The Donald Trump Drinking Game


It’s very simple.All you need is a tv permanently tuned to American (ie Trump) Election coverage. You also need a lot of alcohol – pick your poison.

Every time The Donald uses one of the following words or phrases you must have a drink :

Hunerd percent


Believe me.

If The Donald refers to himself in the third person ” Trump  says…” you must have two drinks.

Happy electioneering !






The woman who invented the selfie

LouiseThis is Elizabeth Louise Vigee le Brun ,an acclaimed French portrait artist who lived from 1755 to 1842. Her father was a mediocre and unsuccessful painter and her mother was a hairdresser. But Louise was a natural and instinctive painter – she was earning her living from it from the age of 15. She married ( at her mother’s insistence) an art dealer who provided her with an entree to the royal court, but turned out to be a womaniser and gambler who eventually stole her money.Nevertheless Louise became a resident artist at the French court.She painted Marie-Antoinette several times – official pictures of her with her children – and more intimate personal portraits.

The French Revolution almost put an end to Louise’s career. Identified with a corrupt and heartless regime she was forced to flee France and travel round Europe, spending six years in Russia where she gained a large an enthusiastic clientele. She returned to Paris in 1802 and continued her career until just before her death in 1844 at the age of 87.

Quite a career. And quite a work rate too. She worked all day, every day and completed over 800 paintings in the course of her career. Today her work gets mixed reviews – some accuse her of being a bit too sacharine, others that she was too trivial.

My interest is in her self portraits. She painted over 40 of them over her career and I want to look at three of them.


This was painted in 1775 when Louise was twenty. Notice that it’s quite formal, and there’s no indication of the fact that she’s an artist. Her expression is slightly awkward. She’s showing off her technical skill here, rather than  revealing her personality. Notice, by the way, that she wears a black- maybe satin- throw over her shoulders. And look at the drop earrings. They make another appearance in the next portrait here:


This was painted some years after – certainly before 1782- and it is a great deal more confident. Notice that she’s using her signature black shawl and that the ear rings are back. It’s a sunnier picture – the flowers in her straw hat matching the paint dabs on her palette. She is a painter and she wants you to know it. But it’s the face that draws me in. This is the face of a woman in her late twenties – she’s calm, poised and looking straight at you. Except, of course, she isn’t. She’s looking straight at herself. A self portrait is a conversation between the painter’s brain and  appearance – and we, as spectators- are caught in the middle. There’s a tension here, a questioning.

Let’s look at the third selfie:


This last selfie was painted in 1800  when Louise was 45 – probably the last painting she completed during her Russian exile.The contrast here is between the figure and the face. She has filled out a little – her dress is more respectable, more middle aged. The earrings have gone. But the face is alert, almost humourous – ” So this is what middle age is like !” she seems to be saying. But the curiosity is still there, the need to chronicle change in her own face.

Did she invent a version of the selfie ?  In a way she did. She ( as many other artists) managed to catch one moment in time – but that took days, if not weeks of careful work . Now we can catch every  expression in seconds. Which is more truthful, though – selfie or portrait ?





He stands before the empty canvas, sees
sky fragile and faultless as a blown bubble,
a sea of crinkled cellophane,
and a long, lost summer afternoon
smelling of grass, warm stone
and pine needles.

Sunlight shifts and flickers
dappling cottage walls
as the trees nod in agreement
with the warm wind.

A path leads down past ragged outcrops
to the town, where roofs glow oven hot,
grandmothers skulk like ghosts in chilly kitchens,
and cats lie stunned in alleyways
flat as their own shadow.

I stand before the picture, watching
it fade back into the frame.
Footsteps. The gallery is closing.

Outside the air is sharp with rain
and petrol smells. I am immune.
My sky is blue and endless, and my soul
warmed by a distant sun.



Ann Shakespeare



Spiders find it easy
stretch their strings of pearls from A to B,
create a warp and weave so wonderful
it dazzles passing flies, seducing them
to a sticky end.

Sharks find it easy
Sleek as burnished steel, they strip
the flesh from seals and dolphins,
pirouette away through water
smokey with their victims’ blood.

Why can’t I
head packed with words, pen poised
pick out a plump and juicy metaphor,
feed it fantasies until it bursts
into a poem ?

Ann Shakespeare


I hold his hand.
Broad palm. Strong fingers.
Underneath the fingernails
a crescent of black ink,
and on the second finger
a pad of fat has grown to rest his pen.

All those quill pens. And the paper.
So much writing…..
He bought this house with words –
and hence had few enough to spare for me.

Virgins when we met, and married
six months later. Our first girl
came three months after that.
You can add it up.

It was not words which bound us both
but deeds and shame.

That’s why he left for London.
No word for weeks, and then a hurried note,
a bag of coins, an empty promise.
That was the way of it for years.

Then our boy died. My grief was real enough
though his was make-believe and came too late.

Now he’s back here to die –
a kind of compliment, perhaps
or simply a return to his beginning.
I do not know.

The sweats that left his flesh corpse-cold,
the dry, hoarse cough
all that is done now.

His slow breath whispers wordlessly.

Beyond the candle light a blackbird spills

bright pearls of sound

across the velvet dark.


Anger Management

“I represent a large group of people that have a lot of anger.” So says The Donald in the wake of what looks like a near riot which stopped one of his meetings. You might think that the anger would come from the poor, the unemployed, the manifest losers- and you might be wrong. The Trump appeals to every social level from entrepreneurs to evangelical Christians. Why ? Why is America thinking of replacing a thoughtful, highly intelligent law professor with a bumptious lout trying to sell vodka and steaks with which he has no connection ?
Obama summarised his foreign policy as DDSS ( Don’t Do Stupid Shit.) So did Trump – “ Bomb the Shit out of Them.” Now come on, which one would you choose ?

But anger isn’t limited to America. You only have to look at the Middle East to see the nihilistic anger of ISIS. Look at the extreme right parties in Europe in Germany and Spain.
Look at the UK and you see the wonder that is Jeremy Corbyn. Last year Corbyn was elected to be Leader of the Labour Party by a massive majority. He’s a 1980’s died -in- the wool Marxist and so are his merry band of brothers. He was the Joke Candidate chosen by an electorate which had largely never voted for anything before and he has all the decisiveness of a whelk. Someone should tell him that the Berlin Wall has fallen.

Where is the anger coming from ? I think that it comes from broken promises. Politicians have lost contact with their electorates and retreated into incestuous arguments of their own. The Promised Land has not arrived as promised four years ago, so now we will elect someone who is authentic and fresh….and incompetent… and stupid.

Don’t get me wrong. Anger is a perfectly legitimate reaction to political incompetence, but what happens when Anger elects AngryMan ? What follows ? Should the Trump ( isn’t the name so descriptive of the man ) actually gets into the White House, what’s he going to DO on Day 1 ?  How is he going to deal with his friends ( if there are any) and more importantly, his enemies ?

When are we going to realise that politicians are a necessary evil and that though democracy is a crumbling,inefficient way of government, it’s the only one we’ve got ?

Unless you want The Donald as “ President for LIfe”, of course.

“Hair today and Gone tomorrow” or “The Last Trump”




I’ve been watching Trump quite a lot recently. After all, I’m a Brit – and if he becomes President, the chances of Europe turning into a nuclear wasteland will edge up quite a few points. So I have a vested interest here. I don’t know anything about his policies (mind you, I suspect he doesn’t either.) I’m interested in the superficial stuff- the way he talks, his gestures…his hair.

It’s silly hair…candyfloss hair…a wispy concoction held together by StrongFast hairspray. Nobody believes it. It’s a joke, and everyone knows it…including, I think, him. His hair is like a red flag to a bull. “ Go on ! says his hair, “ I’m silly hair ! OK ? You wanna make something of it pal ?” His hair is in your face, in a manner of speaking.

His walk. The other candidates walk badly, all of them. They shuffle onto the stage, trying not to trip over their own toes, and scurry to the safety of their lecterns. But Trump walks in slowly, deliberately, head up, checking out the crowd. A gladiator stalking into the arena, a professional wrestler pacing round the ring, seeking whom he might devour. The more I think of it, the more I realise that’s it ! Unable to present himself as he really is, he borrows massively from the theatrics of the ring. His opponents are entirely unimportant – he plays to the crowd, telling them what they want to hear, shocking them with profanity ( Ooo !Doris ! Isn’t it lovely to be shocked by profanity !) He feels their unarticulated pain.

Bawling, wheedling, cajoling, he persuades them to follow their hearts and check their brains in at the door. Vocally he’s good, very good – he runs from full-on tortured bull to creepy uncle – and he uses his hands – stabbing out a finger, lips belled out like a trumpet, then making a funny, odd little gesture, circling his thumb and forefinger- it’s almost feminine.



No-one could deny he’s a brilliant entertainer.

But has he got the chops for The Real Job ?

It’s 4am. A red phone in the White House Situation Room starts ringing. The Duty Security Officer picks it up. One of the Northern radar stations has picked up what looks like a multiple missile strike from over the Pole. On the other hand, it could be a flock of geese, or the Moon- it’s happened before. The Duty Officer dashes up stairs to the Presidential bedroom and bangs on the door.
“ Mr President ! Mr President !”
A grunt which sounds like “ What the f..”
The man goes inside, tells his story to the humped form in the bed.
“ What are we going to do, Mr President ? What are we going to do ?
The President reaches out an arm to switch on the light. His pink jowls are shadowed with stubble, stringy yellow hair hangs round his face. He looks bewildered.
“ What are we going to do ?”


What’s in a name ?

What’s in a name ?

I’ve always been an enthusiastic follower of American Presidential elections. I remember the night Barry Goldwater was defeated, and the civilised world breathed a huge sigh of relief. I remember Richard Nixon, with his Joker-like face, flinging his arms wide in what looked suspiciously like a crucifixion. I follow American politics because they are the people with the big stick.

On the way I’ve made a small collection of odd names. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being rude, but what is it with American names ? Particularly American politicians ? They tend to be short and snappy, easy on the tongue, like Jo Biden, Mitt Romney ( Mitt ?) but some do fall over the edge of the waterfall and end up in the maelstrom beneath.Let’s look at two political journos for a start.

Charles Krauthammer for instance. Charles Krauthammer ? Why do I want to put “ Nazi Smasher” after his name. It’s so …out there…so LOUD.

And what about Wolf Blitzer ? Wolf ? If he’d been born in England he would have been called Derek, or Nigel. Imagine some small boy knocks on the Blitzer front door- “ Excuse me, Mrs Blitzer, is your Wolf coming out to play?”

And after them comes a covey of representatives – Zach Wamp for instance- Half Man Half Sound Effect…Zach ! Wamp ! And after him comes Bart Stupack ( provides quality frozen meats) …then Michael Crapo…you wouldn’t would just wouldn’t ,and the unfortunately deep voiced Mike Gravel.

We won’t even mention Randy Bumgardener.

But I confess, we have our own wierd names too. A Tory MP Jacob-Rees Mogg ( notice the double barrel name,) so old fashioned that his peers call him The Member for the Eighteenth Century, has named his latest child….wait for it….

Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius Rees- Mogg.

Poor kid. Never mind. By the time he’s fifteen his mates will be shouting “ Oi ! Moggsy ! Are you comin’ to the footie tonight ?”