Saturday, 27 February 2010

TV Licence Fee

'Dear Ms Sheppard. It has come to our attention that you have recently moved into the property - address listed above. Please fill in the attached television licence fee form so we can send your licence in the post.'


'Dear Ms Sheppard. We sincerely hope you are well and, in case you did not receive our last letter, here is a copy of the form for you to fill in. There are several easy ways to pay, by direct debit, cheque or postal order. You can even drop in to your local post office and pay by cash - the old-fashioned way! We look forward to hearing from you and wish you well in your new home.'


'Ms Sheppard. The first several weeks in a new home are a muddle of setting up new accounts and bills and it is said that moving home is the third most stressful thing that can happen in a person's lifetime, behind bereavement and divorce. But now is the time to obtain a TV licence for your property. Here is a copy of the form, please fill it in and return it in the free-post envelope. Nothing more will be said about your seemingly habitual lack of organisation.'


'Ms Sheppard. We have still yet to receive our licence fee agreement form. As it seems that you are incapable of looking after your own affairs, we have written to your old school head master to inform him of your conduct. He was very disappointed as he remembered you as an able and conscientious pupil. Unfortunately, this is not a side of yourself that you have chosen to show to us. We regret that the matter has proceeded for as long as it has and have taken the liberty of setting up an online account for you, since you are too lazy to deal with this issue yourself. Simply go to the website below and click the “pay now” button. Really, we could not make this transaction any easier. We look forward to your payment and hope to re-establish channels of correspondence soon.'


'Miss Sheppard. We recently send an enforcement officer to your home to ensure that you were not using our facilities without proper reparations being paid. The enforcement officer found the house seemingly full of people, with loud music blasting from an open second-storey window. However, when the officer knocked, the music was immediately switched off and the people were silenced. The officer, after making several attempts to alert the occupants to his presence, was informed - through a partially-opened letter box - that no one was in and that he should go "boil his head". Is this really the behaviour of a grown woman Miss Sheppard? Are you aware that it is an offence to refuse entry to an enforcement officer? Incidentally it is also an offence to make one cry by insisting he "sod off back to the land of the morons." You may not think it Miss Sheppard, but our officers are sensitive, compassionate beings and to have them spoken to in this manner is simply not on. A second officer has been informed and will be visiting you shortly. Failure to comply will result in very dire circumstances.'


'To the occupier. As our enforcement officer refuses to speak of the incident, and has since taken a leave of absence due to work-related stress, we are unable to ascertain just what you might of said to upset him so. However, as a result of your conduct we are now taking further advice. If you do not pay the balance of the debt immediately, we will make things very difficult indeed. That is not a threat Miss Sheppard, it is a promise.'


'To whom it my concern. We have begun seeking legal advice in connection with your blatant disregard for the law of the land. We are compelled to inform you that failure to pay the licence fee constitutes a criminal offence. A court summons will be posted to your address within the next few days. The maximum penalty in cases such as these is a fine of £1,000. We will see you in court.'


'Dear Miss Sheppard and family. As per the court order, please consider this written proof of our agreement. We sincerely apologise for any distress caused by our threatening and aggressive actions towards you. (Although had you made it clear from the beginning that you were a blind paraplegic then this whole messy business might have been avoided.) It was wrong of us to assume that the people in the flat above yours were related to you and your carer has fully apologised for his rude behaviour towards our staff. (Although, a man with such a sparkling array of profanity in his vocabulary hardly strikes us the right sort of person to be caring for someone in your condition.) By way of apology, please accept the enclosed voucher for a free television set. We will be sending you a licence fee form by the next post.'

Thursday, 18 February 2010


I could never sculpt hands.

I can transfigure my chisel
Into a typewriter and speak a personal history,
Sculpt the deep rivulets of emotions
Around the eyes of dictators and devils,
Divas and demigods,
Fashioning life
From bronze and stone.
Or recreate the folds of gowns
That envelope sleeping nymphs,
While patterns, Klimt-like
Wreath the delicate tendrils of their hair.
But if I could emulate the warmth of a handshake,
The articulation of a hand raised and lowered
In debate;
Or capture the vitriol of an obscene gesture...

I cannot conceive the corrugation of weather-worn knuckles
Bleached and tanned by an unforgiving sun.
Or the elegant ebony hand
Whose pale palms serve a contrast of colour
More pleasing than any canvas.

I only wish I could sculpt hands.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day Poem

Chemical leak

The shopping centre
Is shut today.
Something malignant
In the air conditioning.
The woman
On the radio
Says scores of people
Complained of dizziness
And breathlessness.
As I switch to another station,
I wonder if
I am being poisoned
Every time you smile.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The mystery button

There's a button, nestled snugly amongst the dials and levers and meters, on the dashboard. A uncontrollable control panel. And it has no label, this mystery button. All the buttons and buzzers and bells that surround it are worn smooth by the ridges of my fingerprints. Weather-beaten and care-worn. But, the mystery button remains fresh and pristine. Like a ripe kumquat. Or a new pair of shoes. I fear it. The mystery button. El boton de misterio. It's mystery is the source of it's awesome power. Perhaps I will cover it with masking tape, and mask it's wrath. And cover my temptation.

N.B. This is not a convoluted metaphor for female sexuality – there really is an unidentified button on my car's dashboard.

And it preys on my mind.