A Close Shave

images-2Beards are back. Have you noticed ? Maybe it started with David Beckham who grew a rather snazzy, pointy beard to go with his thick, short-at-the-side-and-piled-up-on-top hair style. In fact beards have been back for eighteen months or so, and according to the pundits, we have passed the Point of Peak-Beard and are returning to the Fields of Stubble or the Smooth-as-a- peach style.

I mention beards because, for the first time since I was fourteen (and that’s a very long time ago) I have trouble shaving. When I was fourteen the problem was finding enough beard to shave- it was a pathetic growth- a few whispy streaks of peach down. Now I have a face covered in sandpaper. It hurts when I rub the back of my hand against my face. And it’s spreading too. For years I shaved my chin, round the mouth and under the nose. Nowadays I have to go down the neck ( have you ever tried shaving your Adam’s Apple ? It’s like steering a lawnmower over a boulder) and up the sides to- right up to my ears.

I am turning into Sandpaper Man, and they will make horror films about me when I am dead.

I digress. Young men are stating their masculinity. That’s what it’s all about. The fashion is to grow a full set- cheeks, round the nose and mouth- even a daring plunge down the neck. Everything is neat and tailored. They look like Victorian statesmen or explorers. They look like proper men.I think they look great.

But growing a beard is not for old men. If your hair is silver ( mine is white ! White !) then a beard puts twenty years on your age; if you are bald and grow a beard, you look as though your head is on upside down. Don’t do it – ok ? Leave it to the handsome lads. Let them have their time in the sun.

And give a cheer for David Beckham- underpant model, human palimpsest, and style icon.

Nice one, Dave !

The Cutter

A filigree of intersecting lines

pale as gossamer against her skin –

it could almost be sunlight

silvering the bright hairs on her arm.

It is her talisman.

One time, when her mind was dark,

a blade between her fingers,

she incised a calendar of suffering there,

drawing hope from each bright bead of blood.

Whatever she released did not return.

At times she looks
at what she once engraved

and sees a pattern
carved by someone else
who died completing it.

Critic School

Originally posted on The Man of Words:

(Alex Cox, cult film director and the most passionate, honest film critic I’ve ever encountered)

‘So how do you become a film critic?’  No one asked me, ever. I mean why would they? It’s easy! All you have to do is go see a film, drink some coffee, write 700 words about the pre hype for the movie, 200 words on the movie itself, make sure there’s a gif every 100 words and then go home and roll around on your big bed made entirely of money! How hard can it be?

Being a shitty film critic is easy.Being a good film critic?


With a tip of the hat to Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Minute Film School, I present 6 Point Critic School.

1. No one cares about you.

Seriously, no one does. They care about the film and whether it’s any good, not what you had for breakfast…

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Saint – a new poem

imagesYup. The Top Banana is back- on an irregular basis- but back. I’ve had six months of not wanting to write anything- hence nothing has been written. But I’ve had a bit of a renaissance over the last few weeks.

This poem came out of nowhere last week. No wrestling about, no writing endless drafts. It just arrived. I’ve never written anything like it before, and it feels entirely alien to me.

Any comments would be welcome.

Thank you


Saint or madman ?
Maybe both. He looked the part –
hair greasy as a fat ewe’s back –
eyes damson dark behind a fall of beard.

Lived in a stone shed, shoulder high,
he built with slates and stuff he found
dumped by the tide in straggling drifts of weed.

Ate barnacles and whelks scraped off the rocks,
and rabbits which he blessed before
he stretched their necks and skinned them
with a flint the Old Ones left behind.

He had the healer’s touch –
would cure a winter fever
by rubbing spittle on the eyes and mouth..

Always praying.
Ploughmen heard him in the early dawn,
bawling at the sky and giving God
a good lambasting.

Longliners in the bay at night
heard his voice – a trumpet call.
Naked, waist deep in the slopping waves
he sang the mackerel in.

It worked too.
Every boat came back
loaded with twitching silver
those times he sang.

One autumn night the sky was filled with fire –
islands of emerald in a saphire sea
turning and shifting above our heads.
The air crackled like autumn ice.

Next day we found him dead among the dunes.
Flat on his back, eyes wide.
They say he died of wonder.

To bury him seemed wrong and so
we left him for the gulls to pick at.

When they were done
we each took something from him –
a tooth, an ankle bone
for a memory

and left the wind
to draw a sheet of sand
over the rest.

Natalie Goldberg and the Uncertain World of Notebooks


I’m just the same. It has to be Moleskine. And I imagine my notebooks being pored over by literary scholars who are trying to plumb my genius.

Originally posted on 20 Minutes on Writing:

Spiral-Bound NotebooksFor a long time I did what Natalie Goldebrg told me to do. Cheap notebooks were the best, she said, not the fancy ones that make you feel precious about your writing. Keep it simple. So for many years I wrote in spiral-bound A5 notebooks. I wrote with a blue biro, and only blue would do. I met people who wrote in other colours: black, green, someone’s husband used a brown pen, and there were those who’d write with whatever was at hand. Some people weren’t picky. I was picky, and pickiness is a form of superstition, a way to ward off dread. For years I wrote like this in notebooks with 80 sheets, ruled lines, some were perforated, but it was bad luck to tear pages out of a notebook. I’m not sure where I got that superstition from. Many of my superstition are of my own making.


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There will now be a short intermission


A sudden increase in Life Generally and Day to Day Stuff means that I do not have time to write, and post, as frequently as I would like. I don’t want to put up pieces that are there as place fillers. Better not to write at all, than bore.

So I shall not be posting for an indeterminate, but hopefully short, period. I simply want to thank all those of you who have followed, and commented on, The Top Banana. Please keep me on your follow list, and I hope to be back again soon.

I shall, however, still scour the blogosphere for poetry and oddities, so I will not be entirely absent.

Not goodbye, just au revoir.

Thank you.