Neglected Poems – No. 10 – Bonfire Night

Friday 10th April

Not at all sure of this one. It was written at one sitting, one bitter bonfire night.  I cannot even remember who I was thinking about.  Make of it what you will…


November the fifth – Bonfire Night, but no fireworks

Remember, remember – do you remember, how we flared

In previous years, other Novembers, how we burned when we dared to

And now I work and then I sleep, too busy now for emotions, no time for the flashes

Or flooding tides that sweep, buried oh so deep

The heart that was rendered, sundered and plundered and hopes dashed.

The turmoil I ignited, the short fuse of your temperI kept on re-lighting, back then when we delighted in the fighting

And the making up too, but oh the time that was taken up, the confidence shaken

How I yearn now for THE TORCH OF YOUR LOVE.

That spark of effervescence, dark nights lit by incandescence

The fire flashing in your eyes, the dark lashing of your bitter-pill lies.

The refusal to end it, how we must have resembled

The last dying throes of these fog-bound fires

The sultry glow of their dying embers

The steamy blue smoke, its retching choke

The rains drizzle sets in and the fire is extinguished

Your grip is relinquished, how I long now for that hand.

So home I come and bury my head in figures again

Rows and columns and numbers on the page

Pretending it means something; that somehow I will gain

When in another time, another age…

But now it’s the fifth of November

Of course I remember – Bonfire night, but no fireworks.

Flight Cancellation….

Thursday 9th April

Have you ever sat smugly at home watching TV news as thousands are stranded at airports as flights are cancelled?  So have I, and I never imagined it would happen to me. Well it hasn’t – not quite.

Late on Tuesday night I was posting my blog ‘I’m So Tired’ when I just checked my e-mails.  A bad habit I know but thank goodness I did.  A message from Ryanair telling me that because of an Air Traffic Controller’s Strike en France my flight tomorrow (yesterday for you) was cancelled.  Aaaargh!!!  There was a link to choose another flight and as long as I went from either Bergerac or into Stanstead there would be no charge.  But….it is Easter and all the flights are full.  The earliest I could get a seat – and it was the last one was on Saturday into Bristol.  So I quickly transferred and printed my boarding pass at one in the morning.  Then e-mails to work explaining my absence.  I can do some things by e-mail so not a complete disaster.

And actually the sun is shining, the wine is cool, so staying for three more days is not the worst hardship in the world.  But I do wonder how many people may have not checked their e-mails and have arrived at Stanstead or Bergerac or any of the other airports affected and had a nasty surprise.  Those pesky air traffic controllers have a lot to answer for…

Anyway, have to go – I have wine to drink…

I’m So Tired

Wednesday 8th April

Another Beatles song incidentally.  But really I am quite exhausted.  We have had friends here for five days and it was almost a five day binge.  Ate too much, drunk too much and too many late nights which have suddenly caught up with me.  And probably the fact that I am returning tomorrow (today for you dear reader) has some bearing on my mood.  I really don’t want to go back.  A few days here just to relax in the sun, or wander with the dogs down to the river Dropt, or just drive around the local villages would be lovely.  But a few more days of work beckon before I can return.  The days here seem so long and they actually quite tire you out just by their length and as we are an hour later the sun is setting at eight-thirty here now making the days appear longer too.  Every days seems so filled with different activities, or actually the contrast with work which is one long activity, makes the days seem full.  Also strangley enough watching UK television out here has a strange effect.  Tonight (last night) we watched Holby City.  Starts at eight and ends at nine, right.    But no, out here it doesn’t begin until nine French time, so by the time it has ended it is ten o’clock – but it feels wrong to go to bed after Holby at nine so you struggle on, only there is no News at ten to watch for another hour.

And so, tired, I decide to call it a day and slope off to bed.  Night night all.

And that’s Easter Over For Another Year

Tuesday 7th April

Of all the Bank Holidays the two at Easter are probably the least important, although to devout Christians they are the most sacred.  Even Whitsun had been renamed Late Spring Bank Holiday and Christmas is all about presents and trees and food and very little about celebrating the birth of Christ.  The trouble with Easter too is that it is a moveable feast, based partly on the Jewish Passover, another old religion and amended by some Pope or other a few hundred years ago.  Because it isn’t on a set date like December 25th or 1st January it loses some of its significance and apart from buying the kids an Easter Egg is less and less observed.  Not that people don’t enjoy a long weekend or extend this by taking the remainder of the week before or after as holiday too.

And like all holidays it is over too soon, and we must return once again to the mundanity of the working week.  But in a way too Easter is a sign that the Winter is over and that Spring, a tentative moveable feast in itself, is surely on the way.  This year, Easter being very early it has been quiet in Eymet; certainly quieter than the few years we have been coming before.  Bank Holiday Monday there was hardly anyone in town, even the Café de Paris was quiet.  And back home now that Easter is over for another year the election may just spring into some sort of muted excitement.  Or maybe it too will pass us by, just another moveable feast, instantly forgettable and barely observed by most of us.  Whatever, I hope you all had a nice Easter.

Here Comes The Sun..Duh De Duh Duh

Monday 6th April

Here comes the sun, and I say ‘It’s Alright.’  George wrote that for Abbey Road and it was easily as good as anything Lennon or McCartney were writing.  And the sentiment is so basic, so true, so essentially the way we feel as the sun returns.  We have actually had a pretty cold and wet March here in Eymet, Saturday was drizzle all day long.  And everyone keeps saying “Ah, but it will be sunny next week.”  This is the optimistic prediction whatever and whenever you meet people, and you keep feeling that actually next week will never come; it will always remain sunny next week.

But this morning we got the sun.  It was actually still pretty cold especially the morning after the night before.  But standing in the sun was wonderful.  We opened the cafe for a couple of hours on Sunday but did no business at all.  No-one around so we decided to go for a little ride in the car.  The cemetery at Cogulot, the pretty river at Allemans du Dropt and then we tried Levignac de Guyenne, and again another pleasant little Bastide.  We sat outside a tiny bar and had coffee and basked in the sunshine.  The warmth went right through us and yes, we felt alright.  Lunch in our jardin, the first time this year and a cold bottle of Hoegarten; lovely.   Tonight we are dining at Le Vielle Porche.  It doesn’t get much better.  And I say ‘It’s Alright’.

Le Vernisage

Sunday 5th April

Last night we had the vernisage. Well hopefully the first of many vernisages.  The vernisage is the night before an exhibition and means literally the varnishing of the paintings the night before they are shown to the public.  Actually Liz’s pictures have been up for about a week already but last night we held the vernisage.  It is a private viewing and far more importantly an excuse for a party, a get together, a soiree, and a good chat.  It was held in the café, and we supplied the wine.  A few old friends were invited and a few new ones too.  We had about twenty people, which as it turned out was about the perfect number.  It started at six-thirty and was over by just past eight.  My wife introduced her friend the artist and Liz also gave a little speech.  People discussed the pictures and gossiped about Eymet and had a good time.

Graham and Maxine had invited us round to theirs for paella afterwards and slightly inebriated we made our way there.  And what a fantastic paella it was, with pork and chicken and chorizo and wonderful prawns on top.  I must admit that I lost count of the bottles we consumed.  Another great night in Eymet.


Saturday 4th April

Sometimes you just stumble upon a gem, completely unexpected and unplanned and all the better for that.  We have guests staying for a few days and we decided to go south to Sainte Livrade Sur Lot where there was a market on.  Many of the markets near Eymet are quite geared towards tourists, although the French do still use them.  The market at Saint Livrade is mostly for the French who live there, you do not hear so many English voices here.  Anyway we had a nice morning walking round the stalls and buying a few treats; we especially like a dried fruit stall there where you can get dried ginger which is sensational and figs and even today wasabi peas.  We bought some jalousies and sought a café to eat them in.  One of the stall holders had mentioned to my wife that Pujol was worth a visit and so as it was quite nearby we gave it a look.  We had never heard of the place before but thought it was worth a try.

The town is another hilltop Bastide, an obvious advantage in the middle ages and has quite stunning views in all directions.  The town is perfect, almost pristine, and is almost traffic free, as there are signs saying that only local traffic or deliveries are allowed inside the still intact town walls.  For once there are hardly any derelict or unimproved houses, every house is beautifully kept and picture postcard pretty.  It was almost sterile in a funny way, beautiful but we hardly saw a soul.  Nothing was open though there were a few restaurants which though closed looked very smart.  It is obviously a very touristic town and in the summer could well be a popular destination.  We will definitely come back and see it in midsummer.  We never cease to be amazed just how many beautiful towns there are, in fact we have never really been disappointed.

2066 Continued…..

Friday 3rd April

Janek is back writing his little journal again, hoping against hope that he will remain undiscovered….


“Diary Entry – 20660105


“January the fifth, and back to work, well what passes for work these days.  My job is an account scrutiniser for the London division of Westech3, which is part of BettaBrit con-glom (Better Brit – geddit? And that is such an in-joke it is almost funny).  Basically I have skills which even the latest hypercoms lack.  Or so they tell me.  And why not?  Why should that be so unusual?  Strange, that as computers have achieved more and more power and complexity, that as they can now process trillions of bits of data every second, they still can’t detect patterns of behaviour in quite the same way that humans can.

There have been serious discussions by senior academics as to how and why humans can still be (slightly) better at some things than computers, when it should be blindingly obvious.  Computers are just very fast machines, and despite all the claims of Artificial Intelligence, they cannot actually think.  Not the way we do, anyway.  They can detect minute variances in certain fields, they can match numbers far faster than any human can, they long ago could beat humans at any game such as chess or poker, they run everything far more methodically than humans ever could, even having the ability to adapt and change long before processing all the data available, but they cannot think.  They don’t have those ‘human’ abilities of deception and guile, the tricks we learnt in the millions of years of our development.  The skills of survival; the deviousness, lying and invention of humans have always eluded the computer world.  And even though we know almost everything about how the brain works, we still don’t know how each individual mind puts it all together and why each of us thinks in the specific way we do, or thinks the individual thoughts we do, or why we dream the dreams we do, or precisely why we fall in love, or learn to hate, or why indeed we continually fuck up so badly.  So, all in all, computers are pretty shit really. (that’s called irony by the way; an almost forgotten art-form in today’s mechanistic humourless world).

I have resisted writing this little ‘diary’ for the past few days – almost too scared to repeat what was, I must admit, a pretty scary enterprise.  Not that writing diaries is at all or in any way illegal.  Loads of people do it – in fact it is quite common, almost normal behaviour if you are over forty.  The difference in my case is this element of secrecy – and the content so far.  Everyone else who writes, even if they don’t put it up for everyone’s perusal on one of the fora, is conscious that it is being read by other people, and by the hypercoms and Polis in particular.  They are sub-consciously editing themselves.

The great success of our world is that whether or not everything is read, watched or listened to, the very fact that they have the tech to do just that is enough.  They have the ability to read everything we write, to hear all we say, to see us all the time and to record every com we make.  Of course as every computer is also linked to every other machine by its own internal upload technology, every word and vocom is read by every other machine, if not actually by other people.  You don’t even have to really believe anyone is listening; the mere fact that they might be is enough to stop you actually saying anything important, or writing anything in the slightest bit subversive.  Or real, which may well be the same thing.

Self-censorship is alive and well here in the middle of the twenty-first century.  The fear and the certain knowledge that everything is linked means that the very idea of private thoughts has become of itself subversive, and the ultimate crime is to be a reb, a destructive element in society.  The paradox is that ‘free speech’ is allowed; in fact it is written into all our constitutions and lauded as a sign of our progress; our very modernity is defined by it. That we allow discussion and different views to be aired freely without any con-glom or even state intervention is a cornerstone of our ‘democracy’.  But also at our core, at the very centre of our being we all know that you can have as much free speech as you like, but that doesn’t mean you are free to say what you are really thinking.

Of course people still do write stuff down on paper, but this is less common now, since every home has its own screens.   In every room, everywhere you look, whole walls are screens. Wherever you go you are just a blink away from a screen.   They may appear to be switched off, blank, asleep, but it only takes a nod and they are fully awake.  Not really sleeping at all.  They are super fast and can summon up anything you ever want to be reminded about or see again instantly.  Who needs paper?  The screens can write and remember anything you tell them to.  And far faster than you can write too, paper is pretty crap tech actually.  They still sell paper and pens and pencils, but these are novelty items, ‘Chrissie’ presents or such like, and there are even instruction programmes to teach you how to hold a pen or how to write, but they stopped teaching it in crammers years ago.   It’s only the middle generations like me, the over fifties who still remember how to use them anything like properly.”

A Very Strange Election Campaign

Thursday 2nd April

Yesterday the firing gun was supposed to have been fired as Mr. Cameron went to see the Queen and informed her that Parliament was dissolved and that a General Election would take place on May the Seventh (I wonder if she knew already).  And to paraphrase a famous poet you had to strain hard to even hear the whimper.  The gun may have been fired but all that came out was a flag with the word “Bang” on it.  This really is the strangest of elections.  It is as if the words have been well-rehearsed for years (maybe fixed term parliaments are a really bad idea) and no-one dare move away from the script and ad-lib.  Even ‘Hell, yeah’ may have been pre-determined.  The two main parties, terrified of alienating even their most loyal supporters, are literally preaching to the converted.  As in their own way are the LibDems (concentrating in winning only in the few seats they hold).  Ukip are desperate not to lose any more ground, their bandwagon having failed to roll is in danger of slipping back down the slope they so spectacularly climbed.  And even the SNP are suddenly being fearful that the opinion polls predicting a landslide in Scotland might be a tad precipitate.

We are hearing nothing new from anyone.  Labour banging on about the NHS and the Tories about the wonderful economic recovery.  I don’t think they will change any minds at all.  There are, as usual a large number of ‘undecided’ voters.  My guess is the vast majority of these will not decide to even vote at all, or know all along who they will vote for, or the whole campaign will pass them by and they will still be undecided.  Personally I decided five years ago who I would be voting for, along with about eighty percent of the population.  I will of course obsessively watch each day as the polls swing a couple of points one way or the other, but I will be surprised if they are much different from today.  It is almost like watching Formula 1, whoever is in pole is likely to win, barring an engine failure.  And it is only a massive gaffe that might, like a horrendous pile-up at turn one, spark any life into this moribund election.

Another Reason I Cannot Wait To Retire

Wednesday 1st April

Life has changed in the 47 years I have been working.  Time was when a secretary (remember them) would type out a memo and deliver it.  Into the in-tray it would go.  You might give it a cursory glance – if it was important it might be looked at that day, but more often than not you could ignore it for a few days.  Nobody expected instantaneous answers and wouldn’t have got them anyway.  Everyone had patience; for years I was involved in calculating the weekly costs in a chain of Restaurants.  Nobody expected this information until the Friday following the week-end.  Now with e-mail I have to produce a “flash” profit and loss on a Monday.  All through the wonder of e-mail.

Also for some ridiculous reason I am the only person who seems capable of transferring money or paying suppliers for my current set of Restaurants.  Payroll waits for no man, and the staff have to be paid, and of course I agree.  So, even though this is officially my holiday (hahaha) I have to send the money (by wonderful e-mail) from France to the payroll company.  It has to be done on a certain day, and I cannot send it until I know the amount.  So I have to keep checking my e-mails to see if there is a figure ready yet.  This is not only frustrating but time-consuming and stressful.  I should be sitting in the garden with a glass of chilled rose (mind you it is raining here, but you get my drift), instead I keep looking at my watch and my phone to see if I can send the blessed thing.

By the way the French Government are currently passing a law forbidding any company from even asking for an employee’s phone or e-mail address.  Which is exactly as it should be.