Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Without Bicycles and An Incomplete History of Socially and Ethically Aware Coffee Consumption in Glasgow - Two poems for The Fairly Good Show

(After WM)

Without Bicycles

Without bicycles, Mao Tse Tung would not have won
Even though revolution comes from the barrel of a gun
It may also come from sweaty backsides and Sturmey Archer gears
On Brooks leather saddles, which need careful breaking in, but will prove rewarding.    
If you persevere. For years. In tears.

Without bicycles, Singapore would have held out in World War Two
But the Japanese had Shimano SPD cleated shoes
Which gave them a tremendous advantage  when it came to climbing hills
Though there was that tendency at first to fall off at traffic lights
As anyone will. Still. Unless you take those special pills.

Without bicycles, socialism would not have taken root in the early 20th century
As factory cycling clubs, on BSAs, Humbers, and Raleighs
Became  frenetic forums for political debate
And some participants got into such a state
That they were sometimes late,  and were thus thrown out of the factory gates.
Which wasn’t great.

Without bicycles,  delays in women’s emancipation
Would have been inevitable. But acceleration
of the process came from Derailleurs and freewheels
Symbolised by Beryl Burton, so good she  seems unreal
the greatest cyclist who ever lived, I feel. Male or female.

Without bicycles, people would all drive belching, filthy cars
The world would drown in smoke and filth, we’d be worse off by far
Fortunately, the internal combustion engine, I’m pleased to say
Remains a  science fiction fantasy today
We do not meddle with bad science. We simply pedal

Without bicycles, we’d all be horribly obese
Unfit, beset by damaged knees
From waddling with vast waists and unwanted girth
We’d be a cause for the creator’s mirth
If he or she was watching - A thought I like
God gazing down, from a Brompton folding bike.

An Incomplete History of Socially and Ethically Aware Coffee Consumption in Glasgow

Campaign Coffee. I remember that
Tasted like dried and finely ground Sumo wrestler’s jockstraps
Or what I imagine that to be
How would I know? Don’t look at me

It wasn’t really made from sporting genital  supports, or at least I don’t think so
Nestle donated deliberately sabotaged roasting machinery, the rumour goes
In order to inculcate an appreciation for Gold Blend and such
We sneered, and drank our horrid, morally pure sludge

But we were strangers then, to espresso. We were the uncaffeinated
Instant was all, or if you were seriously trying to impress, there was percolated
Boiled for hours, or stored, stewing on a Cona hot plate
For days and days, or weeks. I thought it tasted great

But my palate was seared, my tastebuds in a frenzy
Until the opening of the Cafe Gandolfi, owned by Ian Mackenzie
In Albion Street Glasgow, now it’s called the Merchant City
But back in the day it was anything but pretty

Motorbikes were parked inside, they served apples with digestive biscuits
But the coffee! No-one could believe Ian would risk  it
But this was proper cappuccino, potent  yet silky
Brutally Strong and yet bizarrely milky

(All traditional Italian cafes had until this  juncture
Catered for essentially Glaswegian culture
Whiter than white coffee made on giant Gaggia machines
Needing 14 sugar lumps to taste of anything)

So, anyway. After that, in Seattle something stirred
And shortly, new shouts across the world were heard
For  Machiatos,  Frappuccinos, Skinny Lattes and such
Until the flat or Dutch white arrived, and it all became too much

So that I long, now, for Campaign Coffee, that burnt, sour taste
It exists in memory only  - which seems a waste
Now we have Cafe Direct, and Fair Trade Nestle too
I suppose it shows what campaigning can do

You can buy green beans, and roast them at home
Knowing that they were fairly and justly grown
Blue Mountain, Ethiopian Yrgacheffe, Monsoon Malabar
Who’d’ve guessed we’d ever come this far?

From rooms where people were allowed to smoke
Handrolled Golden Virginia - no, that’s not a joke
Talked politics long, long into the night
And drank Campaign Coffee, which tasted just like...

...well. at the time it tasted all right.

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