Mr. Juicy – the script

Juicy

(Bing bong!)
British Falcon Flight 7633 to Norwich, now boarding at gate 6b.
This is the first call for British Falcon Flight 7633 to Norwich,
Now boarding at gate 6b.
Thank you.

(Bing bong!)
Could Mr Mozarella, travelling with Air Italy to the Po Valley,
Please make himself known to a representative of his airline.

(Bing bong!)
Air Beagle Flight 133 to Exeter, now boarding at gate 6a.
This is the first call of Air Beagle Flight 133 to Exeter,
Now boarding at gate 6a.
Thank you.

(Bing bong!)

I called him Mr Juicy.
I met him at the gate of an airport departure lounge.
He was flying to Norwich, I was flying to Exeter.
Our planes were delayed because a fuel transporter had
Broken down, diagonally, across gates 6a and 6b.
Nobody could move it.
The two of us, me and Mr Juicy, we looked out the
Terminal plate glass window.
He asked if I had a dry wipe marker.
Why?
So I can go in the toilets, he said,
Add my initials to the hourly checklist.
You know.
Just for a laugh.

No sign of any movement on the apron.
Men in high viz jackets stand around, dumbfounded.
Mr Juicy, all grins,
Sits across two soft cushioned seats.
I sit opposite from him and he watches
As I stare at the floor.
What are you doing?, he asks.
I’m looking at a small dot.
Part of the fleck effect of the tiled floor.
Concentrating on this insignificant dot.
Soon I’ll be hundreds of miles away and the chance
Of seeing this tiny dot again
Will be very small indeed.
You’re weird, he says,
But I like you.

And I liked him.

Rip up the afternoon with your sheer existence!
Batter the world with your beauty,
Show no resistance!
Like a soldier marching, marching,
Left, right,
You are
All right!

Like a porcelain hammer,
Like a grenade of love,
There is no grammar
For me to put into language
That I am made of love.
No longer
Afraid of love.

Let us be brothers in arms, primed to attack,
Let’s drill together, I’ll watch your back
Like two soldiers marching, marching
Perfect rhythm, perfect motion marching marching
Left right left right keep this up
All through the night.

You bludgeon me
With your masculinity
Batter me
With your beauty
Shatter me
You’re such a
Cutey
I want to be with
You, see

War zone decrepit and a scorch earth policy
To fight for love is the ultimate fallacy
Like a soldier
Marching marching
Into the inevitable
You can conquer me!

I’d lay down my arms.
Then lay down
With you
In my arms
If only
You would ask.

(Bing bong!)

We apologise for the slight delay to flights British Falcon 7633 to Norwich and Air Beagle Flight 133 to Exeter, currently awaiting boarding at gates 6a and 6b. This is due to . . .. Operational difficulties.

The driver of the stranded fuel transporter
Hops down from his cab, lands awkwardly,
And sprains his ankle.

(Bing bong!)

Could passenger Mr Mozarella, please make himself
Known to the Air Italy information desk, located
In the man terminal building,
Next to the Weatherspoons pub.

I tried not to look over at Mr Juicy too much.
I didn’t want him to think that I fancied him.
But then
I wanted him to know
That I fancied him.
Open, pleasant face and long, long legs, see them
Draped over the chair next to him,
Body-hugging white tshirt,
Purposefully unkempt hair,
The feint trace of stubble,
A ruffian with the soul of a poet,
Who’d just captured
The soul of a poet.

He said,
I watched that DVD the other day, you know the one,
The Neverending Story. But I’m suing the film company
Because it was only on for 118 minutes.

And another thing.
How come the logo for Universal Pictures
Is just of planet earth?

And how come
The Three Musketeers
Are called the Three Musketeers
When there’s four of them
And they don’t use muskets?

I smile, and laugh.
I want him to know that I’m, you know,
Not necessarily heterosexually configured,
But I don’t want to go too over the top.

Mr Juicy tells me about his mother.
She works at an old folks home, in the kitchen.
They have to perform miracles, he says,
They’re given a Chicken and told to feed
Thirty residents with it.
Rezzies, as those in the business call them.

If someone was not expected to live beyond the
Next evening, then their last meal would be
Rice pudding.
The solemn walk of death,
Carrying a solitary rice pudding from the kitchen
Through the dining room,
And all the rezzies wondering who it was who
Was going to be presented with it.
Poor Ethel.

Ethel looks down, sadly,
At her rice pudding.
Her whole life
Has led to this.

(Bing bong!)

This is another call for Mr Mozarella.
That’s Mr Mozarella,
Please make yourself known to the
Air Italy officials.
The manager is waiting to hear from you.
The head honcho.
The big cheese.

I like your . . . Body-hugging white t-shirt, I tell him.
Thanks, he replied.
Very fashionable, I continue, I’d wear one too,
But there are certain bodies which, you know,
Don’t look good hugged.
Everyone deserves a cuddle now and then, he replies.

Oh my goodness!

But like an idiot I say nothing,
And then when I do, I change the subject.
At school we had some weird fashions,
It was trendy in year eight to have a tin of
Mackerel fillets poking out of your shirt pocket,
You were nobody unless you had a
Tin of mackerel fillets in your shirt pocket,
The teachers would confiscate them,
They always looked so healthy, our teachers,
Must have been all that omega three,
And the poor kids, bless them, they’d go in
With these tescos own brand mackerel fillets,
Am I Rambling?

Everyone deserves a cuddle now and then, that’s
What he’d said, or did I imagine it?

I’m rambling.

He says,
My best friend is an astronomer.
He has been tracking a super massive black hole
For the last few years
Using mathematics and pure science to work out
It’s behaviour.
He’s calculated that a star fifteen times the size
Of the sun is heading straight towards it.
Can you Imagine? This gigantic star and this
Super massive black hole.
I said to him, what will happen to the star?
And he replied,
It will turn ever so slightly more red.

If the ultimate state of the universe
Is chaos, I say,
Then that makes me feel better
About the cupboard under the stairs.

Everyone deserves a cuddle now and then.

I say to him,
I’m really worried that one day I’ll
Slice a loaf of bread
And accidentally split the atom.

(Bing bong!)

Ladies and gentlemen, once again
We apologise for the delay at
Gates 6a and 6b.
The operating difficulties are
Ongoing.
Please accept,
For your listening pleasure,
The following mood-enhancing music.

MUSIC

Mr Juicy smiles, leans back his head and closes his eyes.
The sun comes out, lightly caresses his face.
He looks so pure.

Unblemished by life
Unworried by the immediate
Unhurried unsullied unruffled,
Pure.

Unfazed by the obvious,
Unmoved by the oblivious,
Unabashed, unapologetic, unholy.
Pure.

Unmasked by circumstance,
Undressed by my imagination,
Untainted, unfettered, unforgettable,
Pure.

Pure.
Like the mountain air is pure,
Like the morning of a new day,
Like the mind of a nun is pure.
Like a babbling brook from a glacier,
The glacier itself renown for its purity,
That’s how pure you are.

I bet you don’t fart much
And even if you did
The people near you would say, my god,
Did it just get purer in here?

You’re as pure as a summer rose
Ensconced in morning dew,
You’re as pure as the air
After a thunderstorms been through,
You’re as pure as a paperback
That’s totally brand new
The Big Book of Pure,
Bought it this morning,
That’s how pure you are.

(Bing bong!)

Mr Mozarella, are you there?
(Bing bong!)
Mr Mozarella?
(Bing bong!)
Mr Mozarella?
(Bing bong!)
(Bing bong!)
(Bing bong!)

Where am I?
You fell asleep, Mr Juicy says.
Does this count, I wonder,
If I tell people I’ve now slept with him?
What’s the latest?
They’ve stretchered the driver away.
Now they’re trying to move the fuel transporter.
Some fuel spilled out.
They’re trying to mop it up.

I tell him,
Just before my mother was born,
The cleaner came in the room,
Wrung the mop out the window of
The hospital,
The head fell off.
How’s that for an omen?

POEM

Oh, Mr Juicy.
Juicy perfection.
Millions of years of evolution,
Of chance and random occurrences,
Births, death, circumstance,
His parents needs and his fathers
Sperm going for it,
Winning the race,
To create him.

And for everything to align just right
And in just the right quantity and appeal
To the very depths of my own personal
Masculine preferences,
Perfect nose,
Perfect limbs,
Perfect eyebrows,
Perfect skin,
And for him to be here now,
This morning, a freak of
Airport scheduling and airline timetables,
Just here, just now,
Fortune like a peach so juicy.

But . . .
What right has he to be so gorgeous?
What has he ever done to deserve it?
Why not me?
Why not everyone who’s
Gazed in the mirror,
Felt nought inside but pale horror,
Wanted to change the world,
Wanted to be loved?

I’m attracted to him so much
That I almost hate him
With his witty conversation and his
Affected nonchalance
He chats to me not that he enjoys
The fact of my existence
Or that he wishes to impress me,
But merely because it is all so
Easy for him.

I mean nothing.
I am a momentary distraction.
He’s got a nice arse.
In half an hours time he’ll forget
I ever existed.
In half an hour
I’ll be thinking about
Lost opportunities.

(Bing bong!)
Lost opportunities,
(Bing bong!)
Hold on to him,
Memorise his face.
(Bing bong!)
Memorise his face
Because you’ll forget it quickly.
(Bing bong!)
Massive disappointment.
(Bing bong!)
This is the final call for
Massive disappointment.

Can you imagine what it would be like?
I mean,
The pressure to be constantly amusing,
Me and him, together forever,
Going through each day looking for anecdotes,
Something happens and you think,
Oh good, some new material.
I can’t wait to tell . . .
Jesus Christ,
I don’t even know his name!

(Bing bong!)
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your patience,

Comes the voice of doom,
Signalling the end of a romance,

We’re about to begin boarding flights
7633 to Norwich and 133 to Exeter
At Gates 6a and 6b,

Where the future will dissolve and crumble
Like an overlooked meringue

Please have your passport and boarding card
Ready for inspection.

That’s us, he says.
We’re on different planes, I point out.
I know, he replies.

Two parallel queues start to form at gates 6a and 6b. He
Gathers his belongings.

It’s been nice talking to you, I tell him.
Yeah, he says.
Yeah.

Two queues in tandem,
Shuffling forwards.
And I feel sick inside,
Incapable of telling him,
And stunted by social constrictions
That stand in the way of us
And a life together.

But I’d hate it.
Two queues shuffling forwards.
Is it not better, I tell myself,
To let him be.
To preserve it as the most perfect
Moment of all?
A love so deep that none was ever shared?

Two queues shuffling forwards.
He’s there in the corner of my eye,
And I’ll never see him again.
To know more now would spoil it forever.
I don’t even know his name.

Two queues shuffling forwards.
The skies await and with them
All is gone.

Bye, he says,
Smiling.
His queue is moving faster.

I’m momentarily distracted by a kerfuffle ahead.
I’m sorry, Mr Mozarella, the attendant says,
This isn’t your flight.
Exeter, Mr Mozarella.
No, not the Po Valley.
Exeter.

It holds up the queue, and when I look again,
He’s gone.
Mr Juicy has gone.
Through the gate and off to his plane
And things will never
Be the same.

It takes an age to sort out Mr Mozarella.
I trudge across the lonely windswept apron,
Giddy on more than just aviation diesel.
Up the steps of our Exeter bound plane.
I pause, briefly,
Looking back at the airport terminal
Hoping that he still might be there,
Waving, or even running towards me,
Across the concrete,
But he isn’t.
He meant so much,
And I meant nothing to him.
The wind ruffles my hair.
How transitory this life we all live
With its fleeting moments.

I’ll never find anyone else like him.
There were nights when I was so lonely
It seemed he dark itself were a million fingers
Pointing away from me,
My existence so transitory as to
Hardly be worth the breath.
Each moment a death.

I will survive this!
As long before I found my own solidity
That the love I had inside of me
I could share
Should still be there.

How many others will disappear,
Chance encounters and momentary infatuations,
Squandered beauty and sheer
Miscalculations, misread signals and a certain
Immobility deep set within,
That I should live to live to love
Rather than love itself
And forever remain
Hopelessly
Lonely.

Good morning, sir,
Welcome aboard.
My name is Josh.
I look up.
He’s the best looking
Cabin attendant I’ve ever seen.
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Best year of my life?

There’s about six hours of 2017 left here in Devon. And it’s a year which I really don’t want to end just yet as so many amazing things have happened. I know in the real world it’s been pretty naff for a vast number of reasons, but for me it’s been, without hyperbole, the best year I’ve had. The year started with appearing in indents for a certain building society which was incredibly surreal. I then was longlisted as Spoken Word Artist of the year with the Saboteur Awards. Next up I devised Juicy, which was always going to be a stop gap show showcasing different poems, and it got into various fringes. Performing at Edinburgh, Denbury and London at the Redgates Theatre were all highlights, and I had some amazing gigs in other places. On top of everything I finally went semi professional as a spoken word artist, doing corporate work and education work too, and then just when the year was ending, I had a book published and a couple of videos released in YouTube. It’s been an amazing year!

I’ve got so many projects pending. As well as the ongoing Zebra tour, I’ve got a one night performance of Juicy at the Bike Shed theatre on the seventeenth of January, a film project with film maker John Tompkins based on Beard Envy, and a new show which I’ve already written called In The Glare of the Neon Yak, which is set on a sleeper service from London to Edinburgh. Performance wise, I’ve started learning all of my material and I’m about to start working with a director. Things are very exciting!

Naturally, the year was made by the wonderful people I’m surrounded by, such as Melanie Branton for her advice and support, Mark Tunkin for everyday practical issues. It’s been an incredibly busy twelve months and there have been days where I’ve not known where I was heading, or why, catching trains, the whole thing being a bit of a blur. Sadly, I also lost two friends this year, both of whom were incredibly supportive of my work.

I’d like to wish everyone a fantastic 2018 and all the health, happiness, fulfilment and success you can grab!

Here’s a new poem.

Poem

Part One

Flat cap on, whiskers brushed,
His wife giving him a kiss at the
Door of their bungalow.
Have a good day, dear, she says.
There’s a packed lunch
In your satchel.
See you tonight, my love,
He says.
We’ll listen to Des O’Connor
On the wireless tonight.
He walks down the front path,
She watches him go.

Part Two

An eerie silence
Looms over the
Lingerie department.
He’s got his flask and
His camping chair,
His Daily Mail.
He’s set for the day,
Ensconced in the gap
Between the cut price knickers
And a dump bin of socks,
His own niche in the market.

The throbbing passion of moments sublime
In their inexorable rush between
All human desire
And the urges that certain men feel.

Part Three

In the 1950s he’d go to the barbers.
Something for the weekend, sir?,
They’d ask.
He thought they were offering him
A bus timetable.
And meeting his wife, Marge.
His father asked if she was called that
Because she spread like butter.
He thought that this was a reference to
Her technique for doing
The plastering.

Married in 1959,
He remained a virgin until 1973
And that was only because there
Was an incident
While she was giving him eye drops.
Ever since then
He always comes over
Unnecessary when he heard the
Word Conjunctivitis.
They didn’t get a TV
Until 2003
And the first thing he’d see
Was a woman in a bikini
Being sensuously doused
In lukewarm Ovaltine.

His false teeth
Shot out of his mouth and
Ricocheted off the
Sideboard.
The next day he ordered
A crate of the stuff.
Marge, he said,
Bung the kettle on.

Part Four

How proudly
Marge would tell her
Friends,
He’s still working
At his age
At the department store.

He tells her that
He’s a diesel fitter.

He holds up a pair of knickers
And says,
‘Dese’ll fit her!’

Part Five

You can do it,
He imagines the merchandise
Saying to him.
You can do it, Jim.
You can do it.
You can do it.
You can do it, Jim.
You can do it.
You can really really do it.
Such a great selection
Of support bras.

Part Six

This unsolicited assister,
This unpaid worker,
This societal resister,
This brazen lurker,
This flat capped octogenarian
Amid the Lycra spandex,
This persistent drooler
At the opposite sex.
This pleasure seeker
This knicker peeker,
This old man ahead of
Society’s curve,
This outright perv.
This troubled he
Amid the double Ds,
The birds and the bees,
The dogs and the cats,
This ghost in a coat,
This phantom amid the scats,
This downright fool
Amid the smalls
He wipes the drool
Away from his chin
He wipes the drool
Away from his chin
He wipes the drool
Away from the chin
His name is Jim.

Oh, Jim.
Oh, Jim.
Where do we begin
To obey those little voices from deep within.
Saying Jim, oh Jim,
Do just what you may
And spend another day
Surrounded by lingerie.
Way hay.

Part Seven

Another day done, he
Wipes the crumbs from his lap,
Folds up his chair,
Picks up his mack,
Bids the staff a fond farewell.

Marge has cooked him
A casserole.
As they eat, the clock ticks
On the mantelpiece.

This casserole
Is very nice, he says.
Yes, she replies,
Yes, it is.
It has been rather clement today,
Weather wise, he says.
Yes, she replies,
Yes, it has.
I see interest rates are
Remaining the same, he says.
Yes, she replies,
Yes, they are.
Then she leans close to him
And whispers,
I know where you’ve been spending
Your days.
The clock continues to tick
For at least two minutes.
This casserole
Really is first class, he says.
Yes, she replies,
Yes, it is.

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Zebra

My new book Zebra is out now! I’m hugely proud of it. I believe that it contains some of my best writing, and I can’t wait for other people to read it and let me know what they think.

Zebra is a book several years in the making. Not only does it contain more of my comedy poems including some old classics as well as newer pieces, but it also contains my more serious work as well as material from my two Edinburgh shows, Static and Juicy. It’s a layered, textured book, which really gets a grip on life and what it means to be alive. There are one or two deeply autobiographical pieces, dealing with growing up in the suburbs of Surrey, first love, school, as well as a poem written five minutes after learning of the death of David Bowie. There’s also plenty of merrymaking and whimsy, of course, playfulness and poetry.

So why is it called Zebra? There are several reasons, not least that it’s named after a poem of mine which I used to perform while sharing stage with a cardboard Zebra. At the Barnstaple Fringe a few years ago the cardboard Zebra started getting a bit ragged so a friend and and I went round the art and craft shops of Barnstaple to find some gaffer tape to fix it. On the way home from Barnstaple my friend’s car had its sump guard fall off, and the zebra gaffer tape saved the day! He used it to stick the sump guard back on. The other reason is that it’s a nod to one of my favourite groups, Yello, who had an album called Zebra. Everything I used to write at the time was done to that cd. I must have been about nineteen.

I’m enormously proud of Zebra!

You can purchase your copy wherever you see me, or here http://robertgarnham.bigcartel.com/product/zebra

Static : The Script

Hello,

Here’s the script of my first solo show, Static. It hasn’t got the poems in it, but I thought people might like to read the in between material.

It was performed on several occasions throughout 2016 and on one occasion in 2017 in Torquay, Exeter, Bristol, Edinburgh, Guldford and Totnes.

It was all a bit wobbly but I had great fun with it, and it was the mist autobiographical thing I’ve written.

STATIC
Robert Garnham

Robert is in the performance space with a small battery radio tuned loudly to static.

Poem : ‘Static / Wind’

I tell you what, it gives you the willies. 

Thinks about things for a while. Opens performance book.

Poem: ‘The Increasing Physical Dexterity of Justin Bieber’

2009.
Feeling so damn unique. There’s nobody like me in the world! That sensation of circumstance, geography and time being in just the right alignment to create me, and me alone. And there’s poetry in my chest, it’s beating away, pounding out strange rhythms with the absolute promise of being such an individual, that I might one say change society and make a real difference to the world!

Putting pen to paper. Oh, you brave poet! Your words will echo like an aftershock, an earthquake as time itself bends in on you with your uniqueness, like Lord Byron with a megaphone, Wordsworth with an attitude, Ted Huges on the ten o clock news shaking his fists at convention.

2016
Seven years of writing poetry and discovering that there’s nothing really unique about me after all.

Seven years of writing poetry about minor trips out to the dentist, mild personal discomfort and vacuum cleaners. Seven years of looking in the mirror every morning and saying, Yeah, that’ll do. Seven years of my work being compared to that of John Betjeman, usually by people who say things like, ‘His work is not as good as that of John Betjeman’.

Seven years static. A life spent going nowhere.

(Sit)

I want this show to be one of those worthy shoes, you know, where you learn all about me as a person and all of my shortcomings. I suppose my first shortcoming is that I was born in Surrey, a county so bland and so irrelevant that absolutely nothing newsworthy or interesting has ever happened there. And that’s a fact. Look it up in the history books, if you like. Nothing interesting has ever happened in Surrey. My birth there in 1974 coincided with the resurfacing of the Guildford bypass, whereas here in the same year you of course had the Olympics. Oh, and later that year my aunt saw a badger.

I was brought up with this sense of low expectations and the absolute blandness of existence. Even my name is boring. Robert Garnham. I sound like an estate agent. I like to think that I was named after my dad’s favourite singer, Bob Dylan, who is of course, Robert Zimmerman, and this at least makes me a little bit excited about being called Robert. But at the time I was born my aunt worked in the factory making Robert’s Radios in Molesey. I can imagine the decision-making process that led to my parents choosing such a boring name.

(Improvised family conversation involving Robert’s Radios).

Robert sits in the chair as his own mother while feeding a baby, presumably Robert. He stands to indicate when his father is speaking.

I suppose I got off lightly. My Uncle worked for a fork lift truck company called Lansing Bagnall.

Robert builds a theremin on the table out of a corn flakes packet, two Wellington boots, a tape machine. He plays the theremin.

Let’s try and . . .

The tape machine interrupts him. Improvised silliness with the tape machine.

School was hell.

Poem : ‘2 Abbey 1’

(Stand)

I grew up in a house on a hill. Three generations, six of us in a two-up, two-down cottage surrounded by woods in the hills of Surrey. From the back bedroom window at night I could see the whole of West London. In the evenings I’d tune my radio through the static to the jazz stations, sit there for hours in the heat and the humidity of the sticky forest Surrey summer, and gaze at the neon and the road signs and the motorway lights.

Poem: ‘The Prince of Belgium’

Apart from being gay, that was.

(Sit).

And oh, mamma! I was very gay. I was probably the gayest thirteen year old that Surrey had ever seen. Yet my whole suburban mindset dictated that I should stay in the closet and not tell anyone because this was Surrey and people didn’t really want to know about such things, they were too busy buying bowler hats and going to wife swapping parties and voting for weird Conservatives and because of that I thought there was something wrong, a strange error in the system which just affected me. I knew that everything had to change but the time was never right.

It took a few years, and I came out to my friends first. They were surprisingly supportive, but at the same time they were incredibly surprised. Even though I’d been the gayest thirteen year old that Surrey had ever seen. You see, by the time I was twenty, I was a completely different person.

In fact, it still comes as a complete surprise when people discover that I’m one of those gay people that you hear about. I think, personally, it’s because I’m so macho, and manly, and tough, and masculine, and something of a hard nut. I think, basically, it’s because I’m a stud.

(Stand).

Though to be honest, I’ve always felt like a gay man trapped in the body of a bus driver.

I always wonder what my friends thought about that whole gay thing.

Poem : ‘Not Flamboyant’

I was set up on a blind date suggested by mutual friends and we hit it off immediately. At the time I was a part time shop assistant, and he was a trampoline salesman. Looking back now I see that he was incredibly patient with me. In fact he even said that it was what inside that counts, and that to him looks weren’t . . .

Hmmm.
Come to think of it, he charged me twenty quid.

Poem : ‘The First Time’

So I came out. And I had oodles of sex. And I masturbated a hell of a lot. It’s hard to believe looking at me now but when I was 18 to 20 I was a very attractive young slip of a thing with a trendy haircut and a face lit up with the evident joys of life. I always wondered what my first partner would be like and I would daydream about the usual ones, bearing in mind that this was the early 1990s. Peter Davison from Doctor Who, or Chesney Hawkes, or for some weird reason, foreign secretary Douglas Hurd. My first proper partner was a young man called Jamie, a slightly taller, thinner version of Lance from Neighbours. He invited me back to his place ostensibly to show me his collection of Star Trek memorabilia. I knew it was about to get really interesting when he took me up to his bedroom to let me see his collection of phasers.

Poem : ‘Jamie’.

Oh, when I look back on it now it’s like I was doing it all the time. But as I’ve got older, I’ve shown less and less interest in these matters. Things have slowed down. I’ve slowed down. I’ve become static.

I feel like there’s this sense that my life is going nowhere. I’m now officially middle aged and there’s a huge list of things that I’ve never done.

(The list is written on cards. Robert dances and improvises as he unveils them).

I’ve never bought a house.
Learned to drive.
Fallen in love.
Had a promotion.
Earned the respect of my contemporaries.
Had a jacket dry cleaned.
Hosted a barbecue.
Owned a sofa.
Walked a dog.
Got married and had kids.
Bought a round in a pub.
Used a power drill.
Been arrested.
Paid a bribe to council bin men.
Used an axe.
Slapped a yak.

When I look at my life I’m tempted to think that I haven’t done much with it. I don’t have a fancy job or a nice big house or a big throbbing monster of a car. In fact all of the things that seem to drive successful people seem to have passed me by.

And I’m ok with this.

It lets me concentrate on the important aspects of living, like sleeping and biscuits and buying hair gel.

Here’s a diagram to illustrate my thinking on this.

(Improvised diagram and flip chart section).

I’m about as camp as an oak tree. I’m about as flamboyant as Ryvita.

(Look left and right as if imparting a secret).

Yet I see wonder and amazement everywhere. I watched a documentary once in which it was pointed out that the echoes and shockwaves from the Big Bang which created existence itself can still be heard as static on a radio receiver. The idea of this has always interested me immensely. I may be just a poet, but I’ve always wanted to probe the origins of life and existence and make my own little mark on the world. The work of the large hadron collider, I believe, will ultimately shed new light on the mysteries of the universe, and I try to muck in and help where I can.

So for you, ladies and gentlemen, and for science in general, and for deeper understanding, I’m going to construct a large hadron collider right now, right here, on stage.

Robert takes a length of garden hose, a camera, a biscuit on a plate, and attempts to create a black hole by smashing atoms together in the garden hose. He finishes by holding up photos on his ipad of the resulting smashed atoms.

Of course, I would need a proper scientist to tell me what this all means.

It’s all connected. Everything is connected. Time and memory, light and shade, and all those atoms spinning around, radio signals from the original Big Bang, and me, me as a young man with all that wonder and amazement, I’m still that person only I’ve channelled it all elsewhere, the parts of it that haven’t been ground down by the finer detail of living, every now.

Yet I’m also aware that the world I live in is freer and more open and accepting than other parts of the world, and that’s what this next poem is about.

Poem: ‘The Doors’
Poem: ‘Badger in the Garden’

Robert performs the performance piece ‘Static’ which starts with the radio being switched on again.

The whole piece is delivered with the radio on. At the end of the piece, Robert packs away all of the paraphernalia and sits on the chair with the radio in his lap. He turns it off.

How Sultry the Night that is Ours

I was coming back from a gig in Taunton last night and I had to change trains at Newton Abbot, with a  half hour wait. So I decided to set up my camera and film this, the poem I’d spent two weeks learning. I didn’t realise that the waiting room was next to the station office with staff still in there, but hey, I’m sure they enjoyed it!
https://youtu.be/9k72hubbjRg

Duck fight.

The other day I came through the park
And there was a duck fight,
Two male ducks going at it,
Quacking in the most boisterous manner
And flapping their wings.
Duck fight.

When people are insulted and they don’t care,
It’s said to be water off a duck’s back.
When ducks are insulted they
Are less inclined to be poetically philosophical.
They don’t take it lying down.
They don’t lie down.
I stood at the pond and I pointed and laughed
At the fighting ducks.

One duck was up for it.
The other was a well ‘ard mallard.
One duck showed a lack of respect.
He was pecked
By the other duck.
It was like watching Daffy arguing with Bugs
Only it was two Daffies
And nobody had a carrot.

A woman walked past and I said,
Duck fight!
She looked at me weird
And quickened her pace.

Peck flap quack flap peck flap quack.
Quack peck flap flap peck peck flap.
Flappity flappity peckerty perkerty
Quackety quackerty quack.
Peck flap quack flap peck flap quack.
Moo.
There was a cow nearby.

It made the pond
Awfully turbulent.
It was all kicking off.
I expect at the end of the fight
They would’ve both been cream quackered.

Wait for laughter.

I wondered what had started it.
Perhaps a transaction gone wrong,
A dispute with the bill.
Perhaps they were playing snooker
And one of them did a fowl shot.
Perhaps one of them said quack,
And the other replied,
I was going to say that.
Perhaps they were fighting over a chick.
Perhaps someone threw a frisbee
And shouted, duck!
But instead of ducking the ducks looked up
Because they were both ducks.
Perhaps it was none of these things.
Perhaps one of them
Made a wise quack.

I wanted to stop it.
I wanted to stop the duck fight.
But it’s never a good idea
Just to wade in.

I wrote in my diary that night,
I wrote,
And they’ve info the firmament of my rigid
Imagination,
Forgoing all but the sweetest dreams
Of nature divine and the privilege of
Which I have been thankfully prone,
Did I espy, in the park,
A duck fight.
Also, I went to Lidl and bought some fish fingers.

In the eighties I invented an
Alternative to My Little Pony.
It was called
My Little Duck
It was a My Little Pony
With the nose sawn off and a beak
Welded on.
It had too many legs.
Which gave it stability but was
Anatomically incorrect.

The park ranger put
His hand on my shoulder and said,
Just let them get on with it, son,
Let them sort it out between them,
And I said,
Why have you got your hand
On my shoulder?
And he said,
Why don’t you come back to my shed
And watch some duck fight DVDs with me?
And I said,
Ok.

On learning poetry from memory.

I’ve spent the last week learning a new poem. This might not seem like the most startling revelation from a spoken word artist, it’s what they do. I know lots of my poems from memory, especially the short ones or the ones which rhyme, a process I started when I got an eye problem and had difficulty in reading the book on dark stages. What makes this one different is that it’s a brand new poem which I haven’t yet performed.

I have a shocking memory for learning material. A long while ago I was in a play at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, it was a production of Sarah Kane’s Crave, and it felt almost impossible to learn because none of the lines made any logical sense compared to the line before it. I can’t remember how I managed to do it in the end.

The reason I’ve learned a new poem is that I’m taking part in a theatre writing showcase in London tomorrow and the director wants the poem to be performed from memory. So I’ve spent the last two weeks learning it, and using all kinds of techniques to make sure that the lines go in. So what I’ve been doing is making crazy associations between the end of one line and the start of the next.

For example:

. . .when he gets distracted by the cricket results.

So we’re walking on the beach, me and Brandon . .

I visualised cricket on the beach.

For ‘butt blocks in the rigging,
Man the head!’

I visualised someone getting their head caught in the rigging of a ship.

And for ‘whales both hump back and sperm,
First mate officers . .’,

I visualised . .
Well, someone would really have to be your mate to do anything with them and sperm.

I’ve also been practising the poem all the time, in the shower, at the gym, in the sauna, and while walking through town. I must have looked like something of a loony, walking along and mouthing words to myself, but it’s working. The poem is currently locked in place and I’m feeling rather pleased.

So the next step, of course, is to memorise a whole hour show. A three minute poem took two weeks, so a sixty minute show should take . . . Well, it should be ready by 2018!

Here’s the poem:

Poem

It must be hot,
My mars bar’s turned to mush,
The sound of melting tarmac
In the late night hush.
Bread in the packet has already turned to toast,
My neighbours pet chicken is now a Sunday roast.
Now I don’t like to boast,
Because I’ve got Brandon, oooo, Brandon
Basking on my bed in his boxers,
Both of us pining for something fresh
Other than the obvious
Like the steering freeze of truth,
The cool, cool wash of contentment,
Or a vanilla ice cream.

Bung a flake in it, good fellow.
Bung a flake in that thing!
Grab it, twist it, thrust it in,
Now how much do I owe you?

We’re making our way through this
Seaside town now, me and Brandon,
He’s promised something hot and long and sticky
The moment we get back.
It’s been years since I had a kebab.
Past shop clad shutters and graffiti denouncing
Tracey as a slag,
To the neon buzz moth hub
Of the prom prom prom
Tiddly om Pom Pom
Last night in bed he said
It isn’t  very long
Tiddly om Pom Pom
And it’s very limp.

And I said,
It’s seen a lot of tourists over the years
And it’s prone to erosion
And longshore drift.
Half of it was swept away
By a giant squid.

The rash on the side of my neck
Is caused by Brandon’s stubble as if scrapes
Sandpaper scrapey sprapey scrape
When he gets distracted by
The cricket results.

And now we’re walking next to the beach and his face is
Lit up like that of a cartoon ferret on a box of cheap own brand
Rice Krispie knock offs
The spoon filled with ricey goodness
Hovering inches from his cavernous gob 

And the salt air late night sea breeze
Caresses our manly frames
Imbuing in us all kinds of nautical hi jinx
Naval seriousness, merry little frigates,
Dolphin blowholes, bottom feeding mullets,
Whales both humpback and sperm,
First mate officers, salty sea dogs,
Able bodied seamen, bow thrusters,
Butt blocks in the rigging, man the head,
Bump head gurnards and bottle nosed lumpsuckers.
And chub.

Do you see the ice cream van?
Do you see the ice cream van?
An oblong of light spilled out on the
Sand flecked concrete,
It’s refrigeration generator
Throbbing the sir with a sudden intensity,
Chugga chugga chugga
Do you feel it throbbing away there?
Chugga chugga chugga
Window stickers advertising all kinds
Of things to lick and nibble and crunch down on
Cool and ever so creamy.

The moon beams on high like someone from Dorset.
In the glow of it’s madness we dance.
Oh, Brandon, I want to do things
To certain bits of you
For most of the night,
Though I’m conscious you’ve got an early shift
At the Lady Remington Smooth N Silky
Cordless Rechargeable Hair Removal Facility factory
And the ice cream man,
Oh,
The ice cream man,
Did I mention he’s also a magician?
A sparkle in his eye,
He starts waving his magic wand at us, and

Poof!

All is gone.
The ice cream man is gone.
The ice cream van is gone.
The neon and the stats are gone.
And Brandon is gone.
None of them ever existed.
It’s just me, and the prom
On a sultry night in a sleepy coastal town,
And the kebab shop is closed,
And the rash on my neck
Is just a fungal infection
And Tracey is still a slag, apparently,
And I walk sadly home,
I walk sadly home.

We’re sending our thoughts and our prayers.

Hey there Mister President, it’s happened again,
What shall we tell our tax payers?
We could jump into action, but action costs money,
Let’s send out our thoughts and our prayers.

Guess what, Mister President, a hideous happening,
World leaders and other big players
Have pledged their assistant, so I guess that means
We can just send our thought and our prayers.

Omg Mister President, you’ll never guess what’s
Been committed by some mad doomsayers,
We could be brave. Or perhaps just cave
In and send our thoughts and our prayers.

An island community hit by a hurricane
Melting ice and sea level layers
We could put a stop or just contribute
But let’s just send our thoughts and our prayers

The vocal minority is righteous and loud
And they foam and they spit, they’re such bayers,
For mercy for those who think that they know
So let’s just send our thoughts and our prayers

When the obvious is called for and various choices
Deep thinkers and other conveyors
Can make such great changes and go with their hearts
So we’ll send them our thoughts and our prayers

It’s hard to seem righteous when appearing so wrong
It’s hard to seem like a soothsayer
But acting with solemnity and a smidgen of balls
And the tiniest amount of knowing bravado
And the minimum amount of presidential clout
And not even sending out thoughts
And not even sending out prayers
But just the expression,
‘We’re sending our thoughts and our prayers’
At least makes it look like all of the above.

You’ve got a golf match
At two o clock, by the way.

My novel ‘Reception’, a brief excerpt

Hello.

Here’s the first few pages of my novel, Reception.
If you’d like to read the rest of it, it can be purchased here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robert-Garnham/e/B005WVXA1I/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_6?qid=1505720519&sr=1-6

One

The hotel towers. It gleams and it glowers, and it shimmers in multicoloured neon thrown up from the shops in the street below. Cars on the raised overpass roar unseen, the sounds of their engines amplified, funnelled by the concrete, while the skyway itself shudders on its precariously spindly legs. Spirit cars. Ghost engines. Oblivious to the hotel with its thirty-seven storeys of imagined corporate opulence. And those obligatory red flashing beacons, flashing, flashing, one on each corner on the very top floor of the building. Here I am. Try not to collide with me.

Two

I pull my suitcase through the revolving door and into the foyer. It is a vast space, purposefully mesmerising and almost laughably opulent. Gold fittings, leather sofas and granite walls subsume all feeling beneath a level of numbness which must surely have been the intention of the architect. There is a waterfall in the middle of the room, a real waterfall with rocks and running water and a plunge pool, and plants and trees and goldfish. The floor is so polished as to appear like glass and it reflects back the light from crystal chandeliers which hang at an equal distance, like jellyfish suspended in the sea. I recognise immediately that certain needs and ideals have been mistranslated, designed into something quite advanced from any conception of comfort, or perhaps it is the aim of the hotel to be snooty enough to acknowledge those who might be put off by its overbearing demeanour. Or maybe I am too tired to take the place seriously.
Yukio smiles, politely. She hovers behind the reception desk, a desk so vast as to cover an entire wall. It dwarfs her. Her business suit also dwarfs her. And the night, and the city both seem to obliterate her entirely. She smiles as I approach and she seems to frown ever so slightly at my clothing before correcting herself. I have been travelling through the night and my trousers and shirt have not fared well either from a grabbed aircraft sleep or from mealtime turbulence. I give her my name and my passport and my booking confirmation details, at which point she taps the details into her computer, then frowns and apologises in broken English.
‘Perhaps’, she suggests, ‘You are on the other system’.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Sorry. But you must be on the other system. I will try the other system’.
I sense a problem, but I am tired and I can feel the night stretching out its hands towards me. Flying east has robbed me of a whole day’s sunlight and the resulting darkness when I landed had been unexpected as if I had been cheated by geography. She consults her computer again.
‘Am I on the other system?’
‘Sorry. You are not on the other system. Maybe I should try the first system again’.
‘How many systems have you got?’
‘We have one system’.
She apologises once again.
‘I check the first system a third time and now I check the second system. Sorry. But I must check’.
She does so. I step back from the reception desk. I recognise the song being played over the tannoy in the foyer, a rare pop ballad from the nineteen eighties that I have not heard for a very long time. Either the group is more popular in this country, I tell myself, or it is the most incredible coincidence that a song I once cherished and then forgot should be played at this moment, this exact, strange, odd moment.
‘You are not on the first system or the second system’, Yukio announces.
A sinking sensation deep inside. The singer of the pop ballad laments city weather in a mournful, slow voice which hints at something other than the usual decrepitude. The sparkle and the rain, eternal disappointment, the idea that things are never what they seem to be.
‘Are you saying that you have no record of my booking?’
‘Sorry. We will find your details. We will give you room now, you can pay for it when you book out’.
‘But I have already paid. That’s why I brought these papers with me, to show you that I have a booking’.
‘Maybe it is with another hotel’.
‘But this is the address of your hotel, yes?’
‘Yes’.
‘Then why would I be in another hotel?’
‘Sorry. There has been. Mistake. Perhaps we make mistake. Perhaps you make mistake’.
‘How many hotels in this city are called ‘Castle Hills’?’
‘Only this one. But sorry, perhaps there is mistake’.
‘Why would I fly to the other side of the world and come to this hotel if I were not staying here?’
‘I. Maybe. Check the system’.
Yukio seems to shrink even further inside her uniform. The onerous roar of the reception area fountain seems to echo television static, a technological breakdown, a heightened sense of alert where comfort should have been.
‘Maybe’, she says, ‘Maybe I let you stay here. But we sort out problem. We sort it out, and then perhaps you will pay for the room. That is the best decision. That you stay now and then pay in the morning if the problem is not sorted out. And perhaps doing this will sort out the problem’.
‘But I’ve already paid for the room’.
‘Our records. I’m sorry. The system is adamant’.
‘Why would I pay a second time?’
I start to feel a little bit angry. And yet I know that it is not her fault. It is quite possible that a mistake has occurred.
‘Our system seldom fails’.
‘Can you keep trying?’
She does so. She taps away on the computer for a very long time. I wonder if she is only doing it to satisfy me. I try to crane my neck to her side of the desk in case I am somehow able to aid her. Every now and then she stops typing and looks at the screen, her hand poised above the mouse as if unsure of what to do next.
‘Have you found me yet?’
‘No’.
‘On either of the systems?’
‘I have checked both systems. Two systems. And also the back-up system. No. You are not here’.
‘Pardon?’
‘You are not here’.
‘So you have three systems?’
‘No, we have only the one system’.
‘What can I do?’
‘You can stay’, she says.
She taps again at the computer. The same song is still playing from the reception area speakers. I’d never realised how long it was.
‘I can stay?’
‘Yes. You stay. But you must pay. Because you are not here’.
It has been a long day and I feel tired. Yukio looks up from her keyboard, nervous, hardly able to look me in the eye. But then she steals herself, reaches down to a drawer underneath the counter and passes me a form.
‘Fill this in, Sir. And credit card details. Because you must pay for the room. You are not here at the moment. Fill in the form and then you will be here’.
I let out a sigh.
‘Fine’.
I fill out the form. It requires all kinds of information. Passport number, credit card details, information for which I have to fumble in my luggage to find. At last I hand them back to her. The song is still playing in the background. It must be an extended edition, I tell myself.
She taps into her computer.
‘You are here now. You are on the system. Maybe this is why you were not on the system. Because of the forms’.
‘But you will look for me, wont you? You’ll look for my original booking?’
‘Yes, I look, Sir’.
‘And if you don’t find it?’
‘Whatever happens, you are here. But if you are here twice, then you will not pay again’.
‘You will check all of the systems?’
‘There is only the one system’.
I sense a hard edge lurking beneath Yukio. Obstinately, she effects the will of the Castle Hills Hotel. She is a product of its methods, a functioning part of its mechanism and yet, faced with an error, she cannot help but resort to its baser corporate instincts, the procurement of cash. The city wants to spit her out. The city closes itself off, with its light and its dark and its motorway flyovers. Yukio is its only interface.
I am too tired to argue further. She issues me with a card key and asks if I might need a porter to help me with my luggage to a room on the twenty second floor. I sense that she is dealing with me, mechanically, logically, ridding herself of one part of the problem before dealing with whatever mistranslation has eradicated all of my booking details.

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