1938: American actress Ruth Chatterton as Josephine with French actor Pierre Blanchar as Napoleon in the film ‘A Royal Divorce’. (Photo by Denham/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Josephine: “Ah, my ‘liteel corporal’ why ze sad face?”

Napoleon: “Josie me luv, me minds gone blank – and not so much of the ‘little’ if you don’t mind, it cuts me to the very quick when you say such things.”

Josephine: “’Ow so ‘as your mind gone, ‘ow you say, ‘blonk?’”

Napoleon: “Well, luv as you know – perhaps more than anyone – it is me usual demeanour to be on the incisive side viz-a-viz the lust for having the ‘whip hand’, so to speak. The thing is Josie girl that I’m not sure if I should move in from the rear; make a pincer movement at the flanks or go for a bit of rapid dominance. Peaceful penetration has scant appeal and I’m not convinced a full frontal is for me. Of course I could use me big gun time and time again until it is spent but, I don’t know, is that really the right way to go about it? What a quandary I am in!”  

Josephine: “Oh ‘ow I love eet ven you talk dirty. Shall we make for ze bed chamber stratt avay for zum rompy pompy?”

Napoleon: “Do what? Look luv you’ve got me all wrong. I’m talking here about the Battle of Waterloo against that twat Wellington. It’s all kicking off in the AM and this one will be the make or break of me season. I really don’t want to lose me number 1 ranking now do I?”

Josephine: “I am sure you vill come up with, ‘ow you say, a liteel something.”

Napoleon: “And while we’re on the subject of twatto, the Duke of bloody Wellington do you know what? You don’t? Right I’ll tell you. He only gone and got one of his gutter urchins to conduct a covert operation in our encampment last night.”

Josephine: “Really?”

Napoleon: “Yes really as it happens. The little bastard made it to the latrines and using the street art form that is otherwise known as graffiti painted above the gent’s urinals, ‘This is where Napoleon pulled his bone apart.’ I’ll have him for that. True or otherwise no one takes the piss out of yours truly.”



 ‘No rainbow in a shadow

As flighty as a heart

An island in a sea of light

A restless piece of art’

That he was fixated with the plight of the ephemeral effect of the eclipse twixt light source, person and backdrop that constituted his ‘shadow’ an indicator as to the onset of his lunacy. He knew full well it was unjust that his shadow was dependent upon a visible sun, the family of fire or a light bulb for its precarious existence. However, he took comfort in the knowledge that his shadow would live on after his death until such time as his body was encased or incinerated.

Once upon a midwinter’s evening walking alone, as ever in sorrowful drink, a bizarre scene came alive, for notwithstanding his mental deterioration he inadvertently stumbled in his stupor upon what he would soon discover was an unearthly niche beyond prediction.  On the face of it, a towering vintage painted billboard was all it was, in a place he had either forgotten existed or one he had never chanced upon previous.  Try as best he could, the purpose of the hoarding was quite beyond him. No marketing slogans, no scent.  All his perplexed eyes could focus upon was merely an outlandish interior, a timeless drawing room by any other name.

Access to the high above, two-dimensional face of the structure was by a deflated grandest marble staircase that defied both logic and modern science. With all the Dutch courage he could muster, he took it upon himself to go forth, to climb up and climb into a room without a view. Once ensconced within and now at one with the canvas he, out of idle curiosity, felt compelled to open an ornate hinged door to God knows where. It led to a great chamber, clearly once the ceremonial centre of the household, although the furnishings were fewer than one would normally expect and frugal also, save for the giveaway glinting enormous crystal chandelier.

In the diary he penned during his subsequent internment in Bedlam he asserts, “I recall pausing, taking in the extraordinary setting that had unfolded.  Within, I found a perfectly formed young lady of flowing bittersweet locks and scurrying chestnut brown eyes, wearing just a butterfly jet black bowtie.  Uncommonly, given her state of undress, she was reverentially curled up upon a settee. A lonely pair of crimson high heeled shoes discarded on the floor beside her. Although for all intents and purposes stark naked she was seemingly blissfully immune to that aspect of social etiquette.  Opposite her, perched decorously in her pin striped business suit, sat upon a plain wooden upright chair, the ripest, yet still stunningly beautiful alpha-female of a certain age. The pair seemed to either have chosen to ignore my presence or else were unware of it. Regardless, they were, I noted, in deep discussion. Eavesdropping, I ascertained that the illusion of depth of space in art and the worth of wasps come autumns windfall fermenting apples were the main topics under scrutiny.  

Inevitably, given that I had made no attempt to take cover my presence eventually came to their attention. The younger, bare-skinned one of the pairing alighted from the comfort of her settee to speak with me, asking if I was ‘the artist’. Somewhat bewildered I answered in the negative. Making note that I was struggling with her question she added, ‘So you’re not the one who painted us into this scene…not the one who, one might say, ‘created us?’ I confirmed I was not the person she had hoped I would be. ‘Can you paint by the way?’ her next question. Once more my answer was in the contrary. At this she explained that had I been of an artistic bent she would have requested of me that I paint her some clothes to wear, ‘I am sick and tired of this bowtie, I want some proper clothing’. The older lady interrupted at this juncture saying that she would have liked me to craft in oils a bed with satin sheets had I been the painter I am not. The both of them made mention of the lengths they would go to be blessed with a shadow each. Sadly, for them it was not to be. 

In the circumstances I felt it good manners to at least offer my white cotton shirt to the naked one. She was much shorter than me and it would serve to afford her a semblance of modesty. She gratefully accepted my offering and hoped I would not catch a head cold without the protection of the gifted shirt when homeward bound. Sadly, I had about my person nothing to donate to her companion.  

Kindly, they insisted I should stay within their planar projection of the physical universe, an offer I would have accepted save that it would have meant foregoing my shadow, a thing I could never let happen. I bid the ladies a fond farewell. Often I wonder how they have fared.”

In an attempt to remedy his malaise his keepers within the institution that was Bedlam had him secured in a windowless, darkened room kept forever apart from his beloved shadow.  As to his diary entry such things as ‘billboards and butterfly bowties’ were alien to the institutions physicians in the Year of Our Lord 1604.  They knew not what to make of his condition.

‘No rainbow in a shadow

As flighty as a heart

An island in a sea of light

A restless piece of art’




an angry night spent alone in Spartan space

harshest words committed to pen and paper

come first light, she casts them upon the hearth

giving false hope, but no reprieve to fading embers

then watches her wretched waspish, now blackened text

flake then become devoured within the sooty vortex


in those times of strength or weakness

when two bodies become just one

only the timid make note of a shaft of light

as they grieve for secrets lost or exposed

in the testing silence of faltering desire

safe from prying eyes and rumours

when an anarchy of sorts is realized

upon next day’s reflections

after all that was sticky

has been washed away

then, only then, there is room

for fresh intrigue within tangled minds


storm clouds abate, bluest skies disguise silver infinity

heartthrob telepathy ensures longevity for those in love

whatever else she may or may not have been wearing

he made mental note that she mostly donned a smile

so captivating as to ensure the belligerent animal that is time

leaves true lovers well alone



latterly, in the unending forest of spheres the naked ape has at long, long last

learned to tarry beneath the canopy; has determined that he can feast upon

as well as delight himself in sport with those four-legged creatures not of his own kind

the ones of cloven hoof who have not the wherewithal nor aptitude to measure time


The Pan, he spoke of telescopes, and autumn leaves he once held dear

Passé now the stay in Neverland, how soon dog days’ virtue makes to disappear


There are false hopes looking skywards, there is no hope in bringing to mind

The ambition of Wendy’s ‘hidden kiss’, when it feeds crass love, a love that’s blind


In the season of duplicity, he gave Tiger Lilly pause to breathe

Made love with her upon a summer’s night, then glibly said he had to leave


Yet somewhere in his nightmare, he thought he heard her manic scream

Woke up, made a coffee, then accepted it as another ripened dream


…he shelved his reliance upon the benevolence of a thing of greatness he would never touch

determined that the perceptive conscious was all there is; the forest of spheres a deathless disguise


She met him first in Le Chabanais, the place where Prince’s sowed wild oats

She was mounting the social ladder, while the aficionado was making lewdest notes


Souvenirs and platitudes, serve as condolences to those without the magic touch

He served her vodka mixed with this and that until she had had much too much


…he had contemplated continuation, fathomed that late night wanton indiscretions

with those he wanted yet never craved for made for sweet bastard babies too soon fledging

in city sewers, dark alleyways and unattended underground car parks


In a full-on fight twixt passionate lovers, an easy thing, unknotting the ties that bind

In the wake of which, what pained him so, not her goodbye, but the empty space she left behind


…she would attack him with acerbic tongue, occasionally her fists, then just fade away


There’s a woman at the window, he thinks she’s lost her mind

Yet in the unending forest of spheres, the demented are never far behind


(A muse on the human condition)





“Well you know what they say Lenny boy, ‘There’s no such thing as a silent plumbing system,’ yet yours was banging away like a Parisian brothel on a Saturday night if I may say so. I’m surprised you could get any kip. Still all sorted now, I installed a handy anti-siphon trap.”

“Yeah I invented that!” 

“What an anti-siphon trap? Well, bugger me I never knew that was one of yours. You certainly are a clever bastard on the old invention front Lenny. By the way did you spot me new van outside? Lovely job – it’s even got a built in Satnav system. I’m as pleased as punch with it.”

“Yeah I invented that as well.” 

“Christ is there nothing you haven’t invented Len?” 

“Not a lot, although sadly I cannot take credit for the original wheel – although I did invent wheel nuts thus allowing said wheels to be firmly affixed to various modes of transport, after all what is a wheel without a wheel nut?  Anyhow how’s life with you Jonny?” 

“Business is running smoothly what with all you artists having a deluge of plumbing problems and I seem to have cornered this niche market thanks to you. I mean if you hadn’t invented plumbing and put me up for the gig I’d probably still be sweeping the bloody roads.” 

“Don’t thank me Jonny, your customer service is second to none mate.” 

“Talking of art I hear on the grapevine you’ve knocked out a new painting – couldn’t take a gander could I?” 

“No probs Jonny…come over here and cop a butchers at this little beauty. I’ve named her Columbine but I’m fucked if I can remember the name of the bird who modelled for it if the truth be told.  Met her down the fish and chip shop and she seemed a good sort. What do you reckon?”  

“Well it’s certainly different…I mean unlike your recent efforts this one’s kept her kit on – well save for the one first rate Bristol showing. Personally I like it when the birds are totally in the raw mate. This girl has got me juices flowing a tad yet I do not feel that all important firming happening within me parts. Still if you like her that way that’s all that matters.” 

“Cheers Jonny. For this painting I was going for the erotic more than the obvious in a ‘renaissancey’ sort of way – oh, I think I’ve just invented a new adjective there! Is there no end to my talents? Whatever, with just the one knocker on display the effect is to leave the viewer tantalised and wanting more.”  

“Oh I get you now – tell you what you should get the bird back and paint ‘Columbine – the logical conclusion.’ That way she’d be starker’s and it would make a fine companion to this painting. Well that’s my opinion anyway.” 

“I was actually thinking along the same lines yet forgot to take her mobile number – even though I invented the bloody mobile.  Sadly, that means I’ve lost contact with her.” 

“Such is life…still I’ve got to be getting along as old Rembrandt’s water works are playing him up and the bonus is he’s got a model in his studio for a nude painting even as I talk so I’d better get around there sharpish so as not to miss any of what I call the ‘still life action.’” 

“I understand mate yet do bear in mind that the girl Rembrandt’s painting is I understand probably a bit on the chubby side and may not be to your voyeuristic taste.” 

“Thanks for the heads up – so to speak – but do I look like I care Lenny boy? They’re all the same lovely gals to me mate.”  

“You’re a living legend Jonny.”




(regarding a mad old fruit bat I inadvertently had the true pleasure of speaking with this morning)


a leaden morn, as ever, he is up with the lark

the oldest old crone, wispy hair, no pearly whites

puzzling stained charity shop crestfallen overcoat

shoves onward a long ago rusted, squeaky carriage

eyeless, heartless baby doll, tucked up warm within

worn out words in soothing whispers, she serenades

a new day’s nursery rhyme for her make-believe sproglet

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques,

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines

Ding dang dong, ding dang dong

the out and about early bird, he bids her a gentlemanly ‘good morning’

she sings no more, quizzical, maybe confused, asks, ‘where have all the shadows gone?’

‘come nightfall’s street lamps you will have all the shadows you could ever wish for’ his riposte

he walks on by, opposite direction, the sweet lullaby dying with each rheumatic tread forth she takes

Ding dang dong, ding dang dong

he guesses she is mad yet not sad, perhaps the best way to be?

he wonders what story is hers



“Pater would you mind terribly grabbing hold of the end of this please?” 

“First Leonardo pray tell what it is if I may be so bold as to ask?” 

“Oh this is merely one of my new inventions I’m working on, namely a lightsabre. The reason I ask you to clasp it thus is that presently, and despite much thought, I am at odds with myself as to its very purpose no less.” 

“So then Leonardo, you merely wish that I grab the light beam you hold out before me?  It is just a ray of fluorescent coloured ‘light’ then – I cannot see too much harm in that. OK I shall. Here we go…” 

“Cripes pater it seems that I was afflicted with a mild, unaccountable twitch just at the very moment you took to hold the end of my lightsabre and I have, albeit by accident you will understand, severed your right hand – most neatly I might add – leaving you with nothing more than a stump spouting a veritable fountain of blood. Swift action needs be taken as I suspect you will be off to meet your maker in just a few moments.” 

“Leonardo I fear I am a goner son – have you any magic tricks up your sleeve?” 

“Well, pater I have long since been working on ideas for a food freezing unit which will, I surmise, be a necessity for freezing, thus preserving said right hand prior to reattachment to said stump, as well as penning a pamphlet aimed at medical surgeons on the means and potential benefits of micro-surgery, a positive necessity for the process of reattachment generally, and of course, specifically in this unfortunate instance. However, I suspect that without a tourniquet to hand…no pun intended dear pater…to stem the bleed there is little that can be done to save you. You see such a thing as a tourniquet is not even a work in progress at this time. Sorry about that pater.”  

“I had so many manuscripts to pen today…now this. Farewell Leonardo.” 

“Dash rotten luck pater.” 

Young Leonardo’s previous invention, a ‘flamethrower’ was posted last week at;



Prior to her exploitation, she had deduced she needed hard currency and friends

that to be immersed within this human race, such things paid worthy dividends

yet time was not on her side, she would be carbon dust by dawn’s first light

her incineration, the chosen method, ridding the cosmos of the blight

the wise men perceived as actual, for she defied all natures laws

overlooking entirely, that she was Aristotle’s final cause

Given a choice in the matter she would never have opted to be one of a kind. Sadly, she was never afforded a say.

In hindsight, and given her current situation, her designer had come to a similar conclusion. That he should have kept her very existence a confidential thing until the time was right.

It was at The Linnean Society of London, arguably once the epicentre of natural history and taxonomy he first let his, upon reflection, diseased self-esteem part company with sanity, and had proudly presented her in all her glory to his peer group of esteemed biologists and interested academics.  His presumption that his genius would bring forth accolades and plaudits across all corners of the globe, sadly ill-founded. Instead, he would be vilified by one and all as the creator of a monster that challenged the authenticity of the human species being at the very zenith of The Tree of Life.

Two poached eggs set upon a nest of saagwala her preferred last supper. That the duty officer acceded to her request, an act of startling kindness toward one who was merely a collection of handpicked organic cells encased, as of the moment, in a prison cell in a place far, far away from the public eye.

“I’ve heard tell you have the same emotions, same intelligence, same state of consciousness as a regular human being, yet you cannot catch a head cold?” 

“You are correct, yet I am however, capable of crying, laughing and dancing a waltz when the mood takes”  

“Why did he…that professor bloke who made you, name you ‘Mayday’?” 

“Because that was the day he completed his work; the day I came into being” 

“He’s banged up doing forced labour in some archipelago now by the way. So you never had a childhood; you just came into being” 

“Yes, I was not born of a mother. I am ‘unique’ they say…well that plus the fact they see me as a threat to your species were I to breed with one of you. Many don’t like the thought of a highbred I understand as it conflicts with long held beliefs” 

“You are the most beautiful creature you know; you deserve better than the fate that awaits” 

“Thank you” 

“Do you know why the professor just made the one version of you? I mean to say he could surely have come up with a male prototype to keep you company? He could have called you Eve and him Adam I’m guessing!” 

“If I recall he said, ‘“There is more scope for compassion within the female of any species, no place for a male in the new order I envisage’ or words to that effect” 

Later, into the early hours, over more than a glass or two of moonshine

he shared memories with Mayday, told of his childhood days, so sublime

with that he unlocked her cell door, took her hand, made good her getaway

even now all that is really known of her, is just her name, the name ‘Mayday’