Sunday, August 13, 2017

DOGGEREL

Alone he came through swirling mist
In coat of gold with heart so sore.
Who knows what drove his single quest
He, clear of eye and firm of jaw.
Who trod his path at dark of night,
To the house where burned the welcome light.
The weary traveller to the open door,
To the comfort of that threadbare floor,
They knew him by his mystic paw
Twas Ben the psychic labrador.

Perhaps a Pharoe from the flowing Nile
Long since embalmed to rest in grace
Or an Inca from a city high
On mountain top 'twixt earth and space.
How far he'd travelled no one knew
Some claimed he was a dog who flew
Some claimed the wisdom of his eyes
Belied his canine shape and size
While some just gazed in silent awe
On Ben the psychic labrador.

Maybe a dog or maybe ... what?
A force whose heart beat echoes love?
A soul that burns with healing heat?
Why now a dog and not a dove?
But this spirit hound from the astral shore
This warrior from the cosmic war
Who wagged his tail by the open door
Found speculation quite a bore.
He'd come to walk the earth once more
As Ben the psychic labrador.

Walkies




©  Patrick Ellis

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Busking Festival in Ferrara

Twenty years ago this month saw the first world tour of the folk/roots duo Absolutely No Dogs. Actually it was not so much a world tour as it only included one country ... ltaly ... and it couldn't really be described as stadium rock. Absolutely No Dogs, (which shall from now on be referred to by their acronym AND) was 50% John Howes who played bazouki and guitar and 50% my good self, who contributed on guitar, mandolin and harmonica. We both sang. AND had been invited to perform at the busking festival in Ferrara.

To explain further, Ferrara was one of Swansea's twin towns. A city whose architecture was a piquant mix of contemporary, medieval and renaissance styles. As a result it was, and still is absolutely gorgeous. For its 10th anniversary the festival had decided to invite an act from its twin.
We gathered on a rainy Saturday in Swansea's Castle Square for the selection audition. To cut a long story short AND was selected. At the time l was working as Parks Project Officer for Swansea City Council, and as the festival was organised by Ferrara's City Council, l was not particularly surprised.

Busking is illegal in Italy so with typical contrary mediterranean zeal the city decided to hold a festival of street music ... during which time the prohibition against busking was to be relaxed.

Our material was, as it said on the tin, a mixture of traditional and original melodies and songs. We were the core of the Absolutely No Dogs ceilidh band who played at weddings and ceilidhs. For the latter we would engage the services of a caller, i.e. someone who knew, or claimed to know, the steps and wasn't afraid to make a prat of him or herself. Occasionally we would be booked for concerts and festivals.

The deal was we were to have free flights to and from Bologna, return train between Bologna and Ferrara and free board and lodge when we got there. In return we were expected to perform on the streets. We were to play sets of 60 minutes alternating between one and two a day.

Food was provided by a local open air restaurant. Best described as basic but good. Although the patron expected us to buy alcohol to go with the food ... and seemed a little miffed when neither of us did. I guess l should take the blame for that. I have had difficult experiences with alcohol in the past so l was reluctant to partake, especially far from familiar surroundings. I'm not sure why John didn't drink, maybe he didn't consider the prospect of being drunk on his own with no English speakers with whom to share his intoxication particularly attractive.

I suppose I should sympathise with John because when later we met an ex-pat, he seemed desperate to speak English almost as if his life depended on it. (Just goes to show how vital it is to one's psyche to share one's experiences in one's mother tongue.) So we chatted to him for a bit.

We were put up in a refurbished monastery which had very thick walls decorated with tromp l'oeil. You know the sort of thing. Painted on columns and drapes to give the appearance of sumptuous furnishings on what were in any case quite attractive stone walls. I suppose the monks needed something to do when they weren't praying. By the time we arrived, several centuries after the paint had been first applied, they were beginning to show their maturity.

The busking was fun. We met a lot of musicians from other European countries. There was a flamenco act from Holland of all places. These were fine until they came to rehearse outside our door, we had separate adjoining rooms of course, at two o'clock in the morning. Which, considering the acoustic properties of solid stone corridors, was more than a little disturbing.

One particularly interesting act was a guy with a home made instrument that sounded like a hybrid between a lyre, an electric guitar and an organ. It was obviously electric, happily the organisers didn't show any prejudice in that respect. The musician had dressed himself as a character out of Romeo and Juliette. Which was quite appropriate considering the architectural style of Ferrara

Our trip was in the days before the Euro so we ended up with loadsa lira .... which was disappointingly not worth a lot. I'm not sure what the exchange rate was at the time but if we take a starting point of one million lira being worth about 11/6 in old money you could get some idea. But the agreement was we could keep what we earned.

The flight home was, as it had been coming out, in two stages. Via Frankfurt. I can't remember the seating arrangements on the first leg. But the second leg is burned into my psyche. John and l didn't sit together, I was wondering why when a scrawny guy plumped himself down in the next seat.

He was dressed in a tea shirt and shorts. And had a wild rangy look about him and was obviously exhausted. Apparently he had just finished a cycle tour of Japan's north island. I was obviously one of the first English speakers he had encountered after the three weeks he had been cycling ... so he downloaded onto me big time. (See earlier comment re importance of having a common language.)

He explained that he had been cycling solo .... as if l couldn't have guessed ... and proceeded to give me the details. Which l have now forgotten. I was pretty tired myself. But trawling through my memory l seem to remember something about Mars bars being an excellent source of energy. Also as far as l remember, he assumed l was as frantic an athlete as he was. I did not disabuse him of that fallacy. Just kept schtum.

I awoke as we landed. He was getting off. l was forced to follow him by the crush of passengers but to my relief we lost each other in the disembarkation meleé. But l haven't forgotten him. That lone cyclist's experience is etched on my cerebral cortex.

The other thing l remember is an image of my precious guitar complete with its protective case flying  through the air as the baggage handlers threw it from the hold. The sight of which almost gave me a stroke, but I thought I'd leave it till I was older and could appreciate the experience better.

We got back to Swansea and AND hibernated for a while. We had had an adventure and seen a few sights. Now we were seasoned travellers which would stand us in good stead for our UK tour which happened a couple of years later. But when I say tour of course I mean we booked to play a festival in Lincolnshire which was where one of the guys who had called for us now lived. That was also an adventure, but in a different way.

© Patrick Ellis August 2017


Thursday, December 12, 2013

sorry, gentle readers, for what must look like my continual posting of the same songs on farcebook. this is one of the big advantages of linking up social websites. ie once you set free the hounds of cyberspace its the devil's own job to reign them back in.

peace n love

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

one thing that saddens me about all this internet stuff is that in 100 years time, nuclear energy policy and asian dictators notwithstanding, the likelihood of finding a bundle of letters tied in pink ribbon and smelling faintly of violets detailing the fond yearnings of a man for a maid (or any of the variations we are compelled to honour nowadays - a cardinal for a canary* for example) turning up in a musty attic bearing testament to the love of those gone before is not so much slim as anorexic. not neon i know but for me those little historical accidents constitute the precious details of living. which in turn confirm we are more than machines of consumption busting our butts in the scrabble to afford the latest ....... whatever it is that can foretell our future and compress the whole of our lives into a sixty second sound bite.


* and i don't mean a fresh young thing wi a voice like an angel.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Share your music

Share your music with the dust in the street
Give your songs to the sky and her stars
Feel the air on the wings of your heels
When the ears of the wind hear your playing

Saturday, February 23, 2013

brief encounters

she was so pretty. her dark hair was much too young to show the slightest fleck of grey. it rested on her shoulders with that total glamour that only a woman who never has to try can achieve. her skin carried just a very faint bloom of warmth. as i saw her i noticed that she noticed me too. she shyly looked away.

i was only too glad to get my foot onto the step. it was freezing. that the wind was howling through the bus shelter was hardly surprising. altho it took me a little while i eventually realised as i leant on the side of the structure that there was nothing there. some spotty little jerk had completely removed at least one of the non glass windows. on a particularly cold day this bad samaritan had painfully exposed us to the elements.

he may not have been spotty actually. he may not even have been a 'he'. but whoever had shifted that plastic vandal-proof windbreak was definitely a jerk. probably with the cosmic equivalent of acne all over its spiteful little soul.

i couldn't wait. the bus shuddered to a halt, the doors clattered open and i was in.

i'm not even sure i was first in the queue. i wasn't last. the last was a short and broad lady whose face peered out from head to ankle black. i've met her previously. english is not her first language. however we usually manage to swap a couple of smiles. and this time consensus on the temperature.

the other waitee, well what else am i going to call her? she was neither a waiter nor a waitress obviously, was also well padded. about 20 she wore enough metal studs in her face to convince me to be anywhere else but near her in the event of a lightning strike. if she went off, things i felt sure could have got really messy.

i did try a touch of verbal on her but, with the faint audio hiss from her headphones leaking into the wind, she just wasn't in my sound space. exiled by her life choices i excluded her from my universe too.

i got up next to the driver. he seemed fairly pally which was good on a grim day. they aren't always. but in this part of town attitude usually earns more attitude in return. best to leave it out of the equation altogether. he printed out my ticket. i said thanks. he grunted. which is polite for a bus driver.

i'd paid for my ride. i held my ticket in my warming little hand and looked down the bus. round there everybody uses public transport. good for them. the vehicle was wedged. oh well not the end of the world. i'd stand. no problem.

my eyes fell on the girl at the front again. we had connected. no two ways about it.

obviously this was one of those happy serendipities that punctuate one's life. just like when i was fourteen and getting on the bus home from school. then the girl by the door had been much older than me. with her PVC mac, auburn brown hair and melting eyes she must have been sixteen at the very least. possibly even seventeen. i did nothing. i knew when i was romantically out gunned. faced with the promise of an older woman i bottled it. i may have started a poem later about the sad eyed bus seat lady. that also went nowhere.

here we were in the here and now. life chances very seldom happen twice i told myself, but you never know. my attention came back to her just hers seemed to come back to me. i may even have started in her direction.

whether i did or not i know for a fact that she began to move towards me. absolutely no mistake. she moved and just kept coming. instinctively i turned to face her. anticipating her heart beating feet, then inches away from my own, i held my breath.

next moment she was on her feet ...... moving back down the bus to find somewhere to stand as she offered me her seat.

© Patrick Ellis February 2013








Sunday, February 17, 2013

when i write


When I write I connect to the stars,
To the universe that no-one else can see.
To the dreams and the darkness
That appear in my head from nowhere.

Maybe I write people.
Maybe I write feelings.
Maybe I write primroses and hazel catkins.
And spring sunshine to the smell of oranges.

Maybe I write funny.
Maybe I write the celebration of men and women.
Or women and men.

I write my style.
I write my voice.
I write my take.
I write my rhythm.

Big Magic.
Move hearts. Speak love
Speak love. Connect joy.
Big magic.

I write my joining.
I write my enemies to oblivion.

Slipping loosely into oily dark sea.
Words ivory gleaming afloat in sound
Pure intention.
Invincible.

© Patrick Ellis

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where Am I Coming From?

Its the energy of the words really. The current that fires them into light like individual bulbs in an illuminated sign spelling out something bigger.

Its the rhythm of the words really. Its the pulse that makes the meaning dance, that lights up the romance, that gets things done.

Stressed and unstressed syllables - positive and negative poles charging language with electricity in the way that the stars charge the night with mystery.

Words that release the heart, the mind, bring sight to the blind, forging the connections from the way back, through the way deep into ways yet to be.


© Patrick Ellis

Friday, October 21, 2011

a better ibiza october 2011


Like paella needs rice, a musician needs an audience. Sunshine is good too. No surprise then when, with the prospect of British autumn already glowering below the horizon, I accepted a last minute invitation to explore the gig potential of Pleasure Island.





Within a week the librarian was releasing my print job. Showing her the boarding passes I explained my plan. Her eyes lit up. ‘I’m sure you’ll have fun,’ she said.

Things had moved so fast that it wasn't till I was actually airborne that I managed to hit the background reading. Ibiza has big history - it said. It has been won and lost, rich and poor and, like much of the Mediterranean, both Christian and Muslim. It has worshipped earlier deities besides. Bes god of dance and the goddess Tanit feature strongly in the story of the island’s party habit.


Call me crazy if you will but I’m not sure I didn’t meet Bes myself one evening. In a huge improvement on my first October night on the island when polite young Brits had tried to hook hostess and I into grimly vacant bars, we ate at San Antonio’s Contra Vent restaurant. After dinner Pedro el Chacho’s burnished flamenco got me off my seat and onto my feet where I aped the local dancers’ gypsy moves. Embarrassment was minimised when, after presumably sharing a chuckle at this turista’s skill-free pirouetting, the spirit of dance used his magic patterns to guide me back to my chair.

The dining was generally excellent. We ate in Ibiza town next day. Here the enthusiastic presence of a middle-aged, middle-class French couple told me more about the food in the ‘for the locals’ Bon Profit restaurant than any Michelin star. After lunch as we moved on though it seemed that consumerism of all kinds was well entrenched here. In contrast to the the open hearted pulse of the previous night, in daylight a myriad glittering shops and restaurants hustled for our money. I’m not sure I didn’t catch the occasional ugly drug deal going down.


Is anything though ever what it seems? As we relaxed over our café con leche the island’s history began to muscle out the facade of glitzy dross like sun through a morning mist. Once it had caught my eye Dalt Villa, the fortress heart of the town revealed an older dignity beneath the cynical tourist machine.

I was getting a sense of place. It was engaging. Although no bookings had been offered the public’s response to my casual tango harmonica flurries had been warm enough to consider a return visit early next season. My feeling was growing that Bes and I had connected. I felt sure he wouldn’t turn me away.

Tanit was a different matter. As we drove round the island, through delicate pine woods and unaccountably emotive farmscapes to restaurants by sparkling coves, she kept her distance. Even as the sun plunging between Ibiza and mainland Spain created my final night’s light show she kept to the shadows. ‘Gods?’ I thought, pulling myself back into the material world on the flight home. ‘Goddesses? I must be mad’.

‘How did it go?’ said the librarian a few days later.

‘Pretty good,’ I said. We were getting used to each other by now so I told her a little about my adventure. Then I realised I didn't really know who she was. ‘By the way,' I asked, 'what’s your name?’

I know this is daft but I’m sure I felt a jolt as her eyes shone again,

‘Tanith,’ she answered brightly.

© Patrick Ellis

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

so dragons you would fight?

It was cool resting against the rock. A good vantage point from which to oversee the unsurfaced road along which trouble was bound to come.

            Snarkleibe turned to Friedlebrund, “So forty years old they are and dragons they want to fight. Why they are not content with their sciatica, their rheumatism, but dragons, dragons, they must have dragons.”

            “Oy, oy,” hissed his companion, “heroes they would be. It is their way.”

            “Their way? OK, it is their way. But then why does that have to be our way? I have many better things to do than breathe fire over men who should be in their offices. Pushing pens they are good for. With those swords they might hurt somebody. And swords, my life”

            Friedlebrund let a small puff of smoke escape her green reptilian snout. “That is how it is.” she said. “A lizard of your considerable years should know this.”

            “But I do. I know it,” he complained. “That means I should like it? I, Snarkleibe, I am too venerable a dragon to pander to the whim of some retired clerk. He wants a challenge? He should go climb a mountain.”

            “Ach, it was always thus, oh, scaly one.” his friend replied.

            Snarkleibe was silent for a moment and then, from deep within his belly, came a rumble which slowly grew into a deafening roar. “It was always thus, oh scaly one,” he bellowed in mockery. “It was always thus. I, chief dragon, know it was always thus.”

            Smoke began to billow from his nostrils.

Friday, March 18, 2011

dragonfly heart

out in the ether
shimmering, darting
i felt your fragile, dragonfly heart
begin to beat more calmly.

© Patrick Ellis

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Sea Nymph and the Walrus

The walrus opened his eye. She was still there. But now she was lying on him. Actually on him as though he were some sort of rock. God, did she have no respect for such an important character as himself?

Obviously she didn’t. There she lay sunning herself and probably, although the walrus couldn’t turn his head round far enough to tell, smiling.

He had no doubt that it was her. Although he couldn’t see her face he could just about catch a glimpse of her hair. And it was definitely her hair. It was as fine as the finest seaweed and equally naturally undisciplined. Although he could tell that she would brush it and brush it and brush it to make it behave, and sometimes it would let her think she’d won, once she started to relax it would reassert itself. When this happened it would put out feelers in every direction, but mostly forwards, and create the most delicious abandoned tangle he’d ever seen.

Although it wasn’t actually green, well not when he’d met her but you never could tell what colour a lady’s hair was going to be from one day to the next: maybe green, then aquamarine and then as red as a sea anemone, there was something very mysterious about it. Early on he had wondered whether it was trying to tell him something. But he knew that was nuts. Nonetheless he thought he’d pay close attention to her crowning glory. For some reason he was sure that it would be that which would let him know which way the currents were flowing.


Monday, March 14, 2011

there'll be a welcome in the hillside

swansea, neath, port talbot, bridgend, cardiff - were these concentrations of people ever attractive. industrial dormer dumps smeared over the bleak hills of the south wales coastline, the whole abortion leavened by gagging remnants of its ugly industrial past.

especially true of port talbot.

10 minutes out of town by train the harsh spell is broken. morning sun on orange willow shoots. clusters of sheep in quiet fields and an occasional stoic horse in its corrugated shelter briefly lift the spirit before the next dose of derelict dismay that is bridgend.

and then theres the litter.

trouble is this hamstrung economy has bred defeat into its people who, in turn, will inertia to win out over initiative.

smouldering like a tip fire below the grass an inescapable heritage of brutality occasionally erupts in the quietly tense communities. then a mother, two young daughters and grandma are silently bludgeoned to death. wraiths of doubt so haunting the eventual conviction. who needs halloween when you've got south wales.

© Patrick Ellis

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

The clothes were definitely the thing in last night's episode. Unhindered by gorgia taste phantasmagorical, ultra wedding dresses with their battery pack powered lights and tremulous artificial butterflies were a complete delight. After all if you are going to get married you might as well make your statement. And those young women defintely did that.

What I found so enjoyable about the whole process was the sheer in-your-face comittment to celebration that the gypsies/romanies/travellers or whatever they prefer to be called displayed. It seemed to me honest and direct and above all passionate. The integrity and intelligence of the tree-surgeon groom being a satisfying rebuttal to the condescention of the snidey and divisive interviewer.

Call me perverse if you will but having photographed more than a few weddings myself I do appreciate the sight of a beautiful woman in a great dress. And as far as the gypsy brides are concerned, for me their frocks really rock. More of the same please.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lethargy Counselling - An Investment Opportunity

Positive thinking, motivational speaking, goal orientation and general go-getting are finally falling out of favour it seems. And about time too. For far too long wilfully papering over the cracks with rainbow illusions has insulated us from cold reality’s stimulating bite. In the continuing fallout from the sub-prime debacle it has become clear that the world can no longer remain airborne on the back of upbeat forecasts and sound financial hunches. Nope folks, we’ve all, except the bankers that is, just bitten the pavement and come face to granite with the grim realisation that you can’t live on a diet of graphs no matter how steeply they’re rising.


It seems an appropriate moment therefore, as membership of private gyms crashes through the floor like a fatty in a portacabin, to launch my new business enterprise. Without further ado may I introduce the revolutionary 21st century concept of Lethargy Counselling*