Another guest post, to accompany my latest book: The Embarrassment of Parenting by Geoff Le Pard

Jan Twissel has kindly hosted a guest post of mine as part of the launch of my new book, Apprenticed To My Mother. Please visit here The Embarrassment of Parenting by Geoff Le Pard

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Travelling Light, Travelling Right #poem #poetry

To continue my first line poems, this week it is the third most popular poem as voted by the BBC’s viewers, The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. Enjoy.

Is there anybody there, said the traveller

Because I really need the loo;

The sign is clear, unambiguous, 

For the many not the few. 

It’s not a function of the state

To tell me when to go

My body ain’t so politic 

But it has some rights, you know.

It’s free to breathe, this air of ours

It’s not yours to take or tax

We’ll mind our precious oxygen,

Our guard, we’ll not relax.

For I might be from the dispossessed

A clan that’s been sidelined

Whose every move is criticised

And motives oft maligned.

I’m just a bloke, a traveller

Don’t judge me by my skin

I’m cold, and really fit to bust;

For f**k sake let me in.

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What’s Your Truth?

I was on my way to meet an old colleague for some lunch. It wasn’t free: he wanted some advice or some such but, hey, it’s nice to get out. I’d walked Dog, the Textiliste is away so off I set, a summery spring in my step.

At the station there’s this chap – Jeremy – who’s been homeless for a long time and has recently found somewhere, sorted out his benefits and  is making progress in his life. Over time I’ve given him some change, the odd coffee and cake (natch). I stopped and passed the odd word and dropped a few round nothings in his cup.

A woman, I haven’t seen her before, caught my eye as I turned away. ‘You shouldn’t give them money,’ she told me. Helpfully, of course. Maybe she saw my expression because she added, ‘They’ll spend it on drugs or… whatever.’

And with that bit of advice she spun away and went about her day. Maybe she felt good, pointing out my failings, hoping that in future I’d act more correctly. I suppose it’s possible she was genuinely worried for Jeremy’s well-being and here I was leading him into temptation with one pound and not a lot. It might have been good to find out why she felt the way she did, perhaps test the merits of her views.

After all, this happens occasionally. She isn’t the only helpful one. A week or so ago, near Waterloo I was doing the same thing, passing a moment with someone crouched in a doorway, asking if they were ok and emptying some loose change into their coffee cup when a similar opinion was proffered but in this case the man – be-suited, my age-ish – told me if I really wanted to help someone I should give to Syria. He didn’t wait to debate the merits of direct support for our own homeless against funding a multinational operation and what might have the biggest impact and on whom.

I suppose it’s probably as well they both left me with their opinions since the debate might have been something like this:

Man/woman: ‘You know, you shouldn’t give to beggars. They’ll waste it/it’s better spent on real poverty in Syria.’

Me: ‘That’s an interesting view. Do you have a moment to debate it?’  ‘Fuck off. Who asked you?’

Let me say two things first. One, I did take exception to the woman describing Jeremy as ‘them’ like he wasn’t there. Two, both of them might have been right: Jeremy might spend the money on something egregiously unwholesome; the poor souls suffering after umpteen years of war and terror in Syria need all the help they can get and, by contrast, even Jeremy’s situation is dozzy.

The point that really bugs me is how they felt it ok to share their opinions with me. I am all for free speech; stand up and pontificate on the merits or otherwise of helping beggars. But this is different. This is aimed directly at me. What I was doing, I would suggest, impacts them not at all. Maybe they’d argue it keeps people begging if the likes of woolly minded liberals like me keep giving them change and if I stopped then the beggars might go away – though that just pushes them somewhere else; it’s not stopping the begging.  But really they were just sharing their unasked for opinions.

This is an example of people who ‘only speak the truth’ or ‘their mind’ or similar such excuses for unbridled bollocks that people who can’t keep their opinions to themselves spout.

I like truth, don’t get me wrong but I’m personally not so wedded to it that I want it offered up, undiluted and unalloyed all the time. It has its place but so does discretion, empathy, tact, understanding, all of which can be helped by shading the truth, limiting it and sometimes not telling it. Yep, sometimes a lie, pure, undiluted and deliberate is the nicest, fairest, kindness and most human thing to do.

So yes, if I ask your opinion, I’m big enough and smelly enough to take whatever that opinion is. But if I don’t ask for it, don’t give it to me. And even if I ask for it, think about how it might impact, not just me but all those around us and decide, you know, is it really worth it?

Lunch was lovely by the way. I think I helped but time will tell and it was grand to reminisce. And Jeremy? He’d gone when I got back. Probably to the bookies to put a couple of quid on England for the World Cup.

And because I haven’t anything suitable here are  a few pictures of Dog.

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The Musketeer Conundrum

With the soccer World Cup starting, we are seeing a lot of press of the ‘The boy’s are raring to go’ sort. Quite a few emphasise how much the ‘lads’ are all together, the perfect team mates.

I played in a lot of teams – at a very humble level – but we too prided ourselves on our togetherness, our all for one commitment to each other.

But… you knew a ‘but’ was lurking, didn’t you? There are limits to such camaraderie. Moments when the carapace of unity cracks and, well, frankly something is too good, too delicious not to enjoy it to the full, even if it means sacrificing a team mate to an awful fate.

Picture the scene. A ramshackle tin shed that doubles as a peripatetic abattoir when not being used as a changing room. I’m playing rugby for the Law Society third XV. This is a group of ne’er-do-wells, some of whom have a connection with the law that isn’t of the ‘you’re nicked, mate’ sort.

Our ethos requires anyone who wants to play to be reasonably well-marinaded and disinclined to train. The game is all about enjoyment before, during and after and the result doesn’t matter… nah, bollocks, it matters intensely until it’s clear we are going to be stuffed when it ceases to mean a thing.

We might not take athletic preparation seriously – the ‘warm up’ normally comprises huddling around whoever is smoking a Marlboro at the time – but all aspects of the game day itself require due and careful consideration. For instance there is always a plate of half-time oranges, occasionally supplemented by a packet of the said Marlboro  (as a concession to the physical activity being undertaken, these are Marlboro Lights, of course) and on especially crisp afternoons, a flash of something warming and stimulating is included.

My team mates are men I’ve known for some time. I trust them not to steal from me and to be there in a crisis, but I expect them to drop me in anything that might cause me acute embarrassment being one of the signs of true friendship. You know you’ve been accepted when (a) some hail and well met fellow bellows across the sceptre’ed halls of the Royal Courts of Justice, ‘Hey, you old c**t, you playing Saturday?’, especially if said fellow is a senior Queen’s Counsel or, more likely, a judge and (b) you are bequeathed a nickname.

Nicknames, as an adult, can be tricky. Mine will remain a closely guarded secret, being part plant and part impossible contortion. At least it did not lose me a promising girlfriend as happened to Martin X. Martin was known to all players as DD. This was not some obscure reference to his man-boob size (though some would have appropriately worn that homonym) but to the fact he had had, as a child, an unfortunately placed membrane across his anus that had to be surgically severed.

Secrets that are shared under inebriation are subject to one golden rule and one platinum exception. The golden rule is that they are to be kept completely secret and the honour of the confessor is to considered sacrosanct, unless (and this is the platinum exception) it is such a  thunderous good tale it would be an utter and unconscionable waste not to use it for maximum embarrassment.

Consequently the thought that Martin would be capable of producing not one but two stools led to the anatomically accurate if slightly uninspired nick-name of ‘double-dump’. Shortened to DD. Which said girlfriend heard being called when she, rashly it must be said, decided to spectate one gloomy Saturday. Their relationship didn’t survive that acronym.

And so it was that I arrived at the ground, ready to play Old Inebriates Extra A XV this particular day. As was the custom, players were desultory in their preparations. One stretched, several smoked, a couple had a snooze. Gradually the team assembled and began to get changed, liberally rubbing what passed for muscles in a variety of unguents and liniments. Our hero for the day – we will call him Scrumpy – turned up late and, while chattering away about, variously, his journey, his night before, his rumbling stomach, stripped off his day-wear. Standing naked and uncaring he gripped his stomach, groaned and part bent over.

This wasn’t uncommon and the three of us sitting behind him held out collective breaths. A fart of indeterminate olfactory awfulness was coming and we needed to be prepared. Sure enough a short sharp squeak emerged, releasing some of Scrumpy’s tensions.

And that, usually, would have been that save this time the small and unwelcome trumpet voluntary was accompanied by a full stop in the shape of a small, perfectly spherical and oddly shiny little turd.

We three, being the only team members capable of seeing this little afterthought watched as said turd described a parabola and hit the concrete floor where, to our combined surprise it bounced, much like Barnes-Wallace’s famous bouncing bomb.

The journey of this faecal asteroid continued through one more bounce before ending inside the boot of another team mate, who ironically was in the loos, relieving himself.

While the rest of the team continued as if nothing had occurred, the three of us exchanged looks. It was clear we were all making the same calculations and embracing what can only be described as an ethical dilemma.

Should we:

(a) berate the artillery arse for his awful behaviour and require him to remove the offending piece of sticky ordnance; or

(b) remove it ourselves, while not seeking to embarrass the creator for his ignorant, innocent evacuation; or

(c) watch and see what happened next?

The moral maze wasn’t that tricky, all things considered. We sat back and waited.

The owner of the boot soon returned and in one swift and well practised manoeuvre pulled on the boot, tieing a double bow to ensure it stayed in place.

I’m not sure if I’ve played a game where I was so singularly conscious of the whereabouts of one specific piece of footwear, but that day my eyes seem drawn to those battered old Adidas super eights.

Returning to the changing room, still not having said a word to my silent co-conspirators, we lined ourselves up to watch the boot removal, sure there must be some sort of repercussion looming. This moment, when the existence of this cuck-poo in the nest was finally revealed, would be exquisite and we three knew one of us would spill the beans as to our part in this awful, or maybe be awe-ful event.

Sure enough, after a small struggle with the knot, off came first one then the other boot.

Nothing.

Then one sock followed by the other.

Still nothing.

The socks were tucked together and the boot wearer stood and moved across to the stool-shooter. ‘Thanks, mate.’

How extraordinary is fate? He had borrowed the socks, that had to have absorbed the orb, from our hero Scrumpy.

The old expression: what goes around, comes around’ somehow seemed apposite.

And that was that. The boots went in the holdall, the socks into Scrumpy’s bag and everyone showered and headed to the pub.

We none of us spoke. We never have. Somehow an omerta seemed to be correct. The following week both participants played. And nothing was said.

Though I, at least, noted that neither the socks, nor the Adidas super eights made a reappearance.

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Apprenticed To My Mother. When Tears Don’t Come. Author Spotlight – Geoff Le Pard

Hugh of Hugh’s News And Views has kindly given me some space to write a little more about my mother. Please pop across and have a look at my post and the rest of Hugh’s eclectic and generous blog.

via Author Spotlight – Geoff Le Pard

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There’s Nothing More Annoying Than A Smart-Arse.

Charli Mills’ latest prompt is

June 14, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a bouquet. You can explore the meaning of the word or gather a bunch of flowers. Go where the prompt leads.

There’s Nothing More Annoying Than A Smart-Arse.

 

‘You know, those guys are so annoying, hee-hawing about the wine.’

‘Morgan, they’re young, they…’

‘What is it about wine that brings out pretensions? “Lovely bouquet” and “it has notes of peach and cobblers”. Why don’t they just drink it?’

‘You’re the same, with your car. All horse-power and litres and torque and…’

‘That’s different. They’re technical terms.’

‘You use them to contrafabulate the listener.’

‘You made that up.’

‘You don’t know though. You’re just trying to confuse people.’

‘A bouquet is a bunch of flowers, not a wine scent.’

‘Actually it’s the tertiary aroma, caused…’

‘Shut up, Logan.’

And some bouquets are more important than others – the Vet showing her determination to overcome the opposition in the guise of a four year old…

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Blake’s Progress #poem #poetry

In my mini series of poems based on famous first lines I’ve stolen a hymn from Willie Blake, a local resident in East Dulwich back when Peckham was cool and Prime Ministers has problems with Ireland… like now really only without leopard print shoes….

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

Because that would explain why mum can

Not get her beige shag pile clean.

She blamed the dog and had a fit

Which meant she needed her pink pills.

They make her see all kinds of stuff;

An oiled hunk and other thrills.

Give her his spear of burning gold

She’ll put an arrow in his desire,

Poor lamb’ll turn grey and old

And join the boy soprano choir.

Mum can’t stand a muddy rug

Her mop won’t sleep in gnarly hands

Till she’s cleaned Jerusalem

And other grim and grubby lands.

The pictures are from my garden last week

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