George Formby: Here’s Looking at Uke, Kid!

I wrote a piece about George Formby — master of the uke and Britain’s first pop star. Why not head over to to have a read. Go on — knock uke-self out!

Image by Ian Taylor via Flickr.

We grew up on streets
lined with driveways and trees.
Quiet roads, pre-Bulger.
Often two cars per household.
Dad’s for work and family visits.
Mum’s little run-a-round
for the pop to shops to get milk and sliced bread.
Wholemeal, of course.

British. Suburban. Mostly white. Middle class.
Children of parents brought up on Lennon,
Dylan, Jagger, Atlee, Bevan –
Late Boomers advantaged with straps and supports,
sticks and incentives,
the Beveridge report.
Enriching themselves and their own bootlaces
in what would be known as the consensus of hand-outs.

Sometimes they couldn’t go the distance.
And if the explosion of acne weren’t…

Steve via Flickr.

He finds it most confusing in the evenings. At a corner where
reptile bridges
shoulder trains
snaking by
new-build pods chucked up for sleeping.
For commuters.
Some recent flood.

He sits in the once scratchy pub,
rubbing his fingers along its new smooth edge.
No longer filled with the same old team.
The hardened men, who after callused days
knocked back drinks, a tray or three. All cash in hand.
He hears echoes: ‘Taxes? Don’t make me laugh. I’ve earned it, haven’t I?’

He stares at the bridge and the trains and the flats.
At the shuffling terrace of revived houses…

Image by Mick Baker via Flickr.

Slumped in doorways.
Shuttered in our cups.
We are in crisis.

Like clapped-out lawns, all cold-snap withered.
Dull roots without the chance of spring rain,
or the possibilities of coffee on some Italian piazza.

The trees above are just as bad.
Their rhetoric hissing of venal days to come.

For some, the only way is back, retreat,
to a hall of mirrors filled with Boudica, Churchill,
and a steam engine driven roughshod across a world map coloured London bus red.

Others look up
through smug Danish-designed skylights
at foreign-named winds and clouds,
and listen out for Schiller, Ludwig van,
for the threshing of peace, an end to cheap holidays.
For the perfect time to say,
“I told you so.”

We cut our nose to spite our face.
We throw our fish back into the sea.
We don’t want to watch.
But we cannot look away.

Here is a slightly edited version of a piece I wrote for the Brixton Review of Books that was published in their Winter 2018/2019 edition.

Image of Granby Arcade/Brixton Village in 2009 by Loz Pycock via Flickr.

In her 2013 book The Entrepreneurial State, Mariana Mazzucato dissects the commonly-held view that the public sector is “sluggish” while private enterprise is “dynamic and innovative”. It is, Mazzucato claims, a perspective that could not be further from the truth. To prove this, the Italian-born economics professor examines American government investment in technologies such as GPS, voice recognition and Google’s algorithm — all, she notes, invented with support from US military and academia. …

Photo by Qasic via Flickr.

The recent addition of Agile Rabbit to 500 Degrees and Pizza Hotline means that Herne Hill now has three pizzerias just round the corner from one another.* So for the neighbourhood’s lovers of Margherita, Fiorentina and calzone, a new eating out experience presents itself — the pizza crawl!

The warm welcome of 500 Degrees is the perfect spot to start this culinary jaunt. …

Photo by Gatol via Flickr.

Above the city’s cupped hand,
fragments of stars hang,
stabbed in the sky.
A twinkling confetti that guides
chuletas cold and beggars humbled, home
to snuffed out rooms and crumpled silence.

Every early morning
cable cars sinking,
El Alto perches, beating hard its lucha drum,
coca casing the palm below,
the city’s ribs, its stock and spine,
and the social peace that is total war on tortured beans and chairo stew.

Later, working people pack and cram
busetas surrounded on all sides
by la paz, the heavy price
of what once was and what remains: a residue of butlers, maids,
faceless servants, shoe-shines shamed

Photo Ivan Lozano Acuna via Flickr.

Your stained glass. Your leaded panels.
An ensemble not just thrown together.
Your upholstered eyes. Your smiling shining, saying:
Vamos, let’s go make some ecstatic new diptych.’

But we have not got far
when your hand slows,
windmills away, signals instead
some Gothic detour,
a sharpened past of jilted pews and fettered aisles
converging on El Papa’s apse,
a father soaked in propriedad.
Your mother, too, and La Madre
are inside, listening hard,
stifling your every delicious moan.

You mutter puta and turn away.
You bang the wall, run your fingers hard
‘cross its bumpy plane
as if searching out some kind of…

Photo by Jared Yeh via Flickr.

Colombia is Colombia, a dog on the make,
putting on sad eyes, a sympathetic face,
lazing on the doorstep, tail wagging as it takes
a portion, some redistribution.
A tourist’s soft hand filled with hard northern currency.

Colombia is Colombia, the warmest of welcomes,
wide golden arms that say, “Thank you for coming”,
shattered teeth beaming that their house was chosen,
a bench of con gusto, arepa, tostones.
A chocolate con queso that wishes you weren’t going.

Colombia is Colombia, a torn paper cloud of tumbling nimbus,
ridges glued down, ripped velvet peaks,
the rich corderilla wrapped tight under spikes,
invincible light.
An epic…

Ring Nebula Bokeh by Jah

Track A7: Jan Ashton “Cold Dreary Morning”

There must be beauty in all this ugliness.
(Although bugger me if I can see it now.)
Just as there is hate in every spring.
Just as hope breathes cheek by jowl with death.
And the stomach settles between rounds of vomiting.

So if dreams can breed in prison cells.
Just as the wolf will lie with the lamb.
And if flowers bloom in the depths of a mine shaft.
And even in the deepest suffering, fists clench in determination.
Then perhaps somewhere in all this hideousness, our grief might bear us gifts.

Bruno Diaz

Poetry, prose, research. “My father still reads the dictionary every day. He says your life depends on mastering words.”

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