In the Glare of the Neon Yak

Behold, for your delectation,
A tale of woe and loneliness
And pickled gherkins.
Eerie phatasms and little old ladies,
Grumpy train announcers and rumpy pumpy.
The preoccupations of modernity
Enmeshed with mythological imaginings
And, to be honest,
Just a dash of camp.
Make your way through the
Station turnstiles,
Our locomotive awaits,
And my word, it’s long
And throbbing.
My name is Robert Garnham
And this
Is In the Glare of the Neon Yak.

Mentioned in the Guardian, Telegraph, and on BBC Radio Five Live and Radio Two as having one of the funniest jokes of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, Robert Garnham returns with his new show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak.

Robert Garnham presents a poetical, theatrical spoken word piece set on a sleeper service on a cold night. Storytelling combines with comedy, poetry and spoken word as Robert tells the tale of a train full of circus performers, stalked through the night by a mysterious supernatural entity, the Neon Yak. Wordplay and whimsy abound in this brand new solo show.

Longlisted for the last three years as Spoken Word Performer of the year, and featuring on TV advertisements for a certain building society, Robert is proud to bring his new work to a venue near you.

Here’s a brief snippet.

In the Glare of the Neon Yak

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On not being in it for the money.

The moment I go on stage, I know what the audience are thinking. They’re thinking. now theres a man with a smug demeanour. There’s a man who’s not in it for the money.

There’s a man who forsakes the capitalist system and does not perform poetry for personal monetary gain.

Well let me tell you, I got books for sale.

I tried to write a poem about an old photocopier last night. It just wouldn’t scan.

I don’t need contraception. Poetry is my contraception. My poetry has helped me not sleep with more people than you can imagine.

So, what is poetry? Percy Bysshe Shelley said that poets are the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’. I suppose the ‘acknowledged legislators ‘ would be governments and town councils.

To be honest, I don’t think it would work. Have you ever seen a group of poets trying to solve a planning dispute?

I suppose it depends if they work in rhyme or blank verse.

Well, I think we’ll put the school next to the pool. And perhaps also the church hall.

The shopping centre. Hmmm, can’t think of where to put the shopping centre. I know! Let’s call it a mall, and then it can go with the school and the pool and the church hall!

The library. Hmm, has this town got an aviary?

The food waste refuse anaerobic digestion chamber . . . What the hell?

Mind you, judging by the high street in Swindon, it looks like the surrealists have already been at work.

So I’m a poet, and I get all kinds of weird commissions. Sometimes I think that my career is going nowhere. Sometimes I don’t.

I’ve recently been working as a Poet in Residence at a paper clip factory. It really is stationery.

I was supposed to do a workshop for a fear of commitment support group, but nobody put their name down.

The other night I was double booked, I was also meant to be at a gig for a group of amnesiacs. So what I’ll do is I’ll go along next week and remind them how good I was.

I’m actually looking for ways out into other lines of work and I think I’ve come up with a winner. I’ve decided to start up assertiveness training courses.

Because if it doesn’t work, nobody’s going to ask for a refund. They won’t be brave enough.

And if anyone does ask for a refund . . .

I can just say, well. There you go.

But poetry for me is a lot like sex. When it’s good, it’s very, very good and you wish it would never stop.

And when it’s bad, it’s just plain embarrassing. Although I do get roughly the same number of laughs.

The thing I like best about poetry is that it’s not all about profit and personal gain, it’s not a hugely capitalist enterprise, people aren’t in it to make a quick buck. And by the way, I’ve got books for sale.

On Roseanne and other cock-ups.

I know exactly how Roseanne feels. I’ve never taken Ambien, but I had some hay fever pills once which knocked me out, and I made some very disparaging comments about The Netherlands, which even now I deeply regret. I also once took a paracetamol – just the one, mind you – and I scowled at a bus driver.

I decided I would look back through history and see what else was caused by a dose of Ambien, and the results were quite astonishing. The destruction of the library at Alexandria was due to a particularly potent blend following nights of insomnia. Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. Ambien. The visitor from Porlock who ruined Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. Ambien. (Actually, the visitor probably saved millions of school kids from having to plough their way through another weighty epic, so that was probably a good thing). And that rapper. You know the one. Who made all of those homophobic tweets a couple of years ago. That was all down to eating a gone off plumb.

Once a set of occurrences has been put in motion, one never knows what the consequences might be. I took a vitamin pill this morning and I’m already watching what I say. Perhaps this blog is a result of it. Just a small amount of chemistry in our bloodstream, and we change entirely. And it’s amazing, how some pills make some people suddenly racist, whereas before they would definitely not show any such symptoms. Didn’t that Farage bloke once blame one of his social media rants as being a result of a lack of sleep? I’ve had a lack of sleep often, particularly when travelling, and never once become a Nazi. Perhaps it effects some people more than others. And poor Katie Hopkins, she must be kept up every night.

We all react differently when there’s something in our bloodstream. One only needs to hang around in Paignton on a Saturday night to see what the usual cocktail of booze and other substances has on the average person, turning a law abiding citizen into a ne’erdowell of the highest calibre. Those silly hats and stuffed donkeys that people come back from Spain with. Tattoos, acquired in drunken nights out, misspelling the names of fleeting loved ones. I once had a small white wine and then bought a Steps CD.

So I know how she feels. The fact that she constantly has to police herself from making silly comments in normal discourse and only forgets to do this when she’s had an insomnia pill demonstrates that a certain amount of social editing was always occurring. And that poor sap in the White House, my goodness, he must be very, very tired.

 

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Promotional video for my new solo show

Here’s a link to a short video I have made about my new show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak

https://youtu.be/VKEXMdGwDME

And the latest tour dates are as follows.

See you soon!

New York Poems

Here are some poems that I wrote on a trip to New York a couple of years ago. Gosh, I miss that place. Stay tuned to the end for a video I filmed on the roof garden of the Bowery House in downtown Manhattan.

New York 1.

They say that Manhattan is a state of mind
But I’ve looked on the map
And it’s definitely there.
It doesn’t stop,
Not even in the dead of night,
The rumbling, the growl,
Inexorable,
No wonder they look so angry.
I went into Starbucks at five in the morning
And there was already a queue.
Shuffling jittery city dwellers,
The insomniacs and the early risers,
The boy who cannot sleep in
The city that never sleeps,
Nothing more offputting than a
Mardy pre-caffeine New Yorker.
Don’t take coffee, I take
Well actually I do take coffee,
Thanks for asking,
And maybe one of those tarts.
I’m English, you know.
Sitting in the window and watching
The cyclists,
Weaving, open-mouthed.
Stop lights mean nothing to them,
Life seems so tentative,
These two-wheeled mosquitoes,
How many of them end up
Plastered on the front of those
Big-assed delivery trucks that you see,
Or some nobhead’s Humvee?
I thought the barista was only being nice
When he asked me for my name.
He repeated it with a smile, all
Rhotic on the consonants,
Elongating the vowels in a way
They don’t normally get pronounced,
Making my heart all fluttery
Until I notice he’d written it on my cup.
It’s the familiar things
That make me feel at home.
Crushing disappointment,
And the fact that they
Also have McDonalds over here.

New York 2.

I need one with a shot of espresso.
You’re the newbie, you’ll need this.
There’s a whole bunch of confidence there.
She never told anyone
But she likes attention.
She’s like that with every guy, trust me.
And then she can cut him out, say uh-oh,
It’s like oh, it’s bad, she’ll go far,
She got green locker room doors,
She won’t try to apologise.
I don’t have an issue with her.
Every time I told her she gave me the one two.
I used to consider you a friend
And I was your friend whatever.
(Found poem, three NYPD police women chatting in a coffee shop at the next table).

New York 3.

The way he’s sitting
And what he’s wearing
And his hair
Those are the definites.
His sensitive eyes
His long eyelashes and the
Way he just looked
At that jogger,
Those are the peripheries.
And the hoodie,
American Dance Theatre,
Alvin Ailey,
Whatever that is.
(I will google it later).
It’s all mostly symbolic
I feel
I know him.

New York 4.

She took my hand and danced with me
Amid the noise and clamour and cacophony
Of Times Square
As the skyscrapers whirled in their
Concrete and glass delirium,
She yelled
Above the engines and the horns and the
Shouting and the hooters and the sirens and the roar
And the buzz and the energy and the excitement
And the rush and the glee and the pulsing rhythms
Of the city in all its brash omnipotence,
Sorry,
I thought you were my husband.

New York 5.

(Amid the Abstract Expressionists, MoMa)
He, who isn’t here
Would have haunted these
Very pictures,
Broken nose to canvas
And a ready opinion.
Losing himself
In the Pollock
And it’s intricate action,
Felt a spark of the very now,
And would have known everyone
On first name terms.
Jasper. Jackson. Elaine. Robert. Mark.
The boy with the red trainers,
A sly flitting nonchalant phantom
Who will blond my dreams
With his purposeful demeanour
Right now here and
F would have approved.

New York 6.

I’ve only got one joke about denim.
A one liner about crinoline.
I’ve only got a couple of puns about nylon
And a quip about silk
Basically,
I’ve run out of material.

New York 7.

(Written in Tom’s Diner)
I wasn’t sitting near the window.
I was at the counter.
But it was still the diner on the corner
And the burger was mighty fine
On a drizzly Manhattan Saturday.
And there’s a ball game on the tv screen,
Notre Dame are playing NC State
And I’m not sure what the sport is
But they’ve all got helmets and shoulder pads.
There’s a picture from a magazine
Of Jerry Seinfeld on the wall and he’s
Kind of looking at me imperiously
As I eat my burger which,
As I said, is mighty fine.
I’ve got that tune in my head now,
You know the one.
The Seinfeld tv theme music.
I probably wouldn’t have come here
If it wasn’t for, you know,
These two things.

New York 8.

The Staten Island ferry
Everyone is merry
They’re all waving at me!
Am I a celebrity?
Have I been recognised?
Am I famous here?
No, they’re
Wiping mist from the windows
Of the inside seating area.
I’m depressed now.

New York 9.

She purred
Hold on there, honey,
I’ll just put you through
On to line number three.
There was barely a click.
No static.
She’s such a
Smooth operator.

New York 10.

I want to go out with Rhys.
I want to have a date with Rhys.
I want to spend quality time with Rhys.
I want to get to know Rhys.
I want to be with Rhys.
I want to make out with Rhys
I want to express my love for Rhys
I want to have relations with Rhys
I want to be at peace
With Rhys.
I say to Rhys
Please
Rhys
Please
Rhys
Please please please
Rhys Rhys Rhys
Rhys
Come on
Don’t be a tease
Put me at my ease
I haven’t got flees
You are the bees
Knees
Rhys
Rhys
What do you say?
Rhys
What of it, Rhys what of it, Rhys what do you reckon?
You and me Rhys please Rhys what do you think Rhys
Me and you Rhys you and me Rhys us together Rhys
Rhys
Us together Rhys us together Rhys us us us
Together together together
Rhys
Rhysie babes.
Please
Oh dear!
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys
Has called the police.

New York 11.

The big pancake. The big muffin.
The big nausea. The big nothing.
The broad one. The tall one.
The big fella. The concrete devotional.
The prostrate giant. The cosmopolitan.
The metropolitan. The big breakfast.
The all day lunch. The concrete funnel.
The distorted mirror. The seismic cherry.
The license to chill. The delicatessen.
The bad boy. The big bad boy,
Cavernous potholes so deep you’ll
Lose yourself for a week.
The big dependable. The three-way delicious.
The exuberant fruit. The hungry papa.
The pumping beehive. The big badger.
The big glacial. The big crazy.
The big security. The big despicable.
The big beat. The big Apple.

New York 12.

No ghost dance
On these gentle hills
Nor ceremonial gatherings
On the granite outcrops,
Central Park no wilderness,
Just the whisper of
Other people’s conquests
Too rooted in the now
To wander successfully.

https://youtu.be/cklyUKArFGo

Weird objects in the sky that I have seen.

Last night I watched a documentary about alien abductions. It was a terrible programme and it really did waste one hour of my life. However, it did remind me of the occasions in which I have seen weird objects in the sky which I’ve not been able to explain.

I am a logical person with an interest in science and aviation. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved aircraft and flying, and I grew up near Heathrow Airport. Because of this, I’d spend a lot of time looking at the planes flying over our house. I knew all the airlines and the different types of aircraft and could distinguish between, for example, the Boeing 747-200 and the Boeing 747-300.

In the late 1980s, my father and I both observed two bright lights in the sky to the west of our house. It was night time and the bright lights were stationery in the sky. They were brighter than the surrounding stars and perfectly parallel with each other. We observed these lights for a few minutes, and then, quick as a flash, they moved to a slightly different part of the sky, still to the west. Naturally, my scientific mind is eager to determine what these might have been. Geostationary satellites is my best guess, for they appeared to be a very long way up in the upper atmosphere. I’m sure that other people must have seen these, too.

The second weird thing I saw must have been also in the late 1980s. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was on the school playing field at break time, at the middle school I was attending. As normal I was doing a bit of plane spotting, when I saw an object floating directly above. It was metallic and reflected the sun from its sides, and triangular, slowly turning, so that the sun on its sides seemed to pulse. I watched it for quite a while, thinking, hmm, I bet they’ve got a good view from up there, and what a beautiful day to be flying, then thought no more of it. It was only when I grew up did I ponder in exactly what it might have been. My best and most boring guess is that it was some kind of helium filled balloon. But where would it have come from? It looked very solid.

The third thing that I saw already has a name and a catalogue of witness accounts. During a ferocious thunderstorm, again in suburban Surrey, a ball of lightning moved very slowly past my bedroom window. I remember it very distinctly, the way that the shadow of my window frame very slowly moved across the room, the way that my drawn curtains lit up with the light from the glowing ball very visible the other side of them. Indeed, this seems to run in our family, as my mother believes that she also saw ball lighting when she was a young adult, actually penetrating the walls of the room she was in at the time and passing right through as if it were a ghost.

And the last thing I saw was the weirdest. In the early 2000s I caught the passenger ferry from Torquay to Brixham across Torbay, again on a very clear, sunny day, only to see what can only be described as a thin sliver of metallic ribbon curling and floating through the sky across the bay, in a westerly direction. It seemed to curl and bend over itself as it moved and there were no obvious signs of propulsion, yet it was very clearly moving. My scientific mind pondered on what it could possibly have been, eventually settling on a Swarm Of Bees or some such insect, but it really did have solidity.

So these are the odd things I’ve seen during my life. I’m open minded as to what they might have been. I’m aware that some might assign them as being of alien origin, though I’m conscious that it might be almost impossible for anything to travel across the vast distances of space. I have never believed in aliens, or at least, in extra terrestrial entities.

I really like my nipples.

Poem

I really like my nipples.
They’re kind of parallel.
The man who delivered the pizza last night
Said he liked them as well.

I stare at them in the mirror
For hours and hours in end
Singing, look at them there
All nipply nipply ever so tripply
Skippitty dippity doo
Which is how I got banned
From Primark.

The distance between
Male nipples
Equates to the size of their you know what
Equates to the size of their you know what
Dean used to say to me,
Boy, yours are so close
They’re making me cross eyed.

Crumbs from my crusty cheese roll
Get flaked in the forest of my chest hair.
As I brush them off
I accidentally touch a nipple.
Oh yes, I shout,
I forgot I had those!
Hubba hubba.
It’s how I lost my job
As a primary school teacher.

The box full of penguin nipple tassels
I sent to the Antarctic
Was sadly returned unused
I just thought
They would brighten up the place.

I dipped my nipples in paint
And tried to use them to draw
A map of the London Underground.
The Swedish tourist said,
It’s ok, I’ve got a leaflet somewhere.

I call my left one ‘Wayne’.
The right one doesn’t really
Have a name
They both look the same
And what really is a shame
Is that I can’t bend down
And lick them.

Darts players have got them.
The man in the newsagents has got them.
My friend Pete says he’s got six.
The train conductor this morning said,
Show me your ticket,
And I said,
Show me your nipples
And he said
There’s only one tit on this train.

My left one is pierced.
It’s where I keep my keys.
I come and go with ease.
They jangle when I sneeze.

He asked me out!
He asked me out!
The man of my dreams
Asked me out!
I put my hand down my tshirt
And had a good fondle and thought
You know what?
I don’t really need him.
Lol.