It’s three in the morning on Halloween, Watch Donna the Buffalo with the herd Out in the wide world things aint too tidy, But Tara and Jeb brought love right on back Three years since we met at get off the grid One of the best gigs that I ever did. Outside the smokebush glows bright in the rain In the field gentle dawn flowers again It’s perfume sweet as the song from robin Who gives a jot about being locked in. Hold hands together now, wait for the sun Soonish it will come and we shall have fun. Meanwhile let’s search for the best in each day, Come with me my love let’s go out and play.
Harry Rogers, in the Red Bedroom, 31st October 2020.
I’m a bastard baby boomer Waiting for covid remover. Born out of the second world war, I will not lie down on the floor. Dad wounded in Arnhem battle, Fighting nazi shittle shattle, Eaten up with PTSD, Never found the way to tell me. Still, I trundle on life’s highway, Try to make sense in eighth decade, After years of struggle so game, Now seemingly to take the blame, For crimes committed in my name, By extreme centrists without shame. Those faux bourgeois sucker uppers Who conned our mamas and papas. I’ve spent my life left of the fence, Unshielded by fake innocence, I fight on for justice comrade, You can stuff your naive tirade, I’m now a consumate Zoomer, I’m the bastard baby boomer.
Harry Rogers, in the Red Bedroom, 30th October 2020.
Somehow we all constantly focus on the end of the pandemic, that moment when when some sort of miraculous vaccine will come forward like the cure for polio and take us to a resumption of normalcy. Ever since the second century the word Abracadabra has been used on amulets as a magical word against diseases. In the second century AD it was believed to be a cure for malaria, Serenus Alexander, a great admirer of Serenus Sammonicus, ordered the word to be written in the form of an inverted cone, and declares it to be of virtue against all diseases. “Thou shalt on paper write the spell divine ABRACADABRA called in many a line, Each under each in even order place, But the last letter in each line efface, As by degrees the elements grow few, Still take away but fix the residue, Till at the last one letter stands alone, And the whole dwindles to a tapering cone. Tie this about the neck with flaxen string, Mighty the good ’twill to the patient bring, Its wondrous potency shall guard his head And drive disease and death far from his bed.”This is the same kind of guff we hear now from the Covid-19 denying spiritual anti vaccine brigade. Their denial brings on the disease by leaps and bounds. To waltz through the world in maskless bliss ignores what we face over the coming year. make no mistake, the just in time fetishism adopted by neo liberals in most democracies in the running of their public services only works when dealing with factors that we already understand. Introduce a rogue element into the equation and just in time won’t work, there is no time to play catch up. The health services across Europe and the USA are banjaxxed because the extra capacity needed to cope with a pandemic just isn’t there. All the historic attempts to rationinalise the British NHS, to slash costs, to privatise through bringing American style practices through the back door via Blairite blue sky thinking, the inevitable destructive folly that is commissioning, the crisis created by PFI debt that cripples the finances exponentially are managed within a creaky Heath Robinson structure that just about delivers a health service free at the point of need. Add in a crisis such as Covid-19 and everything goes out the window. The reason we are having lockdowns is, in large part, due to the fact that most of the politicians just cannot face the collapse of neo liberalism and the threat of years in the wilderness that would be their fate if the NHS completely fails on their watch. This is not just an attack on Boris Johnson and his cronies, though they are the essence of ineptitude, it also rests squarely with all those centrists on all sides in the house of commons who wholeheartedly embraced Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, and Margaret Thatcher’s doctrines. This means that there is no contingency capacity to deal with the reality of a rampant Corona virus. The economic knock-on effects of trying to manage this situation with fire breaks, control of what businesses can and cannot sell, the collapse of agriculture in the USA, the destruction of tourism, the decimation of hospitality, the societal fragmentation, all of this and much more can be laid clearly at a catastrophic failure of management at a macro level. We all KNOW the maxim failing to plan is planning to fail. We also know that the British government carried out an emergency planning exercise only a couple of years ago that looked precisely at the effects of a corona virus pandemic and yet they failed to implement it’s recommendations. This is a truly scandalous set of events. They might as well have issued every household with Abracadabra triangle to post on their front doors and amulets to wear in the street. It’s not the fault of the people that we are in this mess, it’s a systemic crisis brought about through the implementation of the ideology of greed. Abracadabra? Unfortunately it’s impossible to magic a pandemic away, it always has been.
Harry Rogers, in the yellow room, 26th October 2020.
Nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James Baldwin
Let’s face it, we have a problem, A problem with democracy. Politicians speak on the stump, Sell us all kinds of apple pie, Only when we vote these demons in Do we find out how much they lie. Focus on personality, The abilty to sell stuff, Divorced from our reality, The gilded tin, the powder puff, Make what never was great again, Put fishing top and housing last, Move quickly on, hide up the pain, Sweep past away and do it fast With faff and spaff and chunder Bring on new Dominic blunder Roll out the iron sheet thunder, Split all our old dreams asunder. Ignore what they said they would do, Each day one more shock of the new, Mix up the red with the blue, Spring chaotic bling wrecking crew. No free school meals outside term time, Democracy? I call it crime.
Harry Rogers, in the Yellow Room, 22nd October, 2020.
That place where fear meets hope, Fire break, hot-spot, shielding, New Deja vu circuit Breaking the virus chain, Bonfire night, Halloween, Postponed during the clamp, Keep schools open for some, Close libraries and gyms, Shut universities, Pubs, gift shops, and campsites, We all pull together, Except for Welsh Tories Who will politicize Covid endlessly with Hyper local lockdowns. People before profit Is our rallying cry, We’ll pick up the pieces One bright day, by and by, Meanwhile stay safe, stay home, Keep one eye on the stats, Other on Boris and His asset stripping rats, Feels like last days of Rome. The poor, and the low paid Will bear the brunt again Sticking plaster fixes Won’t bring relief to pain. Universal credit For those who lose their jobs, Cannot meet commitments. Whilst knobs debate the R, Lists of rules grow longer, Save pubs, eat out, stay home, Lock down, wear masks, obey, Pursue a policy Of equal misery, If you’re not confused now Wait on, you soon will be. Make us blame each other, Sister grass up brother, The rich will cop for nought Blame us, it’s all our fault, We did what you told us, Perhaps we will again This is what they wanted, The ghouls in number ten, Like slick rugby players Pass the ball so quickly, Maintain power without Responsibility.
Harry Rogers, in the Red Bedroom, October 20th, 2020
I sit in the darkened room at Madame Marta’s Edwardian villa in Swiss Cottage. Seated around the large, round, antique mahogany table I see eleven other people, like me, wearing silver masks and long red robes. I have no idea who they are, this is the first time I have ever attended a conjuring. The house itself exhibits gothic features, it is built in the style of a mid nineteenth century Italianate villa from the Borromean Islands on Lago Maggiore. The castellated tower which widens with height, is topped by a cloistered walkway, decorated with green and gold images of Chinese style dragons. It impressed me greatly when I arrived, and I found myself in the room at the centre of the cloister when the door opened five minutes ago. Madame Marta enters the room carrying an ornate basket containing a number of golden jewel encrusted amulets with red dragons inscribed on them. The dragons are attached to black ribbons. She also hands out some short, thick, black candles. She instructs us to all take one of the amulets and tie the black ribbon around our waist with the amulet image facing outwards.
Madame Marta attaches great importance to this saying, “The requests that you make here will only be answered if the dragon is facing away from you. If the dragon faces the wrong way then your desire will be reversed and that could be extremely dangerous.”
She then passes a burning taper around the room so that we each, in turn, light our allotted candle. At this point a heavy, cloying, perfumed aroma fills the room and I begin to feel slightly swimmy as I breathe it in. The characters on the ornate tapestries around the room appear to dance before my eyes. I am in a state of astonishment and am quivering all over.
I am not sure what this ritual is likely to achieve, to be honest I have always thought of the supernatural as somewhat of a hoax. I am only here because a friend at work told me that they knew of a sure fire way to get revenge on a bully or anyone that had mistreated you. When she had mentioned a conjuring I had laughed but after a few minutes of her sincere advocating my curiosity was aroused. She had given me Madame Marta’s card and thus here I am.
Focusing clearly, my memory takes me back twenty years and I see myself as a frightened eleven year old boy, sat as I await the electric enter sign to come on and usher me into Mr Jenkins’s study to face yet another ferocious beating with his cane for nothing more than failure to my homework. I recently took my eldest son along to view the local comprehensive school and was shocked to see Ronald Arthur Jenkins installed as the new head teacher. The very sight of this old bully brought back all my fear and pain, and reawakened my desire for vengeance. I determined that there was no way on god’s earth that my son was going to this school all the time Jenkins is head. Something has to be done.
Now I feel very strange indeed, I can smell the colours in the tapestries. Madame Marta takes a folio sized grimoire into her hands. This ancient book is covered in what looks like emerald green lizard skin, although I cannot be sure. She opens the book and begins to read from it in a language I do not understand.
We sit in silence until, after five minutes of reading aloud she stands and speaks; “Rise now. Take hold of the hands of the people either side of you. Slowly beat a rhythm with your right foot upon the floor in time with my handclapping.”
We do as she instructs. After a while she speaks again “Chant the following words over and over until I command you to stop:-
Please come to us
The chanting and the sound of the feet beating the floor has the effect of sending Madame Marta into a trance like state. She begins to utter soft urgent phrases in that same unknown language whilst moving her arms back and forth above the table.
I continue chanting and, combined with the rhythmic nature of the stamping, soon find myself entering a higher state of awareness, everything in my field of vision is assuming a sharpness. Then, slowly at first, a small undulating cloud is forming in the air above the centre of the table. From whence it emanates I cannot ascertain. I am thinking to myself that this is a very neat trick. The cloud is getting larger and moving strangely whilst hovering in the same position. It is so large now that I can’t see the other side of the table; Madame Marta is hidden from view.
Suddenly she makes a long, loud, howling moan, then shouts “Stop chanting. He is here. He is here.”
As I watch the cloud clears, and there floating before us is a red dragon with a man sized demon sitting astride the beast with a writhing python in one hand and a wavy edged dagger in the other. I feel shocked and frightened, and feel my legs getting wet as I realise I am pissing myself. It looks so real. I stand paralysed whilst Madame Marta reaches forward with a shiny black onyx bowl and holds it beneath the dragon. The demon bares it’s oversized set of pointed teeth in an horrifying grimace and looks around the circle before drawing the dagger slowly across one of the dragons feet. I can smell the stench of his vile breath as he leans forward with the knife. A bright red stream of steaming blood falls from the wounded creature into the waiting bowl. A few seconds later Madame Marta places the bowl on the table and bows low whilst uttering more words in the strange language. The demon stares at her with a definite lascivious look, and then, with a sudden loud noise, is gone.
“Prince Astaroth has gone but has left us with enough dragon blood ink to carry out the rest of our purposes here today. Please join me in thanking him by repeating the following words.”
“O Mighty Astaroth”
“O Mighty Astaroth”
“We thank you for your gift.”
“We thank you for your gift.”
“We shall repay it back one day.”
“We shall repay it back one day.”
“Thank you all, now let us move on to cast the spells you have come here for today.”
Madame Marta moved to a Chinese painted chest in the corner and opened a drawer from which she drew twelve sheets of the finest goat vellum, twelve black sharpened ravens quill pens and twelve lengths of black silk ribbon.
After handing these items around she then said. “Write the full name of your target nine times on the vellum using the dragon’s blood ink. Cover the name with your wish or command written nine times. Roll up the name vellum and tie it with the black ribbon. Moving back and forth from left to right, make 4 more knots in the ribbon – there should be five knots in total – including the one holding the rolled name vellum.”
I have no idea what the others are writing down on their vellum. Possibly some of them are seeking to bring a lover to hand for cheating on them, or are hoping to influence the decision of a judge, or maybe their boss is bullying them and they want it to stop, I don’t know, and, as I won’t see any of these unknown people again, never will.
I dip my pen into the dragon’s blood and start writing across the sheet. Nine times I write Ronald Arthur Jenkins in very shaky hand. I remember clearly vowing to myself that I would one day have my revenge and this time is now. I look at the nine lines of his name and begin writing across every one TAKE THIS MAN TO PURGATORY AND CANE HIM FOR ETERNITY. As I write I feel the satisfaction growing inside of me whilst the fear I felt in the demon’s presence diminishes with every word. As I finish I feel positively radiant.
As soon as the last person ties the final knot in their ribbons Madame Marta says “I have prepared some special oil for you and you must take it home with you and fill these lamps with it. Light the lamp and place the vellum scroll in front of it. Every night for nine nights you must sit by the lamp and say the following five times:-
O Mighty Prince Astaroth
Who entered the mountain and tied
Up the beast with your ribbons,
I beg you to tie up and dominate [insert name of target].
Help Me in my quest
Great commander of the forty legions,
For the oil which you will consume today,
For the oil which nourishes this lamp,
For the wick which burns away all impurities,
I dedicate this Lamp to you,
So that you may relieve me
Of all my Miseries
And Help Me to overcome all Difficulties.
As You dominated the beast beneath your feet.
Grant me that [insert target’s name]
May not live in Peace.
In this way Lord Mighty Astaroth,
Grant my Petition and Eliminate My Misery.
Once the lamp is lit you must keep it burning throughout the nine days and add more of my oil as it burns so that it does not become extinguished. You must also be sure to wear the amulet of Prince Astaroth as a lamen whilst chanting the prayer to the Lord Of Truth. On the final word of the fifth chanting on the ninth day your command will be executed and all will be well. I thank you for attending the presence of the most mighty strong Prince among all the spirits, O Mighty Lord Astaroth, he that giveth true answers of things past, present, and to come, and can right all wrongs and discover all Secrets. Please enter your cubicles and get changed in silence and respect the privacy of everyone else here. Here are your lamps and bottles of oil, have a safe journey home.” With that she hands out some small brown paper carrier bags and leaves the room.
I quietly get changed and, seeing none of the other participants I go home.
As I drive I try and work out in my mind what happened in the conjuring. Did the demon really manifest itself before us or was it a sophisticated technological trick involving a hologram? I am unsure, it had seemed so real, the smells, dragon blood ink. Whatever happened I am now determined to see the process through and will light my lamp to Lord Astaroth tonight, after all I have just handed £1750.00p over to Madame Marta.
After keeping the flame lit for nine days and nights, and chanting the prayer to Lord Astaroth five times every night, the whole spell is now woven. I have not determined how I will find out whether it has been successful or not but I feel strangely elated at the prospect that it just might have happened.
This morning I see my friend at work.
She says “How are you Johnny?”
“I have never felt better.” I reply
“Did you go and see Madame Marta?”
“How was it?” she asks
“I am not sure. It blew my mind a bit and made me question reality.” I reply.
“OK, I will see you at lunchtime for a full rundown, laters!”
“See you in the canteen at one.” I say.
I go to my desk and there I find the in tray piled high with correspondence and newspapers. I pick them all up and place them in the out tray as I figure that anything of any real import will be bound to come back to me eventually. As I lift the pile today’s copy of the local newspaper, The Kentish Mercury, falls to the floor and lays open at the inside page where I look down at the headline which reads “Mysterious Disappearance Of Local Head Teacher, Police Baffled.” The first line of the report says Ronald Arthur Jenkins, Head Teacher at Deptford Comprehensive School, disappeared in a puff of smoke during Assembly whilst speaking of the dangers of magic in modern society.”
I sit down in my chair and strange wave of intense calmness sweeps over me, at last I think, I have revenge. I give thanks to the one and mighty Prince Astaroth.
2117 words. Harry Rogers, Aberbanc, in the hut, February 2017
Who do you support, Millwall or Charlton? Being brought up in East Greenwich this was a difficult question for a young boy in the 1950’s. It’s important to say that I have been a football fan from the get go, unlike my dad. He was a musician and his sole interest in life was the study of chord sequences on keyboards of various kinds. We never watched a match together, live or on tv. We had a very early nine inch black and white television with a large magnifier screen on the front of it back in 1953 and I used to secretly watch night time football matches on it when my mum and dad were out playing gigs in Croydon venues including The Star in Broadgreen and The Bridge Hotel on Spurgeon’s Bridge, where I was born in 1947. This illicit night time TV watching was not easy as I will explain. I was a resourceful seven year old and would stop at nothing to see late night television, especially if it was football. My grandfather on my Dads side owned a large four story semi detached house, 75 Wellesly Road. My mum and dad, my brother Bruce and I occupied the top two floors, my uncle Phil and Auntie Hazel the first floor and my great grandparents lived on the ground floor. An extended family. Bruce and me were not allowed out of our bedroom at night. There was a hook and eye on the outside of our bedroom door put there to keep us effectively locked in to stop us from creeping downstairs to the front room where the telly stood. I soon sussed out that if I slid the cardboard cover of a Marvelman annual through the gap in the door and frame I could knock the hook out of the eye and we were free. My parents must have known because eventually they took the doorknob off the inside of our bedroom door and that pretty much ended our escapades. Anyway, I remember very clearly one time watching a BBC outside broadcast of a night game from Molyneux featuring Wolverhampton Wanderers in a floodlit European cup match. I think Kenneth Wolstenholme was the commentator. Tremendous. Watching a match with large crowds cheering their team on was exotic, Bruce and me were hooked. The black and white image was not very good on this early tv. When ITV was launched as the second channel loads of TV engineers travelled the land converting old sets to be able to receive the new signal. Our tv was not able to be converted. When the engineer came to our place he tried but we ended up with BBC pictures and ITV sound or vice versa. Watching BBC News with the Murraymints advert sound was surreal. Bruce and me were devastated, we never did get to see Popeye in our house, we had to go round to our friends houses and watch there. Anyway the engineer left our house defeated, and we didn’t get ITV. My aunt and uncle downstairs did and my brother and I were allowed to go down to their flat on Sunday afternoons to watch Robin Hood. That was it. Still, despite the poor tech, football had us enthralled. When we moved to Greenwich we both went to Meridian primary school where every playtime the boys went football crackers. two teams of twenty a side rushed frantically back and forth across the playground. It was joyous. Some of these boys had tremendous ball control of a tennis ball. Once in while we would use a full sized plastic practice football, it was mayhem, totally anarchic but just about the best fun. These kids were either Millwall or Charlton Athletic supporters, and most of them used to go to watch one or other of these teams every home game. Quite a lot of them used to go and watch both teams. It was cheap entertainment in those days, especially for youngsters. The first time I went to a live match in 1957 I was taken to Coldblow Lane to see Millwall. Not by my dad but by my mum’s boyfriend Cyril who worked part time behind the bar at the pub and lived two streets away from the Den. Standing on the cop was thrilling, Millwall supporters are very vocal. I loved it. The very next week, Saturday 21st December, aged ten, I went to the Valley with my brother and a crowd of other boys from school. Charlton Athletic were playing Huddersfield Town in a second division match. Both teams were relegated from the First Division at the end of the previous season so this looked like being a big game. Bruce and I stood on the open terrace opposite the grandstand and watched as the Charlton players ran out onto the pitch to the sound of ” When The Red Red Robins Come Bob Bob Bobbing Along.”. Johnny Summers stood on the sideline smoking a cigarette. The twelve and a half thousand fans all cheered, the referee blew the whistle, Summers stubbed out his fag and stepped onto the pitch, and the match kicked off. After 17 minutes Derek Ufton, a Charlton player, was carried off with a dislocated shoulder. Charlton were down to ten men, there were no substitutes in those days. By half time Huddersfield were leading two nil. Charlton pulled a goal back just after the start of the second half but Huddersfield town were rampant and with twenty seven minutes left they were leading 5-1. Many supporters left the ground but me and Bruce stayed on. What happened next remains vivid to this day, Charlton scored five goals and led six five, with nine minutes to go. Five minutes later Huddersfield equalised, six all. In the last minute Charlton scored again, the referee blew the final whistle. The Addicks had won 7-6. Johnny Summers, the legendary Charlton forward, had scored five goals. The loyal Charlton fans invaded the pitch and carried the Charlton players back to their dressing room. A short time later the players came back out into the main stand to celebrate with their fans. After that amazing match I became a confimed Charlton fan, still am. Sixty three years later I am still bob bob bobbing along. Millwall or Charlton? Come On You Reds.
Harry Rogers, In the Yellow Room, October 15th, 2020
So I go down to the local town to buy my partner Jenny a birthday card and a present. I go into a gift shop owned by a good friend. I have a mask on and I sanitise on the the way in. My friend is not in the shop but her mother is at the counter wrapping up some pottery for a customer. I browse through the hand made cards produced by local artists and choose one with a view of a coastal valley in Ceredigion, the colours are beautiful, I am pleased. I move on to peruse the jewelry section and there I see a pair of silver earrings with jade coloured glass drops on them. Perfect, I often buy earrings for Jenny, I am a creature of habit, so I pick these up and stand two metres from the counter studiously socially distanced ftom the other customer. She leaves, I advance and I hand my purchases over for wrapping etc. We are now alone in the shop and we exchange pleasantries, after all we’ve known each other for more than twenty years. As she picks up some tissue paper from the counter top she turns the whole pile over and says something about having a new kitten who has walked over the paper and left a wet footprint on it. I say ‘Well cats don’t know about such distinctions I guess.’ She says ‘He’s new, he’s an adolescent boy, and you know what they’re like don’t you?’ I respond, flippantly, ‘Oh yes, there’s one of those in the White House right now.” There’s a pregnant pause before she says ‘I am a Trump supporter, I’m fed up with namby pambyism, I admire his straight talking.’ I look her in the eyes and I say ‘ But he’s a total nazi….’ to which she replies, ‘Well I’d rather have that than wishy washy liberals.’ We talk for a bit longer about home grown politics and she tells me she was all for Corbyn but since the election the new Labour leadership is not for her. We talk a bit about Greece and Spain, Then, as she hands me the dinky mini brown paper carrier bag with the card and the fancy wrapped earrings in, I pay, say goodbye and walk up the high street back to my car. I am very shocked. I remember back in the days when we were campaigning against the war in Iraq this woman was a staunch supporter of the local peace group and I have always thought of her as a comrade. I guess I’ll be buying birthday cards and earrings elsewhere in future. What the fuck is happening? I am confused. I take off my face mask, drive home, and pour myself a whiskey. I need it.
Harry Rogers, in the Red bedroom, October 12th, 2020.
Maybe tomorrow we make it better, Stand out on the streets or write a letter, One way or another let’s get this done, Let’s get together,one by one by one. Don’t bring us leaders, those who take a ride, Give us somebody to walk by our side. As we march, our hearts, light as a feather, Help us to smile through the stormy weather. Sing those songs of struggle from long ago, From Woody and Nina, help us to grow, We’ll march through the north, we’ll march through the south, Songs of love and hope filling every mouth, Face down the racists, the boogaloo guns, Up on higher ground shine like golden suns,
Harry Rogers in the Red Bedroom, October 11th 2020.
Fol de fucking roll There’s another poll. The man with no soul Scores one more own goal, They roar four more years, Forget nation’s tears, Maskless down their beers, Ramp up all our fears, Reckoning soon come, For chump on the stump, When steroids wear off, As he plays down cough, He’ll beg for his mum, Fall down with a bump, Always remember, Third of November, Time for all to dump Madman Donald Trump.
Harry Rogers in The Red Bedroom, 11th October 2020.
Their aged poster boy tweets Lies from his hospital bed. He can’t accept his defeats, Says the first thing in his head, Which most of the time is him, Believes he’s some kind of god. In his blood virus does swim, Content to feed on his bod. Narcissists don’t understand How actions belie their words, Nothing he says stands as grand, Beligerently absurd. After spraying without mask, One thing’s for certain of course, No matter how much we ask, He won’t show any remorse. Sociopaths never do.
Harry Rogers, in the Red Bedroom, 4th October 2020
God Pays debts without money, So my mother used to say, Well I don’t believe in God, But sometimes it looks that way. Four Five walks to the chopper, He flashes a discrete wave, Somehow he came a cropper, Looks like a proper close shave. No-one knows if he’s got it, If he has it could get bad, The electors have a fit, Media go fucking mad, His videos feel funny, The tweets keep right on coming, His campaign needs more money, Fox News forever dumbing. Over here across the pond, We’re not quite sure what to think, Will there be some magic wand, Or another giant stink? I’m hoping he doesn’t die, We don’t need martyrs made fake, He’ll not let sleeping dogs lie, Can’t tell if he’s on the make, Could be one thing or other, Still got plenty of bunny, I keep hearing my mother, God pays debts without money.
Harry Rogers in the Yellow Room, October 3rd 2020.