Captain’s Log 08/06/19 12:33
I’ve just got off the bus in Moss Side. I’m on my way to deliver the poems for The Specialist, Nigel and Mikela. In true Manchester fashion, it’s absolutely whazzing it down. I stood in a huge puddle on the way here and it’s about 12 degrees. But it’s hardly rained in the whole time I’ve been doing this, I feel like I’ve been quite lucky so far.
I’m heading to The Specialist’s house. I walk up Quinney Crescent, through the gate and knock on the door. A young lad of about seventeen answers with a baseball cap and big headphones. I explain why I’m here and he shouts upstairs, then wanders off. After a minute or so, The Specialist comes down in a grey dressing gown.
I’m worried this might not be a good time, but he seems pleased to see me. He goes to get his phone so he can film me reading the poem out, the same as he did last time. Once I’m finished, I hand him a copy.
“This is freestyle, you know what freestyle means?” he asks. I tell him I’m not sure, because I thought it meant making things up on the spot. “No, I mean the true meaning of the word freestyle,” he explains. “The way you’re approaching people in the street, it’s like stopping your gran in the road and asking her if she could do a dance. And then she says, ‘OK, but only if you have ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ by Elvis Presley.’ So you start looking through your phone and then…” He proceeds to do a little dance on the doorstep, wiggling his hips and shaking his arms around.
I think it’s fair to say The Specialist is a bit of an eccentric. But I admire anyone who can do a dance on the doorstep in the rain. And, considering what led me here in the first place, I’m not really one to judge people on eccentricity.
He tells me he feels like the poem could be a film, that it could be an animation. This is really interesting, with the funding I’ve got from the Arts Council, this is something I can actually make happen. I tell him I’ll give it a go.
We start to make our goodbyes.
“I’m really pleased I was in when you came round,” he says. We shake hands and I head off.
Tea with the Time Traveller
I was in the house the other day, just hoovering the floor,
when this 18th century time traveller came knocking at the door.
White curly hair, a cocked hat, a tailcoat long and purple,
a frilly shirt and stockings like The Scarlet Pimpernel.
He said his time machine had broke, he needed some assistance,
could he come in and see the toolbox, and would I help him fix it?
I said: “I’m sorry to let you down like, but we’ve never met before
and I’ve just spilt a load of Quavers on the living room floor.”
He said: “Please sir, I’m begging you, I’ve made a huge mistake,
I came here to view the wonders of the future human race,
I thought I’d find utopia, all creatures would be free,
but this world seems more unequal than 1783.
The rich are so much greedier, the hungry so much more so,
the towers are so dirty and no one says hello
and when I ran back to my time machine to try and ride it home
some youths were running round it and pelting it with stones.”
I said: “It’s nowt to do with me mate, no one can help you here,
I’ve got a load of crisps to pick up and I’m not an engineer.”
He seemed to get the message, but as he turned around,
I glimpsed his desperate face, the way his head went drooping down.
I said: “Hang on, wait, I’m sorry, maybe I’ve been a little cruel.
Why don’t you come in and I’ll see what I can do?”
So I led him down the hallway into the living space,
and he gazed around in wonder at the gadgets of our age.
He picked up the remote and I was going to make some tea
when he pulled off his wig and cried: “We knew it! We knew you had a telly!
We’ve got you now Mr McCabe, no one escapes our plans!”
And that’s how I got busted by the TV licence man.
I’m walking over to Nigel’s house. Unfortunately, he’s sent me a message to say that something’s came up and it would be better if I post the poem instead. It’s a shame, I was looking forward to seeing him. But he seemed like such a friendly, thoughtful bloke– I’m sure if there was any way he could meet me again, he would.
I should probably confess that I found writing this poem for Nigel quite difficult. When I asked him what was important to him, he said Brexit and explained that he really wished the government would hurry up and get us out of the EU so the country could get on with doing what it should be doing. As someone who voted remain, I was struggling to find a way into the subject.
But after a while, I realised the most important thing to me about meeting Nigel was that we had so much in common. In fact, I never would have assumed I could have seen eye to eye with a leave voter on so many of the issues we talked about. When I asked him what Britain should be getting on with, he said we need to be standing up to Donald Trump, something which I think is pretty apt, considering his plans to buy up the NHS post-Brexit.
By pure coincidence, the very first chance I got to write Nigel’s poem turned out to be the day of a massive rally in London to protest against Trump’s state visit. At 6am on the 4th of June, I got a coach down there and stood with 75,000 other people near Trafalgar Square (an event which Trump later tried to claim was a celebration in his honour). I didn’t want to focus on the things that divided us, it seemed much more important to acknowledge what brought us together, so this is what I wrote Nigel’s poem about.
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
I kept hearing that there would be “massive” rallies against me in the UK, but it was quite the opposite. The big crowds, which the Corrupt Media hates to show, were those that gathered in support of the USA and me. They were big & enthusiastic as opposed to the organized flops!
The State Visit
Hey there Mr Trump,
look out the palace window!
There’s eighty thousand British folk here
gathered down below.
We’ve got pointy sticks and pitchforks,
see the way we wave them?
Yes, we’re here for your state visit,
it’s a kind of… celebration.
Can you hear that frantic drumming?
Those battle klaxons too?
We’ve got people stood on stages
making speeches about you.
See the placards that we’re holding up,
the pictures of your face?
Just ignore that one there
where your face is painted as an anus.
You’ll always find some troublemakers
anywhere, of course.
But, by and large,
we’re really only here to lend support.
Sure, we’re chanting, jeering, booing,
sticking fingers in the air,
but that’s just the classic British way
of showing that we care.
Look, someone’s made a sculpture of you,
they’re raising it up high!
A crowd are standing round it…
they’re setting it on fire.
But don’t take that to heart,
it just means you’re one of us.
We do it on Guy Fawkes Night,
a bit of harmless fun.
What’s that banging at the door?
Only your adoring fans!
They can’t help themselves you see,
you’re such a special man.
Why don’t you open up?
Oops, never mind, it’s just fell down.
Hey, what you running off for?
We’ve only just come round!
Don’t be scared by all the smashing,
we’re just so pleased to see you.
Oh, you’re heading for the rooftop!
Why don’t we come up too?
Is that your helicopter?
Are you really going then?
Ah well, take care, all the best,
and do come back again.
I’m outside Mikela’s house. When I knock on the door, a young lady answers and, for a minute, I think it’s her. But I realise it’s possibly an older daughter, one I didn’t meet last time. She tells me Mikela’s busy, so I post one of my ‘Sorry I Missed You’ cards through the letterbox and decide to try tomorrow.
Captain’s Log 09/10/19 12:44
No answer at Mikela’s. I stick the poem through the door and hop on a bus to Victoria Station, to catch my train back to Newcastle.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. But I remind myself that, when I went around the North East doing this, it wasn’t unusual for one or two people to be unavailable. This isn’t the most important thing in everyone’s life.
I hope Mikela likes the poem though. I know she’s a fan of The Mummy films and she’s thinking a lot about her wedding too, I’d be happy if it brought a smile to her face.
I’ve still had such a special time in Moss Side. Writing the poems has been a great opportunity to be a bit playful. And I feel like the conversations I’ve had have taught me a lot about myself. Meeting Nigel has really made me think about the way I prejudge people who voted for Brexit, about the issues which I assume are important to them.
As we drive into the city centre, I remember how uncertain and potentially dangerous Moss Side seemed when I first visited. Now, as I watch it disappear through the back window of the bus, my only regret is that I can’t spent a bit more time here.
Love is Undead
Way down deep in the heart of ancient Egypt,
in the pyramid of Giza, where the pharaohs souls are carried,
beneath the desert sands, in a candlelit crypt,
there’s a party going on because The Mummy’s getting married.
The Mummy’s getting married,
he’s found a mummy wife,
he’s got a lady mummy
to brighten up his life.
The ghosts have gathered in their hoards to mark the special day,
they’ve made streamers from intestines, blown up bladders for balloons,
the buffet is tongue sandwiches and eyeball canapés
and the smell of fresh brain cake is filling up the room.
The Mummy’s getting married,
they’re going to tie the knot,
it won’t be very hard because
they’re wrapped in strips of cloth.
The vicar is a man with a feathered falcon’s head,
The Mummy’s at the alter standing nervously before him,
as the bride walks down the aisle in a veil made out of cobwebs,
‘Walk like an Egyptian’ starts playing on the organ.
The Mummy’s getting married,
the atmosphere’s terrific,
they’ve wrote their own vows
They have their first kiss, the ghouls give out a cheer,
they boogie through the night while the living lie in bed
and everyone agrees that they’ve got nothing to fear:
Romance lasts forever when love is undead.
I’m currently touring a show all about the beginnings of the project. To find out more, click here.