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Text of book

Start of page 70 in the book

Part Three

Social Life

Prologue Three 71
Blame-worthy 72
Skid Row 73
The Long Intoxicant 74
In the Greyhound 76

Cossetted Disabled 77
Christmas Music 79
Christmas of a Lonesome Ex 80
Any Old Railway Line 81
The Albion 82
Coffee-coloured World 84
Crime Resisters 85
The Cemetery at Bassan, in the Languedoc 86


Start of page 71 in the book

Prologue Three


This third group has been given the title Social Life for obvious reasons (we can rarely escape the obvious). People are forced to socialise with many they despise. We would consign them to oblivion, but still these creeps are there - such as the fraudster out on the job. But we should not despise the one on skid row. Nor the one who has swallowed the long intoxicant. We ought to sympathise with the deformed youth in the Greyhound wearing the cherry-red velvet jacket. What about the cosseted disabled? Should they be cosseted - or made to face reality?

Then comes the everlasting curse of holy Christmas, when every human hurt is brought out to be inspected and trampled on - to a smug commercial background. Yet it can be simple and good, when we joyfully sing Noel, Noel! Or it can be sad, as with the Christmas of a lonesome ex.

Some find it hard to be sociable, like Edgar walking his old railway line. Others are sociable at the football ground, following the Albion. In the long run, it's a coffee-coloured world.

Let's spare a thought for the crime resisters. We spend a lot of time on those creeps who don't resist the temptation to thieve. What about the heroes who do - and spare us all a lot of trouble?

Just to show I'm not parochial, I end up this Part in France, dwelling on how they treat their dead. (For how we treat ours see Part Fourteen.)


Start of page 72 in the book





Why you squeal does the burglar steal, the robber rob?
What, you ask, impels the exhibitionist -
or the fraudster out on the job?


What vandalizes the vandal, yobbates the yob?
Who (it's a good question) rapes the rapist -
or dopes the stupefied conscience of the mob?


Why do I drive like Jehu, when the kids are near:
disappoint the wife, insult her trying mother,
out of a frame filled with fear?


Assess the vain exhibitionist, drooping there.
What moves the fell criminal, the guilty one who cheats -
or the posing, pulsating one who's queer?


When the child molester smiles, has he no shame?
Who (again it's a good question) first conned the conman?
To whom attaches the blame?




Answers, you call for answers - very well -
I present them in order, fashioned in a cunning manufactory,
whose manufactures you've not helped to sell.


Dishonesty, better called greed, is a liking;
thieves like things you like, robbers do too:
when the system robs them (as they think), they take to taking.


Mobs know emotion, feel a fellow-feeling;
sweep and swirl along to some shared destiny:
yet care only for now, with the spirits reeling.


Exhibitionists, convinced their assets are undersold,
or possibly not valued at all, feel they must bare
every scrap of important flesh in a gesture bold.


Child molesters, what can one say of them?
Destined for the pit, due only to be scarified,
instead of love's heart, sordidly kissing its hem.


Start of page 73 in the book

Skid Row

I see from your pursed lips
you despise that inebriate
and rightly so, how rightly!


How uprightly you stand
sliding your slender hips
in virginal rebuke.


Rightly you accuse
one with nothing left
to lose is all he lives for now.


Start of page 74 in the book

The Long Intoxicant


Never speak to strangers'
- but they do -
in the street, in the pub,
they speak to strangers -
but strangers
do not speak to them.


Joseph was one of them.
With a faint white line of beard
beneath his mottled chin
thin, he addressed me in The Clarence
but I had been well brought up
and did not address him back.


Joseph then broke a glass
and was turned out
by an energetic, black-bearded youth
darting from behind the bar.
Joseph broke the glass without meaning to
- others had broken him.


If you stagger, beware:
though they made you stagger
they will have no pity,
will expel you, propel you,
out of their mind and heart
into the windy street.


Joseph staggered and was propelled:
they sold him the drink that staggered him
but still he was propelled;
he had broken, with his glass, the rule:
you must swallow the long intoxicant
but pretend always to sobriety.


Start of page 75 in the book


You're covered by the licence
whilst you pretend to sobriety;
the difficulty comes
when your capacity to pretend
falls short of your will:
it's then, says Joseph, you're turned down and out.


Start of page 76 in the book

In The Greyhound


Now I am watching a youth:
he has long hair,
and a cherry-red velvet jacket;
his jeans are light blue.


An old man is chatting him up.
He responds;
he is prepared to admit
the old exist.


For a youth
he is charitable:
why should that be
when the young are so cold to the old?


I see, now I look closely,
the youth is hump-backed.
I see, now I look more closely,
his buttocks are wasted.


Start of page 77 in the book

Cosseted Disabled

cosset, v. To fondle, caress, pet, indulge, pamper - Oxford English Dictionary.




I'm cosseted disabled, but when I was a lad
we disabled weren't cosseted - it was bad luck or God's will
depending on your point of view.


If you were disabled then, you were a cripple
with your legs in callipers, hobbling,
or blind as a bat, deaf as a post - or spastic.


You were seen as defective, deficient -
even mentally deficient if the cap fitted; or perhaps an idiot.
They didn't mind calling you that, if that's what you were.

They liked honesty, so you had to take second place
if you were disabled, it was bad luck or God's will
depending on your point of view.




Nowadays folk have gone silly over we disabled,
encouraging us to pose as abled, even giving us rights,
fostering the pretence that the legless are not so.


These postures are stupid, like the Emperor's clothes.
Where is the naive boy who will point it out
and put a stop to the cosseting conspiracy?


Let's face it, if you're damaged you're not whole;
so accept it and retire gracefully
rather than demanding changes in historic buildings.


Start of page 78 in the book


When I was a lad, seventy years ago
they wouldn't have stood for the nonsense
of denying bad luck or God's will.




They set up charities, seventy years ago,
but a cripple was still a cripple, expected
to accept that state, not deny it and pretend otherwise.


So do stop these Paralympics, races for those who can't run.
Sympathy is wasted, and turns dreadfully sour
when based on such lies and pretence.


They pity us cripples, but don't pretend we're their equals.
They run the world; not us, we're not able.
We depend on their kindness, so don't stretch our luck too far.


They were right, seventy years ago.
To be crippled is bad luck or God's will -
depending on your point of view.