Sunday, 22 May 2016

Chorlton Arts Festival 2016: The Most Difficult Thing Ever




















I'll be reading from The Most Difficult Thing Ever at the Marble Beerhouse in Chorlton, Manchester, this Wednesday evening (May 25th) as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. 

Here's a link: www.chorltonartsfestival.com

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

I Follow the Minibus Taxi with Rock’n’Roll Will Never Die Written above the Back Window



I follow the minibus taxi with Rock’n’Roll Will Never Die written above the back window. We pass dandelions, bluebells, flowering current, rogue tulips, and some jackdaws pecking at a new calf. On and up into Audi country.
“Has anything changed since your last visit?” asks the dentist’s receptionist. “I’m drinking much more wine” says the woman in the quilted jacket.

Outside the shop with the display of Worker Wagg Beef & Veg Worker Complete dog food on the fake grass underneath the broken awning, the rain has left a long pink stripe of cherry blossom along the gutter at the edge of the road.

The sun has barely been out an hour and the boomers are out too, flocking to the shop in shorts and sandals for print news.

The primary coloured lycra cyclist sets off from his garage on the new estate of concrete stone houses with plastic wooden doors. Past the pansies in pots, the developer’s ‘architectural’ cordyline, the not-yet-hedges of laylandii, the baby wisteria, the nursery birch and willow and the fake plastic balls of box hedge that hang inexplicably from brackets next to front doors. Past the vaping Tesco delivery man. Past the Co-op delivery woman. Past the Audi, the Audi, the Audi, the Audi, and the Nissan X-Trail for when it snows. Past the builders’ vans in rows seeing to the plastic doric architraves. Past the yellow millstone in the bed of polished spar. Past the blue slate chippings, the galvanised pots of lavender, the hosepipes, the solar powered garden lights and the detached garages that are too small for cars. Past the For Sale Boards: A Collection of Yorkshire’s Finest Properties. Past the Parcel Force man with the tattoo sleeves. Past the enormous blooming cherries left from when they lined the road to the old mill. And on, out into the hills.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Bin Lorry is Stopping Every Ten Yards



The bin lorry is stopping every ten yards. Its loading mechanism makes a noise like that long note at the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue. It dawdles its way down the long road which starts with pebble-dashed maisonettes and the smell of weed at one end, and finishes with detached inter-war bungalows and the smell of seaweed fertiliser at the other. 
Somewhere around the middle, a man is sitting in his front room ignoring the TV while he reads Russell Grant’s astrology page. Next-door, his neighbour is naked apart from a pair of spectacles, playing with his Playstation.

Out in the sticks, a goldfinch flies out from under my feet and the fake grass at the barn conversion is still too green. I pass an open window; a woman is having an angry telephone conversation: “Well, it says here that the short length is four-and-a-half centimetres. Well I’ve no idea what four-and-a-half centimetres is in inches!

Cherry blossom, tulips, a rusty cement mixer, leylandii, pyracantha, ruthlessly pruned buddleia, and wooden telegraph poles; a woman in one of those cream, full-length puffer coats that make you like an enormous maggot is walking a big black greyhound.

The pub is taking bookings for New Years Eve (‘food will be served between 7-10pm’). Tonight they are serving tapas between 6-9pm and there’s a wet pair of suede loafers in the hyacinth bed.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Stone Buddhas, Buckets of Cig Butts, Missing Top Stones.



Stone Buddhas, buckets of cig butts, missing top stones. 

The woman with the Brexit tote bag walks past the shop advertising ‘Kids £4’.
Litter traps behind broken gates: energy drink cans and takeaway-styrene.
Down from where the big stuffed Tweetie-Pie has been lynched from a fall-pipe, the young man holding a toddler is talking to the middle-aged woman in the bathrobe. She is sipping from a pint glass.
A bag-for-life in the gutter, cat shit in the ginnel, a torn office chair and a sodden carpet in the miry garden.
Outside the house with the weed smoke wisping from the open window, a woman screams “PACK IT IN!” to the children in the back of the new Freelander.
“Fuck off! What the fuck?” shouts the man when I deliver his post. The door opens and he runs across the piss soaked carpet in the yard and up the ginnel shouting after me, “What are you fucking doing! If t’dog catches you in t’garden, she’ll bite you innit!” He stops next to a slimy piece of roughly sawn timber and says in a more composed voice, “You need to rest it behind this bit of wood in the alleyway innit; if t’dog catches you, it’s gonna bite you innit.”
Down from the witch’s house with the hedge full of empty plastic bottles, I follow three men from the engineering shop on their way to the bakery. In identical overalls and of a similar build, the only thing that distinguishes them from one another is their differing stages of male pattern baldness.
The old man in the hi-vis vest is walking with both his arms outstretched, a bag-for-life full of groceries in each hand.
Two sporty young men walk down Forest Lane, one wears a Nike sports bag on his back, the other, grey-marl sweatpants which he repeatedly hoiks from his arse crack. I follow in the wake of their loud but largely unintelligible, expletive-ridden conversation and their pungent weed smoke before they turn off into the student halls of residence.
The lights are out in the shop and there’s hardly any stock now, but it’s still open.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The recent spell of fine weather has brought other people onto the streets



The recent spell of fine weather has brought other people onto the streets over which the elderly women in purple anoraks have held sole dominion in recent months.

A dozen motorbikes pass a middle-aged cyclist-in-lycra cyclist as he rides through the village. He rolls his eyes and shouts to me above the noise; “Hell’s angels are out!”

A middle-aged man in Crocs is hard at work chamoising the Skoda Yeti on the driveway of the semi-detached new-build. The sun glints off of the plastic chrome while he whistles along to Bad Moon Rising on the car’s stereo.

The man sitting in the driver’s seat of the parked-up Vauxhall Astra with the custom paint job, body kit, blacked-out windows, and ‘Bang Tidy’ sticker in the back is eating a pot of Muller Rice.

Earlier, on the estate, I tried to deliver a parcel but was intercepted by a short middle-aged man with a grey side-parting and a three-quarter length beige anorak. 
“You can leave it with me if she’s not in. She’s rarely at home; she’s a very active woman for a blind lady”
I thanked the man and handed over the parcel.
“Could you pop me a note through — just to let her know I’ve got it?” said the man.
“I can,” I said, “but how will she read it if she’s blind?”
The man smiled wisely; “Sense of touch,” he said. Then he tapped his eye with his forefinger and explained; “When these pack up, the others pick up.”
“Oh” I said.
In the next street, a small Asian girl with a snotty nose asked me where I was going next.
“Over that way”, I said, waving my arm up the street.
“Pakistan?” asked the girl.

On the track down to the house where the men from Kudos Doors (Commercial and Domestic Door Systems) are working, I saw a green woodpecker.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A couple of events:

A Bird Spotter's Guide to Yorkshire















DECAPOD - AirSpace Gallery 10th Birthday
I am showing two short films, A Bird Spotter's Guide to Yorkshire and A Seasonal Guide to Yorkshire at the excellent Airspace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent between March 4th to April 2nd, 2016.
More information: www.airspacegallery.org

Huddersfield Literature Festival 2016 
I am reading from The Most Difficult Thing Ever at Café Society in Huddersfield on March 9th.
More information: www.litfest.org.uk

The sun is out.



The sun is out. Jackdaws peck at something in the road and an ambulance drifts by slowly as I follow the old woman with the done-up-to-the-top parka, pink floral leggings and four pack of Special Brew out of the newsagent’s. She almost loses her balance and has to steady herself on the bin for a few seconds.

Weed
Air freshener

As they walk into the early sun, both the man in the lumberjack shirt and the golden retriever he is walking, are haloed by its glare. The dog stops to piss on a holly bush and the resulting cloud of water vapour rises to combine with the mist of their breath, swirling around them until they almost disappear from view.

Dogshit

I disturb a small swarm of the first-flies-of-the-year, in the ivy by the house of the man who is wearing a football kit and no shoes.

Chemist shop interior

There is orange lichen on the ridge tiles and vivid green moss on the pavements. I side-step a young girl in wheelie-shoes and a grown-up’s sweat shirt empty arms flapping.

Cigarette smoke

There’s a man chopping timber in the woods with an axe: bobble hat and a pair of those reddy-brown rubberised gloves with the unbleached ribbing. And now the students are going past on the double-decker from the halls of residence that used to be the mental hospital where I was terrified by the patients while delivering harvest festival bounty on behalf of my primary school — I remember a marrow, some tins of sweetcorn and a skinny old woman  with dribble down her chin who shouted and swore and pulled at my sleeve.


Newsprint
Washing powder

The geese make that noise they make. I can still hear them all the way down at the house with the windowsill of silk flowers in Costa coffee mugs.

Weed

There’s a woodpecker on the avenue of Victorian mansions. Plastic fascia boards creak in the sun. Crocuses. People can’t agree whether it’s warm or cold. The woman in the camel hair coat who's waiting for a taxi with three children says, “Ooh, in’t it warm” but just round the corner, the window cleaner with the woolly hat and the scarf wrapped around his face says, “By ‘eck, it’s cold”.

Bins
Wholemeal bread



There’s a woman speaking Urdu very loudly on speaker-phone at the bus stop. The other half-dozen people in the queue are finding it amusing, catching one another’s eyes and laughing behind their hands.

Boiler flue vapour

I pass the house with the tiny cluttered garden: childrens’ ride-on toys in faded plastic, dogshit and a fallen over gravestone:
 
Mum
Gran
Sadly Missed

Perming solution

The roofer with the skinny jeans and Harrington jacket says he’s never had a cash card in his life, mate.

Washing powder

The house that was built on the field where I used to race my BMX has a poster in the window: SAY NO to greenfield development. SAVE OUR GREENBELT.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

There Was A Gale Blowing


There was a gale blowing and the tattered and bleached remains of a flag of St George flapped furiously from the miniature manor-house dovecote with the model Morris Traveller parked out front.
The woman with the bin liner wrapped around the aerial of her Citroen C3 looked nervously at the straining beech trees that surround the playground, “There’s that many tree-huggers in this village, we’re not allowed to chop them down!” She shouted, as a kestrel flew backwards over the school.

A squall ripped at the surface of the flooded potholes sending miniature tsunamis flashing the full length of the street and flipping open the bonnet of the big black BMW as it rounded the corner by the church. The driver was confused and continued on his way for several seconds before stopping in the middle of the road to clamber out in his suit and pointy shoes to slam it shut again.

Eventually, the storm passed, leaving a clear blue sky dotted with glinting aircraft. 
The high-end plumbers' vans and the Mitsubishi pickups cast long shadows across the road, passenger seats and dashboards littered with red-top news, McDonalds bags, biros and notebooks.

Later, on the estate, the man who looks a bit like Dennis Waterman with the tombstone teeth and brown blouson leather jacket told me he’s on the sick and bored out of his fucking mind. He said he can’t really complain though because his neighbour is deaf and only has one leg.

Bird-wise today, I saw a nuthatch on the bird table at the famous modernist house, a pair of yellowhammers in the long grass at the side of the farm track, and a brace of pheasants hanging from the door handle of Mr Gaunt’s in the village.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Stepping Around the Shit Streaked Toilet Paper



Stepping around the shit streaked toilet paper that trails from drain at the bottom of the hill, I make my way up the flotsam strewn pavement into the village: Cooper’s of Stortford, Capri Sun, an empty pack-of-three Oral-B toothbrushes, a snapped off cricket bat, some Walker’s salt & vinegar, a KFC box, a Cadbury’s selection box, floating polystyrene, festive wrapping, an overflowing wheelie bin, half a dozen leaky black bin-liners, a bent roller-skate, and a big Porsche 4x4. The woman in the twin-set says she’d report the rubbish but she 'can’t do whatsit-ing’ and she mimes typing on a keyboard.

There are pine needles on everybody’s doorsteps.

The old man with HATE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles is complaining; his new glasses are crap and he can’t see to sign his name.

The ladders slide from the roof of the Land Rover Discovery and clatter onto the road. The driver begins lashing them back into place in the heavy rain.

Mr Briggs pulls up next to the still half-flowering blue hydrangea. He winds down the window of his Bedford Rascal and points to the house opposite. He shouts above the noise of the rain and his idling engine, “They’re funny buggers them; you never see ‘em!” He drives away again after conceding that “He’s ok, but she’s a funny bugger; I’ve never seen her!”

The Jackdaws are cawing, and the proprietor of the shop that sells mainly marrowfat peas; salmon paste; toilet paper; and dusty bottles of Paul Masson is sitting in the dark. I open the door and he gets up from behind the counter to put the lights on.

Back outside, the small woman in the big coat at the bus stop thumbs her phone. “David Bowie’s dead” she says.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 Highlights



2015 Highlights

Karaoke Thursdays.

Sambuca Saturdays.
Vaping outside the Costcutter.
Finding One Direction perfume for under a tenner: not to be sniffed at.
Kicking decorative spars back behind the concrete rope-edging with the toe end of your boot.
Hoping Michael’s not lying dead behind the hedge.
Exhaling a long thin wisp of white smoke vertically up and over Lockwood Taxis.
Drawing a half-arsed cock-and-balls on the postman’s pouch box.
Approximately Doric architraves.
Plastic lawns.
Remembering Stumpy.
1980s heavy metal on heavy duty radios.
Leaving a trail of weed smoke from a Toyota Yaris.
Leaving a trail of aftershave from a Porsche 4x4.
Polythene: flapping and cracking in broken trees.
Often wearing a bathrobe to shout at a dog.
Carrying Margaret on your shoulders.
Cross-legged cellulite while sipping a gin & slim.
Holding your new toilet seat under your arm while you argue about parking spaces with a man with ketchup on his face.
Not giving a shit about anything other than your fags and your phone.
Hoovering your driveway
Comparing your experiences of electrocardiography
Watering down your Fruit Shoot.
Lifting out dandelions.
Soft-toy trophy-lynchings.
Asserting that steam railways make life worth living.
Waving an enormous arm in the vague direction of half of Huddersfield.
The underlying murmur of people in tight shorts commenting on the warm weather.
Shuffling past a pile of dried dog shit in your open-toed sandals.
Strapping an office chair and a postcard display rack to the roof of your KIA Rio.
Listening to Lessons in Love by Level 42 through discreetly mounted speakers at quite a high volume.
Soberly dressed men drinking extra strength lager.
Mainly discussing caravans, caravan based holidays, and the football transfer window.
The smaller, less cocksure, banana and ketchup stained promotional air-dancers they used to have outside the Fiat garage when it was a Peugeot one.
Smeared dog shit and the sandwich packaging.
Spreading solvent with a yard brush.
Retiring to make chainsaw carvings of owls to sell at country art fairs.
Begging to differ with the woman with the bag-for-life.
Seasonal Ugg boot Cleaning Services.
Explaining that you could NEVER eat Weetabix without sugar.
Larger-than-life-sized white-stick-defying pedestal-mounted Clear Channel hoardings.
Being overtaken by an empty packet of Lambert & Butler and an energy drink can.
Wearing your anorak indoors.
Wearing your bathrobe to the shop that sells dusty bottles of Mateus Rosé, Lion Bars, Bisto Gravy Granules, and Andrex Toilet Tissue.
Not really doing wine.
Checking nobody needs a wee.