Thursday, 11 August 2016

Fly fishing in Bromley

for Adam

The lake pulls my nerves taut
like a mirror of my heart –
a reflection of hidden jeopardy.

I cast my line and draw it tight
Darkness is falling. Why would I
plant my best shoes in the mud

to test a half-forgotten skill
against an unseen enemy
if not tugged by an ancient memory?

For it is not normal to kill.
It is as if something in me
is seeking to stop time itself.

The cruel world below
is slimy and bestial.
Man eats pike, pike eats minnow.

Perhaps it is just evolution.
Bigger fish are tormenting me
and so, in staring into this mirror

I am merely passing hurt down the line
although I have no need to –
to inflict pain on an invisible foe.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Battle of the mill pond

Armour-plated, living in shadow
you were the king of Coltsford Mill
cruising with your shoal of minnows
you were friend to the mayfly and swallow.
Made of cartilage and muscle
you guided your tiny retinue

through their lonely kingdom of mud –
the true lord of hazel and willow.
Testing your royal blood and sinew
you flashed to air like a silver lance
in the last battle that you fought.
The wedding guests glimpsed you.
They admired your aqueous existence
until the day that you were caught.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

What I could be doing

In some lonely office world
The latest problems are obscured
By jargon witten on a board –
Nonsense scribbled on a wall.
Let flip-charts flip and markers scrawl
Because I could be fishing now.

This man like a scratched record
With stationery profanes the word
Of Abraham and Solomon.
The air is thick with tedium
Where pupae hatch and spiders crawl
You know I could be fishing now.

Meanwhile, in some London suburb
Silent in their prison yards
The yummy mummies exercise.
Let lonely runners pavements plough
Let clippers clip and mowers mow
Because I could be fishing now.

Waves of chatter bathe us all
Like an electric cloud
In layers of banality.
If could escape through a green door
While files upload and pixels glow
You know I could be fishing now.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Death in Sydenham

The magnolias were wilting
The devil was not at the crossroads
Or even in the room
Tumble weed blew across the road
Somewhere in the desert it snowed
The night that Adam killed the blues

The angels were weeping, so were were the screws
Muddy Waters looked down at his shoes
Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown was sick
John Lee Hooker dropped his pick
Memphis Minnie phoned her nan
The night that Adam killed the blues

Blind Lemon Jefferson was embarrassed
Big Bill Broonzy was unimpressed
Lightnin’ Slim and Pee Wee Hughes
Were devastated by the news
Robert Johnson was quite distressed
The night that Adam killed the blues

Duane Allman said to Stevie Ray:
‘He can’t sing he can’t play!’
Eric Clapton on holiday
Made a call to Robert Cray
‘I can’t believe he’s done it man!’
The night that Adam killed the blues

Peter Green showed sympathy
But tears were shed in Sydenham
Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
Drove off in a campervan
Albert Lee was not amused
The night that Adam killed the blues

The two kings Freddy and BB
asked each other: ‘how could he?’
Word spread quickly across the south
From Purley Way to Beckenham
Howling Wolf actually howled
The night that Adam killed the blues

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The glass tower

It  rose up like a shining needle
The great glass tower was filled with air
Strangers spied ghostly shapes through the walls
It was empty – no-one lived there

eople came and clamoured outside
Because they were cold and needed shelter
One of them knocked on the door
And tried to get in. There was no answer
The bankers were on beaches; their helpers
Lived behind high walls like mirrors
Although it was clearly unfair
There was no-one to help the poor
More crowds, more homeless people, year on year
More towers were built and filled with air

Monday, 30 May 2016

From cottage estates to A Clockwork Orange

Blink and you missed it. Held as part of Clerkenwell design week, a photographic exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives, ‘Somewhere decent to live’, held in May, celebrated almost a century of council housing built by the London County Council.
It’s a rich and varied tradition. Set up in 1889, the LLC used its powers under the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 to create housing schemes on newly-cleared slum sites.
Opened in 1900, the Boundary Estate in Bethnal Green (shown in the exhibition) housed 5,000 people in five-storey tenement blocks, with shops, a laundry and a club-room. This high-density housing model, not for poorest but for those on artisans’ incomes, had already been demonstrated by the Peabody Trust. But, assisted by government subsidies from 1919, the LCC was to become a far larger and bolder landlord than the philanthropic housing charities of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Built in the ‘arts and crafts’ style the Totterdown fields, White Hart Lane and Old Oak housing schemes were prototype council estates of two and three-bedroom ‘cottages’ with parlours, on the then fringes of London. The LLC got into its stride in the 1920s. Among its 90,000-odd new ‘homes fit for heroes’ in the inter-war period were Becontree – straddling the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, the largest council estate in the world.
Inspired by the Greater London Council’s Home Sweet Home exhibition of 1973, ‘Somewhere decent to live’ combined photographs of newly-completed developments with continuous projection of films made by the LCC and, from 1965, the GLC. The touchingly dated films advertise their now anachronistic aim ‘to relieve overcrowding and to make sure that people who have no real home are decently housed, as soon as possible’.
In the LCC’s County Hall offices planners, surveyors, architects and even sociologist once bent over plans and models, toiling to convert their visions of the future into reality – aerial roads, walkways in the sky – nothing was off-limits.
By the 1950s, the LCC’s architects’ department, called ‘the hothouse’ was the largest in the world. Its professionals had scoured the continent for inspiration. They found it in the workers’ housing of socialist Vienna, in Scandinavian modernism and even in Le Corbusier’s later derided ‘ville radieuse’ (which found a faint echo in the Loughborough Road estate in Lambeth).
Daring to hope for a better world and to embrace the new, LCC and GLC architects changed London’s streetscapes irrevocably with their neo-Georgian walk-up blocks, modernist slabs and points and scissor-section maisonettes. They built ambitious overspill housing schemes in Andover, Haverhill, Huntingdon and Thetford. In Thamesmead, from 1965, they even aspired to create a ‘town of the future’.
By the 1970s, professionals were experimenting with h0using floor-plans that could be specified by tenants. But the tide was turning against them, especially after the Ronan Point explosion in 1972. Their utopian dreams were now portrayed as ‘high-rise hells’. Symbolically, Thamesmead was used as backdrop for Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian film, A Clockwork Orange.
Once neo-Liberalism came to dominate the political landscape, state institutions and their architecture could only be disregarded. London’s strategic authority was abolished in 1986 just before its centenary. County Hall became a hotel and the GLC’s proud architectural heritage was discredited and largely forgotten.
In an age in which dreams are derided, only bad things are thought to come from Europe and communal responsibility to the poor has been replaced by rampant individualism, it was good to be reminded, in these quaint photographs and films, if only for three days, that things were once different.

Somewhere Decent to Live London’s Council Estates in Photographs, 1895 to 1975, 24 to 26 May, London Metropolitan Archives

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Monkey sex god

Let’s speak of Russell Edward Brand
The owner of a mighty gland
His seminal fecundity
Recalls the rakes of history

His natural proclivity
For rutting shows  supremacy
For with his beads and tousled hair
Russell is Casanova’s heir

Astride his leather trousered tool
A libertine and jesting fool
He breached the walls of film and rock
And beat all comers with his cock

He’s squired hundreds, it is said
Out of doors and in his bed
Against the wall or in his shed
To Katie Perry he was wed

Jemima, Geri and the rest
Put randy Russell to the test
Fresh-faced Kate Moss, he had her too
Asda were doing three for two

An affront to the world of men
He tickled us with with dick and pen
Russell the revolutionary
R0used the mob to apathy

Speaking on the Paxman show
He attacked the status quo
Russell ruled the red top news
And posted on his blog, the trews

With disarming lucidity
Through page and screen and DVD
He showed us what is to be
A sexual celebrity

Not too old to rock and roll
He took a spin in Courtney’s hole
Combining his prolixity
With mystical profundity

A million blogs and Tweets he sired
Then to Henley he retired
Now – shocking news for Essex lad
He’s only going to be a dad!

His trouser monster limp and still
He’ll have a lot of time to fill
Perhaps Russell will learn to cook
Or write another bookie wook

Can he show us that a man’s
More than the measure of his glans?
By withdrawing his manhood
And only screwing those he should?

Will he leave world of glamour
And lay aside his velvet hammer?
Merely rely on punditry
Or trade in stand-up comedy?

Will he take himself in hand?
They’re all as one for Russell Brand –
Satyr, film star and guru
The monkey sex god of the zoo