Pantry Prose: Monkey Business by Andrew Williams

monkey

“Lemons. Lemons everywhere. Yellow, curved, with those odd little nubs on either end. Nothing but lemons, an endless sea of them stretching from here to eternity. To be honest, I’m starting to get a bit sick of them. Now and again, just once, I’d like to see something different. Like an apple, or a banana. But no, it’s just lemons. That’s all we ever get around here.”

Malcolm stared at the words he’d just typed. Gibberish, absolute gibberish. As if the Bard would ever deign to come up with such trash. He tore the paper from the typewriter, fed a new sheet behind the ribbon and started again.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was one of those times somewhere in the middle that could be better but could be worse, like a rainy Tuesday afternoon.”

No, that still wasn’t right. Malcolm glanced over at his neighbour, an elderly chimp with the odd patch of grey in his fur, whose page was already overflowing with references to ghosts, daggers and witches. Still, his spelling was pretty atrocious. Malcolm took pride in his spelling.

But if he didn’t start channelling some Shakespeare soon, there’d be no peanuts for him tonight.

Malcolm concentrated, meditating on the collective sound of a thousand typewriter keys tapping out their staccato rhythms. His fingers flexed.

“Maria, I’ve just met a girl named Maria. And suddenly I’ve found how wonderful a sound can be…”

Oh no. Not again. Even the lemons were better than this second rate musical.

Why was he struggling so? Just the other week he’d dashed off three scenes from Coriolanus without a second thought. He tore out the defiled paper, screwing it into a ball and tossing it amongst the growing pile of rejects around his desk.

“Jim, I’m taking a break.”

The greying chimp didn’t reply, lost in the flow of dialogue and dreaming up arcane spells for his three witches. Malcolm didn’t try for witches any more. The last one had ended up with red shoes, green skin and an army of dogs with wings that she set on innocent Kansas farm girls.

He headed to the kitchen for a cup of tea. It was stone cold. He didn’t care. Anything to get away from the stench of failure emanating from his desk – unless that was the banana sandwich he’d lost last month, of course. The cleaners certainly weren’t that thorough these days.

“Hey, Malcolm. How’s it going?”

Malcolm looked up. “Hey, Cyril,” he said. “Could be worse, you know.”

Cyril, a spider monkey from Accounting, was the sort to remember everything you said and repeat it later in the annual budget meeting. All the typists in this section were terrified of him – there were rumours of more cutbacks. Once there were supposed to have been a million monkeys in the typing pool – now less than a tenth of that number remained, though they were told they were the best in the company. Malcolm wondered if the best had merely taken the opportunity to join the space program. NASA were always looking for new test pilots.

“Isn’t your PDR due soon, Malcolm?”

The dratted performance development review. Malcolm suppressed a shudder. He was dreading this – a meeting with his line manager to discuss his output. A few months ago he’d been producing a page of prose a day. Lately he hadn’t managed much more than a few stage directions in weeks, Coriolanus aside. But he was damned if he’d give those accountancy bastards the satisfaction of watching him squirm.

“This afternoon, actually,” he breezed, trying to sound casual.

“Best be off,” Cyril grinned, showing more teeth than pleasure. “I’m stocktaking the peanuts again. After all, we can’t let our hard workers go unpaid, can we?”

Malcolm smiled, dropped the empty teacup back in the sink and headed back to his desk.

“The PDR’s the thing,” he typed, “to prick the conscience of the king.”

Damned performance reviews. They were all he could think of now. He added another ball of screwed up paper to the pile below and started again.

“To be, or not to be, that is not really a question. My kingdom for a hearse! Cry havoc, and let dogs bring the slippers of war. To sleep, purchase a dream. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards. A plaque on both your houses, stating Roy Waz Ere! Bill Stickers is innocent! I once shot an elephant in my pyjamas…”

Gibberish! Sheer gibberish! Malcolm shivered at the thought of meeting his boss, a four hundred pound gorilla in a suit slightly too small for him. Approximately half a pound of that weight was made up of brain, and that might be overestimating it. But that was how the company worked – put the good workers at the bottom, and promote the bad ones to management, where they couldn’t get in the way too much.

Malcolm returned to the typewriter, dashing out a quick sonnet that seemed determined to focus on a young girl from Nantucket. The Bard was being particularly unhelpful today. It was a relief to escape from work for a half hour at lunch time.

Bananas again. And not fresh ones. More budget cutbacks.

As Malcolm threw aside the final bruised banana skin, he felt a large hand upon his shoulder. “It’s time, Malcolm.”

“Yes, boss. Coming, boss.”

They headed for the trees. Lowly typists such as Malcolm had to make do with cubicles, but management had their own trees, a miniature jungle of foliage in which to work. Malcolm found it strange that sunlight and greenery were considered essential for the upper echelons but a distraction for their underlings. Still, this was no time to philosophise about business management. He had the dreaded review to survive.

The gorilla took up home on a sturdy spot near the trunk and gestured to a nearby branch. “Let’s get right to the point. Malcolm, I’ve been looking at your output for the last month or so. I’m very disappointed. There was a time once when we could afford to slack off; a million monkeys all typing for eternity, how could we not get the job done? But with all these cutbacks – I’m going to have to let some of you go. Tell me why it shouldn’t be you.”

Malcolm decided not to mention the wife and six children back home. That wasn’t really what the boss meant, after all. “I’m just going through a dry spell, sir. You know I’ve always been a top worker in the past. I can do it again.”

“Malcolm, Malcolm. I’m worried about you.” The gorilla’s cold, dark eyes suggested otherwise. “I’m afraid you might have burned out. Sure, you’ve managed some great stuff. That page of Titus Andronicus – brilliant work. You’ve inserted long-missing lines into six different scenes of Romeo and Juliet. But lately – I think something’s cracked.”

To his horror, Malcolm saw the gorilla smooth out a crumbled piece of paper.

“Yes, we’ve been checking your reject pile. Paper’s valuable stuff, Malcolm. It doesn’t grow on trees. Now what’s all this about lemons?”

“Sorry, sir.”

The gorilla growled. “I don’t want apologies, grunt. I want explanations. Why lemons? What work of Shakespeare ever mentioned lemons?”

“Uh… sonnet number 56 mentions pomegranates… I think…”

“Shall I compare thee to a fruitcake, Malcolm? Lemons and pomegranates! Next you’ll be wittering on about rainy Tuesdays. Oh, wait. You did.” He unrolled another sheet. Malcolm looked down at the ground and wondered whether a fall from this height could be fatal. Perhaps if he aimed carefully and landed head first…

“Truth is, though, Malcolm, I’m short staffed. When the company first started this project we had all the funds you could want. Now no-one is interested in Shakespeare. Look… you’re a good worker. I think you just need a change of scenery. I’m transferring you to the Meyer department.”

Malcolm gasped. “Not the Twilight series!” he wailed. “It’s utter dross!”

The gorilla smiled evilly. “I know. Keep on writing this codswallop, Malcolm, and no-one will ever notice. You might even improve it.”

Malcolm headed back to his desk, collected his few possessions, and headed off down the corridor. It felt like a punishment. Perhaps it was a punishment. But if a million monkeys on a million typewriters couldn’t produce the works of Shakespeare, perhaps something a little easier might be worth a try.

He sat at a new typewriter, threaded a new ribbon, and fed in a new sheet of paper.

“Vampire Edward and his bride Bella sat at the abacus, flicking beads back and forth. ‘One! Ah! Ah! Ah!’ chortled Edward. ‘Two! Ah! Ah! Ah!’ joined in Bella. And there were no lemons or pomegranates in the room. No, sir.”

Malcolm sighed. Utter, utter dross. He carefully took the paper out and added it to the out tray for the printers. He could only hope it would pass as good enough.

“And if, by chance, I have offended,” he thought to himself, “who gives a monkey’s?”

 

 

Lyrical Craft: Musician Nigel Stonier

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Can you please tell Ink Pantry about your journey as a musician? 

I’ve been absorbed by music for as long as I can remember. I had piano lessons from age six, then guitar from a couple of years later. I was enthralled by the pop music I heard at the time (late 60s/70s) and also by the folkier stuff that the likes of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon were writing, especially their lyrics.

I’d say I got music from my father, who was a great violinist, though never a pro, and words from my mother.

I got a big break and publishing deal when I was sixteen, but I took a while to get going from there; I think the ’80s were a funny decade in that most of the music I liked was seriously out of fashion. I started getting busy, both as a writer and as a producer, in the early ’90s.

I wrote songs for – and with – some well known acts (Fairport Convention, Paul Young, Clare Teal, Lindisfarne) and I also met Thea Gilmore, whose work I’ve been heavily involved in since 1998 and several of whose hits I’ve co-written.

My work has also appeared on hit movie soundtracks, and a song I co-wrote was used by BBC TV as the lynchpin of their coverage of the 2012 Olympics.

I have released five solo albums and last year my song ‘I Hope I Always’ was heavily played on Radio 2.

Neil Gaiman has praised your solo work, calling it ‘literate, melodic and quirky’. Wow! What do you like to read and do you like poetry?

Neil came to see me at The Jazz Cafe in London a few years back… We’ve become friends and he’s very supportive. Yes, I do read a lot; I’m big on fiction and I always have a novel on the go. A lot of contemporary fiction, anything with a clear voice and decent characterisation, but I’m up for most things. I kind of take a lot of time choosing what to read and, having done that, I never abandon a book, even if I don’t love it I feel I’ve made a deal with it and always finish it.

Poetry wise, yes, I adore poetry and go to it a lot.

Where to start… For the range of his body of work and constant brilliance I’d say William Butler Yeats is the man. When I was on tour in the US a few years back I bought a Robert Frost anthology and lived and breathed it for a month; it was incredible to read his words when, in some cases we were passing through the places he wrote about.

I also love Louis MacNiece who I think is very overlooked, but truth be told I’m a bit of a sucker for rhyme so I can also always find a reason to visit the 19th century boys: John Keats, Alfred Tennyson etc. Also, Edna St Vincent Millay.

Contemporary wise I like Paul Farley, Don Paterson, Leonitia Flynn, Luke Wright… there’s so much!

Is there a recurring theme in your work? What do you care about the most?

I wouldn’t say a recurring theme, no. What I care about is writing it the way I see it and connecting with people. Finding something new, random or magical in the everyday.

I’m not an apolitical person; I do have songs which touch on social issues and to a degree political situations, but they are relatively few and far between. I think there’s a line which lyrics quickly cross over and become polemic or sloganeering, so I tread carefully.

As the years go by I hope I may have become a better writer, but I definitely think I’ve become a better editor. I’m quicker to rein myself in; I’m less interested in playing with words and more in working with them. Basically trying to say it with less, but reach people more.

Tell us about your creative process. 

Every time is so different. With me there is no routine, it tends to be a pretty organic process. If I’m writing alone I probably start with either a title, or a sense of what the song is going to be about, its mood and atmosphere. When I have a few key lines in place I’ll try to concentrate on the tune, see where that leads me. And when the music starts to feel settled I’ll revisit the lyrics and flesh them out… by that time I’ve probably become a lot clearer about what I want to say.

What do you think is the most important element in song writing?

It’s the union between words and music, how the two can set each other alight. There are certain writers – Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, say – who stand up beautifully on the page, but for the most part song lyrics are there to be sung, not read.

I’m very interested in the alchemy through which a rise or fall in the melody, or a nuance in a human voice, suddenly brings resonance to a phrase that may not look that special on the page.

Can you share with us a couple of examples of your own lyrics and walk us through the ideas behind them?

FROM ‘I HOPE I ALWAYS’

‘I hope I always have your number

I hope I always have your trust.

While there’s a you and there’s a me

I hope there’ll always be an “us”’

A lot of people took this to be a romantic love song, but I actually had my elder (then only) son in mind when I wrote these opening lines. The title was clearly taking me somewhere, and I wanted to open with a very tangible image (phone number) then follow it with a more abstract, emotional concept (trust). I’d been reading a piece about a parent estranged from their kid and it reminded me how there are no givens about how relationships evolve as years pass.

The song developed into what people have called a secular prayer for self improvement, and I’ve been moved by the volume of people who’ve told me it resonated with them in profound, sometimes turbulent times in their lives. ‘I Hope I Always’ is the only song of mine to be published as a poem, in a recent PanMcMillan anthology – though I must say I still consider it a song.

FROM ‘BUILT FOR STORMS’

‘Word up, Nostradamus

Glory God on high

Thank you for the music

Shame about the sky.

Me, you and fickle fate

Here we go again

Two blue umbrellas

Seven kinds of rain.

 

Shout out, Captain Noah

The band are back together

From Galveston to Goa

There’ll be trigger happy weather.

Go tell it on the mountain

Pater Noster, Kyrie

Namaste om shanti

Gabba gabba hey.’

I wanted to ‘go scattergun’, to convey a sense of mayhem. Personal turbulence in a relationship, global unrest – maybe both. I also wanted the phrases to bounce off each other, so I alternated iconic names with doom laden overtones with more hopeful affirmations; I alternated biblical prayer and Buddhist incantation with references from pop culture.

I was trying to evoke the way that, in desperate situations, solutions, paths, and thoughts don’t appear logically or sequentially. I was after capturing the randomness and fear, but hope is also in there. The chorus linking these verses is:

‘Call me when you’re ready, I’ll hold steady,

I will be the fire that warms.

Anyone can shine when the forecast’s fine

But baby we were built for storms.’

This chorus appears three times: the instinct of the head and heart for survival gets to affirm itself repeatedly amidst the madness.

Who inspires you lyrically?

I’m not sure! I like Paul Westerberg a lot, have spent a long time identifying with his work;
but there isn’t any writer who specifically makes me put pen to paper. It’s more everyday living, people I hang out with and observe, trying to clock those moments and little events which resonate and which an entire day can turn on. I store up thoughts and odd phrases which jump out of conversations.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.

That’s a hard one. I’ve been lucky and there are a lot of contenders! It’s tempting to go to the day my son was born, or say my honeymoon in Mexico, which was full of astounding days, but I’d probably also go for a day in October 2004 when Thea Gilmore and I had just landed in the US to tour as special guests on tour for Joan Baez. We had the most staggeringly beautiful three-hour road trip across New England; I’ve never seen colours like the sassafras, dogwood, and sugar maple on that day.

Then we arrived at the theatre in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Joan and her band chatted to us over dinner and she told us that the last time she played the theatre in question was with Bob Dylan on the opening night of the Rolling Thunder revue. I love Joan and everything she stands for… suddenly the air felt heavy with history and ghosts and everything felt a little transcendental (OK, so we were a bit jet lagged too!). We had an incredible show that night, got a standing ovation, and I guess it doesn’t get much better.

What’s your creative space like? 

As well as a songwriter I’m a producer and sometimes a touring musician, not to mention a husband and a father of two boys under ten; so my life is not quiet.

I think when you’re young you have so much space in your life but you don’t realise it. Getting older and busier you need to learn how to navigate to the (internal) place where creatively things can start happening, and get there pretty quickly.

So to me it’s more about staying open and alert, paying attention to what’s going on around you, rather than necessarily a physical space. We do have a room at the top of the house which is kind of set out for writing, with a couple of nice old acoustic guitars, a bookcase, and two Buddhas, and I’ve done a lot of stuff up there. But I’m storing ideas all the time. I write in studios, in hotels. I actually wrote an entire lyric for a song that’ll be on my new album in the back of a cab travelling across Manchester.

Have you any advice for any budding lyricists?

Write every day.

If you call yourself a writer it’s kind of your duty.

Doesn’t matter if you produce nothing of worth, the process still kind of keeps you open and in touch with the part of your brain that reacts to ideas.

If you want it badly enough you’ll make time.

What is next for you? What are your plans?

I have a new solo album nearly finished, hopefully for Spring 2017 release. I hope you get to hear it!

I made a record with a Welsh band called Songdog, which is getting a lot of national radio play, and I’m just finishing producing Thea Gilmore’s new album.

Nigel’s Website

Twitter

Nantwich Words and Music Festival 2016

Tickets

 

 

Nantwich Speakeasy Poets: Deborah Edgeley

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Apfelstrudel

Timeworn café in Berlin,

the parents of apfelstrudel.

Warm Christmastide notes of cinnamon, linger

and anticipation of plunging a fork

into crackling pastry,

splitting flaked almonds

revealing glistening gold

and the scent of late autumn.

 

Hedgerowild

Haws, hips and sloes

on heath and hillside.

Wine dark jewels

and crimson rosehips.

Dusty sloes pepper canal paths.

Bright orange berries hang on Rowan’s arm.

Magical woodland.

Heathland.

Berryland.

Wise Elderberries know their fate.

We celebrate

with hedgerow liqueur,

majestic jam

and jelly.

Yet,

behind a garland of green

a cluster of shiny blackberry eyes

blink.

 

Whisk in Love

Take one large life

and fill with four essential ingredients;

Love,

Food,

Shelter,

Education.

 

Firstly, heat oven to Gas Mark 88.

Use the Shelter as a base.

Sieve two grams of Education into the Life,

and cream, together, with the Shelter,

slowly,

over several decades.

 

Add Food, sparingly.

You don’t want the mixture to ooze over the top of the tin.

Food, which obviously depends on your climate,

MUST be locally sourced,

otherwise, the recipe won’t work.

 

Whisk in 7,867 grams of Love.

Make sure you get air into it,

and that it blends with the other ingredients.

This is crucial.

All ingredients are equally important.

(However, some think otherwise….)

 

Shake the mixture a few times on the table

to encourage any

large lumps of negativity

to come to the surface,

then immediately crush with your fingertips.

 

When mixture is complete

pour into a lined 5 foot human shaped tin

and bake for eighty years.

 

Test with a skewer to see if it’s cooked.

If it shouts in pain

it’s done.

Let it cool and decorate however the hell you want.

Go wild!

Serve warm with a coulis of Happy Sauce.

 

Chefantics

I am a starched white culinary creator

And I’m flipping crêpes….

 

Crêpes…

Suzette?

Savoury or sweet?

We always taste them.

A chef’s treat.

Crêpes.

Destined to delight

the most discerning customer,

who is always right.

Right?

 

But I’m not only a crêpe chef.

 

Wrist on overdrive

whisks up a frenzy

to perfect dill sauce

before the flaked fish fillet

grows cold.

Finish with a fence of jerseys,

doll’s house trees

and fresh parsley.

 

I pretend I am a giant chef

making raisin rain,

dropping dried grapes into a soft, talcumed nest.

A powdered cloud.

Wobbly saffron vitellus

congregate

on sweet golden sand.

Sheen of dayglo marg

dazzles.

 

Fingernails imprison cake mix.

 

Itchy nose remains unattended.

 

Magic mixture

glooped into clasped tin.

You’ll never be the same again.

It awaits

Aga transformation.

A cakeification.

 

Here comes

six separate orders for

the dreaded full English.

Ten different items on one plate.

Don’t overcook the eggs!

Must preserve yolk

for essential soldier dippage.

 

Breakfast at the Waldorf.

Egg’s Benedict.

Stock broker’s hangover cure…

Chef’s in a daze

making hookers of hollandaise.

The devil sauce de curdle

responsible

for waste,

if you’re in haste.

It’s all about the timing

A bit like rhyming!

 

Service over.

Pint of fizz

on breezy balcony.

Breathe…..

Bliss….

 

Starched whites now creased greys

splashed

with food paint.

Beetroot bled into crusted batter.

Fingerprints of cocoa.

Pips of tomato.

Hass avocado.

Ripe morello.

Remnant apron of art.

 

Chefs?

We’re flipping crêpes!

 

Comfort Food

So, let me hug you

with arms of freshly baked baguette.

 

Let me refresh you

with breaths of cool vinaigrette.

 

Let me seduce you

with eyes of tempting chocolate cake.

 

So, let me drench you

with tears of strawberry milkshake.

 

Nantwich Speakeasy Poets: Rebecca Cherrington

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Food is my Biggest Sin

Food is my biggest sin.
Whenever we fight, food always wins.
Food is a big part of life.
You don’t eat when you’re a girlfriend, but eat loads as a wife!
Then as you grow, you become a mum,
and you realise you have quite a mum tum.
From munching on kids’ leftover food,
and finishing chocolate when in the mood!
Cheese and crackers, leftover cream cakes,
the delicious coffee cake your Mum in law makes!
Trifle from your Mum, pie from your Dad,
to leave this food would be quite mad.
But the weight comes on as years go by,
and you start to wonder why!
So you go back and try to lose weight,
with what Slimming World and Weight Watchers make.
But you can’t beat your Mum’s Sunday roast!
Washed down with a drink from the dinner time toast!
Talking of toast, are you marmalade or jam?
Or do you have toasties with cheese and ham?
Yum Yorkshire puddings that make Toad in the Hole.
The quickest way to reach my soul!
I feel quite hungry talking about food.
The fight continues, but I always lose!


Cakes

Cakes, cream cakes, chocolate cake, lemon drizzle cake.
Any of these, my day will make!
Nice and soft, moist to the taste,
and it all comes from making a paste!
I wish I had the talent to bake.
I can’t even do the ready to bake make!
I am partial to a Manchester or strawberry tart!
Cakes are definitely the way to my heart!
Just wish that cakes would help you lose weight,
instead of making your clothes sizes more great!
As you can see I like my cakes.
One day I’ll invent a cake to make you lose weight!


Ice Cream

Snugburys is a local ice cream shop,
with so many flavours, it will make your eyes pop!
Caramel, toffee, honeycomb and mint,
are just a few to start a print!
Vanilla, chocolate, raspberry ripple too,
so many to choose from, what to do!!
Rum and raisin, orange and passion fruit.
These flavours never follow suit!
I feel I’ve died and gone to heaven,
especially when you try the meringue lemon!
Clotted cream, pistachio and Oreo cookie,
or even try the White Mountain, if you feel lucky!
So many flavours, I just can’t choose,
but whichever you pick, you just can’t lose.
Deliciousness itself doesn’t come close.
All these flavours just melt in your mouth!


Biscuits!

Cookies, bourbons and custard creams
No matter what biscuit, I’m living the dream!
Crispy pink wafers, a nice hobnob,
dunked in coffee, or tea, it does the job!
Yes, I’m a dunker, whether it’s coffee or tea,
Just dunk it once, it’s enough for me!
Chocolate chip, ginger nut, malted milk,
smooth as silk!
Put it all in so I can only mumble.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles!


Sweet Shop

I love looking through old school sweets!
Whenever I see them, I know I’m in for a treat!
Bonbons, Sherbet Lemons and Sherbet Trips!
Licking the sweet goodness off my lips!
Sugar coated jellies making lips tingle,
Getting a great selection when ready to mingle!
Black Jacks, Fruit Salad, Drumsticks and Whams!
Soft juicy sweets filled with fruity jams!
Melody Pops, Irn Bru chews,
Love Hearts and Swizzle Sticks, sweets of pink and blue!
A kid in a sweet shop what shall we do!!


Bloom Café

Have a seat at Café Bloom,
in a relaxed atmosphere and cosy room!
Whether you drink coffee or tea,
come and have a drink with me!
Peppermint, earl grey, latte or mocha,
for drinks galore you can’t get hotter!
A bite to eat, a slice of cake,
a coke, some juice, or a nice milkshake!
Come drink with us – take a break!

Café de Paris

Come to Café de Paris
Qui mon qui!!
For a quiet drink, be it latte or tea!
Hot chocolate, snacks, cakes galore,
After one visit, you’ll just want more!

Café de Paris.
Paris holds the key to your heart.
Romance and drinks together, as one part!
Aroma of tea, coffee, croissants, freshly baked!
Come join us in the Paris of Nantwich, we want you to partake!

 

 

Nantwich Speakeasy Poets: Debbie Breeze Davies

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Debbie Breeze Davies is a Nantwich based poet and artist. She has been a member of Nantwich Speakeasy since June 2016. A qualified Art Teacher with 25 years experience in working with traumatised and challenging young people, she currently works with pupils who have been excluded from mainstream education. Her active engagement with writing began in August 2015. Poets that have particularly inspired her interest include David Whyte, Lemn Sissay, Hollie McNish and Sunny Patterson.

 

I’ve Snaffleaffulled the Fuffenhuffers

I’ve snaffleaffulled the fuffenhuffers

Eaten every one

I’ve snaffeaffulled the fuffenhuffers

And now…

Well…

they are all gone

 

Seeing the crackly-wrappery-packet was how it all began

With images so enticing

of spicy dome shaped biscuits,

smother-lovelied in thick hard icing

 

The pictures seduced me

Taste buds produced juices

My tongue got slippy

Then licked my lips – see

Some were dippa-lippulled in chocolate

Can you imagine such a sight?

 

And I know I shouldn’t have

I know it was wrong

But I thought, ‘I’ll just have one little bite’

 

And hardly-breathing-I-eased open the packet

So as not to make a sound

 

It was then the aroma of;

Vanillary-Spicy-Sugary-lemony

Deliciously-risky-biscuits, entered my nose

And once I sniffa-whiffulled them

My tummy was grumble-umbling

My mouth ready for the textured surface crumbling

I reached in and touched my different options

Some hard and smooth, some slightly-stickily-softer

some rough with deep cracks, revealing moistness underneath

ready for teeth

ready for my teeth to sink in….

 

I quicka-lickulled the topping

Nibble-ubbled the edges

chompa-lompulled up the middle

muncha-crunchulled the next…

and the next

and the next….

 

I’ve snaffleaffulled the fuffenhuffers

Eaten every one

I’ve snaffeaffulled the fuffenhuffers

And now…

Well…

they are all gone

 

And what shall I say to Mum?

What on earth will placate her?

It’ll be no good to say:

‘I was just going to have the one and then save the rest for later’

 

I’ve snaffleaffulled the fuffenhuffers

Eaten every one

I’ve snaffeaffulled the fuffenhuffers

And now…

Well…

I’m really sorry Mum.

 

 

 

Nantwich Speakeasy Poets: Claire Bassi

Claire face

 

There are fruits aplenty,                                    Seeds blow, clematis breaks free,

though the lawn is tall                                        plums and pears ripely fall,

and brambles choke the trees.                         though brambles choke the trees.

 

Runner beans knot sweet peas                           Empty plates for china tea,

and trellis hangs from walls.                                no answer when I call.

There are fruits aplenty.                                       There are fruits aplenty.

 

Redcurrants hang in canopies,

stacked crates of apples in the hall,

yet brambles choke the trees.

 

Sorrow grows on without me

that nature will outlive us all.

There are fruits aplenty,

but brambles choke the trees.

 

Fast Friends

Big Mac loves company –

a quarter pound of flesh

and frothy hopes for youth.

Devouring deep fried dreams,

they fret about fat,

but can’t resist the flurry of friendship,

shaking and moving

in late night drive-thrus,

cream of the crop,

sustained by things Mama used to make.

 

Spring Soup

Pushing the start of season,

new shoots sprout with dorsal ease

from winter seeds,

split by late frost and noon sun.

I hope for future crops,

to taste success,

to prune and reap.

For now I love

the end of sleep;

the freshness of spring soup.

 

Coffee Shop

Almond milk, organic, steamed, poured over shots

of hot, smoked Arabica,

steeped with shards of cinnamon,

flown from India, peeled by the blind.

I stir, scoop foam.

A solitary coffee bean, alone,

polished, shined, reminding me

where I am, why I care.

 

Seventies Store

Jammie Dodgers

Peek Freans treats

Dundee biscuits

Shredded Wheats

Instant Whip

Wagon Wheels

Super Noodles

Vesta meals

All Stars crisps

Bazooka Joes

Bitsa Pizza

Cheese Ringos

KP Griddles

Rowntrees jelly

Double Dips

Gino Ginelli

Hubba Bubba

Chambourcy mousse

Galactic Space Dust

Um Bongo juice

Mojos, Pacers, Quattro, Screwballs

Whickers, Piglets, Noodle Doodles

Which ones bring back memories?

How many pleasures cease to be?

 

Nantwich Speakeasy on FB

 

Nantwich Speakeasy Poets: Helen Kay

Helen face

Hula Hoops

I hunter gather in the corner shop

by the towers and flats of cardboard city

with its own creole of rustle and crunch,

while silver-clutching kids niggle my nostalgia.

 

YOU GETTA A WHOLE LOTTA HULA FROM A HOOP!

 

It’s not just a 30p, 30g, two E’s

and two hundred calories

packet of oral bliss, but the ring

of a ritual unwinding from work to rest

 

which punctuate the weekly fix

of Coronation Street. I lay my exhibits

on the catwalk of my chair, they trundle

my playtime thoughts: quoits or bangles,

 

paper chains or drains or chimney pots;

an assault course of potato pleasure.

An up and under finger sweeps. A tongue

squeezes inside like an ugly sister.

 

While love and drama swim my eyes and ears,

jaws crunch and crunch. A jousting spear

picks off each ring – then only the bits remain

remind my unwound self of a want to rewind.

 

I getta a whole lotta hula from my hoops!

 

Porridge 

This food has history, Goldilocks

Oliver, doing time. A bowl of moon mud

hugs a winter tummy. Its goodness

seeps, a tasty, toasted superfood.

 

I’m told my grandad cut a slice or two,

wrapped in paper, ready for the pit

with a can of cold sweet tea and sweat,

back bent by the higher-pay seam.

 

Mum waltzed the spoon around the pot,

ate her oats thick with Lyle’s treacle.

Before the diabetes Dad slurped breakfast

with isles of syrup, an estuary of milk.

 

My sister beads its woolly skin with bling,

seeds, blackcurrants, even nuts.

I like it just right, not too hot, not too cold.

Jumbo flakes and milk splutter together.

 

I puzzle how granddad could cut slices,

how they clouded his dust black fingers,

how he ate where he’d seen his father die

crushed inside the earth’s intestine.

 

 Cheese Show

This is the pilgrimage of cheese,

Of every shade and race and shape.

Unpacked and laid on trestle altars.

Cooled, aligned, smoothed out and scraped.

 

Sexy Gouda, sealed halloumi,

Swaddled bundles, rusted blues.

Set to be smelt and felt and tasted

In oil, in foil, full moon, half-moon.

 

The cheese iron burrows the skin,

Uncorks a flubbery pillar

Whiskered judges nibble, discuss

The balance, fruitiness and colour.

 

Apples clean the expert palettes

of years of tastes. The quest is on

to find the king, the best in show.

The cheese of cheeses, the chosen one.

 

Making Tarts with Laura

The morning is thrilled by lemon curd.

Your impish hand dives in the yolky pool

 

of yummy love and deeper, spooning

down clouded glass sides, scooping

 

the corners of my youth. ‘It’s like

chic bath gel, mum, ‘ she smiles.

 

She tugs at its checked shower cap.

Cottage logos and curly fonts

 

evoke a different past from mine,

a phlegmy kid smearing grey tarts

 

licking gluey dregs from fingers.

Assuming there is always more,

 

she crams the cupped pastry palms

The scoop and dollop wipes away

 

my bitter, frugal aftertaste,

the rustic roses grow on us.

 

Coffee with Pat

“A coffee please.”

“Mocha or Americano? One shot or two?

Latte or expresso, milk, cream or soya?

Skimmed or semi-skimmed or will full fat do?

Sugar? Crystals, lumps, rocks or sweetener?

 

Decaff  or caff,  white or brown, large or small-

or regular is popular? Take in, take away?

Syrups – caramel, nut or none at all?

Cocoa topping, swirly top? “It was taking all day.

 

The yuppies behind us became agitated

and seize-the-day Pat -who is terminally ill

doesn’t want the illusion of choices

in a round of Mastermind at the till.

 

It drove me so potty I bought a biscotti

but when I sat down I forgot where I put it-

went to the counter feeling very dotty

to ask for another-and the wrapper, couldn’t cut it.

 

Imagine the embarrassment two hours later

in the loo, when I found, in my bag, one crushed

biscuit. Back to the counter for two shot

explanations and all over strawberry blush.

 

Felt like marshmallow melting down the glass,

but Pat is far from ready to melt away,

and has ordered a second larger than, triple-topped,

chemo free, marshmallow, death by hot chocolate day.

 

Listening to Music in Enzo Café     

So I conjure composers: baroque

drawing room recluses, locked out of sight,

locking out words; but this girl in docs

 

and jeans took flight in our café, right

by my table, gifting a tune.

The keyboard was unboxed, set alight

 

and as she played, she swayed, a spoon

stirring sweetness into the air. There’s me,

wanting the comfort of chords festooned

 

with lyrics, suddenly feeling these

patterns I don’t understand, unfold

a script in my brain, turning this coffee

 

and this chic Enzo bistro to one gold

moment touched by her spidery thread,

weaving stories waiting to be told.

 

Welcome to the drawing room she said.

Feel the prelude frothing in your head.

 

2008: What Mum Loves Best

In summer she is armed with chicken spears,

breaded bites and fiery turkey sticks

to feed her hungry brood. Open the beers,

the barbie sizzles. Sharp tongs take their pick.

 

Come winter and her life is neatly packed

with furred up festive gifts, in tempting wrappers:

furred mushroom baubles; painted tikka snacks;

samosa platters; shrimps and brandy snaps.

 

But best of all are chocolate strawberries dipped,

cased lipsticks, robbed from summer, boxed away

in the dark underworld of frozen dreams.

They wait to brighten up cold nights, let rip

splash out, rekindle hopes of sunny days.

Persephone, uncoated, smeared with cream.

 

Young Girl Eating Physalis

Today her tomorrow is orange,

not ribbed segmental hours

and pips, but as this amber shine

that doesn’t know its beauty,

a Cinderella shedding torn

petticoats to add its magic

to two scoops of pub ice cream

 

Her finger and thumb twizzle its stem

as if this fruit could spin her choices:

Chinese lanterns, cape gooseberries,

ground cherries, golden strawberries.

Each name occupies a different world.

She bites firmly, chews things over,

Breaks to her first orange smile.

 

Helen Kay’s FB Page

Nantwich Speakeasy Poets: Mark Sheeky

Mark Sheeky head

Mark is an artist, painter, piano player and poet, and radio presenter, with one self published poetry collection, one poem per day for a year, and an illustrated collection of William Blake poems.

Milk

Milk, warm thick fatty

nourishment like heaven’s

breath, the fuel of life

that radiates and sparks

this new delight.

 

This sensation of life,

liquid breath, butter sun

love from my mother, what

delights await these sky-blue

eyes and tiny nostrils

in this world of swirling

scents and sensations, lights

like delightful milk,

warm thick fatty nourishment

like heaven’s breath,

liquid breath, butter sun

love from my mother.

 

Hunger

The whisper of blood,

and the pleading of bone marrow.

The stretch of thin fingers, grey

towards crumbles of caramel biscuit, golden

sticky-toffee flavours, in mouth

moistening hope, in anticipatory dream

of the sugary aroma, cracks with teeth.

 

I wander the streets.

I gaze at stalls, deep eyed and sallow

like The Scream.

 

My wool coat squeaks when chewed.

The hope of a lardy nutrient.

 

I close my eyes and circle the rim of an imaginary plate,

glass bone, a bed for a warm shape to fill me.

Reality squirms in my lonely knotted guts as they weep and plot to kill me.

 

The whisper of blood, and the pleading of bone marrow.

I make a wish, and I wait.

 

Ready Meal

These potatoes and meat were cooked for me, for one,

with salt and sweet butter carrots,

and green sprig.

 

I eat in silent stare, away

in some mythical land of carefree care.

Each trembled fork is slow, and grey.

A million meals of yesterday.

 

What would it feel like to cook food for a friend?

A surprise message arrives.

 

These potatoes and meat were cooked for me, for one,

with salt and sweet butter carrots,

and green sprig.

 

Assam

Oh, like tea,

do you remember the ice-thin china,

sharp on the lips and sweet-cream milk,

in rich Assam, large flake

bitter and dark in the transparent pot

brown breath astringent universe,

like seas of people seeking love

in rust-iron skies of a warm Autumn storm.

 

I tasted my lips, and yours,

and we sipped and silent smiled at the calm day,

and every October floss cloud paused,

then cracked, and pulled in wisps away.

 

Food

If I had the time I would pile

sweet creams and delights

of edible architecture upon the white glass plates

that you bought for me on the day that we first met.

 

I would offer you caramel brown sauces,

and mint scents, red jellies and courses

of elaborate designs, like crystal spires

of crisp sugar scaffolding,

that sparkle like child-eyes.

 

If I had the days, or just a morning for love

I would paint for you such patterns

of aroma and anticipation, in roasted meats

and earthy roots, with warm fatty juices

and sups of rich wine.

 

I would climb out of bed and be happy, again,

and look, with a kind light upon the white glass plates

that you bought for me on the day that we first met.

 

I would climb out of bed, with strength,

and cook spaghetti, with green oil,

and mascarpone meringue, drizzled with chocolate in fine lines,

like time on the skin,

like the time that I don’t have now

for food.

 

 

 

Poetry Drawer: Sunday Mornings by Raine Geoghegan

sun

He plays for me on Sunday mornings,

his own compositions.

His shoulders rise and fall as he

deftly runs his fingers across the keys.

 

My body sways tentatively,

drinking in the melody.

It falls into discordant notes,

a painter venturing into dark shadows.

 

I am cloth, unravelling.

Like a dervish,

I whirl, my heart opens as                                                                                                                                               

the music builds into a crescendo.

 

A sweet essence flows back into my blood,

as if it were remembering the warmth of youth,

of wellness.

Of being in the sun.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Drawer: The Cursed Crane by Alex Watson

jap

I stood as ever stood, my head bent o’er.

My long suffering twin stared back in silence.

Above, a mechanical bid drenched the senses.

It was ever thus.

 

As the din receded for a moment,

My twin twitched; she fluttered her virtual wings

And spoke from her watery heart.

“Master Crane, for decades you and I have

Drunk together, froze together, endured together.

Today, I set you free.”

 

My wings fluttered, my metallic frame grew soft with down

My legs stretched, my toes stirred,

Nothing had prepared me  

But I knew my destiny.

 

I stood, as never stood, my head alert.

The herd of deer, the laughing girls, the quarrelling men.

 

I preened as never preened, my heart in bloom.

The wearied mums, the dashing kids, the brimming shops.

 

I flew as never flew, my eyes so bright.

The dashing waves, the endless sea, the fretful gulls.

 

I reached as never reached, my lungs on fire.

The bullet train, the temples stone, the paddies green.

 

I soared as never soared, my life reborn.

The islands green, the fishers dots, the cirrus soft.

 

I climbed as never climbed but hopes were crushed.

Those hideous birds, their engines black, their windows closed.

 

I wept as never wept, my tears in streams,

And cursed my twin who set me free.