Return of Barry: Office at the Top

“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.” — Allen Ginsberg.

"Domestic Cherry 7, coming soon, to the party off the line." Barry. 

Barry: I CAME back to Swindon on a wet April morning with the sky the grey of Calne sandstone. I was alone in the compartment. I remember saying to myself: ‘No more zombies, Mabel, no more zombies’. My stomach was rumbling with hunger and the drinks of the night before had left a buzzing in my head and a carbonated-water sensation in my nostrils. On that particular morning even these discomforts added to my pleasure. I was a dissipated traveller–dissipated in a gentlemanly hi-viz sort of way, looking forward to the hot bath, the hair-of-the-dog, the black coffee, and the snooze in the silk dressing-gown. My clothes were my working-week best: an ergonomic 3D fit trouser for ease of movement, featuring tuck away holster pockets, a self-fabric gusset, reinforced hem and triple-stitched seams at stress points. Knee pads were available but sold separately: No one pulls one over on me. These had cost fourteen quid, a plain grey tie underneath, plain grey socks, and brown shoes. The shoes were the most expensive I’d ever possessed, with a deep, rich, nearly black lustre. My Waterproof, hi-visibility motorway jacket with taped seams, full length front zip and storm flap wasn’t up to the same standard, it smelled of rubber, and the hat was faintly discoloured with hair-oil. Later I learned, among other things, never to buy cheap hi-visibility, to wear a shower cap before placing my hat and not to have my clothes match too exactly in shade and colour. But I looked well enough that morning.

Mabel: And what brings you back Barry? I’ve rented your room out to Roy. He’s taken down your European flag and dirtied your slippers.

Barry: As I had a dream about you last night I thought it was time to get in touch. Don't be alarmed, it wasn't anything creepy, in fact all I can remember was that you were in it.

Mabel: You’ve begun to acquire a middle-aged spread and, whether it sounds sentimental or not–I had a sort of eagerness and lack of disillusion as soon as I saw you on the doorstep- which more than makes up for the new coat and hat and the ensemble like a uniform.

Barry: The other reason is I found a photo of myself taken shortly after I came to live at Swindon. My hair is plastered into a skullcap, my collar doesn’t fit, and the knot of my tie, held in place by a hideous pin shaped like a dagger, is far too small. That doesn’t matter. For my face is, not innocent exactly, but unused. I mean unused by poetry, by money, by making friends and influencing people, hardly touched by any of the muck one’s forced to wade through to get poetry published. This was the face that Ursula saw. I was holding a copy of Domestic Cherry, you on the front. It all made sense Mabel.

Mabel: So you want The Cherry back? The Office at the Top?

Barry: I want us back together again. I’ve missed your pale, composed face and dark hair turning grey. Your smile from your eyes, an expression of personal friendliness, not the usual social grimace.

Mabel: This isn’t the prettiest part of Swindon. Remember the fish-and-chip shop, and the seedy-looking Commercial Hotel - nothing has changed Barry, except me. But we’ve got an inbox bursting with desperate poets expecting us to publish them and invite them to the launch. Can you do it Barry, can you do it all again?

Barry: There’s a positive maze of streets behind that hotel Mabel and I’m up for working my way around.

Mabel: I feel quite sorry for those poor men, the ones you rejected. I still see their grey faces to this day, their dirty brown poems sinking into the mud floods of 2013, Lydiard woods.

Barry: We have to reject Mabel. Rejection is the purest form of acceptance.


A resigned Roy promotes an INCREDIBLE attack on Mabel as Barry prepares to leave Europe.

Roy: Why should I ever agree when you have us rulebound and powerless? It's not the EU in this house Mabel!

Mabel: Roy! You are using your sexist stereotypes, plotting to strengthen the 2016 EU membership referendum result. I say we need a second referendum, and new house plants. 

Roy: The people have voted! Get over it, or get out you stupid woman. 

Mabel: I'll take the Persian cat with me, back to Persia where it belongs. 

Roy: That's not Europe, and you're not taking my cat. 

Mabel: Get a British Shorthair. Why should foreign cats get to stay, you can't have it all your own way. 

Roy: Leave my cat out of it, Traitor!

Mabel: We should reject this deal and I think you should reject this cat!

Roy: Somebody needs to speak up against the dictatorial way this cat is being fed. I never agreed to Kitti Kat, and it's owned by the French. Traitor! 

Mabel: You are hysterical and aggressive Roy. Have you ever been to Europe?

Roy: I've never even been to Chippenham. It's not safe. 

Mabel: You've got what is known as, “Swindon paralysis” - a type of small-mindedness only grown in small jars with tight lids. 

Roy: We must leave Wiltshire, and the EU, decisively and completely and in a few years time we will wonder what all the fuss was about. It will be like the year 2000 bug. Never happened. 

Mabel: And how do you propose we ever get Barry back?