Tuesday, 30 March 2010

paisley, south of glasgow


Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there
And they die there

The passenger on his own feet
Of course
Seeing too much and not seeing enough
Of course
The streets like tightropes, and the streets like trenches
Of course
I lost the beauty, just to find it again
Of course
What stories to tell, and what ears to hear them
What lies behind lights, and what shines from windows
What smarts in corners, and what hurts in darkness
What lingers in wisps, and what lights down alleyways
What skips in arcs, and what dances to settle
What stands beside blocks, and what rises with sunlight
What walks in step, and what spun out of orbit
What stayed in the old house, and what went off roaming
What autumn twigs keeping captive their fruit
Of course
The town has too many stories, and too little time
Of course
What endless newness in this infinite world
Of course

Song you have come
To sing to me again
Song i haven’t heard your voice
Since i don’t know when
What by tower and graveyard,
riverbank and archway
What broken tooth skyline, what ungainly dummies
What random goes steady, what steady goes random
What struggle to struggle, what struggle to ease

Song you have come
To sing to me again
Song i haven’t heard your voice
Since i don’t know when
What sits above sightless car headlights, and rainwet car bonnets
What falls with the rain, and sparkles with drizzle
What schools like factories, and what fast-filling playground
What hurried clocks, and what open tomorrow
What stories to tell, and what ears to hear them
What bled blood, and what burning hearts
What urgent yearning, and what hopes still floating
What elusive truth, and what held moment
What keeps you walking, and what makes you stop
Of course
Too many streets and too scattered ears
Of course
To have come so far and know so little
Of course
I lost the beauty just to find it again
Of course

Song you have come
To sing to me again
Song i haven’t heard your voice
Since i don’t know when

Monday, 29 March 2010

haoi to pailsey


ho chi minh mausoleum. hanoi



the ho chi minh mausoleum in hanoi is

a softening machine

the people file in sombre

stiff of body and fixed of face

and they leave softened

relaxed of face and looser of body



Golden moon of valley smog,

Fields amongst the town

Lorries banned from city

Piles and piles of the algae scooped from the still-green surface of the large watertank

Black pumping smoke stacks

Crowds around the water truck

Power company so crap no-one will invest in it and powercuts get longer and longer

Samarbajai, newari kind of thali, of beaten rice, of 2 veg curries, of choyyala chicken

Kid with green wig of river weed

Buffalo sukuti, a spicified fried dried buffalo from Dharan in the east, more hard than crunchy

Uniformed band in red and white followed by wedding procession of men in neat suits dancing to the very klezmer like, very gypsy like, dance music


beardless ease and sexed statues

just had my beard shaved off
in the street between Taumadhi Tol and potter's square
[where the pottering potters pot]
you ever shaved a beard off?
every time i let a beard happen and finally shave it off i think...
why did i let that happen
what a pain that was
itchy and scratchy and drymouth and lookcrap
shaving them off is lovely though
a feeling of clean freeness
non-itchiness etc
i never had a beard i didn't regret growing
though a few time i shaved it off in bits
the edinburgh fat handlebar mustache month was a good fun month if i recall
and its the only the 8th or 10th time i had my face shaved
and never in england
and i have to say, either my skin is getting old and rough
or his blade was well unkeen
cos i've never been so aware of the scraping of the blade before
krrk krrk krrkk
and i rarely have my hair cut
so i do like watching myself as i appear
the narcissism of the mirror
i used to write with a mirror behind the typewriter
[only place to put it]
and this was good
i got to know my face
i think everyone should spend a fair while looking at their own face
it feels healthy to me
one time in thailand the guy cut me
so he stuck his finger under the sink
and brought out a spiders web
as a temporary plaster
and it worked great...
meanwhile this place is so likeable we are having trouble leaving
and are inventing hypochondriac reasons to not go
plus i am near to knowing the whole show
and have another piece to finish writing
and p is working fitfully but with ever more fluidity
so why go?
except darjeeling beckons
meanwhile yet more indo-chinese temples
the stinking river
the small shrines
the man with a headload of tin cans
the statues, wooden and stone, half with genitalia, so of the two on either corner, or either side the steps, one is female and one is male
the giant wooden chariot being assembled in the grand square
the groups of men singing over slow-rhythmed cymbals
the four-part barney in the street round the corner
every barney i've seen has an out-to-lunch young guy in it somewhere


Sunday, 28 March 2010

Saturday, 27 March 2010

who has the vocabulary?

not me
i've come over all adjectival


One of the most fabulous places i’ve ever been

And we so very nearly didn’t come here

After 3 nights up the nearby peaceful mountain resort of Nagarkhot ...where there was so much smog it wasn’t till we got down here and saw a tourist photo of it that we realised just how big and stupendous the view we missed is... high and white and variegated and Everest... bloody Everest... all smogged over ... bloody hell

Yet we saw none of it, though we liked the place and were only forced down here by lack of a currency exchange...


Old city

10 bucks just to get in...


Square after square

Street after street

Corner after corner

Ziggurats with temples/ stupas/ pagodas on top... with stepways up the ziggurats guarded by large lions and elephants and rhinos... or dogs and dragons and horses and lions and men and six-armed gods... the same pattern as Kathmandu Durbar square and Patan Durbar square.... not square, with a number of small temples and pagodas and shrines ... and high plinths... and statues ... positioned across it with some geometric planning... such a good-looking place most tourists seem to grin at the sight of it because it is so plainly special... and the old streets seem so eased... with their ancient awnings and shrines... and yet clean and ordered... well-kept and well-appointed... and much of it not old, 30s, 40s, after the earthquake ... and very good-looking to the relaxed passing eye wandering anywhere cos as soon as you get here you know you’re going to be here longer than planned and so it doesn’t matter where you go, and how slow you take it, and the main error could be speed... and where our hotel is right next the best square.... where, after sunset, the old men sing and drum and chant and chime bells... and so we’re in the heart of it, just by a small square with a stupa rising almost as high as our window, 3 minutes from everywhere but the farther eastern squares where we came in and we will soon, leisuredly stroll back to... past the fruit and veg sold from mats on the street side... the spuds and peas and cauliflower and chilli and onions and spring onions and tomatos... etc...

Ahhhh, the slow ease of it

the treasures in the powercut shadows

we're trying to leave, to get to darjeeling, but its a long way and it ain't getting any closer



Friday, 26 March 2010

changu narayan

seven hours walking
fifth century temple
words fail me in the sense my vocabulary is not up to the job...
but then, who's is?
got lost on the wrong level of terrace and had a hairy moment or two dragging myself up the dusty slope
till a first-ever ride back on the top of a jampacked bus
after a good hour spent watching a man selling his very handsome cabbages
they looked so good everyone over thirty who passed just had to stop to talk to him about them
and he had some very happy customers amongst those women hauling baskets around on their back with the cotton strap over their forehead
those women who find every step painful so they grimace, and then naturally smile, and then grimace and smile and grimace and smile the whole bentbacked stagger
calf muscles as taut
as taut
as taut as the wires on the forth bridge
as pamela anderson's bra strap
as an apogee bungee

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

the hotel at the end of the universe

is where we're staying
but we're disappointed to find its surrounded by other hotels
dusty mountain high
in the hills over ktm
and even more surrounded by haze
a weird haze
we thought it was kathmandu smog but we're at 2000 metres so it can't be
and there's dust everywhere
but why?
the haze?
a year ago in hoi-ann i was in the resturanat at the end of the wolrd [sic]
but that was just by a ferry

however, tomorrow we may see everest

Tuesday, 23 March 2010



5643 words down

only 2469 to go
grinding away
throwing out the double statements
the treble repetitions
and having real trouble with the near repetitions which must stay in the story
[near repetitions are the hardest to learn
and this lot are bloody hard]
grinding away
throwing the words at my head
hoping they'll stick
and if it sounds tough
well it is
but it will all pay off in the end
and nothing like this can come totally easily
some things write themselves
but very little learns itself

Monday, 22 March 2010

old patan, old england

just went to patan ... which is like the old kingdom next door to this just south of the river... almost like pest to buda ... which, reminded of somewhere, yes india but something else too, and in the end i half shut my eyes and felt the shape of the shadows and the shape of the space and i realised its england, old england, the bits of mediavel england you see in london or old bucks and berks market towns or old B&Wmovies... of before everything got regularised... windows, sizes street-width, street, corners, pavements, doors, eaves, overhanging balconies... back when it was all irregular and bowed and ununiform... and houses of different material and style and age next to each other... of bowed streets thickening and widening and thickening and curving for no reason apparent anymore... of timberframed windows... and there is of course zero cultural connection between the two except its all the human race responding to similar challenges... and the ornament is of course very different... and they are big on courtyards through courtyards, many of which have pagodas or stupas inside, some fabulous to see ... but its a striking similarity when you see it
line-up of a hundred plastic water-containers inside the empty tank at durbar square... in every direction women carrying water head away from the durbar square, though i can't see where the water is from
the mahabuddha... a small temple in a not-much bigger square... made entirely from terracottta tiles and looking very good..
and part of the reason it looks so good, and better than most other temples and stupas in kathmandu-patan... is because it was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake... the same earthquake nehru mentions as having destroyed much of Bihar... and was afterwards rebuilt pretty well...
but the hilarious thing is that in a corner of the smalll courtyard is a small and goodlooking shrine... which was made from the bits of the large temple that were left over when they rebuilt it...the bits they couldn't get in the 3D jigsaw
so they got 1 and a 1/3 temples for the price of one...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Maoist Rally Outside The Royal Palace


A one-sided oxymoron of an event… in the decaying grandeur of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square… where the pagoda was, apparently, invented... where a neo-classical facade is grossly thrust into the space ... where one of the world’s oldest wooden building stand looking not that old and not all that wooden.... where a tall and tangled tree grows knotted from a five foot stone shrine… doing better than the Nepalese Royal Family, who have decayed to the point of non-existence… the irregular and unsquare Square where the shabby edged stupas, their intricately carved woodwork, give a neat counterpoint for the Maoist message… as they stage a cultural rally… the red flag backdrop ... hammer and sickle on one side… pen brush and drum on the other … marx engels lenin stalin mao between… a poet a singer a dance troupe … an audience of hundreds… the language unknown to me but the talent of voice of language apparent … the clothes not dowdy but matter of fact… a sense of human happiness more than commitment from the distinctly varied intelligent but ordinary faces…. and behind the stage are three good-looking female Maoists in military uniform, the only uniforms in sight…[an old trick, join up and get laid] …and the old poet and his wavering book gets laughter and applause, the singing female duo get silence…

and to me, in this country where the government has so plainly failed its people, where the power is on less than ten hours day, one has to wonder if the future is their’s?… the Maoists?…. every time communism has happened the situation for the people has been so terrible that even communism seemed a good idea… Russia China Cambodia etc… and one wouldn’t think this country right now is quite that bad… but they look a together bunch to me… and Maoist is a nebulous phrase… yet it has to mean centralised control, silence of dissent, destruction of the old… mao famously said, religion is a poison... and why not change an o for a r?.... to make communism is a prison... so, if given a clear choice, is that what the Nepalis will vote for?… or is it the best option? … it may be the former, I can’t see that it is the latter

Plus, am reading Nehru’s autobiography [1934]… which is stirring my brain from any stupor… is enforcing into my head just how terrible British rule was in the 20s and 30s… how cruelly they wrung the peasants through the mangle to extract all those rupees … how old-fashionedly and cackhandedly they attempted to crush dissent …

I was never sure about Nehru before but this is a great book, and his outlook hard to condemn, hard not to agree with, his mind hard not to admire

Mind you, we’d all be better people if we knew Gandhi

Saturday, 20 March 2010


in place of thinking

alex chilton r.i.p.


You can have a great time with music

playing only songs by people who

died this week

Its random its class

This week its Alex Chilton


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

i take that back... and tomba

what a great place
durbar square
unlike anything i've seen
different styles ages stones peoples
more chinese than anywhere i've been
amazement at the ornate stupas in small squares
loving the temples
the pagodas
the big bell
the old houses overhanging the streets
the ornate wood
the hindu and the buddhist
thickly bustled market streets to wander
so its a capital city
and more of a tourist zone than anywhere i've been since banglamphu in bangkok a year ago
and they have powercuts for something like 20 hours in the day
and its people most certainly derrvse more
but its a
nonstop fascination for the wandering eye
draw after draw for the swivelling head
tug after tug at the zigzagging leg
rightangle after circle after rightangle for the unplanning mind
plus we get well-knackered looking for a place we like to eat and in the end get frustrated and so, as you do, go in the first place we come to
which is a tumbledown filthy-cornered two-story bar of hammered tibetans and nepalis
all drinking tomba
a new-to-me tibetan drink where they fill a large wooden cylindrical pot with fermented millet grain
and then serve it you
and only then add the hot water which brings out the alcohol
and gives it a saki-ish taste
and you drink it through a straw
bloody strong
i hesitate to have two

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

hailstones the size of marbles

invisible in the smog as we come over the hill
hailstones the size of marbles greet us
its one of those places i've always wanted to come to
it has no redeeming features so far
hassle noise dirt rain size
i assume we will find some
p just got offered a masters place in edmonton
so it looks like alberta for at least some of the winter
i'm cold already

Monday, 15 March 2010

longest trek


Four day trek below the Annapurnas

Circuit, Ulleri, Gorephani, Ghandrouk

Steps going up up up

And up

The grassy terraced valleys giving way to swathes of red splashing rhododendrons

Wales with terraces

Mule trains

Steady trickle of trekkers and guides and porters

Peaks glaciers and icewalls

Crystal mornings and cloudying afternoons

Three nights of mountain village lodging

Not done anything like it before

And we went for an unambitious 4 day jaunt

[lots of folks we met were doing 10 or even 17 days]

Cos we didn’t know what we were capable of

But in the end, though it was certainly tough, we would have been fine with longer


A heavy-breathed morning of two thousand upward steps

Taut tight calf muscles

The second day hard because we climbed for 2 hours and that was it so we had most of the day in a cold heatless Ghorepani with nothing to do but get colder

The third day fabulous... Up at 5.30 to jaunt up Poon Hill for the sunrise picking out high peak after high peak of the Annapurna Range... Fishtail mountain and more... then the updown saunter along the high ridge... then the two day descent... the flowering rhodos... the lush green moss... the vines... the waterfalls and steep river valleys... the 100 year steps... the 1000 year terraces... and the descent... rock to rock to rock to rock

The fourth day stiff... very stiff... stiffer than ever before... thighs as well as calves... lower limbs of setting concrete

All in all... a lot of hard work, some grief, one killer day, great views, 4 missed days of work on show, and a sense of achievement






Sunday, 14 March 2010

trekking guide pokhara


if anyone out there wants one

for a few days jaunt ... like serious trek... north from pokhara

our guide was Tilak

and he was great

quiet sincere patient intelligent knowledgeable

so if anyone is googling

or anyone i know knows anyone who is going to be trekking from here

get in touch

leave a message

get in touch




that one can simply turn round in a cafe

after sitting there for two hours

and pick up a three-stack of battered old books,

The Financier by Theodore Dreiser,

Juvenal’s Sixteen Satires

and The Gods Must Have Blood by Anatole France

and, within two minutes,

the day, the week,

has irrevocably altered

will not be the same



Friday, 12 March 2010


a red splash amidst the green of the mountainsides
four day trek around a himalaya or two
haven't been cold for 13 months
no sign of any yaks
the longest steps i've ever climbed... hours and miles
clouds stealthily invade the shacky mountain village
priciest internet ever so that's it

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

So many men, so little time

So many men, so little time


Which has got to be the most ironic


And prophetic

Song title

Of all time


So many men, so little time

The late 70s disco/ HiNRG classic

Cos it started off meaning one thing

And ended up meaning another

Very... another

Cos those men, they had so little time

And no-one knew it

But they were mainly doomed

Which is a terrible thing to have to think about during the song

And renders it near unlistenable

It makes me want to cry


Has anyone out there read And The Band Played On

By Randy Shiltz

About the early days of the AIDS epidemic?... 78-85

It is the best journalistic book i have ever read

And everyone should read it to understand the consequences of stupidity and callousness

And if you ever need to be angry for any reason

Then read it

It will make you mad as hell

The apocalypse is unfolding and no-one does anything

The word condom isn’t used until half way through it

And i’ve read alot of books about mass murder


Too many

And that book should be in that list

Cos its how prejudice

And petty ambition

And institutional logjams can kill

As surely as a Stalinist economic policy can kill


And if you ever need to be angry for any reason

Then read it

It will make you mad as hell

It did me

Mr Bloody Gallo, only one step up from Mengele in the nadir of science

Jesus Christ it made me angry

I went round Vancouver looking for someone, anyone, to shout at

In the end i found an old gay activist journalist

Who was around at the time

And knew his stuff

And so i shouted at him

[it seemed safer]


I was so mad my show got five minutes shorter


So many men, so little time

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

classic new country experience

Or unaccustomed to being so wholly unaccustomed

Where we’re walking hungry round clean fresh Saturday morning Tansen... the empty updown cobbly streets of this quiet hilltown ... two hours into the hills from where the lowland plains ends and the very beginning of what will become the himalayas rise up
after the morning sun has cleared the cloud from the valley below
the misty wisps in the smaller valleys like gossamer on the edge of a wood

So we're unable to find anywhere that looks like a nice place to eat
And everywhere with bowls of snacks looks brownly dingy
And as complete first-day foreigner outsiders we don’t know what’s what
Except we see another dingy looking place... but this time with a sign outside where a cheesy Euro couple are eating and drinking cocktails, with Momos and Chowmein written beneath it
And only that persuades us its a place to eat and so we approach and, three seconds later we not only know that its a nice small hovelish restaurant but realise that it, and all the other places we saw that looked crummy from the outside, are probably great on the unseeable inside... cos this is totally what we were after... so we tuck in to momos and chowmein and Nepalese onion bhajis [?] and samosas and bready dumplings and drink tea and think, we’re unused to being wholly unused to the new
And that only the cheesy sign stopped us from another half hour walking hungrily around this lovely hill town

Sunday, 7 March 2010

out of india

Out of Love
In the end i fell out of love with india
Priscilla was never in love with it
But me i had love to start with i could fall out of
And fall out i did
For small things, one of many
There’s the bloke on the train to mangalore who asks for some of your water
Which is cool
So you hand it over and he finishes every last drop
Though there’s three hours left on the trip
And he plainly has no,
Like none,
Like no idea this might be remotely unreasonable behaviour
He speaks to you friendly like at one of the halts and i thought
How many people would act like that?
And there’s the family in the rail carriage with the
baby crying in the middle of the night
who simply keep talking to each other in whispers and do nothing
like not one thing
nothing about the crying baby
and the fact it might be waking up an entire carriage
this story happened a few times and still, i think
in how many countries would people act like that?
And lastly
The blind bloke getting off the bus in Gorukpur
Where the people getting on all barge past him
And he’s the first in line to get off
And there’s people and no space behind him
So it makes far more sense to let people off first
Starting with him
But no, because he’s weak, i.e. blind
Not one put of fifteen men, fifteen, lets him
and all seize the chance to be able to
push him back to the side as they squeeze in and on
and i think, in how many countries would people act like that?
would fifteen in a row act like that?
i don’t think they would in any of the countries in South east Asia
Cambodia? No
Vietnam? The most money-grubbing country i’ve been to in years? No
Thailand, no, Lao no
nowhere in Europe
not Canada
some of the skint US is infamously dehuman
but would they?
I’m not sure they would
well here they do
and this is the same story fifteen times in a row with no change
that’s what shocks me
So i’m out of love with it
Its gone
I realise its chiefly down to poverty and numbers
But still
And i’m very surprised to find myself far more down on India than last time but
I’m superglad we’re out
So we’re in Nepal
Still sick
But its great to be somewhere else
The border experience was as hassly and touty as anywhere
And we had six tuktuk train bus journeys in 18 long hard hours
And the road here was absurdly slow...
Once we got from the dusty plain into the rising green of the hills
Moved from the low country of India Nepal into the very first of what becomes the Himalayas
But ahhh, the freshness of it
The difference
The streets i’d imagine are old Chinese or Tibetan
The faces Chinese Nepalese and Indian
The unpurdahed girls and young women in the street
The glorious views, from our malfuncting hotel, of the valley with its small hills and emerald green terraces and winding roads and rivers

Saturday, 6 March 2010

q's and a's

its not so much you had some of the right answers all along
or, more accurately, some of the right questions
its that you had masses of questions
and a fair few answers
and that most most of the questions
and most of the answers
turned out to be, not so much wrong,
as not-so-important ...
and you are left with the ones that are

Thursday, 4 March 2010

the process



learning 8500 words

which is a lot

and slow


and has to be done

and i will run through certain passages over 500 times in the next seven months

which is alot

and slow


and has to be done
next stop nepal, pokhara
poss there tomorrow night
though its gonna be another long haul

misc varanasiana


The best-placed spiders web in the world… across the iron work, by the all-night light on our balcony… catching dozens and dozens of flies small flies and moths… more food than a spider could eat in, maybe a life time… except every morning, as the spider must know, the hotel cleaners brush away the web… so that every day he has to try again, and every night catch the banquet of all spider banquets, and every morning see it all lost again



A flyblown table in the riverside cafĂ© where the pakoda is the best I’ve had in India… the sugar bowl now pecked by the sparrows… now atted by the flies incessant in the shade … and every now and again, the small squirrel sneakily descends the tree trunk to nervily, looking round again and again, put his paws on the bowl side, stick his long nose in and cheekily nick a mouthful, and then another


And behind Priscilla the sparrows work at the broom, break off strands in their beaks and, thus whiskered, flit off to unseen nest


The water-buffalo

Cataract in one eye

Groaning like a slowly opening creaky door in a horror-movie


To get lost in some unknown offmap market

somewhere off the top, the north-east, of the ghats

Veg market

Silk market

Souk within souk

Gate within gate

Door within door

House within house

Family within family

Street upon street

Alley upon alley

Window upon window

Ornament upon ornament

Temple upon temple

Mosque upon mosque

The rattle and clatter and heavy rhythm of the silk looms behind the windows and through the doors through the doors

The hallooing kids


On the alleyways the spiders webs so thick and so old, they are like light muslin


The ghatside house of four floors

Each of different design and ornament

Different pillars, different wrought ironwork

Different arches doorways doors vents balconies paint tracery

And all unlike the buildings either side

And yet the floors of equal proportion and probable age


I wanted to come here for twenty years and finally got here 3 years ago

I’m in the same hotel as 3 years ago

[when i was with someone else]

and i think the hotel staff think i’m

on the run with a young floozy

or at best a Princess

... Princeszilla, in fact


The homeless dog… a rough-coated off-white creature with a dirt-greyed belly making its steady way along the riverside ghats, so every minute it enters the territory of a group of dogs who bark en masse before it gets there, as the dogs behind it begin to stop, while the forthcoming dogs shift and side and sidle closer to it to bark right at it and then move up behind it, barking closer and closer, only stopping moving when it stops, and only stopping barking when it turns to look at them, swiftly intimidating them with a growl, before moving on so that they wait a few cowardly seconds, till the tough-nut is safely a distance away, before barking again as it moves out of their territory and they keep barking, some barking and howling long after it has moved into the next territory, who’s dogs have already started barking at it… and on it moves, fearless, bringing perpetual aggravation all the way up as we follow the localised barking along the rover, across the descending stone, past the high ornate temples, the walls of bare stone, the kiteflying kids, the cricket playing young men, the red or saffron holy men, the kids selling postcards and flowers for floating, the men on the waterside crying “booooat?” …


But what happen when the itinerant meets a dog stronger and more fearless?


Jared Diamond says the average Papuan travels very little in their life, for moving unannounced and unpermitted into another tribal territory would create an inevitable violence they might not survive… and permission is never likely


The burning ghats, there’s two

A caste who carry the bodies down the steps to the water

The corpse, dressed in coloured silks

first placed in the river,

then atop the short wood pyre

And then burnt

The flames starting slow


They’ve been burning bodies here for thousands of years

And it feels it

As you might imagine

It makes it a very intense place


Yet there’s something matter of fact about the process

They just do it

There’s no sign of mourners

[maybe the sorrow is done with]

There’s little ceremony

A man brushing the wood and corpse with flame

[maybe the ceremony is before death?]

They just do it

And then everyone stands looking at it

And then they stop

And it burns away



Simply everybody offers to sell me hash…

I mean, it hasn’t happened so much on this trip as the last…

when, with my hair, I could so easily have been mistaken for a hippy type…

but here in Varanasi its happening more than it ever has…

opium has also been mentioned…

while Priscilla never gets offered it…

but yesterday...

when I thought I,

with blondening wavy locks and a nice light-patterned cotton shirt,

looked more like an unfortunate relic from a

Wham video circa 1984...

i got offered it more than ever before

so maybe i don’t...


and for the past two days its been two offers a minute up past the busiest ghats

or down those narrow bustled streets...



you want something sir?

You want somesing sir?



Has India changed over the past 3 years, since i was last here?

Well the TV adverts are definitely better


Its difficult for my eye to discern any other change much

Though Varanasi is less hassly than it was


A bin a bin, its so good to see a bin…

so we can empty hands, and pockets and bags…

A bin a bin, its such a relief…

from the burden the guilt the hassle the worry

the complicit-down…

A bin, a bin, we want to dance round it singing

do a tango with it on the banks…

and who knows how long it will be till we see another…

A bin a bin, the last one we saw, in Aurangabad,

was the size of an SUV and had most of a

chomping horse stuck out one end of it

A bin, a bin, its so good to walk up to a bin and…


put something in it


And three years ago

A boat up the Ganges after sunset

When suddenly

Half a million swallows fly down the river

And back up the road

And round again

Flitting in unbelievable mass and numbers

Thousands and thousands of them blizzarding close around us

Inches from my head

For ten fifteen minutes

A CGI nightmare

A biblical plague

A wholly unreal


Now i’ve no idea how many but

Well, half a million?


While this time its not swallows

But absolutely millions of flies and moths on the ghatside after dark

A plague an infestation a million

Filling the air and each flickering in the light


And a cycle over to Ramnagar across the pontoon bridge

Just about keeping down the simmering road rage

[if roadrage was an Indian thing it would be big and bloody]

The rundown fort with the lame museum

Abjectly kept textiles but,

As the place used to have its own gun factory,

A curious gun room


Eight barrelled primitive revolver

Four barrelled tiny ladies revolver

Long Indian sword fitted with two flintlock pistols either side of the beside the handle [to spread your bets]

Glass-handled daggers

Unnamed disembowelling weapons you stick into the gut, open, and then twist

Ivory tree with individual leaves


And a stuffed crocodile so decayed it is shameful its there and you have to look away

P says there was a stuffed bear as bad but i couldn’t look


Some things are very difficult to write

Like this description of a tree seen from under the leaves on the patio of the

cafe with the great veg pakoda


From beneath it looks like a still of a green pool with heavy raindrops rippling concentrically all across it

... because the twigs are radial out from the end of the branches ... and the smallish leaves on those twigs curve a little towards the branch end... so it seems as if they are concentric green circles around it, like ripples... and each branch has this and, seem from below, they overlap each other, like the ripples of raindrops...

Some things are very hard to describe


The flute man

With his tree of flutes

Plays his forlorn tune

As he moves salelessly past


As the blur of the last morning haze clears in the

Rising sun


And men sink their bare brown backs into the silver grey of the river


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

I wandered lonely as a what?


A what?


Cos like i say

Below [date]

my relationship with poetry has always been a bit bollocks

like, non-existent


Cos right from the start the first poem i ever heard of was

At school when i was nine or ten

The teacher recites

I wandered lonely as a cloud

And i put my hand straight up before she could get any further

Miss, clouds aren’t lonely?

Are they?

And she said, yes they are

And i said, with uncharacteristic courage, and nascent stubbornness, no they’re not

Cos well, they’re not are they?

There’re usually others about and clouds actually merge with other clouds and, whatever

They don’t come on lonely do they?



Trees are lonely

But they don’t wander, do they?

And, well

I didn’t think of it then but clouds don’t really wander either do they?

They might scud a bit, but they’re a bit straight-line really

So wander is a bit wrong as well

Making it a duff metaphor all round

Two balls-ups in six words is a lot yeah?


And me and the teacher had a bit of a

Yes they do, no they don’t

Yes they do, no they don’t

And had to agree to differ

But really

Its a bollocks line

So i never forgave poetry that early bollocks


I wasn’t normally quite such a smart-arse at 9

And i was more maths than artsy

But i think the proto-scientist in me was offended by the poorness of the metaphor

The weakness of the thinking

The inexactitude


But what does wander rocky grassy uplands?


I wandered lonely as a goat whose whole family got eaten

Doesn’t work does it?


I know what wanders the uplands

i wandered lonely as a poet

That’s good

That’ll do

That’s improved on Wordsworth and, frankly

It wasn’t hard


Clouds aren’t lonely


Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A Mockney History of Holi


So every year right its crazy right, they build all these fires, bonfires, in the street and some of them are tiny streets, with zillions of people living on top of each other and if the bonfires look like they’ve been built by idiot ten year olds that’s cos they have, and they don’t care about being under electrical wires, telephones wires, nothing, cos they’re all kids and all kids are idiots, we all know that, we were kids once, you’re indestructible and you’re gonna live forever, and like every year its so scary dangerous they have to bring in Health and Safety Inspectors from elsewhere and this time some bright spark got the brilliant idea of bringing some over from Britain who got off the plane all bright and shiny but, after just twenty-four unbelievable stuff-of-nightmare hours of confronting the realities rather than the rules of Indian H&S, are all going through an wholly incapacitating individual crisis with their brains overheating and their eyes showing white and their hands clutching clutching clutching at something, anything, while they’ve spent so much time groaning expostulating shouting that any veneer of decency and politeness and professional courtesy has collapsed within them, taking everything down a chasm with it, and also meaning no-one in this town cares at all about anything that happens to them as they all have a belligerently anti-social nervous breakdown except for one who hasn’t been known to react to anything ever, nor show any emotion, which is when someone realizes he’s actually a shop dummy and they’ve all been had and someone’s been pulling in the wages, while here the dummy’s been doing class for bribes which is another realm the Anglo-H&S boys have been deeply shocked by but the one who realizes the dummy’s a dummy only realizes this as he goes into his own mental breakdown and the sorry shocking realization just makes it all a whole bunch worse while it ain’t helped by the fact no-one cares about the obstreppoBrits, or lifts the slightest finger to help their shocked and sorry arses, so no-one tries to find a berth in a mental institution for any of them cos its, like, a weekend and it’s the full moon, in a city where a full moon still means a loony lot, so they park them in the Dying Rooms above the Ghats and have to throw out the dying which pisses off a few of them, while it means that others stage unexpected recoveries meaning their families are thrown into disarray while Granddad hops skips and bounces back to Lucknow or Kolkotha, while others are a bit pissed off at their own recovery cos they reckon they had it all square with the creator and were about to become as one with creation and not be reborn, just as planned, so getting disturbed by some dodgy government bureaucrat saying some bunch of can’t-take-it indiaphobes need their beds sharpish is kinda bloody annoying but being helpful sorts they shuffle off back home for a couple of years during which time they commit a lot of sin and, after they die, come back as diseased cockroaches, or somesuch affliction, whoops, but I’m getting ahead of myself cos the still-ill phalanx of Brit H&S officers are in the Dying Rooms which, even though they’re paranoid cos they’re having a breakdown, is understandably a cause for more raging paranoia but what it does mean is that in the future your average Varanasi temple is going to be a whole bunch safer than it is right now, excuse me, the house is on fire … meanwhile cos the Dying Rooms have been taken over by the obstreppoBrits this means less people are dying and in particular less people, or rather souls, are passing through the attractive silk-draped lilac-painted wooden door marked To Oneness With The Creator meaning the folks with the job of greeting you on the other side, the ones who have to explain what oneness with the Creator Really means, poker Thursday, reruns of Friends Friday, trip to the celestial clouds Saturday, happy clappy with the harmony of the Spheres Sunday, drug or drink of choice Monday, Tues Weds I forget, Thursday off… well they have no-one to deal with for the first time in like Millennia and don’t know what to do and wander off for a beer or a joint by the celestial Ganges and its good stuff up there, as you can imagine and have such a nice time relaxing they forget to go back, and that’s forget in ironic apostrophes, meaning the dead can’t die, or rather no-one’s getting oneness and the reverberations of bad karma start rippling out from the silk and lilac door till pretty soon it’s a shambles everywhere, arguments all the time, and simply everyone is noisily shouting and standing their shitty shirty ground and, before you know it, its turned into Varanasi and they’re all beeping horns and shouting and dodging the goats and … excuse me the house is still on fire

Meanwhile, in Holi, everyone’s had a great time and no-one got hurt

while back in the Dying Rooms the poor sods can't stop singing Boney M... its a ho, its a ho, its a holi holi day...




the above is wrong

over ten people died in varanasi alone

andf hundreds were injured

Monday, 1 March 2010

Communal Bads

and a few days ago i wrote that my defining image of India so far was


Four saffron-clad holymen

crammed into the back of a

shiny new rickshaw


beeping parping and blasting its

loud horn

while impatiently, maniacally

edging thrusting inching

through the

thickly milling market throng



By which i mean that

no matter what the thoughts

The beauties

Of those holy-men

those Yogis and Saddhus

Those thoughts mean nothing right now because they are

being steered by that great impatience

Have surrendered themselves to the

Unchangeable process

The time-worn inevitable of the obnoxious driving

They are, no matter what they think or

Teach or

Believe or

Profess or


as crappy a thing on the road as anything else

And it plainly hasn’t occurred to them to

stop their driver from the hyper-impatient blasting

Because the hyper-impatient blasting has been going on forever


And this is yet more of this country of good intentions and communal bads


The communal bad

Well you’ve heard of the communal good… well here, you get a strong sense of the communal bad

Like in, say, Montreal in June, when its very hot, all the aircon in the homes and businesses makes the heat in the city that much worse… so those who can afford the cool make the city worse for everyone else… and that, i might aver, is a communal bad

And here the painted adverts… for hotels and cafes… are near useless … because there are many adverts for places which don’t exist anymore… and many of the adverts have arrows pointing along the ghats, or up steps, or through archways and doorways,… yet many of these place are kilometres away and would take half an hour or more to get to… which, as many of them are no longer there, means no-one would never try to follow them… means they are useless… so they might work as reminders should you happen to walk past one of them, though as many are actually off the beaten track, you never are going to randomly chance upon them… So what I’m saying is… that indiscriminate and unthought-through signs … and the fact nothing is ever taken down or painted over… makes advertising useless… those people who have done it so poorly have ruined it for everyone else who might try… and this is yet another communal bad…

And this whole country is full of so many communal bads… so many overlaying bad habits… the driving the shitting the emptying of rubbish anywhere the horns the goats the adverts the unfinished buildings the roads

Despite which, everything gets by, everyone makes do, much of what people want is gettable doable liveable ...in the land of fudge and bodge they are used to making do, getting by

And there is a charm in the rulelessness...

And all this a product of what?... of deep poverty and big numbers ... so many people so long in such close proximity has dragged everything down and it is proving extremely hard to drag it up


Poverty and numbers...

and by up i mean



less time consuming

less poor