social media reset

To restore factory settings:

  1. Close dominant eye
  2. Raise hand of same side
  3. Extend index finger and thumb
  4. Lightly place finger on eyelid
  5. Nestle thumb in fossa triangularis (see diag.)
  6. Place index finger of opposite hand on tip of nose
  7. Press all three points simultaneously
  8. Hold for three seconds
  9. Release

and suddenly


are the fish
that nuzzle your feet
as you swim out
in the bay

are the words
tricked out with sticks
in the flat sand
at low tide

are the faces
finger drawn in mist
on the cold pane
of a window



dream bucket

:::: coming out of the shower, I find James Earl Jones holding a towel saying “nice musculature”
:::: a truck driven by a polar bear pulls up beside me at the lights with a driver strapped to the grille
:::: what I think is a parachutist landing in the garden turns out to be a giant puppet
:::: I’m with a crowd at the zoo watching an octopus struggle to put in a contact lens
:::: Vladimir Putin shows me how to chop a courgette whilst singing the Baby Shark song
:::: it’s only when I take a selfie I realise I’m actually someone else


an instantaneous, automotive love bubble

the guy had been tailgating me
the last ten minutes
his bonnet so far up my exhaust
I was practically sitting on it
I couldn’t take it any more
I stopped
he stopped
we sat there awhile
then both jumped out
and strode towards each other
and do you know what?
it was a beautiful thing
he said he was sorry
but he’d just been overcome
by a sudden and irresistible sense of connection
I smiled at him
I felt it too, I said
we both sat down in the middle of the road
to explore this wonderful thing further
the other drivers driving round us
shaking their adorable heads & fists
the sweet sound of sirens in the distance
what did we care?
we had stumbled into what I’ve since
come to understand
was an instantaneous, automotive love bubble
we sat there on the blacktop
stradling the double white line
gently stroking each other’s beards
mutually admiring their sheen and vigor
he ran his hands over my arms
nodded approvingly at the tone and form
I did the same – and – honestly?
it was like feeling myself
we talked about things we’d done lately
that made us cry
he said when he was ironing
some white polo shirts
and listening to Nick Cave;
I said when I woke from a dream
in which my dead father sold me a ticket for the ocean
he laughed as if it was the sweetest
saddest thing he’d ever heard
I appreciated that
a police car skidded to a stop behind us
we helped each other stand up
and held hands as the officers
approached, advancing with tazers drawn
‘Do you know I smell lavender?’ he said
suddenly glancing over at the verge
‘A little cloying, perhaps, but SO good for the bees’




isaiah 6 thru 8

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb / and the leopard shall join them via web cam / and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together / whatever a fatling is / and they shall do the biz / and a little child shall lead them / and the fast broadband shall speed them / and great shall be the multitudes of followers thereof

And the cow and the bear shall feed / each according to their need / the cow unto pastures sunny / the bear into big jars of hunny / and their young ones shall lie down together / on disreputable but comfortable sofas of leather / and the lion shall eat straw like the ox / in a big cardboard box / because the lion hath been behaving most strangely of late / but all interventions frustrate / making for a most uneasy kinda housemate

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp / which shall make all around him gasp / his collar grasp / and they shall pull him away pretty fast / and tell him most sternly this is the last / time he cometh to the petting zoo / if this is the kinda thing he doth do / and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den / and the whole damned thing shall start over again

a meeting with disappointment

(sorry I didn’t make an appointment)

I take it from your slack expression
I hardly need ask the question
were you expecting SUCCESS?
let me guess!

well – I don’t know if it’s of any help to you
but my dear old mother maintained the view
when life gets tough you grin and bear it
till in the end she was grinning a fair bit

what time is it?
this wasn’t the purpose of my visit!
that’s quite enough about me
it’s YOU I’ve come to see
how are YOU today?
Well – that’s okay
what can I say?
people are often shocked
to see who it is who’s knocked

Look – I know it stinks
but you just have to think
things will either go your way
or they won’t
and I’m sorry to say
on this particular day
they don’t

I have it all written down here
the details of your particular….
ah! here it is!
quite a long list
of opportunities missed
openings screwed
promises misconstrued
redirected routes
pinching boots
second-hand suits

and right at the end – well done you! – a plan of action!
(shame it needs such a drastic redaction)


enjoying the crab

Okay. So. I’m a futuristic marine, making my way with the rest of the corps through the undergrowth of some hostile alien territory, pointing laser rifles, making ridiculous hand gestures that are supposed to mean clicks or formation or something, who knows. Some of the other marines pass by in a troop carrier like a metal spider with fancy hydraulic legs. It’s impressive to look at but very unsteady. It’d be quicker and safer if they just got out and walked.

Suddenly I come up against a thick perspex screen with an alien behind it. Basically, the alien looks like a giant penis, with a tight fleshy head and a mouth full of crooked, spindly teeth. The alien stares at me for a while, then when it’s sure it has my complete attention, very slowly and deliberately puts a whole crab in its mouth. It crunches it up, maintaining eye contact, as if to say: You’re next. But I’m not convinced. I can see it’s not enjoying the crab.

The dream ends with us all playing football – marines, civilians, aliens – like we’re at a Cosplay convention and just decided to have a kick around in the car park. It’s a nice feeling, but I can’t help being a bit disappointed. Did I go to all that trouble and get dressed up for this?

* * *

There are lots of theories about why we dream. Some people think it’s just a kind of cerebral defrag, a way for the unplugged brain to process and store all the data flying around, and install important updates, so please – don’t wake up yet. The story element is entirely retrospective and incidental, that cute thing humans have been doing for thousands of years to try to make sense of the world. Dreams, lightning, religion – same thing. Others believe it’s your unconscious shooting a movie it hopes you’ll find personally enlightening, using whatever costumes and props it happens to have lying around. (And if you don’t – well, fine – it didn’t cost anything to make, being shot locally and entirely CGI). And then there are whole dictionaries and websites dedicated to listing the meanings behind all the thousands of common dream images (although I’m not sure that my understanding of crab is anything like yours – mine being ME as a ten year old in jelly sandals, turning over stones in a rock pool, and yours being YOU as the first mate of a trawler in the Bering Straits, hauling in a thousand dollars worth of Alaskan King Crab).

The only thing you can say for sure is that everyone dreams. Even the people who say they don’t, because if you watch them whilst they sleep (get them to sign something first) – well, excuse me, but they certainly wave their arms, jerk their legs, shout random things and spookily flick their eyes from side to side like the rest of us dreamers. So I’m guessing the difference is they can’t RECALL those dreams, or have decided it’s simply conversational death to even THINK about describing that dream they had when a bus made of cheese pulled over, the doors opened, and Maisie Williams was the driver, dressed as a cat.

So taking dreams to be your unconscious brain reaching up to your conscious brain, tapping it on the lobe and whispering: Hey! Look at this! THIS is what you REALLY feel about that thing you’ve been worrying about…, what the hell am I supposed to make of my alien dream?

A giant penis eating a crab?

Not enjoying it?



a tough gig

Turns out, Miriam’s down to Assist the Co-ordinator this morning. She waves me over as I pass through the office, scattering good mornings as methodically and benignly as an Amish farmer sowing corn.
‘They’ve put me down to do an early care call as well,’ she says, looking flushed. ‘I mean – I’m good, but I’m not that good. I can’t be in two places at once! Everyone else is full, so it looks like only me or you that can do it. I’m more than happy to go if you want to hold the fort here a couple of hours… just as happy if you want to take the job… totally up to you. What do you think?’

The truth? I don’t need to think, but I make a polite show of it. Assisting the Co-ordinator sounds easy enough but it’s actually a pretty tough gig. It doesn’t matter how resolved you are at the start to be organised and Zen Master about the whole thing, barely half an hour later you’ll find yourself with a mobile clamped to one ear, a landline playing loud psycho-electro on-hold music in the other, three people hovering close by, checking their watches, stress-paddling foot to foot, someone else waving a piece of paper over in the Hub…. and then you’ll sigh, and hang up the landline, take a swig of coffee instead, and find it’s grown a skin.
‘It’s okay. I’ll do it,’ I tell her.
‘Are you sure?’ Miriam says, a desperate look in her eye.
‘Don’t worry. Happy to help.’
I take the details.

It sounds straightforward. Charles is an elderly patient who’s going into respite for a few weeks to give his wife June a break. He needs a care call first thing to help him get ready for collection by ambulance. As soon as I’ve picked up my other jobs for the morning, I ring their number. It goes to voicemail. I leave a message to apologise for the early call, and to say not to worry because I’m on my way and I’ll be there by half past eight at the latest.

It’s a bright, zesty drive out to their address, a neat red-bricked block on the outskirts of town. There’s a truck parked outside. Three workmen are busy putting scaffolding up, making a stunning amount of noise – pneumatic drills, banging, shouting, laughing, a radio on full volume in the cab. The workman at the top of the scaffolding, hanging on by one hand, actually throws back his head and howls. It’s all so loud and violent, even though I press my ear to the intercom I can’t hear what June says. The door clicks regardless. I go in.

The thickly carpeted hallway is so quiet by comparison with the racket outside my ears actually whine. I walk up three flights of stairs, then knock. After a long pause, June opens it. She’s tiny, frail as an old sparrow in a housecoat and slippers, blinking at me with her head slightly to one side whilst still holding on to the door.
‘Can I help you?’ she says.
‘Oh!’ I say. ‘Good morning. I hope I’ve got the right address. I’m Jim, from the Rapid Response team. I’ve come to see Charles.’
She stiffens even more, glances down at my ID badge.
‘To get him ready,’ I say.
‘What do you mean? Get him ready? What for? Who are you again?’
‘Jim. I’m a nursing assistant. From the Rapid Response.’
‘I’m sorry but I think there’s been some mistake.’
‘They asked me to come and help Charles get dressed. Before the ambulance arrives.’
‘I don’t think the ambulance will be coming,’ she says.
‘No. I wouldn’t think so. I’m sorry, but I think you’ve had a wasted journey. Did the nurses not tell you?’
‘What nurses?’
‘The nurses who were with us all last night. When Charles died.’
‘I’m so sorry.’
She stares at me, blinking rapidly.
‘Yes. Well,’ she says.
‘And – how are you – bearing up?’ I say, pathetically.
‘It’s early yet,’ she says. ‘But I’ll be fine. I’m sorry you came all this way.’
‘No, no! I’m sorry to turn up like this. That’s awful. I’ll make sure everyone else knows.’
‘Could you?’ she says. ‘That would be kind. Well – goodbye, then.’
And she quietly closes the door.

Outside the workmen are as furious as before. The one who was howling at the top on my way in is now leaning right out, shouting for a particular clamp.
‘Not the three four, you wingnut! The five n’alf! Ye-es! That one, Rodney! That one! Jesus Christ!’
It gets chucked up to him, and he catches it just as it slows, ready to fall back to earth.
‘Halle-fucken-lujah!’ he says, then swinging round again, gets back to his hammering.