For a start Keith Barlow was English
secondly he was alcoholic
third but not least
he rented a cottage in Cramond
with a garage
full of the inessential
with potential.
He was also a heavy smoker.

One bright morning I found him fuming.
“Someones put a brick through the windscreen
of my hovercraft!”
he cried indignantly
pointing to some shattered glass
beside a lump covered with dusty tarpaulin.
“Your hovercraft, Keith?”, I quizzed cautiously
knowing I was dealing with an aviator,
raconteur, bonviveur,  regisseur
of son et lumiere, and dealeur in drugs.

He had thick glasses
curly hair
a lumpy body
and I noticed
a half bottle
sticking out of his
He was very pleased to see me
and assured me
suggestively that his hovercraft
was a fully functional 2 seater
and he’d hover me over the Firth
later on
but in the meantime he wanted to find
the bastard with the brick
and ram it up his jaxi sideways.

Keith had a way
with words and bricks.
Nothing appealed less
than the attentions of Keith
later on
in a 2 seater hovercraft
on the Firth of Forth
in April
so I said “Must shoot the crow”
blew its brains out
and caught the bus to Edinburgh.

In The Athens of the North
I was hired
to do a bit of this and that
in Stavanger, Norway.
It was a real
Fokker Friendship of a flight,
cheap but unfriendly,
and lager prices in Norway
leave you poor
rather than sober.
When I got to my hotel room
I found a sailor
quite obviously poorer than me
pissing in my ensuite
and entirely missing the suite.
It was not a sweet sight, nor smell
for he’d been eating asparagus
with a light dill dressing.
He liked the idea of me undressing
and tried to make love to me
but missed.
I was barely able to overcome
my nausea when he breathed.

“How the Hell did you get in here?”
I shouted in fluent English
“Through the door”, he said, quietly
as if it was a major heist.
Seemed reasonable at least
and I’m not a confrontational type
(never have been)
so I somehow just coaxed him out
the same way
and  slept alone that night
clutching a swollen bladder
clenching my bowels
holding down vomit
and fantasising
about hovering in April
with Keith.

Next day
I took my smelly belly
off to New Delhi
where the first trick
at Connaught  Place
is to work in teams
and throw shite
over fresh white canvas shoes
and chinos
as you wander out fearfully
from your hotel,
a little lagged and shagged
(well not literally yet).
One small operator
flung wet dung
from a shadow
the other met me
at the top of the underpass
and said
“Oh shite sahib!
What’s that pile of shengie
on your spats?
That didn’t come from your underpants
here let me clean it.
That’ll be five million rupees sahib.
cheap at the price
and dont tell me you wont pay
because this poor third world kid
has just wiped the shite
off  your
shoes! ”

Guilt and anguish.

Oh Keith, you’re beginning
to seem quite romantic.

I stared at my eternally packed holdall
It was full of rubbish
and faded keks from the dhobiwallah.
Not even a photo anymore
Not even a dog-eared
stained with semen
or old tears.
Just a few formal faxes
and a paper
on something professional.

I was contemplating the desert
loneliness of phoneliness
when I got a GSM call
on the digital mobile
contact yippee
I am connected
to others
and will now
go to
where 400 Russians
with Rasputin beards
play chess
and wage a cold war
which isn’t over yet.

“Take a double thinsulate-lined
fleece, a 16-tog duvet suit,
and a pair of feltlined Mukluk
Canadian Kodiak-trapper’s boots”
advised a short-skirted blonde
in Kensington.
I could tell she was blonde
and short skirted
from her accent.
I strode to the thick sweating plastic curtains
at my hotel window
and gazed out at a heat-hazed ants nest
of light saris and T shirts
with damp patches between
the shoulderblades.

Best go by The Karakorams,
I concluded.

It seemed a very
Keithian concept.

24 hours later, bus-lagged
and flatulent from a diet
of green slime and chapatis
with black fingerprints
I gazed at the endless white flanks
of Nanga Parbat,
wondered why anyone would attempt
climbing it
mused on the frozen mens’ bodies
scattered there
and bought myself
something warm
to wear.

Good to have money, I thought
looking at thin men in rags
working the dirt street,
though they all
seemed to smile
more than I do.

Antarctica by Mozambique.
In Mozambique
the shops are all empty
the roads all cracked,
and they blow up anyone
The uniformed men
took photos
and made me official
for a day.
We spoke of the war
then drifted apart
in uneasy peace…….

We landed on ice.
Fur-hatted flatfooted sturdy men
closed in like a herd of Yetis
and bundled us
into iron blue tanks.
dissident leading mountaineer
in the former regime,
narrowly escaped the Gulag
sent instead here
with his survival skills
and his smattering of English
was my guide.

He showed me the ropes
which connected every hut
in case of bad weather,
the tannoy warning system:
“Do not open the door!”,
the place they tested small but noisy
rockets for no apparent reason,
(Vasily didn’t know anyway,)
the crude skis he’d fashioned in the workshop
rebel that he is, for funtimes
while everyone else
reads Dostoyevsky
or pores over maps and cyphers.
He had become a Grand Master
of self-indulgence.

Once he took me to the sea ice
where machines cut square holes
right through to the slushy turquoise
mystery beneath.
There was nothing down there on the bottom
but unknown white organisms
in the glacial dark.
had a very long willy
I discovered when he stripped off
and dived in for a swim,
then did 15 laps of the site
dressed only in his glasses
his beard tossed up rakishly
his appendage undiminished
where others might have shrunk.

Then drunk at night,
on home-made vodka
I’d attempt Cossack dances
in the hospital kitchen.
My bed was a sick bed
my friends were doctors.
Nice to meet people
who liked to talk,
discuss each other’s music,
compare firearms……
I was out of practice at this.

But the high point
was the bathhouse.
Set apart in the permafrost
This was the social centre
where men could unwind
by stripping and donning
black felt pixie caps
then thrashing each other
in gross heat with oak twigs
imported from the Caucasus.
They’d tried African Eucalyptus
but somehow it wasn’t the same.
After a good parboiling and lacerating
we would throw buckets
of icy water over each other
and emerge gasping
and immeasurably enriched
more purposeful
than before.
Vasily would grin
like a patriot.
I called him Vaseline
for he lubricated
my sense
of myself.

Next an experimental TV installation
on the west coast of Ireland
based on the themes of tidal ebb, flow ,
springs, neaps, potatoes,
faith in hide coracles,
elemental excess, effluent discharge
and the re-written predilections
and pre-written re-directions
of my Performance Artist girlfriend.
She personally presented this piece,
and unnaccustomed as she was
to multiple coupling
the waves nevertheless began
to crash for her
and the surf got up
for a number of Celtic Gods
with camcorders.

The sounds of her moaning depths
these Neptune studs
and aided their trident ministrations
to her gaping mouth
and her awesomely
pudd ended
round at the back
with a creamy sheen
of climbing climaxes
and orgasms
rapid and hot, long
and well hung
in the coming.

She would probably claim to be
unnaffected by the experience
but the waves left indelible stains
on her memories
of monogamy.

I confess to a certain titillation
as well as the agony
of jealousy
and the dream of harmony
and loyalty and love.
Certainly seeing in her
her inner pubic
and public pleasure by proxy
was just a touch better
than a slap in the face
with a wet ungutted mackerel
though that in itself
has its primaeval

but it was only a video
I saw after all,
only a box of photoelectric
crawling into the living rooms
of artistic people
around the land.
It wasn’t really
her there bent in luscious
receiving all those others
and not me.
just a bunch
of high voltage pixels
enjoyed with a glass of spirit.

Speaking of spirit
I remember a group
of raddled
and monumentally damaged humans
in a hotel room spontaneously
and combustively Hellbent
and intent
on getting out of it,
the Hell they were in, that is,
by breathing smoke
and drinking
flammable liquids.
As an ad hoc
stress management centre
I sat on the rug
(biding my time
and drinking wine)
and heard everyone’s account
of their divorces and severances….
all these messy businesses
that were none the tidier
for the telling
and accompanied
by a grim determination.
to get out of your face
and reach some other place
reminiscent of Keith.

I hitched back from the edge
of the old world
through Spanish villages
sleeping in time
whilst all their youth
buzzed out of town on
A tough leathery girl
had me penetrate her
in a space and time
above the 12th century
watched by her little brother
who seemed used to it.
(I think he had been there
for ages).

It was so romantic
just getting my rocks off.

Then in kilts heading for the border
I met The Guardia Civil.
Franco’s darlings
who wanted to censor my knees.
Pistols were cocked
as they made me
change into trousers,
betraying my nation
of lions rampant
and immediately missing
that erotic airy freedom
and my natural popularity
with male drivers.
but what the Hell!
We compromise or die
in the Guernica of our souls,
though Keith would not have been so pragmatic.

Diverting on Monday
to The North Pole
a smooth guy in a red tuxedo
who looked a bit like Sean Connery
but was much older
said “My name’s Claus
Santa Claus”.
Flabbergasted I was
(in a quiet British way)
when he said
he was lonely and mixed up
and possibly a homosexual
on the verge of coming out.
I said “Oh no, you poor thing!”
as I took his manfully sobbing
frame into my arms
and made little rabbit kisses
on his considerable bald patch
as if to say
“there, there”
whatever that means,
but then I never said it.

What I did say was
“Here right now I’m off
to honour my offer
to my ex-wife
of the holiday
of a lifetime
on an exotic Eastern island
with the man
of all her erstwhile

In Penang I met her
and we swam in warm watery mud
with dead fish floating
between our legs.
She waded ashore,
the brown sunlit rivulets
dropping from her
tanned thighs.
I watched her with a trembling love
and wondered why she was there.
Some kind of habit
some programmed sense of duty
or a free airfare?
I found myself surrounded
by giant otters
with bad teeth
who looked like they
needed fresh meat.
I felt like a leg of mutton
in the guise of a live Red Mullet.
There was a sense of edibility
a certain thrill about the inevitability
of dying as a meal for others
and saliva started rising
in my terrified gullet
but I knew there was no future
in this line of perversity.

I was trained to value a future
so I struck out crawling
and breaststroking
towards the shore.
and through the rainbows
I made with my arms
I could see her stretching
her gleaming limbs in the sun
then leaving.

She flew away
and I never saw her again
nor the children
she had made with me.

I escaped. I can say
with just a hint of regret
I was neither raped
nor eaten by otters
and was called to Mexico
from whence doth come
the man-eating Chihuahua.
I met a young woman on a bus
who said she was a dancer.

She was much better looking than Keith.

I sat beside her for 18 hours
nervously clutching my wallet
and getting a stronger grasp
of my ego
as she raised each one of my charms
for discussion and stimulation.
When it got dark she layed her head
on me and slept a while,
then she woke, kissed my stomach
and laid her head on my lap
unzipping me expertly
and simultaneously
and then her mouth was around me
like a womb
and I thought
of my children
born and unborn
and I timed my releases
to the street lights
passing the coachwork
as we entered the hot
and not very pretty city
of Chihuahua.

We said goodbye
at the saddest
bus station in the world
exchanged addresses
and I found a bad hotel
amongst the traffic.
I phoned her many times,
her mother’s number
in the long noisy night
but she never answered
never came to me
never touched me again
though she never touched
my wallet either
which seems remarkable
in a way………

I was tired
after that.
Burned out.
It turned out
I wasn’t needed
any more.
It had been good
to be needed.

I got the plane East again,
over independent
Vera Cruz and Yucatan
leaving my seed
in the throat of a Mexican
on a bus.

I got home and opened the mail
(it was mainly offers of money
for nothing
or ways of spending it,
or pleas from The Royal Society
for the Protection of Chihuahuas.
Nothing handwritten
Nothing with a stamp.)

So I slipped into
a nice cold black latex minidress
tied my big toe to the bed with catgut
stretched my nipples wide apart
with crocodile clips
and an elaborate system
of springloaded pulleys
till the pain was unbearable
suspended a block over my tackle
and got down to some
simple wholesome fun.

I had the time of my life

Keith, bless him, has probably found
another co-pilot by now,
gone hovering on the Forth
or drystone dyking
with his dyke husband.

I kind of miss him though.






































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