Wednesday, 18 February 2015


No kiss on the cheek before walking away
No hug of farewell, no words left to say
She'd wanted to hold him and never let go
To tell him she's sorry and loves him, but no
He'd stared straight ahead as she'd shut the car door
And driven away without a word more
She turned and she wiped some grit from her eye
While the moon up above saw straight through her lie

He fumbled his way back in through the door
The same door they'd left through an hour before
The cold and the crisp and the wintry sun
Had taken a bow now the night had begun
He tore off his gloves and his hat and his scarf
And sat in his seat with his feet by the hearth
Then gazed at the place where, an hour before
She'd sat her last sit and would sit there no more

He stared at the window but couldn't see past
The velvety night pressed against the cold glass
He watched as the raindrops rolled down the pane
And winced as he felt the tears building again
Threatening to spill and to roll down his cheek
He opted to snarl, to hide he was weak
He breathed deep and curled up while, high in the sky
The moon up above saw straight through his lie

Her train made good time but she'd noticed not
The passage of time or the tight, little knot
That dwelt deep inside her and prodded and poked
That niggled and fizzled, made her wish she still smoked
That thing she ignored, that she'd not give a name
The tight, little knot remained there just the same
Just one change to make on her long journey west
To a life she'd once had with her make-up a mess

He sat in his seat whilst his mind was elsewhere
He floundered and wallowed in morbid despair
He tried hard to focus on all that was bad
For fear that the good thoughts would make him feel sad
He thought of the sulking and fighting and tears
Getting more frequent with passage of years
He thought that he hated her, hoped that she'd die
Though the moon up above saw straight through that lie

Time to kill, time to dwell, time to try not to think
As she sat in the cafe not drinking her drink
She fumbled about in her purse for her phone
And looked at the screen and she let out a groan
Zero missed calls, no message unread
All he'd to say he'd plainly now said
She was glad he'd not called, she wasn't surprised
But the moon up above saw straight through her lies

A man is a man and a man will be man
So he went to the fridge and cracked open a can
Then slipped on his slippers and flopped himself down
Flicking through channels and wearing a frown
Hunger! That's it, that's the pain in his belly
He picked up his phone and he turned off his telly
He'd order a curry be brought to his door
Then drink enough beer so he'd miss her no more

The screen on his phone faded from black
To reveal that face staring straight back
The face of a woman now far, far away
He'd change that bloody picture, though just not today
Zero missed calls, no message unread
All she'd to say she'd plainly now said
He'd delete her tomorrow, from phone and life too
But the moon up above knew that that wasn't true

Each side of the platform, a train on each track
One taking her forward and one going back
To the life she'd messed up and the man that she'd hurt
She took a deep breath and she straightened her skirt
She shook her head clear, her choice had been made
The pain and the hurt would eventually fade
She'd spoiled it all now but she would remain strong
Though the moon up above knew, in this, she was wrong

Nothing on telly, he grabbed the remote
As the voice on the box urged him to vote
For whichever of the singers had hurt his ears least
He clicked the red button to make the voice cease
Then he looked once again at the face on the phone
And hoped that he'd make it now he was alone
He'd be fine, he was sure, no need to worry
"It'll all be alright. Now, where's my curry?"

She stepped from the train, there was no turning back
And set off with her suitcase that clickety-clacked
As it rolled and it bounced along right behind
The hurrying woman with taxi to find
She shook her head clear, her choice had been made
But it wasn't her choice, if it were she'd have stayed
Curled up in a ball on the seat right beside
The man she'd betrayed, and she finally cried

He stood by the door to the little back yard
Smoking and drinking and trying so hard
To think about nothing, to breathe and relax
To think of the future, not dwell on the past
If only he'd known the last kiss that they'd had
Before his whole world had turned out so bad
Was the last kiss forever and soon she'd be gone
He'd still hold her tight and the kiss would go on

The taxi pulled up at the end of the street
The street from the past that now greeted her feet
She counted the coins into the chubby hand
Of the driver who'd driven, who'd chatted and
Had told her a story all about how
A football team had wowed a crowd
She thanked him and turned, took a mirror from her purse
Glanced at herself, she'd never looked worse

He could hold it no longer, that last beer wanted out
So he'd nipped to the toilet at just about
The same time that the finger had pressed the doorbell
He'd only just started, "Oh, bloody hell"
He called through the house, "Yes, yes, just a tick"
Dashing downstairs and replacing his dick
"I'm sure you lot watch until we're indisposed"
He moaned as he finished straightening his clothes

He opened the door to the man with the smile
That'd brought his hot food over many a mile
He tipped him and thanked him and bid him goodbye
Then hurried indoors with a tear in his eye
He taken the bags and realised what he'd done
A meal for two instead of for one
He looked at the space on the seat right beside
His place on the couch, and he finally cried

The smile of the man as they passed in the street
Went unnoticed by her as she stared at her feet
The door from her past now barring her way
She realised she had no idea what she'd say
She'd made a mistake and this was the end
Of the life that she'd broken and just couldn't mend
So now in the cold and the dark she was stood
Chewing her lip like a cow would it's cud

His appetite lost, he grabbed coat and hat
And his keys and his phone and the money that
If he rushed down the street to the pub on the corner
He could turn in to beer to supply tears to mourn her
And help him to sleep when the time to sleep came
If he drank enough maybe he'd forget her name
The future starts here, as is always the way
A new year of your life starts every new day

A check of the mirror and lick of the lips
She straightened her skirt over her hips
She reached for the doorbell, the time had now come
She'd made her mistakes, what's done had been done
She, just like we, couldn't alter what's been
It was time to move forward, see what's to be seen
The future starts here, as is always the way
A new year of your life will start every day

With a coat on his back and a hat on his head
He went through the back door to the passage that led
Past the bins, where he dumped the two big bags of food
And into the street where the wind matched his mood
Biting and chilly and harsh and so bleak
And bringing forth tears that stung at his cheek
He turned up his collar, tipped forward his head
And wished he'd gone to bed instead

It wasn't the plan, it shouldn't be so
She traveled so far and he wasn't at home
She pressed and pressed and pressed once again
But no sound of life came from within
This house from her past with her future behind
Where no lights were lit behind the blinds
While high up above the big moon did look down
And think, "Pretty girl, why not just turn around?"

She'd made a mistake, what had she done?
Thrown everything away on some meaningless fun
She shouldn't have come here, it just wasn't right
So she stepped from the porch into silvery moonlight
"Oh" did she say after turning away
From the door to the street where, blocking her way
Stood a man in a hat and a coat and who
Smiled despite tears and she smiled too

They fumbled their way back in through the door
The same door they'd left through some hours before
The door to the future they knew would be hard
"Sit down" he called out as he dashed to the yard
No talking that night, they'd no need to hurry
Curled up and enjoying their microwaved curry
What's done is done, the past's set in stone
But the future's a tapestry still being sewn


Saturday, 7 February 2015

The bird watcher.

Sitting and watching the comings and goings
The happy farewells and the tearful hello-ings
The sadness and stillness and long pensive nights
The tears of the weary who wailed at their plight
The bad and the guilty and good who'd done wrong
He listened along to their pitiful song
He listened intently and never once sought
To give them relief from the pain that they'd brought
That wasn't his remit, his duty or task
The questions not questioned, they weren't his to ask
Nor answers to give nor pleas to appease
He listened to prayers from men on their knees
Men with no God but men who now swore
To live better lives for the God they'd ignored
If only he'd help them, they'd beg and entreat
No more would they lie, steal, kill, hurt or cheat
He'd watch as they paced and they sat and they lay
As they stared at the walls until night turned to day
He'd watch as they jumped at the sound of the key
As they'd try to regain some raw dignity
To try and pretend that they weren't really scared
To snarl at the world with their vicious teeth bared
He'd know as they knew that it was all a front
That they'd cried and they'd trembled and all that they want
Is to walk through that door and to never return
Though some of them would, some folk never learn
He'd wish each man well, though the words were unheard
His face, though well seen, was always ignored
And when those he'd watched had left him alone
Having gone to that somewhere that they called their home
He stayed where he sat in this place they'd thought hell
That brick in the wall of that cold prison cell


Thursday, 5 February 2015

The moon's always larger in a foreign land.

There are many things that, although small, I enjoy. Little things that don't matter, things that if I had to do without I'd be no worse off but things that I enjoy nonetheless and for no good reason.

One such little thing is giving my dogs their evening meal. Fresh from a walk and still wearing my scarf I mix the meat, biscuits, pasta and eggs with boiling water as they sit either side of me, place the bowls on the floor, in the same place every time, utter the words "Good dogs, eat" and crouch between them tickling their backs and watching their tails wag as they greedily wolf it down.

At some point I stop tickling them and go to put the kettle on, still watching them and smiling as I spoon the coffee and sugar into my invariably filthy cup. At this point, for no good reason, the dogs swap bowls. They've both eaten all the good bits first, both bowls now contain nothing but biscuit soaked in beef dripping, neither dog gains, or loses, anything by the swap, but swap they do. It's always been the way and recently I've begun to wonder why they do it. The best I can come up with is that both dogs believe that maybe the other dog has bacon in their bowl. They love bacon, who doesn't? But this is never the case. Even on those rare days when I've put bacon in their bowls, the bacon is the first thing they eat. They must, by now, realise there's no bacon, but still they hope.

There was a chap, I'm changing the names to protect the guilty so let's call him "Tommy" for that wasn't his name, who owned a pub in Salford during the years my father owned his own. Tommy's pub was rough. As rough a pub as you could ever hope not to walk in to. Never a weekend went by that Tommy wasn't involved in a fight, and he loved it. He was a fighter, not a lover, unless you were talking about fighting. He loved fighting, and he was bloody good at it.

Practice makes perfect.

Still, as the decades wore on he became less able. By the time he was in his fifties his face resembled Spam, his knuckles were nothing but scarred callouses and very few of his few remaining teeth were unbroken. As it happened, his becoming less able to swing his trademark haymaker or bite off an ear during a bear hug mattered not.

You can't out-punch a bullet.

His customers no longer settled their arguments by administering a damn good thrashing, they now carried guns. Big guns, little guns, revolvers, Lugers, Derringers and shotguns were flashed and occasionally fired within the confines of his little pub in the middle of Salford.

My father's pub didn't suffer in the same way. Through luck rather than judgement he'd become friends with the "right" people, or more precisely the mothers and fathers of the "right" people. His pub policed itself. Of course he had to fight, especially in the early days, but by the time he decided he wanted to retire he was running a pub filled with laughter, music, good times and gangster's mothers.

No one fires a gun in the vicinity of a gangster's mother.

His retirement lasted just a few weeks. Like the dog that quickly realises there's no bacon in the other dog's bowl, he realised he'd made a mistake and so, after decades of owning and running his own pub he took on another pub, this time as a manager.

It was a pretty pub in a little village beside a river. Low, oak beamed ceilings, creaky doors, lots of brass around the real fires and a regular wage doing what he loved doing when he no longer needed, money wise, to do it. A far better "retirement" than the house he'd bought in Blackpool where he had nothing to do but live out his years watching cowboy films with only my mother for company.

Tommy came to visit one Sunday.

He stood at the solid oak bar in my father's little pub watching the couples chatting quietly as they enjoyed their Sunday roast and decided that he wanted what my father had. The following day he made a call to his area manager and inquired about management opportunities. The area manager said he had just the thing. A little pub in a little village near a little river. He brought a folder round containing the figures, the turnover and targets, the menu, the range of real ales served and a few glossy photographs.

Tommy was sold.

Without hesitation, and based only on the contents of the folder provided by the area manager, Tommy applied for the pub. He thought he would have to go through a few interviews, maybe provide a business plan, but was delighted when the area manager offered him the pub the very same day. He couldn't for the life of him understand why no one else had applied for the pub in the two years that it had been on the market and managed by a series of temporary relief landlords, but he wasn't a man to look a gift horse in the mouth. Within a month of visiting my father's new pub Tommy had a new pub of his own.

Tommy moved into the pub on a Monday.

The pub was, indeed, as pretty as the pictures he'd seen in the folder. The village was a village and the river was a river but, unlike the pub my father now ran, this pub was busy. Very busy indeed. The village, though once small and picturesque, had been one of the sites chosen in the 1950s by the authorities upon which to build an enormous, sprawling council estate to re-house those cleared from the slums of Manchester. As with many of the pubs in the area, it was as rough as fuck.

But Tommy's ability to fight was still a formidable ability and, as rough as this pub was, he had fought harder men than this village contained. Throughout that first week, night after night, he would stamp his authority on the ne'er-do-wells with fists of fury and flurries of fists. The disease that is gun crime, so prevalent in Salford, had yet to spread this far so, all things considered, Tommy was happy.

Until early doors on Friday night.

Alone behind the bar he stood, flicking through the newspaper, with only two customers, a young man in a shell suit and a chap of a similar age to Tommy in Wellington boots and flat cap, stood at opposite ends of the bar. At some point the young man became a bit tipsy and mischievous and, having no target other than the landlord who already had a reputation as a fearsome pugilist and serial ear-eater, he crackled his static-filled, shell suited self over to the older gentleman, stood right beside him and just stared.

Tommy spotted this without looking up. He pretended to read his paper, giving the impression he'd not noticed, and secretly readied himself for what was to come.

The young man, slowly and purposely, reached out a Sovereign festooned hand and tipped the older chaps drink over, spilling it's contents over the bar and over the man himself. The man himself, less slowly but equally purposely, took a handful of the younger man's hair and slammed his face into the bar, picked up his now empty glass and smashed it into the young man's cheek.

Tommy had expected he'd have to tackle the man with the newly-bloody shell suit and was a little taken aback by this unexpected turn of events. He grabbed the older chap and transported him from bar to street in one, fluid movement before going back to help the sobbing beer-spiller to hold what remained of his cheek in place while they waited for an ambulance.

A few minutes later. while Tommy was still pressing a bar towel to the beer-spiller's wounds and with emergency services en-route, the older man returned. Tommy had bolted the door after ejecting him and now he stood, his upper body visible through the glass portion of the entrance with a look of vicious vexation on his face, rattling the door and armed with what appeared to be a pool cue. His rage was quite plainly still not sated. Tommy strode over to the door, intending to render the man incapacitated until the arrival of the police.

He unbolted and swung back the door, free hand clenched into a fist and ready to deliver his devastating haymaker. As the door swung open the older chap raised the "pool cue". Only it wasn't a pool cue.

Tommy dived for cover as the older chap drew back the string on what, it now turned out, was an ancient and powerful longbow. An arrow flew across the empty pub in the direction of the young man with the blood, and now urine, stains on his shell suit, missing it's intended target by a yard and embedding itself in the counter.

Tommy had left Salford to escape the shotguns and now was having to deal with longbows.

Maybe a long bow is the greener grass on the other side that Tommy craved. Maybe his dodging wooden shafts rather than hot lead was the bacon in the other dog's bowl. If so, it would appear he wasn't a fan of green and couldn't stomach bacon since, soon after this incident, in a place where he wasn't known and knew no one, he gave up the pub game. And he missed it terribly.

He'd not done his homework, not considered every possibility, he'd just seen an unfamiliar Devil and decided it would be a better Devil than the Devil he knew. The problem with Devils is, whether you know them or not, they're still Devils.

He'd thought he'd seen my father's good fortune and he wanted it but, in reality, what he'd seen wasn't good fortune, it was just a different life, lead a different way and with a different result. Some people have lives that seem better than our own, it's just a fact of life.

No matter how much we have, we want more, but remember...

...All your own bacon is in your own bowl.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

The bloke on his own and the girl with no lippy.

Rain rapped at the window by which he sat
As he stared at a screen and had a nice chat
With some folk with whom he'd never meet
As he was propelled along a street
Through driving rain and wind and hail
Past the girl that ran but, sadly, failed
To catch the bus on which he sat
Staring at a screen and having a chat

She'd chased the bus but, alas, in vain
Through howling wind and driving rain
Had failed to make it to the stop
Having stopped to retrieve the phone that she'd dropped
While typing her words into that little box
To let the world know it was now "wine-o'clock"
She'd chased the bus but, alas, in vain
Now stood, disappointed, in driving rain

He turned the key and unlocked the door
Of the little flat on the sixteenth floor
Of the concrete tower that he now called home
And checked the time upon his phone
Early tonight, he'd manage to make
An earlier bus than he'd usually take
He kicked off his shoes and kicked shut the door
Of his little flat on the sixteenth floor

Dripping wet and feeling forlorn
And cursing the heels she'd stupidly worn
She took a seat next to a chap who
Smelt a little like beef stew
She found the hole in her phone and plugged in the jack
Of the headphones she wore, and then settled back
Dripping wet and feeling forlorn
Her weight off the heels she'd stupidly worn

Just one more refresh before taking a shower
He promised himself, but refreshed for an hour
Until, eventually, of Tweeting he bored
He glanced at the time then thought "Just once more"
And another refresh, whilst sat on the loo
Telling the world he was taking a poo
Finally, clean and fresh from the shower
He sat on the bed wasting just one more hour

Arriving home much later tonight
Two steps at a time, she dashed up the flight
Of steps that led to the house in that
She lived all alone, except for her cat
A trail of drips followed the path
She took to the bathroom to run a hot bath
Having arrived home much later tonight
She needed to hurry, her timing now tight

Late he now was when he went to go meet
His friends and acquaintances in the pub down the street
They'd waited and waited, but waited no more
And jumped in the taxi that stood by the door
Then away into town for a night on the tiles
With laughter and flirting and boozy, broad smiles
Too late he had been when he'd arrived to meet
The friends being driven, away down the street

You get nowt good from rushing, her dad used to say
So she'd given up trying, and now made her way
To the pub down the street for a bottle of red
To bring home and enjoy while she sat on her bed
And painted her nails and read a good book
With her cat curled beside her and licking his butt
You get nowt good from rushing, her dad had oft said
So she'd given up trying and chilled out instead

Billy no mates tonight, all alone he stood by
The fruit machine near the bogs and he let out a sigh
As he sipped on his pint and played with his phone
Just this one quick drink then he'd make his way home
He checked his emails and text messages too
Then finished his pint and went to the loo
Billy no mates tonight, all alone in the shitter
Cock in one hand as he scrolled through his Twitter

She'd not done her hair or put on her lippy
So she donned hat and scarf, although it wasn't nippy
And left for the pub with her purse in her hand
And arrived at the bar just as the band
Tested the mic with a "one, two, one-two"
And waited for service from the barmaid who
Hadn't noticed her there, in her scarf and her hat
And fiddled on her phone, involved in a chat

He fastened his jacket as he walked by the bar
Intending to leave, though he didn't get far
The girl in the corner with tenner in hand
Caused him to pause as he walked past the band
Who were ready to go and who started to play
A song by the Beatles about a hard day
He unfastened his jacket and walked to the bar
It'd surely not hurt to have one more jar?

She saw him and wished that she'd taken more time
Before leaving the house to come buy her wine
She smiled and pretended to not notice him there
As he stood right beside her and ordered his beer
"Oh sorry" he said, "Have I jumped the queue?"
She smiled and she nodded and he said "after you"
She thanked him and wished that she'd taken more time
Then said to the barmaid "A glass of red wine"

The band were on fire, they danced all night long
They clapped and they cheered when the band played "their" song
A song that they both said they loved more than others
A song about two young, bright, star crossed lovers
They spoke about things that they'd done and they wished
And his journey home on the bus that she'd missed
The band were on fire and when they'd finally finished
They clapped and they cheered having loved every minute

The girl with no lippy and the bloke on his own
Walked home arm in arm, ignoring their phones
They chatted and giggled and walked rather slow
Taking their time and getting to know
More about one and other, their likes and dislikes
Her love of cute cats and his of fast bikes
Then the bloke on his own and the girl with no lippy
Shared their first kiss in the queue for chippy