Well I suppose it’s a job
I know there are a lot of people that don’t have a job at all and are reliant on handouts from wherever they can get it, but at this time of the year working in the warehouse is just madness. I bet you think that we have one of those warehouses where everything is sorted on conveyors and things; packages flying at high speed and diverting by size and barcode ready to be delivered to the right place by the right person. Well think again. For a start we only have one delivery driver and he’s the boss. He won’t let us have any of this labour saving equipment. He says “We’ve managed to do without it all the years I’ve been doing this job so we can manage for a few more years until I can’t do it any more”. What does he know, he doesn’t have to sort the stuff into regions and loads, he just does the deliveries. Us guys in the warehouse reckon that the delivery bit is the best bit; at least you would see places, but we never see anything in the windowless warehouse, and at this time of the year it is a full 24 hour shift without any breaks.
“We have an obligation to get this stuff out” he says “our reputation depends on it.”
His reputation depends on it, he means. No one even knows we exist. But he’s the boss so we do what we are told.
He’s all loaded up ready for the first delivery, but we’re still rushing around getting all the stuff ready for the next one. He’ll have delivered that first one in about half an hour – I have to give him that, he’s quick and never makes a mistake (or so he says), but he’ll want the next one ready to load as soon as he gets back, and he’ll want it loaded in less than ten minutes. It’s bad enough while he’s out, but as soon as he is back it is utter bedlam. He just sits there on his fat backside while we warehouse guys scurry around at top speed loading him up. As soon as he’s full he’s off again and we rush around getting the next load ready.
He’s not a bad boss I suppose, and he’s no spring chicken. I wonder how he keeps going. Of course if he didn’t, we wouldn’t bother. Sometimes I find myself hoping that he won’t come back for a new load so that I can get a rest, but he comes back every time without fail. To be fair to him by about halfway through the shift he looks absolutely exhausted but as soon as we have loaded, he is back out delivering.
Once we have loaded the last batch and he’s left, we all creep off to the nice warm beds that he provides for us, and pretty much fall asleep immediately. When the boss gets back he must be at least as exhausted as us, but he always performs one more important task before he too gets some sleep. He never accepts any help, telling us that we should rest. Not until he has rubbed down each of the reindeer, fed and bedded them down does he finally allow himself to sleep.
A NOTE TO MY EXECUTORS
When I can no longer marvel at the work of art that is the rose,
Or smell its soft incense in air full of the gossamer wings of bees;
No more enjoy the luminous velvet flowers of the Clematis that
Paints itself among the contorted branches of that long dead tree;
Lost to me forever will be the hungry Blackbirds shrill delight as it defeats
My elaborate defenses guarding bushes laden with jeweled fruit;
You may take my place on the seat, where I once paused to reflect,
All I ask is that you will treat my garden with respect
When my belongings are distributed to new owners as yet unknown,
All those precious and sentimental artifacts that enriched my life.
The miniature paintings, scattered like precious gemstones on my walls,
My furniture, fashioned in golden oak, by long forgotten artisans.
Objects containing nostalgic memories they are the signposts of my life.
Such personal possessions, and these few lines, are all that I will leave.
I have hidden a fraction of my soul in every item you select,
So please handle them with care and treat them with respect.
When I start my journey towards oblivion, or some unexpected heaven,
You may read these inelegant verses and be reminded of my life.
The time having come at last when I have had to drop the part I played.
My true self emerging from life’s deceptions and subterfuge.
My supposed intelligence, looted from the waves of late night radio,
Exposed as shallow camouflage for the ignorance of a common man.
I hope that you will say, at least as far as you can recollect,
He always treated his friends with generosity and respect.
When I am gone scatter me beneath the oak trees in Owlet Wood,
Onto the emerald moss, that lies like green snow drifts upon the ground,
Lit by sharp shards of sunlight that filter through the tiers of crimpled leaves.
The moss silences your footfall and leaves no memory that you’ve passed
And the silence flows back into the space that you had borrowed.
Do not pollute this place with words, nature’s silence is the ultimate poetry.
Leave me in that quiet, fragile place where nature moves on unchecked.
All I ask of you is that you treat my memory with respect.
Owlet Wood – click on picture.
A true story of why a boy was left unable to read aloud, even his own prose, for over sixty years
At eleven, I left the St. Anne’s School,
In black and white uniform, I did feel cool,
On Memorial Avenue, my anxieties grew,
With the release of flatulence, I blew a few.
Now, back to one of the youngest there,
Wearing a cloth cap, to cover my hair,
Sporting a ‘C’ on that, and a pocket.
Heart beating so fast, I couldn’t stop it.
First day, was English following registration,
I certainly didn’t suffer, constipation,
Our English teacher was Honeybone,
I later wished I’d stayed at home.
For he’d placed a book on every desk,
Which would set me out, from all the rest,
Whilst reading out aloud, I made a mistake,
And he showed me up, for goodness sake.
“You’ll never do that again!” I vowed,
To myself of course, not aloud,
The look on his face, was that of pleasure,
As I sat there, suffering the pressure.
With venom, he cried. “I beg your pardon?”
Quickly making, my resolve, just harden,
My arse had tightened up some notches,
Whilst around my neck, appeared nervous blotches,
I said “I would rather not sir.”
His punishment? Detention’s what I got,
But he failed to know, I didn’t care,
Goading him, as far as I dare.
I knew every time; I walked through his door,
The Detention Board, I’d be fetching for sure,
This I did, as if full of joy,
Knowing for him, it would certainly annoy
For he didn’t know, I had a gem,
Dad in the army, was an RSM,
Telling me to always, stand and fight,
Of which I did, with much delight.
I will never kowtow to a bully like him,
Succeeding in that, allowed me to grin,
A grin to say, “Up yours mate!
Picking on me, was a big mistake.”
‘C’ = Central School
‘RSM’ = Regimental Sergeant Major (Top Non-Commissioned Officer rank in British Army)
Here’s Michael’s response to the trigger ‘respect’.
Respect by Michael Keeble
I woke up in a doorway at some time in the morning. I had no idea what time it was as I seemed to have lost my watch together with my wallet. I also seemed to have sustained some injuries to my ribs and I had a big lump on my head, and the headache from Hell. I felt like shit.
I unwound my body from the doorway and tenderly stretched my limbs, checking for injuries. My ribs hurt and my joints were stiff. My hands were bruised and cut across the knuckles and I found that I couldn’t close my left hand. I sat up and my head swam and my vision blurred. Someone was beating a tattoo inside my head. I leaned against the door and closed my eyes.
I hate it when I get these blackouts.
The drumbeats subsided a bit and I opened my eyes. I wasn’t sure where I was. It seemed like a small backstreet with old Victorian industrial units. I gingerly pushed myself upright and tried to stand. I wobbled a bit and my ribs and head screamed at me. Eventually I managed to stand more or less upright and leaned against the wall. A woman walking along the road crossed over to the other side and hurried past with an anxious glance backwards at me. I took a look at myself and saw that my suit was torn and covered in filth. I had lost my shoes somewhere.
It was time for me to get myself out of this backstreet and home and into the shower and then think about getting myself off to hospital. The tune she had been singing suddenly came into my head.
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me”
I started to walk out towards the main road to see if I could get my bearings. As I rounded a corner I paused to look at my reflection in a shop window. As well as my generally dishevelled look, my hair was matted and one side of my face was covered with what could only have been blood. No wonder that woman crossed the road to avoid me. I looked around and realised that I was only about a 30 minute walk from my home. I tried to hail a cab, thinking I could pay when I got home but it was as if I was invisible. Penniless and looking like a tramp I started for home.
I couldn’t get the tune out of my head. I remembered now, she’d been singing it at me when I came in from the pub last night. I don’t remember anything much after that except that I must have gone back out to the pub because I now remembered getting into a bit of a fight and being thrown out. After that it’s all a blank. Maybe that’s when I got all my injuries. I hate it when I get these blackouts.
Shuffling along in stockinged feet it took a lot longer than 30 minutes for me to get back. As I approached through the quiet suburbs where I lived with my wife, for once I was relieved that the neighbourhood was so quiet. No one walked anywhere, so I staggered onwards without meeting anyone. My wife would have gone to work by now so I wouldn’t have to explain anything to her. I just needed to get home, call into work sick, get into the shower, lie down to rest and think about whether I needed to go to hospital. I rounded the last corner and was met with the sight of a policeman standing by police tape stretched from one side of the road to the other. The street seemed to be filled with police vehicles of all sorts, policemen and others in overalls, all wandering about. The policeman behind the tape approached me.
“There’s nothing here for you mate. I think you should get on your way.”
“But I live here” I said, then by way of explanation “I got mugged last night”
“I see sir. Can you tell me which number you live at?”
The policeman paused for a second, then asked if I had any identification. I explained that I had lost my wallet in the mugging and that had all my ID in it. He seemed to come to a decision and lifted the tape.
“Would you come with me please sir?”
I ducked under the tape and with the policeman’s hand on my upper arm, allowed him to guide me to the nearest police car. He spoke to the policeman in the driving seat and then opened the back door for me.
“Could you wait here for me please sir. I’ll be back shortly”
He wandered off and I tried to find out what was going on from the driver, but he was totally uncommunicative. A few minutes later the policeman returned with another man in plain clothes who opened the door to the car again and asked me if I could get out and talk to him. He introduced himself as Detective Inspector Carpenter showed me some ID, and then explained that there had been an incident at number 23 that they were investigating.
“What sort of incident?” I asked “Is my wife all right?”
“A woman has been found dead in the house sir”
“Oh my God. Is it my wife?”
“We don’t know sir. We only have your word for it that you live at number 23. We’d like you to come down to the police station with us to answer some questions”
This was asked in the sort of way that made it far more of a demand than a request, particularly as at the same time he opened the car door, and taking my arm guided me into the back seat while a uniformed colleague entered by the other side.
And just for fun – here’s that song.
IT’S OUR TIME by Barrie Purnell
The politicians ask for our views then try to defy us.
Their pinstriped Whitehall army they all try to deny us.
They offer promises of future riches thinking they can buy us.
They think that we are naïve, but we are no longer deceived,
We now really believe our objectives can be achieved.
If they lived like us for just one day they’d know what we meant
And understand the anger in the message that we sent.
The Bishops with their scepters, purple robes and finery
Stand in great cathedrals preaching to us of life’s mystery,
Using incense to cover the stench of their own hypocrisy,
Telling us our sins to forsake, to surrender our wealth for others sake.
Giving us penances to undertake, for some perceived moral mistake.
But until we see their own riches given to the dispossessed
We reject all their threats for rules supposedly transgressed.
The lawyers who profit from other people’s troubles and distress,
They talk in labyrinthine riddles their benighted clients to impress.
Money, not upholding morality, is how they measure their success.
They have no sense of shame and it is never them who are to blame,
But we have seen through their game, now it’s our turn to claim.
Soon their clandestine deals will be exposed to everyone
And we will judge them for all the wrongs they’ve done.
The experts who manipulate statistics to fit the theory of the day.
Who are never independent, but compromised by those who pay,
Their reputation for infallibility is in irretrievable decay.
The rules of the game are reset, their certitude they may well regret.
There is no information we can’t get by Googling the internet.
They used to own the knowledge telling us why and how
But sat at our computers we can all be experts now.
We care not for the loss in GDP, we saw nothing from the gain,
It was just their wealth they were protecting when they voted to remain.
We see nothing of value in those institutions they wanted to retain.
We don’t want to take our orders from those out-with our borders
We’re tired of carrying on our shoulders the parasites and freeloaders.
We are a stubborn island people and know we’ve got what it takes.
We will pay for our own failures and make our own mistakes.
Those who think they are superior because of an accident of birth,
Or too young to have the perspective of what freedom is really worth,
They thought they would fall heir to all the riches of this earth,
But now their future is in doubt, their arrogance caught them out.
No one will hear them shout from their privileged redoubt.
The time has come to bring about their ultimate defeat,
That ruling privileged minority, that liberal elite.
Musing on her family history, this story came lyrically to mind.
THE COMYN WHEEL by Faymarie Morris.
The package came. I knew it would, I’d seen it in a dream.
The registered envelope contained official ream.
And the man who delivered it, with grudging aplomb
Had said with a sneer,” Well, I hope it’s not a bomb.”
But I knew that it wasn’t. I knew from the start
With complete certainty that it was a part
Of an ancient legacy, promised as a child,
When I grew of age. And the whole thing made me smile.
Because it’s all coming true. Great Uncle Percy said
When I reached twenty one, if I wasn’t wed
A document would come, informing me that I
Was the heir to a castle on the Isle Of Skye.
The tattered old parchment, with its red waxy seal,
Said the castle’s owner was the keeper of the wheel.
This seemed bizarre, what on earth could it mean?
Well, what if Uncle Percy’s words turned out to be real?
“There on your leg, child, you’ll find your destiny.”
I remember him saying this when I was only three.
“That odd looking birthmark, in the shape of a wheel
Is the wheel of Comyn.” And there it is, on the seal.
The castle was perched on the crest of a hill,
Surrounded with trees. The moat, wide and still,
Reflecting the battlements and some of the keep.
The smelly green water was loathsome and deep.
My castle, a fairytale, heard as a child,
Turned out to be real. I was truly beguiled.
Doubts and denials came into my head.
But I just dismissed them. My future was read.
John Comyn, a chieftain of Skye, it was said,
Long, long ago around the castle did tread.
Just like me now, exploring my fate.
If only I could open the bailey-wall gate.
But the key wouldn’t fit, however I tried.
I felt totally useless, no wonder I cried.
Then I noticed a carving cut deep in the wall.
As round as a cartwheel, a globe or a ball.
It was the wheel of Comyn and hanging from a nail
Was a rusty iron key that looked ancient and frail.
I tried it several times, but this key wouldn’t fit.
I knew it was the right one, but the rust was too thick.
So I tried once again as I touched my birthmark.
And the rust just fell away. The gate opened… Hark!
I looked straight ahead and in front of my eyes
The ruin grew whole and soon trebled in size.
How could this happen? I was suddenly scared.
But the spiral stairs beckoned me on, if I dared…
I started to climb. I was cautious at first
Then after a while I felt sure I would burst.
Curiosity had got the better of me
And someone was singing, but who could it be?
As I neared the top I stopped for a while
And through a slit window saw mile after mile
Of countryside, quiet as quiet could be,
With cows in the meadow and sheep in the lea.
I had to keep climbing, up to the top.
The singing grew louder. I wished it would stop.
With all of my strength I pushed open the door,
But my eyes wouldn’t take in all that I saw.
She sat on a bench near an open window.
With the sunlight behind her, she seemed to glow.
She was dressed like a lady from King Arthur’s time,
But her voice was off-key and her song didn’t rhyme.
I seemed to encroach on this time and space.
An outsider, a misfit in this age of grace.
My modern-day clothes were dingy and drab
With none of the splendour of medieval garb.
Her singing then stopped. She swiftly turned round
And her tapestry fell onto the ground.
She jumped to her feet and with outstretched arms
Ran straight towards me with no fear or qualms.
But who was she seeing with love in her eyes?
She kept calling me John, and I was surprised.
Her language was odd, but I still understood.
She held out her hand… and mine turned to wood.
John Comyn, Scottish chieftain and Earl of Badenoch
Fought beside an English king and earned this ancient rock
For bravery in battle in thirteen hundred and four
Where he lived with his comely wife, the fair Eleanor.
Robert Bruce decided that John Comyn never would
Support his plans to sieze the throne of Scotland, as he should.
So, on one fateful night, by the light of the moon,
‘The Bruce’ was crowned King, in the abbey church, at Scone.
Bruce then had John Comyn killed and ransacked his castles,
Killing his kinfolk and banishing his vassals.
His goods were confiscated and blood stained the land.
Eleanor refused to yield. Against him she did stand.
‘In this year of our Lord, 1306, Eleanor was put to death, in April,’ it was writ.
For her life and her honour she fought courageously. That the castle be spared was her only plea.
Ellie Cummins is my name and I’ve lived all my life
Knowing that my ancestry was steeped in blood and strife.
But now that the castle is back in Comyn hands
Fair Eleanor can rest in peace… while I roam foreign lands.