Image © Copyright Amy Charles Media 2014

20 Dec 2015

Adjust the Brightness, Add a Filter, and It All Seems Twice as Nice


I never gave you my address,
but you knew I lived in Islington.
I'd mentioned a few times
that I loved The Lord Clyde,
so chances are I'm at this end
of Essex Road.

There were certain folk I saw
every day on that little stretch.

The old guy in the bowler hat,
who begged for change outside William Hill.

He'd use it to bet on his native West Indies
in the cricket.
Or whichever nag took his fancy.
Or, how many throw-ins there'd be
during the first half
of that weekend's big Premier League clash.
That was late morning.

Late afternoon,
the woman smoking outside the launderette;
in pastel coloured t-shirts,
three quarter length leggings,
and Hi-Tec trainers.
Her day entertained four types of coin,
three types of powder,
and both types of dirty laundry.

Late night, the guys in Essex Road Kebab.
Same order, never spoken:
large chips and mayo,
to match four cans for a fiver
from the mini mart next door.

Every day,
give or take,
whenever home
from the road.

Never expected, but always just

We would all decorate and arrange
our own forms of loneliness,
with varying degrees of futility,
and various types of filter.

Safe to say,
when I saw you by the door in Sainsbury's Local,
it was far from expected,
and far from routine.

You'd travelled down,
on a baking summer morning,
purely on the off chance that you'd see me.
You knew I had the day off:
we'd been texting 'til 2.

My usual routine
was some kind of breakfast at half past ten,
and then one of those premixed cans of Gin & Tonic
before The Lord Clyde opened at 11.

But you'd travelled down, specifically,
on the off chance that you'd see me.

And as we cut across, towards Upper Street,
I'm not phased and I'm not disturbed.
Except only that,
The New Rose doesn't open until 11 o'clock either.

We turn left, and pass Slim Jim's,
and down towards Angel.
The York is open,
and in the sunshine, you oblige.
A double Bombay and a slimline
carries shifting connotations:
but acceptable in pairs
at this side of noon.

You wince, push away your glass,
and ask me for a single.
I tell you I'll do a swap,
but sink it straight down at the bar.

We catch the Northern line to King's Cross,
then the Piccadilly to Covent Garden.

We stroll down the Embankment
toward the face of Big Ben.

Pass Parliament Square,
where placards speak only
to tourists.

Through the back streets of Westminster;
just drifting, barely talking.
Well aware that

the tone of your visit,
and the ease of my welcome,
does not go a very long way
for respective stabilities.

We drink in a pub called The Speaker.
As the gin takes its toll,
you use the Gents' loo by mistake.

Eventually, you fall asleep,
by the fountain at the Palace,

and leave me,
not to question,
but to revel in
the opposite.


A fling, at best.
We met in a nightclub in Coventry,
so I guess we were always doomed.
Sharing a bath at the Holiday Inn,
and then fucking on the bathroom floor.

You'd find out which festivals I was playing,
and then sign up as a volunteer
so you could find me backstage.
On the Isle of Wight,
at Bestival,
we met, and fucked,
for the final time.
A dark night in September,
before I sank beneath the surface.

A week later,
I moved back from London
to home.
I slept, right through Christmas,
and haven't heard from you

18 Dec 2015

Kellingley Colliery (1965-2015)

Every day as usual -
before the birds had cleared their throats -
he'd wake in a room,
dark as most ever see,
and creak to the kitchen:
four sugars,
in his pint of tea.

The Deputy does not carry coal,
but a burden just as heavy:
he's to head in first,
with his lamp and his nerve,
and satisfy his judgement

that without a single
doubt to shirk
the pit is fit
for lads to work.

Only, in those last days,
he need only be half awake,
as he trudged down
a well worn path,
with the frame of
the colliery
emerging as a

No need to check the mine.
He couldn't get past the picket.
But still, he'd have to phone his gaffer;
reporting in for vacant duty.

Day in, day out, day in, day out:
just as usual.

Lads he loved like brothers,
after years of risking life and limb,
united on the picket line;
where chance of work
was less than slim.

He'd to stand there,
and watch them:
either broken, or breaking,
or stone cold

His Deputy uniform
His authority
His verdict:

And they sent in
all these coppers.
Shipped in
from elsewhere;
or London,
or somewhere else

And he could only watch
in disgust
as they taunted the
picketing miners;
wafting notes
that floated on
as though they were
prodding a caged up
As though they were
a caged up

It was so much more
than a job.
It was so much more
than a career.
It was his life;
his pride,
and his honour.
and livelihoods:

being torn apart
before his eyes
by those employed
to serve and protect us.

To my Granddad,
it was on that day
that the mines
had closed forever.

This was no longer
the industry
that he chose to invest
his life in.

The vultures were circling
and hacking away;
ripping flesh
like coal from the earth,
as full grown men
like toddlers.

And today,
at the Kellingley Colliery,
we see our final
Deep coal mining
to history.
Thousands of lives
now betrayed
and abandoned.
Thousands of existences
struck off
as stories.

It's a sad day
for the country.
It's a sad day
for the region
It's a sad day
for the industry.

It's a sad day.

Kellingley Colliery:

My Granddad, George Abbott, in the orange

14 Dec 2015

Mind The Gap (aka The Bootle Platform Dash)

A 100m pulse race down the platform:
switching carriages
for strength in numbers
at Bootle Oriel Road.

7 boys. 7 girls.
Mismatched, but slowly adjusting.

"Am I hurting you?"
she asks,
at Bootle New Strand,
as she tentatively perches
on knees brimming with pride.

"No way,"
he asserts,
with cheeks still flushed.

It could be all the way
to Southport,
or across to San Francisco;
his knees will never falter
whilst others catch their breaths.

His coat: Lyle & Scott.
Her scent: Gucci Rush.
His hand, on her thigh,
at Waterloo,
retreating to a brush.

To them, at 26,
I am just another adult.
A world away from their parents,
yet a world away from their peers:

As I stand to leave,
at Blundellsands & Crosby,
I notice his knees trembling.
A knowing smile,
as I step into the drizzle.

12 years,
and none the wiser.

1 Dec 2015

Between Subbuteo Fixtures

Hidden in the attic,
as though the referees wore Bernard's Watch;
Subbuteo heroes
await on tenterhooks.
Reporter's notepads at the ready;
teamsheets scribbled in Period 5,
when I should've been taking homework.
Alien Ant Farm on cassette, on repeat
(the original Smooth Criminal to untrained ears),
and my Nokia 3210.

Sammi confirmed that Gemma said "yes"
from the opposite side of the court.
Wimbledon hooked everyone that summer.
Subbuteo subbed for backhand swings.
With hands that read:
"Gemma 'n' Matty 4eva",
in scented pen.
With hands shrivelled by sweat
throughout Tomb Raider
at Cineworld.
Neither knowing when
to let go.

The pranks calls ceased on the landline.
You'd always let it ring twice,
so that nobody picked up,
but knowing I'd always call back.
A few dates postponed.
Subbuteo resumed.
And then a text,
on the 3210,
in injury time.
"I'm dumping you for James Thompson."
We'd lasted 7 days.

28 May 2015

Slim Jim's Liquor Store

Slim Jim's Liquor Store:
a "masterful purveyor of good times,"
by all accounts.

A jukebox bar
with red cracked leather stools,
old brick walls
and neon lightning.

A young rockstar
with dread stacked never fools
the boys with the bottles,
and all required remedies.

Bras on the ceiling
exchanged for the fizz.
An open door policy
to all who like it
hard and fast.

Far from the feeling,
strange though it is,
that down those darkened
steps outside
is Islington, 2009.

During that last hour of CBT
you were played three times
by the BBC.
And texts fly through
to a phone on the blink,
as the Tiger
the afternoon departure.

An awkward glance
from your housemate Chris
says it's far too soon
for the Bombay bliss;
a perplexed sigh soon says
"let the fucker drink",
amidst wider
of determined debauchery.

Hours pass by
and the mood improves.
Don't try and talk
to the girls in the booth;
you're on Jim's time now,
this is voluntary confinement:
collisions with reality
are always best at bay.

L.A. Woman,
Light My Fire,
play it dumb and
fight desire;
Back Door Man,
Break On Through,
Mr Mojo
may construe...

No natural light,
no clocks:
no clue.
A finger down the throat
says you'll last
'til two.
Back Door Man,
Break On Through,
Mr Mojo
may construe...

A wallet stuffed
with customer copies
of card receipts.

A clammy forehead.
Eight missed calls.

Slim Jim:
a masterful purveyor
of good times...
...the best.

23 May 2015

An Open Letter to Naomi Watts

For love alone I would end it all, averting every duty.
Flirting with you hopelessly can only last so long.
Let this only be the matinee performance of our lives,
before we sail the wide Sargasso Sea, long before the final curtain.
Is it really gross misconduct to wish that you were the custodian?
Spending days off dressed as Tank Girl, or Mia Wallace;
watching 'Children of the Corn' parts I to IV, and never going outside.
Basking in the tranquillity of being persons unknown;
spending the evenings under the lighthouse dancing, and away from a house divided.
Your dangerous beauty helps me find solace on this strange planet.
And they say, never date an actress. "Never date a girl like Ellie Parker; she'll only let you down."
But we don't need the dizzy heights of Mulholland Drive to be at it like rabbits.
And yeah, one day you'll want the ring, and I'll save up for some plots with a view,
and grow a beard like Ned Kelly, and strive to avoid Le Divorce
('cause love's worth more than 21 grams).
And it doesn't matter if we don't live here anymore,
and that most of my relationships resemble the assassination of Richard Nixon,
and that I had to ask you what your "I Heart Huckabees" t-shirt meant three times,
and that, when I begged you to stay, with all the grace of King Kong,
I first spotted cracks in the painted veil.
And you turned your nose up at a weekend in Great Yarmouth, and all my Eastern promises.
Even though, last time, we were trapped in the caravan,
and played funny games together to the soundtrack of the rain,
and you said it was one of the best holidays you'd ever had;
including the international ones.
And you can't see me in the same picture as mother and child.
And your fortune teller sold the idea that "you will meet a tall dark stranger."
Well in many ways, I'm still a stranger, and always will be; I think that's fair game?
And alright, I'll never be able to afford the dream house,
or be as renowned as J. Edgar Hoover,
or achieve what's perceived to be the impossible,
or agree to watch the Spice Girls Movie 43 weeks in a row
(even though I know you adore it, I grew sick after 9 or 10).
Let's just bask in our sunlight Jr. memories,
nostalgic bliss, before they took Diana;
flicking through my dad's old copies of 'Birdman And Chicken';
or his articles on the rise and fall of the HMS St. Vincent.
Life's too short, so let's live it while we're young.
Let's not agonise over the divergent series of hopes and aspirations
that reside beneath our humble roof,
for fear of going blind before the sea of trees that sprout obstacles before us.
Let this not be a demolition.
Let's just shut in, relax, enjoy whatever we can,
and await the next title on your Wikipedia filmography.

Dublin I: #JeSuisCharlie

Gifts for a sibling
stuffed in a suitcase;
a weekend's wardrobe
packed to the brim:

Liz Earle skin care,
Marmite and Prosecco,
a box of Cadbury's Creme Eggs;

all battling for space
beside a paisley smoking jacket,
a poetry Moleskine,
a range of Fred Perrys
and a Blyth Spartans scarf.

All eyes locked on the two screens above,
in the Departure Lounge of Manchester.
A shuffling list of destinations,
statuses and instructions, or

Blue sirens, on
White vans, on
Red alert.

sweeps sadistic clickers.
Sky News projecting Hollywood,
the Parisian pout flickers;
all widened eyes and cries of panic.

No puffed out chest of Cantona,
or chorus of 'Les Marseillaise';
only stunned silence,
sirens, hysterics;
all awaiting orders,
just like the rest of us.

France: it's your turn.
And which on the list
on the Departure boards
is next?

Who's cool hand is dealt
a cruel twist of fate?

£3.99 for a 50p pen
from WH Smith.
£4.40 for a £2 pint
from the bar upstairs
(the curses of a fraudulent scribe).

I seek escape
in Division Street
by Helen Mort.
Both comforting
and intimidating
in equal measure
(the verses of a latter-day laureate).

I read 'Scab' three times.

A huff and a snarl
as an irksome stag do
chants like a terrace
in the middle of the bar.

A hostage's face
contorted and sobbing;
sat frozen with fear
amongst Jewish groceries.

How lucky I am
that events on that screen
are completely foreign
and do not affect me.

A final swig (which cost a quid)
then down towards Gate 7.
Flight EI122 to Dublin
delayed just over an hour.

The plane that's due:
en route from Paris.
Two runways at Charles de Gaulle
captured by chaos.

Notes swiftly taken,
Moleskine well thumbed;
I'm ready for my Emerald escape.

13 Apr 2015

Flat 3C - Say You'll Be There

She'd prepared a pop filled playlist
so they could walk hand in glove:
avoiding life's congestion,
through the back streets of nostalgia.

Four years, and a hundred miles;
dual decades as distant strangers.
But still they manage to reminisce
on childhood's shared and sacred pleasures.

She remembers dancing
to 'Don't Stop' by S Club 7,
in the playing fields at St. Peter's
with Zoƫ's bouncing ginger perm.
He remembers rapping
to 'Re-Rewind' by Artful Dodger,
on the old abandoned railway track,
the final day of term.

It took 2 hours and 20 minutes,
but it was perfect.
When she finished,
with the twilight of the afternoon to spare,
she contemplated filling out the label with a gel pen.
It's his 29th birthday
which he's dreaded now for weeks,
but what better form of antidote,
than travelling back through time...?

She skipped her tea;
too nervous to eat.
He'd said he'd be here at 7.
She knew it'd be closer to half past,
but at 6:15, she settled.
His decision now defining
her defiance or delusion.

She passed the time with cigarettes
and neatly stacked the crap cassettes
and watched the clock
and made a drink
and tried to sip it on the brink
and checked her texts
then checked again
then downed her drink
and checked again
then tried to ring
but it rang right through
then tried again
but it didn't ring once.

"Welcome to the O2 messaging service for

She lingers by the mirror;
leaves the voicemail sat recording.
Mascara halted in its tracks,
at 25 past 9.
Protected cheeks bereft of freckles,
and hair no longer drawn by Disney,
but even with that wide eyed wonder,
"where on God's earth is he?!"

Twenty years of wisdom,
that should be there to guide her,
merely arrive in hindsight,
whilst wounds are getting wider.

The bedroom waits with baited breath.
Her feet get cold,
so she rummages for socks.
A car pulls up:
through naivety
comes nervous nausea,
but it's only Babs from 13B
in her taxi back from bingo.
well versed, well masked,
well past her sell-by date,
and well past caring.

As she plays the final song,
for the fifth time in a row,
she aches to tiptoe down the hall
and crawl between her parents.
Longs for worries such as:

Mrs Roberts set us homework and I haven't done it,
and last time she made me stand up in the middle of assembly.
Why does my dad always pick me up from parties
before we've had the jelly and ice cream?
And how come my school uniform is plain and maroon,
whilst the other kids' are poster red, with the school's name embroidered?

Sink beneath the duvet,
make a castle from the pillows,
as the Spice Girls sing a serenade
that resonates quite brutally.

A tentative request, that echoes through a lifetime:
faithfully borrowed from Now! 36 (side 1, track 1).

Say you'll be there...
Say you'll be there...
Say you'll be there...

30 Jan 2015

From Peterloo to Orgreave (165 Years)

Sixty thousand hungry souls
flocked towards St Peter's Square;
and apparently some sunshine
came creeping through Mancunian air.
The powerless and impoverished
were somehow optimistic;
when less than 3% had the vote:
how's that for a statistic?

These were peaceful, forward thinking people,
out of sight and out of mind;
living in the city slums where
poverty was redefined.
And all the while they're wanting change;
and hopeful of progression.
But as usual the state replied
with unprovoked aggression.

Sixty thousand hungry souls
came to speak in silence.
Came to speak without a voice:
came not seeking violence.
Sixty thousand hungry souls
pursued the greater good.
They tried provoking dialogue
but went home soaked in blood.

"Universal Suffrage"
was the overarching motion.
With the red cap of liberty
hanging on the poles;
what a tantalising notion!
"Equal Representation",
"Reform", and finally,
were the messages on the banners
that the people hung above.

Henry Hunt addressed the crowds,
alarmed at what he saw.
Alarmed that sixty thousand folk,
maybe even more,
had made their way to Manchester
with their dignity on a thread:
they were pushing for progression,
with barely a loaf of bread.

They had no valid ownership
of hope or opportunity:
the Corn Laws ripped their heart and soul
and crippled their community,
and yet there they were,
with a distant dream of equal representation.
On the dogged road to democracy
defeating degradation.

And despite the fact they were peaceful,
as they gathered there en masse,
the very fact that they'd had the cheek
to challenge the ruling class,
soon provoked the cavalry
to charge their lowly neighbours:
and storm the crowds on horseback
armed with muskets, whips
and sabres.

And the official word?
Well, they were rioting.
This was merely
a restoration
of order.

Some folk died from sabre wounds,
some were shot,
and others were trampled to death.
Women, children and infants
were among the innocent victims.
Leading Radicals were arrested at the scene,
as were any journalists
attempting to report the events.
And by 3pm,
St Peter's Square
was left in an eerie silence.

And it's totalitarian tricks of the mind
when the public are attacked,
but they're suddenly to find
that THEY are the ones being blamed for the blood:
theirs are the names being dragged through the mud.

When basic rights are the rag to the bull,
the policeman's truncheon cracks on the skull;
and you run, and you plead,
and you beg, and you bleed,
and never mind a doctor,
it's a lawyer that you need.

And you marvel at the progression
of 165 years.
When the victims of oppression
are victimised and smeared.
Official statements forged or lost,
or rife with contradiction.
Or as it seems on many parts
a total work of fiction.

Scargill's men weren't soldiers
or "the enemy within."
And 30 years later we'll support
through thick and thin.

When protective wings of Government
treat working folk as feral:
at Peterloo, and Orgreave.
Forget them at your peril.

Written for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign compilation CD, which is available via Philosophy Football here.