Monday, June 29, 2009

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Why Brownlee Left

Why Brownlee left, and where he went,
Is a mystery even now.
For if a man should have been content
It was him; two acres of barley,
One of potatoes, four bullocks,
A milker, a slated farmhouse.
He was last seen going out to plough
On a March morning, bright and early.

By noon Brownlee was famous;
They had found all abandoned, with
The last rig unbroken, his pair of black
Horses, like man and wife,
Shifting their weight from foot to
Foot, and gazing into the future.

Paul Muldooon.

I'm sure that most people have thought of walking out on things at one time or another. A malignant surf of red bills on the doormat or an abusive and unhappy relationship can make even the most seemingly stable individual contemplate walking.

In some ways it can seem an attractive option; the prospect of reinventing ones personality and starting afresh having cut all ties and commitments preferable to a real and present turmoil. Of course it's an illusion. You can't reinvent yourself, and in abandoning the nexus of relationships that make you who you are you become void.

There are thousands of missing people in this country, their families left in anguish by the unexplained disappearance of a loved one. I'm sure the people who disappear don't intend their absence to be permanent, it just becomes impossible for them to reconnect.

I walked out once. The agony of a failed relationship had pushed me to the verge of suicide, the palette of my colours reduced to grey and black. One afternoon I walked to the Clifton Suspension bridge in Bristol intending to jump, but chickened out as I gazed down at the river below me. Instead I went to the pub and drank six pints of beer, and then visited the off licence where I purchased a bottle of whisky. The next day I packed my bags and got the bus to Heathrow. I flew never to return

I left some very dear friends but it was necessary for me to do so to excise that period of my life from memory. Nineteen years have passed and the agony has evaporated, or so I thought.

I reconnected with those friends from so long ago, and the well of memory began to gush. I don't regret doing it, and I will never lose touch with those dear people again, but I have discovered that a deeply repressed emotion can emerge with as much vigour as it had in the distant past.

Thankfully I am a stronger man today, and can deal with this resurrected pain. Sometimes things in the past have to be confronted. There can be no true closure otherwise.

Only connect.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I am melancholic by disposition, although I prefer to repress that aspect of my personality because there is a fine line between wistful contemplation and an unhealthy obsession with an unsatisfactory past that leads inexorably to depression. It can also develop into an unhealthy mawkishness that is laughable.

Maybe its a Celtic* thing; the sense that there is an underlying sadness to things, that the bright timbre of a voice or a swirl of laughing faces is a chimera. Old photographs, abandoned ways of being, the evaporation of faith, certainties debunked: they're all there, concealed behind the Ikea sofa.

The dying fall, a limp and pills, a scatter of cigarette butts. The wind blows the wrong way across the salient, the antimacassars are yellowing, there is dust in the china cabinet.

See what I mean? Melancholia sucks big time.

I'm off for a pint.

* not the football team.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bubble Wrap


Thanks for a most wonderful holiday in "Stronsay" a week ago. The weather smiled and we had a fantastic time.
I wonder if you found our boy Rory's toy tiger "Kitty" in the single room? He has done a disappearing act and Rory is asking for him. Would be grateful if you could let us know.

Very best regards


Dear Jane

I have a shed full of cuddly toys, colostomy bags, crutches, hiking boots, mobile phones, laptop chargers, odd socks, and digital cameras. Sometimes I like to sit in the shed and look at them. They're mine you see; I've worked for them and I like to commune with them and luxuriate in their freeness.

I will happily return "Kitty" to you if appropriate legal documentation proving ownership is afforded within the next 7 days. Failing this I am afraid that that this furry creature (presumed stuffed feline) shall be stored next to the watch that the previous guest left under the sofa.

And no, they won't be getting that back either.

Very best regards


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ageing Disgracefully

Gasping for some nicotine sustenance today I was exasperated to find myself behind a queue of wobbling crumblies at the supermarket tobacco counter. Each of the Crimean War veterans spent at least five minutes fumbling in their purses and wallets as they shuffled their way towards the cancer emporium.

Were they queuing for a half ounce of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake or a packet of el cheapo obscure brand fags? No they were not; they were queuing for Lottery tickets and scratch cards.

Tenners were lobbed across the counter with gay abandon by the Ernies and Hildas, no doubt in expectation of huge payouts to fund their hip replacements and mobility scooters. I don't for one moment imagine that they were gambling in order to shower their children and grandchildren with new cars and trust funds. Oh no, they just want to deposit lucre in their Post Office accounts and gloat.

To think that grafters like myself are toiling to pay these peoples pensions. It's enough to make even the most fair minded individual advocate euthanasia.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Why Abroad is Rubbish

Let's get this straight, travel does not broaden the mind. Sitting on a cruise ship while your midriff slowly expands and you develop an alcohol problem does not make you Marco Polo. Briefly sitting on an Elephant before devoting the next three weeks to serious dope bum activities on a Thai beach does not make you Paul Theroux. Driving a car (or sitting on a Greyhound bus - which just gives you piles) from Manhattan to Los Angeles does not make you Jack Keroauc.

Experiencing foreign cultures is generally just an exercise in suffering diarrhoea and having nasty little insects burrow into your skin and lay their eggs. And that's just in the more salubrious equatorial regions. When you decide to have a wazz over the side of your canoe while exploring the Amazon a small barbed fish will inevitably swim up your willy and hang on for dear life.

Europe is no better, what with its funny languages and Mediterranean blokes prancing about in too tight trousers. As for Japan, that's just compulsory karaoke, 'Love Hotels', and Pachinko.

You would think that the USA, being vaguely civilized, would be worth the trip. Unfortunately no; the delights afforded by Latino housemaids are far outweighed by the sheer nastiness of the giant American cockroach and this wholly revolting foetus of Satan.

Best stay at home and tend the petunias I say. You can't be too careful.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bald Nobrained Pricks

Apparently you can't join the BNP unless you are a white Caucasian. I suppose this is intellectually consistent given that their membership consists of no necked *Neanderthals who like nothing better than to tuck into a nice curry while berating Pakistanis and assorted other non whitey scum.

I'm rather puzzled how a political party which denies membership to people on the basis of the colour of their skin can call itself democratic. As for splashing pictures of Spitfires all over their campaign literature, this suggests they aren't aware that a lot of these were piloted by Poles - a nationality that they regard as Polack scum nicking our jobs.

These people like to congregate and sing SS Marching songs, which would be utterly risible if there weren't people in this country stupid enough to vote for them.

* This is unfair to Neanderthals who, despite their deficiencies in the neck department, probably loved their old mums and didn't support Millwall.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Have you found yours yet? I appear to have lost mine.

Still Life

Blinded by the headlights you paused,
Gaze pitiless and feral,
Poised before muscular flight,
Then off, twisting from peril.

Perplexed, I saw you through a lens,
Spoor print in a dark room tray,
Lithe torso intense,
Caught in a web of memory.

Still life: your arrested posture held
For what seemed an age,
Then an abrupt sensuous shuffle,
Moving from shoreline onto the page.

E J Garfer (17 and a half)