Real people

Who knows why she had a French bulldog with her

At 8:30am going into central London

But it was midsummer

And everyone sweated

And you could almost pick out the people

Who hadn’t showered that morning

But I watched the dog

It was better than the usual sights at that hour

As the train filled

And filled

Soon I was in a sort of human sardine can

And we sweated and wished for air

Or something

I wished for Bank station, where there was usually an exodus of sorts

Just make it to Bank. Just make it to Bank.

But between Liverpool Street and Bank the train stopped

And we all stood there sweating in silence

And the dog started barking

What a beautiful natural sound

I smiled and glanced around

A handful of people were smiling

Those are the only real people on here I thought

The train eventually started up

We sweated on

I made it out ok, but a little wet

The breeze of summer ghosted through my shirt and kissed my ribs

I walked through Postman’s Park

Thinking about that dog

Egg on mince

Confronted by reality

You sit in your underwear at 10:30am

Eating left over mince with eggs on top

Remembering what you said

And the jokes you tried to make

All seeming a little less funny today

Slightly shaky, slightly confused

Were there not things you needed to do?

A tap drips

You see your reflection in the kitchen door glass

You stare back

You wonder

What you’re doing

With your life

Magic Portal

I ride the train down into the city every day

And as it gets further in it gets more and more packed

At its fullest I sometimes try to guess the number of people on the train

Possibly close to a thousand

And then my mind drifts and I think

I imagine

What if this train magically passed through some portal and entered another world

Like ours

Except the thousand people on the train

Would be the only people there

Free to set up a new civilisation

In a new world

What would happen?

Knowing all we know now

This train load of Adams and Eves

Would it descend into barbaric power struggles

Or would we create a harmonious society

And a  humane life for all

What is the true nature of people?

I wonder

As I stare at a balding man with sagging cheeks

Read the sport pages of the Metro

At Mile End a woman gets up and offers her seat

To a man with crutches

No magic portal this morning

Just the smelly West bound on the Central Line

Meet me in Postman’s Park

Meet me in Postman’s Park

Let us feel the autumn chill

Touch our noses and ears

And see it it in our breath

As we talk about your country

And a little of mine

Meet me in Postman’s Park

And watch people fascinated

Discovering the plaques 

To the unknown heroes

While others sit on benches

Eating Pret sandwiches

Meet me in Postman’s Park

Let’s look up at the office windows 

That surround us

And talk of the futility of the 9 to 5

And of fishing boats and growing tomatoes 

And our own One Day dreams

Meet me in Postman’s Park

And bask in the beauty 

Of comfortable silences

As nearby traffic hums and vibrates

The odd siren in the distance

While a drill starts on and off

Meet me in Postman’s Park

It’s good to be here, now

Your blue eyes are visible

Even fifty yards away as you turn

To look at me one last time

As your blonde hair fades into the haze

Growing tomatoes

Stuck in this corporate world

The longer I’m in it the more I want to leave it

And the more it becomes . . . impossible to

Gazing out the window on a listless Friday

The alien-like voices on conference calls drift

Through cold glass windows and they drone

And drone and drone

Like machines that have been left on

And my thoughts wander again

To that small town in my mind

Small house in a small town

Waking to the sound of a rooster

Watching the sun go down on my veranda each day

With white wine or maybe a whiskey if I’m in the mood

Spending days the way I please

Answering no one

Questioning nothing

Growing my own tomatoes

The modern world just a highway in the distance

The sound reminding you that it’s there, if you need it

But only if you need it

Only if you need it

Some daydreams keep you sane


The ambulance wails

In the distance 

Across a damp drizzle

These dreams

Aren’t always clear

I like to think

I’m always changing

But everything stays the same

In these washed up hours

And shipwrecked hopes

You see it in faces on the street

On the train

Hiding from the deep

In the shallow wastelands of modern life

Well go on then

Let’s crack on

The show goes on 

And all that


I’m tired

I’m lost

I’m out of touch

I’m a little too in love

With suffering

And deadbeat reflection

Another day awaits

Big city boy

Stuck in moving crowds

Where I’ve never belonged

But I keep finding myself in bigger ones

The urban sprawl

A necessity of modern life and modern civilisation

Hive mind ant life

Sweaty in stations even as the seasons change

I could be growing tomatoes now

Or chopping fish in the back of some seaside village restaurant

Or opening up my bar at 3pm 

Taking chairs off tables

Small talk with waiters

But I sit in trains and make up ideas

As the horizon glows

As I mind the gap

The bench

 Some afternoons after work I’d walk

down to the promenade walkway

and walk 2 miles up the shore and back again

Strangely I preferred the windy afternoons

they somehow blew the monotony of the working day away

and made me feel alive again

There was an old man who always sat on the same bench

as I walked past

Some days I’d catch him getting there

some days I’d catch him leaving

Most times I’d just see him sitting there

on his own

looking out over the sea

I felt I knew what he was thinking

Sometimes he’d be staring down

at his old wrinkled hands or looking at passers by

A few times I saw him petting dogs smiling

so I knew he was kind type

I liked him for that

And then one day he wasn’t there

Ever again

As I walked back to my apartment

a couple of blocks back

I would sometimes think

We’re all just alone

sitting on a bench

waiting to disappear

The violin

I was in someone’s house the other day

And they had this old vintage violin

Just sitting there

Like an ornament

I wanted to pick it up

But I dared not

It looked quite expensive

And all that

But it did make me think

That I’d never held a violin in my life

In terms of talent I could be the greatest violinist

In the world

Probably not

Definitely not

But I’d never know

Would I

And then I thought of all these parallel universes

Looking at us

Doorways and pathways untravelled

Talents unfound

So much of of life is just

Reaching out to something in front of you

And hoping it works

Following some perceived north star

While seas crash around us

We come into this life

And throw the dice

And hope for the best

Living in mud huts

While the ghosts of mansions

Cast shadows all over

Bad cappuccino

The cappuccino was chunky

God, I wasn’t coming to this coffeeshop again

Two sips and I left it for good

The trains had an issue and I was killing time

People kept looking down the street at something that had happened

After a while a woman was was pushed in by good samaritan

She’d taken a fall, quite a bad one

They’d found her a makeshift wheelchair somehow

He ordered her a tea and had to leave, she said her mother was coming

She was at the table next to me

Sitting alone

In tears

I offered her paracetamol for pain

She said no

She remained crying for some time

I tried to go on as normal but it was difficult

The well made-up gym women across from us carried on as per normal

The mother did eventually come

But there was something not quite right

She seemed oddly unconcerned

I felt sorry for the girl who fell

Something about her earlier tears

Seemed to be about a lot more than just her leg

I put on my coat

The awful taste of bad cappuccino in my mouth

It was time to face those damn trains

The fast food stop

My meeting in Bloemfontein ended at 4pm

Later than I wanted it to

It was a 4 hour drive home

Northwards to Johannesburg

The November air was muggy and oppressing

I was worn down

As an introvert it’s tough showing your game face all day

As the afternoon progressed

So did a thunderstorm

I watched it build on the horizon

Above the highway in front of me

I was listening to an audiobook of The Brothers Karamazov

Engrossed in it

And as Ivan made his three visits to Smerdyakov

I watched the lightning start to fork down onto the flat plains

Seeming to almost hit the highway straight ahead of me

It was a surreal site, observing it from a distance

Pretty soon Smerdyakov was confessing

And I was in the midst of the downpour

Even inside the air conditioned car

I could feel the temperature drop

By 7pm I was half an hour from the Johannesburg ring road

But I needed to eat something

It was growing darker

I turned off at a roadside fast food petrol station stop

One I knew well

The ground was wet from the storm

The damp still in the air

Everything in a seeming state of lubricated crystal clarity

Like the feel of your eyes after tears have subsided

I went in

The fast food tables were all empty except for one

A mother with her daughter of around four I guess

I sat three tables away from them

Looking out at the parking lot

I ordered a burger and five minutes later it came

But any sense of calm was disrupted by the woman

She was on the phone the whole time

Arguing to someone about some relative

She kept repeating the same things over and over

People tend to do that when they’re upset

The girl sipped a chocolate milkshake

The mother seemed oblivious to the child’s existence

I don’t think she’d even looked at her for the entire time I’d been there

I gazed out of the window

At two cars filling up with fuel

But not really looking at them

I was thinking of Smerdyakov, guilty all along

“Oh fucks sakes!!”

It was the woman

Suddenly she had jumped up and shouted

The chocolate milkshake had tipped over

And had spilled out over the floor and spare chair

The brown puddle was growing

Clearly an accident

“How the hell did you do that!!” she shouted

The girl started crying

Trying to issue some sort of apology or explanation

One of the two

The woman angrily grabbed her handbag and keys

And marched out towards the door

Without even looking back at the girl

Who was still crying

Clutching a fluffy brown toy she ran after her mother

In hysterical tears

Outside the mother had shoved the girl in the car

She continued to should

With much gesticulating

And hand pointing

The girl was still in tears

I was so distracted I didn’t notice the waitress

Standing next to me

She too was looking out at the car

She had the kind of face that seemed to know one or two things about the world

Then she looked over at their table

With the chocolate milk tipped over

On the floor

“What a mess” she said

“Looked like an accident” I replied

“I wasn’t talking about the milkshake” she said

By now the blue Toyota they were in

Had sped around the corner out of sight

I paid the bill and slowly walked out

Into the cool evening air

The last purple of daylight was fading in the east

And the lonely sound of the highway dominated

Forty minutes later I was on the ring road highway

I thought of the girl

Hoping that somewhere out there

She was in her bed and fell asleep

At peace