Featured post

Monday, December 28, 2015

New Website

I'll be keeping this blog going for longer pieces of writing but for up to keep up to date with what I'm doing look at my new website www.peterjohncooper.co.uk

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sir Reginald's Christmas Carol

Sir Reginald’s Christmas Carol

You’ll want all day tomorrow, then?” thundered Sir Reginald to his one legged tattooed manservant Phillips.  “So you can get up to some shady dealings with that cut throat crew you roamed the seven seas with on the good ship Nancy?  Spending all day in some shady dock side tavern cooking up your villainies.”

Phillips had despaired of ever getting Sir Reginald to understand that he was given to seasickness and his previous trade had been as a gentleman’s hairdresser in Poole and had never been to sea in his life Not even as far as taking a trip round the Brownsea Island on a motor launch much as less as a pirate.

Clump whirr clump whirr clump whirr.  Phillips continued propelling his master’s bath chair along the cliff top path beneath the pines on this darkening Christmas Eve afternoon.   “”If it’s convenient I would like this evening as well.”

“What!  What!! What!!!”  Sir Reginald was now incandescent with rage.  “The whole of Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.  That’s the sort of anarchy that brought about the downfall of the Empire.  Good God man, have you absolutely no principals at all. I never took a day off in my whole life. We need to fight Communism in all its forms, especially Christmas.”

Phillips, thought that for once in his life he would like to be there when his nephews and nieces were opening their presents and his widowed sister had put a great deal of pressure on him to abandon Sir Reginald for once.

“Perhaps if I am not there, you will not be reminded of Christmas.  I may inadvertently whistle a festive tune.”

“Harrumph.” harrumphed Sir Reginald.

“I will leave everything laid out for you.  There is a fine stilton on the sideboard and vintage port that I have already decanted.”

At the mention of stilton Sir Reginald was somewhat mollified.  He could, perhaps manage an evening and a day with a wheel of Stilton.

“Very well.  But it’ll come off this week’s wages.  I don’t want to be paying to foster your criminal socialist lifestyle.  If I had an ounce of sense I’d report you to the customs and excise forthwith.  I must be going soft.”

As they rounded a corner they came upon a party of small children.  Sir Reginald waved his stick at them.  But instead of fleeing in disorder as they should have done they took the stick waving as some sort of signal and they began to sing.  Their small piping voices filling the afternoon air.

Silent night, holy night

All is calm all is bright

When they had finished Sir Reginald pointed to one of the urchins. His thin clothes were patched and ragged. “You.  Yes, you boy. What have you got to be so cheerful about?”

“Why Sir.” Piped the lad,”It’s Christmas Eve Sir.  We all comes from the orphanage on the other side of town.  Matron can’t afford a turkey nor nuffink but she says if we’re good today we can have spaghetti for dinner tomorrow.  Proper spaghetti out of a tin.  We are collecting for children who are worse off than we are.  Spare us a penny, Sir.”

“A penny!  A penny.  Do you think I’m made of money?”

“Sorry Sir.  We can see you are old and crippled yourself on account of you aving to be pushed about in a bath chair and so on so you must be deserving of charity yourself.”

“Of course I’m deserving.  I didn’t slave away all those years in the service of the king and country to find myself in this state.”

“Well we even’t collected no money as yet but you can share our bag of sweeties that Matron gave us before we come out.”  And so saying a grubby hand holding a paper bag was thrust under Sir Reginald’s nose.  And Sir Reginald, being Sir Reginald took two and popped them in his mouth.  The urchins tumbled past him and made off down the path.  He could hear their voices calling to him in the afternoon air. “A Merry Christmas Sir.” “A merry Christmas.”And “Proper spaghetti from a tin.” Sir Reginald grimaced.  What was this he was sucking?  “A humbug.  Bah.  Christmas.”

And just when he thought he was safe who should encounter on the path but another bath chair going in the contrary direction.  Sir Reginald’s heart sank.  It was the well known suffragist Dame Celia Vole and her constant companion Miss Pymm  a tall angular female of indeterminate years.  She, surprisingly athletic beneath her shapeless grey smock. 

“Out of my way.”  Yelled Sir Reginald.  “My right of way.  Coming through.”

“Good afternoon, Sir Reginald.  And a merry Christmas to you.  Would you like to contribute to the fund for poor refugees?”  and Miss Pymm brandished a tin at him.

“Is that all Christmas has become?  A penny here and a penny there?  You’d bleed me dry if you could.   Christmas has lost all true meaning and just become an excuse for  Money grabbing and swindling.  When will we be able to return to the true spirit of Christmas and leave people like me alone?”

“Come come Sir Reginald.  You know the donation of a small gift would give you a feeling of warm satisfaction.”

“The only thing that would give me any satisfaction would be loading all your refugees into a boat and throwing you in with them and setting you off to sail to somewhere where you can’t bother me any more.”

“It strikes me you have a great deal to learn about Christmas. You must be eligible for a visit from the three spirits.”

“You Madam appear to have gone utterly ga-ga.  I can’t make any sense out of your communistic blathering.”

“ You know, Dickens...  Christmas Carol...”

“I haven’t got the faintest idea what you’re talking about.”

“Surely even you...Three ghosts visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve and teach him a valuable lesson about the season.  ”

“You mean like the damnable interfering Social Services. And who pays for those?  It’s that socialist town council wasting my hard earned money.”

“Never mind.”  Says Dame Cecila Vole. “A Merry Christmas anyway.”

Back at Grand Marine Court, Sir Reginald was preparing for bed.  He had on his long striped nightshirt and his betasselled night cap.  He seemed almost gleeful as he scooped another plateful of the stilton and poured himself a generous measure of the twinkling ruby port wine.  Tonight there was no Phillips to look disapprovingly at his over indulgence.  No, he was content. He settled back in his arm chair and dozed off.  He was rudely shaken awake by a sudden knocking at the door.

“What the Dickens,” he muttered.  Where was Phillips when you needed him?  Nevertheless he turned the handle and there stood a small boy.  He looked suspiciously like the orphan from the West Cliff.  The lad was holding a steaming bowl of spaghetti.  “I am the ghost of Christmas pasta.”  He twirled rapidly with his fork. “long pasta.”

“A ghost eh?  Shouldn’t be allowed. I’ll have the pest control officer here in the morning.”

“I have come to show you your past life and tell you where you went wrong.”

Now the one thing Sir Reginald did not want shown him was his past.  There might be too many questions about his tax affairs and how he came to be awarded quite so many medals and honours for his services to India when the furthest East he ever got was Walthamstow.

“No.  Not interested Sonny.  Sling your hook” and he slammed the door and he settled back in his armchair, his heart hammering with fear that they might at last have caught up with him.

Barely had he closed his eyes when then there was another knock on the door.

“Now what.” He fumed leaping up.  There stood the same urchin as before.  “Persistent little devil aren’t you?”

“Please Sir I am the ghost of Christmas present.”

“You said just now you were the ghost of Christmas past.”

“Cutbacks Sir.  I’m doubling up tonight.  Let me show you what is happening in the Phillips household.”  And there they were apparently hovering in mid air in a modest council flat in Poole.  There propped against the fireplace a wooden leg, sad and forlorn.  The children gathered round the table looking at the frugal meal set before them. Their eyes were tear stained  and their cheeks were hollow from their weeping. “Poor Tiny Tim” said the woman, evidently the Phillips sister.  They all started wailing anew.  “Never mind children” said Phillips, “I’ll buy you a new guinea pig when I can afford it.”

The widow’s lips quivered “That skinflint Master of yours.  If he paid you enough we could have guinea pig every Sunday.”

Phillips, balancing on one leg raised his glass and said “God bless us every one.”

“Damn his eyes, the ungrateful wretch.  I’ll dock him two weeks wages for that.” and he aimed a kick at the ghost of Christmas Present who left as quickly as he had come.

As before he had barely closed his eyes when there came a third knock.

Damn the damnable Communists.  He bellowed and flung the door wide.  “I suppose you’re the third apparition.  Perhaps after you’ve done your party piece you can leave me alone.

“I see the future.  A coffin with your name on it.  And people dancing.  They are dancing on your grave.”

“That’s excellent news.  I’m going to be buried at sea. If that’s all of you perhaps I can get a proper night’s sleep.” And his sleep was indeed long and untroubled.

The next afternoon, when Phillips stumped back in he found his master in surprisingly good spirits.

“Did you have a good day, Sir?”

“No I damn well, did not.  I had the most terrible dreams last night.  I was visited by strange apparitions that showed me scenes from my life in the past and future.  I feel wretched today.”

“I’m sorry to hear that Sir.”

At least what that old trout Vole said has come true.  My dreams have taught me a valuable lesson.”

“Oh, may I enquire what that is?”

“Not to eat so much bloody cheese before I go to bed.”

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Bottle of Bass

Its a cold, wet, windy November afternoon and the light is fading fast.  I nip the top off the Bottle of Bass and pour an inch or two into a glass to sample it. It is bitter and smooth as cream.  And suddenly, exactly like Proust and his madelaine I am transported back in time to a world long gone. Fifty years pass in a moment.  It is another cold wet November afternoon.  I am twelve or thirteen and I am a beater for a big shoot on the estate where we live.  My hands are numb with cold and the rain is trickling down my collar but I am deliriously happy.  Working on the shoot was a great event and with the other twenty or thirty people from the village I feel entirely grown up.  There is no division between the older men and the boys.  We are all paid the same (A good wedge for a day's work).  We all get a brace of pheasants to take home and at dinner time (twelve o'clock) the back of one of the landrovers is opened and there are boxes of sandwiches (thick generous slices of chicken and ham) and crates of pale ale and brown ale. Somebody asks me what I prefer and, not really having tried either, I opt for the pale ale. Yes, that first taste, as bitter smooth as today. We sit on bales on the trailers that are our transport around the Hampshire woodlands and I think "This is the moment.  This is it."

Several lifetimes later, as a vegetarian and against bloodsports I couldn't be further removed from that day. But the bottle of Bass reminds me who I was and I am content with that.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Acte for the Reliefe of the Poore (1601)

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century a man called Thomas St. Gubbington (Or St Gubbins or Hubbins) printed a series of pamphlets in Ghent concerning the plight of the poor. Whether Queen Elizabeth l was ever aware of these is debatable but her reign marked a series of laws that provided for the relief of the poor and which became the foundation for the welfare state that has continued as a proud part of English society four hundred years later.  These pamphlets have all but disappeared but one or two can be found reproduced on the web.


A seer lay down and dreamed and in that dream he went into a strange country and he saw things which were to come in that country.

He walked about the streets of a great city and he saw many great buildings and storehouses and granaries that were full to overflowing.  And many men went about in the streets of that place who had high office and who wore fine raiment and had many servants. He saw also beggars that were lying in the dust and those with raiment that was filthy and torn.  There were many who were sick and who asked for alms but who were turned away.

And he asked of one of those who went about in this city whyfore was it that so many were in want when the granaries and storehouses were full to overflowing. And he said:  “The men who are rich are few and those who are in want are many and if that which is in the storehouses and granaries is shared with the poor then we shall have to give up one portion of our riches and that would be intolerable.”

And the seer asked and said “Is it not your duty to bring succour to those who are in want?”

And the rich man mocked the seer and said: “Whyfore should I give up so much as one groat of my riches? For my riches have been bequeathed to me by my father and my father’s father and are mine by right.  If the poor man want riches then he should labour for them until the sweat runneth from his brow and so should his children and their children’s children even unto the seventh generation and they will not have money enough for them to be called rich because it is not ordained so.  Therefore must I keep my wealth unto my bosom and not let one groat of it slip from me.”

And the seer asked him: “Is there no charity in this city?”

And the rich man answered him saying: “Let he who wanteth of charity provide the charity.  I want for nothing therefore I need it not.”

And again the seer asked him: “Is there no pity in this land?”

And the rich man said: “Pity taketh away from the pride that all men should feel.  Whyfore should I deprive him of pride who has naught else?”

And the seer saw the rich man go in at his door and he saw a poor man afflicted with sores seeking alms at the door in the manner of Lazarus at the door of Dives.

And the rich man sayeth: “Let the poor man be turned away from my door and let my servants beat him with sticks and with cudgels because he is an abomination in my sight.  And I shall stand in an high place and watch as the poor man is beaten until he departeth and goeth privily into a lowly place and it shall bring me joy that the poor man is seen no more

And there shall be no balm for his hurts because the poor man is as a clod under my sandal.”

And the rich man continued to preach; “And all sick men shall likewise be turned away as they have no money wherewith to pay. And they shall lie down with the stones of the street for a pillow because they have nowhere else for a shelter. The rich man shall be exalted and the poor man shall be cast down.  For to he that hath will be given an hundredfold, yea a thousandfold and from the poor man will be taken away the little he hath and shall be given unto the rich man even though the rich man hath not deserved it.  And those that are raised up shall be blessed and those that are cast down shall be cursed.  And those with nowhere to lay their head shall be spat on and derided. And those seeking succour shall be turned away.  And those cursed with demons will rent their garments and run naked as there is no succour for them.  And the laughter in high places will be loud at the plight of those who are cast down and those that are exalted will drink wine and hold council how to diminish those who toil by the sweat of their brow and to take unto themselves more and more of the goodness of the land.

And the rich men will appoint councillors who will speak together with the money lenders and they will make laws so that all this will come to pass and more things.

And the councillors shall decree that the widow be cast down and her children and her children’s children.  And if the widow hath so much as one room in the house more than the one that is needed for her to lie in then it will be taxed even if the widow has no money wherewith to pay.  And the taxes shall be divided among the rich men and the widow shall be sent weeping from her door.  And there shall be no more alms for the poor or succour for sick so that the councillors may wash their hands of them utterly.”

And the seer saw that all this came to pass and a darkness will come upon the land and the people of the land were cursed. And when he awoke he was sore troubled as to what the dream could mean...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Old School House Boscombe Blue Plaque Ceremony

I originally wrote this in March 2012 as a contribution to the struggle to keep the Old School House Arts Centre in Boscombe from being demolished.  The campaign was partially successful and today a blue plaque was installed to comemorate the work of Sir Percy Florence Shelley (son of the poet Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley of ,Frankensttein, fame) who gave the building to the people of Boscombe.  Percy Florence was a great supporter of the arts  and of theatre in particular.  I have updated the poem tofit a happier time.


Let us rededicate this building to the arts
Let us drive out the shadows of utilitarianism
Of Mediocrity, of settling for second best
Let us protest
That this is a place of striving
And creating
And trying for something just out of reach
Because that is what the arts are.

Let us rededicate this building to
To sculpture
To painting
To poetry
To theatre
To story telling
To writing
To knitting
To singing
To sewing
To dancing
To remembering
What happened here
To thinking of the future
To living in the now

Art is choice because
“Choice defines and expresses individual identity
What we choose to put in or leave out of an artwork
Is What we choose to put in or leave out of life

Art is movement.
It is the spinning of the potter’s wheel
It is the drawing of the bow across the strings.
It is the dancer pirouetting in the sunset,
It is the painter’s brush
And the mime artist’s hush.
And because it is movement
It is of the moment.
It is ephemeral and gone in an instant
To live on as a memory
And as a moment of change.

Let us rededicate it to children covered in paint
That they may go home gloriously happy
Ignoring their parents’ and carers’ tutting.
To those who have no other voices
That they may sing out loud and be heard
To those who have no other family
That this may be a place where they may sit and spin yarns

Let us remember here
That without arts
We cannot grasp the past
And, by running our finger tips and lips over it,
Understand it and ourselves;
That without arts
We cannot draw the future and try to dance with it
And understand what we and the world could be;
That without arts
We cannot mould the present
And hold it to the light up so that we can say
“That is good”

And when good people
Ask us whether
We would rather have the arts or houses, or the NHS or Social Services
We must answer boldly
“We need both”
Because without arts
There will be no point in having the others

Let us rededicate this building to the arts
Let us drive out the shadows of utilitarianism
Of Mediocrity, of settling for second best
Let us protest
That this is a place of striving
And creating
And trying for something just out of reach
Because that is what life is.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sir Reginald's Exciting Ride

Sir Reginald is dozing in his bath chair in his garden.  He regards it as his garden because he feels he has the right to it.  After all those rates he has paid to those communists in the Council over the years he feels he deserves it.  As for the other hundred thousand or so rate payers of the Borough they can have their own squalid little parks and gardens if they want, as long as they don’t intrude on his.  Sir Reginald’s Panama is pulled down over his eyes and all that can be seen of his face is an occasional drop of sweat that runs along to one end or other of his well waxed moustaches and falls onto the collar of his linen jacket.  Sir Reginald is uncomfortable in the heat and has already dispatched Phillips his one legged manservant to Grand Marine Court for a whisky and a jug of iced barley water several times that afternoon.  “Chotapeg”. He barks, just as they did in the heady hot afternoons of the Raj. He dreams of the Raj and his service to it although his record shows that he never managed to get any further East than Gravesend.  And quite what he was doing in Gravesend he draws a mental veil over. So he sits uncomfortably in the wicker bath chair and dreams of what might have been.
All is not well with Sir Reginald.  Apart from the heat and the intolerable slowness of Phillips, there are interruptions from the wasps which he detests from the bottom of his soul and from trippers whom he hates even more. “Idle wretches,” he fumes from beneath the Panama. “Spineless sissies. Why aren’t they at work?”  Socialists who undoubtedly spread margarine on their horrid jam sandwiches in their nasty little guest houses with peeling wall-paper and squadrons of wasp cadavers festooning the flypaper that hangs from the naked light bulb in the ceiling.  He shudders.  Holidays?  It would be kinder to let them suffer in their stuffy grimy offices or coal mines or steel foundries or whatever grim workplaces they inhabit all the other weeks of their appalling socialist lives. 
A tall man wearing a splendid beard and a turban wanders along the cliffedge path.  His wife clings to his arm and giggles in mock horror at the precipice below.  She wears a swirling pink sari.  Sir Reginald harrumphs under his hat.  To be fair to him, his harrumph is not racially motivated.  Sir Reginald is scrupulously unbiased in his thinking about his fellow man.  Black, white, pink, brown.  They are all equally loathsome in his sight.  But there is something about this elegant Sikh that makes him even more maudlin about the crumbling empire and the what-might-have-been of the world. He feels that in an entirely just world he would have been promoted to Viceroy or governor of some far-flung outpost at least.  Then there would have been no namby pamby caving in to the nationalists. Under his guidance the Empire would have continued to grow and flourish.  The colonies, Australia and Canada would have been reunited with their rightful masters and America.  Ah America a stupid lost opportunity there. Raving mad George the Third let us all down. Just think if not just half the world was coloured pink on the atlas but three quarters at least.  Most would gladly pay fealty to it.  Us. Me. China, directionless and impoverished would relish a proper management for their tea plantations and whatever else they grew there, certainly and then the rest of Asia, so probably Russia would very soon come knocking at the door.  Africa was ours by right anyway.  We found it. Oh and France.  Stupid stupid King John for letting France go. That would just leave Germany...  Think of the medal tally at the Olympics! Then there would be a search for a leader.  There could only be one.  One with vision.  An Alexander the Great.  He can hear the growing roar of the crowd as he rides triumphantly in his chariot through the great capital cities of the now great again Empire.  He holds his hand aloft to acknowledge the crowd’s acclamation.  “Sir!  Sir!! Sir Reginald.”  He is galloping onwards, faster and faster.  The chariot wheels rumbling over the vast arenas and maidans where his subjects are gathered in durbar. “Sir!  Sir!”  In his reverie The Empire is back! A sudden breeze lifts his Panama from his head and whirls it away.  A figure in a turban surrounded by gaudy coloured silks is standing beside the path to one side of his chariot. A figure with a brown face.  “Out of my way you Nincompoop.  Can’t you see I am conquering the world? What are you doing here? Mind out of the way.” 
“But Sir.  Look where you are headed”
And indeed, Sir Reginald’s bath chair is now headed down the slope across the greensward towards the cliff edge.
“Phillips!” In the space of a few seconds Sir Reginald’s emotions has gone from maudlin sentimentality, to proud fantasy to abject terror.  Sir Reginald does not do emotion very well.  “Phillips you utter dunderheaded, misbegotten, treacherous... fool.” Sir Reginald whimpers.
Phillips is stumping down the incline as fast as his wooden leg will carry him. Chotapeg and jug carefully balanced on a silver salver. Clump, clump, clump a clumpity clumpity clump. His tattooed arms reach out for the bath chair handles but his good leg catches in a molehill and he cartwheels away. He executes a perfect full twisting somersault with pike and lands on his good leg and with the salver still carefully poised.
“No time for your stupid circus stunts you abject wretch.” roars Sir Reginald, his voice returning to its default setting. But by now the chariot is well ahead of Phillips. Sir Reginald grimaces as he watches his doom approaching. He tries to remember the prayers his Nanny taught him kneeling by his bedside.  “Dear God.  I fervently believe, something.  Something. Damn it, who was it who was meant to be my saviour.  Well he damn well needs to get saving me.  And quickly, Jesus Christ, that was the fellow.  Jesus Christ Save Me!” At that moment a figure appears as if from nowhere.  It is the gentleman with the turban.  He catches the side of the bath chair which rears up like a dinosaur from a swamp. “Careful, you fool, you’ll have me over.”  And indeed the bath chair is skilfully manouevered off its wheels onto its side where it skids to a stop. 
“You damn blithering idiotic nincompoops.” Whimpers Sir Reginald to no one in particular.
“Here let me examine you, old chap.” Says the gentleman in the turban.
“Unhand me sirrah.” Splutters Sir Reginald.
“Now now.  I am a doctor.  Let me see if anything is broken.”
“A doctor?”
“I have a practice in Harley Street.  No.  Nothing broken.” He hands over his card.  “Come and see me when you’re next in town.”
By now Phillips has arrived and he and the doctor set the bath chair upright and help the occupant back in.
“Blast you Phillips.  Trying to kill me again.  This is the end of it.  You’re fired.  Once and for all. Leaving the brake off.”
But Phillips suddenly produces as if from nowhere a silver salver with a glass on it.
“Chotapeg, Sir.” He says
Sir Reginald drinks the glass down in one.
“I should come and see me about your blood pressure. I have consulting rooms in Bournemouth if you don’t travel.  Drop in any time.  I don’t like the colour of your face.  Not good at all.”
“What!  You don’t like the colour of my face.” splutters Sir Reginald, “I have absolutely no intention...” but the doctor has marched briskly away to take the arm of his wife along the cliff path. Phillips begins to wheel his employer back up towards Grand Marine Court. Sir Reginald’s voice fades into the hot afternoon air.

“Where’s my blasted panama?  If that’s damaged it’ll come out of your wages.  A doctor indeed.  Whatever will they think of next?  I suppose it’s the heat brings them out.  Like wasps.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mars Trip Adviser

When was the last time you got back from a holiday on Mars and said “Never again. I should’ve taken more notice of Trip Advisor.  One star is only just up from an asteroid.    And the Grrzztz family would be disappointed if we didn’t renew the booking before we catch the Earthside.”? I mean Mars used to be the hot ticket, the place to go, the hip and happening place in the Solar System when it was first opened up to Earthsiders. We all wanted to be seen there lounging by the canals, see it before it was spoilt by tourism. There were some great sights Olympus Mons rearing its frosted crest against the indigo sky. That was before they put in ski lifts and built KFCs on the flanks. The Gale crater with its uninterrupted views for ninety six miles from rim to rim, before they built rows of hotel domes around the edge like a nasty outbreak of genital warts. And the canals flowing deep and green and wide across the red deserts before the mining waste and chocolate brown slurry outflow.  Bloody Martians, if they want tourists they should look after their planet more.  The visitor does not want to be reminded of their home planet whilst they’re paying top dollar for the Red experience.

And what happened to the welcome at the Spaceport? Originally all part of the experience.  The groups of dancers.  Little green men jiggling their strange assortment of green parts to their strange gonging music and then hanging garlands of moss and algae round your neck.  I mean, the moss had an unpleasant sliminess to it and the smell of the algae.  I say little green men as a generic.  God knows if there was such a thing as a little green woman and how on earth you would tell them apart if there were. Never mind, we knew the whole thing was authentic and it seemed to please the little green creatures who were performing the welcome.  It isn’t like that now.  The streams of tourists are met by a superficial standardised jiggle with the interesting bits covered by aprons and boiler suits.  And the garlands are no more than cheap plastic representations.  I suppose the only bit of authenticity is the smell. The majority of the Martians don’t seem to be as excited as they once were by us tourists and seem to sit or lounge around the spaceport as if they owned the place.  I mean, good God you have to work to get your Trip Adviser stars. Since the mining companies found those huge natural deposits of cocoa below the southern ice caps. They seem to exist on chocolate based confectionary that they consume in those little cafes... what do they call them?  Mars Bars?  Getting above themselves, that’s what I think.

No, Mars is no longer what it once was as a destination so those of us who write about such things have been exploring the less visited parts of the Solar System. 
After a quick tour around the outer reaches of the Kuiper belt and the minor planets I had really had enough.  Take it from me Pluto is an entirely dismal place, nothing but frozen wilderness.  I mean once you’ve seen one methane lake or suffered one carbon dioxide snowstorm then you’ve seen the lot. And given that they’re plunged in darkness for billions of years at a time, the night life is as dismal as any part of Yeovil on a wet Saturday.  It just ain't worth the eighteen year round trip. And it’s all owned by Martians.  What in God’s name are they doing out there?

No, I wanted a planet with a bit of pizzaz.  A bit of get up go without having yet been overwhelmed by overweight and over there Earthies.  That’s why I’ve just got back from Venus. Now, I’m not saying that it’s perfect.  Still a bit primitive but definitely an air of exclusivity.  One seems to be above the rat race.  In fact you are literally for the floating hotels of Venus are great multicoloured blimps hanging in the dense carbon-dioxide atmosphere far above the surface which is hot enough to melt lead.  And I mean that literally.  I mean it is literally hot enough to melt lead.  The scientists say it is caused by the sort of runaway greenhouse effect that we’re running into on earth.  But, as with everything Earthside we are centuries behind these pacemakers.  The blimp hotels are all owned and run by Earthsiders though so we have the best of both worlds, clean towels and linen as well as the deliciously hot Venusian atmosphere.  These great ships are more like enormous clouds, up to five miles across so plenty of room to avoid that execrable family from Swindon with the kids who should have been put down for school on Saturn at birth so that they would not be running up and down the aisles of the shuttle demanding space cola.  Or preferably put down altogether.  God, if they are going to be the visitors of the future then this isn’t going to last for long.  Them or the Martians. So book now for Venus.  There ain’t going to be anywhere else to go.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Thanks for the call but I'm sorry to say I won't be voting for you.

We may not see eye to eye but we are together in this thing and we have to rub along somehow because, I reckon we need each other.  I mean, I know you are a big shot in the city with a pink striped shirt and gold cufflinks and I’m only a poet with funny glasses and a little beard .  I know you’re busy making a lot of money for the country, I appreciate that, I really do.  Maybe I’m there to do some of the things that you haven’t got time for.  Like trying to get a handle on some of those big questions such as what are we all doing here and why.     But give me a couple of hours to notice the waves and the wind and the grass blowing on the cliff-top the way you don’t have time to do and I’ll happily share it with you in some sort of entertaining poem.  Money is of little interest to me so I suppose I am just as much a misfit as you are in the general run of things.  Me, for my blindness to wealth, you for your need to acquire more and more beyond satisfying any rational want. I’ve always thought that must be a terrible affliction.  I have a sort of inkling what it’s like because I like to collect sea shells and fossils. Perhaps this mania for collecting is some sort of substitute for the funny, knockabout, not-having-anything-much childhood that makes people grow up to be useful and productive members of society as my Mum would have put it.   

I had a wonderful life as a kid and it gave me the confidence to set off on my own as a writer.  You must have missed out a lot.  Bundled off to prep school at the age of eight and being bullied by the bigger kids.  I know that’s all part of life and it makes a man of you but I bet  sometimes you wonder if things would have been just a little bit better if you’d had a more normal life with a Mum and Dad.  Or even two Mums or Two Dads. Or if there was just someone who cared.  Either way I feel sorry for what the lack of human love must have done for you.  No wonder you don’t believe in society- you’ve never known it.  Unless we talk about THAT society.  That substitute for love you had to endure. You know that dog eat dog group of rejected misfits like you where the guys thought up ridiculous steel edged visions of the world based on your fifth form economics and reading trashy American pulp fantasy novels by Ayn Rand and drinking yourself stupid and throwing food around.  

No, because, you see, we both belong to a community that’s bigger than that and includes all the misfits and poets like you and me but also all the shirkers and slackers and sick people and those who can’t cope one way or another and those who weren’t blessed with the wits that you and I have.  And all the honest, decent folk who try hard to support you by making the stuff you need and who buy and sell and keep you in business.   Maybe we could liken it to a raft that we’re all clinging to and all doing our best to get this thing to land somewhere.  Or is that a bit of a facile analogy?  Never mind that’s my problem, not yours.  I’ll try to think about a better one.  

But I’m afraid to say that I can’t vote for your harsh, Gradgrind ideology born out of hate and despair in which your love of accumulation is the only way to a future where we must retreat to our own cabin in the woods with a shotgun and a bottle of tequila and keep the threatening hordes at bay. Maybe, if I see a bit less of the naked greed thing and a bit more of the working together... The truth is, we are all in this together and we need to work together not against each other.  And what you do, making money, paying taxes does a brilliant job helping the needy, the sick and the disabled and those who are escaping tyranny and poverty. Thanks for your efforts and I’ll try to keep the poetry going in return.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Heard from Roubaix

The Arts and Crafts Dignity in Care is a European project to enrich the lives of those who tend to be excluded from the general run of life.  These individuals may be young, elderly or disabled and the project will try to make use of the special skills of artists of all types to overcome feelings of isolation and, with their carers, make their lives important again.  At a conference in the magnificence of the town hall of Roubaix in France a group of about thirty of us continued our good-humoured deliberations about how to bring this about.  I was recording little snippets of conversation in one of the discussion groups and I came up with this little poem which may give a flavour of the day.

I am a connector.
Choice is my purpose.
I connect with you and we are we.
Feeling what we do
Is what we do
Feeling To Do.
Our cultures are our stories.
We may not understand
Our story differences
Cultural difference is what we do
We reflect on the reversed picture
In the mirror.

One touch is the warmth of sun
We don’t need more complication
We can reach each other with a low tempo,
Simple basic human interaction.
More activities mean more sunshine.

We care for those we work with and we care with them.
we all have a need to care for each other.
Confronting what it is to be you.
We have been young
We have not yet been old
(When does being young finish
And being old begin?)
As we walk the care full path from young to old together
we are both care givers and care receivers;
An arm, a touch, a shoulder
If I could stumble half a mile with your tension,
I would find there is no cup of tea at the end.
And when we reach the other place
We should not think about forgetting
But be here in this time of memory
And here we are people and in this space
We will accord each other our own Dignity.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Archers - RIP

It is with deep regret that I note the passing of a great British institution - the world record enduring radio series "The Archers".  Although it could be creaky and melodramatic at times it had the unique quality of continuity of character and event.  One could get to know characters to such an extent that if one was forced to take a break from listening one could easily reacquaint oneself with the characters as if with old friends.  The events in the series just about reflected the rate of change and drama in any rural setting and because of one's long term investment in the programme one could understand how the consequences of such events played out over months or even years.

The series has been replaced with an absurdist comedy parody of the previous programme which, oddly, retains the same title.  The comedy comes from the way in which characters are wildly transformed episode by episode.  The comic effect is heightened by continually changing the actors playing these characters such that it is impossible to work out who is saying what to whom at any point.  Hilarious enough and worthy of early Stoppard but it is the risible piling of event upon event in every episode that makes listening an experience akin to a laudenum induced nightmare that even De Quincy would have shuddered at and Coleridge would have felt too nonsensical to record in a ballad.  In the early days of American soap opera writers were instructed that there should be at least one act of violence in every episode.  If we change "violence" to "madness" The New Archers easily outdoes this.

It has been clear for some time that the BBC wished to rid its schedules of this particular drama in its desire to transform Radio 4 into a rolling "News" channel.  The popularity of The Original Archers meant that it was difficult to shift and so they sent in the hit squad to finish it off by transforming it into a nonsensical laughing stock.  I cannot see the New Archers lasting 64 weeks let alone the 64 years of the original however, I believe we can assist the BBC in marketing this novel confection by suggesting a new name for it. Any Ideas?

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Where Can I Read Your Plays?

Some people have asked me where they can obtain copies of my work.  Well here is (as close a I can manage) the complete list of plays.  There are 42 including collaborations and short pieces. Some of them are obtainable from my online publishers LazyBee Scripts and one is published in paperback form by Roving Press Ltd.  The rest are in dusty old folders on my shelves. Click on the links for contacts.

Running Time
Obtainable From
The Spirit of the Land
4F/4M Plus extras
The church closes and the battle begins over the next few years to transform it into an amenity for the village. Vested interests and crooked dealings lead to a final scene set in the floods of 2014 with the villagers gathering in the encircled building.
4 Acts/
120 minutes
Not available for production yet
He’s Dead
Rose's horrific nightmares become reality when her friend Maria is fatally stabbed. As the plot twists and turns ulterior motives are gradually revealed
2 Acts
85 Mins
A Brief Encounter with MURDER
3F/6Mplus one
A restful holiday in a 1940s themed holiday home becomes a bizarre murder mystery as Mother goes missing with a bearded fisherman and a fat vicar lies dead in the front room. Was it the Rat Catcher, the Carpet Fitter or the French Dressmaker? And who is the Man with the Big Hammer?
2 Acts
70 mins
Pig Unit
Polish immigrant Paluszki comes towork at the Pig Unit with bullying Leonard and sniping Flint. When Leonard's adoptive Mother and a local girl earning money to go to college appear on the scene all hell breaks loose. And then Leonard disappears...
2 Acts
6 Scenes
90 minutes
What Would Jane Say?
Jane Austen comments on her books from a 200 year perspective. She joins an online dating site and bickers with Cassandra over her cellphone.
2 Acts
70 minutes
Not available yet
Anning’s Fossil Depot
Schools and young people. Mary Anning talks about her life and work and reveals her last illness
1 Act
40 minutes
The Cabinet Maker’s Daughter
Mary Anning, the Mad Woman of Lyme, is dying from breast cancer. Under the influence of pain deadening narcotics administered by bad tempered nurse, Susan she hallucinates about her life. When her longtime love appears is it a dream or reality?
2 Acts
90 minutes plus interval
3 short plays for street performance
3 F or M
Everyone Wants to be Somewhere Else
- 3 overlapping mobile phone calls delivered through megaphones
Free at the Point of Delivery
- A bizarre new NHS
- The Colonel and street girl Lou meet in a dystopian future
3 x 5 minutes
Mrs Adapta Iago's Knitting Circle
3F/ 1M
The knitting circle has been meeting in the front room of Mrs Adapta Iago's bungalow every Tuesday and Thursday evening for the past forty years. But everything is not as it seems - there's conspiracy in the air. What is the project they've been working on all that time? Why are the knitting circle members all intellectual women graduates from one of Oxford's top colleges? What is the secret they want to keep from Michael, the bus driver? What actually did happen to Magda? What is the solution to the four colour problem? And what happened to Connie's rash? This darkly comic tale is as full of twists and turns as a ball of wool.
2 Acts 4 Scenes
98 Minutes
She Opened the Door -The Wife and the Women who Haunted Thomas Hardy
Controversial reassment of Thomas Hardy's first wife by Emma. At the time sh was thought more than a little eccentric but might there have been a very real reason for her behaviour? Something to do with an overweening Mother-in-law perhaps?
2 Acts
80 minutes

With supporting research and notes on the production.
Eve of War
Knights inshining armour or gas masks and refugees? What stories will Nanny Cummins read from her book “Little Arthur's History of England” toexplain the oming horror to her small charge? And will that mean confronting the darkness buried in her own past?
2 Acts
90 minutes
Not available for production
Welcome to the Future
1 F/ 1M plus 1 child
Jimmy wakes on New Year's day in the year 2000 to see a world transformed with silver suits and hover cars.
20 minutes
Chelsey and Baz (With Tara Dominick)
Rich heiress Chelsey alone on her yacht picks up castaway Baz from his raft in the middle of the ocean. His story changes minute by minute and so does the posibility of romance.
35 minutes
The Lady of Shallott
Bad tempered Arthritic Jacqueline watches the goings on in the street below from her window . A group of kids smokingin the bus shelter. A policeman practising for his role in a Gilbert and Sullivan production. Meanwhile she tries to complete a tapestry for the local shopping centre.
2 Acts
50 minutes
Conversations at the Sorrento
- A bouquetof short table plays for performing in cafe spaces
A woman is dumped by her husband via her mobile phone. Two walkers consider what would have happened if one of them had fallen from the clif. Two members of the flower show committee try to have a meeting. An elderly day tripper tries to decide whether to have a panini for lunch.
5 x 10 and 15 minute pieces.
The Town Hall Fish
Various but minimum 4F /3M plus 6 girls, 1 boy and several extras.
A day in the life of a small seaside town. Various characters come and go and a disagreement escalates between and the manage of the local aquarium. At the end of day the sight of a drowning sailor makes think she has seen an angel.
2 Acts
110 minutes
Dead Air
1F/ 1M
Susie Strong hosts the Very Very Very Early Show on Radio Violet. But today nothing in the stdio is working and with the studio technician not due in for another hour or two she's on her own. Then she hears footsteps in the corridor outside.
2 Acts
40 minutes
The Time Machine
2F/ 2M
Plus puppets
Adaptation of H.G.Wells' story. But with the added complication of two white mice hiding in the machine and who get trapped in the future.
2 Acts
70 minutes
We Call it Home
An history in songs and sketches commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of a Scout and Guide headquarters in Dorset. Very specific but could be used as a blueprint for similar events.
40 minutes
Dick Whittington and his Crazee Cat
Knockabout, updated version of the traditional pantomime.
2 Acts
90 minutes
Captain Pugwash and the Monster of Green Island
4 M plus 1 F to play Tom the Cabin Boy
Based on characters created by John Ryan. Pugwash wants to stand as toen mayor but he needs to make a grand gesture to be elected. He decides to set sail for Green Island to capture a monster for the town zoo. Black Jake stows away on board the black pig and pandemonium ensues.
2 Acts
Licence for characters needed. Reading copy only Spyway Projects
Shahrazad (with the Company)
Adaptation and conflation of some of the original Arabian Nights tales as Shahrazad and her sister Dunyazid take on the wily old King Shahria and try to put off her execution.
2 Acts
70 minutes
The Trumpet Major
F 1/M4 with doubling.
8 without doubling The old Anne Garland could be doubled by her younger self.
Thomas Hardy's novel of life in the Napoleonic era, with soldiers massing to repel invasion, and village life in turmoil as a result.
130 mins
2F / 3M
Adaptation of the Longfellow poem. The story told by a band of Jesuit priests traversing the wilds of Canada.
80 minutes
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Vanishing Author
Author Conan Doyle is gradually taken over by his creation Sherlock Holmes, but then the attempt to kill off his creation, results in Holmes using all of his skills to escape death.
2 Acts/
5 Scenes
90 minutes
Published by LazyBee Scripts
The Runaway Train (with Jem Barnes)
2F / 3M
Pantomime play. Something is blocking the drains in the small wayside station where the old engine Ethel May Winthrop is being restored. But what happened to the gold that disappeared on her fateful last run? Requires full size practical steam engine.
2 Acts
90 minutes
Little Arthur’s History of England
Original version of the play “Eve of War”

No longer available for production
The Mayor of Casterbridge
2f / 3M
A faithful retelling of Thomas
Hardy's well-loved novel for small company. Michael Henchard sells his wife after a bout of drunkeness. Vowing never to drink again he does well and rises to become Mayor. But when his wife and daughter reappear years later his life spirals into tragedy.
90 minutes
Jane Eyre (with Helen Palmer
2F /2M
An adaptation of the Charlotte Bronte novel for a small cast in flexible settings.
80 minutes
Painting the Clouds with Sunshine
Young girl has dreams of Hollywood in the 1930. Her adventureson the way to stardom
70 minutes
Robinson Crusoe
2 F / 3M
including cross dressing dame and principal boy
Traditonal panto for small cast touring prouction
80 minutes
Little Red Riding Hood
19792 F / 3M
including cross dressing dame and principal boy
Traditonal panto for small cast touring prouction. Little Red Riding Hood lives in the greenwood with her father Robin and outrageous Grandmother. The Sheriff of Nottingham disguises himself as a wolf for the usual reasons. With songs.
2 Acts
80 minutes
I Want to Fly
Play for young people in schools with classroom particiption. Four characters want to learn how they can fly and explore the history of mankind's attempts to do so.
Half day project. Play itself round thirty minutes
Brog Seven (with Jem Barnes)
2F /2M
A play for young people about Energy Conservation. Christine and he mother run a launderette. Brog Seven arrives from the year 2401 to sabotage their machines and point out what their misuse of energy will mean for the future. Meanwhile the dastardly Sir John Montague wants to corne the energy market for his own ends.
40 minutes
Krondos (with Jem Barnes)
3 F or M
A play for young people about Energy Conservation. Representatives from three planets meet to decide which is the most efficient energy source before the Galaxy runs out altogether.
30 minutes with discussion
The Web (with Jem Barnes)
1f / 3M
A play for young people about Energy Conservation. Perhaps the Wheeler Energy Box will be the answer to all our problems. But the villainous Grabbitt and Runne have their eyes on it fo themselves.
30 minutes
Damion and the Plague of Words(with Jem Barnes)
1F /3M
A play for young people to encourage reading with participation. Prince Damion is losing control of the kingdom through a md deluge of words. Perhaps the children can help by taking the words topiece and reassembling themin a more organised way.
30 minutes
The Jolly Farmer (with Jem Barnes)
1F/ 3M
The life and times of eighteenth century political activist William Cobbett. With songs.
80 minutes
A Grave Matter (with Jem Barnes)
1F / 3M
A hot summer in the seventeenth century and the wife of a prominent Basingstike business man is buried aive twice. Humorous retelling of a genuine piece of Basingstoke history.
80 minutes
Mummers’ Play
All sorts of permutations for a cast of five
Performance version of the ancient tradition with plenty of modern allusion and knockabout humour.
20 minutes
A Christmas Carol (with Jem Barnes)
Cast of five
An adaptation for flexible company of Charles Dickens' evergreen tale. Interspersed with traditional carols
90 minutes
A young volunteer visits an elderly blind man holding out against eviction
1 Act
40 minutes