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Messages - Gyppo

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I really had no idea what today would bring, but a memory from nearly twenty five years ago strode into my half-awake mind as I fried an egg for breakfast.   Another example of the mental video player, picking up stuff I only half registered consciously at the time.   Even whilst eating I penned some rough notes, key images.

So here she is...


Napo 20 - 2021 - Andrea:  One of my students

She was a lady of deep waters,
restless in dock,
clearly uncomfortable on dry land.
Her eyes always scanning distant horizons,
reading the waves and clouds.

Long dark hair and a weathered face,
the red-brown of a blue-water sailor.
A straight gaze, but always watchful.
A machine gun vocal delivery,
but always clear and direct.

Always busy, 'squeezing things in'.
Striding in wearing her thick jumper
and baggy trousers.
Or on wet days her serious 'storm coat'
more suited to an Atlantic Gale.

She wanted to learn 'something useful',
how to tackle editors and publishers,
'an entirely alien species'.
Men in suits and ties who spoke a strange language,
who didn't appreciate that simply staying alive,
or breaking sailing records or masts
deep in the stormy Southern Ocean
took precedence over emailing her words
to some snugly heated office.

She always came late, 
smelling of paint, or fibreglass resin,
or wood shavings, or salt water,
straight from 'working on the boat'.
She always apologised,
or phoned in if she couldn't make it.

In class she took copious notes,
focused like a watch keeper in fog,
like a bosun checking his mental list,
or a navigator over his charts
laying a course for the route ahead.

When her folder snapped shut she was away,
after a polite unfailing "Thank you".
Striding though the door, 
off to check her stores, chase a tardy supplier,
grease a windlass, coil a rope,
maybe lasso a sponsor.
Round the world yacht racing is expensive.

Walking with that wide stable stride,
as if expecting the concrete corridor
to surge or pitch under her feet,
or heel over in a sudden squall.


Napo 19 - 2021 - Holding The Edge

He had hands like shovels,
fingers like bananas,
and an eleven inch span.

There was a craftsman's reverence,
I would even say love,
in the way he cared for his tools

He could put an edge on anything,
usually with just a few passes
over an oil-slick stone.

Coarse, fine, and ultra-fine.
He hardly ever touched the first one.
It lived under a layer of sawdust,
buried by disuse until someone,
often me, bought him a 'hopeless case'.

It was as if the cold steel,
which resisted my attempts,
recognised the touch of a Master,
and willingly rearranged itself
at some deep sub-atomic level,
eager to please.

And in return he never, ever,
forced a slightly dulled edge
to make 'just one last cut.'

He'd always pause and re sharpen,
for one final pass,
one ultra-light finishing cut
for a precision joint,
or a bowl spinning in his lathe.


The Bar & Grill / Ambiguity at its finest.
« on: April 18, 2021, 08:43:55 PM »
Look at this, taken from a local advert.  Tell me if you can see the problem.  It's not spelling, punctuation, or grammar.

I know what they think they're saying...

The experienced upholsterers provide dependable repairs, with all work finished to a professional standard. They won't finish a task until you are pleased with the results.


It reminds me of when we had a world class speedway rider living just down the road.  A nice man to meet, off the track.  On his fan site they boosted up his world status and then said, 'Since becoming the team captain he has never failed to disappoint his fans'.


Napo 18 - 2021 - Cave

Mum had backed out after a few feet,
but Dad and his 'little man' pressed on.
These were 'tourist caves',
with clearly marked routes,
dim lights threaded on cables,
along dripping tunnel walls,
and numerous information boards.
And padlocked barriers,
criss-crossed steel bars,
blocking 'dangerous' routes.

But I lagged behind,
fascinated by some fossil formations,
and suddenly found myself alone.

I scampered along, to catch Dad,
and came to a slim steel bridge,
with high handrails and wire mesh sides.
I started to cross the dark gap,
looked down, and froze.

I know now that it was fake lava
for theatrical effect, 'tourist stuff',
but that bubbling fiery stream terrified me.

Dad came back and called me across,
but I wouldn't move.
No, I couldn't move.

Dad told me it was safe,
but the fear was absolute. 
He came back to guide me across,
but I wouldn't budge.

"I'll carry you across, Son.
You know I won't drop you."

"But I'll still see it, Dad."
"Close your eyes then,"
He was a pragmatic man.

But I knew myself too well, even then.
Knew I'd be tempted to peep.
Told him this.

"Do you trust me?"
"Yes!" Clinging to his legs.

He slipped off his jacket,
told me about frightened horses,
safely led from a burning barn,
because they couldn't see the flames,
and gently wrapped my head.

Lifted, held in the trusted embrace,
reassured by the familiar smells
of Old Holborn tobacco,
dried cement and wood chippings,
heard his steps echoing,
steadily across the metal bridge
as he carried me to safety.

For a few weeks afterwards,
if he heard me whimpering,
sleep disturbed by memories
of that fearful glow,
he'd enter my room
at the end of our van,
and talk me back down.

I love fires, but that glow,
moving and rippling underground,
still haunts me.


Word Play / Re: Still making it...
« on: April 18, 2021, 10:34:25 AM »
One of the more violent members of the trun family of word, especially compared to the gentle and slow moving trundle, but nowhere near lethal as truncate.


Word Play / Re: Still making it...
« on: April 17, 2021, 02:01:58 PM »
minimal swimwear


Word Play / Re: Your favourite news headline of the day
« on: April 17, 2021, 11:07:25 AM »
Is this waffle or gibberish? It's hard to decide.  :-\

If I said 'it's all a question of semantics' would I be construed as accusing the Jews of getting up to playful mischief?

Word Play / Re: Still making it...
« on: April 17, 2021, 11:02:09 AM »
When a cow becomes really depressed and repeatedly vocal about its misery.  The cattlemen say 'She's got a right moo-on today.

But typesetters and grammarians hate the idea of three O's in a single word, even if hyphenated, so they created a new spelling which still sounds exactly the same but doesn't jar their sensitive and pedantic eyeballs.


Word Play / Re: Why the fork?
« on: April 17, 2021, 09:52:20 AM »
i have long thought that textbooks like this should be in loose leaf binder form, so the rlevant pages could be updated when necessary, and new material added at the back.

The savings in time and material would be environmentally sound.

I would make an exception for medical technique text books, where a missing page could result in some poor bastard having an operation without anaesthesia, or being sent to recovery with his guts still hanging open.


Word Play / Re: Your favourite news headline of the day
« on: April 17, 2021, 09:44:58 AM »
Jo's reportI, whilst largely accurate, fails to address the hidden story.

It's down to a once in a lifetime combination of events.

Brain dead extra-terrestrials, poor English language usage by the 'Grammarly Generation' of journalists, and punitive word count budgets in the headline editing department.  Plus lockdown.

The real story is that thousands of gnomes have vanished from gardens around the country, which could have been a great story for a quiet news day.

'Going...  Going... Gnome.'  That would have been a punchy headline.  Or "G-nome fishing."  Or "Deadly new strain of Mutated Giant Chinese Goldfish Drag Gnomes Under."  But the word processing software said "No!  No! A thousand times, No!".

Or even an international conspiracy theory...

Gnome Gnodfather Gned summons the G-Clan to his home in America for a conference.   Aimed to resolve growing tensions between the three main races, Concrete, Plaster, and the ridiculously prolific newcomers, Resins.

Home owner Patti says, "Gee. I never expected to see that many Gnomes in one place.  I opened the garage door and thousands of the little perverts were staring at me as I did my morning workout.

"Some of the more muscular ones discarded their fishing rods and were joining in, weight lifting with my Dick's socket wrenches, and using his golf balls for balance exercises.

"After a while I got used to them, and Gned slapped down any that seemed a bit too familiar.

"Dick just ignored them - with the exception of one wearing a Cammo t-shirt and shorts - who hitched a ride on his golf bag with him - and mumbled that it served me right for hanging out online with a  bunch of weird-ass writers."


On a more mundane level the UK lockdown has led to empty streets, and the Extra-Terrestrial tourist trips have led the more simple minded little green men to believe that the Gnomes were in fact the entire population of earth.

As they offered no resistance  they were scooped up in thousands and submitted  to the usual tests.  Their refusal to communicate, resistance to pain, and the lack of anuses for the traditional 'probing' - which is a feature of such abductions - has led the little green men to assume Earthlings are unbelievably tough and resilient.

As a result all plans for an invasion have been cancelled, and any future UFO flights will be 'observation only'.  So the UFO freaks will still get their thrills, and the rest of us can sleep easy in our beds.

Our planet has been saved by Garden Gnomes.  If you feel any gratitude towards the little folks then make this the year to give them a new coat of paint.  And remember to keep your goldfish well fed.  Just in case.

Gyppo -  Fearless Fracturer of The Final Frontier.

Napo 17 - 2021 - Street Theatre.  The Third Row

I recommend the third row
to watch public performances.

In the front row you're a mere prop,
willing or otherwise.
The performer can drag you on stage,
physically if need be,
making you a part of their act.

This can be fun, but, sometimes,
on introspective and private days,
it's horrendous.
You end up feeling used, then discarded
like a second-hand condom.

The second row is better,
barricaded against pushy performers
by the 'suicide jockeys' in front.
In an unholy alliance, damn them,
they keep the front row trapped.

But the third row, sensing your unease,
can become gently porous,
letting you step back one pace.
with minimal fuss and disruption.

They also get the best of everything,
because the better performers,
knowing this is their true audience,
project to the third row.

Beyond the third row are the bystanders,
Physically there, but not always present.
Eating ice-creams, chatting, snogging,
sending text messages.  Butterfly brains,
already looking for the 'next thing'.

The third row is the Goldilocks Zone,
'just right', for both audience and performer.

The row where you see all, learn much,
and always find something to take away.


Word Play / Re: Word association
« on: April 16, 2021, 10:59:00 AM »
Trick-Cyclist ;-)

Napo 16 - 2021 - Storytellers

I've watched many at work,
plying their ancient trade.

Some mesmerise,
softly summoning their audience,
everyone leaning forward,
ears straining for whispers,
fearful of missing a single word,
or some subtle nuance.

Then there's The Bellower,
cudgelling the crowd
with a tale of bloodshed,
pirates, or ancient warriors.
His audiences leave stunned,
senses rocked.

Or the Ghost Whisperer
weaving tales of darkness,
and slithering things.
Invoking hidden fears
and race memories,
and bedside lamps
left burning until dawn.

More specifically we have Cliff,
his Viking red hair aflame,
performing Poe's Raven.
Lost in the tale,
dancing the thin edge of sanity,
peering into the dark abyss.

Or Fiona, bubbly children's storyteller,
involving every child,
each wrapped in colourful rags
from her gigantic 'props bag',
re-enacting Greek legends.
One tongue-tied Ulysses standing,
with a beaming smile,
holding aloft a plastic sword.
School dinners were served late that day.

The Jewish Lady, softly spoken.
She holds four thousand tales,
all traditional, all linked,
physically plucked from an invisible matrix
waiting in the air before her.
"But that's another story, for another day..."
The Ice Fish still haunts me
She performed in her bare feet,
saying it 'just feels right'.

Grandad, with an audience of one,
feeding a receptive mind,
creating secondhand memories.
A human 'thumb drive',
to continue the tradition
when his voice is finally silenced.

Gyppo, the rogue in stark black,
crimson red dicklo loose around his neck,
Controlling 200 juniors,
sat on the floor in the school hall,
all making noises and actions
to suit the tale,
but only when prompted.

"If you don't behave, I'll stop.
Then it's back to ordinary lessons."
The teachers envy this hold,
working the subtle 'stranger danger',
the unpredictability,
the warning 'edge' they no longer have.

But young Jason, hyper-active,
doesn't just make a helicopter noise
in response to the hand signal.

He circles the hall at a flat gallop,
shouting "Whop, whop, whop."
Frantically waving both arms,
terrifying the teachers.
"Look, Miss.  I'm a Chinook!"

Don't punish the lad,
he's just under the spell,
like the classroom assistant,
paused by the wall,
pinning up 'artwork',
caught in the web of words.

Sometimes this hold is intoxicating,
and sometimes a little scary.
But storytellers have no choice,
It's burned deep into our genes,
imprinted for life.


The Bar & Grill / Re: Your Favorite Song Today
« on: April 15, 2021, 12:44:02 PM »
Steppenwolf:  Jupiter's Child

Napo 15 - 2021 - Stark

It stood in a little enclave,
surrounded by new homes
a pool of greenery,
and fruitful blackberry bushes
around its stark white trunk.

The lightning tree,
its ragged split crown,
and a few remaining thick limbs,
bleached by sun and rain,
dried and hard as iron.

Older local remembered it,
a proud tall oak, before the storm
ripped off the top two thirds
with a mighty crash,
followed by a thud
they felt in their houses.

That area was called the 'bunny fields',
but I never saw a rabbit there.
Dormice, shrews, slow-worms,
but no rabbits.
Squirrels and most birds shunned it.

But every year a pair of woodpeckers,
the red-capped variety,
took up residence.

Every year the 'peckers, so industrious,
bored a new hole.
One of the highlights of village life,
the machine-gun rattle of drumming beaks
heralding the arrival of Spring.

The hollowed lower bole of the tree,
just big enough for two children,
of skinny 'end of rationing' build,
to crouch inside.  Hiding from Indians,
Germans, whatever.

Over the years the hollow grew black
where boys with 'borrowed' matches
lit little camp-fires inside.
But it was too dense to burn,
no loose fibres for the flames to grab hold
and slowly eat deeper.

In the mid 60's the noise shook the ground,
rattling doors and windows,
when a group of  'older boys'
with several pounds of explosive,
made from sugar and weed-killer -
usually mixed in far smaller quantities -
tried to blow it apart.

A very determined attempt,
the mix properly tamped tight,
packed into the hollow.
It cracked, but didn't fall.

But the rain found a way in
and a few wind-borne seeds
found homes there.

The dead branches bloomed next spring,
playing host to tiny birches,
sycamores, and a few tufts of meadow grass

The 'peckers ignored their new neighbours,
growing defiantly in the small cracks.

Tiny Nut-hatches visited occasionally,
thinning out seeds which were too tardy
about putting down roots.

Many years later an urban planner's pen,
infinitely more destructive than lightning,
woodpecker's beaks, boys' fires,
and a home-made bomb,
buried both it and the companion bushes
beneath six homes in a small close.

All the streets are named after trees,
but only we old ones know why.

'Oakfield' is a classy address now,
but the living history died with the stark tree.


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