Advent (delayed) Blog Day 5: Blockage

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Do you ever have one of those days?

It’s when you’re waiting for news, not just about one thing but about a number of things.

You’ve done your job. You sent whatever you had to send. You’ve made an enquiry about something else. You’ve sent a reminder in relation to something where a reply is overdue. 

And if you’re a writer, you’ve probably got outstanding submissions and the day for notifying successful parties, or short-listed writers has arrived. No matter how often you check your inbox there’s nothing there. You become hypnotised by the mantra from email checks every few minutes:

Checking for Mail….

Updated just now

Nothing. Nothing new there, or if there is something new it’s spam or a scam or notification of a regular bill; anything other than what you want to read.

There is nothing you can do about it, other than sending useless reminders or follow-ups which are more likely to have a negative than positive impact upon the health of communication. You might actually draw yourself further away from a successful outcome by aggravating the situation.

What you must do, and I speak from experience here, is do something else. Move forward with something you have the power to move forward. Accept that some days are non-communication or misunderstanding days not just in your little world but in the universe.

On such days, I am convinced, nothing moves forward. Anything exchanged on these days is likely to be misunderstood. I suspect wars or minor skirmishes break out on days like these, perhaps unintentionally on occasion! 

From the point of view of people like me, in my little micro world bubble, there is true irony to be found. By nature I am a procrastinator, always putting decisions off, setting work back, generally sending out ripples of delay all around me. Yet, I am capable of getting very impatient with people I deal with who do not act or respond quickly. Perhaps there is a hint of karma in these days when things I want to happen, simply do not. 

I did not complete a poem about this but, as has become my wont, I wrote down a few lines, while still in bed, which may form the basis for a poem at some time in the future. I’d normally keep such early workings secret but, just to give a hint of the way my mind works, I’ll reproduce my scribblings, with the working title Blockage.

Actually, this will also illustrate a point I meant to make at the outset. Although I regularly experience these days of communication blockage with which I do not deal well, I tend not to suffer writer’s block. Even this type of minor frustration may set in train a thought process with the possibility of a creative product at some later point.

Remember, there is hardly anything which cannot be given a creative outlet.

Blockage

Can become an obsession, the need for welcome news and progress. 

This morning I stayed two hours extra in bed

much more than my required rest, 

simply because I was so obsessed. 

To rise from pillow I decided to refuse 

until my phone brought me good news. 

However in spite of regular checks, 

nothing extraordinary by email or text 

No call to brighten my childish mind. 

Then I rose and drew the curtains to find 

sunshine streaming through every pane,

good news twinkling on every beam

(Please don’t judge. It’s a bit clunky but just an idea in first draft.)

Post Script: This blog was originally written representing frustration in the period 24/25 January but overnight 25/26 January the communication blockage took an unusual turn, which I cannot go into in detail.

But I’ll reveal this. In a dream I was visited by a person who has passed, who chose to communicate, a message freely given but not initially understood by me. It led me to get in touch with someone I had not contacted for some time, and have reason to believe that some good will come of this.

That’s all I can say for now. Look after yourselves and each other, and try to communicate.

Advent Blog Day 17: Memories of Rabbie Burns

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Don’t know about you, but I’m all set.

I got all the traditional stuff in and have enjoyed a stay-at-home on my own, pandemic-infused Burns Supper, accompanied by Scottish Whisky.

Recollections from my childhood flow.

I haven’t written poetry every day of my life, though it’s an almost daily event these days. At ten years old I only ever wrote poetry in my head, though I loved writing essays at school. I knew very little of Robert Burns at that age but can’t help feeling that the only very short poem I remember writing (in my head) was influenced in some way by him. It’s not Ayrshire Doric but it’s in a Scots vernacular which I certainly didn’t use in my everyday speech.

A wilnae gae oot in the powrin rain
No e’en fur a king’s ransom should ony wee wean
A ken it’s guid fur the floo’ers an’ a shouldnae complain
But a wilnae gae oot in the powrin’ rain

When I was fourteen, I was one of a group of child actors from Glasgow who performed on TV as part of an improvised acting competition, which we won and got the chance to perform another play (live on tv) a couple of months later. One of the other actors, Joe Macdonald, visited me some time later and gave me a tiny book of Burns Poems as a present.

After all these years, it is still intact but very much the worse for wear. It used to have a metal medallion representation of Burns on the cover but that has become detached.

There was always an ambivalent attitude towards Burns as I grew up. People were generally proud to have a National Bard but concerned about promoting to their young people a man with such a lascivious reputation. 

In my childhood days I was certainly transported by the representation of the bard by the fabulous actor, John Cairney.

Many years ago, I wrote a very rough-and-ready tongue-in-cheek poem which at that time attempted to sum up my relationship with the man.

To a Mouse 
 

 Twa watter-cairtin bairnies we were,
 Baith poet an’ me dark and curly. 
 When ah wis wee ah loved his verses,
 ma faither shocked and pale wi’ worry.
 

 Wid his son be an Excise mannie,
 Wi’ gypsy soul and long dark lashes?
 Wid his wee laddie chase the lasses 
 An’ bed them in the swirlin’ rashes?
 

 Or poetry be his son’s undoin’?
 He didnae ken the wiles o’women, 
 The more accepted ways o’wooin’;
 Wid poets’ sangs send women rinnin’?
 

 Sic lengthy lives await the canny
 Ye first pay dues and then stay restful
 Faither thought o’ what he shid be
 But wis never that successful.
 

 Each year he prayed on Rabbie’s birthday,
 ‘A poet’s life can be fulfilling,
 Sae fu’ o’ incident and intrigue,
 My son be saved frae that, God willing!’

Before signing off, I’ll make a recommendation that you go to Soundcloud and listen to a fresh rendition of Robert Burns’ love song Red Red Rose by Linda Jaxson. That would be a lovely way to round off tonight’s celebration of Burns!

Advent Blog Day 18: Failure, Or Is It?

Okay, I didn’t manage it. Did not publish 25 Advent blogs between 20th and 25th December, as I suggested I would, but I have three things to say in mitigation. 

Warning: this post is devoid of arithmetic and logic. Its results cannot be relied upon.

Firstly the target was wrong. As discussed around the Christmas Dinner table when I was lucky enough to be with my ‘family bubble’ this Christmas Day, Advent calendars generally have only have 24 days. So, there is should not be and will not be an Advent blog day 25.

Secondly, life got in the way and that’s a good thing. 

Thirdly, I am not defeated yet. I have given this blog the Advent Day Number 18 of the (exceptionally-belated) series. Though I have now run miles past the day we all call Christmas, every day is an advent to something new.

I realise none of this makes sense but just imagine I’m a politician attempting to fool you with lies, not to believe the evidence of your own eyes, and allow me to get away with it, as they invariably do due to our complacency. 

Thank you in advance for agreeing to do that. This political chicanery is easier than I first thought! 

Oh, and given the records of our most recent Prime Ministers to mislead and destroy the country, I leave you with my poetic reminder of one of the most efficient our country has ever known. This poem appears in the December (Thatcher) Issue of The Angry Manifesto, edited by Matt Duggan and Des Mannay.

Irony Lady
 

 Once upon a time in Britain
 the very idea of a woman doing the job 
 would have drawn derision
 

 Now I am neither misogynist nor Nostradamus sir
 but all those years ago when the doorstep canvasser 
 presumed - We can surely depend upon your support 
 We are the party for the upwardly mobile you sir -
 I do not know what made me say - 
 Not with That Woman in charge, she’ll lead us to war -
 but I did
 The canvasser shook his head, smiled and said -
 The old enemies have gone, with whom should we pick a fight? -
 but she did
 

 You can call it a Conflict if you like - a killing by any other name 
 still stinks of blood
 She really made us travel for that battle 
 Bent and broke the rules to make it happen
 Argie-bargie, mano a mano?
 Ask the ghosts of the Belgrano?
 

 The greatest PM of the century? 
 I think not.
 Performing minor miracles?
 The miners would disagree -
 though she did black-magic all sorts of unexpected 
 from her blue handbag 
 Not just war in time of peace
 Investors caught on bullish horns 
 Disappearing roofs in property booms
 The loss of everything in pursuit of gain 
 Division of brothers on an industrial scale 
 Dominatrix seeks reward for sadomasochistic pain
 

 No to milk and education 
 should have signalled things to fear
 Weeks after a friend’s assassination 
 mention of that friend felt insincere
 amid a wild-eyed selective rendition 
 of part of Saint Francis’ prayer
 

 All these before are symptoms of an incurable condition - 
 Maggielomania or the delusion that you are a female God - 
 which made her go further than any male politician 
 to prove she was at least as flawed
 

Advent Blog Day 4: August Dream

Unbelievably, it has happened again.

In my original notes for 4th December 2020 (intended for my belated Advent Blog) I began by mentioning that it was the birthday of one of my sisters.

Using that as a jumping off point I drafted a poem which started off with a nonsense name for my sister which had arisen in an exchange of text messages just a few days before when she contacted me on what would have been my late wife’s birthday.

The problem (not really a problem) is that I have looked again at that rough draft poem I started almost six weeks ago, and have decided it has the bare bones of something quite different for me which has the potential to become a good poem.

So, as before, I cannot include it here in case I wish in future to submit it for publication somewhere else.

However, by happy coincidence I have rediscovered yet another piece of CNF prose which was published some years ago on a Scottish Book Trust site. Although the month in which the story is based is some distance from the Advent Season, it is a story which has now become a winter meditation for me.

August Dream

One stormy night in August 2015 I awoke from dreaming and felt compelled to write down immediately an account of the vivid nocturnal events I had just experienced; this is a personal record kept secret until now. 

I drove to my best friend’s house at some ungodly hour. I wanted to speak to him but only got the opportunity to speak to his wife, also a dear friend. She was in a bad way, upset even before I opened my mouth, irrational when I tried to converse. Everything I said seemed to annoy her, get her more upset and angry, and the whole thing escalated quite out of control.

Don’t ask me what we discussed during the two minutes that she went from upset to explosive. I honestly can’t remember; nothing of consequence. All I can tell you for sure is how the exchange ended. She was screaming, shaking and in floods of tears as she ordered me out of the house, telling me never to come back. I kept asking what was wrong, if I had done something wrong, but got no answer only screams and tears. Then she handed me a half empty bottle of liquor, Jack Daniels I think, and pushed me outside.

I felt broken. I hadn’t got to speak to my friend. His reliably civilised wife, whom I also treasured, seemed to have given up gentle manners for screaming hate. I was walking away from their house, in the dark and rain, puzzled and desolate, wet and cold, with a half empty liquor bottle in my left hand. I had no idea what had just happened.

I got back to my car. As I checked the rear view mirror I saw a dark silhouette caught against the light of their doorway. An easily recognised silhouette, it was my best friend, a beloved man. I wanted to stay but pride and hurt prevented me. How dare his little wife, supposed to be a friend of mine, eject me unceremoniously from the house he shared with her! Surely he must know something about it. Was he complicit? Getting his wife to do the dirty work? What did he tell her to make her so crazy? As the anger rose in me I put the accelerator to the floor and shot away, the sound of spinning wheels throwing up gravel.

Soon after, aware that I was being followed along the country roads and fairly sure even in the blinding rain by whom, I pulled into the courtyard of a small public house. I got out of the car and rushed to shelter in the canopied doorway of the pub. A familiar vehicle parked behind mine and I was joined under the doorway by my best friend. He did not waste time but got to the apology straight away. No explanation, much slow head shaking and sincere words of regret. I asked why she’d behaved as she did, and he appeared to try to put together some words, but it was just mouthing, mouth motions without any sound, words I could not hear or lip-read.

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I had to be content, and was content with the sincerity of his gaze, the genuine regret expressed not only in his eyes but his whole demeanour. I didn’t know if she was sorry but he was and he seemed to be trying to tell me that she had her reasons, nothing to do with me… 

Then, as I started to wake I experienced again feelings of puzzlement, desolation and growing anger. Next there was a welcome moment of contentment that my friend still cared, still loved me, but this was replaced in an instant by the distressing remembrance and realisation that he and his wife, my two beautiful friends, had both passed away within the last year.

The sadness returned tenfold and I wished I was still asleep.

Advent Blog Day 3: Mark III

And so my disordered and disorderly daily January (including belated Advent Blog) posts continue with what should have been but is not the one I originally drafted for Third December (Advent Day Three). For the same reason that I considered it necessary yesterday to replace the intended Day Two post with Advent Blog Day 2: Caring (something written some time ago) so today I have replaced the intended Day Three post with the following entirely new offering:- 

Mark III

I recently gave a summary of the ups and downs of writing in 2020 and offered thanks to a number of people Advent Blog Day 19: First Annual Thanks (2020) for their practical support of my writing in various ways during 2020. 

Appropriately there was thanks offered therein to The Hedgehog Poetry Press, which happens to be the enterprise of a certain Mark Davidson. Publication of my first Chapbook collection this year will be a significant moment in my development and I shall have Mark to thank for that (Mark I). 

I have also thanked the hard-working and multi-talented Mark McGhee, man of many guises and instigator of many projects including You Call That Radio (which I recommend you catch on YouTube, including past episodes). I am grateful for the exposure I received on this show twice in the last week of December (Mark II).

Now it is my pleasure to thank and introduce you to a third Mark, who assisted me in a couple of very important ways in 2020. Mark Mutch O’Hare is Mark III on my journey to raising profile and hopefully helping my work reach a reasonable number of readers.

Mark is a photographer and I have engaged his skill and artistry to produce headshots and ideas for cover art. If you look elsewhere on this site, particularly the Home and About pages you will see examples of his work duly credited to him. But those pages show just three out of many images he produced for me to choose from and, without boring you with the full details of the processes, I have come to recognise that there is a great deal more to his work than pointing a camera or applying a filter. 

The thought of headshots concerned me and with some justification. I generally feel very uncomfortable being photographed, even in a group. I have produced some odd facial expressions in many photos and don’t like looking directly at the camera.

Mark worked his magic, starting with setting up the shoot at a time when he knew the outdoors light would be just right. He managed to make me feel relatively relaxed and got the shots he wanted fairly quickly. He agreed to come back again the following week to repeat the process following my post-Lockdown 1 haircut, for a bit of contrast. The whole process was surprisingly painless and the results exceeded my expectations.

Similarly, Mark turned around the cover artwork very quickly but provided me with a large number of options and versions. I don’t want to say too much about the old photograph from which he was working. That’s something I may say more about if one of these ideas is approved by the publisher. Similarly, I am only going to feature here the raw image sent to the publisher, as it is the most abstract representation and the one I think best fits the title and nature of the work.

Cover art developed by Mark Mutch O’Hare

Advent Blog Day 2: Caring

I begin with this confession. I did have a Second December rough draft post at the ready, which I decided not to use. The problem is that its main feature is the first draft of a poem with the working title Second December. Unlike the doggerel piece featured in yesterday’s post, this is a poem with some potential – one which I might consider submitting somewhere in the future. Publishing it here may prevent me submitting it to certain places so I dare not risk doing that. As a substitute I offer you what would probably be considered a piece of creative non-fiction which was published on a Scottish Book Trust site a few years ago

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Caring 

It’s summer 1990. Fate has uprooted Annie in her ninetieth year of bloom.

Replanted in a Coatbridge care home, she’s napping on a padded commode chair within the allotted bedroom. A silent television flickers monochrome ghosts on yellowing wallpaper. For a few moments the setting sun rose-tints the room. Annie’s plump little silhouette squirms in the chair. Teary cataractous eyes open. Above her stubbled chin, lips tremble. Dust motes floating in the dying damask light are scattered by a sigh and thoughts become words.

The surgeon at Monklands General said replacement joints are a modern miracle. He promised I’d be able to dance the cha cha. That would’ve been a miracle … I couldn’t dance the cha cha before the hip broke!

Annie chuckles to herself, setting off a phlegmy coughing spasm. She takes a couple of draws on an unlit dowt; no smoke to inhale but the taste of tobacco seems to calm the attack. You’d approve of this, Joe; they don’t allow matches in the room! You wouldn’t let me smoke even though you had your pipe; I had to slip into the scullery for a fly puff…

 [A further confession: I apologise to anyone who wished to read this as a complete piece if I have spoiled your enjoyment. I mistakenly stated above that it was published previously on a Scottish Book Trust site. In fact I discovered almost immediately thereafter that it is an unpublished piece, an unsuccessful entry submitted some time ago to a local newspaper short story competition. So it might require a bit more editorial work. In any case, with apologies, I was able to publish here only the beginning of the story as a short extract or ‘taster’; so there is still the possibility of submitting the complete piece, after further editing, either as fiction or CNF to a competition or other publishing opportunity]

Advent Blog Day 1: Christmas 2020 – Preview of a Time to Avoid Getting Excited

Although it is just being published now some six weeks late, this tiny post was written on the first day of December, or to be more accurate, the early hours of Second December, as will be understood from the narrative of the little untitled doggerel poem which concludes it.

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It was one of those days, which rarely occur, when I felt unusually devoid of the need or wish to write anything at all. When I tried to sleep though, there was something on my mind about this final month of 2020.

Little Untitled Doggerel Piece

Tonight I thought I had emptied my brain

Would never know inspiration again.

Proceeded to bed without writing a word

Convinced that I had no thoughts to be heard.

But as my head the pillow met

My brain would not let me settle yet.

This day, I thought, begins the final month

Which used to crack with sounds of snowflake crunch –

Which now tends to shiver under wetness of showers.

Importantly there’s news now to light these dark hours

As we hear of a vaccine that apparently prevents 

The virus, let’s have patience during family events. 

Let’s do without hugs to counter our chills –

Let this year not herald a Christmas that kills.

I’d love to embrace you but the best I can give

Is Look forward to next year and hope we all live.

It may seem premature – this advent just begun – 

But Christmas will be special in 2021

When there will be hugs and kisses aplenty to be shared

And your skin will sting with rashes from my unkempt lockdown beard.

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Advent Blog Day 19: First Annual Thanks (2020)

As this is a very new website and I remain in the category of emerging writer, I have not previously had the opportunity to review what has happened in my year of writing. I hesitate to do so in case I fail to credit anyone who has helped or encouraged me in the last twelve months but I’ll just have to take that risk and now hereby apologise in advance to anyone I unintentionally omit to mention.

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The first news I received in January was that I had a winning entry in Hedgehog Poetry Press’ Nicely Folded Paper – Trois Competition. I look forward to the publication of the resultant Art of Insomnia chapbook in the early part of 2021. Thank you Mark Davidson and Hedgehog. Thanks are also due to two women I won’t mention by name at this stage. The first is my late wife, my muse who was my inspiration for many things, including this work. The second is a poet whose work I very much admire and who very recently provided notes on the latest draft; both will be formally acknowledged for posterity in the published work.

Following this early success, things went rather quiet (three rejections) until March when Cheeky Besoms Productions accepted one of my favourite poems for an anthology which was due to be published in 2020 but has been delayed because of the pandemic. It will be published when there can be an in-person launch in 2021. Thank you Ruby McCann, Maria Marchidanu and all others involved with the anthology.

The only other acceptance in March was for radio airplay of an audio recording of a new version of an older poem the apocalyptic dj. It was played on the 2nd April 2020 episode of Express Yourself on the Radio. Thanks to Sunny G Radio and Carla Woodburn.

In April I submitted two poems both of which were accepted for an Anthology of Radical Scottish Poetry published by Culture Matters. The anthology was titled A Kist of Thistles. Thank you Culture Matters and Editor, Jim Aitken.  

Also in April I was emboldened to submit the audio recording of the apocalyptic dj to an American podcast and they used it in their podcast of 23 April 2020. So, thank you Poetry in the Bar hosted by Eaton Rapids Poetry Club, Michigan.

In April, May and June I had lots of rejections but a total of four of my poems relating to the pandemic were accepted and placed in an online journal about Covid-19. Thank you Pendemic.

In May, a short story I had submitted in March, was accepted for publication by New Voices Press for Surfing, the 2020 anthology of the Federation of Writers (Scotland) which was subsequently published in November.  The short story Taste was the first piece of prose fiction I had ever had accepted for publication. Thank you to Federation of Writers (Scotland).

In May I submitted two poems which were both accepted for the Poets Against Trump anthology. It was initially published online in October; thereafter in paper form in November. Thanks are due to Stephanie Lunn.

At the end of June I submitted an entry to a Hedgehog Press pamphlet competition. Though unsuccessful my entry was shortlisted. For that, thank you Hedgehog Press.

In July I submitted a poem for a Black Lives Matter anthology. I was delighted that it was published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World in November. Thank you Civic Leicester and Ambrose Musiyiwa, Editor.

Also in July four poems were accepted for Words from Battlefield (launched 24 October) and a creative non-fiction piece was accepted for a World War II audio project. Thanks for these successes are due to Dr Linda Jackson, Finn’s Place Publishing and Langside Community Heritage. 

Further, I was asked to provide a reading of one of my poems Carnival, which originally appeared in Poems for Grenfell Tower (The Onslaught Press, 2018), to be included in the Grenfell Soundwalk, a permanent geolocated audio installation. Thanks to Giovanna Iorio, the sound artist commissioned to complete the installation.                

August brought success for an audio-visual reading of the apocalyptic dj for which thanks are due to Lesley Traynor and others at Scottish Writers’ Centre.

In the same month I submitted a poem about Margaret Thatcher which was subsequently accepted for and published in The Angry Manifesto magazine (Thatcher Edition) published December 2020. Thank you, The Angry Manifesto, Matt Duggan and Des Mannay, Editors.

Finally, in the same month, I contributed some words which former Federation Makar Andy Jackson weaved into his patchwork poem for National Poetry Day Theme, ‘Vision’ (video reading released on 1 October 2020). Thanks, Andy Jackson, for your your consistent creative skill in collating disparate poetic voices into these annual works.

Following a complete lack of success in September, in October I submitted, appeared in a shortlist of six, but ultimately was unsuccessful in yet another Hedgehog Poetry Pamphlet competition. Once again, thanks to Hedgehog for shortlisting me with such a talented bunch of poets. 

Undeterred, in November I made a full collection submission to Hedgehog which was also unsuccessful, not even shortlisted.

However, in December I had the great joy of receiving acceptances for a total of eight poems spread over four themed chapbooks with Dreich. Thanks to Jack Caradoc and hybriddreich.com

I should also say that during this unconventional poetry performance year, in addition to those audio/audio-visual performances previously mentioned I have contributed to a number of Zoom events including Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Dove Tales Scotland and Virtual Dragonflies. Thanks to Anna Saunders, Annie Ellis, Jean Rafferty, Darren J Beaney and Barbara Kirbyshaw, who host and administer these events. 

It’s also been a great encouragement to take part in creative writing classes and workshops. Mentions for Dr Linda Jackson, former FWS Makars Finola Scott and Marjorie Lotfi Gill. And former FWS Scriever Charlie Gracie.

The people I have enjoyed meeting during all events are too many to mention but you all know who you are. 

The year is nearly finished but I still have a submission or two to email. I also have one more live event to look forward to at 5.00pm on Boxing Day. It’s a You Call That Radio event Overheard in the Westend. Thanks to Mark McGhee for inviting me.

I have also been invited to submit audio recordings of some of my poetry to an Eat The Storms podcast to be relayed early in 2021. I’ll be recording those shortly. Thanks Damien B Donnelly for the kind invitation.

Given that this is developing into a longer post than intended, I’ll wind it up now by adding my thanks to anyone who has taken time to read any of my work or the random ramblings which appear in this blog. 

[UPDATE POSTSCRIPT: as this is late publication of a proposed 19th December post I am able to provide this brief update.

As well as having my reading of a poem included as previously indicated in the Poetry in the Bar April podcast, a further two poems read by me were included in the open mic of the 30 December podcast. Thanks again to Poetry in the Bar hosted by Helen and Gav, Eaton Rapids Poetry Club, Michigan.

As well as appearing on the Boxing Day You Call That Radio event when I read five poems, I was invited back to the You Call That Radio Hogmanay Event to read my short story Taste. Thanks again to Mark McGhee – a great way to finish off the year!]

Advent Blog Day 24: Christmas Eve Panic

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Here’s the truth. I have a poor track record in Christmas shopping. 

As far as I can remember the panic of Christmas Eve shopping started when I was an eighteen-years-old student. I never had any money but did have an understanding girlfriend, who later became my even more understanding wife.

During Winter vacation from University I got a job as a Seasonal Postman to earn money to buy gifts, especially for my eternally patient girlfriend. The one snag was that I didn’t get paid until Christmas Eve. When I finished my shift I had to grab a quick snack then start shopping (further details too boring to describe).

The thing is, although I had the same excuse for late Christmas shopping for the next two years, I seem to have continued the bad habit to some extent right up to the present day (many decades later).

At one time, I genuinely believed that Christmas Eve shopping until the stores closed then travelling into the Glasgow Barras for the last few items, was exhilarating. Even this latest Christmas Eve 2020 I had still not learned my lesson and had a few things to buy (details too boring to describe).

It is my intention to make this post my shortest to date on the basis that, if any of you are as disorganised as I am, the last thing you want to be caught doing on Christmas Eve is reading a lengthy document of no consequence.

However, before closing I should take this opportunity to relate that, although I had a most understanding wife who never took me to task about it, my most inexcusable Christmas purchase disorganisation failures were of toys and other gifts for my son when he was young.

As you are all aware there are certain years when very specific toys are the most sought after. And, as I discovered to my cost one year, there is a major disadvantage of being a Christmas Eve shopper. There is a strong prospect that desirable and requested-from-Santa gifts will be sold out.

There is something very dishonest, almost sacrilegious I think, about writing to your child in ornate script a message of apology ‘from Santa’ with an elaborate explanation attempting to soothe disappointment and boost the superiority of the substitute gift. Oh the shame of it!

Having got that confession out of my system, I conclude with my Best Wishes for Christmas.

My next post will attempt to thank those who have helped me make progress in 2020.

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A Last Blast of Politics Before Moving On

It is my intention to move away for a while from my most recent brief dalliance with political poetry, and I shall do so just as soon as I have given oxygen to two relatively recent publications which placed my work, and the two individual poems which fall into that category. 

One poem is certainly political in the narrow sense, dealing as it does with the very divisive former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The other is political in the broader sense of the evil irrationality of racism.

It may be argued quite reasonably that you can’t avoid some element of politics in writing in the sense that everything affecting people, animals and the planet is broadly influenced by personal politics or the politics of nations. However you will readily identify that the two anthologies I am going to speak of here fall more obviously into political categorisation.

In November 2020, one of my poems was published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World, edited by Ambrose Musiyiwa. It was a poem with a previous life in cyberspace in respect that it had appeared in 2018 in I am not a silent poet, the online magazine of the late and sadly missed Reuben Woolley. In the Introduction to the anthology Ambrose reports that the call for poems, triggered by George Floyd’s murder, resulted in 500 submissions from more than 300 writers from around the world. In those circumstances I feel honoured that my piece is one of the 107 poems (from 95 poets) which found a home in this substantial volume. It contains many poets whose names are familiar to me and whose work I admire.

In December 2020 The Angry Manifesto’s Thatcher Issue, edited by Matt Duggan and Des Mannay, heralded the return of a literary magazine which previously produced seven issues in the years 2017-18. Its stated aim is to ‘focus on politics and issues that count’. My poem in this issue was written many years ago but had never been submitted to any publication due to its very specific topic. I was surprised when The Angry Manifesto made a call for poems about Margaret Thatcher, and delighted they placed my work alongside other poets I admire including Harry Gallagher and DJ Beaney, whose debut pamphlet Honeydew (a collection of twenty-one love poems) was released by The Hedgehog Poetry Press on 14 December 2020. 

I shall reproduce both of my poems as a conclusion to this post, and thereafter look forward to our next meeting, probably somewhere within the quite different politics of life, love and death. 

I’ll mention here that I had composed, or partly written, a number of posts which were intended to appear during the dates 1-24 December as a kind of Advent Blog. A few did appear, most did not (life, eh?). Between now and the end of January I shall post daily and include the Advent Blogposts which did not appear, so do not be surprised by their strange out-of-time titles. What is time after all but a human construct?

Thereafter, from February 2021, I shall confine my randomness to just one Blogpost per week.

Regarding the two poems which follow, the Thatcher piece from The Angry Manifesto’s Thatcher Issue, which ends this post is self-explanatory, certainly for any reader who was alive during her premiership.

But the first poem, published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World, certainly requires reference to the two footnotes in the book, as follows :-

It is recorded that, in 1946, Albert Einstein stood in front of students at Lincoln University, the oldest historically black college in the United States, and during a commencement speech declared, “There is separation of coloured people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of coloured people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” 

Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, was excavated in 1903 at Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England. The remains date from the Mesolithic period (circa 7100 BC). DNA analysis indicates that he was a typical member of the Western European population of the time. Although he had light coloured eyes his hair was dark brown or black and his skin was dark or black. 

Species of Reply/Einstein Wasn’t Wrong

To witness the wordspill I could hardly wait. 

Would he accept that Denial’s Not Appropriate?

And for a moment he acknowledges the reality

seeming to experience nanoseconds of clarity

confirming a partial apparent acceptance

of solid scientific evidence that the

first modern Briton was black, black. 

But then makes sure his interpretation 

of the incontrovertible revelation pleases

those affected by jingoistic diseases

(finding these words)

I belong here, this is twenty eighteen 

Nothing to fear from a Mesolithic fossil 

(Nothing against him but nothing in common) 

Struggling a bit with the DNA findings though, 

Cheddar Man sounds more light than dark to me

However, for the sake of discussion let’s say

this minor blip occurred way back, back 

in a time so distant 

that it’s almost irrelevant

Luckily during ten thousand years

of British history this glitch was erased

from our proud ancestry

but if it had not

(he concludes)

a nightmarish tragedy  

which doesn’t bear thinking about    

Imagine me and my people, still proudly 

patriotic but dark of colour, having to yell at 

paler people (nothing against them but nothing

in common) that they should go back, back 

to where they came from, to where they 

belong, not upon this sceptred isle,

this green and pleasant land

Irony Lady

Once upon a time in Britain

the very idea of a woman doing the job 

would have drawn derision

Now I am neither misogynist nor Nostradamus sir

but all those years ago when the doorstep canvasser 

presumed – We can surely depend upon your support 

We are the party for the upwardly mobile you sir –

I do not know what made me say – 

Not with That Woman in charge, she’ll lead us to war –

but I did

The canvasser shook his head, smiled and said –

The old enemies have gone, with whom should we pick a fight? –

but she did

You can call it a Conflict if you like – a killing by any other name 

still stinks of blood

She really made us travel for that battle 

Bent and broke the rules to make it happen

Argie-bargie, mano a mano?

Ask the ghosts of the Belgrano?

The greatest PM of the century? 

I think not.

Performing minor miracles?

The miners would disagree –

though she did black-magic all sorts of unexpected 

from her blue handbag 

Not just war in time of peace

Investors caught on bullish horns 

Disappearing roofs in property booms

The loss of everything in pursuit of gain 

Division of brothers on an industrial scale 

Dominatrix seeks reward for sadomasochistic pain

No to milk and education 

should have signalled things to fear

Weeks after a friend’s assassination 

mention of that friend felt insincere

amid a wild-eyed selective rendition 

of part of Saint Francis’ prayer

All these before are symptoms of an incurable condition – 

Maggielomania or the delusion that you are a female God – 

which made her go further than any male politician 

to prove she was at least as flawed