cover size 210 x 148 mm (A5)
now has an Editorial Board of six members: ALAN ARNISON, FRANK PARKER, JOHN
COOPER CLARK, TED MORRISON, LES BARKER and BEN AINLEY. A decision is pending
about a woman coming on the Board. All those named are contributors to
welcome the activities of the S.E. group which operates in the London area:
people in South East England who want to make personal contact should write
to Ian E. Reed, 58 Lenham Rd., Sutton, Surrey SM1 4BG, or meet the group on
March 19th (see below).
recent review of "Voices" in the "Morning Star" Rick Gwilt suggests that
this would be a suitable moment "to start including an edited selection and
summary of the increasing volume of criticism that is being fed back" to us.
We agree, and if the response warrants it propose to print in the June issue
comments favourable and unfavourable to our publication. "Critical", of
course, does not necessarily mean derogatory or niggling: it simply implies
some judgment of what we are doing and where we are going. Please take this
as an invitation to take part in this "critical feedback".
we believe has a function to play among the literary journals. It is not a
vehicle for established writers. It is a means of dialogue between writer,
of working class origin and/or of socialist tendency and the workers and
socialists to whom they address themselves.
London Group of "Voices" which calls itself "Voices" (S.E. Group) is holding
its quarterly meeting at the Metropolitan Tavern (corner of Farringdon Road
and Clerkenwell Road) on Thursday March 19th at 7.30 p.m. ( Tube
JOHN WILLIAM HOSEY (SEAN)Arrested
28th October, 48 hours after arriving in South Africa from London.Kept in
solitary confinement and brutally treated. Charged with five others - four
black, one white citizen of Australia. They became known as the Pretoria
of conspiracy and distribution of anti-state leaflets was dropped.
eventually charged with possession of two passes with intent to give same to
guerillas. The judge (Boshoff) declared that prosecution had not proved his
case but likewise that Sean had not proved his innocence, that is to say,
had not proved that he brought the passes to give to a trade unionist.
sentenced to five years.
(Sean's father) attended the trial, and wrote this poem.
You smiled quietly as you mounted the steps
From the cells below. I couldn't hear
As your lips moved, but I knew you said
Your cheeks are pale
The flesh is taut
I will bring you some food tomorrow
Some apples and pears and oranges too
Am I staring too hard?
Have they broken you
With obscenity and cruelty
Joe Boshoff, surrounded
By a dozen Mein Kampfs
A court of jackboots
Make you tremble
I will watch your hands
To see if they shake
Perhaps tis not submission
I am no good at guessing
Nor am I psychic
I will wait till I hear
If you condemn or condone.
My brain is afire
I cannot sleep
I pace the room
Accusations, accusations, accusations
Hosey, Moumbaris, Cholo, Mthembu, Sejaka, Mpanza
Conspiracies, conspiracies, conspiracies
By leaflet, disturb the minds
Of peaceful people
Leaflets, leaflets, leaflets.
But did you succumb
Tomorrow I will know.
I don't like this V.I.P. box
I would sit with Cholo's mother
And hold her brave black hand
But I cannot hear so far away
And I must hear
To tell the world
The Actor man beside me
Makes me sick
He shouldn't be here
In this land of Apartheid
Regaling the 'Boss-man'
With his actor talents
Then acting still, remarks
They are all very brave
You looked at me
As you walked to the stand
And smiled in that delightful way
My heart was bursting
My son, my son
What would it be
Defeat or victory
And then I heard you
Loud and clear
'I'd do it all over again'
I clapped my hands in rapturous
FRIDAY NIGHT IS MUSIC NIGHT
Public bar paddies
amid farts and darts
burp and slurp
slewed eyes glued
on three in a bed.
Saloon bar smoothies
spurn the spitoons
endlessly discuss dope
that they've scored
and how they are
so terribly bored.
Cocktail bar snobs and slobs
perched on their stools
about their dreary careers
In the snooker halls
everyone's full of booze
fighting like fury
with billiard cues.
Streaking down the street
chop suey bill dodgers
chased by cheerless Chinamen
itching to chastise them
with knives and choppers.
Slumped and slobbering
behind the bus shelter
drunken randy couples
belch and squelch
obliviously to orgasm.
Outside the fish shop
chips, chewed and spewed,
sodden and trodden
into the gutter.
IT PASSED ON BY
Trecking eastwards towards Toronto one cold October day
Upon another travelling guy it was my fate to stray
Just a few miles beyond Osaquam along the Canada Way
As he sat there on a boulder by the shoulder of the road
To rest a while a wore out frame the burden of its load.
He looked so sad that lonely lad so weary downtrodden and blue
That I tried to be cheery came up with a smile
And greeted him with a "Waddayasaytheremanwhatsnew".
He answered me back with a shivery shrug
Said "By god man this just ain't bin my day
For it's sure bin quite it'll soon be night
And it looks like that frost's here to stay."
He was just about beat through sheer lack of heat
Clad in clothes that were threadbare and old
And he looked so sad that lonely lad
Sitting there all alone in the cold.
Such a woebegone sight I forgot my own plight
Yes, forgot my own hunger and cold
But I sure heard a sigh somehwere deep inside
Saying "Oh for a world without hunger and cold.
Vehicles on the highway had been very few that day
And the blue skies above were turning grey
Things were anything but bright we must have looked a woeful sight
When suddenly from out the west a green van came into view
And it was heading eastwards almost like a dream come true
For scrolled across the bonnet just below the windscreen
This great big slogan: BE HUMANE! could be seen.
Now if what them "sky pilots" say is true and there are
angels up on high
It could be they heard our laughter when that RSPCA van sped right on by
For no sooner had it past us than the sky began to cry.
For him the birds
no longer sing,
he'll never know
the joys of Spring;
on a park bench
far from home,
he gazes with
at those happy
who have found
something to do
to Radio Two
HELLO YOU WALRUS FACED BASTARD
THE SHREWSBURY PICKETS
What crime did they commit,
but stand up for their rights.
The right to strike the right to picket;
for that they were sent to prison,
to be punished like common criminals;
is this the fate that awaits all good
THE FLYING PICKET
500 they did come on that sunny day in Shrewsbury,
and nearly as many building sites they did stop.
The cancer disappeared that day - the lump!
And remember not one arrest was made,
that clean up day in Shrewabury.
On that date of 15th September 1975, it was over,
the strike had lasted for three months.
Not all the demands had been won,
but it was the biggest wages increase
the building workers had ever won.
Tories were screaming for blood;
the employers were crying out, 'We've been robbed!'
The capitalist press were writing vicious lies.
It must have been because the strike had been
a tremendous success.
And then - six months after came the arrest of the 24.
On the 2nd October 1973, the first trial began.
At that political trial at Shrewsbury,
between state, police and court,
those pickets didn't stand a chance.
read the pickets' speeches from the dock
On corruption and distortion.
And then the judge pronounced sentence,
with all the might of bourgeois' law.
Six trade unionists were sent to jail.
At those political trials at Shrewsbury.
Did the trade union movement forget
the courage of the Shrewebury pickets?
Who went to jail for their beliefs.
CHANGE OF COUNTENANCE
"You can read me like a book" she said,
but there was that in her visage
which caused him after one look
hastily to turn the page.
THE LIONS OF LONGLEAT
i have seen the lions of longleat eat
their toothless gums sucking meat
as milk from others tender teat
i have seen the lions of longleat sleep
tossed on horns that honk and beep
through matted manes ive seen them peep
i have seen the vultures of longleat
amid the promises of doom
cloaked in clouds of smoke black plumes
gliding on the petrol fumes
above the marabars half consumed
melting into afternoon
i have seen the baboons
wearily wanking with nothing to do
escape, scraper but where to?
a less humane zoo
with cages and bars
and no cars to break
no crispS and cake
no tooth decay or belly ache
i have seen the lions of longleat
grannies in their passenger seats
through the british summer sleet
i have seen the lions of longleat
over broken bottles on fagburnt feet
marvelled at how fast and fleet
they hunt the flying sweet
i have seen the lions of longleat
in viscount weymouth's careful keep
who rides his zebra painted jeep
who sells bits of africa cheap
who loses not a minute of sleep
as the gods of the congo watch and weep
John Cooper Clarke
In rich men's cars and city bars
And alleys flanking shabby clubs
She lives a life of tarnished stars
And yellow breath, and furtive rubs
From men who grope at young girls' breasts,
From vicious porno-loving males
Who quickly jerk to feeble crests
And soil her legs with rotting snails.
They lick her mouth with boozy tongues
And drag her through the oral noose.
They buy her heart, her pride, her lungs,
Her blood - and pickle them in filthy juice.
They grovel for religious wives
Who live in worlds of polished chintz,
They snigger through disgusting lives
Depraving girls with tawdry hints.
They'll never peer behind her mask
Or watch her playing with a child –
They'll never stroll and bathe and bask
In love with her when sex goes wild
As I have done on sugar days.
They'll never feel her fingers turn
Like dancers in a loving haze,
Or see her when she wants to learn.
They wash their cars and now their lawns
And moralise about the Pill,
With plastic teeth and painful corns
Alert for any worthless thrill.
Their daughters go to Grammar Schools
(Their panties clean, their minds sincere)
And spend their lives obeying rules
And never seeing Daddy leer.
I'd teach those men to sneer and grin
By throwing acid in their eyes.
I'd boot their flimsy faces in
And laugh to hear their squeaky cries.
But subtler methods might derail
Their law-wheel more effectively:
I'll send them hymens through the mail
And give their daughters LSD!
sat in a cloud of ozone practising fillet welds behind Henderson's
screens. The process fascinated him; the crackle of the current, the
pool of bright metal moving in total blackness. He lifted his rod when
he felt Barrow's hand on his shoulder; the lilac light went out.
'Where is the skiving
get?' said Barrow.
Ferny shoved up his
eyeshield. Under its crust of slag the weld cooled into a perfect
Getting down on
his knees in the toilets Barrow could see, under the bog door,
Henderson's boots which still bore their distinctive traces of red
lead. One day, when he had fallen asleep in the dinner hour, Wogga had
painted them and tied the laces together. Then he'd dropped a bin full
of scrap iron right behind Henderson's head. Henderson invited such
assaults; he was a bit naive, a bit too serious, although everyone
agreed he was one of the lads.
'Now then 'Enderson!'
Barrow affected an army sergeant's bellow. 'The shareholders aren't
paying you sixteen quid a week to abuse yourself over pictures of naked
women in company time! Just get yourself out here lad or I'll kick you
up the 'ole so 'ard you'll be shittin' out the top of your head!'
silence was broken only by the sound of a turning page. Barrow ran the
tap. Henderson listened apprehensively. Water started showering over
the bog door. Henderson plunged out.
'Ey! What the fuck! A
bloke can't even improve his mind in this place without somebody
'You dirty bastard!'
Barrow pulled the magazine out of Henderson's overalls, flipped through
it and stuck it back. 'How you fixed for a booze up next Friday?'
'What's it in aid
'Not in aid of owt.
You don't need an excuse do you?'
to tell Brenda something.' Old Gobby walked in, attracted by all the
shouting. As the amenities attendant he was justified in considering
the hardware his responsibility. They called him Gobby because he had
no teeth; he wore them only for weddings and funerals.
'Boof up?' said
'My mate from
Crosfields was telling me about this new club what's opened in
Manchester ‑ the New Luxor Club its called.'
'New Lukfor Club?'
'A real good night it
is. They've got strippers on.'
'You can booze until
two o'clock in the morning.'
'Two o'clock!?' said
'It's only a dollar
for membership and two bob for a supper ticket.'
transport?' said Henderson.
'A dollar?' said
'I can get a minibus
for thirty bob. What do you reckon?'
'Aye! Strippers eh?
I'll have to tell Brenda something though.'
'I'll put you down
Barrow put Henderson
down on the back of an engineering drawing.
'And what about you
Gobby? Do you a bit of good mate. I bet you've not had a hard on since
'I'd like to Barrow
but itf me bowlf night.'
'Bowls?' said Barrow.
'Aye, we've got
'We're fecond int
league. I couldn't let ladf down.'
'Ey Barrow?' said
Gobby, 'are you takin' t'piff?'
'All right then Gobby
luv. You'll just have to get Henderson to tell you all about it when he
comes back. All we need now is another eleven to fill the bus.'
'Ferny'll go' said
Henderson, 'and don’t forget Sikorski.' Barrow grinned:
was a queer hawk: he was Polish for a start. That wasn't his real name
but at least it did begin with the same letter as his real name which
was generally considered unpronounceable. Even the foreman called him
Sikorski. His Christian name was unpronounceable too. He wore a pair
of pince nez which he reckoned had been with him all through the labour
camps of Kazakhstan and the Second World War, which he got into by
walking to Palestine to join the RAF. Nobody knew just how much of
Sikorski's stories to believe. He was never caught out bullshitting in
areas where he could be checked, but, on the other hand, he never seemed
to take anything seriously. He had a trick of saying something
apparently very profound, pausing to let it sink in, then opening his
big mouth, full of oversized horsy teeth, and laughing his head off. He
was articulate to the point of eccentricity, probably the result of
being married to a schoolteacher and having a passion for Victorian
Sikorski and Fleet the student apprentice in a corner of the Instrument
Workshop. Fleet was spending some time in each department; he'd already
done six months with Barrow in the Fitting Shop. Sikorski was sitting
on a tool box eating meat paste butties and drinking coffee out of a
pint cup emblazoned with roses. Fleet sat on a bench reading a book.
It was baggin time.
'Fuck me! Don't you
lot ever do any work?'
Sikorski looked up. 'The increased mental strain of our profession
necessitates, shall we say, a concomitantly longer period of
'What's this rubbish
he's filling your head with?' He looked at Fleet's book.
'Bless you' said
'I thought you
'That's the bloke's
name you ignorant puddin.'
Barrow put on a tone of deep hurt. 'Is that the way to speak about the
man who taught you all there is to know about the Salt Plant centrifuge
gearbox? Here, give us a butchers.' He took the book and read: 'Nietzsche
was born in Rocken, in the Prussian province of Saxony, on October 15
1844. His father, Ludwig Nietzsche, a Lutheran minister and the son of
a minister, was thirty one...'
'You read that very
well Barrow, but I saw your lips move.'
'I've not got time to
hang about here muggin up on old Kraut headcases. On to the real reason
for my visit. It just so happens we're having a do, and you two
gentlemen, on account of your superior breeding, have been fortunate
enough to get on my short list.'
He described the
attractions of the New Luxor.
'What's it in aid
of?' asked Fleet.
said Barrow. 'It's next Friday, October 15. Your mate Neechy would
have been 118 if he'd lived. He is dead in't he?'
'Well that's worth
celebrating then in't it?'
'A festival of
Dionysus!' said Sikorski in ironical wonderment.
'That too!' said
Barrow. 'Better bring a spare pair of binks Sikorski. What you're
going to see will probably melt them crappy Polish bottle ends!'
He put them both down
and left. That Sikorski! thought Barrow, he's unbelievable! He could
talk for half an hour without anyone knowing what the fuck he was on
about, yet any workshop get‑together and he was there straight away:
bowls, darts, cricket matches, booze‑ups! And a bloody good sport he was
as well. Get him and Stanier together and we won't need any comedians!
Ignoring the bell
and its notice 'Please ring for attention' Barrow slipped under
the counter and into the gloomy body of the stores. At the centre of
this maze of racks was the office, or rather the cubicle, of Ernie
Hardman. Sikorski called it the Temple of Aphrodite. From floor to
ceiling, on all three sides, were sellotaped pictures of women. Hardman
obviously had a preference, not to say fetish, for big tits. Even the
most grossly inflated five gallon dugs with areolas the size of dustbin
lids failed to jar his aesthetic sense. His pursuit of size knew no
limit. In the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet, always kept locked,
was his collection of hard‑core. Ernie, reading, didn't notice Barrow
creeping up on him. Barrow got close enough to make out the print over
his shoulder. Together they silently, synchronously read: 'His hand
moved feverishly over the smooth silky border of her stocking tops and
on to the soft resilience of her magnificent thighs ...' Taking a
breath as silently as possible Barrow bellowed out the next sentence as
though he were addressing a large audience.
'His hot throbbing
member forced itself urgently against her...!'
Ey!?..Bloodyell!!' Ernie jumped violently, spilling tea over a pile of
'Barrow! You dozy
bugger! What's the bloody game sneakin in like that!? Jeezus I nearly
had a flamin heart attack!'
'Sneakin Ernie? I
could have loaded half the stores onto a ten ton truck and you wouldn't
'Spilt me piggin tea
now an all!'
'I don't know how you
get away with it Ernie, honest I don't.'
'Get away with it?!
I'll tell you how I get away with it. Who the hell d'you think'd do
this job for eight quid a week? Cooped up in here all day, no winders to
look out of, no‑one to talk to. Can't go out for a walk round like you
whenever I feel like it! Get away with it he says!'
'Very homely though
in't it Ernie? Family photos on the walls. This IS the missis here in't
it? This blonde piece with the big knockers?'
'Well how would you
like to be starin at steel bulkheads all day?'
'Say no more Ernie.
I've come to offer you something better than all this paper rubbish.
I've come to offer you...' He leaned close, staring hard into Ernie's
wide open eyes. '...the real thing!'
Jud Stanier's face
took on a look of concern as the pitch of his mechanical saw altered
from a low, rasping grunt to a higher, skidding squeak. Barrow offered
'You could do with
more skilly on that Jud.'
'Gerrout! I don't
want that stuff splashin all over t'place!'
'They say it gives
you cancer of the scrotum.'
'Aye. It sounds a
right load of balls.'
'Can't imagine a
company of this size exposing its workers to such a risk though can you
Jud grinned but refused
to take the bait. He switched off the saw and took a new blade from a
nearby locker. Inside the locker door was pinned a photo of V.I.Lenin.
Next to it was an unfaded patch about the same size where J.V.Stalin had
been. Stalin had been taken down following the criticism of the Cult of
the Personality at the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist
Party. As his body had been transferred from the Mausoleum to the
Kremlin Wall so Jud's photo had migrated from the locker door to his
tool box. Some reckoned Sikorski had talked him into it; others thought
Jud had moved it just to have Sikorski on. Lenin looked up
inquisitively with a gaze of penetrating comprehension; it was one of
the 1917 photographs. He seemed to be saying: 'It’s that 316
stainless Jud, wears blades out in ragtime.' Jud turned off the
coolant valve and looked closely at the six inch diameter bar in the
'It’s this bloody 316
stainless' he said, 'wears blades out in ragtime. This is the third I've
had in today.'
'I'll have the old
one off you mate, they make good scrapers.' Barrow crouched down by the
machine and put the new blade in. He knew Jud was a sick man, ever
since he had been gassed ten years ago on the Phosgene. He had
difficulty breathing. His face was a mass of broken purple veins.
It wasn’t long before
Barrow got him to go over the incident again. It intrigued Barrow. He
was constantly on the lookout for stories of industrial atrocities or
incidents which illustrated the cruel, inhuman side of capitalism. Jud’s
case seemed to be all those things and more. His treatment, it appeared,
verged on the criminal. In fact Barrow was almost ready to agree that
they’d tried to do Jud in.
“I was working on the
Thionyl Chloride then; used to be down the bottom end, it’s closed down
now. Let me fill you in on the background.” Jud was always keen on the
background: it must have been his Marxist training.
“Remember Barrow in
them days, we’re talking now about 1952, just after your lot lost
its nerve and let that bastard Churchill in, in them days this place was
completely unorganised. This wasn’t the Liverpool Docks you know, just a
piddling little Warrington Chemical works. Half the labour was trained
up bog Irish, not that I’ve got owt against the Irish, it’s just that,
historically they’ve always represented a pool of docile, cheap labour
for British Capitalism to draw on...” Barrow saw the danger. If he
didn’t head him off it could be eyes down for a lecture on Cromwell’s
wars, Wood’s Halfpenny and the Potato Famine.
“But you sorted that
out, eh Jud?”
“I did my bit towards
raising consciousness. Before long I had the whole yard in the old
Chemical Workers Union; this was before it merged into the T and G you
realise. Next thing you know we’re on strike. I was Steward of course.
The first bloody strike this company had had since it started forty
years ago! What an eye-opener that was Barrow! That toffee-nosed get
Saunders wouldn’t even speak to us! He was works manager. Wouldn’t even
speak to us! Anyone would think we’d shit on his desk. He thought we’d
fold before the end of the week. They got the bosses trying to run the
plants. What a laugh! The maintenance men told us about it. Dashing
about like blue-arsed flies they were. This was before the days of big,
fancy control rooms Barrow. We weren’t sat on chairs pressing buttons
like they do now mate. Anyroad, three weeks later the whole works is
flat on its arse. Saunders talked to us then all right. Tried to come
the hard-nosed stuff at first; offered us half of what we’d asked for,
but the lads weren’t having any. Solid as a bloody rock! And some of
these buggers hadn’t even been in a Union a year ago! Never
underestimate the proletariat Barrow! All we were doing in the union was
just channeling the discontent that’d been building up for years. You
can shit on the working class for only so long Barrow. What was it
quotations an even more dangerous distraction. Jud had an unnerving
habit of digging out books from his locker and rummaging through them
for underlined passages.
“Then when you came
back off your summer holidays?”
“Then when I comes back
I’m on the night-shift; leading hand I was. Patterson had left a note in
the book; he was the Plant Manager. ‘Increase main feed flows to the
reactor to four point five and twenty eight metres cubed an hour’. Well
you’d have to use the auxiliary lines on those rates, anyone new that.
And it wasn’t unusual to run the plant flat out at night because of all
the shit it pushed out. Jeeesus! If the locals could have seen us they’d
have had the law on us!”
“Same as the power
station; they just don’t bother controlling smoke density at night.”
“Course not Barrow.
It’s maximisation of profit int it? You don’t think big business cares
about stinking out a few local slums do you? It wasn’t dropping on
Saunders’ house now was it? He was living in bloody Lymm,damn near
twelve miles away!”
“But that auxiliary
line had gone duff the week before hadn’t it?”
“Gone duff!? There was
an expansion piece there with a crack in it you could get your hand in.
It was down in the book as a maintenance request but they were too
pulled out to get to it: the usual thing. Didn’t even have a bloke spare
to spade it off. Anyroad it would have meant a shut down and this twat
Patterson was trying to make a name for himself by breaking all
production records. So about eleven o clock I goes down and opens the
valve. Now there’s another thing; that valve was as stiff as arseholes.
I reckon some bastard had tightened up the gland on it. Next thing I
know I’m in the middle of a bloody great cloud of phosgene. Five minutes
in that stuff Barrow and you’re dead! Its a bloody killer! My first
reaction is to run like hell. But somebody’s got to shut this off, its
coming straight out of A forty ton liquid stock tank. So I’m wrestling
with the flaming valve trying to shut it down again. How the hell I got
to that phone I’ll never know! I was in the Borough for forty eight
hours on pure oxygen; that’s all they can do. It was touch and go. Then
I was off for three months. When I comes back in they gives me this
bloody job on the saw. I’m not much good at running up and down stairs
“You reckon he’d set it
all up though, Patterson?”
“Well what can you
think? It’s impossible to know for sure. I thought it was just one of
those things till Harry got talking to me. See, they used to leak test
those lines with a nitrogen purge before we went onto the high rates,
especially if we’d not been using them for a while. They’d done this
while I’d been on holiday and found the crack. I thought I’d got them
then, but the only real evidence is in the Maintenance Book. Comes to
look for it and its bloody well lost int it? Bloody well lost see? And
even if Patterson’s in the dock and has to agree he knew that line was
in a dangerous condition he’d probably say those rates could have been
met without using the auxiliary lines. How’s a bleedin halfwit
magistrate going to know any different?”
“Christ Jud it makes
“I’m not saying he was
trying to do me Barrow, but he got what he wanted in the end. After I
came in here that arsehole creeper Gibson gets the Steward’s job. It all
adds up mate.”
He restarted the saw
and turned on the coolant valve.
“Its fishy about that
book I reckon Jud. He must have felt guilty to get rid of it.”
“Them Maintenance books
did get lost sometimes Barrow, but that bugger vanished the next day
according to Harry.”
“And Patterson? What
happened to him?”
“He disappeared too,
about a month later. They say he got a kick up the hole for the accident
but look where he is now?”
“Aye, works manager at
St. Helen’s in charge of a place four times the size of this.”
“They think I’m a bit
cracked in here Barrow, you know. Not about this; I don’t go blabbing it
to everyone, I’ve got more oil in my can. I know it’s a serious matter
and I know I can trust your discretion as a fellow trade unionist. But
some of these young uns! Harold McMillan’s told them they’ve never had
it so good and they’re running around in cars, up to the eyeballs in HP.
They’re getting as much as eighteen quid a week on bonus and they
think the sun shines out of Hodgkin’s arse. They don’t want to listen to
me, but it’ll change Barrow. They’re living now on the fruits of our
struggle. They haven’t had to go through it like we have, but their
turn’ll come! That’s the only real teacher Barrow: struggle,
confrontation! Its a dialectical necessity. They won’t read Marxism but
they can’t avoid living it! Their turn’ll come!”
What was going on
inside Fleet’s head? That day, as usual during the dinner hour, he sat
on a flaking length of creosoted pine and read Nietzsche down by the
canal. But why Nietzsche, that lonely, loony prophet of the Superman?
Sikorski had something to do with it but it wasn’t that simple. At first
he’d fed Fleet his own passions: Jane Austen, George Eliot and Trollope.
Revulsion was all Fleet felt. The delicate ironies of Miss Austen
couldn’t enliven a subject of mind-numbing narrowness; the inflated
turgidities of old Horseface bored him rigid; and the superficial
narratorese of tripy Trollope reminded him of the soulless, middle-class
stories of Somerset Maugham he’d had to slog through a school.
Then Sikorski brought
in Joyce; volume one of the two volumed Hamburg Odyssey Press edition of
Ulysses. At the end of the week he was asking for volume two. The
poetry, the fierce, concentrated individualism, the apparent
omniscience, the dazzling melange of styles: he was bewitched. He went
out and bought it: it was the first book he’d ever owned. Almost
immediately followed A Portrait of the Artist, Dubliners, Stephen
Hero, Exiles and even Finnegans Wake. The tone of proud
separateness was exactly in tune with his own adolescent sense of
isolation. Sikorski was stunned. He’d never been able to read Joyce, and
what he had struggled through confirmed his impression that Lawrence had
been right in calling it ‘old fag-ends and cabbage stumps.’
decided to test his prodigy further. Nietzsche was the natural
progenitor of Joyce; the quintessential philosophic base of that post-Yeatsian
elitism. Besides there was an arrogance in Fleet that needed tempering.
What better to subdue this proto proletarian polymath than the dense,
allusive ironies of Nietzsche. Writing of such compact rapidity that
even Freud found it bewildering. Fleet struggled with the text. The
meaning came and went like the sound of a distant brass band on a windy
day, but what he did understand intoxicated him. As with Joyce, in which
there must have been a hundred words which weren’t even in his
dictionary, he was gripped spasmodically by the transfixing sensation of
a great mind setting up reverberations in his own. Nietzsche’s manic
tone illuminated his grey, factory existence like sheet lightning.
It was as much an
emotional response as an intellectual one; a response which Sikorski
hadn’t reckoned with. He observed Fleet’s reaction with alarm,
admiration and amusement. Sometimes he felt like a hedgesparrow watching
a cuckoo bursting its nest. He tried to flatten Fleet by probing his
comprehension of such Nietzschean mysteries as the theory of Eternal
Recurrence but he remained uncrushed like a religious zealot in contact
with the source of some life giving truth:
“Only an idiot demands
total understanding” he said with an eerie poise, “I’ve reached a point
where I recognise that anything I can understand straight away isn’t
It was a remark worthy
of Sikorski himself; he laughed out loud.
“Perhaps Stanier could
lend you Das Kapital, such a passion for Teutonic mysticism should be
indulged to the full.”
“I’ve had some stuff
off him but it doesn’t touch me here.” Fleet put a hand to his heart
“I imagine” said
Sikoraki, “that Vladimir Ilyich was aiming for a higher organ.”
“Besides” said Fleet,
“the print on those pamphlets reminds me of the Watchtower”.
They both laughed.
As for Sikorski, well,
Fleet had come to the conclusion that he was either a genius or a phony;
if such divergent options can be called a conclusion. Perhaps the thing
he admired most about Sikorski wasn’t his knowledge, or the erudition,
and certainly not the taste which he so often disagreed with, but the
style. The elegant ironies of his latest mentor contrasted sharply with
the honest, dogmatic simplicity of Stanier whom he had spent so much
time talking to in the Fitting Shop. But was there ever an adolescent
who preferred the ethical to the aesthetic mode of life?
Stanier saw the
familiar signs; the cynicism, the self-absorbtion, the single minded
passion for judging social events by an abstract moral code without
reference to their historical context. And, following on from that, a
profound ignorance of European history itself. Fleet had a keen mind and
an argumentative eloquence but he was, Jud reckoned, on the way to a
lower middle-class job, probably in the drawing office. Some of
Stanier’s points had left Fleet dumbfounded but his as yet unrecognised
interest in preserving the status quo placed him beyond recovery; a lost
soul, a hopeless case. Especially now he was doing six months with that
Barrow needed one
more to fill the bus. He knew just the bloke and planned to detour on
his way back from a job on the Glauber Salt plant. As soon as he walked
into the Carbon Electrode Machining Shop with his labourer Owen and his
apprentice Trellie, he heard Screawn shout above the noise of his lathe:
'Hey Barrow! Here a
Because it was next to
the Chlorine Production Unit the average temperature in the shop was
eighty degrees. Screawn was an extraordinary sight: carbonized, purple
and glossy, hair stood on end, with sweat tracks down the side of his
face, he looked like something off the cover of a science fiction
magazine. They reckoned he wore nothing under his overalls. He liked
to grip Barrow about the new starters in the Bagging Plant.
'Got a fag?' said
'What's that behind
your ear?' said Owen.
'A brain. What's
'Fuckinell! You got
out the wrong side this morning!'
'To me the outside is
the wrong side.'
'Every one a gem'
Barrow offered him an Embassy tipped.
'You don't want them
coupons do you Barrow luv?'
'What are you saving
up for? A mechanical cunt?'
were well known: he was the works' ram.
'I've already got
one; it's fixed between the wife's legs. Fuck me! I tried it this
morning! No kidding, it was like sticking it between two house bricks!
Talking of cunt though...'
'Subject normal' said
'Have you seen that
one on the stitching machine with Big Irma?'
'Real horny Barrow
luv. Just left school, fifteen or sixteen. Should see her skirts! What
'Stretches right up
to her arse does it?'
'S only flesh though
in't it Scraggy' said Owen, 'Think of all the mither you'd have to go
through to get your end away. Is it worth it for a few hours'
'Anyroad if she's
only that old she's not going to be interested in a dirty old get like
you' said Barrow. 'Sounds to me like she's more in our Trellie's line.'
uncomfortable. He glanced at the big clock at the end of the shop
hoping to flush Barrow into an early retreat.
'I'm not greedy' said
Screawn spreading his hand palm downward in a gesture of altruism.
'I'll let Trellie here break her in. After all its a big jump from
candles to a hampton like mine.'
'Spoken like a
gentleman' said Owen
'What do you say
Trellie? Shall we get Scraggy to send her round Saturday night?'
'Oh aye. I think I
can fit her in.' Trellie tried to play along. it was the only way.
'Can she fit you in
though!' cackled Screawn. 'That's the question.'
'See to it then
Scraggy. I've been getting a bit worried about Trellie lately. He's
wanking so much he can't hold a chisel steady these days. What he needs
is a good, steady supply of young, fresh, succulent, virgin hole.'
moaned Screawn lifting his leg off the floor, 'I'll get a hard on!'
'That reminds me.
Next Friday we're going to a strip club in Manchester; I suppose I can
put you down?'
As they left
Screawn held up a polished black thumb. Suddenly, as if it had just
occurred to him, he shouted:
'You're not taking
Trellie as well are you?'
'He can't make it'
said Barrow, 'He sees his married piece on Friday nights.'
Owen, behind him,
flexed his arm and winked with his whole face. Screawn started to
laugh, stopped, and then raised his eyebrows.
'Perhaps he is an’
all!' he bellowed, projecting his own obsessions onto innocent young
At the end of the
afternoon, as Barrow was getting his moped out of the bike sheds he saw
Henderson crackling bluely on the Caustic Shed roof.
'Doing some overtime
then you grabbing get?' he shouted.
'No, just practising
my fillets' said Henderson.
'Hey! The strip club
trip ‑ tell Brenda it's in aid of Neechy's birthday'
Barrow bumped over the wet rails and headed for the time office.
Henderson turned to Ferny who was squatting on the vent fan casing
holding a bunch of number eight rods.
'Must be that new
starter on the horizontal borer'.
Peering through his
violet, slag‑spattered eyeshield he struck the arc again.
Age long, life long juice of my body
flow to the sea
and run down to the deep ocean buried silt,
Let my bones welcome the plow,
kiss the sweet earth
and hobnob with the ground worms.
My flesh ignite with the air,
take it, and be taken
in a whirlpool of flesh and air.
In a lonely field in Flanders
There's a stick of rhubarb standing;
As a monumole
To Captain Richard Prongs.
It commemoroles his landing
In his officer's suit
From a very tall horse.
This tall equine brute
(Whose name one should know
Didn't want to go
To war and called a halter
At a field in Flanders
Where rhubarb now standers
As a monumole to his rider
Who floated down like a deflating prider
Lions pricked by a thorn
Down by five years in the trenches
Sat astride a horse;
There's nothing worse
Than riding up to your fetlocks in British and Frenches
In the muck and bullets trenches
And nothing to show but menches
With mud on your stirrups
And blood on your spats:
Mere infantry blood
And not very good
For your boots
Not that the nobility gives many hoots
Especially when they're dead.
And let it be said,
Solitary, noble, deceasted Captain Richard Prongs
Lies all alone with his wrongs,
Aloof from the masses
The bleeding classes
Captain Richard Prongs
By a solitary stick of rhubarb
That is forever
NATIONAL DRIED AND ALL BRAN
when i was young and in my jeans
and shirt all empire made
i played the national slot machine
and i was never paid
the U.S. kids they rocked and rolled
over here the kids just rolled
on the crest of a brylcreem wave
while jets and sharks went shootin pool
with names like larry and buzz
it was weetabix and off to school
for post war prefab us
suez and conscription
bromide in the tea
the age of non description
rationed by the B.B.C.
woodbines work and wireless
playing mantovani's strings
they'd service with a smile us
robbery with violins
the gaffer was a bastard
who fought the war with quids
he thought he had us mastered
and i suppose he did
"up yer arse wi yer fuckin job"
said a cinema full of teds
bill haley opened up his gob
and they ripped the place to shreds
for about 2 years they had their fling
and then like any square
they married - did the proper thing
for the slippers and the easy chair
the party political pantomime
its wondrous ways to work
says wedlocked slavery can be mine
i demand the right to smerk
here's to the Youth Of Britain
YOB let' say for short
is your future to be a ballpoint pen
on the ration book of thought
John Cooper Clarke
never enough money for the following week after everything had been paid out
on a Saturday.
stood leaning against the mantle watching his mother pushing a penny in one
pile and a threepenny bit into another. She rested her head on her arm and
she shook her head, "I'll have to owe Davies the shop another fourpence for
last week That will be three and six I owe him altogether. He won't like
milk down by a pint mam, we will have to go without in our tea," said
looked at him and tried to smile. "Good for us the milk is see ... can't
afford to cut down on it ... where will you and your father get your
manage mam, don't worry."
looked again at her figures and moved two pence from one pile to another.
Then quietly she said, "P'haps I. will tell George to leave one pint less. I
owe him two bob, too." She blinked back a tear and then went upstairs.
turned and looked at the fire. He felt the bitterness twist and burn his
stomach. His mother worrying about tradesmen and food. The worry making her
grey years too soon; making those once bright blue eyes dull and shallow.
She was a small woman, but strong and good willed. It hurt her to owe money
to anyone - but it seemed the only way for her to keep her family fed and
clothed. Pennypinching and scraping was the birthright of our family - for
we had always been in coal: and consequently had always been arranged and
pushed aside by the colliery owners like animals more than human beings.
was bitter: angry at watching his mother tormenting herself about who should
have the extra penny or ha'penny. And he, too, didn't help by being a shift
short last week and his father two shifts short. Not that it was his own
fault -he had gone to the pit only to be told there was no work ... come
again tomorrow ... there might be work tomorrow. Colliery owners didn't care
about feeding hungry mouths ... Children could die and old people could die,
it did not concern them. All they worried about was coal and keeping the
them?" he cursed and spat into the fire.
still early evening and the sun was about a foot from dropping behind the
Drumma mountain. He went outside and took his last but one Woodbine from the
packet that held five. He looked at the wall that hid the garden from Dudly
Street. It was not a well kept garden; his father and he were not attached
to flowers and the like. As a result the weeds grow happily and everywhere.
The fence between them and Mrs. Williams was broken and what was standing
was rotten. All the gardens on Rectory Road were the same; some a little
better, of course, but in the main the menfolk were not lovers of gardening. His mind
was full of ideas as he looked from the wall to the lavatory, then to the
rear of the house to the broken fence. The tap next to the back door was
hello Dic." Richard
turned and faced little Wally from next door.
"Hello bach. Out late aren't
you? When I was your age I was abed hours since." Wally
"Ah, but I'm getting a big boy now. My Uncle Donald said so when he
gave me a penny."
penny!" said Richard. Wally
"Dic?" he asked slowly.
dream at all?" Richard
looked at him with amusement.
"Dream, Wally? Yes, sometimes."
'Cos I do too." Richard
lit his last Woodbine and drew hard on the blue smoke with enjoyment.
about your dreams, Dic." Richard
was silent for a moment as he considered this unusual request.
"Well, Wally, bach ... dreaming is a wonderful pastime; so easy, so cheap, so effortless
... It can be done at day or at the night time ... more often at night
is at night that I do it best," said Wally.
climb mountains, win races, drive cars, ride on trains, have a good, regular
job with good money, you can travel on trips to the seaside in a train
instead of walking to Jersy Marine like we've got to ... there is nothing
one can't do in a dream. I dream about having money to spare. If I had money
to spare I would be able to buy my main a nice, big house with a fancy
garden and a gardener to tend it ... I would buy her a car and a chauffeur
to drive it ... I would buy a headstone for my poor brother's grave ..."
brother is that?" asked Wally.
died in the colliery before you were born. A good lad he was too. But there
it is killed trying to scrape a living from those grasping bosses!"
dreams are about horses mostly, Dic. I don't know why, but I'm riding them
very fast and there is a lot of shouting and everything. But I am up there
with them ... I am one of the best."
laughed kindly. "P'haps we've got a jockey 'ere, is it. Walter Williams
rides the favourite! Walter Williams wins the Derby! Dreams are wonderful,
Wally, bach. You keep on dreaming and from time to time we will have a chat
and swap them. It should be very interesting."
that the lad's mother was shouting, "Wally!"
made no move to go indoors.
better go in, Dic," he said. Richard
"Ay, we don't want her in a mad temper, do we?"
said and left Richard to his thoughts.
waited for a few minutes in the silence of the early evening before going
indoors, He thought about various things: last Saturday's match at the
Knoll, his walk with Brenda Bando up past the Ivy Tower on Sunday night, the
leg-pulling at work the following day about that walk. And did he worry as
Terry Samuel began to talk in his loud echoing voice, telling everybody
within a hundred yards radius and his father due out of the canteen any
second. He had sweated then for his father was strict about such things.
Heavy with the Welsh baptists was Joseph James. This religious trait could
be traced back along the family line to his grandfather whose roots were
firmly imbedded in the rich soil of Kidwelly, Camarthenshire, Wales.
How black the sea rolls
against this solid shore,
but how it leaves a slime of blood fresh from the ocean's floor.
how the high specked seagull climbs,
its lonely voice like a death knell chimes
lost in the ocean's roar.
Now the winter drags its cloak across this passing year,
but how like fast approaching night
it shrinks the Earth with fear.
What gangling marionette of death
has played its song and breathed its breath,
what nation paid so dear.
What superstructured might
has stabbed the day and breathed the night,
and thrown its shape against the light
that poured across from Chile.
For what deadly masquerade
was this bloodshed chess game played,
that needed all that many slayed
that drank the sun, in Chile.
The tank and gun and fascist boot
made human life its legal loot,
it's torn the flower from the rest
and ripped the soul of Chile.
All this to satisfy the wealth
of some faceless fiends who used their stealth,
to finally destroy the health
of youth and love, in Chile.
The wind it howls and pleads and screams
throughout this deadly night,
passing on such stenchfilled scenes
ever present in our dreams and never far from sight.
Let our fury like stormclouds swell
in all determined might,
let this thunder be the knell
of those purveyors and their hell,
those butchers of the light.
Let those ghoulish souls be weighed
in all of mankind's sight
and reckoned up with all they slayed.
Against their grisly masquerade
all humankind must fight.
blackened by the night
soon it will be light,
soon it will be light.
He had scraped through the years with empty pockets
But had never known the poverty of intellect
That beggared his neighbours
When they poured their growing wages down their throats
lie only joined them after a page or two
Even than the drinking was behind the talk
Which he steered with strategic facts
What passed in him for drunken aggression
Was tolerance at a low ebb
When drunk, his isolation closed in and alienated him
From the family who walled him out with ignorance
And sent him scurrying to his bed and books
When I caught him like this I would corner him
And spike his socialist guns with laughter
I loved the passion in his face as he argued
Circling fists in emphatic motion too
Long into the nights we performed
While his petrified wife sat straining
waiting for the angry word or blow
Expecting an explosion that never came
Father and daughter we might have been
Two shades of a hue we were, flame and spark
Better than drink or books it was
Socialist garbles in a pit kitchen
The past is a fast, and far receding wall
where strange graffiti have been near-erased,
blurred by so many winters' sodden fall.
Those savage words whose fury's gone to waste
are echoed now by new, old anguished cries
torn from the living flesh, and dripping blood
upon cold stones.
Each child that dies
maimed in a world of plenty, swells the flood
of guilt sweeping us all along, whether or not we care.
We know it in our bones. The dead past knew
and left unheeded records of despair.
And we can only cry - what can we do?
We can try love - for hate will drown us all.
That, is the writing on the wall.
AFTER AN ULTIMATUM
I have been here before –
in this waste of littered slag-heaps, derelict huts,
I have already smelt
this stink of dumped rubbish
ashes, rotting cabbage, rusty tins.
Too often my root have squelched
ice-wet across this weed-choked sludge
mined with broken bottles.
I had hoped
never to shudder again in this February wind,
trudging towards a grey horizon
humped only with more slag-heaps.
when we walked through vendelpark together
with all those hippies sprawling on the grass around us
keep to the path you said
yes i said
all the way to Vietnam
ENCOUNTER AT LONDON BRIDGE
I was just
enjoying a quiet drink in the refreshment room at London Bridge Station when a
perfect stranger came up and said -
"I see you're a member of the Society for
Planetary Travel." I opened my
mouth to explain that the badge I was wearing was for members of the Stoke Pages
Temperance Society, but it wasn't tea I was drinking and explanations can be
difficult sometimes. Anyway, it seemed a promising opening to a conversation,
and it isn't often that a pretty girl seeks my company. I said she was a perfect
stranger and 'perfect' is just the right word to describe her looks.
member then?" I asked.
"In a way I
am," she said. "I'm from Venus."
I wondered if
I'd heard aright. She was just like any other girl - except that she had four
eyes; no, she hadn't. I get a bit of trouble with double vision now and again. I
tried to guess her age; she looked to be about twenty, but what did that mean on
Venus? The year on Venus is two hundred and twenty five over three hundred and
sixty five and a quarter comes to ... but I can't do sums like that in my head
and I wasn't sure that it shouldn't be twenty multiplied by three hundred and
sixty five and a quarter over two hundred and twenty five.
I said. "Where's your saucer?" She stared at
"I haven't a cup yet," she said, "so - oh! I see what you mean. You surely
don't believe that nonsense?"
I took the
hint and fetched her a cup of tea.
said. "Just a matter of telebiotransitation."
of course," I said. "I can't imagine why I didn't think of it myself. Any
special reason for coming here?
that they'd been listening to our radio. broadcasts for the past fifty years;
previously they'd been quite unaware of our existence. Because of the very thick
clouds around Venus, they can never see any stars or even the sun. So when they
managed to understand our broadcasts it was the talks on astronomy which really
excited them, especially when TV began -Patrick Moore is a household name on
Venus too. The broadcasts stimulated them to think of space travel, and, as
their scientific development is far in advance of ours, they soon managed it. Of
course, they learnt a great many things from our broadcasts - not all on the
was that the more impressionable Venusians had been adopting some of the customs
they saw here. This was a matter of great concern to the authorities, and it was
decided to send investigators here to discover the reasons for the curious
practices which were leading their people astray. One of the investigators went
to the Soviet Union and came back an absolute mine of information about the
production of pig iron in Omsk (or was it Tomak?). Another went to China and
returned humming "The East is Red" and reciting the thoughts of Chairman Mao. A
third went to America and became an expert on Watergate - he was very nearly
appointed Attorney General -but not on anything useful. And now she had come to
England, hoping for better success.
you found so far?" I asked.
"Well, I had an interview with a parliamentary under
secretary, I think he was, but all I got from him was a lot of waffle about a
blue print for a new society; wind of change; in this day and age; at this
moment in time; etc., etc. Then I tried
people in the street, but that was no good either. It was 'Sorry, I've a train
to catch' or 'The wife's expecting me' or 'You'd better ask my husband' or 'Not
today, thank you'." I ought to mention that she said that she'd made an
intensive study of English before she came; certainly she had an astonishing
fluency. "But you'll
help me, won't you'" she pleaded, giving me a lovely smile that made me wish I
was fifty years younger.
I said. "What do you want to know?" She plunged
straight into the deep end.
"All these religions - Christianity, Buddhism,
Bingo; however did you come by them?"
I knew the
answer to that one. My next door neighbour is a rabid atheist, and when one of
these earnest folk spreading the Gospel comes to his door old Sam lets fly so
that all the street can hear.
said, "is based on fear and ignorance -" but I got no further. A bunch of
football fans came in, arguing loudly about a game. I hoped that Venus's
vocabulary didn't extend to the language some of them were using, but it did.
another thing," she said, interrupting me. "Half our young men now spend hours
charging round a muddy field with a ball. At first they didn't understand the
game - they thought they had to kick the ball into the net - but now they've got
the message and they're kicking and tripping each other, swearing at the
referee, spitting and pulling their shorts down; real First Division stuff. And
the girls are now better," she went on, looking at a pair of platform shoes
hobbling past. "Our girls are going around on stilts; those that aren't nursing
broken ankles. And you can well imagine that neither minis nor maxis, which are
all the rage, are entirely suitable for girls on stilts." Somebody
turned on Radio 2 at full volume but fortunately only for a moment. "And of
course," said Venus, "we've got groups mushrooming all over the place, each
dressing more outrageously than the next, and waving their - what do you call
them -guitars, isn't it? Some people thought they were musical instruments but
as they were seen to be used like weapons it was soon realised that, like the
painted faces, they were relics of some ancient barbaric rites. And each group
has a horde of demented girls after them, screaming so that the group itself is,
mercifully, inaudible. Mind you, our teenagers wouldn't fall for an elderly
baldhead sucking a lollipop; no, no, - the current heart throb on Venus is a
toothless ancient perpetually stoned on moths. But there are worse things than
pop groups - LSD for example."
"Ah! You're out of date
there," I said. "We changed over from Lsd to decimal currency some
years ago - I forget when exactly."
February, 1971," she said impatiently. "I'm talking about lysurgic acid."
can't help you there," I said. "I didn't do any chemistry at school. If you've
finished your tea, shall we go? It's a bit stuffy here."
looked up at the huge office building which stood empty for several years.
"We're building them, too," she said. "Just the outside walls, of course; if
they're not going to be used, what's the point of putting in floors and stairs?
But it's still a terrible waste of money, isn't it?"
agree with you," I said. "Spend three or four million pounds putting up one of
these buildings; keep it empty for ten years and its worth fifty million. Good
business, I call it."
bother to reply. "Look at these cars," she said, pointing to a line of them
parked at the side of the street. "This one's Japanese, then German, French,
Swedish, Japanese again and -why what's this? It's a British car! Why import all
these foreign cars if you can make them yourselves?"
could we sell them our cars, if we didn't buy theirs?" I was beginning to think
there wasn't much brain behind her pretty face.
on Venus," she said. "Anything you can do, we can do better. When we heard of
your lorries from France coming over the Channel to Dover, going round a
roundabout and then straight back across the Channel without unloading, we
really took off. The thing now is to buy only those products - whether food or
furniture - which have been sent round the planet and back again. I had the
finger of scorn pointed at me because I was caught eating an apple straight off
a tree in my garden. And my sister scarcely dares go out since she incautiously
let it be known that she was breast-feeding her baby instead of adopting
somebody else's baby and feeding it on powdered milk from another continent.
'Just like an animal,' the neighbours said, and their wretched little boys moo
of food prompted me to ask if she would like a little something, and we went to
a cafe nearby. It was rather crowded but we did find room at a table where two
men were intently engaged on completing a pools coupon. They left after a few
minutes, and Venus, who had been observing them with curiosity, begged for
"We heard many references to the pools on your radio and
television," she said, "but couldn't quite fathom it."
"This is even
more ridiculous than we'd imagined," she said, after I'd explained the pools
system to her. 'You say that only about a third of the money paid in by the
punters is returned by way of dividends? It’s absolutely crazy.”
echoed. "Not a bit of it. It's better than a gold mine for the promoters - they
can't lose. You don't seem to appreciate good business."
exasperated, but didn't pursue the subject. "We've done some work on the origins
of some of your customs. Cricket, for instance, this is clearly based on the
stoning of the early Christian martyrs. The Miss World contests are a reminder
of some barbarous custom of ravishing virgins captured in war. Boxing and all-in
wrestling are obviously in a direct line from the gladiatorial contests of
ancient Rome, and the Grand National no doubt has its origin in the Charge of
the Light Brigade."
I lit a
cigarette to steady myself after that farrago of nonsense; she declined one,
rather acidly. "It's a good thing that the tobacco plant is unknown on Venus,"
she remarked. "But I believe they're experimenting with a plastic substitute." I
felt I could safely assure her that there wouldn't be any future for plastic
"But why the
craving for lung cancer?" she wanted to know. I couldn't
answer immediately - I had a sudden fit of coughing.
"I've been smoking for
fifty years," I gasped, eventually, "so I don't think I need to worry."
"Well, I can
assure you that we do worry," she said, rather heatedly. "We shan't be satisfied
with a warning on a cigarette packet." I was getting
a bit annoyed myself.
"Venus," I said. "You seem to think we're stupid because
we let people smoke if they want to. It's a free country. But if they drink too
much, we don't let them drive."
said Venus. "Hundreds of people are killed on your roads every year. You don't
let blind people or babies drive, either, do you? You'll be patting yourselves
on the back next because you don't let monkeys drive."
If I hadn't
suffered another fit of coughing at this point I think I should have said
something I regretted. However, Venus must have realised that she'd gone too
far; suddenly she smiled, leant across to me and kissed me on the forehead.
forgive me," she said. "I've been abominably rude to you and you've been so kind
and helpful to me. And there's a great deal to admire about your way of life.
What I like best of all is -"
I was all
agog to know what it might be that did meet with her approval but she suddenly
broke off, looked at her watch, and said she would have to be going. She suited
the action to the word, jumped up and nearly upset the table as she did so. I
concluded that she had to get back to her own planet and, of course, the time of
departure would have to be timed to the second.
said, and she gave me a smile and a hasty "Good-bye" as she hurried out into the
street, nearly colliding at the door with someone I recognised as a matron from
Guy's Hospital, which is very close to the station. She gave Venus a frosty
glare and said something to her which I couldn't hear.
By the time
I'd paid the bill and reached the street, Venus was nowhere to be seen, but
there, low down in the sky was the planet itself, shining brilliantly. It looked
very red but as I watched it changed, oddly enough, to green; then a passing
train blotted it from my sight. Perhaps the change of colour was a signal to her
I bought an
evening paper and went to catch my train. I tried to absorb the news of the day
but my thoughts were still of Venus and the headlines didn't register. There was
more violence in Northern Ireland; a threatened strike in the Midlands; fighting
between the Arabs and Israelis; and, because it was a London paper, an item
about a stupid rag by students at a London teaching hospital. "Students at a
London Hospital," I read "undertook an unofficial experiment to test the
gullibility of the public." It seemed to me to be quite irresponsible for young
men - and women too, I suppose - to behave so childishly. I couldn't help
wondering what Venus would have thought of them.
were three men. There is nothing surprising in a world so full to the brim with
men of every colour, creed, and shape, that a story should contain three men.
But, said the signpost, "Beware", these men are different; even though they look
exactly like any you would find in an industrialised town.
The men were
of varying heights, one of them being tall and spare, who seemed to live
habitually in faded blue denim overalls; he also wore rimless round glasses.
Another was of medium height, and build; he wore brown overalls, and hob-nailed
boots. The third was quite a short man who was rather well protected by fat,
especially round the stomach and behind; his clothes consisted of an odd jacket
and trousers, with a loud checked shirt. Each, on week-days, wore a cloth cap,
and a muffler to protect his neck from the wind, rain and snow. Two carried
little bags slung on their shoulders by a strap, which had in them their
sandwiches; the third disliked little bags, and preferred to put his sandwiches
in his always bulging pockets.
So far there
is nothing to distinguish them from millions of other men. However as we look at
their eyes (of which two had blue, one brown) we are aware that the eyes of all
seem to have been deprived of the sight of too much green. We feel at once that
here are six eyes whose only glimpses of green have been confined to a patch of
grass in their back gardens, or for they all possess cars, seen reflected in the
windows of these cars as they zipped along the motor-ways, in quick dashes to
the country with their families at week-ends.
another feature of the eyes, which is noted after a time; they always look
straight ahead, not upwards or downwards, neither to the left nor the right.
men were never late for work, never off sick, were always ready to do overtime,
were kind to their wives, and children. Pocket money was never forgotten, nor
was their regular Friday date at the Black Bull.
Yet in view
of all this seeming normality, everyone of these men began to be attacked by
nagging doubts concerning the state of their health. The urge to work was
absolutely overpowering, which usually got worse at Christmas.
families were in the habit of thinking of them as lodgers, they worked until
late in the evenings, on Fridays too, as well as at week-ends, so of course
there were no visits to the Black Bull, nor dashes to the country.
One day when
it had seemed that their eyes had been more than usually riveted into one
position, they noticed on coming back to their work bench, after the dinner
break, that not only had they failed to examine their sandwiches before eating,
to see what was between the bread, but that they were singularly apathetic in
their conversation, and did not once discuss either racing, politics, religion
or football. This caused them much surprise, they decided there and then to
visit a doctor.'
happened they were all on the panel of the same doctor, and decided to visit him
together, without telling their wives.
As each man
entered the surgery, the doctor ,busy writing out prescriptions, had scarcely
lifted his head, but merely barked "Yes?" in an interrogative tone of voice. He
heard each of their complaints over the strong desire for work, the voices they
had in their ears the whole day, insisting the more they did, the more presents
they could buy their children, the fatter the turkey they could buy for
Christmas dinner; in fact they feared for their sanity, for the voice even
haunted their dreams. The doctor had only said that he didn't see that there was
much wrong, but they had better be off with their shirts and down with their
trousers. After a quick examination, he told them it was just as he thought,
there was nothing wrong with them, that they should go back to work thankful
they were lucky to be so fit, when he had so many poor creatures come to him,
asking for medicine to help them keep working, the men had thanked him and
returned, to work harder than ever, taking home an extra large pay packet.
were delighted with the extra money, and very good humoured. In consequence, the
men felt it was time to take the wives into their confidence about the visit to
the doctor, and the reason for it. The wives however thought it was a huge joke,
and didn't take the matter seriously at all.
one of the men dreamed he was being followed by a red light. It upset his sleep
so much he was almost late for work. He told his two friends of his dream, who
seemed to think the doctor chap could have been wrong, as they thought such a
dream was an omen, and decided to call on the doctor once more.
They did not
however mention this to their wives in view of their amusement over it. They
went together as before. On stepping inside the surgery again, the doctor
possibly remembered them. In any event he was rude. They were determined though
this time not to come away without a prescription for medicine, The doctor,
being as usual busy, wrote one out. It was easier anyhow-all their talk about
having no time to do the things they wanted to do because of this strong work
urge - he simply let go in through one ear and out through the other.
went by, until the day three women visited him. As each one walked into the
surgery, he felt vaguely that he ought to know them. The first one interrupted
his dawning recognition by saying that her husband had died yesterday. She
blamed the medicine, and of course he couldn't tell her it was little more than
coloured water. He only said that her husband must have been working too hard.
woman astonished him even more, for she grumbled that since having the medicine,
her husband had acted very strangely. He took days off from work. He had bought
a fiddle with the money intended for a big turkey. In fact there had been great
difficulty in consoling the woman, until she asked 'for some of the same
medicine' in order that she too could spend her time fiddling like her husband.
By the time
the third woman came through the door, the doctor was prepared for anything,
though he hardly expected her thanks, as she said that her husband - since
taking the doctor's medicine -was a changed man, who was happy to stay at home,
look after the children, cook and clean, besides finding time to paint beautiful
pictures with green fields and trees in them. While she, who had always wanted
to do a man's job and have the same money and opportunities, had been given her
When she had
left, and the morning's surgery was over, the doctor sank into his chair. And if
anyone had been close enough to hear, they might have heard him say, "Now I
shall take some of my own medicine."
Not, comrade, as a woman
I ask for liberty,
but demand equality
as the right of a human.
It is but quibbling
to call us different
by the mere incident
of animal functioning.
Neither of us alone
can mould another life;
without the womb of wife
the shed seeds are unsown.
Neither of us alone
can mould environment
but jointly we have bent
the cosmos to our own.
Who should be integrate,
my slavery's your disgrace,
I demand my place
shoulder to shoulder, mate.
He used to do the brake and clutch assembly
and he was never absent or ever late,
yet he was slowly dying from the slavery
which began, as he came through the gate.
As he changed his clothes poor Albert worried
about the long, hard day, which lay ahead,
and as downstairs to work he once more hurried,
thought, sadly, that he'd be better dead.
He had five kids and a sharp, nagging wife,
a mortgage, and many debts to pay,
but he faced up like a champion to a sorry life
of slavery, every minute of the day.
He struggled on, did Albert, like a hero in the war,
in and out of cars. IN OUT IN OUT IN OUT
doing brake and clutch assembly on every shining car,
up an down. In and Out. Up. Down. In. Out. Lout. Lout.
His back and legs were screaming with the pain;
bitter sweat was streaming down his face,
and an awful worry paralysed his brain,
that he couldn't - couldn't stand the killing pace.
He thought about the kids, the mortgage and the bills,
and about his worried, nagging wife.
He felt weary of the struggle, climbing all these hills
With a pain in his heart, like a knife
Poor Albert: as he reached to seize another door,
he gave a cry and staggered back.
And as he slowly fell upon the cold, grey floor,
thought, that surely he would get the sack.
"Stop the Line", someone cried, "Poor Albert's on the floor.
let's help the poor old bugger up, he looks bad he won't do any more,
and for a moment, they looked at Albert on the floor.
"Don't Stop the Line", the foreman fiercely cried,
"You know that the line must never stop,
even if old Albert's gone and bloody died;
Well, that's it ... we work until we drop."
Poor Albert lay there dying, shivering with the cold,
and the foreman looked down at his blue face.
"You stayed too long, Albert, and grew too bloody old.
Ah, well, I'll. get a youngster in your place."
Upon that floor, the cold, cold floor, Albert simply died;
He closed his eyes upon the scene and drew a gentle breath.
And in that place of greed and spite no one cried for Albert,
as he lay cold and still in death.
The hooter went ... the banshee voice shrieked out again
and held the greedy line at bay.
In their thousands men rushed out to catch cars and train;
all but one ... for poor Albert died to-day.
MEDITATION IN A FOLK CLUB
He sang "The Peat Bog Soldiers"*
For him it was old enough to be cherished as 'Folk'
For me the courage and yearning stitched into that tune
Prodded old scars, still sensitive.
I was his age
When the concentration camps were an ugly rumour
Which the Left believed and the Right suavely denied,
While the Liberals kept their ever-open mind.
They hardly bother denying things today -
Just mop up the blood and carry on with football.
You say the Stadium stinks? How petty minded!
We sang "The Peat Bog Soldiers" in memory of friends.
I must learn to sing the songs of Santiago.
*Song composed and sung in Nazi concentration camps, World War II.
Connie M Ford.
derelict, and dressed in yesterday's headlines
the down and out stretches in the morning light;
lies on a city shore,
lolls like seaweed, washed up in the night -
and all that drifts around him;
the dancing office girls,
the dry, drab businessmen,
the plastic spoons,
spins in a cold, cold sea;
spins and swims and skims his ashen face -
not that he cares,
he knows he's sinking,
he knows they're all sinking.
so, pulling the bottle back up to his lips,
one eye on the clock,
he wraps the headlines tightly around himself,
and nods off through another crisis,
using dusty words for bed-clothes;
for arm rests -
The first issue of the Communist Party literature journal Red Letters has just
Apart' from Arnold Kettle's "Literature and Ideology" Sue Beardon writes on
"Women in Victorian Poetry," Jackie Kaye on "Moby-dick: Capitalism as Epic" and
Paul Lawford looks at the critical work of F. R. Leavis,
year's subscription costs 75p from Red Letters, 16 King Street, London WC2E SHY.
Single issues cost 25p.
Artery has been appearing for five years 'and its
collective have, in the words of Geoff Sawtell the editor, changed it "radically
since those early days and we have learnt a lot."
This issue has Bernard Stevens on Shostakovich, David Craig on "Revolutionary
Literature" and an exclusive interview with Stefan Heym, writer of the German
Artery costs 25p an issue. Subscription rate £1 for four issues or 25 single
copies, plus 15p fort postage from 2 South Villas London, NW1.
contains the usual broad selection of short stories, poems, criticism and
correspondence. Several of the writers are accomplished stylists, confident of
their abilities, whether in tough realistic prose or savagely ironical verse.
For example, a calm unsentimental poem by John Hosey describes his son's
conspiracy trial in South Africa without bravura or rhetoric, and expresses
Sean's (and his own) courage and dedication.
Other contributors are much more hesitant, obviously unused to venturing onto
the "bourgeois" terrain of literary self-expression. Yet, despite the occasional
awkward rhyme or clumsy metre, they still manage to convey the freshness and
force of their ideas.
What is certain is that without magazines such as Voices these comrades would be
muted; as it is, their publication should lead to their receiving the critical
attention which will help to improve their technique and sharpen their
Voices is obtainable from Ben Ainley, 13 Victoria Way, Bramhall, Stockport—and
from a growing number of progressive booksellers.—GL.