‘Off on holiday are we lad?’
‘Or maybe a bit of train spotting?’
‘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.
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.
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.
Ear ist a shooping lisp...
Tiddy bires (fore dinkling)
Lob ouf Luft
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope this one isn't a hit,
Dealing with fame and all that shit.
Number ones or number twos,
Flushed with success,
A big house,
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.