Monday, 19 February 2018

Round 8.


The guy at the bar is a little younger than I am, just a little, but he’s hurting too.

“What happened to all that eh? It’s like none of it meant anything.”

He was talking about circus.

We looked into our glasses - red wine in mine, beer in his - and sighed.

Two days earlier, on the motorway, I had listened to The Beatles; “do you remember them?”

“All you need is love?”

It was simpler back then, so there is little I could offer in the way of sympathy.

“Don’t you think that about everything? It’s like the whole of the sixties meant nothing.”

“Maybe the whole of our lives.”

It was time to sigh again.

“What happened to the idealism?”

“The dreams?”

“The humanity?”

We sigh together one last time.

“Why did we touch the Moon?”

He doesn’t answer, this time; he is hurting too.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Round 7.


This Forest is always here; the road runs through the centre, it’s just that I forget and it surprises me every time.

The forest is big, bigger than I ever remember and there are hundreds of tracks leading off of the main strand; you are standing there today.

In your garden, surrounded by bamboo and cacti: in a cave on a beach in southern Spain, in a flat on Ehren Strasse where we first met.

Why didn’t you stay with her?

She is special.

I saw a photo of her on the wall of the home she shares with the doctor, she is young like when you and her first met.

She is beautiful.

You know - she still snorts when she laughs, I had forgotten that. If you had reminded me I would have recalled but it came as a surprise, like it did the first time.

She has a nice laugh.

I think you were maybe too intense for her, that or… maybe you just weren’t committed.

I know that it was not easy for her; she was ready to… no maybe that’s unfair……you were ready too, but she didn’t want to give up everything without being sure.

And you were sure that you couldn’t stay in that flat on Ehren Strasse, in that city.

Too far North.

You are from the South.

This city was too cold for you, temperature and passion- though it’s better today.

Or maybe I’ve changed.

More accepting?

I hope it’s not colder.

I don’t think it is – I went to the cinema last night, not far from Ehren Strasse. The cinema was small, the ticket office is in one building and you have to come out onto the street before going back into another building to find the screen.

There is only one person handling ticket sales, chocolate and beverages; he has a tiny old computer where every choice is digitalised yet he still has to hand-correct the print out in pen and ink.

I took one seat for Zappa’s ‘Eat That Question’, a bar of chocolate and a glass of red wine.

There was much to admire in the film and much to laugh with. The audience laughed along with me.

It didn’t feel cold.

Understanding, that would be the word to use.

Maybe this city is under-standing, maybe it always was – or maybe it has come to accept itself.

Maybe I have too.

She never needed to.

You tried; you tried everything I think – including deep meditation.

I hope you found that acceptance at the end.

Do you remember the last time we saw each other? It was Christmas Time and you saved my life when I set light to my pyjamas.

I was still inside them.

Thank you.

Thank you for the cave on the beach in Southern Spain, thank you for the bread that was on your table when I walked into you house, thank you for the photos you took, your garden that you gave.

Thank you for being in the Forest this morning.

I have to take another track now.

But the Forest is always here, I will see you again.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Round 6.



This road is in Belgium, it’s big – four and a half lanes – full of trucks and us.

We’ve been driving for two days, and three countries.

So far.

The sun is shining; we have chocolate and good music.

Right now we are listing to track four on The Alabama Shakes first album – the rhythm is strong and insistent.

Like our speed.

We are eager to arrive, though your birthday starts tomorrow.

Sort of.

We might be tempted to start as soon as we arrive.

The GPS tells us that we have two hours and fourteen minutes to wait, we will try to cut a few moments off of that, but the chocolate will be all gone!



Monday, 29 January 2018

Round 5.


Jason P. Wiggley, married, lost control of his motorbike as he entered the roundabout on the outskirts of Welwyn Garden City last Tuesday at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and drove straight into a ditch.

The ditch was muddy and wet, as it had been raining since Sunday.

Just before he lost control, Mr Wiggley had looked over his shoulder at the Garden Centre, which is accessible as a right turn at the roundabout.

The Garden Centre was heavily promoting their range of Christmas trees – some with roots and some without – and with this in mind had placed a very large overinflated plastic Father Christmas inside the greenhouse, also plastic, that stood between the entrance to the centre and the roundabout.

The greenhouse was slightly steamed up because the heating system was malfunctioning, and Jason was unsure about what he had just seen.

Elouise Carthwright, single, saw Mr Wiggley leave the road and fall into the ditch. She noticed the muddy splash.

Elouise, who works in the garden centre, was talking on her mobile phone to her sister Jane while a customer tried to choose between The Norwegian Spruce and The Scandinavian Pine.

The week before, benefiting from a ‘family and friends’ reduction, Jane Cartwright had chosen a Norwegian Spruce that she had just finished decorating when her sister phoned.

Jane’s son, William, was looking at the tinsel Dalek that Jane had placed at the top of the tree in place of the more traditional fairy.

The customer at the garden centre who was having trouble deciding about which tree would look best in the corner of her kitchen, had a fairy in a box waiting to be placed on the top of whichever tree got the nod.

The fairy was the same fairy that her parents had put on the top of their Christmas tree every year between 1955, when the customer was born…

The customer’s name was Mandy…..

..... and 1988 when Mandy’s parents died and stopped caring.

Every time she placed the fairy in position Mandy cried.

Every time Mandy cried she drank a little Whisky.

When Mandy left the garden centre with her Scandinavian Pine she went to the supermarket across the road to buy another bottle.

When she walked into the supermarket, the mechanic from the nearest Garage – a Shell station – was hoisting the motorbike out of the muddy ditch.

His name was Alex and he knew Jason from their shared school days.

Jason didn’t remember Alex, and at that moment couldn’t even remember his own name as he was suffering from mild concussion.

Alex’s brother, Arnold, was looking into Jason’s eyes, trying to assess the extent of this concussion; he works as a paramedic at the local hospital where his mother, Alexandra, works as a receptionist alongside her husband, Arnnie, a caretaker.

Alex’s parents are not very imaginative.

Elouise Cartwright, the woman who works at the garden centre, hadn’t been the one who had phoned the paramedics as she was too busy talking to her sister Jane and it hadn’t been Alex the mechanic from the shell garage.

The person who had made the call was Bill Witherman who had been driving in the opposite direction when Mr Wiggley spun out of control. He was on his way home from a day at the office and stopped and waited whilst the paramedics arrived; he was a good citizen.

After phoning the emergency services and making sure that Jason was warm and unlikely to swallow his tongue, something he had learnt at a first aid course his office had sent him on, he phoned his friend Albert.

Albert was sitting in a pub on the high street waiting for Bill to arrive and their weekly game of cribbage to begin. Once Bill had explained that he would be late Albert sipped his lager and lime, a pint, and looked again at the dark haired woman sitting in the opposite corner of the lounge of the Four Woodmen Pub.

The dark haired lady, who had blue eyes that made anyone who looked into them think of the pacific ocean on mid-winters day, was drinking rum and black currant. She knew that the man drinking lager and lime was looking at her but she didn’t know his name.

She did however know what a pint of lager and lime looked like.

She could have made eye contact in which case Albert would have thought of the pacific ocean for the first time in five years – the length of time that elapsed since he had last been in San Francisco – and once he had recovered from the shock of the waves that would crash over him he would have gone over and introduced himself and the dark haired lady would have learnt that his name was Albert.

Although that would have made her giggle because she would have been reminded of the poem of Albert and the Lion, she would have told him that her name was Patricia and because she would have been giggling when she would have said it Albert would have thought she had said that her name was Prettycia and he would have fallen in love with her giggle and of course with her.

She would never have corrected him about her name, but in fact never needed to as she never made eye contact and none of this sever happened – something the string of ‘would have’s’ should have alerted you to – and she simply remained, for Albert, the dark haired lady in the corner drinking rum and blackcurrant that he never spoke to.

Patricia took this opportunity to text her boy friend that was sitting in a muddy ditch at the side of a roundabout suffering from concussion.

It was the third time she had phoned and she was beginning to worry.

Neither Jason nor Bill heard the phone because Jason had set the device to vibrate before setting off on his motorbike and anyway in his concussion Jason had forgotten that he had a mobile phone, which in fact was sinking deeper into the mud when the third text arrived.

Many, many years later – also just before Christmas – an archaeologist will dig up the mobile phone and discover that, incredibly, a bizarre chemical process involving mud and trace elements used in the mobile phone’s construction had preserved this final text message for eternity.

The archaeologist, Daniel – named because of another story involving a Lion - is the future unborn great, great, great, grandson of William, the young boy who was looking at a Dalek on top of a Christmas tree in the living room of a suburban house in Basildon Essex the day the mobile phone fell from the pocket of Jason P Wiggley as he fell into a ditch, distracted by a grotesque Father Christmas in a garden centre on a Letchworth Roundabout.

But this archaeological discovery is another story.

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