Saturday, 9 August 2008


En guarde
Swords drawn,
they battle
those two young friends
dancing along a narrow seawall
in the bright yellow-blue afternoon

Fizzing, spitting energies erupt
lunging, clashing, parrying,
all burgeoning strength
and brimming aggression
until the loser falls
hard on to sand below

Time shifts.
Deeper voices ring out
Laughing across a midnight ocean
Long-muscled legs give chase,
tearing dark, closed water
to frothy shreds

A spluttering head caught,
plunged deep for silent drowning
until a hand signals release
Then the peace; the night swimming.
Beautiful reckless youth,
never to be reclaimed.

Toe curling

Why does no-one ever blog about embarrassing moments? No idea. Anyway, mine was yesterday.

I have this bag. It has work files in it, backup tapes and other work stuff. It also has Classic FM magazines and sunglasses and cycling gloves and packs of oatcakes and a carton of fresh eggs and cards and pens - lots and lots of pens - and half-filled notebooks, letters and small parcels for posting and elastic bands.

No-one touches my bag. It's pretty heavy and it's big so it gets dark early down there in the deepest recesses. Well anyway, i'd finished the oatcakes and I'd planned on having a banana half way through the afternoon.

So I reached into the bag and groped around, as you do, (no point in looking in there as there's far too much stuff) and ew, the banana had been replaced by something softly yielding and warmish. It was still banana-shaped but had the feel of a soft leather pouch filled with batter.

It wasn't a good sensation and I realised it shouldn't stay there a moment longer in case it suddenly splattered over the important stuff.

I withdrew it with the same care I might give to an unexploded incendiary device and was astonished to see that while my banana hadn't actually exploded, it had definitely gone off.

It had not gone off to the extent of being freckled. To me, freckles are indicators of banana perfection and they are quite attractive on some people too. It had not even gone off to the extent of being a bit freckled but frankly quite brown. It had gone off to the point of putrefaction. It was an ex-banana. Completely black.

My colleague, Ocean (not her real name but how do kids cope with names like that?) who is so seriously weird that she loathes and detests bananas, began to retch in a melodramatic way.

"Oh Jan that's so gross."

Honestly, you'd have thought I'd piled elephant dung all around her naked body.

I was hoping she wouldn't notice the blackness of the banana if I held it kind of close to my black trousers on the way to the waste bin. But she did. And I was embarrassed. My protests along the lines of "Well, it was all right yesterday" did little to stem the growing suspicion that all I carry around in that bag is a ton of rotting fruit.

It's a strange thing, embarrassment. I spent much of my young life in a semi-permanent state of embarrassment. My blush mechanism was set on a hair-trigger to go off at the slightest thing or even imagined thing.

I blushed for Wales. People - particularly boys - used to compete to see how deeply profusely crimson I would become. It was a psychological handicap as tangible as a wooden leg. My shyness was there for all to see - vulnerably and hotly displayed.

Fortunately, as I got older, began working and became more worldly-wise and at ease with people, the tendency to colour faded and now, thankfully, I don't blush unless someone says or does something which takes me completely by surprise.

It probably helps that I'm not embarrassed very often. There are lots of "Ooops" moments but those are low on the embarrassment index. I feel a compleat twit when people point out my careless spelling errors but that's bearable too.

They don't compare with the truly toe-curling incidents.... like the time I got a bracelet hopelessly tangled in the back of some lacy underwear in a ladies loo. I'm right-handed so the bracelet was on the right hand and caught in a position where the left hand couldn't do a lot to help.

After much tugging and fiddling and getting hot and bothered, I had to emerge to seek assistance - into the wider ladies area not into the restaurant itself, that would have been pure attention-seeking. Anyway, I'd have torn said underwear to bits rather than be compromised in public but would still have been wearing a bracelet unusually decorated with finely-shredded designer knicker.

Several ladies tried to help but it transpired that on a night out, not many women wear the spectacles they need to see clearly. That could be the feminine version of beer goggles. Same result anyway. Finally, one woman with 20/20 vision disentangled everything successfully, bless her.

There was another loo-related awkwardness in Stratford-upon-Avon when I became so desperate that I raced into the nearest pub toilet, gratefully sought a free cubicle and reflected, rather too late, that I'd rushed past several machines on the wall offering packets of condoms. It occurred to me that perhaps the girls of Stratford upon Avon ladies were particularly forward-thinking with their contraception, able to choose from an eye-watering variety of Durex.

It might have been convincing if the smell had been right but it wasn't. There was a distinct whiff and I'm not talking Domestos. Then the voices confirmed my fears that, like a fool, I'd rushed in where angels fear to tread.

It was about 45 minutes before it was clear to escape without being seen. My saving grace was the start of a televised football match. The boyfriend hadn't even noticed my unnaturally lengthy absence being entirely occupied with in-depth lager studies and then the soccer. It didn't last.


Not velvet

nor satin

or close-brushed silk

but fingertips


lightly as caressing feathers

of softest down,

tender as a baby's cheek

yielding as a fresh-sprung leaf



cool against the heat.

A shiver,


in the shimmering,

secret dark.