It was in the late sixties as London was swinging
and Eddie, my uncle, his flared trousers flinging
pet dogs across pavements of silvery ice,
his sideburns as though he was on the phone twice,
snuck into a bar down the alleys of Chinatown,
where a young gentleman wrapped in an eiderdown,
“ban the bomb” symbols and interesting smell
sat staring as though he was under a spell
and began with “Hey man,” in a cross-legged haze,
“do you smoke?” For a moment my uncle just gazed
at the beatnik, his mind in a blindfolded pirouette.
Then he replied, indicating his cigarette,
“Yeah, of course. What d’you think this is, a sausage?”
The flower-child cut through the cognitive blockage
and, shaking his head, he replied, “No, no, man.
Do you smooooooke?” With a beckoning hand
he guided my uncle up into an attic
where Chinamen chopped up and ground aromatic
peculiar plants round a table, then puffed
like industrial parks on this alien stuff.
Eddie lay back in a nebulous sprawl
and watched the world slowly slow down to a crawl
with a Paddington Parsnip attached to his lips
as he listened to coughing and down-sliding zips.
A Chinaman started to strip off. “How strange,”
mused Eddie, “these parsnips don’t half re-arrange
the old brain cells.” The Easterner sat there stark-naked
and high as a pope whispering something sacred.
Another young gentleman whipped out his cock
and proceeded to masturbate. Eyeing the clock,
my uncle stood up. His movements weren’t deft.
Befuddled, he made his excuses and left.
The second and last time that Eddie tried ganja
was twenty years on when he, lacking the grandeur
of his own fuse-box, his marriage in droplets,
was offered a bedroom and free home-made omelettes.
A kindly old lady had given him this.
On the honeymoon night of his new-divorced bliss,
sprawled back on his mattress, he sparked up a joint.
The strength of this parsnip did not disappoint.
Crouched on the ironing-board, flexing a gesture
of “I’ll crush your balls”, was a sumo wrestler.
My uncle kung-fu kicked the table, the chair
and the wardrobe to pieces that sailed through the air.
The landlady stared as the furniture crumbled.
He slipped her some readies and sheepishly mumbled,
“I’m sorry, my love. This must feel like a theft.”
Befuddled, he made his excuses and left.
He’d never had barrels of fortune with women.
They left his poor brainbox entangled and spinning.
They suddenly did things that Eddie found quirky,
like vanish for two weeks to Scotland or Turkey.
One morning, while struggling towards an eruption
in bed with his wife, came a swift interruption.
His mother said, dusting the mantelpiece, “Eddie,
stop messing about, son. Your breakfast is ready.”
That marriage was history. Back to the drawing board,
back to the toilet he slid with his glory-sword.
Rather than moping around the place bitterly,
soon he ensnared a signora from Italy
with a full figure and fingers in gems.
I don’t know why she was northeast of the Thames,
but once she’d been hitched to a charted and spiffing
American soul singer called Bobby Tiffin,
whose rage at my uncle for screwing his lady
took shape as a gang looking gold-toothed and shady
who turned up one morning to make their threats echo
around the stout fellows of Hackney Bus Depot.
These heavies arrived in a fat limousine
to clog up the Number Eight’s daily routine,
the proud vessel my uncle dragged hither and thither
and one day, mistakenly, south of the river
when lost as a spud down the back of a fridge,
and three-point-turned in, on Waterloo Bridge.
These gangsters appeared though, and who would shoot faster,
them or the men of the noble Routemaster?
Ed’s favourite hand had crimson splashed on it
from punching the limousine right in the bonnet.
Confetti was made of its windscreens and wipers.
What then became of its heartbroken drivers?
A dozen gold teeth ended up in the gutter
and sunglasses shoved where no threats could be uttered
and shimmying swaggers reduced to a limp,
a triumph of bus-driver over pimp.
The last time I popped round for rarebit and beans
my Nan came in clutching a pair of his jeans
and said, “Look at these cum-stains everywhere. See?”
He said, “Christ, they’re not cum-stains, Muvver. It’s tea.”
But Nan went on, “Looks like you’ve had a wet dream,”
as I sat with a napkin and doughnut with cream.
My uncle just smiled and sat scratching his cleft.
Befuddled, I made my excuses and left.
© Archie Macjoyce