Hot Desking (poem)

The keyboard’s covered in crumbs,
On the desk, a coffee mug ring.
In this age of flexible working,
Hot desking isn’t my thing.

Everything’s open plan
Even the bosses sit among us.
The effect of this on morale
Is obviously humongous…

The back of the chair is broken,
It’s fixed in an uncomfortable place.
The keyboard is sporadically working
Flip-flopping into UPPER CASE.

We can’t so much as open a window
In this air-conditioned box.
And it’s impossible not to hear
When anybody talks.

The phone handset’s covered in germs
From a hundred different lips.
The Enter key is still sticky
From Friday’s fish and chips.

The double-click only works
If you’ve the reactions of Superman.
And I always end the day sweating,
Regardless of how I began.

E-mail’s impossible to send,
The network grinds to a halt.
Now I’ve lost all my shared drives…
Yet I.T. is never at fault.

The guy at the next desk –
Never met him before.
Surprised I hadn’t heard him though
With that frequent, awful guffaw.

(The clear desk policy prohibits
Putting up pictures of loved ones.
All must be cleared and hidden away
Before 5 o’clock comes.)

It doesn’t seem that long ago
That we’d work in our own little team
With a little, personal space:
Now, it just seems like a dream.

You’d think it was pretty basic
That if somebody valued your work,
They’d give you the means to do it,
And not treat you like a jerk.

OfficeWorkers640
Creative Commons/Phil Whitehouse

The legend of Robin Hood (poem)

Robin Hood’s a hero
Or so the legend goes.
Hanging round with Merry Men,
Wearing Lincoln green hose.
 
A Yorkshire lad from Nottingham
And all points in between.
A true man of the people
With bow and sword right keen.
 
Hearts broke across the land
When he and Marian kissed.
Standing up to the Evil Sheriff
He’s the man who will be mythed.
 
The names of those Merry Men
Trip easily from the tongue.
The Friar, Little John, Scarlett…
Known from the songs we’ve sung.
 
Then, one last time, into
Sherwood he hid.
We’ll never see his like again.
 
But perhaps we never did

400px-Robin_Hood_statue,_Nottingham_Castle_1

A newby in the twitterverse

Some thoughts on twitter, after having finally “got in the game” for the past fortnight.

I’ve had a twitter account for years, having set it up in a previous job to follow events in the crime and justice world. I didn’t tweet much (and didn’t log on at all for a couple of years): it’s fair to say I didn’t really “get it”. Seemed too much like lots of people shouting in a train carriage, with only those who already knew each other actually communicating. Then there was the sheer volume of information to process. Once you turn that tap of information on, how do you stop? How do you ever have time to follow all the interesting links? And then to actually read them? That’s before you get into all the time-sucking memes, virals, and never-ending cat videos. (Who doesn’t love a good cat video?)

So, I unplugged, retreating to the comfort and safety of Facebook, letting my friends filter out the fluff.

Some years on though, and I am trying to establish myself as a picture book writer. This requires specific industry knowledge, a network of contacts, plus application and (hopefully) ability on my part.

I have joined  a couple of groups on Facebook around this area, but have yet to fully engage. A lot of those within the groups obviously know each other, from conferences and critique groups, and being the new guy breaking into those conversations can be difficult. (I have heard good things about SCBWI, but cannot afford to join just yet – my wife has offered to pay for my membership as a birthday gift in the next few weeks though. Once I am on the inside, this will give me more confidence to engage more readily than my current lurker status.) At parties, my default is to hang around near the cakes and give off an air of “ready for small talk, please!”, without ever having the confidence to just jump right in and introduce myself… As it is in life, so it is on social media. Nevertheless, this is somewhere where it feels slightly easier on twitter than facebook – the format encourages a more open approach, to my mind.

By way of example, I have directly tweeted three “famous” writers / poets this week. (Maybe not all household name-famous, but they are famous to me, if you follow.) Only one did not respond at all. (I’m sure Michael Rosen was just busy…) I had a moment of tweet-banter with Philip Ardagh about his prodigious beard – it has its own agent, apparently. A joke that I’m sure he has made many times before, but shared specifically with me. No other media enables such small, personal links. Amazing, really.

I have mainly used twitter to tweet about this blog, and to advertise the poems contained here. It’s a little more “broadcast-y” than I would like, but the next level of contact will come.

(As an aside, it seems painfully inappropriate that the main hashtag I need to use is #kidslit … just yuck.)

Completely out of the blue, I had a message from a published author yesterday to say that she was really impressed with my poems, and looked forward to seeing me published one day… Wow. For someone who is not naturally self-confident, this was an amazing message to get, and I am sure that I will go back and re-read it whenever I need a pick-me-up in the coming months and years when the inevitable rejections come through. This also re-affirms my belief that the world is fundamentally a good place, filled with good people… who get easily sidetracked.

So, I am still not entirely sure I “get” twitter, but I’m learning by doing, even if the amount of “stuff” is still overwhelming. How does anyone find the time? And I’m trying to limit my consumption of cat videos. Life is all about sacrifices!

If anyone has any top tips about getting started on and using twitter, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

The Truth About Food (poem)

I’m not afraid of monsters or other made-up stuff
None of them are real, I’m sure
(well, sure enough).
The thing that truly frightens me, sets my hairs on end
Is something more mundane, on which our lives depend.

It’s food. Glorious, dangerous food! My brother told me so.
He opened my eyes to reality, and the hundred lies that flow
From out the mouths of parents, the biggest sneaks of all.
They know the truth – every word – prepare to be appalled!

Every meal is based upon a lie, from breakfast to your tea.
We know muesli is rabbit droppings and sawdust, on that we all agree,
But did you know that some “bad” foods are good for you,
And some “good” bad, from an enlightened point of view?

Cheese doesn’t come from cows – how ridiculous! It’s made by bees,
Inside their hives, where coughs and sneezes spread the cheeses.
Chicken is for cowards, and chowder makes you louder,
Cornflakes taste better, topped with chili powder.

Pasta makes you faster. Water rots your teeth.
Noodles come from poodles, plucked from their beneath.
Mixed-up hens make scrambled eggs.
Choccy ice cream cures dizzy legs.

Hops are made by rabbits. Spaghetti’s really worms.
Rice is really maggots, covered in maggoty germs.
There are E, F and G numbers in almost everything
These are vital for dancing, for cha cha cha and swing.

Custard and mustard are both one and the same.
Fish fingers are fish feet, but what’s in a name?
Chilli makes you cold, and stew makes you fester.
Stuffing comes from pillows, filled with polyester.

A Victoria sponge is best used for washing in the bath.
A trifle is no small matter, however seems it daft.
And all green veg is (obviously) bogey-based
Plucked from an over-sized nostril, and laughingly laxative-laced.

Baklavas should be worn on the head, especially during winter.
Runner beans should only be eaten if you are a sprinter.
All fast food should be eaten super, super quick.
And rocket’s really dynamite – just give it a lick!

But the worst lie of the lot, concerns those hairy fruits called Kiwis.
I can scarcely say it, would you believe, they’re actually made from wee-wees?
This tale of woe, of eyes and mouths forced open, is all too sadly true.
What you choose to do with this, is completely up to you!

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flickr.com/photos/md9/2322500331 / Creative Commons

When One-Sock Sam Went Crawling (poem)

When one-sock Sam went crawling,
He roamed all over the floor,
Flinging books and films off shelves
Till his parents cried “no more!”

He pressed every available button,
Turned every conceivable knob:
He left such a trail of destruction,
It looked like a hatchet job.

Cupboards were bashed and banged;
Mirrors were lovingly licked;
Saucepans displayed for all to see:
It’s a messy old scene to depict!

His toys are in the cat bowl,
And the litter tray’s been explored.
The toybox has been turned upside down;
Pleas of “No!” have been ignored.

The house looks like a bomb site
And if all of this sounds appalling,
Spare a thought for the poor old parents,
When one-sock Sam went crawling.

baby crawl

What to share…

Setting up a blog to document my journey as a children’s writer faces one, immediate problem: what to share. An illustrator in a similar position can share some preliminary sketches, but a synopsis of a story, or a sample couplet, scarcely does a writer justice.

I’d love to share all of my picture book texts on here, in full, so you can see the type of thing I’m writing, offer some constructive criticism along the way, and enjoy and share the stories with those you love. But there are (at least) two problems with this.

Firstly, picture books are books with pictures. (Yep, I just said that!) My texts are just texts at the moment, and do not have the pictures that I hope will be added if/when a publisher decides to publish my work. So there is an artistic reason, as such, for not sharing them here.

Secondly, and most importantly, is a boring but practical business reason – ultimately I am looking to sell these stories, and don’t want to give them away to anyone with an internet connection. (My only interest at present is in going through the traditional publishing route, although I’m not against self-publishing in the future.)

But, I do want to give people a flavour of what I write. I don’t want to blog any stories that I’ve written that I won’t be submitting because they didn’t quite work… “have a look at this, people, I don’t like it!”… and I don’t want to blog any of the adult short stories I’ve written (due to content/ themes/ recurring presence of zombies)… so that leaves me with the poems.

This isn’t the main focus of what I’m doing/ trying to do, but I do find them fun to write, and hopefully you enjoy reading them. Not all are written for children – there will be some about work and general life things too – but one thing I can’t abide is “critics poetry”, self-indulgent navel-gazing that’s written for a very specific and exclusive audience. I believe words should be used to communicate, and that simple words can be the most powerful, if used correctly. The Will Self “you’ll need a thesaurus to read this article because I’ve got such big words to use” approach is one I detest. I’m an educated man, albeit one from a working class background in Gloucester, but I have never felt the need to ram that down people’s throats. Accessibility is an art; simplicity a skill. My goal is to balance these with the telling of a good story, which is fun for both adults to read and children to share. Simple as that!

(Not all of my poems are suitable for a family audience, by the way, but this blog is only about the ones that are. Sorry. My 4 year old can read and navigate around on the internet already, so I’ve got to be careful!)

So, hope you enjoy the poems and the blogging. Would welcome any comments or feedback from fellow writers for a bit of company along the way!

Jonny from 9B (poem)

Never got on wi’ Shakespeare
Byron did nowt fa me
The only poet that I like is
Jonny from 9B

Sassoon sounds like a baboon
Wordsworth’s too wordy, you see
Nun a them ‘owds a candle
To Jonny from 9B

Coleridge couldn’t rime (or spell)
Rosen and Carroll ain’t fa me
Nun a them’s a patch
On Jonny from 9B

Dylan Thomas? Dad prefers Bob.
Larkin? Hughes? Big whoopee!
Nun a them’s fit to ‘owd a pencil
For Jonny from 9B

For Jonny’s a proper poet –
‘e makes sure all ‘is lines rhyme
Not just now an’ then
But time after time (after time)

‘e don’t bang on about love
An’ all that mushy stuff –
‘e tells us tales of scoring goals,
Playing pranks an’ acting tough.

All the teachers ‘ate ‘im
But Jonny – ‘e don’t care.
The playground’s ‘is stage
Telling tales wi’ style an’ flair

An’ for a precious few
Beneath that willow tree
A thousand dreams are dreamed
Through Jonny from 9B

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/sin_agua/2950646896 / Creative Commons

Note for non-British readers: this was written in a broad Yorkshire accent (think Sean Bean, or Arctic Monkeys). If you have someone from Yorkshire to hand, ask them to read it out loud to you. As someone who has married a Yorkshire lass, I can tell you the difficulty is not getting them to talk, but getting them to stop…

.

“9B” refers to the year and class that he is in – Jonny would be 13 or 14 years old.

Stop! Children (poem)

Children must be stopped:
The signs are all around.
Some are borne by volunteers;
Others are in the ground.

Those little precious darlings,
Those snotty bundles of joy,
Look so sweet and innocent –
But it’s all a ploy.

I’m not the type to make a scene,
Don’t usually cause a fuss;
If we don’t stop the children now
THEY’LL TURN RIGHT INTO US!

stop