Doff your cap, Toe the line, Do a good job, Know your place, Speak when spoken to, Don’t talk back, keep mum, Be reliable Hold your knife properly, Don’t leave the table until told to, Watch your step, March in time, Defer to your betters, Salute the flag, Be punctual, Do a good job, Never argue, Be polite, Bow, Scrape, Be invisible.
If you do not do as you are told you have…
A chip on your shoulder, Are bitter, Difficult A maverick A born troublemaker An outsider A thief Or worse Political
June 1783 a balloon of hot air made of paper is launched then a test of silk and hydrogen that travels 15 miles before crashing into the minds of two peasants who attack the monster despite the authorities appeal not to be scared of these globes ‘which resemble the moon turned dark’
Next a sheep, a cockerel, a duck are swung into orbit like Laika Tethered to another hydrogen sphere to test the air at altitude They survive crashing back to earth and are examined by Pilatre de Rozier Who in October 1783 becomes the first man to leave the earth The blue and gold balloon rising in a shower of burning straw
The 7th January 1785 and Blanchard and Jefferies attempt the first sea crossing leaving Dover they head for Calais rising and falling dangerously all weighty objects jettisoned they finally threw their clothes into the sea and make landfall at Blanc-Nez where Blanchard throws letters into the wind the final weight they let go are bladders containing their own urine
13th June 1784 and Pilatre attempts a sea crossing in the opposite direction twenty-seven minutes later it is seen drifting back over land the two aeronauts observed frantically trying to keep the vessel aloft The hydrogen ignites sending the two men to their deaths Pilatre leaves behind the first matches, gas masks and a museum of science
The means to start fires, protect and survive and a mausoleum of ideas.
13th June 2021 fires burn bright in the woods near Calais at night Sea crossings are planned and wind and sea watched for calmer nights Eyes turn upwards at the leviathans in the channel the monsters in the air Some cross easily others fall to earth or drift on currents back to land The best nights are those when the moon turns dark and the fires are out
We test the limits of our survival from Paris to Mars, seek safe harbour But the straw burning under our feet both lifts us and destroys our world. Under the blue and gold backdrop of the live television pictures two men Dump what they can into the sea, pray that the fires will keep them afloat But can see the moon turned dark, the sea turned black, the world on fire.
A sheep, a cockerel, a duck Float on across the burnt forests, the flooded fields, drowning in hot air.
Sparkling green walls covered in frosted webs A thousand hedges grid-locked our estate at dawn October school-runs on foot, lawns damp with dew We’d strip privet sticks and collect them in loops
One web on top of another until a sticky shivering Vibrated in our hands, dew running down stalk to palm. We knew nothing then, spun our own stories as we traipsed Slowly toward a school playground fuzzy with chalk
Circles on walls, boards, exercise books and balls Punctured and hiding below those spun nets The exhaled breaths of football careers not yet dead We curved balls endlessly at bare walls
They came back every time,thuds ricocheting Against the garage walls our only release Drum n Bass lives before we knew the words Stamping out glam rock tunes in our heads
Now the lawns and hedges torn up turned to gravel Commuter belt rentals cars packed in like terraces Nothing breathing just dead ground that floods easily The earth covered and the dreams we had floating away
Over the hedges, nets, lawns like vapour trails Heading west to unknown futures no longer there.
A new boy in my old bedroom repeats an overhead kick On a digital platform. Dreams of escape as a ball lands in a net. Cannot hear the milk train on the loop.
Ignores far sirens and sticky hands cradling the dead.
The London – Oxford railway line bypasses my hometown of Didcot on a single track known as ‘The Loop’ to thirteen year old trainspotters…