The Three Pandemics

I started this blog when life was dark, seemingly impossible and I was barely able to go outside for fear and anxiety.  I come back to it after over a year since last posting at a time when the whole country, indeed a third of the world, is afraid to go out due to fear and anxiety and each day brings more grim news of death, overwhelmed NHS, infection prevention and enforced isolation.  At least I’ve had some practice.  But I am in the high risk category, so have been told I cannot go out at all, even to the shops or for a walk in the lovely spring sunshine.  Day two and it is going ok… just wonder how it will feel by day 82? Precious time with my wife and family, but in the context of so much anxiety and abnormality that it feels most definitely surreal.

Barely a month ago the world had hardly become conscious of this strange virus spreading from China.  There were many jokes and comments about hoping to get a day off school whilst it was deep cleaned.  No-one seemed to have any idea just how bad it would get.  Numbers change every day, but it is becoming clear the hospitals could be over-run and many will die alone, without their relatives there to be with them, in isolation, pain and fear.  Having had RSV virus just before christmas and ending up in hospital on a drip with pneumonia when every cough felt like broken glass and it was exhausting even to make it to the toilet and back, I have some small sense of what it might feel like.  As you can imagine, I am not keen to go back into hospital, so am becoming a bit Howard Hughes (or Hawks?) about hygiene, washing hands obsessively, wiping door handles, cleaning the toilet seat and sitting a good distance away from my kids.  My wife felt fatigue, sore throat and seemed to have a fever, so I have moved downstairs, and tried to keep her in the upstairs room.  She is now much better and hopefully not infectious (and anyway it may just have been a normal cold), but our son is now feeling hot and tired, so maybe I will need to self isolate even further from him.  Scary times.  This could kill me.

But I do want to note there are at least three pandemics going on at the moment.  The virus we all know about, causing illness, deaths, suffering and great pressure on the health systems.  but there is a new virus out there of panic, anger, self-preservation and violent reactions.   The panic buying in supermarkets, the vitriol poured at people going to parks, sometimes with the same family they are sitting in the house with, the tension in the air of any crowded situation such as the tube.  This is a disturbing and deeply unpleasant side to human nature where the philosopher Hobbes’s description of selfish humanity as living a life “nasty, brutish and short” seems highly apposite.  I already despaired at the decline in decent behaviour and respect which came last year with the violent arguments over Brexit, but this side of the Corona virus does us no credit, and shows us little removed from animals.

However, there is a third virus spreading rapidly which gives us hope.  In a pandemic of community, people are reaching out to each other, checking everyone is ok and using the power of the web to reconnect with those they may not have had real contact with for years.  The number of hilarious videos being posted, the fantastic NHS and people looking after their own neighbours and communities all testify to what Rousseau called the Social Contract, the ability of humans to cooperate, share, and support eachother in search of a better life for all.  They appealed for 250,000 volunteers; one day later they have over 400,000 people prepared to help others and put their own health at risk. I am fjoining the national applause tomorrow night to celebrate the brave doctors, nurses, health care professionals and also amateurs who are putting lives on the line and working so hard to save lives.

I am lighting a candle every night at 8.00 to show support for those with ill relatives, those who have lost someone and those who fear they could get the virus.   But it is also a celebration of this third virus, the re-establishment of community, of shared values, and of the essential goodness of humanity.  That is what will get us through this.  Some may not make it, insha allah and God willing I will, but as the former Archbishop Rowan Williams and many others are saying maybe there will be a rebooting of our essential values, away from neoliberal and monetary focus, towards a world of kindness, compasssion and community.

Despite the four horsemen of Floods, Brexit, Trump/Boris and now Coronavirus, the human species does have a remarkable ability to adapt, to cope and to survive.  If and when we do, we will only have the fifth horseman of climate change to face, and God help us all with that.

In the meantime, stay well everyone, take care, love eachother and continue to celebrate the best of who we can be.

M x

What are your three tomatoes?

Found myself watching the lovely programme with comedians Bob Mortimer (of Reeves and Mortimer, who has had heart surgery) and Paul Whitehouse (of Fast Show and Harry Enfield fame).  Basically, they travel round Britain fishing by lakes, rivers or sea and sit and exchange banter, chit chat and some profound thoughts about ageing, relationships and life.  In the final section, they found themselves discussing what their mothers are like and Bob Mortimer said his mother basically lives on tea and tomatoes.  She buys three tomatoes each day, he tells us, so that she has something to go out of the house for the next day.  This led to them discussing what their three tomatoes are… what gets them out of bed in the morning, gives them motivation to carry on.  Paul Whitehouse said basically work, family, close relationships, and Bob Mortimer looked pensive and then said, “Just days like this for me, Paul. That’s what keeps me going.”  He’d caught a sea bass that afternoon and was jumping with delight, then they went for a cream tea to celebrate.  REminded me of that Van Morrison song, Days Like This, or Precious Time is Wasting Away.

So what are your three tomatoes?  What do you do to pass the time, to give your life meaning?  In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon pass the time (though it would, as they say at one point, pass anyway) by playing word games, insulting each other, singing and generally doing all the mundane things we all do in life.  So what do you do, to give life meaning, to make existence tolerable, even pleasant?

I am waiting each morning for a phone call from one of the five supply agencies I am registered with, but feeling very ambivalent about the prospect of heading off like a lamb to the slaughter to face those bottom set year 9s for whom the party season comes early when a supply teacher rocks up.  We really need the money and probably once I start it it may not be too bad, but deep down I am dreading it.  So each time it doesn’t ring I face another day at home trying to find meaningful activity.  Tidying the house, doing those jobs we keep deferring, making apple crumble, loading and unloading dishwasher and washing machine all pass the time, but more fulfilling seem to be some kind of creativity – attempting to play ukulele, writing a poem or blog or piece of writing. But being a typical Gemini, I think i would go a bit mad (or even madder) without some kind of connection or contact.  Calling on friends for a coffee, a walk or a catch up are what keeps me going, recharges me and makes me feel worthwhile.  Work, people connections and creativity – they are probably my three tomatoes right now.  What are yours?

x

Losses and Gains

Losses and Gains

Put fear on the list of things you should lose

With odd socks and gloves and your second best shoes.

Let regret go with burdensome guilt,

Give them away with your second hand quilt.

Composure and peace can often seem hid,

Like the start of the sellotape orTupperware lid.

The loss of the key to your bike lock or shed,

Is nothing to losing control of your head.

And loss of your passport or ticket on train,

Is quickly recovered, can be found again.

Virginity, though, once lost to your friend,

A gift which, once given, is not there to lend.

The loss of your voice may last a few days,

But hearing and sight may take more delays.

Anger and lies can lead us to sin,

So with clothes you’ve outgrown, take them to the bin.

Let others wear the thoughts that don’t suit you,

And try on a smile or a giggle or two.

Find a place to keep safe the keys of your car,

And there pin resilience to help you go far.

As you hunt for your glasses, your phone or your purse,

Always remember, it could be much worse.

The loss of your bearings, your marbles, your mind,

Reminds us of all we can soon leave behind.

Some things in life are best left quite lost,

Rewards of recovery may not match cost.

Declutter your mind of cancerous thoughts,

Which so mar your beauty with bitterest warts.

But along with your money, your keys and your phone,

Remember some feelings to which you are prone.

Compassion should always be in your feeling,

And patience and softness to help with the healing.

Be soft with your failings and try wiser to live,

And reach out to others, with love that you give.

Your wi-fi connection may one day go down,

Then build up a smile to cover your frown,

And keep your connection with those that you know,

And lovers and strangers, just help love to grow.

So of all of these things, once lost, later found

The valuable ones are not measured by pounds.

So let go of regrets and sadness and pain,

Hold on to love, to find true self again.

X

It’s Not You, It’s Me… a Brexit Breakup Poem

It’s not you, it’s me

 

I fell for you years ago, a coup de foudre,

With your Mediterranean looks,

Your art, your culture, your Latin moods.

I devoured you, from the hors d’oeuvres to the tapas,

From the fondues to the Swiss Roll.

We blended like fine wine, like Cointreau and ice.

But now we’ve got tangled, like spaghetti

Distance relationships are always nice.

City breaks just don’t seem to be enough.

The thrill of meeting another culture,

Slowly gets lost in mistranslation, in etiquette.

You flung me off my feet, our salsa classes

Left me breathless and a je ne sais quoi

Made me lose my sang froid.

I waited for your RSVP

Your French letter, just for me,

But you were waltzing by the Danube,

We grew apart, I tired of French fries

And longed for chips, with steak pies.

Gave up pizza, lasagne, moussaka

And settled for a butty, chip barm.

Au revoir, ciao baby

Cul de sac

fini

F@@k It

Fuck It

(written on Widnes Station,with a nod to Paul Simon)

I’m sitting in the railway station

Life’s meeting all low expectations

New philosophy, half full bucket

My way forward? Just say fuck it!

Don’t hold back or hide your talents

Go for life and keep your balance,

Just remember, long time dead,

Your only brakes are in your head.

Your angry chimp can’t hold you back,

Best form of defence? Attack!

So watch out world, gonna live each second,

From past the grave, success is beckoned,

Pain and death are my new teachers,

Fun and laughter, my life  features.

Long empty days of agony tasted,

Now seconds filled are so not wasted.

Give me raisins on my cake,

Let sweets and candles decorate,

Friends, life, love my trinity holy,

Find smiles fast and frowns more slowly.

Love and be loved is my new motto,

Eat and drink… but don’t get blotto!

Life’s a gift, a treasured present,

Past is gone, future’s distant

Life’s a joke and all things show it,

Thought so once, and now I know it.

So laugh and smile through snow and rain,

You’ll never pass this way again.

Specs and Mugs and Sausage Rolls…

Specs and Mugs and Sausage Rolls

(With apologies to Ian Dury)

In this world of parties, life can be quite frantic,

But my sad old life can feel quite anaesthetic,

Some may go to clubs, I nibble a club biscuit,

Worry ‘bout my mortgage, and my broadband bandwidth,

Some go shake their asses, I hunt for my glasses,

Some do lines of cocaine, drink coke I get a migraine,

Some living the dream, but my life is mundane,

And this… is all… I need….

Specs and Mugs and Sausage Rolls

Specs and Mugs and Sausage Rolls

Is all my body needs…

 

When it comes to baking, I can make good biscuits,

Got to make the mixture, flour and eggs I whisk it,

Stirring up my dough, then I add the raisins,

No-one comes for tea, I don’t see the reason

Sofa’s good for me, may put on my new CD,

Surprisingly good, what you find on daytime TV

So it’s…

Flex, and Plugs and Mixing Bowls

Flex, and Plugs and Mixing Bowls

Is all my recipe…

 

I go walk the streets, in the early morning,

People that I meet, are often really boring,

Then I see my mum, and give her a long cuddle,

Some might say I’m dumb, my life’s just in a muddle,

But ties are binding me, I’d better not struggle

Healthy walks in hills, and splashing in a puddle,

Cos Treks, and Hugs, Life on the Dole,

Treks, and hugs, life on the dole,

Is what will set me free.

 

In the pouring rain, I’m waiting at the station,

Brexit on the news, dangers of inflation,

Thinking of a beach, tingling with elation,

Sand between my toes, no need for a playstation,

Life is never lost, when you live with Expectations,

Sand, and sun, and parasols

Sand, and Sun and parasols

Makes my life a beach…

 

x

Head Lines

Head Lines

 

Allahu akbar, God is great,

You fell in love with Islamic state

The fervent prayers, mullah’s tales,

Packed your bags, your scarves and veils

Of grey and black, your greatest trek

Rejecting money, music, sex

For bearded heroes, evading jail,

You felt the call, you set your sail

On men of action, a cause so just,

That now lies rotting in the dust,

To do your bit, you felt your fate

Was headed for the Caliphate.

 

You lost your head, south you headed

By ferry, train, a fighter wedded,

Your maidenhead, on silver platter

The bins of bodies didn’t matter –

Suspected spies, captives killed,

With hands still tied, by husbands thrilled

To take a life, to keep a wife

To clean the house, warm their bed,

And not be fazed by loss of head.

 

Your husband dead, who once was sure,

Your unborn child still so pure.

Jihadi fled, but seed is planted

In your belly full enchanted.

The Evil Satan, rejected still,

And with the power to save or kill,

Born again, your precious child,

Rejected and yet undefiled,

Inside your womb, the babe afloat,

The cord wrapped round its gasping throat.

Filled with blood, drinking hate

Against the democratic state.

 

Now you need help from your old land,

Which now must lend a helping hand,

The country which you gave such stick

As now you fear he may get sick –

This is no place to bring a child,

Into a camp where hordes are piled.

A place of homeless, dreams so lost,

Of flies, disease, of garbage tossed.

Where nobody can get ahead,

But, treading water, hopes are fled.

 

Who is she now, how do we see her?

Should we now just shed a tear?

A victim blameless, groomed, abused,

A Trojan Horse, a bomb that’s fused.

Was she herself a child misled?

Did her groom just turn her head,

With dreams of life in foreign lands,

Where heads fell bloody on the sands?

 

Your life was good, you’d no regrets

Not fazed at all by common deaths.

For letting hands upon you rest,

From making up a deadly vest.

You turned your back and headed south

To spout pure hatred from your mouth,

And now the headlines all scream no!

Do we forgive? I don’t think so…

 

Our Western ways, forgive, respect,

Prevent from harm, we don’t reject,

The rule of law, our justice system,

But is she now our foe or victim?

Her lack of loss, shows no regret

She doesn’t get our love, not yet,

Or do we see the unborn child,

Ignoring life of mother wild?

By showing her our love is free,

In hope she might one day agree,

The baby lying in cot or bed,

Might still respect another’s head.

X

Labels

Labels

We called them tramps in those days, dossers or, with condescending

And ironic respect, Gentlemen of the road.

For they were all men, of a certain age, certain smell,

Clutching their plastic bags, with coats tied round with string, or rope.

They walked the land, in laybys, country lanes, from King’s Lynn

To Bury St Edmunds in search of a meal, the next doss-house in which

To lay their “lazy” bones.  One I remember well, Mr Ealing,

Who called at our doorstep once a month, in search of food,

A chat, a listening ear.  A vicar’s house is always a good bet

So he’d appear, usually wet, and I would make a thick

Cheese sandwich, mug of steaming tea with four sugars, choosing

My mug carefully, not one of our best.  My, he could talk,

Streams of words, his stories, thoughts, his life

Came pouring out with anxious fears, to which

I would try to respond with sympathetic ear,

But looking for a chance to shut the door,

Leaving him in the rain at our door, no more

Could I listen, as he stood there, in tears-

Him, not me, double checking on the latch.

And at school, keeping my head down,

Lest you could be singled out as being

A spas, a mong, thicko or fit for the loony bin.

Tapping my hand on my wrist soon became

A source of much regret as singled out

By the ruthless mob, mocking the unusual, weird

Or anyone who didn’t match the grey uniform and Salford drizzle.

Turning attention to the kid who always did

His best impression of a chicken or charging bull,

Mockingly accepted as fool by the crowd for giving

Distraction, diversion, a scapegoat… of being thick.

And for the girls, the endless trick

Of being frigid, easy or a bitch,

A bit of skirt, great tits, a slag, tart or slapper,

Bit of crumpet, fit… to have for supper.

Devoured by builders’ greedy eyes

Eyed up by men in suits and chat show hosts,

Or laid like cards, in pubs as lads would boast.

Or chased through fields in skirts and bra

By Benny Hill, in search of new, cheap and sordid thrill.

The poofs or queers got it worst, the nancy boys

“Ooh you are awful”… the high pitched noise,

“But I like you” or with a flicked wrist, “Shut that door!”

‘Niggers’ or ‘pakis’ chased by hounds, bananas lobbed on football grounds,

Or ridiculed for different accents, smells or food.

How could we treat people in that way?

The fascist singling out of difference

To divert attention from our own quirks

In the true jungle of the playground,

Where malice and abuse still lurks –

With new names, special needs, adopted,

Non binary, on the spectrum, additional

Learning support needs or easily triggered.

Identity now seems much more open,

Badges worn with pride, and medals shared on forums,

Facebook groups, chat shows, special awareness training,

But beneath the new labels, and always simmering

Ranting man in the street child in the playground sniggering.

What will we in future years cringe to recall?

The hidden tears will seep out to shame us all.

X

Poetico Ego Some

Poetico Ego Some

 

I write therefore I am

What I want to be,

I read because I can

Have others listen to me.

I think I’ve found a rhyme,

And thought a new idea.

Three minutes is my time

To connect with all you here.

Self composed, life into words,

Scraps and fragments, voices overheard,

Frankenstein my poem I will create

I will show ‘em, ego I’ll inflate.

Leaving some kind of mark,

Igniting a spark, receiving a nod,

As in the spotlight I deliver

The message from this poet God.

All about me, of course,

But all about me are others,

Most better, few worse,

Wordsmiths and rhyme-mongers,

Invite us with a hunger

To walk in their shoes, expose the lies,

To share the views, through their eyes,

Make laughter, tears or sighs.

Soul on the line, heart’s lows, love’s highs.

The pause at the end –

Polite applause some will lend

A fix of approval, rush of self esteem,

And not just your usual, same old theme,

I’m the next big thing, headliner of next year,

A poetry king, worship me here.

Why do we share the rumbling of our minds?

Why should you listen to the rambling of my lines?

My ego is unleashed, shyness pushed aside

May not be the best, but at least I tried

And who really cares, whatever I say,

But I’m at the mike, king for a day,

For I am a POET, don’t I just know it?

Like it or lump it, just please now show it….

X

Rule Britannia?

In the Omnishambles of Brexit, got to thinking about who we really are as a nation.  Some pretty bizarre aspects to our national identity inspired these thoughts,… hope you like it.

Rule Britannia?

Our national dish is curry, true,

Our Saint is George who dragons slew,

From Yorkshire fields we get our brew,

Three lions our symbol.  Lions?! Who knew?

 

By immigrants our bricks were laid

Our wealth has come from slaving trade

The days of Empire slowly fade

Heroic failures? The Light Brigade.

 

Tolerance is our British right

Unless of course your skin ain’t white

Invented football, now we’re shite

Enjoy a pint, the match, a fight.

 

So what is red on England’s flag?

Screaming headline of national rag?

Talking weather is our bag,

But which celeb has had a shag?

 

Magpie nation, bloods have melt,

Made of German, French and Celt,

A sense of duty, strongly felt,

The cards we feel unfairly dealt.

 

To be a Brit or English, Scot,

Welsh or Irish, melting pot,

Nothing matters, not a jot,

But the jokes which some have got.

 

And now we head off on our tod,

For England, Harry and for God,

The fields which once great folk have trod,

Are turning now to muddy sod.

 

We sing Jerusalem, loudly shout,

Our royal family’s blood is kraut

Our country voted, wanting out

Not Europe now, we show our doubt.

 

A corner of some homely field,

Where priest or hermit once have kneeled,

That’s where I’ll lay my sword and shield,

Before our true blood is revealed.

x