Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Sunday, 22 May 2016

FUTURESHOCK

I don’t know whether it’s an over-sixties thing or whether these moments come to us all, whatever our age, but that fragment of a second, on waking in the night, when the veil of denial slips and the spectre of one’s ultimate end assumes a dreadful tangibility, is a sobering moment indeed.


























MARCHING, MARCHING
 

It wakes you in the night sometimes,
that feeling:
time escaping, spilling out,
and you can’t seem to stop it.

You lie there breathing in
night air, sipping a cocktail mix
of doubt, regret, remorse,
a bitter acid-twist of fear

and seem to hear wind change track,
the future, not prepared to wait,
come marching, marching
to your gate.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

BIRD IN THE HAND

This is a poem about one of those unlikely heroes who crop up now and again to remind us that it's not always the glamorous, the strong or the most fleet-of-foot that are worthy of our applause.
Let's give a big hand to the humble sparrow.















GARDEN DIARY

A sparrow’s building in the box
we fixed up on the wall this spring:
hardly the tenant we desired;
a dull, unprepossessing thing,
unlike the Technicolor tit
but then, we had no choice in it.

He builds his nest there, bit by bit.
labours to find, fetch, gather, knit,
while we look on and gradually
applaud his efforts, even cheer
this hero who was no one’s choice,
uplifted by his presence here.

Monday, 16 May 2016

BRIEF LIVES

Today I’m repeating my short, short story, Briefcase Encounter, which took third place in the annual Pennine Ink Competition a couple of years ago.
I chose the title as a play on Brief Encounter, David Lean’s iconic film based on a short play by Noel Coward, much of which was set in a railway station.
My character, Harvey, who delivers the fateful briefcase to the terrorist, Pandora, borrows his name from Alec Harvey, one of the two main protagonists in the film. 

The story is obviously fictional. However the recent nightmarish escalation in global terrorism suggests that fiction may yet become fact.




BRIEFCASE ENCOUNTER


Eurostar disgorged its passengers like a pod expelling seeds. Harvey, clutching his briefcase, allowed himself to be carried forward slowly, legs still stiff from the journey. Security checks were in progress but he moved forward confidently, certain his bland exterior would ensure cursory attention.        
      Waved through, Harvey waited by the railing close to Betjeman’s statue, briefcase resting at his feet. He saw the woman approach; her stride confident. She gave him a quick, cold smile and set down her briefcase, departing with his.
      Harvey picked up her case, identical to his own, and hurried to board the returning Eurostar to Paris. He wanted to be far away from London when Pandora released the deadly spores in Oxford Street.
      Safely aboard the speeding train, Harvey cradled the briefcase, itching to handle the stacks of hundred-euro notes he knew lay inside. He thought of Pandora preparing to text him with the combination to open the case: his portal to a new life. Of the devastation awaiting London’s population, he thought very little. Who said life was fair?
      Mid-way through the Tunnel, Harvey was on his third cognac when the text came through. He fumbled with the briefcase lock; suddenly remembering Pandora’s icy smile, and felt terror engulf him as he opened the lid.


First published here 16/12/14

Friday, 13 May 2016

BULLY BOY

Every big city has its characters and the city of my birth, Belfast, has no shortage of them, including a great many you’d not wish to meet with on a dark night.
The Bull is not based on an individual: instead, he’s a composite of all those sinister “hard-men” who inhabit the street-corners of the Newtownards or Shankill Roads. Around them an aura of danger buzzes like an angry wasp.



THE BULL

He owns the corner
like a bull its field: 
scuffed boots paw the ground.

A one-man mine-field, scarred fists clench and crunch
in empty pockets of his greasy jeans.
His face, a pock-marked battle-shield,
invites you to go fuck yourself and then fuck off. 
A bottle juts out of his shabby coat,
the bottle-neck the barrel of a smoking gun.
He’s rank with feral sweat: it steams up from his shoulders
like a swarm of flies.

He bellows oaths and challenges
at passing shipyard men and bookie’s lads
or stamps and roars
at shawlies creeping off to morning pews.
It’s no disgrace at all to keep your distance from The Bull.
Even the Peelers choose to walk the other side.

Around his heels, a whippet
weaves a Celtic knot, her eyes placating. 
The pup’s delicacy
makes a beast of him, slouched on his corner.

Surly breezes swirl detritus round his leaden feet
and lift and shake his mad hair 
like an Ulster flag.


Monday, 9 May 2016

TAKING THE PLUNGE

I discovered this old poem, High Board, when I was sifting through some half-forgotten scribblings a few days ago.
Finding it was like rediscovering a faded photograph or hearing a piece of nostalgic music: it instantly transported me back in time to the circumstances that prevailed in my life when I wrote it. 
Often, when faced with fearsome challenges, the only option is to make a decision based on instinct and, for better or worse, act on it.


HIGH BOARD

Beneath his feet the board seems live,
responsive to his weight, his step,
and looking down, so far beneath,
the water, like a massive eye,
ice-cold, unblinking, ocean blue,
stares back at him, so small, so high:
a diver, fragile as a bird,
fast-breathing, poised, to fall or fly
in to an eagerness of air
that courses through his wayward hair.
He pivots on the high board then
and launches out in salty wind,
through years of childhood flown away
like voices calling from below,
into some strangeness that begins
with laughter but may end in tears.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

BEING CANINE

I read this piece of Flash Fiction on BBC Radio Guernsey recently and my host, the lovely Jenny Kendall-Tobias seemed to find it amusing.
It’s interesting to note that women seem to find this story far more entertaining than do men.
I wonder why? 





KARMA
 
When he was born, Maurice’s worst fears were realised. Reincarnation wasn’t a myth after all. Maurice had been reincarnated. As a dog.
It wasn’t bad at first. Being a puppy was a heady tumble of warmth, fun and sweet milk. But all that was rudely whipped away.  A woman bought him and started imposing RULES.
Maurice had to pee on newspaper. He liked that. It was the Guardian not the Telegraph, which had been Maurice’s newspaper of choice in his former life. When he forgot and peed on rugs and carpets, the woman shrieked like a banshee and chased Maurice, now renamed Bo-Bo, round the kitchen.
Servility was not to Bo-Bo’s liking. When he’d been Maurice, people had cowered at his feet. An alpha-male, he’d been a swaggering bully, intoxicated by power. He’d made enemies: men he’d destroyed; women he’d crushed. From youth until horny old age, Maurice had taken what he wanted and damn the consequences. He’d always had his way with women, whether they'd liked it or not.
He remembered young Jill Fowler, only sixteen yet annoyingly resistant. He’d had to force her but he was sure she’d liked it in the end. Better had, thought Maurice, she was, after all, the very last one. The next morning he’d strolled onto the golf course and Bang!  Massive bloody coronary. End of story.
Except it wasn’t. Here he was again: reborn as Bo-Bo and something odd was happening.
His owner was handing him to a stranger in a white coat.
Don’t worry, Miss Fowler, the strange man said. Castration’s quite straightforward.
Bo-Bo will be right as rain in a couple of hours.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

BEING HUMAN

We humans like to think that we matter, that the space we occupy would be empty without us and that somehow our lives have special significance but, ultimately, we’re all transients: mere straws in the wind.
Time eats us up, one and all, the just and the unjust.
Like pebbles cast into water, we barely make a splash and within moments the ripples have ceased. 

Likewise, as we blunder through the world, Time swiftly erases our footprints. 
This is as it should be. Nature is served. The earth will outlive mankind. 




















PASSAGE

In afternoon silence
a grasshopper sings
then stops 
when my boots stamp a warning
but galleon clouds,
drift unconcerned, unchallenged;
trees, at the meadow’s edge,
shed not one leaf
and daisies resurrect themselves
behind my crass, departing heels.