Saturday, 26 June 2010

Poetry Bus Update: Signs

And finally the bus rolls into the station ready for the contenders to climb on board.

A few of you have been extra keen to travel and seem to have dodged past the conductor, so here's where he catches up and prints your tickets.

As you may remember I set you all the task of rehabilitating road (or any other) signs that were just lounging about doing nothing. You could either:

1) Follow the sign and write something you saw at the other end
2) Merely imagine what might be at the other end and write about that
3) Find a new use for the word on the sign to explain something that currently has no word

My first effort this week focusses on option 3 - entries to the Poetry Bus will be labelled below my pome and any further entries please leave responses here. Thanks for playing

Scunthorpe (vb)

It's the last sausage roll at the party
The quiche slice that never got et
It's the bread roll that lost half its contents
It's the salad all soggy and wet

It's the white sauce that stuck to the ceiling
The pastry that needed a saw
The cheese on a stick that went mouldy
The breadstick that's been on the floor

It's the food that is so un-appealing
That no matter how desperate you are
The only option left to you
Is to crush it to death with your car

So there you are - a Scunthorpe is now officially "unappetising food left uneaten on the plate"

My second effort is the first option - because I have actually been to the location some years ago, but never inside - and nor have I gone on The Smiths Cycling Tour Of Manchester (it may not even be running anymore).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with british TV and music there is a long-running soap opera called Coronation Street, which is set in Manchester. However there is only one actual Coronation Street in Manchester, in Salford which is mainly the backs of other buildings - aside from one building at the end where The Smiths posed for one of their album photos. (NB - the man in the photo is a certain Stephen Morrissey, re-visiting the location some years later)

The Salford Lads Club

Here's to the lads of Salford, Mancs
Where Morrissey, Rourke and Mke Joyce
Stood on the empty Coronation St
Outside the only building of choice

I stood by the gates once and noticed
The names of the faithfull were scrawled
Ont peeling and chipped wooden framework
Of the firmly shut Salford Lads doors

Now the bike tours and music move onwards
But the music remains just the same
Did these miserable streets inspire you
Or are they the ones we should blame?

This week's travellers on the Bus were (I will leave replies on all posts sometime on monday and update in the meantime):
A very keen Jeanne Iris who rather wonderfully knows a place called Intercourse
The well-read Jessica Maybury who managed to reference Brett Eaton-Ellis before disappearing

The ever entertaining Total Feckin Eejit who seems to have taken the portentions signs to new levels

Gwei Mui who questioned the nature of home

Weaver Of Grass who found herself going back to nature

Niamh who talked of a town called Adam

Dave King with his stroll through a village through the eyes of two boys

Crazy Field Mouse who went out waving at trains

Jinksy, who went off the beaten track

Rachel Fox, escaping from the rat race

Shipla, and her fellow traveller

Pure Fiction and the big white mouth

Titus The Dog at the Kirkyard

Enchanted Oak and a sign of hope

The Bug getting friendly in a field

Domestic Oubliette with a place to park your behind

Delusions Of Adequacy with some community conscious Banksys?

Karen, with an appointment with a familiar person

Izzy, in danger?

(updates to follow)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Poetry Bus Challenge: Portentious Signs, or just Signs?

You'll have to endulge me here slightly and imagine a slightly bruised and battered Willie Nelson at the side of a british road somewhere, just strumming his guitar, wondering (in a slightly inebriated way) where the tour bus has gotten to and singing

"on the road again, just caint wait to get on the road again"

Because the Poetry Bus, as sponsored by Cooper's Creosote, Oirish Beers and Total Feckin Eejit (probably the greatest blog in the world) has reached Pixie land and got rather lost.

Easy to understand really, because exactly what do all those road signs actually do? Not just the ones that point at places, but the others as well? I mean - "Temporary Traffic Signals"?? What do they do the rest of the time? Sell home insurance??

And it is exactly in this vein of thought that this weeks Poetry Bus challenge has taken to the wrong side of the road and is currently careering out of control.

I mean, lets face it, signs have a pretty easy time of it. They just sit about pointing at places for years on end and this week it's my role to get them rehabilitated into the community and working for their living.

So - and with my usual capacity for focussing on a single task for any given period of time - here is the challenge.

Take a familiar journey somewhere.
Take a look at the signs - both directional, street, shop and whatever other words you encounter just lounging about pinned to walls
Find a sign that is looking a bit dejected and in need of attention.

From here on in you can take a couple of options:
1) Follow that sign to where it goes and write a poem about something you see there
2) Don't follow the sign - but instead write a poem about what kind of place you imagine to be at the end of that sign.
3) This option is for the sturdy of heart only. Often signs on posts fall out of colloquial use, and yet there are experiences we all share that have no word for them - like the feeling you get when someone persistantly shouts at the person next to them on the bus when talking in a normal tone of voice would suffice. Find one of these experience that seems to fit the word on the sign in some Zen-like-way (and please note the actual sound and composition of the word needn't have any actual relevance) and write a poem about that feeling

I will be posting my own effort sometime on sunday. If you are playing please tell me here on this post when yours is up - I will post the links on my Sunday post throughout Sunday and Monday.

Happy poeming

Friday, 18 June 2010

Two-Hundredth Post: The Last Night Of The Fair

It seems to me that the best ideas are, generally speaking, the easiest.

The ideas that pop out of your head and straight onto the paper are the most pure - the ones that you've had the least chance to meddle with. The more that you have to work at the idea, the more you are likely to ruin it.

This is how it was with what will probably stand as the Greates Thing I Will Ever Write, about how Superman would make a rubbish boyfriend - there it was, just in my head and ready to pop onto page.

Sadly this story is typical of my creativity, I mean -what the hell is the point of it? I can't sell it anywhere, so it will just sit there and lurk at me.

And yet here we are celebrating my 200th post with a song that was an absolute bugger to write. I'd known for a while that there was a waltz-style song in my head, I could hear the slow thump of the drum long before there was any music to go with it

And then I got a few of the words to the first verse, then the third, then the second and finally the refrain - and here it is. The video was supposed to be of a local fair, but i never got around to visiting it and have missed it - so this view of the canal i sometimes follow to work will have to suffice.

Thanks to everyone who's stuck with reading my drivel for so long - any comments on the old posts, the song or requirements for the future would be gratefully received.

For anyone tuning in for my turn at the Poetry Bus wheel I will be posting the challenge sometime on Wednesday 23rd June. Happy 3rd century everyone!

- oh, and apologies to The Smiths for the deliberate steal on the last chorus...

The Last Night Of The Fair


Well the bright coloured baubles will sparkle
Like the lights that will catch in your eye
As the carnival dances around you
And the fireworks light up the sky
As you climb on the waltzer and take hold
And the ground seems to merge with the sky
As the world spinning round finds you screaming
Singing li-li-li-li

On the last night of the fair
As the fireworks light up the air
And you sing like you don’t have a care
Oh will you take me dancing, will you take me dancing (again)

Without thinking you find yourself dancing
The music is pulsing a beat
Candyfloss wrappers entangle
And catch in the ground at your feet
While the showman is grinning and waving
Enticing you in by and by
Like a brightly clad demon he calls you astray
Singing li-li-li-li

As he hands you his token you feel no regret
And he gives you a last chance to take back your bet
He holds his hands open with nothing to hide
But you still feel a chill as you follow inside

Well the bright coloured baubles will sparkle
Like the lights that will catch in your eye
And the man on the stall makes a promise
That makes everything else sound a lie
So you feel the world crashing around you
As you swing at the coconut shy
And you fear that your heart may be breaking
Singing li-li-li-li

Final Chorus
The last night of the fair
And the boy with the grease in his hair
Sings of love and of hope and despair
As he takes the girls dancing, takes them all dancing

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Poetry Bus - One Nine Nine

And greetings once again fellow bloggers so something of a pre-emtive strike and fair warning of approaching events.

As you may have guessed from the title (or not) of this post, this is my one hundred and ninety-ninth post - which means that for my next trick I will be posting my 200th post

And what better way to prematurely celebrate than to join the Revolutionary Revelry request to write a pome.

Now the host of that fair site did actually ask us to post our voice again this week, but I have decided not to for two very good reasons. Firstly my voice is about as exciting to listen to as paint is exciting to watch dry and secondly because my 200th post (which will follow on Friday) is going to be a song.

And I know that not all my readers like my songs (and who can blame them) -so I'm setting you all the challenge, whilst there's a few of you actually reading, to make some suggestions for posts you would like to see on the other side of 200 - answers to this question, along with comments about favourite Pixie moments should be given on my 200th post - or not as the case may be.

So - Poetry Bus.

We were asked to go somewhere and really listen to the sounds around us - and I'm afraid I cheated here a bit, because what I actually did was find two pieces of verse I had already writ on the subject of odd noises and unearthed them from the "deleted" items on my computer.

Here is the first - based on a true event of staying on someone's sofa a few years ago.

Creaks and Groans

Through the ceiling comes mysterious sounds
Creaks and groans, excited moans
The bed jerking wildly, each spring uncoiling
Tempo rising, passion takes control

Headboard slams against the wall
Sounds like someone rowing a boat
Oar after oar, stroke after stroke
Till silence once again fills the world

Downstairs the household waits
Someone screams for more
The frantic sounds begin again
Creaks and groans, excited moans.

The second entry to the poetry bus this week is a song lyric, one that got recorded by myself and my friend Argent sometime ago - but you'll have to imagine the pseudo-latino rhytmn as I can't find the CD right now:

In The Early Hours

Don’t you know that it’s true, cos I don’t sleep anymore?
I’ve got that haunted look, and I don’t smile
Every breath of wind, is a howling gale, every creaking stair, is a man breaking in
In the darkest hour I lie awake, I’ve taken all that I can take

No I don’t dream, coz I can’t sleep anymore
In those restless hours, I stare at the ceiling
While the world is asleep, my thoughts are spinning
Just another night; and I can’t get through another day

Is there something wrong, is there something disturbing me
The bags in my eyes, look like they’re from Tesco’s
Every night is the same, I’m always tired in the day, and I don’t know, if I can go on
I’m hearing voices in the night, and I don’t know if I’m alright

Monday, 7 June 2010

Cooking With The Pixies

A recent post by Anne-Marie reminded me that I have been intending to publish some quick recipes for a while - done in the way that only a Hungry Pixie can do them. All recipies are based on two very hungry people pigging themselves.

Cucumber And Red Onion Riatta
This works well as a starter, a dip or, most popularly in our house, as a filling for Jacket Potatoes. Don't let the word "Onion" put you off - as even friends who don't usually like onions have enjoyed this recipe

Take 1/2 a cucumber and grate it over a bowl
Pick up all the mushy bits going "urrrg, urrg, this is disgusting" and squeeze as much of the juice as possible - chuck away the juice

Take a medium sized red onion - you'll have to judge what counts as medium for yourself - and chop this really finely, pausing to take out the pieces of flesh as and when required

Take a clove of garlic and cut this finely as well. Chuck both in with the cucumber.

If you have fresh chilli peppers then take a green chilli and cut off the end - about " " depending on how much of your tongue you want burned off. If you don't have any fresh then you want the tiniest atom of dried chilli powder that you can possibly put on your spoon as an alternate option.

Take some ground cumin and a few cumin seeds - about half a tea-spoon depending on taste and chuck these in to the mix with everything else.

Take some plain yoghurt - how much? About 2-3 spoons. Enough to make the mix thick but not enough for it to turn to sludge, and mix it all in together.

Bung it on a plate and neglect to mention to (INSERT HOT-FOOD HATING RELATIVE NAME HERE) that it has chilli powder and raw garlic in.

There might be ginger involved as well - but I can't remember right now.

Spicy Rice
A quick and easy meal - so simple to make that even King Numptie of the Numptie tribe could manage it

OK - some of you probably saw the word rice in there and panicked - i mean, rice comes in a bag or comes out congealed, right? Well - here's the three steps that you need to get perfect rice everytime:

1) Put your rice in the biggest pan you have (about a small teacup of white basmati rice works best for this recipie) - the more space the rice has to move the better
2) Wash the rice in warm water a couple of times and then in cold water - this gets out all the starch
3) If you have time leave the rice to soak for about 1/2 hour - this stage can be missed out for all of you out there who actually have a life.

Once you have chucked your rice into a big pan get a few vegetables - just make it up as you go. I usually use a carrot and a tin of peas, but whatever is left in your fridge will do. Cut up the raw vegetables small (they cook quicker this way) and chuck them in the water with the rice

Put a teaspoon of Tumeric into the water - Tumeric has almost no taste and anything you use to cook Tumeric in should be washed up immediately unless you like your tupperware an odd shade of yellow. It's there purely as a colourant.

Turn on the gas/electric and let the rice begin to cook. white rice will take about 20 mins, brown more like 40. You'll know it's done when the rice starts bubbling to the surface, but if you're not sure take a few grains out and try crushing them - if they crush easily it's done.

Whist the rice is jumping like catfish in a bowl (yeah) you want to get some onions - i dunno how many, depends on how much you like onions. Generally speaking about 1 onion, but for all I know you could be addicted to onions and eat them by the dozen. Chop the onion (or onions) very small.

In a frying pan pour some oil, peppercorns, mustard seeds and another type of seed of your choice - fenugreek or cumin are both nice. How much? Again, you're the one at the bleedin cooker - you decide. Oh I dunno - about THAT much.

Oh yeah - if you have them: some curry leaves as well. You might want garlic and/or ginger as well if you're really feeling adventurous. (generally they say 2 thumb-sized piece of ginger, but please don't go chopping off opposable digits to be sure)

Put a cover over the pan - the peppercorns and mustard seeds will pop and take out eyes, ears and - in extreme cases - dentures.

Once they've stopped going insane in the pan remove the lid, add the onions and cook until they change colour. Remove from the heat.

Once the rice is cooked drain it - again if you have no life you can leave this to cool, or you can just bung it straight into the pan like the rest of us human beings.

Mix it about and chuck in the tiniest atom of chili powder to the rice. Bung it on two plates

Rhubharb & Ginger Crumble
Pudding - full of sugar, but mmmmmmmmmm.......

Rhubarb is only available for a small part of the year, so make the most of it. Buy one of those packs you get in supermarkets with three or four sticks in and then chop it up nice and small - you'll have to work out for yourself how much as this depends on the size of the sticks and what a greedy bugger you are.

Get a dish that can go in the oven and chuck the rhubarb in the bottom (generally most cooks suggest greasing the dish - but again us humans usually spend the next three weeks scraping it clean because we forgot)

Get some ginger. I don't know how much, do i???? How much have you got??? How much do you like???? Well, chuck it in then. Seriously - about a thumb-sized piece and chopped nice and finely - sprinkled over the rhubharb.

Get some flour - generally i use a mix of rice flour and gram flour - but you want about 2 parts rice flour and 1 part gram, because gram has quite a strong nutty flavour and can be overpowering.

Chuck in some margarine and what looks like enough sugar to take away the tang of the rhubarb - i never measure these things, so wouldn't have a clue how much you need to use - basically the end result of the flour/sugar/margarine should be enough to just cover the top of the rhubarb - but not so much that you end up eating big mouthfulls of flour

Mix in the margarine/butter until its mixed in. Bung the result over the rhubarb and shove it in the oven - about gas mark 6. Leave it there until the flour has gone brown and/or the rhubarb has gone soft

Eat - and pretend the pile of washing up has nothing to do with you.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Tuesday afternoon and as I walk out of the door at the office the rain is light. It falls in tiny droplets: not hard and fast or thick, but quickly as if speed can make up for density.

I walk to my bike and begin unlocking it, strapping my two panniers onto the sides and adjusting my lights. Nigel (he of the big mouth and big opinions) stops for a chat about the weather and offers to put my bike in the back of his car and give me a lift - I tell him I'll be alright: I've been wet before.

My latest panniers are quite good for weatherproofing and come with yellow covers that can be unzipped from the bags and pulled around the main bags, so I put them in place making sure not to cover the workings of the bike. Even so the bottom of one bag will get covered in bike oil by the time I get home. I zip up my day-glo yellow jacket (visible from the space station) and set my mileometer running.

The second I start the rain feels harder, the wind and my movement pushing the tiny darts into my face and my bare legs - there is a pair of waterproof leggings in the pannier, but they are unbreathable, weigh you down and make you sweat so nine times out of ten you're better off getting your legs wet.

I push up the first big hill, coming out of my seat as we (me and my bike) reach the top. It's a relatively short hill and despite the steep incline it's quite an easy one to master, so I enjoy the payback as we roll down the other side and join the cycle path. This is a busy road with all the main traffic to the town running along it, so I have to take it slowly along the cycle path as there's a couple of cyclists ahead who seem oblivious of any need to be anywhere soon.

Finally they make way for me and I cross the junction with the main A road (roads in the UK are divided into M (motorway) and A and B roads - depending on size and speed. Below B are unclassified roads, mostly local)

This is the Big Hill of the journey, a two-three mile slow incline that takes us out into the countryside for a few minutes. This is where, one day on my way into work, I saw my most impressive piece of roadkill (a deer), but today I mainly focus on the road and the rain. The hill flattens out after about two miles before dipping and then climbing again for the last mile as we enter the next town. This is where the traffic gets to its busiest and I make the first of my three right turns. For those of you who don't know we drive on the left in the UK, meaning that in order to turn right a cyclist has to pull out into the middle of the traffic and cross over more traffic that doesn't want to give way. This is never easy and with the rain in my face there's more than a chance I could lose balance if I'm not careful.

Round the clock and up past the park we turn down into the next hill and freewheel to the traffic lights: not only a right turn but a blind one due to the tall buildings. I follow a car around the corner and into a long, slow uphill. The rain is coming down harder now: still as small as accupuncture needles that bite into the flesh on my legs. The wind is chilly and it keeps me awake as we reach the top. Only one more uphill to go and at six miles gone we dip down into the valley again. There's no streetlights out here and I take a moment to think how dangerous it would be to take this route in the winter when there is no light before joining the second and last cycle path that takes me up the final big hill.

On both sides of me now are fields, their emptiness a juxtaposition with the busyness of the road. I'm glad of the cycle path as the rain picks up speed and take my usual moment to admire the huge mansion that can be seen by the roadside and wonder who the hell can afford to live in such a big place.

At the final traffic lights I turn left and down the hill past the education centre. Seven or eight miles gone now and the rain lashes into my face as I hurtle down the hill. I've been pushing much harder today because of the rain and the adrenaline is pulsing through my veins. I feel a crazy sense of euphoria set in and find myself wanting to laugh and to scream at the skies "Come on!" I want to scream, "is this the best you can do?"

The rain drives into my face and turns my legs red. The bike is covered in mud from the road, but I wouldn't swap this moment for all the gold in Fort Knox. I feel invincible, totally and one hundred percent alive as we reach the bottom of the hill and power up the final incline.

Despite the distance and the feeling of fatigue I change up a gear and pick up speed before taking the large roundabout. There's three roundabouts all in quick succession and each interlinks with a major road, so I have to be careful at each as cars have a tendency to shoot out without looking. Still: I feel like nothing can stop me now.

Over the last of the roundabouts and its a quick couple of turns before I'm onto my road and jumping off the bike. I lean the bike against the wall of my house and stop the timer, unable to stop myself from laughing with exhileration. It takes a moment before the mild hysteria calms enough for me to open the gate and push my bike through and then I begin the serious business of unpacking.

Everything from the panniers is kept in plastic bags to add a double layer of protection and everything must be swiftly rescued so that bags can go on radiators. I peel the soaking cycle gloves from my hands, place my shoes and their covers on the radiators and go out to deal with the bike.

I clean and dry it as best as I can, putting it back into the shed. Back inside the house I take a look at my mileometer and realise that I've made the eleven mile journey in under forty-nine minutes, knocking nearly four minutes off my previous best.

I change out of my wet things and go upstairs for a shower, switching on the heating as I go.