The Essex Lion (a poem)

Timmy awoke in the night with a fright,

His eyes opened wide at the terrible sight,

Of a swishing long tail and a big golden paw,

And a mouth full of teeth that let out a huge roar.

“Oh no”, said poor Tim scratching his head,

“That cruel Essex Lion is right by my bed.”

The lion it stalked on unto the boy’s side,

It was too late to run and far too late to hide,

Tim closed his eyes, all quiet and meek,

And felt a wet tongue a licking his cheek,

He opened one eye and was startled to see,

The lion was smiling, and quite playfully.

“Please don’t be scared, oh you nice little boy,

I mean you no harm, I’m a lion of joy,

I love to laugh, to frolic and play,

So killing small boys is just not my way.”

Timmy was brave, he reached out to stroke,

The lion who nuzzled him back with a poke

The lion was happy he let out a purrrr,

As Timmy stroked his most beautiful fur,

“Oh Lion, my friend, will you be my pet,

As they say I’m too young to have any yet?”

The Lion it grinned, full of feline delight,

The happiest lion in Essex that night,

“Oh yes, now that would be a wonderful treat,

For it’s not safe for me to be out on the street,

There are men with big guns who are after my head,

And if they once see me they might shoot me dead,

They have me all wrong, they just can’t comprehend,

That a lion can be a most wonderful friend.”

So Lion became our Timmy’s lifelong pal,

The gentlest of cats, such a kind animal,

He lets Timmy ride on his back in the park,

But only when it is suitably dark,

In the day he is hiding below Tim’s bed,

So the ceiling is now just an inch from his head,

He doesn’t eat meat, he just can’t stand the taste,

And lives on a diet of milk and fish paste.

So if you’re in Essex and you hear a loud ‘Roarrrr’,

There’s simply no need to be scared anymore,

It’s just Tim with his lion a-prowling the street,

And a kinder big kitty you never could meet.

ImageI hope that you liked my poem! Please look out for my children’s book ‘Tortoise Soup’ coming soon (when I find the right publisher), there are no lions in it but lots of adventure that any child will love!

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The Conspiracy Of Conspiracies

This weekend saw the passing away of Neil Armstrong. For most people he will be remembered as a heroic figure, a great modern explorer – the original space pioneer. A handful of others of course will still cling to their belief that he was a charlatan, part of a huge conspiracy to boost the standing of the USA during the dark days of the cold war. Here is the Tortoise Soup take on conspiracies.

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In a nutshell, I don’t believe in conspiracies. Any of them. It seems to me that some people can’t accept what is under their nose. The lunar landing headed by Armstrong was broadcast across the world and employed tens of thousands of people, costing billions of dollars in the process. I remember a broadcaster describing how he had met Buzz Aldrin at a party, and Buzz was mighty hacked off at the conspiracists. He described the intense training that they undertook, how when they blasted off they had no idea if they would ever return. They thought that they were saying goodbye to their family and friends for the last time. These brave men put their lives on the line because they believed in the project, they believed that space exploration would help humanity. Against great odds they made it back to Earth and yet a saddened Aldrin explained how not a day went by without people coming up to him and saying ‘come on, admit it – it never really happened did it?’

A particularly British conspiracy concerns the death of Princess Diana. The facts seem blindingly obvious that this was a tragic accident due to a drunk driver going too fast and losing control of the car. Yet millions of people believe that Diana was in fact murdered by the British establishment simply because she wanted to marry a Muslim man. The fact is that this would have been a plot so fiendish that it could only have been foiled by Princess Diana fastening her seatbelt. And that is where this conspiracy theory should end, yet many people will refuse to believe that somebody as exalted as the Princess of Wales could have died in such a commonplace, pathetic way.

Similar conspiracies surround the death of pop and film stars. It seems that the more an artist is loved the more people will refuse to believe either that they died of natural causes or at their own hands or, in many cases, that they are dead at all. Look at this list: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Bruce Lee. Great artists and entertainers all, but face facts conspiracists – there was nothing ‘dodgy’ about any of their deaths. Accept this and move on.

Who killed JFK? Who killed the man who killed JFK? The questions go on and on, the only certain thing is that next to nobody will ever accept the official judgments. And so we have to ask why there is such a proliferation of conspiracy theorists? So here is the truth – it’s all part of a conspiracy!

The conspiracy conspiracy is perpetuated by the media groups that have such an active grip on what we see, and therefore to a large extent what we believe. They love conspiracies, they sell papers and boost ratings. If they print a story that a celebrity has died then that story is over within a few days. If, however, they can sow seeds of doubt about the manner of the death then they can keep regurgitating the same news for year upon year. Barely a day goes by without the Daily Express dredging up yet another story about poor Lady Di. As people turn away from traditional faiths they have to find something else to believe in and all too often they hang on to the most bizarre, outlandish thing that they can find: the cult of the conspiracy.

So on this day above all days let us cast these conspiracies to one side. Let us raise a glass and toast Neil Armstrong, a real hero. Let us say ‘yes, Neil Armstrong was one courageous guy, he really did set foot on the moon!’ The truth is out there – it’s plain and it’s simple and it is right under our noses.

The Play’s The Thing

“The play’s the thing. Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” Hopefully, you will recognise that as a quote from Hamlet. Well soon, I hope to catch the attention, not perhaps of a King, but certainly of a good number of discerning theatre goers with my very own play ‘Rudisha’!

Don’t worry, lovers of children’s literature – my debut children’s novel ‘Tortoise Soup’ is still priority number one but whilst I wait for a good offer from a publisher or agent (I have already turned one offer down, but there are two more considering my book at the moment) I have turned my hand to the theatre. I hate to be seen as self-publicising but hey, that’s what blogs are for. It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to announce that my short play Rudisha will be given two performances in London on 1st September.

I have always loved the theatre. They are magical environs where dreams and reality converge, where unreality and imagination take control for two or three glorious hours. When I was a student my appetite for drama was insatiable. I would spend every spare hour reading any collection of plays that I could find: Ibsen, Chekhov, Dario Fo, Strindberg, Brecht, Wilde, Sean O’Casey dominated my thoughts. I dreamed of being a great modern dramatist like them, revolutionising the theatre through the power of my mind alone.

Well that dream has yet to bear fruition but at least next Saturday I will see my words brought to life by an enthusiastic team of actors, and that in itself will give me an enormous sense of achievement.

‘Rudisha’ is being performed as part of a festival of theatre in the Olympic borough of Newham designed to coincide with the Paralympics. The festival plays examine big issues such as faith and community and multi-culturalism in modern London. My play tells the story of Daniel, a young man from a Kenyan family who dreams of running in the Olympics like his hero David Rudisha. His world is collapsing around him as his grandmother lies dying while Rudisha tries to break the world record in the Olympic stadium just streets away.

Auditions have taken place, and rehearsals are now under way. I would like to take a greater hand in this part of the production but unfortunately I am detained up north so I have to leave things in the capable hands of my director Manos. I will be there for the performances of course, and I hope that the skilled team of actors and director will bring my words to life in the way that I had imagined them. Most of all, of course, I hope that the audience enjoys my play. For one lucky playwright there will be a commission to write a full length play to be performed in London next year – I am ready, willing and able for that opportunity! I have been ready for it for the last twenty years.

If you are in London that day then please come along. The plays will be performed at the Swift Centre Theatre on Barking Road, Newham on Saturday 1st September. There is a matinee at 1430 and an evening show at 1930 and best of all it is completely free!

I adore the theatre, why not share your thoughts on the theatre with me and my blog’s readers? What is your favourite play? There are too many for me to single one out but my shortlist would have to include King Lear, The Ghost Sonata, Shadow Of A Gunman and The Importance Of Being Earnest. All very different and all very wonderful. Comment away, my friends.

Olympic Highlights Haiku

As the great man once sang: “And now, the end is near”. The end of the Olympics that is of course. I have been completely caught up in the Olympic frenzy, and will be watching every second of the London 2012 closing ceremony tonight. Watching with a heavy heart, it’s always sad to say goodbye to something that has been such a happy part of one’s life.

Today in my blog I am going to pay tribute to my home countries Olympics in a time honoured fashion: the haiku. Haiku is a short form of poetry that originated in Japan. It dates from the 17th Century when it was known as Hokku and the undisputed master of the form was Basho. A traditional haiku consists of 17 ‘on’ in three phrases of 5,7 and 5 on each. On are sound units but not necessarily what the English language calls syllables. Nevertheless, for simplicities sake English haiku are usually created in three lines of 5,7 and 5 syllables so I will follow that standard. Haiku often consist of a juxtaposition and an allusion to nature.

So now that you are all clued up on haiku I am going to create three haiku to represent my feelings towards three personal highlights of these great Olympic games. I am more experienced as a children’s novelist of course (my novel ‘Tortoise Soup’ is attracting real interest from agents and publishers so hopefully I will have some more concrete news for you soon), but while I may not reach the heights of Basho I hope that you may find them entertaining!

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My first highlight involves my own visit to the Olympic park last Sunday. I was lucky enough to have a ticket to see the women’s basketball and just soaking in the atmosphere around the Olympic Park was incredible. I heard so many languages and saw so many flags but the one unifying factor was the broad smiles on everyone’s face. Here is haiku number one:

Green grass grows slowly

Under the feet of nations

Who walk with joy here.

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My second highlight was seeing local hero Jessica Ennis win a gold medal in the Olympic Heptathlon. As a native of South Yorkshire myself, I have seen how her victory has thrilled a whole county, and the wider country as well. When she crossed the line to win the final event her broad grin was unstoppably infectious. It was as if little Jess from Sheffield had won the gold for each and every one of us. Here is haiku number two:

Happy is her face

As beauty radiates through

And is borne in air.

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My final highlight came last night. I was in a local drinking hole watching Mo Farah run the 5000 metres. He had already won the 10000 metres, could he win two Olympic golds for Great Britain? He ran the perfect race and nobody was able to pass him. The pub was in raptures shouting ‘Go on Mo!’ and then cheering as he took yet another gold. He is such an unassuming man, so modest for such a great talent. And of course, he came to Britain as a child refugee – he has repaid us as a nation a thousand times over. The greatest legacy is how the country as a whole has embraced him, he has become above all the quintessential British hero. Here is haiku number three:

Legs ache, sinews strain

But the mind is strong unbowed

The gold sun runs home.

I hope that you have enjoyed my haiku’s as much as I have enjoyed the Olympics. Writing is the greatest gift of all, it allows you to express your feelings and share them with the world. Thank you for allowing me to express my Olympic joy. I’m sure that you have personal highlights of your own – please leave a comment and tell me about them; maybe you will write your very own haiku?