I (sometimes) call myself Mr. Pondersome. I'm a rather wordy, weirdy person. I say hullo a lot. I write a lot more. While you're here, why not give some of it a read?

Sunday, 25 August 2019

OLDOUNCE'S COFFIN (a.k.a. Why Antonym Poetry Is Tricky)

Tomorrow I was entertained
so I worked with an Oldounce's Coffin.

I pushed forward the last block
then ignored them staying forth and back,
clack and click.

Earlier I disregarded down 
and missed the night remaining into day
and the darkness was brightening slow.
So I started...

Saturday, 24 August 2019

THE MAJESTY OF NATURE IN LANDSCAPE (a.k.a. A Lindisfarne Vignette)

Man and Boy stopped a while to snap a Red Admiral. Boy had his phone out in seconds while Man was still fiddling with his Fuji camera strap.
   "Landscape or portrait?" Boy asked, tilting his phone.
   "You'll get more of the majesty of nature in landscape," Man replied.
   Camera finally switched on, he pointed it at the butterfly in the hedge. It flitted off. He groaned. Boy laughed.
   "Too slow," he said.
   "I'll get the bugger," Man muttered. "Don't you worry."
   They followed it along a stone wall. The Red Admiral stopped at every other crack, unhelpfully keeping its wings folded. They waited for it to move.
   In time a procession of school children passed by: ten little reflector jackets led by one big one. The teacher hesitated, wondering just what Man and Boy were doing.
   "Butterfly snapshots," Man explained with a curt smile.
   The teacher nodded and moved the kids along. They were almost away before a girl at the back spoke up: "I licked one of those once." The rest giggled till they were all gone.
   At last the Red Admiral set off again.
   "Oh yes!" Boy said. "I got it mid-flight!"
   Man sniffed. "If you would be quiet for just one second, we might catch it by those pink flowers."
   Boy snapped his fingers. "Look! Quick!"
   Man saw his perfect picture opportunity. The butterfly landed on a single low-hanging branch and was steadily fluttering its wings. It held them open long enough for him to take quite a few photos. Man even managed a detailed close-up of the wing symmetry. Meanwhile Boy stood beside, slipping his phone back into his pocket. He smiled at Man when he was done.
   "Will that do?" Boy asked.
   Man nodded his thanks to the Red Admiral. It bowed low, twitching its antennae as if contemplating him in return . Then a gust shook the branch and the butterfly followed the currant.
   "Yes," Man said, tucking the camera back into its case. "That'll do for me."

Thursday, 15 August 2019

TORNADO AT THE DAIRY FARM (a.k.a. A Morwick Vignette)

We were sat round a bench at a dairy farm when the jet flew overhead.
     Mum licked her ice cream and squinted up through the blue breaks between clouds. "I'd say that's a Tornado."
     "That would explain the warning on the weather this morning," I joked. Nobody laughed. Instead they traced the jet's flight path with their mint chocolate chips.
     "It's flying a bit low," Dad muttered.
     "And fast," my sister added.
     As if on cue, the Tornado whooshed by, rumbling the clouds like thunder.
     "Those get up to Mach 2," Dad said, checking his phone. "That's about 1,550mph."
     I looked down at my hand. A small yellow dollop of jersey cream slid down between thumb and forefinger. Cleaning it with a serviette, I glanced up again.
     "Looks sort of like the mouse cursor on an old Windows desktop," I decided.
     "It would have to be white," my sister pointed out. 
     I shrugged. "True."
     Even so the black angular arrow kept weaving through and around the clouds as if searching for an operation running in the background. 
     "There might be an air show nearby," Mum said. "It looks like it's biding time." 
     The jet did so for a while, managing to avoid our cameras whenever it swept past low. Eventually we wiped the corners of our mouths, brushed wafer dust off our clothes and returned to the car.
     As the Tornado jet sank behind a pure white cloud, I swallowed the tip of my cone. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

EASY RIDER AARON (a.k.a. A Morpeth Vignette)

Aaron spins his wheels in the parking lot. Dad is taking absolutely ages in Home Bargains and Nan is dozing off in the Land Rover. She is supposed to be keeping an eye on him but Aaron is glad to have a few minutes' freedom. 
    He races his shiny green scooter up and down the short stretch of pedestrian walkway in front of the car. This would be more fun if he was wearing his black and silver streak helmet but Dad forgot it in the morning rush. It was lucky they had left Aaron's old red one in the boot but it's now tiny and squeezes his head, especially at the back. Nevertheless he drives through this discomfort, steering around uneven paving stones.
    When it's time, Aaron pulls up by the trolley shelter and waits until a white van reaches the traffic lights across the way. Then, as the lights go green and the van sets off, he zooms forward himself. 
    He's lucky this time, scooter reaching maximum speed just as the loud engine kicks into gear. Aaron roars along with it. In this moment he forgets everything: the midday boredom, his nan snoring and the squeaky front wheel, and imagines that he is the one burning rubber.
   However this feeling soon slips by like the wind in his face and the van's noise fades off round the bend. Just as he spies a lorry approaching and his foot pushes down on the pedal, Aaron finally feels the weight of his father's hand on his shoulder. The boy looks up at him, failing to hide the disappointment on his daredevil face. 
   "Come on, easy rider," Dad chuckles. "We're heading home." 

Friday, 8 March 2019

LOBSTERS GROW THROUGHOUT THEIR LIFETIME (a.k.a. A Late Crustacean Poem for International Women's Day)

The girl scrunched her nose at
the hatchery, the fishy smell.
Her mum led her inside.
Aren't lobsters interesting?

A tank filled with dirty water.
Those aren't mud flecks, Mum said,
Those are babies.
Lobsters grow throughout their lifetime.

The next tank had fewer flecks
and the one after that had things that looked like lobsters.
The girl stared at the curves of their shells,
the curves that would be their pincers.

They arrived at the nursery,
large lobster mothers sheltering busy babies
crawling back and forth beneath stiff, still figures.
Mum drew daughter close.

The last lobsters were huge, one per tank,
men in aprons standing over them.
Occasionally an antennae twitched,
a pincer closed and opened.

The girl gripped her mother's hand
and they hurried out together
past cartoon lobsters collecting donations:
a pound each for the privilege.

At the car, the girl touched the window
while Mum watched, hand on the key,
wondering just how big they would be
in half a century.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

PLUNDERING THE PUN (a.k.a. Why I Say Some of the Silly Things I Do)

Puns may be punishment but certainly not for the pun issuer.
            Usually I pun and it is tolerated. My friends and family appreciate me in spite of my puns.
            However I refuse to pun-der to their pleas to stop or be serious or get a life for goodness sake.
            To pun is to keep the mind active and the senses alive. To pun is to a solve a riddle within yourself by creating a riddle for others. To pun is to create.
            This is how I plunder the pun...

The Routine

            I rise in the morning with an unexpected word on my lips. Today it is 'vestibule'.
            I have obviously been walking hallways in my dreams again. This single architectural word is the true remnant of my last thoughts before waking. If not then it is a grip for lucidity, slowly pulling me out of my unconscious mind.
            Nevertheless normally I will forget this word and the importance I have imbued it with by my second spoonful of cereal.
            I then go to work and spend an entire day listening to people: colleagues, volunteers, customers, passersby. By 4pm this is more like half-listening.
            Where my professionalism flags, my word play is emboldened. I listen to stories and parrot extracts. Specific words.
            Most recently a volunteer was talking about Singapore noodles and said that she would see me the following week 'bright and dandy'. The noodles disappeared, the brightness dimmed but Singapore Dandy remained.
            When a pun starts to form, it strikes me as a half-remembered tune. I vocalise the lilt, focus on consonant sounds (plosives being my firm favourite) and search my memory for a rhyme.
            Singapore Dandy, while running through me like a little dance, does not lend itself to a rhyme. Instead it becomes the nom de guerre of some eccentric Asian gentleman criminal, possibly a master thief. This is another effect of the pun: if it does not lend itself to a turn of phrase, it tends to lend itself to a spiffy compound noun.
            This pleases the writer in me. Singapore Dandy gets jotted down for a future project along with the likes of King of Nosmo and Xeno-Zine.
            King of Nosmo comes from staring at a 'NO SMOKING' sign till the letters jumble into a real word and a fantasy land. It is a lazy anagram created by squishing two words together, slicing them a different way and then swapping the halves around.
            Xeno-Zine comes from realising that I am people-watching, that xeno is Greek for 'a stranger' whom I am watching and that the sound of the 'X' is a 'zee' like the word 'zines' that is currently in my head because of a lyric in Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger that I am also obsessed with because of the way it sounds. Xeno blends with Zine into the amusing image of an alien fandom press obsessing over that strange little race called humanity.
            Now I won't lie: sometimes such compound nouns just sit on my mobile phone memo for months. Some titles seem brilliant until I realise that a story doesn't necessarily follow.
            The trial and error of such punning continues at the end of my day when I wash away my weariness. Before I step out of the shower, I randomly write a word pairing in the condensation.
            One of my recent favourites is Confabula Rasa: a blend of 'confabulation' and 'Tabula Rasa', based on their shared 'abula' sound.    
            Normally such word pairings are quelled with a squeegee. Puns aren't meant to last forever. This invention in condensation is merely a way of keeping my mind agile and alert during a time of day when there are only a few hours left before sleep. This tends to be my regular window for writing.
            Spontaneity kick starts imagination and so a random word or combination of words could well lead to something more tangible.
            However all this is at best whimsy or at worst Clang Association. The real trick lies in how best to filter and share such wordplay with the world.

Code of Conduct

            People who have heard my puns will generally agree that I should have put more thought into the practice, perhaps enough to know to refrain altogether. Nevertheless I go through a rigorous process of examination beforehand.
            When I am out with friends and a word association occurs to me, I might well just say it then and there though usually taking a little time to get the wording right. This is step one.
            Step two generally occurs when I transfer my findings to paper. A joke requires suitable balance and, if possible, tricky wording. For instance it took me a good ten minutes to nail down the structure of the following joke before posting it onto Twitter:

            My initial concern was making sure that the context was sufficiently laid out for anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the playwright Arthur Miller. Creating the pun itself, in hindsight a terrible stretch, took a fraction of the time it did for me to make it work as a payoff.
            Step three is, quite simply, good taste. Is the pun about a recently dead celebrity? Then no thanks. Is it ridiculing a particular social group that already has to deal with thoughtless jokes about them? Not worth it. Racist? Nope. Sexist? Refused.
            Puns are not about pun-ching down. If anyone has a chance of seeing any of the puns I share on social media, I do not want to give the impression that I am tactless. Just 'not funny' is quite enough.
            Step four is for anecdotes. If possible, I thrill at besmirching shared wisdom that I think borders on the cliché.

            Woody Allen (urgh) says: 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.'
            I say: 'If you want to make God plan, tell him about your laughs.'

            The verbs are swapped. The meaning is now upbeat. It doesn't quite work. Good. 
            This will make the reader or listener think about the platitudes they hear every day. This may also encourage a similar mindset in them. We seriously don't question adages enough.
            Step five involves making the pun a basis for a story.
            Some time ago I wrote down The Curse of Cures observing that 'curse' and 'cures' are anagrams of one another. It also sounded like a title.
            So I wrote a story around it, about a detective turning his keen perception onto his hotel bathroom. The title still sits atop the story like an awkward hat and may soon be replaced but it remains the basis of a much greater creative process. A little thing I mouthed to myself eventually became a 280-word light comedy with a fun unreliable narrator, something which might well not have ever existed otherwise. The pun title may not exist for long but, in this case, it begat a fiction that isn't so easily dismissed with a snort.
            Every great fiction or non-fiction has a pun rattling around somewhere inside it. Every astute observation of life owes its proliferation to what is essentially a joke that is barely deemed a joke.

Why I Even Bother

            I won't lie: there is a sadistic streak in me. It amuses me to baffle another, even momentarily, and I have learnt to accept groans as positive reinforcement in this part of my life. However puns mean more to me than this fleeting instinct to torment.
            I have a lot of nervous energy within me. I look at weeks not as weeks but obstacle courses where the trip hazards far outnumber the safe ground. I fret about small things and dread facts and dates that cast a far longer shadow.
            In the time around such events, there isn't much that eases the tension other than puns. They provide distractions from the momentary to the elaborate, occupying my busy mind with semantic entanglements of my own invention. Puzzles not of my own creation would struggle to hold my interest: the concept must be one that engrosses me completely.
            Where books fail, puns deliver. Where attempts at writing seem impossible, puns at least stand a chance.
            Quite simply when I am nervous, I pun fast and relentlessly. When I am relaxed, I pun too though the humour is better adapted to listeners other than myself.
            I may not be able to chart the exact moment in my life where punning became so important but it certainly is now.
            I do it on phone memos. I do it on Twitter. I do it in the fiction I write. I do it in earshot of those who may or may not appreciate it.
            I am a pun-ter for both the cheap laugh and the logical hurdle. I like to think of myself as a pun gent who, from time to time, is pungent.
            I won't pun all the time but I shall never give it a rest. Nor should you.
            Play with language. Make words amuse you. Try your hand at witticism.
            Don't shy away. Be a pun pundit like me.

Yours truly,

Mr Pun-dersome

Thursday, 14 February 2019

THE GIRL WITH THE MICHAEL BALL BOWLING BAG (a.k.a. A Valentine's Reminiscence)

          She stepped out in front of me at a car park.
            Long red hair flashed in the failing day. Straightened to a fine sheen, made-up but gradually coming down. I figured she'd come from some classy business function, what with the little black dress, the clip-clop high heels. Not so dignified though; her every other step slipped a little, wavering closer to the roadside.
            She threw her bag over her left shoulder. I've seen a lot of handbags make a lot of women but never a tope bag. A bowling bag. A bag with Michael Ball on it.
            I tried to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic as we crossed the road but I was hypnotised. Her perfect posterior popped with the uneven paving.
            She led me past Dong Dong, the Oriental Superstore and all the failed betting shops. She swept back her hair somewhere around Tesco. For a moment it seemed like she was going to detour inside but I knew better: she was far too sophisticated to enter the market area.
            Still I had no idea why she used the pelican crossings that I used, why she made her way under the same viaduct.
            We passed an IMO car wash, Kobane Restaurant, a Texaco petrol station.
            I almost lost her for a second: two young lovers came between us, holding hands and dangling empty banana skins from their free ones. When those crazy kids disappeared into the Slubber's Arms, I wasn't surprised.
            The true puzzle remained. She led me further up the hill. Michael Ball stared at me from the bag, his open mouth smile mocking me. He was going to sing a sad little song for this sad little moment.
            Around Birkbees Nursery, she finally noticed that I was still behind her. I wanted to say "Hey, lady, you're just going my way" but I was wearing my headphones and besides didn't have the courage.
            We shuffled up Halifax Old Road with its Jamaican takeaway and monumental Mosque and yet I had yet to see her full profile. She yanked the handle of the bag further up her sleeveless shoulder. Never before have I been so jealous of eco-friendly luggage material.
            I arrived at my gate and she was still going on. I hung around as long as I could see her but not once did she turn back. Considering the distance we had crossed, it seemed to me that the smallest glance of acknowledgement would have been a courtesy.
            And yet she marched on towards the traffic lights. I briefly wondered if I should have raced ahead, said something meaningful.
            Then I realised she was probably a Michael Ball fan.