Our old terraced house was so cramped on our left, we could smell the garlic from Mr and Mrs Frog….
We moved into a new home last night. It was odd to do it at 11.00 pm, but the Agent said it had to be done then. We’d been talking about it for years, but last night we completed the move.
We had worried about the position – would the more distant neighbours be friendly? – would they like us? Yet, we were not perfect, of course. Some people liked to remind us of our reaction when we objected to the new neighbours that moved into the upstairs flat across the hall we’d always called “Windrush” on account of the draughts in our grand terraced house years ago, but that’s all over now. Continue reading “A New Home”
Once upon a time, or olim as our scholarly protagonist Jacob Really-Smug was prone to say, there was a young country boy living on one side of a large river. From his countryside home he could dimly see in the distance the Big School across the estuary.
Each day he’d walk to his small country school, only to be bullied by the bigger boys because he was a bright teacher’s pet and he wore glasses. He hated games the most. Fearful of getting his knees dirty and scared of being kicked below the belt, he detested football with a passion which far exceeded that with which his classmates supported Rovers or United or Hotspur, the teams on the other side of the river. Worst of all he had to take off his glasses to play, so he was even more disadvantaged in the game. He hated football. Continue reading “A Really-Smug Story”
(With thanks to Thomas Gray)
The curfew tolls the knell of coming dread,
The lowing management wind slowly to their ends,
And homeward plod, their weary tread,
To leave the company to darkness and thee, my friends.
Now fades the glimm'ring sites of outsourcery,
And all directors a solemn silence hold,
Save where their money should be paid, tax free,
And drowsy workers face winter's fiercest cold.
A breezy call of "Will you help?" from PM Cameron
Meant Chairman Green became an advisor,
An 'industry czar', to plug the theme and hammer on
That private enterprise works, the eulogiser.
But yonder Philip (not BHS) who saw it coming.
Arrived at Number Ten but who would listen?
So he jumped ship before succumbing
To the push of May, newly elected, and on a mission.
Beneath those rugged oaks of commerce,
The outsourcing board their costs did tighten.
Worker's wages fell, while to directors honours
And extra cash were showered - viz Baroness Huyton.
The shares slid down, the market aflutter.
Investors lost savings, their nest eggs in ruin
But Howson laughed, oh, no life in the gutter,
A contract's a contract and if not I'm suing.
If only workers could say, “Enough
Of free enterprise, it doesn't always apply.”
As commuters on Southern Rail, who have it tough,
Or weary East Coast travellers will testify.
The problem is the Tories - yesterday's men,
and women, and ethnic minorities - who seem to think
our daily life and sole concern is money, Amen.
The country heads down a darkening path to the brink.
Come on, Jezza, save our wearisome nation
And lighten our loads with fairness and money.
Help the old and the poor and infirm rise up from their station
And lead us to the land of flowing milk and honey.
…the ballot papers – in three languages, Spanish, Catalan and Occitan.
George Orwell said of the Catalans, “I defy anyone… not to be struck by the essential decency, above all their straightforwardness and generosity.”
What he saw in 1935 is still present today.
Straightforward decent people want the right to vote on the most important issue- the issue of how they should govern themselves. Yet the Spanish government does not want to engage in the debate – rather it prefers to deploy the Guardia Civil, whose faces are hidden behind perspex shields, to kick and punch peaceful protesters and to attack and beat with truncheons ordinary citizens and old ladies in a crude attempt to dissuade them from congregating and voting. It seems they have learned nothing. The power of the masses will not be thwarted by a few policemen, however belligerent.
Continue reading “The Catalan Referendum”
‘More than kisses, letters mingle souls’ ~J Donne
It was hot. It was always hot near the equator. Watson paused over the paper before deciding how to start the letter. The crude pen felt slippery in his sticky hand. He dipped it in the bottle of black sludge, supposedly ink. Would this be his last chance? Would it solve his problem? With a bold stroke from a hand powered by a hopeful heart, the squeaky nib wrote:
‘Dear President Olanta,’ he had always started with ‘Dear’ even though sometimes people were not necessarily ‘Dear’.
‘Sir, I am not guilty of the murder of Honest Nyrere. I plead with you to take a look at the case. I have never used a gun and so my fingerprints could not have been on the weapon found at the scene of the crime as the prosecution claimed. I was sleeping in my apartment two miles away at the time of the murder. The police arrested me on the evidence of a man, Alfred Chimbonza, who owes me money, a lot of money, 40,000 licugi although he’ll deny it of course. He is lying.
I am a too-easy target. Please help me.
Yours truly, Peter Watson.
Kolentawezi Jail’ Continue reading “Letters from Kolentawezi Jail”
Pointing his crooked finger at the old sandstone building..
I’ll always remember that day in ’66 when I walked alongside Granddad past Enrico’s flashy new restaurant on Lexington Avenue. Pointing his crooked finger at the old sandstone building that looked like a former bank – large sandstone blocks and high windows capped by semi-circular tops, he said, ‘That was the National Bank, years ago.’
At that moment a yellow cab drew to a screeching halt and a smartly dressed lady in a furry hat carrying at least three of Bloomingdale’s new designer bags pushed past us and lowered her head as she opened the back door of the taxi without any excuse or anything. ‘Bloody rude,’ I remember Granddad said.
‘It was different then, years ago,’ Granddad continued, ‘none of your flashy colours, flared trousers or fur hats in October. It was all grey and caps or bowler hats for men and cloche hats for women. And trams.’ Continue reading “Embarrassing”
Keith West was an unstoppable muscular battleship, inches taller and wider than any boy.
A handwritten letter dropped through the letterbox and I knew it would be interesting. Bills, circulars and spurious junk mail are always typed. Eagerly, I tore open the white envelope and, as I read, I was transported back, back, back to my childhood…
Hillbury Road had twenty one elegant Edwardian houses – bay windows on either side of the half-glassed front door, a low iron balcony partway across the first floor, and second floor windows below a fine gable – facing Tooting Bec Common. Continue reading “Keith & Thelma”
Then, I saw a single Junkers, an angel of death in the dark sky…
Along with my older sisters Carys and Ffion, I lived with Mum and Dad in a two-room cottage at number eleven, India Row, Monkton. We lived, ate and cooked in one room and slept in the other. The living room had a table and five wooden chairs. On the mantelshelf over the black range, which we used for warmth and cooking, stood two photos and a clock. In a Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin with a picture of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the circular lid, we kept the money, the rent book, the insurance documents and a candle, and next to it on the table stood a bottle of whisky for emergencies. Continue reading “The Night I’ll Never Forget”
…he withdraws from a rucksack a royal blue Sri-Lankan cricket shirt
The bicycle has an iron frame. It is sturdy, and typical of old-fashioned, reliable Ceylon. We will travel a few kilometres along a gentle path by the river. We are sixteen, well-heeled British seniors on a holiday excursion. After brakes have been tested, saddle heights adjusted, and the most rudimentary instruction on the gears given, we are ready to depart. Tentatively the pedals are pressed down and it all comes flooding back in waves of nostalgia from the days of cycling to and from school long ago on traffic-free roads. It is true you never forget how to ride a bicycle.
Most people selected a helmet. Most, but I hear one comment: ‘I haven’t done this in years,’ and pointing to the helmet, ‘Are these things necessary? I’m not wearing one of those.’ Continue reading “Fat Wallets and Young Hopes”
The clock had not moved since; it showed 5:17…
I looked out of the car window as my Bulgarian colleague, Vasko, drove from Sofia towards the Macedonian border. We had been invited to demonstrate our company’s capabilities to a potential agent in Skopje.
In October 1994, I was busy across eastern Europe helping our organisation develop its business in the banking sector as the shrouds of communism dissolved and the free market alluringly beckoned. Yet, apart from Sarajevo and Gavrilo Princip, I was not aware of the region’s history nor the disputes which had surfaced as a result of the country’s creation phoenix-like out of the ashes of Yugoslavia two years earlier.
The fall of communism had a dramatic effect on eastern Europe in the early nineties. A friend playfully commented that the USSR (formerly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was no longer any of the aforementioned!
Yugoslavia, the kingdom of the southern Slavs, for long ruled by the dictator Tito became increasingly weak under a succession of effeminate rulers and it started to disintegrate step by step from June 1991 onwards. Continue reading “A History Without a Geography”