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What I did and how I did it.

By MARTIN STANNARD.

 

  1. HOW I COPED WITH LIVING AMONG MORONS    

THE DAY I attained adulthood I heard the flapping of wings, and a dark hawk alighted upon my left shoulder and whispered in my ear about how I ought to go my own way, and although I should make a show of liking people I had to remember it was just a show and to hold on to my true and inner self. It was something like that. I don’t remember the exact words, because I was a bit distracted by having a dark hawk on my shoulder. Anyway, I took the advice, and I would reckon the success rate at 60/40, or 40/60, thus rendering the title of this paragraph questionable, whichever way you look at it.

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  1. HOW I DECIDED WOMEN WERE PREFERABLE TO MEN

SOME OF my male friends had decided to become homosexual just to be fashionable, and in the process some of them went from being very scruffy to being almost too well-dressed. At the same time, some of my female friends went from being very well-dressed to wearing the clothes my previously heterosexual male friends had discarded. I found myself having to weigh up the merits of the wardrobes, and since Lisa Derbyshire looked out of this world in an old t-shirt and torn jeans it took no time at all to come to a decision.

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  1. HOW I WAS KIDNAPPED BY BRIGANDS

I HAD been to a musical recital by a youthful combo called Vomit Bin and was strolling home in the light shed upon the cobbles by what I believe is called a gibbous moon. To my astonishment I was set upon by I don’t know how many brigands and whisked away to an unknown location behind the local Co-op, from where they began to issue their demands, threats, and updates on social media about my general condition. They deemed my value to be far below my own estimation, and my brother paid up without having to trouble his bank. It turned out they had mistaken me for a quite well-known poet they had heard on the BBC crapping on about Yorkshire.

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  1. HOW I KEPT MY COOL UNDER PRESSURE

WHEN THE lads from Engineering locked me in the Pressurized Cooling Tank for a prank I thought I had had my lot. It would not be the first time one of their practical jokes had ended with the mysterious disappearance of an employee. Then I remembered my army training from a video I had once watched about army training, and thanked goodness I have a good memory, unlike my brother who took drugs back when he was young and now can’t remember the words to songs he can’t remember. So using the cotton wool I always carry with me, I plugged all of my orifices, imagining I would thereby be counter-balancing the weight of the outer world with the richness of my inner life. I then magically and gently deflated one of my lungs, to save air. When I regained consciousness I was stretched out on a table in the canteen, an angel choir was singing, and Betty the Tea Lady was asking me if I wanted lemon in my Earl Grey.

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  1. HOW I MARRIED MY IMAGINARY GIRLFRIEND

I had the centrefold of a magazine stuck on my wall that was a picture of a young lady in green lingerie and every night she would be the last thing I saw before I fell asleep and dreamed dreams. The young lady bore a striking resemblance to the girl who worked Saturdays at the petrol station across the road from the greengrocer’s where I worked Saturdays, and to whom I would cast the occasional beguiling smile when time allowed. I will skip over the fact that when I plucked up courage to ask her for a date she told me she had a boyfriend who was studying at Oxford. Forgetting her, I eventually became engaged to and then married another young lady who resembled neither the centrefold nor the petrol station girl but who, in my mind with its active imagination, surpassed both in looks, sex appeal, intelligence, and sex appeal. It was only several years later with the arrival of late-period puberty and adulthood I realized that what you see with your eyes is not necessarily what is there.

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  1. HOW I CAME TO LOVE GRUEL

MY WIFE and I had become rather affluent thanks to an accountant who knew a few tricks, and I was beginning to put on a bit of weight. The day would kick off with squid and champagne for breakfast and, since I did not actually have to work, there was not much to do during the ensuing hours, so I began to browse some books from the library pile we had been using to feed the Aga when the fire got low. That was how I came across The Thomas Hardy Cookbook, a very slim volume which only existed when you were so faint from hunger you began to hallucinate. And yes, I can see the contradiction.

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  1. HOW I LOST MY WIFE

WE WERE holidaying on a canal boat when we were boarded by a band of pirates who ransacked our things and were more than complimentary about my wife’s attractions. I was too frightened to think about disagreeing. They made me walk the plank, but as we were then navigating a very narrow stretch of the waterway I was able to step off the end of the plank on to the towpath and leg it away as fast as I could. I did not look back. I reported the outrage to the police who remarked that piracy seemed to be on the increase. I have not seen my wife since that day. I hope she is alright.

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  1. HOW I SURVIVED DEATH BY BOREDOM

IT WAS a Thursday and so we had gone along to the regular monthly poetry reading upstairs in a storeroom at H&M. I do not remember the name of the poet who was reading that night because either I never knew it or the antibiotics have not yet fully left my system. There was an open mic before the main reading but I didn’t listen to that because it was an open mic. Then the main poet stepped up and began to read, and out of the window I happened to notice there was a very nice frock on display across the road in Marks & Spencer, a Jewish-stroke-British institution we would be sorry to see disappear from our local High Street, so I left very quietly to go and have a closer look.

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  1. HOW I REORGANIZED THE WORLD

ONE DAY I decided I was not happy with the way the world was so I decided to change some things. The flat lands I decided should be hilly, but not so hilly that they were difficult to walk at leisure. The mountains I decided could stay as they were but should be a little bit nearer to where I lived, to save on travelling. The too hot countries and the too cold countries should have the word “too” removed and replaced by “tolerably”. The oceans should be rendered eternally calm, and remain plentiful of cod or haddock. As for the people, I consigned most of them to the recycle bin, except for exceptional beings including Natalie Portman and the Asian model whose name I don’t know who I use as wallpaper on my laptop. I went to bed very pleased with myself for having reorganized the world, but the next morning nothing had changed because I had forgotten to press “Save”, and everything had been lost when Windows 10 automatically updated during the night.

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  1. HOW I ALMOST MARRIED THE MANAGER AT LIDL

I HAD always been an Aldi shopper but one day my friend Jed told me that the meat in Lidl was of a much higher quality and cheaper and he was right. I decided I wanted to thank the Lidl people in person so one day I asked to see the manager and he turned out to be a manageress or, as we say these days, being gender-aware, a manager. After I had spent several minutes telling she/he how much I admired her hams, how her chicken breasts were very good value, and how tasty her pork loins were, she invited me into her office where after some playful cut and thrust she said she wanted to discuss marriage and several future children, among other things.

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  1. HOW I FAILED AT NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

SOON AFTER I moved in here I put my name down for the local Neighbourhood Watch scheme because I have no desire to be burgled by burglars or otherwise invaded. Long story short, on my first tour of duty I was taken in for questioning by the police as a result of the lady at number 48 phoning in to report a Peeping Tom.

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  1. HOW I FORGOT WHERE MY FAMILY LIVED

I HAD not seen Mum and Dad for quite a long time because I thought that when you fled the nest it was perfectly alright not to go back very often, except to pick up the occasional birthday or Christmas gift. I figured I was in very heavy arrears on the gift account, and must be owed quite a lot, so I took a coach and travelled across the several hundred miles of middle-English wilderness to pay a surprise call, Mum in particular being very fond of surprises if they did not involve anything illegal or spiritually and/or morally disturbing. It was only when a complete stranger answered the door of the house in which I had grown up that I remembered that some time ago my parents had mentioned something about moving. Some people say I am too wrapped up in my own affairs to think about anyone or anything else, and use occasions like this to make their point.


Martin Stannard has been publishing poetry and criticism for some 40 years. He was founding editor and publisher of joe soap’s canoe (1978-93) and poetry editor of Decals of Desire (2016-17). His poetry and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Stride, International Times, Tears in the Fence, The North and Poetry Salzburg Review. His most recent full-length collection is Poems for the Young at Heart (Leafe Press, 2016) and a chapbook, Items, was published by Red Ceilings in August 2018. After more than a decade teaching Literature and Culture at a university in China, he returned to the UK in early 2018. His versions of classic Chinese Tang dynasty poems have appeared in Meniscus and Litter.

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