Hue and Cry

On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone

Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone

Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not

Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot

Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet

I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot

Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long

Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?

Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave

Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?

I come into my garden for the colours and the light

A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.

Viral Spiral

man in black t-shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on tree branch

I thought my life was going well until I watched TV
Where some young thing in yoga pants screamed: Get off that settee!
She told me that I eat too much and ought to exercise
And should feel guilty every time I supersize my fries.
I changed the channel just in time because I got upset
Only to hear a psychic say he talks to my dead pet
I simply had to call him up and he’d unleash his power
Connecting me with Fido for just fifty bucks an hour.
Another channel change heard women speak of me with scorn
Declaring we’d be better off if no more boys were born
Apparently we’re toxic and we break a lot of hearts
I think these women, if they could, would cut off all my parts.
A cooking show chastised me for my love of microwaves
Ignoring their convenience and the time this gadget saves
I’m now to slow-cook every meal and simmer under lids
So suppertime’s now midnight – explain that one to the kids.
I’m also nowhere green enough because I still eat meat
Instead of chewing watercress whilst farming in bare feet
They warn our homes are killing us – we shouldn’t live indoors
Though living off-grid didn’t really help the dinosaurs.
Global warming, rising crime and famine ‘round the globe
Because I don’t like rainbows I’ve been called a homophobe
I won’t be blamed for everything the media imparts
I only turned on Channel 4 to watch a bit of darts.

Ante Establishment

Randomly flicking through the TV channels I happened upon a show called Child Genius, a programme whose aim is to discover which children in Britain have never been allowed to climb a tree, drink Fanta and make friends their own age. Contestants range in age from 8 – 12 in Earth years and from what I gather there are only two eligibility requirements: they must dress like Puritans and manage their own hedge fund. As for the parents, alas, there are no rules otherwise these same kids would be attending birthday parties and dancing to K-pop.

One distinctive family comprised Calliope (the child genius), Octavia (her overbearing mother), Peregrine (her hipster father) and 4 year-old twin brothers, as yet unnamed.

“We’re waiting for a Labour government first because then the whole ordeal will be less traumatic for them,” Peregrine explained.

“Watch out for the fat one – he’s a biter. He ate three of the gerbils in my control group,” Calliope warned. “Octavia, it’s 3 o’clock.”

Interviewer: What happens at 3 o’clock?

“I give Calliope her feed.”

Interviewer: Her what?

“She’s still on breast milk,” Octavia stated matter-of-factly, now fumbling underneath her burka. “Excuse me for a minute. I’m afraid these are more form over function.”

Interviewer: I was going to ask you about that, actually. Isn’t that a Peperami in your bag?

“Oh, I’m not Muslim,” she grimaced. “I don’t even believe in God. It’s more of a statement.”

Interviewer: Got it, but getting back to the feed: are you telling us that Calliope has lived on nothing but breast milk since she was born?

“Oh, no. I add my own juices to it as well.”

[viewers stopped eating at this point]

Interviewer: Please, God, tell me we’re talking about lemon grass.

“I have a juicer for vegetables and fruit,” Octavia confirmed, “but I also have all their placentas in the freez-“”

It was a shame really because Calliope seemed like a nice kid who wasn’t bothered whether or not she won Child Genius. Octavia, however, was on a mission. After years of subjecting her first born to stem cell shakes and hyperbaric chambers, this TV programme would vindicate her once and for all. After all, it wasn’t about the children; she was the true genius and, by her own calculations, Calliope only needed to make it to Week 4 before TV producers and the viewing public realized this. After that it would be book deals, speaking tours and Oprah.

Interviewer: Calliope, do you have any regrets about coming onto the progreamme? Did you ask to come on it?

“To be honest, I’d rather be doing something else,” she wrinkled her nose.

Interviewer: Playing with your gerbils?

“Gambling online. Every minute I’m in this stupid studio I’m losing money.”

Interviewer: I beg your pardon?

“My game’s Poker. Last night I was about to beat the bubble until my Aces got cracked. I ended up folding faster than Superman on wash day. I looked like a total fish,” she rolled her eyes.

Interviewer: Uh, okay. So you won’t be going to Oxford then?

“Oh, I’ll be going to Oxford,” she arched an eyebrow, “but it won’t be Flash Cards I’ll be playing with, if you catch my drift.”

Interviewer: How will you balance gambling with your studies? And is it even legal? You’re too young to gamble, aren’t you?

Calliope discreetly opened her Frozen II pencil case to reveal a wad of crisp one-hundred dollar bills. Drawing one out, she folded it expertly with one hand until she’d fashioned a small fish, which she handed to me.

“Why don’t you go buy yourself something pretty and leave the legal stuff to me? After all, who’s the genius here?” she asked, morphing from Girl Guide to Al Capone before my eyes.

Interviewer: What about your mother’s plans for you?

“Octavia’s seeking validation but it can’t come through me. Her insecurities stem from a lifetime’s inability to rise above her own mediocrity. The whole breastfeeding thing’s a manifestation of it: she believes she’s passing on matriarchal wisdom when she pumps that junk which, for the record, I pour straight down the drain. I prefer a single malt – it keeps me clear-headed.”

Interviewer: Won’t she be disappointed though?

“When isn’t she? Look, do you want me to wrap this up nice and neatly for your viewers at home? Give them my take on life?”

Interviewer: Please, do.

“Okay, here we go… in life, you need to play the hand you’re dealt. If you don’t like the dealer, switch tables and if you don’t like the odds, switch games. Then again…” she said coyly, throwing a piece of popcorn into the air and catching it in her mouth, “I’m just a kid, so what do I know?”

Bad Hare Day

This guy chillin with his dog in London : funny

Every evening after dinner my dogs, Gizmo and Spark, take me for a walk. On our way to the park the pair regularly drops in on our elderly neighbours who, in most cases, once had dogs of their own. One in particular, Old Ed, is especially fond of Gizmo who himself is knocking on 17 years. The two have a bond and Ed discusses everything with his loyal friend, from his time in the National Service to the state of the NHS.

During one visit in particular we had time to spare and happily sat down to watch Crime Watch UK, one of Ed’s favourite TV programmes. Ed is 89 years old but not without his faculties and he considers it his civic duty to keep watch over the neighbourhood.

“It’s the old dears we need to look out for,” he said. “They’re soft targets.”

“And who’s looking out for you?” I asked.

“Gizmo.”

Elderly Farmer Standing Leaning On A Wooden Fence Surveying His ...

That evening’s episode included a re-enactment of a homicide which had taken place in the shires. Like all re-enactments, the viewers were first introduced to the characters and setting to make its treatment of the crime less clinical and more personal. The victim in question was an elderly farmer. His last day on earth portrayed him as a hard-working, decent sort who was fair in his dealings with others. The narrator set the scene:

John Brown began his day like any other, checking his crops in the fields. For him, as for every other farmer in the county, rabbits proved a perennial pest because he grew their favourite food: carrots. Every morning, shotgun slung over his shoulder, he’d shoot as many as twenty before breakfast.

“Vermin,” Ed told Gizmo, who hung on his every word although deaf as a post.

After a long day’s work, John Brown drove his tractor into an outbuilding and locked it shut. He then checked on his cows and hens a final time before heading into the farmhouse.

“Cows and chickens make okay intruder alarms but he should have had a few geese as well. They’re the best,” Ed informed me.

“Why’s that?”

“They’re skittish. Geese’ll wake the dead.”

“They haven’t mentioned his family so I’m guessing he might be a widower,” I ventured.

“They didn’t say. But where are the sons?”

“Maybe they didn’t choose that life.”

“It’s the best life for a person,” Ed was staring ahead at nothing in particular. “Fresh air, proper food, hard work…”

File:Age-worn door latch and lock on well-weathered planks ...

The narrator went on to describe what police believe happened next. Apparently, at some point during the night one or more intruders broke into the farmhouse. From what they could gather, the intruder(s) found John Brown’s shotgun by the door. Whether it was because he heard them or not, John Brown came downstairs and was confronted by the intruder(s) who killed him with his own shotgun.

Nothing of value was taken as far as police can tell. John Brown had no known enemies and it’s suspected it might have been a burglary which went horribly wrong.

“Poor bugger,” Ed stroked Gizmo behind the ears. “And by his own gun.”

“Maybe he screwed someone over,” I weighed the evidence. “Maybe he owed them money. Farmers are always juggling massive debts.”

“It wouldn’t be that.”

“Maybe developers wanted the land and he wouldn’t sell.”

“Nope, that’s not it. Keep going.”

“Okay, last one,” I racked my brain. “Maybe he does have a son but they’re estranged and the son came to claim what he believed to be his birthright: the farm or revenge!”

“Not even close,” Ed laughed. “Not even close. It’s obvious; think about it.”

Home - Grimmway Farms

I was flummoxed, but moreover, I was intrigued by his self-assuredness in the matter. I had apparently missed a vital clue which was the clincher. Now watching him savour the moment without any smugness whatsoever I was proud of Ed. He’d seen more in his lifetime than I ever would: The Great Depression, WW2, the draft, rationing, The Cold War and a man on the moon, yet I knew he now felt utterly discarded by those who had come after him. What he’d already forgotten I’d never know; I had gained knowledge whereas Ed’s generation had acquired wisdom.

“Give up?” he grinned, thumbing tobacco into his pipe.

“I’m all out of ideas,” I conceded, happy to be sharing in his big moment.

“It was the rabbits,” he winked. “It just takes a couple of crosshairs.”