A nervous breakdown led me into the world of poetry. First of all it was a way of coping with life, and later as a way to live.
Along the way I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (as a result of showing my poems to a psychiatrist) and have ended up discovering a life I would never have had the chance to enjoy, were it not for the breakdown. I do have a stammer, but this hasn’t doesn’t and never will stop me from performing. Performing has taught me how to adapt and to cope.
I did my first gig in August 2006 in Birmingham – for 8 minutes. 12 years later and I am still going strong. I have performed at hundreds of gigs (not as many as Queen Mab, but I will catch her one day…maybe!) been published by Chipmunkapublishing, won a fair few slams, and produced a play. Not to mention the semi-autobiographical film I’ve just written, Frosted Glass. Learn more about my work on my website.
Files, Files, Files (The Admin Assistant’s Lament)
This poem is based on times I spent working in offices at the start of my admin career.
At some point almost all of us will have encountered managers with little understanding or interest in the jobs of the people they are meant to be ‘managing’. This poem was inspired by their poor attitude, the greatness of Ronnie Barker (oh, and the brilliance of The Proclaimers) …
I have worked in Admin,
Through weeks and months and years.
Today I know the good times,
But in the past I’ve also known the tears.
And I once worked in an office,
Where my friends and I were blue,
Because of managers who’d ask us…
“What do you lot actually do?”
I said, well…
I open files,
And copy files.
I scan files,
And file files.
I store files
(Core files and many many more files),
And give out all the owed files,
Lend, tend and end files,
Email electronic files,
Create and update and re-date and conflate files,
And finally destroy files.
“Is that all?” he said.
I said “Well no…I do this…
…For your files,
Borrowed and the blue files,
Heavy and the light files,
All the battle-scarred files,
Measured by the yard files,
Halfway up the wall files,
And all your other Scottish files.
For when I wake up,
Well I know I’m gonna be,
I’m gonna be the man who’s making files for you,
And when I’m dreaming,
Well I know I’m gonna dream,
I’m gonna dream about the files I’ve left on view.
For I would make 500 files
And I would make 500 more
Just to be the man who’s made 1,000 files
YOU’VE JUST KNOCKED ON BLOODY FLOOR!!!
I’ll lift files,
Reshelve and shift files,
Move’m by the sack files
Tidy untidy files,
All the bona fide files,
Throw out all the broken files,
Unmix the mixed files
(Like all your dirty tricks files)
And of course your other files,
Cos THAT is what I do…with files.
…and don’t get me started on the photocopier!
Sad to say it, but this next poem is a true story. Many of us get bullied at school, which of course is no fun, but it is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are the only one it is happening to (I know I did), and that makes it even worse, especially when that fact is used in the defense of the bully…
When I first met you, we were friends,
We marched together through our days at school,
But things changed,
From you I became estranged,
When you realized that, I wasn’t cool.
From being a friend to me,
Suddenly you turned,
And taunted and teased,
I was the one who got burned.
When you realized it was not cool
To be my friend,
All of sudden it was open-season
On taunting me without good reason.
You smirked as you saw the insults you’d send
Were driving me right round the bend,
And not content with taunting to make my life hell,
You did plenty of other things as well…
To ensure that I knew to you I was second class,
Like a tabloid Fleet Street editor,
You turned into a predator,
And spread rumors about me
That came straight of your arse.
You would happily reduce me to tears,
If it meant you’d be respected by your peers
As the flash guy with the labels and the money.
You laughed at the fact that I had none,
And made out that you were the superior one,
And that you wondered why I didn’t find your taunting funny.
But as I kept on marching through the mire,
I sank lower and you climbed higher,
Now openly speculating that you thought I was gay.
But then you heard that I fancied a girl,
And that sent your editor’s mind into a whirl,
And you thought ‘I’ll make his life hell in another way.’
The next day over a can of Tizer, you decided I must be a womanizer,
Although I’d never had a girlfriend in my life.
But to you it was just another excuse
To have fun at the expense of my total recluse,
As into the wound, you plunged and twisted the knife.
You complained about the way I behaved a lot,
Saying I gave as good as I got,
But you were always the one who started the fight.
You expected me to just sit down and take it,
But when I cried I didn’t fake it,
But as far as you were concerned might was right.
For you knew I couldn’t report you because of who you were.
You knew you get away with it during and after,
And as I couldn’t go out on a limb,
It meant life’s light did greatly dim,
Crossing you (for me) could be a disaster.
So 10 years later I march on,
But the sound of your taunts will never be gone,
For they often force their way into my head.
I know you wouldn’t believe it if I told you
How your words still hurt and leave me cold too,
And that in the time I knew you I wished that I was dead.
But I wonder who you bully today,
With the insults and taunting, you might say
In your chosen career, whatever it might be.
But I can now stand straight and tall,
And tell you, you did bugger all
In making me waver from the pathway, that is me.
It’s true you did your very best
To give me a life that I’d detest
To the point where I’d change
Just to get your respect.
But you didn’t get me,
Even though that you upset me,
And that all your bullying went unchecked.
Am I an Alien?
For me ‘Am I an Alien’ is one of the most important poems I wrote, as it was one of the poems that led to me being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Written on Saturday December 17th 2005, I had just emerged from a film the Loughborough Odeon into a cold and busy town center on the last shopping weekend before Christmas. I felt the same feeling I had felt many times before, and as I walked home I finally found the words to describe it…
I could be an alien,
Who’s come from outer space,
At least that’s the way I feel,
Living amongst the human race.
I feel like an outsider,
With brain programming gone wrong,
Misfiring and jumping from its groove,
Into a different song.
Somehow, I feel different,
And not one of the crowd,
But my alien race will not tell me for certain.
They will not lift the shroud.
I don’t know if I’m one of us,
Or if I’m one of them.
I wish I could go back to my home planet,
And start my life again.
Am I here to tell this other race,
Of what life on earth is like?
Surely, they’ve seen enough by now,
To let me take a hike.
Back to the space from which I’ve come,
To start my life once more,
Before the life I live on earth,
Brings me mentally to the floor.
This last poem I’ve included was written especially for Frosted Glass. The scene it appears in was originally meant to contain a different poem but the general consensus of the cast and crew was that it wasn’t quite right for the scene. Therefore I put my thinking cap on and having stumbled across the play on words that appears in the first line of the poem, I wrote this to describe how having Asperger’s Syndrome (seen by some as a curse), can in fact be a blessing as well…
As I carry an Asp that urges me on,
An Asperger if you will.
Some believe that to be terrible thing,
So for them I will sugar the pill.
For the Asp that inhabits me inside my mind
Is quite friendly and not at all formal,
And keeps a look out for times I’m in doubt
And fear that I should be more normal.
The Asp in me can see quite clearly
The faults in normality’s line
And when it spots them, and lists and then jots them,
So I avoid them most of the time.
And I’m so glad I’m not this thing called normal,
It’s a state filled up with so much strife
As we’re all taught to be this idea called normal,
But I just don’t get the ’normal’ life…
That says we’re not allowed to tell the truth
But we’re also supposed not to lie
We’re told it’s so bad to bottle feelings up,
But then admonished when we cry.
We’re told to look down on the frauds and the cheats
And told they are the ones to blame,
But if in the process he makes lots of money
We’re told it’s the name of the game?
Well if normal is hypocrisy,
And normal is unfair,
And normal is to sell your soul
And say that you don’t care.
And normal is the salesman’s
Selling schemes for bonus cuts
If that is what the normal is,
Then I think normal’s nuts!
OK, I have a self-righteous streak,
As if you couldn’t see,
And I know I fail and I know I fall
(Says he self-righteously)
I know that I make more mistakes
In lines that I have writted
But unlike you normal man
I’ve got the guts to admit it!
Cos I’ve been an idiot and said the wrong thing,
Misunderstood an instruction or three
I’ve sometimes been a little too honest
Towards other people I would sometimes see.
But I’ve never jumped on any bandwagon
When I didn’t care where it was going
I’ve done life my way at work and at play
Even when I was all-too unknowing.
I’ve made the errors and found the pitfalls
But I’ve learned enough to get by,
And I’ll tell you for free that it works for me
And will do to the day that I die.
And so I’ll keep going from night into day
Getting it right, and then sometimes wrong
But I’ll learn my way through it, each day I that I view it.
With the Asp – urging me on.