First Base


Like swinging chandeliers -

not crystal ones, more plastic -

we nearly banged heads. 

 

Her hair swung. 

 

” You could’ve had my eye out 

with that.” I said, seductively. 

“You wish,” she said, blushing. 

 

Then the doorbell rang - 

or was it the phone? - 

no, definitely the doorbell. 

 

She sighed,

filling my nose with a whiff 

of the cheese and onion crisps

she ate earlier. 

 

Walkers or Golden Wonder, I thought. 

Why change the packet from green to blue? 

 

The moment was lost. 

In a Spin


The UK’s second best-selling newspaper

likes its readers

to speculate.

 

Only last year,

the story of a teacher with N.H.S boobs

who arranged a street party

for the death of a Tory leader,

sent the readers of these shores into a muddle.

 

Scratching their heads in dismay,

they exclaimed:

‘Teachers can’t have implants

AND hate an old, dead Tory leader!’

 

But the decision on who

to be angriest with

was a complicated one:

teachers? Aneurin Bevan?

False boobs? Women?

 

Frustratingly, nobody really knew.

 

And now the photos

of an ex Labour leader,

sitting next to the ex-wife

of the owner of the U.K’s

first best-selling newspaper,

have sent the readers

of the U.K.’s second best-selling newspaper’s

sister paper,

on a Sunday,

into a spin.

 

In cafes, in kitchens,

on planes and trains,

From the Highlands of Scotland

to the White Cliffs of Dover

there’s a moral individual

choking on a Yorkshire pudding.

 

And, because they don’t know why they’re angry,

they blame Labour.

And, because they don’t know why they’re angry,

they blame immigrants.

 

And because, later,

still confused about what they are angry about,

and who they were angry with,

nothing really changes.

 

And the ex Labour Politician

and the ex-wife the U.K.’s

first best-selling newspaper,

are left to carry on

regardless.

Therapy


‘Open your mind,’ the Therapist said,

‘let’s see what’s in there.’

 

It was a struggle at first.

 

It was meant to be like opening a book,

but felt more like opening a walnut,

without fingers or thumbs.

 

Then she asked about my childhood.

And my skull opened up.

Just like that.

 

And out I hurdled. 5′ 8″ and eleven years old,

clutching a paper bag

of coconut macaroons.

 

And the therapist didn’t bat an eyelid.

 

And when my mum followed,

dark circles around her eyes,

in her dressing gown,

tripping over my cranium,

 

the therapist looked positively sleepy.

 

It was only then, when,

following my mother’s clumsy entrance,

my nan emerged like a jack in a box,

 

shouting obscenities about my dad,

screaming: ‘I told you you should’ve married that doctor!’

to my mum, who was on her knees

at the foot of the therapist’s chair,

 

asking for something, anything,

to help her sleep,

that the therapist checked her watch and said,

‘We’ll leave it there for now.’

 

And when my skull began to close

with five of us still in the room,

and me, mouth agape,

but filling up with macaroons

from my eleven year old self,

unable to speak,

to say:

‘But where is this lot supposed to go?’

 

I got the distinct feeling,

from the look of confusion

on everybody’s face,

that nobody really knew the answer.

The Morning After


Do you want to be in a relationship?  

She says.

Because sometimes,

- it’s like a sixth sense -

it feels like you don’t.

 

I lie in the bed,

tongue furry in my mouth,

wondering what will come next,

and regretting my decision

to switch the boiler on.

 

Last night she smelt like lemons.

And, with her hair wound into coils,

moonlight waxing her cheekbones,

mascara-licked eyebrows,

widening her eyes so I could see more than ever,

I forgot the mornings after.

 

Last night, amid her usual existential crises

and well-worn monthly worries

that her period is late,

she made time for a laugh here

a giggle there,

and smile after smile after smile.

 

I try to remember

- but can’t recall -

any arguments

inside,

outside,

on the way there,

on the way back.

 

But amid the laughter,

that giggle,

those smiles,

her finger

twitched

against the rim of her glass

and her eyes

didn’t arch with her mouth.

 

And now,

now she smells of fags and sweat.

And her hair is knotted together by residue rain

and hairspray.

 

Carried by tears,

mascara clogs the open pores

of her cheeks,

while a fleck of glitter

clings to her nose

like the 5 a.m. straggler from a nightclub.

 

She’s taking a risk,

I think,

asking this now.

 

‘Yes, of course.

Don’t you want to be in this relationship?

It’s you who always asks the questions.’

 

There’s a silence.

 

All there is,

is us.

 

Us in a bed,

in this room.

 

Me, tormented,

in love with the memory of her last night;

her,

tormented by knowing this.

 

She is thinking about what happens

after the question.

while I?

 

all I want is for it to stay this way. 

All I want is for it to stay this way.

Hello, Life


The longest dream is over. Seven years trapped in the slumber of the little white pill, of word recollection problems, of wandering through foggy mind mazes, looking for words I once knew, like I was looking for their ghosts, like they were shadows lurking in my peripheral vision, are now gone. The anxiety in realising that words I’d learned and collected over the years, words I thought I’d filed in a safe place in my memory, that were always on the tip of my tongue, but were never able to leave my mouth, that were as clear as skywriting on the face of a polluted sky, is also gone. Those times when I thought I could be experiencing early-onset dementia, when people looked confused, when I was a malfunctioning computer,  constantly needing rebooting through sleep and exercise: gone too.  The longest dream is over. Seven years later, at my age, all my learned words, all knowledge and memories, have to be available to my brain: there for whenever, like books on shelves stacked next to each other in libraries. So ‘Bye, bye little white pill’ and ‘Hello, Life’…

Snowdon


It’s at the base where you pretend
everything is still okay.
Where your breath is calm
and your heart beats, effortless.

This is where you’re smiling.
When there is no ascent
or descent;
where everything is easy.

It’s as we go on, as we trample upwards,
over debris, leaving dust trails behind us
that you mumble, irritated,
that it’s harder than you thought.

I show you my hand: cold, stiffer now,
older than it once was and feigning generosity
in its reluctance to add your weight to my own.

Mist rolls into our lungs as I pull you upwards
towards the summit that pierces the clouds
and fingers the tip of the sun.

Families pass us by, the laughter of others’ makes you queasy.
You hate being on the outside of happiness.

I try to distract you, bring you in to our world,
saying the summit looks like a wizard’s hat.

You say you don’t see things the same way.
You pant like a birthing partner
coaxing a new life into your world.

The scent of overripe cheese, sewage,
rises from the flora and fauna which waits
all around us, willing us to move on.

Your fingers are icy when you say
you can’t continue; that it’s too hard
and more effort than it’s worth.

Frost reaches the tips of my fingers.
‘Really’ I say, letting you go.

As you stand there, hands tucked into your pockets,
the silence stops only for the wind
to sweep between us, to ruffle our hair and change our view.

In the calm of the wind’s leave,
I see neighboring mountains, Crib Coch, Y Lliwedd,
and miles of grey sky in the reflection of your eyes.

‘But I’m going on,’ I say.
You nod.
Your breath softer as you turn away.

On your descent, I see you fading into the distance,
smaller and smaller amid the mountains that flank you
and the mist than envelopes you.

 

Review: Mad about The Boy: The Secret Diary of Helen Fielding


Moments of regret re. Mad About the Boy: (133, 120).

Film offers: 0

Dear Diary,

Am perplexed. It appears Bridget is not as popular as she once was. But why? She’s still the naive singleton; still stumbling through a dating minefield of first dates, subsequent post-mortems over drinks with Tom and Jude, and pawing through self-help books searching for guidance on securing long-lasting, loving relationships. It’s formulaic Bridget! The singleton everyone loves! Except, diary, some of that love has gone. The Washington Times said it ‘Flagged’, the Telegraph described is as ‘Middling’ and some of my intended demographic, Mumsnet, felt is was actually ‘Terrible’! Okay, so there was the occasional drafting error: Bridget drank a can of Red Bull then went to the bin to drop her empty tin of Coca Cola in. But that is fault of publishing house, not me. And, okay, so the absence of Mark Darcy meant the source of tension from the first two novels is now absent. But Bridget is older and, in ever familiar fashion, still seeking another The One to replace poor old Mark Darcy. Perhaps said reviewers would have relished a prequel prior to the third installment? Maybe some depiction of Bridget’s wide-eyed, innocent childhood, overly fussy Mummy and emotionally submissive Daddy would have lent some insight into why Bridget, in her late forties, is still displaying all the endearing characteristics of the thirty-something lonely heart she was in the original, Bridget Jones’s Diary…instead of the maturity one might expect from a very middle-aged single mother of two. But maybe the pathos will grab somebody (Directors! Mumsnet! Guardian!) and my dear fans will see that, despite some’s perception of Mad About the Boy being a Flagging, Middling, Terrible follow-up, bearing the clichéd characteristics of a genre that has, perhaps, already been done to death, old Bridge has grown up. Even if it’s just a little. And she’s still the endearing, helpless, feckless character she always was. Some fans may even laugh – out loud. I hope so, Diary, I really do.