Monday, 1 June 2015

Of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his Wombat

Of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his Wombat

When I look close into your broad and smiling face
I can see all of my transgressions now forgiven.
Your barrel of a body covered so well
In a forest of coarse grey hair
Is my bulwark against life’s cruel shocks
And a warm comfort to place
My fearful arms tight around.
On my cheek I feel your strong breaths
Perfumed sweet with gum and eucalyptus;
A calm force drawing in all the varied world,
Exhaling only peace and goodness.
But it is in your exquisite eyes that Christ the Saviour died
And is forever risen and in beauty eternal made.
Oh glorious wombat, stay and sing awhile with me
That by contemplation I might better myself in thee.
By Paul Pickering           ©Paul Pickering

Sunday, 1 September 2013

I have a dream

I have a dream

I have a dream
That a good man
Who loves his family
Fires a hundred missiles
That incinerate playing children,
The flesh burning bright to their bones
On the other side of the shining sea:
I have a dream,
It is called a nightmare.

© Paul Pickering

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Curious Case of the Missing Body Found

‘I say, Holmes,’ said Dr Watson, opening his morning paper with a cheerful flourish as the sun angled in through the chintz curtains at 22b Baker Street. ‘I say, now that it’s all over, didn’t the taking of this Obama...drat... I mean Bin Laden chappie, fill you with patriotic pride? I remember when I was up on the pass, dodging the Jezzail bullets. And when that Gaddafi chappie bought it too? And now some Iranian nuclear Johnny has been shown the celestial door.’
            Holmes grimaced and looked longingly towards the medicine cabinet. He was fighting a migraine but it was a little too early for his cocaine and morphine constitutional.
            ‘Ah yes, remind me who won last time in the Afghan struggle.’
            ‘Don’t be like that, Holmes. This is one for the good chaps. The white hats. Can’t you just let go for a moment and see that this is pure Boy’s Own Paper stuff? I wouldn’t be surprised if after this you could even bring Professor Moriarty to book one day.’ Dr Watson saw instantly he had said the wrong thing and deeply wounded his friend. ‘I only meant that it’s like one of our adventures together. Your famous cases.’
            Holmes stood up and paced around the room, suddenly very tall and wolfish.
            ‘Oh yes, Watson, it’s like one of our cases. It’s very like a few of our cases in the danger and mystery and many interpretations. But there’s one thing that immediately separates the Bin Laden caper from all the others. It’s quite a simple matter really. Not one you would expect a half-educated village constable to overlook on his day off with his wife expecting a baby. But amid all the back slapping and ticker tape parades that is exactly what happened.’
            Watson stared into his newspaper for a whole minute at a ridiculous story about medics being allowed the money to run the poor hospitals.
            ‘You have me, Holmes. I can’t think. What’s different?’
            ‘A body, Watson.’
            ‘A body?’
            ‘Elementary, my dear Watson. There has been a killing, judicial murder, assassination, call it what you like. That’s what has been said, proudly, by the American administration.’
            Watson pursed his lips. ‘Well, they had to kill him.’
            ‘And why is that?’
            ‘He presented a real and present danger.’
            Holmes sighed and stood still. ‘He presented a threat? A sixty-odd-year- old dialysis patient in his woolly nightdress on a CIA pension for his efforts against the Russians. With what does he threaten the young man who has come to kill him? A reading from his Koran? A sharpened teddy bear? A suicide hot water bottle? We then have it on good authority he was shot in the back of the head, negating the very Rule of Law America is fighting for. Even the name of this operation sows doubt. Geronimo. Did not the US cavalry and our friends from the Pinkerton agency take Chief Geronimo alive, at the height of his murderous powers and armed with the latest Winchester, a six-shot Colt Peacemaker and a Bowie knife sent to him in misplaced commercial enthusiasm by the cutlers of Sheffield? And did he not die happily drunk, fatally falling off his pinto pony at the age of 79?’
            Dr Watson fidgeted in his leather armchair.
            ‘Well, if you put it like that, Holmes. But old Binny Laden did a lot of bad. And even foxie should know when the game is up and the hounds want their supper.’
            Holmes took his pipe from the mantelpiece. ‘In this case the analogy is painful, Watson. The war on terror has taken a hundred-fold victims for every one of those killed in wicked terrorist operations. It’s like the Quorn hunt wiping out Leicester to bag one dog fox. But that’s not the point.’
            ‘Please tell me what is, Holmes.’
            Holmes lit his pipe and blew the smoke into the room.
            ‘The point is the absence of a body. At least with Gaddafi they had a frozen sorbet of a corpse for a day or two. Have you ever known our American friends not want to exhibit their quarry on main street, be it Billy the Kid or Che Guevara? Where is their famous CSI? Their military claim that this raid was mounted from Afghanistan and then the body removed to the USS Carl Vinson. The only problem with that is information from a friend of ours in the excellent Sindh club in Karachi.’
            ‘Damn good club, the Sindh, especially on billiards night,’ said Watson.
            ‘Quite so,’ said Holmes, irritated. ‘Our friend, Omar, tells me that even though the radar and other electronics in Abbottabad are so sensitive they can pick up butterflies copulating - because that is where the country’s nuclear command bunker is, on a state of constant readiness against India - no one heard any helicopters come or go.’
            Dr Watson looked up. ‘But you cannot deny there was a raid, Holmes. One of those machines crashed and burned.’
            Holmes nodded: ‘Yes, it did. But one must also take into consideration that the town is a base for the secret Pakistani intelligence who have worked with Bin Laden for many years. And the fact that many locals claim to have known the  bearded Waziri trader who had been living in that house since his schooldays.’ Holmes then produced a piece of blackened metal from his pocket. ‘Do you know what this is, Watson?’
            Watson took the object from him. ‘No,’ he said simply.
            ‘This is a piece of a Soviet designed Mi-17 helicopter ashtray. This is the helicopter that burned outside the compound. Or, more accurately, was set on fire. It was not an American helicopter. So no Bin Laden was taken to any American warship. So there would not have been a body buried at sea. There is a body but thousands of miles away... Smoke and mirrors, Watson.’
            At this point Mrs Hudson brought in their mid morning snack of beefsteak sandwiches and freshly baked butter shortcake:
            ‘Haven’t you got it yet, Doctor?’ she said cheerfully. ‘It’s that poor Mr Obama. That Mr Bin Lardy got him in a Swedish toilet just after the Nobel Peace Prize presentation. Mr Obama’s earthly body is under the Swedish toilet floor. That’s why America is still in Afghanistan and causing chaos around the world and their economy is going down the tubes. Bin Laden is in the White House! He’s a bit lighter skinned and plays golf better but that’s no drawback over there. And the First Lady told Oprah that there has been a big improvement in the bedroom department. And he’s so interested in the military and even good with horses at Camp David. With the help of Professor Moriarty he intends to destroy the United States from within.’
            ‘Good Lord, Holmes.’
            ‘Yes, Moriarty is behind all this and is carrying out the dark agendas of the crazed American right. Have you ever considered, Watson, how Moriarty rhymes with Tea Party! That’s what did for the dictator Gaddafi too.’
            Dr Watson stared out into Baker Street for a long time as Holmes put down his pipe and took up his violin.
            ‘I see! I see! So that is why the fake Bin Laden had to die in an American operation that never was. Aren’t we going to do something, Holmes? This could be the end of the free world as we know it. I mean, is Gaddafi dead? And the rest? Is it all coming apart?’
            Holmes shook his brilliantined head.
            ‘No, Watson, I do not think so. Whatever plans Mr Bin Laden had when he decided to impersonate Mr Obama will be short lived. Have you ever known an American president able to carry out his promises, let alone his dreams? The former American colonies are ungovernable. You could put Ghandi or Satan in that office and they would all end up acting the same. They’d be corrupted into baby-kissing mediocrity like everyone else.’
            ‘Except you, Holmes,’ said Doctor Watson emotionally. The world was composed of those, like Holmes, who recognised the true narrative of events and those, like himself, who grabbed the first bone. It was a good thing that chaps like Holmes did not try to mislead folk.
            ‘You are too kind, Watson. And we will be going westward very soon,’ said Holmes with his enigmatic smile on his lips and then began to play Delius as they sat in, what was now to Dr Watson, the uncertain warmth of the January sunshine.

Paul Pickering's latest novel, The Leopard's Wife, is published in paperback by Simon and Schuster, £7.99.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Trout Taliban

Trout Taliban

First choose an overcast day to fish by a river such as the Oxus. On such a day the trout will rise more swiftly.

It will also be less likely that you will be blown out of your flip-flops by a Hell-fire missile.

Such things spoil a day’s fishing. So send your brother mujahedeen to the top of the nearest hill to watch and listen.

Trust in Allah, peace be unto him, but bait your hook with fat worms.

As you sit by the bank make sure a fire of dried wood is burning down to grey ashes.

When you have four trout it is time to cook.

Take four sheets of a newspaper. Infidel newspapers like The Times are excellent. Also good is Dawn. Do not even think of using religious texts, which are too small anyway. Vogue leaves a bad taste and is full of impurity.

Place the gutted fish in the centre of the paper and roll each into a small packet. It is best to do this alone as two mujahedeen rolling trout can often bump heads and fall out.

Wet these packets gently in the fast flowing river, being careful not to let go.  Check that the wood ash has been reduced to dust and bury the trout beneath the embers. Place your AK-47 away from the fire as you do this.

When the paper is dry and turning a little yellow the trout will be done.

Then sit down and eat the fish by the riverbank, chuckling into your beard.

If you forget your mujahedeen brother at the top of the hill keeping lookout and eat all four fish, never mind.

Go to the river and catch more fish.

Remember, only Allah is perfect.

Paul Pickering’s latest novel The Leopard’s Wife is published by Simon&Schuster. He is at work on Over the Rainbow, a novel set in Afghanistan. This recipe was for a Pakistani friend's wedding book.