Neglected Poems No. 5 – The Water Boatman

Wednesday 18th February

This came out of Catherine’s Story.  I took a small portion and expanded it.  I couldn’t help myself.  As so often happens the thing wrote itself.  And hey, surprise surprise – this one doesn’t rhyme.  Actually I should try writing free verse more often, in many ways it works better.  The thing is I so very rarely write any poetry; you need to be in exactly the right mood….


The Water Boatman

I always get this terrible urge to please people

By telling them exactly what they want to hear

It’s the pleasure

That gleam of excitement in their eyes

As they realize

They’ve won

That is so addictive for me.


But I really should have listened to her

I should have looked beyond the words she was saying

To discover what she meant


The trouble is

I hear the words they say

But never decant the true spirit

The clear essence

Out of the sediment of emotions

Murking my mind.


I am too interested in being the artist

The dilatory creator with his box of coloured oils

Mixing and daubing

Blending the tints

Melding them

Caressing the paint

Onto the canvas

Of our bodies


I was never really in the picture at all

I was outside the frame

Admiring my handiwork

And like all bad artists

Who never know when to stop

I kept on tinkering

Teasing out a crease of a line here

Darkening a hue there

Redefining the sadness in her eyes

Until all that sparkling glimmer was lost in a flood

A welter of tears


I had been a patient listener

When listening was part of the key

To turn

The tumblers of her heart


But I hadn’t heard what she was really trying to tell me at all

I had been too busy amassing

An array of clues

With which to reconstruct the image of her

Triggers to fire the moulded clay

Salt to crack the wounded glaze



She would be gone.


Those golden moments between orgasm and sleep

When the only thing you hear is the quick pound

Of hearts-a-flutter

And  those waves of contentment come flooding in


Her flushed face

And hot hot breath on my breast

While my fingers stroke her damp sweaty hair

And the skin that was alabaster cool is now hot

Aroused and tender

So tender that the merest touch traces

A blotchy line of red

To these dilettante fingertips.


And then the morning

With her hot little body

Curled up against my back.

The dank taste of her slept-in body

The sharp and loamy smell of her

Crumbs of sleep still in her eyes

Un-brushed teeth

Un-guarded breath

The matted tendrils of hair

The rust of desire and the verdigris of hope.


And I never heard what she was trying to tell me

Only the words she used

I never took the time to discover the person swimming

Deep beneath the surface

I never discerned her frantic struggle

To escape the net

I had spread for her


Like a water boatman

Skimming the water for reactions

I was lurking

Waiting and listening

Recording the minute changes in surface tension

Unaware that she had swallowed too much water already

And was far beneath me now

As she was swept away

And out of my grasp forever

Religious Intolerance

Tuesday 17th February

Once again we are faced with the ugly face of Religious Intolerance.  Hardly noticed by the media who were busy covering an horrific shooting in Copenhagen, Isis apparently issued another video of twenty-one Christians being beheaded somewhere in Libya.   Is it that we have become immune to this particular horror, or is it simply that they were only Arabs anyway, not American or Australian or even British citizens caught up in the current wave of Religious Intolerance.

I was brought up a Christian, and though I am now (more or less) an Atheist I believe in Religious Tolerance.  It does frustrate me sometimes when talking to friends who hold strong religious beliefs that they are so obstinate in their illogical faith, but I am quite happy to let them reside in their ignorance.  One thing that does strike me is that almost all people with strongly held religious beliefs just happen to have been born into the Religion they worship.  Did they never question it?  Is it just co-incidence that the God they worship (always the only true one too) just happens to be the one their parents did too? Mind you, converts can be even worse – I still shudder at the creepiness I experienced when many years ago I attended a Carol service with my ten year old daughter, only to be implored by a devout Evangelical Christian to give my heart to Jesus.  I find it hard to give my heart to a woman, let alone to Jesus.  And he wouldn’t go away, he just kept pestering us, even gripping my hand at one time, so we were forced to get up and leave.  So, as long as other Religious believers do not try to convert me I am quite happy for them to continue to practice their rituals and believe in their particular fairy stories.

But we are now confronted by a growing Intolerance.  What is it that drives fanatical Muslims (not as many as the West would have you believe either) to kill people simply because they drew silly cartoons or even worse because they are Jewish.  The first signs of this came with the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his book “The Satanic Verses”, because it apparently questioned one of the tenets of Islam and made unsavoury suggestions about one of his wives.  In Britain we had ‘The Life of Brian’ and similarly many Christians were outraged, “How dare we make fun of Jesus” – mind you no-one threatened to kill John Cleese.  We have had Christians in America (another religiously intolerant state) burning the Koran and now Benjamin Netanyahu stoking the fires of intolerance by asking Jews in Europe to return to their “home” in Israel.  I know a few Jews who are as English as anyone and religiously tolerant too, whose grandparents came here to escape Pogroms in the last century.  And I also know a few Muslims, who while upset at the Media bias in reporting of attacks on Christians over those of their own faith and the general trend towards a war (yet another) against Muslims, are the kindest and most peace-loving of people.

So where does all this intolerance come from?  And more frighteningly, where will it end?

A Simple Life

Monday 16th February

Life has become so complicated, and is increasingly set to continue.  Is it any wonder that many of us are yearning for a simpler life?  I have worked for forty-seven years now, and in a large way it does define you.  There is a natural fear of no longer having a job to go to, no longer that central purpose in life, when maybe that should really have been to have and to raise a family.  But even that was simpler a few years ago.  Now, with two wages almost essential, women have to balance work and childcare and the complex financial calculations too.  Many women work for very little after paying for Nursery fees, but if they give up work for five years their career may be over too.  No such considerations in my day.  I have always been secretly proud of not having a career at all.  I just had jobs that mostly managed to pay the bills, and when I lost one job I went out and got another – a career was never in my mind, it was mostly surviving and having a bit of fun on the side.

I can still remember my Dad coming home on a Friday night and handing his pay packet (in cash) to Mum, who divied it up for Rent and a handful of bills, housekeeping, a small amount to be saved for Holiday or Christmas as she returned my Dad ten bob for his beer money.  Although they didn’t realize it life was comparatively simple, they may not have much but it wasn’t too complicated either.  Now we have Rent or Mortgage, Council Tax (which used to be included in their rent), Water Rates (similarly a new charge), Electricity, Gas, Insurance, Mobile Phone, TV License, Car Tax and Insurance and for most of us Car Finance payments, Sky or Virgin TV, plus maybe a couple of HP or maintenance  agreements.  Your bank statement is filled up with D.Ds.  Then there are Credit and Debit cards to control – we all know how easy it is to spend too much on these, and now with contactless it’s even easier.

Hardly a day goes by when you have to attend to something, even if it is just phoning the kids, or answering e-mails.  Oh, of course we didn’t have computers then either, or phones.  And yet we used to either go to some relative or friends every Sunday, or they would come to us.  How did we ever manage without e-mails and mobile phones?

So, in many ways I long for a simpler life, without my Pavlovian enslavement to my phone, or that itch to see who is posting what on Facebook, or simply switching on the telly to see the latest news.  I just long to spend a whole afternoon immersed undisturbed in a book.  Hardly likely to happen, but nice to think about maybe.

The Trivialisation of Politics

Sunday 15th February

Are we so stupid that Politics has to be reduced to a photo of Ed Milliband struggling to eat a bacon sandwich, or whether a pink bus is actually cerise or magenta or just pink, or a beauty contest in the guise of a Leader’s debate.  Well, maybe we are, because I find it increasingly difficult to find any real discussion or analysis of policies.  Or even more importantly what and who the respective parties are fighting for, what their motives are, what their ethos, what do they even believe they can begin to achieve in the five years we are supposed to be giving power to them.

And ridicule is now used as a weapon by both sides, with personal insults about people’s appearance or which school they went to, rather than what they might actually be saying.  Amazingly things have gotten worse with 24 hour news channels.  They seize on the latest sound-bites and have a constant scrolling banner proclaiming breaking news which is anything but, yet spend very little time actually looking at the policies or trying to give us some insights into the different parties.

Opinion polling is another game, where any poll out of line with the average is seized upon as evidence of a shift in the public’s voting intention, when at best they are educated guesses made by extrapolating hastily answered questions (often by phone) of a very small sample of the population.  All the experts admit that polling is only ever an indication and can be out by 3 or 4 percent either way.  The truth is that under our very undemocratic system the majority of seats will not change hands, and all the parties are concentrating on either defending or attacking their marginals.  Often the actual ‘result’ of a general election is decided by a couple of hundred thousand voters in these few seats.

And the biggest shame of all is the low turnout.  Especially among the young.  And this is of course largely a result of the trivialization of Politics; the less the big issues are aired, discussed and seen to be relevant to ordinary people’s lives the more those people will switch off.  Literally too; the ‘News’ used to be watched by far more people when we only had a handful of channels.  Now it is possible and all too easy to just watch news-free channels all the time.  How many people out there won’t even be aware that an election will be taking place at all?  And no wonder if all our media can talk about is the colour of a bus, or to endlessly show out-takes of politicians caught off-guard.

D – is for Dylan – Born Again

Saturday 14th February

We should have seen it coming, Dylan had sprinkled his songs with religious imagery over the years, and there was always an unmistakable tone of preaching in many of his songs.  Maybe that was why so many hung on his every word.  For me, it was always the poetry, the beauty of the words, the sentiments so cleverly expressed.  Anyway in late ’78 Dylan, born a Jew, had a Christian conversion; according to one version someone threw a silver cross onto the stage which Dylan picked up and immediately felt enthused and enlightened.  Whatever.  You can accuse Dylan of many things, but he is always honest.  Given his being ‘reborn’ he threw himself into it wholeheartedly and four “Religious Albums” followed.

“Slow Train Coming” was released in ’79, and featured a still young Mark Knopfler on lead guitar.  His playing is brilliant and must have influenced the whole sound, the tenor of the album.  But the words were Bob’s and they were all about some sort of ‘Judgement’ coming soon, and warning non-believers to watch out.  Not that the songs weren’t brilliant in themselves but the whole album is so overtly religious.  This was followed by “Saved” with possibly the most tasteless cover he ever chose and a bunch of songs which were even more “Christian” in their message.  Many people stopped listening to him now, but I don’t think he cared at all – he had a message he needed to tell us, whether we were listening or not.

“Shot of Love” (another awful cover) followed, but this was much better; some brilliant songs on this one ‘Heart of Mine’ and ‘In the Summertime’ and the majestic ‘Every Grain of Sand’.  The mood was shifting away from specifically Religious songs and even included a tribute to Lenny Bruce, who had recently died.

The last of what I call his religious albums is “Infidels”.  But though full of great songs this was a return to a vengeful God, most of the songs were angry, targeting Isreal’s enemies or cheap foreign labour.  Again Mark Knopfler was on board and the songs sound wonderful, especially ‘ Sweetheart like you’ and ‘Jokerman’ with its poetic imagery and great melody.

I am never really sure what I feel about these four records.  Moments of brilliance I must admit and his voice and singing are wonderful as ever, but the words are often bitter or just too Religious for me to listen to.

But compared to what came next they are indeed still wonderful….

The HSBC scandal

Friday 13th February

The banks are now almost universally held in the sort of disrepute previously reserved for estate agents and lawyers.  There was the financial crisis of 2008, where ‘investment arms’ of big banks not only loaned money recklessly but then bundled up these dubious debts and resold them to each other in complicated financial instruments.  It nearly brought the whole system down, if it hadn’t been for Governments all over the world stepping in and propping up the banks many poor and innocent people may have suffered great losses.  Some say it should have been allowed to crash – who knows?  We are certainly paying for it now.  Then was the mis-selling of PPI and the LIBOR scandal, where rich traders manipulated rates to increase their own profits.  And now HSBC has been caught red-handedly advising rich clients how to evade tax in Swiss bank accounts.  And in all probability they weren’t the only ones.

The real scandal though is that our own tax authorities have had the data for five years and have not only been extremely slow in pursuing these rich tax-evaders but did not think it was in their remit to hand this information over to the Financial Conduct Authority, or if their statements are to be believed bothered to let ministers know what was going on either.

Why is it that benefit cheats are pursued through the courts over often relatively small sums, and yet when millions are involved meetings are held and deals brokered and no prosecutions even considered.

Why indeed is there this cosy relationship between the rich and those supposed to ensure that the law is upheld.  Many small company directors not only bend the rules but actually consider that the company they control is theirs to do with as they will, and find it hard to discriminate between their own money and the companies’.  The whole ethos of Private Enterprise is that it is based on individual greed, and if an accountant or a bank suggests ways of avoiding or even evading tax then these already greed motivated people will invariably take the bait.

And you don’t now hear “We are all in it together” quite so loudly from the Tories.  They know that they are tainted by these scandals, and yet they will not do anything to change the system.  It is always a case of a bad individual, or a few traders who were rotten; the truth is the system is rotten.  We are taught from an early age to worship money and it is hardly surprising that these scandals keep coming out of the woodwork.  We need to instill different values in our young people, instead of worshipping celebrities and the rich we should be teaching them about selflessness and kindness and a world where no one goes hungry, where cruelty is banished and…….

Oh wake up Adrian….that was just a dream some of us had.

3rd excerpt from 2066 – a personal memoir

Thursday 12th February

This is the next bit of the first entry in the journal from 2066, exhumed here for your benefit


“I am recording this diary, this ‘journal’ to use an old-fashioned word, on a fifty year old lap- top I found a few years back in a junk market, having reconditioned the thing so that it now works on micro-power.  It used to run on old standard power input before they had these super-power-conductors in everything.  I have also successfully disconnected its internal uplink chips so that as far as I know this isn’t capable of being detected and read by the hypercoms.   They use them now to check everything on every screen or personal com unit in existence.  They listen in to every com we make; recording, assessing, categorising and filing them, and they never miss (or forget) anything at all.

Well, I will soon find out if I was successful, won’t I?  They not only listen to every com made all over the world but watch every move we make.  Every dart of the eyes, every enlargement of our pupils, every time we involuntarily nod at a screen is recorded.  Fuck knows why?  Because they can, I suppose.  But how the hell do they sort out anything remotely subversive from the trillions of crap coms going on every second everywhere?  Though we all know (or suspect) that they do.  And, as you too will know, if you ever get to read this, I do know just how dangerous this enterprise is.  If I ever get caught, if this antique but quite cute old laptop with its old-fashioned keyboard and silly little nipple mouse ever gets found even, let alone cracked and read, I will really be for it.  I will certainly be moved down a few strata and may even get clagged.  Who knows?

But I won’t let that happen.  I am ready for the fuckers.  I have a stash of euthen-tabs hidden in a secret place (I have never told anyone where, not even Cathy), and will have no hesitation in taking them and ending it all.  It might be a few years early I admit, but really, who cares?   I mean, why do we all cling to this shit-blanket of a life anyway?  It isn’t as if any of us has anything like free will; you go along with the system, questioning nothing, smiling at the good morning screens just like all the other idiots – or you get down-strata-ed.  Simple as that.  My kids will understand.  Or at least I hope they will, even though they may be chopped down a level or two as some sort of punishment, they are both doing really well and are higher than they might ever have expected to be by now anyway.  And knowing the little fuckers as well as I think I do they will have no hesitation at all in disowning me; disconnecting themselves from me entirely, treating me as the aberration of a father I surely must be and finally un-remembering everything about me.

Forgetting is the easiest thing to do in this life; it’s the one thing we are still really good at.  Because of course it is actually quite dangerous to remember people who you left behind when your strata level was upped.  So, each time you un-associate yourself, move on, ever upwards and leave everyone you knew behind.   You don’t even think about them anymore.   Far better to walk away, smile and stop remembering them.  And whatever you do don’t threaten your strata level, kids!!!

My kids?  Truth is I hardly know them anymore.  Am I guilty of un-remembering them too?  Or have we just drifted apart, moving in different circles, different strata, nothing but a biological connection left?  I cannot imagine, and actually wouldn’t want them to attempt to, defend me in any way.   If I thought I was harming anyone else I wouldn’t be doing this.   If I go down for it, I want to go alone.

I have also taken the most essential precaution of all.  Keeping schtum – not talking to anyone, ever, about any of this.  No-one, absolutely no-one, knows about this ‘journal’, this laptop, my dirty little secret.  I haven’t told a soul.  The mistake most people, most who rebel anyway, make is to think they can be a part of some wide-scale movement, and they try to change things by talking about it, getting together with other like-minded deluded fools.  And they always get caught that way, cos’ some bollocks-head blabs to someone else.  No, this is not an attempt to change anything.  I’m not so stupid as to think that might be remotely possible.  I just want to make a statement I suppose.  Some way of letting people, anyone – but mostly myself – know how I feel.

It is obvious that they listen to everything you say, and can stop you before you even realise yourself that you are thinking of becoming a reb.  Before the idea has even formed in your mind, if you give any hint at all they will stop you.  So tell no-one anything; make no coms and you can’t be heard.  Wasn’t there something about three monkeys; see no screens, hear no audio and don’t com about it if you do – and no harm will come your way.  Or something like that, I saw it on some screen a while back, can’t remember when.   I thought it was funny, those little cartoon monkeys with their hairy paws over their eyes and ears and mouth.  I didn’t realise that was us, that we were all of us the three monkeys, at the time.


D – is for Dylan – Desire and Rolling Thunder

Wednesday 11th February

The songs on “Blood on the Tracks” may have been brought about by personal heartache but it seemed to spur Dylan on.  He re-located to Greenwich Village, New York and hooked up with some old friends.  He took writing classes and co-wrote several songs with Jacques Levy, his teacher.  Dylan’s next album “Desire” was almost as good as “Blood on the Tracks”, the songs were stories in themselves, the mystical “Isis”, the brilliant epic protest song “Hurricane” and the humorous “Romance in Durango”.  Dylan had assembled a new band which included Scarlet Rivera on electric violin and Emmy Lou Harris joining him on vocals.  The album was a great success and he took the band and a whole army of other players including Joan Baez and Mick Ronson on guitar, on the road in what became known as “The Rolling Thunder Tour”.


Never has Dylan sounded so good, and so far three great albums have appeared from that tour.  The first was “Hard Rain” released in 76; then many years later one of the Bootleg Series was devoted to Rolling Thunder.  I saw a TV special on BBC2 in 76 – a film of one show and it blew me away, here was Dylan in white face make-up and a big white hat and long hair throwing himself joyfully into songs, old and new, each with different new and brilliant arrangements.  And just this year this concert has come out on CD, “Shelter from a Hard Rain” really is wonderful.

Dylan also made a movie during the tour; the surrealistic eight hour long “Clara and Renaldo”.

1978 saw the release of “Street Legal” another very good album with more compelling songs on it; ‘Changing of the Guards’ and ‘Is Your love In Vain’ among the best.   He followed this period of great Renaissance with another double live album “At Budokan”, where with a stellar band Dylan had never sounded so majestic.

Dylan had returned and carried on his legacy into the seventies.  He was rapidly becoming an icon, the man could do no wrong.  Elvis had died a sad death, The Beatles had broken up and Dylan stood imperious.  What could possibly go wrong…..Religion.


Neglected Poems No. 5 – A Rose

Tuesday 10th February

This is very old.  I cannot even remember when I wrote it but I think I was still in my twenties.  I like the simplicity of it and return to it occasionally but can never find a way to improve it, so here it is – unchanged for maybe forty years…

A Rose


As the morning goes

A cameo rose

Captured ‘neath glass

And guilt-gilt frame

The lattice work window pane

Obscures all to passers-by


And after noon

The senses swoon

And memory’s faltering tread

Takes her again

Retracing the places

And the faces fade

As the light of day


Even in the evening

She sits

And orange light from the road

Goads her on to imagine

She is young again, a bright young thing

In a flower gown, admirers drift

In and out of her


Each one a temptation

To fall to

If only she had just

Once said yes


Night-night comes

The traffic almost ceases

The wrinkles and the creases sigh

And she hauls herself to bed

Past the long oval mirror

A vase

And a rose once red

The French Idea of Culture

Monday 9th February

This weekend has seen the inauguration of the new Mairie and the Place Culturel.  It had taken eighteen months and must have cost a lot, much of the money coming from Central Government and possibly Europe.  When we came here nearly three years ago the Mairie was pretty shabby and there was a tatty looking hall called Salle Polyvalente next door; we hardly ever saw it open and it didn’t look at all inviting.  Now they have a beautiful couple of buildings with wheelchair access and smart blue lights.  We wen t on Saturday night to the first ‘concert’ in the new Espace Culturel.  Now of course if this were in England it would be privately owned and let out at over a thousand pounds a night; after all unless something make money why on earth would we countenance its existence?  Where we are on the Isle of Dogs with a population probably twenty times the size of Eymet there is nothing.  But here in a really small town they have their very own Espace Culturel.  There will be Opera and Music both classical and modern and films will be shown, and even a sort of circus is coming soon.

But last night showed us just what the French mean about Culture; it isn’t visiting Orchestra’s or famous singers – this is the people of Eymet simply expressing themselves and having a good time.  The seats were a deep red and brand new and very comfortable, entry was of course free – we were en France après tout.  A clown was the MC and entertained us for a few minutes.  The first ‘act’ was a trio of teenage girls who were a pop group; guitar, drums and keyboard.  They sang and played four numbers.  It was really quaint, they could barely play really but what they lacked in ability they made up for in enthusiasm and their last number was a quite creditable rendition of “Hey Jude” which got the audience singing.

Next up was the local school choir singing a few numbers to backing tapes.  Not at all bad and they were obviously so proud to be performing on a real stage in a real theatre.  Then came the part of the show we had come for.  Les Danseurs, including our very good friends Graham and Maxine.  It was actually rather good.  The teacher is seventy and a great dancer and her partner is seventy-six, and they did two solo’s.  There were a few ensemble line dancing numbers and a few waltzes, a great jive and a very sultry and sexy Argentinian Tango.  It was really good fun.

It was a celebration of ordinary people, and this is what the French mean by Culture, it is about inclusion and not about a sort of elite meritocracy.  We felt a real part of the town (and it’s culture) and are so glad we went.