007 – Johnson Junior

baby in blue blanket
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Johnson Junior

Hold the front page – have we got some news
Put target concerns far away
Hard to believe – trust us it’s true
A baby was born here today 

I’m raising a glass to the talented lad
He’s clearly remarkably clever
He’s got into Eton, and oxford as well
Proof that we’re in this together 

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2020

006 – They’ve Already Unlocked

key with trinket in shabby door
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They’ve Already Unlocked

Our leaders have claimed that five tests must be met 
For the lockdown criteria to ease
Well not for the first time, they’re missing the mood
And the trust placed in their expertise 

I visited Aldi to forage for food
My trust in our people was shaken
No queues at the door, no controls in or out
Behaviours of old were awakened 

The queues outside DIY shops set the tone
When that wasn’t challenged or blocked
It made it ok to stop following rules 
So they’ve already gone and unlocked. 

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2020

005 – Johnson Returns

cheerful asian man raising arms in excitement on sunny street
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Johnson Returns

Revel, rejoice, in his resurrection 
A miracle for our troubled age
Alexander, escaped from Hades’ clenches
To bring forth guidance wise and sage 

Proudly proclaiming that as citizens all 
We are ‘Looking at our apparent success’
Although just how he comes to measure that
Is as usual, anyone’s guess

The chasm between reality and spin
Too wide for Knievel to bridge
Let alone a buffoon who’s standard response
Is to run off and hide in a fridge.

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2020

004 – In the Queue at B&Q

group of men forming a libe
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In the Queue at B&Q

Commitment to lockdown is waning
And it’s not hard to see why that’s true
As half of us just like complaining 
And half still aren’t clear what to do

The lack of clear guidance is telling
Business actions remain unopposed
And I find myself silently yelling
Why the fuck isn’t B&Q closed

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2020

003 – Two Meters

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Two Meters 

The permissible walk in the sun can be fun
Chance to bask in the wonders abound
Trees bursting forth with nature’s blooming beauty
Embracing excursions with wondrous surround

The chance to escape confinements of home
Breathing deep, life affirming air
And the nodding of meaningful glances 
With those who you meet while out there 

Yet persistently nagging while you savour your kingdom
‘Spite the wonder of all nature’s features
Is the voice in your head, to all whom you pass
Shouting ‘back off – that’s never two metres!’

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2020

002 -Blossoming Beauty Sublime

pink petaled flowers blooming during daytime
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Blossoming Beauty Sublime

My guess it’s always been like this
Without fail, at this time of the year
That the trees that surround us transform
As their rich wondrous budding appears

I’m guessing I’ve been too distracted
Too engrossed in the woes of my times
To notice the towering splendour
Of the blossoming beauty sublime

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2020

Who Will have Lost, Who Will Have Won?

Picture the scene – it’s two days before the 2019 General Election – never has more been at stake, at least not in my lifetime, and a man steps up to the microphone to speak in front of a crowded room…

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Thanks to Scribal Gathering for the gig, thanks to the delightful Caz Tricks for the filming, the shushing and the general gobby agreement. Obviously things didn’t go quite as we’d hoped, but two years on, looking back, there’s not much that I wouldn’t say again in just the same way.

I Can’t Offer You Any Advice

12:53 on a warm Tuesday lunchtime
Tripping down memory lane
In Bletchley Topdiner, Sister and I
Slurping ice cream floats once again

Allowing the taste to awaken our memories
Thinking of childhood affairs
And that’s when the phone rings, the bank want to talk
Which is odd, as we’re on our way there

‘Ah yes!’ I proclaim, with a warm friendly tone
‘We’re due in to see you at one’
Which I added was only seven short minutes away
So I asked if something had gone wrong

I wondered why you wanted an executors account
Asked the voice on the end of the phone
Your bereavement team told me I ought to
Is there something that I should have known?

I’m not at all sure why you’d want one you see
So I wanted to ask just in case

But we’re due in to see you in six minutes time
Can we possibly discuss face to face?

The phone voice agrees that that would be ok
And I hang up and pay for our food
Unaware of the trials that will fill our next hours
As we struggle to maintain our moods.

A few minutes walk and we’re there at the branch
We’re here to see ‘name withheld’
She smiled and came over and ushered us in
As my spidey senses failed to be quelled 

I’ve not ever done one of these, she opines
And I’m really not sure why you would
And not for the first time and not for the last
We explain that they told us we should

Why don’t you just want a current account
What would be wrong about that?

And we’re clutching at straws as to what we should choose
And it’s starting to smell like a rat

You won’t get a card or a cheque book you see
With an executors account

So how would we get money out once it’s in?
‘I don’t know’ left us shrouded in doubt

Would we be better with a current account?
A reasonable question I’d say
I’m sorry but I can’t offer you any advice
You’ll have to choose your own way

I don’t know anything about them you see
But your bereavement team certainly do
And they’ve said that’s what we should get for ourselves
So that’s what we’re expecting to do

I’m going to turn on a voice recorder now
She said with obvious pride
So we’ve got a record of whatever we say
In a way that can’t be denied

So you want an executors account? She said next
Without a cheque book or card
We don’t know what we want any more
We weren’t expecting it to be this hard

What’s the difference between the two accounts
And why should we choose either one?
Well I’m afraid I can’t offer you advice you see
So you’re on your own on that one

Just hold it there, I don’t want your advice
But I do want some info, I shout
You’ve told me the account I was told that I need
Can’t be used to take anything out

Why do you want an executors account?
She asked again with brow raised
Because your bereavement team advised us to
As I began to feel even more dazed

I’ve never done one of these accounts before
Though I’ve been here since 92
So I wanted to know why you wouldn’t just want
A current account that’s easy to do

The thought that her not understanding it 
Might not be reason for us to change
Did not seem for even an instant
To seem to her a little strange

We have some cheques in his name which we’d like to pay in
Could we do that with either account?
Though they’re not really all that important 
As they’re only for tiny amounts

Well if you’ve got cheques in his name then I can tell you you’ll need
An executors account you can use 
But we’re not sure what the implications are now
So we’re not yet ready to choose

They’re just for a tiny amount, we repeat
So we’ll happily go either way
What’s the differences between the two accounts
I can’t offer you any advice I’m afraid 

My colleague has done lots of these before
Although she finishes at one
She has, but you haven’t, I enquire with a sigh
As the time is now 1:21

The colleague appears, and I feel some relief
As she instantly takes full control
An executors account is the right way to go
And we’re finally on some sort of roll

Name withheld reads out leaflets and websites aloud 
And shouts out to claim with some glee
You can have a chequebook with an executors account
So you can get your money out – see

I still don’t see why you’d have an executors account
She offers once more without thought
As she clearly knows nothing of what it entails
Her advice wouldn’t ever be sought

The next stage is odd, an understatement at best 
Going through motions at will
None of which serves any purpose at all
But we’re going to go through each step still. 

Signing me up for a current account
Reading out terms and agreeing
For the debit card, overdraft and internet banking
That we’ve established that I won’t be seeing

Then cancelling all of those bits they’ve just added
And adding my Sister too
Reading out terms and agreeing again
Even though we knew none of it was true

Then finally converting to an executors account
More terms and agreements again
But finally having completed the setup
I found a sense of relief from the pain 

If there’s anything else we can do, let us know
Name withheld asks, with no irony shown
And I bite on my lip to avoid being rude
And stifle an audible groan

I still don’t understand why you’d have an executors account
Name withheld said as we walked by
Well I’ve now got an executors account
Although I still don’t really understand why

I’m making light of it now and all of the frustrations it bought
Grateful that some time has passed
Were things more recent and raw since his death
Someone would maybe have been glassed

When they wonder why they don’t do many of these
My answer is easy to believe 
They clearly just send them to dear name withheld
And she frustrates them until they just leave.  

(c) Michael Gurner – July 2019

The 6:23am to Glasgow Central

Looming large through the early morning mist
The 6:23am to Glasgow Central 
Half-filled with the less than half-awake
Pulls in to platform 5

I take my seat and my ritual begins without thought
Case – up above, jacket – to my side
Ipad to the left, phones to the right
headphones plugged in to the ipad and my ears in turn.

Something is not right
Millions of years of evolution
Tells me instinctively that something is out of place
Though it is not clear at this stage what that is.

It takes me a minute, maybe two
To work out that, whatever it is, it’s something 
To do with the man in his fifties, sitting three seats up 
and the other side of the aisle

My eyes scan him briefly
His double denim apparel
His streaked silver hair 
His eyes, tired and bloodshot

But tired and bloodshot eyes do not make someone standout
Not even double denim
You have to remember that this is
The 6:23am to Glasgow Central

It’s not clear what I’m looking for
This isn’t a rational review 
My eyes scan him as thoroughly as they can
While still avoiding eye contact – I’m English after all

And then I see it – there on the table
White painted metal
Tall, slender, with hints of green
And flashbacks to less controlled times

And slowly it comes properly into focus
Slimline gin and tonic
In a can
On the 6:23am to Glasgow central

There’s a certain defiance – arrogance maybe
No attempt to hide
And I can’t work out whether that’s good or bad 
Whether I should applaud or condemn

There are other questions
Dancing around my mind 
Such as how do I recognise 
That shape so well

What does it say about me 
That I’m judging his beverage
As I pull at the ringpull
Of one my own many addictions

Knowing that, were the train 
To be going in a different direction
Albeit a few hours later
Those slender cans might be on my table

Why do I feel so smug
At his drinking slimline gin and tonic on the 6:23 am to Glasgow Central
When I would quite happily drink slimline gin and tonic on
The 3:17pm to London Euston

And I’m left with a single, disturbing thought. 
Do those eight hours
And fifty four minutes
Really make such a difference?

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2019

Life and Death in Our Hands

I remember that Saturday 
Bletchley – Queensway 
My memories of the street,
Hazy through the mists of decades of time
But the memories of that conversation
As clear as the wrinkles that now adorn this face of mine

We stood together, hand in hand
Father and son
Outside the post office 
Man and boy. As one.  
But then you leant your head towards mine 
And gently told
That I – Your son, 
Might be too old
For my hand to be in yours.

I have no idea what that felt like for you
And how or if you prepared
But at seven or eight years young 
I felt a little scared 
I felt a little hurt
I felt more than a little confused
But oddly grown up
Those big hands would no longer keep mine safe between them. 
Their warmth would no longer warm mine
But there was a sense of acceptance. 
This is what we did now.
Whether I was ready or not.  

Ours was not a touchy feely relationship 
You were not a touchy feely man
For thirty years,
As boy and man
As youth and man
As man and man
We barely touched
Except to shake hands 
Until the cancer came
As you slept in the hospital bed
I held your hand.
But only while you slept. 
When you came home, we hugged. 
And it was clumsy
And truth be told
It always stayed pretty clumsy
But it was still a hug
And it was our hug.  
There was a sense of acceptance
This is what we did now
Whether you were ready or not.  

Ten hugging years and then  
Sadly you got ill again
I sit by your hospital bed once more
Your hand in mine for days on end 
And your hand most definitely holding mine back
And there was a sense of acceptance
That this is what we did now
And that we’re both ready for it.  

I kissed your forehead
Warm against my lips
And said goodbye
That I would see you in the morning 
For what I thought may turn out to be the last time

It wasn’t to be 
Within the hour, the call came
We think he’s gone – the lack of certainty quite in keeping with recent days
I arrived and saw you.
Still. 
I sat and held your hand
As I had done so many times in recent weeks
For the next hour
Maybe two 

That’s when it strikes me
Should your hand still be
So warm
I reach over
And touch your other hand
It is cold.  

Just as your hand, all those years ago, 
provided warmth and safety to mine
Until I was ready to let go
So the warmth of my hand
Brought warmth to your hand 
As your body chilled around it
Until I was ready to let go once more. 

And then
It is time
I kiss your forehead
Now cold against my lips
And finally, let your hand go
A sense of acceptance
That this is what I must do now
Whether I am ready or not.

(c) Michael Gurner – February 2019