A Carillon for Carillion

Carillion

(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.
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The Catalan Referendum

IMG_3956

…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”

Letters from Kolentawezi Jail

air mail letter

‘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”

Embarrassing

 

Embarrasing Branch 2

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 & Thelma

keith & thelma 001

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”

The Night I’ll Never Forget

Flugzeug Junkers Ju 88

Then I saw a single Junkers, an angel of death in the sky…

Along with my older sisters Peggy and Joan, I lived with Mum and Dad in a two-room cottage at number 11, India Row, Monkton. We lived, ate and cooked in one one room and slept in the other. The living room had a table and five wooden chairs. Over the black range for warmth and cooking on the mantelshelf stood two photos and a clock. On the table, we kept the valuables tin with the money, the rent book and insurance documents and a bottle of whisky for emergencies.

I’ll never forget one night just after my fifth birthday. It was a bright night. The moon’s milk white disc loomed large over Pembroke castle and the flooded river looked like a lake of silver below the crumbling walls of the west tower. My father had just come home from working at Simonds moaning about something. Straightaway, as he changed into his Home Guard uniform for the evening, the siren at the police station went. Made by a machine that looked like a short, mediaeval siege gun, it droned that ascending atonal sound. It’s wailing output warned everyone for miles around jarring bones and fraying nerves. Continue reading “The Night I’ll Never Forget”

Fat Wallets and Young Hopes

IMG_3391…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”