Earls Court

Down-at-heel adventurers
Wide-eyed in cafe windows, sip
The elevated loneliness 
Designed by Sartre and Burroughs.

Only the Australians
Will ever go home.
A snowy wind,  a wintry mind
Abandoned for an altered state

Of Beat and Hippy paperbacks,
Romantic travel,  Kathmandu,
But savings totted on a napkin
Still wouldn't stretch to France.

Consolidating confidence
These early days of independence;
Another coffee guarantees
Another hour of life.

The Spyglass

Cheered by the jungle and shipwreck
Of a one-legged Hollywood legend -
Walrus moustache, 
A well-travelled rough-tweed jacket -
The yarn of adventurers, writers, old money -
A glimpse through an archway.
What fool would ignore
The clues that lead to destiny?

A friendly blues-voiced regular
Who'd topped the bill at the Hundred Club
Tapping,  from a soft blue pack,  Gauloises;
Maybe I could be an exploited talent too -
Or failing that,  a velvet essayist
Snoozing in a hat by humid seas.

The Seventies in Earls Court Road -
An amiable Interzone

Where everyone is celebrating something -
Even if it's only the calming assurance
Things won't go back the way they were.
Hookahs and pastries, dealers in doorways;
The favourable ambush
Of the sheltering pub.


Wind-chilled on the mudflats
In a hazy winter sunrise,
The Irish,  gaunt,  chain-smoking,
Tumble from the ganger's van
Piratical,  dishevelled,
Still wearing suits from last night -
Do they never sleep?

Fixing steel frenetically in sparkling frost
Till the sun grows warm enough to warm the steel;
And soon the hangover is sweated out, 
Forgotten,  and they start to talk.
Scarred rust-red hands enfold 
Sweet mugs of tea.  They start to laugh.

Gleefully obstreperous
They hoist and haul bridge-bouncing cables -
Precarious on parapets in failing light
While civil engineers like tented generals 
Pace and fret in nominal command.

Never tired and never sane
They lean from the van going home,
Inviting London to pub and party,
Bright lights,  and Hammersmith rain.

April Fools

Soundtrack of the spring was Brand New Day;
Dizzy,  ethereal,  a light-filled convalescence -
Office Removal casuals  driven at dawn down Regent Street
Or soaring over Westway,  dangling,  laughing,  waving
Like partisans on Liberation Day.

Driver Len,  with lurid wartime anecdotes,
McAllister,  man-mountain -  known to the police -
Andy, actor -  so he tells us -  yawning,  brushing hair back,
And the bouncy Irish bluesman whose uncle once met Yeats -
Lounging languidly,  apparently,  and wearing a cravat -

And interrupting anecdotes  
The boss,  ex-military,  Hampstead class,
Brisk,  arrogant,  immaculate -
Theatrically bursting out from camouflage
To roar at any riff-raff standing still  -

Oasthouse Aromatic

Boxers,  gamblers and scrap-metal moguls
Muscle in from the black-tie clan
Of Bethnal Green's lugubrious gangsters -
In-laws,  outlaws,  Jack 'The Hat' McVitie -
And overwhelm,  back-slapping.
September,  so they're centre-stage
To tell eye-popping stories.

Scenery-chewing gypsies 
Crack wood-nuts with their teeth -
Race red-hot tractors till they overturn,
Draw knives when they're demoted in the field.
Surviving children roam in expeditions,
Bingeing on brambles,  cornering
The occasional pheasant.

Lively-minded students charm
Avuncular farm-regulars -
Who mock with warm guffaws 
The world-improvers
In clouds of airborne powdered hops,
Intoxicating summer air.

Frenzied tractors bounce and roar
Flat out.  At tea-break -  sunburn,  banter,
And Old Man Henley
Stately walks his  kingdom.
Air of a fable;  who'll
Bring him the golden hop-bine?

After the hops,
We bring October apples;
First shock of autumn cold.
Caravans and children 
are dragged resisting from the rainy fields.
One year to wait,  in exile.

The Age of Hitchhiking

Tentative in monologue
We smoke like Alain Delon,
Rewriting life as adventure
And seeing how it sounds.

In an admiral's Bentley, outrunning
The South China Seas in a hurricane -
Unpolished,  unpublished,
My Book of the Year.

A racing-team manager casually
Opens a door to the high life -
We stop for a sea-food platter
In St Tropez

And I bounce for miles
On the wing of a Turkish tractor,
With handshakes,  grins,  and waves
And glasses of tea.

Sun-scorched and windblown
On the fabled road to anywhere -
Heavenly-choired by the hospitality
Of the affable eccentric.

Asia Overland

Amphitheatres on peaks
Where Roman towns have vanished.
What were they thinking,  the architects?
The growling slaves,  roped in
To hack and haul above the tree-line?

Assimilating Caesar's splendour -
Rubble villa,  red-tile roof,
Rugs under dust-pale olive trees
Older than Roman stone.

The delicate incendiary crackle
Of cigarettes on drowsy afternoons;
Hot tea, in fluted glasses,
And music,  goat-bells on the hill.

Clown-cars,  laden, 
Sunny bicycles,
The cedar-honey breeze -

Something is wearing the world as a mask

Slow dissolve
Misty precipice

Script Consultant

Robed with incense,  richly professorial,
The Cambodian monk,  in exile on a beach in Thailand,
Tells my fortune;  affirms the fabulous ending
On a veranda dusted with white sand.

Checking,  rechecking frail charts
Of treasured Khmerian script -  attuned
To an almost-inaudible  call-and-response
Behind the entertainment.

The universe is created and destroyed
Forty thousand times a second;
Dark in the skull,  explosive
Retinal bombardment -

Opening now,  a major motion picture
Projected onto clouds.


Plutocrats,  pirates,
Femmes fatales -
Momentum trade,
No rationale.

Unwinding now;
Atoms and energy
Tugged by the tide.
The stars engulf

A desert island -
Tahitian-French cafe,
A farewell chat with Belinda
On the driftwood island pier -

An intricate idyll,
Buried treasure,

Gold is a maguffin -
Adventure is the thing.
Gulls wheel in the rain over Bouville,
Flint on his deathbed sings.