A collection of poems and other writings...

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Dead Flowers

rustles in the undergrowth
we fling stones

stand silent for a moment
to count the effect -
stillness still

weigh the probable outcome
in our minds until

with nervous glances between us
we push our hands

among dead flowers
separate stem from stem

touch fingers in our searching
and draw from the wrecked bed

a grey frog
eyes sunken from the stoning

a shattering of limbs
soiled with earth

our eyes meet in an understanding
of the creatures death
and the strange power of our hands


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Thin End

I don't mind. I really don't. It's my pleasure it really is. If you knew her you'd understand. And after 27 years you get into your patterns don't you. And although our patterns might look odd unfair even to an outsider, to us they work.
We fit.
We complement each other.
So no, I don't mind that in the bedroom she has her bobs and bits out on the top of the chest of drawers and across the mantelpiece and arranged over the surfaces of the dressing table.
I never use the dressing table so I don't need any space on there, do I. I mean, I've only got one or two bits I need to have out anyway.
I've got my hairbrushes that were Dad's with the ivory inlay. Ebony they are and I like to keep them out because, well, they remind me of him.
And the statue of the Virgin.  That's mine. Dead centre on the mantelpiece. She doesn't mind that.  It's... I mean... she's got her own place, the Virgin. You can't really think of devotional things belonging to a person anyway, can you - it doesn't seem quite fitting.
So yes. I've got my brushes, oh, and my nail clippers.
I used to use scissors, of course, which are fine for toenails but clippers are better for fingers because you can do both hands. And besides with me being left-handed scissors are tricky especially when I'm doing my wrong hand, if you see what I mean. If I've got them in my wrong hand, ie my right hand, I can't get them to function at all. So clippers, yes. Clippers are best.
So she lets me have the corner of the tumble dryer for my things. And then we both know where we are. 'Course, the wash basket – clean wash, that is – that lives on the tumble dryer too, so I don't have much room. But it's enough.  It's enough for me.
Downstairs it's a bit different. She doesn't like it if my shoes are out and not on. On my feet that is.
'On or away,' she says.
So I get one shelf of the shoe rack for my three pairs and she gets the other two shelves, and the bottom of the coat cupboard for hers, oh, and a box in the attic. And the suitcase. The old blue one we don't use. At least not for travelling. She uses that for her old shoes. The ones that she doesn't wear any more because – well – I'm not quite sure why she doesn't, but... well, she doesn't... But they're too good to go to charity.
We tend to use the two small suitcases now. Well she gets one, and half of mine. I can usually manage with just the appropriate number of pairs of jockeys and an equivalent number of socks but of course it does depend where we're going and for how long.
She likes a river cruise.
And I do too.
I'd like a sea cruise, you know, to exotic climes, but she likes to be able to see land at all times. She gets bilious if she can't see land. So we tend to do the river cruises now so we're both happy then. She gets to see land and I'm happy she's not bilious.
We met Marcel on the trip along the Rhine – it was fabulous. And he seemed such a pleasant chat such good English too. Spoke it better than Jean, truth be told. And she loved his accent, didn't she – and of course he played up to her.
'Bonjour, ma cherie,' he'd say - well I can't do it - but he'd call her 'mon amour' and 'la belle femme' and such like - she loved it.
'Oh, Phil!' she says. 'Why aren't you French? Why do you never say such things to me?'
'Well I don't know the lingo, do I Jean. How could I?'
'You should learn it, Phil. You should get some lessons. I'll get you a CD for Christmas.'

Anyway on the last night they organised a dinner dance thing, you know, because they're big boats these cruisers. They're a fair size, they really are.
And they decked out the Officers' Mess, as they called it. Bunting and such and so forth.
And a little band was playing dance classics, you know, slow ones that sort of thing, proper dance tunes, Blue Danube, some Napkin Cole. That's what Jean calls him. And you know, they had a keyboard so they could go for the swirling strings and such like - the Mantovani sound, you know.
And towards the end they played My Funny Valentine as a smoochie number and, well, that's been our tune forever, so I took her hand and we moved across to the dancefloor.
But then we'd just started and I feel this tap on my shoulder and it's Marcel.
'May I?' He says.
So I say 'Mais oui...'
Well, you can't really refuse, can you – and Jean's keen and kind of pushing me back a little so he can get in.
And the two of them go gliding off across the floor.
He's very good.  Well, you know, he's all right.
So I watch them go and then wander back to the table.
But I lose track...
And then the band finishes and everyone claps and when I look for them I can't see them. Even when everybody starts to leave and the waiters are starting to clear up. They are nowhere to be seen.
So I thinks I'd better check around on the viewing deck or else I'll go back to the cabin. And as I'm walking up to the prow I can see them leaning against the railing looking out at the city lights.
And as I get closer I see he's got his hand on her back. And I'm just walking up – they haven't seen me – and I see his hand slip down to her bottom. And I'm, well, I'm a bit surprised really.
I mean, Jean is not really one for a lot of physical contact but I can see she's not pushing him off or anything and then he turns her to face him and I can see him move in and then he's kissing her. And it's not just a peck either, you know, it's a full Bogart-Baccall job.
Well I don't know where to put myself so I think I'd better head back to the cabin.
I'm in bed when she gets back but I pretend to be asleep.
She gets ready just before she turns the light out she leans over and gives me a little kiss on the cheek.
I can feel it's a bit of a wet one.
But I don't want her to know so I just let it sit there unwiped until she settles.
Next morning she is getting dressed and she says 'Oh, Phil, Marcel asked if he can come and stay at ours in a month's time. He's got a conference thing in Birmingham and I said it would be nice. That's okay, isn't it? If he comes to stay?
'Oh. I should think. I… Yes, I'm sure that'll… Well I'll check the diary when we get back but I'm... Because I said I'd pop to mums, but…'
'Well you could still do that even so, couldn't you?'
'Yes I suppose…'

'I've bought a nice piece of brie,' says Jean on the Thursday night. The man says it's a bit under at the moment but by Saturday it'll be fine, you know… I thought Marcel would like that.'
'Are you not going to buy him a nice piece of English cheese?'
'It is English – I bought it in Sainsbury's.'
'Don't be daft... English would be better. He can have brie whenever he likes, can't he, in France.'
'Oh no!' she says.
'You know, proper English cheddar. Some Cathedral City or something. Cracker Barrel...'
'Oh no! He's French! He won't want them. He'll want proper cheese.'
On Saturday, she's made stew and dumplings. She's a good cook, I can't deny it. And apple crumble. Fantastic. And proper custard. You know, not out of a tin. Proper Birds.
Then out comes the cheese.
'Look brie,' she says. 'Brie, Marcel, I bought it special.'
'Merci, madame, you are trés gentille! Mais... I have eaten so much I could not possibly…'
'Oh,' she says.
I can see she's a bit crestfallen.
'Well,' I say, 'I don't mind if I do.'
'Oh, well go on then, Phil,' she says.
'But just a taste. I prefer an English cheese truth be told. Tell you what, I'll just take the very tip the thin end.'
'Aha,' says Marcel, 'that is considered the very finest part of course, the toe.'
'Oh!' says Jean, 'the toe! Oh la la! Well don't take that then, Phil! Marcel, really, you should have that – you're the guest.'
'But madame! I…'
'No, I insist you have it – the toe, Marcel. Go on – give it him, Phil. He is the guest.'
So I slide it onto his plate with my knife and Marcel cuts it with his, and he pulls a grape from the bowl in the middle and pops them both into his mouth.
Jean looks at him.
He looks at Jean.
I look at Jean, too.
She is smiling.
That's nice.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Change Of Clothes

She missed him of course.
Jack.
His presence in the house.
The structure that his comings and goings imposed upon her day.
But she couldn't say she wanted him back.
And as she moved around the house now she still heard his voice – niggling at her, correcting her, undermining her.
What've you done that for?
- Why do you do it like that?
- It'd be better to wash the inside of the windows on the Thursday then when the cleaners come on the Friday you'll notice the difference, won't you.
- It'd be better, do you not think, to wash the kitchen floor last thing at night rather than now, just before you're going to start cooking.
- I wish you'd think a bit, sweetheart. If you used your brain a little you wouldn't be so tired all the time, would you.

It was a Saturday when he had sat in front of the television while she ironed, steam hissing from her iron.
He turned up the volume.
- Sweetheart, do you have to do that in here? It's steaming the place up. Look at the windows. All that condensation. It'll rot the frames. It's not great, y'know. It's not like we're made of money to be able to buy uPVC, is it. It's me that'll have to fix it, isn't it. At the end of the day.  It'd be better if you did the ironing up in the spare room, wouldn't it. You could have the window open, couldn't you.
- But I like to watch the telly while I'm doing it.
- Well, you could take the portable in from the bedroom, couldn't you, love. Take it in and put it on the chest of drawers and you can watch what you want then, can't you.
- But I like watching with you, Jack.
- Well yes, but we don't really like the same things, do we. You're not that interested in football, are you. Be honest.
- I don't mind.
- And I can't stand that crap you watch. Don't Tell Them About The Dress or whatever it is. So it'd suit us both really, wouldn't it. I tell you what, at the break I'll nip up and put the portable in the spare room for you. I'll plug it in there, shall I. And you can go and take the ironing board up there and do the ironing in the spare room, can't you, and watch what you like then. I'll do that for you, shall I. Ok? You can watch what you like then.

The heart attack was only to be expected, the doctor said.
- But he was only fifty four.
But considering his family history, his passive life style, his poor diet, the doctor said.
- I always served him veg, she said. He just never ate any.

- Will you be all right, Mrs McKinnon? The sister asked as she led her out of the family room.
- I'll be fine.
- Is there anyone I can call for you?
- No, you're all right, I'll be fine.
- Sure? Sister? Children? Neighbour, perhaps?
- No, honestly. I'll be fine.

It was 8.00am when she left the hospital.
They wanted to call a taxi for her but she said she'd prefer to walk.
The May sunshine streamed through the trees as she walked down Canal Street and out into the park. A light green flush haloed the birches and tinged the air. She went and sat on the bench by the pond. 
- What now?
She felt a tightening in her throat.
A few ducks swam lazily towards her and then away again as they realised she had nothing for them.
- Nothing today, ducks, she said. Nothing today.
- You'd better get home, he said. It's nearly nine. What're you thinking? You should be home by now, do you not think? It'd be better if you went home now, love, and sorted things out. You know.
She stood up and picked her bag up from the bench. She'd better get home.
A cockerpoo came snuffling around the feet of the bench where she'd been sitting. Then it scented her and came over, muddy feet up on her leg as she stood there. She found she didn't mind.
- Hello, she said. You're a friendly thing.
The dog pushed its snout under the edge of her skirt. She pushed it down then sat back on the bench and started to pet the animal.
- Douglas Fairbanks? Douglas Fairbanks!
A man in his late forties was striding quickly towards them, empty lead in hand.
- Oh, I'm so sorry, he said. Has he been bothering you?
He bent and clipped the lead onto the dog's collar.
- D'you really call him Douglas Fairbanks?
- Haha! It was my late wife's idea. She loved Douglas Fairbanks. Well, in truth she loved Douglas Fairbanks Junior, but that seemed too much of a mouthful. Haha! Do you mind if I...?
- Be my guest, she said.
- Alec, he said.
- Tess, she said.

She looked at his trousers as he sat down. Sharp creases.
Clean shoes despite the Spring mud in the park.
She listened to his crisp, modulating voice as he spoke.
Saw the tidily manicured nails.
Noted the gold wristwatch, the heavy wedding ring which he still wore.

On the fifth of June, he took her to the City Hall. A tea dance. Saturday afternoon. They drank milky tea. They danced. He led. She followed.

On Monday, she sent Jack's clothes to the Mind Shop. She found she didn't.

On the seventeenth of July, while they were watching the special matinee showing of Gone With The Wind at the Great American Picture House on Bentall Street, he reached across the popcorn and took her hand. She noticed he wasn't wearing his ring any more.
She found she gave a damn.

August Bank Holiday and they made love in the afternoon in a small pension he'd found online on the Left Bank of the Seine. She'd never been to Paris before. She loved Paris.
- Can we come again, she said, as he held her.
His hand moved slowly over her belly, still glistening from their love-making.  It slid up her body to cover her breast. She felt an unfamiliar tingling in her nipple.
She loved him.

- It's a bit soon, isn't it? Dad's barely cold.
- Your father was cold before ever he died.
Anthea took the plates from the drainer, dried them and stacked them on the counter.
- Well as long as you know what you're doing, Mum.
- I know what I'm doing, love. I know what I'm doing.

On the first of December, he moved in.
Douglas Fairbanks hid under the dining room table while they went upstairs.
She sat on the bed and watched Alec unpack his suitcase.
He placed his socks in Jack's sock drawer.
He unfolded his shirts and hung them on hangers on Jack's side of the wardrobe. Next to her dresses and the white blouses she used to wear to the office.
His shoes – eight pairs, she counted – he arranged on a shoe rack he had brought with him.

- Thank you, she said.
- My darling, what for?
- Just... thank you. I love you.
- And I love you too.
- Do you?
- With all my heart. I never thought I could love again. You have proven me wrong.
- You make me feel like a teenager, she said. Except that when I was a teenager I had spots and big crooked front teeth and glasses.
- My darling, you are beautiful in my eyes.
- Thank you.
She felt herself flush.
He paused for a moment.
- Dearest?
- Yes?
- Don't you think it would be better if the head of the bed was against the other wall? Then when the sun rises it wouldn't be so directly in our faces.
- Hm... maybe... she said.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Thus have I killed you

And thus
have I killed you
a hundred times:
stalked your corpse
among the living;
ripped the soul
from your dead flesh
in some imagined resurrection.


Thus have I killed you
a thousand times and more
when every face I see
in some small way
reflects a part of you:
the line of jaw;
the velvet camber
of a sallow cheek.



Thus have I killed you,
oh, ten thousand times
and mourned your death afresh
for dead you are
it seems
four decades gone
or so they say
though I did never see you dead:
never measured your length
upon a slab;
just some old box we tucked away
into the ground -
a time capsule of a life.



And every woman
still
spotted from this bus
though two hundred miles away
in years and space
for a fleeting moment
breaks nature's rule
and feeds my futile heart
with desperate hope
that hers might be your face.




Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Finite - a prose poem

A second piece written on holiday, originally called No Work On Monday!

Maybe it's my age that brings death to my thoughts so often.
I wrote this not out of a feeling of depression but rather a sense of the release death offers and how briefly we share the earth in comparison to natural phenomena - which are of course, themselves, finite.



Everyday, in some way, I contemplate my death.

Today – Friday – stood above these staggering falls, I cast, in my mind's eye, my carcass down from this viewing bridge to cascade and shatter on the rocks below. And although I fear my end would be neither instant or painless, the thundering water, blistering the air and cracking fractures in the rock, would so overwhelm me that in my shattered state I would have no strength to fight my way back to grace.

The torrent like a thousand fists, like the hurling of a thousand stones, would boulder me to death, pressing my splintered rib cage down against these ragged sharps.

And later, when the hue and cry had scoured the fruitless paths, they'd find these tattered bollocks buttered into crevices beneath the fall. They'd pull me out, of course, and as some poor sod wrung water from his uniform, and accepted praise from colleagues for a difficult job well done, they'd strap what's left of me to a stretcher and man-handle me back to the patient car-parked ambulance.

There'd be no need for sirens blaring, no alarum bells. Hurrying would make no difference now.

And though I do not doubt that some would curse the spot and shout their angry questions in my dead face, I would rest more or less peacefully knowing this to be my last place.









The Birks Of Aberfeldy

I wrote this while we were away in Aberfeldy recently.
I visited the Birks of Aberfeldy several times - a woodland walk along a river that creates a series of waterfalls, the Falls of Moness, famously written about by Robert Burns in his song The Birks of Aberfeldy - he sits now on a bench surveying the scene.

The woodland is mixed but the most striking and numerous are the silver birch trees, The Birks.  We did catch a glimpse of a rare red squirrel, too.

It rained a lot one day but the following morning was beautiful and the swollen river was powerfully impressive as it cascaded along the gorge, almost too intense an experience at the time.

climb this morning
once again
the Birks of Aberfeldy

mount the path
through silvered trees
their mossy overgrowth
their heart-shaped leaves
to where the upmost bridge
spans the bursting stream

and here
I pause
for half an hour or so

to stand and count the water
breathe sunshine
from the naked sky

I study the larches too
that drip with yellow light
against the blue
while chitting wrens
chase flies along their limbs
and russet squirrels
hunt the drooping boughs

I have no thought
to justify the place
no need to argue
why or when or how
here simply is a changing constancy
a thundering, falling flow
that stuns the earth
to silence
drums below the feet
drowns the traffic of the brain
drugs the blood

and yet this dryad spirit is too great
it seems
or this mind too weak
for I find I have to turn away
to imagine
an understanding
of the place

I cannot live within this terrifying moment
but rather long for its memory
so rich is it
in its sufficiency

Monday, 24 July 2017

Darning Socks

Clouds on the horizon. 
Clouds, smoky and grey, pre-empting the passing season - sandal-free days. 
So I spend my afternoon darning socks.

There must be something remarkable in the angle of my toenails for no matter how short I clip them, they are inclined to devastate the yarn above.
They are the Big Toes that create the greatest destruction, incising against the inside of the toecaps of my boots, shredding the thread, fracturing the fabric. Now, the next time the socks are worn they must be slipped each on the other foot, so the holes hover each above the middle toe, Toe Three. Meanwhile, Big Toes set to work again, feasting anew on virgin textile. And come nightfall, as I toe-heel out of my loafers, there are now two pale planets of nail and flesh luminous against a dark woollen skyscape.

'Buy New,' she says, 'for Life is Too Short to spend hours darning holes in such insignificant garments. Buy New!'

But how can I reject my knee-high Prince of Wales plaid?
How can I desert my 'World's Best Dad'? An ankle-borne motto from a time when I was not so worn out by work.
What would I do without the Weekday Run-through – the circling calendar slipping unseen into my shoe? Monday Blue through to Lemon Yellow Sunday.

And these, my wedding socks, black silk softness, will I divorce from them so easily?  Should I slip them along my soles, though now crumpled and ill-fitting, stretched because the size I bought was just a little too short?
Can I render them up? Can I tender them in exchange for something fashionably new? Or should I darn and sew, the way I know how to? Darn and sew, mend and make do.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A Graveside Kiss

Lilies
     dense and white
     and speckled orange
     soft-stemmed funnels of sorrow
     bundled within a polythene sleeve
lie
     on the mound of churned earth
     that will cover her coffin
we
     thumb paper tissues
     into our palms
     sidle together
     our heads at forty five
     though a more subtle angle
     between your body and mine
     for we are inclined to weep
we each
     lean on the other's arm
     our soft palates each clamped
     against the grief
     tongues tying the tragedy tight

but here
     amongst the cannas and tigers
     a bumble bee
     fumbles one by one into the flower cones
     re-emerges after a moment
     reversing from each powdery trumpet
     pollen like polenta
     dusting its busby black and belisha fur
then
     its forage complete
     now all sweetness is gone
     it rises against the breeze
     and flies close
     between your shoulder
     and your ear
you
     flinch
     and shudder
     as the wing-disturbed air
     broaches your neck
     an intimate breath
     a whispered kiss
     at the graveside

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

H-Bomb

I climb the corner
from Valley into Upper Valley Road
the licorice evening
cat-curling round my feet

young boy
ten
walking towards me
drops an H-bomb
as he passes

I stutter my surprise
but then
remembering
its sometimes
good to connect
return the greeting

Hello
I say
back


Friday, 7 July 2017

jockey shorts

In an attempt
to drive
his taunting teenaged son
from his bedroom
as he tries to prepare for bed
the father strips
completely

naked
to the blue thread veins
that run across his chest
to the varicose vessels
that meander
from his groin
and delta down his inner thigh

the lad jeers
cheerily
at the whiteness
of the pallid skin
stretched shining
over the ridges of the shins

scoffs
at the loose-toned buttocks
revealed
as shapeless
jockey shorts
are thumbed down from the hips

complains
as a curtain of pendulous stomach
undulates in
a galloping adipose syncopation

but is silenced
as the father's flaccid weapon
larger than his own
claims victory
over the moment

the father
ignores the abuse
chooses to centre himself
in his thoughts
tosses the shorts
to the dirty linen basket
shakes creases
from folded pyjamas
stored beneath the pillow
ties a double bow
in the thick white cord
to ward against
further
more physical
attack


but
eventually
the lad grows up
and
sees that
he is
now the one
who strips to the white bone
before sleeping
contemplates
a ruined temple
as he yearns
for some more sensuous

corporeal sensation

Monday, 3 July 2017

Terrifying

Another piece from an Electric Tomatoes session - this was the first warm up exercise and the prompt was 'terrifying'....

Not there. Not like that.
Like what?
Not like that.  Have you done this before? Get your arm underneath.
It is, it is.
No, all the way round. Take the weight, take the weight.
I don't think I can.
Yes you can. Don't be daft. But perhaps first sit down. She wants to feel held.
Where? Here on the chair?
No, on the sofa, sit there. Take her onto your lap. Then I'll take a snap.
What over here? Shall I sit over here?
Now put out your hands. Put one here and one here. No, under her bum. Just there. Just like that.
Oh I see.  Right, okay.
Now pull her in close. Right into your chest.
Like this.

Like that. You'll soon get the hang, but don't let her head just wobble about.  Hold her tight – and relax. Just breathe – and relax.



Answers on a postcard as to what exactly is going on...

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Will you never kiss my face again - A Villanelle

We've been looking at the villanelle in my writing class, so I thought I'd have a bash at one.  There's something very wistful and slightly archaic about the form for me - the repeated rhymes and refrains.  I have been a little free with the form but I think it is still recognisably a villanelle....


Will you never kiss my face again -
your hands reach out no more, your finger's tip
not trace the line of cheek on down to chin?

Will my tongue not taste your breathy stain
and will your lip not press upon my lip?
Will you never kiss my face again?

Remember times when we embraced in rain.
Remember how we gave the sun the slip.
Now there is terror in this parted pain.

You struck me once, I still recall the sting:
your hand against my cheek – my swollen lip.
Will you never strike this face again?

And tears you cried, when stressing under strain
or contemplating yet another trip –  
for there was terror in that parted pain.

But now the parting is complete. Death's train
has swept you from the platform, made no slip.
Now there is terror in this parted pain
For you will never kiss my face again.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

shell

I meet you
and my heart bleeds words

and so
upon torn scraps of vellum
I write the words down
in my blood ink
to capture
the beating heart of you
in the beating heart of me

I have chosen my most special epithets
and inscribe them
upon this precious parchment

and with a gum construed

from saliva
and sweat
and blood
and tears

I paste them
upon your soft skin
to cling like lips
to each ululating contour
to follow the curve of your cheek
the sweet overhang of your breast
the challenging valleys
the darker ravines of you
shaped and followed
by my anxious collage

and through such moulding
have I not trapped the beauty
of your spirit
within this papiermâché shell

you dance
and dandle
drift and delight
and I adore you
in this cocooned form

even while I watch
the spirit sift like spun sand
from the pulpit
of your eyes
and listen
to the sea
shudder in your breast



Wednesday, 31 May 2017

prompt - Hollow victory

Latest writing from an Electric Tomatoes meeting - our prompt: Hollow Victory...

She could argue about anything. Made a point of it actually.
'Which do you prefer,' she said, 'the blue satin or the mauve?'
'I dunno.'
'Oh, come on! You're really not helping.'
'Well, they're both nice...'
'Yes, but you've got to have a favourite. Which is your favourite? Come on!'
'Well, the blue's a nice colour.'
'The blue? Really?'
'Yes, I like the blue.'
'You like the blue? Best? Really?'
'Yes. Of the two – the blue.'
'So why don't you like the mauve?'
'I do.'
'You said you like the blue.'
'I do. I like it best.'
'Why? What's wrong with the mauve?'
'Nothing's wrong with it.'
'Well why don't you like it then?'
'I do! I do like it!'
'Well why didn't you say so then.'
'I did! I did say! I said I like them both, but of the two – the blue. The blue's best! Jeez! Which do you like anyway?'
'Me? Oh don't bother about me! It doesn't matter what I like – no, because you can't stand the mauve so... well, there's no choice then is there. If you don't like the mauve, it's got to be the blue then hasn't it. Don't bother about me. Oh no, don't bother about my feelings!'
'They're your frigging shoes, love! You want the mauve, get the mauve. I don't mind.'
'Yes that's it, isn't it! You just don't care. You never listen to me. When I talk you just glaze over – I've seen you.'
'I do not!'
'Yes you do. I've seen you, you just glaze over and whatever I say just goes in one ear and out the other. You just don't care.'
'I DO care. Of course I care, you stupid c.... Of course I frigging care, but I don't mind which frigging shoes you choose. Either'll do. You've just got to choose the ones you'll feel comfortable in.'
'Comfortable? Comfortable – tell me you are NOT serious!'
'Well, you've got to be happy in them. You've got to feel right.'
'How can I feel right in them when I know you hate them?'
'Oh for fuck's sake woman, I do not hate them! Jesus wept, woman. Fuck it, I'm going to make some tea. Do you want some?'
'Of course I want some. Why wouldn't I want some? Of course I want some. Is that too much to ask? Is a cup of tea too much to ask when I can't have the shoes I want?'

So she bought the blue ones but all through the day she was checking them, mumbling about them.
Jeanine looked fabulous of course. Beautiful dress – cream silk with little red roses sewn on. A bit of a train. I could barely control myself as I walked her down the aisle. She always knows how to dress so why Em couldn't ask her advice about frigging shoes I don't know!
'I want them to be a surprise for her,' she says. 'Besides, I can't ask her. She's got too much on'
But all through the reception she'd be checking with people.
Moira, my sister, came over when they'd cleared the tables away and first thing she said was 'Oh Em, them shoes are to die for! Where did you get them?'
'Online,' says Em, ' allaboutheels.com. I'm not sure though. They had some gorgeous mauve ones, but they were threepence more expensive and Lord Snooty said no.  So I feel I've settled a bit. But I'm glad you like them, Moi. I'll probably send them back though after. Can't see me wearing them again.'
'You can't do that!' I said.
'I don't see why not,' says Em. 'People bring stuff back to us all the time and it's quite obviously been out on the town for the night. One woman brought a coat back. All the labels on it and everything – so we took it back, no worries. Then when Glenda was putting it back on the rack she found a half-chewed chicken leg wrapped in a KFC napkin in the pocket! I mean!'
'That's outrageous,' says Moira.
'Oh well then, do what you like, then,' says I. 'On your head though...'
'It'll be on yours as a matter of fact, smartass – it was your credit card details.'
'Oh well thanks very much,' says I. 'Thanks very much indeed!'

So she's off dancing with Moira and I'm stuck at the bar with Brian-in-law, and once we've done West Ham and Stoke and why neither of them are getting beyond the Fourth Round, we just stand there like lemons looking at the girls as they loop under each other's arms.
She's had a lot to drink, Em.
A lot.
To drink.
'Come on, Brian,' shouts Em, 'come and dance with me! He'll never dance with me. Old Lord Snooty. You come. Throw some shades with me, Briannn, come on!'
'Shapes,' I say to Brian, 'she means throw some shapes.'
'Bloody 'ell,' says Brian, 'do I have ter?'
''Sup to you, mate. 'Sup to you.'
So Brian pulls on a smile and bends his knees and shimmies like frigging Baloo over to the dance floor. And Em's there writhing her hips at him like she's seventeen again – well, like she remembers being seventeen anyway. She puts her hand up to his neck as he comes over, plays with the hair at the back of his neck.
I remember that.
So Brian dances with the pair of them for a few minutes till Moira sees her chance and dances her way over to me by the bar.
'Get us a Campari, bro,' she says, 'I'm going out for a ciggy.'
Off she goes and I follow her out with the drinks.

'Why did you make her buy them God awful shoes?' she says outside, 'They're completely the wrong shade.'
'Oh, don't you start! She could have whichever frigging shoes she wanted but no, no. She makes me say which colour I like best – I say blue – and that's it! She goes off on one!
'You're a cruel man, Kevin Bradley!' Moira laughs. 'A cruel man.'
'She just needs someone to blame!'
Then she tells me about Joey. Their eldest.  Twelve.  Leukaemia just diagnosed. God, sad!'

When we go back in it's 10CC - I'm not in love and, fuck me, there's Em with her tongue down Brian's throat. He's participating but it looks more as if he has to rather than that he's enjoying it!
Moira grabs Brian by the elbow and yanks him away.
Em turns to me – fire in her eyes.
'What!? He's more of a man than you'll ever be!'
She's barefoot now and staggers off the dance-floor and grabs her bag.
'I'm going for a piss,' she says. 'And don't fucking follow me!'

As if.
I pick up her shoes and go over to the bar and wait.

So.
That was last Saturday.
Now her mobile goes straight to answerphone and she doesn't return my texts.

So.
Well.
We'll see, won't we.
Just have to wait.
And see.



Sunday, 21 May 2017

Out of the Ordinary

'She's an Alaskan Malamute.'
'Say what now?' 
I must admit I didn't really appreciate being woken up this early on a Saturday. I looked at my watch. 10.55. AM. 'You, bastard! Look at the time!'
'Yeah, I know. I'm really sorry, mate.'
Things hadn't been the same between us since Tori died. I don't know if it was just me or whether Gray had been hit bad too. They had dated for a couple of months before Tori and I got together but she'd always said it wasn't serious. To be honest I didn't really care about anyone else.
'It's just for a couple of days. I've got to get home. Ma's poorly and Dad's fallen apart. She's no bother, honestly. Well, y'know, beyond the obvious. Food, walks, shits in the woods... that sort of thing. What I mean is she's really well-behaved, y'know, when you go out, like... And she won't shit in the house.'
'Oh, fuck! All right, you bastard. But you're going to fucking owe me.'
'Yeah, 'course! That goes without... Y'know, like, understood.'
'Owe me big! What did you call it?'
'She's called Yeika.'
'Right. What?'
'Yeika!'
'Yeika? OK.'
'It means strong, graceful.'
'Oh, OK. But what type is it? You said...'
'Malamute. Alaskan Malamute. It's an Inuit sledding dog, y'know, like a huskie only a bit bigger and more out of the ordinary. She's special this dog. Honestly. You won't want to give her back, I promise you. I've only had her two months but already it's really fucking me over having to leave her. You'll love her, I guarantee it.'
'Get the fuck out of here, man, before I change my mind.'

Well, I was up now, with a monster dog in the lounge, so I went through into the kitchen and filled the kettle.
I heard its paws clicking on the vinyl behind me and it just stood and looked at me, its head to one side.
'What?' I said.
Its head changed to the other angle and it stepped forward a little to me. Snout straight into my groin, nudging my dick through my pjs.
'Fuck off, mate!' I said, gently pushing its nose out. But it'd evidently got all the info it needed because it wandered back through to the lounge over to the window. Paws up on the sill looking out through the nets.
'Get down,' I said. 'You're not meant to be here!'
And it did – straight away. Amazing.
The landlord was a bit of an arse and would kick up a stink if he knew there was a dog in the flat. He hadn't liked the iguana, and we never really got on until that snuffed it.
I got my coffee and sat on the couch sipping at it and looking at this fucking mad-looking animal that had just been landed on me. Mind you, it was good looking. For a dog. Thick hair. Well, you know, fur. Mostly thick grey but under its belly was white and black on its head. But like with a white face. Tail curled up across its back.
'What the fuck am I going to do with you?' I said out loud.
It wandered over towards me, stopping half way to stretch and yawn. Biggest fucking teeth I'd ever seen! And a tongue like a side of ham, for fuck's sake. Then it came right on over to where I was sitting, sat down on her haunches and laid her head in my lap. Oh my fucking God! It looked up at me – huge grey eyes – eyebrows kind of pulled up in the middle. Do dogs have fucking eyebrows? Yes of course they do. Well this one did, anyhow.
And she just looked at me. And darts went into my heart.
'Oh, God!' I said. 'Look, I'm not a dog person, right. Let's get that straight right now. I'm just not a dog person. I'm not a cat person either but that's not the poi...' Her eyes. Fuck!
She just sat there, her head on my lap.
I couldn't help myself, I just reached out my hand and rested it on her head. Not stroking mind, I just rested it. She moved her head a little under my hand and I had to readjust its position. And she moved again and so, yes, I moved again and then before you knew it I was stroking the top of her head and watching her eyelids droop down a little, you know, like she really liked it. And her warm fur under my hand was just, well, you know...

So next thing I know we're out in the park and she's walking beside me like she has done all her life. She's not pulling or tugging at the lead or anything. Just calmly walking along beside me like we're out together on a date or something just taking time, you know. Not talking, just walking. That's what you want, isn't it? Someone you can just be with, that you don't have to think of smart things to say all the time. Yeah, like Tori. Fuck. I reckon you find out more about somebody when they're not talking than you do when they are. Tori knew me – and I knew her
And anyway I'm feeling cock o' the north because, well, for fuck's sake, she's a fucking handsome dog. Fuck that, she's beautiful. She's fucking beautiful. And all these other dog-walkers are out there with their mutts and they're all looking at me as if to say. 'Fuck! You beauty!' And all their little pooches are straining at their leads to come over and have a sniff at her. And some that are off the lead do come over and are sniffing round her arse and she doesn't give them any attention. She just keeps on walking. And I'm trying to get them to keep off her but she's not bothered at all. Even when one or two start barking at her as if to say 'Come on, you stuck up bitch.'
And to be honest, she is a bit of a stuck up bitch! But I reckon that's a good thing.

And one thing's for certain. Gray's not getting her back.