Jun 142015



I buy one. Red. Of course. Two blonde women – working here forever, mother and daughter – mock-fight to serve me. Two giggles. A quid to you darling.

I have a map. They’ve given me a map. I check it, discreetly: no real man needs a map. No real friend needs a map. No real lover needs… Right over in the corner – so far over it’s in Essex not London – are The Woodland Graves. Sounds like an ’80’s indie band. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:09 pm
Mar 052015



The rain spits a little more urgently, a little more aggressively than last time. A couple of kids slide past me up the hill: quiet, intent. The station – and all it means – finally starts to fade from my mind. A single punch of thunder signals – wearyingly – that it’s all about to happen again. The lights. The spinning. The silence. The shadow. The new-old life. This one, they tell me, is comedy, not tragedy: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 6:15 pm
Feb 162015




I consider carving this moment into a poem. In the half-closed eye of the storm: a still life. Trees and peace and water, a sweet sunlight. I wonder if it was really Monet’s failing eyesight that gave birth to his impressions. I wonder if I should go to Giverny.

Two men stroll past, hand-in-hand, wearing lumberjack shirts and an each-other ease: the grace of God. An Asian couple suck the life out of reeking fags, spark images of Gitanes-posing at a Gordon Road disco and the ignominy of The Last Dance. I hear Bach; I watch brightly-coloured plastic dragons bob on the lake, holding fire as the pretty Polish girl ties them up for the winter. The smell of bacon does its damnedest, ducks squawk, families walk and the mumumumum of a baby mocks my sudden broodiness.

And the People’s Palace watches it all: serene, pragmatic. I can see it from the top of my road, did you know that? There, it looks misty and magical, offers up music and a kind of rhyme. Here, it breathes safety, something quite certain, something quite prosaic.

The pregnant woman at the next table whispers on her phone. I have no thought, no feeling. There is, abruptly, silence. I consider carving this moment into a poem.



 Posted by at 7:53 pm
Jan 182015



  1. Begin at Newark. Don’t pay the extra for a sat nav. The hire car will take you to a disused-warehousey, cardboard-boxey, burning-trashcanny, wet-and-windy wasteground: death-dark, Shakespearean, haunted by Scorsesan ghosts. Panic, just long enough and hard enough to ensure you’ve spent more time there than it takes to watch an entire episode of The Sopranos.
  2. Stay, for a while longer, in New Jersey. Put on jaunty hat. As you listen to the jabber of crickets, narrowly avoid stepping on a skulking skunk, wonder if that was a cicada that just fell on your head, sing drunkenly along to a slowed-down ‘Born To Run‘ and eat a thousand sticky buffalo wings, remember that friendship and love and family and hope and the places we’ve come from are all we have. Those and the ability to pronounce ‘aluminium’ properly.
  3. Stroll around Asbury Park. Imagine what Madame Marie would say. Feel prose become poetry, bars become stadiums. Watch a Queen tribute band. Deny knowing any of the words.
  4. Leave Jersey. Drive. Drive. Drive some more. Later, as you sit, aching-ankled, eating crab and drinking beer through a wry Maryland dusk, look out across the glistening bay and remember heaven is always here, now.
  5. Shoot at barrels. Drink some Eagle Rare. Drink some more Eagle Rare. Shoot more confidently at barrels. Hide from the sheriff. Wonder where Daisy is.
  6. When the sweet girl who wants to be a nurse asks, ‘Do you have a King and Queen?’, remember the question is far, far too complicated for a conservative, lefty Englishman (alone in a land so like Ireland!) to even begin to answer. And then try.
  7. On a tie-undone, half-pissed evening, as Christy sings out across the valley, as Nina pleads and you start to cry with love and loss, remember this is the first Wedding In A Vineyard On A Beautiful Hillside In North Carolina that’s ever heard Chas and Dave.
  8. Head back through Virginia’s proud-oak miles, take photos of tired sepia roadhouses and unconscious fairgrounds. Wave to Paradise and Moriarty as their ’49 Hudson passes you. Look forward to your appearance in Kerouac’s first posthumously-written novel.
  9. It’s time for NYC, time to listen to the clumsy majesty of ‘Empire State Of Mind‘ again and again. But first – as you jerk, doors locked, through Jersey City, as you smell and hear and touch the strangle of a new/old apartheid – first remember the kindness of the black guy in the car in front showing you the way, remember the kindness of the white people you’ve met, remember kindness is all we have. That and an unnecessary ‘u’ in honour.
  10. Go to the 9/11 memorial. Look down into the depths of our fears and up at the heights of our transcendence. Watch kids take smiling selfies. Remember we’re all tourists, all the time.
  11. Breathe. Take your different self back to the airport. Explain it to the nice customs officers. Head home. Wonder where your hat is. Wonder, for the last time, where home is.


 Posted by at 9:56 pm

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