The Bill Bryson book about the history of human achievement
is three books down in a pile that also includes British B Movies of the 1940s
and the Complete Peanuts 1977-1978.
The thesis, bound, a second copy for my own sake,
is on top of the LP box, underneath the graduation photos,
somewhere close to the certificate.
Although the last time I saw that, it was with the unread movie magazines,
2014-2020, as close to compost as it is possible for printed matter to get
when kept indoors.
Of the LPs and DVDs and cassettes (VHS and compact)
it is best not to say too much,
except that the mission to slim down the video tape collection
by copying them onto disc
itself a dead format
stalled in 2015 at cassette number three,
and the folder I’d bought to put the sleeves in
(because the artwork is collectible in itself, don’t you know?)
is now underneath the coffee table
and the likelihood of anyone making their way safely back under there any time soon
is as near zero as makes no odds.
And these are just the things you can see.
These are the things I gesture towards when you ask me how things are.
When I give you the answer: This is what it looks like,
And hope you’ll realise why it is so difficult to say more.
(prev. pub. by Doctor Funny)
THESE DAYS, YOU DON’T NEED TO LOSE THE TEN-POUND HAM. BUT IT’S NOWHERE NEAR AS MUCH FUN.
Jack lost his ten-pound ham to Bob’s insistence that Mr McCartney included the indefinite article in the title of his song.
There was no arguing about it (there was; there was plenty of arguing about it),
Bob was always right. He’d been on the Wikipedia and whatever it said now on Jack’s phone—which was against the rules, by the way, and it was a good job he wasn’t disqualifying him from the quiz for not having turned it off—it was definitely “A Wonderful Christmastime”. With the emphasis on A.
So, no ten-pound ham for you, mush.
And no meat hamper or Serious Pig selection box, either,
for everybody knows that “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was composed by Mozart,
that Vikings most certainly did wear horns on their helmets (or why else were they always pictured that way in the photographs, hmmmm?),
and that John F. Kennedy proclaimed himself to be a doughnut to the citizens of Berlin,
There was, in short, no arguing with Bob.
The quiz-master who did all his own research.
For whom no point was too petty to discount someone from winning.
But if Jack had wanted his ham, he’d still have argued.
If Jack had been a meat-eater, he’d still have argued.
Because Jack wanted to see how certain Bob could be about stuff he didn’t know and didn’t even care about.
In front of the whole pub, every quiz night.
Without anything even approaching the slightest scintilla of shame.
But, of course, there was no Facebook back then.
(prev. pub. by The Haven)
Maybe Steve is joking.
Maybe he knows that it isn’t possible
For him to say anything in the comments
That will change anyone’s mind
(Because, you know, that’s not how belief works,
And have you ever tried to win an argument with a stupid person?
It’s not happening, is it? I mean, is it?)
So, maybe, when he decides that the perfect response
To a story about that double murder in the chain hotel by the docks
Is to tell readers that he stayed there once,
And that he wouldn’t recommend the breakfast,
Not at that price,
Maybe he’s really having a joke at the expense of
The internet illusion that any of these words matter
Longer than the time it takes to type them
And that the words most likely to be read,
Perhaps while grinding tooth enamel,
Are the author’s own
As he waits to see who he has riled
And discovers, again, that it is precisely no-one.
So, yeah. Maybe Steve’s having a big old laugh at the expense
Of internet commentators everywhere.
Maybe it’s a satire on wasted words,
On our inability to keep any thought to ourselves
Short of having the Wi-Fi disconnected.
And maybe he didn’t really mean that thing,
When he popped up after the Brexit vote,
To say he’d never liked Angela Merkel’s hairdo anyway.
(prev. pub. by Doctor Funny)
We apologise for the late running of this service.
This is due to operational reasons.
No, no, you heard that right. That’s what the script tells me.
And the missing reservations?
They’re missing for operational reasons, too.
I know. Operational reasons.
It’s in bold. I’ve got to read it.
And it’s only you, standing there at the end of the carriage,
Directing hatred at the woman who is resolutely not in your seat
(Because, I told you, it is no longer your seat)
Who is even listening to this.
Because the words shouldn’t be important.
Because no-one is supposed to care what we say.
Because no-one expects any better.
And couldn’t you have had a drink like the others?
Couldn’t you be pissed half out of your skull?
Couldn’t you be talking football shite with a friend or two,
Presuming you have a friend or two,
So that nothing I say is anything but,
“There they go again, chuntering along, don’t they ever shut up?”
That’s your job here, mate.
You’re not meant to be pondering what “operational reasons” means.
You’re not meant to be contemplating how non-operational reasons
Could be responsible for delaying the train,
For failing to print out the reservations,
For ensuring that the buffet car is overladen with prawn cocktail crisps,
And all the sandwiches are out of date.
Although, yes, yes, I’ll grant you,
The guard having an inescapable feeling of ennui when he woke up this morning
Might just count.
Although he’s still the guard.
And that’s still operational.
So we still win.
What I’m saying here, as you’re still listening,
And as the lady in your seat isn’t moving,
And as your need for cheese and onion crisps isn’t going to be satisfied
At least until we get to London,
Is that you’re not supposed to be taking it seriously.
After all, the company don’t, do they?
Or else they wouldn’t give me this arrant bollocks to say in the first place.
(prev. pub. by Little Old Lady Comedy)
It wears a blue shirt.
That very light blue, as near to white as makes no odds.
Except, of course, in revealing the vest underneath.
It wears a blue shirt with two breast pockets,
Always somehow more comical than just the one.
And there are Biros clipped to each. A couple of blue. A red. A green for reasons yet to be discovered.
It’s short-sleeved, revealing hirsute forearms. No tattoos. But hairy. And properly so.
The wristwatch is chunky but cheap. The strap is faux-leather cardboard. Any tighter and the buckle will break. But there’s no shame attached to it. This is practical and proper. Authoritative, too.
“You are required to complete the interactions before proceeding,” pass-ags the notification,
Pissily, prissily, because I’ve failed to highlight something on the screen
In the test I’ve completed a hundred times before
Because this is mandatory training
Because no-one really cares
Because it’s just something you have to do
And you’re not supposed to have any other kind of reaction
Not supposed to give it any thought at all.
And here’s me picturing that message in its blue shirt,
And not asking myself why I see it that way,
Because somehow I need the fury
To achieve 100% on this test for the umpteenth year running
To stay precisely where I am
For fear of what might happen if I really completed the interactions
With the blue shirts and their ilk.
For fear of proceeding.
(prev. pub. by The Haven)
EXPECTATIONS OF THE EVENING
The three-meat and four-cheese frozen lasagne
and the “restaurant-style” dough balls with the garlic butter
(free of either real garlic or actual butter, which I know is how you like it)
join the decent red I sneaked through the self-checkout
by scanning some cheap plonk twice over.
This feat of prestidigitation has been well practised
these many Fridays, on the way back from the bar,
on the way back from work,
after the usual thing in the over-lit aisles,
counting and contemplating the adjectives—
Specially selected, lightly whipped, creamy—
and balancing them against the cost,
which is always too high.
Because it’s “just marketing crap”, we say,
and “you can’t tell the difference,” we say,
and “it’s just the same thing every week,” we say.
As we’ve said now for so very many years.
But judicious juggling of the cartons,
which may or may not still bear their original bar codes,
smuggles another sumptuous alongside a naturally ripened,
sidles another smothered up against a cocoa dusted,
brings things up just enough to match my expectations for the evening.
As they once were.
(prev. pub. by the Daily Drunk)
DOING WHAT THEY LOVED
This one had a massive coronary on live telly whilst pulling a ladder out from under his magician’s robes.
And this one was speared by a stingray while making a documentary.
These two were swept into the sea by a random wave whilst taking a photo of the sunset.
And that chap over there literally was run over by a bus,
But he’d just passed his audition for the opera, so no doubt he was smiling.
They tell us, these people who tell us things, that they died doing what they loved.
They died doing what they enjoyed the most.
They died, in short, happy.
Am I the only one who thinks that’s just a tad tasteless?
That poor Geoff’s Bucket List was unlikely to have included “savaged by bear”?
That he’d have had a better time on the Appalachian Trail
Without his having his innards unspooled?
That he’d have loved the experience just that bit more
If his spleen hadn’t wound up sitting atop a tree?
Or that politician hanging in his wardrobe with the plastic bag over his head and oranges in every orange-worthy orifice.
Well, yeah, okay, he did die doing what he enjoyed the most.
There’s no doubting his ardent pursuit of his favourite hobby.
But I will tell you this,
As I’d tell every one of that trite “enjoyed the most” crowd,
If you asked him now, and he could answer round his orange,
I will bet you anything he’ll have changed his mind.
(prev. pub. by Doctor Funny)
People might hang out their washing
was Gerry’s reason for instituting the
We all do these things, he told us,
but working from home requires
an especial effort.
So we check in.
With each other.
At 9 every morning.
But it’s mostly with him.
Scrutinised by our own webcams,
we justify our day.
So that Gerry can justify himself,
as our manager.
He is right, though.
It is motivating.
I’ve got two loads on today,
And that out there isn’t going to paint itself.
(prev. pub. by Paragraph Planet)
—Medusa, with thanks to Mike Hickman for stepping over the sea and stopping by the Kitchen this first week of January, 2022, with his fine poetry!
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