Toilets [-1]


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A correspondent writes, after my last blog, “Is this not only the second half?!”

And indeed it was. So refer to the preceding then read this (or don’t) then go back and do part one which is really part two.

        I Got here.  It’s raining you know.
        That’s hardly very obscure1.
        Oh gosh, no.  I am sorry.  Shall I come in again?
        No need: just get more obscure in what you say.
        The ducks are flying low over the marshes. The nineteen twenty five is running late out of Scarborough.
        Robin, watcher of trains, thinker of thoughts, wanting to know which of the toilets to use and would it thunder later or clear up so that he could lean out of the window if a goods went by.  A large cloud hung overhead and they talked of writing.
        Nyd wyf i yn deall Cymraeg ddim. Rhaid i fi y Teach Yourself llyfr yn def nyddio2.
        Who all else is coming?
        Who can say?  Assorted students, perhaps some people from your work.  People we knew when we were programmers, working making chocolate.  Paul, back from the mountains and Sybil, with Ina or without her.
        Sybil?  That perverted child of Satan?  Can I remain ‘mid such iniquity?  Will Truth lift up its head above Scandals?
        O, simple organist of God, stay and perchance convert the sapphisticated classicist.  Myself, I have studied Latin and Greek (at my age too3) to understand and to impress her.
        I shall stay though I am scared; though my soul is unprepared.  Yet tomorrow I shall pray and sing and bless the name of Christ the King.
        You are too pure for her corruptions, too masculine for her desires.  But remember that speaking in tongues and gibbering are two completely different thing … er, things4.


        Which are the things that stay, which those that flow?  Down they went, on went the trains, down fell the rain.  Hello Heidi, hello Wendy, hello Elaine.  A chicken coop too late, alas, I shall sell words for blessings.  I shall sit in the window for most of the night and closely observe the trains.
        What is the matter?  What is wrong?
        Sybil and her friends, a touch of colour in this city of the plain.  How can we cut our way through all this rubbish?  Is there a story here for my book?  Oh son of  Kunti,  you  cannot  change  trees  into  saucers of milk, nor  hatch stones into chickens5.  Have one of Heidi’s crudités.  There is drink on the sideboard.  Come in and have a drink from the sideboard.  Or would you prefer something different?  Speak now before the beer-off closes.
        I shall partake of nothing alcoholic (at least nothing too alchoholic) lest, inebriate, I allow the corruption of this latter day Gomorrah to creep upon me in this night of sin.
        My darling may it keep you from the power of the days that hang so heavy on your tired shoulders.  Remember the illegality of guns, the unreliability of nooses and the malodorousness of gas.  We all long for relief but queue jumping is not playing fair.
        Robin, you worked with me until a year ago.  They called us programmers then.  Now I work no more while you still fight to bend the tin gods to your iron will.  Once we offered sacrifices of punched cards; whole trays of them which operators sent back shuffled.  Today I work no more and you communicate by Visual Display, directly with your metal slave, who does exactly what you say but rarely what you mean.  And they call you team leader, that name I would not let them give to me.  Ce n’est pas un mot anarchiste, pas un mot de spectre6.
        O friends, nicht diese Töne: what of the future? what of tomorrow?
        Perhaps for some of us there will be no tomorrow, as there was no yesterday.
        No my melodramatic miss, trust in Him from whom you receive an eternity of tomorrows.
        A thought like that depresses her yet more.  But she believes not nor wishes to believe.  Her despair is her religion from which she lapses less and less as she becomes yet more devoutly doomed.  What of us, what of us?  (Think no more of Heidi’s fuss)  What of me, what of me?  (Can I set the poor child free?)  And you, yes, what of you?  Can you tell me what to do?  If I could but find the words to free my mind from limbo, to give expression to my soul, to convey my thoughts and feelings to a people starved of truth, then is it not yet possible I could be rich and famous?  How long, O Lord, how long?  At the present rate of progress, Robin, thou shalt be chairman of the board ere I have but one short word in print.
        If you will not turn.  If you will not turn to God then there is no hope.  Failing that, try listening to string quartets by Haydn.  But now, if I may be excused, I haven’t had a motion of the bowels since I left home (take up a fork please, and frighten me).
        Heidi, where’s the fancy bread? quoth Wendy and then laughed at what she’d said.  Why isn’t Robin here?  Has he gone again?
        He shits in your shittery, pisses in your pissery, in your most lordly and most excellent convenience7.  Don’t look at me like that, my staple diet is shit and beans.  Garbage in, garbage out; an ill cast comedy for fools.
        We are all your fools.  You’ll be the death of us.  I fail to see how Heidi goes on living the life you offer her.  She suffers, not in silence, but she suffers.  What will become of you twixt now and your inevitable death?
        Will he fetch that can from out the cutting?


        Our Heidi, happy optimist that she ain’t, studies the stars to see what form her doom will take.  Her husband, typical of Libra, cautiously sceptical, wonders is there anything therein 8?
        They are the husband and the wife.  Blank Frank is the waiter, he’s the knife and he’s the table.  Will they reach a culmination, will they stiffen in this rented house; will Wendy share their dreadful, wretched torment9?  From the half moon to the toil of the sun, will any remember them?
        What lies within our horoscopes tonight?  A tall dark stranger or only Jack, who reads biology?  Food in the kitchen, drink in the lounge, dancing and sex in a draughty room.  Us it devours.
        Surely you mean beans we devour.  Surely we know who is coming.
        We know who should be coming but how many will show up?  Will they arrive on the pages predestined?  And you, child of Aquarius, must you meet your death in the bathroom?
        I shall be satisfied if the scales fall from my eyes.


        In time for the senescence of the theme came Robin the Christian.  Born under Euston with Mallard in conjunction with LNER, ephemerides by Bradshaw.  A descendent of Noah, survivor of the flood with no belief in such superstitions; divines only the passage of trains to Scarborough, East of Malton, in obscurities which communicate before they are understood (they are never understood).
       How do you see this railway line?  One sees a symbol, parallel lines, coming and going, motion through time and space, lives passing, never intersecting.  Another sees endless fascination, years of history, complexities of timetables, development of machines, the iron horse triumphant.  Yet another sees a place where a bean tin lies, a potential for pain and death.  A fourth sees an eyesore, a source of annoying noises in the night.  The last and youngest wonders what the rest are staring at.
        No hangings, lives of dust and cobwebs.  I see crowds of people getting pissed but that is only wishful thinking or the vision is not set here.  If anybody comes tell them I’m in the coal shed practising astral projection.

                     And all the promises they made are ground beneath the sadist’s fall.

        Jona andie guassa goussy etan behar da er  remedio  beharda versala ysser landa.  Anbates oyto y es nausu eyn essassu gour ray proposian ordine den.  Nonyssenna bayta facheria egabeb genherassy badin sadassu nouraa ssia10.  Direful evening.
       The others drift away and I await a crowd to fill this dusty attic, to overrun it like so many rats.  Across the lines, through dusk and intermittent evening, the hospital for those whose lunacy will not conform with ours; and those whose madness is unmasked, while others keep theirs hid forever in a jar (it will follow you, it will follow you).
        They’re coming to take me away (ha, ha!).  Open now, the graves, houses that last till doomsday, lie in wait for those who dare to tarry, minds and bodies never quite in step.  The hospital and the railway tunnel, the street lamps and the luke warm rain.  It was very quiet there.
        What low world breathed in my breaking brain?  Preparing for death, yet is this not the finish but rather a setting-out?  The cans rusting on the line, the can-nots rotting in the garret and the hospital on either side.  Footsteps in the street, the advent of those who can do those who cannot teach, whatever that means.  Drifting through a well-stirred soup of time, rain and twilight intervals.  Peering down between the boxed-in blooms of misfortune, they saw me not until I called their names: Derbys, Bowlers and Bush!  Come in, one and all: you who were with me in the shit at Rowntrees, have you learned to write specifications yet?  You girls, twins, as like as two peas in a pod, if less intelligent) and April, older sister to them both, how does your garden grow?  Will it get you your BA this year?  And your fiancé too, how nice!  the door is open, do come up and see me.  Kick the landlady, should you pass her on the way.
        Happiness is complete with GAB’s arrival.  What does April see in him?  Perhaps he helps her mushrooms grow.  What subjects will he bore us with tonight?  There is more rubbish in his philosophies of heaven and earth than I have ever dreamed of.  O, keep the sod away, that talks so much, or I’ll not be the centre of attention.  Ah reader, what a hypocrite, to hate one for resembling me so like a brother12!


        Enter a King and Queen, very lovingly.  Rex and Sarah Bowler stood in the doorway, dimly back-lit by the landing light.  Casual but smart in well-pressed slacks and shirt with open neck, he looked both more and less than thirty-eight (his age in fact was only thirty four).  The rising young executive, grown old before his chance had come to rise.

                     Your bread and water’s growing cold/Your hair is short and neat.

        Smart and neat, believer in ambition, with ambition unfulfilled, with mortgage, car and some-point-something kids.  Pretty, mousy and quiet, waited the little woman, houseproud housewife, apologetic childless mother13, standing behind her lord and master, and a little to one side, in a simple flowered dress of cotton, hanging just below the knee and clutching a handbag, as a hamster holds a sunflower seed.
        It was Rex who persuaded Dai to give up work, by arguments supposed to make him stay.  Heidi often wished that Rex had won the day but, when she saw that couple, thought maybe Dai was right for a’ that.
        They stood there, looking lost, trapped between two generations, draped limply o’er a hanger, labelled sort of middle class.  Heidi led them off to dump their coats, fearing atrophy unless she kept them moving.
        I want a biologist, someone to give opinions on my flowers.
        Come in April; let me see your face again.  April Derby, with a spring in her step and a brilliant shining face.  Sensible but silly, in a tee shirt and last year’s jeans; a badge insists she lives here, she is not a tourist.  She is in fact a student and comes from the South and East.  The sweet young thing, finding out about life as only a biology student can.

                     No one to help you get up steam/
                     And the whirlpool turns you way off beam.

        Bright but quiet, modest in opinions but completely self-assured; feminine and feminist, bra-less and outspoken, defiantly more than merely a body: the sex-object of the seventies.  With her, I rush ahead to slam doors in her face lest she declare me sexist and do me bodily harm.
        It was she who persuaded Heidi to read The Female Eunuch.  Those arguments that could have caused a rift.  She came so close to going, even though I gladly joined her in the lovely water14.
        Again a smile, uncertain of her style, caught between two decades.  Dai led her to the lounge, fearing a conversation with her guy.
        Come now and tell me why my flowers should thrive at this obnoxious time of year: leave Wendy to receive your groom-to-be.  (Aside)  A tiresome bastard: and what an unpleasant arse-licker he is.
        Gabriel Amadeus Bush stood blinking, looking around, a verbose cobra looking for a victim.  In a suit left over from a brief spell in the Mormon faith.  He is in fact the son of a Methodist minister.  The student of philosophy who thought perhaps he would become a priest15.

                     The builder of the castles/Renews the age-old purpose.

        Well connected, knows many thinking persons, Lord Longford and the Bishop and everyone else.  He may (or may not) be studying for his PhD or it could be his DPhil.  No one seems quite sure and no one knows quite where.  When the answer is over its features are lost in a hell of rocks and stones.
        It was he who persuaded April to plight her troth.  Simple wonder had sufficed when they went out together but gasps of astonishment had to be employed to greet the news of their engagement.  So, smugly, he stood in the doorway, as ever caught between two religions (if not more), eager to see who was in the kitchen and if there were any beans to eat, no doubt16.  I am not hungry; but thank goodness, I am greedy.
        Ah yes, said April, those must be dolphiniums.
        Bring on the matching girls.  Twin maskers, out of their wits and the pubs not yet called time.  Wendy greeted Melanie on the left and Blanche on the right.  They were in fact the other way around.  Sisters of April, one a telephonist, the other a secretary at the other chocolate works, down by the racecourse.  Completely identical, hairstyle and dresses, slim, pretty legs on display, cheeky faces, lashings of make up, no conversation, seek two Mister Rights for double delights, easy prey for every drunken pair of Mister Wrongs that happen along (or should that be alongs?).

                     And your wise men don’t know how it feels/To be thick as a brick.

        Divested of their coats their turquoise and lemon spotted mini-dresses assault all our eyeballs without pity.  Dai, peering at the flowers, found excuse again to lean on, this time, April’s shoulder.
        It was I who persuaded John to take up golf17.  The twins, giggling, went upstairs to tend to the music and dance in the darkened room.
        Because they thrive in the wet, replied April, moving herself away, unaware of etymology and not explaining her remaining pun, as Heidi came in and led Dai from her side.


        I feel I am alone tonight.  Yes, all alone.  A writer’s wife is not a happy one18.
        You will go off with other girls and hardly say a word to me, or you will hide in corners and ignore us one and all.  What do you think on such occasions?  You used to tell me all your thoughts but now you only speak to quarrel with me.  Go on, think for me.
        Given the existence, as uttered forth in the public works …
        Oh no, oh no, not that, not that.  Quickly, someone, grab his hat!  Gabriel descended from on high to interrupt.  The twins are asking for some bread and cheese.  They want a slab of Boticelli each.  Sure, there’s nothing like education after all19.
        I think that I can stand his voice tonight.  Sometimes he amuses, sometimes makes me mad.  Oh April, my advice to you is don’t.  You must be daft to marry such a being.  T’would be the end of life as you know it.
        There is no wife after marriage, if the attention this man pays to me means anything.  If you’ve any sense you’ve got to fear it.
        April can have no illusions there, for Mr Bush has ears for none but GAB.
        I should thank ye kindly, good persons, an ye keep to yerselves yer counsel and refrain from slagging off my love like that.  I love him for he does not place me on a pedestal.
        Because he has no pedestal made for two for you to share.
        I’ve heard enough.  I’m going to get a drink.  Non-alcoholic though, as Gabby’s trying on the Society of Friends for size.
        His society certainly is trying on any friendship. ‘Tis he that doth make quakers of us all.  How she sticks it I shall never know.  Perhaps she takes him with a pinch of wholefood salt.


        Did you hear it?
        Did I hear what?
        What’s that?  Is someone shuffling on the stair?
        Nobody is there; nobody.
        Are you certain?  Is no one coming to our party?
        Nobody is there just yet.  There will be others, I am sure of that.
        Of all the people we have met, do they regret it?  And what if some of them forget it? 
        They will remember.  Though they may not wish to come.

                     The bed’s too big without you and too fast

        Oh no, the twins, they play The Police at different speeds.  Excuse me while I go and set them right
        Does he listen to a word I say or not?  Is it just a waste of time?  Will I ever wake up from my dreaming?  See next week’s turgid episode, if there is another episode.  If there is another week.

                     And it would be okay on any other day.  

        Just call me if I’m not around when you want another record on.  And not too loud: you might annoy the neighbours  (they’ve made it very clear: they don’t approve of ravers).
        We could be together, we could last forever.  But what can I do?  All I wanted was to be close to him.  If I wake up from this nightmare, I’ll be right there, out of sight there.  But all I have is this scheming twit.  That’s it.  Am I awake or am I slumbering?  What’s he saying, what’s he playing and am I still on the board?  It’s all right for you.
        Good golly, those twins.  You know I don’t think they know which is which themselves.  Perhaps they have but half a brain per girl.  And what of you?  I’m sorry, please don’t worry: try to mingle, talk to people, listen to Gabriel or trade obscurities with Robin.  I don’t want to upset you and I never forget you but I must keep up the image, if not the rhyme and reason.
        Is there something I can speedily enact, worth my dejection?  I shall run out naked into Grosvenor Terrace: I shall search the weeds and grasses for your tin.  I shall throw things at the neighbours and expose myself to strangers.  You will find me in the morning, weeping softly ‘mong the trees, there in the funny farmyard.
        You are daft, bloody daft.  Heidi clutched her head and laughed.  And he laughed also, as ’twere at a jest, for Rex and Sarah came into their presence.
        A small white wine for me and a tomato juice for the wife.
        Now Rex, come fill us in.  What news of the Old Chocolate Factory?  Tell Heidi what new systems are in store; she lies in direst need of scintillation.
        Indeed, a tale of two programs for a plate of Wendy’s wondrous victuals seems fair exchange to me.
        Go show the others where the food’s laid out.  Then they may feed in quiet.  Deliver their bodies to the relevant repast of yon good woman.
        I will, my lord.
        Exit (, with the body of the Duchess).


        I say, it’s getting rather late.  Will anyone else arrive do you suppose?
        I’m sure of it, quite certain, Brother Bush.  The inhabitants of Haxby are bound for Ebor on the wheel.  That is why the world is when it spins.
        Does one still doubt the existence of a personal God?  As a friend of reason and the human species what are your thoughts at this present point in time?  Is it simply what one knows, is it all just black and white?  Surely what one knows and what one does are one.
        One is what one does and what one knows?  I check’d him while he spoke.  How he could speak, alas.
        No, no.  Well, one is, one supposes, but
                     one meant one’s knowledge and one’s actions are as one.  One as in unity.  The final one that is.  Not one as one’s ongoing phenomena of personality and perceptions, as were the other ones one’s just employed.  It is a complex concept, hard for one to express, owing not a little to the otherwise solecistical philosophies of the Orient.  Perhaps one could use it as the basis of some moral and uplifting work of fiction.
        I’m sure some one has already done just that.  Therefore I shall not waste my time20.
        Surely you do not partake of that British worship of inspiration?  Somewhere one read the opinion that it is merely the avoidance of comparison with foreign literature, a dodging of standards.
        What idiot would write a thing like that?
        It matters not, for no one has a right to the fruits of their work.  That is another aspect of the selfsame Eastern proposition.  A king may catch a fish, a man may eat a worm, a bishop may take a knight and one may speak of God in all his glory but if one claims the words for oneself one is as a darkly tinkling glass.
        An awful exposition of a senseless allegory, my friend21.  Clever but crap.
        Why am I now being nagged in upper case?
        One must enquire of course how this applies to one’s philosophy and where one’s God fits in – or Gods, if one insists on more than one – I have been kicking the Arian heresy around the Athanasian creed to see how the chickens like the look of the ball park, so to speak.  One feels that your substitute for one’s own true God is the intense feeling derived from the production of some work distinctly all one’s own22.  In some ways, one shares in this, but, believing there is only one First Cause, one Unmoved Mover,
        Whatever happened to Catherine Tekakwitha and is that how you spell her name?  Alas, now I have offended.
                     as one feels justified in doing, one feels that all one does is of the Lord and thus His holy property.
        If one believes, as I, that property is theft, how does that affect your thesis – of which I have yet to see the point?
        Indeed one sees that as a whole new ball game.  Perhaps all property is theft from God.  Perhaps the Moslem has it right that only Allah’s work is perfect and that representation of reality is blasphemy. But all things have been thought of first by Him who stands apart from curvéd space and time.  (Let us not stray far from the original subject.)
        Where shalt thou find this judgement registered?  Yet I cannot assist; I know not why I write who only feel I must.  I get no kicks from champagne — sorry, from achievement.  And if I achieve success in some small measure I am deeply ashamed at feeling any pride.  I try to treat impostors all the same.  I never can.  That’s where it all falls down, you see.
        I think perhaps that I had better go, please take your strange deistic deipnosophistry to some other poor benighted soul.
        All right, but later we must speak of this again.  Perhaps your thoughts betray some kind of Zen.
        But I do not possess a motorcycle.
        One never suggested that you did.  One was speaking of Zen Buddhism: a religious equivalent of avoiding the question.
        I know full well the faith of which you speak, though am not quite so certain in my condemnation.  If Nicodemus Unsett comes tonight, ask him to tell you his Zen Buddhist jokes.  Now I must hurry up.  It’s the door.


        Beware!  Women!  And not those I expected.  The one I know, the other wish to know before too long has passed.  Though I suspect that as she comes with this other, my wife will suit her tastes far more than I might hope to do.
        Good-evening ladies, good-evening sweet pair of angels, good-evening.  Come in.
        O tell me all about your new friend, I want to hear all about your new friend.
        Leaving Gabriel like a poor Christian that had been got by a Tiger, the nymphs are greeted, Sybil says hello, her friend, who isn’t Ina, doesn’t speak.
        Come to the front room, don’t touch the food yet, what are you drinking?  Look out the window, Robin is calling, late out of Scarborough.  Nobody listens, what does it matter — not even a steam train, only a diesel, common-or-garden23.
        Here they stand so pretty a pair of lovers.  How can I hope ever to have the skill to find the spondees fitting to all the feelings they are arousing?
        Sweet girls, who are you and what are you drinking?  (The answer’s a lemonade.)
        A sexy smiling classics scholar makes crude innuendo in deliberate mistakes24.
        The street outside glistens in the rain, the rivulets run down Bootham to the town.  The cars take up the baton as the lights turn green and some pass through the bar to Petergate.  In the York Arms, where men are men and men like men like men, a girl sits wondering where her friend has gone.  Sybil Wellborne’s been a-hunting.
        So here’s why Heidi has not had the pleasure of serving you bitter on Haxby Road of late.  Hello darling, who are you?  What are we going to see you do?
  Добро вече. Ја се зовем Катка Гроздиђ.
        Farfel farfel pipik.  I will say the only words I know that you’ll understand.
        She is called Katka Grozdic, which is all I understand or know about her.  But in other ways we understand each other well.  Both in love with love with love everlasting, in varying forms.  The definition’s right: the same emotions, selfsame appetite.  We’ve brought some bottles too.
        Cresta!  The river of booze is broken.  I don’t believe I ever thought a day would come when I’d see that.  Heidi, look what Sybil’s brought. The girls are drinking mineral water.
        Well you wanted a show; a compulsory show.  Just let us stay sober and wait for the show to begin.  Perhaps we’ll help you with your vast stock of liquor later.
        The eyes twinkled like the street lamps’ light through the rain drops on the leaves in Alma Terrace.  The last portion of mushy peas is served.  One of each twice with salt and vinegar, eat them in the car, then on to the party where Sybil spoke of cuisine much more haute.   Dance and talk of a restaurant.
        Yes indeed, an old bedmate of mine has opened it.
        And what’s it called again?
        It’s Theotrello’s: no, that’s not her name, it’s meant to be a joke, though no one understands.  She wanted to call it Aidoioleikty’s but that was too much of a mouthful.  Is O’Sullivan coming?  I think he knows her too.  He suggested that she open a Malaysian in Soho25 but she had her heart set on a Greek in Bloomsbury.
        Here Katka, have a drink.
  Хвала лепо.
        Gospodi pomiluj.  What language does she speak?
       I’m hardly sure; but know it isn’t Russian.  I think she mentioned somewhere once: Belgrade.
        The town or the theatre in Coventry?
        And still no cats crawled through the vegetation, to cut their paws on hidden empty tins.  Throughout this picture-postcard city, men and women drank and laughed, while others sat in silent unlit rooms, brooding on lost lovers who ran off with other girls to Dai’s low garret.  In the streets all merry and drunk the people drifting home, back from the pubs and clubs and all the late night shows for to keep the town awake until another day has dawned for all and Sunday.  The river flows quietly under Lendal Bridge, past Museum Gardens where the peacocks sleep  (sweet Ouse, provide me with the things to say until I end my paragraph).  Beneath the railway, past the Esplanade and under Water End to Clifton Ings and onward to the hills.  Beneath the bridges under posters advertising one more shelter, lovers consummate the night’s desires.  Faces of souls!  For those of us oppressed by the figures of beauty is there consolation in the poet’s dying words: We are ugly but we have the music?

                     More loneliness than anyone can bear.

        What are you thinking?  Heidi; does he think?
        For God’s sake don’t start him off on that again.            
       It is you my love, you who are the foreigner.
Yes, you.


as you were. Footnotes on previous post…





Gosh, it’s been a while. During a conversation on twitter, part of which was regarding Tommy Stern Eliot, I mentioned that the tenth ‘chunk’ [The Arrival of the Guests] of Fardel’s Bear, my ‘installation in words’ (‘chapter’ and ‘novel’ are so last minnellium), is a line-by-line derived ‘parody’ of The Waste Land.
An Eliot freak said he’d really like to see it (I somehow doubt he would, but he asked for it…)

By way of a briefish introduction: I started the book in 1976, got on with it more in 1983 (by which time it was set in 1979, just before Thatcher came to power, a period of change that underpins the book but isn’t directly referred to) but then only returned to it sporadically, as my life got repeatedly churned up.

Each of the first 12 chunks is the length of the previous two, and represents at least one writer who was an influence (positive or negative) on my writing. The thirteenth (Part II of the whole) represents an (unsuccessful) attempt to overcome and/or synthesise influences into a new, individual voice. All of this is, naturally, only to furnish me with material for cheap gags.

For reasons lost in the mists (probably all to do with the final line), chunk ten is built on The Waste Land. As the whole book riffs to some extent on questions of originality (Eliot referred disparagingly to the ‘cult of originality’), plus the value or otherwise of erudition and intertextual reference (especially when one’s audience won’t share the knowledge), Eliot with his seeming assumption that his readers will have read Dante and can read classical Greek, seemed ripe for a certain kind of ribbing. Hence the pasages in Malay, Welsh, Serbo-Croat etc. Obviously the footnotes are there to obfuscate rather than clarify, as were Eliot’s (he did have a sense of humour). I believe He said that Waste Land was a parody of Ulysses and Joyce said Finnegans Wake was a parody of the Waste Land; I don’t think these statements were meant seriously, though the influence on each other’s approach is clear.

Returning to it after some years, I’m amazed at how many of the references I can recognise, without having any clear memory where they come from.

Anyway, without further ado and mainly for Mr Cartwright, yer tis ….

Direful Evening.

     In response to being given a glass of fizz, Miss Wellborne’s friend, the Smirnoff merchant in the almost see-through blouse and short split skirt, spoke to me in Cyrillic Serbo-Croat.

     Извините ме; да ли разумете ја говорим?

     The only words that now I knew for sure were Ја радим увек пулако, meaning that I always work slowly.  I therefore did not understand when she spoke and baffled her a bit with my reply.  I saw that this would not hold her for long.  The sea is more but a bridge is most and the whole room is sober.  I led her to the ice and tried to converse in phrases and quotes that just made matters worse.

     Les cuisses d’une damoizelle sont tous jours fraishes.  Being all too distracted by my carnal affections.  But she just said Забора! and, pointing to Sybil, Не може да разу ме кад говорим!

     Oh my dear, this is gibberish: if you wish to be understood, please use some other tongue26.

     Now, sad old star.  A stranger in an even stranger land.  Who are you and what are you doing here?  A tourist who strayed from your party and stayed; an escapee to the West; do you dream of Belgrade?


     In this violent hour when no trains can be expected for a while, afraid of meeting people who might wish me to talk sense, I, Robin, make my way upstairs and out the window to the fire escape.  My conscience is mine, my justice is mine, my freedom is a sovereign freedom and my plate is stocked with goodies from the kitchen.  I wish to save no image of this polarised chimera; out here I am detached, to them as nothing and on them I turn my back and eat my food27.

     In the room where women go and come the writer is uttering something he does not fully understand and the others nyston neither28.

     Was spricht die tiefe Dämmerung?29

     Home (or rivers and mountains from home) is our Juliet, home from work and clears her morning meal.  With musk and civet’s private parts, adjusts her sex appeal.  Her Romeo before his mirror poses like some ponced-up gorilla in the roses with head held high and floral tie, a weekend millionaire: a model tenant in the room, a ruffian on the stair (apologies to all concerned).  While lazy laughing Jenni, who promised she’d attend, forgets about the party and goes drinking with a friend.  Myrtle Mouse lived in a hole with Freddy Frog and Monty Mole but Marlow, who has furtive things to do, creeps down rat alley out of public view.

     At the violent hour when the eyes turn black, he carries his nuts around in a sack.  Unseen, unheard and all alone he makes his way to the Burton Stone, like a Roman bent on killing Archimedes30 with whose name hardly anything rhymes at all.

     I, Robin, watch the stars that speak to me of an infallible and a divine being.  I sing a song of the universe, outside the window perilously perched and endlessly rocking abode of stones, this thought, this ghost, this pendulum in the head.

     Sybil calms her Katka with a warm embrace, then takes a plate and serves herself some food.  Some rare roast beef — rare because they can’t afford a lot — and Heidi’s khao phat prik31 which makes her gasp for drink.

     In the lounge, Dai finds himself alone and puts some Mahler on the stereo.  Sybil enters, plate and glass in hand, complaining that one cannot dance to Mahler’s Symphonies.  She proves it by not dancing to the Second.

          Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n

          Wirst du, mein Herz in einem Nu

     I have a speech of fire that fain would blaze but that this structure may collapse if I stand up.  Werd’ ich entschweben zum Licht, zu dem kein Aug’ gedrungen!  A pity I don’t speak German, I wonder what it means.  See how that cat creeps stealthily along that wall, believing itself unobserved as it searches for rats that scuttle in the alleys and the yards.  And there: what’s that?  A furtive stranger slinks through the night and shakes my memory as a dead man shakes a mad gerontion.  Why is he dressed in bible black and what does he carry around in that sack?  Oh dear.  I’m doing it now.

          O Schmerz!  Du Alldurchdringer?

     Now Sybil, with one hand up Katka’s blouse and cupped around a firm Croatian breast, is trying to put Gabriel off his speech while he drones on and on in patronising tones, of the influence of homosexuals on the world of art and brings up garbled chestnuts (garbled is wrong — garbled is surely wrong) concerning ancient Greeks and little boys.  But the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, naked and accompanied by air-raid sirens, singing out fortissimo while tearing goats to pieces with their teeth could not hope to stem the tide of Gabby’s verbiage.  One could stand before him grimly sharpening up an axe: one could sprinkle him with paraffin and ask him for a match.  He would just go on.  Always, our old verbiage!  So Sybil edges them away and leaves him on the shelf.  He continues, never noticing he’s talking to himself.

          Unsterblich Leben!  Unsterblich Leben!

     The man is gone who acted strangely out the back.  While he was there he acted very strange.  He climbed the wall and looked into the yard, then leapt back into the alley, cried in pain and, swearing at the cat, went on his way.  An odd way to behave by any standards (even those that these strange folk apply) especially as the gate is never locked since Wendy pulled the bolt off (by mistake).  The world is full of worried men so why should he or I be an exception?  Why don’t these people live off Holgate Road, where I could see the High Speed Trains go by?  This quiet line is boring after dark.

          Der Mensch liegt in grösster Not!
          Der Mensch liegt in grösster Pein!

     Dai sits with Heidi on the cold settee, stares into space, sips quietly on his drink.  His left hand resting lightly on her knee, he knows not what to say nor what to think.  A tear runs down her cheek: he turns away, his face a deep embarrassed shade of pink.


     I remember you well in the Station Hotel.  Floozies in the lobby love the way I sell hot rats (in spite of the tennis) tracks up then it breaks down (like Heidi or an APT?).  Railways board wishes to sell not very desirable property adjacent one of their lucrative boarding establishments.  Hot and cold running trains included.

     Round the city walls across the bridges to Minster and Museum to Saint Michael le Belfry where the charismatics go, shuffling their feet, see the mice in their million hordes, the hordes of the bungled and the botched, a Brownian motion up and down the Shambles with rubber necks and cameras click and whirr and drawl it’s so historical, so neat, let’s go find a place to eat.  The residents too, on hearing the first American in Spring, put up their prices and stay indoors, saying turn your back my darling while the foreigners go by.  Sweeties that were twopence are now for twopence halfpenny.  All property, as has been said, is theft.  A breakfast with a plain simple bitch, goddess of novels and all who sink in them, a tour of the ancient city and back to catch your train.

     O seething mass of people, martyrs to the same eternal and consuming itch; anoint your eyes with Midas’ oil and make it disappear. Are you waiting, are you sure, to meet between the trains you’re searching for?  I think it’s time to board another.


     By the rivers of lemonade, set down and wet.  From the timeless reality and the loops in time bring us by a plethora of polysyllabics to York Station and environs.  Soon goes the train, the last one this evening, taking us all to Scarborough.

          Time flies by when I’m the driver of a train
          And I ride on the footplate there and back again

     The mass of lines resolves itself on Scarborough Bridge above the river, trains and pedestrians only, excellent views along the Ouse to Marygate Landing, the Museum Gardens and Lendal Bridge and the centre of a great city and left along the Esplanade to Water End.

     On the bridge at night, alone, waiting with chocolate surprise but she doesn’t show.  She said okay the bridge or someplace, later. Not even a choice of nightmares, he drifts home past a cacation of English students, stopped on the bridge to pontificate on revolutions.

     If we apply catastrophe theory to social history then surely revolutions merely appear as a final flip on a hysteresis curve32 and thus not such important effects in themselves.  We shall almost certainly come to see, in time, that we must give far more consideration, therefore, to the forces, the social forces, which give rise to the events and lines of interaction and tension within communities and nations which in turn result in these inevitabilites.

     The lines rust in the evening rain: Railway Walk and Longfield Terrace on either side, the track descends into the cutting, heading for the heart of a shallow cutting.

     Jack and Christina, Paul and Cynthia, leaving the pub, walk down Hetherton Street.  I know a shortcut, Railway Walk, under the line to Bootham Terrace.  The thick summer foliage shelters them and drips on them.  The dim street lamps light their way, under the line and under the road.  They come out onto Queen Anne’s Road and wonder where on Earth they are.  You and your short cuts.  Where to now?

     In darkness the line passes under Bootham and along, past tins, hospital grounds and the garrets of Grosvenor Terrace.

     Over the footbridge the scent of chips wafts to the new District Hospital and Grosvenor Terrace narrows into Scarborough Terrace, Filey Terrace and turns away from tracks and trains at Ratcliffe Street.


     Ho hum!

     A single track breaks away to Rowntree Halt and back, skirting the city to the Foss Bank gas works and then out through Tang Hall to the line of the Derwent Valley Light

     Railway.  Wigginton Road separates the main line from the factory and the level crossing affords a fine view

     Of the legend, the soon to be erased for ever legend, ROWNTREE’S COCOA, spelt out in black bricks in the factory wall.  And as this imposing sight

     Fades in the distance we head for Haxby and bid York itself adieu.


     Past Rugby Pitches, sports grounds and dry New Earswick on the Right.

     Two level crossings, in and out of Haxby where the new house builders vie

     For the custom of the new Home Makers, rising young executives: new suburban man with a garden for the wives to hang the dirty linen.  Washing cars

     And mowing lawns on Sunday.  But on!  on to Strensall and the camp where other youths are taught to kill with weapons, not with words.  But who will teach them how to die?


     By the ruins of Kirkham Priory in the summer people picnic and play.  Some swim in the river, splashing, having fun.  But I am sombre under this overcast sky.  A slight deformity in me is an enormity in mind and I dare not show myself without a shirt.  For lunch I ate crisps and breathed the fumes of traffic at the roadside.

     O’Sullivan has found the road again.  Ignoring the taunts of his companions, he leads them on, like Odin, to Valhalla.

     High Hutton, Low Hutton, Malton and Norton, get off here for the middle of nowhere.  Every mile a level crossing on a lonely farmland track.  At Scampton not even a bump as we change to a new OS map.  On through the Derwent Valley to Sherburn Carr, Bog Hall and Robin’s Bottom.


          It begins with a blessing but it ends with a curse:
          Making life easy but making it worse

     Is that Kevin Ayers?

     Well it isn’t fucking Charles Ives.

     They’re all just do-be-do in different voices to me.

     Seamer Station stands about two kilometres outside Seamer itself at a place called Crossgates.  From there the line climbs out of the valley to the town of Scarborough.  Past the Mere, where the Hispaniola sails with infant pirates, to search for hidden doubloons.

     The biologist, the linguist and the maker of watches and clocks arrive at Grosvenor Terrace right on time.  Knowing the layout of this sprawling chapter, Dai too awaited the expected guests.

     The town, the town!  The station, the station!  The sea!  The sea!

     Ho hum.


     Jack the biologist, already mentioned (paying attention?) stood in the hall with girls requiring introductions.  We knew his woman, Christina Bridges, friend of April, fellow biologist.

     Students of nerves and arteries and veins, what can you do for a soul in torment?  And you, the linguist, can you provide the words that I should write?  Can you help me make it through the night?

     Cynthia Butler can say hello, how are you, good night and help, police! in several languages but is specialist in English who shares room in college with Christina and bed in Heworth with Mr Short who makes watches.

     O you who work with time, what do you think of us who have so little left?  How can you make my man go faster, write more and free us from this wheel of ill fortune?  Who or what I am escapes me.

     Forget the talk of girls and man to man say Robin; Paul: Paul; Robin.  And that man, returned from a week in the Alps, away from watches in the land where the watches grow, held out a cultured hand to Robin who said Bobok and fell backwards to the kitchen floor.

     Is he all right?

     A phoenix he, who rues the freedom of his promised absolution.  A soul of iron I, hung up as ’twere in chains in the horror of this inimitable scream.

     But is he all right?

     I know not, who only know he makes no more noise now.

     Oh, you have only phrases at your service, the fury and mire of vain humanity.  Is this man drunk or ill?

     Neither; merely daft.  Do not wake him; we may drown.

     Heidi, sad hostess, handing out drinks, spilled wine on her dress and, laughing without joy, quotes Shakespeare, till that her garments, heavy with their drink.

     Wendy came, (hang on: where are the next guests?) seeking biologists to study other drowning blooms in the box outside her bedroom windy.  Kevin Ayers sang above the wind, Strange kind of blues coloured moon.  A song that charmed their senses, Hangs in the middle of my room.

     (Wait a bit; they should arrive a paragraph ago.)

     Robin, resuscitated dreamer, came also burning with a vision so bright, fearful beyond fright that nothing was real, eating all the sausages on sticks, wailing about the closure of eighty three branch lines.  And Katka, seeking a sympathetic if not understanding ear, came and bent her host’s, moaning about Sybil under a rainy evening sky.

     (She can’t!  She spoils the structure of the plot!)

     Слушајте! Дали бисте рекли да је живот миран кад би живели са женом која вам стално говори: урадите ово немојте радити то; донесите ми моју књигу: затворите врата; немојте заборавити да је мађка у башти да одете на пошту данас после подне.  Пазите, немојте расути своје вино!

     Dai jumped and nearly spilt his wine.  Не могу да разумем кад говорите, suggested Cynthia who knew no more while the words keep piling up and overrunning.  The next arrivals half a page already late and Katka close to tears over something no one understands.


     Down in the street, lights shone on soggy faces.  After a scattered shower in

     Најгоре је кад одједном каже, Katka said suddenly (I knew it was too good to be true).  Ра зговарајте са мном!  Шта бисте радили кад бисте били на моме месту? Concatenated words from which the sense seemed gone.  O for a Serbo-Croat phrase book.  O for those few essential words which free us from these grindstones round our necks.  For O for O the hobby horse is forgot.  Linguist, talk me out of this.  Guests, arrive (and did you go the wrong way round as well?  The map indeed is not the territory) and help me pound this chapter into shape.

     Hata wakiti wa kucheka moyo huwa na huzuni, na nawisho wa furaha ni uzitowa moyo.  Haifai kulima katika mlima33.  Still no response, no bridge across the language barrier, no solution to the mystery.  Those that have ears to hear, let them understand34.  Sybil, you’ve got her under your skin, soul sister, how can we communicate through you?

     When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.  We must disenthral ourselves and then we shall save our story.  We must remould our thinking and avoid becoming misfits35.  And all attempts at manipulating a continuous parallel are doomed to failure.

     Continuing our passing, pleasing, fruitless poetry, against the storms, a silence in the heavens. Better late than never, rather pseud than clever, looking down into the street — see! there are some people four flights below, with bottles of wine to drink from (and throw).  He who was waiting, with little patience, is now calling.  Princess Ida!  And your merry band!  Come up, come up; wherever have you been?  Devils, ruffians, come on up the stairs!

     There is so little lemonade and so much wine; whisky and no soda on the sideboard.  Try looking in the kitchen and while you’re there fetch some of the channa ki dhal that I made for nibbling.  Oh those, the napalm nibbles, the pain on a plate.  Au contraire, the crystalline tears of fallen angels, burning eternally on your tongue.

     With too much wine, one cannot clearly think.  The brain is muddled and the speech is blurred.  One runs the risk of having cosmic significances which one never suspected extracted from one’s words.  If you had brought more lemonade with all this booze, especially with these mountains of rich food which one has no desire to anacatharsise … (Can one say that? Does that word exist?)

     O prattler, stop moaning about the drink supply and take your dry white Sainsbury’s like a man.  Here comes a bunch of thinkers, replete with their own mindless ideas and theories.  Beware their tired words, their empty spouting: thoughts as futile as a Sunday outing.  Ah, Wendy, darling, can we ever come up to scratch?

     With Unsett and Cardew trotting out their dialectic, with concepts grown from notions eclectic derived from the books they read last month.

     Have we heard the last of Derek’s Zen Buddhist jokes, the ones that none can understand?  I’d give my right arm to be a Zen Buddhist36.

     At the insipid turning of the day, after the praying and the silence and the crying, the guests are on the third flight of stairs, with wine.  If only they had not brought wine.  Always the same.  Buy gallons of soft drinks and no one brings a bottle: buy booze in megalitres and get left with more than you began with — except that your Nuits St Georges is all replaced with Chateau Tesceau.

     Plap!  Plap!  Plap!  Return to the inspiration that expressed deliverance from the twisting winding guests.  But there is very little lemonade.

***    (This time, for real?)

     At last, the door swings open and reveals an English tutor and her acolytes.  Just now, a punk princess, in spite of over thirty years of life, a mind of straw, bending with the wind of fashion, copied by her students, followers who vie for her attention, to impress her when alone, outdo her when in company.  Dai handed her a lonely glass of wine and Heidi counted out the others to herself, surprised to see that they were only four.


     I could have sworn that six came off the street.  Some shadowed figure in among your number.  But here are only five: The Divine Amanda Cardew and Melissa (Honey) Prior: Nicodemus in his Born Again Buddhist tee-shirt and Walter Snow, aka Quinbus Flestrin.  Is someone else behind you on the stairs?  Is Mister Marlow coming?

     ‘Mid nervous looks and ums and ers, no Pete can’t come, he’s something else to do.  So you must be mistaken; we are all there is.

     You should take that up with Gabriel, it could feed his conversation for a week: at least the evening, through the violent air, one tortured meditation to drag on and on.

     Before the living death in lonely places.  The bold wind speechless and the orb below.  Jamais on ne veit gens plus joyeux, all the women look a scream37: hang them on my wall.

     And now, good pilgrims, stock yourselves with drinks and transport yourselves to Wendy’s heavenly kitchen38.  I highly recommend my contribution: a sort of soft liver paté which I christened Bergson’s Puree.  The thyme is, of course, an allusion.


     What is that awful noise from up the stairs?  Some new orchestral piece by Benjamin I think.  I bet the twins are going through my tapes.  If so they won’t leave that one on for long.  Let us leave them to it.  It’s not so easy for them to wreck a tape as it would be for an LP record.  Come into the kitchen, the garden of edible delights.

          In Rama sonat gemitus
          In Rama sonat gemitus
          Florante Rachel Angliae

     Oh dear, they do play with records.  Perhaps he should have hid them in the coalshed.  Perhaps he should have shut the twins out too.

          Close the coalhouse door, boys:
          There’s twins inside

     But then with so few people here we can’t afford the loss of two.  I don’t suppose there’s any more will come.  If we could get them all into the bathroom they may appear a crowd.  How many are we?  Twenty?  Twenty-one?

     Dai tell us; yes, tell us how a writer gets ideas.  What feeds the spring of creativity?


     Resist all temptation to tell the Divine Amanda that a beauty such as hers inspires great thoughts, lest she take me for a chauvinist and beat me up.  At least her Buddhist friend would never strike me in anger.  Yet even he could set himself on fire in protest and badly scorch the carpet (don’t you know you’ll scorch the carpet?).

     It’s hard to say, he said, and dodged the issue.  Ideas come so suddenly – one goes to bed at night and, next morning, there is an idea.  I only wish I could remember it by the time I find a pencil and a piece of paper.

     Oh yes, remembered Derek: if I pay you for the canvas, if I pay you for the paint, and then if I add on the price of a few pints of Mumm’s best vintage brut,  Yes, yes, get on with it, what do you want?  could you paint me a copy of Bronzino’s Allegory?

     Impossible! said Dai and the others didn’t need to ask him why39.

     Немогуће! said the mysterious Katka, drifting past with Sybil on her arm.

     Direful, said Heidi but no one listened.  Direful.


     Distraction, music of the flute.  As Mahler’s long drawn out Romantic melody drifts down the stairs it brings the sister down with it, the unstable azure of her bra undulating ‘neath the crisp white blouse40.  In spite of principles, progressive young men’s heads are turned and even certain ladies look upstairs, up that short skirt.  Appreciation, even a long low whistle from young Unsett.

     I’ve competition here I see, as Derek stares like Dracula preparing to bite a virgin in the neck.

     All flesh is gone to grass and singing of summer lawns to the half baked houses and the trees as Robin passes through as hush as death.

     und leise rann aus silberner Wunde der Schwester das Blut und fiel feuriger regen auf mich.  The flute is silent and the breathless sister, veiled in white and blue; schoolgirl looking like no schoolgirl ever looked.  Pretty, sexy but quiet, a little shyly standing halfway down the stairs, she was neither up nor down.  Inaccessible, like snow on the mountain peaks and a woman endowed with dignity and pristine beauty.

     He is with Amanda, Dai mused, and cannot harm me or divert my plans.  Now, if I can persuade Wendy to drink more punch …

     She stood there, looking nervous, till the conversations started up again below.  Gathering her courage and her wits, she walked down on to the set of the musical; the star that nobody watched.  Passed between two groups of people, all overcompensating for earlier overreactions.

     What is that one essential word she needs?  Who will flush my empty cistern?  Carry on like this until the cock crows, the ghostly dawn, mist through the trees around the hospital as the early train passes like an unquiet spirit on its way to hell.  Who will deny me the pleasure of throttling that magical fowl in gratitude for my release?  Out here it is dark but sometimes dusk: another dry spell over and the wind blows fresh rain against the glass.


     The guests are gathered together, eating, drinking, some few dancing.  Melissa, looking round, asked if anyone called Dougal had arrived.  No?  I invited him on Monday and he said he would be here.  I thought the do might need a token black.  Not here?  A pity.  His name is Higgins, perhaps he’ll get here later.

     What are we doing here?  What are these people with their dependence on words and letters?  This is an illusion of reality but almost a complete one.  Perhaps this bloody chapter’s nearly over  Could we but choose our destinies, we should all be happier planting cabbages41.

     But a da, as everyone knows, is only a heavy Burmese knife.


     They jumped a few feet in the air.  Fear not, it’s just a symphony by Mahler.  Don’t scare them, they may leave.

     We all have our fears, all stemming from a need to keep control.  In our departure is our arrival, in our death, life.  Assigning power over our destinies to mythic beings, we try to manipulate our masters by threats or bribes or love.  Sheer random fate we can do nought about, so we invent these spirits and these gods to run our lives.  At one stroke we avoid responsibilities, yet give ourselves a chance to call the tune.  Then some transfer their fears to their gods while others dream up new transgressions, new responsibilities.

     When after all life will not yield to steering from this tiller, it must be that our souls are all immortal.  And now we are much safer, come what may, our goodness can affect our destinies long after shuffling off our mortal coils; and vengeance on our enemies is surely ours to come.

     If you do not come to close

     Another train is setting out from York.

     If you do not come to close your mind to this.  If you require a special transmission, outside of scripture, a direct pointer to the mind of the Atman.  And I shall bring you life in a bowl of tea or holding up a solitary finger (or, on a bad day, two).

     Me, I see no sense but probability in anything.  I hate spiders and solicitors and cannot even cook a pan of rice without cutting myself.


     Sorry, did I knock you?  I thought it must have finished.  Such disharmony is not good for the nerves.

     Poor Wendy: gentle, infinitely suffering thing. The Earth destroyed by men.  Roger, the serpent, beguiling me and Heidi, casting us out from paradise.  The paradise of security, of a job five days a week, an income and a mortgage.  No questions.  The paradigm of monotony.  And so we impose ourselves on your good nature.  But wherth, O clerk, but wherth42?

          And if I’m sorry for myself, I’m sorry for you too
          ‘Cause I’m the same as you and I’m burning.
          So I sing for everyone who feels there’s no way out:
          Maybe if you all shout, someone will hear you

     Young man, I was once as thick as you and who’s to say I’m not much smarter now? If you saw into our natures would you ever want to attain our brotherhood?


     Will someone put some different music on before I spill my wine or make unwilling blood donors of the twins and splatter their remains on railway lines?

     Red row: sad now, said Robin to Katka, who seemed to understand him as well as any other.  It doesn’t matter, life’s much flatter even though we never know from day to day.  My life is all yours.  Take it, keep it, spend it.  Squeeze it and see what runs out.  It’s either dry or my grip has lost its strength.

     My God, I think I’m catching something from these students.  I must stop writing like this; copy out one hundred times.  No more than a page to go.  I need a drink and so do Wendy and Elaine.  Here girls, some lovely fruity punch; a liberal measure each.


     Fischer’s king is taken.  The diesel rumbles over the bridge.  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.  Take up the burden of the valley of vision.  I have heard it from the horse’s mouth, ha ha!

     Pardon?  Oh, he’s gone.  What was all that about, I wonder?  Straight out of college he came to me.  We wrote programs together and I guided him.  Perhaps he makes more sense than all the rest.  Or maybe he just hides from life behind a god and words (for God alone is socially embarrassing in these late ‘Seventies).  A god to tell him what to do, another one to hear him pray.  A god to punish all his sins and help him through the working day.  To make a man feel very small and yet essential to it all.

     Oh shitty, shitty, I always have this fear43.

     The lemonade is running out, running out, running out; those flagons we had stored in case of need.

     Why then, I’ll get some more.  Heidi, don’t get mad again.  What’s everybody drinking to use up all this pop?


1        NOTES ON THE ARRIVAL OF THE GUESTS:  The format of this somewhat obscure collage section, in which the first five groups arrive, along with any real or imagined symbolism, can best be understood by references to its major influences.  The five subsections represent firstly the five levels of capitalist society, as caricatured in the old East European cartoon: Vládneme vami, Klameme vás,  Sirilime povas,  Jime za vas and  Zivime všecky.   Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, the five toes, as in the children’s game of This Little Piggy (Market, Home, Roast Beef, None and Wee-wee — or, of course, Oui oui).
      The rest will easily be understood by anyone who speaks fifteen languages or who has ever written a book while sitting in the reference section of a provincial English library and can be skipped over by other ignorant plebs without much loss.
      References to Dante and Shakespeare have not been explained as they are probably obvious.  There is no Italian but lovers of Boccaccio will recognise certain cheap scatalogical allusions.

 2       v. Evan James, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau: O bydded i’r hen iath barhau.

 3       cf. Rabelais, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Bk II, ch 8: Tant y a que (en l’eage ou je suis) jay este contraict de apprendre les lettres Grecques.

 4       cf. Rabelais, lib cit, ch 9: Prug frest frins sorgdmand strochdt drhds pag brlelang Gravot Charigny Pomardiere rusth pkalhdracq Deviniere pres Nays. Bouille Kalmuch monach drupp delmeupplist rincq dlrndodelb up drent loch minc stz rinquald de vin ders cordelis but josststzampenards.

 5       v. Cardew; Talk for the Rome Symposium on the Problems of Notation.

 6      cf. Cardew; John Cage, Ghost or Monster,  The Listener, 4/5/1972 (footnote):  We should tie the label GHOST to the tails of those artistic and intellectual trends that promote the ideology of anarchism and reformism.

 7       cf. Rabelais, Bk I, ch 13: le plus seigneurial, le plus excellent, le plus expedient que jamais feut veu.

8        v. Lancelot Andrewes, XCVI Sermons (1629) p.112

 9       cf. Nostradamus, Century I, Quatrain lxviii

             O quel horrible & mal’heureux tourment,
             Trois innocens qu’on viendra a livrer:
             Poison suspecte, mal garde traditment,
             Mis en horreur par bourreaux envirez.

10      Rabelais, Book II, ch 9.

11      v. Brian Eno, Some of Them Are Old

12      This is pretty pathetic stuff

13      cf. Webster, The Duchess of Malfi:

             Where’s the waiting woman?
             Fetch her: some other strangle the children.

14      v. Elaine Morgan, The Descent of Woman.

15      v. Lou Reed, Hanging Round

16      cf. Russell, History of Western Philosophy; Pythagoras:  But the unregenerate hankered after beans and sooner or later rebelled.

17      Where the hell does that phrase come from?  What’s it doing here?  And the metre’s gone completely to pieces.

18      cf. Kierkegaard, Enten-Eller, Samlede Voerker, vol II, p 227:  Therefore a poet’s existence is by its nature an unhappy existence.

19      The discerning reader will note that at this point the author has discovered the quotes from Punch magazine in the ODQ second edition.

20      cf. Kevin Ayers, Reinhardt and Geraldine, 1970

             There’s nothing new around the sun
             Everything you think of has been done
             All been done before your time
             Sometime or another by someone and his brother
             Yeah, yeah.

21      cf. Rabelais, Book III, ch 18: Je loue l’exposition, l’allegorie me plaist, mais non à vostre sens.

22      v. Murray, The Rise of the Greek Epic, 4th Edn., 1934, p. 178

23      cf. … simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy …

24    cf.  φαινεται μοι κηνος ισος θεοισιν εμμεν’ ωνηρ οττις εναντιος τοι ισδανει και πλaσιον aδυ ωνει – σaς υπακουει και γελαισaς iμεροεν (ktl)

25      cf. Jikalau sempat, wang di-kochek pun chukup siapa-siapa sudi merasa makanan bangsa-bangsa lain, pergi-lah merayau di-daerah Soho itu

26      cf. Rabelais, Book II, ch 9: Mon amy, je n’entens poinct ce barragouin; pour tant, si voulez entende, parlez sultre langaige.

27      Robin, obsessed only with watching the trains or staring over the rooftops at the night sky and thus possessing little discernible character, is yet a very important figure in this section, separating the parts and providing sometimes contrasts and sometimes comparisons which amplify the current of ideas or simply provide an excuse to include a line which seems desirable to the author but which has nothing to do with anything else in the book. Though no one knows quite who Katka is, quite what or where Gabriel is studying, and not even the twins seem able to tell each other apart, they all have a common focus in Robin, who is equally unaware of each of them.

28      cf. John, x, 6: hie nyston hwæt he spræc to him

29      cf. R Wagner, Parsifal, Stage direction, Act I

30      cf. Russell, op cit, Early Greek Mathematics and Astronomy: The Roman Soldier who killed Archimedes was a symbol of the death of original thought that Rome caused throughout the Hellenic World.

31      v. Charmaine Solomon, The Complete Asian Cookbook, p 296 (picture p 299).  Pronounced as cow pat prick for maximum effect, this is a Thai dish of  fried rice and chillies, the name meaning fried rice and chillies.

32      This is more than enough to be going on with.  I am not au fait with the details nor the technical terms used in catastrophe theory and doubt if flip is very accurate but I find it unlikely that a pretentious seventies English student would feel a need to be any better informed.  The whole idea is totally irrelevant but, having thought of it, I had to write it down somewhere before I forgot it.

33      cf. Katika kila kazi mna faida , lakini maneno mengi huleta hasara tu.

34      Those that do not understand — ставитите рибу у своје уво!

35      cf. Mao Zedong, Talks at the Yenang Forum on Literature and Art:  If our writers and artists who come from the intelligentsia want their works to be well received by the masses they must change and remould their thinking and their feelings.  Without such a change, without such remoulding they can do nothing well and will be misfits.

36      Bodhidarma, the first Zen Patriarch of China, brought this teaching of Buddhism from India in 520AD.  Although (or perhaps because) he seems to have spent a lot of his time staring at walls, he attracted a lot of attention, some favourable, some hostile.  In those early days, the practice of belting trainees over the head with sticks or sandals not having been developed, he had little success in forcing understanding into the heads of worldly emperors, so retired to a monastery with some particularly good walls.

      A monk called Shinko, keen to learn how to stare at walls, visited him and asked for instruction but was ignored.  Undeterred, he kept pestering the master, standing up to his knees in snow and performing other such shows of impressive lunacy but with little in return.  Eventually, he cut off his left arm and presented it to Bodhidarma, who, having no desire to collect any more severed limbs, accepted him as his first disciple, changing his name to Eka (487 – 593) to avoid embarrassment.

      Years later, shortly before returning to India, Bodhidarma symbolically handed out various parts of himself to his four disciples, according to their answers to his questions.  Eka, who knew enough to keep his mouth shut, was awarded the marrow (perhaps he would have preferred his arm back) and became the second Patriarch of Zen in China.

      It is interesting to note what Ekai says of Bodhidarma in the Mu-mo-kan or Gateless Gate, written in the Thirteenth Century :  That broken-toothed old Hindu, Bodhidarma, came thousands of miles over the sea from India as if he had something wonderful.  He is like running waves without wind.  After he remained years in China he had only one disciple and that one lost an arm and was deformed.  Alas, ever since he has had brainless disciples.

            Why did Bodhidarma come to China?
             For years monks have discussed this.
             All the troubles that have followed since
             Come from that teacher and his disciple

      Needless to say this stated opinion is not to be taken at face value.

37      cf. Joseph Haydn, with reference to the Surprise in his 94th Symphony: There all  the women will scream!

38      cf. Rabelais, Book IV, ch 10:  Vertuz Dieu, da jurandi, pourquoy plus toust ne transportons nous nos humanities en belle cuisine de Dieu.

39    Any ignorami who don’t recognise this rather trite reference should ask themselves what they are doing reading quality literature.  I would suggest they go back to their thrillers, romantic novels and science fiction like good little servants of the state, as their minds are obviously better suited to pulp fiction and one simply isn’t writing for such creatures.

40    cf.  Trakl, Offenbarung und Untergang: Aus verwesender Bläue trat die bleiche Gestalt der Schwester.

41      cf. Rabelais, Book IV, ch 18:  O que troys et quatre foys heureulx sont aulx qui plantent chous!

42      v. Macaulay, Marriage of Tirzah and Ahirad

43      cf. Waugh and Bierce: Brihadarayaka Uphanishad Revisited, Loudon Weakened Television, 1984

44      If anyone is still raiding this book but needs the last line explaining, the author will give up in despair. Perhaps Wellington was right and the railways were the beginning of the end (by giving the common folk the ability to move around and thus to get ideas above their station — sorry).  Could we not insist on the presentation of a degree certificate or the taking of a short test by all prospective purchasers?  I mean, what do people expect?  Footnotes?  Anyway, if it’s hard to read, it was even harder to write.  I now have a far deeper understanding of that guy in The Loneliness of the Long distance Ru

Wanna be Wot??



We break a long silence to bring you some non-news of a literary nature…

Here is the text (with links) to a lecture recently given at the Gomersal People’s Cultural Centre by Androcles Spratwarbler, Emeritus Professor of English Literature and Spot-Welding at the University of Cleckheaton:

Good evening.

In today’s lecture, I want to consider two poems entitled I Wanna Be Yours (meaning One Wishes to be Thine, in more traditional poetic language), one by Doctor John Cooper Clarke, ‘punk’ poet and ‘Bard of Salford’, and the other a response thereto by Dai Lowe, a nonentity from the English Midlands,, currently living in Edinburgh.

The Clarke may be viewed online, here, giving an essential idea of the machin-gun delivery amd demotic acent and idiom, essential to the work’s impact.

Now, many would consider this work an extremely modern piece of vernacular verse, typical indeed of the ‘post-punk’ era of the early 1980s. And yet it, and the recent response, belong to a very old and noble tradition of ‘Persuasion’ or indeed, ‘Seduction’ Poetry. One only has to think back to the Seventeenth Century and John Donne’s To His Mistress Going to Bed and Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress essentially, “Get ’em off” and ‘How about a shag?’ respectively — for more pointed examples (if more politely worded in the language of the time).

But the Clarke, maybe, takes us further back than that, to the writing of Christopher Marlowe, better known as the ill-fated author of Edward II, Tamburlaine the Great and many more hit shows. His The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (‘Come live with me and be my love’) is a more romantic plea, for, ostensibly, a longer term commitment. And yet it is in itself somewhat undercut by the response poem of 1600, The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd, penned by Sir Walter Raliegh, himself better know today as an Elizabethan sailor, adventurer, and the inventor of the potato.

If the former is a plea for a romantic future (albeit one probably still hoping for a shag to start with), Raleigh’s response can be summarised as ‘get real, mush’. ‘We’re gonna get old, our bits will shrivel up, and we’ll probably argue a lot and get bored — and I don’t trust you poets anyway (ignoring the fact you’re also gay, Kit)’.

So it is in this light we must consider Lowe’s verses. He has, indeed, copied the verse form of the older poems, rather than the looser modern style of the Clarke, and also, in his second verse, refers to the Marlowe/Raleigh pairing (with a rather clumsy and far from clear extra reference to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Twentieth Century Mexican artists, probably there just to force a rhyme).

And yet, in a style which also lends itself to the rapid and aggressive delivery of a Clarke poem (he also makes reference to the slightly older poet’s notorious Evidently Chickentown in his repeated use of swearwords in the penultimate verse (in which the epithet ‘bloody’ can  apparently be replaced with the ‘f’ word throughout), Lowe does endeavour to respond to all of the examples, the inanimate conceits with which the original poet analogises his availibility to his belovéd. It is unclear whether the replacement of a Cortina with a Granada is lazily done for the sake of rhyme or in fact intended for what we might call, if we’re feeling generous, ‘humorous’ effect.

The poem, which we present below, was written in an attempt to win the right to open a show in London for Doctor Clarke, currently engaged in a nationwide tour to celebrate his life and works. It is probably safe to say that no one reading the following will be at all surprised that it didn’t win… There is still some taste and discernment in the world, thank fuck.

I’ll tell you straight, not gonna lie, son,
I don’t need no cordless Dyson
So here’s a damper on your ardour
A clamper for your Ford Granada

I’ll be the Raleigh to your Marlowe
Rivera to your Frida Kahlo —
You sure it’s mine you wanna be?
My own improper property?

For cars I couldn’t give a fuck
And vacuum cleaners really suck
To keep my hair from stormy motion
You’d need a fuckin’ lotion ocean —

My leccy’s incapacitated
My coffee’s all decaffeinated
My heating bill’s beyond your means
You can’t afford to roast my beans

Your coat lets in the bloody rain
Your bloody dreamboat sank again
And though your bloody bear ain’t dead, he
Looks a bloody threadbare teddy

There’s evidently nothing left
Besides, all property is theft
That’s just the harsh reality —
And that’s why mine you canna be

Quoth Somebody or Other


, ,

A new translation of a poem by favourite gaditano wordsmith Carlos Edmundo de Ory (1923–2010)


Nevermore the raven of the night
which as the soul descends will teach
another looking glass as brilliant as my own
which now I contemplate with a clean face
after the dirty reputation of the days
far from the mud and far from the enthusiasm
Passing the body through the gossamer
which mysteriously remained
intact and I remained with its rhythm
template of your geometric molecule
Unharmed on the far side of the shadow
I entertained myself by taking a look
into this difficult face which regarded me
immobile in the powerful infinitude
The serpent of immovable being his eye
and my thought rounding me off
letting drop the petals of my soul
in the dark silence of nothingness
I had blood in my mouth from stupor
when blindly the night took me
by the head as sculptural smoke
moving further away further away
until I go down at dawn if I go down


and here’s the original


Nunca jamás el cuervo de la noche
que so el alma desciende enseñará
otro espejo tan brillante de mí mismo
como el que ya contemplo con faz limpia
tras el sucio prestigio de los días
lejos del fango y lejos de la entusa
Pasando el cuerpo por la telaraña
que misteriosamente se quedó
intacta y yo quedéme a su compás
molde de su molécula geométrica
Ileso al otro lado de la sombra
me entretuve lanzando una ojeada
a este rostro difícil que me vio
quieto en el infinito poderoso
La serpiente del ser inmoble su ojo
y el pensamiento mío redondeándome
cayéndome los pétalos del alma
en el silencio oscuro de la nada
Tuve en sangre la boca de estupor
cuando a ciegas la noche me llevaba
la cabeza como humo escultórico
alejándome más alejándome más
hasta bajar al alba si es que bajo.

[from Melos melancolia, 1999, translated February 2022]

Also Sprach Ayn Rand


, , ,

As I walked down the Dalry Road one semi-locked-down evening, there passed a wee lass on a bike, cube-backed with Deliveroo pack almost matching her for size.

A neologism (new word) came into my mind and I thought it had the makings of a satiric pome. So next-day-sitting by the old canal and chatting to a friendly juvenile (a cormorant, that is), I made this first draft.

It needs a bit of work, but I doubt I’ll be arsed to get round to it, for a while at least. So this’ll have to do ye.


Also Sprach Ayn Rand

It suits the plutocratic, fatcat pigs:
An economic system built on gigs.
No pension plans, no pesky union fights,
No sick pay, holidays or workers’ rights.
You fine them if they can’t turn up when told,
And drop them if they get too sick or old.
Ideal for any fit young buck (or wench):
A life with the Deliverübermensch

But zero hours suit certain types of folk
The ones who aren’t too sick or old (just broke)
The freedom that it brings seems rather grand
To those who have no ratrace future planned
They own a bike or car, live near the shop
They’re fit enough to work until they drop
As Nietzsche said, you need to be quite hench
To work in der Deliverübermensch

They sort your parcels, bring them to your door
Or keep the shelves stocked in the sportswear store
They drive you home when you’re too pissed to walk
Or pedal round with your fried rice and pork
In heatwave, sleet or snow or pouring rain
They bring your supper and they’re off again
You must admit, there’s nothing that can quench
The spirit of Deliverübermensch

But is this model really selfsustaining?
Do we all lose more than the few are gaining?
Are we exploiting those who can’t be choosers
Upsetting only whingeing snowflake losers?
Will it collapse like other fiscal fictions
And leave us crushed beneath its contradictions
The air filled with the rancid sweaty stench
Of all those dead Deliverübermensch?

15th April 2021, Edinburgh

Back to Basics


, ,

I think I’m becoming more and more fundamentalist with age.

Things that have bubbled under and informed my world view for far too many decades to count are now shoving aside all other thoughts when considering the issues of the day.

For instance, all the fuss about the notorious interview featuring royalty and a couple of members of the Windsor family (see what I did there?). I don’t give a monkey’s pizzle who said what and what was going on and how it will affect the set-up. All I find myself thinking is, We shouldn’t have a fucking monarchy at all!

Terfs and trannies. I have an annoying inability to take sides on most matters; I can see the points that concern both sides (though I lean far more to the pro-trans side). But then I’m thinking mostly that beneath it all is the fact that these issues wouldn’t exist if we had a less hung-up  society, if we all got changed and went to the loo in the same places, irrespective of what dangly bits we do or don’t have or do or don’t wish we had, or who we prefer to have play with them. Or just go back to the days when all changing was done in cubicles, which I, with my pectus excavatum always preferred anyway (what about hollow chest rights, wokeys?).

And almost every question which comes down to money or the allocation of resources (why spend trillions sending a probe to Mars or funding some friends of the Tories to pretend to set up a life-saving system, when there are kids starving in Cumbeslobodia?) — all these have me screaming, well, this wouldn’t bloody apply, if we didn’t have the illogical systems of money, capital and what Godwin called the most pernicious of evils, exchange.

All this is of course totally useless. That bugs me. I am painfully aware that it is unproductive to say that the whole damn system should have been set up differently in the first place. Like the golfer who keeps replaying the drive in their head and thinking of the shot they would have played from the middle of the fairway, rather than concentrating on the chip from the long grass that they’ve set themself.

So the next question in each case, is how to chip back onto the fairway, without going all the way back to the tee.

I think I’ve lost the ball.

Meteoric Messenger


, ,

There are no elderly angels

What colour is silence?

Charlie d’Ory (1923-2010) said, bottle in one hand while the other made its wild, expressive gestures, that everything that drops from the mouth of man is precious stones!

At night there is less talk than by day

Hasten the vine of life

I (2003-2006) would offer my own discourse as sufficient refutation, but Nicaraguan poet, Carlos Martinez Rivas (1924-1998) was scathing enough that drunken night. Everything that falls from man’s mouth is nonsense! he yelled and brandished his own bottle in the direction of the gaditano. Only by threatening to rip the Nicaraguan’s head off if he didn’t lay down his weapon, did Félix Grande (1937-2014), Extremaduran poet and flamencologist, manage to partially defuse the situation.

Someone compared Japanese writing to rain

Foolishly, I spent the years after I bought the book, thinking that Aerolitos were telegrams, aerograms, in fact, which seemed an obvious description of the brief, aphoristic pieces to which  Ory gave that name. Only recently did I bother to check the translation and find that they are meteorites. But I celebrate the serendipitous conjunction of the two translations, right and wrong.

The ancient Egyptians domesticated hyenas

After the Spanish Carlos had read out a number of these on that drunken evening, wherever it was, in 1966, his Nacaraguan namesake did at least aver, roar even, that Believe me, you have to believe me: los Aerolitos are proof that everything that fell out of the mouth of Ory was precious stones! You have to believe me!

In the Pensées of Pascal there is one about flies: Oh most ridiculous hero!

For reasons lost in the mists of drink, I decided to jot a few of my own but somehow forgot that the originals were usually very brief one-liners. Now do I continue with my mini-couplets or start over with shortness?

The ugliness of the sleeping forest

Every minute an imbecile is born (Dan Millman)

Whatever the decision, the name of Buñuelitos will remain etched in stone and custard. El very wonderful Faro de Cádiz had on it’s tapas menu when I lived there buñuelos de roquefort, which Eric Cartman would probably call cheesy puffs. Well, it seems obvious to diminutise these to buñuelitos and revel in the nominal connection with surrealist film maker Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) and thus name my own pieces, which I may or may not share with you in the near future.

We crashed into the wall of infinity

No precious stones but maybe entertaining and illuminating chunks of something. After all coal can keep us warmer than any number of diamonds. Meanwhile I can translate with the help of my old friend Huawei, the original gems of de Ory.

We may know only a few men, but we do know a great number of jackets and trousers (H D Thoreau)

el acento de Cai



Como complemento a la publicación más larga de hoy, aquí está mi canción de chirigota que debería haber terminado en 2001.

Cuplet: el acento de Cai

Soy inglé’, pero vivo en la Viña.
¿Como la plata? ¡No has visto mi cucina!
Primera vez, la ciudad me encantado,
Pronto lo supe — mi corazón e’ gaditano.
En Inglaterra aprendí ‘pañol muy bueno
Pero aquí se volvió — co’ un mal sueño!
Mi ca’tellano ‘tuvo bien, pero ¡lo siento!
¿Qué diablos le pasa a tu acento?
¿Perdoneme? Es difícil captar sentidos,
E’ tan rapido, y tu come’ los sonidos
En las tiendas nunca se que ‘toy comprando
Y la gente se ríe con mi fallando.
Dondequiera voy, ‘cucho la alegría
¡Estoy seguro que saben que yo quería!
No soy un burro, y no soy una cabra
Yo soy inglé’, yo ¡no entiendo … una palabraaaa!

and I even created an English version with roughly similar meaning…

In English: The Cádiz Accent

I am English, but I live here in la Viña.
Clean as the silver?! My kitchen you ain’t seen, yeah?
When I first came here, the old city worked its magic,
And soon I knew — my heart belongs to Cádiz.
Back home in London, I had learned a bit of Spanish —
When I got here all that knowledge seemed to vanish!
I thought my grasp of Castellano was quite decent
But what the hell is going on here with your accent?!
“What’d you say?!” It’s hard to know just what the sense is;
You speak so quickly — and you swallow half the letters.
In shops and bars I never quite know what I’m buying,
But the locals seem amused to see me trying.
Everywhere I go I hear their jolly laughter,
Though I’m sure the buggers know just what I’m after!
I’m not a ‘donkey’, and I’m not a ‘silly bird’,
I’m simply English —and don’t understand … a bloody word!

[La Viña — the vineyards — is the working class barrio I called home, and the epicentre of Carnaval, continuing the festivities to and beyond dawn, well after Ash Wednesday.
The street cleaning vehicles of Cádiz bear the legend “Cádiz: como la plata“, or like the silverware or the plate]

Cuplet, retrasado [el acento gaditano]


, , ,

Soy inglé’, pero vivo en la Viña.
¿Como la plata? ¡No has visto mi cucina!

In case you don’t already know, I lived in the Andalucian paradise of Cádiz in 2000 and a bit of 2001. You can read some (rather fanciful) accounts of it here; the forerunners of my blogging, as I learned to set up websites and mess around with links. Some found them highly amusing. Had I not fallen and broken my shoulder on Finchley Road on the way back after Yuletide (as the final entry explains), there would have been a great deal more.

In the latter days of my tenure, there took place the Carnaval de Cádiz, a week or so of chaos, cavalcades and costumes, that a fellow Brit there described as ‘a million people sharing a joke you’re not in on’.

I was at least able to document that, through an alcoholic haze.

One of the major features of the Gaditano carnival is the plethora of singing groups which apeear on every stage and street corner throughout the festivities (and in a good few places for the rest of the year). The mainstay of these is the chirigota, a group of about a dozen guys (though female chirigotas and even mixed teams are getting more common). The costumes are hilarious, the songs are largely satirical and bawdy (though one or two singing the sincere praises of the city and the province are pretty much compulsory in every team’s set). There’s a huge competition in the Gran Teatro Falla in the preceding weeks, and teams from each barrio will have spent much of the year deciding on their latest name and outfit Tampax Goyescas, the winners that year, have become a classic.


Anyway, I decided to write a song in the style (and accent) of the incomprehensible cuplets of the chirigotas (and choros and cuartetos and ilegales), about how, as a guiri (foreign Johnny), I struggled with an accent which seemed mainly to consist of leaving out most of the phonemes (the locals call the place Cai, ffs).

I got as far as the first and last couplets.

I vowed I would fill some sort of waffle in between to make a song of sorts one day.

That day was this week, twenty years later. Twenty years after this charming bastard stood on his rooftop by the ocean, resplendent in panama hat, white suit, co-respondent shoes and (plastic) cane.

So here we are, firstly in that Gaditano dialect which makes these songs incomprehensible to most Spaniards, let alone us incomers (on the other hand, if you can scrape through in Cai, it’s plain sailing in the rest of Spain).

Cuplet: el acento de Cai

Soy inglé’, pero vivo en la Viña.
¿Como la plata? ¡No has visto mi cucina!
Primera vez, la ciudad me encantado,
Pronto lo supe — mi corazón e’ gaditano.
En Inglaterra aprendí ‘pañol muy bueno
Pero aquí se volvió — co’ un mal sueño!
Mi ca’tellano ‘tuvo bien, pero ¡lo siento!
¿Qué diablos le pasa a tu acento?
¿Perdoneme? Es difícil captar sentidos,
E’ tan rapido, y tu come’ los sonidos
En las tiendas nunca se que ‘toy comprando
Y la gente se ríe con mi fallando.
Dondequiera voy, ‘cucho la alegría
¡Estoy seguro que saben que yo quería!
No soy un burro, y no soy una cabra
Yo soy inglé’, yo ¡no entiendo … una palabraaaa!

and I even created an English version with roughly similar meaning…

In English: The Cádiz Accent

I am English, but I live here in la Viña.
Clean as the silver?! My kitchen you ain’t seen, yeah?
When I first came here, the old city worked its magic,
And soon I knew — my heart belongs to Cádiz.
Back home in London, I had learned a bit of Spanish —
When I got here all that knowledge seemed to vanish!
I thought my grasp of Castellano was quite decent
But what the hell is going on here with your accent?!
“What’d you say?!” It’s hard to know just what the sense is;
You speak so quickly — and you swallow half the letters.
In shops and bars I never quite know what I’m buying,
But the locals seem amused to see me trying.
Everywhere I go I hear their jolly laughter,
Though I’m sure the buggers know just what I’m after!
I’m not a ‘donkey’, and I’m not a ‘silly bird’,
I’m simply English —and don’t understand … a bloody word!

[La Viña — the vineyards — is the working class barrio I called home, and the epicentre of Carnaval, continuing the festivities to and beyond dawn, well after Ash Wednesday.
The street cleaning vehicles of Cádiz bear the legend “Cádiz: como la plata“, or like the silverware or the plate]

Better late than never, I guess.

A Visit from St Nicola — now in English!


, , , ,

OK, I’m reasonably happy with this …

A Visit from St Nicola (Scots version)

‘Twas the night afore Christmas, but a’ through the toon,
No’ a creature was stirrin’ — we’d a’ been locked doon.
We’d tucked up the weans wi’ a smile and a song;
Ah, but we knew that they knew that somethin’ was wrong.
Their sanitised stockings were hung up wi’ care,
Wi’ the mince pies and carrots sat pointlessly there;
We’d asked a few pals roond, we’d meant tae ask more,
But they had to cry aff when we moved to Tier Four.
So we set oot some snacks and we poured oot some gin,
And settled oorsel’s for a quiet evenin’ in —
When suddenly through the front windae we heard
The jingle of bells — and a rather rude word.
I peered roond the curtains — and I could have sworn
That I saw Father Christmas hisself on oor lawn.
His sleigh in oor gateway was steevily wedged,
And Rudolph the Reindeer was stuck in oor hedge.
“Do ye need ony help?” I called oot fae the door,
But that only made Santa swear even more.
“I can manage, ye bastard; I’m magic, ye ken!
“But accidents will happen, noo and again.
“Och, I may as well hand ye yer gifts, while ye’re here,”
And he staggered towards me, a’ reekin’ o’ beer.
“It’s been a lang night, as I’m sure’s no surprise —
“So I’m trustin’ ye’ve whisky an’ no just mince pies!”
“Of course we have! But is it too much to ask,
“That before ye come in, ye could put on a mask?”
He grumbled, but, waving one hand in the air,
A glittering face mask materialised there —
But before he could cover his face wi’ the sheet,
Wi’ a bang and a flash he fell deid at ma feet.
And what should I see, at the edge of my land,
But Scotland’s First Minister, shotgun in hand.
“I’ve telt ye afore, Santa, a’ doon the street,
“Ye’ve visited mair than wan hoosehold the neet.
“While you’re spreadin’ cheer to each Ma, Pa and wean,
“I’m preventin’ the spreadin’ o’ Covid-Nineteen!
“It’s no a’ that guid gettin’ gifties the day,
“If you’re stuck in a hospital come Hogmanay.”
As she shouldered her gun and walked back to her car,
She looked over her shoulder and said, “Sorry, Pa.
“Help yersels to they parcels, but else dinna stress.
“We’ll send someone o’er to clear up the mess.
“I’m sorry to muck up yer Christmas yet more,
“But try tae enjoy yersels — Frank, get the door!”

And of course there’s the video version on YouTube, where I commit further atrocities with a ‘Scots’ accent …

But for those less comfortable with my mangled version of Scots, and for whom the final reference to Janey Godley’s brilliant ‘Frank, get the door’ is meaningless, there is now a Sassenach version (though still set in Scotland and with a few Scotticisms, like ‘weans’ for ‘kids’ …

A Visit from St Nicola

‘Twas the night before Christmas, but all through the town,
Not a creature was stirring — we’d all been locked down.
We’d tucked up the kids with a smile and a song;
Ah, but we knew that they knew that something was wrong.
Their sanitised stockings were hung up with care,
With the mince pies and carrots sat pointlessly there;
We’d asked a few pals round, we’d meant to ask more,
But they had to cry off when we moved to Tier Four.
So we set out some snacks and we poured out some gin,
And settled ourselves for a quiet evening in —
When suddenly through the front window we heard
The jingle of bells — and a rather rude word.
I peered round the curtains — and I could have sworn
That I saw Father Christmas himself on our lawn.
His sleigh in our gateway was solidly wedged,
And Rudolph the Reindeer was stuck in our hedge.
“Do you need any help?” I called out from the door,
But that only made Santa swear even more.
“I can manage, ye bastard; I’m magic, ye ken!
“But accidents will happen, now and again.
“But I may as well hand you yer gifts, while you’re here,”
And he staggered towards me, all reeking of beer.
“It’s been a long night, as I’m sure’s no surprise —
“So I’m trusting you’ve whisky and not just mince pies!”
“Of course we have! But is it too much to ask,
“That before you come in, you could put on a mask?”
He grumbled, but, waving one hand in the air,
A glittering face mask materialised there —
But before he could cover his face with the sheet,
With a bang and a flash, he fell dead at my feet!
And what should I see, at the edge of my land,
But Scotland’s First Minister, shotgun in hand.
“Och, Santa, I warned you, it just isn’t right,
“You’ve visited more than one household tonight.
“While you’re spreading cheer to each Ma, Pa and wean,
“I’m preventing the spreading of Covid-Nineteen!
“It’s not all that good getting gifts on the day,
“If you’re stuck in a hospital come Hogmanay.”
As she shouldered her gun and walked back to her car,
She looked over her shoulder and said, “Sorry, Pa.
“Help yourselves to those parcels, but else don’t you stress.
“We’ll send someone over to clear up the mess.
“Try to have a good Christmas and Happy New Year!”
So we went to the garden with wonder and fear,
But those extra gifts dispelled most of our doubts —
And reindeer’s delicious with roasties and sprouts!