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A Brief Exchange Between Two Would-Be North Korean Revolutionaries

Korean 1: Now that Kim Jong-Il is dead, do you want to join me in overthrowing our country’s tyrannous regime?
Korean 2: I would, but…
Korean 1: But what?
Korean 2: I’m not insane. And I’d rather just shoot myself in the face.
Korean 1: I think you’re-
Korean 2: Or jump on a landmine.
Korean 1: Look, this-
Korean 2: But not before I watched my entire family jump on a landmine.
Korean 1: You’re-
Korean 2: Then all of my friends, and then all of their friends.
Korean 1: See, it’s-
Korean 2: And everyone I’ve ever spoken to. Ever. But only if it was systematic, emotionless and dead quick. Either alphabetically or by height - I haven’t decided yet.
Korean 1: All I’m saying is that if the Arab and Middle Eastern uprisings can be so successful, then why can’t a North Korean one?
Korean 2: Dude, you must be on crack.

The Unrivalled Joy of Microsoft Paint

I wanted to do something different with cards this Christmas, partly because I'm a bit like that and partly because standard Christmas cards are rather quite boring.  Don't get me wrong: I love the sentiment, I even love the politics of who gets one and who hasn't done enough during the year to impress, and - perhaps above all - I love the monotony of writing card after card after card. 

But I was bored with buying them.  The same designs every year! I didn't want my individuality to be restricted to a dozen or so options in Clinton Cards.  So around mid-November, I set out to design my own.  I thought about drawing them by hand, but concluded that they would be funnier and easier to duplicate if I drew them digitally. 

Step forward Microsoft Paint.  Oh, how I've missed you.  Your mighty cans of infinite spray paint, your blotchy masterpiece impossibilities, the way you make us curse at our awful mice!  You truly do bring out the worst in people.

For those young …

The Ideal War

We would count our boys into war After their six week basic training
Just so we can tick the box Just so they can play soldiers Just so they can tell their grandkids they played soldiers
And tasted mud And felt the burn Of old rope And the bone-chilling Damp pushing past Knock-kneed Blind-Thirsty From the salt sweat brass blood on warm days And knowing firsthand The science of acid Lactating screaming joints And weeping having stabbed The dummy Fixed bayonet Up through the throat For fear of the need to practice
Then the call-up Heading for enemy shores Pressing sweat into their bibles Trembling away their training The world a swinging mirror But in the distance they see
Blue Yellow Red Green Blue Yellow Red Green Blue Yellow Red Green
Not a beach Of sand or pebbles But of dots laid out in formation An expectant enemy next to each mat And holding a name Of their opposite number As if in the arrivals lounge Waiting Muttering
Twister Twister Twister
A mat and a spinner
And in row After row After row
The enemy limber…

Review of Midnight in Paris @ Gloucester Guildhall - 30 November 2011

A casual stroll around town invariably involves walking past Gloucester Guildhall.A cinema poster is always framed on either side of a very welcoming doorway, announcing the Guildhall’s current film offering and its forthcoming release.For the more pro-active and culturally-attuned movie-goers, these films often mirror ones you were keen to see at the multiplex, but for whatever reason didn’t get around to seeing them.
If, like me, you consider handing over £8 for a ticket at a multiplex somewhat disturbing, Gloucester Guildhall’s film screenings is a most excellent remedy.And you can rest assured in the knowledge that the Guildhall will bring you something you wanted to see the first time around, acting as a sort of big screen last chance saloon. What’s more, unlike Cheltenham’s film club, which lies on the outskirts of the town, Gloucester Guildhall’s film club is unquestionable in its convenience: just a stone’s throw from the centre.And from this experience, they’re very friendly t…

Bores For Thought

As you dig your hole,
I can believe the
Spine-
Tingling,
Mind-
Altering,
Mouth-
Watering,
Earth-
Shattering
Explosion
of dimensions.
I do not judge;
What
Is fine
By
You
Is fine
By
Me,
But this hole -
When it comes
Right
Down
To
It –
Is
Just
That:
Your
Finger
Nails
Are
Scratchcard
Stumps,
Dead ends.

A Very Male Perspective of the Birthday Woman

She’s in possession! Shouts her commentators Seventy minutes gone Ten to go Of a big rugby game The opposition Are edging ahead Suddenly The maul tide turns A great shift of energy inside the pile of men And the ball Is turned over And the opposing team has it And with it They break.
(A very male perspective Of the birthday woman Who’s starkers single - Not even the faintest wave Of a man on the horizon. She needs the pain; Wants to know it, Willing to risk Post-natal whatever As a forty candle salute - In the absence of a child’s Tip-toed effusion In which lungs contract To two sun-dried shrivels - Allows an adult’s Laboured breath To breathe a wish free.)

Death at the Blue Lagoon

It was that first scream that came to pierce the water, snapping away the beauty of his crime.  A second later, wading legs jostled fruitlessly in twos, shouts mere muffles from beneath.  The figure, anchored still, had been looking up from his lagoon bed, his body relaxed as the pump and valves worked so delicately to a stop, his breathing set to a bubbling whisper.  He shared a polite word with the bright blue above: a promise, perhaps.

The figure was reminded of a scene from his childhood.  A party.  Invitation only.  By that stage, his mother rarely left the house, but she delivered the R.S.V.P personally.  He found out later that she had gone without his father’s knowing.  Grave Danger, his father said upon their return, Grave Danger.  Insurmountable.  Going alone is bad enough.  Why did you take the boy?  His mother walked briskly to the house, a young figure herself.  Please keep up, darling.  Her hands were clammy.  She kept him as close as if they had been led together.  They…

Laura Marling @ Gloucester Cathedral Gig Review (Tuesday 18th October 2011)

Few would disagree that 2011 has been an exceptional year for Laura Marling.Only three weeks in and a Brit Award nomination for Best Female lands on her doormat, followed in its wake by a similar acknowledgement posted from the offices of NME (two prizes she would later go on to win).Now at album number three, not only has high praise run in parallel with each of the singer’s record releases, but her previous albums have doubled as prize magnets. Her debut, 2007’s Alas I Cannot Swim and last year’s I Speak Because I Can both garnered nominations from the Mercury Prize panel, arguably the UK’s highest music accolade.And if PJ Harvey’s Mercury success is anything to go by, more nominations will invariably follow.
Not one to rest on her laurels, last month heralded the release of A Creature I Don’t Know, the singer-songwriter’s third studio album.Like its predecessors, it was lavished with wide critical acclaim, cementing her alongside (her former backing band) Mumford & Sons and (her…

Leaves (Marking the Occasion When a Late Summer Proceeded an Early Autumn):

Veiny, waxy, useless things (That is, without the slow tide Of season).And what’s more: Fastened to their guardians Like some animal Or clumsy toddler As if it would – could - do something Wrong Given the chance.
Dirty, untidy, slippery things In a constant fidget And at the mercy of everything; Reliant ‘til the bitter drop Then trodden on, Walked over And grown: Grown to be discarded (I pity with a pointed finger As many as I can).
Shameless, mindless, soulless things, I laugh with spite at every one As October resuscitates A wheezing September sun As if it were a last gasp apology For not arriving When the season called for it. I need answers! (There’s never a judicial enquiry When you damn-well need one)
Hateful, blameful, disdainful things, Flip flops kicking Lifeless piles of brittle mistakes (This supposed Autumn Is our supposed Summer) That nature has not the slightest Contingency for. If I could give a rake to Mother Nature, I damn-well would.
And when she was finished, She would be drawn to their o…

A record of a lonely and bitter mother scolding her son for picking up his estranged father’s bad habits at the breakfast table

Monday

You eat those Cheerios like they’re about to be rationed;
We used to chew our food if that’s so old-fashioned.

Tuesday

There was more gobble in that than on a turkey farm
That the Honey Monster himself would stand in alarm.

Wednesday

Don’t slouch on the seat or slurp on your tea,
And don’t hold that spoon like it was wriggling free.

Thursday

You know you can eat your toast in more than a bite:
That strawberry jam isn’t about to ignite.

Friday

You drink your squash like you want to drown,
And you eat your Coco Pops before the milk goes brown.

The One-Legged Girl and the Apple Orchard

If BT could cast a line up to heaven, my Nan would be the first one on the blower. ‘Tom, bring me that phone.I want to speak to Him.’ ‘You mean God?’ ‘No, not Him.I mean Him: your granddad.’ She’d get me to read out the number as she dialled it.I can picture her now: glasses perched at the end of her nose, hunched over with age, repeating and verifying each number as if she had just learnt to count, thumping each digit on the keypad with a wrinkled finger, mumbling something angrily incoherent as it connected.Before He even answered, she’d begin ranting as if ten years without him had never passed.
My Nan likes to moan.If words were air miles, she could live on the plane.
‘Me hips are digging in and paining [sic] me like daggers, I can’t hardly walk, me eyes don’t work properly, and what’s more, if I want to see anything clearer than a shadow, I’ve got to hold my bloody eyelid up!Then there’s this damn perm that’s as flat as road kill and doesn’t look much better besides; the arthritis, the…

On receiving tickets for Cheltenham Literature Festival

Among the bills, the court orders, a "threat" and a fine,
Rests a little white letter that is simply devine.

It has my attention where the others have failed,
(Having disputed my defaults, I refuse to be jailed).

Unseeling excitement and shredding the rest,
Much to my judge, the bank and BT's behest.

A little white letter I got through the post,
Contained a perfectly unperforated passage of hosts.

Escorted along by three national treasures,
I’m fleeing to Cheltenham for some literary pleasures.

Way Out West at The New County Hotel - Saturday 13th August 2011 (Gig Review)

When it was announced that The New County Hotel and BWM Promotions would be playing host to Way Out West, I did what any researcher of the internet age would do: I googled them.  The top three search results failed to hit upon my subject, reading as follows: Way Out West (a Swedish Music Festival, which, coincidentally, was taking place that very weekend), Way Out West (a UK progressive house and trance band who rose to fame in the nineties) and Way Out West (a 1937 film starring Laurel & Hardy).  Intriguing as they all were, I continued in search of my Way Out West with an adapted Google search: Way Out West (omit results that include: Trance, House, Göteborg, Sweden, Another, Fine, Mess).  I felt lucky.     

For purpose of disambiguation, the Way Out West in question are a Gloucester-based ensemble who between them employ the sounds of two accordions, a fiddle, a guitar, a ukulele and a banjo to rework and reinvent popular songs.  To say that Way Out West, who consists of Kathry…

A EuroMillions Haiku - in case £166,000,000's worth of Plan A goes to someone less deserving

Grow a money tree       so neighbours crave for Autumn's          benevolent breeze.


(Illustration by Lawrence Hassan)

My Weekend in Song

As tents are packed away, discarded or recycled, and with it the secrets they keep, mud-dried festival-goers should now be rolling out of Glastonbury and headed in a vague direction of home.I cannot say that I wish I had been there because camping turns my stomach, but I can say that with Glasto fresh in the airwaves, I gorged myself on music via Youtube for most of the weekend.Some discoveries and rediscoveries I’d like to share.

Iron and Wine – Upwards Over the Mountain.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qQud0kRpOQ
If it’s possible, Samuel Beam aka Iron and Wine has a voice that’s as delicate as the late Elliott Smith’s.It barely rises above a whisper, but like any great voice, it speaks volumes, as evidenced in Upwards Over the Mountain.The Trapeze Swinger was one of my favourite tracks I was introduced to last year and this is another considerable discovery.
Mother don't worry, I've got a coat and some friends on the corner
Mother don't worry, she's got a garden we'…

The Royal Wedinburgh - 29 April 2011 (a travel memoir)

Having wandered around the Scottish National Gallery's gift shop for upwards of thirty minutes, I suddenly noticed the time. What was I thinking? I’d managed to underestimate the strength of the treacle forming on its hands. To make amends, I rushed back and recommenced an exceedingly casual stroll around the gift shop. Time was chugging to a standstill. I spent a further twenty-five minutes treading a similar, yet even slower path around the shop than I had done before. I was waiting for part of the gallery that contained Sir Henry Raeburn’s The Skating Minister to open. It stands as one of Scotland’s most iconic paintings and, by way of an English to Scottish dialect translation site, I'll be buggered if ah come aw th' way tae Scootlund jist tae miss it!

It was the day of the Royal Wedding. People were going bonkers over it. I mean really bonkers. A real British sort of bonkers, if there is any other kind. The scale of Royal Wedding hysteria fell somewhere between the ne…

The Seventh Seal (a poem)

The best thing about Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey – if you haven’t yet seen it - comes when our eponymous heroes encounter Death personified - white face, black robes: exactly what we’ve come to expect the Grim Reaper to look like.

Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan (I didn't even have to look their names up!) aren't entirely happy about this and convince Death to a game of chess. If Death wins, the pair will be whisked away on a train bound for the other side. If The Wild Stallions win, they get to keep their lives.

The pair goes on to lose their game, but announce that it should be best of three, and as such other games are played in deciding their fate. When they lose the majority of those games, they convince Death that it should be best of five, and so on and so forth.

Among other things, the Grim Reaper plays Battleships, Clue, Electric Football and Twister. I can’t remember the outcome, but the Bill and Ted survived, which either means they eventuall…

The Winter of ’63 (aged 7½) (a poem)

“The winter of 1962–1963 (also known as The Big Freeze of 1963) was one of the coldest winters on record in the United Kingdom. Temperatures plummeted and lakes and rivers began to freeze over. In the Central England Temperature (CET) record, extending back to 1659, only the winter (defined as the months of December, January and February) of 1683–84 has been significantly colder, with 1739–40 being slightly colder than 1962–63.”


In January 1963, the sea froze for one mile.”


The Winter of ’63 (aged 7½)

Our mum, our kid asked me to ask you.
What does he want?

He wants the fire on.
Ask your father.

Shut that door.
Our dad, our kid asked―

Shut that door.
Our dad, our kid asked me to ask you.

What does he want?
He asked could we have the fire on please?

-
Dad?

Ask your mother.
I’ve asked our mum.

And what did she say?
She asked me to ask you.

Why do you want the fire on?
I’m cold. Our kid’s cold.

If you’re cold, put a coat on.
I’ve got a coat on. And our kid’s got a coat on.

Then what’s your probl…

Out on the Tiles (a short story)

We slammed shut more doors than we’d opened.  It felt that way, what with there being more purpose in one action than the other.  In my defence, an attempt was made to slam each door as softly as I could, but we were both hell-bent on decibels.  Inevitably, this whole furore escalated and culminated as door frame-bending slamming madness.  There were lots of things to throw – in fact, we were spoilt for choice - but we both had a great respect for the antiques in the house.  Neither of us dared touch the china, but I’d imagine we shook the blue and white to the bone, and those dainty porcelain figurines may have complained over a peculiarity of feeling had looks not been shooting all around them.  Indeed, if the Wade Whimsies could have been woken from their still glaze, I don’t suppose they would have worried themselves over witnesses.  Personally, I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had marched in twos back to where they came from.  All throughout this episode, the unspoken rule rem…