Favourite Uncle.

He was
my favourite uncle.

More like a mate.
He brought me candy bars from Zanzibar
and everything was great.
He told me ‘bout a place
in outer space and said he’d take me there.

He bought me sherbert dips and walnut whips.
He answered all my prayers.
He gave me building blocks

and Batman socks

and called me

‘Our Kid.’

But he fell out

with me Mam

and left.

Like all the others did.

From the debut collection SEX & LOVE & ROCK&ROLL
Burning Eye Books, 2013. Available from longfella.co.uk


You kept us in check alright. Hugged us
With a thuggery unrivalled on our street.
A bruiser, a bellow; lurching through doorways,
knuckling at dusters, rubbing spit upon faces,
tormenting the dishes, You were clatter;
The business, and if one of us resisted
Your words had the strength
to lift the spines from our backs.

One afternoon, while you slept, I crept closer
Ran my fingers along the red scar in your side.
The one that I’d made. Deep as the earth’s crust,
But still nowhere near deep enough to be the end of you.

Mark Grist will perform at the Spirit of '45 Day event as part of Doc/Fest 2013. Link

A is For Angelica by Iain Broome.

Legend Press, 2012.
Reviewer – Edward Russell-Johnson.

This is the first novel from local author Iain Broome, a tale of curtaintwitching, isolation and simmering tensions in suburban Sheffield.

Gordon Kingdom spends his days caring for his bed-ridden wife, Georgina, and his nights spying on the neighbours. His elaborate filing system contains notes on the bedtimes, wardrobe choices and teaslurping habits of his fellow residents of Cressington Vale. Convinced he can care for Georgina alone, Gordon and his fragile world begin to disintegrate when Angelica moves in across the street.

For a first-time author, Broome plunges headlong into some weighty social ills. Gordon is surrounded by people whose habits he knows intimately, yet his isolation is suffocating. He’s a well-intentioned carer who is hopelessly out of his depth, and he’s in desperate need of help but is incapable of asking for it. Broome’s sparse dialogue deftly captures Gordon’s alienation and those empty conversations we all have with neighbours and vague acquaintances.

Because of Gordon’s autistic character traits, it’s difficult not to read this book in the shadow of Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident. It also owes a debt to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, exploring the dramatic potential of the closed doors and open curtains of suburbia. These are well-trodden paths, but Broome’s take on them is spirited and never predictable.

However, for me the main barrier to Gordon Kingdom’s skewed little world is the man himself. A character dominated by a single quirk can easily feel two-dimensional, and by handing Gordon the narrator’s reigns Broome forces us to share his narrow worldview. Beyond the colourful minutiae of Gordon’s notes the characters feel shallow, and his lack of empathy makes the reader’s job difficult.

Frustratingly, this under-development becomes a theme. The author has a magpie’s eye for the tiny dramas of everyday life, but many of his ideas are abandoned, leaving the reader unsatisfied. The counter-argument is that this superficiality reflects the inherent flaws in Gordon’s character, which we have to experience in order to fully understand him. I felt that it closed the curtains, rather than shedding light.

For all his faults, Gordon is a likeable character. His relationship with his wife is touching and his involvement with Angelica has a mesmerising, car-crash quality. A is for Angelica is a bold effort, and Broome’s uncomplicated prose pulls us through some potentially morbid subject matter with dexterity and humanity.