Snake Teacher

Dressed in a dreary suit
with the laughter inside
barbed hours

what you say and do
is commando

is management

is dispensing remedies.

The multitudinous ways
you love
genuflects

the wire of hours,

manifests your pain
as ennui

as where it discovers

as curator to the snake.

Here is where
you discover
the meanings

of chore

of clerking

of the crawl.

All the most
memorable jokes
have sloughed.

 

Smug Treachery In and Out of Government

smug 2 - Copy

Michael Gove’s suck-up success in being named new environment secretary [in charge of cleaning up his own shit?] is, I think, the consequence of Channel 4 having arranged an interview with him a few days before the election on the expectation that, based on comments Gove had may that day, he would criticise May on previous terrorism legislation or similar: instead, Gove used the time to grease out the most obnoxious and obsequious support for her before Jon Snow shut him up for being ‘inaudible’.

smug 1 - Copy

Osbourne’s moment of payback is in its brutal back-stab of a senior political has-been as absurdly ironic as his statement when personally well-to-do Chancellor of austerity: We are all in this together.

Compass Pointing to the Many, Not the Few

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I was in Manchester on election night having arrived there to begin preparations for a summer of GCSE English Literature examining. This has begun today in earnest now that I am home, and for the coming weeks I will not have time for regular postings on this blog, though necessary breaks will allow for occasional observations.

It occurred to me that my last posting here was of the nastiness of the right-wing media/press and their persistent misrepresentations of and spiteful lies about Labour and, in particular, Jeremy Corbyn.

I don’t need to revisit this further, and in light of Corbyn’s and Labour’s election success in repudiating and usurping that fake and nefarious news, I will post a celebration of what so many in this country – not the majority, yet – have in reality shown their inclination for and increasing desire to support.

No More

In a
suffering life
pain is its
documentary

or music of
paint,

Monet cello
playing strains of
blue and
magenta –

some obvious
mood

as a bridge
reaching across
a pond

arched tragically.

What is
what flows
below,

lilies transported
along?

This is not
surreal.

Whether colours can
represent,

this is not
surreal.

It is the
opposite.

A suffering life,
palpable,
plays as a comment,

no more.

Moral Compass

With the events of Saturday into Sunday in London, I did not post this yesterday.

I also do not want to enter the murky mire of too much analysis and commentary on the event itself, and its coverage in the national media. I have of late, however, with family and friends, been discussing the need to read beyond my regular The Guardian to gauge how other media outlets, but especially the newspapers, have differing views and opinions on aspects of terrorism and dealing with this, as well as broader political issues, not least the imminent General Election.

One clear statement before I proceed: I completely abhor and make no excuses for the recent terrorist attacks here in the UK, or anywhere in the world.

So, yesterday, I did go to read The Mail Online. If this is the moral compass that newspaper takes when commenting on these attacks – the Hopkins focus juxtaposed/joined with the trash of the sidebar – then I do not feel the need to explore any further than my regular liberal, yes, but sane read:

daily mail

‘Me and the Sarge’ by Martin Phillips

I don’t remember exactly where I was on 1st June 1967. It was a Thursday, so under normal circumstances I’d have been at school in Penge. But as well as being the summer of love, 1967 was also the summer of O levels, so I might have been sweating in the hall of the grammar school, trying to remember what the annual tonnage produced by the Yorks, Notts and Derby coalfield was, or which French verbs conjugated with étre (and almost certainly failing on both counts).

martin

There wasn’t a Radio 1 for another month or two, so it was probably on Radio Caroline that I first heard the chords of track 1: “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. From there on, it was impossible to escape the sergeant. Did we think it was the record that would change the history of pop music forever? No. It was just another Beatles album that would be the soundtrack of that particular summer. It was book-ended by two other great albums that have stood the test of time:“Are You Experienced?” released on 12th May (my 16th birthday) and “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” on 5th August. But the strongest memories of the summer of 1967 are jerked into life every time Mr. Kite, Lucy or the sarge get airplay.

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We spent a lot of time at Linda and Anne Grant’s house in Eden Park that summer. I was in love with Linda, with her thick black fringe and wide brown eyes: but she had eyes only for a tall, skinny, taciturn guy, whose name was, improbably, Wit. We played the record constantly and I often sat on the sofa with a sister or two. I don’t remember spending much time there before or after those few months in 1967, but that modest suburban semi remains, for me, Sergeant Pepper’s house

The sarge’s summer was also the first one where we all had scooters. I remember an endless string of parties that we would go to because – well, with wheels, we could. Lawrie Park Road, for example. I have no idea who lived there, or how I ended up there on my Lambretta, along with hordes of others. But I remember “Lucy” playing while I sat on a broken garden chair swilling cheap, fizzy cider and looking up at a darkening summer sky, imagining the early stars were diamonds. Then there was a party at Sandra’s house in South Eden Park Road. I’m pretty sure it was just as O level exams had finished. Was that the one where Rob and Sandra’s long and winding road started? At that gathering I remember being in a brightly lit kitchen, with Sandra, Geraldine, Gordon and assorted (but unremembered) others, listening to “Mr Kite”, still my favourite sarge track all these years on.

scooter

For our post-exam bender, we didn’t get to Haight Ashbury, we scooted down to Herne Bay. Johnny and Jean’s aunt (or was it granny?) lived there and we all descended on her. I say “all”. I only actually remember Johnny and Jean definitely being there. I think Rob had also pushed his Tv 175 down there. (That’s a definite memory: Rob, with a little help from his friends, pushing the Tv further than he rode it that summer). I’d swapped my combat jacket with lapel full of CND badges for a paisley dressing gown (also not quite Haight Ashbury). Faded seaside suburbia Herne Bay was then. We were reminded what we would be like when we were 64. Bungalows on the Thanet Way depping for cottages on the Isle of Wight.

The Beatles weren’t at the main music event of the summer. That was the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival. 13th August. Gordon and I went with Kelly in his bubble car, puttering along the A308 to Windsor racecourse. Gordon and I shared shifts curled foetally on the parcel shelf. Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with a newly recruited Mick Taylor; newly formed Fleetwood Mac; Chicken Shack; PP Arnold backed by The Nice; Jeff Beck; and the big one – Cream.

1

2

As that summer ended, so too did my Ld 150. Adrian and I had ridden up to see a girl from his school who lived on the Highgate side of Hornsey. We listened to Pepper in the front room of a large Victorian villa on a very swanky sound system. To date, I’d only heard the record on Dansette’s or radiograms. This was proper stereo with separate speakers. The final orchestral glissando of “Day in the Life” seemed to fill the whole of Hornsey. As I kick-started the Ld to go home, there was a death rattle from within the engine casing. There was no way I was going to be fixing the hole where the drive shaft used to be. It was temporarily the end of my wandering. It would be autumn, when Paul got caught carrying contrabrand goods on his pillion (John Boon) without having shed his L plates and got a ban, that I acquired his beautiful metallic green and gold series 2 Li 150. But by then we were driving towards “Magical Mystery Tour”.

Down the 50 years since, the sarge has appeared regularly, sometimes in the most unlikely places. A few years back the tinny strains of a battered ghetto blaster had “Getting Better” floating out of a tee-shirt shop in Kathmandu. “Good Morning Good Morning” on a chilly, early February evening in a deserted restaurant in Ayia Napa where I was holed up with just a surly waiter and a chiller cabinet full of squid for company. “She’s Leaving Home” appeared as a piece for analysis in a GCSE text book. (It’s got three narrative viewpoints you see: obviously a consciously constructed feature Paul had in mind as he wrote). And as I was writing this, with the vinyl gatefold cover propped up by the computer screen and the disc tracking round side 2, I got the news that my oldest friend had died. Johnny, who’d listened to “When I’m Sixty-Four” in Herne Bay and pondered that distant horizon of late middle age, crept past the milestone by two years. In two more days it would have been 50 years since Sergeant Pepper was released. So now, whenever I play “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, it’ll be Johnny I think of alongside all those other flashes from a summer long ago.

Poem at Decals of Desire three

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The current edition of the excellent Decals of Desire is available and accessed here.

There is a set of glorious reflections on the life and work of the late Tom Raworth, articulating considerable respect and affection, and a fine set of paintings from featured artist Rupert Loydell.

There is a wealth of other interesting reads, including an incisive interview with Eric Eric. I am very pleased to have a poem there too, one from my found poem sequence Novel Finds.