They have raised a highway

Across our valley

And landscaped it

With blocks of windowed concrete.

Beneath, the river strangles itself

With shopping trolleys

And bits of old bicycles

Worn-out mattresses

And smashed-up pallets are everywhere

While a bloated condom

Flutters by on a piece of driftwood.

Painted hoarding-women

With rotating eyes

Compete for attention

With pram-pushing young love,

Their stilettos tap-dancing the hard shoulder

On a clear day

Juggernauts gleam in the sun

And rolled-up tabloids

Tell tall tales about Royalty

Or football….and Sex


3 PUNKS (extract)


Tom O’Brien

A bare stage. A bar with some stools stage left. Some drinks scattered about. A screen to back with images of Punks etc. Spotlight no 1 on JOHN LYDON. Spotlight no.2 on SHANE MACGOWAN. Spotlight no. 3 on JOE STRUMMER.  All three acknowledge the audience. Hold the spotlights for a few moments, then they all step forward and sing a verse each from 3 songs. John sings ANARCHY UK, Shane sings IF I SHOULD FALL FROM GRACE, Joe sings LONDON CALLING. All are dressed in the punk styles of their generation; Lydon wears an I HATE PINK FLOYD tee-shirt;  Joe carries a guitar.  It has a label which reads – THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS ; Shane has a pint and a fag in his hands.

JOHN:            I consider myself working class. And we, the working class, we’re lazy good-for-nothing  bastards. We never accept responsibility for our lives – that’s why we’ll always be downtrodden. We seem to enjoy it in a perverse sort of way; we like being told what to do, led like sheep to the slaughterhouse, as it were.

JOE:               I was born John Mellor in Ankara, Turkey, in 1952. My father worked for the Foreign Office, with the result I had a life moving around different places when I was young; Cairo, Mexico City, West Germany, before we finally settled in the UK. My parents were still posted abroad though so at the age of eight I was packed off to boarding school, along with my elder brother David. That was our home for the next nine years, seeing our parents just once or twice a year. I suppose that’s why I became so fucked up.

SHANE:      I grew up in Puckaun. Back of beyond Tipperary. On a farm. My mother’s people. My uncle Jim used to sleep in the haystacks, ya know? He’d get pissed off about how overcrowded it was because there were about fourteen people living in the house.  You’d be playing in the haystacks and you’d suddenly realise Jim was asleep in the hay, under the tarpaulins. It was either that or sleep in the same bed as uncle John – and uncle John used to fight in his sleep. ‘Fock yez, I’ll fockin kill yez, ye conts’. So uncle Jim got so sick of it he would sleep in the haystacks, and in the end he never slept in a bed again.

JOHN:              I loathe the British Public School system with a passion. How can anybody have the right to a better education just because their parents have money? I find that vile. They talk with this sense of superiority , the upper classes, and they have it. They have all the right connections once they leave school, and they parasite off the population as their  friends help them along.  You never see that with the working classes.

JOE:               Our school’s initiation rite involved a choice of being beaten up or lying in a bath of used toilet paper. I got beaten up! I guess it toughened me up, taught me to be independent, but there was always this sense of abandonment; having to pretend your parents didn’t exist. There was this ‘Lord Of The Flies’ feel to the all-male dorm and bullying was rife; it was a really brutal school and they filled you with crap.

JOHN:              Because with the working classes, if you have any kind of success your friends, your neighbours, will turn round and hate you instantly.

SHANE:           I know. “You’re not working class anymore!”

JOHN:            That used to worry me when I was younger, but I couldn’t give a toss now. I regard myself as working class and that’s all that counts. It was similar if you managed to read a book – and actually understand it! Then you were a snob, a poof, or a sissy. Labels, that’s all they were. Meaningless fucking labels.

SHANE:        (to Lydon) I remember the first time I saw you. You had long hair and wore a bovver hat. You were quite fat.

JOHN:            Fuck off you seldom fed culchie.

JOE:               That’s a Brendan Behan line.

JOHN:            And you can fuck off too, Strummer.

SHANE:         The next time you had blue hair. I’ll say this; it took some bottle to wear blue hair in Finsbury Park in those days. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            If you don’t accept me as I am then don’t accept me at all, that’s always been my motto. I was practically unlovable most of my early life. I wouldn’t even let my parents go near me. From a very early age it was – “get off! Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!”

SHANE:         I bet you fondled yourself.

JOE:               Well, isn’t this cosy. Three old punkers livin’ it up.

SHANE:         More like the three stooges, fuckin’ it up. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            Wait a minute! What are you doing here, Strummer? What’s he doin’ here? He’s fuckin’ dead. (He looks around)       Where is this place?

SHANE:         Yeah, Joe, what are you doing here?

JOE:               I thought you believed in re-incarnation, Shane.

SHANE:         Yeah, I do. But you can’t come back as yourself, can you? A dog, maybe. Or a chicken. Chee…chee.

JOE:               Maybe it’s all a dream.

JOHN:            The question is – whose dream?

JOE sings a few lines from Bruce Springsteen’s THE RIVER  and glides away

Now those memories come back to haunt me,

They haunt me like a curse.

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true,

Or is it something worse?

JOHN:            Yeah, I fondled myself. But I never screamed as a youngster. That shocked my mother when she first heard the Sex Pistols. I had always been so quiet. She’d never seen that side of me. She probably thought she had raised a lunatic.

SHANE:         And you proved her right. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            Yeah. Had I not had my family I would have turned into a psychopath or something. Looking at how other people behaved I was definitely weird. I always had this sense of detachment…isolation… even when I was part of the Pistols this continued. I was never part of the group in any meaningful way. I came and sang my songs and then went home alone. I was never invited to any parties or get-togethers; I never felt really belonged.

Joe returns.

JOE:               It’s Tuesday today. Just another I-wish-I-could –get-this-monkey-off-my-back fucking day. Have you got a smoke?

JOHN:            We were the very first people – as a band I mean – to call each other cunts. We just didn’t like each other, simple as that. Steve Jones was probably the most important member of the group. He was our procurer. Instruments, mics, speakers, you name it he would acquire it. He was a thief – a very good one – and had been since he was six years old when he watched his parents steal from the local Tesco’s. It was all he knew to do. He managed to get us great gear. (laughs) We still couldn’t play properly  even when we had great gear. One of our best sources was the Hammersmith Odeon where rock stars would be regularly playing. Steve knew his way round the back and when all the roadies were asleep or whatever, he’d sneak in and get us what we needed. The Pistols could never have come into being without nicked gear ‘cos none of us had any money. I was invited to Join the band and become the lead singer by Malcolm. Malcolm McClaren. I was down the Kings Road every week, looking absurd, and Malcolm’s shop ‘Sex’ was the place to hang out. It had a jukebox and you could play music and have a chat with Malcolm. I had green hair and one evening Malcolm just said ‘would you like to be in a band?’ I said ‘I can’t sing. Just let me sing out of tune. Would that be alright?’ I knew every Alice Cooper song upside down, backwards and inside out so I did my version of ‘EIGHTEEN’

Johnny throws him a packet of cigarettes.


JOE:               A proper fucking smoke. A spliff.

JOHN:            I don’t fucking indulge.

They all sing Lydon’s version of EIGHTEEN (c Alice Cooper)


ALL:                          Lines form on my face and my hands
Lines form on the left and right
I’m in the middle
the middle of life
I’m a boy and I’m a man
I’m eighteen and I LIKE IT
Yes I like it
Oh I like it
Love it
Like it
Love it


SHANE:         It’s election day today. Have you even voted?

JOE:               Have you?  Where I live it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.

SHANE:         Oh yeah, Somerset isn’t it? Bit middle-class for you. But I forgot,

you are middle-class aren’t you Joe. Chhh…chhh…

JOHN:            Nah. That was John Mellor. Son of a Foreign Office diplomat, private-

school boarder, art student , and all that fucking crap. Tell me Joe, has John Mellor been buried under so many years of being Joe Strummer that he no longer exists?

JOE:               You’re a two-faced cunt Lydon. You’re more establishment than any of us.

JOHN:            Nah, you got me confused with somebody else.

JOE:               What about that butter ad? You …a country gent! You sold out early.  (he points)  He used to be Johnny Rotten


                                    God save the Queen. She ain’t no human being.

There is no future in England’s dreaming…

Hypocrite. And you, McGowan, you went to Westminster Public School.

SHANE:         No  I fucking didn’t. I won a scholarship there, yeah, but did I attend? No fucking way. It was full of toffee nosed bastards like you. I went on a shoplifting spree my first week. I never looked back after that. Drink, drugs, you name it. I didn’t just get kicked out, I was fucking catapulted out. Chee….cheee    (he drinks copiously from bottle)

     JOHN:        I think the first words Steve Jones said about me were “I can’t work with that fucking cunt. All he does is take the piss and moan’. There was rarely a time when the four of us were friends. Right from the start – at rehearsals –  I’d tell them I was going for a piss then listen at the door. And I would hear them;  “That cunt! Fucking hell!”  Then they’d go off in someone’s car, probably Malcolm’s, leave me standing behind. I’d go home by myself on the train. That would be it night after night. Me, the outsider. Malcolm said it was because he wanted me to be the ‘mystery man’. Bollocks!



She was wearing a noir velvet coat

Of a dubious nature

Passed on from its now vanished previous owner

The cold beauty of winter was dying

The girl with the coat was in the corner crying

Drawing her long cigarette to her swelling lips

In a kind of slow motion enunciation

Her demeanor was shouting out

What about emancipation!

She is a vision to be imagined

Wrestling with snow-white sheets

With sad music permanently on repeat

Wailing a song of love

About her lover not long since gone

Then she casts her coat aside

And shouts to the throng

I’m going to put my red dress on


I published this one before but I think it is worth repeating.


We have come to the end of privacy

Our private lives have been winnowed away

To the realms of the shameful and secret.

Someone, somewhere, state, press or corporation

Is watching.

Everybody knows about the Facebook newsfeed

It’s like a sausage – everyone eats it

Though nobody knows how it is made.

We are being manipulated, surveyed, rendered

By intelligence that is artificial as well human

Driven by complex mathematical formulae

That are invisible and arcane

Where corporations feed on the private lives of their users

While governments play fast and loose.

If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear

Oh yeah?

Sex and shitting were once the only pastimes safe from the Internet

Well, not any more, baby!

As Max M found to his cost

Though defecation was a bit too much

Even for his eclectic taste

Secrets are lies, sharing is caring, privacy is theft

Facebook can quite easily draw a map of your soul;

Tell us what you like and we will tell you what you are;

We can now tell which of your friends are gay

And whether you may be leaning that way

We know how much you have in your bank, your tank

And where you will holiday next time round,

When your wife will get pregnant – and by whom

We know every thought inside your head

Whether inside or outside this room.

If you want to keep a secret

You must hide it from yourself

Privacy? There is no privacy anymore,


Privacy is for paedos.



Poet and freelance writer Maura Dooley was born in Truro, England, and grew up in Bristol.


It’s only a week but already you are slipping

Down cold black chute of history. Postcards.

.Phonecalls. It’s like never having seen the Wall,

Except in pieces on the dusty shelves of friends.

Once I queued for hours to see the moon in a box

Inside a museum, so wild it should have been kept

In a zoo at least but there it was, unremarkable,

A pile of dirt some god had shaken down.

I wait for your letters now: a fleet of strange cargo

With news of changing borders, a heart’s small

Journeys. They’re like the relicts of a saint.

Opening the dry white papers is kissing a bone.


This is a collection of letters to various dead relatives including my mother, father, grand-uncle Mikey, aunt Margaret. Subjects include wills, WW1, Illigitimacy, Patrick Kavanagh, Jack Joyle, famine, sowing potatoes, old cemeteries, the magic road, Donncha Ruadh, Bobby Sands, IRA, the Easter Rising, My aunt Margaret, etc etc etc.



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