On cutting out the inner editor 

Lately I’ve been trying to write poems that are almost exact copies of those by another poet. In fact it’s been an obsession these last couple of years. I’ve been taking his poems, breaking them down line by line, syllable by syllable, to see how he gets the desired effect, then subtly changing bits here and there and adding distinct touches so that they don’t look too much like the original. The poet I’ve been copying so deftly is Robert Garnham.

I should explain that I am Robert Garnham. You probably know this already. It’s a little trick I was playing on you. But I should also explain that my work, my oeuvre has, inevitably, changed over the last few years. I know more about writing now, more about poetry and comedy and what makes people laugh. I now sit down and write poems with a specific idea and target in mind. I want this poem to make people laugh. I want this poem to be serious, I want this poem to be short, sharp, funny and with a pounding rhythm. And all of this has advanced me beyond those early years when I’d just write a poem for the thrill of writing a poem.

I’ve finally cracked it. And how have I done it? By disengaging my brain while I write. It’s an amazing system. I come up with the idea and then I just write, ignoring the inner censor, the inner editor who wants a specific, desired effect, and it really is most liberating. The poems of the last few years have been some of my best work, but they’ve been more like tightly structured pop songs rather than jazz improvisations. There’s not much wriggle room. I’d also been trying to write in order to fit in with certain types of poem rather than be myself. I’d see poets on YouTube and at gigs and I’d think, hmm, what can I adapt from these wonderful people?

For the last few months I’ve banned myself from thinking along such lines. This has had a profound effect on my enjoyment of performance poetry, it’s let me sit back and enjoy or relish other people’s performances without analysing every small detail. When I first started performing I had never seen any other performance poets, and this gave me an incredible freedom to do what I liked. By disengaging my brain and cutting out the inner editor, I’ve been able to reconnect with this part of my voice. It also puts me under less pressure to write.

The Arrival (A short story)

Another short story from the archives.
The Arrival
A committee was set up in order to plan for the visit. A chairman was voted for, an elderly gentleman with a walrus moustache. He was then replaced with another elderly gentleman. The secretary resigned because she objected to the name of the committee. The replacement secretary used to be the treasurer, so a treasurer had to be found. The original chairman wanted to be the treasurer but the new chairman objected. Both the chairman and the prospective treasurer then resigned from the committee, so a new chairman had to be found as well as a treasurer. The positions were eventually filled with a man who used to be a car salesman, who said he knew all about planning visits. And the Treasurer was shared among the other members of the committee on a rotation basis. Just like a quiz show on TV, someone commented. The comment was recorded in the minutes.

          A name had to be invented. Someone suggested the Visit Committee, but there was another committee called the Visiting Committee and it was thought that this would lead to confusion. Someone else suggested the Committee for the Visit, but this was also voted down because it sounded boring. The person who suggested it was the person who was also the Treasurer on this occasion, and she resigned. A third suggestion was to call the committee something trendy, just like a modern company, a name which would hint at science and progress in the arts. Implosion was the name that was banded around. The secretary commented that it sounded like something from The Apprentice. The person who suggested it was very upset about this and he threatened to resign, but just as he did they came in with the coffees so he stayed on for a bit. This was recorded in the minutes.

     They finally decided on the Systemal Function for the Application for the Arrival of the Visitor and His Entourage. Or SFAAVHE, for short. This was recorded in the minutes.

     It was then time to decide what the committee would actually plan for the visitor’s arrival. There was no doubt that he was eminent, so it was agreed by all that he should have a red carpet when he stepped out of his car. Then someone said that he shouldn’t be in his own car at all. If he was so eminent, they argued, then, surely, he should be driven? OK, then. A limousine would pick him up from his house. But he lived two hundred miles away. This was a problem. They decided they would compromise. He would drive as far as the halfway point and then the limousine would pick him up. It was generally agreed that this was a good idea and it was recorded in the minutes.

          Then someone pointed out that red carpets were hard to find, and they got mucky if it rained. The under-secretary was dispatched to source a long red carpet. She asked what sourced meant and the chairman said that it meant to go and fine one. She asked why he didn’t say that in the first place, and the chairman said that it was business-speak, that’s how they said things in the world of business. The under-secretary objected to the tone that the chairman took and she resigned. A new under-secretary was then voted in and he said that he would look on the internet to find a red carpet. Ten minutes later he said that he could only find a yellow one. That will have to do, the chairman said. And all of this was recorded in the minutes.

          The meeting then moved on to who would be there to greet the visitor on his arrival. One of the members suggested the head of the department, but then someone else reminded her that the head of the department was currently being investigated for fraud and it would be best that he were to stay out of the limelight. The chairman said that this was not the way to treat the head of the department and that he should be there. The treasurer then reminded the chairman that he, too, was caught up in the same scandal, so the chairman then resigned and a new one was voted in. She thanked the previous chairman for his hard work, but then she spilled coffee on her lap. She resigned, so that she could go to the bathroom and wash it off. When she got back to the room, the original chairman had been voted back in. And all of this was recorded in the minutes.

          The next item for discussion was the food that would be provided for the function once the visitor had arrived. Someone suggested prawn cocktail, but they were reminded that the budget would stretch so far. Someone then suggested prawn cocktail crisps, but they were laughed out of the room. Someone suggested those funny spicy sausage things that go on sticks and you have to move them upwards with your thumb as you eat them, and they are often seen in films set in North Africa, but no-one knew what he was going on about, so someone else suggested scotch eggs. Scotch eggs it was. Then the secretary announced that he was allergic to scotch eggs, and someone said that he wouldn’t even be at the function, he wasn’t important enough. He then resigned. A new secretary was voted in, and this was recorded in the minutes.

          Much discussion then centred around the manner in which the eminent guest would be introduced to the members of the department before he entertained them all with his speech. One person suggested a strict clock-wise motion around the room, someone else suggested anti-clockwise. The chairman said that the guest should be left to speak to whoever he wanted, but that the most prominent members of the department should be introduced to him slyly, subtly, so as not to provoke suspicion that the whole thing was stage managed. Someone then suggested name-badges, coloured according to the importance of the person wearing them. It’s what we did in the war, he suggested. Even Hitler wore a name badge. There was a show of hands and it was decided that there would be name badges. The discussion of whether they should be in higher or lower case went on for half an hour. And all of this was recorded in the minutes.

          The meeting had almost finished and no-one had resigned for a while. The secretary was asked to read out the minutes, but he objected, so he resigned. The new secretary was then asked to read out the minutes and he did so beautifully, but in Spanish. The next secretary read out the minutes. This included the reading of the last minutes, which included the reading of the minutes before that, which included the reading of the minutes before that. This went on for some three hours. By the time he had stopped reading the minutes, everyone else had gone home. And this was also recorded in the minutes.

The secretary then resigned, but as there was no-one around to record this in the minutes, no-one actually knew about it.
The visit did not go to plan. The eminent guest was not greeted half way by limousine because he caught the bus instead. And when he arrived at the department, (climbing off the number 443), he tripped over the yellow carpet because he though it was a continuation of the pavement. The head of the department met him, but just as he did so he was handcuffed by the police and dragged away for questioning. The eminent guest was then led to the hall where, instead of meeting and greeting, and looking at name badges – (the font of which was so small he couldn’t read them anyway, and he was colour-blind), he crammed a scotch egg into his mouth and promptly choked, before asking why they had not supplied, instead, those spicy sausage things on sticks that you see in films about North Africa. And on the way to the podium to deliver his speech, he almost tripped over the end of his scarf.

          ‘Ladies and gentlemen’, the chairman of the welcoming committee announced in to the microphone. ‘Let me introduce to you, Professor Zazzo Thiim!’

          Nobody clapped, because the committee had forgotten to send out any of the invitations. It had not been recorded in the minutes.

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 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!

At the Duplex on a Friday night.

I’ve never felt gayer than I did on Friday night. Well, obviously I have. I mean, the times I’ve been doing gay things, you know, the really gay things, but this was more symbolic. Because the gig was at the Duplex in Christopher Street, the gayest road in the world, quite possibly, opposite the Stonewall pub and the gay rights memorial. And right outside the venue, with all of this gayness, was a poster with my face on it. And it’s been there for weeks!
I arrived and met up with Mark Wallis and his partner Bart Greenberg. I’d known Mark for a few years when he still lived in England, and even then he was performing as I Am Cereal Killer, a kind of camp punk spoken word artist with bright red hair and face make up. His partner Bart is a playwright and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the New York cabaret scene.
Also there were a couple of actors who Bart had hired to do a rehearsed reading of his new play, and then two very familiar and wonderfully flamboyant characters arrived. First was Margoh Channing, drag queen and cabaret artist with her giant hair and costume, her new show, Hung, about to be performed in New York, and then Dandy Darkly, the drag clown spoken word storyteller, with his pointed shoulder pads and sequinned one piece cat suit. I felt very plain in comparison.

We were shown upstairs to the green room, which is a fully functioning flat over the venue, and I did a mic test on stage with the actors, it all felt so professional and very real. And as always happens in these situations, a camaraderie emerged between the performers as we prepared ourselves in the apartment upstairs with its views down on to the small park where the gay rights statues attract tourists.

I couldn’t have asked for a better audience for my New York debut, and it felt a real privilege to headline with these acts. I’d seen Dandy before in Edinburgh and I have always been a huge fan, and I’d seen I Am Cereal Killer, but Margoh Channing was a revelation, hilarious and touching, tender, human and very funny. Nancy Stearns sang a fantastic song about being in love with a young gay man, and Bart’s wonderful play was about a gay relationship.

I think I purposefully downplayed my performance because there was no way I could compete with all of the others, but people were very kind and they laughed in all the right places, and I had to change the set order on stage as I’d meant to do a couple of serious poems. However, the audience were up for laughter and a momentum had built up. So many people wanted to chat afterwards and amazingly I sold out of the books I’d brought with me!
We went back to the green room apartment, where I felt guilty at just sitting on the sofa as the others showered and changed into their civilian clothes. But as I sat there I pondered on how amazing the gig had been, and how it could possibly even be my best one yet. I was most relieved that my humour seemed to translate well to the American audience, and that the crowd were very definitely on my side and intent on enjoying themselves.
But most of all it was the cabaret scene that I loved the most. I think I fitted in because I was, in a way, the straight man, with his shirt, tie and jacket. Drag queens, drag clowns, cabaret acts and singers, they all made me feel so welcome and I’ve made a whole load of new friends. I’d love to see them all again some time. Perhaps this should be a regular thing?

10 Exciting Things You Might Not Know About Me (Number Eight will shock you!)

1- I used to babysit for Chesney Hawkes’ next door neighbour.
A long time ago, when I was studying for my A Levels, I used to babysit for a Dutch couple in a very posh house in Sunningdale. Which meant sitting in a strangers living room studying. Except there was a season of Neil Simon films on and I’d watch those instead. Anyway, when the couple came back one night they revealed that Chesney Hawkes lived next door. Perhaps I should have invited him round for a cuppa. I never saw him.
2- I used to date Michael Caine’s niece
Yes, shocking, isn’t it? I won’t reveal anything else about her except that we were good friends and I would love to get back in contact with her. Actually she might have been his cousin, but ‘niece’ sounds better. She was from Guyana, a place which I’ve felt a special affinity to ever since.
3- I was in Japan a couple of weeks before the tsunami.
The tsunami affected me deeply because all I could think about was the people I’d met and how much I’d loved Tokyo.
4- Elton John used to walk his dog past my grandparents house.
Apparently. Before he was mega famous. This would have been the early seventies before he moved to Old Windsor. I never saw him, but my sister did work experience in a book shop in Virginia Water. One day Elton John came in and bought four hundred quids worth of books. He saw another in the window that he wanted and my sister laddered her tights climbing in to get it for him. All she would go on about was her tights and I was thinking, wow, you met Elton John!
5- Danny la Rue once held the newsagents door open for me.
He was doing the summer season in Torquay and he’d popped in to the newsagents in Brixham to buy a paper. I said thank you and he smiled very sweetly at me.
6- I was almost on the David Letterman Show.
The last time I stayed in New York I stayed in a hotel next to the theatre where his show was filmed. They started the new season the day I arrived and I saw a queue, so I joined it. There were people in the queue from all over the US. You had to apply for a ticket. I got to the front of the queue and the lady on the desk said, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘England’, quoth I. ‘Hang on’, she said, ‘I’ll call the producers’. A couple of men came down, wearing Letterman baseball jackets, and we chatted, and I said I just wanted to see how the show was put together. They asked for a phone number so I gave them my mobile. I said guys I was staying next door. The producer said that his name was also Robert. They seemed very keen that I should come and watch the show but they never called. They never called.
7- I’ve seen UFOs but still don’t believe in them.
Growing up near Heathrow, you get used to aircraft and lights in the sky. One night there we two bright lights just hovering over the airport. It was kind of spooky. They then zipped to the other side of the sky and just hung there. While this was happening, there were no planes taking off or landing. I’ve got my theories, including satellites and surveillance, but if was certainly spooky. The other thing I saw was when I was at middle school, there was something metallic and pyramid shaped high up in the sky, just sat there. I have no idea what it was, but it was real, and I don’t think there were any aliens in it. What’s so fascinating about Staines that you’d travel from the other side of the Galaxy?
8- I was in a plane that ran out of fuel over the Atlantic.
Air Transat, bless them. The pilot said, ‘Personally, I think we can make it, but my first officer advises me that we should stop and take on more fuel’. We landed at Goose Bay military base in Newfoundland. A couple of years later another Air Transat plane ran out of fuel and had to glide to the Azores. Look it up. It’s an amazing story.
9- Two generations of my family were suspected of spying.
During the war, and a blackout during the blitz, my Grandmother in London accidentally let a bonfire flare up again in the back garden. An air raid warden arrested her and she had to appear at court where she swore blind that she wasn’t a German spy.
In the 1970s my dad worked abroad for the Ministry of Defence and when he flew back my mother and his brother went to the military base to wait for him. They decided to wait on the perimeter fence with a pair of binoculars. They were escorted away by the military police. They swore blind that they weren’t Russian spies.
10- My dad, uncle, grandfather and myself, (three generations), all had birthdays on January 2nd.
January 2nd, if you must know.

You Can’t Put Tinsel on Loneliness

Here’s my Christmas poem for this year.

Amid the tinsel of a November Weatherspoons 

A cold air nip as the log fire cracks

Alone at table 67, traditional breakfast 

No one to share the superfluous hash brown with.

You can’t put tinsel on loneliness.
Twenty years of solo meals and microwave Christmas puds

And naps in party hats and texts from exes

And pondering on paperwork to pass the time

Or at least the polishing or painting of skirting boards

You can’t put tinsel on loneliness.
You can’t put fake snow on despair 

You can’t hang angst on a tree

You can’t parcel up and shrink wrap disappointment

You can’t fill a stocking with ennui

You can’t put tinsel on loneliness.
A mardy face sneering under a felt red Santa hat

Randy nights of crackers pulled, curtains drawn and candles snuffed

Christmas Eve spending the day at your mothers, as a ‘friend’

Unwrapping just the one present and finding its a tea towel

It’s the thought that counts 

You can’t put tinsel on loneliness.
Here he comes now, Josh, duty manager,

Yes everything’s all right with my meal, tell me how you’d feel

These cold mornings just expose the emptiness of the galaxy 

And the dichotomy between companionship and the briefness of our existence,

Yes, everything’s all right with my meal, but

You can’t put tinsel on loneliness.
Table for one, sir?

Leave a coat on the chair so that

Some other loner doesn’t nab your seat

While you’re ordering at the bar

The all day breakfast is only served till eleven

You can’t put tinsel on loneliness.
Back amid the tinsel of a November Weatherspoons 

Flimsy cardboard card advertising overpriced turkey

And the promise of not having to do the washing up

We timed our orgasm for the stroke of midnight

Rhythmic with sleigh bells like a radio jingle xmassified 

You can’t put tinsel on loneliness.


A walk around rainy Brixham

Most weekends I come over to Brixham. You know, how Superman has his fortress of solitude, or the prime minister has Chequers. Or the president has Camp David. It’s a nice way of ending one week, beginning the next, catching up with The Olds, and catching up on reading.
Brixham feels like the end of the universe. It’s a town on a rocky escarpment which juts out into the sea ending with the sheer drop of Berry Head. It’s the end of the line. There’s nothing after Brixham except salt water and fishes.
Obviously the news the last two days has been depressing and the weather has been wet and windy, but today I decided to go for a walk and perhaps think of subjects to write poems about. The town centre was mostly closed due to the end of the tourist season, and sheets of rain could be seen blowing diagonally across the harbour where paint peeled row boats jiggled like shivering mice. In quick succession I saw:
1- A sign on a closed cafe which should’ve said ‘Closed due to our renovations being carried out’ which now read, having slumped down on its blue tack, ‘Closed due to our being carried out’.
2- A young teenaged man working in a themed restaurant, in an alleyway, dressed as a pirate, emptying a Hoover bag into a bin.
3- A sign on a shop which read, (rather inexplicably), ‘Due to staff illness, please use the other door’.
I went to a coffee shop to try and write an acrostic poem. I couldn’t think of anything to write an acrostic for. Normally a quite famous local poet is in there, holding court, and he once said to me, ‘I feel as if I ought to know you from somewhere’, but he wasn’t there today. I pondered on life and how lonely and cold Brixham felt, then stood up to leave.
Just then the door opened and my ex came in. He looked well. Sickeningly well. He looked fit and happy and for some reason was wearing tshirt and shorts. We exchanged pleasantries and I told him how weird it was to see him here, of all places. My fortress of solitude. He said that he was in a charity Zumba day at the social hall. Which was the last sort of thing I expected to be happening at a sleepy Autumn fishing port.
I walked home and wondered briefly what it was all about, and whether I should be doing something like Zumba, or whether it mattered at all, that such an ostensibly lonely walk around a shivering little town should leave me feeling strangely good about people. 

On having a sofa phobia.

During a performance in Plymouth the other night, the host encouraged the poets to talk about fear and what it was that each was afraid of. Ever since I was little I’ve had an irrational fear of sofas.

I have no idea why this is. The look of a sofa, to me, is really quite disgusting, so much so that it becomes a hindrance especially when people want you to come round their house. I do not have a sofa of my own and I doubt that I ever will, and I can’t even watch a sitcom or a soap opera if there is a sofa present on screen.

I go around to visit friends and I just kind of linger. Either that, or I sit on a kitchen chair. The worst thing about dinner parties is that, eventually, the host will say something like, ‘Let’s all go and sit in the living room’, and sure enough they will have a sofa, looming there with all its evil intent, and I will shudder inside and try to summon up some courage. It’s why I don’t go to many dinner parties.

I cannot describe how disgusting sofas are. It’s the cushions, primarily, and the fact that they are so big and cumbersome, and that people sit on them and eat and generally live their lives on sofas. The worst thing of all – and this really does give me the willies – is when you are on a train and you see abandoned sofas in people’s back gardens. It really does make me feel quite queasy.

At the moment my favourite art gallery in Torquay is having an exhibition of abstract art, the centrepiece of which is a giant sofa covered in graffiti, and there is no way that I will be going there until after the sofa has gone. I saw a picture on the internet and it was like being slapped in the face.

My sister thinks that this bizarre phobia goes back to when we were kids, and there was a particularly nasty sofa at a relative’s house, sitting on which felt like you were being eaten by a big cushiony fabric-covered monster. This might be true, but I think the real reason is that even before this, when I was a baby, I remember having jelly and dropping some on the sofa at my Uncle’s house. I remember being upset because the site of that jelly on the sofa was so disgusting, and I remember people fussing around reassuring me that I would have some more jelly, and me trying to explain that this was not what I was freaking out about. I’ve always hated jelly, too.

Coffee shop sofas are okay so long as I sit directly in the middle of them. So is the sofa at Tim’s house, a good friend and poetry colleague. Again, so long as I sit directly in the middle, equidistance from the arm rests. (Just typing this is making me feel sick).

So there I was on stage in Plymouth the other night, talking about my sofa phobia, and the audience was laughing, when a woman said that yes, she completely understood, and that she, too, had a sofa phobia. ‘Is it the cushions?’, she asked. Yes, I replied.

Because of that I feel able to write about this now. It’s an unusual affliction and quite humorous to the uninitiated, but it’s real, and I thank you for your support in sharing this with you.

I’m going to go for a lie-down, now.