How will I ever stir coffee with a lotus petal now? continued...

Have you still got my salacious piston engine's straitjacket?

They undid the belt and lifted the straitjacket from me and gasped, seeing my torso, the exposed panel in my front with the chromed diesel engine, its flywheels spinning, its pistons going like the fists of a miniature metal boxer. 

"You are free," the soldier, my liberator, said.  And he handed the straitjacket to his companion, a woman in a military pillbox hat who looked like Jackie Kennedy. 

She held up the straitjacket and examined it for a moment, her lip curling as she inspected the drawings of naked women there, their legs spread, and their crudely drawn breasts like the eyes of some sub-aquatic creature.  The orderlies had drawn those pictures as a joke.  I had watched them do it, not caring.  I cared for nothing when I had been in the straitjacket. 

"Please," I begged, "I want it back."

"Poor soul," said the soldier to the woman. 

They talked as though I wasn't there.

"It's rather salacious, isn't it?" the woman said, still holding up my jacket. 

Already I could feel my engine wanting to move me, to push me in the way it had pushed me around the grounds of the prison camp when I had first gone there, before they had given me my straitjacket.

Without the straitjacket memories came back. 

I am standing on the brake van of a train.  A woman, you, are standing on the platform.  The whole scene is like a painting by Paul Delvaux: the ornate station, the carriage lamps, and the tobacco and smoke stained colours.  You continue to stand on the platform as my train gets further away.  You look ahead.  You do not look at me.  I am already forgotten.

I walk through the train, through empty Pullman carriages, dust on the tables, cobwebs on the wine glasses and chandeliers.  At last I reach the engine, a huge contraption, stripped so that its moving parts are visible, its naked pistons and wheels, its thick twisting pipes carrying diesel, the elegant vents to draw in air.  I throw myself forward to merge with it.

Later, when I wore the straitjacket I forgot all this.  But now I am without it, it is as though I could be young again.  I could become virile and trace the tracks back to the station where you wait, still on the platform.

These thoughts are unbearable. 


I have reason to believe that you can't weigh up the pros and cons of warts

I am hairy and unsightly.  I am a blot on the perfect landscape of my host's fresh face.  That is what I have been led to believe.  But my fellows and I are skilled at marshalling arguments to encourage people to take us seriously.  What we need is a proper round-table discussion.  Why should we not confer advantages rather than ruin the appearance?  We love management speak, but we are suspicious of it in others - what is this belief the speaker has and where does it come from?  Is the speaker himself a host, that oh-so-elevated creature (we hate them really)?  Perhaps he means that we are so special we have a transforming effect.  We are the silent majority, the quintessentially misunderstood.  We represent, and thereby shed light on, all the small doings of those ant-like creatures called humans.  We are the true leaders of the Earth.  If we were truly alive in ourselves, we would be the most intelligent life form.  I'm getting carried away.  What was that?  My fellow says that we and our hosts have a deep knowledge of each other, sharing a profound bond.  I think we'll leave it there.


On the fifth day of Christmas, my Cornish love sent to me; five mind-numbingly dull kipper ties! Four disgraceful Ferrero Rochers, three spineless maggots, two deathly shopping trolleys and a lump in a boulder.

But, you might say, a boulder itself is a lump of rock and you'd be absolutely right.  So, come on, walk along any beach and you can find plenty of better looking large pebbles smoothed by the sea.

All maggots are spineless, of course, that's how they wriggle so much.  The kipper ties weren't even made of kippers, although they were brown just like the cars in the original TV series of "The Sweeney".

"Branwen," I complained, "these shopping trolleys are taking up four bicycle parking spaces and I'm being hassled by the Bounds Green Cycle Club.  Not to be confused with their deadly rivals the Cycle Club of Bounds Green." 

"Trevor," she shot back, "it seems to be that your issue is with my Cornishness more than anything else.  The EU has just recognised my lineage as a minority, so, really, I've got to give you the elbow and start looking to meet fellers of my own kind on the mean streets of Truro and the pavements of Penzance." 

And after all the gifts I'd lavished upon her.  Still, I wouldn't miss that regular Friday night six-hour train crawl to the western tip of fast fracturing Britain.

Which leaves the Ferrero Rochers.  Did I mention lumps in boulders?  No Cornish creams here or belly-warming pasties.  Little bombs covered in thin chocolate, tooth-cracking micro-boulders that as one crunched down brought about an explosion in the mouth.

Fancy a chocolate, compliments of separatist freedom fighter Branwen? 

Thought not.  Just seven more rounds of gifts to go.


Your mother was a searchlight and your father smelled of sausages

And that is why -
You're a bright spark who is often chased by dogs
You light up my life, and are the light in my fridge
You are cylindrical of shape and smooth to the touch
You are highly charged - and highly strung
You are attracted to bulbs, both electric and garlic
You illuminate darkness and liven up dinner
You are part chandelier - and part chipolata
You skim across floors and are flawless of skin
You beam at the mention of bangers


I Have To Entertain My Paperback Book

Carrie came for tea yesterday.  She was a paperback edition, issued to tie in with the film by Brian De Palma, with Sissy Spacek on the cover.  I loved her well over the years.  She was already dog-eared when I bought her in Oxfam in 1987.  I gave her to a friend who never gave her back but she still comes round from time to time.

She propped herself up against the toaster while I boiled the kettle.  She doesn't say much. Occasionally, she opens herself up at a relevant paragraph or piece of dialogue.

"Been read much?" I asked her.

She looked towards the window. 

"You're not coming back, are you?" I said.  "You've come to say goodbye." 

In fairness to her, I had been spending a lot of time with the classics.  Dickens, mainly.  But it was probably the Edgar Allan Poe that stung the most. 

Without warning, the teapot flew off of the counter and smashed against the wall tiles.

"Don't do that," I said.  She turned towards me.  Sissy Spacek, drenched in pig's blood.  "It's okay.  I've got teabags."

I made a cup and carried her into the front room.  "I'm sorry," I said.  "Shall we begin?" 

I turned to page one.

(Clockhouse London Writers contributing in this order: Sandra Unerman, David Turnbull, Susan Oke, Mark Lewis, Gary Budgen, Rima Devereaux, Allen Ashley, Sarah Doyle, David McGroarty).