The Comedians

I haven’t blogged for a while, I have been suffering quite badly from depression among other things, and it’s been hard to get myself to do things. To keep myself going I watch a lot of comedy, and I got thinking about writing a poem about it, about the people that make me laugh, who go back as far as the early days of cinema. I started out by borrowing the title of an Elvis Costello/ Roy Orbison song and eventually wrote the rest in one evening. I’ve also put together a gallery of some of the people I was thinking of, not used this feature before so as usual I’ve gone overboard. Most of the captions from my own recollection from books and DVD extras etc. I hope you like it. To absent friends!

The Comedians

They knew you from an early age,

Working the crowd long before a wage,

Daft kid spoiling the photographs,

It’s all worthwhile if someone laughs,

The hard life of a humourist,

Becomes much harder when no-one’s pissed,

Add sentiment to slapstick games,

They’ll root for you, they feel your pain,

They see you failing your romance,

Disaster strikes down every chance,

But don’t take it all to heart,

That’s the nature of your art,

A smile holds back a thousand tears,

Show your strengths and hide your fears,

That things going right going wrong goes wrong,

That the music ends before the song,

Let all that land on your persona,

But don’t let it usurp it’s owner,

Become the plucky underdog,

This contraption’s most important cog,

Be the creative destructive spark,

The firefly knife that cuts through the dark,

If it works, and you make it big,

Then give it all at every gig,

If it doesn’t, if no-one laughs,

Then dust the death off of your arse,

It happened to them all you know,

Can’t guarantee a perfect show,

Stan and Ollie, Charlie, Eric and Ern,

All of them, they had to learn,

To get there it was going to take patience,

To deal with all of these frustrations,

And many found, even at the top,

The heartache doesn’t really stop,

The struggle to retain success,

To remain yourself amid the stress,

Can tear apart a man inside,

Witness how poor Tony died,

He had an audience millions strong,

But he felt too much had gone wrong,

So if you still want to be a clown,

Kiss the heights, absorb the sound,

Make sure your feet still touch the ground,

If they don’t, it’s such a long way down.



Oluwale and the Ghost

Another piece from a writing group session, about David Oluwale. We read a chapter of the Hounding of David Oluwale focusing on his difficult time in Menston/Highroyds psychiatric hospital. The brief was to write an account of his time there from the perspective of a fictional observer. I chose to apply some artistic licence and create a ‘ghost’ to empathise with him. Spelling and grammar are phonetic and in-character, with a Yorkshire dialect.

I’m here Lad, as I think I always were.

Though yer skin’s t’opposite hue to what I can see of me now,

I know the pain yer going through.

I were there too when I was on that side,

That electric thing- it does yer brain,

How can yer be people when yer tret like that?

Would never o’wanted me old dog to feel that.

Heck, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, cept them that say it has to happen.

Little letters, long words, they don’t need you to understand.

But you know what they’re sayin,

You learn a word when it’s been done to ya like that.

If my heart still beat it would ache for yer, even bleed.

I’m grateful for the mercy that brought me from this suffering.

But to see it on another is so much worse.

Please lad, let me take your place.

A madhouse don’t need new martyrs.

Get out the door, take your opportunities,

And you can take my share an all.

A thought for Olu

This is a piece I just wrote as part of the writing group I attend- The Baggage Handlers, Leeds, and it is in tribute to a tragic local figure named David Oluwale.

It can take a lifetime to know a man

It can take a moment to try.

People are never beyond repair

But if no-one will help

How can anyone know they are not alone in the world?

They abused because they didn’t understand

They were not raised to

Yet they stood for all that is good

And let a poor man die.



See for details of his case and things that are being done to keep his memory alive.

Ten years after- the day a million hearts were broken

You all know what today is. Broadband internet and DVD were in their infancy, the worst man in the world was Saddam Hussein. Youtube, Facebook and Myspace hadn’t yet been conceived, and neither had many of the youngsters who play in our streets today. The World Trade Center was one of many monuments to American engineering, pride and ambition, workplace for many, one of the most recognisable features of the New York skyline. Thousands of people went there that day, many didn’t come out alive and would have known little of what was happening, known neither why they had to die, nor the message that was being sent to them as part of the personified ‘America’  that was attacked.

People are individuals. A Country is a piece of land and a political system but it cannot speak for everybody, and it remains there long after it’s inhabitants are gone. The only people that could have known what would happen that day were the people who planned it, and the ones that they interacted with who could have only seen a fraction of the story, but are haunted by not being able to prevent it. The people who occupied the towers were in the wrong place at the wrong time, a cliche but a colossal understatement.

I’m in the same room I was when I put the TV on and saw one of  the World’s biggest buildings bleeding a deathly smoke, heard news reporters struggling to find out what was happening, to tell the World things it would take everyone years to understand. And still, there is a sense of unreality about it. How a religion can be twisted in a way that would allow anybody to believe that was the right thing. This seems to have been repeated, with 7/7 and other incidents, it seems like the ‘angry young man’ can be found in many cultures, and can be manipulated by the wrong people.

I don’t blame Islam for what happened, same as I don’t blame Western religion for Waco. In a bad state of mind anything can be made to make sense by a charismatic person people trust, and manipulative people can also be found the world over. Every religion has had a bad person who makes their own interpretation of what is acceptable, for their own purposes. On this day ten years ago, the World realised how far they will go.

Hundreds of police and firefighters went to that scene, not knowing how bad it would get, not knowing if they’d come back alive. Think about that. Two buildings which would soon collapse, tall enough to crush several surrounding buildings. And people were going in. Doing what they can to rescue people in a situation where they were practically blinded, communication marred by a longstanding rivalry between the police and the fire department, which meant some information was shared too late to save many of those well intentioned saviours. That rivalry ended that day, along with so many lives. That day that brought buildings down, lives to an end, and distant countries together.

Everything has changed so much in the intervening years. People have suffered undue prejudice because their religion or nationality resemble those of the perpetrators. Hatred provokes hatred, and the people really responsible had disappeared from justice. Their actions were a betrayal of the real religion that they claimed to follow, they hid behind it and many people were too angry to see that. They too, were victims of 9/11 as were the families.

I realise at this point that I haven’t used the ‘t’ word. The one that has been used throughout this decade, so often that it’s lost all meaning. But then so much about this has been meaningless. Some people knocked something over and countless lives were changed forever.

I’ve seen a part of History, and watched the the results of acts of evil, heard people who escaped that day. I hope that I never see anything this real again.

I will never forget.