A Short Story About Commuting (or Modern Life Is Rubbish)


Raymond was looking forward to getting home. He knew that his wife and two lovely little daughters would be waiting for him. He hurried along the wet sidewalk.

Presently he arrived at the point of the journey he always hated. Here, he either had to walk through a cold, dirty dark tunnel which – if he avoided mishap – would shave many minutes from his journey, or he would have to take the safe but long way round. It was a horrible day – cats and dogs would be a suitable epithet and he had left his umbrella at home that morning.

He decided upon the tunnel.

Within seconds he realised it was a mistake. A dirty individual in ragged clothes leapt out from behind the wheelie bins and stood in front of him. Legs apart. Confrontational. Raymond instantly recognised him, and knew he was in for a bad time.

He tried familiarity.

“Virgil Trails” Raymond started confidently. “I haven’t seen you round these parts for ages”

Virgil grinned. It wasn’t a pleasant grin. “Wait there” he grunted.

He ventured behind the bin and returned seconds later with a baseball bat,

“What the fuck? – ” Raymond exclamation of surprise was interrupted by the bat crashing into the side of his jaw. He saw the string of blood sailing through the air.

Virgil regarded Raymond’s confusion and surprise with satisfaction. Suddenly he stepped forward and drove the fat end of the bat into Raymond’s solar plexus. The sound of ribs breaking could be heard and the commuter doubled up in pain, coughing.

Virgil stepped back again as if to admire his brutality but in fact he was simply better positioning himself to arc a vicious uppercut swing which caught the bent-over Raymond on the point of his chin.

Raymond  toppled over, unconscious.

The ruffian sauntered off to his space behind the bins once again and this time returned with a bucket of ice cold water. He threw it upon the prone figure of Raymond, who shuddered and then came to.

Rising gingerly to hist feet and wiping the blood from his mouth he started moving backwards. Terrified. Through his broken jaw and teeth Raymond was only able to mumble a single question.


Virgil cleared his throat, fixed his shirt and very politely and delicately announced

“I am very sorry for the broken nature of your face. This was caused by a malfunction in my psychological operations. Virgil Trails apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

He smiled brightly and disappeared back behind the dirty bins.

The battered, cold wet – and late – Raymond ran off crying with pain and disbelief.


Dreams Die Here

Dreams die in places like this
They gasp and stagger
And collapse in writhing

These dreams once were
Free to run through
Forests and meadows
And to bask in the dappled light
Of the late morning sun

But ambition took
Those wary dreams
To a place called work
Dreary little hovels with polystyrene ceilings
Strip lights
And carpets of pure function
And not form

And in these places
Greed, malevolence
And hatred breed
Like bacteria in the dark
Recesses of the toilet bowl
For a beautiful dream

Slowly the poison takes a hold
And the dreams die.


The Easy Skank

Whatever happened to
The easy skank?

Easy skanking
Was a way of life
For some.
An aspiration for others
And a safety net
For us all.

Easy skanking
Was the awkward
Hidden away in a
Dusty room
Emerging infrequently
(lectures mainly)
No pressure
And maybe
Finding out
Something amazing

Easy skanking
Was young people
Refusing to be
Sucked into the
Vortex of corporate work
Truths of their own
And the world.

The easy skank
Was the dream of the
Burnt-out wage slave
“At least I’ll be able to
Get an easy skank”
He would say.
And dream of ending
His working days
Doing not very much
For a decent week’s pay.

Easy skanking was Bristow.
Easy skanking was punk.

Targets, measurement, policy
And AI seek out the hiding
Places of skanking and
Emotionlessly eradicate them in the name
Of efficiency and profit.

We’re richer for it.

But all I see is poverty of souls.

The Shabby Suit

Eight or so years ago, I wrote a poem entitled The Shabby Suit while sat in the concourse of Sheffield railway station watching the world go by. In the years that followed, events would cause me to think about the poem. On a couple of occasions I even searched for it in my boxes of scribbles – to no avail.

Earlier this morning I was having a clearout, and guess what fell out of a dog-eared notebook? A folded A4 sheet with said poem scrawled on it. Allow me to share it with you – was it worth the wait?

The Shabby Suit

Once upon a time
It was a source of pride
It indicated that he was
Getting ahead,
That he was important
He wore a tie.

I see him today on the
First delicate,
Day of spring.
Young students sharing discoveries
In scruffy jeans
Hobos smiling and observing
Beauty via a can
Of beer.

He regards the love of others
And envies it.
For the thing that
Once meant so much
To him and
Defined his
Is now threadbare and

He has fallen out of love
With its symbolism
It is old and grey
Like the man himself
And he realises
There’s nothing else.

Gonna Start a Revolution From My Bed


Unmade Bed – Photo by Montag

I’ve been working in Manchester of late, doing the seven-fifteen shuffle across the peak district – it is so dispiriting sometimes that it has been known to inspire poetry!

There must be something about commuting at this time of year that leads to polemics. Last year I wrote a fairly heartfelt post railing against the commercialisation of Christmas. And while this year the corporate feeding frenzy seems to have been toned down a bit, you can bet your penultimate pound that they are working hard to manipulate us in a myriad of subtle ways.

Anyway to revolutions, beds and the like. Stumbling off my commuter carriage into the murk of Manchester Piccadilly station, I was struck by the multitude of ‘revenue protection agents’. In an instant, modern society seemed clear to me. All this effort goes into protecting revenue – not a man shall cross the threshold between platform and concourse without their purchase credentials being checked. Continue reading