31 December 2006

Waiting for my life in boxes to arrive

These are somewhere between "there and here." I need all the contents quite badly:- 2 large ebony elephants to stand on a shelf; 12 photograph albums; 700 CDs; 110 DVDs; 50 books; filter coffee maker; motor cycle leathers; toolbox; hi-fi (oh and a few clothes and other basic essentials.) Meantime I make do with what I have.

16 December 2006

Tagged by Doughgirl

6 Weird things about me.......

1. I have six wrist watches but don't wear any of them.

2. I was too scared to fly in a plane until I was forty-five. I have flown every year since then and this year I have made ten take-offs and landings, the final one in an eighteen seat aircfraft.

3. I smooth all bank notes in my wallet and spend the dirty ones first, saving the crispest little beauties for last.

4. At 30mph in my car I shift into top gear, whereas on a motor cycle I am still accelerating hard in first gear. (Actually that's not so weird!)

5. When I climb a staircase I always count the number of steps.

6. This year I switched from wearing exclusively white socks to exclusively black socks (with denim.)

19 November 2006

The Remedy

Nature is notoriously parsimonious with pleasure so many try to engineer their own. Throughout recorded time humans have sought a higher level of happiness to soften the hard edges of life. Lush leaves in Amazonian jungles have long competed with fiery liquids distilled from grain. The trouble is, chemical stimulants have a woefully short-lived effect on mood. Mind-altering they may be, but not for long.

I wanted a happiness molecule, a slice of hormone pie. "Anyone know how this hypothalamus works?" I might have shouted. "How do I dial up more Adrenaline, Testosterone or Serotonin?" Many years ago I swallowed a big daily ration of liquid brewed from hops to numb my pain and distort reality into something more sufferable. I chose to swamp my brain’s natural chemical balance rather than try to understand it. "Hey bartender, gimme a pint of Endorphin!"

I read but failed to grasp the wise words of philosophers who spoke of the courage to change what I can, the strength to accept what I can’t and the wisdom to distinguish between the two. I was miserable at work, at home and at play but instead of addressing those issues and developing solutions I drank the day away and pretended tomorrow was light years away.

What I really wanted was steady and reliable happiness but my immature mind and undeveloped aspirations had not figured out the most effective solution. Oh, and I was also waiting for a certain someone to be born and grow up, although I didn’t know that then…

In 2006 these events have happened to me concurrently.

Early retirement
Major change in life habits
Sons leaving home
Sale of house

I show signs of anxiety but they pass. Matters beyond my control still frustrate me but I take a deep breath. In my thirties I would have collapsed under the weight but approaching fifty I have somehow acquired the strength to cope with these experiences.

I wonder if you can ever proclaim you are cured of the thought processes associated with addiction but certainly the evil seed can be rendered dormant or even impotent. Skills acquired during sobriety form a foundation and it is up to us what we build on it. For many years I regarded building that foundation as my sole objective.

My long march through time took me through bland countryside, along narrow, mundane roads. I saw the horizon but distant panoramic vistas remained just that. I existed in a world of waiting, strengthening my foundation. Eventually I had put sufficient time and distance between me and my youthful demons for enthusiasm and interest to raise their sleeping heads. I began looking more closely at my surroundings.

True, I had achieved some stability and reached a plateau of comfort. But there must be more than this, oh so much more…

I had tricked myself into believing I was waiting only for some catalyst to explode me from my rut but in truth I had been prepared for longer than I thought. When love came she arrived hard and fast without warning but I was ready. No respecter of age or geography she wrenched me into a new life of excitement and potential, a beautiful life in which two souls can live like one.

Every day a natural chemical rush tells me this is life and how it should be lived.

"All I want is 20/20 vision
A total portrait with no omissions
All I want is a vision of you"

Blondie – Picture This

14 November 2006

Packing a life in boxes

... in a material sense, all I ever wanted fits into a dozen small tea chests. But reduce life to its core value and all I ever needed is just a long-haul flight away. Possessions are what define us so I will ship my boxes and enjoy opening them under a different sky.

15 October 2006

Vanishing point...

... is reached sooner or later.

17 September 2006

Ageless Love

dismantle my life
with precision
and love

wrap up my previous me
bequeath my treasures
before I go

it’s time to live fast
i am an outlaw now
tearing across the divide

arctic delta blues called
from a whisper to a scream
now I am inside you

i am leaving everything
behind for you
i am your pillar

ageless love
tomorrow when I am old
care for me

hold my hand
say my name
fuck forever

05 August 2006


The man shielded his eyes from the low sun and scanned his new horizon. Late afternoon and the beach was already deserted. He lay back and pressed a head-shaped hollow in the sand. Behind his closed lids heat dots swam left to right chasing those tiny threads that look like life-forms under a microscope. Travelling light was liberating, credit card, toothbrush, tousled hair.

The kaleidoscope of swirling light made him giddy so he opened his eyes and stared vertically at the deep blue zenith. A silver needle, almost too small to see, grazed the high cobalt in silence. He remembered the noisy jets which dropped from the clouds near his home, by contrast they scored the sky like nails on a chalk board. Several minutes elapsed while he allowed his focus to lengthen to infinity. Thoughts shrank to notions as his mind steadily emptied. He liked this process.

Relaxed and calm, he propped himself up on elbows. The ocean was a flat mirror, blinding in its intensity. He squinted hard and thought he could make out the upper half of a cruise liner, buried partly beyond the earth’s curvature.

Suddenly his focus pulled to the foreground and fixed on a head and shoulders emerging from the water. He reduced his gaze to slits and saw a slim torso with long arms wading slowly from the mercury sea. In the shallows, slender legs were revealed and their stride became easier. Now he sat upright half smiling, half frowning. The huge setting sun made a sharp silhouette of his visitor as she crossed the sand to him, ocean water dripping from long, long hair. Her languid motion brought her smoothly to within a few inches. The man looked up into her shadowy face ringed by sunlight, “Jo?” He ventured…

… she smiled sweetly.
And he cruised on the weekends just to be seen
And they all made fun of him yelling, "…where's Josephine?"
Slobberbone - Josephine

15 July 2006

Racing in yellow

This was intended to be my farewell post but a middle-of-the-night, soul-searching wrangle drew me to change my mind. My normally right-way-up world has been spinning topsy-turvy. I put mountains of emotion into this effort and it wears me thin. I need to ration my time and make room for matters which are very important to me. I will be posting less frequently and taking breaks for I need to step back a little. I will enjoy each comment as I always have but I cannot commit to replying individually. I have my muse and need time to stretch and flex in private.

06 July 2006

Bluesy Blues

Muscle and bone, just a routine miracle in carbon and water
stardust capable of greatness but condemned to obscurity.
Notionally intelligent while screaming insane.
Excuse me while I break my own heart.

Gimme a bitter placebo or slip me a strong panacea.
Just gimme pretend meds to mend my pretend head,
a wasted waster wasting his decades.
Excuse me while I numb my own heart.

Stinging tears screamed and howled away on racing rubber.
Needle reaches vertical and my knee trails the blacktop
leaning hard into a long fast bend.
Excuse me while I smash my own heart.

An ocean evening hot and humid, deep and tight, wet and smooth,
shuddering. Sparkling waves, deliciously soft pressing sand.
Rolling to stare at the cold "maybe" stars.
Excuse me while I stamp on my heart.

Biting the top off a bottle would be so fucking simple.
Calendar, yearbook, milestones and pledges swallowed.
A screeching halt at the precipice edge.
Excuse me while I consider my heart.

"There goes my hero, he’s ordinary…"
Foo Fighters - My Hero

19 June 2006

Night/day dream-mare

I am working on something new but it may be a while in gestation. To fill the void here is something from a year ago which many will not have seen. Those that have may notice some modifications.

Sometimes my mind drifts and I think with piercing clarity.

a million people stand in my way
iridium lenses shield against eye contact
a beautiful barrier
minding my own business
incessant conversations in my skull
words I can’t speak
drag a finger along the railings to pick up germs
frigid freezing fridge magnet
i’m not talking to you
reflections in a window resolve into the view beyond
everyone else is needlessly boring
a different journey on new roads
treading water, not waving but drowning
supposedly intelligent actually retarded
a rice pudding with tender skin
what fucking saviour?
hatred fatigue
do you know that Artesian well
walk the wing of a 747 eight miles high
leap from the 48th
main line de-sensitising agents
tea and toast
hell of a holiday
is anyone sitting here?
dry properly between your toes
rotting red road-kill
angelic choir church and steeple
charisma bypass or character transplant
10 million seconds to live, equals -
3 months to die
it is now safe to switch off your computer
precious people prefer private promises
taking the utmost care
barrel pressed to temple
happy angry sad desperate
rules for archiving and destruction
report unattended baggage
i so badly want to drink an Ocean, so badly
eyes wide, ears flat
take me to your leader dealer
fuck forever
wireless trip wire
portent omen sign harbinger prophecy
alive at least
Bonus Random Thoughts
one spot doesn’t make a rash
a marathon not a sprint
worldwide patent pending
forever young and drop-dead gorgeous
fighting a fight with maturity
devastatingly dignified and sheer class
intellectual intimacy
The Kick Inside
got to promise not to stop when I say, “when”
living on an island
swim out past the breakers
watch the world die
chainsaw through growth rings
hope I’m old before I die
naked and sticky…
… under protective leather
armour-plated sensitivity
thunderous rock n’ roll
sweet mown grass
searing blue sky
scorching rays
summer madness

14 June 2006

Isle of Wight Festival 2006

There are dozens more pictures of how I spent my rock and roll weekend and here they are.

England’s “Woodstock” was a beautiful dream from 1968 to 1970 until a scarcely believable one million hippies took over the Island, forcing action at government level. In 1970 the ‘Isle of Wight Act’ was passed by Parliament to ban all future festivals. The Act was repealed in 2002…

2006 sold out months ago but I came across a single last minute ticket (the vendor knows how grateful I am.) The one hundred and sixty square-mile island is barely separated from the mainland by a narrow strait but has the feel of a bygone era. A crucial local newspaper, scores of cousins and low mileage vintage cars demonstrate the efficiency of water as a boundary.

A note-by-note account of the music would have you yawning and reaching for the remote so I’ll stick to highlights and atmosphere but here’s a quick scan of the 3-day line-up:

The Prodigy
The Rakes
Morning Runner

Foo Fighters
Primal Scream
Dirty Pretty Things
The Kooks
The Proclaimers
The Upper Room
Suzanne Vega
The On Offs

Richard Ashcroft
Lou Reed
Maximo Park
Procol Harum
The Windows
Skyline Heroes

Thank you to Steve and his daughter for introducing me to island life.

I like it at the front, bouncing, up close and personal but in a giant seething crowd of fifty-five thousand that was impractical and downright fucking dangerous. I held a variety of positions over the weekend, sometimes within twenty yards of the stage at others two hundred yards away. At times the only way from A to B was to get your head down and push people hard to create a path where no gaps exist.

It rains too much in England but I was treated to three hot blue summer days in a row. I borrowed a girly blue hat to shade my sensitive forehead and slapped on SPF thirty-five. Wrap-around Oakleys saved my sore eyes. Late morning there was plenty of grassy meadow to sit on but by 11pm it was ‘sardines’ in a field. Stand in your garden for twelve hours a day and you’ll know how my feet, legs and back feel! Make sure you find a spot with not a speck of shade and choose a cloudless weekend. Yes, physical and emotional exhaustion are very real.

Teenage girls in halter-tops passed around spliffs as thick as your finger and scampered on dirty bare feet. Forty-something guys took off their T-shirts to sport taut white beer bellies. Bronzed fifty plus women bent to reveal seductive lower back tattoos and young boys with beer mugs staggered in the sun, their eyes reduced to unseeing slits. Oh, and there was me in my borrowed blue hat.

Fifty-five thousand souls make a lot of noise, they drop litter ankle-deep and they produce a vast amount of “waste” – please don’t invite me to discuss the toilet arrangements… The whole world and his wife thumbed texts in their mobile phones or shrieked into them, jumping and waving wildly to an unseen friend a hundred yards away. The air was thick with alphabet soup, text messages became constipated in the hot dusty air taking an hour to travel ten paces and thousands of digital cameras recorded every scene for posterity.

If the music failed to move you there were fairground rides three hundred feet tall to scare the pants off you. Another field of stalls sold ridiculous hats, shawls, beads and a myriad of hippie trinkets. Beyond that lay thousand upon thousand tiny tents for the hardy festival campers and after that acres of cars, their windscreens glittering in the dazzling June sun.

Back to the stage - huge beach balls bounced over our heads and imaginative souls held aloft inflatable alligators, waved flags on twelve foot masts and swayed to the summery sounds. Bands I thought might be wild were somewhat restrained and bands I had no expectations for blew me away. The variety was spine-tingling, from angular modern punk to sweeping anthems, from thrashing rock to mellow melodies, it was all here over three days. The sound was huge. This equipment aficionado studied the gigantic towers of PA speakers, the python-thick cabling and the million-knob mixing desks – wow I want one of those!

Procol Harum (Whiter Shade of Pale) were way down the order on day two and I expected nothing. So why did I become so very emotional and choke up completely at their set? Thirty six years ago they played at the final original I.o.W. Festival when I was a teenage schoolboy with my whole life ahead of me. I was yet to make the crazy fucking mistakes and do the reckless things that would forever change the course of my life. The humility and dignity of these men was beautifully understated yet emotionally charged. They will die doing the thing they love and their own mistakes are just part of a rich life. Music has extraordinary power.

Richard Ashcroft stabbed the mic at his bare chest offering his soul to the masses. Wearing his tormented heart on a ragged sleeve he introduced songs of love and death, depression and suicide - including "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "Lucky Man." The band left the stage leaving him to deliver "The Drugs Don't Work" with just his acoustic guitar. An emotional roller-coaster.

Dirty Pretty Things were as skinny as sharpened pencils, kings of cool in spray-on black denim with backs to the crowd. Swigging sherry from the neck of a bottle at twenty six you know they are approaching the essential age for rock and roll suicide.

Memories of grass hot but damp, cigarette lighters held aloft, searing green lasers that pierce the black night, ten vast video screens so those at the back of the island don’t see the players as ants, throbbing pounding bass that shakes my spleen, picking my way through piles of half eaten burgers and noodles, the setting sun, a death-defying electrician climbing the lighting gantry like a monkey, burning skin, azure skies, green eyes, sentimental fucking emotions, summer memories and still a teenager at forty eight…

26 May 2006

Tagged by Patry

I don't like to blow my own trumpet, as a matter of fact I haven't invested in a brass instrument. So these are accurate responses with no fan-fare.

southern broadcaster neutral.

fifteen years of alcoholism followed by twelve years of sobriety… and counting.

chore I hate:
grocery shopping at the supermarket. I always seem to be standing just exactly where someone else wants to be. And another thing - no sooner does my critical attention alight on something I like but the store discontinues to stock it.

one cat – “Smartie.” He follows my wife like a sheep, catches frogs, lies in wait on the bird-table but mostly ignores me.

essential electronics:
PC, hi-fi, iPod, Camera etc, etc…

favorite perfume/cologne:
tap water and soap several times daily.

probably neither but when I become a Pirate I will have a gold tooth.

Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire, England – on the edge of King Henry VIII’s 140 square mile hunting ground, The New Forest.

generally I sleep like a log and cannot be woken. Occasionally I stay awake all night when thoughts and problems need thinking through.

job title:
some might say lazy-bones! I accepted voluntary redundancy in January 2006. Having no earned income has involved re-thinking my spending habits but I think I can ward off starvation!

two extremely tall boys in their twenties.

living arrangements:
big-ish house by UK’s miniscule standards. Now the boys have moved on we rattle.

most admired trait:
attention to detail.

number of sexual partners:
too few to brag, just sufficient to understand.

overnight hospital stays:
tonsillectomy at 35 and 45 (they re-grew). Surgery on elbow tendons at 44.

flying. Aeroplanes scare the heck out of me and I finally managed my first flight at age 45 to Florida. Only an extremely important destination or appointment lures me aloft.

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself but talent instantly recognizes genius." — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930

born and raised Roman Catholic but lost faith during teenage years. Now I know the difference between right and wrong, I honour people who care, I respect nature and admire honesty.

one sister I love. One brother.

time I usually wake up:
6:30am but seldom rise before 8am. Coffee brings me out of my thick head.

unusual talent:
I can wriggle my ears, twitch my nose and if you really ask nicely, I can make squeaking noises by squeezing my hands together..

vegetable I refuse to eat:
if I ate no vegetables I would die. I am vegetarian.

worst habit:
correcting grammatical errors. If you want a good laugh, watch me throw shoes, remote controls and miscellaneous weaponry at TV presenters to reprimand the buffoons! (Second worst habit – when I am upset I detach the cause like a diseased limb.)

I am not keen for someone to see right through me. A slight aura of mystery is important. Who wants to see my bones anyway?

yummy foods I make:
Positively none, I find food mildly irritating and am yet to locate the kitchen. I long for the day when taking nourishment as tablets and liquid becomes an option.

zodiac sign:
Virgo. Come on people! Surely that’s perfectly obvious?!

22 May 2006

Faded Seaside Glamour

I think I belong in the past – or maybe in the future… The present is definitely an awkward kind of in-between stage, which hopefully will end soon. I took a journey into the past to see if I fitted… maybe I need to go further back.

July bakes the sand to scalding and a pier stretches endlessly across green waves to somewhere over a blue horizon past the miniature sails where happiness lies.

Rippled coffee-shop glass reflects the gang back-combing their hair in motorcycle mirrors. Buddy Holly blares out “..well the little things you say and do, make me wanna…” and in the distance polka-dot girls lean on silver-painted railings snapping gum. Territory claims are staked.

A throaty rumble turns their heads. The two-wheeled source slows and threads effortlessly between the ranks of black and chrome. Calmly the tall rider twists a key and silences his steed. Confused glances shift from the dazzling machine to his black leathers and back again. He needs coffee and walks slowly into the shop.

They fall in line to follow through the neat blue chequered tables and slide onto red-topped barstools beside him.
“You up from Bournemouth mate?” Asks one.
“No.” The lone rider smiles.
“Where’d you get that fancy gear?” Eyes swivel up and down his supple tailored leathers. The contrast with their own hard black jackets and coarse jeans is sharp.
“It’s what we wear in the fut… where I come from.” He smiles again. “Cappuccino, please.” He puts a banknote on the counter.
“Talk English and I’ll serve you!” grins a girl with a blond bob, her expression switching to uncertainty as she turns the small crisp bill in her fingers.
“What’s this?” She stares in bewilderment at the unfamiliar note.
“Money? The tall stranger offers meekly. “Make it a black, no sugar…”
“Well I’ll believe you, thousands wouldn’t!” Her grin returns as she pours.

Long pointed shoes tap as Eddie Cochran starts up, “C’mon everybody!”
“I remember this.” Says the stranger.
Now the gang presses closer.
“What do you mean?” Snarls a brute with a livid scar from ear to chin. “It ain’t been on the juke no longer ’n a day. Just out, this is.”
Suspicious looks dart once more to the incongruous vivid yellow sculpture outside. Suddenly it seems a world away from the brutish black iron surrounding it.

This is wrong the tall man thinks. Where are the compassion and bright free spirits? He ignores scarface and looks toward the glittering pier with its candyfloss stall and helter-skelter and empty silver railings. The polka dots have tripped into the café and are watching this funny rivalry from a corner.

“Yer gonna have to explain or we’ll cut yer, you know!” Scarface gives two cohorts hefty claps on the back. “Us seasiders carry blades and we use ‘em. You don’t belong here country boy.” His mates unzip their jackets menacingly.

“Could always race him, I suppose.” Suggests a thug with missing fingers. “Ton-up on the beach road, pretty boy?”

“I’ll blow him off the road.” Scarface snorts.

“No I don’t think you will...” The tall man gently replies.

A girl stands alone by the pier railings as if waiting for someone. How had he missed her before? As he approaches she turns to face him and her eyes lock on his. They stand a foot apart looking and wondering… Is it, could it be?

Scarface slings a stiff leg over his oily Triumph. One sharp kick, the big twin rattles into life and blue smoke jets from the tailpipe.
“Chicken are yer?” He shouts. “Wanna bring yer friend for ballast…”

Now the tall man is back at his sleek machine. “Hold tightly.” He whispers over his shoulder as she sits behind him. “I mean tighter than tight.” He feels her arms grip his waist like a vice. Snapping down his black visor he thumbs the starter, revs and warms the bike. The gang shuffles back at the unfamiliar howl, exchanging bewildered glances.

The thug holds a red handkerchief high above his head.

“Ready?” Screams scarface.

“Ready!” Nods the stranger. And over his shoulder again, “Tight OK…tight” She squeezes his arm.



The sun lowered in the western sky as he lay on the sand, kicked off his hot boots and looked out over the once hopeful sea. The Yamaha clicked as it cooled. She had held on as he had asked but now she had faded from his reality. Probably it would always be like this. Racing brought out the hope and the possibility. Strangely he had a faint taste of coffee in his mouth this time.

13 May 2006

Optimistic Pessimism

Blue skies are really red, hate is really love, death is really life and full of apparent contradictions. I am as confused as ever.


I remember a happy embryo
Will I die a contented corpse?
Give me something to live for.

Live the wildest danger
Take it to the limit and back
Give me something to try for.

Slip a hand between life’s thighs
She moans and opens wide
Give me someone to lie for.

Smell my leather jacket
Wear my dusty boots
Give me something to ride for

Shall I suck a lemon
Sour suits my yellow life
Give me something to cry for

Deliver me another chance
To write history as a winner
Give me something to die for.

06 May 2006

Carl Barat

Just before midnight yesterday I lost 5 pounds in sweated weight and was crushed on the ground. I saw Dirty Pretty Things and wrote about it on Music to Grow Old.

22 April 2006

Notes to self

Don’t tip-toe through life only to arrive at death's door
Perfection is unattainable
Advice means love, at least listen to it
Climb more mountains
Shut down the PC and think
Live in colour not B&W
Modification is easier than change
Don’t reply by return, hyper-sensitivity means you need 24 hours to absorb and assess
Whisper, don’t shout
Smile like you mean it
The sea is full of fish
Open your eyes
Words can be weapons
Empty vessels make most sound
Spending and saving are equally valid
A motorcycle throttle works both ways
Others have feelings too
Offer help
Analysis of magic spoils it
Reconsider every single one of your views
You have only ever criticised yourself

02 April 2006

Train Life

I am early and see the scarlet bullet arrive. It slows and disgorges its load of people who were somewhere else and now are here. I take a seat by the window and rest my head back gently to watch as the carriage fills. Humanity boards, hurrying to meet deadlines and lovers.

The whistle shrieks and we roll. Bright steel rails bear the crushing weight of flesh and blood, a precious cargo of sinners and thieves. Our pasts recede with the flashing fields and a future rushes near through county and shire.

Now the train reaches cruising speed. We scorch through tiny stations that timetables forgot. 90mph yet still my retina burns with the brief image of a platform and a scallop-edged canopy, painted magenta and cream. A solitary man with a small brown case stands patiently awaiting his Brief Encounter.

My eye wanders the carriage, absorbing the faces, the hands and the shoes. A loud woman laughs and I gaze at her fat plain features. No one would look twice, I glance at her empty ring finger. A middle-aged businesswoman taps the keys of her notebook then stops and considers the ceiling. Satisfied with her ruminations she resumes tapping. No ring.

I don’t need to be here, I have no reason. Nothing is drawing me, nothing pushing or forcing but I chose to ride the train. Am I going out or coming home? I forget which.

A white-haired man in front is doing Sudoku, I can see through the gap in the seats he has two number sevens on one line and a plantation of nasal hair. His crumbling wife sees neither.

A pretty girl in jeans has stood alongside me, “May I?” she asks pointing to the seat beside me. “Sure.” I reply, shuffling closer to the window. She smiles back and opens her magazine to read about a lifestyle she would like. Over breakfast the same sweet smile had screamed at her boyfriend and told him to rot in hell. I turn away to look at the meadows and trees and happy cows.

We charge through an embankment that is littered with vintage Coca Cola cans, bleached under thirty summer suns. I see fluorescent jackets carrying black sacks, they pick litter with long sticks. Treasures tossed from rolling thunder.

Ahead I see him reach his lumpy rucksack from the rack, a man of slender stature carrying his depression in his father’s old luggage. His face is dry but his tears flow inside, I can tell. As he shuffles by under his crippling load our eyes meet and I nod. He grimaces back. He wears a ring.

We slow through marshalling yards and sidings. My phone vibrates and I withdraw it from my jeans, glance at the message and return it to my pocket. “Yes, I’m nearly there,” I think.

I have not spoken more than a single word to a single soul yet all about me there is chatter and life. Absently I pull the phone back out and switch it off. Now the green pastures are grey walls and white glass and I realise we have stopped. People are queuing in the aisle. Lives in motion, impatient.

“…if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space.” That familiar chiding voice whispers deep inside my head. The whistle shrieks again but I have stayed on the train. I missed my stop, so what!

A new view seeps in my window, new names and signs. New rails steer my present towards a precious future. I haven’t been this way before.

07 March 2006

Seeing it not saying it

For a while I will be posting pictures on Through the Lens instead of publishing what I write. Click the images and they should go almost full screen - but I'm sure you guys all know that... Don't you?

01 March 2006

Yamaha YZF R1

I am too fucked to post for the foreseeable future. But at least the suicide machine arrived today. I don't think comments are needed for this.

25 February 2006

Guilty as Charged

The last piece of promised repetition is here.

The bike is a 750 Yamaha which I rode from 1982 to 1986 by when responsibilities finally overwhelmed me and brought me to heel. However the image of the PC screen at the foot of the post was rather more recent. I positioned two events like book ends. You all know I use colour coding to distinguish fact from fiction but in these stories the pretense at fiction only thinly veils autobiography...

She lay back watching me pull on my leathers. Her skin soft and white against the burgundy sheets. “I will see you again, won’t I?” Her enquiring eyes followed my hand as I picked up my key-ring and wallet.
“You always ask that, yet you know I can never give you up!” I leaned down and as she closed her eyelids I kissed first one then the other with a tenderness that brought a lump to my throat. “Besides, I haven’t yet mastered the art of disappearance!” I grinned in a lame attempt to lighten the crushing emotional atmosphere.

I lowered my crash helmet before leaving her house and closed the front door with a soft click. The 750 was an anonymous black hulk in the shadows. It was after midnight and neighbours’ houses were unlit. A glance up at her window located the ghostly shadow I loved with my life. I lifted a black-gloved hand in silent goodbye and eased the bike off its stand. Pushing my steed to the end of her short close was my way of showing respect. She liked that.

Away from prying eyes I thumbed the starter and the Yamaha burst alive. Twisting the power on I launched into the black night with a cone of white light speeding ahead of me. The race home was my usual suicide dare. I took the racing line between high hedges, centre stand grazing the blacktop through each tight bend, front wheel pawing the air as the big bike unleashed fabulous acceleration.

I shouldn’t ride like this but then I shouldn’t fuck like this either. The random possibility of death on two wheels was my penance for sins of the flesh. Only the skills of balance and reaction kept the breath in my lungs. 2 large tins of Special Brew were waiting in the refrigerator as reward for making it home alive.

As always I jumped the crossroads on red, fast. Russian Roulette in the dark was narcotic, like my beautiful lover. I flicked my eyes down at the orange dials to see both needles pointing straight up. No traffic on these country roads so I wound up the four-stroke howl to 120mph and felt the hurricane blast pushing me backwards. A deer stood motionless ahead and I flashed by before really registering it. Fuck it, that’s the sort of chance you take when you ride with the devil.

My road was in darkness too. I killed the engine as I coasted up the driveway. The 750 began its familiar loud, metallic clicks of cooling that meant safety after a hard ride. I closed my own front door softly, slipped off my boots and padded up the hall in socks. From the lounge I could see a faint blue glimmer. I crept up and stood in the doorway.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, the shape in front of my PC resolved into my wife. “So where have you been...?” I felt the hammering in my chest. “Well...?”

My life had reached its crescendo. I didn’t reply. My throat was dry and I thought of the refrigerator. I dropped my gloves to the floor. The gorgeous salty scent of her sex was still strong and fresh on my fingers. I could not look at my wife, instead my eyes were drawn to the PC. I frowned, wondering why my e-mail page was open. Suddenly an ominous ‘ping’ cut the air and announced a new incoming message:

The heart-stopping words ‘I love you’ hovered over the plasma screen. A branding-iron, burning white-hot pain into the flesh of the damned.

“You're moving through rough waters, motor boy,
and swimming in your sleep.”
REM – So Fast So Numb

23 February 2006

The Park

This year I have tried hard to see things from someone else's viewpoint. Doing so has meant the need to observe some temporary distance in a white hot friendship. It is difficult.

Last year I wrote about a similar episode which occurred nineteen years ago and where I never made allowances for another's emotions. On reflection it seems to say more about me though. Oh and there is another one to come which is connected. I hope you will excuse this repetition but it has some importance to me and will serve to fill the gap while I am working on some other things...

The lunchtime park was glittering and heavy with the sweet scent of mown grass. Office men and women smiled and flirted over rolls and coffee under the open arms of late spring oaks. She neither saw the trees nor felt the sunshine. The bench slats pressed into her spine like a surgeon’s knife. Today was the same as every other yet unlike any other. He had let himself out in the night.

Her larynx was hard and brittle. She made no sound as tear rolled after tear. A jet twinkled overhead, a tiny silver bullet streaking lives across the blue void. She stood up stiffly and walked. Dire Straits spilled from an open-top Mercedes, queued at the lights. ‘... do the walk of life..’

Their love was the first and last. His fingers learned a tender touch on her skin, never practiced before, born only for and because of her. They slept and awoke, laughed and wept in harmony. He held her the way she needed. He knew without asking.

Even last evening he said he was happy. “Are you sure you’re happy?” She had probed for the hundredth time, her eyes racing across his face looking for a flinch or tell-tale frown. One hundred times she had asked since he walked in on her and out on his wife. Had he lied? He can't have been lying, because we knew unspoken thoughts, sick fear pounded in her head. His last sentence had included the word ‘cherish.’

For six weeks he had folded his clothes on the floor and kept his toothbrush in his pocket. Every day he had cleaned her bathroom as if to erase traces of his presence. He wiped his reflection from the mirror. His fleeting possessions had hovered over surfaces and were gone now. This was the morning he had vanished.

Too intense to persist. This supernova of passion, fusing flesh and soul had scorched everyone around them. Now the cataclysm had engulfed them too. The baking ground radiated white heat and she whispered, “I’m breathing mercury.” Pavement cracks offered the only reason for her steps. Her limbs were pointless now. She implored a stranger, “Help me, I can’t get any air in.” No answer came.

In twenty years she might wake from this horror and the park will be empty, unless in her sleep she forgets to breath...

“Maybe you're the same as me
We see things they'll never see
You and I are gonna live forever.”
Oasis - Live Forever

17 February 2006

Last Gas Station on Earth

I was re-reading some older stuff today and it occurred to me that there are some pieces my newer readers probably haven't seen. Apologies to those who probably know this and the next two by heart but I reckoned they just about deserve another outing...

The Pontiac thumped over a pothole and Frank watched the fuel gauge lift then settle on 'Empty' again. "Fuck it," he breathed and hit the steering wheel hard. They had passed a Texaco 10 miles back and were now running on vapour. "Look," cried Paula, "Gas ahead!" She launched her finger toward a run-down gas station and general store in the distance.

Frank pulled onto the cracked cement beside a solitary ancient pump. Is that gas or paraffin he wondered. His gaze took in the peeling paint, ice machine and an ages old Coca Cola sign hanging by one screw. "Stay here Paula." He shut the car door slowly and stepped past a deck chair faded and stained with age. Through the window past the hand-written 'Open' sign he could make out an old boy, a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek.

A bell clanged loudly as he pushed the door and somewhere out back a dog started barking gruffly and ominously. The skeletal figure waved a thin hand and in a barely intelligible accent rattled, "If it's gas you want, go through and talk to Billy." A fly buzzed in Frank's ear and he slapped it away as he nodded, "Thanks."

In the back sat Billy and three friends grinning with menace. A rotting Plymouth Fury sitting up on bricks was visible in the back yard and a German Shepherd sat in its shade, tongue out panting. Frank thought of Paula sitting in the Pontiac holding the battery powered fan to her pretty face.

Suddenly Billy shrieked, "It's party time!" His pals stood up, chair legs scraping on the bare wood floor. Frank turned and saw his way back blocked by the muzzle of a 12-bore shot gun in the hands of the old boy. As his eyes darted frantically for another exit he heard Paula shouting. The shout became a siren winding up to full scream. Then silence.

"You fucking bastards! What have you done?" The gun barrel pushed closer and touched his temple. Frank screwed his eyes shut and a sharp metallic click rang out. When Frank opened them Paula was sitting in the passenger seat of the Pontiac lighting a cigarette and smiling. "Wake up hon', rest over. We need to drive on and get that gas now or we ain't never gonna make it to Huntsville!"

14 February 2006

Blue Test Rocket

Who in their right mind needs this? Well it's not about need it's about want. The nice man at the Yamaha Dealership tossed me the keys and said, "Go and enjoy yourself!" So I did...

The Yamaha YZF R1 is a 1000cc Superbike of epic proportions, you need to experience 0-60mph in around three seconds to realise what it feels like - I can't describe it adequately. Not can I explain how keeping the throttle on and watching the needle sail past 100 in 5 seconds feels.

Suffice to say I enjoyed this afternoon. In truth the performance tests were completed on quiet empty roads, the rest of the ride I spent swinging through city centre streets marvelling at the sure-footed handling. Make no mistake this is a track capable bike with headlights yet it is demure, nimble and respectable if you want it to be. It won't let you down in polite company but one flick of the wrist unleashes a wild animal.

Watch for more pictures - I have placed an order...

12 February 2006

Tagged by JJ

Thanks for tagging me JJ but I can’t give you four of everything because I’d be fabricating two or three just to make up the numbers so I’m going to reveal how uninteresting I really am:

1. Bored banker

1. The Exorcist
2. Jaws

1. Bournemouth
2. Truro
3. Dibden Purlieu

1. Who do you think you are? (Genealogy)
2. DEFINITELYNOT reality/comedy/food/houses/daytime

1. Most regions of Florida
2. Alabama
3. Several summers in the French Alps

(dozens but today it was…)
1. news.bbc.co.uk
2. wedgewood-rooms.co.uk
3. nme.com
4. amazon.co.uk
5. bigmouth.co.uk

1. Pizza
2. Pasta
3. Chocolate

1. The year 1888
2. The year 3006
3. Alone

1. Logic Will Break Your Heart – The Stills
2. Satellite Rides – Old 97s
3. Up the Bracket – The Libertines
4. The Runaway Found – The Veils
5. Crime of the Century – Supertramp
(tomorrow it will be the same but different…)

10 February 2006

A Point of View

The camera should record what the eye sees. Cropping, framing and aligning are habits I just can’t break so the views are essentially contrived.

I took a long walk in London on Thursday. Despite collecting a Travel Card to ride the tube my pedometer still totted up thirteen miles of pavements, bridges, platforms, stairs and tunnels. Exercise and the bitterly cold fresh air have left my hip joints like iron grinding on iron. I pointed my camera at the Palace of Westminster and the British Airways London Eye and the resulting pictures are now here on Through the Lens along with various other images from the trip.

A dark contemplative mood drew me to Highgate Cemetery. This ancient bone yard to the north is loaded with high Victorian funeral architecture. Mausoleums are half hidden under thick, twisted creepers in remembrance of beings who were once important. The eastern side is a vast untamed wilderness of leaning statues and grimy tombstones amid dense undergrowth. The sense of Gothic horror is palpable. I would like to have spent more time there but some inconsiderate people turned up for a private funeral and visitors were ushered away.

I thought of a red-faced sexton leaning on his shovel, mopping his brow after a morning’s backbreaking effort. Not so, a bright yellow JCB stood a respectful distance from the grieving party having wrenched a hole in the ground with a single sweep of its coffin-sized bucket.

Driving to within range of the tube network is usually two hours each way but this time the homeward journey took four hours. The Police closed a section of the M3 because a coach had caught fire. So just when I was keen to get home and soak my aching muscles in a hot bath I had to endure extra time sitting in my stationary Mondeo. I couldn’t go forwards, couldn’t go back – so I had to sit it out. Why close all three lanes of the motorway for two hours just to squirt water on a burning vehicle? The hard shoulder became littered with overheated cars and lorries causing additional blockages. When finally I reached it, the incident scene was typical of modern over-reaction. About twenty cop cars and three fire engines surrounding a melted coach and scores of men in fluorescent bibs running amok.

Next time I’ll be riding - the Yamaha is nimble enough to squeeze through the slimmest of gaps.

07 February 2006

Cautiously Pessimistic

I used to know all the smart tricks the above phone can pull but already the buttons look somewhat confusing. Now it sits silently on my old desk in a dead office, hard to believe it was once such an important communication tool. I always hated the irritating little trill it made anyway so I’m glad that gadget has lost its voice.

Fitting perfectly in the world lasts for a few optimum years. The rest of the time you fight against being too young or out of date. I’m no longer too young and I’m not yet out of date so that makes me in my prime. Doesn’t it? I am a cautious chap and I know my limitations – I say I am a realist. Someone recently told me a pessimist defends himself by saying he is a realist. I guess that makes me cautiously pessimistic. WOW, I’m far too exciting…

Some days I am really smart, I see everything in razor sharp focus and all those obscure concepts become crystal clear. Other days I can’t see my hand in front of my face and I forget how the kettle works. Sometimes I need complete silence so my own thoughts can deafen me but the next day I need loud music so those thoughts can’t intrude.

No two days are alike. So is that good or bad, unpredictable or challenging? Today I want to write but I am wordless and I have a feeling this may last a while. I am still winding down from the rat-race and the process seems to involve days of frantic activity and insomnia followed by sleeping a great deal and a mind devoid of creativity.

No point in forcing the words when the words won’t flow so I am going to change tack for a few days. I am going out on Thursday with my camera to let the pictures do the talking and pretend I’m not looking at words. Maybe then they’ll come out to play. Could be prose, poetry, or journal but I’ll recognise it when it comes into my head. I have a photographic memory but what use is it when I keep leaving the lens cap on.

Just so you know, I have a row of eight cut jade tortoises on a string marching across my desk. I think they bring good luck.

31 January 2006

Fresh Air

For years now I have breathed mostly conditioned air. Occasionally I have tried stale air, hot air and even rarefied air but mostly conditioned. Perhaps I was conditioned into thinking this is the only kind of air there is, the only worthwhile air. Two weeks ago I turned off that dubious life-support system and I have since inhaled nothing but free air. Any change of diet takes some getting used to, right?

When the Corporation chooses humidity level, temperature range and fan assistance you just accept your air how it is served up. But what if they've been providing you with the wrong kind of air all along, what if they've been slowly poisoning you is it possible to recover? Yes, but slowly. I'm not expecting to feel ten years younger overnight.

In some countries I think there would be a law against passive air-conditioning. Not in the UK though, the Nanny State tells us what is best for us and our Corporations duly obey. Windows are screwed shut lest we should breathe the intoxicating air of freedom.

In my house we have a new air freshener in the form of a shiny white plastic box complete with discreet, green blinking light. At pre-set intervals it delivers a charge of scent with a wheezy cough. The cat's head swivels towards it in surprise every time and I stare wide-eyed at the cat wondering if it has flu! Within seconds the air is tinged with lavender. This is all well and good but I find the alarming delivery method vastly more entertaining than the fragrance.

Anyway does a delicate smell count as fresh air? On balance I think I prefer to open windows and admit the regulation mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen!

26 January 2006

These are the Days of Our Lives

So I fell unceremoniously back to earth...

Ten days on and I'm still feeling somewhat detached from reality. I watch a TV banking commercial and think - I don't work for that household name any more. I can please myself today; what shall I do, where shall I go? Well I'm varying my routine and doing what takes my fancy. Domestic chores are fine by me, I like cleaning, washing, polishing and tidying. No one organises my day, not even me.

Blue skies and a thin watery sun entice me into taking the bike out. Although dry it is only deceptively fine and the bitter cold soaks into my bones. A ten mile round trip to the DIY Superstore was sufficient today. Swirling leaves caught my eye this afternoon so I unexpectedly spent two hours with a noisy toy blowing them into a giant drift and filling sack after sack after sack. I ate no lunch because I wasn't hungry.

Where have all the bloggers gone? I trimmed my blogroll a couple of months ago but I need to do it again. Don't be offended if I drop a link - so many have ceased posting and commenting and moved on that I need to have a clearout. I'm not very good at doing peripheral so I am sticking to hardcore from now.

You'd have to be deaf and blind to miss Arctic Monkeys, the hype machine is in overdrive. The debut album is smart and very self-assured and their lyrics will stand up to close scrutiny. British influences abound but the result is individual. Hard rock meets Indie, intelligent, articulate and acerbic and I'm going to sidestep any thoughts of comparisons.

The other new CD on my hi-fi is the debut from The Kooks. This is instantly accessible and inevitably will be seen as the album The Libertines should have made. Gritty tales of urban life over scorching melodies and slabs of guitar. My kind of twenty-year-olds, enough said.

Good heavens look at the time! I need to crack on with planning a lazy itinerary for tomorrow.

18 January 2006

Returning to Earth

Iron boned fingers clamped over the wing's leading-edge. Head sideways, cheek flat against the frozen flight surface. 90,000 Rolls-Royce horsepower propels three hundred and ninety tonnes of steel to the roof of the sky. Why can't I hear the engines? Sound is battered behind at ten miles per minute. Cracked brittle eyes detect smooth grey rivets. Headwind bludgeons my skull, trailing feet batter a horrific tattoo, shoes and toes are long gone. Backpack safety net in case.

A child's expressionless face appears in a porthole window. Five plump fingers wave slowly. Then I am gone, grip released streaking backwards in the jet's contrail. Yet still forwards Einstein-like, relatively speaking. Spinning and twisting, a human bullet slowing by degrees. Gravity's insistent tug is vaguely evident. Consciousness swims. Freefall death-defying escape. Right hand grips rip cord, more by luck than judgment. Final effort, sharp pull, violent upward yank.

One hundred shades of patchwork green revolving slowly below, gently spiralling landscape two miles down. Big lives await my return. I see sweet perspective from beneath this crackling canopy. No pain no remorse no anger. Altimeter eyes gauging safe descent. Specks become trees and dots become cars. Green handkerchiefs become fields and the blue ribbon is a stream. Ground rushing up now but England's earth conjures up a soft landing.

How did I get here from there?

16 January 2006

Dignified Exit

How do you bow out gracefully when you don't feel very gracious? The bustling hectic office became quiet and treacherous. Having been sent firmly to Coventry for undisclosed reasons, this final month has tested my stamina to the max. I have had little or no work to do for three months and time has hung heavily. Imagine the convicted inmate on Death Row with ten days until his execution and only four cell walls for company. Every tick of the clock is amplified, every minute an hour.

It finally hit me at the weekend - I don't need to do this. I don't need to be laughed at behind cupped hands. Accordingly I drove to work as usual this morning, emptied my desk of personal belongings and announced my departure. After twenty nine years slaving for the same employer this was not the way I would have chosen to leave but I felt backed into a corner. Too much time and not enough to do is an unhealthy mix.

My doc will supply me with a certificate to prevent deductions from my pay. Twenty nine years ago I wore a suit for the first time and travelled proudly to work on a double-decker bus wearing shiny black shoes and a sober tie. Today I sat at my desk for the final time between 9a.m. and 10a.m. wearing leather jacket and trainers. Those who bothered to look would have noticed I shaved my head over the weekend.

At 10:01 a.m. I said goodbye to my friend and left the office.

05 January 2006

Library on a pin head

I'm feeling somewhat disjointed. Picture, title, text and lyric have only tenuous links. Things are getting smaller and thinner and have fewer obvious controls. Soon we will operate stuff by merely thinking about it. Anyway this year's batteries have worn out and the new gadgets are broken so I watch the swirling dry leaves and gaze at the ice blue sky and think about winter. Somehow I need to restart the generator and drive some effort into the New Year. Will this be the year that brings contentment? Let's get through to spring first, nothing much happens before then.

I don't go to the cinema because it is full of people and the films are too long. I like to watch in the comfort of my own home with a pause button. I loved "X-Files" when it first screened on Sky TV in the UK in 1993. But by Season Three it was given a primetime slot on BBC1 and cult status had definitely worn off. "Quit while you're ahead" doesn't seem to apply when there are commercial pressures being brought to bear. I sweated out a couple more Seasons with diminishing interest as the golden goose dropped base metal eggs until director Chris Carter let loose his creative attention on "Millennium." It was deliciously dark, shadowy, moody and unfathomable, in fact everything "X-Files" no longer was.

Carter had the opportunity to start a new cult and he took it. He continued to churn out Nine Seasons of "X-Files" to appease the masses but sneaked "Millennium" onto our screens with almost no fanfare. I like this form of gritty, realistic drama with a trace of the paranormal. Episodes are delivered in manageable one hour packages, each with a beginning a middle and an end, yet sufficient continuity for me to develop an affinity with the characters and situations. The postman just delivered me a nice chunky boxed set of the complete "Millennium" Seasons One to Three. Something to look forward to.

Each of us has opportunity, we just need to nurture our ability and develop a motive. I started reading blogs over a year ago but barely a handful of my original discoveries survive. So for many there was opportunity and ability but the motive failed. Isn't that the hardest thing, to keep going? Then to keep going and keep going...

We talked about music lately. There are very few artists where I can stick the proverbial pin in their discography, not many cut gem after gem. I chose to review the Bowie album simply because it had a big early influence on me but there are others I could have chosen by different artists. Top of the shortlist might be Pink Floyd, Radiohead or REM there are very few duds in those archives.

For most their star burns brightly and briefly. Sales figures never lie, take a look at any catalogue of hit albums. Run your finger down the "number of weeks on the charts" column and the zenith of an artist's career becomes very apparent. The buying public only parts with cash for months on end when the product is worth it. I won't name names but consider various dinosaurs still lumbering around today and now look at their performance in the 1970s. I think you’ll find a string of two or three number one albums each spending over a year on the charts followed by umpteen releases barely making the lower reaches of the top forty for a month.

The creative peak is very high and very pointed. Very few can sit at the top continually breathing the thin air of success. For the rest I am thankful because they bring variety streaking in low, hard and fast into our mundane lives. They light up our existence and bring inspiration, all credit to them for "burning up on re-entry."

A long, dark January evening stretches out ahead so I’ll settle back into my armchair, laptop close by and perhaps watch an Episode of "Millennium." Later I could surf the music channels to try and catch the next skyrocket, who knows I may enjoy the ride.

"Can you take me back to that
Place where stars glow
Comets swarm like fireflies
Outside your window"
The Stills – Lola Stars and Stripes