Built-In Obsolescence

My phone broke!80s phone

What a bloody joke!

I hadn’t had it long.

Spend fifty quid on phones, you don’t expect them to go wrong.

I hadn’t stamped upon the screen or flushed it down the loo,

I hadn’t done much with it, except make a call or two.

I know it’s not in warranty, I know I’ll have to pay

I know I won’t get cross if I’m without it for a day.

I had visions of mechanics with tiny phone sized tools

With HNDs in phone repair from specialist phone schools

Who could put it on a platform and take it all apart,

And replace a mini cam shaft to make its engine start.

I might even get a coffee, if they smile at me and say,

“It’s quite a quick repair, love. We’ll soon have you on your way.”

But though I looked around and trawled the Internet for ages

There isn’t one phone garage listed in the Yellow Pages.

I consulted all the paperwork, which said to make a call

To an 0800 number listed somewhere in Bengal

Except there was one problem, which you’d think they might have known:

You can’t exactly make a phonecall if you have a broken phone.

There was only one thing for it. I wandered into town

And picked out a likely phone shop from the thousands all around

A twelve-year-old approached me and he asked if he could help.

I said “I’d like my phone fixed, please,” and then he gave a little yelp.

“Repairs?” he said, in tones reserved for dog shit on the floor,

“I didn’t think that people bothered with them anymore!

No, it’s much better for you to invest in something new:

Take this one, for example. Let’s see what it can do.”

He held up a bit of plastic that looked much like my old phone:

“If you purchase the right add-on, this one turns into a drone!

The basic pack allows you to watch films and browse the net,

It takes selfies, does accounts and tracks appointments with the vet,

It has email, Facebook, MySpace, Netflix, Windows version 10,

And you can use it as a notebook with a phone-adapted pen!

If you already have a contract – and I assume you do –

You can purchase it today for ninety-eight pounds ninety two.”

“But what about my old one?” I asked, “Where will it go?

I’m sure there’s not much wrong with it, for someone in the know.

It seems a shame to chuck it out, when we hear every day

That we really should recycle rather than throw things away.”

He looked a bit bamboozled and then he shrugged and said,

“I fear environmental stuff’s a bit over my head.

You could always check our website and drop Management a line,

I imagine that they deal with questions like this all the time.”

And so I thanked the twelve year old – though I declined the sale –

And went home to compose a suitably insightful mail.

I told them my dilemma and I offered a solution

Which might reduce their costs and offset much of their pollution.

“Just offer to repair your phones, and everyone will see

How ecological a manufacturer can be!”

They did reply eventually. They said it was a shame,

But repairs don’t turn a profit if you’re in the mobile game.

And so I have a broken phone. I’m not too sure what’s next,

But forgive me in the meantime if I don’t return your text.



10th October is World Mental Health day. Depression is something that many of us will experience at some point in our lives, but is still something of a stigma, with many people feeling they need to manage on their own. I’ve tried to encapsulate a little of what it feels like.

You ought to know I put the washing on

In those few hours when you both were gone

And I, left in my usual cocoon –

The emptiness I craved, my cosy tomb,

With none to disappoint or to offend

None to stand screaming devil tears

When I’d forgotten something never said,

A friend uninvited, a party not arranged

For not-your-birthday, for failing time and time again

To bear you a living playmate like the rest,

And never knowing how to treat a guest.

None to set a stony face, resentment showing clear

That belies the words – “Your mother’s not herself,”

Oh you try, you try:

But I can feel the hollowness of the words I hear

And wonder if you really believe them.

And none to scold me gently on the phone:

“I haven’t seen you, it’s a shame,”

A clumsy ‘how are you’ that sounds like a j’accuse

And I retreat with some mumbled excuse.

No people to offend, stand in their way,

Park badly in the next-door parking bay,

Miss their invisible disability

Or fail to know they’re worthier than me.

No-one suffers the fact that I exist.

And so you went, left me alone

Gave me the space I begged for

“You don’t have to do anything”

And I can’t believe that either:

Or bear for to see you paper calmly over the cracks

To do the Herculean tasks that I can’t face,

And all without an effort, without sound,

While selfish me lounges tearfully around,

Too lazy to know what brings me to this state.

And so I did the washing, proved my worth,

Put towels on the line, and rinse, repeat,

Made beds with laundered, fresh-air-smelling sheets

In the hope that it might, just perhaps, atone

For all the hours I have been undone

And answering ‘What’s wrong?’

With ‘I don’t know’ –

Small gratitudes that your clean T-shirts show.

One fish, two fish…

It’s National Poetry Day and party conference season here in the UK. Which naturally brought my thoughts to verse..

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

This one reads the Morning Star,

This one does not drive a car.

Say! what a lot of fish there are!

One fish bends a journo’s ear:

“There weren’t so many here last year!

The Tories will have much to fear

Because there are so many here!

Here and there are lots of new fish:

(Hiding somewhere is a blue fish)

This fish is called Jeremy,

And few fish are as red as he.

The red fish all applaud with glee

Whenever they see Jeremy.

For he rejects austerity

Because it isn’t fair, you see.

Jeremy has a grey beard

And many blue fish think him weird.

“Jeremy!” the papers sneered,

“No proper leader has a beard!”

What will the red fish now agree,

At their meeting by the sea?

A fish steps up and takes the floor,

She’s one we haven’t met before.

Here is a chance to prove her worth

By showing how we save the earth.

(And don’t forget what this could mean

When lots of people voted Green)

Will she talk of car emissions?

Will she talk of air conditions?

“Please save the planet,” this fish begs,

“By avoiding milk and eggs!

Meat-eating is just for jokers,

And carnivores are worse than smokers!”

Oh well, they still have Jeremy –

Those cheery red fish by the sea –

Who does not like austerity

And wants to set the workers free

By making all the rich fish pay.

But will they pay up? Who can say?

Let’s say goodbye to all the new fish

And go North to see the blue fish.

Here things are a little tense,

Here they’ve built a great big fence

To keep all the protesters out

In case they might throw eggs and shout.

But here are lots of fish in blue,

And some have brought their spouses, too.

One fish gets a little hot:

“We’re not nasty – no, we’re not!

Whoever says so is a Trot!”

One outlines her policies

On migrants and on refugees:

“Of course we wish them every cheer –

We just don’t want them coming here.”

One dislikes the poor and needy:

“Frankly,most of them are greedy.

The reason that they have it rough

Is cause they don’t work hard enough!”

One proposes downing tools

And selling hospitals and schools.

(The doctors might get quite upset

But none of them are striking yet)

Oh dear! The blue fish do seem cross:

Let’s have a listen to their boss.

“We have to make the people see:

They should not vote for Jeremy!

His policies are far too weird

And most of all – he has a beard!”

Oh, what a lot of fish to see

In the North or by the sea.

Some are mad and some are glad

And some are very, very bad

Is politics a sort of fad?

I don’t know. Go ask your Dad.

(with apologies and thanks –  again –  to Theodor Giesl, aka Dr Seuss)