Image © Copyright Amy Charles Media 2014

30 Dec 2014

Flat 19A - If You Don't Know Me By Now

you always hear them say this,
whenever they've survived some great natural disaster,
or a terrorist attack, or a nuclear explosion,
or even when they've won the bloody EuroMillions.
"it was just an ordinary morning;
no different from any other day."

Jean's husband had been up and about for thirty three minutes:
singing out of tune to Absolute Radio
and forgetting to rinse the shower.
thirty three wasted minutes of usual fucking uselessness before Jean managed to conjure up the strength to drag herself out of bed;
gradually subtracting from the morning's "to do" list,
until she was left only with the absolute necessities.
the barefaced ugliness of adulthood's duties.

the first thing she notices as her legs swing out,
is how cripplingly cold it is in the world outside the duvet.
her bed, so recently as cosy as a womb,
is now a fond and distant memory.

she ties her hair up in a bobble.
showers. exfoliates. moisturises.
dresses. chomps on some toast.
grabs her keys.
kisses the useless fucker on the cheek.
and then rushes through the door.

the unforgiving February morning:
eyebrow raised, smugness sharpened, tapping at the watch on its wrist.
rewarding Jean's negligent lethargy
with an unprecedented parade of permatanned housewives:
faffing on the roads in four by fours
that've never seen worse than a pothole;
just so little Henry doesn't have to stretch his legs.

and when dawn broke that morning,
it left a thick layer of frost
on the windscreen of the brand new Toyota.
purchased three weeks ago,
apparently on a whim,
with the savings that she'd sidelined
for a sojourn in Seville.

Jean checks the time.
she curses at herself for running late once again.
dreading what smarmy retort she'll have to tackle as she tries to sneak unnoticed,
slipping a pre-booted laptop onto her desk and pretending to be on the phone.

she turns the key in the ignition.
that fucking Simply Red CD is in again.
she rummages through the glove box:
The Lighthouse Family, Rush, Oasis.
what a load of old toss.

Jean hears an ambulance race past
and instinctively glances up.
but what she sees, instead of a flash of blue lights,
is her life,
gradually unfolding,
at glacier pace:
the frost
on the windscreen
creeping up;
a millimetre
every second,
only to reveal
two footprints.
two female footprints,
pressed up,
against the glass.

two sizes or so smaller than her own feet, at a guess.
much bigger than her six year old niece's.
and left there,
quite clearly,
whilst her husband nipped out to the 24 hour Asda
for his pack of Ibuprofen.
a forty minute journey less than three miles down the road.
his own sick revenge,
for her weary refusals,
owing to the fact that she'd a headache?
or a clumsy instinctive cover-up on receiving a dirty text?

the first thing she thinks to do,
after switching off Mick Hucknall,
is to scan the car for knickers.
whoever the little wench was
(and you'd better believe she was a worthless little wench),
there's every chance she'll have left a souvenir
that the good for nothing scum bag will have clumsily forgotten to retrieve.

all that Jean can picture,
whenever she closes her eyes,
is Mark,
her husband,
of eight and a half years;
removing the knickers
with his crooked grin,
tossing them aside,
reaching for his zip,
and then lowering the seat whilst she fumbles with his buttons.

his broad, smooth shoulders,
flexing as he supports himself.
banging his head on the sunroof.
his finger in her mouth
as he silences the giggles.
the sweat on his brow.
his whispered instruction not to scratch,
so as not to be leaving any trace.

and the face that he pulls,
that only she should know:
jaw slightly clenched,
lip slightly curled,
teeth slightly showing,
bottom lip idle,
as he loses himself inside her.

that face that she might have seen,
as he fucked her in some lay by,
whilst Jean spread out in slumber,
in a king sized quilt cocoon.

Flat 6A - Open All Hours

a heavy sigh through nostrils. snarling and surveying the room.
another impotent day awaits;
urged on by late morning sun.
sleeping bag kicked off by jean clad legs.
neck aching. only one fraying pillow between the head and the floorboards.
one naked sweat stained pillow, in the word's first voluntary bedsit.

the double bedroom next door would be perfectly adequate but for the emptied suitcases of unworn clothing piled upon the mattress,
the hundreds of copies of Q and Fiesta that blockade the door,
and the lipstick insults, scrawled on the walls,
forbidding him from entry despite full legal ownership.

a desperate urge for a carrot coloured piss as he eventually comes to is all that raises him from his makeshift bed.
he kicks over an empty can on his way across the room, or at least, he thought it was an empty can.
in fact it was a largely empty can;
steady dregs of warm flat lager, flooding the neighbouring floorboards
and then trickling down the cracks.

the 3 foot tall refrigerator sits within arm's length of the bed.
enough food for 2 or 3 days, on the odd occasion when it isn't tinned,
and enough drink to see him through till sunrise.
Foster's; not a connoisseurs drink by any stretch of the imagination,
but men like this don't drink for pleasure, they just drink.

a double gulp for breakfast and a belch for morning prayer.
today, he thinks, will be different.
today I will write the world's last remaining epic.
today I will set upon the path that will see Tracey Emin yearn for my squalor,
see Oscar Wilde reduced to vulgarity,
and see all the whores and the cocaine and the liquor come flooding
like cockroaches through the door.

the television sits patiently in the corner;
gathering dust, bereft of a satellite or a license or a remote,
playing host only to the stack of 7 videos that sit loyally beside it.
the VHS companions that occasionally complement his mood.
they repeat, and repeat, and repeat amidst regular bouts of insomnia.

a collection of companions that somehow satisfy pretty much every aspect of his visual desire:
'Trainspotting', 'Dirty Harry', 'Debbie Does Dallas', 'Betty Blue',
the 1979 FA Cup final, Bill Hicks,
and a homemade tape containing 43 minutes of 'Only Fools and Horses',
the first ever episode of 'TOTP2',
an interview with John Major,
and 10 minutes of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'.

the primary source of entertainment, though, coming not from the fridge as some may predict but from the gramophone that takes centre stage.
the gramophone that replays the memories of his youth.
his antisocial teens. peroxide twenties.
the hatred of his marriage, the many affairs that carried him through divorce and now at last,
the tranquillity of solitude.

a whole lot more than 7 records scatter the floor.
last night: Johnny Cash, the man in black.
other current favourites include Georges Brassens, Jake Thackray, Billie Holiday,
The Doors, Bob Dylan's 'Blonde On Blonde', a rare 12" of 'Born Slippy .NUXX',
Petula Clark, an import of Jacques Dutronc, and an increasingly crackly Jimmy Ruffin.

the worst of this exile, this admittedly enforced and self imposed exile,
is the loss of the rush from the scent of female flesh.
it's been 16 months since he's had a shag. probably 3 or 4 years since a truly good one.
the electricity of their fingertips crawling up his thigh.
the adrenaline that courses when nails shred his back.
the tenderness of embrace. the intimacy. the warmth.

a long time ago, a fucking long time ago, this was a proud patch, see.
watercolours, 50 word poems and acoustic guitar ballads,
all regularly intertwined with groups of artists and intellectuals
engaging in laughter and infectious debauchery;
conversation punctuating drink fuelled sexual encounters
and hope, above all else, the toast of their never ending nights.

the sentiment occasionally still surfaces,
and the four walls still carry vague remnants of their past.
it is a shrine as much as it is a prison cell.
he cannot leave, because he cannot let go of what he once had.
he cannot escape, because without it, he is utterly unworthy of any greater alternative.
there is no greater alternative.
he must live with the consequences of the fuck up that he's spawned.

a pair of crimson sunglasses is an absolute necessity on rare events when he has to leave in daylight.
a filter placed on every single face he has to meet.
a warm red glow that somehow skews reality.
the alcohol, of course, that dominates his veins, is the predominant barrier that separates him.
but without the sunglasses?
no, it couldn't happen.

the day it all changed, he can still remember vividly.
no crimson tint. no liquid shield.
31st august 1997.
relatively early in the morning; too early to call anybody, put it that way.
'Doctor Who'; his favourite era, the first series in colour. 'Spearhead From Space'.
a news bulletin interrupted, insistent.
Diana, Princess of Wales, has died in Paris
after a high speed collision involving a car, and a wall.

a world in which Diana can be killed at 36, is not a world he wants to entertain.
no longer a world he wants to interact with.
for this man, there are no politicians peddling corruption.
no nauseating boy band sensations polluting the charts.
no natural disasters or need for humanitarian invasion,
sorry, 'intervention', whilst simultaneously raping oil resources.

the refusal was from then on no longer preference, but his mortality.
to live outside the bubble he'd previously formed.
to sit in this flat, drinking booze, playing records,
answering only to the postman and himself.
to masturbate and sing and cry and sometimes stop to eat.
a liquid lunch and a crimson tint.

he is Pinocchio. Peter Pan.
The Time Lord. The Lizard King.
Francis Begbie. Alan Sunderland. Goatboy. Dirty Harry.
Mr Greenfield. Mr Major.
Zorg, Ziggy, Del Boy and Donatello.

he is closed off from the world.
he is open all hours.

5 Dec 2014

In Church On A Tuesday Night

With a heavy-bodied aftershave aroma,
the tap room is a church on Tuesday night.
The soundtrack might be 'Girlfriend In A Coma'
but thankfully, the jukebox doesn't play that "modern shite."
Where distant lives and distant wives and worries wait outside,
in the tap room of the Ossett Brewers Pride.

The washing up was finished before the plates were even dirty,
desert boots slipped out the door at bang on seven thirty;
in four hours time they'll be lurching home, higher than a kite,
from the tap room that's a church on Tuesday night.

The picture's swapped for teletext:
Premier League on pause.
The picks of their accumulators'
pixelated scores.
Predict the unpredictable,
pin hopes on hopeless plights;
in The Brewers Pride,
the tap room is a church on Tuesday night.

This Farmer's Blonde is far too bland.
He must be blind to make that blunder!
Thirty feckless seconds,
my accumulator's all asunder.
Allus only one team short; I'm bound to get it right,
in the tap room that's a church on Tuesday night.

The politician's cameo for fifteen flimsy minutes,
but then it's back to tactics and the black ticks that'll win it.
Four quid on at Ladbrokes sees a generous return,
in a tap room on a Tuesday where they pray, but never learn.

One more jar and then the road,
debrief with our disciples.
Statistics like a secret code,
opinions all recycled.
Never mind this Spanish flair,
they need a bit of fight!
No nonsense in the tap room,
that's a church on Tuesday night.

Soaring highs and forlorn frowns
from filthy rich to Ipswich Town,
concerned that Burnley are going down;
they'll soon be out of sight.
The centre half's a dirty sod,
the barmaid knows to only nod,
we've got football: who needs God?
In church, on a Tuesday night.