Saturday, 21 September 2013

Stray Cat Strut

I saw his boots first, since I was staring at the ground beside my bar stool. The detritus on the floor of any Andalucian bar is always fascinating. His crocodile botas de vaquero seemed just right among the peanut shells and paper napkins, that day.  He had his jeans 50’s cuffed, it must have taken him ages to pull them down over the boots. The leather waistcoat over his western shirt had seen too much sun. I almost laughed at the bootlace tie. My neck hurt as I craned it up to look at the man’s face. He looked like Tom Waits would - if he had never touched a drop -  and less interesting thereby. The clothes were fun though, I thought he might burst into an impromptu rendition of ‘Do the Hucklebuck’.

He gave a smile that spoke American although his accent was pure Dudley , ‘You speak English?’

‘You can always tell, can’t you?’ I said.

He looked put out, a little. I suppose he thought he looked like Carl Perkins.

‘They have bands here? Saw the stage in back.’

I supposed if you sang enough American songs your vocabulary would change, even if your accent didn’t.

‘At the back? Sometimes.’

‘Think they’d be interested?’

‘In what?’

‘Three piece. Drums, guitar and vocal, bass. Double bass that is.’

‘Could be. Why don’t you ask the owner?’ I nodded over at the woman behind the bar.

He held out a hand to me, ‘Bill, Bill Perks.’

We shook, I don’t think my name registered with him; so I did him the favour of not laughing at his. Maybe he didn’t know the real name of the Stones’ original bass man.

‘That’s the owner?’ He whispered it, but he’d spent too much time on stage – and it came out too loud.

The owner looked up and she didn’t look pleased.

Bill Perks moved smoothly over to the end of the bar and spoke the best Spanish I’d ever heard come out of a Guiri mouth. It must have been good, it won a smile from the bar owner. The musician had a coffee, but he paid for it, despite protests. They came to an arrangement for when spring returned next year.

‘What kind of music do you play, Bill?’ I asked.

He looked at me, took in my clothes. ‘You wouldn’t like it, I reckon.’

‘Try me,’ I said.

‘Bill Swing, The Collins Kids, Charlie Feathers.’

‘Rockabilly your thing then?’

The look on his face said appointment or disamazement or some mixture of the two,

‘Yeah, yeah it is.’

‘The Andalucians like it?’

‘Seem to,’ he said.

‘What’s your encore, then?’

He didn’t seem too put out, when I laughed

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Man with Franco's Nose

Number 17 is opposite the Café-Bar Isabél, on the village’s main street. A consumptive could spit from the pavement on one side to the other. The Isabél’s plastic tables and chairs occupy this stretch of flagstones as far as the Funeral Director’s new garage door, so no-one would ever try to prove it.  My cold coffee sits on one of Mr Cruzcampo’s finest pieces of furniture as the door to number 17 opens. An old man dips his hand in a basin and does spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch before he steps onto the street. His hair is a doubly-improbable red. Once for his age and the second time for where this tiny village is, on the border between Castilla-La Mancha and Andalusia. It’s carrot-red, his hair.  
He sees my dog and comes over to speak. When he switches from the local gobble-de-gook to Castilian he tells me he has recognised it as an Ibizan Podenco. Which it is, as a matter of fact. He asks me if I'm a hunter, since it's a hunting breed. I tell him I rescue dogs from dustbins. He shakes his head and goes over to join the group of men the same age, which has assembled round the entrance to the café. The pavement and half the street are now  impassable. My guess is that not one of the half-dozen-or-so men are under 65. An hour ago I saw the first young person I’d seen in a week. He was in the passenger seat of a car dragging a trailer-ful of melons to the side of some main road. The driver had the nutshell-wizened face of all the other men in the village.
Red, as I already think of him, looks like a big man in a little town. He doesn’t talk the most out of the group, but the rest look at him while others speak and before they start to say something themselves. Every time.  Red has Franco’s nose. Biographers during El Caudillo’s lifetime would have called it aquiline. Bar room philosophers and rebels would have used hooter to describe it, but only out of earshot of the Guardia Civil or the Logs. The Policia Nacional used to have brown uniforms, so they were known as ‘logs’: I often wonder if it has the same connotations as ‘Woodentops’. Anyway, Red’s nose is big, but he looks like he used to be the kind of fellow you wouldn’t mention it to.
I wonder why these old men are still here, in a tiny village nestled in the Sierra del Alcaraz, smoking and chatting through the twilight of their lives. My cold coffee finished, I stand up and prepare to walk my dog back to the campsite. Red gives a brief nod and his friends do the same, a few seconds later. I lift a hand, whether in salute or farewell, I’m not sure myself.

Winning Poem

This poem won the UKAuthors Open Theme Poetry Competition 2013

A Blue Note

Down a street that isn’t Bourbon,
that lies as far from New Orleans
as New Jersey, New York or New Caledonia,
a blue note from a tenor sax
escapes the dive door
- mocks the overfilled suit -
and curls like smoke around the streetlight.
Two lovers exchange a look
as though they know the tune,
or one like it, played on a xylophone
or theremin with a bebop twist.
They pass the suit whose open-mouthed face
is tilted up at where the minim
passed out of sight
- but not out of mind.
In the club,
the only thing missing
is the smoke.
Inside there are more blue notes
than people.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hot News... or at least Tepid

I have a few things available since last I wrote.

A poem in this : The dVerse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry

Two new shorties in Ether Books


I have just been informed that the respected E-zine The Glass Coin has accepted a story... check them out here

Friday, 5 July 2013

Little by Little...

I have an article published in a Spanish E-Zine (complete with typo :-(  ). You can find it here.  Feel free to leave a comment, if you can work out how. I should be posting weekly. If the publishers can wangle some advertising for an English page, eventually I will appear in the print version.

Wish me luck

Friday, 21 June 2013

National Flash Fiction Day

I do like NFFD, I have a story which will turn up sometime after 12.00 a.m. as part of this

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Playing Music in the Garden

‘Abba Zaba, zooooooooooooooooooo’.

The Captain’s voice wails over the cracked-bell tones of the guitar. The sky is his blue million miles, today: as it will be tomorrow, the day after and – most likely – the day after that. Much as I love Beefheart, I play this music loud for my neighbours. Don’t get me wrong, I like ABBA too: but music is for more than background. There’s nostalgia too, if I remember rightly.  More than that, though, there’s the mad, the individual, the ‘I’m-going-to-create-my-stuff-and-I-don’t-care-if-no-one-in-Poughkeepsie-buys-it’ attitude that marks out the truly great from the merely very good.

If I see someone in the bar the next day, they may ask me ‘What the hell was that?’ If it is Beefheart that they have been enjoying, I tell them it’s the sound of the Blues written by Bulgakov or Dada-ists. It stops the conversation and it’s easy to read their minds from the look on their faces.

But perhaps they have a point. Anyone creative – a writer, for example – can point to Beefheart or Cage or Picasso or Van Gogh and say that everyone laughed at them and look what happened.  Everyone creative – this writer, for example – can also say to themselves ‘Yeah, well they were every one a genius whereas…’ 

So, write what you know? Write what they want? Or write what you must? As for the last of those options:

‘Sho’ Nuff ‘N’Yes I Do’ 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Edge of the Map

I have travelled to the edge of the map. Past distant Helleconia itself: my sextant swept the stars for clues, until the sky overhead became relentless black.

The Captain looked out, seeing nothing but shining sea. He ordered full sheets at the masts and more coal to the boilers.

            ‘Now we’ll know,’ he coughed into his ‘kerchief adding new red stains.

            ‘Will we?’ 

            The Captain laughed and one brass button fell to the deck, falling between the planks, ‘I believe so;  but will it matter? Whom will we tell?’

            We had left Tyre months before.There were fewer of us now.

            ‘Not one dragon seen,’ I said.

            ‘Folk tales for children,’ he replied.

            The Boatswain appeared at the Fo’csle, breathless; ‘Two more a-swooned, sure to fade soon, Cap’n’

            ‘Have you a watch, man?’ The Captain barely looked at him.

            ‘Aye, Sir.’

            ‘Well, time the disappearing then!’

            The Boatswain scampered toward the bow, and I opened the Ship’s Log at that day’s date.

            ‘How long for the first?’

            ‘If it was the first, a day and a night. We had just crossed the Stygian Gulf, 3 months since, Captain.’

            ‘And these two, how long?’

            ‘The last one was transparent in a quarter-hour.’

One day later we reached the edge of the map. The Captain set course along the edge, expending the last of the coal. One week later, only the Captain and I remained. I could see the wheel behind him and he smiled, ‘And the Navigator is the last? Go home, sir, go home.’

            We got the ship turned about before he himself disappeared. I am less than half-way to Tyre and I can see the writing in the ship’s log through my hand. I know the ship will arrive crew-less with only this paper-and-ink witness to the tale.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Two Poems and That's All

Started quickly early this morning and churned out two in quick succession. Then it dried up: no surprises there. I used to spew out stuff in the thousands of words a day. I went back to read some this morning and some of it was quite good. Anyway, it's getting harder and harder to write nowadays.



poem 2

Sometimes I think about hanging up my pen altogether. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Seeing is Believing

Many wars ago, when the only war was a seemingly endless cold one, I worked in Military Intelligence. I’ll leave you, the reader, to fill in your own joke concerning any inherent paradox. Writing any report was like trying to identify the picture of a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. If I – say - had a puzzle of the Mona Lisa and I was missing the 3 or 4 pieces to make her smile, I would say that it was ‘highly probable’ that the puzzle showed the Mona Lisa. If I found the missing pieces under the table and they showed La Giaconda to have a moustache and a beard, I would say that ‘Further analysis’ reveals the puzzle to show a work by Marcel Duchamp.

Wars became hotter. I continued to write mealy-mouthed words like possible or probable. My prose was littered with may, might and could. Must be and will never appeared. Others chose a different path.

Imagine you are the leader of an armed team of Metropolitan Police Officers. ‘Intelligence’ says that there is a highly probable threat of a second terrorist incident after a failed attempt the previous day. You and your team follow a dark-skinned young man with a rucksack into one of London’s smaller tube stations. The young man looks over his shoulders and leaps the barrier. Your team does the same safe in the knowledge that they are upholders of the law and must be in the right, come what may. The man seems nervous; looking behind him and checking his watch. The team follow him onto the train.
Perhaps you believe he has noticed you and your fellow policemen. He seems unable to sit still. Suddenly he removes his rucksack and begins scrabbling to open it. You note his wild eyes. Do you fire?

Of course you do. It is highly probable the man is a terrorist.

Further analysis of the man’s possessions reveal a Brazilian passport,  a wallet with no money and an expired oyster card. There is also a classified ad torn from a newspaper, offering the prospect of work at an address near to the stop that the young man never quite reached.

What is the problem? It was highly probable that the man was a terrorist.

The problem is that he wasn’t.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Today I met a very nice man, Salvador Aragón Serrano, who edits this magazine. 
There is a quarterly version that is in glossy format. Salvador intends including an English page in this Spanish magazine based in the Guadalhorce Valley. Yours truly has been asked to produce 600 words for the Summer issue. I can write anything I like. Fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry. He doesn’t mind. It’s unpaid, but what a chance to raise a writer’s profile.

Except, what will I write? Never mind, I’ve got until the end of May. Hmm… Well, I’ll manage something. Watch this space.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Smashing Words at Smashwords

I have put a short collection of mostly flash pieces on Smashwords.

Around 80 of your British pennies would buy it in any e-book format...

In the Mouth of the Bear

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Solid Rainbow.

It always convinces:
at least one end of that rainbow
must land on solid ground.
The Kansas Girl wants to fly over it.
You could follow a leprechaun to one end
and recover a pot of gold,
although it might turn out
a discarded tinker’s pan.

Why not cross the Rainbow Bridge?
Why not pass under its arch?

It never disappoints,
at least one kind of illusion
must persist in memory.
A bluebird is as unlikely,
but you could find happiness in its song,
then discover a gift for love:
and so you might find out
the impossible yields to ‘can’.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Goatherd with an Umbrella

It has two buckled rods
but it keeps some rain off
all but his feet
marking time at
while brown-pelted goats,
the odd sheep and things
which look like geep or shoats
block a tiny back-street
called Ilusion or maybe
Felicidad, where the cobbles
shine in the rain.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

A Rainbow at the End of the Street

The sky is the colour of old sheets,
from time to time a gun-metal cloud lours
over the hills.
Rain comes and goes,
angry in painful darts
or listless in misty layers.
Either way we are wet to the marrow.

Tiny blue patches promise much,
but deliver little save disappointment
until they go.
Wind blows and sighs,
raging in fitful gusts
or constant in chilling breezes.
Either way we are cold to the breastbone.

Boots splash through opaque puddles,
heads down we admire the ripples
that we make.
Light comes and shines;
thrilling , so unexpected,
just briefly making colours.
Either way we’ll cheer the sun tomorrow.