A person of colour? by Kevin Murphy

Kevin’s question about the trigger ‘irony’:

A person of colour?

‘Murky.’ I mumbled, as we screwed up our eyes against the deep orange sun setting on our life art class.

‘Mucky?’

‘Cheek! ‘I said, ‘My dad used to say my eyes were Mersey Green. That’s pretty murky.’

‘Ah well,’ she chuckled, ‘mine don’t get commented on, of course.’

‘They’re lovely eyes!’ I said, inadvertently blurting … then blushing.

‘Colour, I mean,’ she said, turning to me with her eyes wide.

We stood inspecting each other, on the now gold steps of the old Arts Institute building, she drawing in for a closer look.

‘Yours are multi coloured!’ she said, ‘sparkling like jewels.’

‘Multi! Coloured? I see yours have a black rim around … do all Irises?’

‘I don’t know any Irises,’ she laughed and looked around to find us alone. She moved in for a very close inspection.

I could smell her sweet breath … and her breasts.

We were eyeball to eyeball and breast to breast. Warm. Soft. She was engrossed, ‘yellow, green – several shades, brown and grey.’

She wasn’t looking past my eyes and into my soul. Good thing as she may have seen too much. ‘Yeah. Not murky, but I think your dad may have meant…’ she looked across at the horizon, ‘…can’t see any sea from here, but the Mersey, as if from a boat, twinkling in a sunset. Mmm and not murky but delightful bright green.’

She seized my head in her hands and turned it full into what remained of the day. I was held like a doll. Fully.

My hands lose by my side, at ease. How so? We had only met once before at the art class. I didn’t even know her name.

‘Very pretty! Diamonds are completely clear, aren’t they? However, their appeal is in the many facets flashing out rainbows from the, er… dark side of the moon, thingies?’

‘Prisms. Refracting all the colours of the rainbow.’

‘That’s it, yeah.’

She, still holding my head, looked at my face. Her black face at my white face. And smiled. ‘Rainbow.’

Her cheeks reflected many hues of blue. Blue-black they call it, but in fact in there were silvery, turquoise and emerald sheens shed from her cheeks and forehead.

‘Your freckles – they’re light brown, but do you know they have a white perimeter.’

I didn’t, but she went on.

‘And they’re not round like polka dots, they’re all shapes.’

‘Blobs?’ I said.

‘Yeah … murky … blobs?’

‘They say I am white and you … black. I’ve been musing at the whole spectrum glistening from your silken skin.’

‘Yeah. Black hair and brown eyes. Half the world’s population – but black skin?’ She stopped. Now she looked into me.

‘Pretty ironic,’ I said, ‘I’m not a white girl and you’re not a black girl. Coloured.’

A sharp intake of breath for both of us.

‘And how ironic was that life class,’ she said, ‘drawing a white man…’

‘…with charcoal!

She holding my face, oh, so gently, we breathed in time. My breasts swelled against hers as I took in her exhaling breath. I thought of cocking my head, but it didn’t seem fair to spoil the moment. Anyway I could see deep into her soul, now. It was bright, and all the colours of the Caribbean.

She could see the welcome in my body, from the inside out.

Our breaths mingled. She let her hands fade from my face as the gap between us closed so imperceptibly, that I am now not sure … if she did kiss me.

 

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PUBLIC DONATIONS. By Faymarie Morris.

PUBLIC DONATIONS. By Faymarie Morris.

If only Karen Wooley had known, right at the beginning, exactly how things would turn out she probably would never have contemplated it. But the unexpected offer of promotion to Marketing Strategy Assistant to Jerry Lamb, chairman of the newly formed Yorkshire Wool Initiative, offshoot of the Wool Council, had seemed too good a chance to let go. This was something she’d been dreaming of. A way to prove, after years of being ‘just Karen’, that she had credibility, was the best person for the job and… the considerable pay rise. Her husband, Joe, better known as Jumper, was finally coming to terms with his redundancy and a family holiday in the sun might be just what the doctor ordered. And Karen wanted to be the one to provide it.

Her first few months as Marketing Strategy Assistant, [she loved using her full title as that made it seem even more real], had been pretty ordinary, until April when Jerry received the first email.

“Karen, the powers that be say we need to make Bradford a more exciting place to visit. They want us to find a  way to sex-up Bradford. Sheffield used to be boring but now it’s THE place to go. So, Karen, do whatever it takes, but make sure it happens.” 

How the hell am I expected to sex-up Bradford, thought Karen, as her glasses steamed up in sympathy.

Her first thought had been to create a new red light district. No, not like Soho! A new shopping area lit only with red streetlights. That would be sexy but thankfully she dismissed it. Several other ideas were equally as woeful but she had to keep trying. Eye In The Sky? NO! Graffiti by Banksie? NO! Bicycle taxis? NO! Street pop concerts?…but all that conjured up was chaos, so a very definite NO!

Then, exactly a week after the email arrived she came up with the first germ of an idea.

Sheffield! she should be thinking about Sheffield, a city famous for steel, so the Steel Man statue in the City of Steel had proved to be a brilliant concept and a great marketing campaign.

Bradford was famous for wool so didn’t it make sense to call it Wool City? This initial idea was passed unopposed by the council, but she needed to come up with so much more.

When they erected the Steel Man statue in the centre of the Sheffield steel manufacturing district, it quickly became such an overwhelming success that people travelled miles just to see it. The ratepayers of Sheffield had been asked to choose their favourite design from several prize winning sculptors and the final choice and end product had been a triumph. Shame Karen’s didn’t turn out so well.

It wasn’t the idea or the choice of image that was bad, it was the execution. The final unveiling on that fateful day was something Karen would never forget.

The English wool market had been in the doldrums for a while due to cheap imports from China and the overwhelming popularity of man-made fibres which were cheaper, easier to launder and less itchy. Then, an invasion of new yarns, alpaca, llama, angora and bamboo, yes bamboo, threatened to swamp the market, but thankfully, Shetland, Aran, Merino and woollen mixtures made huge inroads until the saviour of the woollen industry arrived…Superwash, Easycare New Wool.

Nothing is better than the warmth of pure wool, we all know it, and the latest processing techniques mean wool can now be produced with the same durability, softness and ease of care of any fibre currently available and as Karen’s mantra had always been…English wool is…well, it’s English, shouldn’t that be how to promote the English woollen industry?

It didn’t take long for her to come up with the idea of making something massive… from wool. That had worked for Sheffield so how about a sculpture made out of wool for Bradford? Her original thoughts soon morphed into something made from coarse, untreated wool, complete with it’s natural by-product, lanolin. But what? Also, wool had always been considered a valuable commodity and in the past was used for barter and as money. It is waterproof and has insulating qualities, which helps to keep items dry, cool or warm… so maybe a boat made of wool, or a huge fridge, or how about a massive hand-woven blanket…?

That’s when Karen thought about creating a colossal golden fleece from untreated woollen waste, sprinkled liberally with bits of gold leaf for added sparkle and drama. It could even be a central feature in the foyer of the new Bradford Museum of Wool which was due to be finished soon… but how, exactly?

She had recently watched a documentary about a process called felting and although she had never actually done or seen it herself, they said it was undergoing a craft revival and because any old bits of wool could be collected and used, even the tatty old matted stuff that had snagged on barbed wire or wooden fences. In fact, this could be seen as an advantage, especially if used to help promote the variety, economy and luxury of woollen items. Maybe local farmers could get on board by donating their waste wool and might even be persuaded to stimulate interest in the project by advertising countrywide, even worldwide, that the installation was only possible because of help given by the farming community and also the local public. The call went out and suddenly things started to happen, fast. She had become really excited by all the prospects laid out before her.

After chatting to Madge Bale, her neighbour and a long time W.I. member, Karen decided to attend the next meeting, to see if any of them knew anything about felting. It turned out that several knew quite alot and were happy to explain that although it’s repetitive and time consuming, it is also quite easy. Well, easy for them.

Apparently felting doesn’t require much in the way of specialist tools or equipment, just a range of different sized felting needles and copious amounts of wool.

Wool started to arrive, thick and fast. Her garage was soon filled with bags of smelly old scraps and large canvas sacks of shearing leftovers and by the following day, even Madge’s garage was full. Madge’s friend, Elsa Sheppard, offered Karen the use of an empty warehouse for a couple of months adding that it could be utilised for storage, wool preparation and construction.

Then, to Karen’s amazement, the W.I. members voted to undertake all of the felting work if she would, on behalf of the Wool Council, make a donation to the upcoming local W.I. Summer Fayre and also help promote some of their future fund raising activities. A bit of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll’…kind of thing which she accepted, of course.

The Bradford Gazette advertised for a designer and Karen’s in-tray was soon swamped. The applicants were all good but one of them turned out to be Madge’s younger sister, Liz Ewes, who had, until recently, been working in Japan. Felting had become massively popular in Japan and Liz wanted to help make it just as popular in England, so everything was happening at the perfect time.

Bradford Council members voted to donate the money for several sheets of gold leaf and a local printing firm agreed to make the appropriate signage, when everything was finally ready. Things were coming together and Karen couldn’t have been more delighted. When this is all over, she thought with a sigh, I really will need a holiday.

Karen soon realised exactly how time consuming felting was but at least there was enough W.I. members to share the work out and the weather was warm which allowed them to take several large tables outside where they could work and sing along to the music blaring out of the warehouse speakers while the sun beat down on them. Who would ever have guessed that the community would have come together so readily.

It made Karen’s heart swell with pride whenever she heard local people calling Bradford The Wool City, as they went about their daily chores.

And the golden fleece just kept growing. Smaller sections were formed and then were fused onto the main section. Luckily there were plenty of trestle tables stacked against the warehouse walls and soon the fleece was covering ten tables pushed together. But it would need to be much bigger otherwise it would be lost in the expanse that was the foyer of the newly built Bradford Museum of Wool.

Karen had gasped the first time she saw it. “Bloody hell, Jerry. You said it was big but I had no idea how big. I reckon it’ll be perfect for what I have in mind, but.” A smug, self satisfied look enveloped her face although at that moment she’d had no idea what was coming.

The finished item was transported in a large removal van to the museum and unloaded in secret, at night. Special cleats had been made to anchor it to the walls and ceiling and were all in place and a cherry picker was parked at the ready. As they gently laid it out on the floor, it looked spectacular. Long glossy sections of fleece and tiny pieces of Gold Leaf that had been scattered through it, glittered in the spotlights. To Karen it looked flawless, like some natural, organic thing.

As it was raised and finally fixed in place, a hush descended. “If this doesn’t make Bradford sexy, I don’t know what will.” Jerry said to Karen, with a huge grin on his face. “We did it, Karen. We really did it.” And for a few seconds Karen was peeved. I did it, she thought. It was me not you. But she didn’t say anything. The following day television cameras arrived along with reporters, Michael Parkinson and other local celebrities. A festive atmosphere gripped the whole of Bradford and no-one could avoid being caught up in it. The Town Cryer announced that The Lord Mayor was about to open the festivities and everyone held their breath.

But… earlier in the week, when Signs 4 Bradford had contacted Karen, for her OK on the final choice of words to accompany the installation, she said she’d get back to them but then everything went mental and she simply ran out of time. The next day they sent a message and photo to her iPhone, which showed her actual words and asked her to please check the spelling again, carefully. She glanced at it, texted OK, then returned it.

The famous Black Bridge Brass Band were playing ‘On llkley Moor…’ as the satin curtains were drawn back. Two LED spotlights were pointed directly at the fleece, highlighting the drama and opulence of golden glints amongst the primitive simplicity of wool. The effect was dazzling. Another spotlight lit up the legend underneath as the Lord Mayor read, in his best official voice,

“THIS EXCITING ART WORK COULD NOT HAVE BEEN REALISED WITHOUT GENEROUS PUBLIC DONATIONS FROM LOCAL FARMERS AND THE RATEPAYERS OF…” he frowned, quickly scanning the sign again, before adding, tentatively, “BBBRADFORD?”

Television cameras were focussed on the sign as the image was relayed to an outside screen and also the 12 o’clock news. Karen gagged when she realised the full horror of what was written there while all around her the dull hum of approval was replaced by giggles, followed closely by uncontrolled laughter.

THIS EXCITING ART WORK

COULD NOT HAVE BEEN

REALISED WITHOUT

GENEROUS PUBIC DONATIONS

FROM LOCAL FARMERS

AND THE RATEPAYERS OF BRADFORD.

Why, God? by Pete Brammer

Why, God?

A refuse collector called Rufus Phipps, returned home to find his wife unconscious on the kitchen floor. An ambulance was duly summoned, and the lady conveyed under siren and flashing blue lights to hospital, a few miles away.

Unfortunately she never made it to Accident and Emergency, passing away en route. The paramedics fought frantically, but without success to restart her heart.

That evening Rufus made himself a mug of coffee laced with whiskey, and retired to their lovely blue and white summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. He and Mavis had loved to spend happy hours together there, playing records and reminiscing, until it either got too dark or too late.

Looking up, he saw a bright twinkling star in the dark sky, with floods of tears streaming down his cheeks, he cried. “God I wish I could speak to you, that is, if you do in fact, exist.”

Image result for starAt that moment a narrow beam of brightly coloured light passed through the clouds to illuminate the summerhouse. A voice called out. “I’m listening Rufus, ask away.”

Unable to believe what was happening, Rufus stammered. “Why did

you make my Mavis so kind hearted, Lord?”

“So you could love the lady with all your heart.”

Rufus stopped crying and nodded. “Why did you make her so

beautiful? She was the prettiest girl in our school.”

“So you would fall in love with her, which you indeed did.” God

replied.

“Why did you make her such a wonderful cook, she could make even a sandwich look fantastic.” he persisted.

“Like I’ve told you, all these things were done so you would love the lady.”

Rufus thought for a moment.”Please don’t think that I am in the least ungrateful or anything Lord, but why did you have to make her so utterly stupid?”

God gave a big sigh. “So she could in return, love you my son.”

 

…000O000…

PUBLIC DONATIONS, By Faymarie Morris.

PUBLIC DONATIONS, By Faymarie Morris.

 

If only Karen Wooley had known, right at the beginning, exactly how things would turn out she probably would never have contemplated it. But the unexpected offer of promotion to Marketing Strategy Assistant to Jerry Lamb, chairman of the newly formed Yorkshire Wool Initiative, offshoot of the Wool Council, had seemed too good a chance to let go. This was something she’d been dreaming of. A way to prove, after years of being ‘just Karen’, that she had credibility, was the best person for the job and… the considerable pay rise. Her husband, Joe, better known as Jumper, was finally coming to terms with his redundancy and a family holiday in the sun might be just what the doctor ordered. And Karen wanted to be the one to provide it.

Her first few months as Marketing Strategy Assistant, [she loved using her full title as that made it seem even more real], had been pretty ordinary, until April when Jerry received the first email.

“Karen, the powers that be say we need to make Bradford a more exciting place to visit. They want us to find a way to sex-up Bradford. Sheffield used to be boring but now it’s THE place to go. So, Karen, do whatever it takes, but make sure it happens.”

How the hell am I expected to sex-up Bradford, thought Karen, as her glasses steamed up in sympathy.

Her first thought had been to create a new red light district. No, not like Soho! A new shopping area lit only with red streetlights. That would be sexy but thankfully she dismissed it. Several other ideas were equally as woeful but she had to keep trying. Eye In The Sky? NO! Graffiti by Banksie? NO! Bicycle taxis? NO! Street pop concerts?…but all that conjured up was chaos, so a very definite NO!

Then, exactly a week after the email arrived she came up with the first germ of an idea.

Sheffield! she should be thinking about Sheffield, a city famous for steel, so the Steel Man statue in the City of Steel had proved to be a brilliant concept and a great marketing campaign.

Bradford was famous for wool so didn’t it make sense to call it Wool City? This initial idea was passed unopposed by the council, but she needed to come up with so much more.

When they erected the Steel Man statue in the centre of the Sheffield steel manufacturing district, it quickly became such an overwhelming success that people travelled miles just to see it. The ratepayers of Sheffield had been asked to choose their favourite design from several prize winning sculptors and the final choice and end product had been a triumph. Shame Karen’s didn’t turn out so well.

It wasn’t the idea or the choice of image that was bad, it was the execution. The final unveiling on that fateful day was something Karen would never forget.

The English wool market had been in the doldrums for a while due to cheap imports from China and the overwhelming popularity of man-made fibres which were cheaper, easier to launder and less itchy. Then, an invasion of new yarns, alpaca, llama, angora and bamboo, yes bamboo, threatened to swamp the market, but thankfully, Shetland, Aran, Merino and woollen mixtures made huge inroads until the saviour of the woollen industry arrived…Superwash, Easycare New Wool.

Nothing is better than the warmth of pure wool, we all know it, and the latest processing techniques mean wool can now be produced with the same durability, softness and ease of care of any fibre currently available and as Karen’s mantra had always been…English wool is…well, it’s English, shouldn’t that be how to promote the English woollen industry?

It didn’t take long for her to come up with the idea of making something massive… from wool. That had worked for Sheffield so how about a sculpture made out of wool for Bradford? Her original thoughts soon morphed into something made from coarse, untreated wool, complete with it’s natural by-product, lanolin. But what? Also, wool had always been considered a valuable commodity and in the past was used for barter and as money. It is waterproof and has insulating qualities, which helps to keep items dry, cool or warm… so maybe a boat made of wool, or a huge fridge, or how about a massive hand-woven blanket…?

That’s when Karen thought about creating a colossal golden fleece from untreated woollen waste, sprinkled liberally with bits of gold leaf for added sparkle and drama. It could even be a central feature in the foyer of the new Bradford Museum of Wool which was due to be finished soon… but how, exactly?

She had recently watched a documentary about a process called felting and although she had never actually done or seen it herself, they said it was undergoing a craft revival and because any old bits of wool could be collected and used, even the tatty old matted stuff that had snagged on barbed wire or wooden fences. In fact, this could be seen as an advantage, especially if used to help promote the variety, economy and luxury of woollen items. Maybe local farmers could get on board by donating their waste wool and might even be persuaded to stimulate interest in the project by advertising countrywide, even worldwide, that the installation was only possible because of help given by the farming community and also the local public. The call went out and suddenly things started to happen, fast. She had become really excited by all the prospects laid out before her.

After chatting to Madge Bale, her neighbour and a long time W.I. member, Karen decided to attend the next meeting, to see if any of them knew anything about felting. It turned out that several knew quite alot and were happy to explain that although it’s repetitive and time consuming, it is also quite easy. Well, easy for them.

Apparently felting doesn’t require much in the way of specialist tools or equipment, just a range of different sized felting needles and copious amounts of wool.

Wool started to arrive, thick and fast. Her garage was soon filled with bags of smelly old scraps and large canvas sacks of shearing leftovers and by the following day, even Madge’s garage was full. Madge’s friend, Elsa Sheppard, offered Karen the use of an empty warehouse for a couple of months adding that it could be utilised for storage, wool preparation and construction.

Then, to Karen’s amazement, the W.I. members voted to undertake all of the felting work if she would, on behalf of the Wool Council, make a donation to the upcoming local W.I. Summer Fayre and also help promote some of their future fund raising activities. A bit of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll’…kind of thing which she accepted, of course.

The Bradford Gazette advertised for a designer and Karen’s in-tray was soon swamped. The applicants were all good but one of them turned out to be Madge’s younger sister, Liz Ewes, who had, until recently, been working in Japan. Felting had become massively popular in Japan and Liz wanted to help make it just as popular in England, so everything was happening at the perfect time.

Bradford Council members voted to donate the money for several sheets of gold leaf and a local printing firm agreed to make the appropriate signage, when everything was finally ready. Things were coming together and Karen couldn’t have been more delighted. When this is all over, she thought with a sigh, I really will need a holiday.

Karen soon realised exactly how time consuming felting was but at least there was enough W.I. members to share the work out and the weather was warm which allowed them to take several large tables outside where they could work and sing along to the music blaring out of the warehouse speakers while the sun beat down on them. Who would ever have guessed that the community would have come together so readily.

It made Karen’s heart swell with pride whenever she heard local people calling Bradford The Wool City, as they went about their daily chores.

And the golden fleece just kept growing. Smaller sections were formed and then were fused onto the main section. Luckily there were plenty of trestle tables stacked against the warehouse walls and soon the fleece was covering ten tables pushed together. But it would need to be much bigger otherwise it would be lost in the expanse that was the foyer of the newly built Bradford Museum of Wool.

Karen had gasped the first time she saw it. “Bloody hell, Jerry. You said it was big but I had no idea how big. I reckon it’ll be perfect for what I have in mind, but.” A smug, self satisfied look enveloped her face although at that moment she’d had no idea what was coming.

The finished item was transported in a large removal van to the museum and unloaded in secret, at night. Special cleats had been made to anchor it to the walls and ceiling and were all in place and a cherry picker was parked at the ready. As they gently laid it out on the floor, it looked spectacular. Long glossy sections of fleece and tiny pieces of Gold Leaf that had been scattered through it, glittered in the spotlights. To Karen it looked flawless, like some natural, organic thing.

As it was raised and finally fixed in place, a hush descended. “If this doesn’t make Bradford sexy, I don’t know what will.” Jerry said to Karen, with a huge grin on his face. “We did it, Karen. We really did it.” And for a few seconds Karen was peeved. I did it, she thought. It was me not you. But she didn’t say anything. The following day television cameras arrived along with reporters, Michael Parkinson and other local celebrities. A festive atmosphere gripped the whole of Bradford and no-one could avoid being caught up in it. The Town Cryer announced that The Lord Mayor was about to open the festivities and everyone held their breath.

But… earlier in the week, when Signs 4 Bradford had contacted Karen, for her OK on the final choice of words to accompany the installation, she said she’d get back to them but then everything went mental and she simply ran out of time. The next day they sent a message and photo to her iphone, which showed her actual words and asked her to please check the spelling again, carefully. She glanced at it, texted OK, then returned it.

The famous Black Bridge Brass Band were playing ‘On llkley Moor…’ as the satin curtains were drawn back. Two LED spotlights were pointed directly at the fleece, highlighting the drama and opulence of golden glints amongst the primitive simplicity of wool. The effect was dazzling. Another spotlight lit up the legend underneath as the Lord Mayor read, in his best official voice,

“THIS EXCITING ART WORK COULD NOT HAVE BEEN REALISED WITHOUT GENEROUS PUBLIC DONATIONS FROM LOCAL FARMERS AND THE RATEPAYERS OF…” he frowned, quickly scanning the sign again, before adding, tentatively, “BBBRADFORD?”

Television cameras were focussed on the sign as the image was relayed to an outside screen and also the 12 o’clock news. Karen gagged when she realised the full horror of what was written there while all around her the dull hum of approval was replaced by giggles, followed closely by uncontrolled laughter.

Star by Margaret Moreton

Star
by
Margaret Moreton

Once upon a time there were two, early teenage girls. They lived miles apart and never knew each other, though they had much in common. For them both, there was a stable family and equally they respected their elders. They were at that age which saw their awakening sexuality; involuntary blushes were not uncommon. They both accepted their school days and the lessons they absorbed there, though with varying degrees of interest or success. Naturally they longed for approbation.

For Kathy, this came one glorious summer day. She was called from her class and lauded as a master of her craft – she had written a verse or two about the wonder of the sky at night: the ethereal beauty of a new rising moon; the glorious clarity of a dark, cloudless sky, giving a backdrop to a whole galaxy of stars. Her teacher was impressed. He told her that her work had earned her a star. That star, a gold beauty, was fixed to her work. Star of wonder! It glistened; it reflected her exhilaration – approbation in deed. That star was the half-open door to a possible literary career. She returned to her seat on cloud nine. Her future suddenly seemed bright.

Image result for star

Her contemporary, Katarina, was awarded a star – a bright gold emblem. She too had a star which defined her future. Her star was awarded in the company of her family and friends, not because of any excellence in her work, simply because of who she was. It was emblazoned on the lapel of her coat, for all the world to see. He who demanded that it be there intended just that.

An aching train journey followed this award, which took her far into the country, away from what she knew and loved – all because of her star. Journey over, she stood with her family, and that reassured her somewhat. Soon, though, she had to leave her dad and her brothers and go with her mum for a shower. She was filthy and smelly after her long, long journey, so to her mind, that had to be good.

That was the last she knew – the Zyclon B did its work and so did the ovens. Her star had truly defined her future. Her Dad, focussing on the giant belching chimney, saw in fatherhood’s mind’s eye, her star taking its place among nature’s galaxies, that would shine there forever.

Once upon a time, no fairy tale this, all this happened: two stars; two messages; two outcomes.

What means a star?

Image result for star

Master of the Universe by Michael Keeble

A Christmas story poem from Michael

Master of the Universe

Mark’s seven figure bonus burned the pockets of his jeans
Another Aston Martin now came well within his means.
His penthouse flat deposit came from last year’s bonus pack
His options and his pension fund kept future plans on track.
“Life is good this Christmas”, thought the banker looking down
From off his lofty balcony upon the dirty town.
“Tonight I’ll worship Mammon and give thanks for all my gains
And toast the banking system in plentiful champagnes”

The night was cold and wet and grey, but Mark just didn’t care
He’d spent a fortune getting drunk and barely had the fare
To catch a taxi home to bed to sleep the night away
And dream of all the stuff to buy with his inflated pay.
The bar had closed, his friends had gone, and now he stood again
Weaving gently on the kerb of this deserted lane.
As if to make his night complete he saw with bleary sight
A taxi cab approaching him, “For Hire” sign alight.
He slumped himself into the seat and gently closed his eyes,
Opened up his eyes again and there to his surprise
Sat Jacob, friend from student days, who’d made a pile in Law
But had succumbed to early death, but now sat there before
The puzzled and bewildered Mark who couldn’t quite recall
If he had asked this ghost along, he wasn’t sure at all.
What actually was going on until the spectre spoke
And reassured his banker chum that this was not a joke
“I died” he said “before I could enjoy the fruits of wealth
“My sole concern was money; I cared not for my health
“And so it was one day as I was thinking what to buy
“The reaper came with sharpened scythe and told me I would die
“And now I am condemned to ride in this my ghostly cab
“Until I can convince one more, that life is more than grab
“Up all the money and the things that it can get.
“I sit here ev’ry Christmas but I haven’t done it yet.”
“Don’t think I’m the one to change” said Mark “what’s mine stays mine,
“And anyway I’ve set my sights upon a DB9.”

The cab came to a stop beside a place Mark didn’t know
A wasteland by the riverside where desp’rate people go.
Figures shuffled aimlessly or simply stood around
Their clothes were ragged, pride had gone; they stared upon the ground
Having seen more than enough Mark slowly turned his head
To speak to Jacob opposite but, shockingly, instead
An image of himself stared back, unwashed and dressed in rags
A bottle clutched in dirty hands, his stuff in plastic bags.
“Hi Mark” this vision said at last and took another drink
“You don’t know me yet” he said “but just in case you think
“That bankers only give it out and are themselves immune
“I’ll draw you a scenario that hums a diff’rent tune.
“Your bank collapsed from dodgy deals and you were thus deposed.
“You couldn’t pay your debts and so your creditors foreclosed
“And here you are a year ahead, you’re homeless and bereft
“You’ve taken to the bottle ‘cos there’s simply nothing left.”
He paused and stared at Mark awhile then spoke again at last
“You know they say when going up take care of those you pass
“‘cause when you’re going down you may be grateful for their aid,
“Well here I am already down and you’re already made.
“You never gave a single thought beyond your greedy self”
He winked and then ironic’lly he drank the banker’s health.
In guilt Mark closed his eyes to shut his other self away
And when he opened them again the night had turned to day
“Just a nasty dream” he thought. He was lying in his bed
But he couldn’t lose the awful feeling running through his head.
Hungover from the night before, he turned the TV on
To idly watch the news unfold but knowing all along
That Masters of the Universe like him could not be caught
By pestilence or poverty, that all things could be bought;
But then upon the screen appeared a face he’d seen before
Looking from a taxi parked before his own front door.
“I’ve come to take you back” he said “there’s very little time
“For you to make amends for greed before the church bells chime
“The blessings of the Christmastide, and peace, goodwill to all.
“Or wallow in your cosy bed and see what will befall
“You when you’re on your way to gutter land and begging in the streets
“And cardboard packing keeps you warm instead of silken sheets.”
The screen then switched to show the place the scene so desolate
That Mark had seen the night before depicting what his fate
Would be if he should not give up his greedy selfish ways;
The likelihood was that this could be how he ends his days.
What thoughts went through Mark’s mind just then will never now be known
But soon he turned the TV off and reached out for his ‘phone,
Speed-dialled the Aston Martin sales and when they came on line
“Enquiring for my order for my bright red DB9
“I’ve come to a decision and I thought I’d let you know
“That I’m cancelling the order and instead will now bestow
“My yearly bonus from the bank upon those most in need
“Christmas is a time to give and not for selfish greed.”

SCHOOL REUNION by Barrie Purnell

SCHOOL REUNION

There we all were assembled in the hall,
Like we did at school assembly 50 years before,
There for a school reunion of the class of fifty two
Looking around we were indeed a very motley crew.

Some were there just to have a bit of fun,
Others to show us just how well they’d done.
Some came old long lost friendships to renew,
Others because they just had nothing else to do.

I looked around at all the haggard faces
And couldn’t fit any in their schoolroom places.
Everyone just looked so old, how could this be?
Then I remembered they were all as old as me.

It was quite a shock to see how we’d all changed
How all our body dimensions had been re-arranged.
Despite liberal use of expensive astringents
There was no doubt we’d all turned into our parents.

We had all changed so much since the days of our youth
And were unrecognizable, that was the truth,
So to avoid any embarrassment and any shame
They gave us badges on which to write our name.

Jones who lisped his way through elementary French
Was now a grey haired magistrate on the local bench.
Brown sent home for wearing luminous yellow socks
Was a vicar at St Jude’s consoling errant flocks.
Pat, not bright enough university to attend,
Was teaching children on whom the country would depend.
Julie Short, who for boyfriends could have taken her pick,
Was now an unmarried nurse looking after the sick.
And shy Danny Davis had done alright in the end
He had a villa in Spain he shared with his gay friend.
Roger who won the outstanding sportsman shield,
Was in a wheelchair following an injury on the rugby field.
Gillian Jones the schools best looking girl by a mile
Now a small rotund old lady but with the same flirty smile.
Dave the class joker, who knew many a rude recitation,
Had become a boring accountant with no conversation.
And sexy Sarah Smith who had quite a reputation
Had made marrying rich men a profitable vocation.

I renewed some old friendships and reminisced
About what we’d done in the years that we’d missed,
Promised to stay in touch and addresses exchanged
But knew future meetings would not be arranged.
We had little in common, apart from our education,
Which was simply determined by our childhood location.
Few people, allowing for expected exaggeration,
Had been very successful in their chosen occupation
Having settled for less, because they had to pay
For mortgages and children and foreign holidays.
Then a list of fifteen names were read
Of classmates who were already dead.
Nearly twenty five percent of the total class
Had not lived to see this reunion pass,
And for all of our privileged education
It did not seem that our generation
Had left our world a much better place,
Or left any lasting mark upon its face,
Apart from teenagers, drugs and rock and roll
We’d provided little food for the nation’s soul.
Most of our childhood dreams and expectations
Had been lost in life’s day to day frustrations,
And although we’d not achieved much, I confess,
We thought surviving for fifty years sufficient success.
Despite everything there was a sense we’d paid our due
Among most of the class of fifty two.

So when we left and all went our separate ways,
Having failed to recapture those past schooldays,
That school road we’d walked down full of hope in our teens
Was now just a sad boulevard of our broken dreams.
Having left school early at the age of sixteen
I’d often thought about what might have been.
Having seen what my classmates had achieved,
Even if their stories were to be believed,
Of real successes I had spotted very few
I had held my own with the class of fifty two.
It was interesting, and I enjoyed the music and champagne,
But I don’t think that I will be attending again.