Black cab sessions

Genius idea.  Get musicians and performers, put them into the back of a random London cab and ask them to perform one item from their repertoire.

It’s a site really worth exploring for its simple but very effective idea and the quality of the performances.

I’ve already mentioned before that Benjamin Zephaniah frequently irritates me however he does have some brilliant work.  I’d think of him as a potential poetic role model but our respective politically-inspired poems differ on the point of cultural heritage and what exactly is the blame-monkey.  I think essentially we get to the same point in the end; think again about cheap chicken and 99p plimsolls.

In this link he performs “Rong radio station”, brilliantly, inspirationally, manically.  Enjoy.


Album art meme

Perhaps I *really* don’t want to do the work I should be doing because it’s a lot more fun playing on WordPress.

Thanks to Lisa and many others – a really fun meme:

  • Click on this link. The title of the page is the name of your band.
  • Click on this link. The last four words of the final quotation on the page are the title of your album.
  • Click on this link. The third picture is your album cover.
  • Take the pic, add your band name and album title.
  • I think I might be an “over-achiever” on this one…’s my slightly-over-the-top reply….


    The computer, she make-a me stoopid

    Things that have happened to me in the last week in connection with “dooin computa stuff fer peeple”.

    I wrote, on a customer’s visit report, after driving for two and a half hours to get there: “System destroyed by squirrels“.  This was factually correct.


    Job ticket #17168:

    Colleague:  Ian, any chance you can sort this problem for me now, only I need it done and I’ve been waiting since yesterday morning.

    Ian: [checks job ticket – “Move J’s monitor/screen to new position in the office”]  Yep, no problem, I can do it now.  Where do you want the monitor moving to?

    Colleague: Can you move it so it’s in the middle of my desk?

    Ian surveys monitor, which on the right of the desk,  pauses, then contemptuously sweeps pile of papers from main body of the desk ‘accidentally’ onto floor with hand and drags monitor from the right-hand side of the desk to the middle of the desk.  Total distance of move: 6 inches.  Time to complete move: 11.5 seconds including annoyed snorty sniffing sound.

    Ian: How’s that?

    Colleague: Er, perfect, much better.  Is that all I needed to do then?

    Ian: [growling] Yes. [Walks out, appreciable flounce in footsteps].


    I am not a Tudor King…

    Life, it seems, can get more freaky.

    A week ago I stubbed my middle-toe on a chair leg.  Quite amazingly clutzy when you consider I actually only have one thing in my flat that could reasonably called “a chair” but nevertheless I managed to find it with my toe, unexpectedly, accurately, painfully.  A few short swearwords and a bit of hobbling later and I was fine.

    The following day – a nice black blood blister.  To quote a friend: “owie”.  But no pain, all good; the body doing its self-healing thing.

    Then, on Friday, I woke up with my “big” toe *really* hurting like I’d stubbed that one too.  Slightly weird because I didn’t recall doing anything to it – I had first noticed it being sore maybe on Wednesday at the earliest, far too late in the day to be related to stubbing the other toe.  A slight limpy walking style was required in order to not make girly “ouch” noises in my head.  By Friday afternoon my foot was throbbing with nastiness.  Cue a weekend of hobbling and I woke on Monday to discover that my foot was definitely swollen, sore and it was now necessary for me to definitely limp and turn the sole of my foot to one side to avoid the ball of the big toe from touching the ground.  Not…..good…..

    By this morning I knew I was going to have to get a Doctor to look at it.  The other toe still had its little black blood blister on it but felt 100 percent fine but the big toe looked like I’d had a toe transplant and the donor had been 8 sizes bigger than me with very chubby feet.  The whole foot felt like it had been pumped up and the skin was straining to hold in the contents.  Ewww.

    So I got one of my colleagues to drop me off at A & E in our local hospital.  Thankfully I thought to bring a book with me, knowing that despite it being a problem to me the foot was not *really* up there in the league of “quick Doctor we better do someting before she blows” and therefore could be in for what we term in the trade ‘a bit of a wait’.  [Pseud’s note: the book was “A portrait of the the artist as a young man” by James Joyce – an odd but interesting book and prosaic style].

    So, triaged within ten minutes, and then a loooooong wait for an A & E consultant; a jolly Jamaican (or maybe Trindadian) who wore a lovely purple shirt that I secretly admired and some outlandish braces to hold his trousers up.

    Lots of prodding.  Lots of flexing of painful toe.  Needles.  Blood taken (I am ghoulish and like to watch them do it, a process I never find scary or painful which I think might be a little odd).  Then off for a digital X-ray to show the toe is not broken and to confirm that I have…..gout.


    GOUT!  I thought this was something Henry VIII had; an affliction of rotund 1950s pipe-smokers who swill Congnac and huff about truffles in their ‘club’.  Not 21st century computer programmers.  So much for Berocca.

    So I have now Googled Gout and discovered that 2 million Americans suffer from it – women and men – none of whom are currently occupying the Tudor throne and many of whom, one assumes, are pefectly normal weight and do not gargle with expensive brandies on a regular basis.  According to the A & E consultant there are more and more people getting gout.  Really?

    One of the contributing elements towards gout is vitamin B in the form of niacin.  A bit interesting since the Berocca tablets (fizzy disolvable vitamins) contain shedloads of vitamin B as does….Marmite (or Brown Sludge to apply the correct taxonomy according to a friend from Nebraska).  Red wine is bad too and red meat.  So are rich cheeses like French cheese…..

    Bugger.  😀

    Shouting at the poets

    Greetings. I’ve been out for a bit of culture yesterday. I went, along with a number of other local poets to the MK Poetry Kapow held at The Madcap Theatre. A bit of a surreal start whereby I, being punct(uation)ual was told, as a performer, to turn up by seven PM unlike the cowardy-custards who form the audience who should turn up no later than 7.30pm. Rule-following, plan-ahead-good-boy computer programmer that I am I turned up by no small effort at 06:45 pm. This freaked out one of the organisers who, was horribly and totally out of control slightly on edge with nerves. After much hinting and eye darting I was told to go downstairs to the bar and wait to be summoned.

    The plus side was that a glass of red was priced at 2 pounds (an absolute steal) and was made even more satisfying by the fact it was served by a very lovely but wholly uncharismatic man who gave off every indication that he was not happy serving wine to poet types and was essentially behind the bar as some kind of penitence for crimes that do not have a name. Bless.

    The bar area gradually filled up with fellow performer poets along with members of the audience-in-waiting. Lots of discussion ensued with chats on subjects which included Gilbert and George (inspirational), e. e. cummings (my absolute poetical hero), Benjamin Zephaniah (and how he frequently annoys me) along with other similar rarefied topics. We were a mixed bunch. One guy insisted on wearing a baseball cap despite the fact it looked oddly incongruous with his expensive shirt and pressed trousers. He dished out a little diatribe on traditional poetry and said he liked “poems that are direct and plain speaking“. More on him later.

    The evening proceeded well, some indication of upcoming artiness was evident in the fact that the evening’s MC had green braids in his hair and matching shiny wrist shields (I Googled for an example image and failed to find any which makes me think they have another name – just try to imagine a Roman Centurian’s breast plate…but for your wrist…and a shimmering green metallic colour). The first half consisted of some standard fare along with a fair chunk of free verse. The first guy on stage was a first-time performer and looked exactly like a terrified rabbit caught in the headlights of a fast-approaching Porsche. Others followed with lesser or greater experience. Just prior to the interval MMT came on with a fellow musician and performed a couple tracks as Corn (Korn??) [Edit: The Road to Corm – the low key nature of their presentation confused me a fair bit] I’m still not entirely sure what went on during their performance and I’m slightly worried by the fact they repeatedly told us their latest CD was on sale at the rear of the theatre. For those of you who are fans of (cruelly absent) Andy Kaufman you would have appreciated their performance but in particular the finale of the track where the guitarist played out shredding his guitar lying on his back, dying fly stylee, on the floor in front of the stage with his head under the first row’s chairs. Andy would have been so proud; I swear I saw the ghost of Tony Clifton laughing in the wings. Genius.

    During the interval (and prior to the first half) we had been invited to go up on the other stage – the room has one each end – and write on the walls and floor which had been papered especially for this event. The exact invitation was “write something, from you or someone else, or draw something, anything you like“. So we all did. The guy with the hat wrote, in large letters, about how poetic forms were stifling or something similar.

    The second half began musically with a brilliant performance of folky blues guitar. I always feel a pang of pain when I see such laconically superb performances like this and get an urge to rush home and pick up my own guitar and wear my fingertips to the bone trying to perfect sufficient numbers of finger-plucked barre chords.

    After a number of other performers my name was called up…I was on.

    Introduced as Alex Sykie I explained when I arrived at the microphone that my real name was not Alex or Sykie and that I chose the name because I didn’t believe that anyone would read poems by someone called Ian Barker. (Crowd laughs politely). I then said “but then I thought that was a bit pretentious and besides, no-one could ever pronounce, spell or type ‘Sykie’ correctly so I created another web site: titty titty bum bum dot com….and now I get blocked by every spam filter on the planet” (crowd laughs and claps – hoorah, it worked).

    I introduced my first poem by saying that I prefer to write figurative poetry and that as a result I get a lot of people misunderstanding what I mean in a poem since they can be read on many levels. “An example of this is the next one which is almost always described as cute when in actual fact it is about creation, man’s insignificance in the general scheme of the universe, global warming and how our misuse of resources will be the death of us” (crowd: deathly silence). “It’s called Cakes and Insects“. (Everyone in the audience perks up at the mention of cake).

    I began to read the poem and everyone went quiet. After the first verse I’d got into the swing of it and worked out how loud to speak into the microphone and how to wrestle with my notes and add illustrative gesticulations without dropping the whole lot on the floor and looking like an arse. When I reached the end and said the final words they all started clapping. It….felt…good….

    When the applause died down I then looked out into the crowd – not easy to do, the spotlights were blinding me – and asked if the “poet in the hat was still here” – he wasn’t. I explained about his comments of hating traditional poetic forms and that I do write free verse too but also like more rigid styles like iambic pentameter but especially the more quirky ones like the villanelle. I then read them my own version of a villanelle for Milton Keynes: Welcome to my city.

    By far the biggest laugh of my ‘set’ was when I explained that it is fashionable amongst rock bands to do cover versions of songs and that as a result I had written a cover version of a poem. I said “now if you do guess, part way through, which poem I have covered please don’t tell the person next to you so that they can have fun guessing“. I then theatrically paused, cleared my throat and began:

    I wondered lonely as a cloud“.

    Cue copious raucous laughter from the audience. I paused and said “shhh, don’t tell them” and beamed before continuing from the beginning with “Lonely as a cloud“. Big round of applause and much giggling. I then made the mistake of asking them if they wanted a serious-but-good poem or a cute one. Predictably they chose cute so I read “mum and dad“. Time was running short and I finished with a bit of a joke about my final poem resulting in me being described as gay “…so I said to him what do you know, you’re only seven. Still I’ve been married twice, I’ll try anything once” (laughs filter through from behind the spotlights) and then I read “Broken“. At the end I bowed my head and leaned forward into the mic, said, “thank you” and walked off the stage to smiley faces on top of clapping hands.

    So, I was done; it was all over in a flash. There were so many more poems that I could have read but time was short and I was annoyed by the lights which were pitched in a way that meant I could not really see anyone’s faces (I had to look down most of the time because I was getting spots in front of my eyes and since I can’t recite from memory I *have* to read).

    But I did enjoy it!

    In July they are having a big street festival and all being well I will be performing in the main theatre district which would be really good as I would probably get a lot more time to pick my own choice of material plus I can interact with people more easily. They are also holding another event at Madcap again and I intend to go back with some fresh work plus the chance to air a few that deserved to be read but couldn’t see the light of day.

    Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention; at the end of the evening they read out some of the stuff on the walls; including two of mine. One was a briefly poetical paragraph (which, typically, I can’t remember) and the other was a drawing I did representing perspective: a dot with an arrow saying “your problems“, a medium-sized circle with an arrow saying “how much cake you can eat before being sick” and a BIGGER circle and an arrow saying “how much cake you eat when you come back drunk from the pub“. My artist mother would be proud – I drew something mum!

    …and now, today, I am off to do some programming for the cosmetic surgery ‘industry’ – how quickly we can dip our souls back into the pool of the mundane financial necessity.