A Shrine to Lazy Bones

The inspiration – if you can call it that – for this poem came from two news items. One concerned the fact that the life expectancy of UK men shows a bigger range between rich and poor than at any time in 150 years. That’s 150 years of social legislation gone down the tube. The other concerned state primary schools, where 6 year olds have gone on strike to protest against the introduction of yet more new tests. The background here is that British children are amongst the unhappiest in Europe.

So the rich are living longer and their children are exempt from stressful early testing. Liberty is become licence, it seems, cut loose from equality and humanity. The changes began with the mania for deregulation back in the early 80s when our handbag-wielding leader proclaimed there was no such thing as society, only individual men and women. My question would be, was she just stating a fact of life or making a prophesy of a nasty future where survival of the fittest is the only creed and a notional afterlife is the only consolation for the losers?

The historian EP Thompson believed the 19th Century working classes desperately oscillated between politics and religion, depending on which of them offered more hope. If it is to be religion’s turn again, let’s at least make it one we can all agree on. My religion would involve a common belief in the sacredness of life itself, a fusion of freedom and equality and humanity that would stop the crazy see-saw.

A Shrine to Lazy Bones

Two spectres haunt this house of humankind
And stalk the hall to keep us in our room.
At dead of night we wake with troubled mind
To fears of open lock and closing tomb.
Two spectres: one the ever-hungry ghost
That shrieks for more and more, the more we give -
A cuckoo in the nest, our children lost
To parents much too busy just to live.
The other spook's a mirage: heaven, hell -
And life a dress rehearsal for their sake.
When kids - all work, no play - are saved by the bell 
Then wonder not, but sleep till death awake.
To exorcise these household demons both,
Let's re-enchant the world and worship sloth.

 

Image: http://www.kennethdepoorter.be

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Tourist Brochure

Welcome, Willkommen, Bienvenue

This brochure celebrates Bafflesby As Tourist Town Year (BATTY) and supports our bid to be included in the 2017 edition of ‘1001 Places To See Before You Die’. The publishers of this influential list – Offshaw&Gonn – confirm they won’t be changing the title, so our bid has to be better than just one of the 1001 destinations in the 2016 edition. Put another way, 1000 places can be better than Bafflesby and we’ll still get in the book. You might think there’s time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards. We couldn’t possibly comment …

We can ask a question, though. How many resorts on the Costa Helluvalotta can boast world-class crown-green bowls clubs, eh? As a much-loved Irish comedian used to say, ‘Come here, there’s more!’

Not many people know that the inner linings of this funny guy’s distinctive hats were made in Bafflesby nor that he returned the favour in a memorable appearance at the since-demolished Variety Theatre. But the town has many other claims to fame. Come here, there’s more!

Past Glories

Bafflesby is said to be named after the ancient king and self-proclaimed saint, Barf. Local tradition has it that St Barf’s remains are buried in one of the many caves that run beneath the town. It is believed he died after drinking bad beer. Local hostelries that celebrate the connection to this day include The Barf Tavern, The Royal Cascade, BarFly, The Crown and Bucket, Binge Inn, Hair Of The Lapdog and The King’s Head. Local hangovers are known as Barf’s Burden.

Wine Into Water

Bafflesby is renowned for what goes on after dark. The young-at-heart can groove on down to the Riverside Quarter, where swanky eateries – dine a la maison or faire le takeaway, the choice is yours – compete with pulsating nightclubs and chillout massage parlours to arouse their customers’ fickle and fading powers of attention. Feel the frisson of excitement on the streets as Barflesby’s tradition of bad beer takes its toll on patience and self-control. Fight or flight – it’s up to you!

At the heart of the Riverside Quarter is Fossock’s Fountain, installed by Sir Henry ‘Fussy’ Fossock in 1856 to bring fresh water to the drinking classes. He was one of Bafflesby’s great colourful characters – teetotaller, evangelist, nature poet, butterfly hunter, slum landlord, slave trader, arms dealer and fondly-remembered town mayor.

Gang Aft Agley

It was also the birthplace of polymath and renaissance woman Mimi Scatterball who was described by HG Wells, after their brief love affair, as ‘quite good at everything she turned her hand to’. Who’s Who describes her as ‘artist, sculptor, playwright, poet, composer, choreographer, singer, musician, spiritualist medium and carpenter’,  and adds that several one-woman shows recreating her carnal relations with the ghost of Scots poet Rabbie Burns were famous for their tiny audiences. Visit her home and marvel at hundreds of musical instruments, thousands of incomplete manuscripts and millions of unfinished pencil drawings. Blocks of wood and stone still wait in every room for the touch of hammer and chisel.

These days her grandson Giorgio lives in the family home, trying to ignore the streams of visitors who interrupt his obsessive blogging and interfere with his elaborate literary projects. To the delight of all, he has perfected the art of lobbing crumpled balls of paper into wastepaper baskets while cursing the rattle and roar of passing trains in fluent Italian.

Chuff Chuff, Me Old China!

The Bafflesby-Toffsham Railway, saved from Doctor Beeching’s chopper by a bunch of anorak-clad train-spotters, transports us back to a world of nostalgia. Experience all over again the acrid stink of coal-smoke in your clothes, the surly misdirections of peak-capped porters, the insolent curl of stale ham-sandwiches washed down with cracked cups of lightly-stewed lukewarm tea. Use your hand to wipe a hole in historic window grease and glimpse glorious passing scenery.

Breath Taking

When you’re sick of travel or maybe travel-sick why not stop off at one of the lonely Halts along the way? Escape the stuffy air of Baffle Valley altogether by climbing steep Windy Hill to King Barf’s Column, popular local nickname for a 19th Century folly erected by Sir Kit Trayning to commemorate his failure to consummate a one-sided love-affair. Race up interior stone steps and gasp as you come upon a cracking view of three counties – when the prevailing mist allows – but watch out for descending sheep!

Not for nothing has the vista been called ‘Little Switzerland’!  The prestigious PR firm Say What? who came up with the slogan a few years back certainly didn’t come cheap but we hope the extra tourism it attracts may one day help us break even on the deal.

While you’re up there, don’t miss the cave said to be the haunt of humorous highwayman Stan Dan De Leiver – real name unknown! – and his mare Gibbet. Some claim to have heard the clink of ancient coins but those spoilsport spelaeologists at Bafflesby University Museum (BUM) put it down to landslip proclivities in the overhead stratas – whatever that means!

Mimi Scatterball found the sensational scenery so distracting that she kept the curtains shut. Amusingly, she would then complain that she couldn’t see to work as her pet reptiles had eaten all the candles.

Festal Virgins

Visitors in August may be lucky enough to see The Parade of Purity, a ceremonial procession of virgins that dates back to pagan times and by tradition ends with a fertility dance. For some reason the numbers taking part in the parade have dwindled over the years. It has been decided that the next dance will be held in the church hall where it can be more easily supervised. The ceilidh band will once again be Mutual Climax.

The morning after – Barf’s Burdens permitting! – why not visit the festive fragrance of Bafflesby’s very own Wild Flower Show to witness a promiscuous profusion of nature’s endangered blooms – buttercups, daisies, dandelions, thistles, nettles and many more – delightfully displayed in a faux-natural meadow-style setting with specially-installed Sunlyte-Symulation (R). “A blaze of colour in a big tent” – Bafflesby Local User Radio (BLUR)

Town Arts and Country Crafts

Nip next door to the Ewell B Flush Art Emporium which features an ever-changing programme of exhibitions chasing while trying to lead the never-ending shifts in public taste. Upcoming shows include Replica Rooms from Reality Television, Famous Faces on Fabric (designer T shirts available) and the perennial Golfers Upmarket Fashion Fest (GUFF).

If you prefer your bric-a-brac with a rustic edge, why not pay a visit to the Bafflesby Seasonal Experience (BSE) and marvel how this once-quarantined dairy farm has turned itself around. Get up close and personal with the cutest creatures. Bet on the outcome of snail-racing or feed pages of this brochure to greedy goats – they’ll swallow anything! Try your hand at milking llamas or feeding baby creatures to our troupe of killer raptors. And your kids will love swimming with sharks in our bloodthirsty Jaws-style aquarium.

Splash Out On Yourself. Go on. You deserve it.

Way off the beaten tourist track, Bafflesby has plenty of surprises in store. You’ll be amazed at the amount of good-value accommodation, ranging from cheap and cheerful all the way down to miserly and miserable … Haha, just kidding, of course … a little taste of the local speciality, our cheery sense of humour in the face of impossible odds! Floods, ha, we’re a flood of merriment and mirth … geddit? And if you should ever weary of our relentless ribaldry, just ask a friendly Bafflesbyte to point you the hell out of town.

He’ll be only too happy to oblige.

 

Procrastination

Editor’s Comment        This blogger has failed to submit a new post in time for publication. According to his sick note he has retired to bed with a chronic attack of indecision in the face of too many possibilities. He claims to have begun several drafts but none of them are anywhere near completion. I have allowed him to publish the following poem on the strict understanding that his next post will be all his own work. Thank you.

 

The Old Sailor  by  AA Milne

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

He was shipwrecked, and lived on an island for weeks,
And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks;
And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks
For the turtles and things which you read of in books.

And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
And he thought that to talk to he’d look for, and keep
(If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

Then, because of the weather, he wanted a hut
With a door (to come in by) which opened and shut
(With a jerk, which was useful if snakes were about),
And a very strong lock to keep savages out.

So he thought of his hut … and he thought of his boat,
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) …
But he never could think which he ought to do first.

And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved –
He did nothing but basking until he was saved.

 

 

In cahoots!

Nothing beats the thrill of hitting Publish to send your next carefully-composed post out to cyberspace. You wait on tenterhooks at Mission Control, hoping with crossed fingers that your probe makes connection with its target audience. Success is positive feedback.  Failure is radio silence. Global communication validates us, bestowing an identity we might otherwise lack. It draws us from our little boxes and broadens our horizons. The world turns out to be round, after all!

Readers of my previous posts will know that I hate labels. Putting the human species in pigeonholes isn’t my idea of fun, whether it’s gender or nation or class or race or colour. These are all passive descriptors. You can’t help what you are but you can take responsibility for what you do. And here I’ll break my rule and suggest two active descriptors: we are all either bridge-builders or wall-builders.

Sounds good, don’t it? Actually, it’s rubbish. We’re both. It all depends on the circumstances. Bad times breed walls, good times grow bridges. In the real world at present – and perhaps for the foreseeable future – walls are winning. Yeah, talk to the hand ‘cos the face ain’t listening …

And wall-building isn’t active, of course, it’s passive-aggressive. Building a bridge takes energy, courage, imagination. Above all, it’s an act of faith. It starts with empathy, a belief in the other side which creates the improbable miracle of meeting in the middle. I may be stretching the metaphor to breaking point but when common ground is hard to find, connection must be made in mid-air.

Which brings me to the blogosphere. Sceptics are doubtful about its potential to break down barriers and heal divisions, often dismissing it as ‘preaching to the converted’. Well, yes, bloggers are bridge-builders by definition but we also have real lives and our urge to fly may begin in the cages we have built for ourselves. As the prescient hostess in the Eagles’ Hotel California says, ‘We are all prisoners here/Of our own device’.

In a sadly crowded field my nomination for Most Dangerous Book Ever would have to be ‘1001 Places To See Before You Die’. Do the math, as my American friends would say. Times 1001 by 7 billion to come up with the number of trips. Factor in air miles and you have a recipe for turning the atmosphere into toxic soup. Travel broadens the mind, they say, but jetting around to tick 1001 boxes … each box containing a subset of tourist must-sees … holy relics, just thinking about it triggers my travel-sickness!

A viable alternative is to go to a few places, stay longer and soak up the culture. Comparison is the key to self-discovery in this poem by Philip Larkin:

The Importance of Elsewhere

Lonely in Ireland, since it was not home,
Strangeness made sense. The salt rebuff of speech,
Insisting so on difference, made me welcome:
Once that was recognised, we were in touch.

Their draughty streets, end-on to hills, the faint
Archaic smell of dockland, like a stable,
The herring-hawker’s cry, dwindling, went
To prove me separate, not unworkable.

Living in England has no such excuse:
These are my customs and establishments
It would be much more serious to refuse.
Here no elsewhere underwrites my existence.

Another viable alternative is to travel in cyberspace. That may sound rather nerdy, but bear with me. Every single day 2,000,000 posts like this are sent. Each one is a window on the world, even the ones you can’t be bothered to read.

Two recent attempts at co-writing poems with fellow bloggers were like little holidays from myself. Grappling with several viewpoints took me outside my customary subjective bubble towards something more objective. It was like looking for buried treasure. It felt like a childhood game of Consequences where each person adds a new detail to create a story nobody sees until the end, when the paper concertina unfolds its serendipitous surrealism.

It set me thinking about collaboration. When it works, the whole is mysteriously greater than the sum of its parts. The best live bands sometimes say it’s as if an extra member was up there playing alongside them. Song-writing duos compose songs of magical quality – Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, John/Taupin, Goffin/King, Bacharach/David, Rogers/Hammerstein, Gilbert/Sullivan, the list goes on. Many of the UK’s favourite sit-coms are the product of two brains – Hancock’s Half Hour, Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army, The Good Life, Fawlty Towers and The Office are just some that spring to mind.

Winning teams have esprit de corps but this doesn’t stop them disagreeing. Healthy argument is essential for success. In relationships opposites attract. The most revealing interviews are those where two people talk freely as equals. The best teachers say they learn as much from their pupils as their pupils learn from them. Hierarchy stifles creativity, although Basil would never admit it …

A question I often ask in the vain hope of a sensible answer runs as follows … Why do CEOs get paid so much for running organisations which are so bad they need people on huge salaries to run them? It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg question, I admit, but why is nobody prepared to answer it?

And don’t get me started on why we need financial speculation! Since when did money become a commodity in its own right and not just a means of exchanging goods and services, huh?

Well, I told you not to get me started! Besides, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

If I have a religion it’s a belief in the sacred triad of freedom, equality and fellowship. They are interdependent. They underpin human creativity by enabling partnership. Two minds are better than one. We do better to build bridges rather than walls.

If my religion has demons, they are rapacious consumerism and rampant fundamentalism. On the face of it, however, these couldn’t be more different: material and immaterial, natural and supernatural, here and elsewhere.

Yet both of them are heretics in my religion, if I have a religion. Both of them deny that we live in the spaces between one another and that souls is just a fancy word for relationships. Both of them say, Look after Number One and Devil take the Hindmost. Their crazed obsession with individual success and personal salvation are the twin scourges of our modern age, fuelling egoism and undermining a full engagement with the world. They make our heaven a living hell.

Two final questions: 

  1.  Can the blogosphere save the biosphere?
  2.  Does anyone know the title and/or author of a short story about a space rocket which makes an emergency landing on a planet because of a failed engine?  The other parts of the ship locate a new engine which turns out to be an inhabitant of the planet. They kidnap him and he learns about his real destiny, which is to power the ship. The story is clearly an allegory about teamwork – right up my street, as you can imagine! – and I would dance with delight if I found it again.

 

 

 

Rengarama

Here is the completed poem. Many thanks to my fellow contributors who each provided five lines. Click on the names to view their excellent sites. The first three and last five lines are mine, as is the title. I decided to dispense with sentence punctuation, apart from a single question mark. I like questions and feel this one is important to the poem.

            

siren song

walk at the tide’s edge
here where ceaseless ocean surf
whispers to the land

prehistoric sharks teeth gleam
pools appear and disappear

wave shush absorbs sound
I float in the vast cold sea
from whence we all came                                                Fans of Johnny Dowd

my blood merges echoing
memories of ancestors

who will keep this song
from the silence of neglect?
ripples collect thoughts                                                     memadtwo

the great oceans sing their thoughts
reverberating whale songs

frothy tidal surge
playing wet snare drum brushes
sea lions bark cadence                                                          daveply

as stars illuminate life
to imbue the foam with awe

a planet’s dreams wish
to encapsulate a wave
on which to escape                                                                   opher

the water’s depths invite me
into their coolness within

and in the coolness
life renews
and I am ready to live again                                                 Steve Higgins

waves that sail the seven seas
will carry me back to land

wide-eyed castaway
washed up on another shore
with fresh tales to tell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: pinterest.com

?

Wanted: words for poem – washed      (7)
Ashore, awaits the next tide.                      (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Come on in, the water’s lovely!

If you’d like to add 5 lines to my shared poem, please click on https://davekingsbury.wordpress.com/2016/04/09/renga/

Cheers!

PS  I’m getting plenty of views for this post but for some reason nobody has yet taken   the plunge … a pity, because the poem so far is looking interesting … I’d dive in myself  but don’t want to empty the pool! 🙂 Anybody else?

PPS  Since posting this, we’re up to 28 lines. Final call: any more swimmers?

PPPS Renga now finished! See https://davekingsbury.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/rengarama/