Friday, 26 May 2017

Poetry Friday 47

Poetry Friday 47
For audio click here

Reflecting on a week of atrocity and a fortress city. As Cardiff barricades itself in to prepare for the Champions’ League Final in the wake of the Manchester bomb, I wonder how long before we see Marshall Law by default on the streets of Britain.

Urban Cleansing
Guns,
camouflage,
barriers,
stop and search,
restrictions in the name of freedom.
“We’re protecting you
with police and soldiers - visible deterrents.”
But in the shadows
they lurk,
not in uniforms
or hi-vis vests.
no ID cards,
not terrorists or criminals but
the ones authorised
to cleanse the city
of undesirables.

They said
They said
it’s only for the football,
to ensure Cardiff’s biggest event
would progress peacefully.
We understood.
They said
in the wake of recent events
we’ll keep the security measures
a little while longer.
We understood.
They said
don’t you feel safe
with soldiers on the streets
and police checking your movements?
We didn't understand,

But we no longer had a choice.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Foot in it

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“You’ve really grown into that face,” George said.
“What does that even mean?” Josie replied.
“It means,” George hesitated, “It means…”
“Yes.”
“Nothing, forget I even said it.”
“No, come on, you haven’t seen me for a year, and that’s the first thing you say to me.”
“It was meant to be a compliment, I just mean you look good.”
“But you don’t grow into a face, do you? You grow into a sweater or a coat.” The penny dropped. “So, you’re saying I’ve put on weight.” She put her hands on his hips.
“No, that’s not what I meant at all, you’re looking fantastic.”
“How does you’ve grown into that face, tell me I am looking fantastic? Hey Tina, how would you react if someone said you’d grown into your face?”
Tina stopped, three drinks in her hand. “I’d probably slap them hard,” she said and went off to find her friends.  
“See, so unless you tell me what it means,” Josie lifted her hand.
“Just that…” George scratched his ear.
“Yes.”
“Well… you’re aging well.”
“You’re saying I look old.” Josie dummied the slap. George flinched.
“No, you’re twisting my words. Look last year you were well, you always had beautiful features but somehow, they didn’t quite fit, you were a bit… gawky. But now you’re drop dead gorgeous.” George turned his head just in time so it was just Josie’s finger nail that caught his cheek. He checked for blood.
“You’re a dickhead.”

“What did I say?” George said, but it was too late she was gone.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Blue Ball

For audio click here 
To get home from school, I had to walk past the bus stop where the girls from the girls' school waited for their bus home. Every day I slowed my pace as I approached, hoping the bus would beat me to the stop and my route would be free from the trolls. But the bus was never on time, so I had to run the gauntlet, face my fears. Why didn't I cross the road I hear you think, well the girls on my side of the road were heading out to Wenvoe and were angels compared to the girls heading into the murky, underworld of Cadoxton on the other side of the street. Why didn't you tell someone, I hear you wonder. Well, it was tough for a fourteen-year-old boy in 1985 to admit to being bullied by boys let alone by girls. I did tell my mum and one teacher but they told me to toughen up, I was meant to be a big tough rugby lad, but a rugby field is one thing, brute force wins the day; you can’t use violence on girls who are calling you names, pushing you from pillar to post and on the worst days, pinching your bum. It was no wonder I had a loyalty card for detention. I used to do anything to get on the bad side of Mr. Daniels, or Miss Holmes, but more often than not they'd just give me a good ticking off and send me out to face the devils in Bryn Hafren green. 
On a Wednesday evening in November, as cars splashed through puddles, their headlights blurred in the rain, I trudged home wondering what was for tea. 
“Here he comes,” one of the girls laughed. “Alright, scruff?” she said. 
I ignored her as I always did, trying to make myself as small as possible and squeeze through the gap they offered me, knowing it would close as soon as I stepped into it. 
“Watch where you’re going scruff,” a nasty looking girl with a moustache said as she stepped into my path. 
I made for another gap but that soon closed and I got another push in the chest. 
“Please let me through,” I said. 
“Please let me through,” moustache girl echoed. 
“Shall we girls?” the ringleader said. She came up to me, looked down and smiled. “Or shall we have some fun with Scruff?” She put her hand on my crotch. “I think he’s getting hard girls. He likes it.”
I was doing no such thing but I felt my face redden anyway. I tried to push her away but she stood her ground 
“Don’t touch me,” she said and tightened her grip down there.
I thought one of my balls was going to burst, I bit my lip, trying not to scream, but it was impossible. 
“Aaargh,” I pushed her away, sending her tumbling into the bus stop. Shards of glass splintered everywhere as the girl went straight through the glass and ended up sitting in a bloody puddle on the road. I ran and ran. 

“Just tell them what happened,” my mum said to me, but I shook my head and kept my mouth shut. 
“Rebecca Robinson needs an operation to fix an artery, she could have died,” the policeman said again. But still I said nothing. “Her friends said it was an unprovoked attack.” 
“Say something!” my mum said. The clock ticked on the wall of the interview room. 
“What’s the point? What’s the fucking point? It’s my word against theirs, isn’t it? Who’s gonna believe a fat rugby boy when the pretty girls will call me a bully? Well, I’ll show you bully.” I got up and dropped my trousers. “Look,” I said. 
The policeman winced and my mother gasped. I acquired the nickname blue ball for the rest of my life but at least I didn’t get sent to a young offenders’ institute. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Polling Day

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I’d only gone in to town in the hope that Kay Burley or Jon Snow would stick a microphone under my nose and ask me how I was going to vote in the most marginal seat in the country. But there were no ITV news crews on the main square, no BBC interviewers outside the leisure centre, the media had packed up and gone home on today of all days. So, with no minor celebrities about, I decided to go home, get my voting card and cast my vote. Then, I’d cross my fingers and hope that enough other like-minded people would be doing the same. They said that whoever won this seat, could expect to win overall and I had a good feeling. 
That good feeling evaporated as soon as I approached the polling station.  One thing you don’t expect to see outside a polling station in the UK are men dressed in black with automatic rifles across their chests, but there were three of them standing there waving an elderly woman through. 
“Excuse me, sir, can we see your voting card?”
I looked at the man who had spoken to me. He looked like army, but his uniform had no insignia.
“No,” I said. “I’ll show it to the people inside.”
The man put a hand on my chest while another raised his rifle.
“Your card sir,” he snatched it out of my hand. 
“Who the fuck are you?” I asked.
“Election commission,” he answered. “We’ve had a credible threat of violence.”
“Bullshit, now let me through.” The man stood his ground.
“And who are you voting for today, sir?”
“None of your business,” I said. 
“Well, let me remind you of your duty to the country, sir.” 
“I know my duty.” I went to step around him.  He stood aside to let me pass but I felt the weight of his shadow as I entered the building and handed the volunteers my card. 
I entered the booth with my voting slip and the soldier came in with me. 
“Fuck off,” I said, “this is a secret ballot.”
“Just need to see you’re doing it right, sir. That one will do.” He put his finger next to a candidate I wouldn’t have voted for in a million years. 
“Are you allowing this?” I said to the man and woman behind the desk. They both shrugged. 
I picked up the pencil and started to make an X next to my preferred candidate’s name.
“Let me,” he said, taking the pencil off me and putting an X next to his recommendation. 
“Now be a good boy and make sure you put it in the box.” 
I looked at him and then tore the ballot paper into strips and dropped it on the floor. 
I don’t remember what happened next. I woke up on my own bed, in my own flat, my head throbbing and my neck tender. I didn’t need to turn on the news. I knew the result of the election.  

Monday, 22 May 2017

Blown

For audio click here 
“Carmichael has gone.” the line went dead. Richmond dropped his phone like it was on fire and stamped on it again and again until it was smashed.
“Breathe,” Richmond said to himself as he walked into the bedroom and took the holdall out from beneath his bed. “Breathe.” The flat suddenly felt small. Richmond picked up his laptop and threw it with all his might onto the floor, he then picked it up again and this time hurled it at the wall, then he put his foot through it and put two pieces in his pocket leaving the rest on the floor.  He opened the front door and without looking back, he stepped into the unknown.
He smiled at the doorman, nodded at the old woman who cleaned the steps outside his block and then crossed the road and headed towards the metro station.
The screen of the ticket machine baffled him; he didn’t want to use the translation button so tried to remember which was a single journey. He hit a button and the wrong price appeared on screen, he pressed the cancel button and tried again, he heard a tut from behind him. The right amount appeared, so he fed in the coins and grabbed his ticket leaving his monthly ticket in the used ticket bin. The metro stations were never empty, but at least it wasn’t rush hour. He jumped on the first train that came in and then as soon as he got to the next station, he got off and cross over to the other platform, just getting on a train before the doors shut. Now, he sat down and looked around. Two stops later he got off again and headed for the train on the opposite platform. He sat down, put his bag between his legs and half-closed his eyes, pretending to sleep.
No one looked a threat around him, but who knew who was who. The boy with the music bleeding through the huge headphones looked at him for a second longer than normal but that was normal here. The old lady with the shopping bag and what appeared to be slippers on her feet stared at the moving advert by the door. The young couple explored each other’s tonsils, paying him no heed. The train rumbled on, stopping to spew out passengers and digest more, all of them looking like normal people going about their normal business, but each one of them a potential threat.  
When they arrived at the airport, Richmond stood up slowly and let the other passengers disembark first. He then stooped to tie his shoelace ensuring he was the last on the platform and no one was behind him. He dropped one of the pieces of laptop in a bin before taking the escalator.
The departure board took ages to flick into the English. He scanned the places and decided Denmark was a likely destination, so went to the SAS ticket office. Paying in cash would raise suspicions, but he didn’t have a card for Olaf Petersen, despite having a passport in that name.
“Do you have any luggage?” the woman asked him at check-in.
“No, just this.” Richmond held up his holdall.
The check-in woman looked at him, people didn’t do long haul without luggage.
“I’m going to a funeral,” he said, “just three days.”
She nodded and gave him his boarding card. “You need to hurry,” she said. “The gate closes in forty minutes.”
He handed his documents to the woman on the passport control. His papers looked tiny in the woman’s hands. She flicked through the pages, examining each one.

“Thank you,” she said and hammered a stamp on an empty page, before giving the passport back to him.
Richmond told himself to breathe, before dropping the second piece of his computer into the bins provided for passengers with things not meant to go through security and then took his belt off and emptied his pockets.
I’m just Olaf Petersen, going to Copenhagen for a funeral, he reminded himself. He smiled as the guard waved him through. No alarm sounded, now, if his bag was fine, he’d be one step away from freedom.
“Your bag?”
Richmond saw his holdall being pawed by a security guard.
“Yes,” Richmond said.
The guard put his hand in the side pocket and pulled out three passports.

“I think you better come with me,” the man said and Richmond knew it was his death sentence.