Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Why do human beings keep cats and dogs?

I do not like animals. I hate the idea of cruelty to animals, but I don’t like pets. I have never had a pet in my own capacity. But I have had five long-term partners, including my wife, and they have all had pet cats. I have known 17 cats.

A question that has vexed me for a long time is why human beings voluntarily ally themselves with a creature whose life expectancy is about 12 to 20 years.
That gives you just the amount of time to forget what life was like before you knew the creature, when they die, leaving you in a state of bereavement.

Bereavement, as far as it goes, is fine, but then you embark on the same thing again, and again, and again.

My lack of understanding for dog and cat owners has recently reduced. I realised that I had been doing the same thing, since quite a young age.

But the lifespans I had been counting out were not those of cats and dogs: they were football players, cricketers, and rugby league players.

This divides your life into eras. Bremner. Batty. Klich. You may not regard them all with the same affection, but they are parts of your life. They all matter. They retire through injury. They grow old. Some of them die. Some are bursting with vitality, or yet to produce their best.

I used to think it was a folly: a mindless accentuation of mortality. I am now inclined to the view that it helps to come to terms with mortality.

Review: Jinder Jade: ‘Fans Gonde Boliyan’

Often, listening pays off. This cultural jewel was given to me by a Sikh brother, whose name I will not mention, because he supports a different club (1973).

I am absolutely delighted to hear this track. The first reason is that it is what young people tell me I should refer to as a “banger”. We are in a mood of celebration, and you can’t get any more celebratory than this.

Some of you may have gathered, by now, that I am an out-and-out, dyed-in-the-wool multi-culturalist.

Songs in Punjabi are exactly what Leeds United needs. I want the whole world to embrace Leeds. You don’t have to have been born in Leeds, or West Yorkshire, or Yorkshire, or England, or Britain, or the UK, or Europe, to be Leeds. You just have to consider yourself to be Leeds.

I want millions of people in the Asian Subcontinent to support Leeds. I want British Asian players coming through the ranks to play in senior teams in the Premier League.

We may be partisan as to the outcome of football matches, but we are not many peoples: we are one people.

Please enjoy the track that Jinder Jade has made available. I can’t get it out of my head.

Marching On Together #MOT

A Retraction

This is about the time of the week when I post a rambling message on Facebook about some bastard thing or other, to do with SureStart Centres, or libraries, or the NHS, or immigration, or those bloody, bleeding Polish fighter pilots.

I think we can all agree that I am a limp-wristed, Commie, Pinko, and that if people like me are not stopped, then the country will go to wrack and ruin.

I unreservedly withdraw everything I have previously said about the ruling class. Their Oxbridge degrees undoubtedly provide them with exactly the right kind of education to lead the nation and direct the economy. Their pure-bred Norman/Hanoverian genes make them exceptionally intelligent, and physically beautiful. This has resulted in the ultimate perfection of a leader, and competitor on the global stage: Boris Johnson. Not a hair on his head is out of place. Anyone who says otherwise is a traitor.

The purpose of economic activity should be to boost the bank accounts of opaque oligarchs whose money resides in the Cayman Islands. I was wrong when I said it should provide livelihoods for the mass of the people, or stable and humane services for looked after children, vulnerable adults, people living with disabilities, older people, and people with complex needs.

About all that, I may have been wrong. I will go off into the Marxist naughty corner, and try to repent.


NaPoWriMo #14

The theme of this exercise was one’s poetic inspiration.  Instead of the suggested ideas to do with specific poets, I chose themes.  The piece that follows has the same number of lines as my debut collection, Throwing Mother In The Skip, has poems.  If you want to see the poems that express the themes, you will have to buy the collection.  It is available directly from me, or from http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/

The Reasons Why: Volume 1

Generational conflict. Tits.
Generational conflict. Self-preservation.
Generational conflict. Frustration.
Generational conflict. Self-preservation.
Nostalgia. Contemplation.

Generational conflict. Grudging admiration.
Nostalgia. Generational conflict.
Mental illness. Relationship break-up.
Mental illness. Self-preservation.
Relationship break-up. Self-preservation.
Gaia Holmes. Imagination.
The Leeds Library. Generational conflict.
Michael Stewart. Generational conflict.
Bereavement. Generational conflict.
Generational conflict, twice.
Bereavement. Mental illness.


Frustration. Relationship break-up.

Nostalgia. Self-realisation.
Claire Jones. Parenthood.
Leeds. Nostalgia.

Joan Jobe Smith via Gaia Holmes. Relationship break-up.
Frustration. Relationship break-up.
Loneliness. Roman numerals.
Silvia Pio. Italy.
Relationship break-up, twice.

Valerie Anderson Gaskill. Love.
Valerie Anderson Gaskill, twice.

Filial affection. Lesbianism.

NaPoWriMo #12

This is a triolet.  I don’t usually write according to standard forms.

To My Late Father

You moaned about the miners, but you had
an index-linked civil service pension.
Our endless fighting drove us bloody mad.
You moaned about the miners, but you had
so many things they’ve taken from us, Dad.
Politics always caused us so much tension.
You moaned about the miners, but you had
an index-linked civil service pension.


NaPoWriMo #10



cathedral spire

highest in Yorkshire.



infant mortality

declining every year.



disaffected pensioners

very cheap prices.



mountain jungle

flag not rectangular.



poetry scene

two rugby teams.



drinks vodka

horseback postal service.



arrogant posturing,

but worth visiting.



holiday observation:

they grow sunflowers.



Tetley Bitter

no longer indigenous.



while swimming

must wear cap.



Kemnal Road

home to criminals.



My favourite

Bob Marley track.

NaPoWriMo #9

I am lagging behind, but I am doing better at this point than I expected.

What follows is a piece of “concrete poetry”.  That means, a poem whose layout on the page is intended to represent something to do with the subject of the poem.



NaPoWriMo #7

Poor Kid

You poor kid.  
You didn’t ask for any of this, did you?
Not the candle-lit vigil outside Alder Hey.
Not the police presence, nor the statement
by the Chief Inspector after
protesters blocked the road and tried to storm
the entrance.
You didn’t ask for a hearing
before Mr Justice Hayden at the High Court
in Liverpool, then the Court of Appeal, then
the Supreme Court, then the European Court of Human
Rights, then back to the High Court to endorse the
End of Life plan.
You didn’t ask for Italian citizenship, or a
message of support from the Pope, broadcast on Twitter
to 17.6 million followers.  Hashtag AlfiesArmy
You didn’t ask Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of
the Christian Legal Centre, to point out that you
have survived without ventilator support for hours longer
than doctors expected.  She also described Mr Evans
and Ms James as, ‘devoted parents’. 
They are certainly devoted to something.
After all, why stick with just being a bereaved parent,
when fate hands you publicity on a plate?


NaPoWriMo #6

NaPoWriMo #3

The pub of the mind
The cellar man has two PhDs:
one in fermentation science,
the other in how to clean pipework.
There is an atmosphere of tension, but
no actual fights.  Each pint
of Taylor’s Landlord comes with a free whisky,
or gin.  There is a turntable on which you can play
any record you like, as long as you put it on.
One of the rooms is not only quiet, but soundproof.
The toilets smell of otto of roses, and the taps
don’t just work, but one of them runs hot.
A sniper with laser a sight is ready to shoot anyone who
starts whistling.  Photocopies of the crosswords from
all the broadsheet papers are available, without the papers,
themselves.  There are no leather suitcases, no
suspended bicycles or canoes, no Readers Digest condensed books:
the décor is tastefully-arranged human suffering. 
The seats were installed by people with chronic lower back pain.
Lesbian paramedics will carry you to your room, if you
pass out.  Even if you have spent the whole day in the Railway Tavern in Halifax, you won’t be refused service.