Thursday, 29 September 2011

Bearded Dragon



The fact that it was eleven rugs down wasn’t an issue. It was the bad-mannered attitude of him/her. Before then though, I got shouted at.
          “Alan, stop picking at a fingernail and get to work.”
          “I am working.”
          “Not by my definition. There’s a customer over there looking at the rugs. She clearly needs your assistance – so may I suggest you get over there like right now.”
          That was some words exchanged between me and Duncan, my wanker boss. Speaking to me like he always speaks to me. Like he would know what work is. Never put in a decent shift in his life. Born with a silver spoon poked up his arse. He only got his position through nepotism; his uncle is Uncle Bob. 
          At Furniture Bob’s as well as sell beds and bedroom furniture we also have a reasonable supply of rugs to take-away. They are positioned at the rear of the store, in the left hand corner.
          Some sample full and medium sized rugs lay flat in a pile on a raised platform that has ample storage beneath for rolled rugs all wrapped in plastic. There are two large open-top cube towers set against the far wall that houses a selection of runners.
          The lady had her back to me as I approached. She appeared to be struggling to lift the pile; seemingly wanting to get at a rug midway down. It was no wonder she was struggling. The weight of so many rugs heaped on top of one another makes it impossible to flip over more than two or three at any given time. As I approached I couldn’t help but notice the bulging calf muscles beneath black stockings and perched red high heels.
          “Here, let me help you madam. Is there a style that has caught your eye?”
          We open late on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Being on a retail park it makes sense being open for business when there is a draw to our close neighbours –  Asda, Comet and Tiles U Can Trust. What I find about working late night is that it often brings out those who do not shop in the day. Late night is less peopled, less hassle. This is a time when you get introduced to people with large facial birth marks and disfigurements than you ever would during daylight.
          Her voice impacted my senses at exactly the same time as I appreciated such large hands, large hairy hands. The words, deep gruff words, came from out of a pink lipsticked mouth surrounded by stubble. The Blah Blah Blah villains in The Comic Strip Presents ‘Five Go Mad In Dorset’ immediately sprung to mind. I know of this old programme well. My dad brought me up on it. “This is true comedy son. This is the last bastion of true British talent.” He did like that show.
          “Yeah, BLAH BLAH BLAH, I like the Floral Garden one, BLAH BLAH BLAH, I’d like to see it in full if you don’t mind.”
          The Floral Garden rug in question was eleven rugs down. I lifted the top rug (a Paisley) from the right in its entirely so that it landed upside down on the medium stack immediately on the left. I repeated this action as I set about the next nine rugs that needed shifting in the following order: Organic Wave, Sheepskin, 3D Rose, Pink Damask, In Bloom, Geo Leaf, Wool Stripe, Green Spot and Silhouette Lion.
          I was thinking three thoughts in this order as I sweated with the rugs: 1) Little Britain. 2) Little Red Riding Hood 3) This job would be a hell of a lot easier if she/he mucked in and helped instead of standing there, grim-faced, just watching me struggle.
          Some sixty seconds minutes later.
          “Here you are,” I said, refraining from adding madam. Madman more like. “The Floral Garden.”
          “How much is it?”
          “One two five.”
          “One hundred and twenty-five?”
          “Yes.”
          “No, I won’t be paying that. How much is it in medium?”
          “Eighty-five.”
          “Have you got it in a runner?”
          I checked.
          “No, but I can order it in for you, I can order you the runner.”
          “How much is it, you didn’t say how much?”
          “Forty founds.”
          “No, I won’t be paying that.”
          The lady with the five o’clock shadow then stomped out of the store. A week later she was in again. Not in high heels, but in pink Reebok trainers.
          I didn’t speak to her on this occasion. It was Duncan. She wanted to buy a White Hungarian goose down duvet (single) but was arguing about ninety-nine pounds being too much, as was the slightly cheaper pure duck down and the even cheaper duck feather and down.
          “No, I won’t be paying that,” she eventually said and headed for the exit.
          I was going ask Duncan what he made of this lady, get his opinion about her stubble, see if he would lighten up for once. But when I went to catch his eye I noticed how he was marvelling at her arse before it disappeared from view out of the store, so I said nothing.

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Ghosts


In its early afternoon solitude, the pub can be a peaceful home to come and have a pint and say a prayer to those missing. But you never know who might shatter that solitude, bring wildlife through that door.
          Meanwhile you should know this about me. I’m thirty-three years of age and I have always been in fear of ghosts. I truly believe they exist. Especially when wide-awake in the dark. And I have seen one. I was six-years-old and bore witness to something that scared the living shit out of me. A misty figure I saw while walking the short distance home alone from Martin Holmes house. It was early evening, April, and it had rained all day and the night was darkening. I saw this misty figure across the road and the thing turned its head my way, black eyes fixed on me – and yes it had eyes, black eyes – and those eyes planted in a body of foggy greyness had my breath escaping, my feet frozen to the spot. It then began to hover towards me and I was there in waiting, stuck, rooted, petrified, and he passed through me. I died for a second. The cold of him made me die. And then when I came back round, he had gone; I somehow got my breath back, I had survived.
          I gave him a name, that ghost. I called him Dave. Dave the Roman soldier. I think he passed on that information when he walked through me. What his name was and his line of duty when he was alive. I remember how I told mum that’s what he was. A Roman soldier. She had her fist stuffed up a chicken’s arse at the time and she smiled warmly and remarked how she believed me. That what I saw must have been what I had seen. For all her sweetness and smiles, I knew damned well right there and then that she didn’t believe me; yet another bond of trust, abused.
          Because of that experience with the Roman ghost – that was real to my eyes and my sensation of being – I still to this day do truly believe they exist. I wish that I had matured over the years to appreciate that in ghosts there was nothing to be afraid of. That they were after all, ex-life. But that wasn’t to be the case. As is the trademark in all of my life experiences, I remained forever spooked. So it didn’t help that on my first shift in the pub, I was told how the cellar was haunted.
          There had even been a TV crew of experts in here too. Three years ago. Some cable channel confirming that there was most definitely bad vibes at work within theses grim walls. And I don’t care what anyone else might tell you, I know what I heard when there was the sound of a barrel being dragged across the cellar floor when there was only me in the pub. I definitely know what I heard.
          Today was Friday. The afternoon. I was here one till six. Employed on three weekday afternoon shifts. And had been for a few weeks now. I had been signed off of work with depression for the best part of a year, but because of a misguided decision by the Secretary of State, I was now deemed fit for employment.
          Mr Moore stated that he has anxiety, depression and menieres disease, that he has problems walking, going up stairs, going down stairs, standing and sitting, bending and kneeling, hearing, a difficulty in coping with change, coping with social situations and propriety of behaviour. However, during assessment Mr Moore  was able to sit for thirty minutes and did not make any rocking movements and rose with no assistance. He stood for one minute independently without difficulty. He was able to bend to the floor and his gait was normal. He carried a normal size bag into the examination and had no trouble handling medication with both hands. Therefore he is quite able to queue and carry light goods. The Healthcare Professional summarised that Mr Moore’s anxiety and depression is mild and the tribunal confirms that Mr Moore is not entitled to Employment & Support Allowance…
          This was my first giant step back into society, albeit I was still signing on even if claiming benefit had been temporarily denied. The pub job was much needed cash-in-hand. And the current licensee – not to be confused with landlord – was an old school mate of my dad’s, so it seemed a natural enough life development when the vacancy was brought to my attention.
          You would think that with daylight – surely an enemy of ghosts – that this job was all a decent enough affair, a safe bet. For all intents and purposes, an afternoon was an easy shift. That’s how the job was sold to me. I mean, what ghosts and pub-fights statistically make the news in a weekday afternoon environment? Surely, not many if any. Which was good. Because I’m not good with violence either, never have been. My legs go first and then I just crumble into a heap. Quite literally before the first fist or boot has connected. And this is just me talking from a spectator’s viewpoint.
          I can’t help the way I am. And even though statistically fights rarely occur midweek on an afternoon shift, the fear of a sudden outbreak of alcohol-fuelled violence is never too far from my thoughts at all times while I’m stationed helplessly in a confined space behind the narrow length of the bar. Me, Colin Moore, still single and eating into my thirties and regularly out of sorts; I have always been low in spirits. But what I would give, would love to be able to save enough cash to move out of mum and dads. The pub work had to be viewed as a positive. A starter point. I had to remember that.
          Because the job was mine as long as I wanted it – that was the spoken contract – maybe I really could save enough to buy a VW Campervan. Just like the one Leonard has. Ride around the countryside all day behind the wheel, set up camp for the evening by the sea, beneath the stars; claim my independence once and for all. I guess I wouldn’t be depressed then.
          But for now the fact prevails. Ghosts and alcohol-fuelled violence are never too far from my thoughts at all times, what with me being the acting man in charge and with all the responsibilities that came with it. About the biggest drama to report so far I suppose was last week. Last week when those two young Goth girls tried to purchase WKD’s – they still had their school blazers on for crying out loud – and they resolutely stood their ground.
          “We are fucking eighteen you stinkin’ creep!” they both screamed.
          As they had failed to show the necessary proof of age, I showed them the door. They then began swearing and making disrespectful comments about me and even my family – surely, they didn’t really know my mum and dad? – and then when they eventually ran out of profanity, they stood resolute, arms folded, trying to imply that they were going nowhere until served. But I stood my ground too, but with a far firmer footing. I may have my many regrets in life, but on this occasion, no one was going to take the piss out of me.
          My father, nor I, suck cocks and I let it be known what I thought of such gutter-born accusations and they soon got the message. Take your foul evil tongues and gothic make-up out of my – out of Anton Berkovic’s house – and go outside and drown in the daylight. Prick-teaser bitches. I’d done well. Kick up the backside job done. It was just a shame however, that on that particular occasion there was no one else in the pub at the time. No one else to witness how contrary to popular conception, I am not a walkover.

The opening to a new book, 'A Man Lost His Eye' available to freeview from Joe England Books from tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Monkey


I am a very
necessary cynic
these warm
winter days

This is my alternative
& vital function
that is the alternative
to your ongoing
stupid jive

You dance & bounce
& shout about
like a wounded
monkey
let out of a cage
when should be caged
(& I’m not just
talking experiments)

As a monkey
you expect me
a monkey too
to immediately engage
in your dance & bounce
& to shout about
your wants & dreary needs
me, to bow
down & worship

You
are so out there
totally out there
is the demented assertion
of your being
what you keep shouting
right to this now
well believe it or not
I’m there too mate
banana in hand

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Patrick’s Thistle



I once had a friend
called Patrick
he had a stem
a hairy beanstalk
sprouting out
an inch and a half
from the surface
of his purple face
& on the tip
a perfectly symmetrical
grey fuzzy ball
trimmed around neatly
as it grew freely
out of that left cheek

‘It’s my thistle’
he would proudly inform
those inquisitive
glances that often
prevailed when we
strolled about town
pub to pub

‘It’s my thistle’
he would proudly proclaim
what with his
unrelenting love of
The Jags
not the band
but the team
Partick Thistle
the true love
of his life

I once had a friend
who broke the
golden rule
never shave when drunk
the act of the fool
he sliced off his thistle
his proud beanstalk
with a clumsy hand
& sharpened Bic

Red seeping through the
snowy white foam
then in shock & with
life draining he slipped
bashed his face
on the sink
knocked out
somehow he fell
into the bath
ran 2 hours previous
& drowned in
blood & cold water

This all on the
very day when
Partick beat Rangers
at Hamden

Thistle and body
were buried together
three days later
it didn’t rain but
there still weren’t
any known faces there
facts as the facts
I suppose

No one cared

As for me
I never went either
couldn’t get
the day off

An extract from 'Nothing Poetic', a forthcoming collection of new poems and short fiction.