A young child on viola, how European! Even if the house is Victorian or Georgian.
Large areas of English cities form unexpected oases of beauty for faces smudged with coal smuts look at the fruit trees of considerable height they blossom in spring as the former basements are bathed in light.
My father claimed beauty in grey from a sea which throttled me.
The key to regeneration is art and culture – and community. We may bustle and bristle but this get things done, which is not to be sneered at – if a pier collapses, artisanal bread floats and forms a life-raft.
Have you tried tea and cakes of pig fat, rides through brickworks to a single room?
Now communal chanting and swift crowd judgements thrill the eager visitor as torch-lit parades enthral an audience even Dali could not dream of.
And thinness, an effect of genocide, it taught me “art”.
An explosion in higher education has created our population bursting for poetry, song and thin monographs on Slovenian surrealists.
Now I see them urinating in lay-bys or gallivanting in burnt fields as crops rot.
Take your pick from the vast array of restaurants of every nationality – many of which serve food children can safely eat.
Alien clothes stand surreal at bus stops, teeth gleam – violence awaits us all.
A mature debate is needed – the lack of nuance astounds those of us educated in higher values.
My front room is ready. The books are sentinel and sempiternal.
Anything but immediate condemnation is blatant support for these flag-waving lunatics.
So many arguments to confront a rush of fire.
My page stands ready for any flag, be it national or regional.
Maybe not the thrack as the petrol catches.
I am an expert.
In a faded ski-jacket and old trainers, it loafs along, dodging backward glances, following my every step.
I’ve had enough.
So I book my annual holiday in a motorway Ibis – amidst a migraine patchwork of dusty vegetation, flight paths and conveyor-belts over graphite lakes.
Here I await my brothers in failure.
I. Menu Rage
Geoff from accruals and accounts payable has ordered some ‘Ukrainian bird’ for marriage and children, perfect for flights from Kiev – her family a mixture of gangsters and radioactive meat suppliers.
We meet in the bar.
‘Women’s teeth are so important – have you read Zadie Smith?
‘Most Slavs suffer from halitosis. I’m hoping my luck will change.’
We discuss the menu. I am familiar with the dizzying rhetorical tricks but Geoff smiles in expectation.
“Here she comes…”
I can’t decide between Hunter’s Chicken and Harissa Lasagne.
No one has yet explained the mysteries of the former. Originally a dish from Provence, eaten on those enormous slaughter-drenched hunts, with rough flagons of liquorice-tasting wine. Then brought to England by the Huguenots and – at first – a delicacy eaten at society balls, or Cambridge graduation ceremonies.
Now, regional variations in England have ensured its continued popularity.
In Cornwall, it can be used in pasties or thrown at tourists.
In Lincolnshire, it is served as enormous coiled sausages then dumped on mashed turnip.
In Lancashire, it is deep-fried with pig’s blood and fed to anorexics on death row.
Harissa! Is it made from body odour or unwashed hair?
Or maybe that’s baba ganoush – which had me evacuated on a drip from Luxor.
II. A Parable of the Pouring Rain
How that family arrived!
A trudge around the hard-shoulder.
Some in national costumes, others in body bags.
One wearing an elephant costume, ridden by Assyrian archers, a cedar tree up the arse.
Geoff and I hosted a welcoming party.
Local schools are full but somehow find room – the fields filled with fair folk, jobs in Homebase – and courses, courses, courses.
Renegotiation will ensure a drawbridge and some grey knight waiting for the holy chalice.
Snow on fingers which feel nothing.
Stolen diamonds, apartments open to clouds.
I have lived for sunlight and
coffee in scorched squares.
Four months in an adjacent shop,
asleep in the heat, testing walls.
The gang laughed at my shame.
They got access, dug through –
I had the boss in his office.
There is beauty in deceit, reborn
by checking in and out – warmth
of towelling garments, mini-bars.
I stare at the screens.
Council houses in England.
Who can live like that?
In the politics of shame, I have no stake.
My state a broken playground for addicts.
I class cities by war or never war – all the same for luxury and its fruit.
Unseen cliffs and ravines,
switchback roads and
“Beauty will get fucked.”
Was it a bad joke or
words from a poem?
The bar behind the bowling alley is where they still meet.
Crashing, rolling, reassuring. Drinkers are desperate now:
“Nuneaton”; “Carlisle”; “Basildon” – what places are these?
Working in dark warehouses, too much for you English.
Selling inflatables in the eastern Mediterranean.
Army issue ex-combat – some have a conscience.
Don’t we all have a “special time”
and it replays like film?
Mine was a summer when a
kitten lived in my bedroom.
I fed it scraps and stolen milk.
I’ve forgotten the rest.
Oh for a muse to tell our sodden tale,
a dreamscape to cheer the sorry traveller.
Poet, sing us corvid-chasing buses
clearing the outer suburbs, to vasty
fields under a white horse on that bald hill;
huddled victims, and middle managers
of the failing public sector, with their
PowerPoints due on some restructure.
I met the liberal on a frosty night, as the sky cracked and its clear moon exposed our frailties.
Have you read The Grand Inquisitor?
This its antithesis.
He gorged on suffering.
Grabbing a pinnacle (not Westminster, Faringdon Folly) – loftiness in destroying an individual.
‘Children stuffed up chimneys, not with sweets at Christmas pantos.’
‘Who do you think you are? celebrities weep at slave-owning ancestors.’
‘Degrees in Leisure Studies less deadly than tuberculosis.’
Chronicling a tragic dinner lady who lives with badgers and worships Ferrero Rocher, Hunter’s chicken, two-for-one meals at Harvester.
‘Once she’d reach thirty – producing fifteen children.’
‘Now she can read White Teeth or Miriam Clegg’s recipes.’
I was shown two Slovakians sleeping on a flat-screen delivery box.
Then I smashed out his teeth with my DVD of Sink the Bismarck.
Removed his testicles with a bayonet from Zulu.
Force-fed him ship’s biscuits, pease pudding, Mickey Finns.
Shoved in Ralph Fiennes’ silk pyjamas.
But his wife’s documentary survived – her urgent voice:
‘These our fellow citizens.’
Deep South lynchings and images of Kristallnacht, intertextualised with statistics on ‘rising hate crimes’ since June 23rd 2016.
‘I’m narrating and blaming you.’
Later, I dangled from the Folly.
Clear views over the Vale.
My violence imagined.
Finally, I am allowed to speak. Past a certain
point in life, there’s too much to carry around;
then nothing is easy. Some bird flaps off,
perfect in its movement, so fit for flight.
I watch it till the light goes.
So that is the last from me.