More Argos poetry

I thought I’d have another skim of the Argos site and see if there were any more poems waiting to be formed in the customer reviews. Turns out almost every page teems with them. 

The first product I tried, at random, was the Qualcast Corded Rotary 1300W Mower and 320W Grass Trimmer.  And almost immediately there was another little story – like the one I found about the massage chair.

Here’s cb20 in Scotland (with a few line breaks from me):

In middle of cutting grass
when mower stopped working. 
On to computer
and saw this mower
and decided to buy. 

Easy to use
and adjust height to cut. 
Found it very efficient
and light to use.
Great produce.

We can be fairly sure that cb20 meant ‘product’ at the end, but it seems important not to monkey with the source text.

(I love the idea, too, that cb20 simply abandons his stalled mower in the middle of the lawn, marches into the house, gets online and buys a new one.)

Then, a few comments down, I find that Darius2 of England (mower customers apparently favour broad geographical locations) has beaten me to the punch. His review is already broken into lines of breathtaking concision.

Again, we must assume 'Goog’ is a slip. But fair play, Darius2.

The poetry of Argos

In my day job, I’ve been writing some copy for British retail institution Argos, and have discovered the treasure trove of customer reviews on their website.

The enthusiasm of customers for what are often the simplest of items is pretty remarkable. The comments on these white pasta bowls, for example, are well worth a trawl. 

Jojo from Somerset tells perhaps the world’s shortest quest story:

‘I've been looking for bowls this size for years and these are perfect for me.’

Meanwhile, John from Merseyside celebrates the bowls’ most essential nature, recommending them if you ‘need a good-sized pasta bowl which is “bowl-shaped”’. 

Argos chair.jpeg

Reading one of the comments on the Power Massage Leather Recliner Chair, it struck me that one could add some line breaks and create a sort of poem – albeit a tongue-in-cheek one – from some of these comments. (Raymond Carver did it with Chekhov. I do it with Argos. I know my place.)

So here’s my first experiment in the form. See what you think.


Power Massage Leather Recliner Chair - Chocolate.  

My mother brought this chair
but used it only as normal chair
she recently passed away
so have taken to mine
for my disabled partner. 

On doing so I have found the plug
for massager is not there, 
after asking if I can purchase one
am told no as can't give me
contact details of manufacture
as they are overseas 

so perfect chair
as long as nothing goes wrong
for example needs
replacement lead

due to loss or damage
as the chair
will become
just that 

an armchair

The Novel – 1

I’ve written the first draft of what I hope will be a novel I can eventually submit to agents and publishers.

Now I’m on draft two, keenly aware of the million-and-one problems in the first one.

Even so, it’s exciting. There feels like plenty of fuel in the idea. It’s turned out to be a Young Adult book – I know that’s what everyone’s writing, but that’s how it’s emerged, so there we are. 

If it was a movie pitch, the ‘logline’ would be:

A young boy in the midst of a family break-up discovers another world through his dreams. Then, after a terrible car crash, he must use this new knowledge to enter his mother’s coma, and rescue her from death.

I thought I’d share some of the work in progress here. Partly to see what people think, and partly as a spur to industry. If I’m sharing it here, that’s another good reason to do some more.

So, here’s the little prologue passage – as it stands right now, anyway. Would you want to read this book? (Be honest.)



In the dream he is standing at the end of a bridge. Late evening, turning twilight. From nearby comes a fluttering whisper, like the breeze searching through leaves. A river tumbles somewhere far below; deep rocks lead down. 

The air is thick, like fog. It’s hard to see. What must be two huge trees on the far side of the bridge appear as tall, smoke-coloured smudges, shifting softly against a violet sky. They make him think of the shaggy heads of great, slow beasts, swaying side to side, side to side. 

A light glints in the gloom across the bridge – a coin glimpsed in a well. Refracted gleam of gold. It vanishes and reappears, over and over, as if travelling through dappled shade. His eyes unpick the woven dark. The light gathers strength – grows larger, steadier, more intense. Closer.

Something is coming across the bridge to meet him. 

Cold feathers in the belly. A thud at the throat. Legs like water. But alongside the fear, something else. Something that nudges him forward, squinting into the fog that seems to pulse and churn around him, thinning briefly to hint at details on the bridge before reforming heavily again.

The light holds, somewhere out on the bridge. The whisper of the wind bunches into urgent sounds, like words. 

He listens. Listens. 

He holds up his hands to the fog, as if he might grasp and shape it like clay. 

He narrows his eyes and leans into the air, searching the unquiet mist, building on the few details he has to construct an image: towering brickwork arches, stone pillars… statues? There is the curious sensation that either his mind or the world is a mirror, but he can’t tell which: is he forming a reflection of this world as it grows, or is the world reflecting the shapes forming in his mind? 

The light on the bridge intensifies: staying where it is now, but growing. The whisper shapes itself inside his ear. And for a moment, the mist lifts. Shapes sharpen – yes, there are statues on the bridge – dragons? gryphons? – the light –

He freezes. The light is being held above something like a face – or is just hovering there, illuminating a gleaming ovoid shape that has the look of being freshly formed – still settling, the way mercury gathers itself into a trembling bulb, barely holding its shape. 

No accompanying figure is visible. The face, if it is one, emerges alone from the dark as if from water. As if Danny were looking down on the surface of a lake, and a swimmer had risen from the depths to press its face through the skin of the water into the air. He feels a surge of vertigo, a weightlessness.

Captured in the pale gold cast of light, the dark shape glitters, as if reflecting stars. But these stars are not still: they eddy and billow within the shape, like windblown snow. (The glass dome of a souvenir, shaken into a blizzard.) Although the shape has no features he can recognise, Danny feels it watching him. He senses the intelligence of its gaze on him. There is something almost physical about it, like the questing touch of a weightless, spindle-legged spider on the skin.

The wind dies. Nothing moves. Their moment extends, drifts loose of the clock. 

The face on the bridge alters: the starlight in its depths blooms and coils, forms new configurations. He can’t say why, but he has the impression of a smile.

And then the fog is back: first a softening of details, then a pale thickening of the air; a cataract. The golden light above the bridge trembles like a flame. The face sinks slowly back into the surface of the dark, and vanishes. He is surprised by a sudden ache of loss. 

The whisper comes again, and this time he’s in no doubt: it is more than a breeze. There are words in it. Words he can understand.

As the image of the bridge collapses, both in his mind and out there among the granular dark, he grabs hold of each word like plucking snowflakes from the wind; leaves from a stream. Three words to match the sense of a smile from that star-mapped countenance:

We see you.