Toilet Terrorism #writephoto

This week the #writephoto prompt is

Ambrose Porcelain rubbed the dirt off his fingers and stood back, admiring his handiwork. The subtle metalwork, the discreet plumbing, the sheer chutzpah, the…

‘Oi, sonny.’

Ambrose spun round. The dawn light was barely making shadows across the neatly trimmed park grass yet the figure running… no, barrelling given its spherical nature… toward him was both as unexpected as it was familiar. Constable Risible Erratique had an impressive girth, if you were auditioning to play one of Holst’s planets but not if you were aiming to arrest the Toilet Terrorist, the Peter Pan of Pissoires.

Ambrose bent to his trolley and turned to where he’d left his van. He knew he could get away; he’d outrun Erratique at least three times but now he hesitated. After all this was his last commission, his final creation. The Banksy of Bogs was about to unannonymise himself and why shouldn’t the Persistently Perspiring Policeman be the first to know. He put his tool bag down and waited.

When, finally Erratique arrived at Ambrose’s side he was both red in the face and blue in the gills. To say he was breathing heavily would be as unnecessary as saying politicians oozed insincerity. Ambrose waited for the Bobby to regain a semblance of composure. And he waited. In the end he led Erratique to a nearby bench and offered him a somewhat moist hobnob and swig of water.

Erratique looked up at the unprepossessing youngster. ‘I thought you’d be taller.’

Ambrose shrugged. ‘I thought you’d understand.’

‘Me?’

‘They’re for you.’

‘Me?’ he squeaked again.

‘Not just you, people like you. Outdoors people.’

‘How does building…’ Erratique fumbled for his notebook, ‘twenty seven illegal urinals…’

‘Twenty-eight. There’s one in the gardens to Buckingham Palace. I imagine their security people didn’t want it known, but by all accounts the gardening staff are grateful.’

‘Right,’ Erratique made a hurried note, ‘twenty eight obscene…’

Ambrose half stood. ‘They’re beautiful.’

Erratique stilled him with a restraining hand, looking at the neoclassical structure. ‘As a bandstand, yes, but as a place where any Tom, Dick or Harry… maybe Tom or Harry is better… where they can expose themselves to delicate sensibilities…’

‘In South London?’

‘I’m quoting the Tabloids. This ain’t France. You can’t take the piss out in the open like you can over there, you know.’ He scratched his chin, mumbling, ‘one minute you’re decapitating royalty, the next and every bloke is expected wave his wand for the world to gawp.’

‘The Tabloids said that’s exactly what I’m doing, taking the piss by building these under your noses.’

‘Figure of speech. Look, there’s laws on bog building, you know. Committees and wotnot. I agree they look fine but if you want to protect, why not do something useful? Like throw eggs at your MP.’

‘This is my preferred method. It’s satisfying and a relief, to be honest. Do you know how many times my mother made me pee behind a bush because either there was no toilet or she decided it was too dangerous because she couldn’t see who was inside it?’

‘I haven’t a…’

‘That was rhetorical. These open sided facilities mean mothers like my mother can allow their little jonnies to perform both discreetly and openly.’

‘Hardly discreet…’

‘Have you tried?’

‘No, but…’

‘I’ll show you. Hang on.’

Before PC Erratique could move, Ambrose was halfway to the new building. He slipped inside. Calling over his shoulder, he said, ‘you can still see me?’

‘Yes.’

‘But not what I’m doing.’

‘You’re not doing anything obscene?’

‘You’d not know, would you…’

A hand on his shoulder made him jump. Ambrose met Erratique’s sympathetic gaze. ‘You’d probably get away with this if you’d made it more…’

‘Discreet?’

‘British. You’re nicked, sonny. Come on, pop him away and we’ll get the bus to the Nick.’

Posted in #writephoto, competition, creative writing, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Post Wedding Garden

Funny thing, gardens. Put a marquee down and the grass squeaks and squeals like a tickled gerbil.

But plan all you like for the flowers to be at peak bloom on the big day…

And, bugger it, if they don’t explode into a fissile pandemonium of colour four days later… but Dog, I’m sure, appreciates it.

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How Inalienable Are Our Rights?

Some while ago, pre  Covid while in Edinburgh, we passed some EDL (English Defence League, for those readers who haven’t come across them who support a very narrow right wing xenophobic view of what it is to be English) people. If you wanted stereotypes there they were – shaven heads, aggressive tattoos, trainers, jeans and hoodies – two were even play wrestling in the street. Apparently they were from Sunderland. Why were they there? Did I really care? Nope. What was noticeable was that for the ten EDL members there were the same number of police. That is the price for hating what someone says but defending their right to say it.

Made me think about a history lesson years ago when we discussed Oswald Mosley and his black shirts and the introduction of the Public Order Acts in the 1930s resulting from his activities. How that must have jarred with the sense of freedom of expression that arose after the traumas of WW1. The fundamental right to protest was constrained because it was being violently tyi00abused. Let me quote here:

This Act created the offence of conduct conducive to breach of the peace. This section was repealed by the Public Order Act 1986. The offence under this section is replaced by the offence of fear or provocation of violence.

What’s wrong with this? The legislation also means political protests have to be approved by the police. No uniforms can be worn. On the face of it, having some controls to stop riots seems fair and thus far, with the possible exception of its use against some flying pickets in the 1970s and 80s, it doesn’t seem to cause much long term debate or  comment though it is always a subject that is ripe for debate. The recent overturning of convictions of those Extinction Rebellion supporters for blocking the Public highway is a case in point where the police’s application of its powers was criticised in the courts as effectively overzealous.

But the addition of conditions to widely drawn rights is something that generally disturbs me and is a hot topic: free speech and cancelling for one. I’m pro free speech and anti control speech. We need to offend, often. But we need to offend without seeking to cause violence. We need to tolerate more and respect less, perhaps.

Isn’t it odd (as in, it’s not odd at all) that once the changes are in place successive governments never repeal the laws that give government more control? 1986, the height of the Conservative’s power and they changed the law. Why? Because the 1936 Public Order Act wording was too vague to guarantee prosecution.

If you add conditions to an exiting position some future government, at the time of some unforeseen emergency, will be able to push the envelope further.  We’ve seen it with public right of protest, with habeas corpus (where recent governments, using the generalised fear of terrorism post 9/11 and 7/7 have sought longer and long periods to hold people without trial – A labour government proposed 90 days without charge which Parliament rejected albeit allowing 28 days which was bad enough -, the same government, incidentally, that supported the unconscionable incarcerations at Guantanamo, just to show it’s all about power and control and not about political persuasion – the left are capable of being as egregiously intolerant as the right), and with constant snipings at press freedom. On the other side there is the sanctity of life/assisted suicide debate, seeing to add conditions to free up a long held absolute restriction (and I accept some will argue that this is just as bad, given it opens the way to a future widening of the initially limited exceptions proposed).

I worry therefore about Covid laws. Will they go or be kept, just in case of another pandemic and used in unintended circumstances?

I accept nothing is inalienable.  Even the right to life where doctors can turn off machines that keep human husks alive  or deny possible medical treatments.

But hard won freedoms should be diluted little and with enormous care. It’s too easy to  slip into indifference and allow small erosions until it is too late.

Odd that those unappealing members of the community made me think about how their rights are curtailed and how we need to be very careful in how we justify that curtailment.

Odd too that it is a French man who nailed the basic concept when discussing free speech

‘Sir I disagree with what you say, but I shall defend your right to say it.’

Posted in miscellany, politics, thought piece | Tagged , | 27 Comments

The Dangers Of Digging #pictureprompt #carrotranch

Another prompt, this time from Dede and Kid and Pal over at the carrot ranch.

One hundred years after the final battle for control of the galaxy, the last remaining superhero had bowed to the inevitability of waning powers, changing tastes in graphic fiction and a congenital allergy to stretchy fabrics that triggered a series of unfeasibly large testicular goitres. He had subjected himself to gene modification transitioning into a hobbit-like cave dweller. Now the evidence of those epics battles – the increasingly large stage sets, the ubiquity of green screens and CGI beauty parlours popping up in every high street and mall – had almost all gone.

Thor’s hammer was a rather challenging roundabout on the A472 outside of Cirencester. Captain America’s shield formed the centrepiece of a somewhat tawdry water feature that visitors barely noticed as they passed the site of Magnetron’s final demise (marked by a two mile scar in the landscape and a tendency amongst boys born within a ten mile radius to effect an involuntary hair toss). David Banner’s underpants, so often shredded on transition to Hulk, were sold in small strips by the few remaining aficionados as modern day quasi religious relics. The only item that had retained any lasting affection was Wonder-woman’s tiara which had become invested with a mystical propensity to stop mansplaining.

These days, it was left to the archaeologists to try and uncover any remaining signs of the presence of the once ubiquitous superheroes. One group of determined detectorists had identified a site worthy their attentions. It didn’t take long for the first bespoke metal detector to beep manically. The team set to, digging carefully, their excitement growing. Finally one voice, at once reverent but also fearful spoke. ‘Is that Ironman’s mask?’

Before anyone could reply the eyes lit. ‘Mask? It’s more than a mask, puny person. It is I, Ironman, back from cryogenic preservation to save you from the barbarian hoards. I am…’

His next words were drowned out as, first one and then all of the diggers frantically shovelled the earth back into the pit. It took little time as they worked feverishly not stopping until the turf was in place and the site levelled.

For a while, no one knew quite what to say. Finally one querulous voice broke the silence. ‘Ironman? What a pillock?’

The accompanying nods were both sage and relieved.

‘Pub?’ Said another.

‘Too right,’ added a third.

‘Bit close that time,’ came another.

‘Maybe we should stick to Sudoku.’

Posted in carrot ranch, miscellany, photo challenge, prompt | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Scenes From A wedding, Part One, Breaking With Tradition

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Seriously…?

I hadn’t meant to post today but then this…

A pre nuptials Park run with their bridesmaids and groomsmen…

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W Minus One #wedding

I’m not sure when the next post will be as tomorrow is the big… BIG day. One difficult decision, but one which was inevitable, was to send Dog on a playdate with a close friend. He’d overdo it if he stayed here. He will be gone until Sunday morning and I will have to be brave.

In the meantime this poem which was written as inspired by Dog and based on a totally different poem by William Henry Davies.

Dog At Leisure

(Leisure, William Henry Davies)

What is this life, if full of care?

Go fetch my lead, don’t comb your hair.

Don’t give in to untimely sloth

I know what fun awaits us both.

Let’s try the park; we know it’s free,

Full of places for me to pee.

Squirrels anxious to play chase,

Friends who’ll let me lick their face.

Secret corners where I can poo

Long lost balls for me to chew.

Picnic scraps and chicken bones,

Stale crusts and broken scones.

These treats and many, many more

Are just beyond the bloody door.

So find your shoes, tie those laces

And I’ll take you now to wondrous places

Full of fun, grass and the freshest air

And while I play, you’ll stand and stare.

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W Minus 2 #wedding

A big moving forward day in the garden and elsewhere…

Rehearsals

Marquee making…

Power provision..

Getting bogged up…

Cone making for confetti, getting ready rooms

And the colour is beginning to pay back.

The locals are very interested too…

Posted in miscellany | Tagged | 22 Comments

Passing The Baton #poem #poetry

Some 12/13 years ago, the Textiliste and I drove to Nottingham, to Sherwood Hall where our son, Sam was to be based for the first year of his history and politics degree. He was excited, nervous maybe and me… I was a mess of conflicting emotions. On the way home, we stopped at a service station and stared at each other. Wordless. It was tough. This poem followed that silent moment. It also brought back memories of my first night at University, the terror and hope that wrapped themselves around me.

This weekend that same young man, still young in my book even if he’s slipped past thirty, will marry. It’s a long time since he took to adulting but still there’s still, as all parents will recognise that momentary pause for contemplation; will he be okay? His wife to be is delightful, there’s no question after being together for ten years that they are well suited by parents worry; its what we do so part of me still ponders as I did that warm September day those years ago

Hand Over

(written after I dropped off my son at University on his first day)

Today you walked away from me.

You didn’t look round to let me see

If you were smiling or close to tears;

You kept from me your hopes and fears

And let me do the babbling chat

As I spoke fondly of this and that,

Memories from a sanitized youth.

How lovely, how fine; so far from truth.

Of course. I sat on my bed that night,

Alone, home sick, nerves held tight.

Would they be friendly, would they be friends?

True companions or means to an end?

Why had I come? Why take a chance?

Was I reading too much in that glance?

You stopped and stared across the lawn,

Profile blurred, I watched forlorn

As you held a pose, firm upright,

Then turned away, and out of sight.

I blew out a long-held breath,

Closed my eyes, ground my teeth.

I held in mind that final frame,

An image that might dull my pain.

A picture of your long straight back,

Cropped blond hair, rolling gait.

You walked away, my darling Sam

This day when you became a man.

Posted in poems, poetry | Tagged , | 14 Comments

A Change Of Gear #thoughts

It’s a happy week, this lead up to No.1 son’s nuptials on Saturday. There’s lots to do, what with the reception happening at home. I’ve a lot of jobs to do and while I do them I listen to the radio. It’s full of the constantly moving story that is Afghanistan. The BBC interviewed one Afghan who twice since 14th August has been told he and his family can join one of the escape flights and twice told his application has been rejected. WTF. These stories are heart wrenching because we all can’t really believe the Taliban will be any better than before. As I listened my mind drifted back 4 years to a holiday in Cambodia. On our last day we visited one of the notorious Killing Fields. This is what I wrote then…

We travelled to Cheong Ek, the Genocidal Centre based at one of the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields that is a memorial to the thousands killed there. It is a peaceful place, full of shading trees, blossom, butterflies, hens and silent people. So silent. Everyone is alone in themselves. Children and teens take their time, they are beyond fidgeting, understanding perhaps this is a special place, through the body language of their carers. It hollows you out, this place, in the functionality of what transpired every night under cover of darkness and loud revolutionary music.

Bullets weren’t used as too expensive so any instrument was pressed into service. Even a stout tree. The Killing Tree. But for the fact every piece of bark has a hair band hanging from it giving it a jolly rainbow appearance it would be unremarkable. Yet it was here that children, small enough to be picked up and swung were killed, brutally often in front of their mother’s before they too were killed. Pol Pot killed families to stop any familial revenge. ‘To kill a tree, first you must dig up the roots’. One of many sick slogans we heard. Truly it beggars belief.

I wandered back to the Stupa monument. It is a simple shrine of classical proportions with Hindu and Buddhist iconography built into the decorations. But then your eyes adjust.

You see the metres high glass sides filled with skulls. When you see them you cannot look away. Hundreds of them, catalogued by age and sex. There are other bones there, clothes too, not that you see them. How can you move beyond those staring, deep sad empty eye sockets, still asking why.

If not now, when? If not me, who?

I admit to a tear. Several.  So many questions but mostly why do we still do this to each other? We need to teach how this terrible event came about, alongside the Holocaust and Rwanda and Srebrenica and the other genocides. It is the creation of the conditions that is so appalling, just as much as the killing itself. Unless our young people can see the path their leaders might be on, how can they stop them? It is already too late when the terror has taken hold; frankly most people would find it hard to resist the basic kill or be killed requirement of these regimes, when they have become established.

Do not let governments, in our name, align themselves with killers, for ‘strategic’ reasons or any spurious justifications of short term political expediency. It never leads to good. The reasons are rarely, if ever, sufficiently compelling. And stop selling arms, period. Because others do, why should we?

Have we just abandoned the Afghanistanis to this fate? History suggests it could well be some version of it. But then I wrote…

I remain amazed at how Cambodia is dealing with its past. The world should revere the tough determination of this harshly treated yet hardy people to be themselves and achieve reconciliation and acceptance on a personal level despite what every family hereabouts suffered.

It’s sometimes bloody difficult to be an optimist but if there’s a nation of optimists on this planet Cambodia is in the top three. I think at heart I’m one third Cambodian (the rest being one third loon and one third Labrador). It’s all that keeps me plodding on.

Today I feel sad, sad for so many people now terrified about the knock at the door the hope of some sort of free future disappearing in a military transport plane. We need to do better. I don’t have any answers but we need to. If our cherished freedoms are meant to mean anything we can’t just ignore what happens elsewhere. Especially when we’ve managed to help create the conditions. I’m also hopeful, ever hopeful. Sometimes that’s all we have, too.

In my case I also have Dog…

Posted in miscellany, thought piece | Tagged | 28 Comments