Bold and Underlined

First, I fell for the heavens and then the deep blue sea. I came to rest in a rain gully that ran the length of the street. My stomach was damp and cold, my hands were grazed and electric. Somewhere there was laughter like a bell.

Where are my friends? My dear, dear friends? Who amongst you will grant me safe passage?

I found my feet, took two long balletic strides and fell again.

I must be on hill of some kind. But where?

Hateful, harsh voices documented my folly.

I must hide. I’m too delicate for this savagery.

A sob was growing in my chest. I sang instead.

“Oh Mama! Can this really be the end? To be stuck inside the Ring Road with the tumbledown blues again!”

I beat a palsy retreat.

Let the darkness find me. Chart my course. Tack away from light and sound, until there is one…

My body danced with inertia.

Let it find some peaceful place for me.

For every five steps I took, my toes found the tarmac thrice. Slowly the sound, the light, the fury and the fight slipped away, another world was willing me into its arms.

When I woke there was pooled-blood pain in my knee and a stretched smile on my lips. I sat bolt upright and found myself on the deck of a canal boat. My wallet was in my right hand.

Have I bought the bugger? No, nonsense. No such arrangements could be made with a man of such frightful dispositions.

Still, as if to distance myself from this hypothetical buyers remorse, I disembarked and climbed the wet stone steps which lead to the street.

How had all of this gotten started? A train, a kindly God-fearing creep and a copy of C.S Lewis’ radio lectures on morality. That ‘orrible bastard had seen me coming. He’d probably been carrying that book around for weeks waiting for a derelict like me to slip, trip and fall arse-over-tit into his lap.

“Religion is the opiate of the masses, old man! Do I look like the masses to you? It takes stronger stuff than that to lay me down!”

No, before the train. The interview…

It hadn’t gone well. They hadn’t bought into my bulllshit. Nobody ever did. When I realised the jig was up, I babbled about Wittgenstein, Gaullist myth and the Ethereum blockchain for what felt like hours, words turning to porridge in my mouth, tumbling into my lap. I was still staring at the porridge in my lap when one of them said,

“O-kay, thanks for coming in, we’ll let you know in a day or two.”

I carried their pity with me like guilt until I hit the bar at Dirty Dick’s. I hit the bar at Dirty Dick’s like a water balloon hits a freight train. It went straight through me and I was carried a hundred miles east in its slip stream.

I flipped the sermonising C.S into the first receptacle I passed leaving Norwich station. I pictured it spinning all the way through to Narnia and hitting Aslan the Lion square between the eyes…

Enough! Sweet Christ, ya basta!

Down by the canal in the half light, dusk or dawn, dawn or dusk, a head full of C.S Fucking Lewis. I decided to walk down the hill, less resistance. The sun was rising and I heard the coarse rattle of shutters being lifted.

I asked a shopkeeper if he would sell me wine. No one was around so he let it slide. I took my bottle of red into the street and felt the day creep up on me. I owed the boys in Nottingham three thousand words on, The Tangle: The Hottest New Shit In Imaginary Money. What was the world coming to? Had we filled our lives with such rot and filth that we willingly embraced nothingness?


No matter, I had a plan. Home to bed for three and a half hours, shower, breakfast, papers, sit down at the computer and…bleed.

As it turns out, I slept for twelve hours, kicked my phone into the garden, watched the sun disappear over the wash and considered joining the Kurds in their quest for autonomy.

I wrote this last part down with the word quest in bold and underlined. It looked something like this;






The Ghost and the Sunflower

Johnny Mills was busy mangling his turn to read from the play.

“Prick….love for pricking, and BEAT love down!”

Sniggers all around.

“Keeds! Come on now Keeds! Be sensible!”, crowed poor Miss Barton.

The Sunflower carried on highlighting every instance of ‘Our Souls’ he could find. Ghost had been doodling a graphic little cartoon of his friend molesting a giant troll of a woman which he labelled ‘Your Girlfriend’.

“Is that to scale?”, enquired The Sunflower before adding the words ‘BIG FUN’ to the troll’s ruffled summer dress. Ghost rounded off his vision with some sores on the lovers’ faces labelled ‘herpes’ and a speech bubble reading, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you will find me a grave man!”

Last Post on the Bugle

An oppressive absence of activity hung about the half drawn curtains, illuminated only by the vertical plane of light dissecting the room. Either side sat at right angles to each other, were two young men dressed in dark bath robes. They sat in silence, almost entirely motionless, as if to cede control of the living room to the sheet of midday sun that separated them, their heads bowed slightly in deference. The television was on in the farthest corner of the room but its screen was so small and it’s images so mundane that its presence was barely felt and neither man was watching.

Apart from the tatty gowns, the two men were at odds physically. One was short, fair, and sat relaxed, legs crossed whilst the other perched as though on a high stool (despite having a sofa to himself), his dark head of hair and painfully long limbs resting awkwardly, as if all possibilities for comfort had been tried and found wanting. His discomfort seemed to be fundamental, basic; thirst, fatigue or possibly hunger. As if to remedy all three at once, he leant forward and drank the dregs from a warm can of beer and rolled a cigarette. The rolling papers had been left out and were flecked with light brown spots, the tobacco so dry it fizzed when lit. The dark haired man slumped back, rested his head on the wall and savoured the rush of blood that accompanied the first smoke of the day.

For the first time the blonde glanced up and said,

“I can feel my will to live ebbing away”, the words deliberately lengthened to exaggerate their effect.

Before the dark smoker had a chance to reply, the blonde let out a long, solemn fart. It was pitch perfect, starting high (somewhere around A major) before ending on a low and controlled E minor. Startled by his companion’s eloquence and comic timing, the smoker choked through a convulsion of laughter, spluttering,

“Is that the song you want played at your funeral?”

The blonde burst into a desperate giggle, nodding, hands on head.

“I want ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love in My Tummy’ at mine”, said the smoker, still laughing, “and I want the words, ‘Oh Well’ engraved on my headstone”.


All this had been coming… I climbed out a window on the ground floor of the staff digs with all I could carry lapping at my sides and I was gone. Another catering job was in the rear view along with my mouldy work boots and a half eaten pasta bake. Escape. I cared neither for the destination nor the journey, I just had to get around that first corner, out of the sight of the guard tower, the breakfast triple shift, passed the village sign, the sun cautiously rising….

Country roads, like almost everything, can be romantically revered and bluntly ignored, just like women, families, poets, jobs…money…

Since my earliest days, revelry and contempt have been present in each moment of my reflections. What chance did I stand? Each experience pregnant with indifferent deference and half-arsed sorrow. Holy Fucking Shit, Oh Christ No! Then followed by, or rather overlaid with, oh well….

Why the ups and downs? Why not the mechanical, flat-lined drudgery of the ant? Envy the ant! He prospers without art! Without question marks!

If only Lenin had studied ants rather than Marx….