husband.

New York 5.

(Amid the Abstract Expressionists, MoMa)

He, who isn’t here
Would have haunted these
Very pictures,
Broken nose to canvas
And a ready opinion.
Losing himself
In the Pollock
And it’s intricate action,
Felt a spark of the very now,
And would have known everyone
On first name terms.
Jasper. Jackson. Elaine. Robert. Mark.
The boy with the red trainers,
A sly flitting nonchalant phantom
Who will blond my dreams
With his purposeful demeanour
Right now here and
F would have approved.

New York 6.

I’ve only got one joke about denim.
A one liner about crinoline.
I’ve only got a couple of puns about nylon
And a quip about silk
I’ve run out of material.

New York 7.
(Written in Tom’s Diner)

I wasn’t sitting near the window.
I was at the counter.
But it was still the diner on the corner
And the burger was mighty fine
On a drizzly Manhattan Saturday.
And there’s a ball game on the tv screen,
Notre Dame are playing NC State
And I’m not sure what the sport is
But they’ve all got helmets and shoulder pads.
There’s a picture from a magazine
Of Jerry Seinfeld on the wall and he’s
Kind of looking at me imperiously
As I eat my burger which,
As I said, is mighty fine.
I’ve got that tune in my head now,
You know the one.
The Seinfeld tv theme music.
I probably wouldn’t have come here
If it wasn’t for, you know,
These two things.

New York 8.

The Staten Island ferry
Everyone is merry
They’re all waving at me!
Am I a celebrity?
Have I been recognised?
Am I famous here?
No, they’re
Wiping mist from the windows
Of the inside seating area.
I’m depressed now.

New York 9.

She purred
Hold on there, honey,
I’ll just put you through
On to line number three.
There was barely a click.
No static.
She’s such a
Smooth operator.

New York 10.

I want to go out with Rhys.
I want to have a date with Rhys.
I want to spend quality time with Rhys.
I want to get to know Rhys.
I want to be with Rhys.
I want to make out with Rhys
I want to express my love for Rhys
I want to have relations with Rhys
I want to be at peace
With Rhys.
I say to Rhys
Please please please
Rhys Rhys Rhys
Come on
Don’t be a tease
Put me at my ease
I haven’t got flees
You are the bees
What do you say?
What of it, Rhys what of it, Rhys what do you reckon?
You and me Rhys please Rhys what do you think Rhys
Me and you Rhys you and me Rhys us together Rhys
Us together Rhys us together Rhys us us us
Together together together
Rhysie babes.
Oh dear!
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Has called the police.

New York 11.

The big pancake. The big muffin.
The big nausea. The big nothing.
The broad one. The tall one.
The big fella. The concrete devotional.
The prostrate giant. The cosmopolitan.
The metropolitan. The big breakfast.
The all day lunch. The concrete funnel.
The distorted mirror. The seismic cherry.
The license to chill. The delicatessen.
The bad boy. The big bad boy,
Cavernous potholes so deep you’ll
Lose yourself for a week.
The big dependable. The three-way delicious.
The exuberant fruit. The hungry papa.
The pumping beehive. The big badger.
The big glacial. The big crazy.
The big security. The big despicable.
The big beat. The big Apple.

New York 12.

No ghost dance
On these gentle hills
Nor ceremonial gatherings
On the granite outcrops,
Central Park no wilderness,
Just the whisper of
Other people’s conquests
Too rooted in the now
To wander successfully.

New Croydon Tourist Office Album!

The wait is over!

Those rockin’ cool cats have done it again! That funky groove sound is back with Croydon Tourist Office’s new offering, Take It Easy With Croydon Tourist Office! While other bands may rest on their laurels, Croydon Tourist Office have been hard at work for eight years putting together a collection of tunes which perfectly sums up the zeitgeist. Can there by any more perfect accompaniment to the world it is at the moment than these happening tracks?

These eclectic offerings may have a fairly fluffy initial outlook, but there’s menace lurking beneath the surface. By turns life affirming and post apocalyptic, those crazy groovers have been hard at work, like scientists, perfecting each sonic nuance, and by turns, probing the human condition.

It’s a huge honour for me to work with Croydon Tourist Office. As a non-musician, music is something that has a mystique and a magic to me, and to hear what my fellow band mates seemingly pull out of thin air seems somehow miraculous. The songs on this album date back to around 2012, though some were new compositions taking advantage of the lockdown situation, music and sound files emailed back and forth from one musician to another. The core of the group remains Bryce Dumont, John Samuel, Max Coulson and myself, but we have had an array of other talented people join us.

You can listen to the album and download it from our Bandcamp page here:

I want to be a Stobart lorry driver

I want to be a Stobart lorry driver.
I’d be able to back it in to any space.
I’d operate the clutch
Like nobody’s business,
Just waiting till deliver my load.

I’ve got a spare seat in my cab
In case I decide to bring a mate.
We’d park up in Gordano services
And play Top Trumps
Who’s got the biggest one?
Hanging round outside the toilets
Playing with the change in my pocket.

I want to be a Stobart lorry driver
My trailer full of Kit Kat’s and mayonnaise
Gritting my teeth in traffic jams
Like a constipated Smurf
Peeing in to an empty Lucozade bottle.

I want to be a Stobart lorry driver
With my aching buttocks
Phoning the missus on speakerphone
Hurling abuse against a wanker in an Audi
Sorry love, that wasn’t aimed at you.
Hello? Hello? hello?

The new fridge freezer is suspiciously quiet

This is a poem that’s been around for about 12 years. There’s even a music version of it somewhere made by Solomon Doornails.

I hope you like it!

For goodness sake, where is my train?

Well I’ll just stand here like a lemon,
Then, shall I?
Where’s that train you promised me?
I’d really like to be on it.
I got places I need to get to
And here is not one of them.

Any old train will do.
Any old duffer chuffer diesel puffer.
Any old sad sack terribly slack
Single track clickerty clack.
Send a choo choo through
Without much Ado!
Where’s my train?

I know it’s in your jurisdiction.
It’s really not an imposition.
Your timetable should win the booker prize
Because it’s a work of fiction.
Just send a train!

I won’t name and shame your company.
But your trains head west
And your website calls you great
And the info screen says you’re late
So that means you’re great and western
And a railway.
You’re Great Western Railway.

I phoned the customer helpline.
They said, what’s your log in details?
What’s your ticket type?
Now dance for us, fat boy, dance for us.
Bark like a dog!
Woof! Woof! Woof!
A-ha ha ha ha!
(These calls may be recorded
For training purposes).

Trains that are meant to be in
After my train
Are arriving before it.
How is that even possible?
Did they fly over the top of my train?
Are they magic trains?
Zig zagging through the air like
Drunken Dragons?
I whistle, kick my heels,
I sip my bottled water,
You know, like they do in films.

Is there a fault on the train,
Are there operational difficulties?
Has the buffet car run out of casseroles?
Is there a weasel on the line?
Is there some pervy bloke pleasuring himself in the vestibule?
Or has the drivers head exploded
Because he’s been reading Will Self again?
Has the train manager got struck by lightning?
Mind you, he’s a conductor.
Whatever it is, you’re keeping it to yourself,
Just like you’ve done with the train,
The one that should be here.
But hey, stiff upper lip and all that.

I thought I heard it approaching,
But it was a chaffinch.

Ohhhhhh why me?
I just want my train.
It’s driving me insane.
I’ll change my life
I’ll never be the same again.
I’ll be nicer kinder ever so emotive
Just send along that locomotive.
Where oh where oh where’s
The train?

Here it comes now!
Looks kind of like
A drunken hippopotamus
Shuffle shuffle
Shuffle shuffle
Take your time, love.

Scooby Doo – The Later Years

Today’s daily poem podcast imagines the later years of Fred from Scooby Doo.

<div style=”font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;”><a href=”; title=”Robert Garnham” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Robert Garnham</a> · <a href=”; title=”Daily Poem 13 : Scooby Doo – The Later Years” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Daily Poem 13 : Scooby Doo – The Later Years</a></div>

Playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with the Dalai Lama

I was playing Hungry Hungry Hippos
With the Dalai Lama.
He kept distracting me,
Manually manipulating the plastic balls
Out into the gaping hippo mouth.
His gaping hippo.
The red one.
What a wanker.

The cheap plastic rattles
With frenetic energy.
He’s winning.
He’s obliterating me.
The hunger to win
Comes from within,
He said.
And desire without hunger is meaningless.
And you are going down, my son,
You are going down!

His hands a blur,
His lightning reflexes,
Nimble and quick and precise,
And me?
I shouldn’t have had that
Sausage and egg mcmuffin.
I shouldn’t have had that
Chicken mayonnaise bap.
I shouldn’t have had that

Before the game had even started
He’s turned on the table lamp,
The ceiling light, the bedside lamp,
The fluorescent bulb in the kitchen,
He’s turned them all on.
It’s all about enlightenment, he’d said.

He’s winning, the bastard is winning!
Yet still he gets a rockhopper penguin
To stand there and fart
Trying to put me off.
Farting penguin farting penguin
Pungent pungent
Farting penguin,
Geez, that’s rife!

Perhaps he’s not the Dalai Lama at all.
Perhaps he’s called Steve.
But no one called Steve
Can play the way he plays.
He’s a Hungry Hungry Hippo virtuoso,
He lights up the room,
The plastic balls zoom,
Tick, tick, tick, tick, boom!

Oh for goodness sake
Now he’s playing one handed,
The little plastic balls
Drawn to the gaping mouth of his
Cartoon hippo
With an eerie inexorability.
Jesus Christ!
He yells.
I mean, Buddha.

He’s not aiming at all,
There’s no strategy,
He’s just going for it,
But it’s working,
Even the farting penguin is smirking,
And me?

I can feel the hope draining,
My fingers are straining,
There’s four balls remaining,
Three now, the tosser
Has got another one,
This long show ceased to be fun,
I can feel every part of me
Starting to come undone
And now of all those balls,
There’s only one.

But he wants it,
The Dalai Lama wants it,
He clicks his fingers and in lumber
Four giant pandas,
Who lift up the table at his end,
And tilt
The last ball,
Straight into the gaping mouth of his
Hungry Hungry Hungry Hungry
Hungry Hungry Hippo.

Next week
Next week
Next week
I’m playing Connect Four
With the Pope.

<div style=”font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;”><a href=”; title=”Robert Garnham” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Robert Garnham</a> · <a href=”; title=”Daily Poem 16 : Playing Hungry Hungry Hippos With the Dalai Lama.wav” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Daily Poem 16 : Playing Hungry Hungry Hippos With the Dalai Lama.wav</a></div>

A plea to the bees who keep flying through my window

There’s so much I’d get done today
My life would be so at ease
If it wasn’t for stopping every ten damn minutes
To rescue errant bees.

I sit at my desk and I start a chore
It’s the sort of thing I often does
But just as I’m really getting into it,
That’s when I hear that buzz.

It’s the hottest day of summer and the window is open
It’s cranking up to thirty degrees
And all I want to do is work unheeded
Which I can’t do with all these damn bees.

They say that they’re brainy and ever so bright
From all the flying they do about
They manage to get in to my flat so well
So why the hell cant they just fly back out?

Have they just forgotten in ten seconds flat
The route that they took to get in?
Banging on the window so angrily
It’s starting to make my head spin.

It’s there! Just look! I left it open!
All you’ve got to do is see!
You pollinate the flowers as part of a hive
Or are you a particularly stupid bee?

Glass has been in buildings now for five hundred years
Yet it seems a foreign concept to you.
I suppose in the colony in which you operate
You don’t have anything that’s see through.

So you bang in the glass and that just makes you angry
While I flap on a ladder with the paper.
If you were a humble bee secret agent
Then you’re really not much of an escaper.

I’ve got lots to do today, I haven’t got the time
Just one false move and I’ll get stung.
I try to be patient to the animal kingdom
But you really are a pain in the bum.

A poem about meditation


Every now and then I need to chill
Relax and be calm
Or so people say.
But I’m a placid fellow
And I don’t get easily stressed
And if anyone says I do
Then I’ll punch them.

Sometimes though, I get miffed
And I just want to hit a pig
With a tennis racquet
And watch it run off squealing
Through TK Maxx.
But we’ve all felt like that.

A mate said I should meditate.
Meditate? Meditate!
Do you mean sit still for a bit?
(No, I mean meditate)
So it’s not just sitting there,
I can do that!
I can do bugger all
I can keep my month shut
If that’s what it is then I can do it
I can sit perfectly still
I can sit perfectly still while standing on me head.
If that is your name.

He said
Concentrate on your place in the world.
I said,
You mean like when you’re queuing for the bus
And someone pushes in?
Oi, what you playing at?
Bastards, aren’t they?
Oooo, I hate it when they do that,
Honestly I do.

He said, no!
Just shut up for five minutes, listen.
I said, do I have to go OOM
He said, you don’t have to go OOM
I said, I went to go OOM
He said, fine, go OOM then,
Jeez, you’re hard work!

Just meditate,
Obscure the hate
Let out a sigh
And hold your head high.
Fall in to the zone
And hold your own.
I said, I’d rather hold someone else’s.
He said, that’s not helping!

Meditate, don’t say you can’t.
Think of a word and make up a chant,
A phrase which brings an instant relief
Now tell me that this chant might be.
And then I said to he:
If it hadn’t been for cotton eye joe,
I’d be married a long time ago.
Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, cotton eye joe?
Do do do do do do do do do do!
And he said,
You’re a bastard, aren’t you?

Sit cross legged on the floor.
I said I can’t, the money
Keeps falling from my pockets.
He said, good,
Change must come from within.

Just meditate,
The way to mindfulness
Is to empty your head of all thoughts.
I said, how can it be both simultaneously
Full and empty at the same time?
He said, I know,
Weird isn’t it,
Though in your case
An empty mind won’t take too long.

Meditate, just meditate,
For goodness sake just meditate,
Why don’t you meditate, you
Feckless Bulbous eyed burger chomper,
Just meditate,
Why can’t you do it?
Just close your damn eyes
And bloody meditate!

I said, oooo,
Someone’s a little stressed aren’t they?
Now let’s have a nice cup of tea.

<div style=”font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;”><a href=”; title=”Robert Garnham” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Robert Garnham</a> · <a href=”; title=”Daily Poem 14 : Just meditate, dammit!” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Daily Poem 14 : Just meditate, dammit!</a></div>