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Thursday, 30 July 2015

BIG GOD


Big God steps back into the fray,
No longer Chairman,
Back as Chief Operating Officer,
Too much slipping away,
Too many mistakes,
Too many plodders and pricks,
Rebels, chancers and mavericks,
Humanity plc in need of a steady hand,
The seven deadly sins
Deadlier than ever,
Mankind, womankind, childkind
Overdue for tough love,
An overhaul of sense and sanity,
Blitzkrieg,
A kick up the arse, a jolt…..

Big God goes to the cutlery drawer
For a lightning bolt.
 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

MONARCHS IN RHYME BY LINDA MOCKETT


Monarchs In Rhyme - Cover

Monarchs In Rhyme
A Lighthearted and Irreverent History of English Monarchs from William 1 to Edward VII
by Linda Mockett

Here's the link to Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008RLGRYW


Sometimes it's great when historical is hysterical.  There is room for stuffy, academic storytelling about the past but there is also a need for a more lighthearted look back and Monarchs In Rhyme fits the bill.

It's a collection that canters through the Normans, Plantagenets, Tudors, Stuarts, Hanoverians and Saxe-Coburg-Gothas.  As Linda M says, "this is a book that rhymes, that offends, casually but even-handedly, that plays fast and loose with the rules of grammar and that skates lightly upon the surface of history."

Here's an example:

HENRY VIII
Intended for the Church, his bro's demise

took Henry - pampered youngster - by surprise.

He learnt to take succession in his stride

and also (to save cash) his brother's bride.
For twenty years his reign was trouble-free
until the D.I.V.O.R.C.E.                          
   (Renowned for writing 'Greensleeves', there are few
    who know, in darker times, he wrote this too.)
Amassing wives, dislodging the devout
and lopping off the heads of those who'd doubt
were selfish acts in true tyrannic style,
yet he was lauded by the rank-and-file.
Despite the mayhem - all to get a son -
three offspring and the Tudor line was done.

And another:

GEORGE II

Did naught but love his wife, yet hate his son
a practice that his father had begun.
(His son died playing cricket, by the bye,
a quintessential English way to die.)
In battle he impressed the populace
engaging in the fray at sixty plus.                   
   (He also made the Young Pretender run
    and Stuarts quit until, well, kingdom come.)
Their favour faltered when, to their dismay,
he carelessly mislaid eleven days.
His heart failed under strain and so it’s true
he met his end while sitting on the loo.

Linda Mockett has completed an epic task of condensing the history, quirks and foibles of English monarchs into compact rhymes.  It doesn't all work but most of it does. She has grasped the lives of this motley crew of rulers and takes the mickey without fear or favour.  There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and more than the occasional groan at a pun.  It would be great to hear this work performed because I think more of the comedy would come through.

I enjoyed it very much.  Hats (crowns?) off to Linda for a great antidote to stuffy history books.  It has equal appeal to peasants and the pampered.

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Monday, 27 July 2015

GOD'S GIFT


"Congratulations," said God,
Here is your present. 
Treat it with care,
It's uses are wide,
Detailed instructions
Are tucked inside."

"Thank you," we said
And pulled at the string,
Clawed at the wrapping
Like kittens at play,
Found the instructions
And threw them away.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

THOSE MOMENTS (I COME FROM A TIME WHEN ALL FIRE ENGINES WERE CALLED DENNIS)


I come from a time when all fire engines were called Dennis
And yoghurt was a special guest star on supermarket shelves,
An era when opinions arrived in a trickle and then drained away,
When you needed Vaseline for your jaw as it banged on the floor
While you watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon – the moon!

I come from a time of The Lone Ranger and William Tell, and the excitement
Of a burning map of Nevada, a dan-da-da-da theme tune and four cowboys
Riding in from distant mountains and pines, from the edges of my imagination,
A time of simple ambitions like Mose Harper’s in search of a rockin’ chair,
When women in strait-jacket aprons would scrub and polish front doorsteps.

I come from a time when most people got on with earning a living and living
A life that they hoped would be decent, trouble-free, blessed by God and quiet,
A time when neighbours knew each other and community glue was gossip,
Black and white, when coal was delivered in sacks and milk arrived in bottles,
When kettles hardly stopped boiling and pots of stew simmered all day long.

I go back that far into nostalgia, to Doris Day’s whatever will be, will be
And what did we think the future would be? Simple? Complicated? Strange?
We harrumph that they were better times, better than now, a better era,
The good old days sandpapered of all their rough edges and smoothed down,
So that we can caress memories and hug them for comfort at those moments.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

BEASTLY WEATHER


I heard this literal comment:
"It's raining cats and dogs."
My face went white, it was a fright, 
a shock, I was agog.

What if it rained giraffes,
orangutans and mice,
rhinos, horses, cows and sheep,
t'would not be very nice.

What if the forecast said:
"Watch out 'cos there will be
grizzly bears in blizzards
and drifts of chimpanzees."

I realised the nonsense
of this silly fantasy,
so I lowered my umbrella
and a hippo fell on me.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

THE LITTLE YELLOW TRAIN & PERPIGNAN


A holiday memory from a few years ago.......


In these tough times when pressures are all around us and genuine delights seem to be few and far between, my wife and I discovered, as part of our summer holiday to Perpignan, the wonderful, cheery joy of the Little Yellow Train, a proper locomotive with several carriages, painted brightly and ready to go on its slow climb through fabulous scenery up into the Pyrenees.  Unlike many modern trains, this little gem has the ability to make everyone who sees it for the first time, smile broadly and believe that, in spite the world’s traumas, there are reasons to be cheerful.


For nearly 100 years, Le Train Jaune has gained fame as one of the treasures of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. We hopped aboard at Villefranche, after paying about 40 euros for two return tickets  to Font-Romeu, about halfway along the track towards journey’s end,  Latour de Carol.  The outward haul is mostly uphill and, therefore, slow but all the better for that as passengers have time to absorb the beautiful landscape and breathtaking views of mountains, farmland, churches, hamlets and viaducts. 

As we moved, we could see how being on this charming train was a happy experience in itself but, occasionally, we witnessed how others reacted to it as it passed them.  A farmer paused his digging and gave us an enthusiastic wave and further on a group of walkers called out greetings. Car drivers, waiting patiently at level crossings, saluted as we glided past - an antidote to aggression and bad manners, we thought.

After an hour’s pause at our stop for a cup of coffee, we caught the next yellow train for the return journey, this time downhill and much faster.  Yes, it was the same scenery but from a different perspective, benefitting from changing light conditions and the wind in our hair.  Pure delight.


We ate some great food and drank some great wine in and around Perpignan and we remember the Thursday night in the town for its fantastic music, street theatre, acrobats, rock music, jazz, flamenco and salsa.  Artists and performers provided free entertainment for local people, visitors and diners in this Thursday evening summer ritual.  The streets and squares were alive with fun, colourful costumes, sounds and rhythms, providing an atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

But, assessing all the wonders of this trip, the Little Yellow Train is the prominent memory because of its simplicity and I maintain that the sight of it makes me think that it is the only locomotive, since Thomas the Tank Engine, to make people feel truly happy and that, in the end, all can be well in the world, if only we choose the right track.

Monday, 20 July 2015

ONLY THREE DAYS COUNT


In this life
of ups
and downs,
of joy
and sorrow,
only three days count -
yesterday,
today
and tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

CASSOULET IN CARCASSONNE


They said that if you’re in Carcassonne, it’s got to be cassoulet
For lunch, preferably at an outdoor table but don’t worry
About trying to find the definitive cassoulet because there isn’t one.
Like Irish stew, every mother has her own touches, her own way.

My Irish Mammy would have recoiled from cassoulet, too much foreigny
Going on and going in – haricot beans, pork, onions, cloves, garlic,
Tomato puree, bouquet garni, Toulouse sausages, duck legs, this, that,
And cooked for ages, then served with Minervois wine and a “bon appétit”.

We climbed the hilly street, A-boards advertising ‘authentic’ cassoulet –
La véritable recette du cassoulet - outside restaurant after restaurant, 
Chalked roughly but with pride. We chose. We ate every bit of it but resisted 
The poet’s urge to equate it all with history, literature and gubbings.  
We were just hungry.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

APPRECIATING TURQUOISE


I look ahead,
up the gradient
to the hilltop,
follow the white snow path
and watch it change,
victim of the playful sunlight,
to a kaleidoscope of colours
but especially to turquoise
and I am so emotional
because of the brightness and the dazzle,
my brow is furrowed,
my skull aches,
my eyes hurt so much
that I raise my arms and a scream
echoes to the summit, through ravines,
ditches and passes......

“Curse the bastard who stole my sunglasses!”


The Poems Of Hamish Sheaney : Remastered & Expanded

Buy the book here: http://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Poems-Of-Hamish-Sheaney-Remastered-Expanded.aspx


In 2012, I published a book called Hamish Sheaney: The Nearly-Man of Irish Literature. The book began with this disclaimer: Hamish Sheaney may not exist, so it might have been necessary to invent him. Hamish Sheaney might be Joe Cushnan or Joe Cushnan might be Hamish Sheaney. They are never seen in the same room together, but more often than not they are in the same room. Shirt collar, shoe size, dental records and preference for Mini-Cheddars are purely coincidental. The book is still available from www.feedaread.com and via Amazon Kindle. It contains a short biography of Hamish as well as lists of his failed screenplays, literary influences and proverbial wisdom (whizz dumb) quotations. This updated book is a remastered (regurgitated?) and expanded version that concentrates on the nearly-man’s specific biographical and observational poetry, and it leaves out the “and other funny stuff”. So as not to short-change anyone too much, other poems and witty gems have been discovered in a holdall in Hamish’s shed. They are printed here for the first time. Granny Sheaney also makes an appearance with her terse views on life and poetry. Unlike my other books of fun verse - Juggling Jelly, The Chuckle Files, Boxset (Without A Box), etc, this collection is a bit more adult in parts.
ISBN: 9781785100727
Total Pages: 99
Published: 17 September 2014
Price: £5.99

Friday, 17 July 2015

NEW MUSIC - 'AFTER YOU' - JULIA TYNES & CARL JACKSON



"After You" 
Sung by Julia Tynes
Written by Julia Tynes & Carl Jackson

Link to Julia's site: http://juliatynes.com/


I must have listened to hundreds if not thousands of break-up songs in my time, soul songs, rock and roll songs and country songs and after a while they are all a bit predictable in a sobbing in your cornflakes kind of way.

In fact, way, way back, when I broke up with my first girlfriend – I did the breaking up for reasons that I cannot remember but reasons that were probably to do with teenage stupidity – I did that nose pressed up to the window on a rainy day thing muttering: “What have I done? What have I done?”  I think Kris Kristofferson’s “For The Good Times” was my soundtrack.  Alas we move on, but for some it isn’t easy.

I say all this because I have been pointed in the direction of a break-up song that does something different, something that freshens up the interpretation of the theme, not in a plodding Leonard Cohen in a bedsit way droning on about life being unfair, but pairing fairly pessimistic, honest lyrics (break-ups are hard!) with an optimistic, positive musical arrangement.

‘After You” is written by Julia Tynes and Carl Jackson.  Carl’s piano intro leads us warmly to Julia’s superb vocals, a hint of little-girl-lost coupled with a matter-of-fact analysis of the aftermath of a split.  I’m making this sound a bit clinical and dull, but not a bit of it.

This song is infectious.  I have listened to it at least six times and when it’s finished I feel the urge to hum or sing the chorus.  This might not sound unusual but, as an old school folkie, this type of music is not normally my choice of listening.   But ‘After You” unashamedly uses that vital ingredient if records are going to be successful.  Julia and Carl are not afraid of catchiness.  Catchiness is essential.  If the choice is to be serious and worthy or to be catchy and memorable, I know where I would place my vote. 

“I’m still wishing there was no such thing as after you…..” is a great line that could have been delivered in a clumsy way.  In Julia Tyne’s hands, it pours out smoothly.  She is a lovely singer, a comfortable (nothing wrong with that word) and confident performer who deserves much radio airplay.

I’ll keep an ear out for more Julia Tynes and Carl Jackson collaborations.  This is special stuff and it should be a big hit, if only promoters and supporters notice it.  If they do, then bravo.  If they don't, well, sadly, it’s their loss.

“After You” – beautifully arranged, beautifully sung.

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Thursday, 16 July 2015

NEW MUSIC CD - LET IT BE - SIMON MURPHY

Let It Be


Let It Be - Simon Murphy

Link to Simon's site - http://simonmurphymusic.co.uk/bio



It’s as if someone fired a starting pistol because with ‘Once Upon A Time’ Simon Murphy is off and running with a cracking opening track on this terrific album.  It sounds like pretty much the perfect pop song to me, great pace, catchy lyrics and impossible not to like.  ‘Meet Me On The Other Side” carries on the foot-tapping vibe and he’s got us in the palm of his hand.  I can recall a lot of CDs where I have gotten to the second track and just abandoned the rest of it because nothing has grabbed me.  Simon has decided to hook us from the beginning.  Smart thinking.

We ease into ‘Not In My Name”, a beautifully arranged mournful song about being an independent voice in a complicated world, at least that’s what I’m hearing. I love the guitar work.  In fact, the guitar work is outstanding throughout this album.

After a couple of minutes of thoughtful meditation, we’re back to the beat with ‘Lone Star Heart” reflecting on lost love and scrapbook memories.  ‘Here Goes Nothing” carries on the mood of self-appraisal - who we are, why we’re here, what’s it all about, where do we go from here, a kind of crisis of confidence song that steers clear of maudlin commentary enough for us to listen with a sympathetic ear.  It struck me that upbeat, downbeat, slow song, fast song, Simon has a great voice that can be tailored to any mood or message that he cares to tackle.

And we come to special guest star, Kaz Hawkins, on ‘I Have A Voice”.  My jaw dropped at how sensational this track is.  Two magnificent voices belting out (I mean that kindly) a song that gets into your head so much that you want to keep it on a loop, it’s that good.  It is soul, it is gospel, it is an anthem to get you on your feet and clapping along to the joy of it all.  Yeah!!! (Note to self: I must listen to more Kaz). 

After such a power track, ‘My Baby” brings us back to simplicity, a gentle tune, a sweet love song to someone special.  But enough of that………

……… ‘I Smell A Rat’.  This comes across as a get-it-off-your-chest song of impatience and irritation with the fakery and ignorance all around us. There is more than a hint of bitterness and it has a kind of ‘trust no one’ about it.  An underlying note tells us we can and should see through the charlatans.  I make it sound heavy but it works and is catchy as hell.

The album ends with ‘Evergreen’ and I’m hearing Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, as fine a compliment as I can muster. 

I love this album.  It is well-produced, beautifully arranged and performed and a perfect showcase for a quite brilliant singer/songwriter who has a knack for writing seemingly simple songs with great hooks and choruses.  There are several tracks here that should be in the upper echelons of radio playlists.
‘Let It Be’ sounds like the end of something but this is only the beginning and Simon Murphy should be on his way to a very successful career in words and music.

Sample it on Amazon, savour it and, er, buy it!


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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

SLOBBER




The dribble-drool of the moist slobber

ooze-drips a slop-spill of saliva

in the mucous pool.

I wipe a slime-stream mingled

with the salt-sweat wetness,
gather several spots of snot-grot
in my sodden nose-blot hankie

and head off to Boots to collect my prescription.


The Poems Of Hamish Sheaney : Remastered & Expanded

In 2012, I published a book called Hamish Sheaney: The Nearly-Man of Irish Literature. The book began with this disclaimer: Hamish Sheaney may not exist, so it might have been necessary to invent him. Hamish Sheaney might be Joe Cushnan or Joe Cushnan might be Hamish Sheaney. They are never seen in the same room together, but more often than not they are in the same room. Shirt collar, shoe size, dental records and preference for Mini-Cheddars are purely coincidental. The book is still available from www.feedaread.com and via Amazon Kindle. It contains a short biography of Hamish as well as lists of his failed screenplays, literary influences and proverbial wisdom (whizz dumb) quotations. This updated book is a remastered (regurgitated?) and expanded version that concentrates on the nearly-man’s specific biographical and observational poetry, and it leaves out the “and other funny stuff”. So as not to short-change anyone too much, other poems and witty gems have been discovered in a holdall in Hamish’s shed. They are printed here for the first time. Granny Sheaney also makes an appearance with her terse views on life and poetry. Unlike my other books of fun verse - Juggling Jelly, The Chuckle Files, Boxset (Without A Box), etc, this collection is a bit more adult in parts.
ISBN: 9781785100727
Total Pages: 99
Published: 17 September 2014