Thursday, 26 April 2012

L & H by Bobby Stevenson

You asked me, my young one, as we sat by the sea
What life had brought to my heart.

“Was it joy, was it sadness,
Was it laughter and tears?
The kindness of lovers?
The friendship through years?
Or the dreams of a life
In a heaven above?”

“It was none of these things,
It was hope,
It was love.”

Friday, 20 April 2012

Once, This Was Our Land by Bobby Stevenson

Once, this was our land,
Where we ran the highest peaks and held the very sky inside our palms.

Once, this was our land,
Where we stalked the work fields for all that we could take,
Where love came calling and was so easily found, that it was cheaply wasted.

Once, this was our land,
Where we ruled the earth and all within it and the rules were most certainly ours.
But now the eyes don’t see too well and the head no longer remembers so clearly,
And as I sit on the bus and look from my window, I see the young with different rules,
Not mine, for sure and in their eyes I  see it all – it says:
“This is our land”.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Remembering Disneyland By Bobby Stevenson

The window’s opened an inch just to let the room breathe a little as the rusting setting sun is just perching on the trees across the way and peeking into my window, hitting the Oleanders full on. The perfume hits my nose and pinches my sadness, ‘hey kid, this is why you walk and talk, get over yourself’. A seabird screeches for a partner somewhere in the outer banks, and just then I can smell the sea, a little sour as it worms its way by stealth into the room. 
Upstairs, Mrs Hack plays her husband’s jazz records and for a few minutes she can forget that he went to ‘Nam in ’65 and never came home. Oh, the sweetness of the dulling of the senses.

Across the street, as the dusk drops down bringing with it all those things which it’s known for, some kids leave the ice cream parlor screaming and hollering and remembering their almost perfect day at Disneyland, ‘if only Josey hadn’t thrown up over me’ shouts the nervous one whose eyes gave up the ghost a while back.

And so I sit and pour a drink as the sun packs up and finally leaves the room and a steel chill hits my stomach and I wonder why in all those years, I never got to go to Disneyland.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Stealing Moses By Bobby Stevenson

the poem of the story of the screenplay 

Jake was only 14 years in face but so much more in heart
And Moses, 7 it said on the social report but he was small
And on the nights Mama beat Moses, Jake could hear him crying
Through the wall – the little black boy next door.
Jake had never had a Dad, not one that you could point to in the street
And that was where his Mother worked for 20 bucks a time.
The day that Jake gave Moses a piece of his sleeve to dry away his tears, was when he heard of the little boy’s dreams and the little boy’s real fears.

So on a strange little Wednesday when Jake was left alone again, he took a fiver from the box his mother hid under her bed and stole Moses from the house next door.
The bus took them to the seaside where they ate ice creams and Moses gave the world something rarer than gold – his smile.
But these are the days of child murderers and so people grew concerned.
“All I wanted to do was see him smile” said Jake up to the judge
But the judge didn’t want to listen and sent Jake to a place where his mother didn’t need to care.
Now Moses can cry all he wants as there’s no one left to hear.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Seeing By Wireless (2012) by Bobby Stevenson

As a boy, Stan thought he could remember seeing a clown being fired from a cannon at a circus in Hove. He couldn’t recollect, however, witnessing a man flying through the air. At least not one who flew straight through a pair of heavy wooden doors knocking Stan over and causing him to end up in the middle of a busy street. That sort of just didn’t happen in Hastings

Stan lived off this story for years, and he told and retold it so often that people stopped listening.
“That was how I met Logie” Stan would say to everyone and no one in particular.

On the morning we speak of, he had set out intending to go for a constitutional stroll along the older part of town. This was his sanctuary; down here he could scupper and hide by the little fishing boats and let the wind wash away his mother’s ‘inspirational talks’. 

Stan was twenty four years of age, for goodness sake, and since leaving the army had never held down a decent job. The war had been long over and for a man born on the first day of 1900 he was not making a wonderful example of the new dawn. What was going through that stupid head of his? I ask you?
In life, all the best things appear to come when you least expect them, usually followed by the best things hitting you straight in the face - or making you roll out into the street - just the way Stan met Logie, as if you didn’t know. 

Now here’s a question, would Stan have ever known he could be an engineer if he hadn’t met Logie? Just like there must have been another Einstein or Shakespeare out there who, for whatever reason, never got a chance to find out about their own genius. Not that I’m saying Stan was a genius but certainly Logie was one and he knew Stan had his uses. 

After the ‘flying man’ episode and as a way of an apology, Logie took Stan for a drink. As so often happens in these circumstances, they found they actually liked each other’s company. So much so, that when Logie’s landlord stormed into the public house later that day “to find the mad Scottish scientist who had blown up his rented rooms” Stan lied for Logie and told the landlord that his friend “had been taken to hospital that very afternoon and could be at death’s door even as we speak” whereas Logie was actually hiding in the toilet.  Needless to say, the two of them became the greatest of pals.Here was Stan, a man in need of a job and Logie in need of an assistant he could trust. Stanley Addlington was born and bred a Sussex man and proud of it, his friend John Logie Baird, or Logie as he preferred, was from Helensburgh in the West of Scotland.

Now it wouldn’t be so far from the truth to say that Logie was run out of Hastings. Logie and his landlord had an altercation in the street when he demanded recompense for the damage caused by the explosions. Logie reluctantly paid the swine and decided enough was enough, taking his inventions to a set of rooms in London’s Soho.And it was in these modest rooms that John Logie Baird demonstrated the first electro mechanical television.  

Stan would tell you that he was the first face ever to appear on a television screen. He had done it to amuse himself one night when Logie was out. The problem was that since he was the only person in the room at the time, he couldn’t actually see himself on the screen but he did remember burning himself on the lights needed for the camera. When Logie came in the next day and spotted the burns on Stan’s face, he smiled to himself having guessed what his friend had been up to. Unfortunately for Stan, history chose another as the first televised face.

Those London years were the busiest of Stan’s life, forever working on Logie’s latest inventions, sometimes fourteen to sixteen hours a day. Too much work for him to realise how lonely he actually was.

In the spring of 1936, Logie decided to take a trip home to Helensburgh to see the family but due to his deteriorating health Logie asked Stan to drive him up there. This meant that Stan could take the car north and return to collect Logie at the end of the stay. Stan had only been to Scotland once before and that was when Logie transmitted television pictures to the Central Hotel in Glasgow via a telephone line from London. So yes, he would drive him to Helensburgh and then take the car on into the Highlands. 

Whatever made Stan take the Coldharbour road at Inveraray is between him and his maker but turn he did and before long he was staring at a rusty welcoming sign:
‘Coldharbour: The B nniest Place in the West’. 

Coming in from that direction, the village hall was the first real building you would pass. Outside Stan saw a rather pretty girl taking down a notice telling that the library was now open. She disappeared inside the hall and Stan saw this as a reason to stop. 
When he entered, she was packing up the makeshift library into boxes and was apparently doing so without anyone to help her.
“Excuse me” said Stan.
The girl spoke without lifting her head. “If you’re going to tell me there’s a letter ‘O’ missing from our village sign, then I already know. It fell off last week. If you’re here to borrow books, you’re too late and anyway judging by your accent you’re not from these parts.” And on she worked. 
“I just wondered.....I was wondering if you would like to come out with me this evening...for a drink or something, young lady?”
“Did you just call me young lady?” enquired the girl.
“Depends - did you want me to call you ‘young lady’?”
And the beautiful young girl thought about it and decided, yes, she did like it. So that was how Stanley Addlington met Agnes Lily Sorensen, daughter of Peter; the man who sat quietly in rooms. 

Stan decided that this was as much of the Highlands as he wanted to see and found a room at Mrs Edith Huckerby’s bed and breakfast – five shillings and clean sheets.
Mrs Huckerby never told her lodger that she disapproved of Agnes and her demented father but it seemed to Stan that Mrs Huckerby disapproved of everyone. What she needed was a hard kiss on those lips, thought Stan, but decided he wasn’t the man for the job. Although her house smelt of the most delicious baking, Mrs Huckerby, herself, smelt of mothballs, probably one of the reasons why Stan did not feel he was the right man to deliver the kiss. 

Stan and Agnes spent the next Sunday afternoon walking the high hills overlooking Loch Awe – Agnes liked the way Stan called it ‘Lock ah’, in fact she liked many things about Stan. She was twenty two years of age and this was the first time she had ever had these feelings. 

On the following Tuesday ,as usual, Agnes set up the library in the hall but this time there were two differences: Stan was there helping and the rooms were full of the happy sound of laughter, even the sun turned up to shine through the windows.

They set up the books in an ordered fashion, crime was on the left and very popular in Coldharbour, the classics were on the right and the penny romances were in the centre; the latter proving very popular with the women and girls of the village who never stopped dreaming of their knights in shining armour. 

Stan, Agnes’ knight, lifted a small vase out of a tired old box and asked what it was for.
“Ah that’s the suggestions vase, at the end of every session I read what’s been placed in it. Some suggest particular books, some just want to leave a message, some to place some money or to say thanks” said Agnes. 
By the end of the afternoon Stan knew it was time to head back south to Helensburgh and pick up Logie. They intended to stay a night in Glasgow before driving to London and Stan wished with all his heart that Agnes could join him, but he knew about her father and him sitting in a room quietly.
So when Agnes’ back was turned, Stan scrawled a quick note and placed it in the jar, then he kissed her goodbye and promised lovely Agnes that he would return. 

As he was driving away from Loch Awe, he looked at his watch and knew that she would soon read the proposal of marriage he had placed in the vase.Stan was just about to whistle his favourite tune by way of celebration when the car skidded for several yards before tumbling off the road. He was sure he had felt the road shaking just before the accident. As he sat stunned in the automobile, he felt it again, the earth definitely moved. The machine was stuck good and proper and there was no way he could push it out. So Stan set out to walk up the old road that followed the Orchy River to the bridge.

Nothing passed by him that afternoon and it was early evening before he arrived at a small house in Inveronan on the shores of Loch Tulla.An old man answered the door, “There is nothing we can do this evening for your transport young man, but come away inside and we’ll feed and water you”.

In Coldharbour, Agnes was clearing up the mess in the hall. There had been small earthquakes before in the area but this was a bit stronger than usual. Still, she got to work picking up all the bookshelves and the scattered books but Agnes failed to notice the broken vase lying on its side and its contents having spilled out under a wooden desk. 

In the morning, Stan thanked the old couple who fed him well and who asked for nothing in return. He walked the military road across Ba Bridge and into Glencoe, finding a telephone at The Kingshouse and thereby allowing him to notify Logie that he would be delayed.

In the Autumn of 1936, Logie and his team were busier than ever supplying the BBC with their latest television technology to test against other competing systems. Logie’s group were based at The Crystal Palace, a structure moved from Hyde Park to Penge Common in 1851. 

Stan had bought a small house near-by in Sydenham, in the hope that he would hear from Agnes and that she would say yes. It was nearly the end of November and Stan had begun to give up on the idea of a life with Agnes. 

Several days before the Coldharbour hall was to be used for a Saint Andrew’s night party Miss McKelvie, the village hall cleaner, found the contents of the suggestion vase underneath the desk, including Stan’s proposal of marriage. 

So on the night of the 30th of November and instead of dancing in the village hall, Agnes found herself knocking on the door of a house in Sydenham, south east London. She had been reluctant to go as it would mean leaving her mother with a father who sat and said nothing, but her mother told her that sometimes happiness only comes once and that she should catch it before it was too late. 

Stan proposed properly to Agnes that night with the ring he had been keeping safe on a chain around his neck.  It was just as Agnes had accepted Stan’s hand in marriage, that she noticed the redness of the sky. She thought, at first, it was to do with the London lights being so much stronger than those in Coldharbour but when Stan went out into the garden he could smell the smoke, then he heard the clang...clang...clang of the fire engines. 

The Crystal Palace, and all ideas that he and Logie had worked so hard on over the years, was on fire. 

The BBC, in the end, chose another television system just as the country drifted into war. In Hastings, Agnes and Stan got married and had two wonderful years before Agnes moved back to Coldharbour to wait on her knight returning from battle.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Being Human by Bobby Stevenson

Being human is never really understanding
Being human is loving and hurting at the same time
Being human is hoping and caring, stealing and sharing
Being human is tears and pain and fear
Being human is wondering why the hell we’re here
Being human is being lost for most of your life
Being human is cursing the gods then hoping they are there
Being human is watching the stars with the same wonderment we did from the caves
Being human is sacrifice, strength and sometimes bravery
Being human is selfishness and slavery
Being human is mental illness and confusion
Being human is sometimes an illusion
Being human is watching lovers fade
Being human is regretting all that’s left unsaid
Being human is wishing you had done some more
Being human is lifting yourself up from the floor
Being human is writing, painting and scoring
Being human is making music that an ape should be proud of
Being human is everyone feeling but never always sharing
Being human is hoping that tomorrow will be better
Being human is all we have.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Shake The Heavens (2012) by Bobby Stevenson

The couple in front of him lit their cigarettes from the same match, kissed until the smoke was coming out of their noses, then each slumped into a big red balding seat ready to wallow in another Saturday night at the Regal cinema. 

Ricky was his usual late self and arrived out of breath just as the rousing newsreel music was starting up.
“Hurry up and sit down”, demanded James.   
“My mother...”
“It’s always your mother, just shh...there’s something coming on that I want you to see”

They impatiently sat through a story of the latest spring fashions for the young ladies of 1951 then a report on Tottenham Hotspur and the Arsenal football teams fighting for the top place in the English First Division - although James, with a snigger, dismissed talk of any team other than the Arsenal
“This is it now, watch”

The excitable announcer talked over some film of London’s Southbank. In only a few days time the Festival of Britain would open and the focal point was be the breath taking three hundred foot structure which gave the impression of being unsupported.

“Bloody hell” James was pleased at Ricky’s reaction.
”It’s like one of those Dan Dare rocket ships...” the couple in front came up for air, told James to shut up and then just as quickly returned to kissing, “..and I am going to climb that bloody monster.” James whispered. 

“Why would you ever want to do that?” asked Ricky already knowing the answer.
“Because I can”.
Yep, that was the reply Ricky was waiting for.

The guy in front, whose face was now covered in lipstick, told them if they didn’t shut up right this minute he’d hit them. Then the guy in front of him, told him also to shut up; you could be here all night with this stuff.

“Excuse me, my crazy friend but weren’t you watching? It is three hundred feet high” a fact that was worrying Ricky.
I know, ain’t it brilliant?” this time James talked in a cheap American movie kind of way. 

You see, to James everything was brilliant and brilliant acted as the base level for his life. If it wasn’t brilliant he wouldn’t give it the time of day but somehow every brilliant thing that James attempted to do would result in Ricky getting into more serious trouble.

The alternative for Ricky was not being James’ friend and that was too awful to even think about. It would mean Ricky going back to being shoved around the British Library by his parents. It would mean Ricky’s mother cleaning his face in full view of people with a handkerchief, into which she had just made him spit.
Somehow getting into trouble was his only salvation.

One Saturday, James had suggested that Richard call himself ‘Ricky’ after Bogart’s character in Casablanca. Richard hoped that James would soon tire of it but yesterday when he knocked at Richard’s front door and asked if Ricky was in, Richard’s mother belted her son’s ear.  
“James is such a sweetie, why would you ever let him call you by that awful name, you wicked boy? It’s not very clever, not in any way is it clever, Richard, do you hear me?” 
Ricky wasn’t listening to his mother, instead he was contemplating greater ideas such as there must be a time just before a person is born when the gods decide if you should be blamed for everything in the universe or be allowed to get off scot free. Ricky knew that the gods had voted him into the former group and James had, most definitely, been voted into the latter; even when James blatantly lied to peoples’ faces they always ended up thanking him for something or other, Ricky knew he could never beat those odds.

On the morning of the 2nd of May, the boys boarded the London bound train weighed down with paraphernalia, most of which was a mystery to Ricky. 

“I’ll explain on the way” said James and over the sandwiches that Ricky’s mother had supplied, he did just that.
For several months, working with his college and pretending to be studying architecture, James had contacted the manufacturers of the Skylon- the new name for the big rocket - and they had supplied all the specifications. So he knew it was aluminium and steel and James reckoned on two ropes and a couple of small hammers should do it.

“So you’re going to climb the thing then come down again?”
“Hell yes, but I’ll leave a souvenir at the top to let them know I was there.” James was smug.
He thought maybe a bottle of whisky but Ricky had to remind him what would happen if it fell. 

“What about a flag?”
“I don’t have one” 

Then James noticed the scarf that was around Ricky’s neck but Ricky argued that it was the college scarf and anyway it had cost three guineas and since it was the college scarf it might give the game away. James said he wanted to give the game away and blow the consequences, so Ricky reluctantly handed the scarf over. Ricky never liked blowing the consequences, he could see trouble ahead. 

When they arrived at the Southbank, the workmen were still putting the finishing touches to the Festival Hall. James had reckoned this might happen and had brought working clothes for both him and Ricky. It worked as they managed to walk straight past the security man who mentioned that it was getting a bit cold and James had to agree. 

“What now?” asked Ricky, still thinking about the consequences being blown.
Apparently the plan was to wait until midnight when the lights on the Skylon were switched off. Was climbing in the dark a good idea?
“Hell yes”
Ricky wondered about James, who had never actually been to America but still talked like them. 

They found that they could crawl under the Pavilion and it seemed a great place to hide and was relatively warm. After a long wait and a bit of cramp, James attempted to stand up and hit a trap door with his head, this led into the Pavilion itself. 
“Bloody hell” shouted Ricky. “Shh”
“But look at this place it’s got food and more food and champagne” 

James ruled that they would return to the room after he’d climbed the tower, assuming that he survived. Anyhow he had a backup plan that if things got too dangerous or the wind picked up, he’d just jump into the Thames.
“And hope you don’t drown”
No wonder Ricky’s mother hits him, thought James.

So a few minutes after midnight James got ready to start the fifty foot climb which would bring him to the bottom of the Skylon. It was all a matter of shimmying up the cables that held the tower in place. Ricky knew his friend and knew he was more scared than he was letting on, so Ricky started their game that had seen them both through troubled spots in the past. 

“Who would you rather kiss Dinah Shore or Doris Day?” asked Ricky.
James opted for Doris Day, every time. Then they discussed who the better singer was between Frankie Laine and Bing Crosby, both of them opted for Bing. Ricky reminded James that he better not fall off as he still needed to go with his pal to see ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ when it came to the Regal. 

Ricky then asked who was the best player between Jackie Milburn and Stanley Matthews. James knew that Milburn had scored against the Arsenal and so ignoring the question he quickly disappeared into the night.

“Be careful” whispered Ricky, to himself.

It was the most difficult climb of James’ life. The overhang was more than he expected and a couple of times he thought that his great view of Big Ben might be his last. By four am he had made the top and Ricky had been right, there was no way you could leave a bottle of whisky up here. He caught his breath, enjoyed the view for a minute then tied the scarf to the top of the Skylon. 

When he’d lowered himself halfway down, he noticed the policeman standing at the bottom. Where was Ricky?
James’ options were limited, he was still high enough to jump into the river or maybe he could take his chances with the copper. It was getting light and it was cold, going down by rope was his only choice. He could easily outrun the policeman so that is what he did. As he slipped down the support cables he jumped off earlier than he or the copper had expected. Luckily nothing was broken and on a hunch he headed towards the Pavilion. Sure enough Ricky was hiding under the building and without being seen, James rolled under to join him.

“Let’s find that trapdoor” the words crept slowly out of James’ mouth.  

Within ten minutes they each had a bottle of champagne to hand and were swigging it back good style; the policeman was nowhere to be seen. Without realising, both sat down behind the big fancy sofa and fell asleep.

It was Ricky who saw her first; there she was staring at him, Queen Mary as large as life. Ricky shook James awake, who grumbled all the way into consciousness. He was about to say ‘bloody hell’ but Ricky realised what was coming and slapped a large hand across James’ mouth.
“What are you boys doing here?” whispered Queen Mary.
“I’ve climbed the Skylon, your majesty” said a bit too loudly.
The smile on her face was subtle but definitely there. She nodded to the boys to look around the sofa, which they did.
“Blood....” the hand got slapped over James’ mouth again.
There was King George the 6th, Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill.
“Bloody hell” exclaimed Ricky, who couldn’t help himself and had no one to slap a hand over his mouth. 

An army officer came over to tell Queen Mary she was required outside whereby she smiled at the boys and left.
“Think she’ll tell?”
“Don’t know, but we don’t want to chance it”. Quickly the boys dropped through the trapdoor and stayed there until it was dark again. 

The next Saturday night at the Regal cinema James and Ricky watched, from the comfort of their red balding seats, a newsreel report on the mysterious appearance of a scarf at the top of the Skylon. 

They laughed and laughed until everyone in the cinema told them to shut up.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Trash Men by Bobby Stevenson

I’m just like my Father and proud of it,
We both pick up litter from the street,
It’s the way we are, I think he said,
And I guess he’s probably got that right,
It doesn’t make us soft or stupid,
It doesn’t make us sad or weak,
It only means we care enough,
And there isn’t much of that lying
Around the street these days.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Touching Gravity by Bobby Stevenson

Where I am today, I can trace all the way back to that time on the mountain.

I suppose there are many people with similar stories but this one had so much impact on the rest of my life that I still think about it every day.

Prior to the mountain, I was just a guy who rarely thought of anything other than work and holidays. On one of those weeks every year, I would walk the West Highland Way with friends. It runs 95 miles from Glasgow to Fort William in the west highlands of Scotland. It can be a rough walk and usually is.

The first couple of times I went with my pal Freddie and his son. They were both very fit and enjoyed the experience a lot more than I did. We all suffered from blisters on our feet but my blisters seemed to have their own blisters.

I killed the pain by taking aspirin every morning – not a healthy way to walk. So I decided for the following year  that I would get super fit and start to enjoy the walk.

And get fit I did. So much so, that we started not just to walk the 95 miles but to climb up every mountain over 3,000 feet along the way. In Scotland hills over that height are known as Munros after the man, Sir Hugh Munro, who recorded them.

Just before the walk reaches Glencoe, there is an estate known as the Black Mount which belongs to the Fleming family (as in Ian Fleming of James Bond fame). There is a path which winds through their estate and which follows the old military road built around 1750. About a mile or so into the estate there is a crossing called Ba’ Bridge. Freddie decided since it was such a warm, sunny, June day that we should climb over into Glencoe over the nearest munro.

We were in shorts and t-shirts as we ascended up the grassy slope. This took us on to a horse-shoe shaped area, and apart from the path we came up it was 2,000 feet down all around. The hills were sloped to the east and it was difficult to see to the west coast and appreciate what type of weather was coming.

We reached the top of the horse-shoe with little struggle. Then it suddenly got very cold, followed by a severe wind and then snow, lots of it – and all this in June. It came down so hard that it was impossible to see anything, a real whiteout. We were freezing and it was dangerous to walk any distance.

A few feet in front of us we saw a small wall of stones that had been built at the summit as a protection from the wind.And there we stayed as the weather closed in. It only got worse.

We sat looking at each other and freezing and I felt as if I was watching a film. How could this happen? It wasn’t meant to be like this, not here and now. Funnily enough the same feeling occured a few years later when we were landing in Helsinki airport and the landing gear wouldn’t come down.

Freddie and I covered ourselves and hoped it would pass and this was all before mobile phones. We hadn’t told anyone where we were going and we didn’t know ourselves until we were actually climbing the mountain.

I felt that if I was going to die of hypothermia then I may as well go for a walk and take my chances. In staying put there was a certainty of dying. Freddie decided to walk too.

What happened next you can interpret it as you feel fit. There was only one other way off the horse-shoe without falling 2,000 feet, a very narrow path (maybe two feet across) that provided a way across to the top of Glencoe.

Suddenly the sun came out – not across the sky but just one sharp sliver which had pushed through the clouds and lit up the narrow path; nothing else surrounding it, just the path. Although the snow was still falling, it was possible to see that the path led to a safe ledge and so we took it.

This is the part that made me change my idea of everything: when we got to the other side and safety, the sky clouded over and the sun disappeared. Not after a while, but right there and then.

We were able to walk down through the Glencoe ski area and reach the climbers’ bar at the Kingshouse.
We didn’t really talk that night – we both knew what had happened. We drank whisky and thought about things in front of a roaring fire.

When I got back home, I decided that if something wanted me to keep going then it might have an idea where I should go. Within a year I resigned my job and moved out into the world, a changed man.

Today, I write a little, act a little and sing a little all because of that day on the mountain. Hey, I'm poor in money but rich in everything else.

I know what happened that day and so does Freddie. I’m glad he was there or I might have doubted it.