Exclusive: The Mad Gardener’s Song, new verses

Well I never.

Upon a walk in January I looked over by a loch, and saw peeking from a rock, these titled verses do not mock, my weary eyes did flock. Preserved a million or more tick-tock, in an oak box upon them I knock-knock. Its wood gave up the ghost and its contents I did clock, I swear upon the dock.

But here is the thing, there were seven additional stanzas not detailed in any extant publication.

I did consider I would make myself a small fortune and auction them off to the highest bidding Lewis Carroll aficionado but there was all a bother of authenticity and provenance and all that argy-bargy rigmarole. Not enough just to take my word for it apparently.

So I thought I would share with the world and make not a penny from my find. That’s the kind of person I am.

The established version of The Mad Gardener’s Song starts with this stanza

He thought he saw an Elephant
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
‘At length I realize,’ he said,
‘The bitterness of Life!’

If you are not familiar or just want to remind yourself of it then the rest is here.

And now without any further fanfare or ado are the extra verses in the sequence of which I faithfully recorded them. Marvel too at the technological propheticness of one stanza.

 

He thought he saw a racing horse

Distracted with a pipe.

He looked again and found it was

A gurning butler’s gripe.

‘At length I realize’ he said,

‘The fitfulness of Skype’.

 

He thought he saw a magistrate

Bewildered by a goose.

He looked again and found it was

A spinster on the loose.

‘It really must be said’ he said,

‘That really is obtuse’.

 

He thought he saw a carpenter

A louche giraffe rebuke.

He looked again and found it was

A lone reclusive Duke.

‘Well I never’ he softly said,

‘He’s come out from his nook.’

 

He thought he saw a mannequin

A customer offend.

He looked again and found it was

A sermon without end.

‘It really ought to stop’ he said,

‘My ways I will not mend’.

 

He thought he saw a publican

A bath of tea did soak.

He looked again and found it was

A man expelled from Stoke.*

‘It is true what they say’ he said,

‘There’s nowt as queer as folk’.

 

He thought he saw a Débutante

Practising long her sigh.

He looked again and found it was

A trampolining spy.

‘To make some sense of this’ he said,

”I guess he thinks he’s sly’.

 

He thought he saw a Naturist

Defiant on the moon.

He looked again and found it was

A yodelling baboon.

‘The way now of the world’ he said,

‘This life is out of tune’.

 

* Here the writing of ‘from’ was difficult to read and it might have read ‘to’ – ‘A man expelled to Stoke’ is equally plausible.

Lewis Carroll was wont to travel widely around the world and even greater wont to leave and lose pages of his work as he went. He never talked about it as as well as causing him great anguish it caused him great embarrassment too. But this does mean you yourselves may find the odd stanza of his floating around your neighbourhood including surprisingly likely verses from this poem.

If you do then please share in the comments below. Such a venture will help bring his long, long work together, and comprehensively this compendium compile.

——-

2.4.2013 – Poem without blog content published to Wattpad.

Aunts and Uncles

On New Years Day one of my Aunts died. Or passed away as it is more usually softly called.

My relationship with this Aunt was not close. In latter years I would never visit, at most send her and her husband (my mother’s brother) a Christmas Card. We did live hundreds of miles apart but this was not the reason for the distance between us. This description could apply to nearly all my aunts and uncles, whatever the geographical space separating us.

I do have fondness towards my aunts and uncles. But ‘fondness’ though a warm word is not as warm as ‘affection’ let alone ‘love’.

I have nieces and nephews myself whom I love and love spending time with. I did not get much nephew time with my own aunts and uncles. And wonder why.

Most of my aunts and uncles have children of their own and I do not. Perhaps then this is why I am able to spend more uncle-time as I have no father-time with sons and daughters to consume my love, time, energy, affection.

But I have an aunt and uncle who do not have children and did not spend too much time with them either.

The distance between us may be related to the geographical miles between us. Certainly with social media, and Facebook in particular, I am able to keep in a more constant contact with my nieces and nephews than if we did not have this access – I live in Scotland and have one set of nieces and nephews in London England and another on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Had their been social media in the decades I was born and schooled in (the 1960’s and 1970’s) perhaps this would have held those avuncular and – what is the equivalent for aunt?! – bonds together.

But if I think about it the most likely reason for our emotional distance are the relationships between those aunts and uncles and my own mother and father. Their own sibling rivalries which ebbed and flowed over the years. Nevermind the added in-law dimension.

As children our adult relationships are naturally siphoned and routed through our parents. And so if they are not getting along with one of their own adult relatives then quite likely we children are not going to be allowed to get along with those adult relatives either.

Husbands and wives can get divorced. Brothers and sisters as adults are not so required but in all but name and legal statute they can be too.

I opened by noting that I was out of the habit in recent years of visiting my aunts and uncles. Sadly there is one event that remains a notable exception that will always bring most of us together again. A funeral.

And with age they occur more often. They become less shocking and grievous and more resigned to and contemplative. And we resume our conversations with each other. Some polite small talk, even more nostalgia and sometimes we go deeper too. We usually end by promising to keep in touch. And then we don’t….until the next funeral.

I close with a photograph featuring my recently departed aunt (we are at our most euphemistic with death – the one area we are perhaps even more euphemistic about is a bit of what you fancy?!). The photograph is the wedding of another of my aunts and uncles but one of the few I possess with her in. It is the after-reception you are seeing.

Family Wedding photoMy mum’s parents are in there and so is my mum but I am not telling you which. You are free to guess! My dad is in there too but has stood behind someone taller and only the hair of his head can be seen. I don’t know whether this was his intention! The photo is filled up with other aunts and uncles too.

There are a number in this photograph I do not recognize which I think is typical of old family wedding photos. I am presuming/hoping those unknown to me are all friends of various family members and not family members who I cannot make sense of in their younger state!

They are stood outside the home of my grandparents.

Previously published

When I started this blog much of my writing was opinion pieces – some politics but mainly reviews of TV, music, art, fashion and other categories too numerous to mention – I did not know much what to expect but knew enough about how the web and search engines worked that much of the traffic I was going to get would be based on the subject of my reviews not for the quality of my writing. And so it proved to be. Some of my most popular posts have not been ones I thought were my best, in turn some of my posts that I was most pleased with sank unseen.

I did not mind. Most importantly for me I was writing and writing regularly. And occasionally I was getting encouraging feedback.

Earlier this year I decided to try some fiction too.  I was wanting to do it but was aware that having regularly posted review-type posts I may lose the interest of those that had followed me for that.

Nevertheless this same group of subbers provided me a guaranteed if unwitting audience and I was sure I would get some feedback – unless it proved too horrible and then a diplomatic silence! Well I did get some feedback and it was encouraging.

However search engines bringing new traffic and readers I was less hopeful about – the nature of fiction is that it is messy and fuzzy and all of those non-categorizable things and so I was not expecting my poems and flash fiction to get as many hits as my reviews of The Jelly Fox or The Wolf Is Getting Married which have both had over a thousand hits. And so it proved to be.

The general audience pattern of my fiction is initial hits within the first 24-48 hours as regular subbers give it the look over, a very few of them hitting the Like button, and a few comments too. Then pretty much that is it – the odd trickle of single views appearing over the subsequent weeks and months.

Incidentally if you don’t know this already as well as being able to see your whole blog traffic for the last day, week, month, and longer, you can also see the complete history of traffic for any individual post. It can be edifying viewing!

The small feedback I did get was though insightful and gave me confidence in those posts (and caution about the posts where there was silence). It gave me the confidence indeed to want to submit them to journals and competitions.

One such post whom I can not name – very cloak and dagger! – all will be revealed (or not revealed!) shortly – I decided I would submit to a short story competition for Writers’ Forum. Writers’ Forum are a British based print and online writing journal and each month run a Short Story and Poetry competition. Nothing remarkable about this – many journals do. You can use sites like Duotrope who list many – not just for competition entry but for journal publication too. Or you can just use a search engine and be inundated and perhaps overwhelmed by all the options available to you.

This particular competition was a fee one – £6 – with a first prize of £300 second £150 and third £100 – not life-changing amounts to be sure but not to be sniffed at either. And they can build up your profile too. For this particular competition they even offer to critique your submissions – for an extra fee, naturally!

More importantly if you win a prize you can call yourself not just a Writer but a Professional Writer and that’s the end of that, no arguments!

This competition required writing between 1000 and 3000 words and my post was somewhere bang in the middle. So there I was happily reformatting my blog post as per their competition requirements – double-spacing, wide-margins – when I thought I should perhaps give the Terms and Conditions the once-over and there it was

All entries must be original and previously unpublished

– this includes newspapers, magazines, books and websites.

Publication on private online forums that are password-protected

and in private letters and emails does not count.

So even though the post in question has made me not a penny and has but double-digit viewing it counts as published and can make me not a penny more nevermind £300.

I was not going to be perturbed though. They would never have likely even heard of my blog-site let alone this short-story post, right?

But I thought I would type into Google a few lines from it as figure this is something they would likely do too and lo and behold it showed up on Google’s first page – yikes!

So I thought I would mark it private. This particular post received 9 Likes and 3 Comments and to all concerned I thank you. The post has not been removed just hidden!

It would disappear from Google eventually surely – I know that Google can make back-up copies of content but in terms of the original it would become unindexed. I hoped.

I only marked the post private a few days back and it is still listed on Google Page One so I will keep revisiting. But if it should not disappear?

Now I am not putting all my apples in the proverbial one basket. I intend to submit to many journals and competitions, the same entry multiple times too. Rejection I care not! I do not expect everyone who reads my prose to like my writing and same expectation applies to magazine editors and prize jurors too. If not for you, then someone else, and on.

And it is not just money that I am seeking for my writing, it is for increased profile  – for my writing that is, not me. I want my writing to be as read as widely as possible. It is not for me to say how high a profile my writing deserves but I do know that simply self-publishing it on a blog is not enough. It can get too easily overlooked, irrespective of its quality. I need to go out and pro-actively tout it too.

And I am aware that some journals and competitions do not have this stipulation about previous publication – and yet others that do but allow blogs. There are no standard terms and conditions in these things. But equally I do not want to limit my options in this regard either.

So if I cannot make my current blog fiction elude the all-seeing Google eye then none of my future fiction will be self-published on my blog. It will be typed on my Mac as per but then reside hidden away in a private file awaiting its life being endlessly entered in competitions and journals.

This does not mean the end of my blog I should add. Though fiction is the writing that gives me most pleasure its particular well is not as yielding to me as non-fiction or opinion-piece writing. And that type of writing will continue – I hope! – on this blog.

This post is as much to clear my head about my current writing plans but I also thought it was worth a share as some of you reading this may also be happily publishing your fiction on your own blogs unaware that it may limit your options to submit it for paid publication at a later date.

A Sculpture

Foundry Statue Morrisons CloseThis above sculpture may or may not be particularly noteworthy to you.

But the location may be. It is for me. For it is situated on a traffic roundabout, and not even a particularly busy traffic roundabout rather one that is mostly passed by shoppers on their way to and from a grocery supermarket, or to get their vehicles filled up with petrol or diesel, or even washed.

Sculpture MorrisonsOn the other hand perhaps it is a good way of this sculpture getting attention to itself as likely most shoppers are creatures of habit and will be passing by this roundabout and thus sculpture on a regular and frequent basis. At some point their curiosity must get the better of them, even the most resolutely art-unimpressed of them, to wander over from their parked vehicles and take a look at it? Certainly this was the case with me.

I thought it fitting to take round about pictures of this roundabout sculpture! Here’s another one.

Morrison's Supermarket Sculpture I took these photos on 12.12.12 but I am making no significance of that – am not going to tag this post so and attract ‘those types’ to my blog! – but you can see it was a frosty winter-day and it gave an added other-worldly dimension to the setting I felt.

At first I tried to get pictures without traffic but traffic proved to be quite persistent in that regard – who would have thought in the middle of the day outside a supermarket carpark! – and in the end relented thinking the pictures are more realistic with the presence of a constant stream of traffic. Though perhaps the presence of a strange man at that time of the day taking photographs of said sculpture triggered their interest and attention much more than the sculpture would have otherwise done!

Sculpture Morrisons Car WashI did not just want to photograph and share it with you though, I wanted to find out more details about it and its creator/s hopefully by way of a plaque – but as I closed up on it there was  no plaque to be discovered – a sculpture with no name and no sculptor giving their name to it, this only piqued my interest more.

Morrisons Sculpture Close Up

I could see that it was representing a foundry with an industrial type bucket pouring molten steel – its usual industrial process diverted from railway switches and crossings instead suspended in time and motion. So perhaps this was the site of a previous industry on this now retail space?

I say retail space as the plan is to extend into a retail park – currently though it is just that supermarket and a drive-by fast food chain (Okay McDonalds, which aside I learn is the third busiest branch in the UK – we are but a smallish town of thirty or so thousand so what does that say about our health!) but there is an area of land nearby fenced off with hoarding waiting for new tenants and it is named the Foundry Retail Park.

This would be my next move to check out their business site and see if they had any further details as to this work.

What I should add is that this supermarket – admire how I am steadfastly not naming it remaining commercially pure despite it being quite clear from the photographs to any of you familiar with it or indeed not familiar with it seeing as the name appears in a few of the photos! – only opened last year, 2011, and the sculpture followed shortly after.

The developers of this land are known as Carillon-Richardson (two separate companies in a business marriage) but the details they provide are sketchy – literally! – including plans and work-in-progress photos of the supermarket build but which then terminate unfinished in July 2011.

Carillon Richardson Bathgate Development Aerial Shot

I then discovered a website for a graphic design consultancy To The Point who are responsible for the branding for this retail park and in a blog post of September 27 they detail that the site is indeed built upon the site of an old foundry – Balbardie Steel Foundry.

This foundry having many owners the latter being  Balfour Beatty and was closed in 2009 according to the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland which includes 72 digital images of the site including this!

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

The sculpture had a previous life, but was this life its first life?

And still no details of its provenance. By the way if you like photographs of derelict industrial spaces (as I do!) then there are many colour and black-and-white photographs to feast yourselves upon in this collection including another of this sculpture but that is just it, it keeps being referred to generically as a ‘sculpture’.

I did discover that the steelworks itself was originally opened in 1907 so spanned a full-century before being laid-to-rest (business actually relocated to nearby Queensferry) and there is much detail of its history and main industries undertaken, but no reference to the sculpture. The mystery remains. But in these Internet times there can be no mysteries, can there?!

Keech Furnace Technologies

KFC Foundry Website Images

Well the web did allow me to establish that a South African company Keech Furnace Technology had this listed as one of their previous works as Balbardie Steel Foundry Germiston. Known by their abbreviation, KFT specialise in the design, production and service of electric arc furnaces. They were founded in 1978 so could they have undertaken this sculpture? If so there is no detail on their website.

Credit to the supermarket whose sculpture this sits in front of, okay I relent, Morrisons!, who have commissioned a number of statues situated in front of their other stores such as the two featured below. The first for a Tyneside store, the second a Leyland store.

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Leyland Motors Sculpture

Leyland Motors Sculpture by Stephen Charnock

They though both have information, about their work and their creators.

The sculpture the star of this post remains though a mystery, to me and it seems to the Internet.

To you?

Foundry Sculpture Bathgate

Lost in the woods

Easton Bing towards Glasgow RoadIn London (and I presume in other populous cities) before you can become a licensed taxi driver you have to be tested comprehensively to demonstrate you extensively know your city – or at least its streets that most quickly (if not most cheaply!) take you from the proverbial A to proverbial B. It is known as acquiring The Knowledge.

I don’t live in a city but a town, and usually when I travel I do so in my car, passing through my surroundings in a bubble of air-conditioning, warmth and music. I am paying attention to the road, at least subconsciously, and very little heed to the people and places passing me by. Additionally I am likely driving the same tested and trusted routes to my usual destinations.

Of late though out of a desire to add some healthy routine to my sedentary lifestyle I have begun walking. I had tried returning to mid-distance running of my teenage years as an activity I enjoyed and did well at but those years did not want anything to do with  me – running now gave me a pounding headache instead – so I then decided by way of a more gentle return to exercise that I would walk, and a minimum thirty minutes per day.

Easton Bing WoodsOn my walks I often take music though I don’t always listen to it – nature’s soundtrack is often as preferred. But if I am listening to music I use it has a time measurement too, usually walking for about five songs in any direction before turning around and heading home.

And I discovered that walking, by slowing me down, caused me to be taken in by the world around me. I also discovered how little I knew of my town, of my closest neighbourhood, even the long and winding street that I live on.

Usually if I am walking not driving it is still with some purpose – to the Post Office or Grocery store to do the things you usually do in those places! Again I am not paying too much attention to the world beyond my peripheral vision. Whereas walking for the sake of walking and I start to take note and notice of what is going on, and not going on, in my town.

And last week about three songs from my home I came upon a stile-entrance to some woodland which ordinarily I would cast a cursory glance at and move on but here decided I would take up its invite. Once in I quickly forgot about my thirty-minute time-frame wanting to see which part of town the other side of this wood would take me too.

I was in a part of my town only those with The Knowledge or A Knowledge would have – those being not just school-age children but all-ages children – part-time pondering poets, wandering wondering writers, perambulating prevaricating philosophers, sauntering seeking singers, ambling angling artists, and other such vagrants, and was surprised therefore to come upon a sign-post.

This signpost.

Easton Bing signpostIt was not as if I were in deep woodland. These trees I was moving among were skirting a housing-estate, their houses could still be seen through the trees. Traffic on both Glasgow and Easton Road (where I had entered the woods from) could still be heard. I could not get lost even if I wanted to. Yet there it was, a sign-post.

Whose ideas was this?

It would have been erected by our local council, West Lothian – perhaps in a particular year they had run a surplus and having sign-posted the roads and pavements to death it was decided that untended nature would be next.

The only sign that was mysterious was Easton Bing. You might know Bing as that old guy who you hear on the radio about this time of year serenading White Christmas. Likely too you know Bing as Microsoft’s attempt to cash in on Google’s search-engine territory. But in Scots parlance it is a term for waste, more specifically mining waste.

But I was pretty sure it was just the route to take me deeper into the woods. So perhaps upon this mining waste trees were planted and this wood grew. When and if that is even possible I do not know. I could find out but for now I like to continue to speculate.

Perhaps had I ventured into it I would have encountered not just further sign-posts but a Woodland Wi-Fi area run by squirrels and have been accosted by boot-shining badgers and  busking deers.

Easton Bing

What lies beyond?!

Now I have written that I will have to go back and find out!

It’s somebody’s birthday

Mine! Yours too? No, really, get out of here!

Yeah that’s right you heard. I know you didn’t buy me anything and next you’re going to tell me you didn’t know. Well what with computerised reminders there’s no excuse next year.

Don’t worry I don’t ask for much, I’m easily pleased, just have it sent by pixelated pixies to the ether courtesy of my blog which is listed in between Bjork’s website and Bluebird Boulevard. Well you know that’s made up as the web is not organised by alphabet but by whimsy.

Yeah alright I guess you can give me good karma instead if you want, it’s not going to pay none of my bills or look good around the home, but if it makes you feel better then I guess that’s the main thing even though it is my actual birthday not yours, but anyway.

I was born into the world one long since forgotten Friday in the 1960’s – early in the afternoon if you must know. I don’t know if any of you were around then but perhaps your parents or even grandparents (shudders!) told you about it – on that day the Earth sighed slightly on its axis just as I blinked into the bright life of day.

I had actually tried unsuccessfully blinking in to the bright life of day a few hours earlier on the way to the hospital when I tried to make my first appearance in the passenger seat of my Dad’s Mini – perhaps I was curious as to all the fireworks going off – perhaps I was conceived in that car too, would not that have been a nice symmetry but urgh that’s the kind of thing which is quite okay to say and think about other people’s parents but not your own. Anyway my mother had other ideas and I had to wait until I got there, you know how that is.

But you know readers my first car was a Mini and I still own it, that’s a much more pleasant symmetry to hold in your mind isn’t it? Or another symmetry is that I have never been much of a morning person – well unless you call around midnight morning. That last sentence was said in the voice and style of Deck of Cards by Wink Martindale. Otherwise it just reads cheesy.

I hope you did not come expecting coherence? I have only had one beer so far but the day is young. So yes I am Friday’s child. The child that is loving and giving – of course you all chorus – but Wednesday’s child is full of woe you know – fancy that – that really sets up a child for life – and get this the child that is born on the sabbath is good and gay – well of course!

Friday’s Child is also a novel by Georgette Heyer and a poem by WH Auden – oh yeah!

It is also two different songs by Them and Nancy Sinatra.

Also a second season episode of the original Star Trek.

Yep I can read and take what I want from Wikipedia with the best of them.

Back to Nancy. Oh by the way if you are on Twitter so is Nancy and she follows back – well she followed me back. But Barack Obama never followed me back and I know he follows people back. Heaps of people back. But not me. Not that I am bothered about it.

Back to Nancy. Her version of Friday’s child is actually Lee Hazlewood’s as he wrote it and she sings and well according to him we are not loving and giving rather hard luck is my brother and my sister’s misery. My daddy they called hard times. Just who is this they I would like to know. Born a little ugly too we are – so harsh to be judging the barely born vaguely grotesque I think and it goes on that good looks passed us by and it ends that of us ‘they’ll forget to bury’.

But anyway enough about Friday, it is after all Tuesday, though might still be Monday where you are, but November 6 will be Tuesday all over the world I am sure of it.

I’m going to finish with a birthday song, Live Wire by Martha and the Vandellas. More importantly it was released into the world the same year I was – see I am giving you clues there as to my exact vintage!

It was one of those Motown songs by Dozier and the Holland brothers.

It starts ‘It’s my birthday’ (Yeah!) but then ‘and he forgot again’ and goes on

Every time we date, he’s always late
Tired of abuses and excuses, I’ve made up my mind
Gonna tell him this time we’re through, yeah

But everything I plan to say
Just seems to fade away
Every time I see his face,
My eyes light up, sparks start to flyin’

But he’s a live wire
A real live wire
He’s like a bolt of lightnin’
And sets my soul on fire

That is romantic isn’t it? Or the eternal triumph of hope over experience? Either way it’s moving.

Did I tell you that I met Martha Reeves once? No? Well I did, well not actually met her obviously but I saw her in concert. Not though in her and the Vandella’s sixties heyday, I was after all still in diapers then but lets backtrack to heydays.

While it must be great to have had a heyday and survived it too it does kind of suggest that the best is all behind you? But better to have lived and had a heyday than never to have had a heyday at all – see that really doesn’t make very much sense – practically gibberish – but if you look at it in some angles, twist it around a bit, there you got it, then it does make some kind of sense. Kind of.

So I saw Martha and the Vandellas and I cannot even recall if they were the same Vandellas that were with Martha in her aforementioned heyday either.

Nor did I see them in Detroit. Or any of the American States. They were a long way from home. My childhood home county of Shropshire in fact. In its capital – called Shrewsbury and it was the 1980’s – more exactly it was 1983 which I remember because it was General Election Night in Britain and so June but then this is far too much detail of which you could not possibly care.

But anyway there she Martha was up on stage before my very eyes and I briefly caught her eyes – oh yes Martha Reeves and I have looked into each other’s eyes – though I still being an unsure tautness of awkward quickly averted my gaze and pretended a semblance of dance to Dancing in the Streets or whatever song it was they were belting out at the time.

I have also exchanged eye contact with former World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov you know when he was in London defending his title against our very own Nigel Short. I felt he was looking right through me – very unsettling and quite uncalled for I thought when I was only come to watch one of his games at The Savoy Theatre and his look suggesting that I should be staring not at him but at the ceiling or something…but where was I oh yes….

Oh and have a glass of your favourite tipple with me, mine will be a red wine. A few more of these and I promise you I will have forgotten that you did not get me anything.