Neighbours by Mike Jenkins

Yesterday, the children made the street

into a stadium; their cat

a docile audience. As they cheered

a score it seemed there was a camera

in the sky to record their elation.

Men polished cars, like soldiers

getting ready for an inspection.

Women, of course, were banished

from daylight: the smells of roasts merging

like the car-wash channels joining.

Today, two horses trespass over boundaries

of content; barebacked, as if they’d just

thrown off the saddle of some film.

They hoof up lawns – brown patches like tea-stains.

A woman in an apron tries to sweep away

the stallion, his penis wagging back at her broom.

I swop smiles with an Indian woman, door to door.

These neighbours bring us out from our burrows –

the stampede of light watering our eyes.

 

By Mike Jenkins

from Empire of Smoke

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Storm Awst by Gillian Clarke

The cat walks. It listens, as I do,

To the wind which leans its iron

Shoulders on our door. Neither

The purr of a cat nor my blood

Runs smoothly for elemental fear

Of the storm. This then is the big weather

They said was coming. All the signs

Were bad, the gulls coming in white,

Lapwings gathering, the sheep too

Calling all night. The gypsies

Were making their fires in the woods

Down there in the east…always

A warning. The rain stings, the whips

Of the laburnum hedge lash the roof

Of the cringing cottage. A curious

Calm, coming from the storm, unites

Us, as we wonder if the work

We have done will stand. Will the tyddyn,

In its group of strong trees on the high

Hill, hold against the storm Awst

Running across the hills where everything

Alive listens, pacing its house, heart still?

 

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial, (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)


Fun facts:  Glossary: Welsh = English

Awst = August

Storm Awst = August storm

tyddyn = [farm] smallholding

Hireling by R. S. Thomas

Cars pass him by; he’ll never own one.

Men won’t believe in him for this.

Let them come into the hills

And meet him wandering a road,

Fenced with rain, as I have now;

The wind feathering his hair;

The sky’s ruins, gutted with fire

Of the late sun, smouldering still.

 

Nothing is his, neither the land

Nor the land’s flocks. Hired to live

On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth

With cats and hens, he has lost all

Property but the grey ice

Of a face splintered by life’s stone.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Tares (1961)

The Cat and the Sea by R. S. Thomas

It is a matter of a black cat

On a bare cliff top in March

Whose eyes anticipate

The gorse petals;

 

The formal equation of

A domestic purr

With the cold interiors

Of the sea’s mirror.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)

I Saw A Mouse Set Cheese Traps by Mike Harding

I saw a mouse set cheese traps

One morning after tea.

A fly read the flypaper

And though it seemed strange to me,

A cat burglar was stealing dogs

And right across the street

A lollipop man was being licked

From his head down to his feet.

by Mike Harding

The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race 2015

The Oxford-Cambridge boat race. Big day. The women’s team, for the first time in the history of the event, not only row the same course as the men’s team but also on the same day. This is reported as if some great achievement has been made but it only serves to demonstrate how backwards these elite academic institutions are and how they indoctrinate the best and brightest of each generation into maintaining the old, if now ancient, status quo of conservative mentality. Other events had made such changes for equality decades ago but these icons of prestige now expect to be congratulated and lauded on having finally done this rather than offhandedly informed it was about time so they know their place.

The announcer at one point, after Cambridge’s loss, declares something to the effect that he couldn’t think of anything worse than this loss they have suffered. Cancer. Acknowledging you will never achieve your dreams. Death of a loved one. Witnessing first-hand the decline of someone mentally day after day until no glimmer of hope is left that they will be the person you knew and all you are left with is a stranger you are responsible for. Death of a child you raised. Knowing that you will never belong anywhere no matter how much effort you make. Loss of hope. Racism. War. Ignorance. Elitism. Prejudice. Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. No there is nothing worse than losing this boat race which in no way affects the careers of the people involved. What they suffered was a momentary tarnishing of pride. The announcer reiterates that they have been studying and exercising. If only we lesser mortals had such dedication to improvement but alas we are but the lesser order concerned with base matters of surviving day to day unaided by the wealth accumulated by our ancestors nor the grants offered by government which often are gone within the first few weeks as students prioritise establishing social connections (which ultimately will serve them far better than their academic achievements) than budgeting and establishing their tuition.

It is mourned that the women’s team has had to make do with a lean-to in which to practise. This is stated over footage of them sat in a row on top-of-the-line rowing machines practising in synchronised motions within the confines of a well-lit, immaculate, gym. Truly there is no humanity that they are forced to train in such inadequate conditions. At such a rate some common person with wooden shovels tied together, just doing the motions of rowing while sat on their council flat floor as the mould clinging to the windows and water stains, brown like diarrhoea, descending the wall may have a chance at competing with them. Neptune, Poseidon, all gods of the waters will you not aid your daughters in their hour of need? Rather than those in true need let us raise alms unto this sisterhood forged in rowing! Let not one moment more pass in which they strain unnecessarily emitting sweat using the obsolete equipment which had led their predecessors onto victory and achievement previously in less enlightened times. Let carbon fibres be formed, let electronic readouts herald their speed and calories burned. But let not the effort of training show upon their brows, for lo, are they not but women? Do they not know their place and now expect to be considered equal unto their menfolk? Truly a lean too is less than inadequate to these goddesses of galoshes, these muses of the mind, these Amazonians of academia! Give them their custom built training resort and let the lesser people of weak flesh rot for only those of perfection in form and figure should be made into living gods cascaded with a cornucopia of offers and made not to suffer the indignity of we lesser beings. No do not entertain that the disabled, the poor, those unfamiliar with the proper order of things need more aid and this allotted money could ease their desperate burden. Nay I say and nay again! Those who excel, even amongst those who already are proving themselves amongst the best of us, should only be given more and more than expected to endure the strain of physical training and suffer the indignity of hard work as might be expected of others when training. Where is the ever present medical staff? Where is the cool chamber so they may train more efficiently? The masseuse? The dietician? The personal assistants? Man cannot live on bread alone and these paragons of virtue cannot be expected to train hard to achieve, as the lesser orders would, but should have every boon money may buy so not an ounce of their effort is wasted.

The captain of the victorious Oxford men’s team ascends the stage. A blonde giant of a man, legs like tree trunks, chest like a barrel, mounts the stage as if it was a step and holds the gigantic trophy as though it were a baby’s feeding cup. Sir Steve Redgrave, 6 foot 4 inches, 36th greatest Briton ever according to the BBC, 5 time gold medal winner, Britain’s greatest Olympian and a rowing demi-god made flesh stands next to this successor of his legacy, cup in hand ready to hand over the reins unto the captain ceremonially. The announcer declares the captain a meek man as he speaks in booming, confident, tones that echo across the river’s waves and can be heard by those upon the other shore without the aid of microphones. As the fountain of champagne his team mates douse him in cascades off his form, the likes of which ancient Greek sculptures would immortalise and poets celebrate, truly there can be no lesser an image of modesty and restraint as he lifts the trophy aloft and casts it carelessly aside to one of his lesser team mates as the midget cox man looks lovingly if not longingly up, from the monolithic shadow drowning him, at his captain’s Herculean visage is framed, in shiloette, by the sun’s light. This is no rowing captain. This is a saint in the flesh whom we should all aspire to be akin to. Including the ill-fitting wellies.


The boat race was a nice event despite my vitriol. It was more about the mindless ramblings of the announcers making out everything was such a great struggle when this boat race is more about friendly completion between the two academic institutions than being a serious sporting event. Everyone seemed to have fun although Cambridge lost they seemed to take it in good their stride. A ‘nice day out’ sort of gentlemanly event. It is just unfortunate that because the BBC were reporting on it for so long prior to the event they ended up having to fill the air time with ill informed rambling and supposition. Inevitably it becomes a lot of didactic rhetoric embellishing any minute piece of known information rather than being able to give concise, enlightening, information in preparation of the event. The competitors are not professional athletes with established, recorded in detail, careers to comment on admittedly so perhaps, as it is a once a year event, they could have discussed the history of the race or some better form of preparation for the announcers to fill the time would have been adviseable rather than rely on them to fill it on their own with small talk. Everyone seemed to have had fun though so overall it was good coverage with all the technical aspects of it being performed exceptionally.


Walked 2 circuits equating to 12 km in one uninterrupted walk. It wasn’t as far as I thought as I hadn’t done it in a while. The air was cold and there was a stiff breeze and so not at all taxing so I should have kept going and just kept doing curcuits all day until I could walk no more. At least I mixed it up a bit and went down one or two alternative, but parallel routes and found some random religious graffiti. I could have easily kept walking but I wanted to see a film. Later I ooked at an online calorie calculator and it seemed as if it was nothing. I couldn’t even afford to have a soft drink according to the calculator…

Watched some films. Watched Saturday night television. Watched some Welsh programmes. Wrote blog. Wrote other things. Read. Had a nap. Went to bed early. Had tried to talk to someone about one or two things but ultimately that was pointless.

I can tell how things will progress now and know who will be awarded what… as the elite of Oxford-Cambridge learn: Work smart not hard. Make sure people notice every little achievement and bit of effort you make. Social skills are far and away more important than merit. We do not living in a meritocracy. Meritocracy was the basis of the Soviet/Communist system and quickly became corrupted within years so that the old order of keeping the elite and the lower classes separate was reinstated. The faces changed but the attitudes remained. It’s just human nature as a social animal.

It hasn’t worked. It is just that way…The darkness encroaches and you are expected to put up and shut up and not be a burden to others. ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto you’ is a lie. Survival of the fittest and most capable of adapting is the only rule that is true. T. S. Eliot, in The Waste Land, considered April to be the cruellest month. Maybe he was right albeit obviously he was talking about post World War 1 where an entire generation had been lost. To see the renewel of things, new life and potential and the abandonment of the old which is soon forgotten. That which is no longer of use to people is cast aside without hesititation. Spring cleaning for both one’s house and life.

Woke up frequently during the night with pain in my ear as the cat watched over me from the window sill pulled by by his paw. Not an infection but something has happened to the external part… Maybe Ican apply heat or cold to amend it I do not know.

My cat goes in and out the window today. He wanted access to the outside but now seems to have quickly grown bored of it. He destroyed his fishing line toy and now brings me the soft toy bird shaped ‘lure’ to throw for him. He is becoming a dog…

I was hoping to do something today but the ear thing has put me off. I may have done another few circuits but I will leave it for tomorrow and just try to not eat more than I need today. I already eat 4 doughnuts this morning so that has already failed… Everyone would be better off with me removed from the equation. All people want is happy stories and to be surrounded by positive people even if they do nothing but speak negatively of others in order to forge an alligiance through shared opposition. So is life. Just accept your lot in life. Don’t aspire. Don’t complain. If you wanted it enough you would put more effort in even if it broke you. Its just how life is…

This was suprisingly long for something I hadn’t planned to write.