Tuesday, 31 December 2019

So, You Lost Too

So, You Lost Too

You say you lost your mistress? Well, good.
I did too; she composed withering lines:
‘Yeah, thanks so much for those times
we had, some of them quite reasonable,
bye, LinkedIn’. Well, fine, I’d rate her
as ‘if you’re not a Slater, see you later’.

Now it sinks slowly in; this dying decade
of sin is behind us, my empty child,
so finito babe, and how’s that for style?
We care even less but bitch more now,
how these ten years hashtagged us cows
steam branded as moo-two; labelled

us unexpected baggage in the item area.
More likely than not due to old bon mots
translating as yeah, more of the same
thank you and had she had her head
turned, that mistress of mine, voted blues
like any really cool quaint girl might do?

Well, why blame her for a house half hung
with a pair of flaccid Brussel sprouts
for afters, then; a parrot and his lager lout
squawk soft shit about Great Britain out,
quote Kipling’s exceedingly good cake
then shovel their muck to bury the rake.

Doubt she could have danced at their party
where the waltzing was hard to rough:
limping realistically can be hard to pull off
on benefits when there’s only one good leg
beggaring belief; metal walking sticks
are little or less use when beating off pricks

that bar her way, this gentlemen’s league
of one nation minors. Down on hard knees,
sucking seed, spitting greed, or swallowing
it all, one less summer song, ever following
to where they’re stiff whipping an immigrant
picking daffodils, pleading in all innocence

about plucking jobs from baby’s gums
like teats; dashing brains into scum suds,
stunting growth, holding back all hope,
reining in prosperity. Embrace austerity,
set heat seeking missiles to root out looters
in freedom’s name let rioters loose shooters,

the world observes. Towers flaming high
crimson rage, clad cheap in poverty’s cut
price cloth, weak boned skinny children cry
that the lady lies, oh, she lies. Beneath flowers
taking him in, sticky fronts present only backs
to the wall, people that grunt, people that sigh.

You lost your mistress? Well, tough.
I burned worse than you, burned enough.
Cancer wasn’t cured by cruel hand cuffs
chaining us to chopped trees before songs
had a chance to even kiss lips soon gone;
diamond dogs die beneath diamond suns

where she strayed. Left me hanging there rigid;
a two faced beast. Linkedln, no more, no less.
Well bless us, empty souls, well wish and guess:
looking back, or looking forward to happiness.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

A Very St Clement Christmas

A Very St Clement Christmas

Angel, we’ve ground enough black pepper into eyes,
peeled sufficient stinging onions, chopped then wept,
guzzled gripe water; enough for times two lifetimes yet.
Waken dreamings of a love that could be saved
then imagine our river where we might bathe.

Darling, we blitzed enough humbug soup to choke on,
trampled a million sour grapes beneath our vinegar feet;
quit smoking long enough to watch our cravings retreat.
Spark up feelings of a love that should be saved
Now walk with me to the river, help me bathe.

Crush, we played many piss-poor games, stray passes,
chested filthy balls, been shot at hard, in the face,
took cards for the team enough, flattered to deceive.
Weep tears for a love that we both should grieve
hold hands by the river, we’ll caress and bathe.

Lover, sufficient dark shadows grew in darkening looks,
mascara running fast enough to win Olympic gold
while cheering crowds watch us grow ever more cold.
Recline in warmth of a love we might yet save
when we sit by the river, mellowed and bathe.

Fools…we wrote enough black words into blacker books,
squinted at miniature print, as with immaturing cries
year upon year age dimmed our sight strained eyes.
Let the scales fall, see what must be saved
Bend with me in the river, kiss and bathe.

Precious, we wasted time, always ever giving not living,
chewed other people’s grizzle, swept up the crumbs
of toe rags, bearded hags, plastic bag crusted scum.
But here come such moments to love and save
Now join me in the river, embrace and bathe.

Cherished, we’re bleeding hearts hugging missing links,
printing labels for children, papering over cracks
in damp classrooms that stink of the care they lack.
Teach me to count in love that we shall save
stroke me in the river, we’ll enter and bathe.

Beauty, will we soon tire of excuses for being used?
Lose acquired taste for dry-white turkey gobbled meat,
sucking fluff-muffled bits from between sticky teeth?
When we gaze in wonder at what might be saved
We’ll dive into the river, come together to bathe.

Beloved, too long we’re hunted, tracked by jealous dogs,
chained to cold blooded moons. Those come-too-quicks
scent freedoms to think; trap us with their sleeping sick.
Conceal our trails with its welcoming waves,
we’ll entwine in the river, enter and bathe.

Sweetheart, conjured murky visions won’t thaw iced hearts.
Slow motioned freeze-dried dreams; every ill word,
every message replayed reverbs in whispers heard.
Love’s sun will melt passion deserved of saving
throw ourselves into the river, rejoice in bathing.

My love, have we left enough time to sing our own song?
Or is her distance too great, ticking cruel seconds beyond
her rhythm, gone her rhymes to where we can’t belong?
One day she might show us her kindest face
plunge into her rivers, to surface and bathe.

Oh baby, you fret nights that the cards cannot come
this Christmas or next, perhaps any hope will cool,
remembered fevers and passions may no longer rule
but peace now, love, be still: tomorrow we will be saved.
We’ll drink again at the river, to quench and bathe.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Flight of the Angel

Flight of the Angel

Pilot said I might not yet be used to a tossed step.
We plunged, borne by the storm’s wings, its biceps  

squeezing tight, pinching at my shoe horned heart,
pitching seats, diving steep. Descending flight’s arc,

face-punched with fistfuls of jagged Cornish hail,
wind-whipped by pistol force-eight cat o nine gales,

setting shields against slashed grit-rain, tight lipped,
gripped by sock thick deep pools of waste-watered pit.

Struggle did we? Oh, more than usual - bearing gifts
from East to West, smashed by tempests over cliffs

on impact course with all that was abandoned. Left
behind with sardonic sneer and black hearted jests,

bit by the backhandful of greasy fivers glibly given
to sweeten the pill. I refused the speech, unforgiven

still, and still rain hacks down upon olive crowns,
jagged rocks, swollen bellied grinding seas, towns

blink-glimpsed through thick shrouded shudders;
repel boarders, close curtains, where wary mothers

frock children back, snuff candles, wait. It will pass.
Draw my drowsy eyelids over them now, until, at last

cradle rocked, motion craft lulls false-minded sleep,
mesh-grey those visions intertwine, backwards creep,

blend; casting familiars, casting spells, casting faces
warm in love, giving gifts I didn’t buy from places

I’d not visited, waiting. Patient. Breezes run silk smiles
through angel dreams of giving me back that lost child

someplace nowhere returning to soft meadows long
where we’d shared secret love to plucked bass-song.

She’d given herself so many times, met every whim
I risked, double dared, quenched every shared sin

with Angel grin, kissed generous my soft sunned skin,
burnt herself by her own fire, her own fingers in,

pushed, stroked as bidded, rubbed and tasted
every photograph sent, every feeling lent, wasted

not one manic dream pixel. Now lying separate sated,
the spells once potent, incantations that were fated

to wither on the vine, no farewells, never no tears
shed, loathing instead; promised gifts of coming years

needed two to harvest fruit. But Christmas deals cards
in trust, my sky wracked ship, slung in between shards

of thundered surfing strife, shook summer dreaming
clattered descent, wheels rattled raw, now screaming

for haven. I prayed. Wished for some Angel’s flight
to kiss, forgive me and bear us safe home tonight.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Secret Santa

Secret Santa
(A Story of Christmas Goodwill)

‘Hi Jonathon. Sorry to bother you over your weekend. I’m in school. I got here and the internet isn’t working. It isn’t working at home, either. What should I do?’

Head of English? Don’t talk to me about the head of sodding English…this is the job that pleases no one. Those below bitch and moan. Those above? Bitch and moan. At least it has a certain alchemy about it. As above, so below.

See that? It’s hard.

So, here’s me caught in the centre of the fucker, pretty much all my adult life. Don’t make me laugh; you couldn’t do it. It takes a special kind of masochist. You’re far too clever.

My replacement.

Yeah, the one whose boiled breath smells of sour sucked mints or Grandma’s aniseed rocks, you know? Well, she murdered her way into it, stabbing backs where and when she could like some sort of one woman Julius Caesar themed ‘bring your own dagger’ party and now she’s sinking underneath the sheer incompetence of those around her, sending me those sweet little passive aggressive Valentine’s brieflets with ‘still doing that easy curriculum, I see’, written cursively in blood every time the Government publishes the results.

Stupid sod.

If I didn’t hate her, I’d pity the poor wee mite. For it’s not something to aspire to, no pinnacle, no summit - it is or isn’t, like a bequeathed wristwatch or an event horizon you fall into in a moment of sheer absent mindedness.

I tell you what, though, here in Kata, where I fetched up after the night of the long shites, with a fistful of memories and Cocteau Twins LPs, they wrenched me off the plane and thrust me in the office with malicious smirks, despite my protests. ‘You’re the one, you’ll do it.’

I started to push the boulder up the hill again, yoked to it like a donkey, or ass. Well, you decide – read these:

Interview 1

‘Now then, Twatley (name changed out of professional courtesy), you remember that I emailed to tell you…specifically tell you…’

‘Yes, boss-man?’

‘Don’t call me boss-man.’

‘Sorry. I thought you liked it.’



‘Why did you think I’d like it, you cretin?’

‘In my country, that is a mark of respect.’

‘Indeed. Well, even if that is the case, is it bollocks, you insufferable slack prick, could you please tell me why, after I specifically emailed you twice, with a deadline and everything, and you knew, you knew that I was checking, checking on behalf of…’

‘Chicken? Chicken? You want me to go get a bucket bargain or something?’

‘Checking. Checking the books, checking you had marked them. Your books. The children’s books.’

‘Oh, that.’

‘Quite so. And you hadn’t. Marked them. Not one mark. Not even a fucking tick.’

‘Well, there’s nothing in them yet. Nothing to mark.’

‘I saw that. Just what HAVE you been doing these last ten weeks in English lessons?’

Interview 2

‘Now…ah…sit down…ah…Twatterton (as above) …just relax, nothing to worry about, a bit embarrassing, I’m sorry to have to call you in like this…there’s been a complaint. From one of the parents.’

‘Parents? Well, they shouldn’t interfere in their children’s education. In my country they erect steel fences.’

‘I see. Do they?’


‘Why did you say that, then?’

‘It was a metaphor.’

‘Of course, but just how is that actually a metaphor, you thick pancake tosser?’

‘Not a metaphor. I meant an extended metaphor. It’s something that hasn’t arrived here in Kata yet, but it will, and when it will, when the boat comes here, it’ll be first onto the shore.’

‘Anyway, shut the fuck up you dribbling fool this complaint…I’m sure it’s a complete fabrication on their part…well, I certainly couldn’t believe it, this being a culturally sensitive part of the world and so on…’


‘Well, it seems that you rolled your eyes at this child, called her a spoiled brat and…ah…said she was laughing at God.’

‘Well, she was.’

‘Was, what?’

‘Laughing at our Lord, Jesus. I told her…my hair was a gift from God and to laugh at my hair was to laugh at Jesus.’

‘We live in Arabia.’

‘Well, I’ve heard that a thousand times, and quite frankly, it’s racist.’

There’s more, but I think you get it, right? If you twist my arm, I’ll put it in the next story, or please read my diaries, someone has to one day, or why do I keep them…they put me in a glass fronted office you know, so I can see out or they can see in to check I’m not slacking.

Oh look, there they are, the pair of gormless fuckwits. One with a slapped arse for a face and the other dressed like a tube of Aquafresh toothpaste, holding a handbag at waist height with her tea drinking finger and doing a passable impression of a plastic tropical mocktail twizzle stick.

That’s it. Take your time, dears. Lesson started ten minutes ago…just check your mobile phones for messages, why don’t you?

But look, I wanted to tell you about a specific thing…Secret Santa. And examinations. Because, at the end of the year, we have this thing…have you heard of it? You’re given a random name, you go and get a gift, you wrap it…ironic, really, because they don’t have Christmas here.

Well, because my boss, Anita, the Head of Secondary, came to see me last week. A tall woman, she put her arms around me, hugged my head to her chest, gave my shoulders a friendly squeeze and told me, ‘Now, see here. Why don’t you set up some supportive meetings with them, a friendly smile, some advice…bring out the best in them? I know you can, Jonathon, you never let me down.’

So, how could I resist? She makes such an impression on my face.

Well, I immediately put my mind and talents about it, considering the problem. A poser…or as we say in Cornwall, tricksy. For how do you set up meetings with people whose idea of intercourse is ordering pizzas and MacBuckets on cell phones then being peremptory with the poor sods who have to weave their fragile scooters in and out of the juggernauts on D Ring?

Couple of days later, I put my head into the library where Year 10 – fourth years to you – were sweating over Literature mock exams, grinding pencils and teeth in time to the sashaying air conditioning – well, because it’s a little warmer over here than you’re used to, believe me. And their was the usual hubbub of hand waving from the naughty boys: – ‘what does this word mean, could they go to the bathroom? No? Well how about a tissue then and how long is it until the exam is over?’

And so on.

Oh it’s a jolly game, really, strolling up and down the rows of desks, taking in the oud and being sent on spurious errands – anything to pass the time – which is why, if I can help it, I avoid the library like I avoid those rabid cats that haunt the Metro stations at night.

Anyway, I’m quite impressed with what I see. The students have their heads down, pens scribbling at a tremendous rate, steam coming from nibs, that sort of thing – oh, well done, boys, well done Abdulrahman, well done Hamad and well done Nasser – especially Nasser, who generally can’t spell his name with much accuracy, never mind tackle Macbeth.

Something odd though, something amiss, something not quite right…what was it now? Hands. Yes, hands. They’re shooting up and down like steam engine pistons issuing clouds of rank armpit – well that’s expected – but the teachers invigilating are almost running across the parallel rows with boxes of tissues, ripping them asunder and tossing them on desks with grunts of frustration.

I listened in, senses tingling. Not that I’m Spiderman or anything, with my bulk and saggy flesh, but still: “Tissue please, another one, no, not that one, try again, try again…” and all the time more and more clouds of paper fluttering on the winds of conditioned air. It was getting to be a bit of a mess. And, what’s this? Here’s Mohammed not blowing his nose or anything, but straightening it out, placing it by the script, staring into its depths.

I looked over his shoulder. It was quite pretty, actually. No snot, just artistic hieroglyphs of Arabic lettering. And there, in the corner a green portrait of the bard himself. “No,” hissed Mohammed, “not that one. Bring me more.”

I saw Twatley, sweat oozing from his flaccid forehead and onto the rims of his spectacles, manoeuvring his fat through the aisle. I stopped him. “What’s going on? Is there a flu epidemic or something? A lot of blocked sinuses?”

“I don’t know, boss-man. These tissues seem to be very popular. Very much in demand. Seems they’re the in thing today?”

“But why, Twatley, why? We don’t usually get such a run on these things. A few runny noses, sure. A few. But you’d think there was a mucus ocean the way you’re handing these out like Christmas presents.”

“They sure are trendy today, and that’s no lie.”

Scratching my head, I observed some more. There seemed to be no relenting, particularly from the boys’ side; hands were still wind-milling and signalling every thirty seconds. What was it Twatley had said? That’s no lie? Lie…lie, lie, lie…a tissue of lies…

I seized Twatley’s arm. “Not lies, Twatley, not lies. Lines!” I cried triumphantly. “A tissue of lines!”

“Eh? What you mean?”

“Look.” I grabbed the carton from his hand. “Look. Special Arabic Shakespearian tissues. And on each one? A quotation…from Macbeth.”

“But, this is a closed book examination!”

“Exactly, Twatley, exactly. Through no fault of their own, these boys have exploited a clever, clever dodge. Like Roger the Dodger.”

“Roger the Dogger? I thought that wasn’t allowed here.”

“Dodger. Roger the Dodger. He was a character from a British comic book who…oh, never mind, never mind…think of something, Twatley.”

Now, give him his due, the useless lump’s face creased as though he was contemplating options and strategies very deeply indeed. Very deeply. He snapped his fingers. Quietly, because this was an examination after all. “Got it. No need to worry.”

“There isn’t?”

“Yes, boss-man. These tissues, they’re in Arabic, right? Well, this is an English exam. They won’t be able to read them.”

I rolled my eyes and hoped that Jesus wasn’t keeping score. “Is that the best you can come up with?” I snapped, without pointing the obvious out, then remembered Anita’s words. “Yes, yes, good point, I can see why that might be relevant, well done – nevertheless, I think we’d better get rid of these tissues, just to be on the safe side…discreetly, let’s not let this get out.”

From the boys came a muted groan and knowing smiles as we confiscated boxes and piled them up outside the library, ten in number. “Just where did these come from?” I muttered, “which boy brought them in, the clever sod?”

But then I saw Twatterton. She was stilting towards me with all the grace of a plucked double bass string, handbag held waist high, and, as usual, looking like a strutting flamingo that had escaped from a trip to Selfridges to buy sliced, deseeded watermelon portions.

She tilted her head stiffly in my direction, fixing an eye on the small pile of cartons. “Where did you get those? They’re mine.”

“Of course they are,” I snapped, recklessly, “well, who else? Another public relations triumph from the mistress of tact.”

“I don’t know what you mean. They were my Secret Santa gift for the department. I was going to give out a box to everybody.”

Twatley looked genuinely chuffed. “Why, that’s mighty nice of you, Twatterton. Except they’re mostly used now, by the boys. I’m not sure anyone would want used tissues. Still, if you like I could get the less crumpled ones out of the bin, iron them for you and stuff them back in.”

“Stuff them back in?” I yelled, “Stuff them back in? That’s not the issue is it? I’m sure we could all stuff them back in if we put our minds to it, and I’d be stuffing them along with the rest of you stuffers, believe me.”

A little hurt, Twatley looked crestfallen at the tatty boxes, “but you often said I need to use my initiative, plan for contingencies. ‘Be the solution, not the problem’ you said.”

“Sorry, sorry. I just need something more practical than a batshit suggestion of wrap up boxes of soiled tissues and hand them out as gifts. How were they in the library in the first place, anyway?” I gazed accusingly at Twatterton who showed no sign of remorse. No sign of anything, actually, no sign there was anything approaching a brain at all.

Still staring at the merchandise, she contemplated her response, formulating carefully. “I thought that the library would be a safe place to hide them before wrapping them up.”

“Safe place? Safe place?” I repeated, incredulously, “during the exams you mean? During exams where it is standard practice for teachers to hand out tissues to students? Tissues with Shakespeare’s beaming smile all over them and words of wisdom emanating from his mouth helpfully translated into Arabic? That’s your definition of safety, is it?”

“I’m new here. I don’t know the ways of Kata.”

And then, Anita arrived.

Well, I’d like to tell you the pair of them had very, very special Secret Santa gifts from me.

I’d like to tell you that, but it would be a lie, despite however long I spent tossing beneath my comforter in the middle of those dead sticky, sleepless nights where you are cold because you were hot and kicked the bedding all over the floor in gritty frustration.

Roger the fucking Dogger indeed.

Plotting their demise, cursing the fates that had hurled them both off the plane and onto the tarmac of the runway in one, long, satisfying vomit – I thought maybe I could tell you I had some sort of revenge for the long snake of parents that fetched up at my office window…one, then the next, then the next…oh, I dreamt up such mighty punishments that had even yet to be devised, unspeakable things that the very earth tore itself apart, rent itself in twain, horses that ate each the other horse…but the best I could come up with was a mocked up ticket for a flight home to their respective countries.

And in truth, I couldn’t even be arsed to do that. Instead I went to Poundland and bought a couple of mugs. And because I’m kind, I didn’t piss into them first but wrapped them. No, not in newspaper. In proper pink paper that cost at least 10 Riyals, thank you.

Now, to finish off, it’s Secret Santa and we’re all flying home for Christmas tomorrow and I can already hear the waves grinding the granite cliffs of my beloved Cornwall; feel Ross Poldark’s arm on my shoulder, that sort of thing and Anita gives me a look from across the room that sends shivers down my spine – she loves me and I keep coming back for more.

Twatley and Twatterton have already unwrapped their mugs and the latter is sniffing hers suspiciously – well, hey, don’t believe everything you read, right? Still, Twatley looks pleased and raises his in my direction in a mock ‘salut’ or ‘skol’ – take your pick or roll your eyes.

Anita, because it’s a few days later and everything is forgiven, so it goes, and, to be fair it was nowhere near my fault anyway…and yet:


‘Why the hell have they got to sit this fucking exam again anyway? Why have we got no time to mark it?’


‘Now then, when we put you in a position of responsibility we expect at least a modicum of…well…responsibility. So, do the responsible thing and sort it out for us.’

Alchemy. You have to love it.

So, here’s Anita, bringing my Secret Santa, a twinkle in her eye and her cheeks with a slight flush: “Jonathon, this for you.”

I’d hang a giant lampshade on this one, but you’ve already guessed it was a box of those Shakespeare tissues, haven’t you?

I wasn’t responsible for my actions, I really wasn’t.

Head of English? Don’t talk to me about the head of sodding English…this is the job that pleases no one. Least of all me. Why do you think I’m sitting here, in front of my computer waiting for a Skype connection, telling you all this and contemplating the sweet and sour smell of sucked mint and aniseed rock?

Friday, 6 December 2019

A Mess of the Blues

A Mess of the Blues

Did you wonder at all the fuss, the brewed hoodoo?
Coning off the M1 up to Daventry from mass hysterics,
waving weeping flags of lipstick red, white and blue
crowd control, hard boiling their eyes at passing cortege,

fearful they’d catapult your casket to rest in state
with other strewn litter by the picnic area and lake,
then chuck up a plaster statue as befits a faded flake.
Or a water fountain, faulty-valved, crusted with dust

so that when the floodgates open, only merest trickle
dribbles onto television documentaries, heavily made up,
black mascara cabbage white lids fluttered, you fickle
thing, downcast and wobbling grin, could break up

at any moment; for there were three in this marriage,
bloody silly bitches, who, when not panorama pouting,
hugged trees, land-scraped carbuncles, rode carriages,
flounced on stage unscripted, stuck private members

into unpaid bills, robbing the poor to fuck the rich.
No dear, not three - millions cubed bought into it,
those self-same shitsticks who, when bothered, pitch
up at polling stations, we’ll show them, make our mark.

Matt thick blues, these squawking parrots still grieve.
It’s pelters out there, but seldom sodding felt or seen
how the other half of us aren’t borrowers or thieves
beggars their sworn belief in horses for courses;

tuning in nightly, watching suave Doctor Cockpizzle jab
his needle in some dying casual immigrant casualty’s
arse on the History channel where it’s always drab
Germans, goose-stepping in time to a song for Europe.

Look now, your blonde tart, faking it as Prime Minister,
bawling tears, shredding EU flags over your coffin,
turbo charged pissing into your fountain, a finisher,
will certainly get it done but pulls it out before you come.

Still bleating that you took kindness to foreign places,
mined love not war, bathed yourself in rainbow hues,
while fastening those lemming smiles to plastic faces,
sleepwalking in death towards a mess of the blues.