Friday, 30 December 2016

Two contrasting poems to round off the year. The first is based on a Christmas party many years ago, or at least my memory of it. The second will set a few linguistic puzzles for non-Scots speakers. Pageview stats tell me I've got lot of readers, or at least viewers, in the US. Best of luck, guys!

Christmas Party Afterglow

The beach at Aberdeen begins to wake
as morning-after leaves the night-before.
We race the sea through moon-edged shadows, jump
the ripples in sea-wee’d shoes and wonder why
our drunken laughter slips on wetted sand
and why the world looks better upside-down.

We left the party draped about the room,
all snoring in a non-existent chord.
But Robbie and I still buzzed with energy.
We could not let this party drift and sink.
And so we sang a farewell to the night,
then raced the waking day along the beach.

Hogmanay Blues
First-fittin’ aul’ freen’s at the turn o’ the year
Brings mony a lach an aft a wee tear.
A’ nicht we stagger fae stairheid tae hoose,
Swappin’ banter wi’ strangers an’ quines on the loose.

Ower tae Torry tae see Auntie Nell.
Then, quick, on the bus! Get awa’ fae the smell.
Up tae the West End far Jeremy bides;
He wis Jezza in Northfield, oor Meggie confides.

Noo wir bottles o’ fusky are teem’t oot, ma son
An’ we rummle wir pooches fer crumbs o’ black bun,
We’re totally founert an’ ma stummick’s gey queer,
Bit we’ll dae it a’ ower again the next year.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Growing the Page

Something (or rather, a lot of someones) is lifting this blog into a range of viewing figures I have not seen before. I can't pretend it's breaking any records in the blogging world, having read about some blogs with pageview figures in the millions range, but it is on the up. It may not yet be in the fast lane, but it's edging nearer the slip road onto the motorway.

     Whoever you are, thank you for reading, or at least glancing at, what I have to offer. If you'd like to offer a comment as well, complimentary or carping, dogmatic or derisory, I'd be delighted. 

     I was going to wait till New Year before posting anew, but received wisdom says one needs to post regularly, at least once a week, to keep and grow readership.

     So here's a little piece of whimsy to launch this blog into 2017.

McGill's Last Laugh

'Leave it, Vince! You ain't gunna look at every bloody postcard, are yer?' 
     'Nah, just these. I'll meet you at the chip shop. Nothin's startin' before two o'clock. I'll be there on the beach, to give the Mods a good kicking.' 
     Just the usual seaside postcards - fat old ladies, skinny blokes and cheeky kids – except one was different. There was this bloke done up like a pirate and a snooty old woman looking shocked. I forget the joke; what made me look again was that the pirate was advertising “Treasure Trips Round the Bay”. 
     Every other card in the rack card said clearly “Pleasure Trips”; I checked 'em. Only one said “Treasure”. Under that were two squiggly lines like tiny writing. I bought that card and a magnifying glass.  
     I sat on the bench outside and peered at the lines. They said: “I n the bay that's owned by no living man, on an island that rowers will understand.” On the back of the card was printed “Blackstone 14YN22NE.X,” like a catalogue number or something. No other card had that.
     What was all that about? I remembered reading Treasure Island when I was a kid. I tried to tell myself to be sensible. Nobody finds treasure maps, these days. Or do they?  
     I forgot all about meeting up with the gang, forgot about the Mods and their dopey anoraks and their putt-putt lawnmower Lambrettas. I kicked the Matchless into a roar and headed back to the Smoke, breaking the speed limit most of the way. 
     I hardly slept that night. In the library Monday morning, I chased up the librarian for atlases and lists of places – gazetteers, she called them. Didn't stop for a coffee, had nothing to eat. It was well after three before I got lucky. 
     I'd been looking for the name of an island that might have something to do with rowing - Oar Island, Crew, Stroke, Bow, even Oxford or Cambridge Island. That librarian was giving me the old "You again?" treatment when I kept asking for more maps. Then one name jumped out of the page: Skull Island, same sound as scull in rowing. It was in the Caribbean, a little dot south of Puerto Rico, so small there were no maps of it.  
I had to sell the bike to pay for the trip. A one way ticket. I finally got to a place from where I could see this Skull island. The locals told me nobody lived on it but there was a place called Dead Man's Bay.  
     I'd found it! My treasure.  
     Old Diego took me across in his little boat. I left him on the beach gutting a fish he'd caught. I headed inland and started to search. I'd worked out the code long ago. It didn't take long to find a black rock in a clearing. From there I paced out 14 yards north and 22 northeast and started to dig. I heard Diego shouting, 'Da fish, she cooked, man!' just as my spade struck something hard. I cleared the earth away and dragged out a wooden box. The hinges were almost rusted away and I broke them easily. 
     There was no treasure.  
     There was only a giant postcard, sealed in wax paper, showing that same leering pirate and the snooty woman, and he's saying, 'Oi never said “treasure”, lady. Oi said Oi'm after me pleasure!' 
     I never did go home. 'Course I was disappointed at first, but, you know what, these people took me in as if I was one of their own.  
     I can sit on the beach now with my Josefina. I love to smell the perfume in her hair while she tells me how it'll be when we get married. I helped to build the church, you know. We're going to live in the house that the villagers are getting ready for us. 
     You know what I'm doing to earn some dosh? Don't laugh. I'm teaching English. Me, from South London! The kids'll all grow up speaking like Bob Hoskins. 'Oskins, more like. 
     The Mods can rule over all the beaches in England if they want, and you know what, I don't give a hairy parka. 
     I've found the only treasure I need. 

Donald McGill was a cartoonist whose saucy seaside postcards have become collectable.
The Mods (Moderns) wore anoraks (or parkas) and rode mopeds or scooters; the Rockers were black-leather bikers who despised the Mods. In English seaside resorts during the summer of 1964 there were pitched battles between the gangs.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Last offering of the year. See you, whoever you may be, in 2017.

First Christmas

I didn’t expect this. I don’t suppose anyone does. But there’s a difference with me: Somehow I know what's happening. Others in this situation aren’t even  aware of it, except in the most basic way.
     Well, I can’t do anything about it now – just got to accept it. I’ll play along just now, pretend I’m like all the others doing the same thing tonight. You’d think Dad would have warned me, given me some hint what was in store.
     The smell, for instance. I’m not sure I can stop myself throwing up. What kind of place is this? It stinks. To be honest – and forgive me if I’m causing offence – but it smells of shit. It’s not people-shit, I know that much.
     And the noise! Whatever these creatures are, they are not being quiet about it. There’s a great hairy thing with a huge head making such a racket right beside my ear. Braying. Yes, that’s the only word for it. And an even bigger, stupid-looking thing with horns, breathing all over me and trying to lick me with a huge floppy tongue.
     Who are all these people coming in now, gawping at me? They smell too, probably been out in the fields all night. Did they run all the way here just to see me? Am I worth all this fuss? 
     I certainly don't need all this gold and incense that the latest visitors have brought.
     I mean, there I was, warm and snug as you like, floating around,not even needing to breathe, a soft rhythmic beat to soothe me, all the nourishment I needed, not a care in the world.  Then without warning, I found myself pushed out into a world of noise and stench and pain.
     I felt some pain, yes, but nothing like hers. Poor girl, she was howling with it, right up till the moment I popped out and took over. Well, she’s only young. Perhaps she’s never felt pain like that before. I don’t know her yet but I know she belongs to me and I belong to her.
     I haven’t opened my eyes properly but I know she’s looking down at me. She’s so tired. Her hair is plastered to her brow, soaked in sweat. Then she reaches out her arms, takes me and holds me close. I can feel the warmth and the softness. I turn my face towards her softness and smell the warm milk that will nourish me and bring me closer to her.
     There is a love in her face that I never knew existed.  All the people of the world must have known a love like this. If that is so, why am I needed here?

Saturday, 10 December 2016

To all those overwhelmed by the glut of goodwill and the cascade of Christmas cards, not to mention the frantic aura of festivity, I offer this possibility of a calm and stress-free Yuletide:

Whereas the holder of this Certificate

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

has demonstrated over many years her/his disillusionment with the end of year activity known as “Merry Christmas”, he/she is granted this
Certificate of Exemption

from all pseudo-festivity, induced jollity and contrived bonhomie,
also from all card sending and receiving,
gift giving, gift guilt and gift recycling
and from any pretence at religious or spiritual affiliation

provided that
she/he shall maintain a cheerful disposition, a tolerant attitude and
a generous nature throughout the year

occasional bouts of gloom, girning or grumpiness
not amounting to more than 7.2 hours (1%) in any calendar month
(in December this dispensation may be doubled).

none of the above exemptions shall apply when
in the company of or within the hearing of any child  
who is still at the “wonderment” stage of life.

Given under our Hand,
Don Wells (aka B.A.Humbugg)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Hon Secretary

The Noel Abatement Society

The certificate has been found to be at its most effective when prominently displayed in your entrance hall, well above toddler height but in full view of early-doors
carol-singers, persistent good-cheer merchants and once-a-year drunks.