Sunday, 18 October 2020

Barnaby Benson

In all their agonising and perpetuating of the myth that hard work leads to achievement,

Barnaby Benson was an outlier, a slow-down, even-breathing sage of the virtues of doing nothing.

Eschewing the inherent stresses of searching for enlightenment by following mantras and rules,

Barnaby’s approach, if it could be described, was as fresh as the melting rush of a mountain glacier: 

‘Listen to metal and drink coffee and beer if you like them, rant at the television at night if it helps, 

 just allow yourself a moment to breathe and empty your head and feel the ground under your feet’.

It was as simple as that and though Barnaby Benson had no followers or friends or underpants of note,

And spent lots of time ranting at the television, sometimes he was as quietened as a deserted school at night.


When billionaires blew rockets to burn, we filled balloons

with spittle, and flew like Icarus towards the sun,

skinned up palms to escape ourselves, to rescue a neighbour’s cat, 

shouted in cones, ranted from rooftops, 

held umbrellas just to caress the currents.

Once we mingled, cycled in an umbilical cord, 

a lycra chain-gang, in parks, in cities,

crossing  squares, linking hands on skyscrapers, 

thoughts of jumping banished by who we might fall on, 

a lonely road now with just our breaths, and memories.

After this, the clamp, the civic shut in,

will come the release, the new build,

going into shops like entering a circus, the shrill cry that follows the roar, 

the kiosk sign that says all fear gets left inside,

we’ll find each other then, clowning around, ignoring hoops for the air outside.


In the low tide scrub hinterland fringing the canals of East London, all manner of life is exhumed: carved out cats, whose missteps had fatally wrong footed them into a starving badger lair; an empty marmalade jar divested of its fairground retro goldfish prize (three consecutive hoops on a roadside cone); a deflated helium balloon crash-landed from a child’s party; a bird spectacularly entangled and carried away by a goal net unfastened in a gust of wind. 

Under this moody sulphurous globe of late autumn, amongst all the death and detritus, a woman walks, head down, wringing her hands in a vain attempt to wipe away thoughts, her brain frazzled and beset by fear. She doesn’t notice a resurrected, reborn half-dog-half-cat holding a Dyson leaf collector in its reconstructed paws; nor the legless, one-claw-one-hand surgical philosopher with his chest clasped tight in fish gut. It’s a pity for his words are exemplary:  

‘Do it to yourself, do it to others, patch up the armless and fill the poor souls with their stuffing taken out, put crows eyes on crows feet, jumpstart a de-frosting Iceland salmon and sew an aqualung through its spine, taxidermy the taxi driver who lost all recall of his knowledge, give him a dog’s memory for treats and plant a Satnav into his frontal lobe  . . . ‘


As he speaks, his lone claw chops creative life shapes into the sky, whilst his hand reaches in his pocket for a long discarded Strawberry Quality Street.  ‘I hate these,’ he thinks. ‘If only I had the power to summon new life, not just resurrect and re-shape the lifeless, I could bring forth a chocolate caramel, or a purple clad toffee brazil.’  He spits the strawberry cream out and the half-dog-half-cat hoovers it up.

‘Waste not want not,’ munches the half-dog-half-cat.

The surgical philosopher, who has been closely watching the rejected chocolate disappear into his splendid domestic creation, is suddenly struck by a big idea. ‘Pass me the leaf collector,’ he commands, ‘for I can fashion something from it that may have benefit for life-form as we know it, something for the greater wellbeing of our planet.’

His words take flight towards the angst-ridden woman, who had passed by only a moment before: ‘Madam, would you allow me to adapt the leaf blower into a strimmer and splice it directly into your brain? Not only might it help you shed unnecessarily negative thoughts but it might shape burdensome worries into manageable bite-sized chunks’.

The woman turns: ‘Are you insane: some kind of DIY Jesus with ideas above your station?’

‘You’re not ready,’ the surgical philosopher surmises. ‘It’s understandable, I feel your pain, your confused state. But when you are ready, you know where to find me.’

‘In the looney bin,’ she replies, and yet even as she say this, she finds her feet taking small steps forward, drawing her imperceptibly towards the surgical philosopher, to a life without worries, a life without hands or feet.

Man in shower


Man in pane
Man get hot

Man bit stuck
Man do fart 


The House

Would you look at the house? Even from the agent pictures, it reeks damp and grubbiness: the green felt pool of carpet, the dirt tan of nicotine on the walls, the lopsided mock chandelier in the lounge. Here is a house that someone has died unhappily in: neglected, housebound and probably too weak to eat or cry out for help.

For the love of God, shut up you miserable bastard. It’s a house, and you have no right or possess any discernible talent that would allow you to pin any of your maudlin miserable nonsense onto it. Leave misery well alone, and look to the future: a lick of paint and it’ll be dandy.

Dandy? What kind of comic, nonsensical expressions are you channeling? The house is a mausoleum and if you so much as consider viewing it, then we’re both surely dead.

Now there’s a good reason for me to ring the agent first thing tomorrow.

And so it was that Eamonn and Sue Leonard found themselves walking up the pathway to the house the next morning.

I told you. I can smell destitution and decay from here.

All I can smell is you. Now shush, here comes your man.

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard, as I live and breathe, is it you I see standing before me?

It is, and you know it is because we spoke on the phone only an hour ago.

I’m sorry, Mr. Coulson, my husband has a rare and aggressive form of dementia.

Isn’t that the worst kind, Mrs. Leonard? Well, I for one hope he makes a speedy recovery. Now, let’s make our way in. But before we do, I must tell you that you will not be the first to see it.

And we won’t be the last?

Ah, Mr. Leonard, please, I’m merely trying to say that there has been some interest already.

Well say it then, don’t try to say it.

There are other potential purchasers, one a family with strong links to the area.

Well, it’s always good to be connected.

Ignore him, Mr. Coulson, it’s just his way but we both know I’ll get my way in the end. 

And Mrs. Leonard did get her way, and in a more meaningful way so did I. Allow me to introduce myself – no fanfare needed, a funeral procession will suffice: my rear extension is wide, my mouth cavernous, my appetite insatiable, for I am ‘The House’.

‘Reeked of damp’, of unhappy deaths, destitution and decay said the astute Mr. Leonard. Well, his death put an end to all of that: a celebration of sorts, a climax reached with glass confetti raining down from the ceiling – the chandelier itself (he should have left it lopsided) pinning him like a stake through his head and onto the floor. 

Where was the wife I hear you ask, his guide to direct him, to nag a certain degree of safety into his stubborn (as yet un-fractured) skull? Unlikely, she’d have made an appearance for he’d already buried her the day before under a cold clod of earth in the woefully unkempt garden; murdered her with a degree of irritation and a smidgen of mercy, for saying for the millionth time that the house was whispering to her at night to take off her clothes and run into the darkness screaming like a banshee (which she had done on numerous occasions before).


I look upon it as marriage guidance, benign intervention made on behalf of poor Mrs. Leonard. A conduit of her desire, she asked and he did as was requested: ‘For the love of God, kill me, Eamonn, put me out of my misery, I can’t breathe another day in this wretched house.’ Thwack! And her wish was granted.

And Mr. Coulson? He’s complicit with me, the sick bastard. A diary full of couples with the promise of a commission and the ghoul is happy. But if he should ever fail, falter in his resolve, he will find his way into a bricked up wall along with the other agents. 


My desire is only for completion. And, as I speak, here stands another couple at my front door: a kitchen’s unearthed wire already breaking free at my skirting, the foundations of my soul loosened for a tremor that will surely come (if I have my way), those fragile roof slates edged just a little looser for that pick of wind, as – now, what‘s her name?

‘I love it already Jack.’


‘I knew you would, Lilian.’

Ah, yes, as poor little Lilian steps back from the front door and looks up. 

‘Cut her in two. Never seen the like of it,’ the startled policeman will be quoted as saying in the local paper.

In a picture accompanying the article, I’ll be smiling my breezy front door smile, a letterbox hint of tongue, the bright bulbs from the upstairs windows indicating activity: lights on, ready for business: let them in and keep them coming, I have rooms to occupy, and mouths to feed!

Oh, and what of Mr. Jack? Well, if you will go into a kitchen screaming like a madman, then you are unlikely to notice the wire snaking around your feet, carrying enough charge to arouse the departed and electrify the living.

Thursday, 23 February 2017


  ‘Oh, lone is the path that turns its head, that coils the slopes, and reaches unseen peaks.’

A ramble no more amongst congested city parks, devils careering on wheelie boards, arses slung from low-hung jeans, bins stocked full with detritus: used pampers, split micro-brewery plastic tankards and tomato splattered pizza cartons.

Out into the big sky and mountainous ranges, the air rare and tight, the urban hiker takes his beard for a wild unanswered whistle and a solitary testing climb. No mobile reception, no wifi, just him and his lightly groomed, much-coveted facial hair.

‘Beard, I like it. I like it very much,’ he says.

The beard tenses, its follicles frosting with the cold, tightening its grasp on the skin around his master’s mouth to produce a satisfying satisfied grin.

‘I want to shout, “I’m smiling because I’m happy!”’

The beard has other ideas and tightens its hold further so the hiker can speak no more. He is forced to sit down with his beard at the mountain’s peak and listen and watch, the cold mist rising from the valley to join his own exhaled plumes of breath, his heart slowing to a single beat, everything laid out before him.

Peter de Poon

I wish I knew who my father was so I could ask him why he gave me such a ridiculous name.
Hello, Peter, I am your father.
But you’re a midget.
That is true.
And I am of normal height.
Evidently, but your mother was unfeasibly tall. Now do the maths.
At school they called me de Poo.
Ha, ha.
And if the added my Christian initial to the front, I became P. de Poo. Pee of poo, get it?
That’s priceless; children can be so funny.
It wasn’t funny. It was hurtful.
I grew up a dwarf. Well, grew and up were never part of the equation, and consequently I was teased and bullied.
It made me strong, Peter.
So, was being called pee and poo supposed to have made me strong too?
Clearly it worked! And I went on to become Galactic Field Marshall of the Seventh Hemisphere.
You’re a mad midget then?
Sticks and stones! 
It’s been so good to meet you, Dad.
Come with me and we can rule the world, and a seventh of the galaxy.
Only a seventh? If it’s okay, I’ll stay and deal with my hang-ups on earth.
Bye, Peter de Poon.
Bye, dwarf Dad.