This is a difficult one. A long time ago, when I was in my twenties, I was briefly on the poetry circuit, reading my poems at universities and arts centres. One or two appeared in anthologies. Others were published in a national newspaper and a couple were broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Then, quite suddenly, the drive to write poems left me. I realise now that it was because so many of them were mini-dramas and I had started to feel the need to write full-length plays with dialogue and multiple characters. That said, the first one I wrote and directed, a musical for BBC Radio 3 containedmore verse than prose. Slightly to my surprise, ‘For Her Bones’ contains two sonnets in iambic pentameters. One is included in a story for comic effect, the other is a dark epilogue which addresses climate concerns and the creation of ghosts. I won’t include it here as it is better read in context.
My other poems, hundreds of them, were all written before the advent of home computers, so they exist only in a ring-binder. I can, however offer you something more recent. I have written book and lyrics for a few musicals. One of them, ‘Muscles! The Musical’ was produced at a small theatre in London. Along the way, the composer, John Telfer’ and I also wrote some stand-alone songs. Some of the lyrics showed evidence of a poetic sensibility. I thought I would offer you one of them. In tone it is vastly different from that of ‘For Her Bones’:
A PARIS AFFAIR/TANYA
Music: John Telfer Lyric: Alec Reid
It began as a Paris affair
And it should have ended right thereņ
For Tanya had always to be on a ‘plane,
But it had started so well
To the chime of the Notre Dame bell
That she said,
“One day we will marry in Spain.”
So later we continued in Rome,
As tourists in search of a home,
Which I yearned to discover for Tanya,
My lover who never was still.
Next year we will wed in Seville,
Very close to the Plaza de Espaņa.
But you’d never tasted Seville,
Never seen the pictures of Spain in the Plaza,
Never walked the paths by the Guadalquivir,
Admired the stonework in the Alcazar.
How many miles had we been this way,
Bad actors in a travelling play,
Rehearsing the words we intended to say?
I saw myself as worldly wise,
Should have seen through your lovely disguise,
Oh, my Tanya with the hideaway eyes.
You see the city is getting too dark
To take a walk in the Maria Luisa park.
I love it still, imagine I always will,
But you never made it to Seville.
You never made it to Seville.
“The thing is, Tom, I did call him a few months after I left. It was a bit of a surprise. I was supposedly embarking on some great adventure, and there I was struck down with what felt like terminal homesickness. I needed a friend.”
“You could have called me.”
“I know, but it wasn’t you I wanted. Sorry. What I never expected was that I would be longing for Frank. How strange was that? Anyway, it was late and the foul weather made me feel even more lonely. I virtually forced him to come to me that night.”
“Do I really need to hear this?”
“He never made it. Ice on the motorway. His mother called me a few days later.”
“Jesus, Sally. No wonder you’re imagining things. It’s guilt, that’s all.”
“So that’s it, Mr Freud? I really am just imagining it? Going mad”
“I wouldn’t say going mad exactly. I mean it’s understandable. You had a terrible shock. You were missing Frank - can’t understand that bit, but there you are – and you called him to you. And because of that he died. It doesn’t make it your fault. Not really. I can’t imagine he was the greatest driver in the world.”
“He’s here, Tom. In this restaurant. I can feel it. I can almost see him.”
“Yes! Please tell me you’ve seen it too.”
Poor Tom. I think he’s about to deny it. A straight ahead, get the job done sort of guy can’t acknowledge the terrors that shimmer on the edge of his vision. It has to be Sally who is mad, not he. The truth is, neither of them is mad. I would show myself if I could, join them at their table, discuss important matters of life and death. But it doesn’t work that way. That would be like believing in ghosts. Foolish. But the three of us will soon be able to have that discussion face to face. I’m looking forward to it. Come along now, Tom, the second bottle has arrived. Pour her a drink.
General consternation sounds like an incompetent military leader, but it is probably the best description for what was happening around Tom and Sally’s table. Tom had lifted the bottle and begun to pour. But he didn’t know his own strength. Or rather he didn’t know mine. His grip on the bottle tightened like a noose until the bottle shattered, showering the unhappy couple with Pinot Grigio and sending splinters of glass everywhere. I’m not exactly a poltergeist, they don’t exist by the way, but I made sure some of the glass went where it needed to. A freak accident is how it was later described by those who were there and therefore must know. The first shard sliced through Tom’s shirt and severed the carotid artery. There was more blood than Pinot. In less than a minute he was what people call dead, although we know better, don’t we?
Sally’s demise was even swifter. A shiver of glass pierced her eye and came to rest deep in her brain.
About the Author:
Alec has had a number of careers, some of them still ongoing. After a brief spell with the BBC 2 arts programme, "Late Night Line-Up", he moved on to Radios 1 and 2 where he produced "Night Ride", giving Genesis their first national broadcast.
Alec went on to become an award-winning radio drama director and creator of radio documentaries and features, one of which required him to spend a week with the French Foreign Legion!
During that time, he also wrote and directed two musicals for radio, "Misrule", starring Max Wall, and "Gilgamesh", with Ian Holm; the latter was the BBC's entry for the Prix Futura award in Berlin.
After leaving the BBC,Alec was commissioned to write and produce a double CD tribute to Princess Diana. Within days of its release in America it had sold over 100,000 copies. As a result, he won the prestigious international Audi award for best creative work.
Since then, Alec has produced hundreds of audiobooks, adapted TV and movie
soundtracks for audio release, and was even commissioned to write two new
'Thomas the Tank Engine' stories! He also wrote book and lyrics for 'Muscles
the Musical', which was premiered at The Landor theatre in London where the
'House Full' sign was up most nights. There are hopes for a revival in a larger
Alec's publications have included two anthologies based on Radio 4’s ‘With Great Pleasure’, poems in ‘The Sunday Times’ newspaper and numerous magazine articles, and poems. 'For Her Bones' is his first fiction book. He is thinking about his next one.