Sunday 24 June 2007

The Coming of Archy, by Don Marquis 1878-1937

Years ago, after I left school, before university, I took a year out.
The main reason was that I had been severely ill in the period leading to my final exams, missing a lot of school, revising time, in hospital for six weeks, hooked up to oxygen, and coming close to death a few times.
So when I was released to take those vital exams, I was definitely not at my best, and confidently expected to fail them, and go back to school to retake my final year.
So I didn't apply to further education, I was too busy just staying alive. In fact I passed them all, comfortably, including an extra one thrown in by my headmaster, for which I had not studied at all. That's a story in itself.
So then I had a year to fill, before further education. And not for me, the resources so often taken for granted now, to go travelling around the world, no gap year for me, a work year was predicated.
I did a short stint in the social security office, posting envelopes deliberately late to miss the post.
My boss required this.
There was a legal ruling that social security claimants be notified of an inspector's visit, so cards had to be sent out...
However, my boss required those cards miss the last post collection, and thus arrive after the inspector.
If say, you were a single woman, and the inspector saw a man's shirt in your home, your claim for rent payment would be disallowed, as it would be deemed evidence you were cohabiting with a man, and therefore he could pay your rent.
The whole aethos of the Department of Health and Social Security (or Stealth and Total Obscurity as we called it) was confrontational, its mission was to withhold , pay nobody, and generally obstruct claimants. I obstructed the department by altering the case notes of my school mates, ticking boxes and passing claims.... and warning them of intended visits. I hated being a part of that machine, so i asked around for other jobs. A friend said he'd heard that the library was hiring.
The Library-
The National Lending Library For Science and Technology. A vast unlibrary-like place, situated in a wartime munitions factory, full of clanking conveyors, shelves of secrets, not open to the public, although there was a reading room.
I applied
Signed the Official Secrets Act, became an Assistant Scientific Officer (unestablished), and gained entry to a treasure chest.
I'll write more of that later, in my usual way, I've digressed hugely from my original course, and I'm going out now to the newly refurbished City Art Gallery, to see old friends on its walls.

Suffice to say, that it was at the NLLST somewhere in the 140 miles or so of shelving I found a copy of Archy and Mehitabel, by Don Marquis. A little bit of which I share with you now.

The first Appearance of Archy
Don Marquis was a newspaperman.
One morning he arrived in his office to find the following message on his typewriter, all in lower case. Archy, a cockroach reincarnated from a poet, had laboriously typed the message to Don by climbing upon the typewriter and jumping on the keys, one at a time. The message is all in lower case, because Archy could not operate the shift key.

The Coming of Archy:

expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went
into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook on life

i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i can't eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have
removed she nearly ate me the other night why don't she
catch rats that is what she is supposed to be for
there is a rat here she should get without delay

most of these rats here are just rats
but this rat is like me he has a human soul in him
he used to be a poet himself
night after night i have written poetry for you
on your typewriter
and this big brute of a rat who used to be a poet
comes out of his hole when it is done
and reads it and sniffs at it
he is jealous of my poetry
he used to make fun of it when we were both human
he was a punk poet himself
and after he has read it he sneers
and then he eats it

i wish you would have mehitabel kill that rat
or get a cat that is onto her job
and i will write you a series of poems
showing how things look
to a cockroach
that rats name is freddy
the next time freddy dies i hope he won't be a rat
but something smaller i hope i will be a rat
in the next transmigration and freddy a cockroach
i will teach him to sneer at my poetry then

don't you ever eat any sandwiches in your office
i havent had a crumb of bread
for i dont know how long
or a piece of ham or anything but apple parings
and paste leave a piece of paper in your machine
every night you can call me archy

Thursday 14 June 2007

Friday 8 June 2007

Pressure..... (updated)

I know how he feels... My life is a bit like that lighthouse right now.

The Lighthouse in the pictures is 'La Jument', off the coast of Brittany, The man is Lighthouse-keeper Théodore Malgorne.
This series of pictures, entitled ‘La Jument’, was taken by the photographer Jean Guichard during a storm in 1989, The lighthouse keepers were seeking refuge from the storm in fear of their lives in the towers lantern. Guichard was in the area taking photographs of this particular tower during the storm, for his book, The Lighthouses of France.
One of the keepers, Théodore Malgorne, thinking the chopper outside was the rescue team opened the door and took a look. Guichard was right there to capture the scene in a series of seven photographs. Malgorne turned around in time to close the door and to avoid being swept away.

Addendum: Picture number 3 is not La Jument, it's Le Four, Brittany/Finisterre

Posters of Guichard's beautiful photographs are available, as are copies of his books, from several sources, I recommend Amazon.
High resolution art-quality prints are available via Jean Guichard's own website- (Google it)

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band:- Electricity(1967)

Electricity (Don Vliet / Herb Bermann)
Singin through you to me; thunderbolts caught easily
Shouts the truth peacefully Eeeeeee-lec-tri-ci-teeeeeeeeHigh voltage man kisses night to bring the light to those who need
to hide their their shadow-deed
Go into bright find the light 'n know that friends don't mind just
how you growMidnight cowboy stains in black reads dark roads without a map
to free-seeking electricity
Midnight cowboy stains in black reads dark roads without a map
to free-seeking electricity
Lighthouse beacon straight ahead straight ahead across black seas
to bring seeking Eeee-lec-tri-ci-teeeee
High voltage man kisses night to bring the light to those who need
to hide their shadow-deed hide their shadow-deed
High voltage man kisses night to bring the light to those who need
to hide their shadow-deed hide their shadow-deed
Seek electricity . . .

Pulp. Common People

She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge,
she studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College,
that's where I,
caught her eye.
She told me that her Dad was loaded,
I said "In that case I'll have a rum and coca-cola."
She said "Fine."
and in thirty seconds time she said,

"I want to live like common people,
I want to do whatever common people do,
I want to sleep with common people,
I want to sleep with common people,
like you."

Well what else could I do -
I said "I'll see what I can do."
I took her to a supermarket,
I don't know why but I had to start it somewhere,
so it started there.
I said pretend you've got no money,
she just laughed and said,
"Oh you're so funny."
I said "yeah?
Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here.
Are you sure you want to live like common people,
you want to see whatever common people see,
you want to sleep with common people,
you want to sleep with common people,
like me."
But she didn't understand,
she just smiled and held my hand.
Rent a flat above a shop,
cut your hair and get a job.
Smoke some fags and play some pool,
pretend you never went to school.
But still you'll never get it right,
cos when you're laid in bed at night,
watching roaches climb the wall,
if you call your Dad he could stop it all.

You'll never live like common people,
you'll never do what common people do,
you'll never fail like common people,
you'll never watch your life slide out of view,
and dance and drink and screw,
because there's nothing else to do.

Sing along with the common people,
sing along and it might just get you through,
laugh along with the common people,
laugh along even though they're laughing at you,
and the stupid things that you do.
Because you think that poor is cool.

I want to live with common people,
I want to live with common people etc...

Thursday 7 June 2007

JCB Song

For those of you who are not English, JCB is synonymous with a yellow backhoe loader....
Can you dig it?

JCB Song - Nizlopi

Well, I'm rumblin' in this JCB.
I'm 5 years old and my dad's a giant sitting beside me.
And the engine rattles my bum like berserk
While we're singin' , 'Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work!'

My dad's probably had a bloody hard day
But he's been good fun and bubblin' and jokin' away
And the procession of cars stuck behind
are gettin' all impatient and angry, but we dont mind.

An' we're holdin' up the bypass
Me and my dad havin' a top laugh

I'm sittin' on the toolbox
And I'm so glad I'm not in school, boss
So glad I'm not in school

Oh no

and we pull over to let cars past
And pull off again, speedin' by the summer green grass
And we're like giants up here in our big yellow digger
Like zoids, or transformers, or maybe even bigger

And I wanna transform into a Tyrannosaurus Rex!
And eat up all the bullies and the teachers and their pets
And I'll tell all my mates that my dad's B.A. Baracus
Only with a JCB and Bruce Lee's nunchuckas

And We're holdin' up the bypass

Me and my dad havin' a top laugh
Oh whoa

I'm sittin' on the toolbox
And I'm so glad I'm not in school, boss
So glad I'm not in school

And we're holdin' up the bypass

Me and my dad havin' a top laugh
Oh whoa
I'm sittin' on the toolbox

And I'm so glad I'm not in school, boss
So glad I'm not in school


Said I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round

And we're holdin' up the bypass

Me and my dad havin' a top laugh
And I'm sittin' on the toolbox

And I'm so glad I'm not in school, boss
So glad I'm not in school

I said

I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his
Aw, I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.

Saturday 2 June 2007

One Small Step!

The Road Builders, Denis Glover, 1912-1980

Further to my words on Doddery, I was browsing his archives, trying to recall just how long ago I first noticed him, I'm still not sure, but it was in the early days of his blog, and long before I signed up...
I found one of the first posts he made, a poem.
February 11th 2005.
Doddery grew up in an atypical New Zealand home, filled with musicians and artists, it would seem that these people started the spark that stayed with him, that love of learning, of enquiry, of inquisitiveness, of respect for the lives of others and their stories.
One of the regular characters of his childhood was poet Denis Glover, a lifetime writer, wartime navy officer, raconteur.

Doddery said: "
My Parents were musicians of the long haired variety. The House was always full of amazing people. New Zealand was a very grey place in the '50's. Divorce Court proceedings in the tabloid weekly "Truth" were gossiped over, though no one admitted to reading it. Girls suddenly disappeared " to stay with relatives upcountry" after "I I told you so..." dalliances with louts who rode motorbikes. Curtains were peered through, partyline telephones listened in on, Communists were everywhere, the yellow horde might pour up the beaches any day. But in our house there were legendary parties, discussions, arguments, and life was tempestuous. There were composers, poets, artists, and eccentrics. Many of them were refugees from Europe. Pianists, fiddle players, opera singers, and they were exotic. One of my favourites as a kid, was a kiwi poet, Denis Glover. I remember him insisting on carting our pet lamb around under his arm and getting it pissed on whisky and milk, and proclaiming that this was the lamb of God and trying to sing the Agnus Dei. I remember the frantic efforts to hide the booze when Denis came up the drive. He could drink a town dry when he was "in his cups". His nose went red and his hair was slicked over, he fascinated me. He was, and is, my favourite poet. The other day we were digging post holes for new road signs on Mt Messenger and hit a layer of red baked papa clay. The oldtimers used as it as road metal. The nearest shingle rivers were miles away. They fell trees and fired clay in huge layered bonfires. I thought of Denis."
The Road Builders

Rolling along far roads on holiday wheels
now wonder at their construction, the infinite skill
that balanced the road to the gradient of the hill,
the precision, the planning, the labour it all reveals.

An unremembered legion of labourers did this,
scarring the stubborn clay, fighting the tangled bush,
blasting the adamant, stemming the unbridled rush
of torrent in flood, bridging each dark abyss.

Their tools were pitiful beside the obdurate strength
of the land:
crosswire of the theodolite, pick-point, curved
small tremor of a touched-off charge; but above all
the skill and strength, admirable in patience,
of the hand.

These men we should honour above the managers of
They pitted their flesh and their cunning against
unimagined by those who turn wordily the first sods.
And on the payroll their labour stands unadorned by

Who they are,or where, we do not know.
Anonymous they die
or drift away; some start the job again; some
in a country pub
recount old deeds amid that unheeding hubbub,
telling of pitiless hills, wet mountain roads where
rusting barrows lie.

This too might be a fair requiem.

The Snoozatron

Wallace and Gromit with overtones of Shaun the Sheep...

Friday 1 June 2007


The Kiwi is the national bird, and symbol of New Zealand.
Over time, Kiwis have lost the ability to fly and only sport vestigial wings.
But they can dream.........................................................................................................