OIKU 51 FIELD OF DREAMS Dave Birtwistle

ENOCH’S TAP David Thomas



ACTRESS Nigel Ford

OIKU 53: THE ELVIS DIET Dave Birtwistle

SWEET NOTHINGS Kayti Doolittle






CAMOUFLAGE Dave Birtwistle

OIKUS 57 & 58: A LOVELY PICTURE & DIY Dave Birtwistle





ANOTHER TRIP Colin Watmough

COMING CLEAN Kayti Doolittle

WOODEN LIVES Marie Feargrieve






Since the experience of work looks like becoming as rare as a sighting of the great crested shitehawk I thought an ornithological investigation of the activity worth a go. It was Oscar who said “work is the curse of the drinking classes” and this issue seems strangely pre-occupied with these opposed states. It begins with Colin Watmough’s memoire of his time as a vac student in a brewery. The oiks immediately christened him “Collidge” (surely worthy of Oscar himself) and taught him how to booze for free. He was soon awarded a doctorate in piss-headery (a PhD) – then left to get the less distinguished MA (Cantab) and hence never needed to work again. 

Nigel Ford, a Brit working in Sweden, describes with his usual deadpan the lunacies of Swedish oiks attempting to lay a cable. I imagine they invented elf an’ safety. Their struggle against the elements and the bureaucracy reads like an episode of Wallander set in Trafford Park industrial estate. 

Brett Wilson restrains his usual nutty surrealism to describe the goings on in his office. It still sounds surreal but I believe every word.  

David Thomas stands in as temporary shopkeeper at his dad’s ironmongers only to get stuck with a mad-eyed crackpot demanding a repair for his clapped out garden tap. Dave tries to brush him off – it is nearly closing time – but Enoch Powell isn’t taking no for an answer. 

Nick Woods finds himself in an epiphanic moment grading oysters. 

Jack Smylie Wild highlights the plight of the police struggling to keep us safe in the capital. He doesn’t look like an Arab but he was writing poetry within half a mile of Downing Street. Obviously a wrong ‘un who deserved everything he got.  Where would we be without these conscientious custodians of liberty? Surely the government aren’t seriously proposing to monitor the forthcoming police demo with a volunteer army of students with pickaxe handles? 

Tom Kilcourse is shocked to recognise his posh girlfriend’s dad as something less than the toff he expected.  

We extract from Paul Tanner’s explosive new book two examples of life among the unemployed of Liverpool and urge Oik readers to find more in his new collection Dole Anthems – to be published soon. 

My own Danger Men at Work aims to show what good times can be had dire circs. I can vouch for its authenticity. Ron Horsefield’s similar take on workshop fun must be a fantasy. But Ron has done time on the shopfloor and he assures me it’s all true. 

Elsewhere and off this theme we welcome Kayti Doolittle from Kansas City (see the website for pics with cat) and welcome back Marie Feargrieve, the prolific S. Kadison, David Birtwistle, Bette Braka and the enduring Ray Blyde.

Ken Clay April 2011



Jack Smylie Wild 

On Tuesday afternoon, after the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery, I decided that I would take a slight detour on my way to the Embankment (where I had arranged to meet a friend for a drink) and pass by Downing Street. Seeing the infamous address for real filled me with curiosity and a peculiar excitement: so, Prime Ministers really did exist, and so too did their houses. Wishing to have a better look at the area, maybe catch a glimpse of the man himself, and absorb the energy of an atmosphere which was so very alien to me (power, wealth, security, fame etc) as someone from the countryside, I found myself wandering towards it, and then stopping outside the front gate. Two teenage girls were talking to the policeman who stood in front of the gate. Tourists were taking photographs. Passers-by glanced up the empty street. A man from the House of Lords arrived carrying a letter, and asked the guards if they could please deliver it to number 10. At first they refused, saying that all post had to go through an ex-ray, scanning machine. The man, who I believe was a Lord himself, and something like the Foreign Minister for China, and had perhaps worked with Margaret Thatcher, told the police who he was. The man who was with him, whom I recognised from TV as an MP and a cabinet minister, and who was evidently a regular at Downing Street, made some jokes with the officer, who went off to ask his superior what to do. The former agreed to take it, and the old men, satisfied, departed. Fascinating. Politics in action, before my very eyes.

I carried on down the street, but instead of turning left towards the Thames, I took a right, eager to see whether I could get a better view of number 10. What went on inside these walls? How did these men and women become involved in this elite sphere of power? I arrived in an enormous gravel courtyard which lay at the back of Downing Street, opposite St James Park. I hadn't yet managed to do any writing in London (which wasn't necessarily due to laziness, considering I had only arrived the day before, but rather that on Monday whilst in the British Museum, with no pen and paper, I had felt silly at missing the opportunity to draw on the inspiration which the place and its marvels induced in me) and so that morning I made a conscious effort to leave the flat well-equipped with the tools necessary to write a few a words.

So there I sat, atop a bollard, examining one of the most important and heavily guarded houses on earth, ruminating about power and freedom, the PM and the common man, enjoying the hot sun and free time. Why not scribble a few lines down? I wouldn't usually write about politics, but then again, I don't usually find myself looking at 10 Downing Street. And besides, I'm not really thinking about politics as such, but rather about the human life (Cameron) which finds itself at the vortex of its decisions, implications and schemes. I'm not so foolish to believe that my actions will go unnoticed - on the contrary, I'm sure there are cameras and eyes watching my every move, but I'm obviously not a terrorist (I'm wearing a yellow T-shirt and shorts for God's sake! Although I do have a small beard). After all, there are plenty of people actually taking photographs of the place and of the officers who guard it, looking potentially far shiftier than myself. I take out the pen and paper (just some sheets of A4, as I don't have a notebook), and begin to write. I have nothing very specific or illuminating in mind, but, I think, like doing the washing up, once one makes the unpleasant decision to start, it isn't too bad at all, and things start to flow. The following is an exact copy of what I wrote, word for word, and admittedly, it isn't very good:

I stand outside the garden of a man
Who has the power to realise the master plan
I see the trees he does or does not see;
The red bricks that keep him safe
For him to sip his tea.
Before, he was just an idea from the TV.
But now I see the fort he calls his home,
And I am no doubt watched
By the lens and eye alike
For 'making notes' - writing this poem.

[At this point, I walk across the road and sit beneath a tree in St James Park]

The backdoor is open to the small balcony,
And the curtain shudders in the breeze.
Step out David; Eton boy; top dog; winner –
I do not hate or understand you –
I am too unwise for either,
I only wish to glimpse the face, the doubt,  
The thought, the story of the Tory,
The machine behind the mask ........

I hear a noise, and look to my left. An orange police car has pulled up by the road side, a few metres away from me. Two armed officers step out and walk towards me. I guess why they have come to see me: they probably don't get people looking at Number 10 every day, whilst doing some writing. No doubt they were begging for a bit of action; an opportunity to exercise their power and 'skill'. I can't quite believe it though - I haven't done anything illegal, and yet my freedom to sit and write is about to be disturbed. They reach me:

"We've been alerted to the fact that you've been acting suspiciously in an anti-terrorist Government Zone, and we're here to search and question you under Section 44 of the......" I try to write down what Section it is, but they don't allow it. I tell them that I'm just writing a poem about Number 10, David Cameron etc. They make me empty my pockets, after which my hands aren't allowed to return to.

"Do you know why we're here?" the younger one asks.

"Not entirely," I respond, a little too cocky for their liking. "I didn't think I was doing anything of the sort which would merit the involvement of anti-terrorist police officers. And I'm feeling slightly infringed upon, seeing as I'm only writing some poetry and I am not trespassing."

"Your attitude stinks mate. You cheeky fucking cock."

The younger officer begins to carry out various identity and criminal record checks on his phone. The elder goes through my belongings, which consist of my wallet, a bottle of water, my phone, some flyers from the BP Portrait Award, an A-Z of London, a pen and some sheets of paper. He picks up my poem, and begins to read, with a frown on his face.

"What do you mean by 'master plan'? What's this master plan then?" I take a step towards him, to have a look for myself.

"Don't fucking move. Stay where you are." I remain still. I'm a little stumped. In hindsight it does sound a little like some sort of pot head's conspiracy theory. However, I was only looking for a word to rhyme with 'man'! I tell him that I am simply referring to David's ability to affect change according to his own judgement and power.

"You're bizarre you are. Has anyone ever told you that before?"

"Yes, they have as a matter of fact." I probably shouldn't have said that.


"It's none of your business."

"You need help you do. I recommend a book called Behaviour Breeds Behaviour. Read that, and have a think about who you are and what you do son."

"Who's it by?"

"I can't remember. But it'll help, because believe you me, you are not normal. Look around, do you see anyone else looking at the building and writing about it."


"So why were you doing it then?"

"Because I'm a poet, and I am allowed to do as I please if it's within the law. I felt like being creative, and this seemed like an ideal time to see where David lives, and to reflect upon the common man's perception of, and relationship to, his ruler."

"Do you have any sort of relationship with David?"

"What do you mean? Of course I don't."

"Don't get lippy with me son. I've been doing this job for 20 years, and I know when I see someone who isn't quite right."

"But I'm just trying to live a happy, healthy and creative life. And I haven't done anything wrong. Surely they are people doing worse things than me right now.... murderers, robbers, rapists."

"You're the one wasting our time. You made us come over here."

"No I didn't."

"I'll tell you once more, read Behaviour Breeds Behaviour. This could've been over with a lot quicker if you had cooperated and hadn't been so cheeky."

"I told you exactly what I was doing though, and it was you guys who were rude and over aggressive to me actually."

"Can you see why we are here right now?"

"I can appreciate that you are not used to people seemingly making notes in such a high security zone, but I can't see why one of the officers over there didn't just come and have a quiet word and check out what I was doing - as opposed to being interrogated and verbally abused by armed police officers. I'd like to send a text to my barrister."

I bent down to pick up my phone.

"Leave it there! Stay still."          

"Which Section is it that prohibits me from picking up my phone?"

"My law."

"Can you make your own laws up?"


"Right, fair play."

The guy who has been on the phone says that he's found nothing. The older guy looks disappointed and turns to me again.

"Right, there's a Weatherspoons around the corner. I suggest that you go there, buy yourself a pint, and leave."

"But I can stay here can't I?"

"We can't stop you."

"Have a good day," I say. The younger guy hands me a copy of the search form, which says Metropolitan Police Service, Form 5090(X), at the top. They get back in their car and drive away.

I look at the form in my hands, and read the main Search Grounds section, which goes as follows:

Subject seen R/O Downing Street observing and writing notes. Subject evasive to questions, appeared to be writing poetry.

I sat back down against the tree. "Brilliant," I thought, "the idiot's written 'appeared to be writing poetry' under Search Grounds! I wrote one more line of poetry in conclusion (employing a tad of poetic license in the rhyme):]

Now a man can't write poetry
And sit beneath a tree
And contemplate the existence
Of his own MP.