No Cat Puns

There are no cat puns in this poem,
No feline phrases flowing.

Don’t have kittens with anxiety:
That would be a cat-astrophe

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This poem is far from purr-fect

 

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Careers Advice for the Chosen One

In my head at least, this is a lost Monty Python sketch… you may prefer it had remained lost!

INT, DAY, CAREER GUIDANCE COUNSELLOR’S OFFICE. STUDENT LOITERING IN DOORWAY

COUNSELLOR:
Come in! Please! Come, take a seat. Tell me, what can I do for you?

STUDENT: (entering)
Well, it kinda says on the door… I was after some career guidance.

C:
Of course! Wonderful that young people are so proactive these days. What sort of career or careers have taken your interest?

S:
Only the one career.

C:
Very decisive of you. And that one is?

S:
Chosen one.

C:
Chosen one?

S:
Yes, that’s right, chosen one.

C:
(pauses) You are looking at a career as…the chosen one?

S:
It’s a calling. I’ve been called.

C:
(hesitant) You’ve been called… Have there been any signs? Any miracles? Any unexplained phenomena?

S:
An electronic gate. It opened automatically for me.

C:
Lots of gates do that.

S:
This one didn’t have a sensor. It just opened. For me.

C:
There could be lots of perfectly reasonable, rational explanations for that gate opening. Malfunction, for example. A short circuit. Some electrical disturbance.

S:
I find your lack of faith disturbing.

C:
Well, it really isn’t much to go on now, is it? Have there been any other incidents?

S:
I stopped a bus.

C:
You stopped a bus?

S:
Is there an echo in here? Yes. I stopped a bus. It was coming towards me in the road, and I put my hand out in front of it, onto the windscreen, and stopped it.

C:
Were you at a pedestrian crossing?

S:
Yes…

C:
Is it possible, in any way, that this bus was, perhaps, stopping anyway to allow pedestrians, such as yourself, to cross the aforementioned road?

S:
(snorts) It’s possible.

C:
Ok… anything else? Two pieces of evidence you see, if such they are, is hardly conclusive. Even sainthood needs three miracles these days.

S:
No, just the two.

C:
Well, as your careers guidance counsellor (gestures to the sign on the door), let me counsel you then to go out into the world, do good deeds, a bit of helping the meek, making sure you recycle, save the planet… generally live a good life. You could start by volunteering at a charity shop?

S:
A charity shop! I come in here telling you that I’m the child of a supreme creator, and you want me to volunteer in some dingy charity shop? (getting increasingly irate) “Here, Jesus, come down off that mount and stop sermonising, Mrs Jones wants her Dan Brown boxset bagged up”… “Never mind that restituting the meek malarkey, how much are the Princess Diana tea plates?” For the last time, stop healing the blind and the lame, there’s a queue of irate pensioners at the till and they’re getting hangry!” (storms out)

C:
(to camera) That’s the problem with kids today. Want it all on a plate… Next!

 

Pigeon Pageantry

This is a 300-word FF on the theme of “Royalty”, for the Bloggers Bash competition… My second entry – this one’s less likely to get me a knighthood! Hope you enjoy!

“Alright, Trev?”

“Not so bad. Yourself, Dave?” The first pigeon shrugged his barely discernible shoulders.

“Can’t complain. Found half a box of KFC last week. Seemed a bit of a coup in the circumstances.”

“Haha, ‘coup/coo’… good one,” he laughed, in that way that pigeons do.

“ ‘ere, Trev, have you seen Sal lately?”

“Yeah, I see ‘er now and again. How come?”

“Have you seen that ‘er with that bracelet? Big rattley thing, wears it ‘round her neck.”

“Can’t say I’d noticed… hang on, wasn’t that her mum’s?”

“Yeah that’s it. Her mum’s shuffled off to join the choir invisible…”

“That’s a shame. Well, I say a shame. Never really liked ‘er. All those airs and graces. La-de-das and all that. Thought she was better than us, just ‘cause her dad left her a big nest. She never had to scrabble around in the mud for a worm like the likes of us, did she, Dave?”

“No, she did not… ‘ere remember, that daft little tip of the wing she used to do to her “adoring crowds”. Give me strength!”

“Haha, it’s a wonder that any of the other pigeons fall for it!”

“Yeah, but you know what we’re like. Suckers for a bit of pigeon-pomp and pageantry.”

“Too true, my friend, too true…. What were you saying about Sal?”

“Well, just that with that bracelet she seems to think she’s lady of the manor now. As if it makes a bit of difference who her parents were!”

“Never even knew my Dad. Never ‘eld me back.”

“You’re made of hardier stuff, Trev. The world needs more pigeons like you.”

“Aw, cheers mate… don’t suppose you’ve …got any of that KFC left, have you?”

“It’s been a few days…”

“I don’t mind if you don’t”

They fly off, together.

 

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Annus Miraculis

This is a 300-word FF on the theme of “Royalty”, for the Bloggers Bash competition… Hope you enjoy!

What does one get, for the mother who has everything? (Literally, everything.) Charles went through the same dilemma every year, and every year fell short. Not that she said anything, of course. A lifetime of not speaking out had …consequences, but he knew better.

He pulled his coat tight to his face against the December chill, readjusted his cap, and continued his search through Knightsbridge. He grimaced as he passed Harrod’s, but the next store along was somewhere he hadn’t noticed before. As he stood in the neon glare on the crowded pavement, the answer came to him. “I’ve got it!” In any other city, this exclamation would have attracted glances, but not here, not now. He rushed into the store, his grin broad enough to reach both of those ears.

After their traditional Christmas family lunch, it was time for the presents. Charles eagerly urged mother to open his first. Impassively, she opened the large box. She stared at him. “Thank you… what is it?”

“Let me plug it in.”

With palpable indifference, mother waited as Charles fiddled with the leads.

“Choose one,” he urged.

She stared down at the electronic karaoke screen. She scrolled past “Who Let The Dogs Out”, “Who Wants to Live Forever” (it just felt cruel), and “One”.

Charles’ enthusiasm was waning by the second. Not again…

“Hm,” she thought, then paused for the briefest moment before launching into an enthusiastic “Dancing Queen”.

Philip spat his tea clean across the living room, much to Harry’s amusement.

All sat open-mouthed as she sang with a HUGE smile on her face. Charles nearly cried with joy.

Song after song she belted out, until after “one ain’t nothing but a hound dog”, she dropped the microphone and walked off. “thangyouverymuch…Old Liz has left the building!”

 

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The Knock

A 650-word piece of flash fiction. Just because 🙂

There was a gentle knock at the door. Confused, I paused the TV, wrapped my dressing gown to conceal my Batman pyjamas, and trudged to the door.

There was no one there.

*cough*

I looked down.

“Hi, didn’t want to startle you,” said a suggestively purple snail on my doorstep.

“You’re a snail,” I said, never one to miss an opportunity to state the obvious.

“Not really, but the confusion is understandable. Mind if I come in?”

I shrugged an agreement, and the not-snail insinuated itself through the open door and into my house. There was something very unusual about the way it moved. Not at all snail-like.

“How did you knock on the door?” I asked, dealing with the weightiest questions first.

“I’m slightly psychic,” it replied, an air of pride unmistakeable.

“You’re a slightly psychic snail?…” I closed the door behind it. Did it control me to do that?…

“Not a snail.”

“Right. Cup of tea?” Social conventions offer a lifeline out of any situation.

“Err, no thanks. Tea is poisonous to my race. The effects can be …unpredictable. Violently so. Tea is banned under our version of the Geneva Convention. The Tannin Wars were a dark time in our history.” It looked up, saw my reaction. “You weren’t to know.”

“Sorry…. Coffee then?”

“Yeah, that’d be great. I take it black.” With that, it glided (glid?) into the living room, while I went on autopilot into the kitchen to dig out the coffee from the back of the cupboard.

I took a minute to compose myself, while the chrome kettle did its thing. Keep it together, Al. There’s a snail-thing in your living room, that’s popped in for coffee. Totally normal. Just a normal day.

I returned a minute later with two coffees, and some rich tea biscuits. “It’s the best I had,” I explained, by way of apology.

The not-snail did not look pleased, but made no comment. Is anyone ever happy getting offered rich tea biscuits?

“You’re probably wondering why I’m here,” said the snail, psychically moving the coffee from cup to mouth. I tried not to stare.

“Well, yeah…”

“I come from an alien world. You would identify it in the constellation Sirius. Our homeworld is quite unpronounceable in your language.” That pride again.

It continued: “I am here to make first contact. To form an impression of humanity, and build towards a pan-galactic alliance between our peoples.”

I kicked myself at the rich tea offer.

“We are a far more technologically advanced civilisation than yours. We have evolved beyond war, disease, poverty, intergalactic travel, and the distortion of time felt in dentist’s waiting rooms… in fact, we have conquered not only death, but the suggestion of it. Poof, gone.”

It bristled in its shell, waiting for all of this to sink in.

I sensed it was waiting for a reply. “Err… well done?” I glanced at the paused TV. Homes Under the Hammer would be on soon. Wonder how much longer this will take?

It sensed my impatience; slurped down the rest of its coffee. It looked at the biscuits and shook its small head. “Right, well I’d better be off then. I’ve only travelled 137 light years across space, left a glorious home and family that I’ll never see again, only devoted my entire existence and every waking thought to this moment, but I wouldn’t want to keep you.”

I showed it to the door, waved it goodbye, instinctively. It did not speak another word, or look back at me as it glided out of my front gate.

I closed the door and leant against it; exhaled loudly. I re-attached the “no cold callers” sign that had slipped down behind the landline phone. Then, “a-ha!” and rushed back to the kitchen, rummaging around, deep in the bottom cupboard. The emergency Hobnobs!

I shuffled back to the living room, and unpaused the TV.

This day’s taken a turn for the better.

 

 

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ET, crawl home…

Photo by Johan Desaeyere on Unsplash

9 tips for new bloggers… from an old Cockney gangster…

Wizened old cockney man-crone: (huskily) ‘ere, son, come over ‘ere a minute…

Fresh-faced cherub: What is it grandad?

WOCMC: Grandad? Grandad? I’m only 27.
(a cough from the back of the room)
Fack off.

FFC: No offence meant… senior person-type thing… you look a bit like Brick Top from Snatch – did you know that?… so, what do you want? I was just about to publish my first blog post…

WOCMC: Yeah, it’s about that. ‘ardest game in the world, blogging.

FFC: Really?

WOCMC: No, not really. Unfortunately it’s a piece of piss. Getting started, anyhow. ‘ave you seen some of the royal shit on ‘ere?

FFC: No, I haven’t had the pleasure. Should I have?

WOCMC: (whispering) Don’t be too obvious now. (Louder) Oh, I could tell you some things about blogging, alright… stories that’d make your hair burn…

FFC: It’s okay, I think I’ve got a handle on it. I did find this post from Hugh very useful.

WOCMC: Oh, you did, did you? Yeah, I’ve ‘eard of him. He’s disappeared a few people over there in Wales in his time. Never ‘ad the pleasure meself. Anyway, the problem with that Hugh is he’s nice. Actually likes trying be all helpful, if you can imagine.

FFC: And that’s a problem because?…

WOCMC: (extra husky) I ain’t nice.

FFC: I beg your pardon?

WOCMC: I said I ain’t nice. You got treacle in your ears, sunshine? If you want me to read the shit you put on your blog, you’re gonna have to fackin’ work for it.

FFC: (pleading) But I’ve been reading some articles about how to make a million from my blog in the first week!

WOCMC: (laughs, pisses him/herself) Never mind that shit, you prize twerp! Here are my top 9 tips to get actual people to follow you

FFC: Shouldn’t it be a Top 10?

WOCMC: (shakes head) ‘ow little you know…

 

9 rules for ‘appy blogging

1. Don’t be BORING. You may not be a comedian, sunshine, but there ain’t no excuse for not being interesting.

2. Don’t APOLOGISE. Just say what you gotta say, treacle.

3. Pick a theme that don’t make me VOMIT

4. A FOLLOW for a Follow? You ‘avin’ a laugh?

5. Don’t BEG for me to come and look at yer blog. ‘ave a bit of respect for ye’self.

6. EXPERIMENT…slowly

7. Don’t EXPECT. Build your crew up slow, like.

8. Not TOO MUCH/ OFTEN. Ain’t got no time for blabbermouths…

9. Not too BROAD. This ain’t the London Palladium, and you ain’t Bruce Forsyth, god rest his soul.

LEBARAN SALE

Grabbing 2018 by the B&lls!

Let’s be honest, 2017 as a year was… a bit shit. Too much hate-filled terrorism, too much idiocy-filled Brexit, too much asshole-filled Trump… even the celebrity deaths looked a bit shit compared with the previous year (RIP David Bowie and Alan Rickman). Not to mention that The Last Jedi was also…a bit shit. (Sad, but true. Feel free to fail to convince me otherwise below…)

But this isn’t the “a bit shit” blog. (Quiet at the back.)

I’ve had a poem saved in drafts for over two years now. It’s about feeling low in the new year (“the calendar moves on/ I remain still”)… it’s not going to get published here this year either. It’s just not what I want to share. Life is “a bit shit” enough without me releasing my faintly whiffy poetry into the air. It would be as welcome as a fart at a funeral. (As I’m fairly sure Geoff Le Pard would/has put it!)

I’m also not one of those annoyingly cheerful positive types. I know some of my American readers lap that stuff up, but us Brits don’t really go in for that either.

Modesty.
Awkwardness.
Self-deprecation.

Those are our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” equivalents.

I digress.

So… a middle way. A smidge of positivity, without the odour of negativity. A sustainable, splash-free course through the swirling turd-hills of terror, Brexit, Trump, #this-year’s-evil…

In terms of my poetry, things are starting to move along… I have joined a supportive poetry collective, DIY Poets… I will continue to attend open mics (am back to The Cave next week)… I have a brief slot supporting the brilliantly funny poet John Hegley in March… I got my first publishing credits last year (in a charity collection – Diverse Verse – and then in a wonderful local Christmas ‘zine through Mud Press)… I have collated poetry for at least three different collections I intend to self-publish (pending me arranging some cover art)… I hope to soon be sharing a few videos of my poems on youtube…

In terms of my other writing, I am currently developing an idea I have for a sitcom, and am trying to get to grips with screenwriting… I may even go back to a novel I started in 2016… plus some unfinished business with drafts of a handful of children’s picture books…

A few different options!

So… back to grabbing 2018 by the balls (or throat, if you prefer a more violent but less sexual image)…

I have volunteered to help organise the Nottingham Poetry Festival in April. I will be the official blogger in the build-up to and during the festival. What this means in reality, I can’t yet tell you (not because it’s secret, but because I don’t yet know either!), but when the call went out for people to help a month ago, I took an afternoon off work, got the tram into Nottingham, sucked in my gut, and said to a room-full of strangers “err…anything I can do?”

I am very excited about this one!

I hate “takeaways” (unless being used in the British sense of food delivered to your door, obviously), but if there is a takeaway from this, it’s just this:

When whatever-your-thing-in-2018 sends a call out for people to help (and it will)
– Get on the bus/ tram/ boat/ unicycle
– Suck in your gut
– Say “err… is there anything I can do to help?…”

To your success!

 

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Last Christmas

With apologies to George Michael…

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
You bought me a Lynx deodorant gift set from Boots, £4.99.

I’m not a materialist
But that feels a little one-sided to me.

I don’t even like Lynx.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

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What a performance…

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for some time about me branching out into performance poetry, but never quite got round to it… largely because I’m losing what little free time I have due to… you know… being out, performing!

I reached a point with blogging my poems where I wanted to test them in front of live audiences. There is a vibrant open mic/performance poetry scene in my home town of Nottingham, and I decided during the Nottingham Poetry Festival back in April that I would use an opportunity at a library reading to take the plunge myself.

I’m not an extrovert.

I’m not a naturally confident performer.

I’m not someone who seeks the limelight, in any shape or form.

But you have to test yourself to know yourself, right… So I tested myself. In my local library, in front of thirty or so mostly elderly people, I read a poem, “Memory”, that I had written especially for performing. It didn’t even rhyme, which is a big thing for me! The reading went well. Really well. The host, Henry Normal, complimented me (I’m a huge Henry Normal fan… this was dream territory for me…) Old ladies came up to me afterwards congratulating me on my poem, saying that they connected with it…

Well, I was hooked!

I pressganged a Babbity friend into attending an open mic with me, for some much-needed moral support… (In fairness, he had suggested, probably a year ago, that we give performing a go… but you know that thing with your kids where you have to plant the seed of an idea, then let them go away and think it’s their own?… yeah, that!)

Next, there was an opportunity to head across to Walsall for the launch of Diverse Verse 2 (reminder – submissions for DV3 are still very much sought ), and for me to meet up in person with a poet blogger – Richard Archer – whose work I’d always enjoyed. For me, it allowed me to build up my confidence on “foreign soil”, where no one could report back to Nottingham how nervous or awful I was! Well, maybe not awful, but definitely nervous. But again, it went well, and everyone was so welcoming and warm it helped set me at ease.

This Walsall reading was a little different. The open mics tend to be a two-poem affair. The Walsall reading gave five minutes per performer… for someone who writes mostly short poems, this gave me some extra opportunity. Five minutes… that’s all...

…any guesses how long I spent preparing for that 5-minute slot?

It was easily an hour… seriously!

I picked a batch of poems I thought would work well together, then practised them in my bedroom, recording myself on my cameraphone, to see how it worked, and to check it went to time.

Yeah, I have problems…

But I was nervous, and needed to go through this to have the confidence that when I got there I knew what I was doing, and could relax a little and maybe even enjoy it.

(I don’t need to do this any more, not to this extent anyway, but I do still like to be prepared…)

I joined an amazing local poetry collective, called DIY Poets. To do them justice, I’d need to write a separate post, but suffice to say it is a group who have been bitten by the same performing bug, and encourage others to join in to share their words. I’m no longer a lone wolf…

There is a monthly open mic night in Nottingham called Cross Words, run by the lovely Leanne Moden (she’s written better poems, but I – predictably – love this one! ). Now, this open mic is truly something special. Moulded around Moden’s personality, this is as warm and kind and talented a crowd as you will ever get. Everyone gets the same opportunity, with a featured headline poet to top the night off, and best of all, it takes place in a freaking cave! An honest to goodness cave, with performers standing beside the well… Well, I’m in love. This is the open mic of choice for me. There are others that I have yet to check out in Nottingham – and I will do in good time – but unless any of those are also set inside a freaking cave, then I know which will remain my favourite!

After attending a couple of these, getting a feel for things, and enjoying some amazing poetry and performances, I realised that I wanted to truly test myself. All of these crowds will give any poet a warm welcome, and a congratulatory round of applause… I could play it safe, and read some emotional, or descriptive, or romantic, poetry, and be guaranteed the same reaction.

Clap clap clap, thanks for coming. This isn’t to diminish anyone who performs, not at all, but the nature and quality of the audience ensures a polite reaction…

But I didn’t want a polite reaction.

I wanted to make them laugh.

to be continued… tune in next time for actual footage of me performing!

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Man In A Cave… a freaking cave!

Are you a poet looking to get published?

My friend in poetry, Richard Archer, is compiling a collection of poetry for charity – Diverse Verse 3. I contributed to the book 2, and will be rustling up something for book 3 too – it would be great if you could join me!

Here’s how you can get involved and see your poem in print

All you need to do to be involved is to email a poem to the email address below and it will be considered for the book based on the following rules. Please note entry is free.

  • All poems must be the authors own work, please don’t submit something that isn’t yours.
  • Poems are welcome from anyone, anywhere in the world.
  • Please submit no more than one poem.
  • A submitted poem must be in arial font in a format free word document. If you are unable to do such then just paste your poem into the body of your email.
  • Poems on any subject and theme are welcome, however sexually explicit poetry and poems with extreme bad language will not be considered.
  • Poems should be no longer than 400 words approx.
  • Previously published poems can be submitted as long as the writer holds the copyright.
  • When submitting poems please include your full name for inclusion in the book’s contents, an alias is acceptable.
  • Email your poems to Diverseverse@aol.co.uk
  • The book will be published via Lulu the online publishers.
  • Closing date for submissions is 31st December 2017.
  • Anyone who is in the book will be notified after submissions close.
  • Poems that do not conform to the guidelines will be rejected automatically.
  • The copyright of any poem selected remains with the author.
  • Richard hopes to have the book out in 2018 by the spring at the latest; money raised from sales of the collection will go to Cancer Research UK.

Further details and links to the previous books can be found here

Happy writing!

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This was me reading at the launch of Diverse Verse 2… just realised how often I wear this t-shirt to open mics!