Extracts from the Journal of Abacus Count Aged 46.75


Lost for Words

One: I got lost. Two: The police were called. Three: I was shouted at - for doing what I’ve been told not to do. I'm often told what not to do. And I’m often shouted at. If I wasn’t shouted at I’d probably not do the things I’m told not to do. It’s not complicated! But adults seem to think it is. And that's a problem. Adults complicate things that are simple. Whereas things like friends and fashion - things that are complicated - well we all know what adults think of them. Mum and Dad are adults. Long Tall Barry and Short Fat Sally. That’s what they call each other. They think it’s funny. Mum says she calls Dad that because of an old rock ‘n’ roll song. Dad says he calls Mum that because of her size. It’s strange though because she isn’t short or fat - she’s tall. Not very tall, just taller than most. And she's old. Not very old, just older than everybody else's mum. And it’s Dad that wears the heels! They get on very well, Mum and Dad. They like the same things - just differently. Anyway, getting back to the story. The police came and I got shouted at by the adults for getting lost - something I obviously didn’t do on purpose. Duh! And now I’m upstairs writing about it. Which just goes to show - it was worth getting lost after all. All writers have to suffer for their art.


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Church Life

the end of an un-started novel

A cock crows. In the doorway of a church lies a body. Two slug-trails form a silver cross on a battered trilby covering its face. All is quiet. From the tower a tired wooden creaking is followed by eight metallic strikes of a booming bell. It is quarter to six.

A bald bedraggled figure limps past the church steps just before the air is cracked by a rip-roaring fart. The figure returns slowly and leaning over the slumped body, tentatively lifts the hat to reveal a toothless, gargoyle grin. ‘B’jesus Mary. There yer be – an’ give me back me crown won’t yer, am losing all me heat.’ Mary pushes herself up to lean against the gnarled door and belches. ‘Have yer nothing to say for yerself now Mary? - No, course not. Come on then, up yer get.’ The two stagger slowly through the graveyard and out the gate into narrow lanes. A raspy laugh bounces against houses opposite and back up the path. They slip round the corner and are gone - never to be seen again. Peace is restored.

But only a few minutes pass, then a loud thud is heard from behind the door. The heavy timber creaks a little as it’s prised open. A face peers out, blinking into the light. This is Mr Liquorice, the church warden. Unbeknown to all the other villagers bar one, each night Mr Liquorice sleeps between the pews stored in the side chapel. It’s been this way since his wife renounced religion, stating emphatically that it was ‘the Devil’s work’. Only after daylight breaks is Mr Liquorice allowed back home, and after pushing the door back with another thud, this is where he quickly heads.

Between now and seven very little else will happen. But soon after, the milkman will arrive in his old rattling electric van, park it in the passing space, and chink chink his way up to the entrance. Two bottles will be left today, and by ten o’clock the flower arranging committee will be in full flow drinking numerous teas and coffees, discussing the relative merits of carnations and lilies, and whether either or both will be suitable for the wedding and funeral taking place at twelve and three, respectively. They will eventually choose roses, as only the day before one of the members received two dozen of them from an unwanted admirer.

At quarter to six as the sun goes down, the clock will strike eight again. The parishioners planning to attend that evening’s service will straighten their ties and adjust hemlines. By seven they will all be back in their terraced cottages preparing a light supper, relieved that they were not required to answer God’s calling in any definite way. They will be free to go about their business as usual tomorrow.

At the chime of ten, Mr Liquorice will make himself a flask of coffee, adding a nip or two of whiskey to ‘keep out the God Almighty Chills’. Pulling on his boots he’ll sadly prepare to kiss his beloved wife goodnight. At the stroke of eleven, it being quarter to nine, a hush will descend as Mr Liquorice swallows his last warming drop, turns off his torch and snuggles down to dream of comely attentive angels.

And in this way another day will come and go. As another will surely follow. Now and forever.

Amen.


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Assumptions

Adults make a lot of assumptions. Especially about young people. The main one being that they’re always 'up to trouble'. Which we’re not. At least fifty one per cent of the time we’re doing useful productive things and being sensitive, caring individuals. The rest of the time we’re just a bit mixed up. We might hang about on street corners, but that doesn’t mean that we’re planning a robbery or looking for a fight does it? Usually we just talk and show off to our mates. And if we’re smoking it doesn’t mean that we have a 'death wish' and want cancer. Most of us don’t even inhale. It’s just a pose. A way of looking. But that's the problem isn't it? - How we look through tired old adult eyes. No chance of rose tints there - just thick bi-focals! I know someone who had the police set on to them because they were having a panic attack. They were breathing into a paper bag. That's what you're told to do by the doctor. Something to do with carbon dioxide - it calms you down. A wise old adult saw this and assumed it was glue sniffing. And what do you think seeing two uniforms bearing down on you does to a panic attack? Duh!


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The Framing of Alex Coombes

the start of an unfinished novel

Detective Alex Coombes had the usual whisky breath, raincoat and hangdog looks of a cynical pragmatist who simply sees things as they are. But when he went home after a long difficult shift dealing with local scum and low life, it wasn’t to a single man’s hovel of unwashed bedclothes and half eaten ready meals, but to a light, airy apartment overlooking rolling fields and hedgerow.

Once in his well appointed, colourful home, he would immediately change out of his stale, sweat-stained work clothes, luxuriate in a candle-lit rose-scented bath and dress for dinner. Even though he lived alone, Detective Coombes thought it important to keep up appearances. He liked to be able to look in his many mirrors and be pleased with what he saw. Having put on his tuxedo, he would then retrieve from his freezer one of many sumptuous meals prepared previously during a weekend of culinary creativity. After carefully defrosting and heating he would sit down to masticate and admire the view.

Not many people at the station were aware of his passion for nature and art, and would be surprised to see him, gastronomic cravings satisfied, setting up an easel, dinner jacket exchanged for a painters’ smock. For Detective Coombes was a very fine artist indeed, able to capture complexity of light and shade in such sensitivity and detail that he was in fact very well respected and currently showing his work at the Tate Modern under the name of Alexander Coombrehos.


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The Injury

George Best may have worn them but platform soles and football just don’t go together. I learnt that from my class tutor Mr. Dodds, PE teacher and team coach extraordinaire. Short, flabby, lethargic and reeking of Old Spice and native Player’s Weights cigarettes, ‘Doddy’ wore his standard issue politically incorrect 1970’s opinions with pride. He also had a sarcastic and bewildering sense of humour.

‘Off on holiday are we lad?’

‘Sir?’

‘Or maybe a bit of train spotting?’

‘No Sir.’

‘Well why are you standing around on platforms then?’ he said pointing at my very shiny, raised shoes. ‘You could ruin your football career wearing those lad.’

Of course, I didn’t hear this in the way it was undoubtedly intended. I received his implied criticism as confirmation that, rather than just reaching for remote stars, I was actually good enough to become one.

It wasn’t a matter of simply enjoying football, I was obsessed with it. Up until my injury. Every minute was spent watching, playing or thinking about it. Day or night, my dreams took place in rain soaked stadiums with thousands of ecstatic fans sharing my reveries. I loved to roll around in the studded, glutinous mud. Pig-happy, smelling the earthy delights and deliberately making sliding tackles that guaranteed lengthy grass stains and grazes. My badges of honour.

I’ve never felt taller than when running onto ‘the match pitch’, my platforms swapped for painstakingly polished Puma King football boots. Bolstered by the team talk, impatient for the whistle and ready to stick it to the bullies and wannabe but wouldn’t be heroes. Primed & ready. Oh the joy of it. Lost in imagination. The adoring crowd, the scouts, the TV cameras. The salt. The blood. The taste of victory. I am the best. I am George Best…

My bedroom reflected my infatuation. Shelves buckled under the weight of Shoot! magazines and match programmes. Pendants dangled like red and white bats from the pelmet. Posters held back damp bulging plaster with tape and drawing pins. Not just the walls but the ceiling too. An entire squad watched over me as I slept, my trophy lamp softly glowing.

The turning point came on a wet and windy Saturday, mid-season, away from home. The week before I’d suffered a dead leg from a collision with a right winger called Tony who showed no mercy and took no prisoners. I’d hobbled through the following seven days, clumsy and arthritic-looking on my platforms, but I made the team for our game against Forest Athletic. League leaders, cup winners, and playing on their own hallowed ground.

It was my first kick of the match. Still in my own half and with no-one anywhere near, I volleyed the ball. It felt like my leg had been ripped off. I’d seen diagrams of muscles and tendons in biology text books and now I could feel my own tearing apart. Meat stripping from bone. I fell facing the crowd expecting them to come to my assistance but they were just a huddle of fat dads and scruffy hangers-on. I waited for the referee to stop the game but he was up the other end of the pitch. I watched as he gave a free-kick against our centre forward. I was abandoned. Cold, soggy and in shock. Defeated. Eventually Mr. Dodds, in his shockingly tight and distinctly grubby ‘official’ Adidas tracksuit, unceremoniously dragged me to the sideline and out of the way, clearly not recognising the catastrophic nature of the situation. I didn’t know it at the time but my career in football was over.

The following Monday I was taken to see the family doctor, a jovial man with thick rimmed glasses and a prominent chin who had an unfortunate tendency to make light of serious ailments. ‘Well you don’t need stitches and it’s not broken,’ he said with an encouraging smile, ‘but I’d pack up football if I were you,’ then pointing at my shoes, ‘and do get rid of those, they could cause a nasty injury.’

All things must pass and those days are long gone. My shoes didn’t cause the injury but my love affair with football ended and like the nausea-invoking debris of an old relationship, they had to go. Platforms, anyway, were an aberration in a naïve sport’s world where stars still drank heavily, smoked and generally abused themselves. Football’s moved on and so have I. It’s taken a while but I can now watch the occasional weekend match on TV without spiralling down into dark brooding resentment. The scars have healed, although I do find myself inadvertently wincing as I carve the Sunday roast. And I still feel the odd twinge when I reach for the remote.


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Story in 100 Words - Alley Cat and the Top Dog.

Once upon a time a pretty pushy pussy messed on a temperamental top dog, twisting his tale.

Although they were mates, she was one hot double-crossing bitch, off the roof and out the bag. Now she was in the doghouse all right and getting it wrong. Claws out; coming on strong. Him playing along, hair-triggered.

Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me? She purred.

He was pleased to see her. And it was a gun.

She thought there were nine but he needed just one.

One bullet and that cat was gone.


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It's Time to Wake Up!

The square sun and the triangular moon hung
strung-out on a string across the room,
the room was spinning and bouncing around
in uproarious uproar without any sound,
the colours clashed, and shutters glazed over smile beams
collided one after another with sparks igniting
turning hard wood to fire the flames
burned down as yellow climbed higher
soaring through roofs into the sky clouding
the view as steam ions flew by.
Getting thicker then thinner right up to the top
where the air was moist and ready to drop, down
it came with an almighty splash turning to water
everything that it passed, running to rivers
and sliding up streams,turning worst nightmares
into wet dreams that softened pillows, melting away
leaving just enough time to start a new day.


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Shooping Lisp

Ear ist a shooping lisp...

O2
Poot Nodless
Rasta Deadloks
Latice
Selarie
orangas
Bakonn
Rise Kwipthis
illness flaking
Munchkins
Figure rollings
Crithups
Mozzthehella
Tiddy bires (fore dinkling)

Lob ouf Luft

zz


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Is that the original?

Last night I was sitting quietly with a few imaginary friends in our local pub. Actually it was passing itself off as a restaurant, but with two sizzling steaks (all the trimmings) for a tenner, John Smith’s at £2.80 a pint and tiny bags of peanuts for a quid, it’s got to be a pub hasn’t it?

Anyway I digress... When the landlord (note: not restaurateur) put the music system on full blast - despite us being the only customers and seated directly underneath the speakers near the ‘rest room’ - I initially found myself pleasantly surprised, tapping along with my cutlery to Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’. But then, when it got to the part about drinking sangria in a park there was a subtle but noticeable variation from the version I had at home. On putting down my fork and listening more attentively, it became apparent that this wasn’t Lou Reed at all, but a very good impersonator backed by a band that obviously knew its collective Velvets from its solo Machinations. I shouted across to my imaginary friends ‘Know who this is then kids?’ to which they mouthed back ‘What?’ At that point the song came to a premature end fading off with the sound of rolling waves and seagulls - definitely not how I remembered the original!

A few seconds later Meatloaf was bellowing ‘Bat Out of Hell’. But guess what, this wasn’t Jim Steinman’s great deliverer (excepting Bonnie Tyler of course) - this was more like Malt Loaf. Another intruder then… After that we had a rather mind-bending alternative to Madness and a peculiar but strangely likeable Beatles-a-like fab falsie.

Now I’m not strictly against cover bands, but I’m not exactly for them either - some do go to extraordinary efforts to sound like nothing-likes. And I do understand the reasoning behind having un-original music in public places as a way of avoiding music license/copyright/royalty issues etc. As a rule I don’t find it too much of a problem when it’s obvious and what might be described as ‘just a bit of fun’. However this seems to be a new breed. They’re not like the old ‘Hot Hits’ album bands of the seventies when there was virtually no attempt at impersonation - these new interlopers clearly know what they’re doing, and they do it well.

The problem here is not one of poor musical re-interpretation, but one of potential social shame and losing face. Like me, there must be many aural obsessives who will now find themselves happily singing along to what they think are their beloved, treasured songs and loudly extolling their virtues to an attentive, supportive audience, only to find themselves short-changed and embarrassed by the third chorus.

Now, if you’ve been downing el-plonko for the last few hours and are therefore oblivious to the reactions of friends and family at your superior lack of musical knowledge - or you are happily singing along to Stars on 45 or a cover of the Hi Ho Hum Silver Something song - everything may be okay. But if, like me, you’re a sensitive soul who considers themselves a bit of a music aficionado – then this ‘new wave’ of laudable audible imposters is a serious shifting of musical goalposts.

So take heed pop picnickers - some of us don’t like it and will take direct action if necessary. What that direct action will be I can only leave to the individual, but suggest that orifices be opened and notice taken. At the very least, a quiet word in the appropriate ears should result in a small reduction off the bill.



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But Paul...

On Abbey Road
You don’t have to sing
Until the third song.
With your bass so strong
Steering the grooves on,
Coming altogether smooth on
Something in the way you move
Moves me still.
But then...

Maxwell’s hammer
Makes me feel so ill,
As it comes down bang! bang!
With its chirpy but dirgey
Cheeky but slurgey chorus.
Creeping up from behind,
Crossing middle of the road,
John, Paul, and the two Georges
And even Yoko scurrying for the verges.

Paul...Oh darling you’ve lost me
In your octopus garden -
But I still want you.
And here comes the sun
Because when the medley’s on,
Your majesty’s majestic,
Your playing so simplistic - then gone.
Absolutely Gorgeous.
Fab Fourgeolous.


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To Split Infinity?

Appearing from nowhere wearing soggy raincoat and woolly hat, and seemingly on a different muddy path to everyone else, I stagger in, pull up a chair, retrieve my trusty, musty notebook from my pocket and reflect on a little argument I’ve just had with a fellow writer of no repute...

I’ve been doing a bit of poetry you see - as a break from composing my new symphony based on the history of the rock singer ‘Prince’ and his shocking misuse of the ampersand. And I seem have got myself in an uncomfortable position where I want to deliberately use split infinitives - oops there goes another one...

Why uncomfortable? Well I've noticed that many folk don't seem too keen on them and get surprisingly heated and animated when discussing the little blighters - but I've been doing some research and don't really understand what's wrong with them. In fact, when employed sparingly and imaginatively, I think they can add something to a piece and find deliberately not using a split infinitive potentially stifling - especially where poetry is concerned.

For me the joy of poems is that they aren’t too obvious and the reader has to spend some time with them, ‘needing’ repeated readings to fully appreciate and understand them in all their paradoxes and multiple meanings - with plays on words and punctuation - including potential deliberate misspellings or unconventional arrangements.

I think that the important thing is not that poems are necessarily immediately completely understood and ‘universal’, or the workings of them obvious, but that they are not so obscure that the reader doesn’t get the gist and feeling from the words, shape, form etc. And hopefully having got an overall ‘feeling’ any reader worth their salt will then want to spend more time getting through the intricacies to eventually reach a climax of ‘Aha, so that’s why they did that!’ (Of course there has to be some trust and implicit acceptance from the reader that the writer knows what they’re doing in the first place, and that any straying from the accepted norms is intended rather than just poor command of language skills).

And I guess rules are there to be broken and surely poetry is all about bending them within structures and forms to get the essence of whatever...ramble, ramble...muttering to self.

The long and winding debate will continue for sure – but for the moment I have concluded that it's ok to split an infinitive if you want to... ... and I want to defiantly split.


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(S)Hit

I hope this one isn't a hit,
Dealing with fame and all that shit.
Number ones or number twos,
Flushed with success,
Nothing left,
Two loos,
A big house,
No spouse.


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Friends

I don’t have friends as such. Actually that’s not true. I do have friends – but they’re imaginary ones - and I find its best not to talk about them too much. I also have mates, acquaintances and colleagues. When you move around a lot you never let anyone get too close to you. And from what I’ve seen, everybody has imaginary friends.

© Abacus Count


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