Category Archives: Ranters

Stolen Day

From the 1987 anthology Hard Lines 3, poems chosen by Ian Dury, Fanny Dubes, and Tom Paulin.

Stolen Day

She was too big for the job
too spiritual for the office
She didn’t clock in
She stole away
stole the day
and walked with the stolen sun
along the stolen street
among the stolen cars
unconfined
breathing unmeasured breaths
living in untimed time

Frances Jessup

Social Security Rules

This poem is from quirky Basildon zine Attitude, number 8, 1985.

Social Security Rules

Tatty plastic sheets and timbers
Make hovel home
Cos the Government’s got its way
And we’ll die in winter

Come back in two weeks
No work now
Ache for yourself
When your fixed in a corner
Demanding charity

But still
Theres plenty of places to stay
Pitsea marshes
Tent village
And we’ll all die in winter

But it’s summer now
And maybe time enough
Please, please no more suicide
Does life have to be
A fate worse than death.

Peter Covey

The Local

Poem from the 1968 anthology It’s World That Makes The Love Go Round. This was made up of poems from Breakthru poetry magazine.

The Local

Middle-aged and paunched
Bespectacled and merry
He perches upon his regular pint
Sized stool withing the Red
Forever flowing Lion and commences to
Pronounce with slurred absurdly confident
Unknown fact upon some subject
About which he knows absolutely nothing;
And attended to by the entire
Entirely sozzled company with
Their ears and hear hears he raises
Once again his glass up to his
Slurping lips, and with it up goes the level
of the world’s prejudice
And slops down upon the under spirit
Floor where ignorance is bliss
’tis folly to be wise,
While outside, the earnest nervous
Trembling truth teller
Is sitting at the door begging
For the unforthcoming money
For a drink
And wasting his young so
Sober wind upon
Their randy brandy breaths.

Nicholas Caulfield






Feeling Small

The Sunday Times magazine, 3 August, 1980 has 3 poems selected by Michael Rosen.

Rosen’s Choice
Michael Rosen picks some of your poems about feeling small

Thanks for your small talk about feeling small. Sorry, David Paske, your feeling small poem was too big! To be fair to everyone, Start Here poems should never be longer than postcard size.
I liked these very much:

When I was only about 10
I always wanted to play football with my big brother
and all his big friends.
So he said,
“If you come, and you get hurt,
and come and complain to me
you’ll never come with me again.”
So the next day
I got all my football gear ready
and I went out with my brother
thinking that I looked really good – big.
But when we got there
the size of the other team was frightening –
big,
and I began to get a bit worried.
I felt so big
when I was mouthing around
but when it came to it
I felt so small.

Thomas Ioannou, aged 13

Fuck You

Tom McGrath was a working class Scottish poet (23 October 1940 – 29 April 2009) He was a founding editor of International Times and worked variously with Alexander Trocchi, Billy Connolly, and Jimmy Boyle.
This poem is from Aquarius, No. 6, 1973. This was a Scottish issue.

Fuck You

Fuck you and your public dole that doesn’t have a toilet.

Fuck you and your employment exchange
your dreadful dearth of vacation employment,
why don’t I try the breweries
fuck tedium death on assembly lines

Fuck you and what you’d have me do with summer
sweating over proofs in a publishing house,
or growing green mould selling books for John Smith
sorting through cobwebs in nonpublic libraries

Fuck you and your hardback books
your polite poets who never touch earth
and never are read except by each other
and the withered few they’ve fooled
and brainwashed in the lecture halls

Fuck you and your examination system
and comment present a detailed analysis
of this poem if you like/if you don’t like
fuck you then and your tobacco
your Carlsberg special brews and all you’ve based
your empty empire on, your precious democratic right to vote,
choice between lies and lies, fuck it too

and fuck your newspapers and your television
and all purveyors of human value wilderness
fuck you and your motorcars and what they’ve done
to street and field and fuck your hideous office blocks
your controlled parks and men in uniform

Fuck your uniformity and your void
of blabbing justices, fuck your corrupt screws
and primlipped schoolmarm social workers
fuck your mad psychiatry
trying to train us back
to Pavlov’s dogs

and fuck you and your church and collars
trying to be hip and please the young
trying to be responsible and please their mothers
trying to be revolutionaries and conform

fuck them and fuck you I can reach God my own way fuck your wars
and the blue flowers sprout in my garden and tell me
fuck them and their industrial smoke

their whiskey-steeped reporters
giving accurate distorts

and I say fuck tidying up this poem
and making it more accurate
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
You know what I mean –

unless you give me the truth
that serves the flesh and feeds the sensibility,
I’m going to have to pounce on you some night
and fuck you fuck you fuck you hard
in cunt and mouth, asshole and nostril
until you scream with it
scream with joy
and shout fuck it!
fuck their images
their skyscrape institutions
fuck the dreary digitry they have reduced us to –
a man’s life is worth so much more than this!

then my sweetie, I will love you too

Tom McGrath


The Miners Are On Strike

From the 1985 collection of writing by the children of striking miners, More Valuable Than Gold put out by Women Against Pit Closures.

The miners are on strike
The miners are on strike because Mrs Thatcher said they can’t do no work under the ground, and the miners got angry. When the miners got angry they wanted some clothes because they were freezing. They needed some food because they were hungry. How can we win? We can win but they need some money. The police hit the miners. I wasn’t surprised. They hit Brian, They arrested the miners. I wasn’t surprised. The police sent Zeynep and Fatih back to Turkey. So I know they arrest people. I think they are never fair. I don’t know why. Some of the miners were in hospital for a very long time and some went to prison. They didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know why they are in prison – it makes me feel awful. I saw it on television. My mum was sad. My dad was very surprised that the miners were in jail. He said this is a terrible thing to happen just because the miners got cross with Mrs Thatcher.
Dale Bryden, 7, Hackney, London

Swing And Go

Ian Dury, Aidan Cant, and Paul Weller go poetry in Smash Hits, 20 January – 2 February, 1983.

Poetry Corner

Ian Dury has written the introduction to Hard Lines, a paperback book of poetry, prose and drawings by young writers who have never appeared in print before. The book is published by Faber and Faber on January 31, and costs £1.95.
Swing And Go! by Aidan Cant is the latest slim volume to be published by Paul Weller’s Riot Stories. Paul reckons it contains “tears, fears, smiles and dreams and Aidan makes use and looks at all of ’em”, You can find out for yourself by sending a cheque or p.o. for £1.75 to: Riot Stories, 45/53 Sinclair Road, London W.14.



In Sickness And In Health

Seething Wells reviews the return of Alf Garnett in the NME, 14 September, 1985.

Wishy-washy liberal STEVEN WELLS considers the return of mild-mannered, shy, retiring Alf and Else.

Sitcoms which actually cause you to laugh rather than cringe, yawn or reach for the ‘off’ switch are rare and getting rarer.
Most of the current dross is dull, laboured and nice to the point of nausea. Writers seem unable to stretch their imaginations past the most basic double-entendres and the feeblest of plots. The typical ’80s sitcom character is a divorced professional in his late 30s living in a semi-detached cocktail cabinet with a pebble-dashed hatchback parked in the driveway.
This it is that American imports like Taxi, Barney Miller and Cheers have received so much undue praise. They may not be great comedy but at least you know that no-one’s going to crack a string of alleged jokes about the mortgage.
When I recently interviewed Mary Whitehouse she claimed that the present trough in TV comedy was the result of a purge of ‘permissive’ writers. I asked her what she would consider an example of good contemporary comedy. After a long pause she suggested The Good Life – a twee nicey-nice show that contains little roughage and has had all the nasty crusts removed. Such programmes convey a cloyingly safe middle-class world view – nothing is challenged, nothing threatened. It is the comedy of conformity.
One show that did attempt to confront rather than cuddle was Till Death Us Do Part. Johnny Speight’s scripting of working class Tory bigot Alf Garnett’s manic rantings were works of classic parody.
Though exaggerated in detail, Garnett was never a stereotype, neither could he be considered a hate figure. The frustration and contradictions of his character were all too real, his racism and fawning affection for the people who kept him in chains far too close to home for most people. He could have been my grandad.
Alf is back, as pathetic as ever, in the sequel In Sickness And In Heath. Gone is the Welfare State pampered Scouse Git who acted as a superb foil for Alf’s vitriolic assaults on sanity. Else is restricted to a wheelchair, increasing the pathos and giving Alf the excuse to launch into a series of cripple-bashing speeches. Indeed, the first episode made much of his resentment at Else’s disablement.
“That’s typical of your National Health Service innit? They gives you a wheelchair but they don;t give you anyone to push it.”
Racism was remarkably underplayed, given that it is for this particular vice that Garnett is most remembered. He uttered one “Sambo” and a couple of lines about the inability of Jewish bodies to accept transplanted organs from blacks. Tame stuff compared to some of the lines from earlier series.
Since the last Till Death. . . we have seen the rise of organised racism in the shape of the various neo-nazi parties who came close to becoming a real political force before the election of the Conservative government in 1979. Thatcher won the election with a campaign that included the “swamped by an alien culture” speech, which could have come straight from the mouth of Garnett – except that it wasn’t funny any more. The attitudes that Speight parodies have become enshrined in legislation.
It is going to be interesting to see how Alf has adapted to living in a post-Lewisham, post-Falklands UK. It will be interesting to see whether, after six years of Thatcher, we can still swallow raving reactionary bigots as figures of fun.
Only if the boot goes in a lot harder.