Friday, 27 August 2010

Overheard Conversation ~22

Location: A book-lined room.
Characters: Three female poets

Poet 1: We need someone rich enough to look after us.
Poet 2: Why?
Poet 1: So we can spend all our time writing.
Poet 3: What about Felix Dennis?
Poet 2: Who?
Poet 1: He's a billionaire.
Poet 3: He likes poems that rhyme.
Poet 2: I can do poems that rhyme.
Poet 3: Someone'll have to do Felix.
Poet 1: Don't look at me. I only bend over three times a day.
Poet 3: What?
Poet 1: Once to put my knickers on, once to put my socks on.
Poet 3: What about the third time?
Poet 1: I save that for emergencies.
Poet 2: Would Felix count as an emergency?
Poet 1: Linda-Next-Door hears me counting down - one, two, three - bend, and then a groan when I straighten up again.
Poet 3: I'm not sure if Felix would go for that - although the groan might work ...
Poet 1: Shall I read my poem? Damn! Hang on - one, two, three -

Roll credits

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Is there anything you'd like to add ...?

This evening, during a long and rather giddy conversation with my favourite aunt (also known as the Demon Aunt; she of Malteser Biscuit fame), I was reminded of the many silly things I've said in job interviews.

My FA must attend a job interview - for her own job - and has to give a presentation. She asked if she could give a presentation on how to make Malteser Biscuits but the Head of H.R. said they'd rather have a Powerpoint presentation on care budgets and the implications of the Government Spending Review.

(I know which I'd rather watch, but hey-ho.)

After a couple of years back in education, I applied for a job and was summoned for interview. Unfortunately, the day before I'd torn my calf muscle quite badly and was on crutches.

(I'd crossed a road as a car was heading towards me and, whilst I did not actually break into a jog, I did attempt a sort of urgent shuffle in order to signal to the driver that I did not intend to slow his passage in an inconvenient manner. Who knew that shuffling tore calf muscles?).

As I limped and, er, crutched - ? - into the interview room, the panel scoured my application form in a panicked manner, clearly looking to see if I'd checked the Do you consider yourself to have a disability? box.

"Oh, don't worry," I said, as I collapsed into a chair. "The crutches are a temporary state of affairs. I've torn my calf muscle."

"How did you do that?" asked the person in the most expensive suit.

"Well," I said. "I'm telling everyone it was page 69 of the Kama Sutra because the real reason's far too embarrassing."


Why did I say THAT?

Still, it is nowhere near as bad as a Great Friend who emigrated to New Zealand.

When one emigrates to New Zealand, one has to submit to all sorts of tests and checks to prove that one is road worthy. On the morning of Great Friend's first job interview - to be a Dental Nurse at a Holistic Dentist Practice (don't ask) - the results of all her various immigration tests and checks arrived in the post. She scanned them quickly before she left the house.

The interview went well. Great Friend was feeling quietly confident. At the end, came the standard question: "Is there anything you'd like to ask us?"

Great Friend: "No thank you. I think you've covered everything."

Dentist: "And finally, is there anything you'd like to tell us?"

Great Friend: "Yes, I don't have syphilis!"

Crack **********

Read. Turn. Finish. Sigh. Think.

Chop, fry, splash, simmer, serve.


Watch. Laugh. Nudge. Rewind. Snort. Snigger. Gasp. Consider.

Run. Scrub. Sweat. Stand. Dry. Slump. Retire.Type.

No, this is not a piece of painfully modern verse, but my attempt to bring down the capitalist system with a description of my most recent goings on. (I have goings ons rather than activities as activities are far too, well, active.)

According to  Crack Capitalism (John Holloway: Pluto £17.99),  nouns (car, wall, food) hide the activity that created them. Therefore all 'anti-capitalist literature should abandon nouns and just use verbs'.


My little protest (above) made the Dow Jones Index plunge by 0.000000000003 of a cent.

I wonder if abstract nouns count as anti-capitalist? They cannot be seen, touched, smelled or tasted, have no monetary value - and very little literary value, come to think of it ...

Still, it's a bit rum to charge £17.99 for a book on how to be an anti-capitalist, don't you think?

I studied Sociology at night school when I was sixteen (so I could avoid further Latin) and until then had thought capitalism was WRITING LIKE THIS. Within a week, I was fired up by a whacking big set text - the infamous Haralambos - and subscribed to New Society (as it was then) which resulted in my father thinking we were on one of MI5's lists.

There was a row every Wednesday as my left-wing periodical landed on the doormat. (Making strange noises on the upstairs' phone whilst Pa was talking on the downstairs' phone probably didn't help the situation.) I told him that his morning delivery of The Daily Telegraph would cancel out any suspicions raised by my 'pink rag' but he wasn't reassured.

Capitalism clearly isn't working. The earth will run out of resources if we carry on consuming so greedily. Let's bring down the ********** to its ***** by only using ***** when we write. (Ooh, I believe that last sentence brought about a wobble in the Hostess/Twinkie empire.)

The posters for our protest marches - there'll be several, don't worry - are going to be tricky.


BAN THE ****!

LEGALISE ************!

If you can offer a noun-less solution, I'll be forever in your debt.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Going to the Dogs

In April, I was given a very generous gift voucher which I accepted very ungenerously - in that I utterly dislike the place at which the gift voucher must be spent.

It's a Temple of Commerce and takes its resemblance to a temple seriously, being full of statuary: vaguely Grecian gods and - more oddly - dogs with large, intricately carved penises and shoddily hewn eyes. Why would a sculptor spend ages carving a dog's penis and neglect to give the creature a soulful or loyal expression? (That's a rhetorical question, but if an answer suddenly presents itself feel free to comment.)

Anyway, the place glitters with gold (paint), brass and copper and contains more brown-veined marble than is possible - surely? - or wise. The hotels of Dubai are visions of understated good taste in comparison.

But the gift voucher has an expiry date, and thus the Temple needed a devotee and heavy of heart, I drove to it and wandered and wondered (mainly at the dogs with large penises) and tried to spend the ethereal pounds represented by the piece of plastic masquerading as a credit card.

Erk! My prose is purple! I blame the architect and his addiction to liverish stone and every other sort of unnecessary ornamentation.

Normally, I have no problem at all with spending. Give me a bookshop, or a purveyor of jam-making equipment, or a stationer, or a pen-shop, or somewhere that sells remaindered items and I will divest myself of money quicker than Princess Anne/Zsa Zsa Gabor/Cheryl Cole (delete according to distaste) divests herself of husbands -

O! But the horror, horror, horror! of today's experience. In the Beauty Department (badly named - yet more brown marble) a girl with eyelashes like a Kewpie Doll encouraged me to spend £125 on something that resembled a vibrating wallpaper stripper for a dolls' house.

Kewpie: It will remove all the debris from your skin.
Me: Debris?
Kewpie: It's rumoured that Megan Fox has been seen buying one.
Me: Who?
Kewpie: It injects oxygen into your epidermis.
Me: Didn't a James Bond villain kill someone like that?
Kewpie: You'll look much younger.

After hours of not finding anything I desired - because the dog statues weren't for sale, or so they said - I came close to blowing the whole voucher on a coffee machine ...

But I have a coffee machine - well, a little mocha pot, which bubbles espresso ever-so efficiently and can be stored on a window-sill rather than taking up most of a kitchen counter.

Also, the enormous, glossy coffee machine - a beast rather than a utensil - worked only if fed small plastic pots of coffee costing an arm-and-a-leg a box.

Also, my household have just discovered that their combined digestive systems will all grind to a halt if they do not each imbibe a drink of lactobiffidiffidopholopholus (whom I thought owned a laundrette in Albert Square) every morning, and I am already drowning in small plastic pots.

Also, I am having nightmares about small plastic pots never degrading (that's when I'm not having really dreadful dreams about midgets). Should I put my foot down in regard to delicate and demanding digestive systems? Or should I wait for the wind to blow in another direction and the sprouting their own alfalfa craze to kick in?

And if I return to the ToC and make enough of fuss, will the Temple let me spend the voucher on one of their dogs ...?

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Temple of a Thousand Bells

Na Mara

My mother said Never marry a man with brine in his veins.
But he netted my heart, my sailor boy, eyes grey
as the Irish Sea, the lilt of the tide in his step.

St. Luke’s bells rang loud enough to sink a ship.
He cast back my veil; the tang of salt caught on our lips.

His first shore leave – I waited an hour at the quay,
handkerchief fluttering like a gull’s wing.
Later, we rocked the oak bed as if we were caught in a storm.
St. Luke’s chimed midnight; he lit a Turkish cigarette,
smoke and story swam around my head.

The Indian Ocean, night air thick as wool, the groaning
creak of a dhow’s hull. A sea dog knitted a yarn –
a temple hidden by waves, a thousand bells,
the high, clear singing of copper, bronze, glass -

I covered my ears.

Morning, he’d gone -
coins in a brass cairn on the dresser,
a ship’s name scrawled on the red bill from the Gas.

Each month a postcard - shipping lines.
He’s chasing Jack Tars tattooed blue with campanile;
maps stolen from a matelot drunk in Marseilles.
Schooner, clipper, bucket tug;
scow, shallop, a chandeliered liner;
now a bamboo raft scouring the seas of China.

Seven years I’ve stood at this window, a Siren
weaving songs of sons and coral-lipped daughters.
I’ll reel him in and – home - I’ll butter his feet like a cat.

St Luke’s bells toll each quarter hour ‘til dawn.
Tonight, I’m drowning in this oak bed,
my belly empty, his pillow wet
with the faint grey scent of sea.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Pork Chop?

When I was a nipper, all the neighbours were given the honorific of Uncle or Aunt (if they were nice) and Mr or Mrs (if they weren't). One would never have dared to call them by their first name. Similarly, my parents' friends became adopted uncles and aunts (if they were nice) or Mr and Mrs (if they were rabid, right-wing bigots not).

One lovely adopted uncle was Uncle Donald H., a giant of a man, in stature and in reputation. I adored him. He would see my father home on a Friday night, late, squiffy, but bearing fish & chips and crisp £1 notes for the children. He was famous for practical jokes: spitting out his false teeth and perching them on top of an ice-cream sundae then calling the waitress back to complain; taking a gun from a soldier during the military coup in Portugal and placing a flower in the barrel (Make love not war, Son); jumping on the bed and ordering his wife, the long-suffering Dorrie, to scream (she, aged seventy-two, was smoking a cigarette and doing the crossword) in order to outdo the honeymoon couple on the other side of the paper-thin hotel wall.

I heard a new tale over the weekend.

Uncle Don had been drinking with his friend Gerry. At closing time, a scallywag nipped into the pub selling meat that had fallen off the back of a lorry. Uncle Don paid a tenner for a leg of pork.

Outside the back door of his home, he turned to Gerry. "This is how you handle women, Son. Watch and learn."

He opened the door and shouted for Dorrie. As she appeared from the living room, he slammed the leg of pork onto the kitchen counter. "Cook this for my supper, Dorrie, and make it quick. I'm hungry!"

Dorrie picked up the joint of meat, whacked her husband over the head knocking him to the ground, dropped the joint and returned to the living room without a word.

Uncle Don clambered to his feet. "I haven't finished yet, Son," he said and ransacked the cupboards until he found a bottle of ketchup. He squirted it over his scalp, rubbing it down his cheek and onto his shirt front. He splashed himself with water to make the 'blood' more liquid and staggered into the living room clasping the leg of pork.

"Oh, Dorrie, you've done for me!" he said. "I'm mortally wounded! Phone for the doctor - but cook me my supper first!"

Dorrie got up from her armchair, took the leg of pork from her husband, and whacked him on the other side of his head, then turned back to Coronation Street.

From the floor, Uncle Don looked up at Gerry and winked. "This plan needs refining, Son. Put kettle on."

My question is, did you have any legendary relatives/adopted relatives in your family?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Voyage Around My Father's Head #5

Close your eyes and picture this.

No! Don't close them until you've read what you're meant to be picturing.

A party is being thrown in a house dangerously close to a canal. About 250 people are present, most of whom are unrelated/unknown to immediate family but who seem to have very tenuous connections to the owner of the house. (In other words, a large number of complete strangers have been invited to celebrate his birthday with him. One suspects he merely passed them in the street earlier in the day.) The next-door-neighbour, Larry, is not what we might call fond of parties, or of the birthday boy, or of the immediate family, or of - well, anyone actually - and has summoned the Police. The time is 8.30pm. (The party began at 7.30pm).

Pa - 70, flying - his words - and gregarious.
Daughter - harrassed, sober, convinced she was adopted.
Larry - curmudgeonly and a Yorkshireman. (The two go hand-in-glove.)
Police Officer - officious and confused. (Not a good combination.)

PC: I've explained to your neighbour, Larry, here that there isn't anything I can do.
Larry: He's creating a nuisance.
Pa: You're a nuisance!
Daughter (HISSES): Shut up, Dad.
Larry: Someone's been singing Frank Sinatra songs for thirty minutes.
Pa: He's doing Dean Martin next. I'm paying him £300 to wear a monkey suit and sing songs I like.
PC: Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin will only be considered a nuisance after half-eleven tonight. The party will be over by then, won't it?
Pa: Half-eleven tomorrow morning!
Daughter (HISSES): Shut up, Dad.
Larry: People are drinking too much. They might drive.
PC: I cannot arrest anyone on the basis of what they might do, Sir.
Pa: I've got three judges in there -
PC: They are often the worst offenders -
Pa: And two QCs -
Daughter: Shut up, Dad -
Pa: And two boxes of fireworks
PC: Fireworks?
Pa: Massive boxes.
PC: Who will be in charge?
Pa: Firework's brought 'em.
PC: Who?
Pa: Firework.
PC: I understand that, Sir, but who will be in charge?
Pa: Are you deaf?
Daughter: Dad -
Pa: Firework. That's his name.
Daughter (APOLOGETICALLY): His real name's Dave.
Larry: I like fireworks.
PC: Well, what's the problem then?
Larry: I don't like Frank Sinatra.
Pa (SUDDENLY): I remember you, Officer.
PC: Sir?
Pa: You're the one who arrested me last time -
Daughter: DAD!

(Offstage - Fly me to the moon, let me sing amongst the stars...)

Friday, 6 August 2010

Overheard Conversation #1034

Location: a barge on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. (Closer to Leeds than Liverpool). Sunday morning. 10.45am.

Characters: interchangeable - four men, all golfers, all older (but sadly not wiser).

Man: Who's driving the boat?
Man: It's moored up.
Man: It is? I feel like I'm moving.
Man: You're swaying.
Man: There's no gin in this glass. It's all ice.
Man: That's a triple measure!
Man: Only in Scotland.
Man: Do you know the best way to get a woman into bed?
Man: By not pouring your measures in a Scottish fashion?
Man: Read her palm.
Man: Eh?
Man: Where've you stashed the Gordon's?
Man: First you chat up her mate.
Man: By reading her palm, too?
Man: No, you grill the mate for information.
Man: Is there any tonic left?
Man: Then you grab the other girl's hand and tell her you can see sand on her lifeline.
Man: Sand?
Man: They've all had a romance in Dubai.
Man: Any lemon?
Man: You've been listening to The Duck.
Man: Who used all the ice?
Man: It worked on the girl in the purple dress.
Man: Who?
Man: Puerto Banus, 1995.
Men: Ohhh ...
Man: He saw bandages by her little finger.
Man: What?
Man: A nurse. Two brothers and a sister.
Man: Younger?
Man: And an Arab with soulful eyes.
Man: A man at the top of his game, The Duck.
Men: Mmmm ...
Man: I've found it. Who wants topping up?
Man: To The Duck!
Men: The Duck!

Roll credits