My last commission as Brent Poet Laureate…

Thanks to those who took the time to check out the video for my Neasden Temple inspired poem, anyone who missed it can take a look here

A slightly different vibe now though for my 3rd & final commission as Brent Poet Laureate – another thing that has been interesting me around Brent, and London in general, is the baffling continued presence of the internet café.

Logically there should only be one or two of these left anywhere, and by rights these remaining anachronisms should operate more as museums, you know: “come and watch yesterdays future gather dust like a prototype hoverboard.”

But no, there are actually more than ever. I put this down to the fact that instead of lamenting the demise of their kind with a voice like a dial up modem wailing, net cafes have diversified. Wildly.

What used to be net café express, is now net café EXCHANGE express and you can buy or sell or do virtually anything: untraceable sim cards, next level laptops, money transfers overseas, knock off smart phone covers in dayglo orange or tartan, blank CDs, probably blank cassettes if you ask right. No word of a lie, in Kilburn there is a fishmonger which is also a netcafe.

And everything here happens quickly, in the grunted business language of the high road entrapenour. So, I wrote this next piece in the voice of all north west London net café owners, in fact all web kings capital wide. You can listen to an audio recording of the poem here:

And here is the text version:

Net cafe exchange express
Net Cafe Exchange Express. We buy, we sell, we repair. Up to you Boss.
Everything you have not saved will be lost. Email. Fax international. Calls
low cost. All continents here. See her on number two, with the head scarf
and the many plastic bags. Everyday googling stress and hyper-tension. Up
she gets now look, all bustle quick quick with ages left, her 30 minutes
not yet done. My friend. Everything has a price. Printing Black & White. 10p.
Printing Colour. £1. You know the cafe down the road? The new one, yes.
Free wireless, hot drinks, fancy food. Our Fanta and Kit Kat stay cheap,
up to you boss. This tall man brings his book. To my internet cafe. His book.
But he pays, like all customers. Just watch. He will sit down quick then
turn the screen off. Read many pages in one hour. Go.
He tells me he read the internet, all of it. But now he’s bored of it. Honestly,
rubbish. He say that. With no smiling either. And then old red face on
number eight, always pointing pointing I print something yes? Did that come?
I give in not once. Coz being nice only leads to more questions. Soon
I’ll be typing all emails to their cousin in Greece, scanning their house bills,
Skyping their wife. And probably I do it quicker than they can. Jokes,
but with more speed actually I bring in less money. So I give in to him not once.
Yes 10p per print black & white. Yes 50p minimum internet charge as well. Yes,
for logging on and pressing print only. Yes, if you put 60p in the jar each time
you print something here the last six months, you buy two printers. Yes.
But then here you are again, so probably you did not. End of the day.
It’s up to you boss. Everything you have not saved will be lost. And the time
is running out I know, yes. You’re not going to get done what you need to get done.
None of us are.

Three deep at the bar – my first poem as Brent Poet Laureate…

When I decided to write my first poem for Brent inspired by my visit to Wembley for the England vs. Ireland friendly, I was pretty sure I’d write about the game, or at least the stadium. I wanted to tell people that if a nation can be judged on the way it treats its poorest, then surely the way to judge a stadium is the view from its cheapest seats, I wanted to shout loud from the rooftops that if this was the case then good old Wembley passed with flying colours! Or failing that, to biggup it’s world record as the venue with the most toilets (2168 to be precise). At least to mention the bloody arch! And I promise that one day I will, perhaps even making my next offering an ode to that glowing single-coloured rainbow of steel spleandour. But this time around I wrote about the pub on the high road. Because I’m sure we’ve all had a long wait for a drink at a busy bar, and for a pub in Wembley before England game, well times your worst experience by about ten…

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Three deep at the bar
The spoons pre-match is three deep at the bar
punters jostle for space, this is their six yard box
some man-mark, making eyes at one bar-staff only
others go zonal, locking down a spot as wide as two Wayne Rooneys
with constant slight shuffles from left to right. In short,
this ain’t your local on a quiet Tuesday night
where any mug can find himself in acres of space. This is Wembley.
Everybody’s touch tight here. Even the designated drivers
Tetchy and in need of a juice. Even the crafty old boys in flat caps
who seem content to grumble-hum about the plastic glasses
only to lunge in with last ditch refill requests.
I thought I had time for a pint Before kickoff.
But of all buses parked in front of the bar
Of all the rounded bellies with bright white replica kits on
I’m behind the biggest. And I’m parched here. Gasping.
Sod it. I feint left, drop the shoulder, ghost past him
jink between two lads berating their mate for sipping too slow
“you’re a drink behind already Daz. This is like Majorca all over again.”
One more shimmy, spot the gap, then go. so close I can taste it.
Until, finally, I’m in. That’s that.
I slap my wallet on the damp mat in front of the taps
And for those who don’t know, that’s next up nailed on
A move that makes swift service a stone-wall certainty
The barman nods – “what can I get ya?”
I inhale, quick look along the taps to check, when out of nowhere
I feel an elbow nudge from the left. “Actually mate, I think she was next.”
There’s no answer to that. Outgentlemanned. I shrug-Grunt my approval.
join him on the moral high ground. Hold on though… Nooo! It’s too late when it hits.
It’s the old one two, he’s gone in with the assist. I just watch
Mouth agog, as his strike-partner orders. Two halves.
And when the drinks come, my worst fears are confirmed
Coz one is his and one is hers. Even Lands a kiss on her cheek before they turn,
And walk right by me. Arms flung over shoulders all smiley.
Beardsley and Lineker. Italia 90. I swear it’s the hope that kills you.

Simon Mole, 2013.

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