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Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (2018 edition)

Here’s a heart-warming childrens’ tale for the little‘uns (Any similarities with the NHS crisis are purely coincidental)

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (2018 edition)

Once upon a time, in a village on a hillside, there lived a little shepherd boy. He loved looking after sheep, and although he was young, he took his responsibility seriously. He was good at it, and rarely asked for help. But one day he came running down to the village crying “Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!”

This was because he’d seen a massive fckn wolf. I mean, you wouldn’t make that kind of thing up would you? No messing about, it’s best to tell people about it right? It was one of the first lessons he’d learned in junior shepherding school. If you see a wolf, tell someone about it.

So he rushed down the hill as fast as his little legs could carry him. But when he got down the hill, the Shepherd Council didn’t believe him. “What wolf?” they asked “There’s no wolves here”. They didn’t help him, and he had to go back up the hillside by himself and fight off the wolf.

Every week the boy would come down to the village and say “The wolf’s back again. I think he just lives there now”. But the Shepherd Council would look him up and down, his body bruised and battered from fighting the wolf, and shout “FAKE NEWS” at him. They didn’t help him, they just kept on giving him more and more sheep to look after

“It’s dangerous for the sheep” he’d say.
“Man up snowflake” they replied
“They deserve better than this. I’m working flat out to keep them safe” he’d say
“Stop virtue signalling” they replied “Shepherding is meant to be a vocation”
“Why can’t you help?” he would plead
“Look” they said “You say this every week”

One day, the boy couldn’t fight the wolf off completely and it stole a sheep, so the Shepherd Council punished him. They brought in Inspector Shepherds to count the sheep everyday (but they weren’t allowed to look for wolves).

The boy stayed on working because he loved doing it, and it was a privilege. But more and more sheep were getting eaten. Until, one day, a tiny lamb walked up to the boy and baa’d at him, saying “Fck off m8, ur sh*t at this. Sheep keep getting eaten. Sort it out”

So the boy jacked it in, and went to live in a sunnier meadow where the pay is much better and there’s proper anti-wolf protection.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Look Up

The morning call to prayer drowns out the chatter, the children, the cockerels;
at least for a minute.
How many pleas will go unanswered today?
Five times the Adhan will ring out across the camp,
and they will come. Unwaveringly. Resolutely. Religiously.

Who are we to judge? Stuck here in the dust between two lands. Unwanted;
surrounded by enmity and apathy.
Where else can you look but up, when all your terrestrial options are spent?
When any solution is mired in the petty politics of race, religion and region
whilst we cling to our own part of this insignificant rock, speeding through space at 600 kilometres per second.

On the sprawling hilltop opposite, the sun glints off corrugated metal;
a shining beacon of inequality
in a world that could do better. In a world that hasn’t learned from the past;
where our “never again” became “never somewhere close”.
And where even that seems less achievable than ever. 

So, I too look up. And pick out the kites, flying high above the tents;
sticks and plastic bags
fashioned into toys by children forced early into resilience
but now playing with the innocence of my own kids:
three flights, two trains and seven thousand miles away.

“Fill your days with life, not your life with days” they say.
Why not both?
When one is not an option, they focus on what is achievable.
Conditioned to accept a reality none of us could accept for ourselves,
whilst we get ready to leave. Back to our comfortable lives. Until the next time.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Winging It

For as long as he could remember, Paul had wanted to travel; to see new sights, to push boundaries, to explore. Don’t get me wrong, he loved his family, he liked his home, but he couldn’t help but feel there was so much more to see out there, far away across the ocean. Life can get a bit repetitive for an Adélie penguin. Waddling down to the water, having a quick snack of krill, waddling back up onto the ice floe. Day in, day out. The same routine. No surprises, no drama, no excitement.

Sometimes, at night, while his friends and family were huddled together for warmth, he’d make his way up to the higher ground, and stare at the moon and Southern lights. Occasionally, he’d see shooting stars arcing silently across the sky, and he would look down at his short, stubby wings, and flap them about a bit. “If only I could fly” he thought “the things I could see, the places I could go”.

Every now and then, the colony would get a visit from humans. Dressed head to toe in survival gear, they’d spend the day mooching around, writing things on their clipboards and taking pictures of the more photogenic penguins. The rest of the Adélies didn’t take much notice, but Paul was fascinated. He watched them closely, he studied their movements. “This is my ticket out of here” he thought. “Humans aren’t really that good at anything. They don’t have wings, they can’t swim well, they can’t even breathe underwater. Yet they’ve managed to explore the furthest reaches of our world. If humans can do it, why not me?”

So, one day, while the scientists were distracted by some science, Paul sneaked into a backpack and found himself being carried towards the ‘Aurora’, the Australian Antarctic Research Vessel. He’d spent ages preparing for this moment, learning to read from discarded notepads, perfecting his Australian accent from listening to the scientists. Now was his time to shine.

He planned to hide on the ship until they were far enough out to sea that the humans wouldn’t be tempted to turn around. A day later, Cape Adare had disappeared below the horizon and they were crunching through the pack ice in the Ross Sea. Paul decided this was the time to make his move. As a deckhand was passing by, he leapt from the backpack and shouted “G’day mate – nice ship you’ve got here” (He thought it was a good ice-breaker.)

Paul wasn’t expecting such an extreme reaction. He hadn’t realised how much of a stir the unexpected arrival of a talking penguin would have on the ship’s crew. Instead of polite conversation or witty banter, there was a reasonable amount of screaming and shouting, lasting several minutes. Eventually, after Paul had explained at length his plans to the Captain, he was granted safe passage. Unlike the team of scientists, the Captain had long realised that it’s best not to be curious. If a talking penguin asks for a lift to Hobart, well, if he’s not doing any harm, give a talking penguin a lift to Hobart. Don’t get too involved. It’s just a few years until retirement.

In the week it took to steam to Australia, Paul finalised his plans. He would get his pilot’s license and set up the first airline to take flightless non-migratory birds on holiday. He was on a mission. “Why not help these birds who, through no fault of their own, can’t fly” he thought “It’s not fair. If humans can’t swim, they take a boat. If they can’t fly they take a plane. If they can’t run very far or very fast, they take a car. It should be the same for animals. I’ll make it that way” .

It was hard going. To pay for his pilot’s course he took odd jobs, working on fishing boats, giving swimming lessons to kids, and occasionally going on talk shows (he’d become a bit of a celebrity locally). Although he found working the controls difficult with his small size and lack of opposable thumbs, there’s no problem that clever use of wooden blocks, tape and string cannot solve. And a year later, there he stood, license in hand, in front of his very own plane. He wanted to give his airline a distinctive name. One that said, “This is MY airline, and it’s GREAT”. So he settled on “My Great Airways”. It seemed right somehow.

And for the next few months, everything went well. He’d pick up Ostriches from Sub-Saharan Africa, Emus from Australia, Rheas from South America, Kiwis from New Zealand, Cassowaries from New Guinea, Penguins from Antarctica, Chickens from Britain, and Turkeys from Turkey. He’d take the birds from hot countries somewhere cooler for their holidays, and birds from cold countries somewhere nice and warm for their break. Word of his new business spread quickly. The birds couldn’t stop Tweeting about it. He got corporate sponsorship and ran the airline as a public service. He only took flightless birds and didn’t ask them to pay (although he once charged a lazy duck who didn’t want to fly himself. He told Paul to put it on his bill).

But after a while he started to get complaints. There were burnt penguins, baking in the African Sun, turning black and red. There were frostbitten ostriches, sliding down Antarctic ice floes with icicles hanging from their long necks. “Just take us home please Paul” they begged “We don’t like it here”. “It’s too hot” called the kiwis. “It’s too cold” boomed the emus. “We’re scared of flying” clucked the chickens. “I want a refund” quacked the lazy duck.

And Paul realised not everyone has the same sense of adventure that he does. There’s something comforting about the familiar, the routine, the everyday. There’s something refreshing about the expected. Not everyone wants to be a trend-setter, a boundary-pusher.  Some animals want a quiet life. Sure, history will remember the first Kangaroo to try bouncing the first human on the Moon, the first cat to play the piano. But that life is not for everyone. Although some of the animals didn’t like their trip, it gave them a new sense of appreciation for what they had. And it didn’t stop them trying, in their own way, to make things just a bit better back home.

Paul hasn’t lost his sense of adventure. He still flies, but he’s a commercial airline pilot now. Maybe you’ve flown with him? If you hear a pilot with a strong Australian accent and see fresh mackerel being delivered to the cockpit, have a look. You never know.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Special Care

Special Care

Sam do you remember
all your time in Special Care?
Would you recognise the voices
of the nurses working there?

Would you recognise a photo
from your first night in that place
a tiny mass of wires
in a huge clear plastic case?

Do you have a distant memory
of that frantic afternoon
when you put in an appearance
nearly fourteen weeks too soon?

And Sam do you remember
when I came to visit you? 
Your proud but frightened sister
I just didn’t have a clue.

“When will his eyes be open?”
and “What’s that beeping noise?”
“When will my baby brother
get to play with baby toys?”

Sam, you won’t remember
how I thought I was to blame
when Mum and Dad were crying
while deciding on your name.

They answered all my questions
but they had some of their own
When would they get to hold you?
Would they ever get you home?

When times were tough they thought 
of all the love they had to give
and all the details of a life
that you might never get to live.

So, Sam can you imagine
that now two years from your birth
you‘ve taught us just how fragile
are our precious lives on Earth?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Memory Foam

Memory Foam

Paler patches where pictures used to hang,
compacted carpet, footprints slowly fade.
Silence fills the rooms where once she'd sang
and weeds reclaim the grass on which kids played.

The mattress on the bed is memory foam
- he hopes that it will still retain her form;
but bricks and wood no longer make a home
- this house will never get to be so warm.

So here he is, he's lying on his side
with arms outstretched across the empty space
- he never thought the bed could feel so wide
without the promise of her love's embrace.

With life so short, our time ticks by so fast
- how long can our impressions truly last

Thursday, 11 May 2017



So, we heard today that the Crown Prosecution Service won't pursue cases against Conservative MPs accused of electoral fraud. The "accounting errors" were made by Tory HQ not individual candidates or their election agents. It's the electoral fraud equivalent of letting off two shoplifters who claimed they both thought the other one paid. 

There's a fair amount of anger about it, but I think getting them on this would be like when they got Al Capone on Tax Evasion charges. I'd argue the dishonesty of these "accounting errors" pale into insignificance compared to the dishonesty of their campaign in general. Is claiming election funding was national as opposed to local as serious as any of their other false claims?

Claiming to represent working Britain when only the rich are getting richer (1,2) 

Claiming to represent the interests of the UK while incompetently wrecking them for short term political gain (3)

Claiming to be stable, but effectively saying while politicians can change their minds, voters can't (May was Remain, previously ruled out election)

Claiming to be strong but avoiding debate during an election they themselves called, not allowing proper scrutiny of their policies.

Claiming to be strong but not standing up to big business (4)

Claiming to be the party of the NHS but deliberately choosing to underfund and understaff it (5)

Claiming to be the party of job creation, whilst doing nothing about reducing job security, zero hours contracts and fake self-employment (6)

Claiming to be "Compassionate Conservatives" whilst sanctioning the disabled, demonising benefits claimants and introducing the "rape clause" (7)

Claiming they can be trusted to run the country at a time when the Red Cross declared an Humanitarian crisis in the NHS (8) and the UN declared Tory austerity policies to be in breach of human rights obligations (9)

Claiming to support children but eliminating targets to reduce child poverty (10) and scrapping plans to allow refuge to unaccompanied children fleeing war zones (11)

So, yeah, they've not been prosecuted. But they're not innocent. Not on this, or any of the counts above. But voters can weigh up the evidence and deliver the verdict in June.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Growing Up

Ears flapping in the breeze;
tongue out, tasting the fresh air rushing through the window crack.
The excitement of the journey.

Don’t tell him we’re going to the vets;
let him enjoy the pure thrill of just going.
Until the reality of the destination dawns.

Just like growing up.