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City Streets

When you’re still a kid

But big enough to walk the streets alone,

As you attempt to extend the range of your understanding

Beyond the ‘safe’ confines of your immediate family,

To friends, school, recreational facilities, hobbies, shops and jobs,

You may try to tell the world about what gang you’re already in,

But you will definitely be told about the gangs around you,

That surround you, must be joined or negotiated around

To get anywhere in this world you want to belong to –

The big kids from that dodgy road or estate,

The snappy dressers who always get past face control,

The cool ones who seem to be having fun,

Who may just be as hungry, desperate or interesting as you,

The boy racers and the motorists, affluent or pissed –

While you’re getting told off for wandering aimlessly,

Stagger along the streets

Stare at opportunities lost or yet to come

Hope to find your gang, make a new one

Or continue passing by, until it’s time to make your way home.

Do You Agree?

When you think of all the different ways this world could be

It’s sometimes hard to see

The world as it actually is.

The only certainty

Is that this world belongs to me;

That’s a terribly big responsibility.

Please don’t mess up my world with your idea of reality,

It may not agree with me.

We may both be wrong

Or we may both be right

To see things with our own sense of sight

But a world seen from only one perspective is flat;

It’s the combination of different points of view

That can make a world fit for me and you.

Proposed Additions to the English Bill of Rights

Now seems to be the perfect time

To take our Bill of Rights out for a constitutional.

Suggestions for additional rights are welcome

And here are some of mine:

There is an urgent need for the right to waste time –

When people are obliged to ascribe value and meaning to what they do

There’s a risk that they’ll become dangerous and agressive.

It’s better to accept time wasting ways

Than it is to demand that people justify themselves

Every blessed minute of the day.

When people do something without meaning or value to others

They are most likely to find meanings and values of their own

Which might end up having value and meaning for all.

Every human being on the planet should have the right

To declare themselves English;

If they want to be considered English, that’s a compliment

And if you impose conditions or tests of Englishness

You limit the nature of what being English is.

The English are a conglomerate nation

Combining the best we can take from every race and creed.

Being English is a state of mind

Witty, tolerant, gentle and kind,

It’s not an ethnic category, dubiously defined

Which, when you put it that way, seems kind of racist

As in “I’m English,” “I’m more English”,

“I’m the most English of all!”

That is not the way, friends.

England is a dear little country

Which we carry in our hearts

So wherever we are in the world

We may say, “I am English, I have the right

To expect, demand and, yes, demonstrate

The impeccable logic of what we call fair play,

To sarcastically mock and parody those with whom we disagree’

To complain about anything and everything we see,

To complain about the state and the quality of the tea,

To complain when others complain and moan

And at the end of the day, if we have one, to go home.”

[Please feel free and add your suggestions and amendments below. We’re told our government is thinking hard about this issue, so your ideas might end up being of real service to the nation!]

Work in Progress

[Thanks to this Saturday’s  Left Fest myself and other Southampton poets have been offered “15 minutes to change the world”, or, at least, to show a bit of solidarity with and celebrate local activism. It’s an opportunity, but inspiration seems to’ve deserted me since this year’s upsetting General Election result.

Poems tend to come to me in fairly complete form but not this time. No solid idea has emerged as yet, just scraps that might coalesce into something suitable.]

They said it was a volcano

Because they didn’t know how to tell us

That the end of the world was on its way.

All planes were gounded and, apologising for disruption and delay

They said it was a volcano…

[It’s not hard to believe that our leaders think they have some secret knowledge of impending disaster, and that would make a change from the usual narrative – that prevailing econimic conditions make the bullying tactics of ‘austerity’ so necessary. However, that’s probably giving more credit than is due and will not help to overcome the despairing sense that, like the Labour Party, we must all accept the present ‘realities’.]

Nobody’s noticed anything yet,

I’m doing well!

Only the young and innocent can tell

But they’re too scared and cynical

Testing themselves by testing me

Rushing into futures to which I’m not invited

[It is a drag to see another generation suckered into performing as the foot soldiers of the box ticking, corporate culture, hoping to benefit from the next tidal wave of ‘prosperity’. However, the persona adopted here is perhaps too heavy handed and ego driven. So it’s back to the drawing board and random scribbles. Let’s hope something emerges by 3 o’clock Saturday!]

Signs of Life

In a tree nearby two crows are making a terrible row

Screeching at each other like a squabbling couple.

Reflected in my shaving mirror

I see a large Winged insect flying past behind me

For a moment I think it’s a small bird.

Salieri’s Requiem is playing on the radio

It’s not so bad as the press he got

Not so bad.

Why I am so idle

Why I am so idle

I was very impressed by Henry Goodman’s interview on “Front Row” this week. He talks about his fond memories of the Swan Theatre in Stratford, and his preparations for his next performance there, as Johnson’s Volpone.:

Ben Johnson, a somewhat neglected (by me, at least) contmporary of Shakespeare’s, who was a little more ‘street’ and perhaps less inclined to toe the party line than the overshadowing bard, certainly deserves another look.

The production promises an interesting approach, with a setting that resonates with our times, making the pretend invalid some sort of ‘high flyer’ who delights in manipulating and traducing people. Goodman’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I would love to see him adding fresh details to his portrayal in a live performance.

I have neither time nor resources to do that, alas, and must stay home awaiting the next call from any of the various agencies that could offer me a day or more’s work at any time that suits them. Otherwise, this week has been filled with the usual variety of items that distract and absorb, intrigue, amuse or worry me profoundly!

(A comedy drama with the fine Zawe Ashton in the lead)

(Documentary set back in the days when social mobility seemed a possibility in this country, with revealing interviews with Edwina Currie, Neil Kinnock, Michael Wood and others whose lives have been affected by that ‘social experiment’, the 11 plus and the grammar school ethos. It resists the temptation to be too nostalgic for those ‘meritocratic’ days, just, but it finally becomes clear that the Comprehensive system is best, when it’s properly resourced.)

(Another complex legalistic tangle, which in this case contains an attempt to regard rioting and street fighting (by mostly white people, no less!) as a form of terrorism.)

The government’s latest budget update which, along with the predictable but no less welcome attacks on the young and vulnerable, incorporated or concealed plans to put public land on sale and unban fox hunting while directing any available benefit towards employers and landlords.

Various protests were held in response, including this one, right here in Southampton:

which I had to miss because, in microcosmic imitation of the state of the nation, I was busy losing my anal virginity, undergoing what was presented to me as a

Bowel Scope Screening – an enema (which, for understandable reasons, I declined to administer myself) followed by a probe. I saw a couple of polyps being sliced away from my lower intestine, live on camera!

Followers and readers of this blog will be glad to know that my gut seems pink and healthy, though on this occasion at least my blood pressure was ‘alarmingly low’.

And so the parade continues adding more food for thought, while one tries

to make sense of it all and get something done.

A Compromise

A Compromise

“The asteroid Vesta was once a planet — and was demoted with little fanfare. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA)”

On those increasingly rare occasions

When I feel that the person I love and want most is capable of loving me

Then I find that that hopeful thought leads me to a happy day

A day when I might meet people gladly

With a lively interest in what they may have to say

And they, sensing that love inside me, respond in a natural and comfortable way.


But if that day is not today,

If my poor little Vesta is not the planet I want her to be

Gleaming brightly with possibility,

Seems only to be another icy rock

That wants to fall away and be lost

Then my spirit is empty and my heart is locked.


I plod on along the grim and endless seeming path

That one has to follow, simply trying to survive,

Filling the void with consumer junk and light entertainments

Responding to every dubious offer or command from above

As though it were some abstract or obscurely proffered form of love,

Until I get bored and critical, waiting for my turn to disappear.


If, now that the guiding star of my universe has got herself lost,

I am to go about again with some semblance of pride

Not shrinking away from every other passer by, expecting rejection,

Or biting their heads off, so angry am I at their indifference,

Then I need to find some compromise

A change of heart and mind that I can steer by.


I shall tell myself this, though she cannot be

As close to me as I would want her to be,

We are still connected in some way;

The lines of love that we have shared

May disconnect, snap away in places, grow very thin

But they remain, bright as ever, for all to see


Reflecting a certain gleam, in her face as well as mine

And my poor lost Vesta will not be too cold, though so very far away,


Getting Game

This can’t be true but it might be

A woman doesn’t mind your loving her

She just doesn’t want to be bothered by it

Therefore, it’s a good thing if she ignores you

lt means you haven’t upset her poise

And her very poise is what you fell in love with, isn’t it,

Her poise and grace and loveliness in general?


Wanting to rattle that is understandable

But you can’t rattle at once and all the time

Like a baby demanding attention

Pulling on her clothes and getting on her nerves!

You’ll be rattling each other soon enough

So be a grownup, be patient, enjoy the show but remember

You may think she’s ignoring you

But she’ll be watching you like a hawk

A hawk with talons and wings

Ready to scratch your eyes out or fly away

The moment you displease her.


Still, don’t worry about that

This is supposed to be fun

So shut up thinking for a while

And enjoy her while you can.

It starts by keeping a Deadpan Face

I hate women, why are they so horrible to men?

It’s a game, that’s why, a game that a person gets in

A game which can be amusing and even beautiful

Until the spirit of competition sets in

And what was a simple love game becomes something grim

Because of a point hit home too hard

Or too bloody often for her or him.


I hate men, why are they so horrible to women?

Because excitement can be hard to handle

So we shield ourselves with a dull routine

Until we fly into some stupidly violent passion;

And passion almost always trumps compassion.

It’s a wonder any double act can stay together very long

But we like them, and should applaud them often, to keep them going strong.

Double History.

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