Daphne was driven. The life she’d been given Was clearly no better than bad. Her husband, a user, a nightmare, a loser. And she knew that she’d surely been had.
What reason was there, for his ripped underwear? For his stubble, his hairpiece, his scowl? And how might he explain his pretences of pain When presented with spade or with trowel?
If his body was lazy, his mind it was too, He lived in a permanent mist Of smoking and drinking and drug-addled thinking. Of his vices… she’d written a list!
Of how he would curse, in the car it was worst, Of how he would hate and berate her. And then he would calm, say ‘I’m sorry, no harm’ And take it all out on her later.
Oh, but how he relied. And how she had cried, When again he demanded her wages. She screamed ‘It’s abuse’, but still couldn’t refuse, For fear of his terrible rages.
On Friday she planted a kiss on his cheek. She said, ‘See you later, okay?’. ‘Whatever,’ he said. That’s when she wished him dead. Cos he didn’t care, he had nothing to say and she knew that he’d always Keep acting that way.
It was all about him, how he’d gain, how he’d win. It was all about what he could get. He exploited her caring with his own brand of sharing A minefield of doubt and of debt.
She lay in the bath, contemplating her wrath, And thinking of what she might do. She came up with a ruse for her crime without clues. And was sure what she needed to do.
She would get her revenge, she would seek out new friends. She’d prevent her life plunging to hell. She would simply say ‘Bye’ to the hate of her life And leave him to fend for himself.
Inspired by Paul Simon’s ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’
This group is crammed with poets; accomplished and expressive writers who create in their preferred format, often carrying out the impossible task of producing more than one fantastic and competent piece per session. The talent and competence of these poets regularly takes my breath away, but I know I will never be able to join their ranks. As you will be aware from listening to my readings over the months, I am naturally wordy and longwinded, and therefore best suited to being a writer of prose. I have my skills and talents, but poetically succinct expression and short, sharp sentences don’t come easily.
So, I thought I’d share with you the sentiments of what my poem was hoping to express. My intention was to explore the dynamics of detective work in the dramas I watch the most. I wanted to explain that solving crimes is dependent on the work of skilled men and women and that the more experience these detectives have, the more chances there are of the crime being solved. This is where my problems begin. I wanted to begin my poem with the line ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery’. It rhymes and says what I wanted it to say, but it’s clunky and juvenile, like a song lyric that 10 year olds might compose. Or it could even have been a rap. ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery.’ Yes, that’s it. It’s a pathetic little rap lyric. Nothing more.
But I wanted to extend my explanation. I wanted to clarify that the mysteries were those ‘Of criminal urges. Intangible surges, Adrenaline rushes, and trilling wire pushes’. There’s a nice rhythm to the words, and I like the way they all sound together. But I couldn’t fit them in as they needed an explanatory first line which would serve the purpose of informing the listener that the lines related to forensic methods and inspiration.
I carried on by writing ‘Detectives think over the crime,’ and genuinely couldn’t find a good way of introducing the idea of fingerprint patterns, DNA testing, and many of the other chemical processes that prove or deny the presence of certain substances within a test sample. So I wrote ‘Detection test fizzes, the rages, the steams it fazes. Wire in the blood. Theoretical stuff. Genetic kinks. Unforseen links’. Not quite a clickety clack rhythm, but also neither flowing nor easily understood. I clearly am unable to master the skill of explaining without the provision of an introductory explanation. Which, of course, renders the entire subsequent poem pointless.
Also, in this poem I almost created, I wanted to explain how the detective drama, ‘Wire in the Blood’ uses as its title, a phrase from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. As so… ‘The trilling wire in the blood / sings below inveterate scars / appeasing long-forgotten wars’. Apparently the star of this drama, Robson Green, believed it was intended to refer to a genetic kink. Such a kink was impure and unusual and of the kind that leads to the form of psychosis that the psychologist, Dr Tony Hill might deal with. Interesting, though Val McDermid believes something different – that the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was ‘a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream’.
So, not only would my hoped-for poem, in tribute to many of the detective greats, have talked of ‘Partnership drinks. Encouragements to think,’ it would have ended, just because I liked it, with the line ‘Might, Flight, Sight and Spite’. I’m guessing that this must be a fairly standard poet’s problem, but how annoying when you come up with something that feels right and sounds right, but doesn’t fit at all. Especially when it is your entire poem that does this.
I do not write good poetry. I do not even write barely competent poetry. What I write is inexplicably shortened prose, and tiny strings of rhyming words.
So, I’m sorry that I couldn’t fulfil the homework mission set for us all this week, but felt the need to relate to you all my attempts at work in progress. I didn’t want to simply say that I had tried yet failed. But it was the truth. Anyway, at least I tried.
2020 is the year, for reaching goals and squelching fear. There’s much to do, so I’ll command, prioritise, set up and plan. Though short of time, I’m strong and wise. I’m talking time to organise. I’ll schedule all the months ahead, with useful tasks, more work, less dread.
I resolve to eat less fat, to drink less wine, less this and that. And use the food that I have got, not let it ooze nor let it rot. Sugar will be much reduced, and I will thrive on cabbage soup. And alcohol won’t be a crutch, more of a friend I don’t see that much.
I’ll make a start on leathercraft, I’ve got the gear so need to graft. I’ve got my dremel, studs and stamps, needles, pins and frames for lamps. Embossing and pyrography, enamelling, photography. Wooden sculpt, and painted tin, basketry to keep things in. But aren’t they all a waste of time, these useless, pointless tasks of mine? So…
I’ll work less hard and play much more. Try not to be a writing bore. I’ll close my mind, spend time outdoors, I’ll learn to dance, to ride a horse. Switch laptop off, take time to rest. There’s no need to be the best. For who and what must I impress? There’s no exam, life is a quest!
I’ll love my life, I’ll light my way, and never dwell on yesterday When things go bad, I’ll stand up strong, and trust that I’m not always wrong. I’ll take more care, and get more sleep, I’ll look before I cross and leap. I’ll rise and shine, enjoy my toil, though never burn the midnight oil.
But something doesn’t feel quite right. Something keeps me up at night. Selfish thoughts and selfish needs Self-centred tasks and boastful deeds. They swarm through me, those nightmares mount. With crippling guilt, and dreadful doubt.
So, it’s best to take another heed of resolutions, wants and needs. To turn things round, to start again, consider women, children, men. And work for victims, help, assist. To make a difference, help, insist.
So that’s my resolution, now. Do something useful. Make that vow. Take time from life to help and serve. Just hope I have the strength and nerve!
I only cheat for chocolate, said the diabetic dryly. At times I pinch leftover treats from off the children’s plates. I like my crisps, of course I do, but I don’t eat them daily. I show restraint, especially on the school run, when I wait.
I only take a candy bar or two. An Allsort here, a Humbug there. I’ll only have a very few.
I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat a little. I only cheat when I can cheat in secret, bite by bite. I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat at weekends. The cheating is my secret, I’m most secretive at night.
I only cheat for chocolate, and I munch enthusiastically. Its cocoa dribbles run right down my chin and to my shirt. A cream egg yolk is what I craved, I stuffed them in quite drastically. I bought a pack of six, and just one more aint going to hurt.
Its only there a moment on my tongue. It’s worth it, though. It’s so deelish. It never lasts for long.
I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat a little. I only cheat when I can cheat in secret, bite by bite. I only cheat for chocolate, and I only cheat at weekends. The cheating is my secret, I’m most secretive at night.
‘Love you, angel,’ I said and kissed my darling baby girl on her left cheek as her father kissed her on the right. One photographer clicked and took a step, squatted down, clicked and moved further around the hospital bed giving us instructions on where and how to stand. Others stood and clicked lazily.
No, she’s not the first baby to have been born that new year, or a child who fought a terrible illness or accident and survived, but she was special nonetheless. Hence the swathes of reporters and photographers and the overly smiling faces in a room full of media savvy medical staff.
My husband and I had the dubious honour of having brought into the world a child who was special in two connected ways. She was the first baby ever to have been born in the hospital on the 14th of February, who was also born at 2:14 am. I hadn’t thought anything of it until the midwife giggled when completing our paperwork, and told me the news. My daughter had been born on the fourteenth day of the second month. She had also been born at the fourteenth minute of the second hour.
Obsessed as they were with the trivialities of life, and looking as they did for any excuse to not deal with local politics, the papers were already interested, but they became totally and utterly insane when they were informed about something even more amazing.
My daughter was born with a birthmark on the left side of her chest. A perfect, 2 inch diameter heart with clear and smooth edges.
It, apart from my baby, was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
The reporters demanded that we call our little girl ‘Love’ or ‘Valentine’ or ‘Cherub’, but we had already set our heart on another less gimmicky name – Sarah. Photos and an article appeared in the local Courier a few days after her birth, and as a result we were besieged with calls from crackpots, national reporters and friends and family who wanted to cash in on Sarah’s amazing accident of nature. We even had a call from a young man who had divined that my baby daughter was herself divine. He claimed she had clearly been placed onto the earth as the new messiah who would grow to infuse the world with love.
Our poor Sarah spent the first fifteen years of her life as a very reluctant local celebrity, and in her eyes, her birthmark had little to commend it. So finally, at age sixteen, my beloved child made the biggest decision of her life: to get her second heart removed.
That was why we’d been taken from the hospital’s waiting area and put into a side room already full of reporters and photographers. The police were called, because the man who’d believed my Sarah was the new messiah had brought his fellow devotees to picket outside the hospital. Their mission was to tell the world that Satan had infected Sarah and that he was working his way through to her soul via a birthmark-removing laser gun.
Sarah was devastated, and my own poor heart was breaking in response. She sought anonymity, she sought peace and sought a skin clear of special markings, but in beginning the process, she had inadvertently encouraged the fame she despised.
Our compromise – a half hour press conference then the promise of future anonymity – was the best we could negotiate.
Once the photos were taken, the questions were asked and the video was shot, three members of the hospital’s security staff escorted us to Sarah’s laser session.
Sarah was feeling positive as she’d made her first step towards a happier future, and typically, her dad was ranting about the invasive nature of the press. I, on the other hand, was a blank face atop a world-weary body. I had reasons of my own for this ambivalence.
Sarah and I had quite a bit in common, as I was also special. Not only had I been born on the 25th day of the twelfth month, but I had also been born at the 25th minute after the twelfth hour. And, more than that, my own chest displayed a clear, angular birthmark in the shape of a crucifix. That was how I knew the cult guy was wrong. My daughter was no messiah. But I was keeping my own messiah status well and truly hidden. I was playing my own cards close to my chest.
I thought I’d write a verse, my dear, explain just why you’d like it here. This beach is one I know you’d like. It’s shingle, mainly. Still, its nice. An ice cream stall squats near the pier, but you can’t get rum and raisin here. Cracked steps lead wobbly to the beach, with deckchairs stacked just out of reach. I know you’d love the irony, you’d lap it up quite happily. Perversely, too, you’d love the beach. It’s wide, with sea just out of reach. And the ocean’s also not much cop, just toxic bubbling, grey-green pop. The rockpool’s bleak, with not a sign, of life, apart from mirrored mine. Escape to town is harder still. The path back is a long, steep hill. And back in town, there’s just one caffie, one that’s dirty, bleak and scruffy! I’ve been here lots without you, dear. You never wanted to come near. But, can you see just why I claim. You’ll like it here, you’d lay no blame. You’d get such a chance to moan. Complain and threaten to go home. Then once back home you’ll tell our friends, you wished our break would never end. So here’s my little verse, my dear, I really think you’ll like it here.
Have you ever walked into a gig and felt calm and inspired, even before the music begins? Even when you’re an ancient prog-folk-rocker like me, and even before you’ve sat down? Well, that’s what happened when I went to see Ivan Campo at Preston’s Harris Art Gallery on Valentines Day 2020.
Firstly, the location was gorgeous. I’ve been to the Harris many times before but never to an event, so my assumption was that the concert would be held in a suite deep within the building: somewhere dull and bland with flat acoustics and plenty of audience space. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When we arrived, the band were setting up in the space just behind the lobby’s glass doors. In front of the small stage we could see a chic collection of bistro style chairs and tables.
It was then that I realised this was to be an intimate gig of maybe 50 attendees, yet the space was vertically massive. The ‘concert hall’ was three storeys high, and the band’s tuning-up sounds floated around the tables and up, through the art galleries, into the stunning ceiling cavity. When the doors opened, we accepted a free glass of Prosecco, then sat ourselves directly in front of the stage.
Ivan Campo has a seemingly simple set up: Adam on lead vocals and guitar, Will on keyboard, guitars, backing vocals and glockenspiel, and Ben on guitars, bass, percussion, clarinet and backing vocals. But Ivan Campo’s sound is anything but simple. Of course, they utilise many elements of folk music, particularly in the vocal harmonies, but the band exhibit elements of pop and choral music too, as the band’s musical influences are multiple and complex.
Each person listening to their music would be aware of different influences, but I found myself hearing Nick Drake, early Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, The Beatles, The Trees, Mellow Candle and even early Genesis. I even detected elements of The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, though these are rare! In ‘Darling Diva’ , there’s definitely a Bonzo feeling to the enunciation and of the verses in particular, and with its near-muted backing voices, the lead voice floats.Whatever their influences, Ivan Campo’s musical talents blend together in a cohesive whirl of gorgeous sounds.
I didn’t stop smiling the entire time, as watching and listening to Ivan Campo transcended pleasure and became unaccustomed joy. Yes, it was certainly connected with the quality of the musical performance, but also with the music’s feel. It exuded positivity and optimism – particularly ‘The Bloodhound and the Fox’ with its gentle organ sound and powerful lyrics, and in the bouncy harmonies of ‘Roll On’ with its staccato guitar and enticing foot-tapping rhythm.
This gig showcased some great music that moved between genres. ‘Forgetful Fredrick’ had a great reggae/calypso sound with its snappy, syncopated guitar and jolly glockenspiel. Incidentally, the whistling in this and in other tunes is an unexpected pleasure that’s simple but so effective. More jolliness arises in ‘Lotus Eater’ – a feel-good song with an early-Beatles skiffle feel, that changes to The Everly Brothers when they sing ‘Every day, gets a little stronger’. Taking a totally different tack, ‘A Chancer’ incorporates reggae-sounding rhythm guitar and a gorgeous lead guitar in this understated piece. Taking another direction, ‘Roller Disco’ tells of waking up in 1959 wanting to go to a roller disco. With its delightful hand shaker, doo-wop backing vocals sound and bass, it is funny, sweet and very feel-good. Weirdly, ‘Local Dealer’s catchy piano reminds me of Billy Bragg’s ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forward’!
Ivan Campo have a wonderful percussive sound, especially as there is no drum kit. Everything is percussive! Consider ‘Season of the King’ with its gorgeous, rolling piano and motifs, with a tune that particularly suits Adam’s voice, and is brought into another dimension with the clicked-fingers percussion, shakers and syncopated rhythms. Also, in ‘The Mirror’ , amidst the gorgeous seemingly-complex harmonies of a tune that seems too pure to have arisen in our cynical times, the timings are satisfying and tight, assisted by sonorous clarinet notes and the clicking of clarinet keys for percussive effect.
The harmonies and the way the voices merge together are just mild-melting. In ‘The B&B’ the lyrics are great ‘ I know I’ll survive only if I try’, ‘A real reverie.’. ‘Wouldn’t you agree?’ ‘Was it all just a dream?’ My particular favourite part is the ‘It’s difficult. Impossible to see.’ There’s something astonishing about how those harmonies are delivered and how the words are articulated with a beautiful use of silence. In ‘Invisible Man’, the simple effective guitar picking is topped with almost-whispered singing of ethereal harmonies, and the simplest of keyboard accompaniments. ‘Crome Yellow’ presents us with such a Kinks-like feel at the beginning (Kinks but darker), with rich folk harmonies, and syncopated rhythm guitar. In ‘One Minute War’, the articulation of the word ‘Suddenly’ is gorgeous.
Not every band is able to use sparsity to the best effect, but Ivan Campo does. They use a chugging guitar sound on ‘Hurricane Ivan’ to start, and this is reflected by the singing style. As the song progresses, the tune becomes more lyrical, though the sparseness of the arrangement is effective. In ‘Blind Spot’ the harmonies and lyrics are exceptional especially on the lead up to the chorus. Even the chorus is pretty sparse, but so beautiful as a result.
It’s as if the band has fully orchestrated, then stripped right down to only what was essential.
And it is this musical self-awareness that made the band so special. These guys were not afraid of using their instruments and voices unpretentiously. ‘Liquor Mountain’ was sweet and reminiscent of something in the long ago past, and ‘Obscene Dream’ was glorious with its descending and ascending sweetness, and of silence. And again, reminiscent of a time gone by with its gentle, almost-whispered singing, ‘Rat Race’ begins in the manner of one of those brilliant busking tunes that cheers you as you walk past. But soon it becomes a hush little baby style version of something Beatles-like. How could such a thing be described in mere words? In ‘Could the Devil be a Gentleman’ I was instantly reminded of the Orkney and Shetland folk I adored in my teen years. I love the clarity of the fingerpicked guitar and the sound of the voices, especially the line ‘By the thoughts of a restless day’ which gives me tummyache and brings tears to my eyes.
This was one of the best gigs I have ever attended. Perhaps the best.
Acoustic music is often considered to have less breadth and depth. Not so. Of course, the grandeur and echo-chamber effects of the venue added to the atmosphere. But it was all about the band and their pure music. I purchased Purchased four Ivan Campo EPs on my way out – and have been listening to them ever since. This will definitely not be my final Campo gig.
‘I only wanted what was best for you,’ she whimpered. ‘What was best for us all.’
The man’s expression darkened with each word. His eyes flashed bright green as she spoke, and he knew that she could not be allowed to win. Not again.
‘What’s best for us all,’ he whispered with venom, ‘is a world without you.’
He thrust his hidden knife towards the breast pocket of her jacket, and pierced her right in the heart.
The woman clutched the invading weapon and fell to her knees, then to the floor. Her final words ‘This is not for the greater good. This is…’
But a stab in the heart was not enough. For this to work and for her evil to truly be eradicated, she must be symbolically thrown to the wolves. Hence their location on the roof garden of a trendy office block. He dragged her still-alive body to the edge wall and hauled it to rest on the thick glass security pane. Into her pocket he placed a carefully folded piece of paper, then with a final energetic spasm, heaved her body over the glass.
‘Goodbye Mother,’ he said, and immediately began his brisk walk back to the office block’s ground floor. If he kept his speed up and used the emergency stairs, he knew he would be unseen and out of the door in less than five minutes. It took just under three minutes, and with latex-clad hands he opened the rear door and made his way out.
Fortunately for Ben, his black hooded sweatshirt and black joggers – the uniform of house-breakers and car-thieves everywhere – provided sufficient anonymity. Add to that the additional padding he’d sewn into the clothes, a fake blonde beard, a shoulder length blonde wig and tinted contact lenses, and he’d ensured that his own mother hadn’t recognised him till her final moment.
Ben thought back to the events of earlier that day, and what had been required to ensure his own peace and the peace of mankind. Truly, he was working for the greater good. Holy Wars had proved that any act, even murder, could be justified providing one’s motives were true and were for the greater good.
Ben’s mission to kill his mother had been four months in the planning. Four months of scheming and sucking up to the people around him. Four months of ensuring that each and every piece of the puzzle fitted. Of secreting items away, of careful observation and, in the end, of targeted violence.
All because he finally realised that his estranged mother had been responsible for the death of his wife, for the smuggling and distribution of illegal firearms, and for the most blatant of benefit scams which defrauded the government of millions. Those misdemeanours were bad enough, but what of the innocent lives who’d taken a wrong turn and been sucked into her drug trafficking and provision?
Well away from the back entrance, Ben stopped behind a large van to remove his wig, beard, hoodie and tracksuit bottoms, stashing them into his rucksack. The person who emerged was an anonymous-looking dark-haired man who had barely broken into a sweat during his mission. He strolled around the corner, feigned dismay at the growing crowd who had already gathered around the fallen woman, and disappeared into the crowd. He stood behind two indistinguishable young women.
‘I’ve just been out to get my lunch,’ the slightly taller girl said. ‘And then I get back to the front door and this sound happens behind me. I turn around and there’s my boss on the pavement, covered in blood. And she was dead!’
Her friend shook her head. ‘I know! I was only a few steps behind you. Are you sure it’s Joyce? Why would anyone kill Joyce? She’s just the sweetest and kindest…’ ‘I know. Proper old school. Very real.’
‘Does Joyce, I mean, did Joyce have a family?’
The young woman shrugged. ‘Her husband died. She just had a son, Ben, but he’s been in a mental home since he was a teenager. He was always seeing things that weren’t there, and thinking the world was out to get him. A proper uncurable headcase if you ask me, but Joyce didn’t give up hope for him. He was why she started working in mental health.’
‘Is he the next of kin?’
‘Yeah, but I don’t know how they’ll tell him the news. He broke out from his ward a couple of days back, killed two of the nurses and set fire to everything. Proper psycho, I reckon. He even raided the creative room’s dressing up box on his way out!’
The other girl mouthed ‘Wow’ and both fell silent as they watched the body of Joyce Mackenzie,founder of the charity, Mental Health Support UK, being removed from the scene and taken away in the waiting ambulance.
And Ben watched too, delighted that Mission Stage 1 was now accomplished. He wished he could have been there when the police found the paper in Joyce’s pocket. Never mind, the deed was done, and it was all for the greater good. Stage 2 next.