Saturday 31 July 2010

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 23

I used to get a shave and a haircut every month from an old man called Tassos. I watched his skin turn slowly yellow. When I could talk a little, he showed me a business card. It was dog-eared. 1967. President Lyndon B Johnson. He had cut the President's hair. That was the highlight of his life. Tassos died in April, 1993. His shop closed down, then reopened a few weeks later, selling ballet shoes.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 22

Michael was Irish. He turned up out of nowhere, but everyone soon knew him. He was married. His wife had an abortion. 'She fucking killed my kid,' he used to say, every night, after a few beers.

He didn't last long, Michael.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 21

It's Danny's driving test. His instructor tells him, 'Remember - you don't speak Greek.' He nods, and gets into the car. 'Start machine!' smiles the examiner. Danny does it perfectly. 'Park car here!' the examiner says after thirty seconds. Danny does it perfectly. 'You pass!' says the examiner. Danny gets out and shakes hands with his instructor, who gives him a wink. As a rule, Danny does not agree with wads of cash in brown envelopes, but the one he handed over at the end of the last lesson certainly turned out to be value for money.

Friday 30 July 2010

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 20

'Right,' says Ray. 'Tonight's the night.' It's Ray's 21st. He wants to pop his cherry. Hugh reckons he knows the score. We fall into a taxi. The place is down the fish market. We climb the stairs. There's music behind the door. Mozart. I'm shitting myself, even though it's not my party. Hugh pushes the wood and we fall inside like the three stooges. A fat, naked old woman is sitting in a wicker chair, red under the light. She shakes her head. I don't know how Hugh feels, but I'm relieved. Ray stomps down the stairs. Still a virgin.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 19

Danny works at the British Council. He's laughing. 'Get this,' he says. 'The Director reckons there's too much drinking going on. He put a note on the fridge in the staffroom. 'No more beer in here!'.' Fair enough, I think. Teachers. Alcoholics all. The Director's a bit of a dick, though; he reckons he can play the cello. 'Did it work?' I ask. 'Oh, yes,' Danny smiles. 'When I opened it this morning it was full of wine.'

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 18

Saturday afternoon, and the sun is beating down. We're at a table on the pavement. The phone goes. It's Danny's wife. 'Yeah, it'll be a while yet,' he tells her. 'We're still on the first one.' He sits down. 'Must be a bummer when you have to lie to her like that,' I say, as Danny prises the top off another bottle. 'Not at all,' he says, and counts the empties at his feet. 'It's still the first crate, int it?'

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 17

Danny's the man. He reminds me of my dad, which is strange, because Danny plays the guitar and looks like David Bowie. 'I've actually met him,' he tells me. 'When I was at Uni. He wasn't very famous then. I had to ask him how to pronounce his name. 'Bowie', as in 'Bowie knife'.' I'm impressed. 'That's nothing, though,' he smiles through his big squint teeth. 'You should hear Bowie's story about meeting me.'

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 16

It's late. The place is heaving. The barman has a pony tail growing out the front of his head. We're with a Canadian tourist. 'So what do you like about Greece?' he says. 'Easy,' says Mark. 'I can walk into any bar in this town and I know I won't get hassle.' I go to the jacks. When I come back, the barman is standing on the counter, pummelling some unfortunate punter with a length of wood. When he's done, he props the wood in the corner and slicks back his pony tail. Mark gets another round in. The Canadian can't take his eyes off the body twitching on the floor.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 15

'Before we go in,' I say. 'They might ask you to get your tackle out.' Gordon turns white. I smile inwardly; Gordon is a bit of a prick. There are two doctors. Both of them are smoking. I give them the SP - I'm just here to translate. They find Gordon's skinhead hilarious. 'Ask him if he's a Communist,' one of them says. I translate. Gordon is shitting himself - he's wondering what they'll do to a Communist with his prick in his hand. I close the door quietly behind me.

Author's note - perhaps there is one prick too many in this story.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 14

Hassle at the kiosk. It's surrounded by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Ten. Without the funny costumes. 'I am an American sailor!' the leader barks at the old woman inside. He has to stoop. She doesn't understand what he is, she just wants paid for the phone call. The police arrive. I step in. 'You're fucked, mate,' I tell the leader. 'AT&T cards don't work in Greece.' He takes a swig of Johnny Black. 'I am an American sailor!' he screams. The kiosk is about to get trashed. The police leave. I'm right behind them.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 13

Garth seems pleased. 'That's the hot water back on,' he says. 'What happened?' I ask. 'The landlord showed me this switch on the wall when I arrived,' he says. 'Click. A wee red light came on. At the start of December there was a bang, and it went off.' He'd had his immersion heater on for two months. That was four months ago. He whacks a bottle of Badedas Africa onto the table. 'I'll be soaping it up tonight!' he says.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Poems 88-89 (Part 2)

ON THE BUS oan the bus
Aw oor heeds jerkin
up an doon
as wi go oor the bumps

i.'s sumthin yi nivir reelli no.iss
No unless yi imajin.i yirsel
thi. yir no akchilli oan the bus


The man,
obviously disabled in some way,
staggered towards us.

The woman,
taking a long drag,
turns to her friend.
'Aye,' she nods. 'Paralysis.'


I knew this guy who got run over by a Disprin lorry.


If ah could sing,
ahd serenaeji.
If ah could dance,
ahd trip the light fantastic wi yi,
an ah widni stand oan yur toes.
Bu. ah canni.
So ahll jist brush the skin iyur palm
wi ma fingur
as ah hand oor ma 1.80
fur ma Large Doner,
an a wee twinkle in ma eye.
Tha. only serve tae merge mi
in.i the skittle-row ihappySad drunks
which you so sweetly bowl over
ivri Friday night.


Ah wonnti be a Rie.ur
nhang oo. in bars
ngi. ma foe.i tane in
black nwhie.
wi ma burd
na Jitann hingin oo.i
thi coarner i. ma muthe
nma suntanned chist
burstin oo.i ma denim shur.
lookin like ahm huvvin a
reelli briwwyin. time

Summ day
ahll buy a tiperie.ur
cos ahv goe. sum
reelli briwwyin. ideas
fur po-ums
Bu. tha. kin wae.

Ahm too bizzi lookin foe.ogenik


All that he salvaged from the wreckage
was a thick canvas parka,
which he now wore at all times.
With the hood up.
The desert baked, but
he could feel himself turning whiter
inside the shadow of the jacket.
Ever concerned with matters cosmetic,
he decided to get himself a tan.
To prove he had actually been
in the desert.
He removed his jacket
and tied it round his waist
with the arms.

Half an hour later,
he was surprised
at the sunburn
on his shoulders.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL #1 - #12

# 1

Sally got sacked for bringing stray dogs to class, although she swears it was because she refused to wear shoes.

# 2

Chas got sacked for playing his guitar too much during lessons.

# 3

Duncey was a born-again Christian. He told his boss he would kill him with his love.

He got sacked.

# 4

Simon was living in an unfurnished flat. Correction. There was a mattress on one floor. His boss told him not to worry - she would do his washing. He did a runner at Christmas.

# 5

Ted is living in a flat with no windows. It's like an extended cupboard, minus the view. He's sitting opposite me, shaking. 'It just got worse,' he says, and bursts into tears. 'The landlord's painted it purple.' I order more rets.


'I need somewhere to plank a TV set,' says Garth. Garth is from Belfast. His boss has refused to give him his severance pay. Garth has kidnapped the appliances from his flat. 'He's got three days to pay up,' he says. 'Or the telly gets it.'

# 7

Garth is a dedicated jogger. I bump into him one evening. It's dark. He's in his shorts. He's sweating. 'What's with the big stick?' I ask. He raps the wood off the kerb and looks over his shoulder. 'Dogs, Andy,' he says. 'Dogs.'

# 8

The following evening. Garth is in his shorts, obviously off for a run. He's wielding the stick. He stops. 'Any dogs around?' he asks. Ah, I think. The dangers of jogging. 'Aye,' I say, and point back the way I've just come. 'You want to be careful, there's a pack of them...' I don't get to finish. He's off. In the direction of the dogs.

# 9

First night down the caff since I got back from Scotland. Tony's in. 'Have a good time?' he says. His eyes are bloodshot; he's had a few. 'Too right,' I tell him. 'Slap up Christmas dinner - all the trimmings. Hogmanay was a blast. Met up with some old friends and made lots of new ones. It was party time for two weeks. I'm glad I went. You?' Tony is glaring at me. 'I got sacked,' he says.

# 10

Scratch marks. They weren't mine. I tried to ignore it, but after a week the bar of soap looked like a stickle brick. I staked out the toilet. A rat came swimming out of the bowl and jumped onto the wash hand basin. I killed it with a shoe.

Moral: rats can swim and rats can jump, but they can't run faster than Doctor Marten.

# 11

Yanni brings me a bottle of Amstel and returns to his corner. I pour a glassful. It's flat. 'Yanni!' He comes over. 'There's no bubbles in this beer.' What a translator I am! Yanni picks up the bottle and peers at it. Then he puts his thumb over the end and gives it a good shake. He looks again. 'There's bubbles in it now,' he says. He places the bottle on the table and returns to his corner.

# 12

A junkie flops down at my table. He wastes no time putting the bite on. 'Gie us some money,' he says. It turns into a staring contest. Yanni comes over. 'He bothering you, Andy?' he asks. 'No,' I say. 'This is my new friend.' 'Oh, right,' Yanni smiles. The junkie smirks. 'Bring me a coffee,' he says. Yanni goes to the kitchen. The junkie stands up. 'Ah kent ye had money,' he says, and walks out.

Poems 88-89 (Part 1)


The shaft of sunlight
struck the after shave bottle
and was split
into a promising spectrum
of possibilities.


The simple truth is
that it is
the Roadrunner
who is sending
the Coyote
those parcels
from Acme.

And the Coyote knows.


'Listen,' said the Ichneumon fly
to the caterpillar.


There is a wasps' nest in the tree
outside my window.
There is never much activity;
I don't know if many wasps live there.
But I sometimes feel that
I would like - carefully - to peel away
some of those fine wafer layers
and satisfy my curiosity.
Revealing, perhaps,
her thriving heart.


It is a cheap hotel.
The floorboards are cracked and
there is fungus hanging from the ceiling,
proudly, like a decoration.
The dark stairs,
with a handrail I'd rather not use,
lead to a corridor,
half lit through a dust covered window
at the end.
There are doors along either side.

It is third on the left.
Room number 8 with
the door with
the shotgun wired to the handle.
I cannot help myself.
I reach out


and they faced each other
with tears in their eyes
and they raised their revolvers
to their heads
wept a last farewell
squeezed their triggers
only he made sure
she squeezed hers first
and as he listened to the
of her gun going off
the echo still ringing in his ears
as he phoned for the ambulance
he felt happy
that at last someone had
loved him that much
I feel a bit of a self-retrospective coming on. An 'introspective', I suppose. Some stuff from Scotland, 88-89, which I came across in a folder I'd forgotten I'd salvaged. The poet then was not a happy camper. Most of the pieces are quite dark, although most seem to be grasping towards some idea of self-knowledge, which is only to be expected. A few are quite whimsical, with a lightness of touch which still brings a smile to my face. I promise to post only those which I deem worthy of an airing - and an airing they certainly need; some of the A4 sheets have got mould on them.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Unthinkable Skies by Juliet Wilson - Review

Unthinkable Skies by Juliet Wilson. Calder Wood Press, 2010. ISBN 978- 1- 906269-28-5

Juliet Wilson has a reputation as a poet who cares deeply about the natural world. But the poems that really stand out in her latest collection, Unthinkable Skies, are not those that deal with man's impact on the environment. The real gems in this work give a more direct insight into the poet's take on human relationships. It is here that Wilson shows true form, as she employs everyday images to describe the unbridgeable chasm that exists, inevitably, between lovers. In 'Drift', the writer reflects on childhood times, playing with a jigsaw map - she realises in later life that she is no closer to her lover than Africa is to Brazil. 'Return' is more positive, again using the map and jigsaw motif, but distance, thankfully, is abandoned in the last line. In 'Alchemy', a young couple try to build a kind of love in a war zone - 'The pull of vestigial wings between their shoulders / lifts them above their troubled town.' And this, from 'Unblinded' - 'Eyes closed, you read the Braille / of your lover's face, / feel her breath on your skin. / Her heartbeat in the dark.'

There is a gently pulsing vein of sadness throughout this collection, although the poems never become melancholy - far from it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Unthinkable Skies, and will definitely be on the lookout for Juliet Wilson's next book.

Juliet Wilson blogs at
Calder Wood Press

Here's where it all started - Lines Review 111



I see from his file
(which is three lines
on a piece of paper
stuck high on the wall with a tack)
that he is four
and that his mother and father
are alcoholics.

He tells me
that his father is
a Fireman,
a Tractor Driver,
and is the man who
sees to the schools,
meaning that he is the man
who knocks the fences down.

I am his friend.
I am Andy
who lets out the tunes
which are inside the piano.

On the last Thursday
I tell him that, tomorrow,
I am going away.
After a moment,
he looks up from his sand pie.
"I'll never forget your name, Andy," he says.

I wish
was four.


Today, we are making a frieze.
A frieze of things that make a noise.
A loud noise.
Or a soft noise.
There are cut out pictures of
an electric drill,
a piano,
a wristwatch.

sticks a blank piece of paper
on the wall.


Ring a Ring o Roses
round and round we all fall down
the circle ending up
where it started.

And now the music has stopped.
The lid
of the piano
is locked.
presses his eye
against the keyhole
to see
if he can see the tunes.

Scottish Writer Andrew McCallum Crawford - Drive! - The Reverend

Scottish Writer Andrew McCallum Crawford - Drive! - Chapter 2

Scottish Writer Andrew McCallum Crawford - Drive! - Chapter 1

Let's get this page back in gear.

I can't believe I've been neglecting this page since April. Time to put that right, I think - there's been a lot going on. As far as Drive! is concerned, I am more than happy with progress. I think it might be time to branch out a bit and start doing a wee bit of writing here, as well as my regular posts on Facebook. Of course, the two sites need not necessarily be mutually exclusive. This is one of the things that I am finding so liberating about the Internet - the amount of sharing that goes on.
Does anyone know when the last day of the Edinburgh Fringe is?