For James.

Why do I get so pissed off with my friend;
he really drives me round the bend?

He’s only four years older than me,
but behaves like it’s 1973.

He can’t get the hang of his phone or the net,
I don’t think he’s heard of google maps yet.

He stops at the place on the motorway
to ask for directions, people say.

He phones the home phone’s answerphone,
after 6, as if work still stopped
and bills were ordered round the clock;
I’m thinking of having his number blocked.

He still can’t understand the news
and social media’s simple views
dictating that he should aspire
to give his voice up to the choir
of dissent and complaint;
he finds the practice quirky, weird
(and in a good mood, quaint,)

as I find all his practices:
he lights up, in the house,
and fills the place with smoke.
Why am I friends, if so pissed off,
with past life’s living bloke?

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Secret Party

Secret party

When it’s coming,
and it’s for you,
all they do
is ignore you:
hide behind the cabinet;
act like they’ve not seen you yet;
suddenly the chatter stops,
fast shot looks, convicts’ hooks,
lynching those who know full well
you’d said you’d curse them all to hell,
should they rob you of the chance
to live the whole thing in advance,
keep the secret of the cast
and their story from you, last
to know the role you’ll play
in their drama of your day.

 

Ophelia

 

Ophelia, considered mad,
died an ambiguous suicide.
Modelling discarded grief,
her bridal gown – instead a wreath.

Today, romantic reference back
to literary women who
take the blame for acting out,
injesting poison, biting back,

names the shame Ophelia,
(you know, insane)
Weather plays a female game.
Unpredictable, unknown,
arrogant and hormone prone,
nothing to do with circumstance,

a causeless act of chance.
.

 

 

Joined up writing

Joined up writing

An ephiphany in 73
at the top of Lardon Chase,
half way through our O levels,
peering at stars in space:
‘calligraphy, geography,
plumbing, science,
philosophy, fight
opposing forces, put
fences there’s no reason for,
between each field of thought.
Grammar fights analysis;
French fights cookery.’
‘Unless you’re in the A stream,
where Latin’s all you need.’
At the top of the hill
in the den that Jill
and I had dreamt our lives
we woke up to the potency
of competition’s drives.

Each school’s costed on its worth.
One skill puts the other down.
Philosophers are Physics’ clowns,
Evolutionists and Freud
sidled-up on libraries’ shelves,
shoulder to shoulder,
facing out,
never turned to left or right
to wonder at the long held fight
between, within the disciplines,
locked up, potently.

Today news tells us pharmacists
have no will to unlock new cures
(dollar’s not worth investors’ hours);
but patients would spend
their short time left
seeking relief, for their bereft;
finding the cure for the curse
passed on, driven to succeed,
antithesis of human need.

Economies of space and time,
geographic draughtsmen’s lines;
private water, grammar schools,
referenda carving out
small divisions, separate rules;
academic privacy, poverty and
ownership, origins and policies;
each department guarding life
from internal enemies
was locking in what might be
Free. In 1973.

 

 

NEXT NOW

NEXT NOW

Each decade had its panic. The noughties had caused chaos, demonising smokers, robbing the NHS of the vast sums raked in in tax and of course leading to that dreadful period in the early 2010s when there’d been all that panic about increasing numbers of geriatrics drinking green drinks and expected to live well into their nineties. And all those boarded up shops in city centres had caused grave concern when Amazon took over the world. And yet, if you’ve lived long enough of course you already know that voids produced by innovation are simply inspiration for those bright young things with imaginative solutions.

And change had become so much easier, and quicker to effect with the accelerating development of interactive social media mind management. It was funny to think it had just taken seven years to sway opinion.

Euthanasia, like the smoking ban had, and for seeming good reason, fed fear of diminishing personal power and notions of a police state. Now in 2025 it seemed as ridiculous to oppose the right to choose one’s own date of departure as it was lunacy to allow people to smoke at home.

Abby watched the hoards amass outside her newly refurbished flagship shop on her Samsung fit-for-it implant embedded in her right wrist. Jojo nodded agreement from the back room and their wrists flushed pink and green, signifying success. NEXT-NOW was, as they’d both been certain it would be, what people desired. A sense of a nostalgic past and flashbacks to dramatic disputes in Marks and Spencer, Gap and the iPhone shop over coveted items in Boxing-Day sales drove the masses to rekindle, revisit and reignite the shopping bug. After all, some things, the larger more personal items still had to be viewed, touched and tested before shipping. Abby thought it was daft that drone-flight deliveries were still called ‘shipments’. As if shipping still had a role.

The blinds disappeared, the timer unlocked the door and the first five customers were across the threshold of NEXT NOW in a hot second.

A couple in their mid-eighties were already in dispute. He was convinced they’d agreed on bamboo whereas she thought they’d opted for willow. Men were so mean. The bamboo was, naturally cheaper. There was so much of it since the Panda had been discontinued. He of course couldn’t kick the habit of economy. Jojo and Abby tittered to themselves, listening in on the hearing loop that monitored their perceived experience.

‘We agreed,’ he said.

‘I just can’t see what you imagine you’re saving the money for.’

‘That’s not the point and you know it. Waste is waste. End of. And if we can get them for half the price and leave a bit for, I don’t know, someone else perhaps – someone who might otherwise be forced to choose cardboard. I mean come on Carol. Look at them. I doubt they’ll still hold together at all in five years’ time. Imagine if the only choice you had was one of those? You know my feelings. We must, when we can, help others less fortunate than we.’ He was adamant. She sulked.

Pandora, a sleek transgender in transition back to becoming male again, dressed in the shop’s iconic purple-quilted jumpsuit slid up to Carol with a tablet.

‘Bit of a domestic going on love? Maybe I can help you find the middle ground. I know how you feel – they’re lovely aren’t they, the willow. I’m so lucky myself – working here. My discount, you know. I’ve chosen mine already but before I knew, you know, before I got the job, I’d spent quite some time experimenting in the virtual shop, adding minor specifications to a bamboo for myself and you really can get quite a close simulation of the willow. Personalise it – sex it up some although I’m not sure if my partner would have been any easier to persuade that my design choices were the best, than your husband might be. Enough about me. Let’s see if we can’t find you a double you’re both happy with shall we?’ The couple were moved, just as they had been in that dreadful Lada garage back in the 80’s when they’d been talked into buying that car they’d had to ditch on the A41.

Phil chipped in. ‘Come on love. You know he, sorry she, um,’ he faltered.

‘Just call me Pandora’

‘Sorry. Pandora. Come on Carol. Let’s see what Pandora’s got up that sleeve.’ Pandora had a knack for sales.

‘Lovely. Now then. Let’s run through the prompts on the screen or better still, lets synchronise wrists – quicker. And to be honest, I’m not really able to write. So,’  They synced and as they each gave Pandora their answers the screen adjusted the image of the boxes on the screen.

‘Are you going on the same date? From home or from the recycling centre? And that fits with your DNA readouts? Up to date with the advance payments? Good. Now a personal one; how likely are you to default on payments towards the departure plan before, when was it, ah yes, I see. Ah, sweet. Lovely. Between your two birthdays? And that’s been approved has it Phil? You’ll be six months over the deadline – 90 – but – oh. Ok. No. There it is. The certificate’s flashed up on the screen there now. Good. See? You can compromise. Well done. Good. Ok. We’re going for the Bamboo. A double or two singles? Great – no I think, you know, if you’re short of space at home them the double decker makes a lot more sense. And a memory foam inner? Oh ok. Let’s go back. You’ve got rid of the bed? Ah, king-size, brilliant. So it’ll fit in? Well you might as well go for the side by side then love. With or without hand-hold-holes? Ha, ha. Without. Ok. No. No. Yes I mean. Yes, I know just how you feel. I love mine too but you don’t want to be joined for eternity do you love? Just in case. But, now then. The memory foam. Cool blue or mauve? Bamboo sheets come free with the cool blue but the mauve accrues a small extra charge. So that’s mauve with six pairs of bamboo sheeting in, shall we say cream? Three each. You can always get more on Amazon if you fancy a change in the next five years. Great. No, I love that combination myself too, love. What colour’s your scheme in the bedroom? Perfect then. Mauve with cream. There we go. Now, what about pillows and duvets? Yes, no of course. No, as long as you know, over the next five years you don’t have some unfortunate spillage or whatnot then usually they’re removed and passed on to the needy in advance of the despatch. I mean all those chemicals going up in smoke. No. We can’t have that. Oh yes. That’s a point.’ The screen bleeped and indicated a choice of crematoria. ‘Which recycling centre have you chosen? Yes, yes, no I know there’s a water-gas despatchery in Milton Keynes – bit pricey but, yes, it is indeed the responsible option. You’ve got to think of the kids. Oh, I’m sorry. No. Not sorry. No. Neither am I. Better off without all that hassle and well, it’s not on really is it, reproduction? Yes of course. So you’ll be donating the excess to?’ The screen already knew.

Within ten minutes of entering NEXT-NOW Carol and Phil had settled on the one. The Amazon drone would lower their customised NEXT-NOW pod in through their bedroom window that very afternoon and their journey to the end was underway.

Dragons’ Den often got it wrong and Abby and JoJo took great delight in welcoming the Dragons into the shop the very next week, offering them a 10% discount on their purchase of ten gold embossed coffins for delivery in 2026, despatch in 2031.

Progress. You had to have a nose for it. Abby and Jojo were awarded the OBE just five years later – shortly before attending the Dragons’ exit parties in 2031, smirking since IKEA (it had been there plain as day in their original business plan) had taken over production and had bought-out NEXT-NOW. Abby and JoJo’s OBE, for ordinary business enterprise had earned them the right to rejuventative health-care, free of charge, left-field thinkers having finally realised they were really the only sort of human worth keeping. IKEA now offered the masses dual-purpose cut-rate sleep-coffs that both euthanized painlessly on the programmed and specified date and dispatched automatically through triggering the inbuilt drone to ship their inhabitants to the nearest, clean-fuel recycling centre.

Abby and JoJo’s sister business, NEXT NOW EVENTS was raking in tax for the economy, doing away with a troubled arcadia’s obsession with death duty, capital gains and tax avoidance.

Looking back to the doom-mongers’ prophesies they remembered so well post Brexit, chuckling to themselves, Abby and Jojo droned off to live in China, everybody’s new green dream.

Jester

Born between two counties

families divided by the thames

lives spent floating, the candian canoe,

regattas and ballyrah-hoo

a body passed between the banks

when late night doctors’ bleeps might interrupt

a cheese course, prompt the joke,

the Berkshire man, and Oxforshire’s

hoped police would poke,

(that Plod might prod)

the drowned drunk to the other’s bank.

Born to form a living bridge

my instinct’s been to mine the depths,

dredge the river’s filthy dregs,

burn the unsound fjords and feud,

rage, disrupt and stir the depths

for corpses’ messages in silt,

settled on the river’s bed, to resurrect

the hope they left, inebriately sure,

they’d surfed the weir before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waste.

Ready.
Potent.
Resting.
Waiting.
Hoping.
Opening.
Poking
Uninvited.
Spited,
Blighted,
Stunted
By,
Histories,
Legacies,
Reading
Lenses
Narrowing
Views and
Forming
You,
Pushed
Towards
A
Tiny
Spot
So,
Tunnel
Vision’s
Yours,
Unless

That light

that spot

on closer sight

is tunnel vision’s

pinprick night

of star and unknown views.