Night Poems

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Night Poems (1994)
By Paul Carden

Behind The Wall

There’s something scratching behind the wall
in the dark above the kitchen
with the dust and the dead flies
around midnight, every night
above the wind moaning in the chimney
and the branches clawing at the roof tiles.

Through the holes where the pipes go
I imagine red eyes
with claws and gnawing teeth
to scrape through the comforting veneer
of any dream.

It is restless, fidgeting behind the brickwork
maybe it’s hungry, hoping for exposed fingers
hanging down by the bedsides
of unwary sleepers.

Think of the rodent skulls behind the shed
with the inch-long teeth
when the dream hurts.

Two Oak Trees on a Windy Night

Two oak tress on a windy night
catch the screeching gale in their ageing limbs
as it rushes down from Paradise Hill
with it’s shadows and half-dreamt stories.

Whatever walked upon that hill
those trees knew, as it shone bone-white
and crept into the dark corners
of the minds of those who saw it.

But with shadows gone, those trees watch over
the children playing beneath them
collecting acorns, that the squirrels would only eat,
to pelt at their friends until the light dies again.

Barn Owl

A white ghost cuts silently through the still air
Eyes as black as the sky above
An angel’s face bobs like the moon on a river
A death mask to shine for the souls of the hunted

Lightning death strikes with a whisper of thunder
A clawful of knives and instinctive skill
The phantom assassin returns with it’s victim
To three hungry mouths still calling for more.

The Between-World

Time becomes a shadow, a distant whisper,
we are aware of not being alone,
A figure sits, still as the dead,
A laughing owl by his side, silent as a prayer

An aeroplane carefully tears open the sky,
as a twilight cat makes the between world his own,
The single flickering white light is stifled,
in the dark places where our dreams incarnate

For A Friend

Hidden from the street lights
the cats squeal and hiss
discussing their boundaries with claws and teeth
with fur on end, growing to twice their size.

Charlie returns a hero next morning
and from warrior to stately lord of the manor
we servants see to his battle scars
and the infected bite that made his face swell up.

Happily we pamper him in his convalescence
because we know we don’t deserve him
we appreciate his foibles and ignore the bathroom accidents
which weren’t really his fault, being shut in by mistake.

And when the carpet suffers his claws once more
we’re angry for at least two seconds
Until he gets his food and gives a purr
which says: “I love you really.”

He lay in the dark on his favourite chair
he was dying, crying, afraid and alone
so I went downstairs and sat with him while he cried
through the last night he’d be there for a friend.

Grey Squirrel

The sun is half-hidden when he rises
The grey half-light takes time to slide away
Unveiling a mist creeping from the river
Tumbling phantoms I pretend not to believe in

A flickering streamer breaks from the trees
Every sense straining, each movement precise
No answer questioned, each need necessary
A glimmering instance of unconfined life.

Rosedale Morning

The cats all cease their hunting and the owls go back to sleep
From far away come the early cries of cockerels and sheep
The morning dew still lingers on the ground like scattered diamonds
And the thick mists in the valleys make the hilltops look like islands

The shadows on the hillsides begin to slide away
As the golden rays of sunlight break through to start the day
The steep climb was well worth it to where my dad and I have just been
To the top of Rosedale Chimney just to watch the day begin.

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Finn Can Fly

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Finn Can Fly
A short story by Paul Carden

Finn had often dreamed that he could fly. He would dream that he could just spread his arms wide and he would float up into the air and fly around inside his dream wherever he liked. He sometimes drew pictures of the places he had flown to in his dreams and showed them to his mum. She thought it was wonderful that he should dream such fantastic things.

But one Saturday morning Finn’s mum got an incredible surprise when she came to wake him up, because Finn was floating a metre above his mattress while he was still fast asleep. Finn’s mum was astonished and whispered quietly in order to wake him without startling him. Finn slowly opened his eyes as his mum called to him softly. He knew something was wrong straight away and started to panic but his mum asked him to try to think himself down gently like he did in his dreams. Once Finn was back on the ground he was very excited. He quickly washed and dressed and came down to breakfast where his mum was anxious to discuss what to do. Finn was full of plans to fly to all the fantastic places he had been to in his dreams, like the Pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal, but his mum suggested that it would be safer if he didn’t fly so far to start off with in case he got lost, so first of all Finn, with his mum watching, flew to the park and back. After this was a success he flew to the shops and back.

Finn was now really excited but his mum was still worried about him travelling too far in case he lost his way so she came up with the idea of mowing a large X on the lawn so that when Finn was flying overhead he would always know where home was. Finn rushed upstairs to get a book about things to see in Britain and he put it in his rucksack so that he would be able to find all the places he wanted to see and, after his mum had made him a packed lunch, he spread his arms wide and rose gently into the air. He checked his dad’s old compass to make sure he knew which direction to go and flew off through the clear summer sky.

First of all Finn flew over London and saw Canary Wharf, St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. After that he flew to Dover to see the white cliffs. He then flew west to see the sunny coasts of Devon and Cornwall. Then Finn headed north to see Snowdonia in Wales and then up to Scotland to see Ben Nevis and Loch Lomond. On his way back through England he saw the Angel of the North and after a full day of sight seeing he decided to head home.

Just as he was flying towards his home town a passenger jet roared past him and sent him into an uncontrollable spin. He was near home now and Finn could see the lawn with the X that his mum had mown on it so that he would be able to find his way back but he was out of control and falling fast. He thought he saw his mum run out into the back garden as he tumbled towards the ground.

When Finn woke up he was in his bed. His mum came and asked him what he would like for breakfast and he asked her what had happened when he had landed. His mum didn’t seem to know what he was talking about so he explained everything that had happened to him when he had flown off around the country and then lost control and fallen towards the garden but his mum told him it must have been a dream. Finn jumped out of bed and rushed to the window but he couldn’t see an X mown into the lawn anymore. He sighed with disappointment but then told his mum that he was actually glad it had been a dream because flying had been far too dangerous.

As his mum went downstairs to make is breakfast Finn decided that he would draw some pictures of where he had been in his dream, but he couldn’t help feeling that before he had woken up he had heard the sound of a lawnmower.

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Gumbrich – The Scariest Monster of All

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Gumbrich – The Scariest Monster of All
A Halloween Story by Paul Carden

Gumbrich lived in an old ruined tower on top of a hill overlooking the village of Spidgewell. He was employed by the Guild of Baddies to be the town monster but unfortunately he wasn’t very good at it. With pointy teeth, pointy ears and green skin he certainly looked the part, but when it came to scaring and terrorising the villagers he just wasn’t up to the job. Instead of frightening old ladies he would usually end up helping them home with their shopping, instead of scaring children he would usually end up playing in goal in their football games, and instead of causing people to be too afraid to venture out after dark he would go around lighting the street lamps for them as he was quite tall and could reach the lamps easier. Basically, Gumbrich was not very good at being bad.

The Guild of Baddies were not at all happy with his work and Gumbrich was regularly warned that if he didn’t shape up and start terrorising people they would find another monster to replace him. Gumbrich liked living in Spidgewell and the villagers liked him so he didn’t want to be replaced. After many years the Guild gave him a final warning, their executive committee would visit Spidgewell on Halloween, the scariest night of the year, and if they found the villagers were not as terrified as they should be then Gumbrich would be sacked.

Gumbrich was terribly worried. He wanted to stay in Spidgewell but didn’t want to have to scare his friends in the village. When he didn’t turn up to play in goal at the children’s football game they became worried and wondered if anything was wrong. A group of the children decided to go up to his tower to find out if he was okay. When they arrived they found that he was terribly worried about what would happen when the committee from the Guild of Baddies arrived for their inspection on Halloween. None of the children wanted Gumbrich to have to leave so they decided to hatch a plan to save him from being replaced.

The children assured Gumbrich that everything would be okay and went back to the village to tell their parents their plan. They would decorate their houses in such a way as to make the usually jolly and quaint village of Spidgewell look bleak and scary with fake cobwebs, jack o’ lanterns, rubber rats and all manner of spooky decorations. Also, instead of the usual smiling villagers, they would dress up as ghosts and monsters in order to fool the committee from the League of Baddies into thinking that all the villagers had been driven away because they were all too afraid of Gumbrich.

When the committee arrived they were overjoyed to see such a bleak, sinister place and when they saw it was now only inhabited by ghosts and beasties they congratulated Gumbrich on his excellent work. In fact they were so impressed that they apologised for ever doubting him.

After the committee had gone, the villagers told Gumbrich that they had all enjoyed dressing up and decorating their houses so much that they had decided to do it every year on Halloween, and at the next meeting of the Guild of Baddies the executive committee declared Gumbrich to be the scariest monster of all.

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Carden’s DLCF Experience part 3

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The third and final week of my Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival experience began with probably my favourite comedian, Josie Long at the Y Theatre. I have watched Josie’s ‘Trying is Good’ DVD, which also contains her ‘Kindness and Exuberance’ show, and I have seen her ‘Romance and Adventure’ show which she put on Youtube but nothing could prepare me for just how wonderful she is live. Her ‘Cara Josephine’ show has received really good reviews and deservedly so. It is such a hysterically funny, heartbreaking and uplifting show that it is easily the best thing I’ve seen at this year’s festival. I find Josie’s work so inspiring and her positive attitude so refreshing that it encourages me to work harder on my creative ‘stuff’.

Support act for Josie was Tom Allen who I had seen last year supporting Sarah Millican. His set was of a really good length so he could engage properly with the audience and his material had some really thoughtful moments as well as being hysterically funny.

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Mr B kindly posed for a photo for me. What a gent.

I have been following the career of Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer for some time but this year was the first opportunity I’ve had to see him live. In a nutshell, he dresses and speaks like an English gentleman and performs hip hop on the banjolele. His mission is to reconnect hip hop with the Queen’s English and he performs wonderful medleys of hip hop, indie and techno classics in his own unique style as well as his original songs. His lyrics are hilariously funny, his uke playing is excellent and his manipulation of a loop pedal to build up the backing for one of the songs was very clever indeed. I was lucky enough to meet the man himself after the show and he kindly allowed me to take a photo of him. I also took the opportunity of purchasing his latest CD, ‘Can’t Stop, Shan’t Stop’ which is excellent.

For my final show I was back at The Wee One in Hansom Hall to see Hal Cruttenden. He was a bit late but that might have been to do with the fact that most of the city centre had been demolished that day so trying to find a place to park among the rubble might have been awkward. Tonight Hal was doing a work in progress show but he said he was going to mix in some old stuff too. Work in progress shows are really fun but what can make them great is when a really good comedian doesn’t make them feel like a work in progress as they just become a hugely enjoyable night out and that’s how this show felt. Hal’s show was really funny and he mentioned the fact that someone had described him on Youtube as the safe comedian’s safe comedian when in fact there are a lot of darker things going on in his material. This was a great show to finish off my Leicester Comedy Festival experience for 2015.

I chose to go and see comedians I already liked so it’s not like I took chances on having a rubbish night out but I thoroughly enjoyed every show I saw and I’m already excited about next year. It’s a brilliant festival showcasing many of Leicester’s great venues from the biggest to the smallest and it must take so much organisation to pull it together every year. I feel really lucky to have this amazing annual event going on locally.

My favourite show of my experience of the festival has to be Josie Long with Tom Allen supporting, but I also really enjoyed Sarah Millican’s Q & A, Angela Barnes, Dylan Moran, Stewart Lee, Count Arthur Strong, Sara Pascoe, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer and Hal Cruttenden.

The whole festival was a wonderful experience.

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Carden’s DLCF Experience part 2

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My second week of the Leicester Comedy Festival began with Stewart Lee’s ‘A Room with a Stew’ at De Montfort Hall. In these shows Stew is doing bits from his upcoming TV series but also seeing where the wind may blow him on the night. I’ve read Stewart Lee’s book ‘How I Escaped My Certain Fate’ and I reviewed it in this blog as I thought it was brilliant and fascinating. Even having read some of the thought processes he goes through in manipulating audiences I found myself misdirected and bamboozled by the show. Some parts were hysterically funny and others seemed puzzling until he revealed what he had been leading the audience up to all along. I can see why some comedians could be considered artists whereas others are just great comedians. There is something to be said for a lovely night out with cosy, fluffy, fun jokes with perhaps a bit of pathos and a touch of darkness, which are really enjoyable and you go home happy and feel you’ve had value for money. But there are also comedians who take you on an odyssey which is by turns enjoyable, confusing, irritating but ultimately hugely rewarding as at the end you realise you’ve gone through the kind of experience you would have in really good drama. You’ve become involved, taken from where you are to somewhere where you don’t know the rules. Someone is playing with your perceptions and emotions and then you end up somewhere realising you’ve experienced something really special.
After the show I met Stewart Lee and was utterly star-struck. He was really friendly, signed the book I’d bought, and I shook his hand hoping that some of his comedy genius would rub off on me. Slim hope. But what a brilliant mind and extraordinary performer.

The following day saw me visiting Curve again, this time for Count Arthur Strong’s ‘Somebody Up There Licks Me’. Regarding his TV series I have to be honest and say that what I like best about Arthur is when he is just talking, getting tongue-tied, confusing himself and then arguing with himself, but this show is structured to include plenty of that, and also some hilarious set-pieces with his co-stars: hapless tour manager Malcolm, cabaret chanteuse Renee and hopeless tech Eggy. I thought the show was great value for money as it’s a good 90 minutes or so and features plenty of different bits to keep it rolling along, including a brilliant skit involving a monkey. I took the opportunity of getting Arthur’s memoirs from the merch stall, ‘Through It All I’ve Always Laughed’ and I look forward to enjoying the thoughts and ruminations of the great man therein.

Sara Pascoe’s show, ‘The Museum of Robot Pussycats’, took place in the Wee Room at Hansom Hall which looks from inside like a wooden-beamed tower hidden in the bowels of the building. It was a work in progress show which was not quite as advertised in the festival programme which called it a brand new show of brand new material, which is not the same thing. I enjoy work in progress shows, I just wasn’t expecting this to be one of them. However, none of this is Sara Pascoe’s fault and her show was very funny and I’m not going to give away why the show is named as it is. She is certainly a comedian whose unique imagination is one I’m happy to travel along with as she weaves her stories and jokes together through a very enjoyable hour. She makes her audience interaction look effortless with a good spirit and winning charisma. I don’t quite know what the people who came in four minutes before the end were thinking but they missed a really terrific show.

The festival has been brilliant so far and the amount and variety of shows scattered across many venues in the city is amazing. Here’s to my week 3 and the third and final part of my DLCF blog trilogy.

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Carden’s DLCF Experience part 1

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This year I decided to make the most of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, especially as almost all of my favourite comedians are performing in 2015 with the notable exceptions of Gary Delaney and Richard Herring, but I saw Richard Herring’s Lord of the Dance Settee show in Loughborough and I saw Gary Delaney twice, once on his Purist tour and again at a Sarah Millican and Friends night at the Y Theatre which was brilliant.

The first show I saw this year was a Work in Progress show by Angela Barnes at the Globe which was a really lovely venue. The show had a really enthusiastic crowd with some really good banter and it was a very enjoyable performance by Angela Barnes, in fact so much so that I decided to try to get a ticket for her tour show the following night, as I didn’t want to miss out as I’d read really good reviews. But I would just like to confess that Des Lynam was my idea but I didn’t shout out the answer as I thought that would be cheating (which I doubt will make any sense to anyone reading this but I just wanted to clear that up for my own peace of mind).

So the following night at the Cookie I saw Angela Barnes perform her show ‘You Can’t Take It With You’. Some members of the audience were labouring under the false apprehension that their banter with their friend was more entertaining and important than the show they’d paid to see but Angela Barnes was quick to pounce on them and snuff that out, and to take the Mick out of them, which they clearly deserved. I really enjoyed the show and was really glad I got to see it before she starts performing her next show at the Edinburgh Festival.

On the Saturday night I went to Curve to see Dylan Moran’s Off The Hook show which is still a bit of a work in progress. I’ve been a fan of Dylan Moran since Black Books and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to see him live as it was a hugely enjoyable show, even though he said he finished it slightly early due to it not quite hanging together yet. He seemed to be implying that he wanted to end on a bit he was happy with and to cut out a bit he wasn’t quite so sure about. But it was still a good duration for the price of the ticket so I went home happy.

On the Sunday I was lucky enough to see a Q & A with Sarah Millican who is one of my absolute favourite comedians. On the one hand I find her really funny and she has a very sharp and witty mind for interviews, but I also really admire her work ethic and her love for stand-up comedy, seeing it as an end in itself rather than a route to TV presenting or acting. Festival director Geoff Rowe was allowed to get the odd question in but he very sensibly let Sarah do the vast majority of the talking, and the speed at which she talks means that you always get value for money with Millican. Her answers were either very interesting or very funny, and often a lot of both.

The final thing I wanted mention was that while I was on my way to Leicester on the Sunday I received a message that one of my best friends had passed away. Nigel Lawson was the frontman for a band called Dangerous Dogs who played a lot around the local music scene. They were hugely entertaining, playing a real mixture of classic blues songs, original compositions and oddities like the theme from Dad’s Army and songs from The Jungle Book. They are all hugely talented musicians and they described Nigel as their band leader and mastermind. I met Nigel in 2005 and he started accompanying me on harmonica as I performed gigs around the East Midlands. It was always an absolute joy to have him onstage and to spend any amount of time with him offstage as he was a funny, kind and very encouraging person to be around. The last time we played together was last October at the gig I organised for my birthday, during which he said that doing our gigs together gave him the confidence to start what became the Dangerous Dogs, and that meant so much as they were so entertaining and I would always go to see them whenever I could. I recorded quite a few videos of their performances over the years and I’ve put them all up on my Youtube channel so can see them all on the ‘Dangerous Dogs live‘ playlist.

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Book Review: Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn

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I’ve been quite stuck in my reading for a while but Bedsit Disco Queen is the most compelling book I’ve read in ages. It follows the parts of Tracey’s life from when she first became passionate about music at the tail-end of punk and wanting to be in a band, forming the Marine Girls and meeting Ben Watt at university, and then the ups and downs of her life as half of Everything But The Girl. Her writing conveys an infectious enthusiasm for music and it really made me realise how lucky anyone is to be able to perform music at any level as it really is a wonderful gift.

The honesty of the book is so refreshing as she deals unflinchingly with what she sees as her shortcomings as a performer and the creative troughs she identifies in her musical output. The book also covers the trauma of Ben’s serious illness which actually had the strange effect of reinvigorating the band. The awkward relationships artists have with their record companies also feature, along with some surreal Spinal Tap moments on tour.

I’ve been reading the book over the past few days, including at a gig I played in Leicester (the photo above shows my setlist written on the back of my hand). I was already reinvigorated about performing again after fighting off a cold which seemed to last for ages. That made me realise that you have to perform when you have the chance because you never know if one day you might not be able to. But Tracey’s book also made me excited about writing new things and trying to find satisfying creative ways forward.

Even if you’re not a famous musician, as I’m not, it can be life-saving to have a creative outlet, be it art, music or literature, and it really doesn’t matter if it doesn’t pay the bills. I’m sure a lot of people would love to do their hobby as their job but it doesn’t always work out like that. You just have to do what you can and enjoy expressing yourself.

This is such an entertaining, engaging and inspiring book. Highly recommended.

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